The ThreeWeeks photography team have been out and about at the Edinburgh Festival – here’s their shots from the Week Two issue Photo Page.
The ThreeWeeks photography team have been out and about at the Edinburgh Festival – here’s their shots from the Week Two issue Photo Page.
ED2012 INTERVIEW: Last year one of our reviewers saw Lucia and Scot (sitting at the front of the picture there) do their thing at Alba Flamenca and came away impressed. Which made us think that, with the show back this year, we should speak to the folk at Alba Flamenca about the show. But then we thought, well, hang on; puppets are an oppressed minority. Isn’t it time we allowed the stars of the show to speak for themselves?
TW: Hello Lucia, hello Scot – are you all set for another Fringe?
Lucia: Hola! Yes, we are very excited! We love having a blether with all the children who come to see us during the Fringe and telling them all about flamenco! Everyone else in our show is a real human and not puppets like us, so we have been bossing them around for weeks to make sure they’re ready for the Festival.
Scot: We sometimes visit children in flamenco classes at Alba Flamenca with Pam, who is the storyteller in our show. Also, during the year we sometimes visit schools with her, but August is our favourite time to meet new people.
TW: Lucia, the ‘Big Flamenco Adventure’ sees you taking Scot on a journey – why do you do that?
Lucia: Well, Scot loves flamenco, but he doesn’t really have very good rhythm… in fact, if I am honest, he looks a wee bit silly when he is trying to keep time with the music!
Scot: At least I’m not covered in spots like you are, in your frilly flamenco dress – you look like you’ve got the measles!
TW: And where do you go?
Scot: We go to Spain, silly! Even I know that’s where flamenco comes from! Although we have lots of flamenco in Edinburgh, Spain has soooooooooo much flamenco going on that I get really tired saying ‘Ole!’ all the time!
Lucia: When people come to our show we get them to practice saying ‘Ole!’ a lot too!
TW: How did you learn Flamenco?
Lucia: Well, I am quite good because my family come from Andalucia in Spain – did I mention that’s how I got my name – Lucia? Also my dad plays the flamenco guitar, although he’s not as good as Andrew who’s the guitarist in our show – he’s ‘estupendo’ (that’s excellent!).
Scot: I am still learning, but each time children come to our show I get better and better. It also helps having them there because Lucia can get really bossy with me! Oh and did I mention I am called Scot because I come from Scotland?
TW: What’s your favourite part of Flamenco?
Lucia: I love the flamenco dancing! Marta and Aroa, who are dancers in our show. are really good and do super-fast ‘taconeo’ – that’s when you tap your feet in special flamenco shoes to make a drumming sound! I love their costumes as well.
Scot: I like the singing. When I grow up I want to be a flamenco singer like Inma in our show… although I don’t want to sound exactly the same – her having a girl’s voice and all that!
TW: And what do your audiences seem to enjoy most?
Scot: Well, they seem to enjoy watching me, but apart from that I think they like coming up on stage and joining in all the flamenco fun!
Lucia : When you come to our show
you’ll be expected to join in – so no lazy bones allowed! And daddies, don’t think just because you’re boys that you don’t have to wear a flower in your hair!
TW: If audience members young or old catch the Flamenco bug during your show, is there anyway we can learn more?
Lucia: Oh we love it when people catch the flamenco bug! It’s easy peasy to get more flamenco – just come back to Alba Flamenca in September when our classes start. We also have flamenco shows all year at Alba Flamenca, although Scot and I tend to have a rest then!
Scot: Millions of dance students come to Alba Flamenca. Well maybe, not millions, but lots! Pam told me that the youngest is 2 years old and the oldest is 72 years old!
TW: And what if it puts us in a Spanish mood – where do you go to eat a good Spanish meal in Edinburgh?
Lucia: My dad says the bestest tapas in the whole of Edinburgh is in El Bar, which luckily is next door to Alba Flamenca! He says it reminds him of being back home in Spain! When he comes to collect me from my flamenco dance class, Raul and Ray from El Bar always let the flamenco children sneak a wee tortilla pincho when they come out of classes! Yum! Yum!
Scot: My mum comes to the flamenco classes at Alba Flamenca and she always tells me that when the class finishes that she has to stay at El Bar for some rioja and gambas with Saliha her teacher… I’m not sure but I think it must be new dance steps she needs to learn?!
TW: And finally, do you have time to see the rest of the Fringe during August? What’s your favourite thing about the Edinburgh Festival?
Scot: Well we’re kept quite busy during the Fringe so we don’t get out as much as we’d like. Though, being a puppet you sometimes feel a wee bit different to everyone else, but at this time of year in Edinburgh you feel really normal!
Lucia: Yeh, I saw a tap dancing horse in the High Street the other day! I didn’t think his footwork was great and he wasn’t making much pocket money… I maybe should have suggested he take up flamenco dancing instead!
Lucia and Scot appeared in ‘Big Flamenco Adventure’ at Alba Flamenca at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Kat Gollock
ED2012 INTERVIEW: ‘Beulah’ – one of a number of shows The Flanagan Collective is presenting under the #littlefest banner at C nova this year – was outed as a “beautiful secret” by our reviewer. So we put some questions to the group’s Alexander Wright, about the show, the ideas and music in it, the art of making new musicals, and the #littlefest venture at Fringe 2012.
TW: “Part story, part conversation, part musical” – tell us what we can expect from ‘Beulah’.
AW: ‘Beulah’ is just that, it’s part way in between things. It’s got a whole bunch of beautiful original songs; it’s got one story about Lions, Kings and Queens and another about a couple and an island; it’s got suitcases and puppets; and it asks questions about the way we measure our world. It’s singing, talking, playing and storytelling.
TW: Where did the idea for the show come from?
AW: Beulah is a world which the poet William Blake thought was somewhere between this world and the next, a world of ‘mild and pleasant rest’. It is essentially a place where we go when we sleep, with windows back into our world and on to the next. I have been fascinated for a long time with the idea of Beulah as a place. And also the absurd way in which we measure our world in minutes, seconds and hours when, actually, what we really measure our lives in is moments and memories and the little bits of poetry that take us by surprise. Both these things inspired the show.
TW: Did you begin with the stories or the songs?
AW: We began with a big conversation with the audience and the character of Lyca. We played with this back in November 2011 at The Little Festival Of Everything down in Yorkshire. After that I tried to hone the story to work the ideas of the conversation into the piece. It went through a lot of drafts before rehearsals and during rehearsals. The lyrics were scattered through the piece and have moved around a lot. Jim and Ed wrote the music in rehearsal – incredibly quickly actually – it was very exciting to hear it all coming out.
TW: You describe the songs as resembling “everything from folk ballads to Sigur Ros” – did you set out to be that eclectic, or did that emerge as the piece was written?
AW: Ed and Jim both play a bunch of instruments, so it was nice to have that variety to compose with. The music seemed to come quite naturally, the narrative feels quite musical in a sense anyway. We all have different backgrounds in writing and listening to music, but all share a pretty big love of all things acoustic, soaring and fun.
TW: What are the challenges of creating a brand new musical?
AW: I don’t really think of myself as someone who writes musicals, so that probably makes it easier. The idea of musical theatre comes with an amount of baggage, mainly from Andrew Lloyd Webber, so it’s nice to be able to forget all that glitz and glam and just write songs that fit the story. A lot of conventions in musical theatre are a bit odd, so we ignored most of them and just put two guys on stage with lots of instruments to play. The songs from Beulah would make a great album on their own – I think that’s quite a good thing.
TW: The musicals section of the Fringe Programme is quite small – especially if you focus on new musicals – why do you think that is?
AW: Potentially it’s just to do with the idea of the genre. Perhaps people would rather hang on the theatre side of ‘play with music’, rather than call it a musical. Perhaps the word ‘musical’ conjures ideas of jazz hands and dance routines. Obviously this is not the case, and there are so many brilliant new musicals which push the boundaries of what the genre traditionally is. Music fills our world so often on a day-to-day basis, it’s peculiar to sideline music in our heads when we get to categorising theatre.
TW: Tell us about The Flanagan Collective – how did you guys come together, what do you do outside of the Fringe?
AW: Well we set up with the simple premise of wanting to make things and to make things happen – we wanted to work with people and try and link up with lots of other artists and companies to create shows, festivals, events, conversations, whatever people needed doing really. So we spend our time talking to other people and finding ways to put things on. We spend an amount of time performing in pubs and halls, we run The Little Festival Of Everything in the depths of rural North Yorkshire, and we all work with other companies too. We are a rolling and changing bunch, very open and without any real rules. We like talking to people.
