Monthly Archives: June 2017

An Interview with Matthew Zajac

MV5BMjMyNzM4NjkwOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTI3Mjg2NDE@._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_.jpgWhat for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Brilliant acting, a strong script which is unafraid to tackle the most challenging subjects, great theatrical ambition and synthesis of theatre disciplines and an absence of anything superfluous.  Everything which is on stage must be there for a reason.

What does Matthew Zajac like to do when he’s not being theatrical?
Climb hills, meet my friends and family, read and watch Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

You are a member of Dogstar Theatre  can you tell us about the company?
Dogstar has commissioned, produced and toured new plays for 18 years from its base in the Highlands.  It has built an international reputation, in spite of surviving for all that time on individual project grants.  The company is a dogstar with a bone.

Can you tell us about the transition from being an actor to being an artistic director?
I’ve been running companies for most of my 35 years in this business, so there wasn’t much of a transition.  Generating work myself and with colleagues is one of the main reasons I’ve managed to keep going as an actor.
Dogstar Summerhall A3.compressed (1)

You will be bringing The Sky is Safe to Edinburgh this August, can you tell us about the play?
In 2012 I was stranded in Istanbul for nine days while I waited for an Iranian visa which eventually was refused due to my UK nationality.  This was during a period when diplomatic relations had broken down between iran and the UK.  I’d been due to go to Iran to play a role in a feature film.  I had a couple of interesting encounters on Istanbul’s streets and wrote about them.  Last year I was pondering a new project for Dogstar and remembered the Istanbul experience.  I learned that there were now around 350,000 Syrian refugees in the city and I decided to try to marry my earlier experience with that of Syrian women trying to make a life in the city.  In March this year, I returned to istanbul and, with the help of a local NGO, I had the great privilege of meeting and interviewing a number of Syrian women in their homes.  A lot of what Amal, the female character in The Sky Is Safe comes from these interviews.  She is essentially an everywoman, a composite character who embodies aspects of the female experience of the Syrian war.  The play is a two-hander, and I’ll be playing Gordon, a Scottish executive on a work assignment in Istanbul.  His business has some bearing on the war, so he represents aspects of the West’s relationship to Syria and the greater Middle East.  We are lucky to have a wonderful creative team on this show – Director Ben Harrison, who worked with me on The Tailor of Inverness and Factor 9, Composer Pippa Murphy, Video Designer Tim Reid, Costume Designer Ali Maclaurin, Choreographer Dawn Hartley and Lighting Designer John Wilkie.  The Set Designer is Nihad Al Turk, a highly respected Syrian visual artist who came with his family to Scotland from a refugee camp in Lebanon 16 months ago.  Our main publicity image is one of Nihad’s paintings.

In one sentence can you describe the experience of performing in Edinburgh in August?An exhausting and exhilirating whirlwind full of highs and sometimes lows.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Matthew Zajac?
Resting, hoping for a successful outcome to Dogstar’s fourth attempt to get Regular (core) funding and for some interesting acting work where someone else is doing the producing etc., getting out into the hills, supporting ICT’s efforts to bounce straight back into the Premier League and writing.

Matthew will be bringing The Sky is Safe to the Edinburgh Fringe

Aug 2-27 : Summerhall (19.45)

An Interview with Reese Thompson

downloadHi Reese, so where ya from & where ya at, Geographically speaking?
I grew up in Queens, New York. Currently I’m living in downtown Brooklyn. Lots of hipsters with strollers and prams. There’s always a new artisan cafe or gym about to open.

When did you first realise you could write for the stage?
When I saw people in the audience laugh instead of fall asleep. It took a long time to get there though. Also, when people walk out because they’re offended. Obviously, I’d rather people stick around and like the play. What I tell myself is that it’s preferable to total indifference. I hope I’m not being delusional.

Which playwrights have inspired you?
Chekhov, August Wilson, Caryl Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Joe Orton, Ibsen. Not the most original list, but each is like their own planet. I can keep returning and never stop finding reasons to love and be fascinated. I also love Simon Stephens, Brian Friel, Paula Vogel, Chris Shinn, Young Jean Lee, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Suzan Lori-Parks. All for different reasons. I’m also inspired by people like Pina Bausch, Ariane Mnouchkine, David Lynch. I could go on. A strong cup of coffee can be very inspiring also. Also, I’m someone who’s in a constant state of excitement over some writer I’m either discovering or re-discovering. Right now I’m obsessing over the Brontë sisters. If I had to choose, I think Emily would be my favorite.

What does Reese Thompson like to do when he’s not being theatrical?
Watch cat videos on youtube, hang out in bars with friends, try not to feel depressed about the world, obsess. I’m kind of boring.

