Friday, July 18, 2014

Chainsaw Exorcism With Victoria Snaith Artistic Director Of Father Dagon: A Theatrical Experience Inspired By H.P. Lovecraft

Could you tell me about yourself and Father Dragon: A Theatrical Experience Inspired By HP Lovecraft?

My name is Victoria Snaith and I am the artistic director for Dread Falls Theatre.

My drama career started when I was 11 and I joined an after school drama club, I enjoyed it and continued my drama education through school and college. When I was 18 I left home for university and studied drama at Kingston University in South West London.

After university, I didn’t think it was viable for me to have a career in drama or theatre. It had never occurred to me that I could become a successful performer. So instead I went into teaching, but I never lost sight of my love of theatre and visited the theatre regularly.

In 2008, on a gothy night out in Camden, I met an American gentleman called Dr William Connor (at this point I should also mention Will now works as my Music Director, so I have a lot for which to thank him, even now!). We became good friends and he encouraged me to develop my ideas, and explore my stories further. He told me my ideas were good, he asked me why I continued to teach when I hated it so much, he made me believe in myself.

It was a wake-up call for me, I realised if he was interested in my stories then others would be too. Interestingly, I didn’t want to tell these stories myself. After years of being a drama student, being an actress wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to create stories, I wanted to be a storyteller, and so began my life as a director.

My first show was called Domestic Tinnitus. It was a one-woman show about a lady who is in her house and she begins to hear these strange noises. She cannot work out from where these noises are coming and in her search for quiet she starts to go mad. Soon, the sounds start to take on a form, and she starts to hallucinate.

Domestic Tinnitus was an interesting project because although I was the only character on stage, we used live music and recorded film during the performance. I had two musicians performing alongside me; my action fed into their music and equally, their music would feed into my action.

Domestic Tinnitus set the precedent for my future work in terms of multidisciplinary practice. Since then I have never created anything that was a straight up drama piece or a straight dance piece.

After that first show I decided I would create Dread Falls Theatre, the name of which came from a combination of Penny Dreadfuls (a type of gruesome British fiction from the 19th century) and a gothic accessory known as a “dread fall”. I wanted a name that would be easily identifiable with our gothic demographic, and so Dread Falls Theatre was born!

After a couple of years of performing smaller shows, and being hired out by other companies to enhance their events, I decided it was time for Dread Falls Theatre to show the world what they could do, and so we started performing full length shows.

Father Dagon, in a similar vein to other DFT (Dread Falls Theatre) projects, is multidisciplinary. The idea behind DFT is that we don’t want to create something that is just a play, or a just a dance, or just a gig, or just whatever. We want to create special and unique events, so we call them theatrical experiences.

In Father Dagon, we are using actors and dancers to play our characters. It is so wonderful to work with actors in a dance setting, because they have a totally different awareness of their body, and the same with dancers when you tell them to act. The way they physicalize the story can bring surprising results, and add so much to the story than I wouldn't have initially expected from only using dancers, or only using actors.

We also have live musicians in the show; they will be stationed throughout the show, adding their dark and atmospheric sounds to our seaside town of Innsmouth. The musicians include DFT’s music director Dr William Connor (as Seesar), Anton Mobin, raxil4, and Akoustik Timbre Frekuency

In addition to the show, we also have visual artists displaying and selling their work, including Pavlina Bastlova, Jason McKittrick of Cryptocurium, Veronique Lady Goth, Bruno Stahl, and Joe Broers of Zombiequadrille.

Father Dagon is going to be an immersive and unique experience where we use multidisciplinary practice to create this twisted and bizarre world.

H.P. Lovecraft is an expert in describing the weird. How does Father Dragon plan to bring the essence of this weirdness to life?

There are so many ways in which I hope we bring the Lovecraftian weirdness to our audience!

Firstly, the story is mostly told through movement. There will be lines that are delivered in a traditional way by actors, but most of it will be told through the physicality of the actors. We hope by doing this we can create a new physical language by which the audience can interpret the story in their own way.

We also have our live musicians, whom I mentioned earlier. They musicians are fantastic! They are these weird, dark, atmospheric, improv musicians who create their own instruments out of found objects. These instruments look bizarre and sound bizarre, and that will add to the weird atmosphere of the show. The musicians, who are stationed around Innsmouth will be both giving cues to actors and taking cues from actors, and feeding off the energy of the audience.

Another way we are bringing the weirdness in is through make-up. I have my assistant director Katheryn Brown and make-up artist Suzie Demarco working on the Deep One make-up. I am hoping it’s going to be horrible! I have seen some their research and what they’re doing with the latex, and I am looking forward to seeing some hideous creatures!

In Lovecraft’s real life, it was said his nightmares were plagued by his literary, monstrous creations. When designing our set and scenery we played on this idea what the imaginary blurs into the real world. Some of our sceneries is going to be very “flat” and stylised, but among this, there will be real life, tangible objects that can be touched and protrude and link the two worlds together.

Our use of movement, music, make-up, and scenery are four ways we hope to do justice to Lovecraft’s weird fiction.

I understand this is not going to be a non-traditional theater going experience. What is it going to be like for the audience?

Creepy.

I want this experience to be creepy. I want the audience to walk into that first room in the show and go “Ooooh, this is not a pleasant experience. The music is giving me goose bumps, the space is oppressive and these characters should not be trusted.” If we can create this feeling, I will be very pleased with myself.

Father Dagon has been described as “immersive theatre” because the audience is given a certain amount of choice and autonomy. There are seven characters in the show, and as an audience member you are free to choose whom you follow and for how long. You may decide to follow one person for the whole show, or fit between characters that interest you. I think this level of autonomy in a theatre production is exciting for an audience member; they can experience the thrill of the chase and the arousal of being a voyeur.

Part of the unique experience for the audience is the fact the show is on a loop. Our story is twenty minutes long and loops three times, after which is an ending sequence. Audience members can choose which characters to follow; they could choose a different character each loop, or fit between the action.

How can readers participate?

First of all, of course, there is purchasing tickets to the show and they can be bought at http://www.skiddle.com/groups/dreadfallstheatre or via our Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/dreadfallstheatre/events.

We are also looking for people who would like to sponsor the show, meaning corporate sponsorship from businesses who would like to have us advertise their business in return for assistance funding the show to support us. We’re looking for donations, too.

We have an Indiegogo page, specifically to help us defray the costs of the venue and as of yesterday we reached 40% of that goal with just under three weeks left in the campaign, which is very exciting! The address for the Indiegogo campaign is http://www.igg.me/at/fatherdagon.

Beyond that, we are also looking for people to volunteer. People who would like to see the show and get involved and be part of this unique experience working front of house or backstage. Well, since we don’t really have a backstage, it would be more of helping ON stage! Now that’s a very exciting thing! If you’re in London in August and you’d like to help out, then you can contact me through our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/dreadfallstheatre.

And don’t forget, you can like our page, join our mailing list (via Facebook or directly at http://eepurl.com/ORTZL ), or just come to the gallery at the show and have a drink and see all the wonderful Lovecraftian art that will be on display!

Where can readers go to find out more?

All the information can be found on our Facebook event page and the Indiegogo campaign page. There’s a video trailer for the show, discussions of why we have selected the video we have selected, a gallery of previous shows, music from some of the performers, and soon we will be adding more audio, discussions of other performers involved, and pictures of rehearsals as we get them. We’ll also be constantly updating our Twitter page as well as those of the performers.

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