Monthly Archives: June 2018

An Interview with Alice Sylvester

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Has it been only a year since Alice Sylvester wowed Edinburgh with her one-woman play about Sylvia Plath? Time flies, but in that time she has come up with something stirringly new. The Mumble caught her for a wee blether…


Hello Alice, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Alice: I grew up in the South Wales valleys, and I still spend a lot of my time there. But over the past few years, I haven’t settled in a place for too long, (I think I get easily bored). I try to travel as much as I can especially while I’m writing. I did live in Edinburgh for a few months this year and I really loved that.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
Alice: I discovered creative writing when I was 7, since then all I’ve wanted to do is write. I discovered my passion for being on stage a little later on when I was a teen. It’s kind of funny, I chose performing arts as a school subject because I thought it would be fun and easy- it turned out to be the thing I’ve worked hardest at in my life so far. During the last year of my degree I learned how to write and perform my own plays, which is becoming a little bit addictive since my two favourite things are writing and acting.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Alice: Whatever it is, I want it to move me. I want it to make me think and feel beyond myself, beyond my every day thoughts and feelings. I don’t need to understand it, I don’t need to agree with it, I don’t even need to like it; a good piece of theatre should stir within you, and you leave you a little changed.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three box set TV shows, what would they be?
Alice: Mad Men is probably my favourite show, Game of Thrones I can (and have) watched for ten consecutive hours, and then Sex and the City is the show I can annoyingly predict every sentence of.

Can you tell us about The Bathtub Heroine?
Alice: I created The Bathtub Heroine theatre company in 2016, with the intention to produce theatre that has captivating leading female roles. More than that, I’m also passionate to allow emerging female artists to develop their skills behind the stage in all areas of theatre creation and production.

Last year you were in Edinburgh with, “Sylvia Plath, Your Words Are Just Dust.” How did it go?
Alice: I had some experience of the Fringe, I had performed there the previous year. But this was my first original show, I was in control of every aspect of producing a show and although I wasn’t scared, I had no idea what I was doing, or how it would be received. But I couldn’t have asked for a better response. I had great audience attendance even some shows were fully sold out, and I received five star reviews that were beautifully written- it was very encouraging. Since then I’ve had an attitude that if I want something, I’ll just go for it, I’ll give it a shot, life’s much more fun that way.

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What have you got for us this year?
Alice: “How to Swim in Hollywood” is inspired by the 2017 Hollywood sexual abuse scandals. I wanted to write a piece that shows how cultural norms regarding beauty standards and gender ideals strongly influence sexual exploitation, and the way we understand it. The play is set in Beverly Hills in 1979, and it follows the character of Daisy, a young housewife of a Hollywood icon. Growing up Daisy never learned how to swim, and the main focus of the play flows between her memories of swimming pools at summer and experiences with men. It becomes clear to the audience that Daisy was entirely unprepared for womanhood; her stories of teenage crushes create a picture of a woman who was thrown into the deep end of a world she doesn’t understand. It is intense at moments; it shows the complex nature of rape and coercion, and the ways in which people can struggle to understand abuse.

Why did you set the play in 1979?
Alice: When I began studying the Harvey Weinstein accusations I was quickly drawn back in time to the 1970s- and I learned about director Roman Polanski’s conviction of raping a 13 year old girl (1977). What horrified me the most was not the crime Polanski had committed, but the way that the cultural perspective of the time meant people didn’t perceive his actions as rape. In the light of recent events, it reminds me that just because evil is public knowledge, does not mean that positive change will occur. I want ‘How to Swim in Hollywood’ to encourage people to consider what aspects of current culture are blurring the perspective of sexual exploitation, and how we can educate children and teens to discover their sexuality in a safe and healthy way.