You have poetry in your blood, does this transfer into your writing for the stage?
The short answer is yes. I’m still discovering how, so maybe I’ll have a better answer in a year. Also, I was never a good poet. Poetry is so hard. It seems easy because anyone can do, but it’s also hard to be really good at it. What I can say is that years of trying to be good at it has had an influence on how I write. I think poets craft their writing in a very particular way. I also think it trains your ear. So my obsession with rhythm and syllables and word choice are things that have been hammered into me. Even writing a joke requires attention to craft that I don’t think I would have without poetry.

Have you ever been to Edinburgh before whether visiting or performing?
I haven’t. This is my first time! I’m very excited!

A3_WHORE_72dpiYou have written the rather interestingly titled ‘Whore, A Kid’s Play’ which is coming to Edinburgh this August. Can you tell us about the play?
It’s definitely a title I have to earn. The play is about friendship and all the ways we become the person we end up being. With the play (and the title), I was trying to capture a time during adolescence when we’re never more innocent and vulgar at the same time. As an adult, someone can call me a fag, a whore, or a chink, and (if there’s no threat of violence) it doesn’t bother me because I know who I am and whether what they’re saying is true or not. But when you’re a kid, you don’t know yourself as much, so being called names can be a bit more scarring. Also, when you’re a kid, everything is so high-stakes. At some point it all amounts to wanting to be a juvenile delinquent of some sort. Why is that?

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Reese Thompson?
I wish I knew what I was doing this afternoon. Probably more writing.

Reese will be bring his creation to the Edinburgh Fringe this August

Aug 4-26 : Greenside @ Infirmary (16.05)

An Interview with Joy Donze


Hi Joy, so where ya from & where ya at, Geographically speaking?
I grew up in middle America in a small town called Perryville, located an hour and a half outside St. Louis. In other words, I’m from the heartland of America. The corn and the cows and the caves. 🙂 I’ve lived in New York City for the last 8 years.

When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
I came out of the womb “hamming” it up. I started taking piano and dance when I was 6. Took my first acting class in middle school. I did drama and choir all through high school. I got my BFA from Avila University in Kansas City, and MFA from The New School for Drama in New York City.

What does Joy Donze like to do when she’s not being theatrical?
Wait, there is life outside of theatre? I like to produce. Something I’ve learned about myself is I love to watch things come together. I like introducing artists to one another and fostering community. I am, also, a professional karaoke host. I host parties in then Brooklyn NY nite life scene. I am, also, a teaching artist. I love working with kids. I mostly facilitate drama club, social awareness, mindfulness, and leadership.

Have you ever been to Edinburgh before whether visiting or performing?
Nope! I’ve always dreamed of going to this festival! I traveled around Europe a ton, but I have never been to Scotland!


You are bringing your ’13 & not Pregnant’ to Edinburgh this August. Can you tell us about the play?
“13 & Not Pregnant” is a one woman show that features verbatim journal entries from my 6th grade diary. I always knew I wanted to turn my diary into a theatrical piece, and began working on it in a solo performance class in 2015. I’ve performed it in New York and Chicago and both times it was well received. Not only by my friends who love to laugh at my ridiculousness, but also folks who have never met me. It’s enjoyable for anyone over the age of 13… Anyone whose been through puberty. Thankfully, I, also, wrote down popular song lyrics from my youth, and did some self deprecating poetry… So no fear – there will be dance breaks.

How have you found working with Director, Mia Capotorto Sommese?
Mia and I met in graduate school and worked together on an Ionesco piece called “The Lesson.” When I first read the play I thought…. What?! But Mia is so brilliant, and it ended up being one of my favorite theatrical experiences. It was a challenge, but she is a great storyteller and dramaturge. I knew she would let me approach my show the way I envisioned and give me freedom, while still helping me shape, stage, and specify the piece.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Stories worth telling and a strong need to tell them. If the story isn’t important to you – why would it be important to anyone else. I am drawn to new narratives that need telling. I’ve been focusing my artistic endeavors towards social and political theatre that pushes the boundaries and steps outside tradition.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Joy Donze?
Hmmm, well…. I’m not sure at the moment. Let me get through August and I’ll get back to ya! 🙂

Joy will be bringing her play to Edinburgh this Fringe

Aug 4-26 : Greenside @ Infirmary (20.50)

