Author Archives: yodamo

Persephone


Oxford Playhouse
12th November, 2021-11-15


The Oxford Play house has celebrated its first return to the stage since the pandemic with musical play about the ancient tale of the heroine Persephone. This Jazz Hands Production relives the Greek story that portrays pivotal standpoints for both gods and mortals. A show lovingly created by the Play house students with the full and touching return to the stage with an important play.

In a jovial mood then the rewriting of this story began with Persephone and her mother Demeter tending to the seasons of the planet (being the gods of Harvest) with Persephone being a most beautiful of daughters but whose father was Zeus himself, king of the Greek gods. As they tended their earthly paradise that mortals survive we found them in a forest with Demeter concerned about her daughter’s position in the world.

Persephone’s young and freely innocent spirit desired more out of her life but of the outside world she had no idea. As she dreamed her songs exclaimed her feelings where all she could do was yearn for tomorrow, with the fates already deliberating her coming adventures. She left her home one night answering the call that her heart had made to her. And when she returned Demeter tried to tell her daughter that the world out there was not as she thought.

Persephone’s powerfully beautiful character so comprised of two great and powerful gods brought her to spend a night without coming home which set her mother Demeter’s worry into overdrive.

She had gone far into the woods (world) and it became clear that she had fallen for someone she met in a gathering. When she went out to meet him again they tried to talk he reluctantly introduced himself as none other than Hades up from his realm hell. It was the beginning of the life she yearned for. It was too strong to ignore though into peril she went, with her mother’s warnings were thrown to the wind.

The classic story from ancient Greece involved their gods who ruled Olympus, the heaven of the Greek world. Persephone’s fates started to become of importance as Zeus himself had willed. The idea of Olympus was portrayed as nothing more than a comfortable office inundated with paper work at desks and continuing the downplaying Hell was a world of quiet and peace.

Written and directed by Emma Hawkins this magically endearing ploy was a match of music set design and costumes all of which complimented the other very nicely and of good taste in order to bring the story to life in a most refined fashion, yet all without fancy, even Zeus wore a smart suit without the smallest hint of gold or any other precious metals.

Hades and Persephone had a deepening and profound love that struck them both without being able to think on anything else. But Hades despaired his position and left his home to speak with Zeus. Who enjoyed tormenting his brother encouraging Hades to do as he pleased, the world of Persephone was to be upset and turned round by events to follow.

The Muses/chorus wore their garlanded and flowery togas, sang in their tradition dancing ad joining the gods both pushing and pulling them, reflecting the plot of Persephone’s imminent demise. She who only knew that love may be a great adventure.

It didn’t stop her from being heinously broken by the advances of Zeus. She found herself in Olympus conversing with him. He explained that her absence from duty had caused cold weather and starvation. And as we saw her break from his careless violence the lights stopping was very meaningful.

The vying story that had been thrown open; became quiet and tender when to console her in stepped Aphrodite (the goddess of love). We were all by now on a flying adventure through the worlds and heavens; all the while taking its time to tell the story that simply rolled around the stage. The great use of the reality of Persephone’s trials came in spoken word and music to take the show away.

The motherly wisdom of Demeter knew what would happen to Persephone. She left to look for her daughter the second time she went missing. Her grief was at hand when he heard what had happened. In her heart she found resolve to forgive and take care of her daughter.

It was Zeus who played the villain not Hades, though he also didn’t always seem to be entirely on the level. Our attentions were stretched by the precise nuances. Hermes, Hera, Zeus and Hades; we still revel in these names but do we understand them and their very nature?

The presence of folk music, costumes and storytelling, the play had a fresh and new example to make with Olympus seeming to be a victim of its own crime. Aphrodite’s part was of the wounds being healed. She sprang around with Persephone, singing songs and drinking some. She gave Persephone a new reason to live and held her in her darkest hour. The personalities of the gods took on an interesting identity as benevolent yet confined by their individual duties.

As she regained her strength Persephone returned home to be reunited with her mother. The sweetness of this scene rivalled all the scenes of the gods. And they ever so faintly sensitive sang and rejoiced. Quietly they understood each other’s toil and turmoil, with the whim of things being almost forgotten.

It’s hard not to think of this play as being perfect. Such an evening of good theatre retelling a tale with every kind of metaphorical fruit lade bear, lavishly told with grace and exciting music, in a set and performance that was most sad but most loving with nature at its heart. A witness brought about through tragic betrayal of to the beauty that can live in life.

