The Edinburgh Fringe: How Did We Get Here?

By Thomas Pymer

 

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is one of the largest drama festivals in the world. In one month, it is estimated that over 50,000 performances take place. Roads close, the population triples and the entire city turns into a massive multi-staged theatre. With the Fringe in its 71st year, I’ll be taking a look back at what happened between 1947 and 2018 to transform the Fringe into the cultural hub it is today.

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In 1945, Sir Rudolf Bing (an Austrian refugee), decided to host a festival in his adopted country of Britain, hoping to “establish… a centre of world resort for lovers of music, drama, opera, ballet and the graphic arts”.

Sir Rudolf and his friends (notably Harry Wood, Chair of the Scottish Council, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Sir John Falconer, Lady Eva Roseberry and Professor Sidney Newman of Edinburgh University) selected Edinburgh, which had largely escaped the damage inflicted by the Blitz, as the host city (although Edinburgh was the second choice after Oxford). Several select companies (including the Glyndebourne Opera Company, the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra, Sadler’s Wells Dance Company and the Old Vic Company) were invited to perform at the first festival in 1947. This became the Edinburgh International Festival.

However, eight amateur companies (Glasgow Unity Theatre, the Christine Orr Players, the Edinburgh College of Art Group, Edinburgh People’s Theatre, Edinburgh District Community Drama Association, the Scottish Community Drama Association, London’s Pilgrim Players and Manchester Marionette Theatre) decided to take advantage of the heightened artistic excitement to perform in smaller venues alongside the Festival. Mixed among their opportunism was a desire to promote working-class art in contrast to the aristocratic tastes of the professionals, and outrage that no Scottish drama was included in the Festival. Before long, word began to spread (beginning a long tradition of oral advertising) that these amateurs were putting on amazing shows.

Still, there the story might have finished were it not for journalist Robert Kemp. Kemp noticed the hype about the smaller companies and wrote about it. It is Kemp we have to thank for the phrase “fringe”, which he used to describe how the companies were performing at the edges of the Festival. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe was born.

The next major development in the Fringe’s history arrived in 1950, when the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (a music and military festival) was scheduled to happen alongside the Festival. The Fringe became a space for the musicians and dancers who followed the Tattoo to showcase their talents.

The first big hit to come out of the Fringe was the Glasgow Unity Theatre’s performance of The Gorbals Story. Within a year of its Fringe debut in 1947, it had 600 appearances across the country, performed at the Garrick and became a film in 1950.

In 1951, the Edinburgh People’s Festivals began. Although they were only held until 1954, the legacy to the Fringe was enormous; poorer companies and performers who came for the People’s Festivals discovered the Fringe and kept coming.

A joint box office at the Edinburgh YMCA was established by Edinburgh students in 1955. At this time, students began to arrive to perform. 1955 is also notable as the first year a one-person show was performed at the Fringe (Elspeth Douglas Reid in One Woman Theatre), a style which has thrived since.

In 1958, the companies united into the Festival Fringe Society, codifying the regulations for the Fringe. Significantly, they agreed performances would be unjuried, with no selection process: any company could turn up and perform.

In 1960, the Festival, irritated at the growth of its rival, hired the Cambridge Footlights and the Oxford Theatre Group to create Beyond The Fringe. This backfired when the Fringe erupted in satire, earning satire a home at the Fringe and inspiring the anti-authority “satire boom” of the 60s.

In 1966, the Fringe hosted its most famous play to date: Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The success the play achieved cemented the Fringe’s reputation as a name-maker for aspiring celebrities. The Fringe has given the national stage to Cleese, Atkinson, Fry, Laurie, Thompson, Izzard, Mitchell and Webb, Burton, Gielgud, Dench and Jacobi. What future big names performed at this year’s festival? (In my opinion, Elina Alminas, Toby Marlow and Zach Ghazi-Torbati are names to remember.)

In 1974, the Fringe overtook the Festival in ticket sales, which it has done almost every year since.

The Alternative Comedy boom in the 1980s brought stand-up comedians to the Fringe. In 1982, the Fringe began to move to bigger venues, such as the Pleasance Dome and the Assembly Rooms.

