Charlie V. Martin on the creative process, solo pressure and how the Fringe has changed

Louis Harnett O’Meara speaks to Edinburgh local Charlie V. Martin ahead of his debut show ‘Dante’s History of the Banished.’

Can you tell us a little bit about your show, ‘Dante’s History of the Banished’? 

The show is a one-woman character comedy hosted by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, who introduces the audience to three more famous characters of exile: Napoleon, King Lear, and Eve. There’s a fair mix of scripted and improvised material throughout the show, with some character sketches including more improv whilst others are quite tightly written. For instance, Napoleon’s character relies entirely on his responses to the audience, but King Lear is scripted. This said, there are still lots of chaotic elements in the segment, and room for audience interactions – plenty of room for things to go wrong! While the show has a dark and very timely theme, I try to make sure that its never taken too seriously, and I try to make my characters big and loveable so they can bring it to life in their own silly ways.


You’ve been up to the Fringe a few times before to a positive reception with the improv group Blind Mirth, but this is your solo debut. Are you nervous?

I’ve been performing my characters in solo shows down in London for a few months now, so I’ve become more comfortable with it. My first few performances were a bit scary but I suppose it’s like anything, you just have to keep at it. It does require a lot more stamina than group work. When all the focus is just on you you need to give them a lot of energy back. And when there are any difficulties it can only come down to you, so you need to be able to pick yourself up if anything happens. With the improvised side there are always going to be unpredictable aspects but I’ve had plenty of practice by now.




I noticed that you’ve done some puppet work before. Will any puppets be making a feature in this performance?

They will! I’m using puppets of varying levels of sophistication to act out a ten-minute version of King Lear. It should be a lot of fun! Cordelia is a Muppet-style creation, and the most complex. Gloucester and Cornwall also feature, although they’re less than complex, although they usually get a bigger laugh; their puppets are a little more ‘abstract’. I find that puppets help connect an audience with their inner child; they can help them laugh, or help them feel emotions they might find difficult to address with real people. You can throw them about a bit too which always gets a laugh; as Jim Henson once said, ‘always disrespect your puppets!’ Or something along those lines…


A ten-minute King Lear? Tell me more.

Haha, yes it’s a bit of a challenge! It probably has the most preparation needed to organise it. There are loads of props and different features and things happening all at once. Although it’s the most heavily scripted of the different parts that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier – quite the opposite. Fitting it all in is the challenge! I was influenced by the neofuturists when I was putting the segment together. Their goal is to achieve honest performance above all else; you need to make yourself vulnerable to the audience by setting yourself impossible tasks and demonstrating your own limits and weaknesses as a performer. I like the audience to see the failings of the show, and know that they are still enjoying it.


You’ve done a range of work in writing and performing, from live performances to scripts for BBC Scotland How do you manage the creative process?

I’ve been writing and improvising comedy for over eight years now, so using both scripts and improvisation in my production works well for me. I will sometimes write a bunch of jokes or themes that can act as a loose framework to improvise around in front of an audience. This works really well to generate new material; an audience might respond particularly well to something spur of the moment, or else I’ll remember something that I thought I might be able to work into my next show or my next script. It feels like a natural process for me to go through. Painful as it is, sometimes I find recording the shows and watching them back helps me to see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes it’s hard to remember everything that goes on! I’ve been developing Dante’s History for about two years now, performing on the circuit as a character at a time to try and get a feel for each one. It’s pretty much been lather, rinse, repeat until I’m getting what I want from my performance, and it’s a process that doesn’t ever really stop.


You say you’ve been performing your characters around the London circuit for a while now. How does the Fringe’s audience tend to differ from the usual crowd?

The exciting thing about performing at the Fringe is that there’s a different crowd every day. At university or in London you’ll tend to be performing for the same sort of crowds each time, and the audience will recognise you and learn how to respond to you. At the Fringe you have to gain the audience’s trust again with every performance, and this is a skill that can be too easy to forget. The fresh crowds stop you from becoming complacent with your performances, and hold you to account or reward you differently every night. They keep you on your toes! Besides this, it’s a great way to meet people from all over the world. I’ve learned a lot from chatting to them after the show and discussing how comedy or theatre or improv compares to where they’re from.


The Edinburgh Fringe is celebrating its seventieth birthday this year. As an Edinburgh local, have you seen the Fringe change over the years?

