Headlong announce new Penelope Skinner show MEEK at the Traverse as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe



Amy Hodge directs Penelope Skinner’s elegantly mysterious new play Meek, an unflinching vision which examines state control and self-control in an unknown theocratic society. Meek will open at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before embarking on a UK tour.   Full tour dates to be announced shortly.

In a society where private lives become political and freedom of expression is not an option, Irene finds herself imprisoned.  As tales of her incarceration spread overseas and her growing exposure becomes a threat, she is forced to make a brutal decision. 

Skinner’s urgent play for Headlong in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, is a searing evocation of fraught times; a haunting vision of ruthless authoritarianism, tense friendships and one woman’s determination not to be broken.

Penelope Skinner is an award-winning writer and recognised as one of the UK’s leading voices in contemporary theatre.  Her theatre credits include LindaThe Big Idea: Age and The Village Bike (Royal Court), The Promise (Donmar Warehouse at Trafalgar Studios), Fred’s Diner (Chichester Festival Theatre), The Sound of Heavy Rain (Paines Plough), Greenland(National Theatre), Eigengrau (Bush) and Fucked (Old Red Lion/Assembly).  Film credits include Mary Queen of Scots and How I Live Now.  Television credits include Fresh Meat(Channel 4).  For radio her credits include Planet B, The Man in Black: The Old Road (BBC Radio 7); Scratch (BBC Radio 3); and Murder in the Toilet (Cookham FM). Penelope is Winner of the 2011 George Devine Award, the Charles Wintour Most Promising Playwright Award at the 2011 Evening Standard Theatre Awards. She was also nominated for the 2012 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.

Amy Hodge is Associate Director for Headlong. For Headlong she directed Boys will Be Boys (Bush Hall- part of the Bush Breaks Out season). Other credits include Boat (BAC/Company 3), 7-75 (The Place), Am I Dead Yet? (Traverse and Bush Theatre), Our Big Land (Romany Theatre Company), The Rover (Hampton Court Palace), Romeo and Juliet (Theatre Uz, Uzbekistan for the British Council), ClytemnestraThe SangerLight ArrestedMeasure For MeasureA Christmas CarolSmall Change (Sherman Cymru, while Associate Director 2008-2011), Cloak Room (Sherman and Washington DC), Playing The Game (Tricycle), Mules (Young Vic), The Ethics of Progress (Unlimited Theatre), The TempestKick for Touch (Orange Tree Theatre). Amy was Studio Associate at the National Theatre (2013-14) and was recipient of Jerwood Directors Award 2007.

Full casting to be announced shortly.

Smash Hit Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams makes London Premier at Underbelly Festival 6 April – 20 May

Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams
Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams

Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams

  • Smash Hit Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams makes London Premiere at Underbelly Festival for six weeks only
  • A 14 strong cast tells the tale of the circus through astonishing synchronised feats of acrobatics, juggling, contortion and dance, as seen on ITV’s royal variety performance
  • inspired by the cast’s childhood dreams of becoming circus performers and the transformative power of circus to effect positive social change
  • Circus Abyssinia runs at Underbelly Festival from 6th April – 20th May 2018
  • Tickets on sale now via

‘One of the best acts ever seen… Fun for all the family’. ★★★★★ Sunday Mail

‘A phenomenal hour of circus that shows that dreams can come true’ ★★★★★ Broadway Baby

‘Sensational Entertainment’ ★★★★ The Times

Following a smash hit run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 and as seen on ITV’s Royal Variety Performance, Circus Abyssinia makes its London premiere at Underbelly Festival for six weeks only. As circus marks its 250th anniversary this year, Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams is a jubilant celebration of circus itself that will mesmerise audiences of all ages through the sheer infectious energy and spirit which fly from its cast.

Written by Cal McCrystal, Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams is an unashamedly joyful mix of astonishing stunts, astounding circus skills and enchanting adventure. The show dramatises in surreal, often comic and mostly wordless ways, the magical true tale of two Ethiopian brothers, Bibi and Bichu who dreamed as little boys of joining the circus, and stages the journey of how their dream came true. Performed from the perspective of the young brothers, through the universal language of circus, the show mixes autobiographical and fictional narratives to tell how the Bibi and Bichu became world-class jugglers.

