‘Quarrel in Arles’ is a homage to the turn of the century Dutch Artist Vincent Van Gogh. Written by E. Thomalen, it was a no holds barred account of the fate full year 1888 of the artist’s life told from the horse’s mouth so to speak as it was a reading from letter of correspondence between Vincent, his brother Theo, Johanna Bonger (who was to marry Theo) and Paul Gauguin.
These letters are a point of reference of the past, and act like documents that unveil the history of some very important times for the art world. In good humour Vincent would write to his brother about his excitement always starting with ‘My dear Theo…’ and always ending expressing a hand shake of affection.
They were very close as brothers and friends and remained as pillars of support for each other. When we study Vincent in the modern world his letters are never far from exploration. The reading by Timothy Portnay, playing Vincent, Gauguin and Theo and Yumiko Gardener playing Johanna was coupled by only one picture on the screen that was a Van Gogh painting of a sunflower, perhaps chosen because it is one of the most relatable to date.
Separated into parts the year unfolded with event after event for the Van Gogh team. All of whom supported him as an artist unequivocally through turmoil not the least the fact that his paintings just wouldn’t sell. Listening to these letters show casing his thoughts we could step back and follow with no little joy’s and woe’s that were to reflect the artists moods and discrepancies.
He was in great excitement about his idea for an art colony in Arles; where he had moved after finding his legendarily famous yellow house, so called because its walls were painted yellow. In his faithful heart he wanted and indeed revered the idea that a fellow painter Paul Gauguin would head it.
The story went from France to Holland and vice versa as each told their stories via all these letters. Theo was also an art dealer and Vincent wanted him to paint as well, but the focus was on Vincent’s work. They described his paintings and theories with such an abundant joy that was as essential as breath.
And who now has not heard of this artist and therefore heard about his very fragile condition as a human being. And yes a vein darkness began to immerge. From the letter we realise that for him it was no joke. As we followed each story we could understand that not selling for him was a sadness that gripped him as vividly as cold air and hung around for just as long.
But his letters to his brother were filled with the excitement he felt and sure enough Gauguin decided to move to Arles to live with him at the Yellow house. The two tried to create a collaboration that would bring them together as great friends and towering Artists but things proved difficult and they found that in art and life they disagreed fiercely.
But Vincent’s problems were to worsen his paranoia grew too great to control and though Gauguin had great affection for the man he saw suffering he felt unsafe and even in fear for his life. At this point tears were gathering in my eyes I asked myself how can something so gracious be born of such suffering.
The Vincent we know of cut off part of his own ear, in the interests of sacrifice (putting it in a box to be kept), he recovered after time at an asylum but the storm that engulfed his life ended in terrible tragedy. And as this sadness extended its arm into me with force of nature his work only became more beautiful. Had he sold in his lifetime things may well have been different but I’m afraid it could not have assuaged his deteriorating life spiral. His gentility of work was some of the most harmoniously ever created at least that’s how I like to remember looking back at his life.
Roll up roll up, were the sentiments of ‘the Laurel and Hardy Cabaret’ as the duo stepped onstage. It was as if we had come across a portal to the past with posters of the two’s shows on the wall they sidled up in full Mimicking costumes. The scene was set for my online viewing of this year’s comedy at the Scenesavers festival.
In all politeness Ollie (Hardy) began by addressing the audience with the famed words of ‘Ladies and gentlemen’. So the comedy that poured out was with the use of props and stories from the duo’s real act from the 20’s to the 50’s of the twentieth century.
The nostalgic black and white films are something of a cult for comedy and film of the time but the show was thrown into a new disarray of timely responses and reactions. The audience were mostly children who from the sound of their laughter and cheering enjoyed it very much.
From this I could sit back with the job done of relinquishing the show and simply take it in because as a show it had its own merits. It let me appreciate the act and its nuances I also fairly recently saw the film ‘Stan and Ollie’ that portrayed their sensitive act which at times was like a roller coaster for the two.
Ollie’s pristine and well to do appearance would always want things clean and well presented while Stan always seemed to do his best at disrupting anything Ollie said. They used original jokes blended with fresh takes but were all about doing what the two did back then which was to really entertain on stage.
