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!


Don’t Say Cheese: The Oxford Imps on the show where you’re in charge

By Sally Christmas

 

Director Dan Squire and producer Megan Morgan talk us through the ins and outs of improvised comedy.

 

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Tell us a little bit about the Oxford Imps and what you do. 

D: The Imps are an improvised comedy troop based in Oxford. We do comedy that’s made up on the spot – nothing scripted, nothing prepared in advance – based on random suggestions from the audience.

 

What does a normal Imps show look like? 

M: We start off with some short games, kind of like the ones on ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway’, and then we end with something longer.

D: For the longer pieces we do improvised musicals, Shakespeare plays, novels, movie scripts. We tend to take one suggestion at the start and then sort of spiral off the back of that.

 

…and is it really improvised? 

D: I did the maths recently to work out how many different combinations we’d have to rehearse, and with around 25 improvisers available, with 3 or so in each game, doing about 30 games in total, there about 35,000 possible different permutations for who’s on stage, and then you take audience suggestions…

 

M: Surely it’s infinite, right? 

D: There are some suggestions that come up more often, but we never know in advance and we don’t plant anyone in the audience. The wackier the ideas the more fun it ends up being.

 

What’s the best thing about doing live improv? 

M: It’s very freeing in that you can’t know what you’re doing until you’re doing it. I like the group aspect too, you have to rely on each other, you have to listen, and go with the flow. It has to be like everyone’s thinking with one mind.

D: I got into comedy for the adrenaline rush, and when you go on to do an improvised song or a rap or whatever, you have no idea what the next line out of your mouth is going to be, so in the moment it’s really exciting. You have no safety net.

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What does it take to make good improv? 

M: I think it’s two big things: a willingness to listen to the other people on stage, and also a willingness to play, because you want to be creative and add ideas without worrying about looking stupid. It’s getting used to doing those things that we’re often trained out of - if you watch children play make believe, they’re essentially improvising, and it’s relearning those skills.

 

What have been the best – or worst – audience suggestions? 

D: This is one of the weirdest ones I remember - we play a game where we ask for periods of history, and we often get the same ones, so it’s fun to get something unusual. We had a man call out “Medieval Belgium”, which for me was brilliant, because everyone knows you don’t know anything about Medieval Belgium, and that’s where a lot of the comedy comes from.

M: The least favourite ones are the ones that come up regularly. We get a lot of cheeses, for some reason. We’re a family friendly show, so we can’t take certain suggestions, which is good, because in a lot of comedy it’s easy to resort to shock factor and cheap jokes. Sometimes the most common and benign things make the best joke because starting small allows us to get more creative.

 

In three words, why should we come and see the Imps perform this summer? 

D: All I can think of is ‘Medieval Belgium musical’.

M: ‘It’ll be great?’. Oh no, that’s terrible. Oh, ‘you’re in charge’! Audience suggestions lead our show, so ultimately the show is made by you coming, and you can influence it as much or as little as you’d like, so you’re in charge. And ‘Medieval Belgium musical’, of course.

 

Catch the Oxford Imps in the Gilded Balloon Teviot’s Billiard Room at 13:15 until August 27th.  

 


Making Friends at the Fringe: A Chat with The Durham Revue

By Kathryn Tann

 

So The Durham Revue are back and – I would say they’re bigger than ever, but really, they’ve been big for years. Each time the comedy sketch troupe return to Edinburgh they impress. For forty-five-ish years (to put it in their own words), The Durham Revue have kept up the laughs, and on this, their thirty-seventh-ish year at the Fringe, they’ve gained giggles once more.

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Sat around a picnic bench behind the Underbelly Cowgate, I asked the 2018 team how they’ve been finding this year’s Fringe. “This year I still haven’t seen a show that I haven’t enjoyed. The quality is so good.” Lily answers. And she wasn’t the only one to mention other people’s productions ahead of their own: the group was suddenly brimming with recommendations, and have clearly been putting their purple passes to use. Luke Maskell goes on to mention how the troupe have “made a lot more connections”, and that this time there seems to be “a lot more of a supportive atmosphere.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this observation being made. Having met and come across so many shows, venues and organisers through my editing role, I’ve been able to see just how much everyone helps each other out. As the Fringe gets bigger and bigger, surprisingly, it seems to actually be getting friendlier, too.

One place where there will always be competition, however, is the Royal Mile. The Durham Revue have been spending every morning vying for attention on that infamous stretch. I asked how they’ve been doing it, and – in another hark to the group’s past – Charlie tells us he’s been name-dropping some famous Revue alumni. “You decide what alumni to mention based on how old they are… if they’re old you say Jeremy Vine, and if they’re younger you say Ed Gamble.” Luke, on the other hand, seemed to have been employing some different tactics: “There’s a lot of chirpsing on the Mile isn’t there?”