In 2016, over 2000 companies performed at the Fringe, setting a record for dramatic festivals anywhere.

And that, in brief, is the history of the Fringe in the last seventy-one years. Thanks, Sir Rudolf, it may not be quite what you had in mind, but I think you’d love it.


Timpsons: The Musical

By Claire Richardson

 

‘Timpsons: The Musical’. If you just thought of Timpsons: the high street cobbler, you are correct. Energetic, creative, and completely ridiculous, it’s a musical parody of Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Written by Warwick students Sam Cochrane and Chris Baker, and performed by the new company ‘Gigglemug Theatre’, it’s exactly the sort of show the Fringe encourages.

On the Royal Mile each day, I spotted the team with Timpsons flyers, wearing shoe-shaped headdresses and Timpson aprons. Intrigued, I caught up with lead actors Robert Madge and Sabrina Messer, to discover the key to this musical. With just a week left, Sabrina remains convinced that their performance is always their favourite hour of the day – ‘although, half an hour before the show, we look like zombies,’ Rob laughs.

 

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We begin with mutual, ironic grumbles as to a lack of sets of keys in crammed Fringe apartments this summer, before Rob abridges the musical. ‘It’s a bonkers but brilliant exploration of how shoes and keys came together to form the nation’s favourite cobblers – as mad as it sounds!’ The pair play Monty Montashoe and Keeleigh Keypulet, inventors and star-crossed lovers, in this (fictional!) depiction of Timpsons Ltd’s origins, 1865. The musical darts between the set of two wooden wagons; home of the feuding family businesses seeking glory at the ‘Invention Convention’.

I ask how Shakespeare might react. ‘Absolutely not turning in his grave,’ says Rob, with a grin. ‘Definitely – he was up for a laugh!’ Sabrina agrees. And what did Timpsons Ltd have to say? ‘We don’t work for Timpsons,’ Rob insists, ‘but everyone thinks that we do – we’re actors!’. The writers wrote for permission, and received generous funding for half of the show, but Sam and Chris had completed the musical long before. At the end each show, money is raised for the Alex Timpson Trust, established in 2017, to continue Alex Timpson’s work supporting children in care – in her lifetime, she fostered over 300 children.

Rob comments on first receiving their script that ‘you can’t quite believe you’re reading it. It’s so mad – and requires commitment. You can’t do the jokes half-heartedly, or they’d fall flat’. This includes posing a key as a ‘mini saw’ and a door as a ‘human catflap’ at the ‘Invention Convention’, while belting their anthems ‘Hole in my Sole’ and ‘It’s a Tingle’. Despite week-long rehearsals every month for half the year, there have still been alterations in Edinburgh. ‘A whole song at the start was cut,’ Rob tells us, ‘it was snappier to go straight in’.

The writers and lyricists are also performers in the subplot. Bouncing about in black leotards, they play characters in two love stories – that of the family servants, commenting on social class, and the most hilarious physical sketch of the relationship between two fisherman. While the future of ‘Timpsons: The Musical’ is unknown, Sabrina is convinced that the next move from Sam and Chris will undoubtably ‘be a bit wacky – it won’t be straight-laced’.

Certainly, this musical is a slice of quintessential Fringe. Ridiculous on paper, and brilliant when brought to the stage – it just needed the right team, and the high street’s cobbler, to ‘unlock potential’.


An Interview with Planet Caramel

By Charlie Norton

 

I’m approached in the noisy foyer of Buttermarket by a normified David Blair, transformed from alien comedian to down-to-earth nice-guy by the absence of the Planet Caramel costume of a pair of neon orange Mod glasses. When Alex Harwood and Richard Duffy, sporting a shock of mauve hair, sweep in together, the three avidly fill each other in on whatever has happened in the hours spent apart since their last show – I’m reluctant to disrupt the lively flow of chat between them.

 

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Can you tell me about early days of Planet Caramel?

Richard: We were all in the Edinburgh Revue at different times.

David: Then I wanted to form a group with Alex, and Richard was a necessary appendage.

