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An Interview with Kate Joyner

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Straddling the spheres were theatre meets ethereality is Kate Joyner & her remarkably evocative Blood Tales


Hello Kate, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Kate: I’m from England, grew up in Shropshire, but I’m currently living in Barcelona.

When did you first realise you were, well, theatrical?
Kate: I think when I was 7. I used to to create one girl performances on my god-mothers poufee. I was always quite expressive and interested in how humans worked, so throughout my life, I’ve studied psychology and art.

In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
Kate: I think theatre is an live experience, no one performance is the same, there is a magic to it. I think being in the same room as someone who is offer their art is a very real experience, perhaps even divinely.

You’ve got three famous women from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Kate: First of all I probably wouldn’t cook, we’d go out for dinner, as it’s one of my favorite things to do. And then I’d let them choose what they want from the menu. Who would they be? Audrey Lorde, Eve Ensler and Madonna.

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Can you tell us about Silver Moon Theatre Co. & your role?
Kate: I am The Silver Moon Theatre Co. At the moment it’s a one woman company. What I’m principally interested in in my art form is giving voice to the unspoken voices of the feminine. I’m really passionate about the stage a tool for the wildest and boldest expression of the feminine soul, as a way of bringing to the forefront aspects of our feminine nature that have otherwise been banished to the shadows. Why would I want to do this, you might ask? In order to create ripples of social change within the collective unconscious. I have the support of a director, Palma Morena Greco and an amazing producer, Danja Buchard and my techie is called Felix Gane. What I do is create the shows, from the writing to the performing and the whole orchestration.

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
Kate: Well I spend about half an hour warming up. In that half an hour, I meditate, then run on the spot whilst talking to the wall, get into the emotional body of my character, who by nature is a witty witch, so as you can imagine, the last thing I do before the curtain comes up can sometimes get quite wild.

You’re bringing a play to Brighton this May, can you tell us about it?
Kate: Yes. I’ll be doing a short 3 night run, (so get your tickets already). It’s at Sweet Werks 1 at 21.15, 10th, 11th &; 12th May. The tag line for the show sum its up pretty well so I like to share that: “Re-mystifying the most misunderstood phenomena of a woman’s body by telling the true tales about our Blood”. And then the blurb:

This one woman show will transport you into the mystical landscape of woman’s Blood through the lens of a hilariously funny wicked witch from London. Mixing the sacred with the profane, the outrageous with the sensical, insanity with normality, The Blood Tales will change what you thought about women’s menstrual Blood, for ever. The show dispels the outworn stories of shame and disgust into tales of beauty and power through the cauldron of this raw and elemental theatrical performance. Creating a field of magic that ripples into the political as well as the spiritual dimensions of a woman’s holy red river, offering the promise of a new paradigm, as seen from the Moon. Not all are insane enough to come and see it, but hopefully you will be brave enough to accept this wild and bold invitation, my pretty.

Can you tell us about the almost esoteric writing of the script?
Kate: I was on the West Coast of Scotland on an island, which I don’t remember the name of, unfortunately. It was in 2015 and my muse whispered to me the inspiration for The Blood Tales. She told me to go home and listen to what the Blood wanted me to say, so for 3 consecutive moon cycles, when I got my blood, I locked myself away. From that time, I transcribed 13 poems that make up the base of the script.

Aha, it seems that the Moon Goddess, one of the traditional inspirations for poets, was with you. Can you define for us the comblended experience of being inspired by the menstrual cycle & the heavenly sphere which controls it?
Kate: Yes, excellent question. It’s my experience that when we bleed we enter into an altered state of consciousness. This form of consciousness is very close to the earth dreaming, the anima mundi. It makes sense if you think about it, if our moon cycle is connected to the moon cycle which is to say the rhythms of nature, then the internal act of bleeding, when we tune into it, can bring us close to the our elemental nature. This form of consciousness, where the soul is on the skin, the poetic voice is more available to me. By surrendering into this flow, I get to hear the voice of my muse and then I transcribed that voice into red streams of poetry.

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Can you tell us about the evolutionary growth of The Blood Tales as performance art?
Kate: It started out as a spoken word performance back in 2015. I knew there was more life behind the words than simply standing there and reciting the poetry, so I enrolled in an experimental theatre laboratory in Barcelona where The Blood Tales has since turned into a full scale theatre production. During this investigative phase, I’ve been shown that within the blueprint of the show is a map that can lead women into their own feminine initiation. I’m going to be offering workshops along with the show, where women can come and tell their own Blood Tale. And then my prayer is that “The Blood Tales does for the blood what The Vagina Monologues has done for the vagina”. Pretty wild, no?

What emotive responses do you expect from the audience, both male & female?
Kate: I feel it leave people quite moved as it’s an emotive piece. You feel with me as I take you on this journey into the long lost terrain of the feminine wild. I’ve had amazing responses from both men and women. One man from the audience of a show I did in Oakland, USA, came to me and said “Seeing your show makes me rely wish I could menstruate”.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Brighton?
Kate: Don’t miss The Blood Tales. Really. Just don’t. It’s the most revolutionary thing you could possibly see this Fringe.

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
Kate: I will working on my latest production, “In bed with Madonna”, holding a woman’s retreat in Crete in August, working hard to get The Blood Tales on tour for later this year or early 2020, so watch this space and generally just enjoying life as much as I can.
Thanks for all of your questions and for taking time to read folks. I hope to see you in the
audience.


