New mixed-media show hits the Trav

The Student spoke to director, Joe Murphy, about his new work Symphony, showing at the Traverse theatre.

We are all familiar with those stereotypical (mis)conceptions of what theatre is: “oh, it’s too boring”, “too elitist” and “I can’t relate to it”. And yes, at times, theatre can prove too archaic and stuffy – perhaps a little caught in the past. However, Symphony seeks to revitalise the theatrical form, creating a refreshing production through the fusion of different media.

Symphony’s take on theatrical performance aims to probe conventional characteristics of modern theatre. The production, separated into three discrete pieces – Tom Wells’ ‘Jonesy’, Ella Hickson’s ‘A Love Song for the People of London’ and Nick Payne’s ‘My Thoughts on Leaving You’ – portray accounts of an adolescent coming-of-age, movement to the ‘Big City’ and a ‘rock n roll’ love story respectively.

What makes this production so exciting is the freshness of director, Joe Murphy: these are modern stories, universally relatable and accessible. It is this universalism that will engage audiences. Moreover, the production, as Murphy states, is representing a transition into a modern world, not only regarding the narrative of the three pieces, but also in theatre – ensuring contemporary relevance for all audiences. Indeed, there appears to be a refreshing rawness and honesty to the production; one that is unashamedly innovative.
What demonstrates Symphony’s originality is the experimental use of media: Murphy claims this is a “21st century mash-up of a live gig, theatre and stand-up comedy”. The use of a live band provides a certain unity and constant between the pieces. Yet, Murphy expresses his wish not to constrain writers. This is a show all about unrestrained and passionate innovation – one that deconstructs stereotypical perceptions of theatre and aims to present a relatable, contemporary and “rock n roll” production. His energetic enthusiasm about the project is immediately apparent: he notes that this production is all about theatrical originality – a method of reviving theatre and bringing it back into the modern day.

Murphy states that there is nowhere more appropriate for Symphony in Edinburgh than the Traverse Theatre, noting that the venue’s energy, its relaxed, refreshing audience and its status as the centre of new writing match the production’s intentions. Having already featured at festivals such as Latitude and the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival in 2012, Murphy aims to bring the anarchic festival feel into the city. And indeed, as the threatening darkness descends upon Edinburgh – reminding us of our permanent state of dampness and coldness in winter – the prospect of an imitative festival vibe sounds all too tempting (obviously, minus the denim shorts, sunglasses and sandals).

When asked about what makes this production appropriate for students, Murphy again stressed the universal relevance of the piece: the transition to a new world, the quirky inclusion of the band and the relaxed atmosphere of the production all aim to make this production have contemporary relevance.

Indeed, what is most evident in Murphy’s explanation of Symphony is the significant amount of fun surrounding not only the production’s performance but also in the creation of this exciting form of theatre. Symphony demonstrates a real spark and rawness that should be welcomed to the theatre scene, and it is evident that such originality will prove exciting, inspiring and fresh for modern day theatre. Whether it is before a night out or just a break from mid-term deadlines, Symphony promises to be a thoroughlyenjoyable evening for all.

Symphony plays at the Traverse Theatre from 5th-7th November.

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