We spoke with Creative Director Kate Duhamel on FRAY, set to make its UK premier at Wiltons Music Hall in July.
Tell us a bit about FRAY, what’s it about?
FRAY is a live hip hop dance show that tells a story about two deeply bonded brothers, Tullio and Ziya, who are navigating competing passions for hip hop dancing and for the shared world of adventure they discover inside of video games as perilous real-life influences cause their bond to fray. Large screen visuals portray the games that first light up their imaginations with colorful landscapes and imaginary characters who inspire and challenge them, much like the people they meet in the real world outside. As their story plays out across the years, the younger brother, Tullio finds himself in a real life quest in which there is no analog game controller for real people, and steering his older brother away from the dark forces that attract him can’t be programmed into a computer. He must dig deep to find within himself a power mighty enough to turn fear into hope for them both.
The story is told through music, dance, voice, and large screen visuals that portray the worlds in which the brothers live, and the games that light up their imaginations. The FRAY show is part of a larger transmedia project that also includes a video game for PC’s that is in development and a mobile game, “FRAY Jam.”
What inspired you to write this story?
I wanted to tell the FRAY story because it’s real and thought-provoking, and I hope it creates a sense of connection for the audience. I also wanted FRAY to be inspiring, not only for the quality and creativity of the performance on stage, but also for the message it leaves you with to consider. When I set out to create a live dance show from an original story, and to work with hip hop, I brainstormed ideas with a dancer in the US with whom I had worked previously on film and live performance projects. As ideas took shape over several months, we found that we shared the experience of loving someone who is struggling in some way, and that experience began to resonate deeply as the core dramatic challenge in the story. It has been gratifying over the course of developing this project to witness the connection that the many collaborators have found with the story, and that audiences have shared with us after seeing it.
At one point, video games were mentioned off hand, and it struck me as a creative way to tell some parts of the story on stage. As I continued to hone the story, games continued to emerge as the central passion and the private and exciting world the two main characters share. For me, the role that games play in this story was definitely one of those experiences that writers have of feeling like the story is finding them rather than the other way around. That spark then set me off on a fruitful journey of deciding we should expand the project to include a real video game, working with a game studio in Spain, and building a game for PC’s based on the FRAY story and characters that is currently in development. We also decided to bring to life one of the short games the brothers build for a contest in the story, and so built a mobile game called “FRAY Jam” that audiences are invited to play on their own devices which is available in app stores now.
How does it feel to be taking your show from San Francisco to London?
It feels terrific. I’ve found London to be very welcoming, and dance theater is well established here which has allowed me to quickly form a very excellent production team. The dancers here are world class and I am extremely excited about having them on stage. There is an energetic delight in being part of a live performance all around, and so it’s been both fun and efficient – a great combo for me as a director and producer!
What can audiences expect from the show?
FRAY is a dynamic dance show that draws you into a moving story about the love between two brothers. The music and dance are energetic, current and powerful, and the mix of art forms is surprising, so the experience feels like a new embodiment of dance theater. We also aim to create a great social evening for fans, so there will be fun activity in the theatre before and after the show as collaborators and influencers will be there to talk with fans, take photos, help fans make videos with FRAY characters in them, and enjoy music.
What’s next for CandyBomber Productions?
We will continue to tour the FRAY show in the UK, US and beyond. We will also continue developing the FRAY PC game for its ultimate release. We’re exploring avenues for creating other games, and other live experiences for fans, including dance classes and battles, contests and of course, more performances. We also may be producing more music as well. There are a lot of potential opportunities for the FRAY project to continue stretch its wings.