TW: You are presenting ‘Beulah’ as part of a thing called # LittleFest, what’s that?
AW: #LittleFest is place where some of the usual Fringe rules don’t apply. We have a number of regular shows which run at the same time each day – lots of brilliant companies from around the country all in one space, which is superb – and then we have a rolling and shifting programme of guest events, happenings, bars nights, comedy, cabaret, music, scratches and whatever else works. This programme will grow across the months with artists who want to try things out, test things, play with an idea and then chat with people about it. Hopefully #LittleFest is a place where artists and audience can spend time on an equal footing, a nice place to be at the middle of a frantic city in a busy month. To keep up to date with it all you can follow us on Twitter – we’re at www.twitter.com/FlanCol.
TW: Are there any other musicals this year that you rate?
AW: Well, as a shameless bit of self promotion, there are two other musicals I wrote up at the Fringe this year. ‘Some Small Love Story’ is back with Hartshorn Hook after some lovely reviews and feedback last year, at 7.45pm. And No Shoes Theatre, best known for ‘The Improvised Musical’, are presenting their first non-improvised-musical, ‘Therapy’, at 9.00pm. They’re both at C nova. Naturally ‘The Improvised Musical’ is superb and very enjoyable. A lot of stuff that comes out of Royal Conservatoire is great too. There is also some wonderful cabaret which straddles the divide. Damsel Sophie’s international smash hit, ‘HOT’, is on as part of #LittleFest too – and there’s plenty of singing in that, that’s 10.15pm in C nova.
TW: What are you plans post this year’s Fringe?
AW: Various really. ‘Beulah’ will do a miniature tour around some little places in Yorkshire, and we are helping to tour the band Holy Moly & The Cracker’s brilliant show, ‘If The River Was Whiskey’. We do a communal dining version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ that will crop back up in winter. But, as with everyone at the Fringe I imagine, we will cross our fingers in the hope that something comes up to give the shows in #LittleFest more life after August.
The Flanagan Collective performed ‘Beulah’ at C nova at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Kat Gollock
Mark Watson may have stopped marking each Fringe with some crazy marathon of a show, but other non-stop 24 hour extravaganzas have appeared to take their place. And this year that includes what we are reliably informed is the first ever “24 hour story-telling marathon”.
Yes, following yesterday’s Noise Next Door #24HourFringeAdventure, the people behind the Grant’s True Tales Festival Of Storytelling, the main show of which led our reviewer to say “it reminds us how intriguing the forgotten art of personal narrative can be”, are now wrapping up their 2012 Fringe activities this week – pretty much as this issue of ThreeWeeks hits the streets – with 24 hours of back-to-back storytelling, featuring tales from the likes of Ophira Eisenberg, Brad Lawrence, Martin Dockery, David Dinnell, David Dobbs, Rad Radcliff and Julie Kertesz.
The proceedings will be overseen by the True Tales Master Storyteller Peter Aguero, who told ThreeWeeks: “I’m really excited about taking part in the ‘Grant’s True Tales 24 Hour Storytelling Marathon’, as not only is it a totally unique event at the Fringe but it’s also something that’s never been tried before”.
He continues: “We’ll be working alongside a host of different performers, some professional, many amateur, and we’ll also be involving the audience in open mic sessions. The best thing about it is the fact that anyone and everyone can get involved – there’s no money in storytelling, we’re just doing it because we love it and enjoy the connection that it creates between us and the audience – something that really fits with the ethos of what the Fringe is all about”.
The marathon kicks off at midday today, Wednesday 15 Aug, at Riddles Court, and runs for 24 hours, obviously. More at www.facebook.com/grantswhisky
ED2012 INTERVIEW: Jonathan Prag has been delighting Fringe crowds with his classical guitar recitals for many years now, as well as earning wholehearted approval from a number of our reviewers. So we felt it was high time we found out more about his work, his shows, and what keeps him coming back to the Fringe.
TW: Welcome back for another year at the Fringe! What keeps bringing you back to the Edinburgh Festival?
JP: One thing is the city itself – the atmosphere and the audiences being so varied and friendly. Then there is the opportunity the Fringe gives you to perform an extended run. That’s pretty unique to here and, for me, that has helped me to develop as a performer because it gives you ‘match practice’ if you like – the real thing, and if the audience don’t like it they won’t come back. One-off performances don’t give you that kind of experience. And an element in this is the relationship you develop with audience members who come back year after year. They come and speak to me after the performances and it’s lovely to recognise them.
TW: How do you select the pieces you play each year?
JP: I go with my instincts and my interests. For the first few years I came, I was afraid to depart from the classical repertoire but now I’m a bit bolder so if I really like something I’ll find a classical guitar arrangement and I’ll play it. I try to find unusual things that will kind of surprise me. I’ve always loved Baroque music, Bach particularly, then I started exploring folk music – I had a big Turlough O’Carolan phase a while back – then South American, and these days I’ve got into things like Cole Porter and Gershwin.
TW: Tell us about this year’s selection.
JP: I read about Bartok and his love of folk music, and then listened to amazing violin and piano versions of his ‘Romanian Folk Dances’, and thought: could the guitar do that? And then I found K Minami’s guitar arrangement. It’s incredibly difficult to play but I’ve been slaving away practising it for months and I find more and more in it. The audience seems to like it too. ‘The Goose And The Bright Love’ is a beautiful Irish folk melody. And I love blues – hence the choice of ‘Left Alone’, the Mal Waldron piece, for when they want an encore. The Piazzolla tango’s one of my favourites – I’m still in a South American phase – but then again – so is the Paco Peňa piece I close with. I went to see him perform recently. He’s just awe-inspiring.
TW: Our reviewers say that your music creates a really special atmosphere, is your choice of venue important in helping make this happen?
JP: Yes it is. Acoustically I need to find a venue that allows the guitar to be heard from the loud crashing bits of the flamenco down to the tiny harmonics in ‘Spanish Dance No. 2’ by Granados. C too – the church – is great for that. You can hear a pin drop. I think the audience appreciates that. I think when there are no noise distractions the music sometimes just takes on a kind of life of its own as everyone in the room focuses on it, and I’ve had people come up afterwards and say they had goose bumps. It’s all down to the acoustic quality of the room.
TW: I always think of music as the hidden secret of the Fringe – would you agree?
JP: When I first started playing here I didn’t feel that, but now it might be truer, what with the huge growth of the comedy side of things. By comparison, little is made of the music and yet there are some incredible musicians here.
TW: What would you say to someone who has never been to a concert like yours?
JP: That’s a very good question – the classical guitar has a great range of sounds and colours and the effect surprises people who hear it for the first time. Some people think that maybe there is a backing track playing, or a second guitarist hidden behind a screen, because they don’t see how one pair of hands could be doing all the different things they can hear. If people think of classical guitar as very specialised or difficult or unapproachable I’d say just give it a try. It’s an instrument that can render folk music, the Blues, Flamenco and Cole Porter equally well. I’d say to them just come along – it’s a very friendly atmosphere.
TW: You play lots of different festivals – how does Edinburgh compare?
JP: It’s simply the biggest of all by a long way, and the best! And it’s in the most amazing place.
TW: You also teach guitar, do you enjoy the teaching as much as performing?
JP: Well, that’s hard to answer, because to see pupils go from beginner up to grade 6 or 7 over several years is really rewarding, and I couldn’t just give them up, but performing is amazing because I find that sometimes during performance things in the music suddenly reveal themselves – and I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s like you suddenly see something there that you hadn’t seen before and it alters the way you play it from then on. When you work so hard and practise until you’re blue in the face, and then it all comes together in a performance and you engage with the audience, it is just incredible. It can go wrong as well of course – it’s always a risk and that’s frightening if you think about it too much. So, compared with that, teaching is safer but if I really did have to give one up completely it would be teaching not performing. Luckily I don’t though!
TW: How much practice would I need to do to get anywhere near as good as you?
JP: Well, I practise for between four and six hours a day, every day. If you were starting from scratch that wouldn’t be practical or wise, so maybe ten minutes a day until your fingers developed thick enough skin on the ends to stop it being agony and then increase it from there until your hands develop the strength to stretch and hold down difficult chords. I have to admit that it is a bit painful, but if you could get through that you could progress as fast as you wanted to. The thing is not to try to do too much too soon; take it one step at a time. But you never stop learning. I still feel as if I’m nowhere near what’s possible.
TW: Are there any other music shows you’d recommend at this year’s Fringe?
