Category Archives: Fringe 2022
Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows
Aug 9-14, 16-21, 23-27 (21:55)
Hi Honey I’m home ❤
Wow that was a long day, Amazingly entertaining and on the whole fucking brilliant,
Hmm I thought, its lovely and warm. So i headed along The Innocent railway Path and up for a cuddle with Tracey Tree, It was so soft and welcoming, I layed down and gave myself healing. Grounding as deeply as I could do and let it all go.
I gave myself a good hour of self-healing and then headed for an afternoon and evening on The Meadows for a Masterclass of amazingness at The Circus Hub, First Up 2.15 Tulu, then at 9.55 Blunderland. That gave me a lot of time for self healing between performances, I met up with Damo to pick up my writers wages and Headed to the Pianodrome for a tinkle. It was great then had a coffee with Raah and then back to the Pianodrome to finish where I had left off. I played for a life drawing class and grounded the angels. I really hit on something when I played at Glastonbury this year.
It took a while but I slipped back into the flow, My audience where very appreciative. then headed back to the Meadows to sit under a tree, look at the Moon and sip a rather good-looking but expensive hot chocolate. Have walked some miles today so as you can guess I was knackered. The Meadows is a really nice place to chill under a tree, The Moon rising big and heavy as dusk wove its dark cloak round Aulde Reiki. The anticipation of something brilliant was making me excited, being a psychic and with the Calibur of acrobatic amazingness I experienced with Tulu. I knew Blunderland was going to be spectacular. And I wasnae wrong. Divine is so so happy tonight. So it been a very entertaining self-healing day. more in a bit am off to make a cuppa.
Blunderland The Cast
The Beauty is a large Spiegel Tent, the 2nd of the brilliant venues within the Circus Hub which houses this brilliant example of Cabaret and risque burlesque, mind-bending, mind-expanding psychedelic trip of sexiness. Adam Malone our host of the evening explained that the show is designed for people that love psychedelics. OOOOoooo I thought “This is going to be good.”
As we took our seats in the round of The Beauty, I couldnae help thinking “The Adults Only Magic Show” Should have been housed here too, it was such a grand and noble venue, The ambience created by the lighting and sounds, created a dubstep rainy city street, just seedy enough on the side of naughty But very very nice to add weight to the theatrical brilliance that was about to be unleashed. To the right of me, Lee, from Machester was on to his 57th show of this years Fringe, Blimey I Thought Lee is an eager beaver. To the left of me a rather dashingly handsome young Frenchman called Rudi. I was in good company. Suitably Bohemian and ready for a Good Time. With the perfect balance of eye candy for both boys and girls to be mutually excited by. I think the psychedelic of choice was MDMA with a line of Ketamine for good measure. This dynamic work of burlesque performance art found its roots in Melbourne After Adam Malone from the art houses of New York flew there to find the gifted and ridiculously talented performers that would make his vision “Blundered” A performance art presentation of genius. Very Very Sexy Genius indeed.
Nothing is left to the imagination an alternative cabaret that drips with sensuality and all done in the best possible taste. Sassy, camp, funny Original, classy and very beautiful all set to a brilliant techno soundtrack. in pink sequined hot pants. Divine was in love Beautiful stage nudity seems to be an evolving thing with Australian Burlesque. The Trapeze act alone is worth the ticket price. A brilliantly and beautifully choreographed depiction of conception, the female reproductive system brought to life with feet and umbrellas, it was so so clever, surreal and wonderful. Oh yes I was loving being in Blunderland and that’s without any Acid. Surreal and Bohemian art house brilliance making its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe. Blunderland is performance art of legendary proportions, once seen never forgotten, for it is a production with staying power. Creative Viagra for all who take a ride into Blunderland. Blunderland’s Fans are growing.
Totally. A Well earned 5 Stars.
Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows
Aug 6-27 (14:15)
Underbelly’s Circus Hub on The Meadows is perhaps the most conducive to healing and peace of mind. The venue comprises The Lafayette a huge big blue traditional circus big top planted in the Middle of our beloved Meadows, it was a beautiful warm day, perfect for taking it easy. Underbelly’s Circus Hub is beautifully attractive and very welcoming. Word had obviously got around that Circus Abyssinia were back in town, all the way from Ethiopia these guys have travelled a long way to bring this delightful human circus to the Edinburgh Fringe. So on the first Monday of the Fringe it was completely sold out. Circus Abyssinia had a sold-out run of performances in 2017 at the Edinburgh Fringe. Divine was about to discover why this troop of acrobats are so successful.
This new presentation of breath-taking circus skills. Celebrating the first African woman to win Olympic Gold. Inspired by the true tale of an Ethiopian icon Deratu Tulu. Circus Abyssinia fit a lot into the 75 minuets of showtime and all of it, edge-of-seat amazement. With death-defying feats of human agility and athletic acrobatic skill, The dance routines performed by two incredibly beautiful ladies took the entire Laffeyette Big Top and all of us in it back to an Ethiopian nature reserve, my mouth was wide open in awe a Yoga Master Class, that demonstrated just how bendy a human body can be, beautifully choreographed. This within itself was an Olympic Gold performance. Completely awesome.
Followed by a really fast-paced sequence of acrobatics performed by beautiful young athletes, flying through the air with the greatest of ease, Human catapults. trapeze, fire juggeling. It was awesome, Circus Abyssinia brought the packed house down, with a show of breathtaking spectacle. Circus Abyssinia’s audience were having a great time, Divine included ❤
By the time we reached the end of the performance, I completely understood why this show sells out every day. Indeed we were blessed to be part of the audience. For without a doubt a five star performance.