I do worry that the fringe is becoming a bit too commercial. It’s certainly slipping away from its origins; it was meant to be for small acts, outcasts, literally called ‘The Uninvited’.[1] I’ve been saving and planning for years for my solo debut – and I’m from Edinburgh! So of course performers get put off or feel under a lot of pressure once they get here to be a big success. Audiences and performers alike often seem unwilling to step outside of the big venues, and it’s been known for a while that there are a lot of people who only come to see the big names. The Fringe spirit is still alive and well, but I think we need to be careful to not let go of all the smaller and free-ticketed venues. My message for anyone coming to the Edinburgh Fringe is, by all means see your favourites, but don’t be afraid to try something new.



Louis Harnett O’Meara


Behind the scenes of 'A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light'

Chloe Moloney spoke to Charlotte Stephenson, producer of ‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’ with Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club (CUADC).

Ben Maier’s ‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’ is the story of a burgeoning friendship between two young Londoners, Jude and Leon, told within the frame of a fictional game show about mental illness, ‘This Is Your Mind’. They undergo a series of games and challenges, which become increasingly surreal as the show progresses – and as its hosts, Fizz and Terry, reveal themselves to be far less benevolent than they first appeared. The game show reveals more and more about Jude and Leon; about their families, their friendship, and their experiences with illness. This comic drama is fast-paced, combining physical and musical comedy with poignant, reflective moments that challenge stereotypes and create new ways of understanding the struggles of our social lives and inner minds.

Stephenson informed us of what exactly the role of a producer entails and how it differs from other theatrical positions. A director for example deals directly with the cast, rehearsal sessions and brings the play from script to performance. A producer on the other hand acts as a ‘practical figure’ – including making sure that people are keeping to their assigned budgets, organising rehearsal schedules for the cast at the start of the production process and communicating with the theatre first-hand. The producer tends to be the only person in contact with the venue, dealing with crucial aspects of the production ranging from equipment to insurance. However, Stephenson’s role does not end there. With publicity being a vital element of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, promoting ‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’ is equally important. Whether its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or handing out flyers on the Royal Mile, the unique Fringe experience allows for a perfect amount of coverage for the CUADC production.

Stephenson was inspired to tackle the producing role primarily by an event for new students at the University of Cambridge. Having previously produced a pantomime in sixth form, Stephenson explored her first Cambridge producing role at the ADC theatre. Just around the corner from her college, Stephenson noticed the abundance of students at the venue. Having fallen in love with the buzzing environment, she found herself suiting the producing role nicely. With excellent time management and organisational skills, it seemed that Stephenson fit the role like a glove. Despite claiming that she is not naturally much of an extrovert, she takes pleasure in the trust that both cast and crew have in the producer.

The difference between producing a show in Cambridge and one in Edinburgh is startling. This is Stephenson’s first time at the Fringe, let alone first time producing a production at this acclaimed festival. Nonetheless, the variation and diversity in the productions available at the Fringe is extraordinary. She remarks the larger potential audience of theatre-goers here at the Fringe and, compared to only a week running time in Cambridge, the CUADC’s two-and-a-half-week run is certainly a stretch.

Adapting to the new publicity process has been a pleasant challenge, in realising that there is a special way of marketing a production in Edinburgh. The Royal Mile is a jam-packed, fast-paced road where your pitch is condensed into one quick line to grab someone’s attention. Stephenson gives the spectators two sides of the coin of ‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’, stating how the production ‘explores mental health but in a game show’.

Stephenson happily gives advice to aspiring student producers, heralding that you should simply ‘go for it, [and] don’t be afraid to send in that first application or go for an interview. It’s a wonderful position.’ This Cambridge producer likes to regularly see the crew, conducts weekly meetings as she finds that face-to-face contact with the team facilitates the production process. Stephenson parts the interview with one last gem of advice: ‘There’s no right or wrong way of doing it, [you’ve] got to be organised and hit the right deadlines – make your show the best it can be.’

‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’ is on 2nd-19th August, Gilded Balloon Teviot

Angels in Erotica: 'God can be a right primadonna'

Angels in Erotica – a fresh new student written and run piece in which God is gay and there is a new female messiah. ‘But those were an afterthought’ their writer, Freddie Drewer, tells us. ‘First and foremost this a comedy.’