Their sweetness only grew as they merged into their gentle but slapstick roles. The story included their journeys within their act and without in their friendship off stage. They were two charming clowns in tie and waist coat with the legendary hats and Ollie’s tiny moustache.
In his innocent cajoling Stan’s antics were so many as to compile their own show, his work with a balloon was a turn of events as he let the air out to make that sound Ollie was left wandering where it was coming from.
It had begun with a skit about Stan’s driving licence application and the joke went into hilarity with clever word use so as to baffle Ollie who only wanted to help. It was just the right level of reflection so as to really get to grips with its wonderful homage. The original duos accomplishments and revelations of friendship had been and are still around today for our enjoyment, making them very famous conservative clowns.
With Ollie’s preparedness and Stan chaotic workings, they travelled in and out of cities and countries where their show would bring the house down, yes with comedy but also in nostalgia in the shows that made them so famous. All of which helping to make this act all the more revelatory for themselves and where they made those moments of the show that always lifted the audience.
And every time they returned to the comedy template of the two characters singing and joking with a friendly heart. Trying to push the boundaries with fresh antics we were held there in the past for the show and were really reminded by the songs and music just how long ago it was. As touching and charming as they were this act wound up nicely with a touching goodbye.
Back on my laptop at my desk with a south facing view of a Glasgow street I scrolled in and around this year’s online theatre festival Scenesaver. I came across ‘Hear, Speak, See’ by the West Midland production company ‘Expial Atrocious’ made up of three female dynamic actors and writers; Nic Lewton, Ez Holland and Faye Bingham. The show had been performed previously at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Met by a black screen we heard voices from the radio and the sound of breathing. A mysterious character had been invited to a dinner party in seeming innocence but we were given a clue when the invite ended with ‘…you don’t want to disappointment.’ To which the dinner party scene was revealed.
In its strangeness we were in a first person stance because the fourth member of the party was the view from the camera. All in white the other three were at the other side of the table, looking like ghosts or zombies but were in fact mostly human.
They conversed with speed and action moving very quickly from topic to topic as it took their fancy. They seemed fast friends who knew each other very well welcoming us (or the camera) to the party dedicated to the camera.
Dinner was served in the form of tomato soup for starter, salad for main course with a final fate full cake for desert. So went on the conversation that was bubbling together in their expressions of table manners and synchronisation. It was like lots of snippets of real life chat and conversation. But as one left the room to fetch the starter the other two spoke openly behind her back, which was like a betrayal. When she came back with four bowls presenting each there was a silence of awkwardness as they ate.
She pulled a seat alongside the camera to covey her feeling that came out with the tenderness of genuine fear of something. She knew the other two were plotting against her and as her adrenalin
rose her voice did the same and in a panic she told the camera to escape the coming situation.
It was a weird world created by the camera, with weird behaviour but it began to lead to something, tragic. Our detectors were flexed when one of the three in white mentioned that something had happened and that that very moment would bring justice to something.
In its own downfall the plot fit into segments that all led to a specific moment. There was a threesome of taunting and fire fuelled rejections as things became more and more upset. They
landed in chaos on more than one occasion and when the story was revealed it turned the page with a hellish view.
The camera blurred and sound was muffled but she/he never spoke. If it was psychedelic there would have been a guidance warning. It was a view of a view and perhaps a vision. They spent the
consumption of the main meal in silence we watched as they ate their food and emptied their plates, I sniggered a lot.
This story coped well with its arising and experimental offering of a dinner party that was with a crown of weirdness on a darker level. Cleverly abstract, metaphorically unsound with placed and
hidden artefacts, conversations that ran like a ballet and then like a dance. Somehow making total sense of its dream like quality or should I say night mare. With more to offer its bones were ripe and it’s sentiments clear as a celebration and tragedy of a calamitous portrayal.
In a change of direction I scrolled through the horror plays listed in this year’s Scenesaver online festival. Being a few weeks into the experience I recall that it has been easy to view their productions at the click of a button. I stopped at the title ‘Alice’s shadow’. The Thornhill Theatre Space presented Alice as a damsel in distress.
For a short 12 minute play written by Chloe Gorman who has successfully made a transition into theatre she boldly established her production company ‘Moth Sanctuary Productions’. The ‘Whispers in the dark’ has the dark side of things to express. Chloe and her friend and actor Andrew Bate sat together for a short interview about their roots and aspirations; it was Andrew who was to read her short tale about shadows.