Alex: And now we’re all best friends!

 

How did you choose the troupe name?

David: ‘Planet Caramel’ was chosen completely at random–

Richard: Then we decided it would be a good idea to have a bribe and managed to get hold of Tunnock’s, who give us 600 caramel wafers a year.

David: You know the worst thing about the wafers is that we’re the only show at the Fringe that gives them out and 10% of people go “Oh, have you not got Tunnock’s teacakes?” For f*ck’s sake guys, we’re not called Planet Teacake.

 

So, who decided on the fluorescent Mod glasses?

Richard: (to Alex) You’re essentially the aesthetics man.

Alex: Yeah – that was me! I was trying to get us a uniform for ages, and wanted us to be dressed as Cosmic Postmen…

David: Not a lot of Google results.

Alex: The glasses idea came from Devo, an Art Pop electronic band from the 80s, who wear these famous weird hats and look really bizarre. I imagined us doing the equivalent with glasses and it just worked.

Richard: We actually had a sexy photoshoot with the glasses and matching orange tutus.

 

Speaking of sexy, that word has been thrown about a lot in relation to your show…

David: I don’t know why, I don’t think of us as very sexy at all. Richard is another species.

Richard: Well, my flatmates overheard some Americans after a performance refer to me as ‘a tall glass of water’!

Alex: My boss’s mate fancies Richard too. There are definitely parts of the show where I feel sexy and then parts where I wish I was dead.

David: 1 minute of the former, 58 minutes of the latter. I’m not sexy… unless you like screaming and sweat. I actually sat down on the stage last night and left a puddle just from my own buttock sweat, which isn’t sexy, is it. Is it?

Alex: A puddle is just a spilt tall glass of water!

 

Have you thought about what Planet Caramel itself would be like if you ruled it?

Richard: Sticky.

David: I think it would be populated by nice boys just being friends. Girls would be allowed too.

 

So, you don’t have an agenda in particular?

David: I want to be nice, a lot of sketch groups aren’t nice, a lot of comedy isn’t nice.

Alex: Exactly. We don’t like doing dark edgy stuff for the sake of looking clever. The sketches are all ideas that have tickled us.

Richard: Comedy needn’t have a point; when it does it’s good. There’s a slight issue at the moment in that the shows we see promoted are often not the funniest but the most poignant or ‘significant’ shows.

David: (teasing) He’s getting defensive of us not getting shortlisted again.

Richard: I just think it’s strange that that’s almost a requirement of comedy now.

 

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An hour with Planet Caramel proves them to be a comedy trio worth supporting: Richard, David and Alex really are ‘nice guys doing a nice thing’, bringing sharp sketches that amuse and amaze for fun’s sake. After a successful run of Rotations in Flavour Space, they are sure to be back to the Fringe next year with another raucous and unmissable light-speed sketch-show.

 

 


5 Films to Cure Your Post Fringe Blues

By Olivia Cooke

Missing the Fringe already? Fear not, these films are the perfect remedies to fill that place in your heart left void by the lack of regular viewing. So, take your seats and settle back for a movie-marathon.

Trainspotting (1 & 2) (1996, 2017)

Danny Boyle’s iconic 1996 black comedy and its 2017 sequel, start our list with an adrenaline- fuelled bang. The opening scenes of Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremner sprinting down Princes Street to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, will always be held as one of the greatest moments in British cinematic history. Although the majority of both films were filmed in Glasgow, no other film in the modern era has been able to champion the Scottish capital in all its glory. Strap yourself in for a visceral junkie ride through Edinburgh to the pounding, relentless rhythm of Underworld’s Born Slippy reverberating through your ears.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

The iconic parade scene alone justifies a viewing of John Hughes’ magnificently upbeat masterpiece. Matthew Broderick’s infectiously fun performance of The Beatles’ Twist and Shout on a parade float reminds me of walking up the Royal Mile and seeing all the Fringe come together in one huge spectacle of comedy, dance and theatre.