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The Blood Tales

Sweet Werks 1

May 10-12 (21:15)

www.thebloodtales.com

Essay: The Dramatic Iliad of Thales

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An essay showing the theatrical origins of Homer’s Iliad, through the pen of Thales, under the direction of Lycurgus of Sparta…


I am currently sat at a table amidst the sunswingingly sensuous delights of Star Beach on the northern shores of Crete. My family & I arrived late last night, hiring a car & eventually tracking down our residence for the next three nights, Petra Village, a mini-resort with pool, bar & a trillion crickets piping a cacophony. It is apt to be here on the Megalonisi, the ‘big island’ of the Greeks, to provide an account of the mesmerizing energy of Homer’s mind-music, that poetical weaver of disparate strands of ancient subject matter into the world’s two most earliest & most majestic epics. That an individual author composed these poems, however, is simply not the case. This ‘Homeric Question’ has tested academic minds for many an age, with Frederick Nietzsche declaringthe primary form of this widespread and honeycombed mountain known as the Homeric question can be most clearly observed by looking down at it from a far-off height.’ The ‘far-off’ height mentioned by Neitzsche is the tall mountain upon which the chispologist builds a weather-station & shouts into the gusting breezes that Homer was a quasi-mythological deity, to whom only the highest examples of streaming elysium would be associated – less an individual genius & more the poetic soul of an entire people.

But for now, & for ease of dictate, we shall call Homer by his antique identity, as the singular author of the Iliad & Odyssey. His subject was the Trojan War & its aftermath, an event of deep history whose war-drums still beat resoundingly today. The Iliad centers on a small series of events that took place toward the end of the ten-year war, while the Odyssey sings of the return from Troy of the Grecian hero Odysseus. The poems are, in a word, magnificent, full of comprehension & understanding for the ways of men, while possessing some of the greatest phraseology ever to be uttered by a human tongue. The most astonishing thing about the epics is their sheer antiquity, through which mists of deep time the creation of the poems, & indeed their creator, have been readily obscured.

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Folio 12r of Venetus A.

It was as early as the Classical period that the first doubts appertaining to the origins of the epics were raised. The oldest complete copy of the Iliad – the 10th century BC manuscript – has marginal notes, first published by De Villoison in 1788, which preserve substantial remnants of ancient scholarship on the poems from the intense erudition of Didymus, Aristonicis, Herodian, Nicanor & Antoninian. A century later, a similar note-smitten codex was created which ended up in the library at of the Townleys of Townley Hall, in my hometown of Burnley. Of these scholia, we encounter the thoughts of two obscure figures known as Xenon & Hellanicus, two antique scholars who first speculated that the Iliad & Odyssey had been composed by separate authors. This actually makes sound sense, for where the Iliad contains four times as many similes as the Odyssey, the language of the Odyssey is less archaic than that of the Iliad, to which surmise we may add that words for many common items are different in each poem. Aristotle further highlights the differences between the epics when he muses, ‘the composition of the Iliad is simple & full of pathos, that of the Odyssey complex, as there are recognitions throughout & full of character.’ 

So far so different, & as the Aegean sea blows a refreshingly wild wind into my beachside boudoir, we may acknowledge that long before the days of word-files & photocopying, the preservation of Homer’s poetry, spread over many centuries, suggests a great number of scribes have handled the text. Along the way, each would add something of their own making, maybe respelling a word, or perhaps re-writing whole passages in order to please a changing audience. As the poems evolved, two vast chains of transcreation would slowly fossilize themselves into the epics we whimsically attribute to a single Homer.  One cannot understand why this happened, for the dating of the ‘original’ Homer was offered quite differently by a great many ancient scholars. The early Christian churchman, Tatian, in his Address to the Greeks, identifies this scattered strata of Homeric composition;

Now the poetry of Homer, his parentage, and the time in which he flourished have been investigated by the most ancient writers,— Of these, Crates says that he flourished before the return of the Heraclidæ, and within 80 years after the Trojan war; Eratosthenes says that it was after the 100th year from the taking of Ilium; Aristarchus, that it was about the time of the Ionian migration, which was 140 years after that event; but, according to Philochorus, after the Ionian migration, in the archonship of Archippus at Athens, 180 years after the Trojan war; Apollodorus says it was 100 years after the Ionian migration, which would be 240 years after the Trojan war. Some say that he lived 90 years before the Olympiads, which would be 317 years after the taking of Troy. Others carry it down to a later date, and say that Homer was a contemporary of Archilochus; but Archilochus flourished about the 23d Olympiad, in the time of Gyges the Lydian, 500 years after Troy.

It is through these ‘Homers’ that the story of the Trojan War & its aftermath would pass, until the Iliad as we know it began to take shape in the 9th century BC – as I believe – under the auspices of the Spartan King, Lycurgus. Not a poet himself, the task was given to a certain verse-maker called Thales, whom he met on Crete, an island which I am yet to explore but have made my first landing as if I was one of the German gliders crash-landing in advance of the German Fallschirmjäger in 1941. It is through the vita of Lycurgus, as given by Plutarch, that we gain a heady hint of just how powerful a poet-thinker was Thales. We join the vita with Lycurgus on some kind of state visit to Crete;

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Thales

One of the men regarded there as wise statesmen was Thales, whom Lycurgus persuaded, out of favour and friendship, to go on a mission to Sparta. Now Thales passed as a lyric poet, and screened himself behind this art, but in reality he did the work of one of the mightiest lawgivers. For his odes were so many exhortations to obedience and harmony, and their measured rhythms were permeated with ordered tranquillity, so that those who listened to them were insensibly softened in their dispositions, insomuch that they renounced the mutual hatreds which were so rife at that time, and dwelt together in a common pursuit of what was high and noble.