The writing straight away had the effect of fear put in by Andrew as he revelled in the occasion. It cleverly climbed in our minds as a thing of terror. Alice lay in bed with her partner Gabriel (who had a big role in consoling her.) She suffered hallucinations that were quite severe and during this night she saw a shadow at her window that appeared to be moving.
We could do nothing to aid her as she distressed over the dark encounter. Both Chloe and Andrew find that the potential in this genre of writing are huge and varied. We sampled her work and found the descriptive juices leading somewhere with extenuated rolling of the tongue reaching something of a poetic in style framing the words with passion.
The shadow was Horror brought to life. In its terrifying presence poor Alice lay so still questioning in her mind for what was real in what was happening to her. Just as we felt that the story placed us in its very heart. The description of the shadow was ever changing. It was black with tendrils; making impossible movements up the sheer wall to the ceiling. Alice must have wondered about her own sanity.
For minutes we were taken deep into its plunging darkness but for Alice the episode at last abated, in cold sweat all around she found herself left peaceful on her bed. She turned to Gabriel seeking solace from her terrified state.
He turned round but it was not him that she saw his eyes were wrong. There was timing in this short performance that was exquisitely enunciated by Andrew. He broadcast the psychologically disturbing horror with a focus that wouldn’t let you go.
From this writer/actor relationship the story backed their feelings that horror can step up as a valid form of literature. Its appeal was filled with a richness that glowed as we imagined the words dripping from her pen letting out her whims of daemons and ghosts.
Cleverly leaving the story with the question remaining whither it was real or not for Alice, Gabriel or perhaps most importantly us the audience.
Alice’s shadow grew in the room in a swirling, dark and murky yet resplendently well dressed and tastefully presented show. They had my interests sparked and inspired with a story to creep into my subconscious in a way that seemed to have its own will. And its message’s can be understood in many ways but who would make the right one.
Still on the dark side of things Natascha Graham’s horror play had its roots in the real world. Called ‘Confessions: The Hours’ Natascha’s character loomed in the ‘Whispers in the dark’ productions for the Scenesaver online festival. To unfold was a tale of woe and sorrow. Most personally performed the act was about what men feel (or rather don’t feel) about women and how they respond to them in kind.
She wrote this as a sufferer of male domination. Lesbianism has not been made easy in this world. The act was of sorrow that bravely brought about some kind of control by Natascha. As she sat in her chair in her slender body language we could see that her state was wobbled and her eyes were full of horror fighting back the tears.
She took to the task she had set herself of bringing a voice to the widespread suffering she knew of for women at the hands and verbal comments and attitudes of men. By simply breathing deeply, in and out, she confessed her heart to us with torrid examples of things that have happened to her (what else could she do?).
She scowled as she told the story of a young woman who had a male stalker following her around. It gained momentum as a story went into the focus of how terrifying these encounters could be. It was her misfortune to see it as a symbol for all men.
All of a sudden the coin dropped when he turned up at her house. She would invite him in opening her door. She did this with a mind that something had to be done. By this time men to her only meant trouble, the kind that is best avoided. The revealed crime story ended as she solved her problem in her own way.
After this exciting story of fiction she was again a woman in a world of pain, of unfairness without the spark of even a fight. But her story was well executed and in its heights reached with a touch of crime to portray the problem as perhaps something absurd but unchanging in a world of unbalanced perpetration.
All components came together well for this online performance where six actors, all of whom knew each other well, had come together to perform and outperform each other in what became a comedic jostle for creative control. It was immediately obvious that they all knew Shakespeare well. The Northern Comedy theatre had produced a take on Shakespeare and acting that hit the nail on the head as it came together as a kind of workshop.
Using every kind of tool including the use of Zoom as it was meant to be, the split screen message was most of all about fun. They showed off their medieval costumes of flaring hats, plumy shirts, hair tied in plates, lace necklaces and so on. But they were all dressed for different plays. This came to light as they recognised the different passages that each read out.
We are performing ‘King Lear’ one incensed that’s what we decided on at our meeting! These words set the tone for a very great and lively, and very comedic debate that only led to an unorganised chaos that had Shakespeare being quoted as whips from the tongue as if it were as easy as breathing.