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Sunshine on Leith (2013)

This feel-good musical set to the songs of the Proclaimers is a guaranteed pick-me-up after a long withdrawal from any Fringe action. Led by charismatic performances from George MacKay and Antonia Thomas, Sunshine on Leith spins a Mamma-Mia style narrative of love, heartbreak, revelations and reunions. With a musical number in front of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and picturesque shots of cobbled streets off Regents Bridge, this film certainly shows off Edinburgh in a wholesomely sun-drenched light.

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Airplane! (1980)

Airplane! feels like it wouldn’t go amiss as some sort of satirical comedy playing at the Assembly Rooms. Its surrealist and fast-paced slapstick comedy holds you in a hypnotic trance, leaving your sides splitting after an hour and a half of non-stop gags. To put it simply, this film is a pure delight. Its dry, witty, and deadpan humour can probably be found in some of the best comedy performances at the Fringe.

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The Illusionist (2010)

Edinburgh-based animator Sylvain Chomet casts a spell over his adopted home town, taking us on a journey to the city’s 1950s past. Written as a love-letter to his long-lost daughter, Chomet’s film is based off a screenplay by French mime actor Jacques Tati. It tells the story of a struggling illusionist who befriends a young woman, who in turn becomes convinced that he possesses genuine magical powers. For fans of Studio Ghibli and Pixar, stunning sequences of Old Town and the Castle are guaranteed to whet your appetite for all things aesthetically animated. A beautiful and unforgettable film.

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Reflections on the Fringe: a Festival for Everyone

By Anna Marshall

 

“It felt like when you’re a teenager and the city is yours. Those mad runs through the streets at night to discover new things. Young, free and bursting with energy… Yes – that’s how it felt to spend a day in Edinburgh!”

Across from me, my 77 year-old grandmother Margaret and my 54 year-old mother Katy continue as I try to translate their exclamations. “We had a mad time. Just dashed from place to place – didn’t even have time to finish our soup – and we saw so much, it was magical” – “Just magical” – “And gosh, we didn’t get tired did we? I thought we would, especially after the three hour journey there and back on the train… but it took me ages to get to sleep and the next day I woke up 7am bright as anything!” And the two women revert to chuckling with laughter as they proudly bring out their “Fuck it” pin badges they were given from their day at the Fringe.

 

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The Fringe is an exhibition of people power. Created as an unofficial extra on the side of the Edinburgh International Festival, this global celebration of the arts emerged steadily over the twentieth century to become an annual month-long takeover of British culture. And although there’s now an official programme, ‘Fringe Shop’ and snazzy website, it remains an open access event. Like a body comprised of many individual living cells, the Fringe is simply thousands of theatre companies, comedians, street performers and artists deciding to come to Edinburgh, and doing their thing simultaneously to create a thespian overload. The Festival Fringe Society doesn’t have any quality checks or a selection process, but merely tries to compile this beautiful artistic mess into something you can attempt to navigate. The journalists and traders only hop along for the ride. With this in mind, we’re left examining a product that has skipped all the usual commercial tripe of a festival, and allows the audience to decide who their target is. Unlike the many music festivals littering the British Summer calendar with advertisements aimed at specific groups, the Edinburgh Fringe just doesn’t seem to have had the time to stop, collect its thoughts, and consider which group we’re aiming for.

“Oooh”, they both coo simultaneously, “it was lovely”. Margaret and Katy don’t seem to be anyone’s target audience. Certainly if I was chasing the big guns, they’d be off my radar: rarely out of walking trousers, they’re more likely to be found pushing a barrow of manure down the garden path than loading up a shopping trolley. They’ve seen Joseph! and Les Mis, but other than that most of their theatrical experience has been performed in a primary school hall. Margaret likes Shakespeare, so last year when we went to a live screening of Julius Caesar in town: she printed us both off a Wikipedia synopsis so we’d understand what was going on. In short: we fall into that majority of people that go to the theatre once every couple of years and come out saying “We should do this again”.


