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Behind the Curtain: The Intersection of Technical Expertise and Creative Vision in Theatre

An Interview with Bryony Byrne
Bryony Byrne and Déborah Prudhon

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Interview with Bryony Byrne about her work as a theatre-maker, comedian, and production and stage manager.

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1Bryony’s Website: https://bryonybyrne.com/​

Figure 1

Figure 1

©Stefan Willhoit 

Interview

Déborah Prudhon (DP). Hello Bryony. Could you start by introducing yourself?

Bryony Byrne (BB). Hi! I'm Bryony Byrne and I'm a British theatre-maker, comedian and writer living in Marseille. I also work freelance as a production and stage manager, often for dance or physical theatre companies.  

DP. How did you end up doing both of these roles?

BB. I think artists, particularly in the UK, are always having to think about what other job they will take in order to make ends meet. This discussion often revolves around whether to take a job that's adjacent to the job you really want, or to do something completely different - ostensibly so as not to confuse, or corrupt, your position as 'artist' within that industry.  After many years of working in very different industries, I decided that I wanted to be working in theatre, no matter the position, simply to be a part of making theatre.  I quickly realised that I preferred to be hands-on and active and that operating the show had a lot of similarities to performing a show - you have to be responsive to cues, you're reacting to the liveness of the work, you're working from a script, timing is essential and the work you're doing is live on stage.  

I'm self-taught and have been very lucky to be trusted by lots of wonderful people and companies with opportunities that have allowed me to grow and develop my skillset. In turn, I've learnt from them about the nuts and bolts of how to get theatre made and in front of an audience.  

DP. Has your work as a production and stage manager informed your own artistic work?

BB. Working on the technical side of theatre is also very creative and it's definitely informed my work as an artist. As a technician, I'm able to participate in performances that I might never be able to be part of as a performer - opera, dance, circus. But naturally these ways of working do seep into the work I make myself - at the moment I'm interested in exploring movement and dance. 

DP. Can you tell us about your artistic career?

BB. I created my first solo show with help from the Arts Council of England - help that is getting harder and harder for others to come by thanks to funding cuts from the top.  I don't think I would have been able to create the show without the funding because the most difficult part of creating solo work is maintaining faith in the work. This becomes a lot easier when you have a team of people supporting you and also investing their belief into the piece. I think it's absolutely crucial to get solo work in front of an audience or some like-minded collaborators as soon as possible for this very reason - if you sit with it on your own for too long you'll lose faith in the idea.  

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a brilliant place to take work as an artist because you have to perform relentlessly for days on end and the audience you get can be anyone from anywhere. It's a great way to hone your craft and, for me personally, to grow in confidence. I'm lucky because I have friends in the city but it's already become unaffordable for artists to perform there. The PBH Free Fringe1 is a great place to start though, because there are no costs to performing, only accommodation, and the audience can pay what they think it was worth. 

DP. What type of shows have you written and performed?

BB. The work I make is comedic and involves the audience. I love to work with the audience - the enduring appeal of live performance is this bond between audience and performer and this thing that we can create in the room together. The longer I spend in France, the more I'm trying to make work that can be shared without the need for language. My first show was about growing up playing football as a young girl in England and then stopping. It's about the explorations I made as an adult to understand why I, and all the girls I had known, had stopped playing. The second show I made was about the myth of the 'solo' creator. A clown tries to write a play but quickly finds it impossible and enlists the help of the audience to make the show work. Next I'm working on something around lifeguards. And in the meantime, me and my friends have started a trash-queer cabaret night in Marseille at Sing Or Die to allow us a platform to try out some of our more outrageous ideas. It's been nice working with other people! I feel like I make solo shows out of necessity but I'd also love to collaborate and be part of a larger collective. So hit me up!

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1
Credits ©Stefan Willhoit 
URL http://journals.openedition.org/miranda/docannexe/image/59515/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 259k
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References

Electronic reference

Bryony Byrne and Déborah Prudhon, Behind the Curtain: The Intersection of Technical Expertise and Creative Vision in TheatreMiranda [Online], 29 | 2024, Online since 22 April 2024, connection on 22 June 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/miranda/59515; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/miranda.59515

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About the authors

Bryony Byrne

British theatre-maker, comedian and writer & production and stage manager
bryony.byrne@gmail.com

Déborah Prudhon

Teaching Fellow at Aix-Marseille University
Research Lab: LERMA
deborah.prudhon@univ-amu.fr

By this author

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Copyright

CC-BY-NC-4.0

The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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