Monthly Archives: June 2019

Last Ferry to Dunoon

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Oran Mor, Glasgow
June 24 – 29, 2019

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

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


An Interview with Matt Rolls


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.


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.

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.


Etcetera Theatre, Camden

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

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Dusty Won’t Play


Oran Mor, Glasgow
June 17 – 22, 2019

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

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


An Interview with Steve Cooper


A delicately touching musical comedy on dementia is heading to Edinburgh. The Mumble caught a chat with its creator…

Hello Steve, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking? 
I’m based in Ramsbottom, ten miles north of Manchester.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre? 
I knew right from infant school when I played one of the King of Siam’s sons in the senior school’s production of The King and I. I kept having to remind the King to pick me up when he forgot. I knew then that I was comfortable on stage. Nothing else I wanted to be but an actor.

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Can you tell us about your training? 
My training’s been mostly on the job. I started acting 35 years ago when I was 18. Since then I’ve been a jobbing actor and I’ve had some wonderful and some dreadful jobs. All part of the life of an actor. I taught drama for a while and took a late degree in Performing Arts at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle.

In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special? 
For me it’s the shared experience of the audience that makes theatre special. I love the ‘now’ of theatre; the fact that any given audience will have their own, never to be repeated experience unlike any other is thrilling and nerve-jangling.

You’ve had quite the career on TV, what have been your highlights? 
Having a great role in BAFTA winning ‘In The Flesh’ has to be my highlight. To be in a show with heart and soul and have lots of exciting things to do on screen is every actor’s dream. I got to work with some of my screen heroes. I’ve been involved with lots of great TV but nothing beats this for me.

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You have written in, & are acting in, a new play which you are bringing to the Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Paradise Lodge is a musical comedy with two actors playing many characters.
A dysfunctional 1940’s duo, ‘The Doodlebugs’ are doing a gig in a care home called Paradise Lodge. We meet some of the care-home residents and hear their stories. As the duo disintegrate, we see how the onset of dementia has affected the lives of those living with it and their carers.

During the writing of ‘Paradise Lodge’, what materials did you use during your research? 
This play is based on my experience helping to care for my mother-in-law when she was living with dementia. Writing it has helped me come to terms with what was a very trying few years. It helped me make some sense of it and organise my thoughts. I was apprehensive for my wife’s sake. I knew the whole process would be upsetting for her. It was her mother, Dorothy, who we cared for. After mum died I started putting my notes together and a year later, I had enough of the play to start workshopping. The scenes are all from life. Sometimes word-for-word. Even some costumes and props were Dorothy’s. We both cried plenty through the plays development but we are telling Dorothy’s story and others seem to take some comfort in that.

Can you tell us a little about the rest of the cast? 
This is a two-hander with myself and Sophie Osborne. We met doing workshops with Jim Cartwright. Sophie trained at Italia Conti Drama School. Since graduating she’s had many roles, including in 2 episodes of Dalziel & Pascoe, Emmerdale, a 6 month, large scale UK tour of The Turn of the Screw and voiceover work on feature film The Nun. She’s also played Little Voice in Jim Carwright’s Cartwright Cabaret, directed by Jim himself. She set up her own theatre company, Mini Me Productions, in 2015, and has successfully toured her self-penned one woman show, Kissing Frogs, extensively since then. You can currently see her on TV prancing around with retro favourites, Dip Dabs, for Barratts Sweets.

How is director Richard Oliver handling your baby?
I had a very clear idea of what I wanted this show to be before we started rehearsals and Richard has been very sensitive to the fact that I have written and am performing in the play. His outside eye has been invaluable in shaping the final performance and considering the audience’s experience. I feel very lucky to have him on board.


What emotive responses do you expect from the audience? 
It’s been reassuring that people seem to get it. I’ve been told time and again that the play is truthful and authentic. That’s important to me. Everyone finds their own connection with the characters. When people are coming back the next night and bringing others with them it shows that they feel ownership of the play. For me that’s the highest praise. From our experience of preview shows I expect the audience to laugh a lot, cry a bit, and occasionally laugh and cry at the same time. And to sing along!