This description of Thales tells us he was the perfect poet, a teacher who used the soft & easy words of the lyric, but resonant with meaning in order to teach the people of Crete just how to be, how to live a good life. I have only been here a few hours, but so far all the Cretans we have met have been decent & open; from the young couple on a moped who led us to the beach road in the dark last night, to our cool & friendly waiter here at Star Beach, the appropriately named ‘Adonis.’ ‘Don’t worry be happy’ is the mantra & if these easy vibes emanated from the ancient wisdom of Thales, then to be in his actual company would have been a tremendous sensation for Lycurgas, & it is no wonder, I suppose, that he was invited to join the royal Spartan party. Agreeing to terms, perhaps, Thales left his gorgeous rock at the edge of Europa & joined Lycurgas on a visit Asia Minor, where Plutarch tells us the Spartan king;

Made his first acquaintance with the poems of Homer, which were preserved among the posterity of Creophylus; and when he saw that the political and disciplinary lessons contained in them were worthy of no less serious attention than the incentives to pleasure and license which they supplied, he eagerly copied and compiled them in order to take them home with him. For these epics already had a certain faint reputation among the Greeks, and a few were in possession of certain portions of them, as the poems were carried here and there by chance; but Lycurgus was the very first to make them really known.

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Lycurgas

At this point in time we have a certain Spartan king in possession of the two foundation stones of what would become the Iliad, these being those fragments of the early Homeric materials, & a poet who could do something with them, to turn them into something cohesive & infinitely beautiful. Such a moment provided the perfect conditions for what can only be called a regurgitation of Homer, a moment remembered by Demeterius of Magnesia, who placed the author of the Iliad in the same ‘very ancient times’ of Lycurgus. With all the pieces in position, all that was need was a catalyst to spark off the creative furnace that would produce the Iliad, & it came in the form of the first Olympic Truce. We begin with Plutarch, who writes of Lycurgas; ‘Some say that he flourished at the same time with Iphitus, and in concert with him established the Olympic truce. Among these is Aristotle the philosopher, and he alleges as proof the discus at Olympia on which an inscription preserves the name of Lycurgus.’ The truce forged by Lycurgas, Iphitus of Elis & Cleosthenes of Pisa was designed to bring peace to the Peloponnese; all three sides were bogged down in endless rounds of bloodshed, and it was decided that they would try to soothe their differences by staging a peaceful games at Olympia. A tribute to the unity of the Greek nation was needed, & a tribute to the pan-Grecian unity as it fought the Trojan War was a perfect theme, & subject worthy of Thales’ pensmanship. The following passage by the 5th Century BC Athenian historian, Thucydides, backs up the sentiment;

The weakness of the olden times is further proved to me chiefly by this circumstance, that before the Trojan war, Hellas, as it appears, engaged in no enterprise in common.

The squabbling Greeks of the Olympic Truce would need to be reminded of a time when they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity. If anything could convince them to settle their differences, the Homeric poems of Troy recreated by a noble-minded Thales would definitely do the job. That Thales handled the Iliad is unconsciously supported by Pausanius, who describes the Greece of Lycurgus’ time as being grievously worn by internal strife and plague, while the Iliad actually begins with a plague. Indeed, Pausanius tells us that Thales, ‘stayed the plague at Sparta,’ during which time, I conject, he was likely to have been composing the Iliad. The dates also fit, for where Herodotus tells us, ‘Hesiod and Homer I suppose were four hundred years before my time and not more,’ i.e. 850 BC, the Olympics of Lycurgus can be approximately dated to the same period. The Greeks counted their Olympiads from 776 BC, but the Olympic Games of Lycurgas were said to be much earlier. Sources vary as to when these actually took place; both Polybius (quoting Aristodemus of Elis) & Eratosthenes tell us that the 776BC victors were recorded 27 Olympiads from that of Iphitops & Lycurgas, whereas Callimachus differs by saying 13 Olympiads had passed. If we average that out & say 20 Olympiads, a timespan of 80 years, we gain a date of 856 BC for the Lycurgean Olympics.

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Delving further into the ordinance of what I shall now call the Thalian Iliad, it’s form appears to have been based upon the ritualistic & quite theatrical mystery plays of Greece & Egypt, played out over several days like the Ring Cycle of Wagner. Plutarch even places Lycurgas in Egypt at one point, where he would have encountered an Egyptian Drama full of soliloquies by narrator-style priests, actor dialogue & dramaturgical expressions of stage-craft still used in our modern theatre. Egyptian drama of the Lycurgan period was sophisticated; consisting of a prologue, three acts subdivided into scenes & a concluding epilogue. Two have come down to us whole, the ‘Ramesseum Coronation’ & the ‘Myth of Horus at Edfu.’ In the latter, both mortals & immortals play out the action, a motif also present in the Iliad.

Over the centuries, academics have subconsciously suspected that the Iliad was in its origins a dramatic performance. The Roman writer Quintilian praises the second book of the Iliad in particular for the greatness of its speeches, while the 17th century English poet, Alexander Pope, stated, ‘for a farther preservation of this air of simplicity, a particular care should be taken to express with all plainness those moral sentences & proverbial speeches which are so numerous in this poet. They have something venerable, & as I may so oracular, in that unadorned gravity & shortness with which they are delivered.’ In recent years we have Jenny Strauss Clay’s description of the Iliad’s ‘extraordinarily high percentage of direct speech – much more than any other epic;’ Bernard Fenik’s, ‘direct discourse comprises 67 percent of the Iliad;’ & Laura M Slatkin’s, ‘extraordinary refinement & complexity of oral performance,’ from which erudite opinions we should acknowledge that the Iliad was in fact played out through a series of scenes in which actors & actresses were given lengthy speeches. Interspersed are the battle scenes, which may have been played out in the manner of the Egyptian dramas, reminiscent of gladiators in a Roman arena – beautifully choreographised physical theatre but without the actual bloodshed.

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Roll on a few millennia & the Iliad material is coming full circle, so to speak. Three years ago, for example, I reviewed a stage version of the material for Mumble Theatre.  Unfortunately, the original theatrical purpose of the Iliad was slowly eroded by time, when the mega-money spectacular of Lycurgas would gradually give way to performances by individual singers called Rhapsodes, such as the the Homeridae, the ‘Children of Homer.’ Perhaps it was their memories which preserved the Thalian Iliad, which were later transcribed by the librarians of Alexandria, or perhaps one of the scripts survived enough centuries to be copied down on fresh papyrus, but either way all evidence points to a mid-ninth century BC origin for the Iliad, when one poet & one benefactor shine out through the darkness of their times – Lycurgus the Spartan King, & Thales, the Cretan poet. Meanwhile, some chilli olives & soft Cretan red wine await me at the Petra Village.