Underbelly Festival audiences will be plunged into a world of daredevil wonders as they encounter a host of other circus dreamers: dancing, contorting, gravity-defying figures, all weaving tales of their own. The inimitable Circus Abyssinia Troupe, a team of dazzling and prodigiously talented acrobats from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, whose reputation for bold and vertiginous acrobatic displays are both awe-inspiring and heart-stopping to watch.

The multi-talented and incredibly versatile Circus Abyssinia Troupe celebrate the birth of a new Ethiopian tradition through a breath-taking range of circus skills including; human juggling, hand-vaulting, contortion, cloth spinning, Cyr Wheel, clowning and the astonishing eight strong double Chinese Pole act. Fusing theatrical storytelling with astonishing stunts, the show combines the arts and innovations of contemporary circus with Ethiopia’s artistic heritage to create one of the world’s first full-blown Ethiopian circuses. Surrealist and joy-driven, accompanied by a soundscape that draws on Ethiopia’s rich musical past and present, Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams is a transformative celebration of circus itself.

From humble beginnings, Bibi and Bichu learnt their skills at a young age busking and tumbling for crowds in the city streets of Jimma, working tirelessly to master their craft and realise their dreams of joining the circus. Now world-renowned jugglers they have performed in thousands of shows in countries all over the world ranging from Japan to Germany. Bibi and Bichu discovered the incredible Circus Abyssinia Troupe acrobats at Circus Wingate, a circus school they have sponsored since 2010 as part of their ongoing commitment to support the development of Ethiopian circus in an effort to repay the kindness they received from other artists in their own careers. The troupe’s burgeoning circus careers have changed their lives and the lives of their families for the better in very real, significant ways: most were living in poverty until 2015.     

The brothers who now reside in the UK were also resident jugglers at the acclaimed Giffords Circus from 2002 – 2016, touring for 11 seasons throughout the south of England. It was during their time with Giffords, performing as part of Moon Songs in 2015 alongside renowned stage and screen director Cal McCrystal, that the brothers found their inspiration for Circus Abyssinia. The new show unfolds with a dreamlike sense inspired by the 2015 production but the driving force behind the performance is the transformative magic of circus itself, and all its acts play with the possibility that such magic and energy are forces that can be mastered.  

Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams is a surreal retelling of how the cast dreamed of the circus in a country without one and created a phenomenal new Ethiopian tradition. The show is an unmissable event for children and adults who will love the extraordinary physical feats of strength, dexterity and fluid grace, and the reminder that, when we work together and fight for them, dreams are for there for the taking.


Underbelly and Bibi & Bichu present

Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams

Underbelly Southbank Festival, London, SE1 8XX

Dates: Fri 6 April – Sun 2o May, (not 11th April), 7.30pm (6 April – 2 May, Tues-Fri), 7.45pm 3 – 20  May, Tues-Fri) 3pm & 6pm (Sat), 6pm(Sun)

Prices: from £14 previews, £19.50 weekdays, £23.50 weekends

Running time: 60mins

Age Range: Universal

Tickets available via


Bibi and Bichu Tesfamariam

The Circus Abyssinia Troupe:

Betelhem Dejene

Etsegenet Ashenafi

Helen Shimelse

Semeret Getachew


Alemayehu Mulugeta

Befekadu Esmael

Ezera Nigusse

Daniel Gezahegn

Miliyared Assfaw

Mikiyas Deneke

Yohanns Woilamo

Yosef Damot

Msganaw Gebremaryam



Writer – Cal McCrystal

Director – Bichu Tesfamariam

Choreographer – Kate Smyth

Lighting Design – Mark Whatmough

Bitcoin-funded play comes to VAULT Festival

Silk Road
Silk Road

Silk Road

Alex Oates’ Silk Road, the first play to be funded by cryptocurrency Bitcoin, returns after a triumphant Edinburgh Fringe Festival with its London premiere, opening at VAULT Festival 2018, before touring to Live Theatre, Newcastle in February.
★★★★★ “new writing at its best, well-staged and brilliantly acted” The Reviews Hub

“How is it delivered? That’s the best bit! Royal Mail. Postman Pat brings your smack to your door with a smile and his black and white cat is none the wiser”

Bruce is nineteen, unemployed and living with his Nan. A struggling young Geordie tech-head, he’s the unlikeliest international criminal mastermind you can imagine. But sucked into an underworld dark web of new-age pirates, local gangsters and tea-cosies, it isn’t long before Bruce discovers how easy it is to buy narcotics online.
Following a call-out on the real Silk Road forums for contributions to the original production’s crowdfunding campaign, an anonymous donor donated two bitcoin. Bitcoin value has since gone up, and plummeted, and gone up again. Two bitcoin are currently worth $29,078 (about £21,405), and playwright Alex Oates will now be funding the entire production with cryptocurrency.

