Category Archives: Edinburgh 2019
This was my first visit to C Aquila; I found it very relaxed and welcoming, the entrance room opening up to stairs then to a small room for stage and seating. The action began with frenzied dialogue between Jon, Tim and Kate, each of whom had a different story to tell, all threads intertwining in their undercurrent of darkness. The content included sexual assault and loss (Jon), sexual inquiry and power (Kate) and a frantic distaste for God from Tim. Together they had a kind of disbelief about the words coming out of their mouths, but for each the reality came home more and more as the syllables sunk into their psyche negatively and powerfully.
Kate, for instance, spoke honestly and without hesitation about the dream of sex from the point of view of a young woman; hopefully her father wouldn’t hear her talk this way. Jon absorbed our abhorrence by becoming rational, distant and reasonable but he often had tears streaming down his face. A screen at the back showed dark footage and mingled with the dialogue as a great noise in the actor’s heads, vexing them with amplification.
It’s a time in your life where you don’t have a lot of control over your life or decisions and that’s really what sits at the core of the play – How did we get to be here? How little control do we have? How much of it can we take? Matthew Gouldesbrough
Read the full interview
All three were in a state of defiance as they reached for their rhetoric and headed towards the tragedy’s unfolding. The acting became more frantic, thrilling and desperate as the scenes became more and more explicit. There was a message here, confronting us with questions about how much control we have over our lives, how much manipulation we are subject to. The screen showed the dark influences we are surrounded by every day, the way they affect us both from within and without. It throws light on modern sexual mores, issues of gun control, chemical abuse. Striking, passionate, scary, this show was not an easy ride but rather a plea for help that will shake you up.
Aug 14-26 (13:00)
Underbelly Bristo Square
Jul 31 – Aug 26 ( 14:35)
The makeshift hut that was the Buttercup at Underbelly offered an intimate setting for Diana Dinerman to take us on a journey into self-discovery and expansion, where changing your mind was the whole point. She started out dressed for office work in smart suit and glasses, waxing rhetorical about all aspects of this style of work contains. But just as we started to think the show would be about the importance of such responsibilities she threw off said glasses. This was an immediate act of liberation.
She then began to share with us the effect it had had on her when she realised that life was bigger than eternally trying to please her bosses by doing anything but being herself. That her bigger job was the task of finding out who she was. She also compelled us to join her both in her quite spectacular story but to try and start some real ones of our own, inspiring us to think about our own lives as much as hers.
This was a powerful, beautifully conceived piece, with Dinerman dancing through her brilliant script with grace and ease, laying out before us the evidence of the life-changing but more importantly life-enhancing experiences that she would undertake to find her true path. In one scene she used a screen to address a dead man, asking his advice; she talked to herself, to an imaginary friend, to a lover right through the show. When she kicked off it wasn’t in anger but rather with wonder and enthusiasm. We could see her before our very eyes, bright and alive, charming and beautiful – surely evidence of the peace to be found in such a journey.
We smiled, we laughed, we were enthralled as we took the life journey with her; we came along as she visited spiritual lodges in South America where groups whose quest to become healers and gain insight into human concerns were enhanced by the use of plant drugs. She had started by looking like a tiny typist, but ended up nothing short of a shaman sitting in the lotus position meditating and answering questions about life. I can’t tell you just how inspirational and powerful an effect this show has on you – you’ll just have to go along and experience it for yourself.
Nia Williams has created a veritable modern masterpiece called Verity, & she has assembled an extremely talented bunch to solidify her vision on the stage. They are like rich & fertile vineyards flourishing around a deep & entrenched lake. Together they come under the monicker ‘Three Chairs and a Hat,’ & are here in Edinburgh until only the 17th so like a handsome new lover you’ve met on a cruise they get off at the next port of call, there now exists very real pressure to see the show before they flit out of town. Verity is played by Saffi Needham, who has just spent the last year training at Guildford School of Acting, & you can really feel her mix of natural ability & erudition. She possesses a starlight-sparkling voice & also a river of charms, the vital ingredients for a leading lady.
I think one of the most important, and exciting, things that I’ve learned is how much a musical, or any piece of theatre, is the creation of everyone who takes part in staging it Nia Williams
Read the full interview…
Nia’s piano playing, fingers like flickering swifts, is also pretty much perfect. The songs she accompanies are a really eclectic bunch, music & melody-wise they meander in style & mood, while Nia’s lyricism is at times pure poetry – she rhymes like a rapper. I think Cocktail City was my favorite, with the psychbabbling facebook song & the motown-inspired ‘A Little Kindness’ finale a close second – altho’ all were quality, there was no weak moment. There are also some quite complex harmonies & voice combinations which come across as if they were more a symphonic orchestra than a vocal ensemble.