Damian Beeson Bullen

Tipping the Hat

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 24-29 

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There is a discernible line of English eccentricity runs from the topsy-turvy wordplay of WS Gilbert, through the cheeky sophistication of Noel Coward to the humorous quotidian lyrics of Michael Flanders. The latter, in partnership with friend and composer Donald Swann, produced a string of comic songs that delighted live audiences throughout the 1950s and 60s.

Flanders and Swann are the subject of this witty production (written and directed by John Bett) that sparkles with some of their most celebrated collaborations, “The Hippopotamus Song”, “The Gasman Cometh”, “The Gnu Song” and many, many more. The stage is set like a Victorian parlour with red velvet drapes, dried flowers and a grand piano but any formality is immediately subverted by sound problems with the keyboard and the affectionate teasing of the performers as they introduce each other to the audience.

Both actors appear as themselves, verbally sparring in a genteel fashion as they tell the story of Flanders and Swann. When called upon to perform a song (which they do exceedingly well) a bearded John Jack takes the Flanders’ part while Gordon Cree sings and tinkles the ivories wearing a diffident Swann’s round Billy Bunter glasses. This is a clever device that takes the duo beyond mere tribute status and allows Jack in particular, to bring a frantic physical comedy to the proceedings using a variety of props, as well as a bit of gesticulating, Scottish luvvie banter.

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The songs may be familiar but their performance is fresh and lively. And there’s politics too. An ironic discourse delivered on Dr Beeching’s massacre of the rail system, followed by a rendering of “Slow Train”, listing some of the stations that came under his axe, turns out to be a genuinely moving lament. Another surprising gem is Swann’s original tune to “A Red, Red Rose” delivered warmly in a soft bass baritone by Cree. With plenty of apposite details on the lives of the two entertainers sandwiched between the humour and iconic songs, this is a show that enlightens and entertains in equal measure.

A top piece of hat tipping, brimming with fun.

David G Moffat

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An Interview with Nick Howden-Steenstra

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Up & coming company From the Gut have brought an emotional, fun-packed play to the Fringe…


Hello Nick, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Nick: Hi Mumble! I grew up in Warwickshire, in the countryside, then moved down to London when I went to LAMDA. I’ve lived in Bermondsey, SE16 since 2015 and it really feels like home. I love it, the River, the community, the pubs, the parks. It’s a wonderful place.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
Nick: Daisy Herringshaw was a family friend who was 90 when I was born. I used to sit for hours as she used to tell me stories of “treading the boards” in rep theatre. From there I was hooked.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Nick: Something that makes you feel; if I’ve got shivers running down spine, laughing until I cry or left thinking about the play for days I’ve seen a good piece of theatre.

Can you tell us about From the Gut?
Nick: From the Gut was formed by three of us after we graduated LAMDA. We loved the community at Drama School and wanted to recreate that in a professional environment, that’s why we work with actors who we know well. From the Gut is a family.

You have brought a play to Edinburgh this August, can you tell us about it?
Nick: It feels amazing. Last year me and Sam Angell, the other writer, came up to the Fringe for over a week and had the best time seeing the most inspiring theatre. We decided then and there that we had to create a show and bring it up in 2018. We put what we love most about the Fringe into Istanbul: You’ll Never Walk Alone; the energy, the heart and the music. The play is about the legendary 2005 Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan and how the game changed the City of Liverpool. It’s told through the eyes of three groups of fans, the night of the game.

How is it going so far?
Nick: It’s going really well, we’re having the best time up at the Fringe. This is our debut show as a company and we’re learning a lot. I think the Fringe is unique place for that. The show’s been well received by audiences, people have been coming up to us afterwards and saying some really wonderful things. Hopefully the last few days (our run finishes on the 18th) we can really pack out the theatre!

What materials did you use during the research period?
Nick: I’m a huge Liverpool fan so for me it was about finding the things that had inspired me over my years of support. Building the emotional connection I feel for the City and Club into the play for both the cast and audience to feel. I hope the cast are all lifelong Reds now!

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How is director Max Harrison handling everything?
Nick: Max is a wonderful director. Me and Sam trained with him at LAMDA and subsequently he’s been going from strength to strength. Most recently working with Phillip Ridley on his play Moonfleece at The Pleasance. Istanbul is a multi-roled multifaceted play, with lots of different styles of performance. Max is the perfect director to link all of those together, while working with the actors to draw out nuanced performances for each of their different characters.

The attachment between football & community is particularly strong in Liverpool, any idea why?
Nick: Liverpool is a global footballing super power and the support of both Everton and Liverpool often borders on religious. In recent history it’d be remiss of me to not mention Hillsborough. The tragedy in 1989 bonded the people of Liverpool to the team. Kenny Dalglish (the Liverpool manager at the time) attended each of the funerals for the 96, the city really came together. Afterward the club and fans and families had to fight or two decades to overcome the tragedy and being justice back to the city. The 2005 Champions League Final was the first big win for the club since 1990.

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What is the opinion of Rafa Benetiz among Liverpool fans in 2018?
Nick: Most of us love him. He gave us one of the greatest nights of our lives. He got us to dream again, and he got us. His family still lives in Liverpool, his daughters are Scouse. I can’t find enough positives to say about the man. He was always there for the Hillsborough Memorial, even when he was no longer our manager. Istanbul: You’ll Never Walk Alone is, in a way, a play about Benetiz.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the street…?
Nick: We are one of Lyn Gardner’s Picks of the Fringe. It’s a raucous 50 minute play that’ll leave you pumped and inspired. Even if you hate football you’ll still love Istanbul. We also have a banging soundtrack.