★★★★★ “theatre at its very best (…) smart, humorous and powerfully touching” FringeGuru

Shrapnel Theatre returns to VAULT Festival following two smash-hit years with Underground and The Litterati, with the former transferring to Brits off-Broadway at 59E59 Theaters in June 2017.

Alex Oates has been shortlisted for both the Old Vic 12 and long listed for the Bruntwood Prize, and Papatango Prize with previous work including Pig and Rules for Being a Man (UK tours). Dominic Shaw is a director from Jersey, and currently associate director for Kinky Boots in the West End. Previous directing work includes A Memory for Forgetting (Arcola) and Fan Fiction (Other Palace).

Actor Josh Barrow is a member of the National Youth Theatre and has worked on the Royal Court Theatre’s Open Court Project 2016, and is TriForce’s Monologue Slam National Champion 2017.

Shrapnel Theatre presents:


January 24th 2018 –  January 28th 2018, 6.15pm, VAULT Festival
Press Night: January 25th 2018, 6.15pm

New Diorama 2018 Artist Development programme ft Underbelly /Hotel for Theatre Companies

David Byrne

David Byrne

  • New Diorama announce plans to offer more support for emerging and mid-career artists than ever before – with genuinely innovative schemes and opportunities not on offer anywhere else.
  • A major three-year partnership with Underbelly to provide unprecedented support to help some of the UK’s best theatre companies bring shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
  • New Diorama become the first London fringe venue to have a hotel partner – teaming up with arts-led hotel, Green Rooms, to offer free rooms and £15 beds for artists coming to London.
  • New Diorama’s Artist Development Programme is supported by Arts Council England, and our 2018/19 Artist Development Sponsor is The Mandy Network.

New Diorama Theatre’s award-winning artist development programme, launched in early 2016, was described by Exeunt as “the most exciting artist development plan Britain has ever seen”. On 30th November, NDT are launching their updated offering for early and mid-career theatre companies – without question their most exciting yet.

Headlining New Diorama’s new programme is a major new partnership with Underbelly. Each year, for the next three years, theUntapped Award presented by Underbelly and New Diorama will support nine companies – three each year – removing the barriers that prevent some of the most talented groups from showcasing their work at the Fringe.

New Diorama’s Artistic & Executive Director, David Byrne, says “this is genuinely the best and most exciting opportunity for theatre ensembles and companies wanting to present their work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Alongside a £3,000 investment in each chosen group, they’ll receive a great slot at Underbelly – with no venue deposit or guarantee, press support paid for, a flyering team, free marketing support and an enhanced box office split. We’re even going to pay for access performances for every selected group. We really believe it’ll be game-changing for the successful early and mid-career companies selected”.

Marina Dixon and Vikki Mizon, Heads of Programming, Underbelly, said “Underbelly is delighted to be working in partnership with New Diorama Theatre to award three outstanding theatre companies the fantastic opportunity to present their shows at the Fringe. This award is one of the best opportunities for the Edinburgh Fringe, making a run in Edinburgh achievable for new ensemble work, allowing new productions to be presented at the highest level.

“Underbelly has run a scheme supporting new writing at the Fringe for the last six years, and has a proven track record of discovering fantastic new talent. This new three-year partnership with New Diorama Theatre is particularly exciting to us because NDT share our commitment and passion for supporting new artists. Together we hope to discover and develop some of the exceptional talent the UK has to offer.”

Applications for the Untapped Award presented by Underbelly and New Diorama will be open on the 30th November 2017 and close on 28th January 2018.