Pomona: A Chat with the Directors

By Jessica Loram

 

Struck by the professionalism of HiveMCR’s production of Alistair McDowall’s 2014 psycho-dystopian thriller ‘Pomona’, I reached out to directors Kwame Owusu and Thomas Thacker to find out how such a polished student production came into being. At first, I was surprised to discover that Owusu and Thacker had not seen any previous productions of ‘Pomona’, instead staying “fervently distanced” from anything that might taint their “own digestion of the piece”. On reflection, though, this makes sense. Completely new to ‘Pomona’ myself, I had a hunch that their interpretation had come organically to Manchester University’s HiveMCR.
The team’s fresh engagement with the play manifests in excellent performances delivered by the entire cast. Thacker and Owusu tell me how “building up an extensive knowledge of the characters’ hopes, fears, past, projected future and relationship with others was absolutely paramount”. This considered approach is indeed what distinguishes ‘Pomona’ as a first rate student production. Ensuring that an entire cast sustain convincing character development is admittedly a tall order for a university group and, from my experience as a reviewer at the Fringe, is rarely achieved by amateur groups.

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HiveMCR are, however, successful in their endeavour, and the emotional landscape of ‘Pomona’ is thrilling. In spite of the narrative’s surreal backdrop, the real drama of the play lies in an inner human realm, and Thacker and Owusu explain to me how the cast deliberately looked “at the characters at their best and worst to get a perspective of where their emotional range began and ended”. There is no room for lukewarm efforts in HiveMCR’s work

 

Given the “character-driven” nature, the directors reason that “the drama exudes from the way the broken narrative interacts with its broken characters.” Compelling physical theatre allows the emotional suffering to bleed into the physical realm, too. An unbearable fight scene unravels between the endearing Charlie (Stoops) and Moe (Whitehouse). Finding myself genuinely wincing during the fight, I surprise myself by wanting to find out exactly how they choreographed such a stunning scene. Unsatisfied with their initial physical exercises, Stoops and Whitehouse turned to “how one truly conveys the horror of a bloody fight: the reactions”. A focus on reaction led the actors to “read articles that described the feeling of being stabbed as research and practiced breathing techniques to correctly correlate the characters’ inner panic with their severe pain”. The use of blackout snaps when their blows make contact emphasise “the way the actors vocalise and physicalize their characters’ pain when the lights snapped back on”. Such an attentive and creative approach certainly adds to the thrill of ‘Pomona’.

 

HiveMCR’s formidable artistic effort extends to the thinking behind the sparse set. Captivated by the cyclical nature of the text, Owusu and Thacker chose to capture this by having “a loop physically appear on stage, ensnaring the characters in a claustrophobic proximity”. A sense of entrapment is cemented further by the plot’s race against time. I learn from the directors that “the chalk circle at the centre of the stage also doubled as a clock, the creature Cthulhu marking the positioning of the scene preceding in the fractured chronology of the play”. Utterly absorbed in the psychological drama, I confess that I missed this detail, but my ignorance did not detract from my understanding of the narrative. If anything, therefore, this detail simply testifies to the diligence at work behind the scenes of HiveMCR’s ‘Pomona’. Moreover, the “purposefully simplistic” set conveys a “sense of loneliness in a city completely entrenched in an underlying moral sparsity.”

 

Speaking on behalf of the cast, Owusu and Thacker share that “the opportunity to form strong relationships with talented and endlessly kind people was what made the whole process worth it.” It sounds like the challenge of transporting a mattress across Manchester to Edinburgh and a “manic hunt for tofu/Quorn nuggets” only strengthened the group’s rapport. The play’s outstanding success is indicative of their stellar teamwork, and I’m sure would make Alistair McDowall (incidentally an alumnus of Manchester University) proud of what HiveMCR have created.


Disabled Access at the Fringe: A Conversation with Euan’s Guide

By Molly Stock-Duerdoth

 

The size, complexity, and architecture of the Fringe presents immediate problems for accessibility, but a lot had been done to improve the experience for disabled visitors and performers. The Fringe Society has been working with various charities for several years, and has been recognised for its commitment to and achievements in improving access.