The play is written and performed by Durham University’s Phoenix Theatre Company. The Company represents Grey College, which has the phoenix as its mascot after the college burnt down in 1959. Equally the theatre company rose from the ashes of what was originally called the Fountains Theatre Company.

We have a dynamic trio representing the play – Freddie Dewer (writer), Hamish Inglis (director) and Kitty Briggs (producer), who decided last year to try their hand at something original. As Kitty tells us, this has been an entirely new challenge, advertising and pitching to a much wider field, yet the team are ready to embrace the challenge of the expansion and continuation of the piece. I was given an insight into what can be expected from their provocative, modern and unusual sounding production.

Writer Freddie tells us ‘I think that by poking fun at the silly, the important naturally reveals itself.’ As such the play is more than just irreverent comedy – it attempts to revive ideas about religion for a more modern audience to see how religion, sexuality and the naked human body can be interpreted on stage in the 21st century. When asked what her inspiration was Freddie explains ‘I have a degree in theology and was named after a heroine from one of my mum’s ‘bodice-rippers.’ ‘I was born to write this.’ We also discuss the challenges of putting themes of sexuality and gender on the stage:

Hamish: (on sexuality) The all mighty creator can be in love with whoever he wants to be in love with, so it opens up so much more scope for ‘the all loving God’!

Freddie: (on feminism) I think the world is still sorely missing good female characters that aren’t sex objects, but also aren’t perfect ice-cold geniuses. I’ve tried to write a female character that’s a bit silly, saucy and flawed, and therefore hopefully more relatable.

The crew highlight how important it was to find a line between clever comedy and pantomime drama. The actors must really understand the characters that they play, as the style of comedy can switch dramatically between scenes, depending on their content. ‘God, playing himself’ Hamish says ‘can be a right primadonna’. It is also important that the characters and crew can work together closely with this material, which Kitty explains was straight forward, as ‘they all had to try seduce me in the auditions so we now know each other very well.’

I asked one final question: if you were to have an afterparty after the final show, what would the night be like?

Kitty: I am mummy of the group. I would make sure everyone was accounted for after a 2.5 hour panic that Cupid has gone missing, look after God who’ll be throwing up behind a skip, and make bear meat butties for Edwardio in the morning. We’ll then realise we left Moody Blues at the gay bar and we’ll never see him again.

It sounds like quite the night. Angels in Erotica opens 14th August – if you are looking for some controversy, some nudity, and some comedy to top it off, then it sounds like this could be worth a watch.


Claire Richardson

Mozart meets the Kardashians – it can only be Leoe&Hyde

It’s the five-star production that has been winning over audiences nationwide at this summer’s fringe festivals, but how did duo Leoe&Hyde create ‘The Marriage of Kim K’? Sian Bayley speaks to librettist Leo Mercer, to find out more about this modern and ambitious rewrite of Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’.

Credit: Daniel Kim

Credit: Daniel Kim

Leo Mercer (leoemercer), is famous on the Oxford scene as a librettist, writing the text to various student genre-bending operas such as ‘The Prophetess’ (2015), and ‘Queueue: A Coffee Shop Musical’ (2016). It is his mash up of Kim Kardashian and Mozart, however, that has caught the most attention, and has been touring the UK this summer, culminating in its run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Leo admits he loves ‘coming up with titles that immediately get your mind whirling, and then seeing what happens next’, and explains that he was inspired to write ‘Kim K’, ‘having just read a book of experimental poetry called ‘Kim Kardashian’s Marriage’, seen someone in a cool indie cafe arranging ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, and had a discussion with a music academic about what a 21st opera libretto could be like.’

It is the sort of bizarre set of circumstances that characterise Leo’s unique style of work.

Indeed, Leo is keen to emphasise he is ‘definitely not going for weird – just unique’, when questioned about his response to ‘Kim K’ appearing on Time Out Magazine’s ‘Top 10 Weirdest Shows at The Fringe’. He is inspired by the idea that ‘one generation’s weird is the next generation’s normal’, and is a devout follower of Peter Thiel’s insistence that big creations build on beliefs that you have, but no one else shares. Leo is the epitome of a forward-thinking artist, actively looking to create new things, and playing with already established categories to create something a bit different. He takes a particular interest in genre fluidity by ‘beginning with his personal experience’ then trying to ‘hone that into something shareable’, articulating the parts of himself that he doesn’t feel other people are articulating for him. Remarking that ‘once upon a time, you’d have a pretty consistent range of experiences over the course of a day’, whereas today ‘we deal with centuries and universes, tragedy and humour, over the course of an hour’, he is curious about watching the twists and turns of popular culture, that can be found in any episode of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians.’ Somewhat surprisingly Leo confesses he’s not ‘massively invested in pop culture’, but instead cares about ‘understanding people and connecting with reality.’ For him ‘the Kardashians are vaguely interesting; but it’s the people who watch the Kardashians, and the way millions of lives are intertwining with theirs’ that interests him more.