Pride & Prejudice

Thirlestane Castle


18th June 2017


Script: four-stars   Stagecraft: three-stars Performance: four-stars  

It was with great excitement & also slight trepidation that I drove to Lauder with my two daughters – aged 8 & 10 – to see Chapterhouse’s al fresco version of the seminal classic of Regency literature, Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Adapted for the stage by Chapterhouse’ in-house penswoman, Laura Turner, in a recent interview with The Mumble she elucidated on working with such a sacred text; ‘there’s definitely a lot of pressure working with stories that everyone knows and people feel so passionately about. I feel a responsibility to the author themselves, to reflect their work as they might have intended, and also to the audience who will be looking forward to seeing their favourite bits come to life! As with any adaptation, you inevitably have to leave things out but I hope that in doing so I still capture the overall feel and heart of the story. It’s never easy to make these decisions but the external factors of time constraints and the amount of actors I have to play with forces my hand, but I never make these cuts or changes without real consideration of whether it feels right. Hopefully it enhances the storytelling by making the production streamlined. I’d hate for an audience to get bored!’


Amidst a beautiful blast of greenery overlooking sheepfields, perched in front of the glorious Thirlestane Castle with picnic baskets & pimms, P&P is played out before us across a simple, static Georgian set. Twyx silly sisters & dashing gents, the formalities of Regency romance are bounced to & fro between Lizzie & her Darcy, all egged on to a merry nuptial conclusion by Lizzie’s gold-grabbing mother. The music is beautiful, the dancing is sweet & the overall time-travelling effect is quite authentic. I was part of a happy audience, a mix of all ages, enjoying the ideal setting – golden sun bouncing off green fields – as much as the story, whose complexities almost actively encourage one’s mind to meander up into the cyan skies.


As sounds of bleeting sheep competed with the pop of champagne corks, the High English of the actors was delivered throughout a charming & at times extremely compelling performance. The whole thing pointed to what it would have been like to have witnessed the Elizabethan court being entertained as it made its way round the stately lords of England, such as at Kenilworth in 1577. Both my daughters loved being there for separate reasons. My younger enjoyed the adventure park more, but at the half-time interval – as the raffle was rumbling away – I enquired as to my daughters’ joint enthusiasm for staying. ‘Damn right we are,’ said the eldest & raced back to her seat to continue laughing aloud at lines such as, ‘I find you endlessly appealing even against my will.’ Meanwhile, the young mothers to our our left were chirping, ‘isn’t this just the picture of civilization – sangria & strawberries at the castle,’ & I could not have been more cordial in agreement.

Reviewer : Emily Beeson Bullen



The Lyceum welcomes 70,000 Rooftop-Residing Bees


The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh is delighted to welcome 70,000 new permanent residents to the theatre; two hives of bees, now housed on the theatre’s rooftop. Having arrived in June, the bees are part of the theatre’s comprehensive green initiative, and public are invited to adopt a bee or sponsor a whole hive, with all funds raised going towards making The Lyceum more environmentally sustainable.

Within the next five years, The Lyceum aims to replace the diesel-ran company vehicle with an electric one, install LED lights throughout the Front of House areas, and replace the theatre’s ageing boiler system in favour of a more efficient system that will significantly reduce carbon impact, with all bee donations going exclusively towards these goals. Green initiatives such as these will help lessen the theatre’s impact on the environment, allowing existing limited financial resources to be directed towards artistic programming and vital outreach work in the community and with young people.

Ben Twist, Director of Creative Carbon Scotland, said:We are thrilled that The Lyceum, a leading member of the Green Arts Initiative, is taking this wonderful step. This is exactly the kind of inventive and engaging project that we have learned to expect from Scotland’s cultural organisations. Environmental sustainability projects often seem difficult to pay for, and The Lyceum’s creative thinking shows how it can be done. I believe that The Lyceum will soon be just the first of many arts organisations in the country to fundraise specifically to improve their environmental sustainability.”


Brian Pool

Looking after the theatre’s beloved bees is Scottish-Honey’s Brian Pool, a third-generation professional beekeeper with 40 years of experience.

Speaking of The Lyceum’s new residents, Brian said: “The Lyceum’s roof is now home to 70,000 bees who have settled in very nicely – you wouldn’t even know they were there. With access to Princes Street Gardens and the Meadows to collect nectar and pollen, we’re looking forward to collecting some delicious Lyceum Honey.

The Lyceum is the first theatre I’ve worked with and joins other Edinburgh institutions like The Balmoral, St Andrew’s House, and Royal Botanic Gardens to host my beehives.”

Individual bees can be adopted for £1, and Dine, Edinburgh’s contemporary brasserie located near the theatre, are the first to sponsor a hive for £500. As thanks, The Lyceum hopes to provide honey harvested from the roof, for use in the restaurant.

An Interview with Christel Bartelse

photo.jpgHello Christel, so where ya from & where ya at, Geographically speaking?