Istanbul: You’ll Never Walk Alone

Zoo Southside

August 3-14, 16-18 (19.45)

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www.fromthegut.co.uk

 

 

La La Land: On The Stage

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It seems that more and more often, Hollywood is looking to theatre stages for inspiration. Mamma Mia just returned to the screen with its “Here We Go Again” sequel, and did so to the tune of largely positive reviews. And in the next few years there’s talk of adaptations for the likes of Cats, In The Heights, West Side Story, and Wicked – not to mention new reboots of Disney films-turned-Broadway shows like Aladdin and The Lion King.

What we see a little bit less of these days is adaptation going the other way – from screen to stage. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but the reverse seems to be more common for the moment. We’re likely to get an exception in the next year or two though, as the original musical movie La La Land appears destined to appear on stages in London, New York, and, if those go well, around the world.

To refresh your memory, La La Land came out late in 2016 and immediately became the darling of Hollywood. Directed by the young and incredibly gifted Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, it chronicled the lives of two young adults in Los Angeles chasing different dreams in the arts. Widely expected to steal the show at the Oscars because of its celebration of Hollywood and the sheer joy it seemed to evoke in audiences, it actually wound up being upset by Moonlight for the Best Picture honor. Even so however it proved that a completely original modern musical could take the cinematic world by storm.

The film’s nearly universal appeal seemed to come from its purest aspect, which is to say the songs. Even an LA Times piece that was harshly critical of the movie’s message about young musicians in 2017 stated that few movies as “dumb” about music as this one are also as alive to its emotional potential. The article’s point was that the film’s message contrasting sellouts with genuine artists was somewhat childish or outdated – but that when the movie boiled down to its original numbers, it shined nonetheless. This sort of critique wasn’t unheard of, but it did represent the minority opinion. Even so however it demonstrated exactly how this show could work on Broadway.

A stage version of La La Land would almost certainly be stripped down a little bit in terms of plot and dialogue, and would emphasize the music that people will remember from the film. It’s even been suggested that new numbers will be added, which should provide some depth for a score that, if it can be criticized for anything, might be a little too repetitive. The formula of highlighting songs above story, and adding more music to the project, actually sounds like a winning concept for the eventual stage musical.

We haven’t heard much in the way of specifics about when this is coming or where it will debut. But a La La Land stage production has more or less been confirmed, and this is a reminder that it’s almost certainly coming in the near future.

Pamela’s Palace

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Principal Edinburgh George Street

August 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27 

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This morning I took a walk around Yester Woods near Gifford with my wee dog Daisy, deliberating on the marking for Interactive Theater’s newborn baby, Pamela’s Palace. Was I really going to give a vernal work-in-progress five stars? Was that really the right thing to do? Then I remembered something important. I had taken my wife to the show, & as we were leaving, I was practically begging her to tell the girls at her work to organise a Fringe posse & all go out together to see Pamela’s Palace. In that moment I was vicariously experiencing the Mumble’s 5-star litmus test – if one feels compelled like the Ancient Mariner to tell everybody you know (or the wife knows) to see a show, then its the definitive 5 Stars.

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Meeting upstairs in the pleasure-to-be-at Principle Hotel, some of the audience are befrocked in pink smocks as we are led down to a traverse style setting of chairs, with the salon spread out quite jazzily between us. This was only the sixth ever show – a 3 night run in Brighton, & three so far in Edinburgh – but God did create the world in six days! Apparently there have been changes made after every edition, which indicates a serious sense of professionalism in an extremely unserious setting. Welcome to Scissors Palace, ran by the deep-tann’d, bling-jangling, Vogue wannabe Pamela Jones (Donna Gray). Its Salon Of the Year awards time, & she’s pulling out all the stops with an ubersassy Classical Greece theme.

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Also working at the Salon are Tiffany (Katie Grace Cooper) & Bronwen (Ayesha Tansey), one gregarious, one demure; both top actresses & all together the complete trio, when not pulling off proper bangin’ Beyonce-level dance routines, positively bounce off each other & the classy script & roleplays created by the funny-bone knocking Katie Grace Cooper. 

We’re working with an all female cast (even directed by a lady) and we’re looking at topics that are affecting women today – age, beauty, the pressures of being a woman, strength, weakness, vulnerability. It’s just about being human in an unforgiving world but it definitely brushes cheeks with feminism. It’s also so much fun!
Read the full interview…

Your reviewer completely fascinated with the absolute mayhem that erupts towards this brilliant show’s conclusion

Interactive Theatre International are the guys behind the ever-brilliant Fawlty Towers & the Wedding Reception. The one drawback is that with those shows being food-inclusive, a few folk are priced out of the superslick comedy acting of the ITI contingent. On the other hand, Pamela’s Palace is a much more doable £15 – there’s a glass of bubbly & some nibbles thrown in too – which is a price well worth paying to see the same actresses in action who pull off so well the ladies in the Wedding Reception, & Sibyl in Fawlty Towers. Indeed, Pamela is quite simply the Sibyl of this millennium, & lets hope the dangerous drama that is her Palace runs & runs like the others. As for this Fringe, the volcano has only just exploded, & the lava has not yet set. One expects as the ladies find their feet & the full measure of their personal & audience interactions, the show will just get better & smoother &… well… I’ve just seen it & its wonderful stuff!