Mary Coughlan at Queen’s Hall, Richard Thompson, same venue; Luca Villani at Valvona And Crolla, Moishe’s Bagel at the Acoustic Music Centre, Carolyn Anona Scott,= at The Royal Oak and also at Acoustic Music Centre, the Caledonian Folk And Blues at the Guildford Arms and Antonio Forcione (Assembly, George Square) who has all kinds of other incredible musicians on with him. Sean Shibe at Royal Overseas League doing ‘Piazzolla Late’ and I would have said ‘Bar At Buena Vista Presents El Rey’ – but I see it’s been cancelled.
Jonathan Prag performed at C too at Fringe 2012.
ED2012 INTERVIEW: Tricity Vogue, especially with her ukulele hat on, cuts a striking figure, and has, in a very short time, made herself an essential part of the Fringe cabaret scene: we here at ThreeWeeks already can’t imagine the Festival without her. So we caught up with the lady herself to talk about her shows, her workshops, why the ukulele is back with a vengeance, and of course, that hat.
TW: I think you must now be officially a Fringe institution! What brings you back each year?
TV: The Fringe and I are still in the honeymoon phase; this is only my third year doing my own show. My love affair with the Festival started as infatuation – a mix of fascination, fear and obsession. Now it’s blossomed into the sort of relationship where you know all your lover’s quirks and foibles but decide that lover is worth staying with anyway. We’ve had our rough patches – the rain-soaked flyering treks, the woefully empty collection buckets, the looks of bafflement on audience faces – but we’ve come through them all and we’re still together.
TW: What have you got planned for this year’s cabaret show?
TV: I start and end every show with a mass sing-along. Favourites are ‘You Are My Sunshine’, ‘Hit The Road Jack’ and ‘Que Sera Sera’. I’ll be handing out some ukuleles to the audience, so they can have a go. Then each night four acts will compete to win the unbelievably prestigious Uke Of Edinburgh Award every night, judged by a panel selected from the audience. This year I’ve set myself a new challenge: every winner gets to choose a subject for me to write a song about. I have one day to write the song, and perform it for the first time at the start of the following night’s show. So far this year I’ve written songs about bowler hats, goats, aubergines, mothballs, awards and pet deaths.
TW: Where do you find the people who play at your Cabaret show?
TV: I invite cabaret performers I already know and love to come on the show, whether they play ukulele or not – they don’t actually have to play uke for their five minute spot, as long as they do something with it. Leela Bunce has re-enacted famous film plots using a ukulele as a miniature stage (‘The Great Escape’ and ‘The Sound Of Music’ so far this year), and Myra Dubois has incorporated the ukulele into an interpretive physical theatre piece. I also put a call out on the Fringe performance opportunities page and email all shows on the Laughing Horse Free Festival, inviting performers to come and do a spot. Word of mouth is important too; people put their friends in touch with me, and tell me about acts they’ve seen who would go down a storm.
TW: Have there been any particularly impressive players amongst your audience so far?
TV: The very first Uke Of Edinburgh Award of this year’s Fringe was won by a wildcard contestant from the audience: Lins McRobie. She’s a member of the Edinburgh ukulele group, Uke Hoot, but it was the first time she’d ever performed on stage. Halfway through her song she forgot the chords and ran off the stage and back to her seat. I thought she’d bottled it, but she downed her pint in one, strode back onto the stage and led the audience in a rousing singalong. The judges gave her full marks.
TW: You’re inviting audience members to bring their own ukuleles or kazoos this year, how does that work?
TV: The sing-alongs at the start and end of the Ukulele Cabaret are a really fun part of the show, and we give out songsheets that include not only the words but also the chords, so that people can play along as well as sing along, if they have an instrument with them (all instruments are welcome, we even had a recorder in the other night). I do have some ukuleles to give out to the audience, but I’m keen to invite other uke players to bring their ukes along with them and to join in too, because the spirit of the show is about audience participation. I hope to recreate the mood of my London Ukulele Cabarets: there’s nothing quite like the sound of a mass of ukuleles all strumming together. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. As for kazoos, I give out kazoos at the end of my show to anyone who puts a fiver in my bucket. They’re limited edition Tricity Vogue silver embossed kazoos. I want people to come back to the show and bring their kazoos with them so we can have a mass of kazoos playing as well as the mass of ukuleles. By the last show of the Fringe, I’d like to get the whole audience playing something.
TW: Ukeleles have become very popular again in recent years, why do you think that is?
TV: Ukuleles are easy. They’re easy to carry, they’re easy to get hold of (because they’re cheap), and most importantly they’re easy to learn. I think they’re actually easier than a recorder and they certainly sound better in a beginner’s hands. The way a ukulele is tuned, it’s already a chord when you strum it with open strings, so you’re halfway there even before you figure out where to put your fingers. But I don’t think it’s just about convenience. There’s a bigger shift behind the rise of the ukulele; a return to live, shared, community music and entertainment. It’s the same shift that is behind the rise of cabaret too. For years people have sat at home and watched the telly. Now they’re starting to realise how much more fun you can have when people are making music in the same room as you, and that it can be even more fun when you join in. The ukulele is a social instrument, and a democratic instrument: experienced and talented musicians enjoy it for its simplicity and adaptability, and so do complete beginners.
TW: Really keen aspiring players can come to one of your workshops, what happens there?
TV: Every Saturday afternoon I’m running a free ukulele workshop at Rae Macintosh Music on Queensferry Street. The shop are providing ukuleles for people to play during the workshop – with no obligation to buy. It’s a very relaxed, informal affair, where I go at the pace of the people who turn up. All ages are welcome. I play a few tunes of my own as well – I do have one or two child-friendly songs in my repertoire despite my usual late-night cabaret haunts.
TW: Tell us about the hat!
TV: The golden ukulele I wear on my head is not an attention-seeking gimmick. Okay, it is an attention-seeking gimmick, but it’s also more than that. It is the Uke Of Edinburgh. At the end of every Ukulele Cabaret the winner of that night’s Uke Of Edinburgh Award is invited onto the stage to strum my head. It’s a very exciting moment for me and almost as exciting for everyone else. The hat is a real ukulele, and was made for me by costume designer Emma Threadneedle for my first Edinburgh Ukulele Cabaret three years ago. It acts as a beacon on the streets of Edinburgh – people who are into ukuleles come up to me and ask for a flyer. A couple of gentlemen have asked if they can pluck me.
TW: Cabaret at the Fringe is so big these days – are there any other shows you would recommend?
TV: Loads! So many of my cabaret heroes are here: Dusty Limits is right before me in the Counting House Ballroom, and he’s only here until the 19th so you need to get your skates on to see him. His show’s called Post-Mortem and is as dark as mine is sunny: I like to think they complement each other as a double bill. It’s Dusty’s fault I’m a cabaret performer and not a wife and mother. I’ll always be grateful to him for the late-night champagne-fuelled intervention that put my life back on track. EastEnd Cabaret were in my slot at the Counting House Ballroom last year and packed it out every night, and this year they’re at the Underbelly doing more of their highly original brand of filth. Frank Sanazi, Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer, Jonny Woo and David Mills are all superb. And two of my favourite cabaret performers are doing their first solo Edinburgh shows this year: Ria Lina’s ‘It’s Not Easy Being Yellow’, and Myra Dubois’ ‘Aunty Myra’s Fun Show’. I’ve seen them both, and I want to go back and see both of them again.
TW: Where can people find your music and see you perform outside of the Edinburgh Fringe?
TV: My regular cabaret haunt is London, where I run monthly Ukulele Cabarets and pop up on the bill of a weird and wonderful array of cabaret and variety shows. I also do a fair bit of gigging around the UK: I’ll be in Sheffield in September, Salford in October, Nottingham in November, and Exeter in December. I’m also co-producer of burlesque and cabaret collective The Blue Stocking Society, and we’ll be taking our “women’s institute for bad girls” to London’s Jackson’s Lane Theatre in November. For regular updates on my antics, do sign up to my mailing list at tricityvogue.com. I’ve also got an album ‘The Blue Lady Sings’, which you can buy from me at my show, or from my website. And I’m posting the new song I write everyday for the Uke Of Edinburgh winner on SoundCloud, so if you miss the show, you can have a listen online.
Tricity Vogue hosted the ‘Ukulele Cabaret’ at Laughing Horse @ The Counting House and the ‘Free Paint And Play Ukulele Workshop’ at the Rae Macintosh Musicroom at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Paul Collins
ED2012 INTERVIEW: Jackinabox Productions are staging two shows at this year’s Fringe, though the one that first caught our eye was ‘99.9 Degrees’, described by our reviewer as “wickedly stylish”, and commended for its “superbly cast set of fiercely individual characters”. We put some questions to the company’s artistic directors, John Askew and Hayley Thompson, and guest director Beth Eustace.
