The Ugly One

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Tron, Glasgow
July 4 – 20, 2019

Script: five-stars Stagecraft: five-stars Performance: five-stars    


The Tron stage looked great as we took our seats for the Scottish Premier of The Ugly One by Marius von Mayenburg, an award winning writer from Munich. With a door to each side and two pairs of plinths with metallic fruit bowls, the walls, blinds, a conveyer belt all looked very plush and inviting. The characters, played by Martin McCormack (Lette), Sally Reid (Lette’s wife Fanny/rich old lady), Michael Dylan (Lette’s boss/Scheffler the surgeon) and Helen Katamba,  carried on their chairs and sat centre stage in a row, launching straight into the action.

The plot revolved around a revolutionary new plug, invented by Lette, who was very excited about his invention. But the other characters seemed more concerned with who should promote the new product, agreeing unanimously that Lette himself was far too ugly to be entrusted with the task. This came as news to Lette and it was only when his wife agreed with the others that he conceded the point. Rather bizzarly, it was decided that plastic surgery was the way to go.

Movement around the stage was glorious, with people sliding on the conveyer belt, the blind on the walls gliding gracefully to and fro, keeping the action moving with pace in an every-changing set. The hilarities were also unending; clever to the point of showcasing all the facets of theatre, clearly a most accomplished piece packed with the sheer delight of writing and most glorious acting. In continuous use was a screen above the action. We were introduced to this for the first surgery scene that had me in stitches. They held a smart phone to the scene and proceeded to cut into fruit to simulate Lette under the knife

But the surgery turns out to have unexpected consequences, with the new-look Lette becoming subject to the demands of everyone, much to his dismay. The climax comes when Lette climbs on to one of the plinths, in seeming isolation – how dramatic, how captivating! In the ensuing confusion, Lette comes face to face with some very dark truths about human nature.

This show is the blackest of black comedies, touching upon the reality of modern life and how it is lived, making you think. But mostly making you laugh. This was fun, totally brilliant, I commend it and I recommend it. It’s on at the Tron until 20 July – don’t miss it!

Daniel Donnelly

five-stars

An Interview with Steve Taylor

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Will Kemp has been reborn for the 2019 Fringe, The Mumble went to find out the who & the why


Hello Steve, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Rochdale many years ago, but now live in West London (not lost my accent though!).

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
It was always there. My interest was first ignited in primary school, with a passion for singing and acting increasing during my secondary years.

Can you tell us a little about your training & acting experience?
My “training” has always been “on the job” but from my late teens the experience came thick and fast. I learned a huge amount about both acting and directing from my late friend, the playwright Jimmie Chinn.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Storyline, acting quality, and great direction.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
A perfect one – with friends, preferably in an hostelry with great weather, although usually I spend an imperfect one looking at an ironing board.

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Can you tell us about Blue Fire Theatre Company?
Blue Fire was formed just 2 years ago as an independent theatre company with the specific remit to produce work about theatre and the wider entertainment industry. The company’s mantra is to re-invigorate and keep alive characters and works from British drama history lost from the past and to educate new generations of performers about their heritage.

Can you describe your working relationship with Lottie in a single sentence?
No, but I will try. Working with Lottie is a truly collaborative and professional experience, with the collaboration and creative element usually being at its best over a few drinks. We have completely different approaches and skills sets so are a good team on and offstage. That is not answering the question in one sentence, but then I said I’d not be able to do that!

At the last Edinburgh Festival Fringe you won rave reviews for playing George Pepper in Noel Coward’s Red Peppers – what did you learn from the experience?
Keep energy levels high, serve the playwright and keep your teeth in.

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You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe with something new, can you tell us about the play?
In short it tells the tale of a marathon Morris dance from London to Norwich that took place in 1600. It’s based on the “Nine Daies Wonder”, Will Kemp’s own journal of the dance he undertook when he parted ways with Shakespeare. Kemp was an international mega-star in the 16th Century and a creator of many of Shakespeare’s comic roles. The show is full of anecdotes of both his travels and life in The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. He fell out with Shakespeare after one too many arguments over “serving the playwright” (see above) rather than improvising and putting his own variety “spot” in the middle of Shakespeare’s fine works. The key thing to note is that the show is accessible and fun for people who are not Shakespeare afficionados (like myself!) as much as for Shakespeare fans looking for something a little different.

