Thursday 11 August 2011 | By Caro Moses
Peters Productions: An interview with words
Following successful runs at the Durham Drama Festival, and at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London, ‘A World Without Words’ has arrived for a run in Edinburgh.
With a very impressed reviewer raving about the show, we decided to put some questions to the two brains behind it – choreographer Frances Teehan and director Jonathan Grande from Peters Productions.
CM: Starting with the basics, what’s ‘A World Without Words’ about?
JG & FT: ‘A World Without Words’ recounts the story of a relationship between two ordinary people. Telling their story from painfully awkward first meeting through to a heart-breakingly tearful conclusion, we explore themes of desire, passion, and betrayal, but all without a single piece of dialogue. Telling the whole story through contemporary dance and movement, the piece highlights the beauty and power of the physical language of relationships, and shows how often actions can speak not only louder than, but on behalf of, words.
CM: It’s listed in the dance and physical theatre section of the programme – would you call it dance, or physical theatre?
JG & FT: The whole piece is told through dance, and we have a stunning soundtrack to accompany the entire show. But we have also kept an emphasis on ‘theatre’ and ‘drama’ throughout. We have avoided adding fantastical or abstract elements to the story, and the ‘dance for dance’s sake’ that this would create. Instead, the story remains real and human, with every step furthering the emotional or dramatic path of the piece. So while we have never thought of it as a piece of physical theatre, we have never thought of it as purely a dance show either.
CM: How did the show come together? How does your partnership work?
JG & FT: It was originally put together for the International Durham Drama Festival to give dancers in Durham the opportunity to be involved in a piece where there is more to engage with than just the choreography. It took off from there and the piece was extended and re-rehearsed in order to be performed in London and Edinburgh. We have never come across a choreographer and director working together on a fully-choreographed like this before. So it was very much a case of working it out as we went along! But it seems to be going well so far. Frances choreographed the entire piece, but all other aspects of the show, from the story, song choices and design to working with the cast as actors, has been a result of successful collaboration.
CM: Is it collaborative? Have the performers been involved in creating the piece?
JG & FT: The piece is not a devised work, and was not created through a workshop process. In most instances, they have had little involvement in creating the story or choreography but in many cases, the steps were shaped to their strengths and they have brought everything beyond the choreography to life.
CM: You’ve performed it at the Durham Drama Festival and London’s Old Red Lion theatre. What made you bring it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
JG & FT: The Fringe is renowned for accepting and embracing original pieces and we felt that the audience was there for its reception. Given the unique nature of the piece, we wanted to perform it to as large and wide-ranging an audience as possible, and felt that the Fringe was the perfect place for this.
CM: Where do you think it will go from here? Do you plan to tour it further?
JG & FT: There are no plans at the moment, but we haven’t ruled it out. We’ll continue to see how it’s received here in Edinburgh before we make any firm decisions.
CM: Have you been to Edinburgh before? Will you come back here again?
JG & FT: Neither of us have ever been before, as visitors or performers. The atmosphere is incredible, and the reception has been overwhelming. We’re certainly making the most of the opportunity to see such a diverse range of theatre, and will definitely be back!
Frances and Jonathan’s show ‘A World Without Words’ was performed at C Venue during Fringe 2011.