TW: Tell us about the premise for ‘99.9 Degrees’, and where the original idea came from.
John: The idea originated from that feeling of tension before something happens. It’s the feeling of being trapped, and inevitably heading for something. When something happens, you can respond; argue, hit someone back, deal with the situation, but until then you just have to sit tight. That is the basic feeling we worked from. We embodied that in a hostage situation where people have no control over their fate.
TW: You have quite a unique process for devising pieces like this, how does it work?
Hayley: ‘99.9 Degrees’ has allowed us to work more freely than ever before, and be as playful as possible in the rehearsal room. We started by workshopping the cast and talking about times in their pasts which have embodied that feeling of ‘quiet before the storm’. So their memories actually make up the physical aspects of the show. We then did a session where we placed the cast in the rehearsal studio with no other instructions but to react to the strangers in the room. We then gave different scenarios (one person is missing, or there is a phone in the room, for example) and allowed the cast improvise around that. We found it fascinating to watch how strangers react with each other, and that, for an audience, is interesting to see develop. This was the best way to bring out natural reactions, which juxtaposed the physical aspects of the show, and the script was then formed around that.
TW: Each of the characters in this piece seem to have detailed back stories. Do you begin with those fully formed, or are they informed by the physical and musical aspects of the play?
Hayley: We gave each of the cast a general character background and allowed them to build up the detailed picture you see on stage. Obviously a lot of this is informed by the script, and their memories, which we talked about a lot during the process, but we wanted wach actor to feel like they owned the character as much as possible. What is important is that anything physical starts from a character’s feelings or gestures. It has to be rooted in something natural for the movement to flow, make sense and to portray what it needs to. This piece is very character driven.
TW: You have a very integrated approach to creating your theatrical experiences – are you influenced by the approaches of any other companies or performers?
John: The first show we did as a company was ‘Stockholm’ by Bryony Lavery. We looked a lot at the process by which that script was developed, a collaboration between Frantic Assembly, 2 dancers and Lavery herself. The movement actually came before the text, ensuring it was born out of feeling. That is what we have always tried to do. Physical theatre cannot be an afterthought, it can’t look forced or stunted, and however impressive a lift may be it has to portray the emotion and drive of the characters.
TW: Tell us about your other show, ‘Don Juan’, how have you developed this story for your new piece?
Beth: I think most people now are, to some extent, aware of infamous womaniser Don Juan. This Lothario’s tales of seduction have been immortalised by so many different writers in the past: Mozart, Moliere, Byron, Tirso de Molina. Each writer captures a slightly a different side to the character and tells very different stories, and so we aimed to discover who this rake really was, through reading what had gone before and our own character development workshops. Once we felt we knew who Don Juan was we selected and adapted different examples of him seducing girls. We allowed ourselves creative freedom with the different scenarios but tried to keep as faithful as possible to the feel and message of the original pieces.
TW: How does adapting a classic story for the stage compare to working on a totally new piece?
Beth: When adapting a classic tale you have to realise many people have a strong idea of what the piece should be. The difficulty is striking a balance between being faithful to the original concept while allowing yourself enough room to give a new insight into the piece. For ‘Don Juan’ we aimed for the comic new tales of his exploits while asking if the morals espoused by Moliere hold any relevance for today? When developing a new piece the total creative freedom can be exciting but terrifying, it’s essential you have a strong idea of the story before you begin, and be strict with editing. You need to keep in mind other work of a similar vein to ensure that you are really doing something different.
TW: Tell us a little about Jackinabox Productions, what do you aim to achieve?
John: Having been to the Fringe in previous years and seen some exciting and unpredictable work, we were inspired to experiment ourselves, in particular with fusing movement with text. And, having a dance background, we also wanted to create highly explosive, visceral work and set that against intense, engaging theatre. We wanted to be adventurous and playful with it, taking risks and continually building on what we created. We adapted Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Little Mermaid’, creating a darker, highly physical show in which we played with character relationships and the setting of the piece to drive physicality and motion. We learnt from the show, what worked, what didn’t, and carried on pushing to find formulae that would deliver the results we were aiming for.
TW: You were here last year too, how was Fringe 2011 for you, and what have you learned for Fringe 2012?
Hayley: Fringe 2011 for us presented a huge learning opportunity. We had two successful shows, both very different but each encompassing that adventurous, playful and explosive fusion of physicality and text. Being at the Fringe gives you the chance to see what works, and to see other successful and not so successful shows, and to learn from other companies who are in a similar position. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to return this year and put this experience and learning to practice, with two new shows that we have developed extensively in the aim of delivering exciting new work, that builds upon our past pieces and offers up those winning formulae for Fringe 2012.
TW: How has your Festival been going so far – what have been the highlights, both with your own shows, and others you have seen?
John: Being back in Edinburgh is a real treat. When you get off the train, smell the hops and see the swarms of performers, it’s a great feeling. I think opening night was a highlight. The first time we saw the revised scripts post-previews in front of an audience. The laughs and the tears during that show really made the hard work worth it. As for other shows, we took the cast to see ‘Leo’ at Assembly Roxy, which actually blew me away. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and in that, it’s perfect for the Fringe and deserves the sell out success it’s having.
Jackinabox Productions shows ’99.9 Degrees’ and ‘Don Juan’ were performed at C eca at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Stuart Armitt
ED2012 COLUMN: Temple Theatre’s ‘Unmythable’ is “a whistle-stop tour through the greatest Greek myths ever told” says our reviewer. Well, we like the sound of that. And to get you in the mood, the show’s Paul O’Mahony is on hand to offer a little mythy enlightenment.
As we’ve been hearing a lot recently, the Greeks love having a good time and to hell with the cost. Perhaps we should blame the gods – after all, if you had Zeus as a role model what would you do? He’s the ultimate instant gratification, buy-now-pay-later kind of guy. This is the man (well, god, but definitely male, definitely a being with a penis) who was so enraged that Danae’s father locked her up in a tower to protect her from his advances that he visited her as a shower of gold – in the process inadvertently inventing a whole sub-genre of pornography. Patience was never one of his virtues (come to think of it, I’m not sure he had any virtues) and to get his wicked way with any beautiful Greek girl he fancied he disguised himself at various times as a bull, a swan, an ant, a goat, an eagle and a pigeon. Zeus was a one-man petting zoo, just significantly more dangerous.
He was the man/god at the top, and those beneath him tended to follow his lead. Women seem to exist in Greek mythology only so that they can be wronged, and for every hero sailing off merrily with a fluffy Golden Fleece, there tends to be a slighted female abandoned somewhere lonely. Heracles was possibly the worst culprit – a serial offender who managed to work his way through three wives. Whenever he got bored of one, he would ‘go mad’ and ‘accidentally’ kill them. Or at least that was his story. He was also the ultimate strange-animal-killing-machine who is responsible for exterminating more species than global warming, disease and hunting put together. Thanks to him, you’re never going to see a multi-headed Hydra in the wild (or in a zoo for that matter).
Women had a tough time, and it was no easy ride for the female immortals either. Before we ever had Miss World there was Myth World, when Paris had to choose which goddess was the most beautiful. His decision not to select Hera was almost as controversial as Stuart Pearce’s omission of David Beckham although hopefully the consequences won’t be quite so severe (ten years of war, a city destroyed, lots of people dying) this time round. The prize for the winner of this beauty contest (Aphrodite, since you ask) was a golden apple (the Greeks took fruit very seriously) but the losers (Hera and Athene) didn’t take it lying down. The upshot was the Trojan War, when Helen’s face launched a thousand ships. Her neck and arms launched a further 300 while her legs launched a new range of fashionable sportswear.
The Greeks and the Trojans fought for ten years with Hector leading the Trojans, while Achilles was the greatest Greek fighter. After Achilles killed Hector it seemed that nothing could stop him from leading the Greeks to victory: he seemed indestructible, invincible, immortal even. But Achilles had an Achilles’ heel. Achilles’ Achilles’ heel was his heel. Paris discovered this by shooting Achilles in the heel and killing him. So with their best warrior dead, how could the Greeks possibly break into Troy? Well how else but by building a giant wooden horse, filling it with your soldiers and then leaving it whilst pretending to sail away but actually hiding your fleet behind the nearest island, in the hope that the people you’ve been besieging for ten years will think it’s a leaving present and then bring it into their city thus allowing your men to exit under the cover of darkness to let in your army which has returned from behind the nearest island and then massacring the inhabitants in their sleep? Simple. (And that’s ‘simple’ without an ‘s’ at the end because ‘simple’ should never have an ‘s’ at the end.)