One of the biggest additions to the Artist Development Programme is a partnership with Green Rooms Hotel. With so many of New Diorama’s supported companies coming from outside of London, and accommodation being a major prohibitive factor in companies making the trip, the partnership will mean NDT can offer an allocation of rehearsal space, free rooms and, when they are exhausted, a discounted offer of £15 a bed for artists and groups.

Green Rooms’ Sylvia Dietz said:

 Green Rooms is the UK’s first arts-led independent social enterprise hotel. We opened in May 2016 and our mission is to support artists and creatives with affordable accommodation and event spaces in a beautiful setting that inspires creativity. As such we are an integral part of the London arts community and are delighted to join forces with the New Diorama Theatre and support the great work they are doing in that field. We understand that London is becoming an increasingly unaffordable place for many artists and Green Room is helping to bridge that gap.

As a partner of the New Diorama Theatre we are excited to support their unique Artist Development Programme and very much look forward to welcoming young theatre companies from all over the UK and offer their artists a place to stay, a base where creative ideas and some brilliant ventures will be conceived.”

New Diorama are also working to share our expertise with artists who are not currently supported by the theatre. Starting in January 2018, NDT will be offering artist surgeries once a month – offering advice to any groups who book an appointment.

Alongside these new opportunities, NDT will be enhancing our existing programme by:

  1. More than doubling the number of grants we offer to student companies who can’t afford the £98 to enter productions toNational Student Drama Festival.
  2. Continuing our Cash-Flow loans, lending up to £4,000 to companies, interest-free. We’re increasing the pot of money that these funds come from to £12,000. Since the scheme was announced, New Diorama has lent over £200,000 to our supported companies, unlocking numerous opportunities that would have otherwise been out of reach.
  3. Boosting the number of benefits on offer to all our supported groups – including piloting a Funding Application Library, so new groups can read successful funding applications to better understand how to access further funds for their work.
  4. INCOMING Festival will continue in partnership with A Younger Theatre, but will be growing significantly in 2018 – happening simultaneously in London at New Diorama and in Manchester at HOME, with all tickets remaining only £5.

New Diorama are also committed to securing more rehearsal space after our successful ND2 project comes to an end in Spring 2018. During the project, New Diorama has offered over 50 weeks of free rehearsal space to diversity-led groups and over 70 weeks of free space to  NDT supported companies.

Artistic Director David Byrne says “when we opened in 2010, we had the ambition of being the first “companies’ theatre”, supporting ensembles both with their artistic and organisational development. This new programme of support is the culmination of all our work so far. While all theatre companies are different, many face the same hurdles. We hope these new ideas and innovations will keep many of the most exceptional theatre companies in the UK making their best work for years to come.”

The Mandy Network will be New Diorama’s Artist Development Sponsor 2018/19. brings together the world’s largest network of actors, backstage and theatre professionals working in the UK today. Collaborating throughout the year, will start by supporting New Diorama in creating an application portal for the many opportunities on offer.

Edinburgh Fringe sell-out play from new young Swedish playwright – upcoming London debut Oct 24-28

Happy Yet?
Happy Yet?

Happy Yet?

Following a sell-out run at Edinburgh’s 2016 Fringe, where it was awarded 4 stars from The List, Happy Yet? comes to London’s Courtyard Theatre Oct 24-28. The dark comedy set in Stockholm combines elements of Nordic drama and farce, to offer a fresh take on depression, anxiety and mental illness.

“…an important addition to the discussion about mental health and an education to those weary of the subject. A striking, beautiful and heartbreaking production.”

✭✭✭✭ – The List (2016)

From an attic flat in Stockholm, Torsten wages battle not only with his brother and his sister-in-law – but with his own mercurial mind. Happy Yet? is the story of the Sandqvist family and their struggle to understand Torsten and his disordered moods and dysfunction. As a permanent guest in his brother’s home, Torsten is constantly reminded of his inadequacy and inability to live up to conventions of Swedish society. Relying on his intelligence, quick wit and unnerving charm, Torsten fools and flirts his way in and out of trouble: he toys with the law, his brother’s hospitality, and ultimately his family’s love. Torsten’s decisions become more extreme and increasingly irreversible – will he and his family survive his antics and unravelling mind?

A fresh voice to theatre, 22-year-old Swedish playwright Katie Berglöf wrote her first play Happy Yet? from personal experience. Berglöf grew up watching a close family member endure years of depression, mood swings and misunderstanding. The play uses humour to turn tragedy into a source of understanding, dignity and hope.

