Interviews with renowned British Artistic Directors

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Spymonkey, Toby Park Interview: “We use our instincts… Sometimes they are wrong.”

Toby Park

Spymonkey are bringing The Nuffield alive this week with The Complete Deaths, performing all 74 onstage deaths in the works of William Shakespeare. Performed by Spymonkey and adapted and directed by Tim Crouch (I, Malvolio, An Oak Tree, Adler & Gibb), this new show scales the peaks of sublime poetry, and plumbs the depths of darkest depravity.

Toby Park

Toby Park

I had a phone chat with Spymonkey’s Toby Park (His full name is Tobias John Park) last week while he was on a break from performing at Warwick Arts Centre. Toby is the Managing Artistic Director, composer, performer and all round creative whizz. Park is eager, in our telephone conversation, to acknowledge his considerable admiration for Crouch: “Tim is an astonishingly intelligent man, he applies rigour to his work, both in terms of practice and process; he really challenged us. He was excellent at rooting us in a conceptual framework.”

The Complete Deaths has Crouch’s fingertips all over it; circling elegantly around ideas of morality, certainty and complacency of the bourgeois.

So what’s it all about and where did it come from? Park explains: “We wanted to make death a lively and rewarding experience, once Tim had analysed and limited our material to onstage deaths we had a framework from which to proceed. The audiences have really enjoyed it, there have been a lot of young people and students respond to it brilliantly.”

How do they know if something is funny, I ask, we both agree that was a good question. And over the course of touring, how does the ensemble keep the work fresh and alive?

“We use our instincts… Sometimes they are wrong,” he says.

“If it makes us laugh in the rehearsal room and continues to do so after 20-30 times, then we know it is funny. There is a huge challenge in making exciting things spontaneous, we do stuff because it delights us.”

Park’s ability to talk a good show as well as deliver one could make him sound like Bill Kenwright – but nothing could be further from the truth. During our conversation he is conscientious, honest and considered.

Spymonkey’s The Complete Deaths

Before I go, I ask him what he thinks about the furore surrounding Emma Rice, the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe. Rice has been widely criticised for her many reimagining of Shakespeare and accused of ignoring tradition. “Emma saw The Complete Deaths last week when it was in Shoreditch and is a really generous and remarkable woman,” he says

“It’s been interesting at The Globe. A new vision and approach to work using amplification and modernising and adapting text is a good thing for modern audiences. There have been record attendances recorded this year, so she is doing something right. Emma needs the full confidence of her Board of trustees, it’s a fantastic space for revolutionising Shakespeare’s text and I think she’s doing a great job.”

The deaths in Shakespeare range from the Roman suicides in Julius Caesar to the death fall of Prince Arthur in King John; from the carnage at the end of Hamlet to snakes in a basket in Antony & Cleopatra; from Pyramus and Thisbe to young Macduff. With countless stabbings, plenty of severed heads, some poisonings, two mobbings and a smothering, what’s not to love.

“We know the people of Southampton will be astonished and delighted, there are moments of hilarity and we can’t wait to get in front of those audiences.”

The Complete Deaths

Adapted and directed by Tim Crouch

Dates: 11 – 15 OCTOBER 2016

Tickets: £10.00, £16.00, £20.00, £25.00

Suitable for ages 14+

Tickets are available from the Nuffield Box Office 023 8067 1771 or online at nuffieldtheatre.co.uk.

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Interview: Broken Biscuits Tom Wells: “The other day I was trying to explain something a bit awkward and eat a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer at the same time and it went a bit wrong”

Broken Biscuits is part of Paines Plough’s Programme 2016 which has also included Sabrina Mahfouz’s With A Little Bit of Luck, Come To Where I’m From: Ahead of the new coming-of-age comedy world premier of Broken Biscuits.

Tom Wells

Tom Wells © Matt Humphrey

I had a chat with its writer, Tom Wells,  about how he came to be a playwright, being part of Paines Plough 2016 season and getting something stuck in his throat.

