The 39 Steps

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Sat 9th June
Murthly Village Hall

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This is the ninth season that Dundee Rep have taken theatre into the community to various local venues. This year, director Irene Macdougall and the ensemble are revisiting familiar community venues and have added some new ones to the itinerary. There is something quite magical in the idea of a touring theatre and this Saturday night performance was packed. There was certainly a bit of a buzz amongst the audience as the hall filled up before the lights went down.

The 39 Steps being one of my all-time favourite movies (Hitchcock’s 1935 version, not any of the lacklustre remakes), I was keen to see what Dundee Rep’s ensemble would make of this classic Buchan ripping yarn. Would this Richard Hannay be a suave prototype James Bond, who takes his ladies’ kisses without asking? Or perhaps the comic Hannay of Simon Corble’s 1996 stage reboot? And how do you squeeze a tale that starts in a London music hall, steams up the Northern Line to Scotland and back to London again onto a stage (little Murthly village hall stage at that)?

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Dundee Rep’s Joe Landry’s 39 Steps takes the conceit of a radio ‘play within a play’. As the lights go down the familiar pips of Greenwich time signal give way to the clipped tones of a Radio Scotland announcer introducing ‘tonight’s live performance’ of Buchan’s play in front of ‘a live audience’ – Hey that’s us! As the action progresses there were moments when, if one closed one’s eyes, one could easily have been listening to a radio drama from the nineteen thirties. Sound effects, mostly all produced ‘live’ by the five actors on stage, were a great part of the pleasure of listening as the familiar plot unfolded.

Ewan Donald’s Hannay is a delightfully upper crust rogue. Dressed for the part in tweeds and brogues, and with an accent that could cut a bar-full of glasses, he playfully keeps up the conceit of the nineteen thirties radio actor playing Richard Hannay. Emily Winter’s Annabella Smith/Pamela are just as playfully done. The awkwardly stifled romantic spark between Hannay and Pamela is the source of much magically amusing moments. Barrie Hunter takes, among a plethora of roles, the character of Professor Jordan to ‘evil genius’ proportions. Billy Mack and Ann Louise Ross take up the remaining cast with some excellent quick-change vocal acrobatics. At points in the action it’s hard to believe that there were only five actors on stage.

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For me, and the appreciative audience in Murthly village hall, much of the comedy of the play was in watching the cast provide the sound effects. Look (or listen) out for the barking dog with excellent comic timing, and the flock of sheep. The excellent sound production never overtakes the plot, and, being created live, is a reminder, like the two old style BBC microphones at front of stage, that this is a radio performance being recreated on stage.

Dundee rep are currently touring venues around Dundee, Angus, Fife and Perthshire until Saturday 23rd Jun. If you want to be seriously entertained for an evening then look out for your nearest venue and get along. The ticket price is worth it twice over!

Mark Mckenzie

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TOUR DATES TO COME

 June  Venue  Book Tickets
Thu 14 Dibble Tree Theatre, Carnoustie  01241 853946
Fri 15 Menzieshill Community Centre  01382 432967
Sat 16 Rio Community Centre, Newport  01382 543366
Tue 19 Kirriemuir Town Hall  Click here to book
Wed 20 Forfar Reid Hall  Click here to book
Thu 21 Maxwell Centre, Hilltown  01382 802628
Fri 22 Douglas Community Centre  01382 436944
Sat 23 Eassie and Nevay Hall  01307 840839

www.dundeerep.co.uk/event/the-39-steps

An Interview with John R Wilkinson

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Talking Heads is coming to the West Yorkshire Playhouse this week. The Mumble managed to catch a wee chat with one of its directors…


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Hello John, so where are you from & where do you live? Hello John, so where are you from & where do you live? 
John: Hello.  I am from Leeds, albeit its murkier backwater – Wetherby to be exact, where I still live.  One of the great thing about Talking Heads is all three co-directors are from the North.  Well, Amy’s from Lancashire but we’ll forgive her that.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre, and what, for you, makes a good piece of theatre?
John: My mum’s always been involved in light opera, so it probably stems from that.  Also, I used to be an avid Masters of the Universe collector when I was little, so imagining all sorts of scenarios with He-Man and Skeletor probably helped as well.  A good piece of theatre for me includes various things.  There’s got to be a real element of mystery, or discovery if you like, in it.  You should leave asking as many questions as you’ve had answered.  It should improve your perspective on the world around you.  I often talk about productions finding an “active somnolence” – a kind of hypnotic quality.  They should call.  You should respond.  They should soothe and mend you in doing so.