Persephone and Hades remained in love and of the future nobody would know, but we came to revel in the story of a journey’s timeless all pervading story that has truly stood the test of time, still as vibrant, new and refreshing, classically portrayed for any modern era.

Daniel Donnelly

An Interview with Sam McGowan


Hitting pipes with Flip Flops has proven to be a great success for JunNk. The Mumble caught up with the man behind it all


Hello Sam, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Hello! Currently I am sitting in sunny Florida, enjoying being back in America after not being able to visit for so long due to the pandemic. I was born in Essex, England but live in the south in the heart of the New Forest.

When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
As a kid, I was always a part of some amateur dramatic group; but it was when I first started studying Performing Arts at Brockenhurst College and being immersed with other talented performers where I thought this is something I wanted to do.

Can you tell us about your training?
My musical training is all self-taught, I learnt to play guitar first, and used this skill through school and college for bands and musical theatre shows, which increased my love of the arts. However, it was when I started JunNk that I learnt how to play drums and piano. A ‘learning on the Job’ approach; I knew early on that JunNk had the potential to be huge, so I didn’t want to hold back.

By 2021 you have become quite the polymath – a performer, producer, director, and manager. Why so many strings to your bow?
I have always strived for success in everything that I do; I want to deliver the best, which led me down a path of learning as much as I could, expanding my skills and knowledge in order to have the best understanding of everything I was involved in.

I started JunNk in 2008 with 3 of my best friends, from a performance point of view it was a 25% split on stage, however everything behind the scenes needed a lot more attention, everything from running the business, marketing, branding, bookings to building the equipment, arranging the music, casting additional performers. The list goes on, I quickly adapted the ability to do it all and I loved it. Producing and directing more JunNk shows as we started expanding, creating new ideas and opportunities for the company. It was, and still is, a rush and my passion for the show and my determination to ever expand makes it all worth it!

So, what for you makes a good piece of theatre?
For me, it is about being able to create a world that you can immerse yourself into, a complete interactive experience; I want to forget about everything else except what I am watching.

You’re also quite an award winner – can you run us through a few?
JunNk first won a Sky 1, TV show called Don’t Stop Me Now back in 2012 which was the start to our awards. Following that we went on to win the ‘Act of the Year’ award for our corporate engagements in the UK in 2013. Our Edinburgh fringe debut in 2016 led to us win the ‘Spirit of the Fringe Award’; fast forward to 2019 and our debut at the Orlando Fringe where we won 3 awards; Best Family Show, Pick of the Fringe and Best Marketing.

On to JunNk; where, when how & why did you get the initial impulse to create the show?
JunNk started as a college project, and we had a dance exam for part of our performing arts course; collectively we weren’t the best dancers, so we created a very basic form of JunNk to get past the exam.

It was laid to rest after college until we entered a competition on ITV’s tv show Dancing on Ice, they were searching for an act to tour with the production show; I pulled the guys together to take part and we were placed 5th overall. We then entered a local talent competition in Bournemouth, we came runners up however a talent scout watched our performance and later offered us some work if we could create a 45-minute show. This was the starting point to the creation of the JunNk you see today.

Can you give us an overall picture of the JunNk experience?
Truly like nothing you’ve ever seen before; using various items commonly found in a junkyard, the four hilarious performers energetically combine superb acappella singing, captivating percussion, innovative musical creations and mesmerising gymnastics to produce a lively, dynamic and fun show that consistently delights audiences of all ages and nationalities.

From using bottles as panpipes and watering cans as trumpets, to playing well-known tunes on drain pipes with flip flops and a PVC tube as a didjeridoo, a show that really is a unique and sensational whirlwind of pure entertainment that should definitely not be missed!

So its essentially a ‘rubbish-powered variety show’- how do the audiences react in every age group?
We have been very selective with the variety that we add to the show to make sure we can reach a wide spectrum of ages. The show is perfect for all and due to the lack of spoken word also makes it popular internationally for all cultures!

Who writes the material for the show – the jokes, the comedy, etc.?
The material normally starts with a basic idea, a song, a sketch etc and then we would workshop it in a rehearsal; essentially if we found it funny it would go in the show. Quite a lot of the show was generated by me and some of the guys just messing around. When it comes to the music, depending on the songs I would arrange some and bring them to a rehearsal and we would ‘JunNk-ify’ them.

Since its inception, then, how has the show evolv’d?
Most things have a ‘sell by date’ so I try to keep most things updated and current, some bits of material continually do well with the audience so have become classic parts of the show. The biggest part of the show that evolves is the creation of instruments, I’m constantly coming up with new ways to make music, building more equipment to deliver even more unique ways to make sound!