Nevertheless, the team do have a good point to make about flyering. “It’s not just about giving out numbers” – Luke was now referring to the quantity of flyers – “It’s the conversations that are important.” And of course I agreed. The spoken word is absolutely crucial to this festival. Not only is it the best way of getting people along to shows, but it’s also what EFR are always trying to encourage: those short but essential discussions about ‘probably the best thing I’ve seen so far’, or ‘that really funny sketch show we saw yesterday’.

And so, after lots of this kind of ‘conversation’ around that bench at Underbelly (we did talk about the show too, but I’ll save the spoilers for our review) I asked The Durham Revue what their favourite thing about the Fringe was.

“I like performing a lot.”

“It’s the way everything is so theatre-centric.”

And finally:

“It’s the people you get to meet.”

 

 

The Durham Revue’s ‘Zeitgeist’ is on until the 26th at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) at 13:20.


Coffee Shops and Cafes: Five Special Spots in Edinburgh

By Beatrix Swanson Scott 

 

Edinburgh’s lighthouse within the Fringe storm has to be its profusion of excellent coffee shops – whether you’re after cute and cozy, cool and swanky or (very) hipster, every part of town seems to have excellent spots on offer. I’ve spent a lot of time typing up reviews, trawling the Fringe programme or simply recharging my batteries (literal and figurative) in Edinburgh’s many cafes. Rather than acting as a definitive guide to the best, this article offers up a selection of five of the city’s coffee shops that are dear to me for one reason or another.

 

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Lovecrumbs – 155 West Port 

This spot on West Port near Edinburgh College of Art had to be first on the list. Lovecrumbs, which until recently served only cake, is an Edinburgh institution. I recommend the warming cardamom hot chocolate to go with your sweet treats – it tastes especially good when balanced on the old piano which serves as one of the café’s random assortment of tables. Otherwise, the sought-after window seat is a rather cool place to hang out (once you’ve manoeuvred yourself into it).

 

Peter’s Yard – Quartermile 

Peter’s Yard is where I had brunch on my 18th birthday in September 2015 – I had stayed on a while after the Fringe that year. This Scandinavian-inspired bakery-café’s pastries are delicious; I especially like the cardamom buns. Right on the meadows, it’s a lovely central place to go for a light meal – and I am told their pizzas are amazing as well.

 

Filament – 38 Clerk Street 

I discovered this place back when it was located in India Buildings on Victoria Street – the window seats at the back of the high-ceilinged, cleanly hipster shop provided a welcome oasis around the corner from the hubbub of the Royal Mile. I took a shine to the unique name, and therefore went back when it moved to smaller premises on diverse, studenty Clerk Street. Though the move meant losing those wonderful ceilings, it’s still a great place to go for a bite and a well-made coffee.

 

Press Coffee – 30 Buccleuch Street 

This cute little place just around the corner from George Square (perfect for Fringe staff) serves good coffee and breakfasts, in an atmosphere that’s always friendly and bustling. I’ve done a lot of early-morning writing here. I recommend the delicious scones with jam and clotted cream. Bonus: their blue china on marble table has great Instagram value!

 

Mary’s Milk Bar – 19 Grassmarket 

Alright, this isn’t really a coffee shop. But there was no way I could leave it off the list. One of my favourite ice cream places in the world, this little place on the Grassmarket serves an eclectic rotating selection of homemade gelatos (from ‘Tea & Jam’ to ‘Candied Violet’) with distinctly vintage flair. Milkshakes, hot chocolate floats and, yes, coffee, are also available, and I promise that once you’ve braved the inevitable queue the first time, you’ll be back again and again.

 

 


Wrong Tree Theatre Presents: ‘Inferno’

By Megan Luesley

 

When asked to sum up Wrong Tree’s latest devised work, director Henry Gould emphasised one word – intense. Perhaps a show about hell could never be anything but. Still, as the latest work by Durham University’s acclaimed devised theatre, ‘Inferno’ is far more than just an adaptation of Dante’s masterpiece.

This is Wrong Tree’s third trip to the Fringe since it was founded in 2015, and it’s an ambitious project to say the least. Seven cast members and as many live musicians as they can squeeze in the Argyll theatre attempt to take both successful lawyer Bella (Isabel McGrady) and the audience on a whistle stop tour of hell, in all its grotesque, horrific glory.