Damo

five-stars

An Interview with Steve Attridge

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Steve Attridge is a very cool guy indeed & his theatre is, dare we say it, even cooler. The Mumble were lucky enough to catch a wee blether…


Hello Steve, & welcome back to Edinburgh, how has your year been?
Steve: Hello to you. Been a great year. Went to Komodo Island in Indonesia to see the Komodo dragons, the big cannibalistic dinosaurs that can grow up to three metres and look at you with Neanderthal contempt. On the island you get up close to them – health and safety doesn’t exist, which is refreshing. Also went to Cambodia and did volunteer work with elephants in the jungle. Fell in love with them all. Was exhausting – temperatures of 40C – and exhilarating. Also got a few plays written which are doing the rounds. Been working on a book.

Last year you brought Dick in Space to the Fringe, how did it all go?
Steve: Very good experience. Was my first time so I learnt a lot – what to do, what not to do. Some excellent reviews. People liked the show and I’ve performed it since. One bad review but I can safely say that it’s been taken care of and the body will never be found.

What have you got for us this year?
Steve: Ron the Plumber meets God-Cilla. One man show. Part of the Free Fringe.

That’s quite an interesting title; where & when did the idea come from?
Steve: Ron first appeared a few years ago in a comedy review I wrote and performed. Audiences really liked him so it was always in my mind to write a one man show for him. I wanted a showcase for him – a bit of narrative with an episodic mix of stand up, comedy character and bits of theatre. An OCD character on the rampage through the pipes and cisterns of the nation in a quest to destroy something evil.

And now the all important question, you’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Steve: They would be Judas Iscariot, Charles Darwin and Marie Lloyd. Starter would be unleavened bread and oil – Judas would appreciate this because it was what was eaten at the Last Supper. Mains would fish and Darwin could tell us how it evolved and eventually turned into us. Dessert would be spotted dick and custard because Marie, as an East End girl, would appreciate it.

Can you tell us about your time working with John Cooper Clarke, & what did you learn from the experience?
Steve: I learnt to keep a show moving, create a persona, don’t take anything too seriously and don’t drink barley wine.

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OK back to Edinburgh; can you tell us about your stagecraft; the music, sound & stage design this year?
Steve: Tried to keep it simple. A few props, a few surprises, let the character carry the show and get rid of anything that overcomplicates or detracts from him.

How much of Steve Attridge is there in Ron the Plumber?
Steve: I’m obsessive (though not about plumbing), a bit anarchic and often carry things too far.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell Ron the Plumber VS God-Cilla to somebody in the street, what would you say?
Steve: Jokes hot from the porcelain with OCD deranged plumber Ron. Alarming suicides, traumatised French Poodles, exploding toilets, God disappearing, disastrous sign language dating and rabid Nazi bath taps. No better way to spend forty five minutes than to dance the thin line between sanity and ballcock derangement with Ron.

For someone performing their own show for the first time at the Fringe, what advice do you have for them?
Steve: Pace yourself.

What will you be doing after the Fringe?
Steve: Going to Spain to write, play tennis and drink wine.


Ron the Plumber meets God-Cilla

The Loft, The Counting House
Aug 2-17th  (13.30)

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www.steveattridge.com

The combination of Steve’s genuine quality & a cleverly thought-out, gag-punctuated, innuendo-pregnant script brings dividends – Mumble Theatre four-stars.png 

An Interview with Hayden Wood

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Interactive Theatre International serve up both good food & brilliant theatre at the same time. They’re bringing four shows to the Fringe this year, & the Mumble managed a wee blether with one of the cast of the very hilarious The Wedding Reception…


Hello Hayden so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Hayden: Home is the Lincolnshire countryside, between Stamford and Grantham. At the moment though, I am living in London.

When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
Hayden: I was terrified of getting on a stage until I was about 10. I ended up playing the Dame in a school pantomime, and that show pretty much made me do a 180! I performed in plays time to time throughout secondary school, but going to University is when it became a true passion for me.

Can you tell us about your theatrical training?
Hayden: I actually didn’t go to Drama School. I studied History at The University Of York. About half way through my studies I started working as an actor professionally. I’ve always been a firm believer of on-the-job learning. I spent a lot of time self-motivating: reading books on theory, keeping my eyes (and ears) open for opportunities, talking with other actors. The biggest thing was trying to keep realistic self-assessments, and finding new ways to grow and develop.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
Hayden: That’s easy – Forrest Gump, Drive and Liar Liar. Unless an eleven season Frasier marathon also counts as a movie?

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What does Hayden Wood like to do when he’s not being creative?
Hayden: Is coffee a hobby? Actually, I am into loads of things! I’m a big reader and chain-listen to podcasts, but music is a serious passion of mine. I love discovering new artists and going to gigs, or just staying home and noodling around on my own instruments. I’m also very into sport, and I maintain a weekly (ish) football and culture blog called The Armchair Journeyman. Oh, and travel; you can’t beat a good city break.

Can you tell us about your time with Belt Up Theatre?
Hayden: I worked for Belt Up between 2009 and 2012. That was when most of the ensemble and artistic directors (including myself) lived up in York. I originated roles in Outland, Lorca Is Dead, Odyssey and Octavia and performed in The Boy James, The Tartuffe and various others. I went to Edinburgh Fringe with Belt Up in 2010 and 2011 – which was great. I also co-wrote the music (with Alexander Flanagan-Wright) for Belt Up’s first musical; The Beggar’s Opera, and composed bits and bobs for the company’s various other shows. It was an incredibly special time in my life, and one that’s given me some of my very dearest friends. Belt Up allowed me to cut my teeth as an actor, and grow as a person. I even met my girlfriend working on a Belt Up show. I’m getting all sentimental thinking about it now! I could go on and on and on, but I won’t bore you. I’ll only say this; without the opportunities and experiences afforded me by working for that company, and the people I met, I wouldn’t have become a professional actor or the performer I am today.