Tell us about China & Abu Dhabi?
Even though JunNk is based in the UK, we have done more tours in China and Abu Dhabi than England; both countries are unbelievable, I love them, and our show is always so well received. Incredible theatres and amazing people, I cant wait to get back over and tour them again.

So Covid. How big an obstacle did it prove to JunNk’s progress?
Live entertainment has certainly been one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, with ongoing and ever-changing restrictions plaguing its full comeback. Even in a pre-covid world, the entertainment business is far from easy, with live entertainment usually operating on a last-in, first- out basis, often being seen as a disposable luxury for most events. The pandemic caused the JunNk to lose two year’s worth of contracts overnight. Like many, the company was devastated, however persistence and determination managed to keep the company alive and growing and we are coming back stronger than ever!

In the dark days of the Lockdowns, did you ever feel like you wanted to give it all up?
Honestly Yes, but that was on a cold dark winter’s evening during a power cut… it didn’t last! I then lit the fire and got to it. I turned to the digital age and quickly grew a TikTok following of eighty thousand followers, generating over ten million views. This was the spark I needed to kick JunNk into our post covid gear and start to get the show back out there.

Tell us about your collaboration with Dana McKeon?
This started as a covid project, I met Dana while we were both performing on a cruise, she’s an incredible artist. We had similar goals and an equal passion for creating music, we started by covering Justin Timberlake’s – Cry me a River before deciding to write an original song together. We put our heads together and wrote ‘Love Language’ where I mixed the original sound of JunNk and the beautiful vocals from Dana to write a commercial pop / tropical house song. Love Language made it into the top 10 in the Malta PRS charts. Me and Dana have more in the pipeline so keep those eyes peeled.

You’ve now got an eye on America – what stokes the interest & what are your Transatlantic plans?
So I started JunNk in Orlando, FL in 2018, we have 2 teams that are set for Cruises, theme parks and theatres, touching a market that we hadn’t been able to do with the UK team. America offers a world of opportunities, we have strong connections with Disney due to the Cruises we have done with them over the years, so we are now working closely with another production company to open as many opportunities as possible. A very exciting time that’s for sure.

& Finally, you’ve got 20 seconds to sell your show to a stranger in the street – whaddayasay?
JunNk the manic love child of Stomp and the Blue Man Group, come immerse yourself in our zany world of comedy and music.


www.junnk.co.uk

An Interview With Daniel Donnelly


At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Daniel Donnelly was the veritable captain of the Mumble’s skeleton crew


Hello Daniel, so where are you from & where do you reside today?
I have a little tale to tell about said upbringing. I was born in Glasgow’ West End, moved to Erskine till 2 (I swear I can remember this), lived from 2 till 9 in London and wound up before I knew it in a little plush village in the East Netherlands. At the time it felt like we had struck gold. The whole (though short) saga all came about as my father followed his work around. In London we lived in Hammersmith, a short walk from the prison Wormwood scrubs. I definitely remember walking to school.

My sister was born into an already full house of three children, I was two when she was born and I do remember that. The family split in Holland so after a time we left to retreat back to Glasgow where I have been ever since.

I am residing in York hill, a Glasgow West End location where I have been for many years. its an original tenement flat with high ceiling’s and spacious rooms not far from City Centre and the deeper West End.

You’ve almost single handedly reviewed the Edinburgh Fringe for the Mumble in 2021 – what’s it feel like to be the backbone of a skeleton crew?
I didn’t realise that my Fringe efforts would be singled out like this as a back bone, but being part of a skeleton crew has handed me another aspect of the refreshing business of reviewing theatre and really enjoying the fringe. In many ways things are normal with plenty to do and see. But it hit home at the normally packed Pleasance Court yards where there were only two food shacks, the pub was closed and there was no one standing in a busy crowd, there was something profound about that.

But working online and at home has its advantages too. So far I have come across some truly awesome pieces of work from a very talented public. In works that far exceed expectations that have become exemplary. Finding venues, planning times the days have been full from coffee in the morning to making the right bus times.

It is an overall great feeling to be taking what little part I have at the Fringe as a reviewer, and has always been like that. But when you get to Edinburgh for this one the extent of Princess Street being empty of performers of all kinds and any kinds was strange. It didn’t feel depressing but it reminded me of the fragility of the festival. From taking it in the idea of a back bone and skeleton crew has taken on a special meaning like keeping the embers alight to wait for the fire to burn again.