Hi Tom! Can you tell us a secret about Broken Biscuits?
Something really good happens at the end.

How did you come to be a playwright?
I did a course at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds – you didn’t need to have written a play before, you just wrote them a letter and had a go. Some things I did in the workshops ended up being my first play, which they put on. And then I just carried on.

When was the last time you got something stuck in your throat?
The other day I was trying to explain something a bit awkward and eat a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer at the same time and it went a bit wrong.

What emoji best sums up your life at the moment and why?
The biscuit is popping up quite a lot just lately.

Have you ever managed to get a cuddly toy out of those machines with the claw thing?
No. I’ve given up.

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done while drunk?
I woke up in a skip once. But my friend Kate got in a bin and weed so it seemed less bad.

What is your favourite biscuit?
Hobnobs.

Broken Biscuits is part of Paines Plough’s Programme 2016 – that must be exciting! Could you tell us a little about your history with the company?
I first started working there in 2009 – Tessa and Rox, who now work at Birmingham Rep, ran a year-long attachment called Future Perfect, which was brilliant. We put short pieces of work on, talked to lots of different writers, went to see properly good plays and somehow just turned into playwrights. And then James and George took over and commissioned a play called Jumpers For Goalposts, which James directed in 2013. And we had a good time working on it so we’ve had another go, which is Broken Biscuits. I think Paines Plough as a company has got magic in it. It is lovely to be part of this year’s Programme.

Broken Biscuits

Easy question: who do you think is the best living playwright?
Annie Baker.

Following it’s run at Live Theatre in Newcastle, Broken Biscuits will be heading out on a UK tour – are you excited for audiences around the UK to see it?
Really excited.

Broken Biscuits opens at Live Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne from 5 – 22 October before embarking on a UK tour. Click HERE to buy your tickets for Broken Biscuits.

 

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Edinburgh International Festival | Sally Hobson | Interview: “There are minds I admire, but I don’t want to be inside them.”

Sally Hobson

This year the Edinburgh international festival delivered world class work on and off stage. I had a chat with the Head of Creative Learning, Sally Hobson. Hobson has directed the Programme Development Department of the Edinburgh International Festival. In this position,  she curates and delivers the public talks during the August Festival and the extensive year round schools and outreach programme.
The Education manager talks about unpaid internships, the joys of programming inspirational learning opportunities for the festival and more.

Sally Hobson

Sally Hobson

Hello Sally, well done for surviving Edinburgh 2016. What were your personal highlights? 
Thank you. Das lied von de Erde – Australian Chamber Orchestra, Richard 3 – Schaunbuhne Berlin.

Edinburgh has a world class reputation as a creative city. What makes it so exciting?
It has reputation as a Festival City, not a creative city. It brings people and the arts together on a platform that cannot be found anywhere else. It is unique geographically and in terms of its history. It is lucky to have the Festivals because although it is beautiful it can be a closed city and without colour or joy.

How do you ensure EIF Learning and Participation has a wide ranging reach as possible? 
By knowing the city and Scotland very well, and making good relationships with schools, people and other organisations who we work with throughout the year.

What are your views on unpaid internships?
The internships are good so long as it is a win:win situation. So the intern is actually getting some really interesting work experience and learning opportunity and that the fit works for both. I think we do that in Creative Learning because we only take one and look after them properly.

What is the best part of your job? 
The ideas and the people.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
You’re going to be here for a while – enjoy it!

If you could swap brains with someone for a day, whose would you choose and why?
I don’t want to swap. I really couldn’t imagine how I would get back into my own mind after using another. There are minds I admire, but I don’t want to be inside them.

Can you describe your state of mind when you are programming EIF creative learning projects?
I think carefully about what is going in the festival and the programme and how to make that available to people who won’t know anything about them. I ask myself what would be of interest to the client group. How do I want them to be affected and what are the practical aspects. I don’t live in Nirvana when I’m programming, I simply search for a feeling as close as possible to a straight plumb line. I never know if the idea is good enough or will work until it is all done and dusted.