Greek mythology is about power, controlling women and war. By the way, that sentence also works if you replace ‘Greek mythology’ with ‘The US Republican Party’. All the strongest human emotions are found there, and whether you are making a Herculean effort or feeling a bit narcissistic you’ll probably be able to find a classical allusion that will apply to you. Whatever you’re going through, the Greeks got there first so it’s well worth revisiting their stories now to get a few tips on how not to deal with your problem.
Temple Theatre performed ‘Unmythable’ at Zoo at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Graeme Braidwood
ED2012 COLUMN: Time-travelling conjurors Morgan & West challenge some popular stereotypes, and offer some magical recommendations at this year’s Fringe.
“I don’t like magic”. When promoting a magic show, at some point someone will say those four little words. After four years doing magic at fringe festivals, we are more than used to hearing them and have come up with any number of witty ripostes. Though we still find that very idea – well – strange.
I strongly doubt a comedian flyering on the Mile ever hears “No thanks, I don’t like comedy”. The reason? People are used to comedy. They see comedy everywhere: on the TV, in big theatres, in tiny free fringe venues, on the street, in the pub. They are spoilt for choice, and more importantly they know they have a choice. Audiences know that the irreverent style of Josie Long will be markedly different to the quick-fire puns of Tim Vine. They know that the ramshackle chaos of Pappy’s will seem leagues away from the carefully crafted comic stories of Humphrey Ker. Everyone has comedy acts they like, and comedy acts they don’t.
In contrast, most people have never seen a magician in real life. The majority of people couldn’t name you three different magic acts, let alone describe the differences between them. When someone says ‘magician’, it conjures up images of dicky bows and dinner suits, or mullets and giant collars, of girls cut in half and rabbits pulled from hats. They think of kids’ parties and brightly coloured silk handkerchiefs, and often enough they think it’s all a bit cheesy and all a bit tired. Well, good news ladies and gentlemen! Magic has grown up. Much as comedians have forsaken mother-in-law gags and fezzes, so too has magic moved out from the shadow of stereotype into the bright light of originality.
Take a stroll around the Fringe’s comedy and cabaret strands and you will see magic acts of all shapes, sizes and styles. In the Pleasance, the world’s grumpiest magic dragon fires his pet Chihuahua from a cannon on a nightly basis for the entertainment of his crowds. Already a favourite of many, Piff the Magic Dragon lampoons the ridiculous, self-important side of magic, serving it with a healthy mixture of tongue-in-cheek and dry wit. At the same time, Sunderland psychic Ian D Montfort is contacting dead celebrities on behalf of the audience, carrying out past life regressions, and revealing people’s deepest darkest secrets. Tom Binns’ comedy creation not only brilliantly satirises the many professional mediums in the country, but also demonstrates baffling abilities that make the likes of Joe Power or Derek Acorah look like rank amateurs.
Over at the Gilded Balloon you will find (as well as a pair of time-travelling Victorian conjurers) a crazed Swede in a jumpsuit whose chaotic style and crazed manner are a million miles from the doves-and-dinner-jackets of twenty years ago. Carl-Einar Häckner is like a magic bomb, primed and ready to explode – equal parts hilarious, bizarre and anarchic. Not for the faint-hearted.
Nor is magic confined to the big four venues. theSpace @ Surgeons’ Hall hosts Magicana, the debut fringe show by Rob James, one of the country’s premier close-up magicians. James’ show fuses classical magic with a sharp wit and a sarcastic, post-modern edge. Zoo plays host to TV’s Paul Wilson, the magician turned con artist ready to fleece you of every penny you have, as well as veteran Ian Kendal, looking back at 21 years of magic at the Fringe.
Sweet Venues also have their share, seeing the return of ‘psychic’ psychologist Rob Bailey in his show ‘Mind Reading For Breakfast’. Bailey’s quiet and utterly unassuming style is the polar opposite of the cocky, know-it-all persona displayed by most mind-readers. Coupled with his penchant for risqué humour and double entendre, it makes his show one of the hidden gems of Fringe magic. These are just a few of our recommendations, and there are many more we’ve yet to see ourselves.
So if you were thinking to dismiss us as a cohort of strange men in ill-fitting suits with rabbits bulging from our sleeves, why not go and see one of the 47 (or so) magic shows at the Fringe and see for yourself? You almost certainly won’t like them all, but that’s the point: just as in comedy, theatre or any other broad genre represented at the Fringe, there’s something for everyone and a huge variety to choose from. And it’s well worth a try.
Morgan & West performed ‘Clockwork Miracles’ and ‘Lying Cheating Scoundrels’ at Gilded Balloon at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Kat Gollock
ED2012 INTERVIEW: We were impressed with the concept: take nearly-twelve ill conceived ideas and turn them into one winning show. Then our reviewer was impressed with results. A Q&A had to follow.
TW: I think we can guess the premise of the show, but tell us the basics, and how the idea came about.
DN: It’s obviously a show of all the ideas I had for shows. The Fringe Programme deadline was upon me and I didn’t like any of the ideas I’d had enough to do them for an hour, so I thought it might be funny to do them all. And I have. It’s an insight into the creative comedic process of an indecisive stand-up. It’s ended up being a really fun show to put together and perform. There’s lot’s of variety in what I’m talking about and it’s interesting to see people’s reactions to each section of the show. I’ve done a fake poster for each one and good God do I look ridiculous in some of them.
TW: Eleven and half ideas for Fringe shows – ill conceived they may be, but were you not tempted to hold onto these for eleven and half years of Festivals?
DN: No, the next eleven and a half years of shows need to be much better conceived than this lot.
TW: Or perhaps you could have sold them on to eleven and half other comedians desperately trying fill out their Fringe Programme forms?
DN: That could be a good way to make some money earlier in the year. Sell on the duffers and keep the gems.
TW: What persuaded you back to Edinburgh this year?
DN: I love the Festival and this is my fourth full month of being here. Last time I was here properly, in 2008, I did my first full hour. It went pretty well, but I knew I needed a little longer out of the Fringe spotlight to develop my comedy. Last year I was at home during the Festival and I actually missed being here and knew I’d be much more able to do a show to the standard I wanted.
TW: How does doing the Fringe compare to performing as a stand-up the rest of the year?
DN: It can be really tough, when you’re playing to small crowds and then, later that night, there’s a midnight show and you’re not on until 2am, and the stress builds. You have to be made of fairly sturdy stuff to do the full run. On the flip side of the coin, if you get a friendly knowledgeable Festival audience you can have so much fun as a performer. The circuit can also be lovely, but often they want a certain simple type of stand-up and aren’t willing to be challenged with more complicated ideas. Stag dos from Croydon don’t tend to be huge fans of whimsy.
TW: Have you seen any good shows at this year’s Fringe yet? How about ‘The Eleven And Half Stolen Shows Of Dan Nightingale’ for Fringe 2013?
DN: That’s a fucking great shout. Good thinking. Although I’ve not got round to seeing many shows yet. I’ll be going to see: Chris Stokes, Matt Forde, Danny Buckler, Carl Donnelly, Luisa Omelian, Danny Mcloughlin, Harriet Dyer and Paul McCaffrey. I’ve also heard David Trent’s is a great show to see. So they’d better all be prepared for me to steal their concepts.
TW: What are the best and worst bits about doing Edinburgh?
DN: Best bit, being in Edinburgh for a month. What an amazing place to live, even if it’s just for a month. Worst – the constant temptation of late night boozing. I’ve done well with that so far.
TW: Have you caught up with Auntie Christine yet? (Yeah, it’s possible we read your quick quiz with The Skinny)
DN: She’s coming on the last night. Good grief that’ll be interesting, because she joins in!
‘The 11 And A ½ Ill-conceived Edinburgh Shows Of Dan Nightingale’ was performed at Pleasance Dome at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Stuart Armitt
ED2012 INTERVIEW: Comedian Tony Law is a Fringe veteran, not to mention a Fringe favourite, and not just with us lot here at ThreeWeeks. If you haven’t heard of him you a: must be pretty new to the Festival and b: need to get along to his show as soon as you can, no nonsense…
TW: Your Fringe blurb promises us the ‘meaning of life’ in your new show. Well, sort of. Do you know the meaning of life?
TL: Try and not be a dick. I fail daily, but I try. I attempt to be kind. And keep trying. Oh the meaning????? Ask Coldplay!
TW: What’s the plan with new show ‘Maximum Nonsense’, tell us more.
TL: It’s about identity and comedy, all wrapped up in a nonsense blanket. People who have watched a lot of comedy and know their onions tend to love it, noticing stuff, whatever their age. People who are newer to comedy see a crazy jumpy moving man! I’m happy about that. So the plan is up at the top of this answer.
