Weaving a story
Michael Pinchbeck talks about weaving several narratives together to make his piece, The Beginning, for the Edinburgh Showcase
The piece I’m bringing up to Edinburgh is called The Beginning and it’s part of a trilogy. Two years ago I took up a show called The End, and this year I’m also going to the Forest Fringe with a show called The Middle. The trilogy combines a contemporary approach to Shakespeare with personal history and autobiography. It’s about theatre, really.
The Beginning is about what compels us to perform, what makes us walk on stage in the first place. It also brings together memories of what it’s like to do that for the first time. The two other performers in the piece and I were all in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the first performance we ever did. So we take the storyline and the stage directions from AMND and we deconstruct it and we wrap it around how it felt to be performing for the first time. At the same time, we’re bringing in another story, a love story, that of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. We use his music in the show to really draw out the themes of love. It relates to amateur dramatics, too. I fell into theatre through amateur dramatics, and the word “amateur” comes from the Latin “to love” – and the idea of performing for the love of it. That again goes back to AMND because in that there are a group of amateurs putting on a play.
The Beginning is about what compels us to perform, what makes us walk on stage in the first place
Bottom is a weaver by trade and we’re trying to weave these stories together. The first part I played in AMND was Bottom. So in a way I’m re-visiting the personal relationship to theatre, through the lens of these other texts. The show you’ll see now is also a weave of these narratives. With any weave, you have to make sure there aren’t any loose threads. On the back of the tapestry, there are loads of threads going everywhere, but what we’re trying to do is to make sure that the front of the tapestry shows the audience what we want them to see. I keep thinking, maybe if we threaded that over there, or tightened up that knot it’ll be a little clearer. My PhD is on dramaturgy and the role of the dramaturg. I’m really interested in this idea that dramaturgy is the weave of the performance. It’s a case of refining and taking away, to see what’s the least I can do to make this clear.
It’s also an exploration of what happens when you’re faced with an empty page as a writer or an empty stage as a performer. It looks at how we perform text. The voiceover in the trailer really encapsulates how I feel about the piece. It’s about how it feels to perform onstage for the first time and how you feel when you’re performing. The Beginning is really about the relationship between the performers and the audience.
The Showcase puts us in a place to reach audiences that we wouldn’t normally reach
Being part of the Showcase is a huge stamp of approval and a wonderful opportunity – it’s my third showcase in a row. Each time has been an exciting time in my career and it’s led to exciting opportunities. Last time, two years ago, led to taking the work to Brussels, Cologne, Dresden and Berlin… I’m aware of the impact that it can have. I’m also excited about the potential for this show to reach a different kind of audience, perhaps in French-speaking countries. We speak French in the show, we use the music of Serge Gainsbourg, there’s something in the aesthetic that I think would appeal to those audiences. The Showcase puts us in a place to reach audiences that we wouldn’t normally reach, alongside some other really exciting artists.
After Edinburgh, it’s back to Bolero [you can read about Bolero in Michael’s blog here]. I’m actually going to Sarajevo again before Edinburgh, to work with artists there. The British Council has been very supportive. The plan is to premiere it in Nottingham next year and then tour it in Sarajevo and possibly the wider area. The exciting thing about doing Bolero at the moment is that next year is 30 years since Torvill and Dean performed to Bolero, and it’s the centenary of the First World War, which was triggered by an assassination in Sarajevo. So you’ve got these two anniversaries resonating in that place, and that’s where we’ll be showing it. It’s a very timely commemoration of those events.
Interview with Eleanor Turney originally published on the British Council blog: http://edinburghshowcase.britishcouncil.org/blog/blog-pages/weaving-a-story/