Verity has been jilted on her wedding night, & when we meet her she is still addicted to the bliss of love, but wandering blindly in a desert of realisiation. “What are going to do about Verity?” sing the ensemble as she sets off on her descent into drunken party-girl, stalking her ex on social-media mode. Into the action comes a meddling, match-making mother; gossipy office workers & the argumentative Ex – a brilliant mix of music-makers & storylines. If I was a visitor to the Fringe, & I wanted a musical theatre experience of high quality that reflects the influx of talent into Edinburgh – then Verity is the one. A fabulous piece on so many levels.
Damian Beeson Bullen
The Space on the Mile
Aug 12-17 (16:50)
Kevin Kelly the part is played by Kevin Kelly the actor in this fascinating biopic of his later life. Personal accounts were recorded via dictaphone by Blair Christie, the artistic & everything else director of Raised Voices, a charity he founded in 2013 to offer creative writing and drama classes to people who have experienced homelessness. To tell this riveting, ultra-modern tale, a massive contributor was Ian Gibson, who we never saw on stage, but whose narration of Kevin’s thoughts was spot-on; often weaving into the dialogue itself… while Kevin would interact with an actor, Ian would reveal what was really going on in Kevin’s tortured mind.
All feelings I had of myself became toxic – I started to self harm in a big way
Kevin is joined on-stage by Lee Holland, Matthew Power, the multi-tasking Katy Greeney & of course the equally multi-tasking Archie Gray, one of the first members to join Raised Voices. Together they dart to & fro from the stage like dragonflies, embellishing every scene with spirit. One of these scenes in particular was amazing, when they all played various social aggressives; cluttering & pounding Kevin’s poor mind with sex-offers, drug-deals & insults upon his punishing descent into suicidal madness down Hastings.
Kevin found himself in that southern town at the end of a too common helter-skelter that begins with the tragic loss of his baby son & ends in the anonymous hell of a porous half-life by the moody, sliding, grey slab of the English Channel. Before then, a funeral scene was enacted with such silent tenderness I found my tear-wells hauling up a bucket or two. For Kevin, the blinkers were firmly on, & nothing could alleviate his private panic at this sense of devastating loss.
We have a core group of members that have been with us for years, they have all experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. We also have new members that have come on board that have not been homeless but have experienced or are experiencing some other issues in their life. All are not trained actors which brings a real rawness and energy to the performance. Blair Christie
Read the full interview
It is not all pathos & gloom, however; Prometheus does escape his rock eventually, & the ending is upbeat & reaffirming. It is like watching somebody lose their limbs then have them regrow even stronger. As a fair valuation for the random theatre-goer visiting the Fringe, 3 stars is an honest score, but for those wanting to experience Human truth upon the stage, then nothing can touch Raised Voices… Real Lives.
Damian Beeson Bullen
SpaceUK Triplex Studio
Aug 12-17 (15:00)
I attended Wannabe: The Spice Girls Show with three friends – one a fan of Girl Power since childhood; one who said they “quite liked” The Spice Girls; and one who claimed the only song they knew was Wannabe. These three people, who went into the show with very different expectations, all came out of it proclaiming their love of the whole production. Everything from the costumes to the staging, and especially the choreography from Becky Jeffrey, is just the right balance of polish versus ferocity. All five Spices are formidable and execute it perfectly, although at our showing, Baby Spice had sustained an injury and spent the big dance numbers perched slightly awkwardly on a stool beside the giant light-up E of SPICE. I would defy anyone who tried to claim that any one of the real Spice Girls could sing better than these girls can!
I have always struggled to understand the point of tribute acts, but if you were considering splashing out on the big Spice Girls reunion tour, save your money and get tickets to see Wannabe instead. You will get lots of costume changes, you will get backflipping Spice Boys, you will get the most high energy dancing you have ever seen. Every single hit is performed, including a memorable jazzed up version of Too Much that is staged beautifully. Each of the Spices also gets her own moment to signify the solo careers of the original girls. This part, which could easily have been the most boring, was actually one of the most exciting. Ginger’s version of Geri Haliwell’s version of The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men went down especially well with the crowd, who by this stage were practically clawing at the Spice Boys.
