Published: 02/02/2016 09:04 - Updated: 02/02/2016 09:15

Inverness's Jenna shows how to live your dash

Pyrotechnic effects add to the drama in 'How You Gonna Live Your Dash'
Pyrotechnic effects add to the drama in 'How You Gonna Live Your Dash'

EXPLORING how we all decide to make the most of our time on earth, is the latest big question Inverness-raised theatremaker Jenna Watt explores.

For her, the chance to return to her home city to perform her new show How You Gonna Fill Your Dash at Eden Court, may well be one of those moments.

Jenna said: "I’m really excited about playing Eden Court because I left the city just as Eden Court was being closed for refurbishment a few years ago.

"So to come back all this time later and perform something there feels really special.

"With my producer, I spoke about where we wanted to take the show and I was really keen to get it up to the Highlands and show my work up there. So we contacted Eden Court and they said yes."

Jenna and fellow actress Ashley Smith open the show first later this week at Platform in Easterhouse in Glasgow.

"It’s a great venue with all the support and facilities we need," said Jenna, whose last production Flaneurs – a Fringe First-winning production at 2012’s Edinburgh Festival – used a big map and small plastic animals to bring a sense of scale and theatre to her show.

During the new piece, Jenna once again turns to the real-life stories of other people to look at those life-altering

decisions we make to try to get the most out of our time on earth.

And that can mean giving up a high-flying career, confronting an addiction or dropping it all and moving to a new continent.

Based on those testimonies Jenna has recorded – and featuring beautiful pyrotechnic effects – she aims for the production to be epic as we look into our own future.

Jenna said: "I think I am always drawn to real-life testimonies and to real people, but in terms of aesthetics I like to push that and find new ways.

"With Flaneurs, people’s voices were recorded and in that space with us.

"In this one, we talked to people though their voices will not be hard in the show.

"For me as a maker I didn’t want to communicate those stories in the same way and it gives me the chance to grow as an artist.

"Maybe I still extract the material in the same way, but I express it very differently."

The idea for the show came in two parts – and what does that title mean?

Jenna explains that a documentary following a man on death row in the US, started the process: "I encountered it when I was watching Werner Herzog’s documentary Into The Abyss.

"There was what they call a ‘captain of the death house’ – he looks after, provides last meals and phone calls etc for prisoners in their final hours.

"He had this moment that this job wasn’t what he wanted to be doing with his life and somebody had said to him ‘Maybe you could think about your dash’.

"He had asked what that was andwas told that on a tombstone you have the days of your birth and your death – and the dash in between is your life, right there.

"As soon as I hear d that it was as if this sparked something in my mind ," says Jenna.

"I thought I’m going to have to explore that’. So I wrote it on a post-it note on my wall and started working towards a show.

"At the same time I was starting to be really intrigued by the work of a photographer called Filippo Minelli .

"He takes photos after letting off coloured smoke grenades in outdoor places – in a forest or at a lake and in his photographs there are these really beautiful vivid images of smoke swirling around – and in places you wouldn’t expect.

"It got me thinking about how to create those images and using smoke in a performance in a theatrical way because often you see pyrotechnics in a panto if the bad witch appears or the genie appearing out of a lamp.

"But I became really interested in finding a way to use pyros in a contemporary performance in a contemporary theatre.

"I wanted to find things that you can do with it and not just plonk it down and set it off.

"I wanted to manipulate it and create something that has its own life onstage, so that it tells its own story.

"I decided to combine the two elements – ‘the dash’ and that big theme with a lovely bold and big aesthetic to match it.

"So to make sthis show, I have been working towards bringing the two elements together."

After the tour of How You Gonna Live Your Dash, Jenna will be concentrating on her next, quite different show which she hopes to take to the Edinburgh Festival.

"It’s about Trident and Faslane and the economy of Faslane . I’ve been working on it for the last 18 months, researching it.

"It’s very political and a topical hot potato and we’re doing doing it in Manchester first,though hoping to to take it to the Festival."

Jenna just laughs when you ask whether in How You Gonna Live Your Dash it was easy to bring the real-life stories together with the coloured smoke/pyros.

"We’ve been through a couple of development periods.

"If you are going to put a story around the theatricality of the smoke, you have to be careful that that could say one thing, but the story you are telling could say another. So it is quite tough.

"But having those stories there, being told in such a theatrical way using the pyros to support that, it brings a heightened realism to the storytelling."

Jenna agrees that there is almost an element of art installation to her work.

She explains: "My work often starts off almost as that, an installation which looks at the themes and the aesthetic in quite a concentrated way.

"But there is a strong visual aspect to it.

"From there it becomes a bit of theatre, made for theatre audiences and theatre spaces."

How You Gonna Live Your Dash is at Eden Court on Tuesday, February 2 at 8pm. For more on Jenna:

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