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How did you create the character of Daisy & how much of you is there in her?
Alice: The character of Daisy was my first point of inspiration. I had this character in my head for some time, I knew her personality, she lived in L.A, she was young and married, and had a history of sexual abuse. Then months later the Harvey Weinstein scandals hit the news, and when that happened I began to really connect with the world and story of Daisy. There is a lot of myself in the character of Daisy, perhaps even more than I realise. I think that’s necessary when I create a one-woman show; I’m enticed by characters I can understand, I can relate to them if I share an element of their pain. In comparison to the woman I am today Daisy is very different to me. But she is perhaps a version of a woman I could have become if I didn’t grow tired of allowing negative influences in my life, and if I never began to make womanhood the experience I want it to be.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street….?
Alice: This is a powerful performance, a dark and beautiful show, an important perspective inspired by the recent Hollywood abuse scandals.

Can you tell us about your stagecraft; the music, sound & stage design?
Alice: I would describe the play as dreamy- the main character is alone in her bedroom, overlooking L.A at night, and the only stage set is her vanity table, a symbol for what is at the centre of her existence. She flows from conscious thought to past memories; there is a piece of atmospheric underwater music written for the play and a few of my favourite 70s hits. I wanted everything to be soft, and hypnotic from the physicality to the sound and light design. I like the idea of creating a play that is visually sweet, soft, and delicate but gradually pulls you into its dark undercurrent.

How will you know & feel when you have just given a good performance?
Alice: I will feel relaxed, even when I have performed scenes that were intense and dramatic. I know when a performance is great because it felt natural and organic. I should sink effortlessly into the character and welcome the audience into the world of the play with ease. It’s sort of a seductive feeling, which is a funny thing to say, but yeah, that’s how I would describe it- a good performance feels great; I’m seducing myself and the audience into the fictional world of the play.

Can you describe the experience of performing at the Fringe in a single sentence?
Alice: It is a financially devastating, emotionally draining, alcohol fuelled, wild, hilarious, and wonderful adventure.

What will you be doing after the Fringe?
Alice: My next stop will be New York in November, I’m performing ‘Sylvia Plath, Your Words Are Just Dust’ at Theatre Row on 42 Street, as a part of UnitedSolo- the world’s largest solo theatre festival. After that I’ll hopefully spend some time outside of the UK, find a city that excites me and start writing something new.

 


How to Swim in Hollywood

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Greenside, Infirmary Street
Aug 5-11,13-18 (22:00)

Tickets: £10.00, 7.00 (con) BO: 0131 557 2124

www.thebathtubheroine.com

An Interview with Mark Down

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There is something quite brilliant about the dramaturgical puppetry of award-winning Blind Summit. The Mumble managed a wee blether with its director-in-chief…


Hello Mark, so when did you first develop a passion for theatre?
Mark: I saw Dad and Mum in the village pantomime when I was about 8 I think. As a teenager school took us to see three Pinter plays at Bath Theatre Royal which I found extraordinary and started reading Pinter as a teenager. I got very into musicals for a while and tried to “see them all”. When I was 18 I went to see Romeo and Juliet at Stratford.

Can you tell us about your studies?
Mark: I trained to be a doctor first. After working for a couple of years as a junior doctor I retrained to do acting. Then I discovered puppetry and that I have mostly made up myself with collaborators.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Mark: It needs to be funny, clever and teach me something. It needs to be about something – i.e. political. And the thing that makes me enjoy it is at least one good performance.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
Mark: Oh God that’s a horrible thought – City lights (Chaplin), Casablanca, 310 to Yuma

What does Mark Down like to do when he’s not being creative?
Mark: Play tennis

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Can you tell us about Blind Summit?
Mark: Blind Summit is a multi-award winning London-based, internationally touring producer of puppet-based theatre. For twenty years we’ve have consistently subverted people’s expectations of puppetry: from giant storybook characters in the opening ceremony of London’s 2012 Olympic Games to The Table, a globally successful touring production that completely up-ended audiences’ understanding of how puppet and puppeteer communicate.

How did you get involved & what is your role in the company?
Mark: I am the Artistic Director of the company, which I founded in 1997.