Where did the idea for Kemp’s Jig originate?
From Chris Harris, a friend of Lottie’s, who originally wrote and performed the work around the world. Chris played most of the Shakespearean roles originated by Kemp and also had a background in clowning so it was a natural progression for him to devise this show, that is a mix of stand-up, story-telling and acting with a bit of clowning thrown in. Morris dancing in the 45 minute version is kept to a minimum!

This is your first foray into Shakespeare – why now?
Well, it’s not strictly Shakespeare. Apart from two small excerpts of his plays in the show that serve as illustration, the piece is about Kemp’s relationship with Shakespeare the man. It was this relationship that first piqued my interest; that and the fact that Shakespeare is very much a minor character in this play about a superstar of his time who is barely known now. I have to confess to enjoying playing both Launcelot Gobbo and Dogberry, though – so who knows what the future holds….

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Join me on an Elizabethan roadshow with Will Kemp and enjoy a factual, comedic look at one man’s rise and fall in his relationship with The Bard. Will Kemp – Shakespeare’s forgotten clown – and the original 9 day wonder!


Kemp’s Jig

The Space on the Mile

Aug 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17 (18:55)

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An Interview with Lottie Walker

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Edinburgh welcomes a consummate mistress of Musical Hall


Hello Lottie, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from the East End of London. Home is now South West London, but I’ve lived all over the country – I’m a bit of a nomad.

When did you first realise you were theatrical?
When I tried to slide up the banisters after seeing Mary Poppins at the age of 5. My parents had to endure many “concerts” from behind the dining room curtains

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Your first love, it seems, is Music Hall – what is it about variety that makes you tick?
Family folklore says that my great grandmother was “on the halls” in the late 19th century, so it is apparently in my genes. However, this could be an urban myth as no-one seems to have any solid evidence or know her stage name. It’s a nice story, though and one day when I have time I’ll do some proper research and see what I can find. I would love to sing one of her songs if she had a signature tune (if she existed!). On a more practical level, my first professional job was a six month summer season doing Music Hall in Blackpool. I learned so much during that 6 months both about performing and also about the heritage of our variety tradition. I am a member of the Grand Order of Lady Ratlings, too and the organisation is full of proper variety “turns” with some wonderful stories of theatre-land past.

In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
It’s dangerous – no retakes, no airbrushing, just the show and performer doing what they do and hoping their audience go away happy. Theatre – especially in the smaller Fringe venues is so much more personal and offers the opportunity for performers and audience to engage with each other. Each performance is different in theatre. One can see the same show several times and have a slightly different experience at each one. On demand entertainment is a wonderful thing (I’d be lost without the BBC iPlayer) but it’s never an “event”

You’ve got three famous actresses from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Sarah Bernhardt, Maggie Smith and – of course – Nelly Power! What I’d like to cook and what my limited culinary skills will let me get away with are quite different. And anyway, the conversation would be so interesting I think the food would take a back seat. So, my VIP guests would get what all my friends are bored to tears of:
Starter: Goats cheese & fig salad
Main: Poached Salmon with boiled Jersey Royal potatoes & Asparagus (summer) or Leg of Lamb with root veg cooked in red wine & mashes spuds (winter)
Dessert: Cheeseboard with lots of fresh fruit

Can you describe your working relationship with Steve Taylor in a single sentence?
We’re a good team; Steve makes me focus on the essential practical stuff when I get distracted by the peripherals – and we laugh a lot!

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Can you tell us about Blue Fire Theatre Company?
We’re a tiny company formed just 18 months ago. Our focus is on performing plays (both new and established) about our theatrical heritage. The state school system is no longer supporting the arts at all and we are trying to introduce younger generations to the theatre of the past by making the characters accessible. It is a happy coincidence that both plays we are bringing to the Fringe this year cast very famous people (MArie Lloyd and Shakespeare) in supporting roles whilst we tell the stories of their lesser-known contemporaries. Blue Fire is independent and self-funded so often have to be very creative in our approach. Touring with literally one trunk and a cushion makes us very low maintenance and also means that as performers we have nowhere to hide!

