Category Archives: Fringe 2022

The Tragedy Of Macbeth


Assembly Roxy
Aug 4-29 (12.00)
90 minutes


Every Fringe I love to check out a Shakespeare play, because although the spirit of the Bard never changes, it is possible to gauge the theatrical zeitgeist thro’ an individual production. It’s the one arena of board-treading in which the directors enter unto a fierce gladiatorial combat. Thus off I ambl’d to the Assembly Roxy to witness Flabbergast Theatre’s trio of combatants, who have charged into battle like the Horatii triplet warriors in the age of Tullus Hostilius. Henry Maynard is the artistic director, Matej Majeka the Movement Consultant & Adam Clifford the Musicality/Percussion Consultant, & boy! have they produced a massive Macbeth. It looks beautiful, the cast create some stunning scenery using their angular bodies with a minimum of propwork, & all that drumming & Dantean wailing sounds more than amazing.

In the middle of all that, of course, is Shakespeare’s moody, mist-soaked masterpiece, Macbeth. Unfortunately, the production was galloping impatiently at too fast a pace to maintain the seminal tensions & graven terrors of the Scottish Play, which turn slowly in our psyches as if a tourniquet has been rammed down our eye sockets & linked to our brain’s fear nodules. It’s Shakespeare, but it’s not proper Shakespeare. I mean, I prefer a test match at the cricket, while others prefer T20 – it’s a very similar scenario here. Still, stepping out of my stick-in-the-mud comfort zone, aesthetically & energy-wise this Macbeth is a stunning production, & enough of the story does penetrate Flabbergast’s elegant veneer to satisfy the purist.

The cast were great, some moments of elite-level performance. The Wyrd Sisters were a class act, almost seizing the role’s immortality portentously, as if they were the three Chinese schoolgirls on the first night of the Mikado. I also enjoyed the spectacle of Dale Wylde’s ‘fool’ interlude, which made me feel as if I was watching Richard Tarleton himself. For me, Flabbergast’s Macbeth is a Scorpion’s worth of theatre, with a vicious sting in its tail. A pleasure to watch.

Damo

Jake Cornell and Marcia Belsky: Man and Woman

Assembly George Square Studios – Studio Four
Aug 8-16, 18-28 (18:15)


Tonight I went out for a double bill from Zach Zucker’s Stamptown empire, one of the most prodigious & highly thought-of comedy umbrellas, which sends its Kraken-tentacle acts all across the world. Looking at the Fringe guide I’m like I can do two in a row in the Assembly Quarter of Edinburgh. Man & Woman was first (BriTANick was second), brought to us across the ocean by Jack Cornell & Marcia Belsky,& oh my god it was proper funny, like! From Tik-Tok acorns do oaks of humungous funniness grow & it was from the aforementioned online video vignette medium that Jack suddenly found a girl he’d never met before, but living round the corner, bouncing comedy of his little sketch. BOOM ! Chemistry ! Action ! & a year or so later a buzzing masterpiece has vaulted into Scotland with broad American accents & an amazing dissection of the realities of romantic heterosexual cohabitation. 

Stop being so curious, it isn’t good for you

Men & women is pure parody is about well, men & women, & their heterosexual intertanglings & bubbles with cutting edge socio-anthropological insights while at all times making us laugh out loud. Is it a sketch series? Is it theatre? I’d say a bit of both, that’s why its going in both Mumble Theatre & Mumble Comedy. Either way, when Marian met her Jom-Jom at nursery in Chipaquaqua County, after 3 years of life & loneliness, she knew he was the one for her. The show then flows through the rest of their lives together with great & innate detail surfing an ever-high level of hilarity. I loved the way kids keep popping up in a constant mission to get one that doesn’t ‘flop’ in life, while the comedy is spliced by commentaries on how ‘women influence life & society from the private sector of their homes.’