What is the online experience like as a reviewer?
We were half way into the unprecedented national and international lockdown. I was scared of getting too fat so I attempting online work outs and Tai chi and spent some time on my bike cycling through forests in the Kelvin Grove park Glasgow, The adventure continued. I was contacted by my favourite online review company called the Mumble, asking me to cover the 2021 Celtic Connections.

So in this insipid mood my online reviewing journey had commenced, after several online festivals my world was to be expanded, big time. It was a weird difference at a weird time but so far as I can see a new and abundant media was born from it. But many things were the same with great music, passionate performances and a double helping of gratitude that finally some kind of festival had returned to Glasgow in the form of the international connections scene.

I didn’t realise it at the time but the connections online experience was my wheels being oiled for a fascinating year; Even though our freedoms were restricted. I have covered some roughly 4 or 5 online festivals in 2021. There was a magic particularly in the zoom meetings that centred each festival. I took an informal education that kind of crept up on me. I watched so much and wrote so much it wold have been impossible not to come out having learned something, I felt larger, deeper and to a great extent that I was part of something all along.

What have been your favorite shows – online & in person?
My enthusiasm was raised in a different way from being there in person. I say this because being there has the same effect only in a completely different way. I think we all relaxed, performance and audience, to a widening extent very much making lemonade out of lemons. The qualities and levels of writing and performance were no less real and fantastic perhaps even finding new edges for theatre, poetry any kind of performance really.

I was so involved due to the online circumstance to a degree where great joy was around every digital corner. We were all in a state of happiness with gratitude that was woven into proceedings. I found very few problems with it but that was because of the exemplary organisation that were of a different level, I think they simply dove in at the deep end where I was happy to follow.

Not being part of a crowd or audience was obviously the weirdest and strangest of things. I felt like I was in some kind of new position, self reflecting on myself self sitting at the computer. Really it was a kind of out of body experience when I recall my sensations. And that was what it was; a sensation of huge inclusivity, really like connecting with nature herself. an invaluable experience that made movies of everything solo to ensemble.

So Daniel! I hear you’ve started composing poetry alongside your excellent prose – can you show us anything?
Sure, these lines are the fruits of my literary expansion


Open up in the case of love, let leaves move us
Evenings cascade, sweet in the box of summer love
Let dreams drip from you, into a slip stream
And cavalcade for a new announcement

Take care there sweet love
So that thee may broaden the outcast
And treble the frontier
Sweet swift kiss of love
Dance in the moonlight mud

Hold open thou cast of breaches, when walking we…
To clasp the power in your held hand, dip in and swim sound
Freedoms hair, blowin’ made more done
This love can unite everything, take it in

Take care there sweet love
So that thee may broaden the outcast
And treble the frontier
Sweet swift kiss of love
Dance in the moonlight mud

Clothes fall to the floor, and feet caress the ground
The numbers count, to deliver everything
A smile on our mind, as water hit by lights
Can hold us together, we hot friends

Take care there sweet love
So that thee may broaden the outcast

And treble the frontier
Sweet swift kiss of love
Dance in the moonlight flood

Of wisdoms concept, speedy energy
But meant for this, with a wholesome step
The mother of earth, she can wear us
As we without, find ourselves close
As our work shimmers into morning and dusk


So back to reviewing. Can you tell us about your own individual review process – both live & streaming?
In the beginning the review process centred around getting bums on seats, this alone was enough to motivate my creative flows. The idea of theatre has always interested me so in the first days at the Edinburgh Fringe I was excited and really ready to go. It was an Annie Lennox tribute gig and the words started forming in my head of what I would want to write. I’m very thankful that I could just turn up and write with Demo’s words of ‘just write whatever you want’, which also became a slogan for me. Being left to myself was a big plus for me.

I enjoyed it from the word go and fast forward 5 or 6 years I can see my progress and process’s are something I can relish in still with a clear view of how I want to write, finding the right things to talk about, I attend each show well in time, but happily with Theatre prep there’s always a good chance that as a member of the audience we never really know the journey we are about to take.

My love of actors has been increased as I over time delved deeper into their very hard working worlds. It’s important to try and research for every show, I have gladly reviewed a variety of mediums, of theatre and music. In my early orchestra or classical concerts I realized I had a lot to learn but was up for the challenge. figuring out movements, skills, always I have been aware of venues that can be the centre for plays to specific venues.

