Hug the Bunny: Two Earl Grey Teas with Phoebe Wood

By Melissa Tutesigensi

I met with Phoebe Wood, writer and co-director of ‘Hug the Bunny’, at Edinburgh’s Half 8 Café. ‘Hug the Bunny’ was one of my favourite shows at this year’s Fringe and so I was keen to learn more about the genesis and development of the play. Although Phoebe was in the middle of the run with a few more shows to go, she agreed to let me pick her brain. We sat down to two Earl Grey Teas and chatted about drama school, leadership and experiences on the mile. Here is a selection of what came of our conversation.

 

Where it all began…

 

Norwich based Pits N Clits Theatre was formed very recently as Phoebe Wood, Damie Lemomu , Betsy Robertson, Sophie Abramovici, Sarah Pumphrey and Rachel Stone decided to create a feminist theatre company following their time at the University of East Anglia. Phoebe explained that, at the core, the company is a group of friends connected by their love and passion for driving compelling and entertaining feminist narratives forward. Each bring their own skills together to form the collective. Phoebe is always keen to stress the input of her team and to highlight that there is a real mix and variance of skills. Phoebe herself wrote the script but worked with fellow co-director Rachel Stone to help bring it alive. You only have to watch the play to see that there is a wealth of talent in the production company, that this a group of capable young women who understand the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional nature of theatre.

 

Explaining the title, Hug the Bunny…

 

I asked Phoebe about the origin of the name of the play as it didn’t seem too obvious to me. Concerned that I had completely missed a major symbol or metaphor, I was itching to know why the play is called ‘Hug the Bunny’. According to Phoebe, to ‘hug the bunny’ means to masturbate with a vibrator– an apt choice for the play given that female masturbation is an important part of the history on the study of hysteria. The popular school of thought of previous centuries held that women, being the fairer sex, were prone to fits of hysteria, a demonstration of their uniquely female facilities. Female masturbation was used to treat the symptoms of hysteria which up until the mid 20th century was categorised as a disease. Female masturbation is important to the play and fundamental in showing historical examples of the mans-plaining of the female sexual experience.

 

Twist, turns, trials and tribulations lead to triumph…

 

One of the revelations that surprised me the most about ‘Hug the Bunny’s’ journey to the Fringe is that it was never really meant to happen. Phoebe described how the original play she had written to take to the Fringe had to be replaced. She wrote ‘Hug the Bunny’ in a month, had to subsequently re-organise arrangements with the venues and marketing all the while raising the money to fund the project. Once the play was written and they were looking like they would meet the fundraising goal, she was still left with minor amendments such as finalising the title of the play. Things had to be scaled down and altered as they adjusted to their practical and financial restrictions. As pervasive as these obstacles were however, so was the company’s determination. It was their resilience and attitude of taking things in their stride that got them to the Fringe in the end. As I watched ‘Hug the Bunny’, I was blown away by its accuracy and honesty. The effortlessness of the play could easily fool you into thinking that it was a simple and predetermined process from idea to performance, but instead it was a product of a beautiful creative mess.

 

It’s not all fun and games on the mile…

 

Having cleared the logistical and creative hurdles of getting to the Fringe, they then faced the next challenge of attracting people to the show. They had already made waves in drawing an audience online through their use of social media ‘Crowdfunder’ but Edinburgh was a different platform altogether. The mile is a frenzy, awash with marketing of extreme levels with the aim of attracting people’s attention. They stood in the sea of actors, dancers and comedians, facing the struggle of drawing in the crowds. Phoebe is honest about the difficulty of being faced with this and explains that they had to employ their adjustment tactics to change their approach when they realised that their initial ideas for advertising weren’t striking the right chord with passers-by. It’s not an easy thing to approach people with thorny subjects like feminism and hysteria, explains Phoebe. She understands that its not to everyone’s taste. She’s aware of the fact that people have different opinions and reactions to theatre having been in the situation of being the only one in a group disliking a show. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to take that in as a writer.

 

There is life beyond the fringe…

 

We ended our conversation on the subject of future plans. She told me that her immediate plans for the future were to survive and enjoy the rest of her time in Edinburgh. Post-Fringe, it’s safe to say that Pits N Clits Theatre more than just survived, they thrived managing to pick up more five star reviews and a mention in Dazed Magazine piece ‘Eight plays we wish we’d seen as teenagers’ . The Fringe is a relentless experience for any first-time act but I hope Pits N Clits Theatre took away a sense of achievement as they packed up and prepared to leave the city. Whatever they have in store, I bet this won’t be the last we’ve heard from them.

 

 


Shower Thoughts: The Show We’re Still Talking About

Charlie Norton speaks to the cast and crew behind this overwhelming student success at the Fringe 2018.