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The Fringe website includes a searchable database of all performances which are signed, relaxed, captioned, audio described, have wheelchair access, disabled toilets, or level access. Access tickets can be booked via phone or email (although unfortunately not yet online), along with free PA tickets, and specific equipment to help you access a show can be requested. It is also possible to get full access information about any venue online, and the Fringe shop itself is fully accessible with wheelchair street access and a dropped counter. Free sensory backpacks can also be picked up here for adults or children with autism, which contain ear defenders, a fidget toy, a stress reliever, a water bottle, a list of relaxed performances, and, in the kids’ backpacks, a soft toy.

Aside from the Fringe’s own site, a great website to check out for general information and first-hand accounts of experiences with specific venues is Euan’s Guide (www.euansguide.com), “the disabled access review website used by disabled people to review, share and discover accessible places to visit”. I spoke to the Guide, who said that “so many things have been done well this year” in terms of disabled access and that “the Fringe society has upped its efforts to improve the quality of access” – despite the challenges which come with managing an event of this size especially when performers choose their own venues. The Guide were keen to note that “the thought that has gone into other elements of the Fringe experience has been exemplary” and celebrate that the Fringe Society has been “presented with the ‘Spirit of Inclusion’ award at this year’s Accessible Edinburgh Festivals Award!”

The architecture of Edinburgh presents some difficulties. Nevertheless, the Mile, although crowded, is fully accessible and there are disabled toilets nearby. Unfortunately much of Edinburgh itself is cobbled and steep, but steps are always avoidable, and trams and buses service the centre and wider city frequently, so most venues are not further than 0.5 miles from a public transport stop. There’s a Welcome App which allows you to let staff know when you’re arriving and what you look like if you require in-person assistance at a venue. The Changing Places map also shows where you can find accessible toilets with benches and hoists.

Euan’s Guide recommends that “The Fringe doesn’t have to be over-complicated: simply take time to read the information on the Fringe website and speak directly to the access booking team. The information is comprehensive”. They also stress the importance of utilising the wonderful staff; “the Fringe volunteers are among the friendliest people you’ll meet in the city!”

Many of the areas where access is still difficult are the venues, which the Fringe Society has no control over. To combat this, the Society has published the Adapting a Show handbook, which can be found online and lists specific ways in which theatre groups can make their events more accessible.

There are also plenty of shows on offer at Fringe which tackle disability as a subject and/or involve people with disabilities. When asked to recommend any shows featuring or crewed by people with disabilities, Euan’s Guide replied enthusiastically; “Yes! If you’re visiting with kids, check out AnimAlphabet: The Musical with every performance BSL interpreted. Speechless Comedy is another one to check out and My Left / Right Foot by Birds of Paradise Theatre Company and National Theatre of Scotland.”

The Fringe’s approach to access, while some challenges remain, has been thoughtful and excellently executed – just make sure you’re aware of all the information and resources available, most of which can be found online – and the friendly Fringe staff are always on hand.


From behind closed (toilet) doors and onto the stage: Feminism at the Fringe

By Siobhán Stack-Maddox 

 

Kicking off with Katy Dye’s ‘Baby Face’ and ending with Cows and Kisses and Mind Out Theatre’s ‘The Ladies Loo Chronicles’, my week at the Fringe was nicely sandwiched by two very different, but both very powerful, pieces of feminist theatre. The power of these female performances made a lasting impression; both pieces are bold, with a definite shock factor, compelling audiences to reflect. I spoke to the cast and producers of ‘Chronicles’ about the inspiration behind their piece and their experience of performing at the Fringe.

 

“Daring, blunt, funny and unapologetic”: this is the kind of theatre co-producer Evangeline Osbon wanted to create when she set up Mind Out Theatre and these words perfectly sum up ‘Chronicles’. The comedy, which takes place in a club toilet, questions and breaks taboos whilst valorising female friendship and experience. Sharing Osbon’s desire to create “work with, by and for women”, Flora London, the show’s writer and co-producer who also plays the character of Megan, founded Cows and Kisses Theatre Company this year with the aim of “writing for real women”. London recalls bonding experiences in women’s club toilets on nights out as inspiring her to write a piece which brings women and their stories “out of the toilet and onto the stage”.

