Edinburgh Fringe Q&A: Solène Weinachter

The acclaimed performer discusses her new production AFTER ALL, which is an exploration of the death rituals we have

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 6 minutes
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After All
Photo by Genevieve Reeves
Published 30 Jul 2023

Tell us about your show and what audiences can expect?

AFTER ALL is a celebration of our vulnerable and courageous existence,  where I meld dance, comedy, storytelling, and theatre to ask – what happens in the end?

Through a series of impassioned re-enactments of the funerals of those I’ve loved – as well as imagining my own – I attempt to conjure a better sort of space, for all of us, to be with death, dying and loss. It joyously brings us together to explore the role that dancing might play in dealing with death and healing.

Can you talk about some of the creative team involved?

AFTER ALL is a solo show but there is no such thing as ‘solo’ work. I have worked with a wonderful team of creatives to help me stir the work towards both what I had in mind and also to help me venture out. Chris Thorpe who makes his own terrific work has been supporting me developing the script of the show. Lisa Fannen who is a poet, a musician, and a writer as well as a celebrant, has been with me to devise the first stage of the development of the work with different communities and groups around Scotland. Neil Callaghan has been ‘an artist companion’ to use his word. It is a multi-role where he supported me on many different levels: with the movement, the dramaturgy, the physical practice, the rhythm of the day. Matthias Strahm has done the scenography for the show and Emma Jones has done the lighting design. Rachel Bunce has made the super 8 film.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your work, both in terms of creation and performance?

I draw my inspiration from the many stories we have encountered during the process from women’s groups, young people, death activists, and interfaith groups. I draw my inspiration from people’s stories.

Looking at this production, how would you say it links to previous work personally and thematically?

AFTER ALL is my first show as a choreographer. In the last 17 years I have danced with many people and in the last 13 years I have forged a creative relationship with Ben Duke through his company Lost Dog, and Joan Clevillé who is now Scottish Dance Theatre’s director. I have made solo work with Joan (that came to the Fringe last year with Antigone, Interrupted) and I have first spoken on stage with Ben. So this show feels like me implementing all my learning and practice with Dance Theatre for the last 10 years with something that feels specific to me and what I want to talk about.

Why is this an important story to tell?

Although death comes to all of us, talking about it is often a taboo that can leave people holding their grief in isolation. I feel it is an important subject and especially in the light of how it has been dealt with in the past years mainly through fear and statistics, I wanted to have a show that made space for healthy conversation on death.

What would you like audiences to take away from seeing this production at the Fringe?

I would love it if the audience walked away from the show feeling that talking about death, both practically and with the emotion it brings up is OK. I hope people will walk out of the theatre feeling that talking about the end can support us being connected to the fullness of life. And by stretching our capacity to feel grief and loss we can also stretch our capacity to feel joy and love.

Do you tend to take inspiration from events happening in the world around you in terms of your work? Do you think artists have a responsibility to respond to what's happening?

 Yes I do. People’s stories are what motivates me to create, and the relationship to people is what motivates me to make live work. The show touches on that question of the artist’s responsibility to respond to what’s happening around it. It touches on it on a personal level: When all fails, what can art, and more particularly what people think a dancer is, can do to support a difficult process?

How do you feel about the current arts landscape in your country and your part in it? Does it excite you and inspire you to keep pushing the boat out?

 Creatively I feel everybody is working as best as possible with what they have got. The DIY scene is expert, and there is great work coming from that scene in Scotland. Moreover, people are resourceful because they have to be – I am thinking of people coming from different marginalised communities who create pertinent and beautiful work in this country.

I personally feel incredibly lucky to get support to make work in these particular times of scarcity. Coming to the Fringe this year and having a chance to be on stage with a show that matters to me with a live audience means I want to properly squeeze the juice out of this experience, share it with as many people as possible, and learn from it.

Why are arts festivals such as the Fringe so important for international exchange?

Because they open up our perceptions of what being human is. Especially since travelling has become more difficult for all kinds of reasons, we are so lucky to have this festival in Scotland exposing us to sensibilities, perceptions, and ideas beyond our reach in everyday life.

Have you got your eye on any other shows that are part of the programme?

Yes! Raquel Meseguer Zafe’s A Crash course in Cloudspotting at Summerhall, Chris Thorpe also has his own show at the Traverse called Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, Pina Baush’s Rite of Spring as part of the International Festival, No Love Songs by Dundee Rep.

What’s next for you and how are you feeling about the future in general?

After the festival I have scheduled a week of sleeping. After that I go back to wearing many different freelance hats such as rehearsal directing for Oona Doherty, performing Antigone, Interrupted in India, and Juliet and Romeo in China. Among it all I am making space for my next piece.

How can Edinburgh audiences keep up with you beyond the festival?

Instagram & Facebook.