 

In typical student fashion, composer Lavie Rabinovitz effusively tells me, ‘Shower Thoughts’ was a brainchild of the small hours: ‘it all started with a message at two or three in the morning’. The idea was to explore the bathroom as a private place for personal revelations, librettist Ryan Hay explains, ‘so we put together a list of all the things that might happen in the bathroom and chose the ones we found interesting’.

 

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‘Shower Thoughts’ follows five university flatmates as they reflect on university life in private and shared moments in their ‘grotty’ student bathroom. The song-cycle explores a breadth of contemporary issues – from mental illness to body hair – whilst sustaining the energy of a real student house through comic musical exchanges between the friends.

 

Though the setting is unique, Rabinovitz is keenly aware that the flat-share premise is familiar: ‘We talked extensively about the flat dynamics because we were really petrified of rewriting Friends. We wanted to write real people.’ To this end, perhaps riskily, the roles were cast before the piece was finished and the actors’ real-life personalities used as inspiration. This explains Iona Smith’s effortless charisma as Flick, the joker of the bunch. Meanwhile, Stephanie Herron’s incredibly poignant performance as Sophie is somewhat explained by her co-writing of the powerful and nuanced solo about eating disorder which, she explains, ‘is authentic to my experiences’.

 

In Hay’s words, ‘it’s important to understand that you’re writing from a perspective but to feel empowered [by it].’ As students of St Andrews themselves, the cast and crew have an obvious proximity to the fictional environment. Amy Addinall’s set design has a self-professed ‘grotty’ aesthetic ‘just like everyone’s bathroom at Uni’, which hilariously lends itself to Rachel Brown’s drunken crouching over the toilet bowl as the unlucky-in-love Ang, as well as a Kate Nash-esque ditty about body hair and self-acceptance from Sara Pearce’s Eva.

 

But this is not to say the actors are playing themselves. In fact, I choke on my water in surprise when Connor Norris who plays Jonny, a young typically English man repressed by the social implications of masculinity, has a strong American accent. On top of this, Herron and Pearce describe some teething issues with their portrayal of a gay relationship.

 

Herron: Definitely, for a couple of rehearsals, we were having a hard time figuring out, er…

Hay: Logistics?

Jess Cooper (director): Haha! Yeah, we had to have a wee ‘logistics chat’.

Pearce: One day we did a run and then Jess took us aside and said ‘Guys, let’s talk about physical intimacy’.

Cooper: I’m a queer woman myself and for me it was just a relationship!

 

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Of her naturalistic directing, Cooper says the cast had to ‘work against the desire to “perform” the content, [so as] to make the audience feel like they were prying.’ For a cast of opera singers and musical theatre fanatics alike this apparently proved a challenge. The show involves no jazz hands and no dazzling choreography; rather the character development and the themes explored are at the centre of the piece. This placed some burden on the cast, Norris says: ‘I really wanted to make sure I did the issue justice.’ Yet it is this empathetic and thoughtful handling of contemporary issues which makes ‘Shower Thoughts’ so impactful.

 

Rabinovitz sums up the sentiment of the piece: ‘if you can express those emotions in the bathroom, why can’t you do so everywhere else – open the door!’ And, Hay tells me, the door is not closed on ‘Shower Thoughts’, with an upcoming run booked on home turf as well as an ambition for a national tour. Having seen the show myself I can confirm it is absolutely worth a watch, and I’m only more convinced of this having had the chance to speak to such a passionate group of creatives.

 


First Time at the Fringe: Five Tips

By Megan Denny

 

 

Fringe first-timer? You’ll need this advice…

 

1. Navigation

Even if you’ve visited Edinburgh outside of August, Google Maps will become your new best friend as the city is turned upside down during the Fringe. When your phone inevitably runs out of charge by lunchtime, be prepared to resort to a good, old-fashioned paper map to locate that obscure, back-of-pub venue. Even better, ask for directions from Fringe regulars or locals who know all the shortcuts.

 

2. Planning – not too much

Booking some shows isn’t a bad idea, particularly more well-known productions which can sell out far in advance. However, be prepared to go with the Fringe flow and be flexible. If you find yourself with some spare hours between booked shows, have a wander down the Royal Mile, pick up a few flyers and chat to people promoting their shows. Look at the many posters on bus stops, lamposts and phone boxes, or go to venues and read the listings displayed outside. If anything catches your eye, go for it – who knows, it may be the best thing you see at the Fringe.

 

3. Waterproofs

Seriously – preferably head-to-toe, or at least clothes that dry quickly (i.e. not denim). Layers are also a good idea as storm turns to summer sunshine within the space of 15 minutes… such is Edinburgh’s climate.