The show put Shakespeare into every kind of examination and developed every nuance of theatrical trickery and went ahead with such a speed of dialogue that flew by and really entertained with good gusto.
In all they covered six plays from Hamlet to Romeo and Juliet, all their plays have had the most serious of attention in the theatrical world but ever was humour present. The take of these six was to open his plays as they opened in the time, to free Shakespeare up and bring them to the attention of hopefully as many people as possible.
They set about with joy not drudgery, with great respect and were held together as a serious and incredulous making of their own play about bringing them together. After debate they came to the devious conclusion that they would all read from their different plays yet they would put them together as responses. They decided that actually no one would really even notice when king Lear would speak and the witch from Macbeth would respond.
This was definitely an overflowing celebration of commanding control of a confetti of worlds and wonders of Shakespeare’s plays. Relevant and daring, putting the works into so many facets, coming up with such a great plethora of insights, wisdom and knowledge, all done in a 40 min skit.
Forgotten Voices singled out the story of a South African couple Eva Moorhead Kadillie and her husband Clements Kadalie who in the early Twentieth Century played a huge part in the then political upheavals of the Country regarding the high racial sectarianism between so called ‘White’ or ‘Black’. The natives had long suffered under this ruler ship and long found themselves without right of law for anything.
In this play the actions and interactions of the couple Eva and Clements were performed by the vivacious portrayal by Shareesa Valentine in a wonderful performance. The compact writing by David Moorhead for this one woman play took us through the trouble’s, and where enacted only as lots of stories.
With so many things afoot for Eva she spoke with a well navigated truth about what it is like to have a forgotten voice in a place where it’s all you have. The tides were high as the play went through its passing stages ‘‘I must tell you my entire story, I really must’, as she spoke those words both strength and desperation imperilled her. With great importance the momentum swung into moments such as her surprising encounters where on her boat set to leave Africa for England she was mistaken for white and the doors of a rich life opened.
Her grandmother whom she had never met lived in England Eva aboard a vessel. In her heart (that was put into words) she heard her inner voice exclaim to her passion that she would in fact remain and give aid to her Country.
In the hands of this tactful story: the storm that rallied her really blew her around. Though she always went back to herself, her strength and her wonderful character of will! through the gripping drama; in a true story. Shareesa’s face had expressions for every tale in her 100 life times hold on the world.
There was a solid naturally well contained in the writing. Really bringing the enormous struggle for simple rights there were dates, losses, victories on the side of the new formed ICU who put a big shark on the table. Eva would be filled with glee during her victories as she held her great hope to the sky
Her hundred lives of adventure were lived to her own great capacities, making the act an enormous challenge. Her married life gave them three children for example, but she decided on the spot to give one up thinking of his future acceptance in racist society and on she lost not long after giving birth.
Shareesa’s performance of Eva was to rival the plots that gave this life the simplest of things: the right to land, to safety and to be allowed to thrive, Eva and her husband so touchingly breathed life into a huge box of great uncertainty. She knew well to listen to her heart; she suffered terribly with badly screaming voices for her head to complain about but her victorious attitude was enough to set so many free, if only for a while. ‘We must fight on’! Was the deliberation she yelled!
12th November, 2021-11-15
The Oxford Play house has celebrated its first return to the stage since the pandemic with musical play about the ancient tale of the heroine Persephone. This Jazz Hands Production relives the Greek story that portrays pivotal standpoints for both gods and mortals. A show lovingly created by the Play house students with the full and touching return to the stage with an important play.
In a jovial mood then the rewriting of this story began with Persephone and her mother Demeter tending to the seasons of the planet (being the gods of Harvest) with Persephone being a most beautiful of daughters but whose father was Zeus himself, king of the Greek gods. As they tended their earthly paradise that mortals survive we found them in a forest with Demeter concerned about her daughter’s position in the world.
Persephone’s young and freely innocent spirit desired more out of her life but of the outside world she had no idea. As she dreamed her songs exclaimed her feelings where all she could do was yearn for tomorrow, with the fates already deliberating her coming adventures. She left her home one night answering the call that her heart had made to her. And when she returned Demeter tried to tell her daughter that the world out there was not as she thought.
Persephone’s powerfully beautiful character so comprised of two great and powerful gods brought her to spend a night without coming home which set her mother Demeter’s worry into overdrive.