Anything That Gives Off Light

Anything That Gives Off Light

The Anything That Gives Off Light Installation at the Scottish Parliament ponds and Song Lines looked like a huge undertaking. What were the biggest challenges with those projects? 
Songlines was created too late due to programming problems and left me and the team on the back foot a lot of the time. But we got there – very stressed!  Same problem with Anything That Gives Off Light – but we got there too! They actually delivered what we wanted!
But I think we suffered throughout the year to make them happen. We are shifting our planning cycle now after many years of requesting a change, so it should be a better way of working. It’s good to see people really liking what we give them.

Many fringe productions have shorter runs, in a bid to save stress and cash. Is it really the best option?
I don’t know. Ask Fergus Linehan.

What do you for for the rest of he year, once the festival is over? 
Everything to make the projects work for August. All the hard work really takes place during the year making relationships, creating teams and deciding how to do things. August is just the shop window for us! We work hard throughout the year to line things up to make them look easy and accessible for everyone.

Anything that you’d like to add? 
Thank you for taking the time and asking me these questions.

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Sam Hodges: “New work doesn’t always succeed – but it is critical as it’s the way that theatre has to respond in a fresh way to what is happening today.”

Sam Hodges founded HighTide Festival Theatre in 2006. Fast forward to 2014 Sam Hodges took over as the artistic and executive director of the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton.

In 2016, Nuffield is at an exciting time of transition. Under the leadership of Sam Hodges it has been reinvigorated as a producing theatre company for Southampton and last year won The Stage award for Best Regional Theatre. He himself has just been nominated Best Director at UK Theatre Awards.

Later this year Nuffield will open a second venue in Studio 144 – Southampton’s new £25M city centre arts venue. Champagne all round!

Dedication is a new play that tells the story of Shakespeare and the 3rd Earl of Southampton. What exactly did happen between them? A powder keg of sex, power and politics in Elizabethan England.

On the eve of press night he discusses life lessons, Southampton as a cultural hub and bringing Shakespeare magic to the stage…

Samuel Hodges

Sam Hodges

Hello Sam, first things first: can you tell us all about Studio 144
Studio 144 will be a stunning new venue at the heart of Southampton’s thriving cultural quarter. It will be our new home and  will include a flexible 447 seat main house theatre, a 135 seat studio, screening facilities, rehearsal and workshop spaces, a café bar and bistro.
This new venue will transform Nuffield’s ability to show new and exciting high quality professional work from local, national and international artists, built on the foundations of our commitment to extensive and accessible artist development and community engagement. It will also allow us to develop our programme to include dance, film and music.  As you can imagine this is a very exciting time for us, but also a great challenge.
We’re going to be running two venues, the new city centre venue at Studio 144 and our existing theatre on the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus so we are working hard to make sure that our programme can offer something for everyone. We want our audiences to feel at home in both our buildings and we have big ambitions as to how we want to achieve that.

Dedication

Dedication. Click on the image to book your tickets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can audiences expect from DEDICATION
A political thriller about what might have been. Sword fights, Elizabethan dancing, and a complete transformation of the auditorium into a space as you’ve never seen it before. We’re ‘casting’ the audience as the jury in a trial in which Shakespeare is being interrogated about his links to Southampton. It’s part love story, part adventure, part thriller.

Do you prefer the high level strategy director stuff or hands on stripped to the waist rehearsal room directing stuff? 
I love design – and am very much aesthetic led so I love those conversations about how the overall vision will look. But as a former actor, I do enjoy the process of developing the piece in the room as well – there’s nothing that beats an actor’s instincts and viewpoint as you shape a new play.

DEDICATION is an ambitious project. What have been the biggest challenges getting this off the ground? 
Probably the transformation of the auditorium and scale and intricacy of the set. There are literally loads of moving parts – and combined with the challenge of developing a new play, which relies entirely on an audience to truly test, we’ve had our hands full.