TW: How does it compare to last year’s show (which was excellent by the way)?
TL: It’s like a step forward. Moving a little onwards. Attempting to be original (impossible) and funny for an hour, and maybe making some points along the way without being the preachy, obvious twat that I can sometimes be.
TW: As a comedian, does Edinburgh provide the impetus to create a new show?
TL: Abso-fricking-lootley. The yearly panic begins around September 1st.
TW: There are very complimentary quotes from Stewart Lee, Adam Buxton and Sean Lock on your website. Would you like to return the favour?
TL: Heroes. Each one of them. Completely different but funny bones in all. Not craftsman but naturally funny wizards. Funny in life. Just funny. And smart. So not just funny. Funny funny smart. I lack a vocabu…
TW: Do you share Stewart’s well documented concerns about the continued growth of the more commercial end of the Fringe, or do you prefer to stay out of such debate?
TL: I have my head too far up my own arse to give a shit. I’m doing my own thing. I need things to bang up against. So put up as many giant posters as you like. I shan’t be. Got kids to feed and clothe. And make sure they’re better educated than their silly father.
TW: As a Stand performer, it must be exciting being part of a Fringe enterprise with a big new sister venue next door?
TL: It’s great. The more stuff on this side of town the better. Tommy and all those guys are decent folks with the best intentions. Looking after the acts and treating us all like adults. Weird drinks sponsor this year though. What the hell is it?
TW: Would you like to do something a little more theatrical again at a future Fringe? (We still fondly remember The Dinks).
TL: Ahhh The Dinks. I think I am doing that right now on my own. Maybe someday, with someone who lives near me. Lots of amazing mental acts coming through doing great odd stuff.
TW: And we saw your brief cameo in Tim FitzHigham and Tiernan Douieb’s kids’ show last Festival – have you ever considered doing a show for children?
TL: Nah. I swear too much. Plus, I do that with my own kids everyday and it’s knackering. And I loathe kids.
TW: Your Fringe blurb also promises clichés. What are your worst Fringe clichés?
TL: Posters. All the genius’s’s’s here. People who write “on at a time that doesn’t conflict with shows you actually want to see?” – not a cliché but just rude. And a pointless thing to say. Knob. Comics who act self deprecating but really actually think they’re ok. See above. Knob.
Tony Law performed ‘Maximum Nonsense’ at The Stand at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Stuart Armitt
ED2012 INTERVIEW: Fringe success story The Ginge, The Geordie and The Geek have been appearing around Edinburgh in their underpants (on posters, obviously) for a number of years now. They’ve proven popular with ThreeWeeks reviewers and Fringe punters alike, so we decided it was time to find out about the secret to their success. Other than the pants. And also about the BBC pilot we’d heard about on the grapevine.
TW: Let’s start at the start, how did you guys come together in the name of comedy?
GGG: We trained together as actors at the Royal Scottish Academy Of Music And Drama a decade ago. We all then jobbed about as actors for a few years but didn’t make our fortunes, so we decided to make a sketch show instead. It was blind faith. We approached it as a business and said we wanted a TV pilot after three Edinburghs. Looking back it seems mad, as we now know how hard it is for sketch groups to get their own shows. So the fact that we got a BBC pilot at the start of the year feels amazing. We’re very lucky.
TW: You seemed to quickly build a following at the Fringe despite having a self-promoted show – was it as easy as it looked?
GGG: It was insane!!! We moved out of our London flats to afford to come up, so failure was never an option. We probably worked fourteen hours a day in the first year to make sure we got an audience. It’s not just about flyering, it’s the whole promoting package you need to get perfect, and we just learnt on the job. By the end of that first year we’d sold 3000 tickets, which had us gobsmacked. Even with all the work, we were expecting to lose a packet! Again, there was an element of luck. Actor James McAvoy and Nathan Connolly from Snow Patrol saw our London previews and loved the show, so we got quotes from them and that probably helped ticket sales. As did the silly name (which industry people don’t like very much, but Joe Public do). And the picture of us in our pants helped a lot as well!
TW: Ah yes, that photo! It has certainly served you well. Do the capes and pants ever feature in your shows? And are you planning on using the same photo concept forever?
GGG: The photo has helped sell a lot of tickets. The image is striking and in amongst a sea of comedian’s faces, it really sets us apart! In past shows we’ve started in our pants before getting into the actual sketches wearing our usual costume of black cargos and white polo shirts, but this year has been very hectic for us and we’ve all eaten a lot of take aways, so it’s much kinder for all of our fans if we don’t subject them to our semi naked chips and cheese ridden bodies. Although the Geordie does have to wear a skin tight morph suit at one point! The photo concept is our branding so yes, we will use it forever. It’s a bit of a metaphor for what we represent and who we are: three blokes without pretension and always up for a laugh. It’s a striking image and, love it or hate it, it hopefully makes us stand out from the crowd, just like our comedy.
TW: For the uninitiated, tell us what we can expect from a GGG show.
GGG: It’s a feel-good populist sketch show with 32 sketches in 55 minutes. Big punchlines, lots of jokes, silliness, big characters, clean humour, no swearing and a brilliant 80s soundtrack. One of the things we’re most proud of is the fact that you can bring your 12 year old kid and your gran and the whole family can enjoy it. It’s not easy to achieve, and the show is constantly evolving, but we’ve sold out every day so far with great audience reactions so it’s definitely worth a punt if you haven’t seen us before.
TW: So, tell us about this BBC pilot.
GGG: The pilot was brilliant. We got to work with a fantastic new team of people while managing to stay true to our own style of comedy. We shot the whole thing in Glasgow and worked with a brilliant director called Mandie Fletcher who has previously directed shows like ‘Blackadder’, ‘Roger And Val’ and ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. Mandie has so much experience of what works for television and it was fascinating to see how we could adapt comedy ideas and make them work on the small screen. We did the live studio filming in front of 300 people which was terrifying, but they seemed to love it which was a real buzz.
TW: What was it like working on TV sketches rather than material for the live stage?
GGG: There is a quite a big difference between the two. TV demands a huge amount of material, the pace is very quick and it’s unforgiving on weak material. We’ve always made our stage shows with a very quick pace, and with a TV show in mind, but still, the pilot was a big learning curve for us. The feedback from the pilot from those with the power has been brilliant, so fingers crossed we’ll have something very exciting to announce after the Festival!
TW: The sketch comedy scene has been very strong in recent years, though few groups graduate to TV, why do you think that is?
GGG: Sketch comedy is tough. Each sketch needs to have its own personality, and you constantly have to surprise the audience. Over the years there have been some brilliant sketch shows on TV, but people are always looking for something that is a bit different and fresh – and that is really difficult to achieve. You need to bring your own style and ‘take’ on things and look to be consistently funny without being reliant on a style that only works for an exclusive live comedy savvy audience. We have always prided ourselves on making comedy that is accessible to all and hope that is one of the reasons why it seems to work on the telly.
TW: Are there any other sketch groups at the Fringe this year that you particularly rate?
GGG: There’s a fantastic female duo called Checkley And Bush who are also on at Just the Tonic. They have the same working class sensibility as us and are well worth a watch. They mix amazingly well done comedy songs with character comedy, a bit of audience banter and a hilarious set piece involving a couple of people from the audience. It’s a bit ruder than our show and has some swearing in, but as long as you don’t mind that it’s definitely worth a watch.
TW: You obviously love doing the Fringe; what are the best bits and worst bits of doing a show here?
GGG: The best bits are those audiences that really get the show. The ones that clap between sketches and generally make the atmosphere amazing. The worst bit is the lack of sleep and alcohol poisoning!
TW: You’re doing the new show twice daily – have you started to regret that decision yet?
GGG: No, we’re hardcore. There are moments when we’re really knackered, especially between shows, but the audience always give us a real injection of energy. We will be exhausted by the end of the Festival, but it’s only a month, and it’s one of the best jobs in the world, so we’re pretty lucky really.
The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek performed ‘All New Show 2012′ at Just The Tonic at The Caves at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Stuart Armitt
ED2012 INTERVIEW: As a long term users and lovers of public transport, the ThreeWeeks editors were immediately drawn to Molly Taylor’s new play, ‘Love Letters To The Public Transport System’. And if our reviewer’s opinion is anything to go by (hint: it is), the resulting piece of theatre is really something special. Molly spoke to ThreeWeeks about the inspiration for the show, and its journey to the Fringe.
TW: Tell us about the concept behind ‘Love Letters…’
MT: ‘Love Letters’ was born out of a pretty heady love affair, and a time in my life when lots of exciting things were happening. And I got a bit obssessed with the idea of timings, how I’d been in the right place at the right time, and how other people had played their part in that process. And that included the bus and train drivers who got me about every day. So I set myself a task, to see if I could find the public transport workers who were responsible, to find out more about them, and to thank them.