You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, can you tell us about the play?
Marie Lloyd Stole My Life is a piece of new writing by J.J. Leppink. It is essentially a monologue punctuated by well known music hall songs. Nelly tells of her own life in theatre from the dizzy heights of topping the bill at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to the sad moment her most famous song was performed by a younger singer, Marie Lloyd who went on to become much more famous and well-remembered. Along the way we learn of sea-rescues, divorce, jewellery theft and the ups and downs of life upon the wicked stage. Nelly was a strong and feisty woman and so is J.J. Leppink, who has woven in the social history of the suffragist movement to the play and also conveys the submersive element of Music Hall in Nelly’s dialogue. I view the play as Nelly’s own private Victorian Melodrama; I think she’d have liked that.

Where, when & how did the idea for Marie Lloyd Stole My Life originate?
I trained as a tour guide for Clerkenwell & Islington in London last year and one of my projects during the course was to do a 10 minute presentation on any subject at all as long as it was in the area. I chose to speak about Marie Lloyd and even got the class and tutors singing along at the end! One of the stories I discovered in my research was that the song “The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery” was originally performed by Nelly Power (who I’d never heard of) and stolen by a 15 year old Ms Lloyd who made her name with it and was a superstar within the year. I wanted to find out more about Nelly – and the rest is history! Lots of people have got behind the idea and I’ve had friends do independent research just for fun, That andthe support of the British Music Hall Society has made the whole process quite special.

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You are also playing Nelly Power on the streets of London – what is the back story?
Islington (where I’m a guide) was the home of several of London’s music halls, including the famous Collins Music Hall (now Waterstones) which is still standing with the original facade. I always intended to create a themed walk about the subject and the idea of doing so as Nelly was just irresistible. As a happy coincidence the Islington Museum are running a Music Hall exhibition this summer and I’ve been able to tie in with them, which is really exciting.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Come and see my show! It’s a one woman Victorian Eastenders with a sing song thrown in for good measure!


Marie Lloyd Stole My Life

The Space on the Mile

Aug 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16  (18:55)

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An Interview with Blair Christie

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Raised Voices comes straight from the Homeless of Edinburgh. The Mumble caught up with the caring heart behind it all


Hello Blair, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from Shropshire but I’ve been living in Edinburgh for about 20 years. I moved out to Musselburgh last year.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
I’ve always loved writing and performing and have always been creative from a young age. As I’ve got older this has turned in to writing and performing in shows, which I really enjoy.

In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
Theatre is so real, you can see and feel the emotion of the actors so much more than if you are watching them on a screen. It is also live and adds an air of excitement to the performance. Theatre is also anoccasion, you have to plan to go and actually leave the house and people usually make a day or night of it, which makes it feel that bit more special.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Spending time with my family, I have a young son which usually means an early start. I also like to watch sport, so if there’s football or a Grand Prix on I’ll try and watch that. Around this time of year I will be working on the Fringe show, there never seems to be a time when something is not waiting to be done.

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Can you tell us about Raised Voices & your role?
I founded Raised Voices in 2013 to offer creative writing and drama classes to people who have experienced homelessness. As the charity has progressed we are also with people with mental health issues and other people who may find themselves isolated. It’s a really inclusive group we have and nowadays it is hard to define as much as it was previously. I call myself ‘Director’ but in reality I am a bit of everything. I do the finances, produce the shows and I’m also hands on in the running of the group.

You’re bringing a play to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; what are you bringing to the table?
I’m writing and directing along with my assistant Archie Gray. I also look after the production of the show and I’ll be doing the lights and sound when we are performing.

How have you found working with Archie Gray?
Archie was the first person to come to Raised Voices back in 2013 and I know him very well. A couple of year’s ago I asked if he wanted to become a trustee and assist me with the charity and he jumped at the chance. He is so dedicated and brilliant at what he does and the charity would be a lot poorer without him, as I’ve come to rely on him so much.