He applies this kind of ‘Gogglebox lense’ to the play by using real-life couple Stephen and Amelia as the central duo, fighting over whether to watch another episode of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ or ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. Placing Stephen and Amelia next to Kim and Kris and Mozart’s Count and Countess, Leo explores a variety of relationships, making the Kardashians seem closer to Mozart than they ever have before.

Leo explains, ‘the idea is to create the most experimental work I can, in the most popular way I can’, equally balancing substance and communication. ‘Ultimately, I’d love to be involved in high quality, futuristic works that are emphatically meant for the public, not a specialist audience.’ It is for this reason Leo is working with Classical Evolution on developing and sharing GenreFluid at this year’s fringe festival, producing an open-mic for classical musicians to be creative and ‘genrefluid’ with their work, breaking down boundaries and creating something fun and engaging.

Leo notes, however, the difficulty of working out where to start when you have limited resources, and the issues with scaling student productions to the levels required for national tours. Staging such an ambitious piece as ‘The Marriage of Kim K’ is a mammoth task, and I’m told that Leo and Stephen are continuing to rework the play after the summer to smooth out any bumps encountered during this summer’s run.

Yet, despite its scale and difficulty, it is clear that Leoe&Hyde have produced a real gem for this summer’s fringe. To write and perform a witty Kardashian musical and glorious Mozart opera at the same time is a truly outstanding feat, for which the duo should be congratulated on.

‘The Marriage of Kim K’ is performing at the Fringe from August 2nd – 28th

5 Historic Edinburgh Festival venues you shouldn’t miss!

Mark Bogod gives us his pick of the Fringe’s diverse venues; taking in ghosts and football stadiums along the way.


Bedlam Theatre

This tiny theatre just off the Royal Mile is notable for being the oldest student-run theatre in Britain (since 1980). Situated in a converted Victorian church, the theatre is named after Edinburgh’s first mental health hospital nearby. During the fringe, students relinquish their control and the theatre becomes venue 49 – although the Improverts, the university improv group still perform nightly and are the Fringe’s longest running improvisation show.


Bedlam Theatre, Kim Traynor

 Royal Lyceum Theatre

A wonderfully ornate proscenium arch theatre, the Royal Lyceum was designed C.J Phillips, who designed over 40 British theatres in his time, in the 1880s. In the 1960s, it played host to one of the festival’s most iconic productions, Beyond the Fringe. It is also said to be haunted by Ellen Terry, the leading Shakesperean actress of the late Victorian age, who appeared in the Lyceum’s first show, Much Ado About Nothing.


Royal Lyceum Theatre, dancewearcentral


Easter Road Football Stadium

This football ground in Leith has been home to Hibernian FC since 1893 (the first match being a friendly against Clyde). It forms one of the most unusual venues of this year’s Fringe, playing host to A Field of Our Own, a play which recounts the founding of the football club by Irish immigrants in 1875.


Easter Road


Canongate Kirk

The Kirk of Canongate at the eastern end of the Royal Mile is of historical interest for a number of reasons. Built at the end of the 17th century with a distinctive Dutch-style gable at the front, it is the parish church of the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood House and Edinburgh Castle, and the economist Adam Smith is buried there. It was also where Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall got married five years ago. A variety of baroque and folk concerts are set to take place at the Kirk during this year’s festival


Canongate Kirk


Scottish National Gallery

This enormous neo-classical building in the heart of the city had its foundation stone laid by Prince Albert in 1850 and houses works by El Greco, Botticelli, Monet among countless other paintings within the Scottish national collection of art. Aside from its temporary exhibitions, the museum will play its part in the Fringe by playing host to Phil Jupitus, who everyday will be sketching a work of art (there or at one of the other big Edinburgh museums) on his ipad in front of anyone who wants to come along!