What advice to you have for anyone reviewing a show?
If you are looking to review I would just say all you need is an opportunity. You are probably already a great writer. When you get that opportunity, relax because you know way more than you think. I have found that preparation has been a wonderful tool to make me expandingly efficient but this may not work for you. Give yourself time to find your own flow, There will be joy there will be heart ache but don’t give up because you could be the next revered reviewer becoming in demand. The the rewards really kick in and there is a tremendous sense of belonging, but if you keep that to yourself you will reach another stage and level for yourself as part of this community.

The Johnny Cash Story

Edinburgh Fringe
theSpace @ Symposium Hall – Garden Theatre
28th Aug, 2021


The sun was out for the final weekend of 2021’s Edinburgh Fringe. This year’s theatre festival was a long time coming series of events. At this venue, theSpace @ Symposium hall – Garden Theatre where ‘the Jonny Cash Story’ was to perform I was looking forward to it. The outdoor music space was a huge marquee with fresh air blowing through the crowd. I had passed it a few times already so I was glad to grab my chance of the experience, as part of the Night Owl Show production company.

We stepped onto the raised platform to take our seats, that had tables and bar service. As our Johnny Cash entrepreneur stepped up greeting us with some Cash style protest dialogue about the unfairness that he saw and took part in defeating. Kicking off the show was a one man vocal and acoustic filled with political defiance and peaceful protest.

Dressed all in black our Johnny had the style of Cash down to a T. His hair freshly oiled to recreate the famous song writer appeal. He was to start to really enjoy himself as front man and welcomed on his band; one electric, one acoustic, one bass and brush and sticks percussion and the famous lyric and vocal.

He joked with us, laughed a lot and had the voice down from loud to slow. It came alive with the Cash styled rock n’ roll/country which stirred the audience into action of their own. With resounding bass booming, rhythmic drumming just the Johnny Cash we know and love, very lively and very heart warming.

They listed their Garden gig as they went down with some less well known songs but hit the lights with classics that have gone down as the rock pop songs they were. The showman was always trying to get the audience moving and trying to involve them which came in stops and starts. As I looked round many people were still with stony faces but I think they were just enjoying the music.

The band came on leaps and bounds with the Johnny Cash power that made him so successful. Writing big songs like ‘Ring of Fire’ and ‘When the Man Comes Around’ were at such variants as to offer completely different worlds from just the one man. And in this spirit the sprightly singer grew in stature and after doing Cash’s deep throat American Accent changed events when saying ‘Aye, so I’m from Scotland’! So that’s why he was so likable.

So as the songs went by we clapped, whooped and would have fallen around if we weren’t seated. It picked us up with some pace and some grace. As the energy grew from the band reaching us in a rock n’ roll melt down. Tight as a band and as a Johnny Cash unit, we had lots of fun with our man Johnny Cash telling a story of the life of the man through music and in a short time.

With the black suit, to commemorate suffering, black songs and fun songs like the very funny ‘Boy Named Sue’, hinting at Mr Cash’s sense of humour after so many serious moments in his legendary life. Rock n’ Roll, so great a band and a relaxed and informative performer was pronounced very well at this tribute gig. Outside the fringe if you hear about them, take a mosey on down.

Daniel Donnelly


Brave Face

Edinburgh Fringe
theSpace @ Symposium Hall – Main Theatre
28th Aug, 2021


Brave Face at the 2021 Fringe was another very interesting play about the life of a woman taking on the world in her own way. The plush Lecture Theatre at Symposium Hall was such a great place to take in theatre; perfect for all concerned. The blue leather luxury seating sloped into rows and the stage was never far from our noses. I felt as though in Theatre nudity is an outstanding and favoured way to express something. I’m sure the ancient Greeks would have used it. It all hinges on the take of it.

So when the play began she was lying on the floor covered by a large linen sheet; she sprang out wearing only her panties. Here it is she said, these are tits on stage. I was caught unawares and it worked to my great surprise. Women in the audience took this as a good sign. It was a revealing moment of courage set against a scene she was yet to paint; a fete for the records.

This disturbing drama was entirely created by her, as she played her naked scene she invited us to laugh at the comedy, she was in the hands of the stage that would be her undoing and her success. With her body, naked or clothed, (she slipped on a very attractive red and white and tight dress we knew without a bra,) she leaped from her table, danced very precariously on her table, mixing a little cirque du soleil into the magical mix.

But her dark stories took their turns and resulted in blackouts of fear, and evil distortion. The physical side of things had her working very hard and brought about admiration and worked as part of her plots as much as the dialogue.

