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Fusing the work of two artists

Annie George and Flore Gardner’s collaboration, Twa, comes to the Traverse Theatre for two nights later this month, following a successful run at the Scottish Storytelling Centre during last year’s Fringe. Both artists have participated in Magnetic North’s Rough Mix and Space/Time programmes so I met with them to find out about how that might have influenced their ways of working.

The two artists have come together from quite different backgrounds to forge this compelling cross-artform collaboration. Annie is an award-winning writer, director and performer and she wrote and performs in Twa. She turned to writing after struggling to find work that she wanted to direct.

Once the pair had agreed to create a performance together, Annie sent Flore a short script she had written as a starting point. “It’s got a lot of imagery in it and Flore liked it,” Annie says, “It was quite visual so it sparked off lots of ideas.”

Flore is a visual artist. “I draw on paper, quite small formats, and my subject is the human body,” she explains, “I don’t set out to draw the human body but I end up drawing the human body all the time. I also do alternative forms of drawing. It could be, for example, wall drawing or long durational performance drawing or drawing live in theatre.”

It’s this last type of drawing that features in Twa, though figuring out how to integrate the drawing element into a live performance was not without its challenges. As an artist used to working alone, Flore was initially reluctant to appear on stage: “I had a red line, which was I refused to speak on stage!”

Annie explains a bit about their process: “We spent a lot of time trying to work out how to do the projection. We were trying to work out how to make sure it didn’t draw away from the performance. At first [Flore] was going to be sitting in the audience drawing on a tablet, then we were thinking she would be on the stage with an overhead projector at one point.”

“It’s also because I wanted those two different temporalities,” Flore continues, “I wanted to have made the projections, the animated drawings, beforehand and then draw live during the actual performances. That’s two different kinds of time and drawing. We did spend a lot of time sorting that out. And also [Annie] finishing off the text and I doing different drawings then [she’d] change the text and I’d change the drawings again and that lasted for quite a long time.”

Encouraging this type of interplay between disciplines is at the heart of Rough Mix. However, Twa didn’t come about until after the pair had participated in the programme. It was Flore and Annie’s relationship, both personal and professional, which came out of their time at Magnetic North’s two-week creative lab at Eastgate Theatre in Peebles in 2017.

“We shared a house so even though we didn’t see each other during the day we’d talk at night,” Annie tells me, “and then Flore came to see my show the following month. Then she came back in October and we went out and I said ‘Right, let’s make a show then’ because we were always moaning about our work and, I suppose, the themes that led on to Twa, about not being heard and being stretched in a lot of different directions and the importance of our art to us.”

Flore agrees that connecting on a personal level as well as a professional level was important for their working relationship. “We talked about lots of personal stuff really, but I think that my everyday life is completely intermingled with my work,” she says. “I can’t separate the two; one is so much part of the other.”

This duality is at the heart (and in the title) of Twa: it mixes the contemporary and the mythical, intertwines two different women’s stories and fuses the unique work of both of these artists.

If you missed it at the Fringe last year, you can see it at the Traverse Theatre next week, 24th-25th May.