It would appear that audiences in Southampton are spoilt for choice for a good night out (The Mayflower, Nuffield, Stage Door) is this the case?
Completely the case although I think happily each venue offers quite a different flavour to Southampton. The Mayflower is obviously synonymous with big touring musicals, which it does very well, and it has started to do a bit of dance more recently. The Stage Door taps into that late-night cabaret feel – I’m a particular fan of their adult pantomime at Christmas! And then our focus is on drama and comedy – so something for everyone.

I noted with interest that you recently celebrated being Director at The Nuffield for three years. How would you describe your tenure? 
Extremely busy but very satisfying. I feel like we’ve achieved what we set out to do in this time which was to make Nuffield one of the national players, in terms of producing work. We have just announced our second London transfer in as many years, a UK national  commercial tour and we’ve been Regional Theatre of the Year,  – all big steps for the theatre. One of the most fulfilling parts of the job has been building a brilliant team around me – which makes the day-to-day a real pleasure. And having got to this point, the next three years are obviously going to be very focused on the new venue, which we feel ready for.

What is your favourite theatre in London? 
The Young Vic Theatre. It’s my kind of theatre. It mixes a strong European aesthetic with great British storytelling – a blend of what makes both traditions so unique. Yerma was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned in the past 12 months?
To make sure I do enough living outside of work to ensure that my work has something to be inspired by.

Is there anything that you’d like to add? 
The reason I commissioned this play is that I believe passionately in creating new work that aims to support Southampton in ‘telling its own story’. New work doesn’t always succeed – but it is critical as it’s the way that theatre has to respond in a fresh way to what is happening today. I’m not interested in just mounting a period historical piece – it’s only worth looking back to see what it says about today. I hope that Dedication can be Southampton’s contribution, not only to Shakespeare400, but to the wider catalogue of Shakespearean work. On a larger scale, though, I hope it also asks questions about the way that we mould history to our shape – that we think of it as a fixed point, whereas in fact it is only what is written down that lasts.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUT TICKETS FOR DEDICATION

Checkout the production images of Dedication

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Avant Garde Dance – Tony Adigun Interview: “The worst thing for someone is to be at a show for an hour and not feel anything.”

One of the countries best hip hop and contemporary dance choreographers Tony Adigun talks me through his love of music, reinventing a classic tale and his inspirations.

Tony Adigun

Tony Adigun

Hello Tony, how are you and what are you up to?
At the moment, with Avant Garde Dance Company, we’re in rehearsals getting ready for our Autumn tour of Fagin’s Twist. We premiered the show back in April at DanceEast in Ipswich before touring over the Spring. So we’ve had time out on the road, and after a break over the summer we’re now getting back into character and shaping things up for our autumn tour and London season.

Fagin’s Twist examines one of Charles Dickens’ most famous notorious villains. How did it all come about?
I was looking for a classic tale to re-tell, and finally settled on the story of Oliver Twist. In thinking about the different characters in the book, with the team, I set about re-imagining some of them; discussing what led them to the point at which the story we all know starts, and creating backstories for those who didn’t have them. How did they get to that point?
Oliver’s character seemed too simple, he was too nice and everything just fell into place for him. It seemed too easy for him. Fagin was the last one we looked at. I’m a believer in the underdog and I was really interested in his personality. I wanted to take his journey before he got to the point where he’s most recognisable and look at his past, at his childhood and see what parallels I could make between him and Oliver.

Music plays an important part in Avant Garde’s work. How did you select the music to soundtrack Fagin’s Twist?
I’m a massive fan of music, and so I work really closely with my collaborators in selecting the right kind of music. The mood, energy and style needs to complement what’s happening on stage. We try out all sorts in the studio during the creative process, so it’s an experimental process. Sometimes we get it right first time, and sometimes it takes a long time to get it just right!