She would describe in upsetting detail (why not be upset by this) of sexual encounters that had gone badly wrong, it was good to see and hear this honesty. She stood on her table and ran on the spot to a moving picture on a large screen above her. The art of this came through with clear implications and worked as part of the build up of naked art being performed.

She took to life in other ways with scenes of normality, all from her point of view. Enlarging the play that was full on, yet very gentle and loving at least skin deep. She also took to describing her loves and showed us how it felt to have love made to her, excited and thrilled. She noticed bruises, splitting into the two selves’ one her and the other on screen.

Looking into a mirror with pangs of conscience laid upon her by her lover, friend and tormentor. Stop she told him “Stop” as she simulated the act, “Let me finish” was the response. The act was to unravel with a sweetness that was innocently realised and a smile that would not vanish. It was to bring our attention to the far spreading story of mental and physical abuse perpetrated by men upon woman, all of whom are missing out on the real tides of being together.

It implored us to start to recognise this for a full hour of a greatly created and performed play advancing itself in every way. Just listen, watch to hear and see a meaningful work at play with straight forwardly difficult, energetic manoeuvres, heartrending show of strength and of someone ready to do battle. In a raw show coming from experience explained to be brutal and sadly enhanced  

act of female chivalry in sex to the act of doing it.

Well charged dialogue, dancing, enacting play with ever so careful plots to make sure we didn’t leave without an assured sense that someone cares and loves us, especially of this common circumstance. Well worth a visit out side he fringe as well, congrats, what a Brave Face, indeed.

Daniel Donnelly


Eight Hundred Dollar Value

Edinburgh Fringe
theSpace @ Symposium Hall – Main Theatre
Aug 2021


‘Eight Hundred Dollar Value’, 2021 Edinburgh fringe. I thought this play would be something of an American Wild West show from the title; it was American but told of the Mafia who aren’t cowboys; but perpetrate weapons and violence in very similar ways. The hard work part of this play had its own rewards. It was a monologue that told a story of a young man who was held in the throes of this life since before he could remember.

As we were let into the open door to the excellent Lecture theatre there was a man sitting at the corner of the stage with a mean look in his eyes. He stood and took us straight into his story. He took a moment then in his grey wise guy suit began his torrid and legendary story, speaking in a thick New York accent.

Donnie would have twists and turns unravel as though he had lived many lives. His commitment to the story was 10 fold taking us through the many details of things unfolding for him and his Mafioso existence. Many things came to transpire, each giving something to the structure of the plot.

He revealed that he had been in witness protection for his entire life, that he socialised with the FBI, committed or was party to murder and other such level crimes and lived a life that for many of us could not even be imagined.

His dialogue trickled into us as we unaware took in the story and all of its parts. The performance had a sort of truth to it, a kind of unreal quality that we didn’t figure before some reflection. All with a story told in that New York gangster twangs and Mafioso promises.

It was set up with only a music stand that he took his notes from. Reading from them he set up several certain compliments important to survival in this world of crime. They all made sense and came together as facts for living in and attaining a peaceful life, even as you sign some poor fool’s death warrant.

Was he as coerced as his story’s seemed? Had he lived through so much as to desensitize his own feelings? He seemed to stand there at peace going through everything, smiling and with a child like wonder.

We were shown a world and taken into his whole life. Sitting there listening to the colloquial highs and lows as steady as his appearance itself. A story he needed to tell for a well earned place at the fringe. It was so simple, so efficiently effective; we were welcomed to the family with a warning. The same warning he had early on to catch fire later.

Daniel Donnelly


Dancing To Disco


TheSpace

London

Live Stream – 27th August


Dancing to Disco is, in its purest form, a university diary, acted out, one would say, unpassionately by Tom Claxton. He didn’t write the piece, that’s the work of Nick Dawkins, & it is perhaps the disconnect that made the piece imperfect. Diaries are personal things & its impossible to really feel the nuances thought & life happenings that drive the diarist’s pen.

As theatre, its a monologue, but its still a diary, fill’d with names of various people & the fun & quirky stuff they get up to & said, such as ‘Oxford, Oxford, taxis, coke, Oxford, “I’m doing politics… my dad’s a lawyer”,’ etc., etc..  The character, Tommy, is a young working-class Mancunian who loves his disco. I love my disco, but it does need a bit of glitz & glamour, not a cardboard box set & dancing in socks & dressing gown. Altho’ at one point, the boxes are turned into a night-time’s cityscape beside which Tom Claxton soliloquised his most poetic piece in a half-chaunt – which was a highlight.