National Gallery


The writers of COLUMNS talk loss, honesty and magic

Claire Leibovich interviews Alex Hartley and Laura Day about the play they wrote together, COLUMNS.


Credit: Lucie Termignon

Credit: Lucie Termignon


So, what is COLUMNS about?


LAURA COLUMNS is a play about the loss of people and things in our lives, and about our changing relationships with our parents. The two main characters have particularly fraught relationships with their parents: Joe’s have inexplicably vanished; Sophie has cut ties with her dad and her mum has literally run away to Russia.

ALEX Every character in the play has lost something and, perhaps without realising it, is looking for something. It all takes place in a funny sort of world with its own slightly different rules. Coincidences mount, everything becomes strangely interconnected. You begin to wonder if magic isn’t creeping in at the edges.


Why did you choose to write about the topic of parent-child relationships?


ALEX We wanted to write and perform a play that lots of people could relate to, that would feel familiar somehow. We’re aware that everyone has a different experience of family and parents, but with COLUMNS we’re opening our arms and asking audiences to take whatever they can from our story.

LAURA Open arms is definitely key! Our aim has always been to be honest with the audience, I think. We want them to see that what they’re watching is the result of trial and error, a lot of puzzling. We’re going to show our working, I guess – demystify the process.


What has the writing and devising process been like?


ALEX: We’ve been going back and forth with ideas since December, working out the world of the story and getting to know the main characters. It was quite slow at the start though because we were living in different countries, so all the work had to happen over Skype. It wasn’t that fun…

LAURA No… It wasn’t until around May that Alex started writing bits of scene and prose. These were useful in our early rehearsals as a springboard for developing the characters and the moments in the play. It can be exciting to improvise around a snippet of dialogue.

ALEX The script for COLUMNS has pretty much come out of those early rehearsals – we learnt a lot about the characters from just messing around! We still play a lot of games in rehearsals, using props and music. We also record our conversations and rehearsals so we don’t lose track of the process. They might come in useful later on.


Credit: Lucie Termignon

Credit: Lucie Termignon


What do you want the audience to get out of the play?


ALEX It’s at 10.55am so hopefully it’ll put them in a good mood for the rest of the day! Seriously though, it would be great if people left thinking afresh about the people in their own lives and those they encounter. We want them to feel like they’ve been on a kind of journey with us and our characters.


You’re running ‘Relaxed Performances’, what does that entail?


LAURA Yes, we’re doing them on the two Thursdays of our run! The main goal of Relaxed Performances is to provide a more comfortable and welcoming environment for people with autism, a learning disability or a sensory or communication disorder. The theatre can be an over-stimulating and unfriendly environment for many people.

ALEX The people we’ve contacted within the accessible theatre community have been incredibly encouraging and generous with their advice and support. It’s been quite moving actually.

LAURA When we told Paul Wady of Guerilla Aspies that we felt nervous about our Relaxed Performances, he said the most reassuring thing: ‘You won’t get it right for everyone. You’ll definitely fail someone in the audience. But the important thing is you’re trying.


COLUMNS will be at theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39) from 14th -19th  and 21st – 26th August.

What your choice of Fringe venue says about you- Ruby Gilding


Are the Edinburgh Fringe blues setting in? Fear not! Here the wonderful Ruby Gilding takes us through what your Fringe venue of choice might say about you…


1. Underbelly Circus Hub

You’ve headed towards what looks like a model of Elmo the Elephant set up on the Meadows. This is the festival’s Circus Hub; you’re not brave enough for cabaret, so you came to prove that you’re still ‘out there’. A short walk south of the city centre and this patch of green makes you forget about the hubbub of the Royal Mile. There are people practising tai chi on the grass, and a group sitting in a circle enthusiastically drumming. At first you feel relaxed, mistakenly thinking you’ll be at home amongst other mindfulness practising townies. But soon you’re inside the Lafayette and every surface is covered in mirrors; add this to the multi-coloured confusion outside and it’s all starting to give you a migraine, but you won’t let on.


Where tai chi meets chai tea...