What can audiences expect from an Avant Garde production?
Generally, I want audiences to feel something. I say to my dancers: your job is to evoke an emotion from the audience, whatever that may be. If they hate it, take it: you’ve brought something out of them. The worst thing is for someone to be at a show for an hour and not feel anything. I also like the audience to think. I don’t like things to be laid out plain and obvious: I want the audience to find things for themselves. Their interpretation and what they get from it are just as valuable and as important to me as my original intentions.
This show is one that the audience can enjoy without any previous knowledge of the original story. The relationships between the characters are really strong. I want the audience to sit up and take note of what’s happening but there are also moments that are just light and fun, that people can just sit back and enjoy. It’s narrative and exposes some timeless societal themes, helping us to think differently about people’s situations and actions.
We have a brilliant creative team on board – a fantastic set and costumes that we’re getting great feedback on. And lighting that also helps to create the dark and evocative atmosphere we were after. I work with contemporary dance but am heavily influenced by hip-hop culture and my work in the commercial dance world. Our eight incredible dancers also bring a variety of backgrounds, training and styles into the mix. Text is also a really important element of the show. It brings another layer and I enjoy the complexity and the simplicity that text can bring to a moment. It’s a third element which helps to infuse what’s going on and explain what’s happening.

Who are the top 3 choreographers of all time?
Well that’s subjective! In terms of current choreographers and companies I admire, and who’ve inspired my approach, I would include Ohad Naharin and Batsheva Dance Company, James  Thierrée and Victor Quijada’s RUBBERBANDance Group. And, if I’m allowed to add a fourth, the formidable Nederlands Dans Theater.

You are bringing Fagin’s Twist to Pavilion Dance in Bournemouth. What are your thoughts on the cultural ecology in the region?
Pavilion Dance is a great organisation – a really important player, not just in the South West but across the UK, in terms of supporting and helping artists develop, and creating new choreographic work. We’ve enjoyed, and massively benefitted from, working with them in the past, and meeting people in Bournemouth interested in coming to see and take part in our work. So we really look forward to returning this month. It’s an interesting place to perform as you have the local community plus the tourists. With PDSW now programming two-night runs rather than just one-nighters, hopefully audiences will grow and include more of the passing tourist trade as well as those living locally.

How has your creative work developed over the years?
I’ve increasingly been able to incorporate influences outside of dance. I obviously have a great passion for all sorts of music. But there’s also a host of different things: I really like architecture and structure and translating that to dance, looking at the lines and configurations and patterns of a building and trying to infiltrate that into my dance. I really like design, I’m a bit of a technology geek, so I’m trying to bring that tech-geek aspect into dance. I like media, photography, taking pictures and editing videos, so I’m slowly trying to bring that into my work as well.
I didn’t have the conventional route to becoming a choreographer. I didn’t study dance, it’s just always been a passion, I suppose I’m lucky that I like to be unconventional, therefore I’m not following a set path. Working with The Place as a Work Place Artist has helped me to invest time in myself as an artist and I’ve been able to work on different projects that I might not otherwise have worked done. It’s also given me community, being part of a group of choreographers, and the discussion aspect, talking about the climate of dance, especially contemporary dance. This has massively impacted my development in recent times.

What are your top tips for an aspiring dancer/choreographer?
Never throw anything away. Never turn your back on any movement vocabulary you have, but always add to it. Take as many classes as you can, even in styles you don’t like, just to see how it works with your body and influences you. You’re growing as an artist, so add layers to your experiences. Think outside of our natural inclinations.

What is your philosophy when it comes to making new work?
Innovate, Never Replicate.

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Director of Scorch, Emma Jordan talks about the rehearsal process, gender, Ireland and more

Edinburgh may be a not so distant memory but SCORCH by Primecut Productions at Paines Plough’s Roundabout took Summerhall by storm. Scorch had rave reviews from critics and audiences alike and it is due to head out on tour soon. I had a chat with the Director of the show, Emma Jordan about the rehearsal process, gender and Ireland.
Emma Jordan

Emma Jordan

Hello there, how was your Edinburgh Fringe experience this year? 
We had a super time at the Fringe – it’s the first time the company have presented work there and really it was worth waiting for. Summerhall is such a vibrant hub – a fantastic mixture of audience and artists in a relaxed atmosphere – not so hectic as some of the rest of the venues – and the entire programme of work presented there was interesting and inspiring. Our hosts Paines Plough made us so welcome and we really felt that we were part of a bigger picture, in terms of the roundabouts curated programme.