What are the processes behind designing each puppet’s aesthetic?
Mark: We work in two ways. With a text we look for an aesthetic that will illuminate some aspect of the text, usually a formal allusion. Puppets tend to bring attention to the metaphorical aspects of the text. We also make work that starts with the puppet we want to play with and write the text from there. i.e. the other way round. That can get very difficult. That’s how we are making Henry.

After 20 years of being with Blind Summit, how has your own take on puppet theatre evolved?
Mark: I am less preoccupied with comedy and existentialism and more engaged by story.

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Can you tell us about the Opening Ceremony to the London Olympics?
Mark: It involved putting a huge amount of time and effort into a very little amount of time. It was extremely exhilarating being on the stage on the night. Danny Boyle and the Designer Mark Tildesley were really inspirational to work for. Putting together a team of 20 puppeteers and 35 volunteers was amazing and we made good friends.

Can you sum up the Fringe experience in a single sentence?
Mark: Fast paced and invigorating.

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This year you will be bringing ‘Henry’ to the Fringe. Can you tell us about it?
Mark: It’s a one man, three man show with puppetry called “Henry”. It’s narrated by puppeteer, director and “control freak” Mark Down who explores the mystical power of puppetry, assisted by two, slightly sinister, masked puppeteers. Things get out of control when the spirit of “Henry” enters the puppet. Who is “Henry”? What does he want? And is he dangerous? At least I think that’s what it’s about – we’re still making it!

For those who have seen past creations, such as Citizen Puppet (2015) or The Table (2011), are we to expect something similar or not?
Mark: Expect the unexpected. If The Table was the life of a puppet – Henry is about the life of a puppeteer.

If you’re flyering in the Edinburgh streets, what would you say in twenty seconds to convince someone to see Henry?
Mark: Anything might happen, come and see!

What will Mark Down & Blind Summit be doing after the Fringe?
Mark: Sleeping! And thinking about making the next Blind Summit show.


Henry

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Pleasance King Dome
Aug 11th–26th (15:30)

www.blindsummit.com

An Interview with Toby Boutall

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A bonkers, immersive, party of a late night ‘childrens” show is winging its way into Edinburgh this August. The Mumble managed a blether with the creative polymath behind it all…


Hello Toby, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
TOBY: I’m originally a Bedford boy, and proud. However, I now live in Kingston way because the train takes twice as long but its ¼ of the price.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
TOBY: Something big and ballsy. As long as it doesn’t pander to everyone’s needs then I’ll be up for watching it. Also, pandas. I like pandas.

Over the past few years you have been developing performances and shows that try to challenge the idea of normal theatre? What gave you the impulse to go off tangent, so to speak?
TOBY: I just get bloody bored of watching the same old things over and over again. I started by making a show which was a mix of music, cabaret, lecture, theatre and club night a few years ago called, A Concise History of How One Should Party. It went down an absolute storm… For the 30 or so people who saw it; their reaction got me excited. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to just find some way of presenting this style in a believable style. Added to this, I love people like Eric Andre and Rik Mayall. So what better setting than kids TV!

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What have you learnt from the journey about yourself & the theatrical arts?
TOBY: Lots of people complaining but not doing enough themsleves to justify it. Hard work and good relationships are essential. Also, when you’re shucking oysters and telling people you’re writing a mad cap show, people don’t always take you seriously.

How do you know & feel when you have just given a good performance?
TOBY: I’m sweating BUCKETS. Greasy pants.

Can you sum up the Fringe experience in a single sentence?
TOBY: I hope your soul and liver are ready for this Toby.

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This year you will be bringing Very Blue Peter to the Fringe. Can you tell us about it?
TOBY: Very Blue Peter is Blue Peter on acid. The show itself centres around a famous controversy from 1998, which we’ve said was all a cover up for something much bigger. It contains: three rogue presenters, JK Rowling, Eurovision, World Cup, Morph, police, drugs, booze and psychedelic rock music. This is the episode of Blue Peter that was never aired.