What materials were used during the research period?
I interviewed one of our members – Kevin. The show is about his life and how he became homeless. I took in a Dictaphone and spoke with him at length and then used his words to form the basis of the show. With the help of Archie and input from the cast, we have developed the script.

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Can you tell us about the cast?
We have a core group of members that have been with us for years, they have all experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. We also have new members that have come on board that have not been homeless but have experienced or are experiencing some other issues in their life. All are not trained actors which brings a real rawness and energy to the performance.

What emotive responses do you expect from the audience?
I think the audience are going to be really moved by Kevin’s story. There are some parts of the play that will tough to watch but ultimately the play is uplifting and shows how he has come back from the brink to where he is today.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
This show is performed by people who have all had big challenges in their life and they have come together to bring you an amazing story of despair, hope and redemption that will leave you inspired.

What will you & Raised Voices be doing after the Fringe?
After a short break we will be moving on to starting to work on our Christmas Show. There have been mutterings of the group wanting to do a musical, which fills me with a certain amount of dread. Either way we will be working hard to produce a great show for the public.


Raised Voices

SpaceUK Triplex Studio

Aug 12-17 (15:00)

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www.raisedvoices.org.uk

An Interview with Alessandro Onorato

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A ‘crazy’ Italian ‘sex drama’ is flying into the Fringe this August


Hello Allessandro, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Rome, Italy, but I moved to Milan aged 5. I’ve been moving quite a lot during the years, and left Italy several times, but now I’m set back in Milan, where I work with my two theatre groups “Avanzate Idee Teatrali” and “i Birbanti”

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
It all started when I was quite young, my parents took me quite often to see some comedies and musicals when we were abroad. It was always close to a dream for me. Then it suddenly started: they asked me to write a play, I was 17, I have never stopped since then. I never thought I’d direct a play, but it became the best part of my life quite fast.

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Baraghini Alberto

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
I would say 4 things overall: the play, the director’s concept, the cast and the rhythm. Today the latter has become crucial: it’s always harder to keep the audience attention to a high level, and a strong rhythm becomes fundamental. It’s a hard task: but if you keep them all very far from the temptation to look at the smartphone for one hour it’s already a success. We live in a world where people like more to watch a 10 seconds story on Instagram than anything else and consider a youtube video of 10 min too long. As authors or directors we need to face reality and make our works as strong in rhythm as possible.

Italy has a rich cultural tradition – what has inspired you the most, & why?
I feel quite ashamed, but honestly I’ve never worked on a play written by an Italian author. Maybe we always have the feeling that what happens abroad is always more interesting, sometimes it’s true but sometimes not. I grew up reading English and American plays. But for novels I am still close to my country: Stefano Benni, Alessandro Baricco and Isabella Santacroce above all – and all contemporary by the way.

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Salvodi Alessandra

What is the theatre scene like in modern Rome?
Rome is quite sleepy at the moment, cinema moves faster, and theatre is still quite too much underground and self-referenced, with a few good exceptions. Milan is moving much better and much faster, and has really reached an impressive level on the drama and comedy side. Unluckily, it’s not able to reach massive and international audiences and is still quite weak on some kind of shows, such as musicals. In the last 5-10 years we started to organize our festivals – that is a good step.

You’re bringing a play to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about the show?
“The Last King of Porn” tells the story of a porn actor performing his last record-breaking movie: a sex marathon over a full day with 100 women. As the most important people of his life meet, we discover that the movie they are shooting is actually a snuff one, as the actor decided to kill himself during the performance. The atmosphere moves in short time from sexy to an anxiety-filled thrilling situation, where the attendees are not who they seem to be and hidden interests by his relatives come out. It’s an explicit drama about sex, love, family, suicide and much more. When I started writing the play I thought it could have been a good chance to dig inside all the dirt that lies behind the world of porn and show it, but then this actually was not enough. The women that spend hours talking, that at the beginning are recognisable only by numbers, waiting for their turn to participate to this sex marathon, confront themselves about their lives, discussing about sex, love and family, and actually show up as knowing each other pretty well.