Above the Moon Productions was created to address the epidemic of anxiety, depression and mood disorders amongst millennials. Happy Yet? its first play, tackles the stigma and humiliation of being labelled mentally ill.

Showcased at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016, Happy Yet? has been revised and extended for its London debut at Courtyard Theatre, October 24 – 28.

WHERE The Courtyard Theatre | Bowling Green Walk | 40 Pitfield Street | London, N1 6EU

WHEN Oct 24-28, 7:30pm

TICKETS £12, £10 Concession |

Twitter @AboveTheMoonPrd


Bristol wins big at Edinburgh Fringe – Bristol Old Vic Ferment supported shows triumphant at iconic festival

Bristol Old Vic is heralding a bumper year of success for Bristol and South West artists who have each been supported by the theatre’s Ferment initiative – a year round quest to find, support and nurture local talent. Ferment provides local artists with an opportunity to explore their theatrical ideas in an ongoing dialogue with audiences and recent projects have proved a triumph with critics and audiences north of the border at the iconic Edinburgh Fringe festival.
Ferment supported successes this year include:
  • A Fringe First and The Stage Edinburgh Awards for Made in Bristol success story The  Wardrobe Ensemble with Education, Education, Education, which returns to Bristol Old Vic in November
  • Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas’ Palmyra wins Total Theatre Award while their second piece, Eurohouse is labelled a must-see
  • Viki Browne’s Help! tackles mental health at the Fringe and heralded a 4-star hit.
  • Idiot Child’s What if the plane falls out of the sky? reviewed as “a wee gem of a show”
  • Christopher Harrisson’s The North! The North! scores a flurry of brilliant reviews and described as “intelligent, exhilarating and strikingly original and moving”

Each of the shows has been supported in bespoke ways by Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment initiative – whether though financial support, free rehearsal space, creative feedback or a professional platform during the highly respected and often imitated Ferment Fortnights which occur each January and July at Bristol Old Vic. These nights allow work at various stages of development to be presented in front of an audience for feedback before being taken to the next stage.

By inviting artists whose work spans genre and form to experiment, play and make the theatre of tomorrow, Ferment continues to develop these vital local voices by offering tailored advice to creatives both emerging and established, and works closely with them through the development process.

Emma Bettridge, Ferment Producer said: “I insufferably bang on about the importance of supporting an artists’ process. For an artist to be given the space around an idea to let it breathe, and for Ferment to be able to properly support that process, the idea really does become the very best it can be. I’m so, so thrilled with the work we’ve backed this year. These works are proudly shining in a sea of over 3000 other shows A DAY. This is epic. It is proof that the recipe works; discover the idea, flesh it out, give it space and support and time and belief and there you have it – work of exceptional quality standing tall amongst the very best out there.

Bristol audiences can see The Wardrobe Ensemble’s award-winning Education, Education, Education at Bristol Old Vic this November.

Education, Education, Education runs from 1-4 November at Bristol Old Vic Theatre.
Tickets £15-£10. 7.30pm / 0117 987 7877

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What the critics said…
Total Theatre Award WinnerInnovation, Experimentation and Playing with Form.
“Smashing fable about power, ego and war” 4 stars, The Guardian – Lyn Gardner
“Sublime” 4 stars,
“Weird, wonderful” 4 stars, The StageEDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION
The Wardrobe Ensemble won The Stage Edinburgh Award for the second year running.
Fringe First award for Education, Education Education. 
“something special” 4 stars, Time Out – Andrzej Lukowski
“Smartly entertaining” 4 stars, The Guardian- Lyn Gardner
“slick, polished and highly entertaining” The Stage, 4 stars- Natasha Tripney

“a wee gem of a show” The List, 4 stars
“endearing” The Stage, 3 stars
“Hilariously absurd” Exeunt

“do yourself a favour and get down to see Help!” 4 stars, Broadway Baby
“a brave and refreshing production” 4 stars, To Do List

wonderfully playful, intimate and ultimately moving show” 4 stars, The Guardian – Lyn Gardner
timely and refreshing” 4 stars, The Reviews Hub

intelligent, exhilarating, strikingly original and moving, I cannot recommend this play enough” 4 stars, Edfest Magazine
It’s a darkly twisted version of a revenge story… with enough mythical aspects and a good dollop of humour to lift it far above the pack” 5 stars, British Theatre Guide