Can you stop reminiscing & treat my actual wound

Of our performers & their deliveries, Marcia is eminently watchable & Jack is emphatically suave – it really is top notch stuff, & includes the immortally dodgy exchange ‘ I told you I didn’t want to work with a paedophile — You are so closed minded it’s unbelievable.’ At the half way point we stepp’d away from the storyline into an actors’ workshop world & a Q&A intermission, which did halt my buzz a little bit & perhaps tainted my full appreciation for the rest of the tale – it was a funny interlude but definitely disturbed my trance in which I’d been more than happy to have been foster’d into. All the same, I swear down I actually shed a single tear of happiness at the end – a strange reaction – but I completely enjoy’d myself, which doesn’t happen all the time, in fact most of the time, when I’m out reviewing. Really brilliant stuff.

Damo

What Broke David Lynch?

Greenside @ Nicolson Square (Fern Studio)
Aug 5 – 7, 8 – 13, 15 – 20, 22 – 27, 21.00

Mr Twonkey, is a favourite of the Edinburgh fringe. His real name is Paul Vickers and in 2010 he brought his award winning cabaret to the stage at the Fringe all those years ago. His work stretches and bends the academy of theatre with a truthfulness that can’t be ignored.

In this work the 4 performers, actors of prominence, broke out in the highly anticipated ‘What Broke David Lynch’. For those who haven’t heard of David he is an American Film maker of prolific proportion since 1970’s. This play was based around him and examined how the inner workings of movie making for him came about, in the face of the 1980 film ‘The Elephant Man’.

So enter the play! For some reason the room at Greenside in Edinburgh felt absolutely magic, it could have been the lighting scaffolding, or that it was just so neatly presented. Out came a cigar smoking Mel Brookes in a brown overcoat with scribbled writing of his film titles all over it. The great quality of cast was evident from the start, with multifaceted opinions everywhere flying around at a fast pace.

Looking back I’m amazed that it all was done in only an hour. I saw Mr Twonkey’s work ‘Jennifer’s Robot’ back in 2015 where I recall a feeling of strangeness and abstract absurdness in his writing. But the amazing thing I found for ‘…David Lynch’ was its complete sense, and with it success.

This show was all made of the very best of everything; taste, class, poking fun at the movie-making business. A joy to see among the threats and failings of Paul’s ability to cope with things of tenderness it explored. The ‘Elephant man’ meets Anthony Hopkins (from the original film), meets the flamboyant janitor of the movie business, cigars, motor bikes, very weird papier-mache globes worn repeatedly, but for only moments.

The levels unveiled hit the heights of the talent and capability of the four who bounced the tale in resonance, having brought a recipe for success. All to make a comment on 80’s movies, using plenty of parables, placed in piercing moment of clarity or with the softest of scenes. Paul made the best of joking and of jokes that were self explanatory in their hilarity, making use of his mind in ways unexpected and forever sensitive.

The play proceeded in sensation, its story, props, timing blended with Paul himself who was so relaxed; his interaction went so well to keep everyone of the close knit cast under his tutelage. The female, Miranda Shrapnell had the role of loving him, the costumes told stories in themselves and jokes were firing out faster than I could take them in; fantastic.

In fact I think now I’ve had time to reflect, the joke lines helped shape the vision of proceedings, funny yet serious. Lynch in life had come across ‘The Elephant Man’ when his project’ Ronnie Rocket’ was dragging, so he prepared to take up a movie about Joseph Merrick, a man seriously deformed in the early twentieth century, ‘The Elephant man’ is a film that holds its art and craft at cult levels

But the world was on his back when his progress was slow, so he had to fend off things when it got too gluey to deal with.

An entourage of award-winning, tempting fun, with a remarkable clarity of vision and of years and years in preparation (wither knowingly or not); a perfect play where you forget time to intimately know the personality of music, laughter, writing and endearing reward of splendid proportions.