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Iagulli Stefano

Where, when & why did the concept of “The Last King of Porn” originate?
It all started by reading, as it always happens for me. I read even 4-5 books at the same time, over 50-60 a year, depends. The biography of the porn star Asa Akira made me start to think it would have been interesting to write a play set in the world of porn – then the inspiration arrived after Chuck Palahniuk’s “Gang Bang” novel. At first I thought about writing an on-stage version of the book. Later I changed my mind and re-wrote the story in a completely different key, with a male actor as leading role (in Italy male porn stars are more famous than female ones) and massively changed characters and the story itself. But the directing idea was still missing – so I left the pages on the shelf for over two years, when at last the idea came: to divide the stage in two and play with shadows: it was after witnessing a Giavanese Wayang Kulit performance, and I thought to translate it into my work throughout an innovative space design.

How do you translate such an x-rated subject to the stage – is it gratuitous or tactful, or a blend of both?
Such a crazy story could live only in the world of porn. I tried to do it in the least aggressive way as possible. The play is for a mature public – for the themes and for the sex scenes shadow-shown – but does not contain nudity nor violence, since sex and deaths are happen only behind the shadow-sheet. And it goes way beyond porn. The theme of orphanage and abandon is quite persistent, and a hidden moral comes out obsessively: one wrong choice can change an entire life, as only one single moment destroyed the life of all these characters.

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Magni Gaia

You have assembled quite a talented cast, can you tell us about them?
I am very proud of my team. We all work together for the first time but chemistry was immediate. Gaia Magni, who co-directs the play with me, is also an author and director of several awarded plays, and made an amazing work with the girls: Sara Dho; Paolo Grassi graduate, who also worked for the Greek theatre of Siracusa; Alessandra Salvoldi, from Odin Teatre, actress in several shows, plays, tv commercials and music clips; Laura Traina, who acts in some of the most prestigious theatres in Milan such as Franco Parenti and Out Off, and also worked for Asia Argento; plus the performers Claudia Campani and Claudia Veronesi. But I cannot forget the boys! This big cast sees on stage also Alberto Baraghini, who starred in movies such as “L’abbandono”, “Maxi” and “il Caso Pantani” and several web-series and Stefano Iagulli, graduated Nico Pepe, who worked in several productions all around Europe, and also performed at the Podium Festival in Moscow.

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Sara Dho

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Hey! Want to see something veeery different from all the other shows around? The Last King of Porn! A crazy sex drama. Want to lose it?

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
As soon as our days in the UK will be over we’ll finally bring our show to our hometown in Milan in September and go for a small tour in northern Italy later on. The group will later split up for other works that don’t see us working together, as myself, I’ll be on stage with the “Macbeth” with the group “i Birbanti”. We are working to close the year with a replica of “The last King of Porn” in Rome. For the future, I am thinking to move back to comedy after this sex drama


The Last King of Porn

Greenside @ Infirmary Street

Aug 2-17 (21:50)

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www.ibirbanti.it

Them!

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Tramway, Glasgow
June 27 – July 06, 2019

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The Tramway was an expectant place as we congregated before the show. As we walked in we were handed ear plugs; you couldn’t have had a better forewarning of the event to follow. It was also testament to the Tramway’s complete versatility as a theatre venue with the whole space able to change at will. The performance event in question was a new show from the National Theatre of Scotland’s Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter.  Them! was inspired by the classic 1950’s horror Sci-fi movie of the same name, in which giant mutant ants attack Los Angeles. No doubt then why the poster listed “the audience, the host, the guests, and band and the ants”. All of which elements were thoroughly examined in one way or another as the evening progressed.

Them! was a talk show, hosted by the irresistible and irrepressible Kirina (Pamela Carter) who began the evening’s interviews by turning to the audience and asking about who we are. An enormous proposition, but that’s just for starters… With Kirina at the centre, the show built with great professionalism, fun, and lots and lots of talking as the artists and musicians offered their own personal take on any and every issue under the sun. Topics were raised and just as quickly flew by as the passionate Kirina, enjoying herself tremendously, delved deeper and deeper, kept us straight as we tried to follow the chaos of the ever changing scenarios.