She had gone far into the woods (world) and it became clear that she had fallen for someone she met in a gathering. When she went out to meet him again they tried to talk he reluctantly introduced himself as none other than Hades up from his realm hell. It was the beginning of the life she yearned for. It was too strong to ignore though into peril she went, with her mother’s warnings were thrown to the wind.
The classic story from ancient Greece involved their gods who ruled Olympus, the heaven of the Greek world. Persephone’s fates started to become of importance as Zeus himself had willed. The idea of Olympus was portrayed as nothing more than a comfortable office inundated with paper work at desks and continuing the downplaying Hell was a world of quiet and peace.
Written and directed by Emma Hawkins this magically endearing ploy was a match of music set design and costumes all of which complimented the other very nicely and of good taste in order to bring the story to life in a most refined fashion, yet all without fancy, even Zeus wore a smart suit without the smallest hint of gold or any other precious metals.
Hades and Persephone had a deepening and profound love that struck them both without being able to think on anything else. But Hades despaired his position and left his home to speak with Zeus. Who enjoyed tormenting his brother encouraging Hades to do as he pleased, the world of Persephone was to be upset and turned round by events to follow.
The Muses/chorus wore their garlanded and flowery togas, sang in their tradition dancing ad joining the gods both pushing and pulling them, reflecting the plot of Persephone’s imminent demise. She who only knew that love may be a great adventure.
It didn’t stop her from being heinously broken by the advances of Zeus. She found herself in Olympus conversing with him. He explained that her absence from duty had caused cold weather and starvation. And as we saw her break from his careless violence the lights stopping was very meaningful.
The vying story that had been thrown open; became quiet and tender when to console her in stepped Aphrodite (the goddess of love). We were all by now on a flying adventure through the worlds and heavens; all the while taking its time to tell the story that simply rolled around the stage. The great use of the reality of Persephone’s trials came in spoken word and music to take the show away.
The motherly wisdom of Demeter knew what would happen to Persephone. She left to look for her daughter the second time she went missing. Her grief was at hand when he heard what had happened. In her heart she found resolve to forgive and take care of her daughter.
It was Zeus who played the villain not Hades, though he also didn’t always seem to be entirely on the level. Our attentions were stretched by the precise nuances. Hermes, Hera, Zeus and Hades; we still revel in these names but do we understand them and their very nature?
The presence of folk music, costumes and storytelling, the play had a fresh and new example to make with Olympus seeming to be a victim of its own crime. Aphrodite’s part was of the wounds being healed. She sprang around with Persephone, singing songs and drinking some. She gave Persephone a new reason to live and held her in her darkest hour. The personalities of the gods took on an interesting identity as benevolent yet confined by their individual duties.
As she regained her strength Persephone returned home to be reunited with her mother. The sweetness of this scene rivalled all the scenes of the gods. And they ever so faintly sensitive sang and rejoiced. Quietly they understood each other’s toil and turmoil, with the whim of things being almost forgotten.
It’s hard not to think of this play as being perfect. Such an evening of good theatre retelling a tale with every kind of metaphorical fruit lade bear, lavishly told with grace and exciting music, in a set and performance that was most sad but most loving with nature at its heart. A witness brought about through tragic betrayal of to the beauty that can live in life.
Persephone and Hades remained in love and of the future nobody would know, but we came to revel in the story of a journey’s timeless all pervading story that has truly stood the test of time, still as vibrant, new and refreshing, classically portrayed for any modern era.
Hitting pipes with Flip Flops has proven to be a great success for JunNk. The Mumble caught up with the man behind it all
Hello Sam, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Hello! Currently I am sitting in sunny Florida, enjoying being back in America after not being able to visit for so long due to the pandemic. I was born in Essex, England but live in the south in the heart of the New Forest.
When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
As a kid, I was always a part of some amateur dramatic group; but it was when I first started studying Performing Arts at Brockenhurst College and being immersed with other talented performers where I thought this is something I wanted to do.
Can you tell us about your training?
My musical training is all self-taught, I learnt to play guitar first, and used this skill through school and college for bands and musical theatre shows, which increased my love of the arts. However, it was when I started JunNk that I learnt how to play drums and piano. A ‘learning on the Job’ approach; I knew early on that JunNk had the potential to be huge, so I didn’t want to hold back.