Altho’ Claxton comes across as a fine actor, & especially an orator, I just didn’t think this was the play for him – he needs other actors about him to flourish, one expects. On another note, this is not the only play I’ve disparaged on the streaming platform, & maybe it would have been better to see it all in person. But then again, a university diary is not drama, even if you have join’d the first year drama club.


Damian Beeson Bullen

Mary Stuart

Pauline Prevost

Edinburgh Fringe
French Institute in Scotland, Online
On demand, Aug 2021


As a citizen of Scotland it is hard not to feel wonder when the name Queen Mary Stuart is mentioned. I tuned into a pivotal performance of 2021 Fringe‘s ‘Mary Stuart’. It was an adaptation of a 1833 play by Friedrich Schiller about the last days of the revered queen. She was imprisoned for murdering her husband Darnley but was in fact incarcerated because of her claim to the English throne at the time held by Queen Elizabeth 1.

Summer Tide Company wrote an original dialogue that hit the heights of this story and offered a great many insights into what great theatre is. The; what I’ll call ‘backstage play’ (in an amazing looking tunnel with old bricks) where they were somewhere deep in a castle or somewhere underground.

The two actresses, Marie Colombe Lobrichon had the role of Elizabeth and Pauline Prevost Mary. They met in this place in France with the American Pauline, an enthusiastic personality and the French Marie more composed who seemed to lock horns immediately especially in their eye dialogue. All at first in a; who plays who? dilemma.

Every second of this scene, and all that came afterwards was overflowing with written brilliance and utmost performance. It was a short movie of their rehearsals for a play about Mary and Elizabeth. But it was a play for its own qualities. Mary’s tale is a tough one, it would be performed in French but at this time Pauline could not muster any great capacity for the language.

We wondered how she had come to win the role of Mary to be performed in French. And as the spring was set for the plot to traverse she thought she was there for the part of Elizabeth. They seemed to attack each other verbally, like jousting words with body language of attitude and contempt, especially from Marie who at this point was still playing her great actor self.

We were already enthralled by the scene when suddenly the spirit of Mary and Elizabeth entered their awareness. The depth and bravado that came out was a golden performance in itself. For Mary began to speak fluent French! And so they conversed as Mary and Elizabeth for long well flowing dialogues of fierce confrontation.

The focus took genius positions from movie like camera work. Making close ups, blurring the distance, their rehearsing had become their performance fit as if to set the theatre on fire, unrelentingly. It was Mary and Queen Elizabeth; who so famously had words to wind up as a smartly acute echo in history that resounded in the play.

I was following the fast and fluent French that poured out of Pauline and Marie with a rapid interest and though my French is very limited I managed to still follow the play and its poignant moments, none less than Mary’s death. Pauline returned out of this trance like experience with no knowledge of anything that had happened. But Marie seemed to come out of it bewildered and a little scared.

It was compelling, attention grabbing sustainably and wickedly well acted from a witnessing of the long suffering Story of Mary Queen of Scots vs. Queen Elizabeth 1. In honour of these stern times it was acted with a stern and marvellously unravelling of the way of these human interactions brought about by the most sincere clause of their legacy as subject not observer.

Inclusive in the dialogue the revered worlds of these two actresses were thrown into chaos by the performance tasks in front of them. It could be seen as a ghost story of the dead being raised. But the powerful intentions went way beyond anything small or irreverent, with capacity in full focus and hearts were brought to the fore.

Quality, ideal, anger, rage, murder rang with the words the two were helping each other complete. The bell also rang in the scary circumstance where Marie would end up cowering in disbelief, with a look of strength as the Queen. It was a back stage play that took its moments from the highest theatre imaginable.

She took white paste and put on the face of doubt; staring and glaring right into the camera with fearful accuracy. In French she held the moment that showed every inner feeling of disgust and contempt for things, seeming to damn the play and Mary with it.

It was an astounding take on acting itself and a deep look into the real potentials of theatre. All shot with a loud and beautiful and scary but faithful enactment between two powerful characters. We were taken to the heart of a story known to so many and that went down as a special time in British but also human history.

The spirit that emerged from being called upon was a resplendent part of the plot. I hope more comes of this.

Daniel Donnelly


Timmy’s World


Edinburgh Fringe
Fringe Player, Online
On demand, Aug 2021


Tim Clark opened up his world to us in the aptly titled ‘Timmy’s World’. It was an online offering for the 2021 Edinburgh Fringe that was a highly entertaining 40 min of fun from a man who’s done it all in theatre. Going from London’s West End to cruising the oceans; he has spent his life being extremely busy from dawn till dusk.