Can you tell us about your studies?
John: I trained at Bretton Hall College and the Workshop Theatre, University of Leeds.

You are Director in Residence and Agent for Change at West Yorkshire Playhouse; can you tell us how you got the job & what your role is?
John: I was appointed in October 2017.  Aside from directorial responsibilities, the role is designed to support the creation of opportunities for other D/deaf and disabled creatives and setting up opportunities during Ramps on the Moon tours for local D/deaf and disabled artists to introduce themselves to their local theatre.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
John: 1 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)
2. Moneyball
3. Withnail and I

What does John R Wilkinson like to do when he’s not being creative?
John: Which is most of the time!  Let’s see: Well, James Brining and I cry over the current plight of Leeds United.  Netflix, Books (Historical Fiction, Sports Biographies) and Cycling.  I’ve also just had Botox – in my legs, not my face!

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Marlene Sidaway performing in LS14

You’re directing Talking Heads at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. What’s exciting about this project?
John: It’s very special for various reasons: It’s the last show in the Courtyard before the Playhouse undergoes redevelopment.  It’s also my first time directing in my home theatre, and the opportunity to co-direct with James and Amy is really exciting.  We’re each of us working with fantastic, generous actors.  As you may know, four of the monologues have already been on tour around Leeds, so it’s great to offer them out to our community.  It also means we can present a very different show, putting them all together on stage in one big production.

Do you & the cast socialise outside of rehearsals?
John: Yes, we had a party last Saturday, actually!

What does the rest of 2018 have in store for John R Wilkinson?
John: Immediate priorities?  My sister’s getting married at the end of next month and I’m looking forward to the World Cup!

Photography : Anthony Robling


TALKING HEADS IS SHOWING AT THE WYP

JUNE 14th-23rd 2018

BUY TICKETS HERE

The Vampire Clinic

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
28th May – 2nd June

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You may have speculated why appointments with doctors in surgeries or hospital clinics, never seem to keep to schedule. Why is it you always have to sit around for ages? Is it a case of overworked staff and too little time? Or is it a deliberate ploy by the NHS, to give waiting patients the opportunity to get to know each other, to share detailed descriptions of ailments, to exchange life stories including the current state of conjugal interactions… and pick up new friends? Genius or what!

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Findlay (William McBain) has plenty to contemplate as he sits in a bleak waiting room surrounded by Health Service flyers warning about the symptoms of heart disease. Sadie (Barbara Rafferty) has been here before and she’s come to terms with the changes a stroke can bring to your life. She tells us, one night she “went to bed a warrior and woke up a worrier”. She recognises the fear in Findlay and is determined to cheer him up with some breezy, Glasgow, heart-attack, banter. As his story moves from grim descriptions of the night of his seizure and the effects of his condition, to Pythonesque flights of fancy, he and hot blooded Sadie find they have more in common than a medical condition requiring Warfarin.

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Rafferty’s Sadie is literally, a survivor, soliloquising about the nature of her stroke in some detail, explaining the changes it rent in her brain, the split she lives with, which on occasion, lets another woman occupy her head. That said she is determined to put a positive spin, or at least wobble, on whatever challenges life throws at her. McBain’s Findlay is less proactive, still finding it hard to believe what has happened to him and concerned about what kind of future awaits. Both actors seemed to struggled with their dialogue on occasions which the charitable might put down to characterisation.

Peter McDougal has written a dark comedy that doesn’t shy away from the stark consequences of what can happen to relationships after illness. But the humour is broad and unrefined, sounding at times as if it belongs to an earlier decade.

Fails to get the blood pumping.

David G Moffat

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An Interview with Isobel McArthur

Blood Of The Young will soon be bringing their summer blockbuster to the Tron in Glasgow. The Mumble managed to nab one of the team for a wee blether…


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Hello Isobel, so when did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
Isobel: Hiya Mumble. My very first involvement in the theatre was about age 8. I joined the local youth drama group. It was badly organised and, of course, all the output was terrible – but there is something useful about getting up on a stage as soon as you can to help you figure out who you are and how performance works. It’s probably good to be getting it wrong when it really doesn’t matter.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
Isobel: I was very lucky in that my parents took me to see a few plays when I was a kid. The theatre was instantly the most magical place I’d ever been. I wanted to watch, read and do as many plays as possible.