Daniel Donnelly

The Adults Only Magic Show

Assembly George Square Studios Studio 3.
The Adults Only Magic Show (21:15)
Starring Sam Hume And Justin Williams

Well, this was a nice surprise, Niddrie is a different world from the hustle and bustle of Festive Aulde Reekie. From the peace and tranquillity of good old Niddrie Mill and the two miles of the Innocent Railway Path I walked as I got into town, there was a tangible buzz in the air. I skipped across The Meadows and headed up middle meadow walk, It was really busy, the silent disco massive were making their way down singing to the collect tunes on their headphones, I had a quick gander in The Underbelly and a quick scout around Assembly. Both are housed in George Square Gardens. I was looking for the venue in which my “Adults Only Magic Show Cherry” would be popped.

I found the venue, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a bit more grand. Because back Down Under this trio of cute and genuinely gifted sexy young men are packing theatres nationally, when i was doing a bit of research this afternoon I learned how many 5 Star reviews had been awarded. So I was a bit wet with anticipation of what we had in store tonight.

Two young Magicians who are truly gifted talented performance artists who came together after meeting at The Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2012 and began creating quality theatre together. More cute than they are handsome. Apart from Magnus, Our Compare of the evening. Hes a dish ❤ This brilliant evening of performance art makes its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2022 and Divine was there.

I got to Assembly Studio 3 early and watched the queue grow longer and longer, The wind was really chill while we were waiting, Ben in front of me only had a T-Shirt on, I said its a good job its not raining. We both chuckled, Ben was from Carlise up with his girlfriend Lauren for the weekend. I was explaining how this was a choice pick based on how many amazing reviews The 18 Plus Magic Show had achieved from delighted audiences, Indeed the small theatre was packed to the rafters. Everyone moist in anticipation of what was about to COME.

A Magic show that is a really really good night out, genuinely funny, with lots of audience participation Demonstrations of breathtaking illusions and feats of magic, even now while writing this I am shaking my head wondering “How did they do that?” They had us all in the palms of their beautiful hands. We are talking about Las Vegas quality performance art here. Such is the brilliance of the whole thing. I loved every minute. And all three of our magical heroes are very well hung indeed and look fantastic naked. With a script and delivery expertly executed for maximum delight. Made for Divines first pick of the Fringe. ❤ This is a guaranteed night of entertainment. I couldn’t recommend it, more highly.

Without a Doubt 5 Stars

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Expanding the Mumbleverse 2022

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The Mumble Scoring System Explained


Every Sunday I like to go to Stockbridge & buy a couple of pounds of my favorite grapes, which arrive there from Mauritius that morning. Chomping on a juicy handful last Sunday, I began making my way up through the New Town, arriving in the York Place area where the trams are. This is Stand country, & a few years ago was the epicentre of laughter in the Fringe. These days its all a bit like a weekday wake & might as well be out in Fife, for there has been a seismic shift to one Edinburgh street in particular – the sloping, cobbled thoroughfare between the Cowgate & the Bridges that is Blair Street. This is the real epicentre of Fringe comedy these days; where comedians, punters & flyerers mingle in a smiling Sunset Strip.

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Things evolve, & the stranglehold The Stand had on making people pay for ‘safe’ mainstream comedy has been utterly smashed by the innovations of the Free Fringe & its quality, liberty-laden shows. All things change – I mean I’m actually writing this article on a speech-to-text app walking through Holyrood Park on the way into town. So if Fringe comedy can evolve, what about the ancient art of reviewing. Think of those ancient Greeks who first stepped down from the Dionysis theatre during the reign of Pesistratus, who had just observed the very first play there from its seats, who have been babbling opinions & critiques to each other as soon as they left the hilltop. Criticism is as old as the performance art it observes, so how does its own evolution fare in 2022?

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Well, not that much really. Beyond the windows of Mumble Towers, the Fringe Press of 2022 seems an archaic institution – chained to amateur rules dished out by a hereditary feudal demense, & a narrow luddite marking system which, even if the stars are split into halves, can only ever give a ‘marks out of ten’ assessment. But half-stars are an ugly aesthetic, a deformed evolution of the species. Like Darwin says, it’s not the biggest or the fastest that survives, but the one that adapts. If the five-star marking system is not to go extinct, it must evolve from its primitive 5-point Ape, through the Homo Erectus 10-point system of halves, & into something more suitable for an increasingly sophisticated modern world.