But what exactly are the demons of the 21st century? Wrong Tree reject the fire and brimstone in favour of something more relevant, and perhaps more troubling.

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Take, for example, the ‘Fraud’ scene in which the demons labour in an office like clockwork robots. Combined with the suits worn by the cast, it creates a hell for the modern era. Still, this is just one facet of the production. “We had a lot of disagreements about different concepts, like hell and violence,” says Kyle Kirkpatrick (Demon ensemble), “and whether or not we went for an orthodox vision.”

This difficulty, however, reflects what they view as the production’s biggest stren

gth – the fact that it’s a communal creation. Gould had the initial idea, but the rest, from storyline to dialogue to characters to demons, is the result of this collaborative and ever-changing process. “It was always an organic process,” Gould states.  When asked about memorable moments in rehearsals, the cast recounted some of the cut lines from the devising process. “My favourite is in Gluttony, where we’re force-feeding someone,” says Olivia Swain (Demon ensemble). “Her line was ‘I need a break!’ and Harry just yelled ‘Have a Kit-Kat!’”

inferno

Whilst hell, sin, eternal damnation and the tedium of modern life are dismal subjects to put a dampener on a Fringe-goer’s day, the cast are adamant that it’s not all doom and gloom, despite some of their wackier ideas being cut. They use their Devil (Patrick Palmer) to reinforce this. “We took a lot of inspiration from comedies, this idea of the ironies of heaven and hell that almost humanise the Devil. It’s funny to see him going through a mid-life crisis.”

And besides, what is sin if it isn’t a teeny tiny bit tempting? Gould calls it an “absolute spectacle” of a show, and the cast insist that they’ve worked hard to make it a visceral and engaging experience. “It’s not a lecture. We’re respecting the audience as independent thinking adults,” Kirkpatrick states.

Can’t make up your own mind? This is perhaps the only time I’ll be able to say this on an online journalistic platform: go to hell!

‘Inferno’ will perform in the Argyll Theatre at theSpace at North Bridge, Aug 13-18, 20-25, 11:15 am. Tickets are £7, £6 concessions.


Preview: DULOG’s Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens

By Shauna Lewis

 

The title of ‘Saucy Jack and the Space Vixenspromises a potentially ‘off-the-wall’ kind of show. Seeing it in rehearsal not only affirms that, as it prepares to return to Edinburgh Fringe, but makes it clear how much heart and passion is going into its production.

The plot revolves around the murders of the Slingback Killer at Saucy Jack’s bar, prompting the arrival of the Space Vixens in a mission to fight crime. Aside from the ‘whodunnit’ side of things, glitter boots have more power than you’ve ever seen before, sexualities are explored and fetishes welcomed in this extra-terrestrial cabaret.

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For the first time since the show was written, it is being put on by a student company external to the original writers. Entrusted to Durham University’s DULOG, it will be paying homage to its status as a cult classic, but director Euan Walker promises originality through his own experience and influences.

But as he argues, the show originated from not wanting to emulate the status quo, so to a certain extent “to disrespect the show is to respect the show.”

It’s clear from listening to Euan talk about the production how much he and the cast care. He remarks that when he first sat down with them as a cast his first questions were, “What are you thinking?” He goes on: “I wanted it to be the most about them as possible, so everyone can pour their own into the show and then it reflects entirely how much they love it.”

It shows when I sit in on the rehearsal. Millie Blair, playing Jubilee Climax as well acting as Choreographer, pitches in with the musical direction, while other members contribute on what they think could be improved as well. It seems like a passion project for them all, not to mention their undeniably good chemistry as a group.

Whilst Millie Blair’s ‘Living in Hell’ seems like it’s going to be a standout of the production, the rest of the songs are upbeat and impossible to not enjoy. ‘All I Need Is Disco’ and ‘Glitter Boots Saved My Life’ are exuberant, ridiculous (in the best way) and downright fun. Euan describes the production as a “feel-good disco extravaganza”, which it certainly is, especially when the cast clearly want to be there just as much as you do.

He claims that as an experience, Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens encapsulates the spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe, “…it’s just this melting pot of pure love for theatre, dancing, music […] and that’s how I think our production reflects on it.”

Whilst he claims there is no moral to the production, which will undoubtedly be refreshing at a Fringe to be probably riddled with political comedy, he also says it is ‘unapologetically itself’. He adds that the production brings “the energy of fun, love, exuberance and unapologetic acceptance of self. All through the power of disco and I think that’s beautiful.”

Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens is on at 9.45pm, 1st- 19th August at C Venues (Venue 34)