Pleasance Celebrates 33 years at Venue 33 with an Award-Winning, Landmark Festival

Pleasance Theatre Trust celebrated 33 years at Venue 33 and 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August with an ambitious, multi-award winning programme of theatre, comedy, dance and circus: an incredible 5074 performances of 258 shows in 27 venues, including a new addition of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Ticket sales were up every day of the Festival compared to 2016 with total ticket sales up by 5 per cent compared to 2016 (12 per cent including the tickets sold for EICC shows). This represents a record number of tickets sold at the Pleasance!

A registered charity, showcasing the best of established and discovering new talent in the arts industry since 1985, the Pleasance invests over £130,000 every year in young talent on and off the stage through various Pleasance Futures initiatives, including Young Pleasance, XYP (ex-Young Pleasance), Media Futures, Pleasance Scratch, Kidzone and the Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund for theatre and comedy.

Recipients of the Fund for theatre, Unpolished Theatre, were awarded a highly coveted Fringe First award for their debut show, Flesh and Bone as well as Holden Street Theatres Award which guarantees a 5 week long run at the Adelaide Fringe next February. A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) by Silent Uproar and Education, Education, Education by The Wardrobe Ensemble topped Pleasance’s award list with a Fringe First each. The latter also received The Stage’s Best Ensemble Award whilst political comedy for children, Me and My Bee, received the Stepladder Award from Les Enfants Terribles as well as the Fringe Sustainable Practice Award 2017!

The magnificent Theatre Re received the ThreeWeeks Editors’ Award, following glowing reviews of their latest offering, The Nature of Forgetting.

Lauren Pattison and Sophie Willan won a Herald Angel each with Terry Alderton scooping the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.

Almost half of all Comedy Awards nominees were presenting a show at the PleasanceJordan BrookesSophie Willan and John Robins were all nominated in the Best Comedy Show 2017 category with Darren HarriottEd Night, Kwame Asante, Lauren Pattison and Natalie Palamides getting a nod in the Best Newcomer 2017 category.

The Best Comedy Show went to John Robins (co-shared, for the first time ever, with Hannah Gadsby) and Best Newcomer to Natalie Palamides for LAID.

Ken Cheng won the 10th annual Dave’s Funniest Joke Of The Fringe with: “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.”

This August saw the Pleasance launching its own in-house award, The Indies. Named after Christopher Richardson’s (founder of the Pleasance) beloved dog, Indie, the award is voted for by the companies and artists themselves. This year’s winners are:

Best Comedy, Cabaret or Variety Show – Joseph Morpurgo: Hammerhead

Best Theatre, Family, Music or Dance Show – Testosterone

Best Comedy Cabaret or Variety Newcomer – Evelyn Mok: Hymen Manoeuvre

Best Theatre, Family, Music or Dance Newcomer – Poll Function

Best Poster Design – Skin

Spirit Of The Pleasance – The Dreamer

Pleasance shows received a record number of four and five star reviews: 454 four stars (and 7 four-and-half stars) and 163 five stars! Lauren Pattison topped the comedy chart with 3 five star reviews and 8 four stars (Phil Wang takes the second spot with 11 four stars!) and Nature of Forgetting took the theatre’s top seat with 8 five stars and 4 four stars (A Super Happy Story trails in second position with 7 five stars and 4 four stars).

This year, Pleasance Theatre Trust, a charity itself, supported various charities through special, one-off events. Requiem for Aleppo, a dance show at the EICC with music by David Cazalet and choreography by Jason Mabana raised £15,000 for Syria Relief. As education is the main priority for the charity, the money will support the building of the sixth training centre for teachers in Syria.

Last year marked 25 years of the Pleasance’s partnership with Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity which has now raised over £460,000 and is in the running for the Best Partnership Award at the Scottish Fundraising Awards! All proceeds from ticket sales from both the Pleasance’s annual Tartan Ribbon Comedy Benefit as well as Amusical, a special night of comedy celebrating all things West End, also went to support Waverley Care.