 

4. Get talking

A major part of the Fringe relies on word of mouth, so get involved! If you enjoyed a show, spread the word. Tell the people who made and performed it – they will really appreciate it. Help them out by recommending their show to people who you bump into in coffee shops, on the Mile or via social media. You will probably also receive some great recommendations of shows to see in return.

 

5. Sleeping, eating, drinking 

Embrace the alternative reality of Edinburgh Fringe, but remember do the ‘normal things’: sleep (for at least a few hours), eat (vegetables), and drink (water) – then you can’t go far wrong.

 

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The Best Fringe Tickets (but not quite in the way you’d think)

By Andrew Jameson

 

So you’ve seen a few plays, you’ve read some reviews, but you feel that you’re still missing something from this year’s Fringe experience. A something that feels quite like, oh I don’t know, a vaguely in-depth review of the design of specific Fringe tickets that I’ve received. That’s it, isn’t it? Uncanny.

 

Nope, this isn’t a nuanced comment about theatre or an interesting interview with a director, it is solely one person’s potentially questionable opinion about the design of some pieces of paper. So yes, I would definitely say it’s a worthwhile read.

 

 

First up on this list is an Underbelly Event ticket. All that I can really say about this ticket is that it may appeal to those who don’t like design at all. Its highlights being the faint grey ‘Underbelly’ text on an otherwise white background. Call me demanding but a ticket’s going to have to do slightly more than that to impress. One star.

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Next is theSpace ticket. Now I’ve received a few of these tickets this year and while the Underbelly ticket may have underperformed, I feel these go rather too far the other way. They feature a large blue banner across the top which includes ‘theSpace’ in the subtle style of block, white capitals. The dotted background and the outline of an unrealistically exuberant audience complete, what I do not feel is an exaggeration to describe as, an assault upon the eyes. I appreciate that there was effort here but I feel it was misdirected. Two stars.

the space

 

The Greenside tickets are imaginatively green. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – if they were purple I’d probably be asking questions. They’re sticking strongly with their brand and I can only admire them for that. I would say that the ticket designers could possibly have chosen a slightly less dull shade of green, but maybe that’s just me being picky. The ticket also features some nice white bubbles – at least, I think they’re bubbles. I don’t have much to say about them but they’re there and they’re different sizes so I suppose that makes them interesting. It’s at this point that I’m starting to question how qualified I really am to be making these judgements. However, as we’re this far in I think we’ll just have to keep going with it. Four stars.

greenside

 

‘So what is the best ticket design?’ is the question I’m sure you’re all asking enthusiastically. Either that or, ‘Why am I still reading this?’ but as I can’t answer the latter, we’ll go with the first question. Now, this may be a controversial move but I really enjoy the Summerhall tickets. Yes, I know you may say they’re rather plain and uninteresting but I would call it minimalistic. I like how the ‘A’ is in a different style to the rest of the letters – I don’t really know why it’s like that, but does art need to explain itself? I also think the touch of orange complements the ticket well without making it feel too cluttered. Five stars.

summerhall 

 

Now you may disagree with my judgements but as we all know, ticket design is a subjective and often very controversial art form. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this review and maybe next year you’ll look at your tickets in a new light. Or maybe you won’t, but I’d like to pretend this article had some very minor effect on your life.


Into the Unknown: if you don’t see at least one bad show, you’re doing the Fringe wrong

By Martha Crass

So, you’re heading to Edinburgh, planning to indulge in one of the most unconventional, brilliant and rainy festivals the UK has to offer: the Fringe. Like many, you may have trekked from afar to get here, and after a restorative deep-fried Mars Bar and a refreshing Irn Bru you’re ready to hit the festival.

 

You soon become faced with a difficult, but clear, choice: you can go to the big-name, award-winning, touring musical that’s about to transfer to the West End, which has received unanimous five-star reviews from critics; or a piece of amateur new writing which is being performed in the back room of a local primary school. The box office for this is literally a shed, and odds are you’ll be one in an audience of three. So, naturally, you make the obvious decision and go for the latter, and -

 

Wait, what? You mean you DON’T want to experience a show whose only five-star review is from the director’s mum?

 

The thing is, there will always be performers at the Fringe who, after their sell-out runs in Edinburgh, are going to be spreading their professionally-trained, well-funded wings and taking off to greater theatrical heights. But why are you coming to the Fringe if you’re not willing to be a little uncomfortable? Not that you should avoid any show that looks a little too slick; if anything, seek these out! Enjoy! Relish! But don’t let these define your whole Fringe experience: see something on a whim based on a random flyer, see something from a group you’ve never heard of, see something outright, undeniably, unforgivably bad.