Can you tell us about your studies?
Isobel: I did a degree in Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow and then trained as an actor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Isobel: Of course there needs to be room and provision for many different kids of theatre but personally I believe it is in theatre’s own interest to be generous, uplifting, accessible, thought-provoking and above all else, entertaining. If a piece of theatre doesn’t entertain as its first function, I don’t think it has the right to demand any attention from an audience.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
Isobel: Just three copies of the film Castaway. For tips. No – I’m joking. I know precious little about film, if I’m honest. I suppose it would be important to be able to watch them a few times. I’d probably want to do the occasional bit of head-scratching, but mostly to be moved to laughter or tears if I don’t have any other company. Probably Un Prophete for a think, Duck Soup for a laugh and – this is a bit of a cheat -but I’d like to have the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy as my final choice. For the feels.

What does Isobel McArthur like to do when she’s not being creative?
Isobel: That’s a funny way of looking at it. I suppose I feel like hobbies need to be creative to be interesting at all. I’m daft about cooking. I occasionally do a bit of crafty stuff, sewing etc. Obviously life since drama school has, in large part, been made up of pulling pints, bringing people their breakfasts or doing mind-numbing promo jobs. But a good imagination helps get you through.

Can you tell us about Blood of the Young?
Isobel: Blood of the Young are a Glasgow-based ensemble theatre company. The company hold regular ensemble training days to build complicity and they make bold work with an emphasis on striking visuals, live music, ensemble movement and fun. We’re currently the National Theatre of Scotland company in residence.

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Anneke Kampman performing in ‘Daphne Oram’s Wonderful World of Sound’, Tron Theatre, 2017

How did you get involved & what is your role in the company?
Isobel: We formed when we left drama school. My role is usually one of writer-performer. I contributed a short play to BOTY’s first show Golden Arm Theatre Project, and I wrote both Daphne Oram’s Wonderful World of Sound and Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of). I also perform in these shows. But in BOTY, there is an emphasis on collaboration, whoever you are. That can mean different things in practice but we will always establish a relationship with everyone on the project that means anyone can question, contribute and offer up new ideas. I believe we have a stronger critical eye when we work together in this way – we are more discerning and the work can then encompass a wider breath of tastes, senses of humour, artistic inclinations etc. It means it’s all the more important that the team are supportive, respectful of each other and open-minded, of course – but if everyone’s compassionate and just wants to make the best show possible, this works really well.

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One of your creations will be moving into the Tron for a few weeks at the end of June, can you tell us about the play you have fashioned?
Isobel: Aye, the play is called Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) and it is an adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel to be performed by an all-female ensemble of 5. The show features all the big-hitters from the original story, but it also shines a light on some of the characters below-stairs who usually get overlooked. It will be a colourful, dynamic, multi-rolling show with karaoke and disco balls. If we get it right, it shouldn’t matter whether the audience have ever heard of Austen. It will simply be a funny love story, entertainingly told that anyone can enjoy as a great night out.

Does Jane Austen still hold a relevance to the modern mind?
Isobel: For many, Austen novels represent a stuffy and inaccessible corner of the bookshelf that they were banished to once in school. I sympathise with that view. They can be challenging reads because, frankly, there are lengthy periods in Austen novels where it seems like nothing is happening. But she is a genius and always laying a path for something explosive. That required patience, however. And how many of us have that these days? This has to be a show that can be enjoyed in its fullest without anyone needing prior knowledge of the novel. Hopefully everyone can feel they have a stake in this world because, of course, it’s hugely relevant. In Pride & Prejudice, all the women are victims of the historical period they find themselves in. Women are unable to inherit anything from their parents – they need to marry a man to do it for them. These miserable circumstances land the women in various impossible situations, often making them either turn on each other or surrendering their core values for lack of any other option. In this way, nothing could be more relevant than the horrors faced by women when they are regarded as second-class citizens. Beyond that, however, this particular novel is also about the importance understanding yourself and others better in order to question preconceptions and ultimately reach the kind of understanding with another human being which could be called ‘true love’. It is about building bridges of understanding, admitting when we’re wrong, questioning our own prejudices and trying to see the world from someone else’s perspective. I wish that weren’t all still so painfully relevant.