Anthony Alderson, Pleasance Director said: “The 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been one of the best festivals I can remember. The quality of the work created is unprecedented with 3 Pleasance Fringe Firsts and a Pleasance act winning in both Comedy Awards categories in this landmark year.

Our incredible staff have pulled off an amazing festival and we look forward to sharing another brilliant programme with you next year!”

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Edinburgh Festivals Diary: Day 6

Edfringe Festival Diary-Day 6

It’s 9.45am at Hotel Du Vin, Edinburgh and I am having a coffee with the Times Theatre critic: Ann Treneman. Ann was the Times political sketch writer for 12 years. We are talking about navigating the wonderful arena of theatre.

‘The theatre world is much crazier than the world of politics… Seriously,’ she tells me.

‘Amazing. We must go out for a drink before I fly home,’ I said.

‘Some of us have reviews to write, Carl,’ she replied with a smile.


Ann Treneman

We talked about the various things, shows we’d seen etc, etc and so on.

‘Well, I always think of that terrific Michelle Obama quote: ‘When they go low, we go high,’ she smiles. 

I made my way over to the Traverse for Gary McNair’s one-man piece about the writer’s teen years when he chose Morrissey as a confidante. Letters to Morrissey is the theatre equivalent of a chunky chocolate bar. The audience was mostly male and mostly 25 to 44-years old. I can’t remember much else to be honest.

I head over to Pleasance for Cardboard Citizens’ remarkable version of the TV drama ‘Cathy’. Beautifully written by Ali Taylor, ‘Cathy’ is a new forum theatre show which looks at how life might be like today for the protagonist of Cathy Come Home. The show speaks stridently and is one with that comes with a pain at its heart.


Cirkopolis / Letters to Morrissey

I check my emails.

‘This looks like the kind of thing you’d like to crash,’ it read.

Attached was an invitation to the 2017 Federation of Scottish Theatre – Festivals Reception on Tuesday 22 August at 5.30pm at Dynamic Earth. It soon became clear that Scotland has got it right. The level of joined-up thinking and networking in the room was palpable: bringing the sector together and starting proper conversations. Brilliant.

After giving up on Google maps in this city I finally arrive at the EICC for Quebec company Cirque Éloize take on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Cirkopolis is never less than interesting. Dazzling acrobatics build up a remarkable parade of imagery, yet this lively show never quite touches the heart. ‘Entertaining’, is how I would describe this show. In an ideal world, the music wouldn’t be so loud, but nothing in life is ideal.


Anyway, the last show of my Edinburgh Fringe was Toxic Avenger at Pleasance Courtyard. I loved this show at Southwark Playhouse. I didn’t in Edinburgh. The cast are seriously talented and I think it’s the perfect venue and time slot, the show still boasts exquisite performances and is still really well sung. Hopefully some of the dumbed-down changes will be reversed, which includes but is not limited to squirting the audience with a water pistol.

This was my third time in Edinburgh and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the city so busy.

I’ve had a terrific time but now I must go. 

Thank you to the beautiful people of Edinburgh who treated me with such equanimity and friendliness. To all, great thanks.

I’ll be back…





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Edinburgh Festivals Diary: Day 5

Edinburgh Festivals Diary: Day 5
Edinburgh Festivals Diary: Day 5

Edinburgh Festivals Diary: Day 5

A Hangover from the depths of hell ahoy!

My first show was The Nature of Forgetting” at The Pleasance, which, it’s fair to say, is not messing about. The charming production is part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2017 and follows a sell-out run at the London International Mime Festival. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this lot.

During the afternoon I arranged to meet the writer of the sublime ‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ – Mr Luke Barnes. It all went swimmingly.

As the day marched on I made my way down to the Churchill Studio Theatre for ‘Flight’. A highly imaginative production that is an adaptation of Caroline Brothers’s 2012 novel Hinterland and part of the International Festival. Sadly, though, it was 45 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. (I mean I would have preferred to have a nap but what can you do).

Thankfully my spirits were lifted at Henry Naylor’s Fringe First winning play: ‘Borders’ at the Gilded Balloon. This is all pretty grown-up stuff, and is done with the rackety humour and invention that we’ve come to expect from Naylor’s work. Very moving.