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say? 
If you want to be tickled, uplifted and have your thoughts provoked come see Paradise Lodge. You’ll laugh, cry and sing your heart out.

Paradise Lodge

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Underbelly Bristo Square

Aug 1-26 (13:15)

Twits, Wits and Bawdy Baskets


Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham
June 8th, 2019

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

62586532_1237317356428695_5896029820030025728_n.jpgCamped out on a picnic blanket in my waterproofs, within seconds I forgot all about the weather and was fully immersed in a new comedy by Doodlebugs Productions , Steve Cooper’s Twits Wits and Bawdy Baskets. Set right outside Gawthorpe Hall in an open park, we follow a group of “hapless Elizabethan rouges” on their attempt to be a company of strolling players, hopefully grabbing a good bed and grub on their way.

Tom is an eccentric cross-dresser, who claims all parts of the fair lady. Harry, the boisterous confident leading man. has a secret. Merry John is the joker who glues them all together and Sloppy Jen, well, she’s just there for the ride. The only thing standing in their way (other than characters’ apparent lack of talent) is Reverend Shuttleworth, a firm believer that these so-called plays are created by nothing but beggars. After leaving the Reverend tied in an attempt to escape his preaching, the rogues are on the run!


On the other side of things, we had our very own Anne Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe Hall, lost in her own world of reading and writing her own plays, while constantly battling her Mother for her right to marry for love.. Upon the news of her father’s death in London, we discover that Anne’s cousin, the Reverend Shuttleworth, is on his way to claim the Hall which is rightfully his. When the two groups collide, hilarity ensues & the piece provided the perfect combination of a superb cast, acapella singing and quick-witted humour to keep us warm on a rainy Lancashire afternoon! What’s not to love?

Kae-Lei Stowell


Ida Tamson


Oran Mor, Glasgow
June 10 – 15, 2019

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

For Oran Mor’s offering this week, the set had a somewhat clinical feel with panels covering the back of the stage and a gap that would act as a door. There was a table with two dark seats and a mug on the table. As the play began, large magazines were projected on the panels. To the sound of rap music we saw Elaine C Smith and Joy Mcavoy join each other already deep in conversation. Smith was reprising the character of Ida, a part she first played in 2006 when Denise Mina’s play was first produced at Oran Mor to great critical acclaim.


We got the measure of the two women straight away by the contrast in their attire, the middle aged Ida in her less expensive clothes compared with journalist Helen (Macavoy) in her plush business suit. Helen was chasing the story of Ida’s daughter Mary, victim of an overdose. In their conversation it turned out that Mary was dead, wasn’t dead, was dead again, becoming a farcical exchange between them and greatly frustrating Helen as she has became emotionally invested in the Mary situation. Every time the journalist felt she was making progress Ida shuts off and gave out her usual banter to get out of talking about the unbearable details.

Gradually the truth emerged and we realised that Ida’s humour was her way of trying to deal with the great grief of losing her daughter to drugs. Helen seemed to want nothing more than to represent Ida in telling her story, indeed she became quite passionate about that. But Ida remained aloof, never quite trusting this journalist who she felt was really only looking for a good story to boost her own career. In fact at one point Ida was so full of distrust and paranoia that she clasped her hands around the journalist’s throat, nearly strangling her. And it would be a good story because Ida had turned her back on a life as the wife of gangland drugs boss and was bringing up her lost daughter’s children on her own.


With a nifty change of scene (worthy of larger and longer productions), we were introduced to the character Fletcher (Paul James Corrigan) who it turned out was a rival drugs lord, and the person who got involved with Mary and got her into drugs in the first place. He was planning to move to Cyprus and wanted to take his son, Mary’s child, with him. He demanded that Ida allow him to do so, threatening violence if she didn’t. We saw all of Ida’s inner turmoil as she struggled to find the strength to assimilate yet another body blow made by this unreasonable man, who was already in reality the villain of the piece.

