Fri 31 Aug + Sat 1 Sept
Tickets: £8/£6. Info: 01633 838672 / www.theatrffynnon.co.uk
In a collaborative project between Theatre Fynnon and Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre, 18 young people have been brought together over an eight-month project and nine-day residency to create a unique piece of theatre that attempts to capture the fast-paced worlds of two groups of young people who may otherwise not meet or work creatively together.
We talk to director John Norton to find out a little more about the production…
JOHN NORTON Q&A
I guess a good place to start is a summary of what Cluttering is all about and where the idea first came from
Dave Norton: Cluttering is a kind of a speech disorder which is not quite the same as stuttering. It involves just lots of different incidences of disfluency. The idea was put together only about a year and a half or so ago, and really the primary motivation was to get some people together from a special needs school, represented by Theatre Ffynnon, who I’m working for, and to bring them together with some young people from Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre to work together. So that’s the sort of primary motivation if you like – to get these diverse groups of young people hanging out and making drama together.
So that was the main inspiration behind the whole production then. It was the youth involvement more than anything?
Yeah I think so. I was brought into the project a bit later, because originally it was set up before I was involved with Theatre Ffynnnon.
So was it quite tricky jumping in half way through?
Well it hasn’t been halfway through in that sense, because it was right at the beginning of the project, because it had such a massive timeline, so the decisions were made to raise funds for it. In terms of like, I was there when they wanted workshops. Ironically, I wasn’t there when they wanted the workshops. I was running them remotely through video. We tried to build up a little language so that we could buddy the two groups, but we haven’t been able to meet yet because of the logistics of it all. We’re getting them to meet on video.
Okay, so it’s quite an interactive project then?
Yeah. Whether that’ll be in the final format, I don’t know. Cos in truth it’s… it’s such a process-led thing. That’s probably not what you want to hear.
I’d imagine it’s quite experimental.
Yeah, totally. I mean, I’m really interested in disfluency because that’s what cluttering is: it’s a communication disorder. Obviously, we’ve been talking to experts in the field of speech and language therapy and stuff. And they talk about the kind of structures of stutters and clutters. And they also talk about having to educate. People usually expect these guys to sort of fix the stutterer. The more progressive thinking is actually about fixing the listener.
So basically, what happens with the stutterer is that they kind of violate the expectations of the listener. If you go to the corner shop and you want to buy a packet of crisps and the guy says “it’s … it’s…” You know, he takes 3 and a half minutes to say “45 pence”, your expectation is effectively violated as to what the exchange is going to be like. Whereas he – because he’s a stutterer – has always known that that was going to be the case. So the progressive thinking in terms of the therapeutics on it is to sort of get them to realise that they’re left-handed fencers, which is kind of a metaphor this one guy used. Basically a left-handed fencer is used to fighting right-handed fencers, but a right-handed fencer isn’t used to fighting left-handed fencers. In a sense, they’re the ones with expectations that don’t match the situation.
So you’re saying that changing expectations and perceptions is part of the process, and part of the final result that you’re going for?
Yeah, totally. I mean we’re looking to kind of play around with people’s expectations. I think it organically does that anyway. So it’s, a really good medium to explore those themes. There’s lots of ways where communication aides look at restructuring the way communication occurs. That obviously really intrigued me.
I guess one last question is, for someone just coming out of the blue to see the production, what would they expect to see or experience?
Okay, so they’d expect to see 18 young people. Some of whom are, y’know, so say, ’normal’, if you like – is any teenager normal anyway? Some of them have quite… have learning disabilities and special circumstances, and some of them are more ‘mainstream’ kids, but they’re all teenagers. They’re all dealing with being teenagers. What would they expect to see? They’d expect to see… I guess a kind of… a really… a coming together of two groups of people to make a piece of work, who wouldn’t normally be in a room together. I think that’s what it is. I think we always have this thing. We kind of have these disabled practitioner companies, like Odyssey for example, particularly learning disabled as opposed to physically disabled.
Not easy to sum up, I guess?
Partly of course because we’re going to be making the work when we bring them together. Currently I’m ‘skilling up’ the group of young people that I’m working with. I’m kind of just checking out their receptivity to certain techniques, realising that certain things are not possible. I’m having to re-think every time. By the time we all get in a room, I’ll know what can and can’t happen with young people. Because… I think, it being co-directed by Phil McKenzie… I think just expect a fascinating… err… chaos.