TW: Once you’d decided to create a piece around public transport, you started with some real life stories. Where did those come from, and how did they develop into the play we can now see?
MT: I was really lucky that a few brilliant stories from friends and colleagues sought me out. So I did a couple of interviews with folk who had had really significant and memorable experiences on public transport – journeys that had altered the course of their life in some way – and I transcribed the interviews and then re-wrote them in my own words, as short stories essentially, and then tried to weave them into the piece.
TW: The play had an acclaimed work-in-progress airing last year, how has the final piece developed from there?
MT: If anything, it’s simpler! It’s a very self-contained piece, and I had to accept that simplicity was the key – of course I wanted puppets and pyrotechnics and a massive set – but I think that was because I was worried the writing wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny! This time round I’ve worked with a director called Graeme Maley, who suggested staging ideas and helped finesse my performance. I was thrilled that the work-in-progress was so well received, but at that time I was just trying to get through the show and remember all the bloody lines, so this time I feel a bit more confident about how it should be performed.
TW: How did you begin working with the National Theatre Of Scotland?
MT: I first starting working with them in 2006. I ran the education and outreach project that went alongside ‘Wolves In The Walls’, so I developed a really good relationship with their Learn department. In 2008 I spent a year as an associate, and it’s then I first started flinging ideas around about making my own work.
TW: How has your writing style developed and advanced thanks to the NTS programme?
MT: They’ve got an amazing team in their Artistic Development department, and I was really lucky to work with a series of great literary managers who gave me enormous feedback on my writing, and Caroline Newall who produced the show last year. She’s an absolute legend, and has brilliant creative instincts.
TW: Does being a performer yourself have an impact on your playwriting?
MT: Yes! When I was re-reading the script before I went back into rehearsals I was thinking “who on earth wrote this, this is so bloody WORDY!” As a performer I reckon I’m quite hard on myself as the writer, because I’ve got an instinct about what’s play-able, or how I want a line to sound. Sometimes I will just stare and stare at the same sentence until it becomes a line I wouldn’t be embarrassed to perform! So you go through quite a severe filtering process, trying to needle out the rubbish text from the good stuff. And as the sole performer, if I wouldn’t be happy to perform it it doesn’t go in!
TW: Is the Edinburgh Fringe a great place to present work like ‘Love Letters…’?
MT: Yes, I think so. What’s lovely about the Fringe is that it supports work on all scales and stages, and story-telling is a massive part of that programme. Also there’s a huge transitory audience who come here from all over the world, so presenting a piece about public transport seems apt, without those networks very few of us would be able to get here in the first place!
TW: Are you a fan of public transport?
MT: I’m a non-driver, so it is a lifeline to me. I couldn’t do anything without it! I got a lovely letter from the Traffic Commissioner last year after she’d seen the show and she said “bus and train drivers are touchstones of reliability in a world with its chaotic moments”. I thought that was beautifully put. I know we all complain about public transport, but without it we’d all be scunnered.
TW: Do you have a favourite kind of public transport?
MT: I’m a bit of a fan of the train. I’m up and down the road a lot from Glasgow to London, so I’m probably more at home on a Virgin train than anywhere. And they are great for getting work done! I wrote large sections of the play whilst sitting on a train. Don’t get me wrong, they can be horrendous and over-crowded and delayed, and you can be sat next to a nightmare passenger, but I’ve got to say recently all my journeys have been grand. That could be good transport karma coming my way…
TW: Were there any stories you discovered in developing the piece that don’t appear in the play, but which interested or amused you?
MT: Yes, there were lots, but they’re probably not printable!? I did hear an amazing story from a woman who had stopped a bus one night when she was pished – she literally jumped out into the road and stopped it because it was her last bus and she’d have missed it. On the bus was a guy who’d been stabbed, and the driver was hurtling to the hospital, going through red lights, speeding all the way there, and this woman had to sit with the injured man and hold his hand through the whole thing. The guy survived. And she claimed that without that bus driver, then, well, who knows…? I’m sure there’s acts of heroism like this every day on public transport, but they are the stories we don’t always get to hear.
The National Theatre of Scotland’s ‘Love Letters To The Public Transport System’ was performed at The Assembly Rooms at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Colin Hattersley
ED2012 INTERVIEW: ‘Sealand’ intrigued us from the start. A ‘broken Britain’ themed piece, inspired by the rather bizarre story of the real life sea fort principality, it had a lot of promise. Then our reviewer saw the show and was entranced, making us determined to track down Luke Clarke and Anthony Stephen Springall from The Alchemist, the recently formed company behind the show, to ask some questions.
TW: For the uninitiated, tell us about the real Sealand?
Luke: The real Sealand was set up in 1967 by Roy Bates. After realising one of the old World War II sea forts in the North Sea was outside British territorial waters, he and his wife started to live on it and claimed it as an independent sovereign state. He gave himself the title of prince and his wife the title of princess, and a legal battle ensued. His son still lives there today.
TW: When did you first learn about the real life Sealand story, and how did it inspire the new play?
Luke: I found out about the real Sealand while flicking through a news website. I was looking for the perfect place to set the play, some where isolated and cut off from the mainland. Sealand ticked every box. The real story is fascinating, but their reason for creating Sealand seemed to stem from them wanting publicity. In my story I ask, if someone really wanted to start a new nation, would it be possible and how would they go about achieving it?
TW: Recent economic woes also influenced the play, didn’t they?
Luke: Yes. As a recent graduate, I was struck one day (as most students are, I think) by the realisation that I would soon be entering into a climate that offered me little to no employment opportunities. The play is my response to the recession, the economic down turn and the feelings that both students and working adults have toward broken Britain at the moment. However, the play also explores the strength of family and the divide between the youth of today and the older generation
TW: It sounds like there are parallels with some other attempts-to-create-a-Utopia stories – Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ comes to mind – did any other works inspire you?
Luke: ‘The Beach’ certainly has some parallels, though I would say the film ‘Mosquito Coast’ was more of an inspiration. I think like a lot of utopia stories, it’s never about the new place you’re creating, it’s about what’s wrong with the place you’ve come from, and why you had to leave it.
TW: How have you gone about recreating an isolated sea platform on stage?
Anthony: We enlisted the help of Charlie Robb, a graduate designer from The Wimbledon School of Art. To translate the feeling of claustrophobia and isolation onto the stage, she designed a raised platform where the actors are forced to live on top of each other. Using a simple pulley system we were able to add another level to the set, the basement.
TW: Tell us about your backgrounds, have you written/directed and produced before?
Anthony: We have just graduated from the Contemporary Theatre Course at East 15 Acting School. During training Luke devised and performed in the National Theatre Studio’s production of ‘Doing The Idiots’ and the Georgian National Theatre’s production of ‘Touch Me’. He’s also directed at the Southwark Playhouse and The Nottingham Arts Theatre. Though ‘Sealand’ is his first full length play. This is my fourth year at the Edinburgh Fringe, I composed and produced ‘Facebook: The Musical’ in 2009, transferred to the Arts Theatre London with the Hartshorn-Hook production of ‘A Tribute To The Blues Brothers live’ in 2010, and produced ‘Perffection’ by Charlotte Josephine last year. ‘Sealand’ is the first production for our new company The Alchemist.
TW: Do you think Edinburgh is a good place for premiering new work?
Anthony: Edinburgh is the perfect platform for a new piece of theatre, providing you can pay the escalating venue guarantee! It gives you the opportunity to take risks, be creative and get what might have started as just a simple plot idea to an international audience. New work is the heart of the Fringe.
TW: What are the biggest challenges about producing a brand new play?
Anthony: Getting the public interested enough in new writing that they’ll part with their well earned pounds. You have to know how to sell your show and be able to talk freely about it, word of mouth is God in Edinburgh and the challenge is to get an audience that will then go and talk about your show.
TW: What are the best bits?
Anthony: The best thing about producing this show is the cast and team behind our new company. They’re passionate and committed to giving the public an hour of pure theatre.
TW: And finally, beyond the Fringe, what are your future plans for The Alchemist?
Anthony: We plan to tour ‘Sealand’ in 2013. And we both have a number of other productions in the pipeline. But for next year’s Fringe Luke, Charlie and I, are planning a totally different theatre experience to this year. Live music, giant puppets, acrobatics and of course time travel. And that’s all I’ll say for now.