The play concluded with Ida sitting at Helen’s desk with the journalist frantically writing away. Ida had already lost so much, has had to dig deep into her inner reserves of courage and resilience in order to survive, but in the end we are left with a poignant vision of a heroic Glasgow woman who despite having lost so much, found the courage to acknowledge all that had happened and agreed to make her story public.

Daniel Donnelly


Professional Cultural Surveyors


The Mumble are in the vanguard

Of the 21st Century reviewer

The 1880s saw the dawn of a new breed of footballer – the professional one, the one that got paid to play. The old boys of the public schools, who founded the game in the first place, were in total uproar. Despite such protestations, growing public demand declared an appetite for the better players, & began to happily pay to observe sustained quality throughout their beloved game. By 1888, twelve clubs from the Midlands & Lancashire – including that of my home town, Burnley – had conjoined themselves into the first professional football league. Roll on a century & a third & a Women’s World Cup is just kicking off where the best female players are being paid healthy sums of money to perform, & most of all inspire, on a global stage.

Reviewers need paying and – as this week’s developments at the Evening Standard show – the publications that employ them need to see a sustainable future in theatre criticism or it will continue to dwindle
Alistair Smith

A similar state of affairs has just been illuminated through an article & editorial from the Londoncentric The Stage, who were absolutely choking on their biscuits to hear that the Mumble asked artists for £25-£30 to cover our reviewers’ expenses. Maybe decades-old publications like The Stage can still afford to operate on a model that pays its reviewers via advertising and subscriptions, but newer publications need to find fresh ways to break even in an increasingly demanding market.


As is generally the case with these things, a spiteful attack from a member of a common body proves the innovation. The actual story is weak journalism. A rake through twitter found an ‘expert witness’ in a gentleman who has ‘been doing the fringe for six or seven years and have not encountered this before.’ He cannot be talking about the Edinburgh Fringe, for it is common knowledge among performers that most publications exchange coverage for cash during the Edinburgh August in various guises. The Mumble openly charges £25 or £30 to mobilize our reviewers, a figure kept low in order to preserve the integrity of our journalism. You cannot just magic a review out of thin air, they must be laboriously crafted. Reviewers need to get to & from town, to eat & drink while they are there.

You’ve got to ruffle a few feathers to break a few eggs
To make an omelette
Damian Bullen


Professional Cultural Surveyors are currently in the cute puppy stage of their existence

During the Fringe the Mumble publish both paid & unpaid reviews. Of the latter sort, we cherry-pick the better offerings from the publicists paid thousands to get reviews for free. Of the former, the paid review, we offer a clear & professional service. This is not London rules anymore, we are in the heat of an Edinburgh August, when our mostly local reviewers take on the role of cultural surveyors. If you’re trying to sell your house in a crowded market, you get the surveyors in. The same applies to the Edinburgh Fringe and its thousands of shows.

£30 might not seem a large sum for theatremakers keen to sell tickets at the fringe
Luke Emery

The Mumble is based in Edinburgh all year round, & delights in the fact that the cream of the world’s performance art permeates our gorgeous city’s nooks & crannies every August. The reviews we bounce back off these thousands of fabulous artistes are read, appreciated & disseminated in every country across the planet. To some, thousands of miles away, they are an eyeglass into the beautiful operations which encompass the Edinburgh Fringe. To others, these reviews are validations of months, years even, of hard work & rehearsal to produce a show they always hoped the random public would enjoy.

The falling away of the number of critics who can afford to come up to the festival has a cumulative effect. It is hard for us to get the word out about shows during the festival without the help of the star ratings given out. These sell the shows to the crowds when there are so many to choose from when we put them on the posters and leaflets. The word of proper, quality reviewers really matters.
Mel Brown

For each of our seven years at the Fringe, the Mumble team has gone from strength-to-strength, being enabled & enriched with an ever-widening pool of experience reviewing each of the performing arts. Our perfectly impartial reviews are sent pinging across the world to family, fans & friends of the performers. Despite this, the journalists at The Stage would rather people saw a Mumble review & quibble, ‘that’s been paid for, its not right.’ Instead let them say, ‘that’s been paid for, that is valuable;’ & see a positive Mumble review as a mark of quality from a diligently honest company of Professional Cultural Surveyors.