Good Time Divine.
New York City’s Abby Rose Morris
Is bringing her feminist cabaret
about fatphobia to the Fringe
Where are you from & where do you live at the moment?
I’m from a tiny town near Burlington, Vermont, about an hour south of the Canadian border. I currently live in New York.
Can you tell us a little about your art?
I’m an actor, singer, voiceover artist, and writer! I’m trained in musical theatre but also have a deep love for new plays, adaptations, and Shakespeare. I love absurdism and meta snark, and that really shows up in the things I’ve written. I’m very passionate about plus size representation in the arts and More Than Tracy Turnblad, my solo show at Fringe, revolves around that.
Where did you train?
I got my BFA in Musical Theatre from The University of the Arts in 2019, and have also trained at Circle in the Square Theatre School and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Can you tell us about More Than Tracy Turnblad the podcast?
The podcast version of More Than Tracy Turnblad came about in the pandemic when I was unable to perform the show! On the podcast, I interview other plus size creatives about how fatphobia has showed up in their careers, the fat characters that have impacted them, and how the industry can evolve to become more inclusive. We also do episodes on specific fat characters or movies about size. We’ve had some amazing guests like Lauren Ash from Superstore, Jenny O’Leary who originated Martha in the West End production of Heathers, and bestselling author Jennifer Weiner! The podcast is my absolute pride and joy. I’ve made so many wonderful friends through it.
What do you like to do when you are not performing?
Being from Vermont, I’m a bit outdoorsy, so I love to camp and swim and generally be in nature when I can. I also enjoy cooking and thrifting.
You are coming to Edinburgh with a show this Fringe, can you tell us all about it?
More Than Tracy Turnblad is a fierce, funny, feminist cabaret that explores fat representation in entertainment. As a plus size performer, the roles I’m told I can play are either limited and stereotypical, or they’re, well, Tracy Turnblad, the singular young fat female lead in all of musical theatre. In the show, I detail my personal experiences with fatphobia in the industry while dissecting and dismantling cultural stereotypes about fat people. The show is both a takedown of and love letter to the entertainment industry, featuring music from popular shows like Mean Girls and Wicked.
What difficulties are there in transporting a podcast to the stage?
Well, the show actually came first, so none! When the pandemic hit, I couldn’t perform the show and adapted it into a podcast. The main similarity is just the topic and my sense of humor. But after spending so much time talking about these things from a more intellectual lens, it’s both a challenge and a relief to get back into my body and emotions in order to do the show onstage again!
What emotions & thoughts do you hope to invoke in your Edinburgh audience?
I want people to laugh, cringe, sing along, and reevaluate their own behaviors and attitudes around body image. My ultimate goal is to help people gain a deeper understanding of this issue, since it so often goes unspoken in the artistic community.
You’ll know a good show when you have done one, what are the magic ingredients?
I think you know a good show when you feel you HAVE to make it. I had an acting teacher who always said, “a work of art is great if it has sprung from necessity.” It’s a quote from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. And I love that, because it gives me permission not to force creative output unless I really have something to say.
What will you be doing in Edinburgh when not promoting & performing your show?
My mom, sister, and boyfriend will all be visiting Edinburgh for the first time, so I’ll be dragging them to as many shows as possible and doing some historical touristy things as well! I love haunted things so I’ll definitely seek those out in particular – I used to be a ghost tour guide.
You have 20 seconds to sell your show on the streets of Edinburgh, what do you say?
Ever wonder why plus size girls always play the mom in school plays? Or why the average size of a women on TV is less than half what it is in the general population? If you want to find out, come see this hilarious cabaret about body positivity in the entertainment industry, featuring Broadway songs you know and love!
More Than Tracy Turnblad
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall
Aug 22-27 (12:45)
Aug 6-26 (15.30)
Deep in all our common histories lies the Sophoclean masterpiece, Oedipus Rex. ‘He took a face from the ancient gallery,’ sang Jim Morrison almost two millennia later during the 20th century Freudian resurrection of the main motifs of the Oedipus legend – kill your father, sleep with your mother, rip your own eyes out in disgust. I’m not quite sure modern society has ever recovered psychologically from beyond being told we all want to sleep with our parents, but anyway, theatrically, the mythomemes still pack a punch.
Pecho Mama are the natural inheritors of the tradition modernity, their Medea Electronica was sublime, & now their Oedipus Electra can also go down as a winner in the annals of transcreative theatre. The live musical accompaniment is brilliant – Don Bird on drums is well cool, like – while the three actors were quality-concise & confident, including, of course, Mella Fay as Jocasta, the company’s artistic director & beating heart. The play is big, bold, brazen, brash & in your face with violence & traumatic pregnancies. I don’t want to give too much away, of course, but Pecho Mama’s adaption needs a wee spoiler I’m afraid (alert here). The idea is that 2022’s Jocasta has created an Oedipus in her writing – there are a series of really powerful scenes when the action is happening quite furiously above & around her while she is typing like a gazelle escaping a lion.
I was extremely impressed by this neogothic production as a symbiotic organism – all parts fuse together extremely well to create a fluid creature from the depths of the psychic ocean, which crawls to shore waving its dark tentacles in your face before slipping away into the murk & leaving you doing a standing ovation. Proper buzzing theatre! Oedipus Electra is an esoteric & entertaining play, with a viscerality not the faint-hearted.
Aug 4-29 (12.00)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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;
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?
(and I’ll get the prize for the first one home with the answer!)
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.“
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.
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.
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!
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?