By 2021 you have become quite the polymath – a performer, producer, director, and manager. Why so many strings to your bow?
I have always strived for success in everything that I do; I want to deliver the best, which led me down a path of learning as much as I could, expanding my skills and knowledge in order to have the best understanding of everything I was involved in.
I started JunNk in 2008 with 3 of my best friends, from a performance point of view it was a 25% split on stage, however everything behind the scenes needed a lot more attention, everything from running the business, marketing, branding, bookings to building the equipment, arranging the music, casting additional performers. The list goes on, I quickly adapted the ability to do it all and I loved it. Producing and directing more JunNk shows as we started expanding, creating new ideas and opportunities for the company. It was, and still is, a rush and my passion for the show and my determination to ever expand makes it all worth it!
So, what for you makes a good piece of theatre?
For me, it is about being able to create a world that you can immerse yourself into, a complete interactive experience; I want to forget about everything else except what I am watching.
You’re also quite an award winner – can you run us through a few?
JunNk first won a Sky 1, TV show called Don’t Stop Me Now back in 2012 which was the start to our awards. Following that we went on to win the ‘Act of the Year’ award for our corporate engagements in the UK in 2013. Our Edinburgh fringe debut in 2016 led to us win the ‘Spirit of the Fringe Award’; fast forward to 2019 and our debut at the Orlando Fringe where we won 3 awards; Best Family Show, Pick of the Fringe and Best Marketing.
On to JunNk; where, when how & why did you get the initial impulse to create the show?
JunNk started as a college project, and we had a dance exam for part of our performing arts course; collectively we weren’t the best dancers, so we created a very basic form of JunNk to get past the exam.
It was laid to rest after college until we entered a competition on ITV’s tv show Dancing on Ice, they were searching for an act to tour with the production show; I pulled the guys together to take part and we were placed 5th overall. We then entered a local talent competition in Bournemouth, we came runners up however a talent scout watched our performance and later offered us some work if we could create a 45-minute show. This was the starting point to the creation of the JunNk you see today.
Can you give us an overall picture of the JunNk experience?
Truly like nothing you’ve ever seen before; using various items commonly found in a junkyard, the four hilarious performers energetically combine superb acappella singing, captivating percussion, innovative musical creations and mesmerising gymnastics to produce a lively, dynamic and fun show that consistently delights audiences of all ages and nationalities.
From using bottles as panpipes and watering cans as trumpets, to playing well-known tunes on drain pipes with flip flops and a PVC tube as a didjeridoo, a show that really is a unique and sensational whirlwind of pure entertainment that should definitely not be missed!
So its essentially a ‘rubbish-powered variety show’- how do the audiences react in every age group?
We have been very selective with the variety that we add to the show to make sure we can reach a wide spectrum of ages. The show is perfect for all and due to the lack of spoken word also makes it popular internationally for all cultures!
Who writes the material for the show – the jokes, the comedy, etc.?
The material normally starts with a basic idea, a song, a sketch etc and then we would workshop it in a rehearsal; essentially if we found it funny it would go in the show. Quite a lot of the show was generated by me and some of the guys just messing around. When it comes to the music, depending on the songs I would arrange some and bring them to a rehearsal and we would ‘JunNk-ify’ them.
Since its inception, then, how has the show evolv’d?
Most things have a ‘sell by date’ so I try to keep most things updated and current, some bits of material continually do well with the audience so have become classic parts of the show. The biggest part of the show that evolves is the creation of instruments, I’m constantly coming up with new ways to make music, building more equipment to deliver even more unique ways to make sound!
Tell us about China & Abu Dhabi?
Even though JunNk is based in the UK, we have done more tours in China and Abu Dhabi than England; both countries are unbelievable, I love them, and our show is always so well received. Incredible theatres and amazing people, I cant wait to get back over and tour them again.
So Covid. How big an obstacle did it prove to JunNk’s progress?
Live entertainment has certainly been one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, with ongoing and ever-changing restrictions plaguing its full comeback. Even in a pre-covid world, the entertainment business is far from easy, with live entertainment usually operating on a last-in, first- out basis, often being seen as a disposable luxury for most events. The pandemic caused the JunNk to lose two year’s worth of contracts overnight. Like many, the company was devastated, however persistence and determination managed to keep the company alive and growing and we are coming back stronger than ever!
