An Interview with Allie Butler
Hello Allie, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m from Fife originally, spent a decade in London, and now live in Glasgow.
When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
When I was about six. My cousins and I used to put on wee plays for our parents, and if they didn’t listen enough or clap enough, I’d be devastated. My fate was clearly sealed.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Anything that asks more questions than it tries to answer, and doesn’t try to do the job of the audience and all our thinking for us. I love work that is visually arresting and isn’t afraid to push boundaries and be difficult or challenging.
What does Allie Butler like to do when she’s not being theatrical?
I spend a lot of time dancing – I got into Swing dance with my husband nearly two years ago, and absolutely fell in love. I’ve always adored music from that era, and am now totally obsessed with the dances that go with it – Lindy Hop, Charleston, Blues, Collegiate Shag (yes that’s its real name).
You are quite a stalwart of the Scottish Theatre scene, which seems flourishing at the moment, why do you think this is?
Having lived and worked in London for years, I really noticed when I moved up here that there was a different artistic landscape and culture. I instantly felt more part of the dialogue than I had in London, and found that people were really welcoming and open. For a small country, there is such a huge amount going on and getting produced, it really is exceptional. Having said that, I do feel we still have a long way to go in terms of how the industry operates, and we need to work for more accountability and meritocracy across the board.
You are the artistic director of Tidy Carnage, can you tell us about the company?
I started Tidy Carnage because I was finding that venues kept asking for a company name and it seemed like it would be helpful to have a ‘brand’ to work under. That’s a really unromantic reason to start a theatre company, but it’s true. However, as I moved more towards making my own work, I really grew into the idea of having a company and what that meant for me as an artist. It give me a sense of freedom but also a really useful feeling of responsibility, for myself and for a collective of artists and for the work. We make contemporary theatre, usually working with a writer in the room but largely devised with a team of performers and other artists including musicians, film makers, set, lighting and video designers, and soon an illusionist. I’ve found that without really intending it, the work has started leaning towards immersive, site responsive pieces and that’s definitely what you’ll see more of from Tidy Carnage in future.
You will be bringing ‘Shame’ to the Fringe this August, can you tell us about the play?
Shame is a play written and performed by Belle Jones (Tidy Carnage associate) which explores the vilification of female sexuality online. It’s inspired by stories of slut shaming and revenge porn (although we both kind of hate those terms), and is a call to action against the horrific bullying and trolling that happens to (mostly) women on the internet. It’s a solo show on stage, but there is a 16 strong digital cast that also appear during the show’s projected media. We’ve also got original music composed for us by NovaSound that will feature in the show.
Can you give us dramaturgical details about the multi-media aspect of the performance?
Working with extensive video content has been really interesting and allowed us to tell a story from multiple angles, despite it being a solo show. It has also pressed us to think about the narrative in various timelines and to give the effect of ‘pausing’ the live action while we delve into the digital. We’ve had lots of really interesting conversations about our online personas and how we present something that is truly representative of the presence of a young person online – a ‘digital native’. The other unique thing we’ve discovered is that #Unshamed was initially a fictional concept that Belle created as part of the show, but it’s now spread its wings and become a real life project. That’s the brilliant thing about working with multi-media, you can move quite fluidly between the live and the digital which is really exciting. Find out more at www.unshamedproject.com and @Unshamed.
What emotive responses do you expect from your audience?
Shame is certainly a show that explores a very serious subject matter, and as such it can be a sad and disturbing production to watch. However, there is also an uplifting message and we absolutely don’t want audiences to leave feeling bleak about our digital world and the state of humanity.
You have your fingers in many theatrical pies : what does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Allie Butler?
I am currently developing Tidy Carnage’s next production – Underworlds – an immersive event that asks audiences to let us in to their deepest secrets and explores the dark side of most hidden selves. I’m also working on a new production called CULT with acclaimed illusionist Scott Silven, and developing the Tron’s Progressive Playwright Award winner.
Aug 3-28 : Assembly George Square Studios (16.15)