The trained reviewer can actually feel a show’s quality as 1,2,3,4,5 within moments of the start. So what are the qualities that provide such an esoteric sensation. Since 2016, the Mumble had identified three factors in each of its genres. For Comedy, we had Material, Delivery & Laughs; while for Theatre we had Stagecraft, Script & Performance. This was an improvement on the old system, where now in essence a score was obtained between 1 and 15, the Neanderthal if you will. As the Mumble went into the 2019 Fringe, we were still using this system, but have finally recognized there was still a certain imprecision to the score.

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The old system (R.I.P)

Under our old system, to obtain four stars, for example, a show needed to score 3.66 – which is simply closer to 4 than 3. The overall marks would then be described as a low four, a natural four or a high four. The eureka moment came the other day while sitting in two comedy shows. On one occasion I was the only one laughing, while at the other show the room was in uproar & I was sat stony-gilled. It was time to add that factor into the marking mix, the Room… how does a comedian play their audience, do they keep tickling funny bones like a comedy octopus, or is each viewer sat there playing on their phones.

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A four-star Room at Gary G Knightley

The Room category in Comedy has a natural cousin in Theatre. I have called it S.O.D, with the first review to use it being published in 2019. Quick off the mark, the company sent me this email;

Dear Mumble

We have asked our wonderful PR company; we have asked the amazing Pleasance Press Office; we have asked the astonishing Head of Programming at The Pleasance – no one can help.
We are delighted by our review by the excellent Daniel Donnelly, but no one seems to know what S.O.D. stands for!

Please can you elucidate?

Many thanks
(and I’ll get the prize for the first one home with the answer!)

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The answer is, of course, Suspension of Disbelief. I know my poetry, & within Coleridge’s wonderful Biographia Literia, he elucidated on the driving phantasian spirit behind his co-creation of the Lyrical Ballads with Wordsworth. Its essence is the state of mind reached where there is, ‘a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith… awakening the mind’s attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us.’ In modern lay terms its like switching off reality & becoming immersed in the production. Is that your mate Nigel before you? Do you see them behind the make-up, or are you lost in the drama & believe this drag-queen before you is the fabulous Nigella?

The introduction of another genome into the star system, the aforetitled Expansion of the Mumbleverse, seems wholly natural. Our planet is divided into four seasons, the main elements are still earth, fire, air & water. The four bodily humors were part of Shakespearean cosmology, inherited from the ancient Greek philosophers Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Galen. Ovid, in his Metamorphoses divided the Ages into Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron. Now the reviewing star system can also be divided into four harmonious parts. Marking-wise, to obtain those 4 stars, a show must now be awarded at least 3.75 points as opposed to 3.66. The overall marking goes like this

19-20 = 5 stars
15-18 = 4 stars
11-14 = 3 stars
7-10 = 2 stars
1-6 = 1 star

As cultural surveyors, The Mumble can now give a more detailed account of a show for both artist & potential audience member – its now a case of, “you need to sort your tiles out, pal, and there’s a bit of damp in your back bedroom – you’re wirings seen better days and of course you’re gonna have to update your boiler system, it’ll never pass the new laws.

Mrs Pack @ the Edinburgh Fringe


Three Chairs & a Hat are back

The Mumble caught up with Nia Williams

The lady behind the magic


Hello Nia… its been 3 years since Three Chairs & Hat, & many others, have performed at the Fringe – what have you been up to?
Hello! Well, we were all set up to take a new musical to Edinburgh in 2020 and then, as we know, Covid hit and everything changed. I count myself very lucky to have been able to get back to work fairly quickly during Lockdown, in the form of online music/theatre workshops, and to continue writing — and thanks to the support and creativity of companies like theSpaceUK, Three Chairs and a Hat were able to venture into digital theatre and take part in the online Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe Festivals. We produced several pieces, including short dramas and musical extracts, which involved a massive learning curve in video and editing, often remotely! Two other significant projects were also direct products of the pandemic — our animated musicals, which I’m proud to say have picked up some awards at international film festivals, and a major digital project called ’Shakespeare (She/Her)’, directed by Wayne T Brown, which presents Shakespeare’s women performing monologues, sonnets and songs in contemporary settings. So the last two years have taken us in unexpected directions and, I think, will have a lasting effect on our company.