Audiences are really up for it – we get loads of different people at the shows – lifelong Spice Girls fans with their own little daughters, guys and girls, groups and solos and definitely all ages. Melissa Potts (Posh Spice)
Read the full interview…
Ralf Wetzel has created a strange & sexually sensual, quasi-androgenous character which will stick in the memory for a long time, I am sure. Let me for a moment attempt a portrait of Ralf’s ‘George,‘ beginning with his outfit. For a start the toothpaste green tanktop is too shrunken, revealing the belly & its button. The flies on his shorts are undone, revealing pretty garish underpants; while equally as garish is a viscious-pink wig. The mask is completed by cute, prosthetic gerbil cheeks, which lead our eyes into his own azure orbs – a quite hypnotic overall effect.
Overall, the message of the play is driven by the context in which you watch it. If you put the show into a different perspective, you see something different. We discovered that it’s like a prism. It will break light accordingly to how it is projected onto it. Masculinity is one angle, femininity might be another.
Read the full interview…
The script courts the mundane, on purpose I believe, but the way Wetzel works his ingenius character’s words & mannerisms is an amazing watch. So much so, the story sometimes gets drowned in the performance. The beautiful & deformed gargoyle that is George comes across sometimes creepy – like serial killer weird – & sometimes catching our sympathies with sweetness. There is a duality, Boderline Personality Disorder perhaps, with Wetzel fluctuating between polarized emotions in an astonishing instant – like a magician’s flip of a card – in the same effortless fashion that his 18th century compatriot, Konrad Ekhof, handled both tragedy & comedy famously well.
At the core of Absolutely Reliable is the mask; & the play was very much born from it, with Wetzel playing the archmagus weaving it all to life. He is a superb performer & it is a most addictive & fascinating experience watching him surfing on his own intensity.
Damian Beeson Bullen
C venues – C cubed
Aug 11-12, 14-25 (22:00)
Assembly George Square
Aug 12-26 (10.50)
A play of dance and dialogue about teenage lovers who lose an unborn child and then go their separate ways. Ten years later they are reunited at a wedding and during quiet moments it becomes clear that the wounds of their broken relationship have not healed. The pair go on to unpack their feelings of loss and love and work their way through a maze of emotions.
The performances by Essie Barrow and Iskandaar R. Sharazuddin are mesmerizing. I felt they were excited about bringing Alex and Nancy to life. The scenes cycle between dialogue, dance, and monologue, and in moods from humorous joy to morbid sadness. Every moment feels believable and as a whole fit together like a tile mosaic. The script, by Sharazuddin, has an organic feeling that paints a detailed emotional landscape. In the end I felt I knew these characters as friends and cared about their well being.
Post Mortem was like eating a bar of dark chocolate, rich and sweet as young love with bitter notes of loss and grief. A great way to start your Fringe day.
Underbelly Bristo Square
Jul 31 – Aug 26 (14.45)
The amazing Underbelly venue at Bristo Square has a very old history of its own, and is a tourist hotspot. And the amazing show it’s currently hosting, Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein, is also a hot spot for the Fringe – deservedly so. When I walked into the room, I was confronted with an epic set, packed with contraptions which created an air of anticipation as you wondered what part each would play in the forthcoming entertainment.
Everything came to life soon enough as the movie started to play on the central screen – black and white with just a hint of pre-technicolour tint. But this was not recorded video, this was live action, performed and filmed by the cast of five and projected on to the screen as it happened; accompanied by music from four musicians on cello, saxophone, and multiple other instruments that I didn’t even recognise. This was Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein story told in a totally new and unique way, patched together scene-by-scene while incorporating various poignant elements from the author’s own life.
The mechanics had the actors moving at great pace between their different roles, working with the equipment that was strewn across the stage and displaying an impressive range of skills and abilities, merging effects with action and shadow-silhouettes. The protagonists positioned themselves so perfectly, and the multiple lights, cameras and projectors were rigged so that everything ran seamlessly; almost like magic, scientific magic, as the multiple layers built up to display the Frankenstein story to us to its very limits. One of the most moving effects was the two representations of the creature itself. One was a terribly sewn together doll and the other an actress in full mask, a work of art in itself. The whole effect of this piece made it somehow so real that we took it as a kind of documentary instead of a fictional story. The agony of the creature grew with each new realisation and we were reminded of the beginning where Mary Shelly mourned the baby that she had lost. In encompassing all aspects of Shelly’s sad and familiar tale, I found this film to be one of the most beautiful masterpieces in the whole Frankenstein genre, and there have been many over the past century.
This work was striking, beautiful and loving. By showing us the mechanics behind making a movie, it only enhanced the magic and invited us in. Come along for an astonishing ride like no other.