Damian Bullen

What the Animals Say


Oran Mor, Glasgow
June 3 – 8, 2019

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As we settled in our seats, the simple set (6 chairs and a screen) effectively took us to the waiting room of the Stranraer to Belfast ferry. This two-hander by David Ireland (first performed at the Oran Mor in 2009) concerns two young men, Eddie (Jordan Young) and Jimmy (Kevin Lennon) who encounter each other in the ferry terminal. The two soon discover that they are actually old school buddies from Belfast although they then took completely different paths in life. We get an inkling of this from their attire, with Eddie looking very smart in his expensive track suit and state of the art headphones, while Jimmy is scruffier in rather down at heel casual gear.

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It turned out that Eddie had made it big as a football star and now captains Glasgow Celtic and hobnobs with celebrities. Jimmy, as he continually impresses upon Eddie, is an accomplished actor, but is still seeking his big break; the role that will really put him on the map. At the moment he was on his way to an audition which he hoped could change his life, to be in a new Mel Gibson film. As the two converse, we see Eddie’s larger than life personality as he becomes more and more personal with Jimmy, and exposes his own sectarian and racist attitudes. The military-sounding flute and drum music that introduced the piece had already given us a clue as to the underlying themes what would be explored.

The contrast between the two characters couldn’t be greater, with Jimmy quoting Shakespearean passages in the face of an increasingly threatening and volatile Eddie. The content came fast and hard with the whole thing seeming to be an emotional outburst about the sectarian sector we know of in our society. The writing had a straight attitude towards that by simply having them state, the hard facts that are on the road in the Glaswegian lifestyle. It also got to the heart of its subject by posing abrupt emotions; as they really seem to lie in us that they both did with the same sincerity but also lightening the mood as needed be.


In the second part of the play, there was a complete turnaround. The scene changed to a dressing room where Eddie was practicing his lines. It drove Jimmy mad that Eddie now wanted to try his hand at acting and has persuaded Jimmy to help him with his lines in return for an introduction to Mel Gibson. But after some more personal jostling they both wind up with balaclavas on their faces, a no holds barred and rather shocking effect that was done with a little humour. Eddie held a small bat in his arms with much too great a relish. In the end Jimmy was beaten with the bat as Eddie just loses it and can find no more use of words. With its straight down the line dialogue, this play challenges many levels of perception, perspective and reality. You cannot look away, it was strong theatre.

Daniel Donnolly


An Interview with Jared Harford

Jared by JP Harrow-9

Imagination Workshop offer an Edinburgh Fringe experience all unto itself. The Mumble caught up with its director-curator…

Hello Jared, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
This is always a question and a half! So, originally I’m from New Zealand, then moved to Australia, then moved to the UK, then back to Australia with a stop in Thailand, and nomadic living in Australia for three months. I’m currently in Melbourne and setting up a home base.  However, I’m currently in Canada before returning to the UK for the run-up to Fringe.

When did you first develop a passion for performance art?
I would say from birth! I was very lucky growing up to have free instrumental music education through school in Australia – something that isn’t offered all around the country and is under threat from a lack of cultural policies by conservative governments in Aus. My mum is an actress, and my dad used to work behind the scenes in the local theatre in NZ as well as work in a props hire shop. I was also lucky to go to a high school whose main focus was on performing arts, so I got to experience a lot of drama and music that most people don’t get to at that age.