The online film based in his house (unless the whole thing was a farce) that was plush and well decorated. My suspicion that it wasn’t real was put to bed with all his pictures with the stars or actors and him hanging on the walls.

In his enigmatic way; for example he proceeded to comb the hair of a large photo of Barbara Streisand, he was very cute. The autobiographical nature of his ‘play’ included poignant questions asked him by a voice.

His work and life he said has taken him to every port in the world. For 14 years he was at sea where he felt a great belonging. Being drawn to the sea affected a change from your average Diva. Though when asked if he was one he simply said ‘no but I could have been’.

After decades of theatre and entertainment work he chose to put aside his theatrical character and chose to become a hairdresser; albeit a hairdresser to the stars. This was comedy because of his down to earth yet high in the stars personality where we were allowed into every story he had to tell, though having had such a life seemed but a fraction of everything.

The short film used effects such as a scrolling screen change, and footage of him in different clothes and in different locations; on a beach at sea and in varying rooms. His life was stranger than fiction lived up to such an extent of work as to seem to hide no weaknesses, or at least being open about them to be frank about them.

But his over whelming personality of abundant joy and high flying attitudes came across with the effect of giants and super stars. He sat with his tiffany lamp telling stories attuning us to revelations to rival any celebrity. We were taken deep into a behind the scenes operations such as when radio had him on for an interview, and when he auditioned for musicals in Italian.

The names he dropped didn’t swell his head or ego, only a little, he proved himself instead with strong mindedness and always surrendered himself for every occasion especially his own. He wasn’t withdrawn or superficial instead had great capacity for being in the moment. This film was flawless with an in-depth description of the world and life according to Timmy who after all is an entertainer.

To excel the way he did since forever was worth a showing in the fringe. There were so many levels playing out sometimes it seemed hard to know which was which, but then that too was a sign of a great performer. He cut dogs hair, chatted and sang and seemed lovely to be around, who knows what went on before scene 1?

This hour went by like visiting a spa and having a massage. He poured greatness over us with edgy,

no need to emphasise jokes that came about naturally and on their own. No puns, one liners, or anything contrived he stuck to his script and offered a great observation elevation celebrating his own much loved and self made career of success and splendidness.

Daniel Donnelly


Skank


Edinburgh Fringe
Pleasance Courtyard – Rear Courtyard
20th – 22nd, , 24th – 29th Aug, 2021


I made my way up North Bridge Edinburgh for a fringe show 2021 called Skank. I was very pleased by the venue. It was a very large marquee but with three sides open to the elements, the elements being a forest behind the stage, it was just what I needed. There were many blue seats right up to the back and a nice looking good sized stage, framed with plants and flowers.

Clementine Bogg – Hargroves took to set as Kate; a character played out in a denim skirt and fish net tights. There was a table/desk that took the role of office for the first scene. Her dialogue was written in a cavalcade of comedy, filled with all her stories about the life she was living, mainly centred on work and boys. She fancied a character she called sexy Gary, there were many voices she would talk to over a tannoy, a skilled performance.

Her tight comments were made with humour, grace and youthful sexiness. She had a great sense of showmanship, theatrical acumen and complete confidence as an actor really throwing herself into the role as though she was just being herself. She took us through, office work (she said, I don’t do anything there), office relationships, and going out at night.

She made her way around the stage with an accent clear and ringing. While pausing for moments of tinnitus that caused her trouble and stopped the performance. The table funnily doubled up as a stirrup doctor’s bed for her smear test scene that had whoops and great laughter from the audience. She looked at us on her back with such a witty look as to really connect with us, understanding her amazing powers of comedic enthrallment.

The story was resplendently comprised, and we sat as though there was no effort to the performance. There was a staff night out where she with humour imagined that she pulled Gary (her dream guy). That was a scene of sensual celebration as she kissed and hugged herself, feeling totally flattered, but it was just a dream.

After mentioning cancer we realised that the purpose of her smear test was to test for cancer. Her brilliant personality was then devastated as she feared the worse, breaking down in grief. Her young persona had to contemplate the idea of death that was all she could think of.

So we could imagine her joy when her results came back negative, we joined her in her celebration. She took to the stage as one but had the act of many. The tannoy conversations completed an effect of coming together, with her act showing a sense of humanity through the eyes of someone young and new. Skank must be a term of endearment and so we were endeared.

Daniel Donnelly