 

Sometimes (quite often, really) it’s the Fringe first-timers, or the stuff which sounds pretty dubious, that can surprise you. And the joy of this is: you’ll never know which are the good ones. So wade through all the bizarre melodrama and gut-wrenchingly funny attempts at tragedy; go and feel horrifically uncomfortable as an improv troupe fails miserably at the one thing they claim to do well; and then you might find something truly brilliant.

 

Part of the Fringe is about venturing out of your comfort zone, encapsulated particularly aptly by the theme this year: try venturing ‘into the unknown’, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

At the very least, a lot of those shows might be free, and there’s no arguing with that.

 


Comedy on an Extinct Volcano with Barry Ferns

By Louis Harnett O’Meara

 

On August 18 Arthur’s Seat underwent a change. Hundreds of people trekked their way to the top of the hill and placed their buttocks squarely on the pebbled floor. A man with the look of Curt Cobain and Richard Branson’s love child stood before the gathering crowd. And so they waited.

 

“I am Barry Ferns, and it is time to enter the venue!” Curt Branson announced, and gestured to the door that stood beside him. “Please form an orderly line, and mind your heads coming in; it’s low in there.”

 

Barry entered first, before the crowd milled down the slope to the entrance and passed into the venue one by one behind him. Each man, woman and child took their place and sat expectantly before a speaker and a microphone – and Barry took his place before them.

 

“We have three acts lined up for you this afternoon everyone. Welcome, to Arthur’s Seat.”

 

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I approached Barry after the show, and he suggested we grab a drink at the Starbucks just down the hill. It was surprisingly quiet – but then I suppose people wouldn’t come all this way just for a cup of coffee. Comedy, on the other hand…

 

How long have you been doing this?

I started running shows on top of Arthur’s Seat in 2007, 11 years ago now. The first show was called ‘Arthur’s Seat Belongs to Lionel Ritchie’. I changed my name to Lionel Ritchie for it – it was my name for seven years.

Like most of my comedy, it just came from a ridiculous idea. I just think Lionel Ritchie is a ridiculous man, and the idea of doing a show on top of Arthur’s Seat is just too ridiculous not to do.

 

How has the show developed?

The basic idea hasn’t changed much. Originally it was just a very small show; there were only around 20 people there. I’ve never advertised it, but it seems to have spread a lot just by word of mouth. This time there were about 250.

Back in 2012 and 2013 I performed a show every day for the whole run of the Fringe – I’d drag an amplifier, a mic., a door and a bag of comedy gear up every single day.

 

You managed to drag up three comedians to perform this year. How do you choose them?

They’re just my favourites. Tony Law’s been up a lot. The first time he came up his kids did a stand up set as well. I’ve had Simon Munnery, Josie Long, Rich Fulcher, who was Mighty Boosh at the time.

 

What if someone else was to decide they wanted to put on a show on Arthur’s Seat?

Well they’d have to talk to me, I’m the venue manager! It’s ridiculous. It’s a difficult one to put on your CV though – “What do you do?” “I manage an extinct volcano.”

 

How do you think the Fringe has changed?

Back in the 80s, 90s, early 2000s you would find a lot more oddballs at the Fringe. You didn’t know what you were going to get. People have much more of an idea of the Fringe as a career move these days. If you want to become a comedian you go to the Fringe, perform a sell-out run, get booked onto ‘Nine out of Ten Cats’ then you perform your tour.

You still get the Free Fringe, but there’s a lot more of the slick West End style shows now, and they cost a lot of money. The financial cost of it all means audiences and shows are less willing to take risks with what they see or what they put on.

 

When you started your show on Arthur’s Seat was it in response to the commercialization you saw happening?

It wasn’t in response in a direct sense, but it’s in the same vein as 1980s Fringe. It’s a ridiculous idea put on by a ridiculous person. I just love doing odd things. In 2012 I won the Hardy award for making a load of fake reviews for fake shows. I just printed them out and stuck them all over Edinburgh. I gave myself a six star review in one of them. People would come up the hill like, “excuse me, is this the place for the show with the six star review?” It’s amazing the stuff people believe just because it’s been written down.

 

Are you going to see anything interesting this evening?

Arthur Smith is hosting an unofficial tour of the Royal Mile at Midnight tonight only. He’s been doing it for years. It’s not your normal tour; someone nearly always ends up getting naked. He got arrested once for nearly starting a riot. When Nelson Mandela was still in prison he convinced everyone to crowd outside Leith police station where he told them Nelson was being held. He had the whole crowd of them chanting “Free Nelson, free Nelson!” Utterly ridiculous.


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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