How does it feel to be the shows writer & a director?
TOBY: Pretty cool! For me, this show is an exact science and it needs to be done is a certain way to make sense. At this point, I think a director would laugh in my face if I presented this idea to them.

Can you describe your cast members in a single word?
TOBY: Lauren Douglin = Biblical
Anthony Fagan = HughJackman
Eliza Hewitt-Jones = Landan
Matt Daniels = Naked

If you’re flyering the show, what would you say in thirty seconds to convince someone to see Very Blue Peter?
TOBY: Do you remember being a kid? No? OK, that’s a bit weird mate. But either way come and see Very Blue Peter. It’s pretty cool mate. I like your shirt. There’s a bulldog at the theatre. There’s not actually a bulldog. But yeh. Blue Peter on acid with a few pints sounds good, no?

What will Toby Boutall be doing after the Fringe?
TOBY: What Toby Boutall does every day. Be disappointed by where life has lead him and pretend on social media that he’s a happy presentable bloke. That and a panto playing the Genie.

Photography : Jackson Bews


Very Blue Peter

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Gilded Balloon Teviot
Aug 1st–27th (23:15)

Talking Heads

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West Yorkshire Playhouse
Leeds
June 14th-23rd 2018

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The monologues which make up ‘Talking Heads’ were originally written for and presented on BBC2 over 25 years ago and I myself have vague recollections of them from that time. They have of course been performed since on the stage but what is special about these performances is that they are taking place here in Leeds where for the most part they were originally set. This is of course as much a Leeds of Bennet’s imagination as it is a real place – a heightened world coloured by fuzzy recollections of his childhood and youth as much as it is reality but what strikes – as ever – about these pieces is their rich sense of detail, their ‘lived-in’ quality which could only come from the most keenest of observers. From the specific number of the bus used to the details of the canteen pudding this is a world which feels startlingly – almost oppressively real at times.

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When the first piece “A chip in the sugar” begins we are transported into the fastidious world of Graham a middle aged man living with his mother. Theirs is an uncomfortably close relationship of mutual dependence. Socially isolated Graham takes quiet control of his mother’s opinions in line with his own liberal Guardian reading ways ( something he feels is for her own good ) whilst she rely s on him for physical and practical support. All is well until the arrival of an old flame of his mother’s who gradually wheedles his way into her affections with his superficial charm and flash patter.

Chris Chilton’s performance as Graham is excellent avoiding either a knowing impression of Alan Bennet himself (whose mannerisms the character sometimes embodies) or a campy caricature. He manages to illicit sympathy for what is at times an unlikeable character. He manages to capture both the humour and the desperation of the language making the audience both laugh uproariously whilst in the same breath gasp with shock. By performing small actions such as the folding of his clothes and the pacing of the room we get a sense of the obsessive nature and suppressed anxieties beneath the controlled exterior. When the fear and anger burst out it is with a genuine sense of queasy unease.

It’s very special for various reasons: It’s the last show in the Courtyard before the Playhouse undergoes redevelopment.  It’s also my first time directing in my home theatre, and the opportunity to co-direct with James and Amy is really exciting.  We’re each of us working with fantastic, generous actors.  As you may know, four of the monologues have already been on tour around Leeds, so it’s great to offer them out to our community.  It also means we can present a very different show, putting them all together on stage in one big production.
Director: John R Wilkinson

Read the full interview here

Next came “A woman of no importance” in which we meet Peggy a woman with a sense of herself as the ‘lynchpin’ of her workplace. Flo Wilson gives a subtly powerful performance as Peggy. At first I found her a rather tiresome creation; self-regarding, boring and obsessed with the petty mundanities and power-plays of office life as she is but gradually as the piece progressed my feelings were transformed. Wilson captures a woman both in decline and in denial of her place in the world and the changing nature of her own powers. I began to feel a gradual growing sense of great empathy for a character I had actively disliked and a strange sense of admiration for the self-deluded way in which as her world shrinks Peggy still retains her sense of pride and dignity. What is most impressive about the performance is the physical transformation in which Wilson captures the declining physical powers of Peggy. Wilson manages in her movements to make Peggy grow heavier, wearier and older before our very eyes through subtle shifts in posture, breathing and enunciation. This is also cleverly expressed through the use of costume – her gradual change from smart dress and coat to nightie and bed-jacket , the way Peggy clasps her handbag so tightly– and set as we see the environment gradually change from one of a banal public waiting room to hospital bed.