In the dark days of the Lockdowns, did you ever feel like you wanted to give it all up?
Honestly Yes, but that was on a cold dark winter’s evening during a power cut… it didn’t last! I then lit the fire and got to it. I turned to the digital age and quickly grew a TikTok following of eighty thousand followers, generating over ten million views. This was the spark I needed to kick JunNk into our post covid gear and start to get the show back out there.
Tell us about your collaboration with Dana McKeon?
This started as a covid project, I met Dana while we were both performing on a cruise, she’s an incredible artist. We had similar goals and an equal passion for creating music, we started by covering Justin Timberlake’s – Cry me a River before deciding to write an original song together. We put our heads together and wrote ‘Love Language’ where I mixed the original sound of JunNk and the beautiful vocals from Dana to write a commercial pop / tropical house song. Love Language made it into the top 10 in the Malta PRS charts. Me and Dana have more in the pipeline so keep those eyes peeled.
You’ve now got an eye on America – what stokes the interest & what are your Transatlantic plans?
So I started JunNk in Orlando, FL in 2018, we have 2 teams that are set for Cruises, theme parks and theatres, touching a market that we hadn’t been able to do with the UK team. America offers a world of opportunities, we have strong connections with Disney due to the Cruises we have done with them over the years, so we are now working closely with another production company to open as many opportunities as possible. A very exciting time that’s for sure.
& Finally, you’ve got 20 seconds to sell your show to a stranger in the street – whaddayasay?
JunNk the manic love child of Stomp and the Blue Man Group, come immerse yourself in our zany world of comedy and music.
At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Daniel Donnelly was the veritable captain of the Mumble’s skeleton crew
Hello Daniel, so where are you from & where do you reside today?
I have a little tale to tell about said upbringing. I was born in Glasgow’ West End, moved to Erskine till 2 (I swear I can remember this), lived from 2 till 9 in London and wound up before I knew it in a little plush village in the East Netherlands. At the time it felt like we had struck gold. The whole (though short) saga all came about as my father followed his work around. In London we lived in Hammersmith, a short walk from the prison Wormwood scrubs. I definitely remember walking to school.
My sister was born into an already full house of three children, I was two when she was born and I do remember that. The family split in Holland so after a time we left to retreat back to Glasgow where I have been ever since.
I am residing in York hill, a Glasgow West End location where I have been for many years. its an original tenement flat with high ceiling’s and spacious rooms not far from City Centre and the deeper West End.
You’ve almost single handedly reviewed the Edinburgh Fringe for the Mumble in 2021 – what’s it feel like to be the backbone of a skeleton crew?
I didn’t realise that my Fringe efforts would be singled out like this as a back bone, but being part of a skeleton crew has handed me another aspect of the refreshing business of reviewing theatre and really enjoying the fringe. In many ways things are normal with plenty to do and see. But it hit home at the normally packed Pleasance Court yards where there were only two food shacks, the pub was closed and there was no one standing in a busy crowd, there was something profound about that.
But working online and at home has its advantages too. So far I have come across some truly awesome pieces of work from a very talented public. In works that far exceed expectations that have become exemplary. Finding venues, planning times the days have been full from coffee in the morning to making the right bus times.
It is an overall great feeling to be taking what little part I have at the Fringe as a reviewer, and has always been like that. But when you get to Edinburgh for this one the extent of Princess Street being empty of performers of all kinds and any kinds was strange. It didn’t feel depressing but it reminded me of the fragility of the festival. From taking it in the idea of a back bone and skeleton crew has taken on a special meaning like keeping the embers alight to wait for the fire to burn again.
What is the online experience like as a reviewer?
We were half way into the unprecedented national and international lockdown. I was scared of getting too fat so I attempting online work outs and Tai chi and spent some time on my bike cycling through forests in the Kelvin Grove park Glasgow, The adventure continued. I was contacted by my favourite online review company called the Mumble, asking me to cover the 2021 Celtic Connections.
So in this insipid mood my online reviewing journey had commenced, after several online festivals my world was to be expanded, big time. It was a weird difference at a weird time but so far as I can see a new and abundant media was born from it. But many things were the same with great music, passionate performances and a double helping of gratitude that finally some kind of festival had returned to Glasgow in the form of the international connections scene.