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Paul Brotherston (right)

How is director Paul Brotherston finding working with the play?
Isobel: I think this would be a challenging play for anyone to direct. There are about 120 named characters and multiple locations in the original novel – and we need to tell a tight version of the story using only 5 actors. However, we have assembled a great team and are just as excited by the many challenges as we are petrified by them. This show will be a lot of fun. It’s a romantic comedy! So I trust the playfulness in the room will make for a really enjoyable process for all. Paul is perfectly placed to direct it – it’s very much a Blood of the Young-style piece.

What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Isobel McArthur, Blood of the Young & Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of)?
Isobel: Hopefully our show will enjoy a good run in Glasgow. Who knows if it will have a future after that – we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll continue to write after this but principally I’ll be going off to act in a large-scale project. As for BOTY, we will continue to train and begin development of our next project. More on all that anon!


Pride & Prejudice*
*sort of

The Tron , Glasgow
28th June – 14th July 2018

BUY TICKETS HERE

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www.bloodoftheyoung.org

The First Dance

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
14th-19th May

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Real men don’t watch, top chick-flick, Dirty Dancing. They may have sat in a room when the DVD was playing but they were not looking. Most probably their thoughts were about something entirely masculine, like the sweaty, raw, grappling, physicality of a scrum at rugby. This could be a problem for Rhoda as she plans the ‘first dance’ at her upcoming wedding, because fiancé Terry is an oval ball enthusiast and a bit of a man’s man, not too keen on Terpsichore. To realise her big day’s dream of recreating the leaping finale in the 1980s film, she seeks the assistance of dance tutor Gavin. His theatrical posturing is not to Terry’s taste and the latter displays his homophobia by directing a shocking epithet at the instructor (cue sharp intake of breath from the audience). Regardless of this, a determined Rhoda will have her way. But there’s another problem, due to their strict religious beliefs, the couple cannot engage in anything involving close proximity, until after they’ve exchanged wedding vows. Adaptable Gavin will have to partner each separately. In this case it takes three to tango; he will be Patrick Swayze’s ‘Johnny’ for Rhoda… and Jennifer Grey’s ‘Baby’ for Terry.

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Darren Brownlie’s Gavin is a versatile delight, whether gathering himself in grief, sorrowfully owning the silences, or twisting, flexing, bending (has the man no ligaments) while delivering waspish retorts to any slights. Jo Freer’s Rhoda is the kind of woman who wears the trousers. Not only that, she keeps the Wedding Fund bank card and its PIN number, in the pocket of those trousers. She envisions a precise, fundamental future for herself and the man she hopes to create. Think Lady Macbeth but without the milky kindness. Daniel Cahill’s Terry is caught up in events, struggling with doubts about his upcoming marriage, trying to realise exactly who he is. A solid fortress of a man anxious not to have his drawbridge lowered.

Martin McCormick’s play, a satisfying mixture of the serious and comic, entertains right through to its uplifting conclusion. You’ll have the time of your life.

David G Moffat

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The Girl on the Train

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West Yorkshire Playhouse
Leeds
Until Saturday 9th June

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I approached “The Girl on the Train” knowing nothing about it other than that it was an adaptation of a best selling thriller by Paula Hawkins and that it had already been adapted into a film. I was expecting something of an Agatha Christie style who-done-it by way of Steig Larrson but what I got was far richer and challenging than that.

The play opens onto a bare anonymous space in grey and blue tones as a woman lies in a crumpled heap on the floor. ‘Is she the first victim?’ I wonder but no the dishevelled figure rises and begins to clear up the debris of an apparent party. This is our heroine, Rachel a troubled young woman self medicating the pain away of a difficult break-up with lashings of alcohol. As she teeters on the edge of mental collapse she finds escape from her own drama through the mysterious disappearance of a neighbour.

Rachel becomes embroiled in the investigation itself and finds herself gradually slipping further into obsession as she becomes compelled to discover the truth of the missing woman. Her amateur sleuthing brings her into contact with various characters who are not necessarily what they appear from the woman’s distraught husband, Scott to her condescending therapist, Kamal to her own seemingly kindly and understanding ex husband, Tom. All the while she is trailed in her enquiries by the wryly cynical D.I Gaskill, who though at first dismisses her as a troublesome crank soon comes to suspect her own motivations.