 

Disclaimer: although the play takes place in the eponymous ‘Ladies’ Loo’, ‘Chronicles’ is definitely not exclusively aimed at women. Osbon emphasises how impressed she has been by the show’s mixed audience demographic at the Fringe, both in terms of gender and age, including a large proportion of over-50s. Evangeline Dickson, who plays Lydia, notes how “creatively satisfying” it is to be part of a show which addresses such a broad audience and creates a dialogue surrounding the issues it explores.

 

As well as the witty writing, comic timing and energetic dance pieces, to which Osbon attributes the show’s broad appeal, ‘Chronicles’ pushes both theatrical and sociopolitical boundaries and raises questions surrounding class differences, the tampon tax and the Windrush generation. London explains that she wanted to explore “real women’s” thoughts and experiences of these issues. This kind of boundary pushing is fundamentally important at an exciting time of “evolving” and experimental theatre, according to Osbon. As roles within productions become “more fluid”, without distinctly separate writers or performers, theatre is developing into “a more creative, collaborative process”. The ‘Chronicles’ team agree that Edinburgh is the perfect place for creating and performing “more exciting theatre” which combines different mediums and challenges convention. Dickson enthuses about the city’s “buzzy, inspiring” atmosphere, which fuels the “need to create and collaborate”.

 

So, what’s next after the Fringe for the ‘Chronicles’ ladies? “We’d love to get in a toilet!” says London. They are already looking into collaborating with different venues, including clubs and bars. Watch this space: ‘Chronicles’ may be coming soon to a loo near you…

 

See my review of ‘Baby Face’:  http://edfringereview.com/r/W09kF9LcT-y_MEmrXDx6yg

‘Baby Face’ is on until 26th August at Summerhall at 13:30.
The ‘Chronicles’ team is raising money for Tommy’s and Sands stillbirth and neonatal death charities. They would like to thank their partner, organic intimacy company ‘YES’ and Alra drama school, especially the caretaker, Darren.

 

 


Emma Dean: the woman behind the unicorn

 

By Claire Richardson and Kathryn Tann

 

When we met Emma Dean at the start of the month (shout-out to Greenside for a wonderful show speed-dating event) her rainbow spangled garments and vivacious enthusiasm for music made her shine. We sent some reviewers, they gave five stars, and so we went to see for ourselves what was on the other side of this rainbow. “It’s a show for anyone who’s ever been heartbroken”, Emma tells people when she hands out flyers. It contains everything from beautiful ballads, to cheeky fetishes, to her anthem of the summer – “I’m a f*cking unicorn.”

m205x285_ffffff“Sometimes, when you’re in your darkest moments the littlest thing can speak to you.” Emma found her mantra in a simple blog post, and it has become her buoyancy aid. “I’ve not found anything else quite like it.” And so Emma embraced her past pains, put a ‘magical horn on her head’, and boldly built a show around her heartbreak.

But it dawns on us that not everyone has experienced heartbreak. Emma agrees – she says she’s learnt a lot about her show through flyering – some will scoff, happily married and uninterested in such a show. But the singer goes on to make the point that even so, everyone has felt insecure, has needed a boost of self-worth, has had friendships fail. These are issues everyone faces, and with ‘Broken Romantics’, Emma hopes to give a little light. The show is metaphor which lets the audience make up their mind – you can interpret Emma’s unicorn horn as you please.

So from this mantra, how did Emma then write her songs? She says her writing process is hard to explain; ‘it just happens’. But she does talk about the ‘I Heart Songwriting Club’ back in Brisbane, which helped springboard a number of our favourite ‘Broken Romantic’ songs.

While Emma might, on stage, be a rainbow clad, horn-wearing unicorn, she sits down with us as a friendly, relatable, and even (as she admits herself) slightly shy singer-songwriter. “The Fringe has always been on the bucket list… We raised a portion and I just saved the rest. And here we are.” She tells us that back home she runs a community choir with her brother, and then recounts all sorts of amazing stories about singing at the recent Commonwealth Games, entertaining children by day, even opening big-name drag shows in New York! Having come all the way from Australia, we imagined Emma’s large suitcase might be brimming with rainbow tights and glittery makeup, but she assures us that her dazzling costumes are quite separate from her usual attire. Apart from the hair: that’s always one bright colour or another.