I didn’t realise it at the time but the connections online experience was my wheels being oiled for a fascinating year; Even though our freedoms were restricted. I have covered some roughly 4 or 5 online festivals in 2021. There was a magic particularly in the zoom meetings that centred each festival. I took an informal education that kind of crept up on me. I watched so much and wrote so much it wold have been impossible not to come out having learned something, I felt larger, deeper and to a great extent that I was part of something all along.
What have been your favorite shows – online & in person?
My enthusiasm was raised in a different way from being there in person. I say this because being there has the same effect only in a completely different way. I think we all relaxed, performance and audience, to a widening extent very much making lemonade out of lemons. The qualities and levels of writing and performance were no less real and fantastic perhaps even finding new edges for theatre, poetry any kind of performance really.
I was so involved due to the online circumstance to a degree where great joy was around every digital corner. We were all in a state of happiness with gratitude that was woven into proceedings. I found very few problems with it but that was because of the exemplary organisation that were of a different level, I think they simply dove in at the deep end where I was happy to follow.
Not being part of a crowd or audience was obviously the weirdest and strangest of things. I felt like I was in some kind of new position, self reflecting on myself self sitting at the computer. Really it was a kind of out of body experience when I recall my sensations. And that was what it was; a sensation of huge inclusivity, really like connecting with nature herself. an invaluable experience that made movies of everything solo to ensemble.
So Daniel! I hear you’ve started composing poetry alongside your excellent prose – can you show us anything?
Sure, these lines are the fruits of my literary expansion
Open up in the case of love, let leaves move us
Evenings cascade, sweet in the box of summer love
Let dreams drip from you, into a slip stream
And cavalcade for a new announcement
Take care there sweet love
So that thee may broaden the outcast
And treble the frontier
Sweet swift kiss of love
Dance in the moonlight mud
Hold open thou cast of breaches, when walking we…
To clasp the power in your held hand, dip in and swim sound
Freedoms hair, blowin’ made more done
This love can unite everything, take it in
Take care there sweet love
So that thee may broaden the outcast
And treble the frontier
Sweet swift kiss of love
Dance in the moonlight mud
Clothes fall to the floor, and feet caress the ground
The numbers count, to deliver everything
A smile on our mind, as water hit by lights
Can hold us together, we hot friends
Take care there sweet love
So that thee may broaden the outcast
And treble the frontier
Sweet swift kiss of love
Dance in the moonlight flood
Of wisdoms concept, speedy energy
But meant for this, with a wholesome step
The mother of earth, she can wear us
As we without, find ourselves close
As our work shimmers into morning and dusk
So back to reviewing. Can you tell us about your own individual review process – both live & streaming?
In the beginning the review process centred around getting bums on seats, this alone was enough to motivate my creative flows. The idea of theatre has always interested me so in the first days at the Edinburgh Fringe I was excited and really ready to go. It was an Annie Lennox tribute gig and the words started forming in my head of what I would want to write. I’m very thankful that I could just turn up and write with Demo’s words of ‘just write whatever you want’, which also became a slogan for me. Being left to myself was a big plus for me.
I enjoyed it from the word go and fast forward 5 or 6 years I can see my progress and process’s are something I can relish in still with a clear view of how I want to write, finding the right things to talk about, I attend each show well in time, but happily with Theatre prep there’s always a good chance that as a member of the audience we never really know the journey we are about to take.
My love of actors has been increased as I over time delved deeper into their very hard working worlds. It’s important to try and research for every show, I have gladly reviewed a variety of mediums, of theatre and music. In my early orchestra or classical concerts I realized I had a lot to learn but was up for the challenge. figuring out movements, skills, always I have been aware of venues that can be the centre for plays to specific venues.
What advice to you have for anyone reviewing a show?
If you are looking to review I would just say all you need is an opportunity. You are probably already a great writer. When you get that opportunity, relax because you know way more than you think. I have found that preparation has been a wonderful tool to make me expandingly efficient but this may not work for you. Give yourself time to find your own flow, There will be joy there will be heart ache but don’t give up because you could be the next revered reviewer becoming in demand. The the rewards really kick in and there is a tremendous sense of belonging, but if you keep that to yourself you will reach another stage and level for yourself as part of this community.