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Though it’s plot has the requisite twists and turns one might expect from a superior thriller it soon became clear that this play was far more than that. As Rachel herself refers to her alcohol blackouts’ and lapses in memory it became apparent that for all the guess who fun to be had the play is as much a meditation on the unreliable nature of memory as it is a conventional thriller. All of the characters have something to hide not only from each other but also from themselves as the lies, half truths and unclear memories pile up to reveal how we all twist the past to help construct our identities. The missing woman herself, Meghan appears only in flashback as we see her as a kind of brittle ghost, something of a mystery to even those closest to her. These scenes are beautifully staged, the lighting shifting to a subdued nocturnal blue, the characters standing stock still as the memories are played out and they look on like the audience frozen and unable to intervene.

The production design in general adds a great deal to the atmosphere of the play. There is particularly impressive yet subtle use of sound and lighting throughout which are used to effectively suggest the different environments and moods from the grey starkness of Rachel’s lonely flat to the warm fuzzy light of Scott’s living room. The way the scene changes are signalled by a flash of dark blues and blacks and the accompanied discordant white noise of train-song is also a powerful touch. The colours of the set, all washed out greys and blues are mimicked by the drab colours of the characters outfits which emphasise that we are in ‘any-town’ UK, a place of conformity and blandness which masks a darkness beneath the surface ready to bleed out onto all that sepia.

The set itself is also excellent, built as it is from a series of frames, the outer bright neon cleverly mimicking the rounded edges of a train carriage window the innermost one a modern art painting which draws the eye to the gaping black hole at its centre, a symbol of Rachel’s fragmented memory and the mystery at the heart of the play.
Though this is certainly a dark play tackling complex themes it is not without a sense of humour and the script has plenty of fun ribbing the social aspirations of Tom and his new wife or at times the convoluted machinations of the plot itself.

Though the thoroughly engaging first half of the play ends powerfully- the stage literally dropping back from us as if we the audience are falling into a grave – it is in the second half that goes further into its questions on the nature of identity and memory. Though the script and staging is excellent it is of course the cast who breathe it into life. They do a great job of making their roles believable and naturalistic. Colin Tierney as D. I Gaskill turns what could have been a world- weary cliché into a twinkle-eyed charmer whilst Florence Hall as Meghan creates genuine poignancy from a role which in lesser hands could have been a mere cypher. Yet the show really belongs to the central performance of Rachel by Ill Halfpenny. Played with a humour, charm and sassiness which still manages to capture the sense of rage, desperation and self-loathing bubbling under the surface Halfpenny’s performance is an exemplary study of a woman just about holding it together. It leaves us as the audience rooting for this angry, confused and vulnerable woman as she, through the course of the play grows in strength and understanding gradually coming to terms with the truth of her own past.

Ian Pepper

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Chic Murray: A Funny Place for a Window

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
14th-19th May

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Imagine you’re in Scotland. The bells to welcome Ne’erday are still echoing across the frosty rooftops when there’s a knock at your door. You answer to see a large man with an avuncular smile wearing a small bunnet. He hands you a twelve inch ruler and says, “Happy New Year, here’s your first foot.” Congratulations, you’re in a Chic Murray joke and there’s a wheen of his gags to be enjoyed in this entertaining comedy, written and directed by Stuart Hepburn.

Maidie, Chic’s wife, is looking through a box of old theatre bills, recalling when she first met the tall droll man while seeking theatrical digs at his mother’s house. Two years later they’re married and encouraged by his wife, Chic starts telling his jokes on stage. Initially a reluctant performer, Maidie gives him advice on technique, pointers on timing and soon his own style of surreal humour is getting attention from rapt audiences… and admiring chorus girls. As TV and film rolls beckon, he and Maidie start to drift apart.

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IMG_7662.JPGDave Anderson is Chic, punctuating the accentuated chimes of his dialogue with fractional pauses, delaying the entirely logical denouement that illustrates the absurd. (Obviously he can’t get you mince when he’s passing the butcher’s… he’d have to go inside.) From the arms that dangle as if Chic didn’t know what to do with them, to the narrowing eyes and rakish grin of collusion with his audience, all the Murray mannerisms are on display.

Kate Donnelly is Maidie, a woman keen to encourage and support her husband, willing to swap her successful singing, tap and accordion act to play second fiddle to Chic.
The ensemble is played by Brian James O’Sullivan, a Jack and master of all trades. He acts, sings, plays accordion and piano. His rectus grinning Liberace is a particular delight. The author, cast and Chic’s jokes, create an hour of comedy that gives everyone in the packed audience a lift… which (as the man himself would have said) is of precious little use to those who live in bungalows.