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Finally we have “Soldiering On” in which we find Muriel, a woman of advancing years trying to hold things together in the wake of her beloved husband Ralph’s death. Though clearly a member of the upper classes we see as the piece unfolds a gradual stripping away of both Muriel’s physical comforts and her illusions until she is reduced to a state comparatively worse than either Graham’s or Peggy’s. I ended up finding Muriel in many ways the most appealing of the characters due largely to Tina Gray’s performance. She managed to convey a sense of a woman who underneath her bravado and stiff upper  lip was rather lost. Imbuing her with a sense of unworldly niaviety  as-well as vigour and pluck she gave Muriel’s suggestion that her story was “not a tragedy -I’m not that sort” the ring of truth to it which just made it all the more heartbreaking.

Throughout the pieces the setting is first rate whether it is letting us into the dreary and  claustrophobic bedroom of Graham, the fading glamour of Muriel’s chaise longue and packing boxes or the antiseptic melancholy of Peggy’s hospital bedside. The way in which the sets are changed – particularly by the overalled workmen in Muriel’s living room – is also a sophisticated  touch. The use of lighting and sound is minimal but effective too conveying both changes of scene and time and place with shifts in colouration and strength of light.

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What shines through – though it is ably abetted by the uniformly excellent cast of course- is the script itself. These three pieces took me on an emotional journey in which I was taken to places I did not expect to go by people I didn’t want to go with. Bennet is able to create characters which have the tang of real life to them with all its ambivalence and complexity. It shows the strength in his writing that even the characters referred to off stage so to speak seem as well rounded and believable as the ones speaking directly to us.

Though there is much humour in the work and I indeed laughed through much of it these three pieces are I feel more tragedies than anything else. Not grand tragedies – that’s not Bennet’s style – but tragedies of lives unlived, of repression, denial and self-delusion, themes which run through these plays like the writing through a piece of Blackpool rock. These are very clever plays indeed which manage with their use of the casual wit and trivial mundanities of ordinary speech to explore difficult topics such as mental health issues, sexual  repression and the damaging binds of family. By tackling these issues with humour, realism and above all humanity Bennet’s work has  lost none of its power or relevance over  a quarter of a century after they were first written.

Ian Pepper

five-stars

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

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The National Production Company
Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
13-16th June, 2018

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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) has been a consistent crowd-pleaser since its debut in 1987. A Fringe Festival stalwart, the play has the survival abilities of a cockroach, and the script itself is so tried and tested that it would seem that it would take some effort on the part of a performance troupe to make it anything less than utterly charming and delightful for an audience.  The brain child of American writers Adam Long, Jess Winfield and Daniel Singer, The Complete Works… is a light-hearted and irreverent romp through all 37 of the Bard’s plays, consisting of slap stick, farce and pantomime-esque audience participation.

In many ways, this winning formula serves The National Production Company well in their incarnation of the play, currently appearing at Edinburgh’s Assembly Roxy. The fledgling company have an admirable stab at it, employing the requisite high-energy and fast pace, and adhering stolidly to the well-loved, conventional features of the play – the sonnets are handed out on paper, Shakespeare’s biography is confused with that of Adolf Hitler, Titus Andronicus is presented in the style of a cookery show, MacBeth is performed in see-you-jimmy hats and in terrible Scottish accents, Othello is a rap, the ‘Kings’ plays are transformed into a slow-motion American football game.