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You have been with Interactive Theatre International for less than a year, how did you get involved & how are you finding it so far?
Hayden: I got involved by swapping jobs with a man who looks like me. I’d been in the West End cast of The Play That Goes Wrong for a year and- at the end of my contract- the actor who took over the role I had been playing mentioned I might be interested in auditioning for the job he was stepping away from. That actor was a tall mustachioed man called Jack Baldwin and that job was playing Basil in Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. I had my first FTTDE gig in August 2017, and started on The Wedding Reception: Confetti & Chaos in February of this year. It’s been an incredible year working for ITI. I’ve made some great friends, met some extraordinary performers and creators, been to Antigua, twice to Australia and all over the UK. More to the point, it’s a real pleasure to work on two shows which I think are genuinely fantastic. I’ve made some great memories and am looking forward to plenty more in the coming years. The company genuinely feels like a big family. Everyone supports one another in all their endeavors.

This Fringe you will be bringing The Wedding Reception to Edinburgh, can you tell us about the Show?
Hayden: Will and Stacey have just got married and are not expecting a wedding reception. Fortunately (for us, perhaps less so for the happy couple) Stacey’s parents have organised a surprise party with all their friends and loved ones (the audience). As the evening unfolds, laughs are had, drinks are drunk, and old stories and secrets bubble to the surface. All nine of the characters (played by the four of us) want the evening to go well for Will and Stacey but- as well all know- the best laid plans…. There’s an immense amount of heart and warmth in the show, it’s fast-paced and really funny. And the audience get a three course meal. What’s not to love?

Do you & the cast socialise outwith rehearsals?
Hayden: We tour all over the place, which is a lovely way to bond with people. Many an ITI friendship has been forged over a post-show pint in a hotel bar in the middle of nowhere. And we all go to see each other’s shows outside of ITI as well. I’m organising a rounders game for the Fringe crew. The Basils have a Whatsapp group too! We keep busy, as a group. Come to think of it, I might suggest a Fantasy Football league…

How will you know & feel when you have just given a good performance?
Hayden: In both Faulty Towers The Dining Experience and The Wedding Reception, I think it’s about two things; rhythm and audience connection. Both shows have a great collective rhythm which builds throughout. When it sits right, it’s like flying. The audience connection is even more important in these shows than most I’ve worked on, because we’re so physically close to people, and because we encourage participation. No two shows are the same so a good performance, to me, feels like one in which audience and actors have been united in a journey and experience. It’s our job to be open and receptive to our audience and, in a way, all the audience need to do is relax and let themselves be taken on a journey. I love it when, playing Ricky (the best man in The Wedding Reception), an audience member asks a question of genuine interest about my past life with Will, the groom. That’s a lovely feeling, because it means that person has given themselves over to the story we’re telling. They know they’re watching actors, they know they’ve bought a ticket, and yet they are prepared to suspend their disbelief and go along with whatever we throw their way. A show in which people do that – partly because of our work and partly because of their willingness – always feels like a good show to me.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street, what would you say?
Hayden: It’s a big-hearted and chaotic two-hour story about love, growth and how nobody’s quite perfect, but most people are pretty bloody wonderful. It has singing, dancing, a three course meal and underpants! There is super-fast multi-rolling, razor sharp comedic timing and just the right amount of audience participation! Silliness, warmth and a lovely bit of escapism is promised and I guarantee there is not another show quite like it at The Fringe this year. Did I mention the underpants?

What will you be doing after the Fringe?
Hayden: I’m busy busy with ITI in the autumn, going to Wales, the Lake District and Gibraltar. In November and December I’ll be playing Burke in Burke and Hare (another Edinburgh connection) at Jermyn Street Theatre in London. We originally did the show at The Watermill, so it’ll be great to give it a second life at Christmas!


The Wedding Reception

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Venue 119: Principal Edinburgh George Street, 19-21 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PB

Dates: 2-27 August 2018 daily

Times: all performances at 6pm, ex 4 Aug at 5pm and 8 Aug at 7:30pm.

Tickets – all tickets include 3-course meal and 2-hour show:

– Friday-Saturday dinner: £45.00 (peak).
– all other shows: £42.00 (off-peak).

www.interactivetheatre.com.au

An Interview with Katie Grace Cooper

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Interactive Theatre International are bringing four shows to the Fringe this year, & the Mumble managed a glass of bubbly & a wee blether with the creator of their newest piece, Pamela’s Palace…


Hello Katie, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Katie: I was born a Suffolk lass but soon migrated to Essex where I really embraced the local culture.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
Katie: When I was five I was given the role of Burlington Bertie from Bow. I wore a moustache and had a cane. I was awesome. I still remember the song “I’m Burlington Bertie, I rise at 10:30 and saunter along like a toff”. And I fell in love from there.

Can you tell us about your training in the clowning arts?
Katie: A while ago I heard about this performance technique where you look right at the audience and ask “do you love me?” I remember thinking how awfully pretentious that sounded, but also AMAZING. The connection and sensitivity with the audience felt important so I needed to know more. I started to see performers like Doctor Brown, Trygve Wakenshaw, Julien Coutereau and I was in love. I decided to embarked on this (frankly, incredible) journey and I had the honour of learning from clown and comedy masters like Gaulier, Cal McCrystal, Paul Hunter and Mick Barnfather. That’s not even an exhaustive list. In a lot of ways I still feel at the beginning of my journey. I think I will always feel that way – the more you learn, the more you realise how much there is that you don’t know.

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What is it about performing live that makes you tick?
Katie: I think there is something in those magical moments when things go wrong, or not quite according to plan. In a lot of ways, it’s a relief for the audience because everyone can relate to failure; and for me, sitting in the comfort of failure, embracing the fragility and unpredictability of performance is when I am most vulnerable and feel most connected to the audience.

You are a lady of versatility & talent, but what does Katie Grace Cooper like to do when she’s not being a creative polymath?
Katie: My fella and I live on a boat, so on my down time we love to travel up and down on the canal!

