Last Thursday I was holed up in the Stan’s Cafe kitchen with Keisha Grant, Artistic Director of Keneish Dance, looking at a video documenting an early draft of their new show Hi I’m…. For this piece Keisha is interested in including some narrative elements and thought it may be helpful to talk about this with someone who devises theatre shows.
Officially my role would probably be described as Dramaturge; it’s a provocateur / outside eye / collaborator position which I quite enjoy but rarely do. My ambition is to help make the piece as good as it possibly be whilst regularly checking that my definition of ‘good’ matches up with Keisha’s vision for the piece.
It was enjoyable few hours. We watched the dance through comparing what I read from it with what Keisha’s intentions were in choreographing it. We examined her worries, frustrations and aspirations for the piece and discussed how these can be addressed when she starts rehearsals again.
Satisfyingly (for me at least) I came up with one rather bold idea which I believe would unlock exciting potential for the piece to carry its narrative burden lightly and leave Keisha lots of freedom to exercise her choreographic skills. If it were my piece I’d drive this idea through remorselessly, but of course it’s Keisha’s piece so I typed up notes from our conversation and sent them over to her to do with them as she wishes. I will attend a couple of rehearsals and see if I can be of any help there and promise not to get grumpy if she’s binned all my suggestions.
Prominent in my mind is the explanation of the Dramaturge – Director relationship as originally explained to me by a German theatre producer. “James” he said “the Dramaturge may say to the Director ‘this section isn’t working, you need to make it half as long’ to which the Director is likely to reply ‘you are right, that section isn’t working, but that is because it needs to be TWICE as long’ and this is okay.”