One of the elements of the play that makes it satisfying for performers is the capacity for improvisation and the requirement for cultural references to be updated and tailored to specific audiences and locations. The play presents many opportunities for The National Production Company to put their stamp on it and really make it their own, but they choose to play it a little too safe. The result is that some of their references seem unimaginative, at points bordering on cliché. Even the decision to use Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ to bookend the show feels like it would’ve had more cache during the Rickrolling phenomenon/Astley renaissance ten years ago.

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As the play is now 31 years old, some elements of it are badly in need of updating. The implication that a man in a dress doing a high-pitched voice is automatically hilarious doesn’t sit comfortably in 2018. One line about ‘not making things gendered’ in this version seems to acknowledge this, but so weakly, it somehow manages to make it worse. Similarly, the idea that a Southerner affecting a Yorkshire accent is inherently funny has gone out of fashion since Michael McIntyre was called out for classism by justifiably irked northern viewers several years ago. Presenting two men kissing as something to laugh at – really? Still?

It’s a shame that these wide-open opportunities to innovate were missed by The National Production company, as they are clearly a very talented bunch with heaps of passion.  Bits of the performance were absolutely pitch-perfect and well-executed – the demanding final scene, with three versions of Hamlet performed at breakneck speed and backwards, and the tightly choreographed prologue to Romeo and Juliet were particular highlights. While a little disappointing, their decision to stick to established formulas is understandable. This was a solidly enjoyable performance, but I think much bigger and better things await The National Production Company.

Kirsty Mcgrory

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The 39 Steps

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Sat 9th June
Murthly Village Hall

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This is the ninth season that Dundee Rep have taken theatre into the community to various local venues. This year, director Irene Macdougall and the ensemble are revisiting familiar community venues and have added some new ones to the itinerary. There is something quite magical in the idea of a touring theatre and this Saturday night performance was packed. There was certainly a bit of a buzz amongst the audience as the hall filled up before the lights went down.

The 39 Steps being one of my all-time favourite movies (Hitchcock’s 1935 version, not any of the lacklustre remakes), I was keen to see what Dundee Rep’s ensemble would make of this classic Buchan ripping yarn. Would this Richard Hannay be a suave prototype James Bond, who takes his ladies’ kisses without asking? Or perhaps the comic Hannay of Simon Corble’s 1996 stage reboot? And how do you squeeze a tale that starts in a London music hall, steams up the Northern Line to Scotland and back to London again onto a stage (little Murthly village hall stage at that)?

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Dundee Rep’s Joe Landry’s 39 Steps takes the conceit of a radio ‘play within a play’. As the lights go down the familiar pips of Greenwich time signal give way to the clipped tones of a Radio Scotland announcer introducing ‘tonight’s live performance’ of Buchan’s play in front of ‘a live audience’ – Hey that’s us! As the action progresses there were moments when, if one closed one’s eyes, one could easily have been listening to a radio drama from the nineteen thirties. Sound effects, mostly all produced ‘live’ by the five actors on stage, were a great part of the pleasure of listening as the familiar plot unfolded.

Ewan Donald’s Hannay is a delightfully upper crust rogue. Dressed for the part in tweeds and brogues, and with an accent that could cut a bar-full of glasses, he playfully keeps up the conceit of the nineteen thirties radio actor playing Richard Hannay. Emily Winter’s Annabella Smith/Pamela are just as playfully done. The awkwardly stifled romantic spark between Hannay and Pamela is the source of much magically amusing moments. Barrie Hunter takes, among a plethora of roles, the character of Professor Jordan to ‘evil genius’ proportions. Billy Mack and Ann Louise Ross take up the remaining cast with some excellent quick-change vocal acrobatics. At points in the action it’s hard to believe that there were only five actors on stage.

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For me, and the appreciative audience in Murthly village hall, much of the comedy of the play was in watching the cast provide the sound effects. Look (or listen) out for the barking dog with excellent comic timing, and the flock of sheep. The excellent sound production never overtakes the plot, and, being created live, is a reminder, like the two old style BBC microphones at front of stage, that this is a radio performance being recreated on stage.