 I’m from Toronto, Canada. I was born and raised in a smaller city, Kitchener, but no one really knows where that is, and I’ve lived in Toronto for 19 years, it’s home. My entire family, apart from my parents who moved here 40 years ago, is from Holland and they all live overseas. I’m married to a Welshman so all of his family will be travelling to see me in Edinburgh.

When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?

 I was always a silly, creative kid growing up. I was always putting on voices, costumes, and playing characters for my older brother and for the neighbours. I loved putting on little skits in the basement. As I was growing up, I was in competitive dance (jazz, tap, ballet) and loved the stage. I wanted to act, but dancing was my life. In high school I started taking drama and loved it. And then at 19, realized I wasn’t going to be a professional dancer. My body ached and I was never super flexible so I pursued acting. In theatre school, I loved Shakespeare and the dramatics, but one Improv class in, I discovered my love of comedy and improvisation. A friend of mine and I formed a successful female sketch duo (The Burnt Marshmallows) and pursued that for 6 years, and then she moved away to Vancouver and I decided it was time to go solo, creating one woman shows.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?

 A good piece of theatre is a great story. It has to keep me interested and captivated, I want to think about it when I leave.  I want it to challenge me and provoke me. I love theatre that is beautifully staged and entertaining. An extra bonus is when it’s visually stunning. But I have also seen exceptional storytelling done on a bare stage. A captivating performer makes great theatre.

What does Christel Bartelse like to do when she’s not being theatrical?

It’s rare I turn it off;) When I’m not being theatrical I love hanging out with friends in good restaurants and pubs. Yoga, a lot of yoga, keeps me sane, I enjoy hanging with my husband, cycling, just being in the outdoors. In the Winter, when we don’t leave the house, I love catching up on films and Netflix.

You will be bringing All KIDding Aside to Edinburgh this August, can you tell us about the play?

 All KIDding Aside is a comically honest exploration of my fears and hesitations around being a 30-something year-old woman wanting to hit the snooze button on my biological clock as it starts to tick…… It’s now decision time. This quintessential double bind faced by womankind sets the stage for an epic, hilarious “what if” battle of Parenthood v Career. My show takes place in a doctor’s office as I await my test results. My period is late. Am I pregnant? Or not pregnant? Riddled with indecision and anxiety, my show explores the pros and cons of having a baby and all of my fears surrounding it. This show is quite physical and I use a giant baby head mask to help tell the story.

How does it connect to your successful Oneymoon, are there emerging & continuous themes?

 ONEymoon was about a woman who marries herself. After touring that show for years, I actually got married (to someone else, not myself!) All KIDding Aside is about the fear of having babies, but so far no babies… But I always create my shows based on strong themes going on in my life, so there are parallels in the way I created both shows. But in ONEymoon I play a heightened version of myself, playing my alter ego Caroline Bierman. Whereas in All KIDding Aside, it truly is my story. I’m being very honest and vulnerable and not hiding behind a character. But both of them have my quirky sense of humour. And they are both about “the self” and life choices.


What is the difference between a Canadian audience & a Fringe audience?

 The difference between a Canadian and Edinburgh Fringe audiences is that some Canadian audiences actually know who I am. Ha. Where as in Edinburgh, I’m a total nobody. But overall, the big difference between the Canadian Fringes and Edinburgh is that there isn’t much opportunity on the Canadian Circuit. Its rare big producers are coming out to see shows. You can’t really climb the ladder. It’s more about the quality of the art you produce and there is an ability to make a lot of money. But the biggest gain is really just wowing an audience, city to city. But that’s all you get, because there is no “next step”. Edinburgh at least provides more opportunity. There are people seeking out the “next show”. It’s no guarantee anything will happened, but it could. Also, for me I have to change some references in my show for UK audiences. Shoppers Drug Mart in one of our top pharmacy chains in Canada, but when I discuss this in my show, I now have to change it to Boots or another Chemist. Otherwise no one will know what I’m talking about.

 What emotive responses do you expect from your audience?

 I hope audiences feel joy after seeing my show, but also I’m okay if they feel confused, in perhaps their own life choices. They’re may also be some mild anger, or disbelief in one little sequence where I do try and surprise the audience. You basically get a wide range of emotions. It’s a trip.

In one sentence can you describe the experience of performing in Edinburgh in August?

 The most intense month of my life, one filled with over one hundred emotions, and that’s just what I feel in one day.

What will Christel Bartelse be doing after the Fringe?

I’m sure after the Fringe I’ll be sleeping. There won’t be much of that in August.  But after some rest, I return to teaching in the Fall at Humber College and jumping into a new show that I’ll be creating. Essentially getting ready for and prepping the next tour



Aug 4-26 : theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (15.05)

An Interview with Samson Hawkins

Headshot.pngHello Samson, so where ya from & where ya at, Geographically speaking?
I’m from a hamlet called Crowfield in South Northamptonshire, it’s near Silverstone race track, proper farmer country. But now I live on a canal boat in Southall aka Little India in West London.

