11:05 a.m. - 12:05 p.m. | 4 – 21 August 2022 | Underbelly, Cowgate | Belly Button
by Gareth K Vile
Two separate worlds existing side by side, until someone crosses the barrier... MJ is a human who is sick of moving boxes around all day like a robot. Pins is a robot who's only heard of humans in stories. When they meet in the space between their worlds, they form a friendship that blurs the boundaries between human and machine. A Pixar movie brought to life on stage using physical theatre and puppetry, Foundations is a whimsical production that tackles what it means to be human in an age of technology.
Answers from Co-directors AV Bodrenkova and Aimee Dickinson
What inspired the story for your show?
This show started with us thinking about the relationship between humans and technology, particularly how movies and other media tend to present robots as separate from or threatening to humans even though humans are ultimately responsible for creating them. This led to us creating a fantastical story about a human girl who finds a race of robots who weren’t created by humans, and how she and one of these robots, Pins, learn to relate to one another and teach each other about their worlds.
In the play, we have two human characters who deal with the robots in very different ways; one who accepts them for what they are, and one who tries to force them to fit an idea of what she thinks technology should be. It’s ultimately a universal story about empathising with others and not forcing your preconceived ideas onto them - but it’s also an exciting adventure story about discovering new worlds and making friends!
How did you decide to get puppets involved?
The puppets originally provided a way to create physical theatre within social distancing requirements, as this play was first devised during the pandemic, so they’ve been at the heart of the devising process from day one. We knew we wanted the puppets to play the robot characters because their design instantly foregrounds the fact that these characters are non-human. However, audience feedback has told us people quickly forget that the puppets are inanimate, as our wonderful puppeteers bring them to life with such unique characteristics that they quickly become real characters.
This process of growing to love the puppets despite or even because they look a little weird and uncanny really foregrounds that story of empathy our play is trying to tell. Working with puppets also brings a wonderful playfulness to the rehearsal room and the stage that we have absolutely loved as a company.
What is the difference between a robot and a puppet?
Both robots and puppets try to replicate human actions, but while robots aim to reduce the need for human involvement, puppetry relies on the interaction between puppet and puppeteer. By having puppets that are robots in our play, we try to bridge two ways of utilising technology; spiralling into automation or letting the people that use it have a say. We believe puppetry is a great way of depicting the interaction between humans and the technical world around us, demonstrating that even the most complicated A.I., for better or for worse, has a human touch in there somewhere.
What are you hoping that the audience will experience?
On the surface, Foundations is about escapism, an hour-long adventure into a magical world of robots. But, like any good fiction, it reflects on our real world as well. One of my favourite elements of the play is how explaining familiar everyday things, like rain and cars, to a robot encourages us to see them in a brand-new light, to appreciate them afresh for just how magical they really are. We hope the audience can take a little of this whimsical joy for life away with them after the show.
What is the company's history with puppets: are they a typical part of your dramaturgy?
Wrong Tree Theatre Company specialises in devised physical theatre, so puppets with their unique physicality fit in perfectly, though this is the first Wrong Tree show to feature puppetry so heavily. We are partnering with Ultraviolet, a brand-new company specialising in using creative storytelling mediums including music, movement, puppetry, and animation, to bring this show to fringe. Puppetry is such a fun and freeing medium in theatre, and we certainly hope to work with it much more in the future.
Why Edinburgh Fringe?
A lot of our team have been to Edinburgh Fringe before, and we are so excited to return to the community atmosphere and buzz of Fringe, especially after covid. We can’t wait to meet other theatre makers, especially those who specialise in puppetry and physical theatre, to learn from them and exchange tips. Puppetry is still a largely underrepresented medium in fringe and commercial theatre, and we thrilled to be taking one small step towards changing this with our show!
From Aimee Dickinson and AV Bodrenkova, co-directors of Foundations