Dundee rep are currently touring venues around Dundee, Angus, Fife and Perthshire until Saturday 23rd Jun. If you want to be seriously entertained for an evening then look out for your nearest venue and get along. The ticket price is worth it twice over!

Mark Mckenzie

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TOUR DATES TO COME

 June  Venue  Book Tickets
Thu 14 Dibble Tree Theatre, Carnoustie  01241 853946
Fri 15 Menzieshill Community Centre  01382 432967
Sat 16 Rio Community Centre, Newport  01382 543366
Tue 19 Kirriemuir Town Hall  Click here to book
Wed 20 Forfar Reid Hall  Click here to book
Thu 21 Maxwell Centre, Hilltown  01382 802628
Fri 22 Douglas Community Centre  01382 436944
Sat 23 Eassie and Nevay Hall  01307 840839

www.dundeerep.co.uk/event/the-39-steps

An Interview with John R Wilkinson

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Talking Heads is coming to the West Yorkshire Playhouse this week. The Mumble managed to catch a wee chat with one of its directors…


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Hello John, so where are you from & where do you live? Hello John, so where are you from & where do you live? 
John: Hello.  I am from Leeds, albeit its murkier backwater – Wetherby to be exact, where I still live.  One of the great thing about Talking Heads is all three co-directors are from the North.  Well, Amy’s from Lancashire but we’ll forgive her that.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre, and what, for you, makes a good piece of theatre?
John: My mum’s always been involved in light opera, so it probably stems from that.  Also, I used to be an avid Masters of the Universe collector when I was little, so imagining all sorts of scenarios with He-Man and Skeletor probably helped as well.  A good piece of theatre for me includes various things.  There’s got to be a real element of mystery, or discovery if you like, in it.  You should leave asking as many questions as you’ve had answered.  It should improve your perspective on the world around you.  I often talk about productions finding an “active somnolence” – a kind of hypnotic quality.  They should call.  You should respond.  They should soothe and mend you in doing so.

Can you tell us about your studies?
John: I trained at Bretton Hall College and the Workshop Theatre, University of Leeds.

You are Director in Residence and Agent for Change at West Yorkshire Playhouse; can you tell us how you got the job & what your role is?
John: I was appointed in October 2017.  Aside from directorial responsibilities, the role is designed to support the creation of opportunities for other D/deaf and disabled creatives and setting up opportunities during Ramps on the Moon tours for local D/deaf and disabled artists to introduce themselves to their local theatre.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
John: 1 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)
2. Moneyball
3. Withnail and I

What does John R Wilkinson like to do when he’s not being creative?
John: Which is most of the time!  Let’s see: Well, James Brining and I cry over the current plight of Leeds United.  Netflix, Books (Historical Fiction, Sports Biographies) and Cycling.  I’ve also just had Botox – in my legs, not my face!

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Marlene Sidaway performing in LS14

You’re directing Talking Heads at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. What’s exciting about this project?
John: It’s very special for various reasons: It’s the last show in the Courtyard before the Playhouse undergoes redevelopment.  It’s also my first time directing in my home theatre, and the opportunity to co-direct with James and Amy is really exciting.  We’re each of us working with fantastic, generous actors.  As you may know, four of the monologues have already been on tour around Leeds, so it’s great to offer them out to our community.  It also means we can present a very different show, putting them all together on stage in one big production.

Do you & the cast socialise outside of rehearsals?
John: Yes, we had a party last Saturday, actually!

What does the rest of 2018 have in store for John R Wilkinson?
John: Immediate priorities?  My sister’s getting married at the end of next month and I’m looking forward to the World Cup!

Photography : Anthony Robling


TALKING HEADS IS SHOWING AT THE WYP

JUNE 14th-23rd 2018

BUY TICKETS HERE