When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
I’m dyslexic and couldn’t read a word while the rest of my age group were smashing through Harry Potter. My mum sent me to Youth Theatre because my sister had so many hobbies that she was great at and I didn’t really have anything apart from being rubbish at football. But once I got to Youth theatre I loved it, I could be gangsters with guns that fire custard pies, victorian pick pockets or a prince of an ice kingdom, It was nuts. My mum’s plan worked though, I had to learn to read otherwise I had no idea what I had to say. It was all a ruse on her part, but I guess I’m not illiterate anymore, so well done to mum.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre
Something I haven’t seen before. When a production stays in your mind for days or weeks, or in a few cases, (Earthquakes in London) years. A production that could fail, but doesn’t. I like theatre that remembers it is story telling, and then tries to tell the story in the most interesting way possible.

When did you first realise you could write for the stage
I wasn’t a very good student at school. I was a solid C student. But the teachers always said they wish they could give my essays better marks because they where fun to read. Mr Hughs knew I was never going to get very good marks, so when my Essay on Gladstone and Disraeli took the form of a rap battle, he didn’t have a go at me, he just said it was the best F he has ever given. I started writing sketches for youtube, and once I got to East 15 they started becoming more like scenes. I was a part of Greyscales Play Development Project, where I was completely out of my depth, but Selma Dimitrijvic was inspirational and really focussed me on what theatre can be. I wrote my first play ‘Death is Wasted on the Old’ which was performed as part of Scribble at The Avondale Theatre, someone complained about its blasphemous content, it’s all right, Jesus is quite forgiving apparently.

What does Samson Hawkins like to do when he’s not being theatrical?
Making money and fucking bitches. No I’m poor and have a long term girlfriend so none of those things happen. I’m really boring these days, I’m either watching theatre, or making it, or doing admin work for plays. I do play football manager to a really high level, and I’m a connoisseur of new varieties of Kit Kats and Snickers bars.

Can you tell us about your baby, Second Sons?
My third-year housemates formed the company in out 3rd year of Italia Conti to make ‘Theatre for people who don’t like theatre’. We have had a bit of success since we started, to the surprise of everyone involved really. We run a new writing night ‘Playtime’ which has sold out Theatre N16 and The Bunker, Swan Bake got nominated for a Brighton Fringe award and our production of Dark Vanilla Jungle, by Philip Ridley got great reviews and is now being co-produced by 53two in Manchester as part of the Manchester Fringe. We take a jump off the cliff and learn to fly on your way down, and it’s working.

Swan Bake poster image.lpg.jpg

You will be bringing Swan Bake to Edinburgh this August, can you tell us about the play?
It’s a comedy play which uses puppetry and dance to tell the story of a drug-addicted ballerina and her relationship with a nun. It started as my dissertation project and I’ve been working on it since. I’ve always wanted to take it to Edinburgh as it just feels so much an ‘Edinburgh Show’. It doesn’t fit very well into conventional genres and it’s all the better for it. It’s a really fun show that looks at the experience of drug addiction in a new way.

How much of you is on the play?
I used to take quite a lot drugs. And I wrote the play as I wanted to stop, but didn’t really know how. There is a point when you are trying to give up when you just realise how hard being high is sometimes. I saw one of my teachers in Tesco but I was hallucinating at the time and it was really hard not to just slap him in the face and run away. He runs a venue now though, so I’m really glad I didn’t. It’s kind of about my experience at drama school, Bell, the main character, has spent her entire life wanting to be a ballet dancer, but is now told she isn’t good enough, that was kind of me with acting at Conti. The characters are all archetypes, big bold exaggerations of what they are in real life.

swan bake pic.png

How did audiences respond when it was performed in Brighton?
Before Brighton, we had only done the show in front of people we knew, and obviously people you know laugh at anything. So I was worried, but when we took it to Brighton, in front of new audiences, it excelled. People actually took the script in and we got a lot more laughs for the punch lines and not just at bits like the guy in a gimp suit tap dancing. People still laughed at that as well, because everyone loves a tap dance. The new audiences also appreciated the moments of pathos a bit more. Doing a play about lost hope in front of people full of hope isn’t always great, when Swan Bake finds it’s real target market, the outsiders, the loners, the people just about clinging on, it’s wonderful. We also got some proper blokes in who loved it. Don’t really know why, but now I kind of want to make ‘theatre for proper blokes’, I’d give out John Smiths and in the interval have a meat raffle.