‘Broken Romantics: A Unicorn’s Quest for Love’ is a quintessential fringe piece – brilliant, weird, touching and hilarious, all at once. Unicorns are a familiar symbol in popular culture at the present; emblazoned across t-shirts and decorating stationary. And here are a lot of shows about heartbreak at the Fringe, and most of them manifested in sarcastic stand up. Emma escapes gimmicky unicorns and bitter comedy, and instead creates this glittering, musical masterpiece that we think everyone, not just the heartbroken, should see.

 

You can catch ‘Broken Romantics: A Unicorn’s Quest for Love’ at Greenside @ Infirmary St until the 25th August (7.35pm). 

 


Marmite: An interview with writers Phoebe and Hal

By Ella Kemp

 

After their internationally touring Fringe 2017 sell-out Ginger Beer, Limerence Productions have bounded back onto the Fringe scene this year to bring us ‘Marmite’, a tenderly honest exploration of gay polyamory. Between overseeing rehearsals and photographing male models with marmite spread over their torsos, the creators of this play, writers Phoebe and Hal, took some time out to give us a taster of ‘Marmite’

 

 

So, Marmite is led by two protagonists, Dylan and Eddie. Can you give me brief profiles of Dylan and Eddie? What are they like as people, how do their personalities match and differ?

Phoebe: Dylan is twenty-one, outgoing and confident. He’s very successful with guys but has never had a long-term relationship. Eddie is twenty-three, anxious and introverted. He has been in relationships before but always seems to get screwed over by them. I think that’s what makes them work: their personalities are incredibly different but ultimately compliment one another. Even though they are so different, I feel that in many ways they are on very similar journeys. They’re trying to work out how to be in a gay relationship which can be an incredibly confusing thing.

 

 

The play explores the difficulties of gay monogamy. Do you personally hold any particularly strong opinions with regards to what you think are some of the most difficult aspect of gay monogamy in today’s climate?

Hal: I think the biggest pressure, really, is the assumption that if you are in a same-sex relationship, you are/should be monogamous. When same-sex marriage was legalised, everybody assumed that all same-sex couples want to model their relationships after heterosexual ones. And that’s just not the case.

On the other hand, there are prominent voices within the gay male community who argue that gay people should deliberately be non-monogamous because ‘why would we want to be like a straight couple?’. I think both sides can be very alienating and make the process of learning how to be in a relationship very hard.

 

 

Do you think there is much (or any) homogeneity between different people’s experiences of gay monogamy in the UK? To what extent does Marmite present difficulties that most gay couples will relate to or have experienced themselves?

Phoebe: It’s hard to say because every relationship is different, whether you’re straight, or not. I do think that gay men’s relationships get more positive reactions from people who are trying to be allies. There’s a lot of people saying ‘you guys are so cute together’ and you’re very aware that nobody is saying that about the straight couple at the table.

 

 

Do you expect (or hope) audience members to leave with altered perspectives?

Hal: Personally, I don’t want them to come away from Marmite with any particular viewpoint. The show is more about presenting this issue as a topic of discussion and debate, we don’t want to come down on any position.

 

Now the slick promotion certainly doesn’t tell of the immense effort that goes into bringing a play to the Fringe. What were the most significant challenges that you faced during the marketing and production of this play?

Phoebe: The biggest challenge we’ve found is trying to live up to our success last year. Last year’s show (Ginger Beer) did better than we’d expected and now we feel a lot of pressure to live up to that.

 

And finally, why “Marmite”? What is the significance of this title?

Hal: It’s taken from the homophobic slur ‘marmite muncher’. We did the same thing with last year’s show, Ginger Beer, which is cockney rhyming slang for ‘queer’. We think it’s a really simple and effective way to reclaim the words used against queer people.

 

 

‘Marmite’ is on at 15:00 every day in the Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre. If you heed just one piece of advice at the Fringe this year then let it be this: DON’T MISS THIS PLAY!