The Fringe Festival is often the place where new writing can find a space in the spotlight, to represent stories that are frequently left to go under the radar. I spoke to Dyan RB, a theatre maker based in Edinburgh and America, about her first production in association with Asterglow Theatre, and the power of stories to challenge, uplift, and support. Never None (But She) is gearing up to be a sympathetic, necessary piece of theatre in our increasingly-cynical times, and I wanted to know how it got to the stage.
Me: Hi there! Can you give me a quick summary of Never None (But She)?
D: Sure! Never None (But She) is a piece of original writing with original music. I did the writing and Sophie Sood did the music in combination with myself and others. They did all the bass melodies, and our actors harmonised on top of that. It’s about three women who are faced with a society that is against them at times and they all have different perspectives on how to deal with that. They all learn to come together and become more empowered, and take action in their lives and in the society around them. It also has to do with magic – the stars go out of the sky when people’s magic goes away and when they are oppressed.
Me: The show seems heavily inspired by folktales – how have you incorporated traditional storytelling into a show with such contemporary themes?
D: Traditional storytelling and folktales hold huge value so I took the format of telling stories and used that as a guide while writing. So while it is not a traditional tale, it holds a lot of influences from these. I feel that the show itself is about modern day struggles. It is 100% based on reality and lived experiences for different people and it is not a historical thing at all. Folktales allow a broader space of possibility and opportunity too: in the storytelling world, you’re already suspending your disbelief because you’re in a theatre – I feel like it’s the perfect space to show you issues that are happening and maybe you can open your mind up to them a little bit more than in another situation.
Me: You mentioned that there is music involved in this show, what else can people expect and how has the combination of theatrical styles been developed?
D: We’re doing music, we’re doing dance, we’re doing monologues – we’re trying to do a whole range of things so that hopefully something in there will hit people and learning from there what resonates the most. When we were auditioning we weren’t necessarily auditioning people who were vocal experts, but we were auditioning people for their willingness to try things. We started working with the text, and I knew certain moments where I wanted physical theatre and movement – and in some places we didn’t need it, so didn’t use it, and some place we didn’t think we’d need it, but we did. We were all in the room playing around with things until we found stuff that worked.
Me: How has this collaborative been?
D: I think giving people the flexibility to really create and have the space to create on their own, that’s what theatre’s about. that’s what it’s about, trusting other people to give their input and make decisions on their area. That type of collaboration where everyone is hearing each other.
Me: I heard you directed the majority of this production over Skype! How was that?
D: it was interesting! I had done this before with another show, so I had some experience, but, really, there’s nothing that can replace being in the room. But you can still get a lot done with Skype! We have a very extensive Google Drive, and Sophie Powell as the stage manager was stunning – she was basically like my body in the room, turning me around. I live out in the middle of nowhere in the United States, so my internet is very spotty. Sometimes I’d have to turn my video off and then I’m just a disembodied voice. It creates something different, but it is definitely possible. The actors were incredible at rolling with it and going with the flow, really trying new things. It was because of that community and trust that everything will come together.
Me: What do you want people to take away from Never None (But She)?
D: I want people to leave with a call to action and I want people to leave with hope. Never None (But She), I think, it’s talking a lot about the problems that people, especially women, are dealing with, but I think it shows that no matter what your perspective is on it, you can change and you can make an individual difference. Everyone has a responsibility to do that. I think that, also, for the people that need to see it, who have gone through these experiences, I hope that they feel how resilient they are and how powerful they are. And for people who haven’t been through these experiences, I hope that they can look at how they’re going about life and treating others – and realise that every person can change and see how they can. Also I want people to come away with a feeling of community and the importance of community, and learning other perspectives. I don’t know all of the perspectives, as a white cisgender woman, and I know I need to keep growing. So I hope audience members also realise that there is always more growing to do. There’s always more work to do on yourself and more work to do to support others better. I hope that people leave thinking about that.
And speaking of community, we’re really focused on creating accessible and safe spaces for our actors and our audience members. We have relaxed performances on the 4th, 7th, and 21st which involve cutting out the background noises, loud noises, intensive lighting will be dimmed, along with the house lights being up. We don’t have enough space for a chill out area, but we will have someone on the door who can take you outside if you need, and people are free to exit and enter as they want, move around if they need to. There is minor audience participation during the standard show, but we’re not doing that during the relaxed performance. We’re also having subtitling throughout the entire run. You can get them on your phone, and we have more info on our website. That’s something we’re really passionate about: making theatre more accessible to other people because people with disabilities are also part of our community and we want them to be welcome. It’s also wheelchair accessible – we’re hoping in the future, to incorporate the subtitles into the visuals of the show with projection, but at the moment we have the app.
It’s all about coming together and making change, so where else to start but with us? That’s what our show’s about, so we need to lead the way!
Me: What is in the future for Asterglow Theatre?
D: I’m really hoping that it will continue to grow and we’ll take this show on tour, potentially. I would love for Asterglow Theatre to be a place, physical or not, where new writers can submit works and we can develop them and work with them. Especially people who are bringing stories that are underrepresented elsewhere, to support voices that maybe are prioritised, become more accessible. Also workshops associated with the subject matter on the plays, so people can learn what this show is about and learn how to make a change, and learn what resources there are for education.
I hope it’ll be there for the people who need it and it will also nudge the people who maybe didn’t realise they needed it into the direction for change.
Never None (But She) is on until the 24th of August – buy tickets here.