What is the most rewarding part of the process, of bringing a show that you’ve directed to Edinburgh? 
Our company Primecut mostly presents our work in Ireland, so for me it was really gratifying to present to such an eclectic audience. It’s always good to present work to new audiences, especially in Edinburgh where it’s truly international and mixed in terms of gender and age.

How would you describe the narrative of SCORCH in ten words? 
The story of a gender curious teenager and first love.

The response to SCORCH was quite good, wasn’t it? 
We had an amazing response with heaps of five and four star reviews and three awards ; a Best actor award for Amy McAllister – a fringe first – and the Holden street award. Happy days 🙂

Amy McAllister was extraordinary in the play. How would you describe the rehearsal process? 
The rehearsal process was very focused. The script leaves lots of open questions regarding presentation and we had to make a lot of decisions quickly. When you are integrating choreography and text it’s a fine balance – it was intense but also really enjoyable. Amy is a very talented actor and we worked with some great artists Ciaran Bagnal, our set and lighting designer, Carl Kennedy our sound designer and Nicola Curry our choreographer. I think we all understood that the play has important things to say regarding perception of issues around gender – we all had to learn fast and we had great support here in Belfast from Anchor and Buoys two transgender support organisations. They were hugely beneficial in helping us wrap our heads around the issues that Kes faces.

How many kilometers did you walk around the city? 
Who’s counting ? It’s a gorgeous city and the sight of the mountains made every day a pleasure.

Did you have any recommendations for other shows to see?
I really enjoyed Dublin Old School and Greater Belfast – two provocative shows very different in theme and presentation but both with really playing with language in an inventive way. I also loved Johnny and The Baptists Show in the Roundabout – very funny but with an honesty and integrity I applaud.

Cheers!

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUT TICKETS TO WATCH SCORCH AT BELFAST INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL ON 21/22 OCTOBER 2016

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The Roundabout, Park Theatre: Inside The Rehearsal Room

I am delighted to see that JB Priestley is back in vogue.  The Roundabout, directed by Hugh Ross opened at Park Theatre last night. The play is a recently rediscovered comedy by JB Priestley – I popped down to Park Theatre, London during the second week of rehearsals and had a lentil salad with Hugh Ross and some of the talented cast including newcomers: Bessie Carter and Charlie Field.

Hugh Ross

Hugh Ross

This is the first major revival of this play in 80 years, so why now? And what have been the biggest challenges getting it up on its feet? Director Hugh explains, “Like anything – finding the right people; every actor brings something different,” he adds: “The one rule for a director is to remember and that every single actor works in a different way. I always think about a line from Sunday in the Park with George ‘Anything you do, let it come from you – then it will be new’.”

Ross has a varied career as an actor and director appearing in a wide variety of British tv, film and theatre. He is surprisingly laid back about it all. It’s all the more remarkable, because he is bringing a play by one of Britain’s leading playwrights to the stage for the first time in nearly a century. I wonder what keeps him awake at night, “A lot of little things, most days it’s thinking that actor is not happy about something, I’m a great believer in the play,” he pauses and grins: “What happened this morning was we ran the second act and I said let’s just put this together and we went through the third act and it was like they were all trying to remember the last time, it was all too big and too rushed, nobody was thinking, nobody was listening. But, we pushed through,” says Ross.

“The play is entertaining without being stupid. It’s positioned in a sense as a drawing room comedy but because of the format of the theatre, I got together with our designer, Polly Sullivan and we decided that it should take place in the conservatory of this family home. I’m a great believer that less is more,” says Ross.