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I have to say a word about the production – the whole enormous stage was filled with everything a major talk show might have: a couch and chair for the interviews, a performance area for the band (Pop Queen Carla, a young Glaswegian Indie band), all combined with clever lighting, spotlights and the large screen hung right in the middle, on which we could watch clips from the original 50’s movie and from the musical tribute remake produced by Stewart.

Again and again, the discussions came back to the question of who we are, what we are, what are we doing here and touched upon themes of loneliness and survival? All the “guests” offered diverse reflections and comments, which could have been baffling, but somehow we were guided throughout and if we got lost we had the sense of Kirina to rely on.

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So where do the ants come in?  As carefully as we were “captured” we were shown the escape and could choose to go into a tunnel (through the audience) where there was heavy strobing and beat music which seemed almost out of control. My choice was a whisky and the quiet exit which led to a room where there were two  large glass tank filled with thousands of leafcutter ants all busy doing what they do – a fascinating watch.

Are we ants? No we are humans but with very similar tasks, strength and beauty. What do we need? What does it all look like? The idea of Them! showed up many times throughout this show in different guises and with deep and careful and skilled writing and creating. In the end the show explored all sides of being human and surviving the world, just like the ants.

Daniel Donnelly

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Pink House

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Assembly Roxy
Edinburgh
June 28-30, 2019

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Pink House is a new play by New Yorker, Madison Pollack, produced by Edinburgh theatre company Paradigm Lab. I got to see a preview before the show runs at Edinburgh Fringe this August, and whilst first performance nerves were certainly palpable I enjoyed the production a lot, especially Pollack’s thoughtful and emotive script.

Pink House explores the new relationship between a Jewish grandmother, Shira, who immigrated to America as a child and her adopted teenage grandchild, Peri, who she only meets after the death of her estranged daughter. As well as presenting the new co-existence of Shira and Peri and the seemingly insurmountable gulf between them, we see flashbacks of Shira’s childhood. These flashbacks depict a house of women and girls: Shira, her mother, aunt and sister, all with contrasting personalities. And this all-female cast adds to Pink House’s distinctive tone and perspective. The overall structure is chronological, but lacks rigidity, so that understanding of what has happened and is happening unfolds for the audience as the play goes on.

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The strongest aspect of Pink House is its tender exploration of ideas around memory, family and what divides and connects people. The play deliberates over what makes someone family, and whether family is something you can choose. While Peri’s mother chose her through adopting her and did not choose Shira, but Peri and Shira are forced together through family connections. Pink House explores Anti-Semitism specifically through these questions of family, divisions and connections. Shira is faced with the childhood memories she has oppressed through the voices she hears (perhaps through senility) and the recordings on an old wire recorder, which her sister made “for posterity”. Memory becomes complicated when you are displaced from your family and culture by immigration and the repressing of trauma. For Shira this bottling up has resulted in cruelty to herself and those around her. And as we see throughout the performance, that certain things deserve to be remembered.

The abstract, minimalist set consisting of metal wire boxes which could be moved to create tables, chairs and cupboards, achieved the perfect balance of simplicity and flexibility required of a festival show. Although the movement between scenes was a little stilted it is sure to pick up pace by the run in August. The abstraction of the set pieces and how they are interacted with juxtaposes beautifully with the more concrete descriptions of the family home settings.

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Alice Jackson had quite a challenge portraying both the younger and older Shiras. With no time for a costume change, let alone aging make up, as the scenes flow from past to present, it is all down to Jackson to make the shift clear to the audience. While there was a notable and satisfying change in her interactions with other cast members it would have been nice to see more from her physicality. Ania Myszkowska was particularly enigmatic as Rebecca, Shira’s younger sister, her energetic and youthful performance contributing a lot to the tenderness of the production and the heart-breaking revelations of the family’s experiences.

Pink House has a very original voice, a thoughtful script and some great performances and stage craft. If you are looking for some new writing that is more thought-provoking than provocative this Fringe, then I would recommend getting a ticket.