David G Moffat

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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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An Interview with Lindsay Corr

LEITHEATRE are bringing their production of Harold Pinter’s ever effervescent THE HOMECOMING to Edinburgh this week. The Mumble managed a wee blether with the lady who plays Ruth…


Hello Lindsay, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Lindsay: I was born and raised in Belfast, then moved to Edinburgh to study drama at University and just never left.

Treading the boards, as they say, is not your day job, can you tell us what is?
Lindsay: I’m Marketing and Communications Manager for TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) which is based at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. TRACS brings together networks of artists and cultural organisations in collaboration, to showcase and improve the knowledge and practice of Scotland’s traditional art forms. I am lucky to work in a beautiful venue which is welcoming and inclusive, with a wonderful variety of events showcased year-round, plus TRACS presents regional opportunities to engage with traditional culture, live.

Have you found your Celtic roots in Ireland have helped you to slot into the Scottish cultural scene?
Lindsay: Well, my maternal grandparents were Scottish, so a lot of the culture was immediately familiar to me. I was lucky enough to be raised with two siblings amongst a large family unit, with memories of everyone taking a turn on the hearth with a story, tune or dance at weekly gatherings at granny’s, so traditional folklore, music and dance has always fascinated and intrigued me. There’s a shared and intangible heritage between Scotland and Ireland, which is probably why the move across the water was an easy transition.

How do you find living in Edinburgh?
Lindsay: What is there not to love about this city! I could be negative and go on about Tramgate, student housing overload, lack of decent music venues, a Starbucks on Leith Walk and endless road works/closures, but that all pales in comparison to the culture available on your doorstep. I love the juxtaposition of the ancient and modern that makes up Edinburgh’s landscape, the shadow of Arthur’s Seat and the countless pockets of green spaces still available to soak up some nature. You could literally fill every day of the year with a cultural event or activity and that still only scratches the surface of what’s available.

Can you tell us about Leitheatre?
Lindsay: Leitheatre is an amateur theatre group based in Edinburgh, just off Easter Road, that was founded in 1946. They usually produce three full-length productions each year, performing at The Studio and Church Hill Theatre, plus a show during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at St. Serfs. They also take part in the Scottish Community Drama Association (SCDA) One Act Play Festival, with a consistently good record for places and wins in the competition. It’s a wonderful company to be involved with, plus the talent and enthusiasm amongst the members, in all areas of theatre involvement, is infectious.

Do you & the cast socialise outwith rehearsals?
Lindsay: If we aren’t too shattered! It’s a great way to unwind, get comfortable in each other’s company and discuss details of the show that there isn’t time for in the rehearsal room.

You are about to play Ruth in The Homecoming by Harold Pinter. Why this play?
Lindsay: It’s the director Lynne Morris’ favourite play and she’s wanted to stage it for ages. I am a fan of Harold Pinter’s work too, so knew I wanted to audition, and Ruth is an enigmatic character who intrigues me, so the opportunity and challenge of bringing her to life appealed.

That agelessness translates because Pinter never moralises or resolves situations, you’ll leave with questions buzzing in your head about the characters, their past and their future

Its been 41 years since The Homecoming won the Tony Award for Best Play on Broadway in 1967. How well has the play aged, especially the themes around the violence and exploitation of women?
Lindsay: I think in a lot of ways Pinter’s work is timeless because he’s a master of studying human interaction through the mundane. He is remembered as an outspoken social commentator, renowned for his witty put-downs, both in his real life and writing. Plus, it was nominated for a Tony for Best Broadway Revival too, showing its subject matter still resonates. That agelessness translates because Pinter never moralises or resolves situations, you’ll leave with questions buzzing in your head about the characters, their past and their future. In regards the views of exploitation and violence, that’s one interpretation but there’s many more scenarios possible in the reading and viewing of the piece. Pinter probes enough to make a conclusion of sexist and degrading or feminist and empowering both valid, the desire being to engage the psyche and start conversations. If anyone thought it inappropriate, I would argue that recent events make The Homecoming even more relevant for a contemporary audience to acknowledge issues of sexuality, exploitation and power. Plus look up Pinter’s own thoughts on the matter.

How will you know & feel when you have just given a good performance?
Lindsay: Well Ruth is a brilliant character to step into and forget being me! The rest of the cast are wonderfully talented, making it easy to play off them and get lost in the action as it’s happening. We’ve had a few rehearsals, with Leitheatre members observing, when everything “clicked” and you can feel the change in atmosphere, so when I sense that tingle, I’ll know the audience are enjoying this fascinating sixtet of characters with very real and often darkly comic traits.