Brian Protheroe will star as Lord Kettlewell and Richenda Carey as Lady Knightsbridge. Both join me for a chat about what audiences can expect. They are visibly excited to be working on the play. “It’s a very different play to make work completely from beginning to end but when you get – what I think is a miraculously well cast play – I think it stands a chance. It’s part farce, part light comedy; but there are extreme moments of comedy,” he adds: “There is a wonderful relationship between the father and the daughter, communism is at the heart of it,” says Protheroe.

Priestley’s plea for a shared humanity is as relevant as ever today, this is prescient theatre. “The Roundabout is a very clever play and I love the bits I’m not in! People can expect something interesting that is very fun too,” says Carey. “The political element of when it was written – 1931- after the Revolution there was a big movement in Europe towards the idealism of Soviet Russia. Rather like now where there are huge tectonic plates shifting,” says Carey.

The Roundabout at Park Theatre.

The Roundabout at Park Theatre. Click on the link to book your tickets now!

The industry can be notoriously difficult for many and I’m curious to hear from a seasoned performers perspective. “My theory is you get a go every two years – you get a really good go – and then it’s someone else’s go, that’s what has seen me through,” she pauses: “Women’s parts? There’s practically none in existence – I would rather scrub lavatories than do a part that I don’t want to play – I really would,” says Carey.

At this point Lisa Bowerman starring as Lady Kettlewell joins us. She is nervous because this is her first theatre role in eight years, usually in radio. “I did the scratch reading of the play last year and at that point it was very difficult to know if there was going to be a future in it. The fact that they have raised the money is terrific,” says Bowerman. She adds: “Some people will have a preconceived idea about JB Priestley, it’s about topics that you wouldn’t expect and it turns the table on you – it has a serious heart, yet remains incredibly entertaining.”

This staging of The Roundabout not only celebrates Priestley’s legacy but salutes a man with an exceptional eye for character. Even if he occasionally lapses into cliche, Priestley understood the nuts and bolts of the theatre better than anyone. Nonetheless, this is a terrific example of a work in progress, hard work, finance and schedules all coming together. The Roundabout is in safe hands.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR THE ROUNDABOUT

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Seiriol Davies: “It was important to me that when it hit Edinburgh, it was totally bullet proof”, talking about How to Win Against History.

Few Edinburgh Fringe shows make the kind of impact that How to Win Against History has. Having received high praise from (basically everyone) Janet Ellis and Complicite, the show is surely destined for another life.
We meet at Assembly Hall, George Square for a pint and a chat about the show, rejection, working the Fringe and more.

How to Win Against History

How to Win Against History runs at Assembly George Square Theatre until 28th August. Click on the image to book your tickets now!

I start by asking him how the show came to be, a musical focussing on Henry Paget, 5th Marquess of Anglesey who enjoys cross-dressing, he starts “The whole time we’ve made the show I was entirely convinced I was going to get pipped to the post by someone else, because it is – to me – such an obvious story. Henry was theatrical, what the French would call flamboyant, he spent all his family’s money putting on plays, with him in them and often dressed in lovely dresses made of diamonds. Upon his death his entire internal life had been deleted, so he’s the perfect kind of cypher character in a way.”

This is theatre at its most alive. We discuss the rave reviews, taking it in his stride. He appears genuinely humbled. “They are really lovely. They certainly impact the show in the way that they get people in. It will help us to tour it as well, which is my primary goal. I like reading reviews from audiences who get it on many levels and I like that the show has a broad appeal, it’s about using mainstream-ness to talk about what it means to be rejected by society.” He adds “To my knowledge, the worst review we’ve had said it would only appeal to a niche audience and that our Henry should have been more butch.”

I ask what the biggest challenges that he has faced with this piece were. “I was terrified going into the venue, because it’s so mini, but it’s been decked out beautifully. It’s actually eerily similar to the upstairs studio we first developed it in at Ovalhouse. Ovalhouse is an amazing engine for creating new work, and they’ve been instrumental in getting it off the ground. We’re really grateful to them and Pontio in Bangor, who are our Welsh partner, who made it possible for us to get to Edinburgh.”