In one sentence can you describe the experience of performing in Edinburgh in August?
Stress, stress and more stress, after that it’s magic.

What will you be doing after the Fringe?
I would like Swan Bake to have a London run, hopefully, something will come from Edinburgh. I may be doing a MA in Theatre Directing because as much as I like to pretend otherwise I actually take this quite seriously. I’m looking for a home for a play I’ve written called Olympic Fencing, after Swan Bake that’s my next focus. I’m also trying to set up a comedy wrestling federation but that’s a story for another time.

Samson will be bringing his Swan Bake to Edinburgh

Aug 2-28 : C Venues (14.40) 

An Interview with Steve Attridge

5.jpgHello Steve, so where ya from & where ya at, Geographically speaking?
I’m a Londoner. My Dad was a blacksmith in the East End and my Mum worked in an eel and pie shop. I’ve lived in Warwickshire for over 20 years now but I also have a place in Spain where I go to work – no Internet, no TV, no landline. A study and laptop. Mountains. Sea. Wine. Brilliant.

You are an internationally renowned writer, but when did you first realise you could do it?
I always wanted to be a writer. It was an imperative. I would have done it even if I’d had no success. Getting my first things published and broadcast made me realise I could entertain an audience, whether one reader or a bunch of people watching a play or film or TV. In the late 1980’s and early 1990s I suddenly hit a rich vein in terms of getting work.

When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
I think when I started lying to get out of trouble. The power of imaginatively reawakening the world. Also as a kid when I realised that if I could entertain people by making them laugh or gain their interest and curiosity, then they would be less likely to beat me up. I think life is theatre anyway, it’s just when you try to do something for the stage you must heighten and distort and cut out the boring bits. I think most people do that in their heads anyway – we’re all the central character in our little dramas.

Theatre is not the only string to your bow, you are quite the polymath: what else interests you in the artistic spheres?
Everything connects really. For example, if you write reasonable poetry it makes you a better writer of dialogue. I worked as a performance poet and still write the odd poem. I’ve written a lot of film scripts and been lucky in that some of them have been made. I’ve had about 100 TV scripts broadcast. I play guitar and have written a couple of musical plays. And I love the solitude of writing books – had 20 published so far. Good writing can be an eclectic animal and go on diverse journeys.

What does Steve Attridge like to do away from writing & performing?
Passionate about playing tennis. I used to love football too but got my nose, my leg and my arm broken and realised it was time to stop as I was running out of bits of me to break. I like gardening, music, walking. Watching animals and birds.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Not boring the audience. Keep it moving. Keep it lively. Throw in a few surprises. Make it jump. So many plays are too long and pleased with themselves.

You will be bringing Dick in Space to Edinburgh this August, can you tell us about the play?
It’s a seriously bonkers piece of comic theatre about an intergalactic film noir detective hunting a murderer through space. Dick Spacey, the main character, has multiple selves and cannot always distinguish between himself and others and has bizarre and powerful relationships with inanimate objects and invisible presences. It’s psychologically a bit surreal and bizarrely physical in terms of language and action. Someone said the character is like Tom Waits on amphetamines. A lot of jokes and one liners but also connecting plot lines. It’s an unusual piece.

Dick Spacey 300 dpi.png

There seems to be quite a mish-mash of contents & styles – what holds it all together?
A strong central character, running jokes, a sense of a personality and world falling apart in surprising and entertaining ways. The play creates a little world of its own. There are lots of elements in the pot but it’s all one stew.

In one sentence can you describe the experience of performing in Edinburgh in August
O brave new world, that has such people in ‘t!

What will you be doing after the Fringe?
Sleep. And then I go to Spain to work on a new novel.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Steve Attridge
Just getting up and working. My new novel calls and I have a backlog of work to get out there. I may also learn to become invisible.

Steve Attridge will be performing his ‘Dick in Space’

@ the Cuckoos Nest (venue 106)  

3rd-27th August (20.00)

& also 14th and 21st Aug at 3.30 pm in the Counting House Lounge

The Ching Room



12th June 2017


Script: four-stars  Stagecraft: two-stars.png  Performance: four-stars 

Mr Stewart Schiller is a pioneering young gentleman from Glasgow, who finding himself drenched in a music-mental conurbation is becoming ever more determined to bring theatre – affordable, pay-what-you-like-in-a-bucket-as-you-are-leaving kinda theatre – to his people. Last night I caught the 3rd of 4 performances round venues in Glasgow normally reserved for things rather less theatrical : Dram, Canal Station & Broadcast on Sauchiehall Street, where I found myself watching The Ching Room by Alan Bisset. Stewart had come across the play while looking for a decent one in his local library, & in a recent interview with the Mumble described his engagement with the play; ‘The Ching Room’s one of these plays that just jumps off the page. I try to read as many plays as I can and, after awhile, they can start to blend together. The Ching Room though is really arresting. It describes seedy acts with beautiful language, whilst also being really funny. That’s a rare combination that gets me really excited.’ 