What does the rest of 2018 have in store for Lindsay Corr & Leitheatre?
Lindsay: Leitheatre are straight back into the rehearsal room to prepare this year’s Fringe show, The Steamie by Tony Roper. This affectionately loved and hilarious comedy will be brilliant and the cast are brilliant. I am looking forward to being involved in the chorus for the show. Apart from that, it will be the day job for me, enjoying some concerts and festival events over the summer and making some time to visit my four adorable nieces.


THE HOMECOMING

Edinburgh’s Festival Studio Theatre

Wed 16 – Sat 19 May

Tickets £12 (£10) from Festival Theatre Box Office: 0131 529 6000

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BUY TICKETS HERE

An Interview with Roberta Zuric

THE FRINGE IS COMING. After their great success with All Quiet on the Western Front in 2017, Incognito are back with a new play. The Mumble managed a wee blether with its director…


12509790_10205617702786421_8151350053954073300_n.jpgHello Roberta, so when did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
Roberta:
My grandmother used to take me to the theatre as a child. I spent most of my teenage years dancing and performing in school plays which all eventually led to studying Drama at university.

When did you realise directing was your thing?
Roberta: I initially wanted to be an actress and went through the whole drama school application process. However, I realised very quickly at university that I preferred creating theatre and working with actors.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Roberta: Commitment to that particular story or form, and true collaboration.

What does Roberta Zuric like to do when she’s not being theatrical?
Roberta: I hope I’m never being too theatrical. Travelling is something that relaxes me.

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Can you tell us about Incognito?
Roberta: The rehearsals are always full of energy and laughter. I met the company back when they were 16 and it’s been a pleasure watching them go from strength to strength as a theatre company and evolve their style with so much panache. They’ve got big plans and huge potential as the company expands their associate artists. It’s been a joy being part of their journey.

Incognito Theatre Company - Tobacco Road (courtesy of Tim Hall Photography) (37)_preview

Last year you guys brought, All Quiet on the Western Front to the Pleasance Dome. How did it all go?
Roberta: It was the second time we were performing that play at the Fringe. The previous summer we had premiered All Quiet on the Western Front and it did extremely well, which led to us taking it to New York. It was a special play and one which we are all really proud of. That production was the beginning of exploring a new physical language we could use to storytelling, one that incorporates filmic elements. Tobacco Road is the next step of that exploration. With All Quiet on the Western Front, we realised very quickly how effective and moving pairing the right choreography with text can be. With that show, we had Remarque’s incredible story to work with so this time we wanted to challenge ourselves with original material and continue exploring the depths of our common human determination to survive.

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This year you will be bringing Tobacco Road, how & why was this play chosen?
Roberta: After All Quiet on the Western Front we were chatting about potential future projects and there was a unanimous wish to explore steering away from adaptation. A couple of the boys mentioned their interest in looking further into London’s criminal past and figures like the Krays twins. Then, of course, we were all watching Peaky Blinders and that inter-war period became quite alluring. We knew little about the history of London gangs so we began to do a lot of research and devising “Tobacco Road” through numerous workshops.

Incognito Theatre Company - Tobacco Road (courtesy of Tim Hall Photography) (18)_preview.jpeg

What are the play’s major themes?
Roberta: With current youth unemployment levels and the rising violent crimes amongst teenagers, it’s an important time to open up the discussion of how, and if, as a society, we are paving the way for future generations. The glass ceilings of social classes remain oppressive and debilitating to a huge portion of the UK’s young people. Our story is about what happens when those who are marginalised have had enough and decide to take ownership of their own lives and legacies.

With All Quiet on the Western Front, we realised very quickly how effective and moving pairing the right choreography with text can be. 

What do you want the audience to take away from the experience of watching Tobacco Road?
Roberta: Primarily we want it to be a really entertaining hour of theatre told through a dynamic and visual form of storytelling. I’d also like the piece to instigate conversation about how young people fall into a life of crime and whether that’s changed much since the 1920s.

Can you sum up the Fringe experience in a single sentence?
Roberta: Inspiring, intoxicating and testing.

What will Roberta Zuric be doing after the Fringe?
Roberta: Keep your eyes peeled because it might not be the end of Tobacco Road


Tobacco Road will be playing this Fringe at the Pleasance

Aug 1-13, 15-27 (15:15)

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www.incognitophysicaltheatre.com