Katrina Woolley

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Last Ferry to Dunoon

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Oran Mor, Glasgow
June 24 – 29, 2019

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The set glowed blue with a backdrop depicting Katsushika Hokusai’s famous Great Wave print, perfectly setting the scene for us as our three characters sat together in a shelter on a stormy day, waiting for the ferry to Dunoon – it was unclear whether they planned to embark or were waiting for someone who was due to arrive. As they waited, the three – Karen (Linda Duncan McLaughlin), Aiden (Iain Robertson) and the aptly named Johnaboy (Laurie Ventry) – regaled each other with tales of the seaports and coastal towns they had visited, stories that seemed as large as the sea itself.

This week’s PPP was Peter McDougall’s amazing seventh play at the Oran Mor (he also co-wrote the very first) and opened to a full house with an eager and appreciative audience, full of relish for what was to come. And they weren’t disappointed, with the action moving from frolicking comedy to spotlit drama as the actors in turn held sway with the stories they had to tell about well-remembered summer trips down the coast to traditional destinations like Millport, Wemyss Bay, Rothsay.

As the stories unfolded, it felt as if there was more to this than met the eye as the characters revealed more about themselves and you wondered about what the relationship was between them. Karen seemed to be the cornerstone and to have the key that would tie the story together. When the storm exploded, with thunder and lightning roaring and flashing over the stage, the two fellas were thrown to the floor where they remained for a good ten minutes.

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As a twirling twist Karen was repeatedly revealed in different guises, taking off her jacket to reveal an NHS costume, then later shaking out her hair to make her appear like some sort of god. There seemed to be a kind of mythical undertone to this section as she performed various small tasks over the prone men, delivering both blessings and condemnations as she woke them up obviously feeling very rough after their handling by the storm.

It seemed like no time before the hour was up and we were left slightly wondering what just happened – more than just waiting for a ferry while being blown about by the wind and the rain. A romp down memory lane perhaps. An invitation to explore the old and the new and perhaps the mythical in Scottish culture. An entertaining and intriguing experience, full of light and dark, just like the sea.

Daniel Donnelly

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An Interview with Matt Rolls

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Exeliksi are bringing a gripping new play to the Camden Fringe, the Mumble caught with the man behind it all…


Hello Matt, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born and bred in Norwich, Norfolk, a beautiful part of the world! I currently live in Essex, where I trained at East 15.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
I think film captured my imagination before theatre. I grew up on James Bond and classic World War II adventure films. They were and are pure escapism for me. From there I knew I wanted to be involved in storytelling in some way, at least as far as I could intellectualise that as a kid, and I did a lot of creative writing. My parents enrolled me at a Saturday drama class at Norwich Theatre Royal when I was 8 and I was hooked. I stayed with them and worked through their youth company until I was 21! Then I got into drama school.

Can you tell us about your time with the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts in Moscow?
I spent a month there in the summer of 2017 as part of an international collaboration the school has with East 15. We worked on Stanislavski’s approach to acting and biomechanics. I played Tuzenbach in Chekov’s Three Sisters, which is a wonderfully complex part and everything I thought I knew about acting was made almost redundant. Play your objectives and find the game in the scene. Everything else, including the lines, are secondary really. Truthfulness evolves organically from your inner intentions in the moment, and the scene will be completely different every time. It was a transformative experience.

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In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
It’s live. It’s in front of you. You can almost touch it (sometimes you can touch it, depending on the show!). Those are the clichés I suppose. But I don’t blame the rise of ‘on demand’ entertainment for any perceived disinterest in theatre. Theatre is still very much by the middle class, for the middle class and it has to change. The class divisions in our present society are enormous and theatre simply isn’t doing enough to bridge the gulf in my estimation. As creatives, I think we’re often more out of touch and narrow-minded than we’d like to admit. We seem to be heading towards a singular political narrative, and I think that’s pretty dangerous.

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Can you tell us about Exeliksi, & your role with them?
Exeliksi is a production company I’ve co-founded with my friend, Dimitris Kafataris. It is derived from the Greek word for ‘evolution’, therefore the language that gave birth to theatre and democracy. Theatre, society and politics are intrinsically linked and it’s vital that all three progress right now. So Exeliksi seemed fitting.

