Category Archives: Edinburgh 2019
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.
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.
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.
Underbelly Bristo Square
Aug 1-26 (13:15)
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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!