'This show has been with us throughout the lockdown. It has experienced the same emotional hits that we have, it has adapted, it has been resilient...' Theatremakers Dan Colley and Fionnuala Gygax write for Culture about Twenty Fifty, their new show for this year's Dublin Fringe.
On the 13th of March, as the shutters of the world were coming down around us, we had an interview with the Dublin Fringe Festival for our show to be in this year's festival as part of the DUETS initiative.
With arts venues suddenly closed without precedent, and normality set into chaos, being part of this festival offered a beacon of hope.
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Listen: Fionnuala Gygax and Dan Colley talk Twenty Fifty on RTÉ Arena
What do you love?
What gives you hope?
What do you need in order to survive?
These questions are at the heart of our new show Twenty Fifty, which will premiere at the Dublin Fringe Festival in a virtual space, where we invite audiences to gather together. Every night, an actor (Fionnuala Gygax), and a different guest performer play a live improvised game of questions, as we explore what is important to us, and how can we protect it, in the increasingly risky world we live in.
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Our show starts with the audience clicking into a virtual theatre, from their own homes. It takes the form of an intimate, improvised interview between a performer and a guest. The questions move from the micro ‘Describe the smell of the room you are sitting in’ to the macro ‘What does happiness feel like?’ Our guests range from diverse backgrounds. No two performances can be the same. We wanted to create something that embraced liveness, chance and risk.
For us, theatre is what is important to protect - spectacle, community, transformation.
The presence of the audience is vital for this show. As the piece progresses, it becomes more interactive and we attempt to create a community in this virtual gathering. Is it possible to recreate the same feeling of sitting in a group of people at the theatre over zoom? Can you feel part of a community while sitting in your bedroom? In a time where we have been told to distance ourselves, this show is about bringing people back together.
But what happens when the future interrupts through a roll of the dice? We are challenged to imagine this intimate conversation taking place in a new context - a riskier world of 2050. How can we protect the things we love? We are inviting the audience to think about the very real range of possible futures in a way that’s interactive, emotional and reaches them where they’re at. It’s not apocalyptic. It’s about living, and what makes our lives meaningful.
For us, theatre is what is important to protect - spectacle, community, transformation. It’s people coming together, telling stories, finding commonality, experiencing empathy. It’s something that humans have done regardless of the political, climate or economic circumstances; whether it be cave drawings, campfire tales, creating under the patronage of Popes, or underground in totalitarian states. We have missed being able to walk into arts spaces and sit beside strangers. Twenty Fifty attempts to bridge that gap.
This show has been with us throughout the lockdown. It has experienced the same emotional hits that we have, it has adapted, it has been resilient. And it has survived with us. That feels hopeful, despite it all.
In the last 6 months, we have learned about the instability and fragility of our work and indeed our existence. The questions we wanted answered feel richer now, more urgent. We understand what it means to live through a global crisis. And we are grateful for the things that got us through, that felt important.
We have had to adapt and rethink our work for this new context and ultimately it has been incredibly inspiring and fitting with the themes of crisis and climate change we are exploring in the show. How do we as a society adapt to constantly changing global circumstances?
Twenty Fifty is our proposal for resilience in the emerging normal. It is an invitation to imagine yours.
Dan Colley, Fionnuala Gygax and guests premiere Twenty Fifty at Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition from September 6 – 19 - find out more here.