The Alchemist Theatre performed ‘Sealand’ at Zoo at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Kat Gollock
ED2012 COLUMN: Lynn Ruth Miller had to sit this Fringe out with her foot in a cast. But that’s not stopping her from sharing some thoughts with Edinburgh performers from the other side of the Atlantic…
I really love the second week of the Festival. By that time, I am comfortable with my show; I understand the limits of my venue and I have an established routine to bring in my audiences. I know where I want to flyer and when the best times are. And I have figured out the times when I can rest and the times when I am not too stressed to catch a few other shows. The Festival all comes together for me in this week.
Last year, I did my comedy show at Sweet Grassmarket. The performances blew hot and cold through the first week. Audiences were fair but not great, and not one reviewer managed to come see me. On the last Saturday night of that week, I had a full house and you know how unusual that can be. The room was filled with people I not only knew but fans who had been following me for the past six years. How could I fail?
Filled with false confidence, I stood before these people who so wanted me to be amazing and did my routine. No one laughed. Oh, there were smiles and a chuckle or two. Every now and again, I heard a hearty guffaw… but not one joke really caught fire. The technician, who felt my pain, told me, “They LOVED the show, Lynn Ruth. They all listened to every single word you said”. And I replied, “I am a comedian. I want them to laugh”.
I trudged home in the rain that night and thought seriously of throwing the last seven years into the nearest bin and taking up lap dancing. I was ashamed and distraught. However, instead of shopping around for some hemlock to drink, I cried bitter tears to that wisest, most philosophical and kindest of men: Sweet Venues founder Julian Caddy. Julian thought for a moment, and then he said: “You know what, Lynn Ruth. You’re not having FUN on that stage”.
And then I understood why the first week is so difficult. Those first seven performances, I was worried about my timing; I was adjusting to incessant rain; I was trying to find the places I could settle in for a meal; I was constantly distracted by all the friends I was seeing for the first time in a year. My performance was only one of hundreds of things on my mind. It was incredibly difficult to focus totally on my show.
By the time I finished that first week, all my variables were in place and I could give my full attention to the one thing I came to Edinburgh to do: my show. I had my content under control and I could see the tone and the slant that was most comfortable for me. I established my networking and I’d scheduled all my late night promotional appearances. For the first time in a lot more than seven days, I had time to breathe. That is why it is in the second week of the Fringe that you can have a good time.
And that is just what I did. I started having fun and so did my audience. When you think about it, what else did I want to happen? Do I want national recognition? Well, maybe, eventually. Do I want five star reviews? Well, of course I do. But that isn’t the real reason I came to Edinburgh. I came to get better at what I do. I love performing and if that love doesn’t show, I am not doing my job. If I want my audience to have a great time, I have to have fun too.
I am hoping all of you are beginning to enjoy yourself too, now that the first week has come to an end. That is when you figure out that this Festival isn’t about the reviewers that haven’t got to your show, or the people who didn’t particularly care for what you do. It isn’t about the rain or the fatigue. It is about the marvellous friends you are making and the beautiful opportunity you have to do one show over and over and over until you get it right… not for the audience… but for yourself.
I have just one show tip this week. One show I love is Ivor Dembina’s ‘Old Jewish Jokes’, because I am usually the oldest Jewish Joke at the festival. It’s not in the Fringe Programme, but it’s taking place from 16-25 Aug at 7.20pm at Bar 50 in the Cowgate as part of the Free Festival. If you go, be sure to tell Ivor that the classic Jewish American Princess Horror Movie is ‘Debbie Does Dishes’, and remind him that even a secret agent can’t lie to a Jewish mother.
Anyway, congratulations to you all!!!! You are half way through the second week of the Festival and now it is time for the home stretch. You are ready to indulge yourself in the frosting on your Festival cake. I so wish I could be there with you, but next year, I promise, I will see every one of you once again.
ED2012 COLUMN: Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards organiser and prolific blogger John Fleming writes…
I started the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards because I felt the Fringe had become too responsible and respectable. It was / is now part of the career path of aspiring comedians.
The name Malcolm Hardee remains unknown to the woman in a Leamington Spa bus queue. Modern Fringe performers almost see her as their target audience. Malcolm did not come to the Fringe to get on TV. He came because he could get drunk, make some money, get sex and had a licence, under the guise of the Fringe, to be anarchic.
He (and Arthur Smith) wrote a review of his own show, submitted it to The Scotsman under the name of one of the paper’s critics – and they published it! He drove a tractor, naked, through American performance artist Eric Bogosian’s show. Eric had annoyed him, so he annoyed Eric. Likewise, American ventriloquist David Strassman annoyed Malcolm, so he abducted David’s hi-tech dummy, held it to ransom and sent it back to Strassman piece by piece, demanding hard cash.
But Malcolm (who drowned in 2005) was much-loved in the comedy business and could spot talent at 200 yards in a thick mist. He nurtured more comedy talent in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s than you could fit into many a TV comedian’s ego. He helped many of today’s big TV names – some of whom would not return his phone calls after they bought their second Armani suit.
So the main Malcolm Hardee Award For Comic Originality seeks to celebrate risk-taking. The more recent Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid Award seeks to find more mainstream acts. And then… And then… we have the Cunning Stunt Award. This started in 2008 when comedian Gill Smith sent me an e-mail saying she was nominating herself for the Malcolm Hardee Award on the basis she could then logically put on her posters ‘MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD NOMINEE’. “I think Malcolm would have approved” she added.
“Yes,” I thought, “he would”. So we created a new Cunning Stunt Award for best Fringe publicity stunt and we gave it to Gill before she could give herself an award. Last year, Kunt & The Gang and their éminence bald Bob Slayer got the award for their ‘Cockgate’ stunt, in which paper penises were stuck on everyone else’s posters all over Edinburgh. Personally, I did not like the stunt itself, but they built up an extraordinarily effective publicity campaign on the slender back of it.
‘Cockgate’ did not appear until about halfway through last year’s Fringe – roughly where we are this year – so I am praying for another unexpected stunt. At the moment, contenders might include Stuart Goldsmith, who turned the Fringe Programme’s ridiculous censorship of his ‘PRICK’ show as ‘PR!CK’ into an effective piece of publicity. And I rather admired Chris Dangerfield, who got his show Sex Tourist sponsored by an Edinburgh escort agency – anyone who takes his flyer gets a 10% discount on the agency’s wares. Dubious taste is no barrier to winning an award.
At the other end of the spectrum, Charmian Hughes had a ‘knitathon’ in which punters were encourage to knit throughout her ‘Charmageddon!’ show (about the end of the world). She then used the half-knitted garment(s) as part of an erotic ‘Dance Of The Seven Cardigans’ at the end of the show.
But none of these truly excite me. There is no Malcolm Hardee element of danger. No real authority-annoying anarchy. Where are the Naked Balloon Dance and Banger-Up-The-Bum elements? PR man Mark Borkowski twice – twice! – managed to get Edinburgh Council in a tizzy by claiming French troupe Archaos were going to juggle chainsaws. They were not. But it got acres of publicity.Malcolm’s erstwhile comedy troupe The Greatest Show On Legs are in town from 22nd August. Is their anarchy-stewn inspiration forgotten?
John Fleming organises the annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards and writes a daily blog at blog.thejohnfleming.com
Photo: Kat Gollock
You do know that if it wasn’t for a horse, there wouldn’t be an Edinburgh Festival, don’t you?
Well, we might be exaggerating slightly, but way back in 1945, when the Edinburgh International Festival was first being conceived, one of the event’s earliest champions was Lady Rosebery, who also provided funding for the first festival programme in 1947. And some of that money – the history books tell us – came from the winnings her husband Lord Rosebery had made when one of the horses he owned, Ocean Swell, won the Derby and the Jockey Club Cup in 1944.
Recognising Ocean Swell’s role in helping what is now the world’s greatest cultural party to first emerge way back in the mid-1940s, one of the Festival’s newest venues – and a new year-round cultural space for the city – Summerhall, has just unveiled a statue in honour of the horse, pictured here with legendary Fringe impresario Richard Demarco, who is presenting events as part of this year’s Summerhall festival programme.
A Summerhall spokesman told ThreeWeeks: “Ocean Swell, whose winnings at the 1944 Derby and Jockey Club Cup were used by Lady Rosebery to pay part of the costs of the first Edinburgh Festival, bridges a link between what Summerhall is doing now and the site’s history. The Summerhall Brewery used horse and cart to deliver its beer. And when the brewery closed, the site became the home of the Royal Dick Veterinary school, which was initially founded for the treatment of horses, cows and pigs. The statue also pays homage to the founding of the Edinburgh Festivals, and the unique founding principles employed to this day”.
Read about Summerhall’s festival programme at www.summerhall.co.uk