Later that evening I arrived at Edinburgh Playhouse for Nederlands Dans Theater (Sol León and Paul Lightfoot / Gabriela Carrizo). The slick show contains a gently rippling score by Philip Glass and has some of the finest dancers on the planet in it’s company.

During the interval there was a press drinks reception thing.

‘Having a good Festival season, Donald?’ I asked the Independent dance critic: Donald Hutera

‘Yes! I’m on show 91 now!’, he replied.

‘Jesus wept,’ I exclaimed.

During the second interval it all got rather humid in the Mezzanine bar and Donald decided to strip to a blue vest. At first I thought it was a leotard.

Incredible scenes.

I ended the evening with friends at a bar.

Arriving back at my Hotel I explain the day I’ve had. The staff fall about, and soon after, I fall into bed.

Keeping a daily diary has been more demanding than I would have expected; deploying metaphor and hyperbole; attempting to capture in words the work I’m seeing and the emotions I’m feeling. I’m nearly ready go home. I don’t know how these proper critics do it.

One more day, folks.

On balance, I’ve had more productive days.

Note: Nothing to declare.






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Edinburgh Festivals Diary – Day 4 

Edinburgh Festivals Diary - Day 4

Sunday 20 August 

Edinburgh Festivals Diary - Day 4

Edinburgh Festivals Diary – Day 4

I was happily queuing for ‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ at Summerhall yesterday evening.

‘You’re a disgrace,’ said the boyfriend of a young lady who was in a play I didn’t think was very good.

‘Pardon?’, I asked, puzzled.

‘I watched you at the play the other day and read what you wrote. You call yourself a Theatre Specialist! You’re disgusting’, he replied.

‘Oh! The misogynistic, offensive & borderline homophobic play?,’ I said.

‘It isn’t offensive, you’re a disgrace’, he snapped.

‘Look, I’m more than happy to discuss the play and what I wrote about it after this show?,’ I said.

‘Nah mate. You’re a disgrace,’ he mumbled and stomped off.

The whole encounter was as classy and as subtle as orgy night on Love Island. I’ll try not to lose any sleep.

Very sad. (Translation: not particularly sad because it is, after all, only theatre.)

Sunday was a punishing day. It started at The Pleasance Courtyard: Kafka and Son. The relationship between Franz Kafka and his father is put under the microscope in a solo show that tested my patience. For me, this play falls carelessly into the dreaded theatre deadzone of “lovely but a bit boring”. I just couldn’t emotionally connect with this show. Not awful.

At lunch time I went to the shops and picked up a Matcha Face Mask and a small bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. There is a God!

Worklight Theatre’s new show Monster finds Joe Sellman- Leava once again surfing the rollercoaster of the sixty minute mixed-metaphor as he is simultaneously Patrick Stewart, his girlfriend and Mike Tyson calling the shots in the front, rather than the back, seat. His new show examines masculinity in a searingly honest and autobiographical way. Worth a look.

‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ really floated my boat. Middle Child’s gig-theatre show is a life affirming call to arms at the Edinburgh Fringe and really feels like a shot in the arm. The dissection of consumerism and capital culture. Luke Barnes’ play sensationally looks back and ahead at Broken Britain. Outstanding stuff!

Later that evening I head up to The Hub for cabaret star Meow Meow’s take on ‘The Little Mermaid’ for the International. This is a wickedly funny and entertaining 70 minute show that was the perfect way to round off the week. Meow Meow makes performance art with a sensibility that makes you want to head out in search of a dancefloor. (See if any of your friends are around before you go out, though, it’ll be rubbish by yourself.)

‘Tough crowd tonight?’, I said

Seiriol Davies and Carl Woodward

Seiriol Davies and Carl Woodward

‘Bloody Sunday audiences… Pretty bleak crowd tonight‘, said Meow Meow herself, fresh off the stage grazing on wasabi and clutching a half-pint of beer in the after show bar.

‘Well, quite. I had fun though! I thought you did a great job, for what it’s worth’, I smiled. Seriously, What a woman.

The night finished at 5am on the steps by the Edinburgh castle with Seiriol Davies.

Far too much white wine was consumed, I can’t remember much else to be honest.

Note: Fringe Fatigue is setting in – thank God there is a bath in my hotel room. Let’s see what joys tomorrow will bring.