Love/Hate Actually

Can you tell us about your training?
I studied at the Queensland Conservatorium and received a Bachelor of Music in Performance with a Major on Classical Clarinet. I was lucky in my final year of study to change to an amazing musician and beautiful human being who really pushed me hard and brought back my passion for performing after wanting to quit my degree. I owe so much to her for really strengthening my focus on what I wanted to do and making me learn the flute! (I play clarinet, sax, and flute.) I also owe a lot to a close friend of mine for pushing me to be a better jazz and musical theatre musician – though that’s all training on the job!

You’ve got three famous performers from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Amy Winehouse, Charlie Parker, Gian Marco Schiaretti. But if I was allowed anyone, it would be The Queen, Louis XVI, and Catherine The Great. As for cooking – I am not the best but I think something like: smoked duck with a sweet sauce; a pasta dish; and coconut panna cotta. Though I imagine at least two of my performers wouldn’t do much eating at all!


Can you tell us about Interactive Theatre International?
It’s a relatively small company that competes on the same level as large theatre companies. We started in 1997 with Faulty Towers The Dining Experience and now tour that show to 40 countries. It’s a true smash hit, and it’s about to sell its millionth ticket – might have done so by the time this is published! We have four other shows also touring currently, and they’re all immersive and interactive comedies too. And we have actors and admin staff based in Australia and the UK – there are 90 of us now!


A Migrant’s Son

It’s like one big happy family – can you tell us about the personal ties?
The company was founded by Alison Pollard-Mansergh, who is my mum, and her husband Peter Mansergh. I started working for the company two years ago in the UK, my sister currently works part-time doing design, and my brother works part-time doing tech. Because my little brother and sister were so young when Faulty made its success in the UK and Europe, they have travelled around the world and the majority of the staff in the company and actors know them! So for them, it’s just family and extended family!

The company goes from strength to strength, what is its secret?
Drive, determination, and Ali. Honestly, the company’s key to success is Ali – she has a way of creating and developing shows that entices people from all around the world to come to see us. And people even try (unsuccessfully) to copy us! But you know what they say, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…


Jared having a jam (right)

Can you tell us about Imagination Workshop?
Imagination Workshop is the home of immersive and interactive theatre. For us, it’s about showcasing non-traditional theatre and non-traditional theatre spaces. And it just so happens that at Edinburgh Fringe we’ve got a 4-star hotel to transform. It’s way more classy than other venues!


You’re bringing quite a few shows to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, what do you think of the festival?
Edinburgh Fringe is The Thing that made us A Thing. We love it, and I personally love it – as exhausting and full on as it is!

How is your working relationship with the venue?
Amazing. We love the level of support and enthusiasm the team at the hotel have for us and what we do – especially the General Manager, Andreas. The thing about us is we don’t fluff around with each other. We cut to the chase and are open and honest. In business it’s a rare thing, so it builds a strong relationship and support from the get go. Being a decent human being is important, I say!

You’re bringing your classic shows like Faulty Towers and Confetti & Chaos (formerly The Wedding Reception) – the Fringe would not be the same without them, by the way – but what new stuff have you got for this year?
Yes, I think Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is the Official Fringe Favourite – people look out for us year on year, and keep coming back to us! This year ITI is bringing up three other shows too: Only Fools The (cushty) Dining Experience makes its Fringe debut, Pamela’s Palace is over at The Assembly, and The Wedding Reception returns as Confetti & Chaos – a name that really does fit the show! We also have eight other shows coming to our venue this year! Four Aussie acts and four from the UK. Two of those are dining shows, so we have five shows with food in the venue (the others are A Migrant’s Son and Comfort Food Cabaret). And everything is interactive or immersive!

Which are the kid-friendly shows?
All our shows are kid friendly, whether PG or G. And we have fun interactive kids circus called Big Tops and Tiny Tots, which is from Australia: Luth is an amazing performer and really has a way to get kids and parents having a great time

What will you be doing personally after the Fringe?
Sleeping. Lots of sleeping. But hopefully I’ll get a holiday somewhere on the way back to Aus!

Imagination Workshop



Principal Edinburgh George Street Hotel