The set was sparse, although the entire thing was supposed to be set in a toilet cubicle, so I guess that didn’t matter. The two youthful actors, however, were smashing & eloquent & genuinely authentic. Rory – played by Simon Devon – crosses the sacred boundary into the Ching Room, where Darren – played by Alex Dodd – is holding his snowy court ‘on official nightclub business’. Well-toured & experienced, both actors crackled with chemistry (& chemicals) as they played out Bisset’s dramaturgical remembrances of a night or two on the tiles, one expects. In fact, the three of them managed to completely turn the seedy, urine-stained, drug-cutting, money-blagging, arrogant-sweating temple that is the coke-users toilet into somewhere quite fluffily enticing. In the Ching Room, drugs are good. It was all quirkily compelling, & full of great lines such as, ‘you don’t hurry Boss Ching, sir, Boss Ching hurries you.’ Then into the mix comes some saccharine poetry – but in a good way – & emotive backstories which are in the main believable & contribute to the overall effect of a short, snappy trip to the bogs with a couple of likable geezers. I’m really glad that Stewart Schiller brought this play back to life, for there are some beautiful & funny moments that go on in the lands of druggy hazes,  but unfortunately no-one can remember them!

Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen


An Interview with Alex Fthenakis

2017’s On The Verge Festival – a small festival of big ideas and big ambition – kicks off later today, 21 performances at the Citizen’s Theatre (Tickets can be bought at the RCS box office or at the Citizens).

The Mumble managed a few words with its chief…

Alex Fthenakis Photo.jpg

Hi Alex, so where ya from & where ya at, Geographically speaking?
Born and raised in Mountain View, California.  That’s the heart of Silicon Valley, so at the time it was all HP, Sun, Cisco, and Lockheed employees.  Now it’s Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  That and retired 35 year old multi-millionaires getting ready to start their second (or third) career.  It should come as no surprise that I feel rather out of place when visiting. Based in Pollokshields.  I couldn’t love it more.  Have been in Glasgow (mostly) since 2009. Along the way I’ve lived in LA, London, and, Chicago.

When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
I think I was in first or second grade (age 6-7).  It was a production of Peter Pan.  I was a ‘lost boy’.  After that it was school plays and Christmas Pageants for a few years before my interest really got going and I made a serious thing of it in High School. I was recently on tour performing in a Play, Pie, and a Pint show, His Final Bow, and made a joke about ‘taking the day off and watching from the house’ or something.  It triggered a flashback to that Peter Pan – I remember throwing a big tantrum when I found out that being in the play it meant I wouldn’t ever get a chance to see it from the audience.  These disappointments are rough when you’re six…  Perhaps that was an early sign that I wanted to do more in theatre than just perform. That Peter Pan youth theatre must have been a racket too – they were a touring youth theatre that toured their shows but not the kids.  So they would make a show and take all the tech, design, etc. on tour but recruit and rehearse new kids in for each new stop on the tour.  Those participation fees must have added up quick.  Sounds a bit like Harold Hill’s band when I think about it now.

In 2014 the Arts Council of England and UKBA endorsed you as an artist of Exceptional Promise for his work, cam you tell us about the process
I probably get asked about this more than about my work.  It’s a really tough process applying for this visa category.  Tyler Collins and some others have been in the press lately due to their struggles in applying.  Basically you have to prove to Arts Council England that you have the potential to become a world leader in your field.  There are probably about a dozen of us in Scotland – I’d bet that more than half are OTV alums.

This week sees On the Verge returning to Glasgow, what is it about this particular slice of student theatre that makes OTV so special
My (absolute lifesaver of an) Associate Producer Stephanie Katie Hunter keeps referring to OTV as a ‘DIY Festival’ and I think that’s a great moniker. OTV students make all their own work from scratch.  They write, direct, perform, design, source props, build things, operate lights and sound for one another, write their own marketing copy, run their own social media campaigns, write their own risk assessments etc.  They are mentored by some really fantastic tutors and guest artists, but the work they make is all their own and they’re tasked with self-sourcing almost all the resources to support it.  For the audience I think that’s really special because it’s a chance to see the work of this next generation of theatre makers standing all on its own.  Works are very much in-development and many of the students are just beginning to recognise who they are as artists, so it’s all less polished than you’d find with some of the drama school’s full productions.  However, this is the first time an audience gets to see the nascent work of these students without it being filtered through outside professional directors, designers, technicians, writers, etc.  Think of it as the theatrical equivalent of being able to claim that you saw Belle and Sebastian’s first gig at the Halt Bar before anyone had ever heard of them (disclaimer: lots of OTV shows have gone on to future success, but none have been quite THAT successful – yet…)



Some of 2017’s ‘On The Verge’ crop

What for you makes a good piece of theatre
I think all good art has to come from a place of both passion and exploration for all the artists involved.  Beyond that, a good piece of theatre should never try to be something it’s not or apologise for being what it is.  And it should do something that can only be done with a live audience in real time (i.e. something that’s not possible on film – this is a bugbear of mine with a lot of young American writers).