Where tai chi meets chai tea…


2. Pleasance Courtyard

The Pleasance is proud to call itself the biggest venue of the Fringe with its total of sixteen stages. You’ll repeat this to yourself throughout the festival; because no, you’re not missing out. Why would you want to leave and explore the rest of Edinburgh when everything is so comfortably middle class here? You can stay for days within the courtyard with its festival atmosphere channelling Latitude or Greenman and still feel like you’re ‘doing’ the festival. “Defy the norm” announces the Fringe as this year’s motto, perhaps you should take this on board and strike out from the sheltered cobbles of The Pleasance.


The nurturing embrace of Pleasance Courtyard

The nurturing embrace of Pleasance Courtyard


3. C Venues

You’re probably here to watch your mates’ show, or most likely you’ve brought one up to the Fringe from your university’s drama society. You thought that it would be the best way to meet fellow thesps and announce your arrival to the theatre world. After the first few shows in a tiny back room (with an even tinier audience) you’ve realised that you’re small fry. There are hundreds of student shows to compete against, so your youthful confidence makes the most of it and you spend a heady month getting drunk and completing the obligatory clamber up Arthur’s Seat at four AM.


4. Cabaret Voltaire

You paid enough for a train ticket getting you up here to fork out for the shows themselves. So you’re lurking around the free fringe venues, after being lured in by the “free hour of comedy starting in ten minutes” chant of the guy pushing flyers on the street. And now you can’t leave. At first it looks promising, there are shows in different caves around the bar and the bicycle stool décor is kind of fun. But now it’s looking like you’re trapped in an underground bunker with one cringey stand up show after another to keep you company.


How much Free Fringe can you handle before the purse strings finally loosen?...

How much Free Fringe can you handle before the purse strings finally loosen?…


5. Bedlam

Who knows what you came to see. Bedlam has more cheap drinks than even the Weatherspoon’s in your home town. But as it’s in a gothic church there are enough artsy vibes going round to make it acceptable for the Fringe. Bedlam is also the oldest student-run theatre, and that must stand for something, you reason. This is where the drama cliques in the know will end up every night for the whole month, getting steadily blotto.


"I came here for the architecture- the cheap gin is a delightful bonus"

“I came here for the architecture- the cheap gin is a delightful bonus”


'Iraq, Out & Loud': Chilcott at the Fringe- Ben Ray


Somewhere out there, in the brash, cacophonic madness of the Edinburgh Fringe, is a small garden shed placed next to a London bus. Inside this unassuming space is one of the most interesting and valuable events of the whole festival: ‘Iraq, Out & Loud’. Members of the general public are signing up to help read the entirety of the Chilcott Report, nonstop, for 24 hours a day until it’s finished. That’s 12 volumes, and 2.6 million words, through the night and through the day for over two weeks, whilst the busyness of the Fringe swirls around the small shed.




The question is, why is this happening? This is not an effort in satire, nor simply a display of literary stamina, nor a witty observation on the insanity of the world we live in. Instead, one of the organisers tells me, the event aims to turn the question around. Why was there British involvement in the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq? Mr Chilcott spent 7 years compiling this gargantuan report on the reasoning, and if the public don’t read it and hold those responsible to account, then who will? This continuous reading is a political statement, a display of solidarity that shows that the world hasn’t forgotten the pointlessness of the 2003 Iraq War. There have been some harrowing, emotional moments: one night, at 3am, the section on counting death tolls was read out loud by a member of the public. The British and American figures were counted exactly, it was reported, whilst Iraqi deaths were rounded up to the nearest half million. These are the sort of atrocities the world needs to know, and remember.



The whole event is being continuously filmed by a webcam, hiding in the corner of the shed. After the reading is finally finished the organisers plan to take the video on tour, playing it in various places and even condensing it into an art instillation. This is a fitting legacy for this fascinating project: one of acknowledgement, sharing and remembrance. The grim lessons that the Chilcott Report can teach us may yet be the most resonant and long lasting thing to come out of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.inflatable camping tent

Bean There, Done That: Edinburgh's Coffee Shops- Caragh Aylett

We know that finding plays to see at the Fringe is pretty hard, but what’s harder is finding the perfect coffee shop; who does the best flat white? Where can I gaze longingly out of the window? And where can I make sure that the Wifi always connects? Don’t worry, we’ve sorted it out for you, here’s our #PickOfTheFringe for coffee, because that’s more important.