Three years after we reviewed it’s visit to the Fringe, I saw recently that ‘Verity’ has won the 2022 Scenesaver Birthday Honours award for Best Musical – why did it take so long to be recognised, & how do you feel about the award?
This was such a lovely surprise, and a tribute to the skills of the whole ‘Verity’ team. During the past two years we’ve been supported and encouraged by Scenesaver, the international digital platform, including a major launch of ’Shakespeare (She/Her)’, and have become aware of the opportunities digital theatre presents to reach a wider audience. So, thanks to great feedback like yours at the 2019 Fringe, we eventually took the plunge and submitted a video of our original Oxford stage production to Scenesaver, and were really delighted to win the Best Musical award this year.

Rhiannon Llewellyn, Mrs Pack

So what are you bringing to Edinburgh in 2022?
We’ve got a brand new musical called Mrs Pack. This is a bit different from our previous musicals, as it’s a period piece, set in the 1690s, and is based on a real person—a wet nurse who was brought in to feed the ailing heir to the throne, and given the run of the royal court, much to the resentment of the other staff.

How did you come across the story of Mrs Pack & what was the moment you felt it would make a good piece of musical theatre?
I came across Mrs Pack purely by chance, when I was researching a completely different piece of work. She was mentioned in passing as this interloper in the very hierarchical world of the royal court, who shook things up and was accused of carrying tales from Princess Anne’s court to the King and Queen. All this was set against a very tense political background, just after the Glorious Revolution had deposed James II, and this odd little story seemed to give a glimpse of a world where women were at the heart of power, but ultimately powerless.

The show focuses on the rivalry between Mrs Pack & the royal family’s chief nurse, Atty. Can you tell us more about that & how did you translate their conflict onto the stage?
Atty, or Mrs Atkinson, is described in the archives as popular and kind to the royal children, going against the harsh discipline and corporal punishment which was the standard practice of the day. Very little is known about Mrs Pack, and most of what we do know comes from the memoirs of a manservant, Jenkin Lewis, so who knows what his own prejudices were? But it’s clear that she ruffled a lot of feathers, and I tried to imagine how it would feel from both sides: Atty, a respected and professional figure, suddenly undermined and contradicted; and Mrs Pack, an outsider, resented and suspected by the court clique. Two women who could have been allies, instead turned against each other.

Nia Williams

What are your motivations for choosing this particular subject?
Quite often, when I start writing something, it’s just an individual story or strange situation that captures my imagination, and I focus on that personal aspect of things. The great thing about then going into collaboration with others is that they really bring out the wider themes and dimensions, and this has been the case in working with our director, Katie Blackwell. Essentially this is a story of women — even women as ostensibly powerful as the future Queen Anne — who are being used and diminished in the service of a dynasty. Anne suffered horribly, enduring miscarriages, stillbirths, and losing all her children to fever and smallpox, but was under constant, unrelenting pressure to try and produce a male heir to the throne, at whatever cost to her physical and mental health.

Can tell us about your cast?
We’ve got a wonderful cast of four, who between them are portraying a whole range of characters, from high society to the streets. Rhiannon Llewellyn, who plays Mrs Pack, has extensive experience as an opera singer and has performed for ENO and Glyndebourne among many other companies. Olivia Baker, a theatre-maker, actor, singer and producer, plays Atty. Isabella Jeffrey, who graduated this year from Italia Conti, is Prince William, Atty’s ally Mrs Fortress, and an ambitious courtier, and Chris Johnstone, who recently played the lead in our show-in-progress ‘Dexter’, is Jenkin Lewis himself, as well as many others including a disaffected bugler!