AW King & Paul Vitty have teamed up
& are bringing their rock & roll ride to the Fringe
Hello guys, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Paul: AW is originally from Croydon, now living in Brighton. As a company were based in London, but I grew up and live in Luton. We’ve rehearsed in various locations, the majority of rehearsals were in Kings Cross but we’ve also spent a few days staying in Luton and then staying in Brighton, working on the play. It was really liberated at the end of the process to be out of the rehearsal studio and in a field in Luton or on the beach in Brighton running the show.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Paul: For me it’s something that provokes a natural emotional reaction in me, whether it be a sudden smile comes on my face or I’m griped by the drama or emotion. I love plays that can take me on a range of emotions, especially where I’m talking about the characters afterwards. What people enjoy is very personal but I think a great piece of theatre leaves you talking about the characters and feeling that you’ve had a glimpse into their world and what to know more.
It’s been 30 years since you performed at the Fringe, how has its changed in that time?
AW: 30 years ago it was a rough and holy bonanza, which I wanted to do because I had a chance to play Falstaff for a second time. Since then it’s grown exponentially and seem people view it more as a potential media springboard. I played Edinburgh back in 1987. I played Falstaff in a James Bond Version of The Merry Wives of Windsor’ We came on to the Green Hornet theme tune. Two male members of the cast unexpected deserted the run and were replace by two female members who spoofed their performance.
In 2017 your Lipstick and Scones went down really well at the Fringe; can you tell us about the experience & its aftermath?
Paul: Lipstick and Scones was really loved by the audiences, though it didn’t attract reviewers, word of mouth really helped fill the seats. It had three powerful female leads and its wit and heart seemed to be have very warmly received. Afterwards it sold out at The Leicester Square Theatre. I was also commission to write a new version extending it to a full length play, it’s next due to be performed in Vienna, though I’d obviously love to also see the 90 minute version perform in the UK.
Where & when was Vinyl Encore conceived, & who has penned the script?
Paul: Having spent most of my career involved in productions with large casts, I was interested in doing a two-hander. Vinyl Encore was an idea I had at the back of my mind, AW is an incredible actor and both of us have often spoken about how challenging and cool it would be to joust on stage in a two-hander! At last years fringe in a conversation with the Director of The Space, Charles, I mentioned the idea. He really liked the sound of it which gave us the confidence to set about creating the show. My normal instinct was to sit down and write a script, but that wouldn’t have work for the story we wanted to tell. In many ways it evolved more like an album or piece of music then my usually theatrical process. We had to collaborate together bouncing ideas, trying thing out. The creative process has been integral for how the play has evolved.
What is the biggest obstacle you overcame while putting your show together?
AW: When Paul told me the idea I knew it the two of us together in it could be incredible. But we had to find a way to create to ensure it was truthful, we were clear we didn’t want it to become spinal tap and the opportunity to allow our ‘musical indifferences’ to run riot, we wanted it to be the story of two very real people. We had to establish a creative identity, you had to forget you were an actor and what I do and just do it.
Is Vinyl Encore a vehicle for old songs, or have they been composed especially for the play?
Paul: I hadn’t played guitar on stage for years, where AW has been involved in a number of bands. Our styles at times clash, and lyrically we’re quite different which fed nicely into the characters. In one of the early rehearsal I decided to bring an electric guitar along. Suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed, it became more raw and with the mischievous energy of rock n roll. AW had some lyric and I just improvised a tune. It was an incredible moment, we both look at each other and realise we could and should write all the songs. The song we created at that rehearsal it the first one we play in the show together, it’s unchanged from the first time we just spontaneously went into it, I think that gives the story a real authenticity.
How did you approach the role?
AW: For me Acting is about submerging into behavioral states and the rocks star persona is something I have genuinely inhabited by fronting bands and writing songs for year, hopefully I expanding on this and have developed the persona in a comic and human way.
How is director James Paul Taylor handling everything?
Paul: James has directed us both in previous project so he know how to push us and ensure we are at the top of our game. There’s a mutual respect between the three of us, which meant we could really say what we felt and take risks. Creatively we really wanted to put our heart and soul into the making it as good as it could be. It’s been a very unusual creation process, rather than having a script we have created it in the rehearsal room, James has been the calm one writing down what we’ve created allowing us to polish it and further explore the characters. He would describe himself as very non rock n roll so he’s been instrumental in guiding us to create a production that can be both poetic, raw and accessible. Though early on my natural instincts were to worry that the script was still being develop, it meant the story and characters really took on a life of their own!
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
AW: We will revive the rock n roller within you,tickle your funny bone and make your heart soar and dive
theSpace @ Surgeons’ Hall
12th-17th August 18:05
19th-24th August 19:05
Who is the man behind the mask of ‘Absolutely Reliable’ – the Mumble went on a mission to find out
Hello Ralf, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Hi Mumble, I am German, living in Brussels, Belgium.