1. Black Medicine

First things first, Black Medicine is pretty much everyone’s favourite. With its dream location in the centre of town, on Infirmary Street, and its beautiful take out cups, Black Medicine is the Instagramers dream. There’s a huge room downstairs where you can set up camp, connect to the wifi and while away the day alongside other festival goers. They also do amazing peanut butter brownies, I’d definitely recommend.

2. Brew  Lab

With its especially-for-the-Fringe pop up shop, Brew Lab is perfectly situated on the picturesque Victoria Street. The flagship site is nestled on South College Street, near local rivals Black Medicine. It has an extensive amount of cake on offer and the pop-up branch has a great rustic feel. blackboard csub . It’s also the place where we accidentally left our Ed Fringe Review whiteboard for several days, so they’re pretty good at lost and found.



Brew Lab, tucked away on South College Street (Image: STV Photos)

3. Elephants and Bagels

Not strictly a coffee shop but pretty good. Just off Nicholson Square, Elephants and Bagels is the perfect location for most Fringe venues, pop in after a show and refuel. They have a huge selection of pretty amazing bagels and the drawings of elephants on the wall are really cute, if you stay long enough you can even draw one yourself. My personal favourite was a drawing of ‘Donald Trunk’.


4. Hula

Good food and good coffee, what’s not to love? Hula holds a special place in my heart for two reasons. Firstly, it was the place I went to recover after seeing the worst play I’ve ever seen at the beginning of the Fringe last summer. Secondly, its lentil curry saved me from the most horrendous hangover at the end of last year’s Fringe. The coffee is pretty great and they do some incredible vegetarian food and if that isn’t enough for you, it’s right on the corner of Grassmarket so the perfect place to people watch during the festival.




5. Century General Store

Probably my favourite coffee shop of them all, Century General do great coffee and they even sell locally grown strawberries. Being on the Marchmont side of the meadows, it’s the perfect place to escape the crowds and there’s outdoor seating for when the Edinburgh rain lets up. They also have another, bigger branch on Montrose Terrace on the other side of the city.


So there you have it- our round up of the best places to grab your midday caffeine fix.

Interview with the minds behind 'GMO'- Caragh Aylett


I was lucky enough to meet with the producer and directors of Cardiff University’s new production, ‘Genetically Modified Organism’ (GMO).  You might have seen them on the Royal Mile staging a protest about the life of Amelia Fowler and demanding her death. With such an intriguing marketing technique, I was excited to find out more about ‘GMO’. Rob Maddison is the writer and director of this bold new production while Lucy Spain is the assistant director and choreographer, and Martin Newman and Dan Gammond produced the piece.


So, what’s ‘GMO’ about? 


Newman: It’s a courtroom drama where the audience play the jury; everyday they decide the outcome of the play.

Maddison: It portrays a four year old girl, Amelia Fowler, who has been illegally genetically modified by her father, the piece presents a debate over whether or not she should live. Even though Amelia is only four I really wanted to give her a voice, she is represented in the piece as a teddy bear but an older version of her interacts with the audience but cannot be seen by the other characters.

The verdict is about the death of a four year old child

Spain: It blends naturalist theatre with physical theatre as well as projection and one character who is played solely as a voice over.


With such a sensitive topic, did you come across any moral issues in the writing? 


Maddison: Yes, the piece is entirely focused on moral issues. The audience are deciding whether or not she should be killed. If Amelia remains alive then she sets a precedent for future genetic modification which could be a huge danger for humanity since it could be used in bio weaponry and a huge number of other things. If she is killed then it is the death of a young girl who is entirely innocent.


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How are the audience responding so far, are they voting to kill Amelia or to keep her alive? 


Maddison: Out of the three performances that we’ve done two of the audiences have voted innocent and one has voted guilty.

Spain: The verdict is about the death of a four year old child, I think if we were talking about a plant then no one would have a problem in viewing them as guilty but we’ve used age as a huge emotional factor to the decision.


With such a unique topic what was your motivation?


Maddison: I studied biochemistry at Cardiff University and did a specific module in this kind of technology. My lecturer was really excited about a recent breakthrough in the field and how revolutionary this could be.


So all the science in the show is accurate? 


Maddison: Yes it’s very well researched. I’m really interested in combining science and theatre and people do know a little about GMO through genetically modified crops but this gives a lot more information.

Spain: It’s quite science-heavy in parts but is broken up through physical theatre and projection to make the science digestible.


‘GMO’ is on at Paradise in the Vault at 12:45 until 13th August