You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Katie: Blimey! That’s a good one. Hmmmmm. So Emma Thompson is definitely one. I would ask her to perform her beautiful scene in Love Actually with the Joni Mitchell CD. Jill Soloway, who is the writer of epic series Transparent. I would basically try to network and smooze my large (but perfectly formed) behind to get a role in her next series. And finally, Millie Bobby Brown, the Stranger Things star. I would definitely request that she arrived as Eleven. And, obviously it’s a PIZZA PARTY! All the way. Coke floats for dessert.

You have been with Interactive Theatre International for almost three years, how did you get involved & how are you finding it so far?
Katie: My very dear friend, Oliver Harrison, who has been playing Manuel in Faulty Towers The Dining Experience for a few years, informed me that they were auditioning for the bride in The Wedding Reception. So I went along to an audition and was very lucky to be given the job!

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This Fringe you are part of Pamela’s Palace, in fact you co-wrote & devised it. Can you tell us about the show?
Katie: I love this show! It’s an interactive comedy set in a hairdressers. We’re working with an all female cast (even directed by a lady) and we’re looking at topics that are affecting women today – age, beauty, the pressures of being a woman, strength, weakness, vulnerability. It’s just about being human in an unforgiving world but it definitely brushes cheeks with feminism. It’s also so much fun! There are dance routines, original music and three really funny women.

Are you excited about bringing your creative brain-child to the Fringe?
Katie: The most excited I have ever been. There is nothing like coming to the Fringe with a show you are really proud of. We are really, truly proud of Pamela’s Palace.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street, what would you say?
Katie: This is a comedy show with sharp jokes, good dancing, and your ticket includes free bubbles and nibbles!!!!

Can you describe the experience of performing at the Fringe in a single sentence?
Katie: The most mentally and emotionally challenging month, but also the best experience of your life!

What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Katie Grace Cooper?
Katie: Touring Pamela’s Palace around the world! Well, maybe not the world, but we are hoping to take her to Melbourne Comedy Fringe and Adelaide next year.


Pamela’s Palace

Venue 119: Principal Edinburgh George Street, 19-21 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PB

Dates: 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27 August 2018

Times: all performances at 9pm, doors 8:30pm.

Tickets – all tickets include 1-hour show, nibbles and a glass of bubbles: £25.00

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www.interactivetheatre.com.au

Six Inches of Topsoil, and the Fact it Rains

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Birnam Institute, Dunkeld
10th May 2018

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Melody Grove (2).jpegThere’s a story about a farmer who meets a traveller on the road and the traveller asks what the people in the next village are like. The farmer asks how the traveller found the people in the last village he came through. “Oh! They were a rough lot. They were mean and ignorant!” replies the traveller. “Well,” says the farmer, “the people in the next village are even worse!” A little later the farmer meets a traveller coming in the opposite direction to the first. This traveller asks the same of the farmer as the first (this being a folk tale) and the farmer asks the same question as before. “They were the kindest of people” answers the second traveller. “I am only sorry I could not have stayed there a little longer.” The farmer grins, “Well I think you’ll find the people in the next village to be even better than that.” Farmers often embody a wisdom that would seem to be at odds with the ‘fashionable’ ways of the urban world. They literally are a source for playwright Kieran Hurley’s most recent work ‘Six Inches of Topsoil and the Fact it Rains’.

Last Spring, Hurley and Perth Theatre’s artistic director Lu Kemp went round Perthshire interviewing rural people, asking them how living on the land in the present-day compared with how it was twenty years ago. They asked what their hopes and fears for the future were, living as we all are in a time of great political, social and environmental change. The responses were distilled into this entertaining and thought-provoking little one act performance played by Melody Grove and Aly Macrae. In a recent interview with the Mumble, Hurley gave his own take on the research process;

Kieran-HurleyThe idea for the show started with Lu wanting to make a piece for and about rural Perthshire. The idea of doing a verbatim play came about because we’d worked together on another verbatim piece, still in development, for a theatre down south and we’d both gotten a lot out of it. Verbatim theatre basically just means a play based on real life materials, usually interviews. So we made this piece about the farming industry, basically by driving around rural Perthshire, following leads and speaking to people. Farmers, mostly. But also food campaigners, journalists, seasonal workers, storytellers… It might sound quite narrow, talking about farming but the amazing thing is becomes a jumping off point for such a broad range of issues. Talking about the food industry means talking about climate change, about Brexit, about how we use and share this land that we all have to live off, how we produce enough food for us all to be able to eat. Really big, fundamental stuff. And because it’s a verbatim play it’s full of this distinctive voices and witty and unique perspectives.

The Birnam Arts Centre was packed out on Thursday night to see Grove and Macrae. The audience sang along to familiar songs and music and possibly recognised some of the local characters Macrae and Grove so artfully brought to life in this wonderfully intimate venue. There was a real sense of a community celebrating itself throughout the performance, hearing itself talking to itself about what, to it, is important.

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Macrae and Grove presented a host of voices, explaining what they love about farming, how Brexit will affect their ways of living and what their fears are for how farming will have to change in order to respond to climate change, migration and overcrowding. This was interweaved with songs and music, all performed by the duo. Some of the voices give contradictory opinions and present opposing views of the challenges of the future, and one would expect that from a vox pop style of production. But through the multitude of opinions and stories there was a sense that, thankfully, farmers take the long view. Things will have to change. Our politicians and landowners may have some sleepless nights and difficult choices ahead as we pull out of the EU and have to think about how land gets used to feed a population instead of being used by a privileged few for huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’. However, the relationship to time and to the land would seem to some of those things that remain steady through these changes. “Live as if you were going to die tomorrow” says one of Macrae’s characters, “but farm for a hundred years.”

‘Six Inches of Topsoil’ is travelling round Perthshire venues at the moment. If it is near you and you want an evening that will make you laugh, smile and also think a bit about some serious questions, then make sure you see it.

Review: Mark Mackenzie
Photography: Fraser Band

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