Olivia Baker, Atty. 

Who is your director & where did you find her?
Katie Blackwell is a multitalented director, singer co-founder of interactive opera company All Aboard Opera and one of the singing trio Sorelle. I met Katie when we were both working for touring company Opera Anywhere, and we’ve worked together as singer/accompanist and director/MD on many productions. This is the first time Katie’s worked with me on a Three Chairs and a Hat production and it’s an absolute joy — she’s creative, enthusiastic, and calm in a crisis!

Which of your team have never been to the Fringe before & what advice would you give them to survive the Edinburgh August?
This is the first Fringe for all our actor/singers, and we’ve told them to expect anything and everything! I think they’ll find it exhausting, exhilarating, unique and completely addictive. For me, the key was to find a balance between wanting to see and experience it all, and needing some quiet time out to recharge the batteries — and to appreciate the eccentric beauty of this remarkable city.

You have 20 seconds to sell your show to a stranger on the streets of the Royal Mile, what would you say?
MRS PACK — she milked the monarchy, spied for a queen and turned the royal court upside down! All that plus song and dance — how can you resist?


Mrs Pack

theSpace on the Mile
Aug 22-27 (19:35)

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An Interview with Aoife Fagan


From Ireland via Los Angeles,

Jewellery making has never been so dramatic


Hello Aoife, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Hello! I’m from Dublin, Ireland, but I’m living in LA at the moment.

Can you tell us about your theatrical training?
After secondary school I spent a year in Stratford-upon-Avon studying with Year Out Drama Company. I then went on to train at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute and did their two year conservatory. Training at Strasberg was such a formative time for me. We explored sense memory, animal exercise (which was my favourite!) and improvising into the scene which helped my work a lot.

How did you end up in LA?
My brother is an animator and he made a short film a few years ago. He went to LA to promote it and he let me go with him. I really loved the city and the relaxed culture. It was unlike anywhere I had ever been so I auditioned for drama school out there and thankfully got in. I’ve been back and forth since and that’s also where I met my husband who is from LA.

What is at about Theatre that makes you tick?
I love the rawness of theatre. As an audience member, I love watching stories and seeing the actors go through different experiences. I can be quite a shy person, so playing a character really gives me the freedom to say the things I feel I can’t say or do in real life.

You are bringing a play to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about it?
My solo show, ‘Glimmer of a Rainbow,’ explores what beauty is and what society deems valuable all in the backdrop of a vintage jewellers. My character Orla is working in a jewellers and is tired of being told who she is by everyone around her and is trying to figure out who she wants to be.

Can you tell us about the writing process of Glimmer of a Rainbow?
During the Pandemic, I took a writing for Solo Performance class through Berg Studios which was taught on zoom by Ann Noble. I was so worried because I had no idea what I wanted to write about. I thought I needed to have an idea or a fully fledged story before I started to write. Ann told me to just write what came to me and see where it took me. That was the best advice because it freed me up so much and really helped me find my voice.

Who are Unmuted Participants?
Unmuted Participants are a collective of solo performers that came out of Ann’s solo class. In April we presented, Solo Flight, our first online storytelling festival. It’s amazing to be a part of such a supportive group of artists.

What is the biggest obstacle you overcame while putting your play together?
Performing, or even reading my own work out loud was really difficult for me. I thought that performing my own work would be easier in a way, but it really terrified me. I realised that as an actor I’m always hiding behind someone else’s words, but with my own work, there’s nowhere to hide. It created another layer of vulnerability that I wasn’t anticipating.

How much of your own experience is in Glimmer of a Rainbow?
My show is definitely semi-autobiographical. I think it’s hard not to put some aspects of your own experience into your work. It scared me at first, but I needed to write it for myself and not for how people might perceive it.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
A girl’s reluctant journey through a material world. She’s trying to figure out who she is, while also dealing with a slight jewellery obsession.


Glimmer of a Rainbow

VENUE 50
19,21,23,25 August (15:10)

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