You’re masterminding a new play, VICE, at the Camden Fringe, can you tell us about it?
VICE is set just a few years from now, at the time of a civil war in England. It feels very much to me that the world is on the edge of a precipice and VICE was written as a response to that. If we fall, who picks us up? Do we carry on as we were? How do we go about re-modelling the world? But there is a smaller, human story too concerning a father and his daughters, which becomes the main focus.

That’s quite an imminent apocalypse, are you nervous about the current global political climate?
Of course! We all like to think that a war such as those occurring in Syria, South Sudan or Yemen couldn’t happen here. But look at how divided our country is at the moment, along class lines in particular. Look at the response to Brexit. It wasn’t compromise or reconciliation, it was further polarisation and ostracisation. Look at the state of debate and discourse. Look at the Grenfell Tower fire, a landmark, public event in our history where our government failed to take care of our most vulnerable; the poor, the elderly, the disabled, refugees. And for the whole country to see live on television. We all saw it. If we carry on the way we are, I can’t help but fear we’re headed towards further disaster. But I believe there is hope if we can all recognise our own and each other’s capacity for change, instead of picking diametrically opposed sides all the time and letting them define us. VICE is ultimately about reconnection and reaching out to each other.

VICE is your debut play as both writer and director; are you finding the play is constantly evolving?
Absolutely. The cast and I have all had an extra year of training since we first started working on it, so we’ve been able to spot things we hadn’t before, find new approaches and see what works dramatically. It’s been a collaborative creative process with the cast, whom I trust enormously, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

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What emotive responses do you expect from the audience?
I don’t have any expectations and I don’t think it would be right of me to. I can hope though. As I said, the play is ultimately about reconnection. If someone came and saw the show, went home and simply called a friend they hadn’t spoken to for years, perhaps because of a falling out they had, that would be a huge reward for our work. It’s not about going out and drastically changing the world. It’s on a smaller scale.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of London, what would you say?
Come and support a group of young artists as they try and find their voice within this profession! You may laugh, you may cry and it’s cheaper than the West End!

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
I’ve recently graduated so I have a lot to sort out! Creatively, I have some ideas for new projects, both as an actor and writer. There are a lot of avenues I could go down and I look forward to the future.


VICE

Etcetera Theatre, Camden

31st July- 4th August (18:30)

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www.facebook.com/ExeliksiTheatre

Dusty Won’t Play

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Oran Mor, Glasgow
June 17 – 22, 2019

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Today’s set was a marvellous confection of soft frilly orange material at the back with red on either side, with something of the look of a stall at the circus. And following on the big background came the big music as we were introduced to the inimitable Dusty Springfield who glided on stage and into song. A tribute to Dusty’s famous 1964 tour of South Africa, this play was written by well-known comedy writer and children’s author Annie Caulfield and is making its second appearance at Oran Mor, the first one being back in 2017.

Frances Thorburn as Dusty – at the height of her fame – passionately refused to go on tour in South Africa and play to segregated audiences. According to the law they would only be playing to segregated audiences, basically a gig without black people. Music and dialogue intertwined with lighting effects to build the plot, a story hard to hear for modern sensibilities.

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Kevin Lennon and Andy Clark both shared a number of roles, not least Clark’s portrayal of the South African Policeman, out for Dusty’s blood because of his zealous dedication to the extremes of South African apartheid law. Lennon played both Dusty’s band member and her Manager, working hard at watching Dusty’s back and making a very good job of it. They played a gig in Johannesburg to both white and black people where Dusty out-performed herself.

Frances Thorburn’s portrayal of Dusty captured all the magic and power of that unique voice, together with that legendary star quality which she used to battle over great opposition and in the end to triumph over it. Not that she didn’t have many moments of doubt, especially when she and her band found themselves in some seriously sticky situations – this was a South Africa that could be hostile and inhospitable. But in the end they stood firm; with Dusty at the wheel they all found themselves fighting for nothing less than human dignity, or at the very least raising awareness of the issues.
In the songs we laughed, we cried, we were treated to a voice that sang from somewhere beyond, and we laughed at the jokes. With the final iconic song ringing in our ears, we were left thinking that choosing Dusty’s legend was a great way of showcasing the sort of problems we see the world over, because everything changes and everything stays the same…

Daniel Donnelly

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