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Natasha Gilmore: Alternative perspectives

By | Published on Monday 28 July 2014


There are plenty of children’s shows at the Fringe which are actually as entertaining for grown ups, but what if the kid’s show itself was reinterpreted for older eyes? That’s the challenge choreographer Natasha Gilmore set herself after realising how she and her children often interpreted differently stories that they read together. She teamed up with Robert Alan Evans and musician Kim Moore to create two dance pieces based on the popular children’s book ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’, one for children, called ‘Tiger Tale’, and one for adults, called simply ‘Tiger’. The two productions follow the same story and feature many of the same elements, but with a different perspective depending on who is in the audience. We spoke to Gilmore to find out more about this fascinating project.

CC: When and how did the idea come about to expand the ideas in ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ into these two new dance pieces?
NG: When reading my children certain books, like ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’, I began to reflect on how my adult eyes perceived things so differently, looking for metaphors of a more cynical world. This really intrigued me, and prompted the idea of doing two pieces around the same story, one from the perspective of the child and one from the view of the parents. I know that you can create sophisticated children’s work that adults can enjoy, but I wanted us to be able to make an adult version of the piece that dealt with things like the breakdown of the parents’ relationship. So we perform the children’s show during the day and the adult version in the evening.

CC: So, the two pieces very much follow the same path story wise?
NG: Yes. What’s really interesting is that, in terms of material, there is a lot that is the same between the two shows, but what is totally different is the way it’s read by the different audiences. Performing the piece in the same day to the different audiences is really bizarre because the atmosphere is so different. The performers are also affected by this and there is a shift in the way it is performed, with the loud responses from the children. ‘Tiger’ and ‘Tiger Tale’ tell the story of a family. In the version created for children we look at the daughter as the key person that young people identify with, and what the family life feels like for her. While ‘Tiger’ goes into more depth about issues such as the complications of the parents’ sexual relationship, a subject that would not be on a child’s radar.

CC: What are the key themes of the two pieces?
NG: When the piece starts we meet a family who have become trapped in their everyday routine, they have ceased to communicate. They are suffocated by the life they have created for themselves, a life that’s devoid of any risk taking. Then a tiger arrives and everything changes. The subject of risk taking is an inherent driving force behind the piece. If we create safety in our lives do we deny access to things that can really enrich us, despite the element of risk involved? It can be hard as parents to allow your children to take risks, but without any risk in their lives how will they learn for themselves and take responsibility for themselves? As adults we can become stuck in a routine, and then change becomes frightening, even though we may not feel fulfilled with the routine situation. The family in our story are stifled by the rigidity of their lives. They have trapped themselves without planning to. That’s what creates space for the catalyst. In the production there is very real physical risk taking place as performers navigate themselves through an unpredictable changing landscape as the set reconfigures throughout the piece.

CC: How did the collaboration with Robert Alan Evans work? Did you divide the work up – movement, setting story – or did you both input on every element?
NG: There wasn’t a separation of creative input, a dividing line of where his or my input started and stopped exactly. We both gave ideas for initial improvisations that helped shape the piece, and then we went onto construct a storyboard based on the ingredients we had. For me as a choreographer working with Rob made the process really efficient, because within week one of the process we knew the exact structure of both pieces. So choreographically it was like filling in the gaps without the risk of going off on tangents, which was amazing.

CC: And tell us about the music. Kim Moore has composed the music for both pieces. Is it basically the same score in both shows, or does it differ?
NG: Most of the musical score is the same, but as ‘Tiger’ has additional elements to ‘Tiger Tale’ that show details of the parents’ relationship these need their own music score.

CC: When you’re creating a brand new dance piece it always interests me how it works, what comes first, the music or the movement?
NG: Kim was in the studio with us right from the beginning of the process, which meant the music for the piece was able to evolve organically. She would improvise using live music as we explored different creative tasks, creating the right atmosphere with her music and inspiring the dancers. Then gradually, as these sections were formed and became more solid, the music would also become more refined responding to the exact choreography. As the music is played live there are elements that she responds to in the moment of each performance, which keeps it really fresh and exciting. Having said that, there are some parts of the work that are meticulously timed with the dancers so the music stops and starts at precise moments and help tell the story. The evocative sound score is a central part of the piece and helps build the tension of the arrival of the tiger, which at first only the daughter can hear.

CC: Although ‘Tiger Tale’ is aimed at children, would grown ups coming to ‘Tiger’ get a fuller experience by seeing both productions?
NG: It’s not necessary to see both shows, each one stands on their own, but often we have parents accompanying their children to ‘Tiger Tale’ and they are excited and intrigued to then watch ‘Tiger’ so come again in the evening.

CC: You’ve directed at the Fringe before. Is it a great forum for new dance works?
NG: The Fringe is a good opportunity to have your work seen by diverse audiences and theatre promoters from across the UK and internationally who may then book it for future touring. We are so lucky to be a part of a showcase called ‘Made In Scotland’ which is a curated showcase promoting high quality music, theatre and dance to international promoters and audiences at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Both ‘Tiger Tale’ and ‘Tiger’ were performed at Venue 150 @ EICC at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

LINKS: barrowlandballet.co.uk