Can you tell us about your training?
My training? Throughout the last 5 years, I went through a heck of different trainings in Clown & Mask work, improvisation theatre and acting. My main teachers have been Keith Johnstone (CA), Lee Delong (F), Shawn Kinley (CA), John Turner (CA), Inbal Lori (IR) and Kelly Agathos (GR) & Ben Hartwig (D). Aside of that I am a trained electrician and I have a PhD in Organization Theory.
What is it about performing in front of other people that makes you tick?
It’s a moment of intense connection. Especially clown work made me aware of how thrilling being totally in the moment and drawing a strong connection between the emotionality of the audience and my own can be. Your body is ‘on’ with every cell. It’s addictive.
Can you tell us about your day job?
I am a Professor of Applied Arts at Vlerick Business School, Belgium. I teach topics like leadership, communication skills, change management and Design Thinking. All of that I teach on the pillars of Applied Improvisation, Clowning, enriched by the experiences I made with Social Dance like Lindy Hop and Argentine Tango. I discovered the power of Performing Arts for non-artistic environments like business or politics around 5 years ago. And since then, I took mind-sets, methodologies and exercises from Performing Arts and employed it in my classroom and with my clients. With mind-boggling results and impact. In that sense, I have the immense privilege to do Arts every day. And given my originally rather technical engineering background, its sheer fun, exiting, transforming and fulfilling. Today I am someone very different compared to 5 years ago.
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Oh. Having a cup of tea on my lap and staring out of the window for hours is all I need.
You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about the show?
“Absolutely Reliable!” is a solo mask show, in which George, a middle aged, middle class and middle manager, desperately longs for love, attention, confirmation and proximity. He is just not prepared to deal with it when it materializes. He realizes that he has to invest, commit and display himself with his own emotions, and that’s not what he is remotely aware or capable of. So, his demons take over and throw him into a roller-coaster of love, desire, lust, fear, loss and death.
Where, when & why was “Absolutely Reliable” created?
It was actually created out of frustration. I was looking for improv and/or clown peers to start a troupe in Brussels and nothing was materializing. So I asked my clown teacher, award winning director and actress Lee Delong (Molieres 2019), whether she could imagine creating a solo clown show with me. And she could 😊 It all started when the mask which I am wearing in the show, hit me in one of her workshops. ‘You don’t chose a mask, the mask choses you’ mask people say, and that is what happened. As quick as I had it on my face, my full physicality changed, Ralf disappeared and someone else took stage. That was the moment when we said ‘okay’, let’s find out who this is. And so George appeared. Lee and myself worked several days together to get going. She provoked the mask and the character responded and revealed himself through my physicality. The scenes as they are appearing in the show are substantially based on those initial improvisations. The text I narrate is actually the slightly edited note of those improvisations. The show was produced through my body in combination with the mask, driven by the provocations and side-coaching of Lee.
What is the underlying message behind your show?
Ha! That’s difficult to say, since we didn’t sit down and said ‘Let’s do a show about XYZ’. We had the mask, we had the response of the character, my body and the improvised scenes. Lee then connected the different scenes and directed me in playing them. The mask certainly gave me permission to release deeply rooted inner fears and traumas as much as dreams and desires, that George displays and struggles with. But George is not me. The mask evokes things that are not me. And so the visible result is a meltdown of something which is me and something which is not. And mostly, I struggle with what is actually what. Given the topics of toxic masculinity and #metoo, George becomes a prototypical modern westernized man who is incapable to manage his emotions, to substantially open up to others, to make himself vulnerable. But overall, the message of the play is driven by the context in which you watch it. If you put the show into a different perspective, you see something different. We discovered that it’s like a prism. It will break light accordingly to how it is projected onto it. Masculinity is one angle, femininity might be another.
How are you finding working with director and co-writer Lee Delong?
It’s an experience that changed my life. Lee is extraordinary in how she sees the gold in the dust, she recognizes them in the smallest cues. She looks through your levels of fear and all your shields of protection, in a loving way. With decades of experience as actress, director and teacher, she challenges you to the bones and kicks your ass hard. But she knows exactly where your boundaries are, how far she can push. I feel challenged but safe in her hands at the same time. That allowed me a developmental journey throughout the last years far beyond my imagination. I had no idea how far that would go. And The result is amazing to me, every day.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the “Absolutely Reliable” to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
“Absolutely Reliable!” is a surreal show about how fucked up modern men are. It displays the deep anxieties and despair of male, in a funny, off beat, striking and tender way. Those anxieties have hardly been displayed that openly.”
C venues – C cubed
Aug 11-12, 14-25 (22:00)