The team here at ITI has been hard at work developing a brand new show full of drama, humour, and (of course!) sparkle: Pamela’s Palace goes public at Brighton Fringe with just three preview performances, ahead of its month-long Fringe First run in Edinburgh in August.
If you follow our blogs, you might recall that I spoke to the show’s original creator and performer, Donna Gray, a few weeks ago about their creative process and what it was like for her to reinvent her original one-woman show, through collaboration, into a three-person show. Donna had some really wonderful and insightful things to share with us that made us giddy with excitement for their upcoming previews (if you want to get caught up you can find that interview here).
The cast features Donna Gray as Pamela, Katie Grace Cooper (Tiffany) and Ayesha Tansey (Bronwyn). They’ve been back in the rehearsal space this week, tightening up the script, practising their dance moves, and getting ready for the Brighton previews.
Importantly, the cast has also had input from Aitor Basauri (which Donna mentions in our interview). Aitor is a staff tutor at Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas and one of the world’s leading teachers of clown and physical comedy. Needless to say, we think the show is heading for comedic excellence…
About Aitor Basauri and his work
Aitor Basauri is also joint Artistic Director and performer with Spymonkey, which he co-founded in 1997 with Toby Park and Petra Massey. Spymonkey’s dark, edgy physical comedy is rooted ‘somewhere between Monty Python, the Marx Brothers and Samuel Beckett’ (The Houston Chronicle). He points to his time with Spymonkey, performing at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal in front of 3,000 people as one of his career highlights.
He had some interesting things to say about the parallel between creative devising on Pamela’s Palace and the work devised in Spymonkey:
‘The way we have been working on Pamela’s Palace is not very different to the way we work [in Spymonkey]. We try to find what we want to do and how we want to do it and then we try to do it.
‘Perhaps, what we do with Spymonkey is that we use a lot of material where we try to do something and we make mistakes – we include those mistakes in the show. But the similarities to create a show is almost always the same thing: a group of people trying to create something together that will fulfill the expectations of everybody that is creating the show.
‘With Pamela’s Palace the interesting thing has been to see three brilliantly funny actresses who did not know each other very much suddenly getting to know each other and work together as a team. And to see that process is like witnessing a miracle to a certain extent. It’s always really good and exciting fun.’
The cast has learned so much during Aitor’s time with Pamela’s Palace. Donna tells me that Aitor left her with some excellent words of advice:
‘He told me that people are funny when they show they are vulnerable and if you can share that with an audience it is comedy gold. He prodded us to play games with our audience to see what comes alive and to go with it. I guess he just reminded us that clowning isn’t just about being silly or trying to make people laugh, a true clown plays the truth and let’s the funny come out of whatever they’re doing. Having an element of yourself in the character you are playing helps it become organic, and allows the audience to connect with you.’
Donna also noted that he was ‘full of amazing advice’ and that she had learnt much about herself as a performer in the three days they spent with him: ‘he really invested in us and it was an invaluable experience’.
Aitor’s ‘Life Lesson’!
So I suppose it is not much of a surprise that when I asked Aitor what tips he would give to teams working to devise a piece he responded with this:
‘Well, to answer that question would imply that I know what you have to do. I don’t know anything, really. Making shows – sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad and you can’t fight it. But make the process the most enjoyable as possible. Always say yes and be ready to have fun. That’s the most important thing.
‘So I think that is all I can say: to say yes and to be ready to work together and to not impose your ego on the others.’
I don’t know about you, my friends, but those sound like some pretty great tips for creating anything at all – even life: ‘say yes, have fun, work together, and don’t impose your ego.’ Life lesson!
Pamela’s Palace imparts some life lessons too. As a completely immersive behind-the-sequins dramedy it straddles the line between bitter and sweet, and celebrates the vulnerability and strength of everyone trying to make their way in a noisy and unforgiving world. Just as good theatre should be – something that is as funny as it is moving.
I will leave you with this. When Aitor was asked why audiences come to see theatre and why they will see Pamela’s Palace he said:
‘Well, people go to the theatre to have a good time. A good time in an intellectual way, a good time in a punk way, a good time in an emotional way, a good time in a laughing way. I don’t know.
‘I go for all those reasons and I hope that for all those reasons they will go to see Pamela’s Palace. Because I think it is going to be funny. The actresses are really funny and really good. They should come for all those reasons and be expecting to see all those things.’
Pamela’s Palace is at the Warren Theatre Box, St Peter’s Church, Brighton BN1 4GU 31May-2 June 2018. You can score yourself a seat through this link here for just £14.00.
Then 2-27 August it’s up to Edinburgh Fringe at the ITI Hub, v119: The Principal Edinburgh George Street Hotel. Tickets and info here.