What do you think the students get most out of OTV
For those that know they want to make their own work after graduation I think it’s a great dry run at what their first endeavours might look like.  Imagine you’ve just graduated and the industry doesn’t know you and you don’t have a track record yet, so you can’t get any funding or much formal support – you’re going to have to phone in whatever favours you can to try to get your first no/low-budget project off the ground.  In a perfect world it would be easier than that but oftentimes it’s not, so it’s great to get a chance to try out this way of working in a context where audiences accept that the whole thing is a ‘DIY Festival’ of works-in-progress.  It gives students a low-risk opportunity to discover where their strengths lie and where they need to spend more time cultivating relationships with specialist collaborators. For lots of students, though, OTV is the impetus for them to try their hand at writing or directing or designing or songwriting for the first time.  Except for the 3 MA directing students, everyone in OTV is training first and foremost as a performer, so for quite a few OTV students this is the moment when they first discover (or first reveal) that they want to build a career as a multidisciplined artist.  With the way the industry is changing (and has changed over the last 30 years), it’s more important than ever for a theatre artist to have multiple strings to their bow in order to make a sustainable career.

What does Alex Fthenakis like to do when he’s not being theatrical
I’m a pretty avid cyclist – not a lycra and racing bike kind of cyclist – I’d describe myself as an ‘adventure cyclist’.  For me the bicycle is a tool to see things and go places that I couldn’t otherwise afford to see for reasons of either time or money.  I’ve done the West Highland Way a couple times on a mountain bike (only takes 2 1/2 days at a slow pace), and several other ‘bikepacking’ type adventures, but just now I’m on a road touring kick.  After OTV I’m headed up into Sutherland for a bit of cycle touring and tent camping.  I’m trying to keep my itinerary flexible, but if all goes according to plan I think I’ll cycle round the new North Coast 500.


Why Do You Stand There In The rain?

Can you tell us about your baby, Rootstock Arts
Yeah – I think I first witnessed the guiding principle behind Rootstock in 2012.  It was the first Pepperdine Scotland commission – Why Do You Stand There In The Rain? by Peter Arnott.  I had a great discussion with the students one day about whether the play was Scottish or American – there was no real consensus, and I think that was the play’s biggest strength.  Peter wrote a 7:84/Wildcat style agit-prop ceilidh play, but he wrote it for a dozen super-talented young Americans, and he wrote it about an episode in American history.  He’d had the idea for the show sitting in his drawer for something like 20 years, but had never found the right group to write it for.  It was a perfect situation where the whole became better than the sum of its parts and the resulting show was a huge success (and is probably a big reason behind my certification as Exceptionally Promising). Ever since then the key question when commissioning for Pepperdine Scotland is: what is the one story that THIS writer and THESE performers are better equipped to tell than anyone else in the world?  Rootstock is about trying to facilitate work that answers that question in various situations where we bring international artists (or their work) together.  It’s about making international theatre that represents true co-creation rather than just import and export of complete work.  Since 2012 I’ve had a few Pepperdine-like ideas that ran into road blocks because there needed to be a separate company on board to handle the ‘international’ aspect of a project, so I set up Rootstock to help with this.  As a company we’ve done a few little bits and pieces so far, but it looks like our first significant project activity probably won’t begin until either this Autumn or next May.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Alex Fthenakis
Well for the next month or so I’m just going to take a break and regroup!  It’s been one of the busiest spring seasons I’ve ever had and I’ve been working nonstop overlapping contracts as both an actor and a producer since about mid-February.  I’m massively thankful for that, but now I’m also grateful for a bit of quiet time through early summer.  This autumn it looks like I’m finally going to get some time to focus on some of my own projects – there a few shows I am making / want to make which require a bit of focus and TLC from me just now, so it will be good to spend some time on those. There are a few other things in the pipeline too, but they’re dependent on some still-pending funding applications so I can’t talk about them at present.  Also if the apps get knocked back I’ll be looking for some more work this Autumn, so I’d better not make it sound like I’m too busy!