Green and Blue

Kabosh Theatre Company: ‘Green & Blue’ in Bruford at Summerhall
2nd-26th August 2019 (7pm / 7.20pm)
What was the inspiration for the work?
Kabosh is committed to using theatre to help communities deal with the legacy of violent conflict. Key to this is giving voice to those who aren’t being heard and presenting those stories to new ears, those who have never heard them before. Rather than producing living history Kabosh works with playwrights to put the testimonies through a creative lens thereby challenging the story-keeper as well as the new listeners. One of the narratives missing from the post-conflict conversation in Ireland was that of police (a particularly male voice). Community-umbrella organisation Diversity Challenges gathered an oral archive from officers who served on the Irish border during the height of the conflict, they were put into an online resource entitled Voices from the Vault. Diversity Challenges released a tender for an artist to respond to the archive. Republican ex-prisoner Laurence McKeown secured the tender in partnership with Kabosh. Kabosh got involved due to the uniqueness of the material, the value of adding to our canon of post-conflict arts engagement output and our successful long-term partnership with Laurence. Over a two-year period the script was developed with a committee of retired and current PSNI, RUC and Garda officers overseen by director Paula McFetridge.

What kind of wider impact in terms of conversations do you hope the work will produce?
Facilitate informed conversations about the human cost of the Irish conflict
Feed into ongoing discussions about the impact of borders on society
Assist international communities in looking at effective policing
Bear witness to the hundreds of men and woman who patrolled the Irish border and assist with reconciliation
Demonstrate the positive role theatre can play in provoking debate, humanising individuals and challenging pre-conceived of others
Support conflict and post-conflict zones as they journey towards a long-lasting sustainable peaceful future
Since October 2016 Kabosh has toured this production to a broad range of communities (rural, urban, cross-community and single-identity) across Ireland, as well as to Dresden, London, Paris and Brussels; most performances are followed by facilitated discussion. Each discussion is animated, emotional, informed and unique with contributors sharing personal stories of conflict and borders.

How far does the content of the work influence your dramaturgical process? (or – what is the relationship between form and content?)
Form and content are key in the development of Kabosh work as we tour each production into a range of purpose-built art spaces and unusual, often contested, sites so the work can be taken directly into the community, thereby limiting barriers to access given the controversial nature of the material.
It needs to be a form that can adapt to a range of spaces (prisons to community centres to heritage sites to police stations) so production quality is never compromised. No matter where an audience is and who they are the work needs to be of the highest standard.
It is about finding a form that puts the human story up front and central, championing the work of great wordsmiths and talented actors. It upholds the tradition of poetic Irish new writing.
The form also allows for authentic props and costumes (informed by the advisory committee) allowing for a deep truth at the centre of the work.
For ‘Green & Blue’ we needed to visually represent the border, provide an imaginary way of demonstrating isolation, a ‘no-mans-land’ that could be both specific and anywhere: as is said in the play when the question of where the border actually is ‘only a wise man or a farmer could tell you that’. An important element of the form was the sound design as there are two major violent incidents in the play that provoke reaction: sounding conflict is complex as the authenticity of the effects need considerable care. Questions we asked ourselves: is each effect from the perspective of the victim or perpetrator, is it urban or rural, what period of weaponry is used? The creative effort put into this element has resulted in the project being featured in a multi-university AHRC supported research project entitled ‘Sounding Conflict’.
It is also essential that audiences are inspired by the experience to make a difference, to be mobilised to make a difference, become the keeper of new information that can assist positive societal change: there is no long-term benefit form audiences feeling guilty for being immobile / passive. To achieve this the production needs to inform and educate, provide bite-sized information that can be retained for future sharing. This effectively challenges misconceptions and shares truth. None of this can negatively compromise the entertainment value.
The form must leave room for humour – individuals survive conflict through an emotional buoyancy, an ability to laugh in moments of terrible adversity. Audiences need to experience this emotional rollercoaster, they need to be able to laugh with characters at the abnormality of what conflict and adverse situations label as normal.
To ensure form is effective Kabosh Artistic Director works with a renowned design team: film and sound Conan McIvor, costume Liz Cullinane and set Stuart Marshall. The actors James Doran and Vincent Higgins have been part of the process from the beginning and have performed all the 61 performances to date.

How does this show relate to your usual process or content?
There are similarities and differences as there are with every Kabosh production, but our methodology is transferrable. To create our political work, we work with an NGO to access single-identity community stories, these are given to a playwright who then creates a play inspired by the testimonies. Often the play is shared informally with the contributors throughout its development to keep them engaged with the project, given them ownership of its development and to encourage them to act as ambassadors for the production. This can be a difficult process as it is imperative artistic independence is maintained, artists are protected, the contributors are challenged, and quality work is created. Each production is rehearsed over a 4-week period. Each project is conceived for revival so it can be staged in response to community / producer need as we find with the work that audiences are all on a different timeline with regard to dealing with conflict so Kabosh needs to be ready to present the work when a community is ready. That is why ‘Green & Blue’ has been touring on and off since October 2016 – we are taking into communities now that weren’t ready to engage with the narrative 2 years ago. Kabosh liaises closely with the community gatekeepers. Kabosh responds to need.

What makes you want to make theatre rather than another art?
We place value on the live communal event. The active role each individual has at each performance inspires us. We strive to humanise those we perceive to be other and present them in a 3-dimensional form. We create provocations that challenge perceptions, challenging an audience is more effective when it is live in front of you.
Often Kabosh projects involve film as it effectively transports audiences into an everywhere / lifts them out of the personal into the public. It helps audiences hear their narratives within a universal context, lifts it out of the parochial.

Is theatre – and the Fringe – a good place to provoke conversations?
Theatre is definitely a good place to provoke informed conversations. We have witnessed it working over our 25-year journey as a company. We have been told often that it works. We have also developed an evaluation system that measures attitudinal change to the subject matter pre and post attending a performance. In addition, the evaluation forms ask audiences about the effectiveness of theatre in confronting sensitive issues of societal importance.
As regards the Fringe it is still early days for Kabosh but the potential for conversations is definitely there. It is easy to get overwhelmed by scale of event and the task of getting reviewers and audiences across the threshold. This feeling is heightened when you really believe in the value and quality of the work.
This Fringe experience will allow global producers to connect with Kabosh to facilitate future collaborations and touring.
Paula McFetridge
Artistic Director Kabosh
paula@kabosh.net
0789 1170816

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