One of the best things about Edinburgh Fringe is that it rewards risk-taking audiences, and everything is up for grabs. You hear people raving about it, and want to see it for yourself. How to Win Against History is doing very well here but I bet most of the audience never imagined they’d ever love a show dedicated to the lives and times of a cross dressing dancing Marquess, or would have booked to see it at their local theatre.

Davies is bringing a fresh approach, “I think it’s a shame when a musical is all like ‘scene scene plot talking talking scene SONG which-is-a-divergent-soliloquy-about-what-someone-is-feeling-inside then back to scene scene talking talking plot…’ I mean it can be that, sure, but you’ve got access to such an amazing breadth of ways of expressing stuff in musicals, and do so in ways that seem effortless to take in as an audience. So, you can move the story forward with a song, and at the same time subvert or mess with what the words are saying, using the music. There’s a song in the show about touring an increasingly difficult show, which moves the plot and characters forward a fair but, but also digs up all of our actorly bitterness towards critics, audiences, other actors and our own poncy ways and failures. But the song is a chirpy barbershop style, so it contrasts. I’m not sure that’s the best example of what I’m saying, but I’m tired and I’ve had a cider, so that’s my excuse.”

At this point, I pipe up that rejection is the greatest aphrodisiac. “I have not found this to be the case,” he says, smiling. “Except if you mean that people with low self esteem are easy to pull?” His humour is still intact.

Creatives at the festival pour their hearts and souls into shows to deliver the goods. How is he feeling right now, two thirds into the run? “I feel good. It feels really great to have momentum behind something like this when it has been so long in the making. It was important to me that when it hit Edinburgh, it was totally bullet proof.”

These origins make perfect sense. It has an unique energy behind it. The show’s incredible achievement is that it completely defies categorisation and that many, myself included, would probably never see outside a festival context.

His favourite musicals are a given, in terms of what you see of him, he is a very intelligent theatre creature. He says “Southpark the Musical, which is so unbelievably clever.” He smiles. “Oh God. Cabaret and Matilda!”

And there we have it.

How to Win Against History is at Edinburgh Fringe Festival until Aug 28.

CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR TICKETS FOR HOW TO WIN AGAINST HISTORY

Click here to read the review of How to Win Against History by Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph

 

 

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Mamoru Iriguchi ( 4D Cinema ) : ‘By having a screen around your face, you can make sure that everybody enjoys both the video and your face’

Mamoru Iriguchi

Mamoru Iriguchi

Mamoru Iriguchi is at Summerhall with 4D Cinema. I caught up with him and chatted about the challenges of being a performer at Edinburgh, technical difficulties and more.

Hi ya! Where are you and what are you doing currently?
In my flat (I live in Edinburgh) and drinking coffee. If this question is about my work, I am a theatre designer and performance maker.

How have audiences responded to 4D Cinema so far?
Very positively, I think.

In your show 4D Cinema – you sport a screen and a projector around your face – Where did the idea come from?
When you use video projection in your show, often the audience members only watch the projection and forget about your presence. By having a screen around your face, you can make sure that everybody enjoys both the video and your face.
4D Cinema is partly about the differences between live and filmed performances, so I wanted to place the two very closely.

What’s the hardest part about being a Fringe performer?
I think the hardest part would be sharing a bedroom with ten other performers. Luckily I am based in Edinburgh, so I do not have that. I wish I had more money to see more shows but this is probably a universal issue for everyone who works in art.

Do you read reviews of your work?
Yes, I cry with joy or despair while reading them.

How do you warm up physically, mentally and vocally for this show?
I cycle (uphill) to the venue everyday. I often take a cycle path around Arthur’s Seat and sing a song or two. I am ready when I get there.

Summerhall is quite remarkable isn’t it?
Yes there are lots of really great shows.

Have you been down the Royal Mile in your garb? It would be quite something.
I am afraid not, because, sadly, my projector is not battery-operated.

Have you had any technical difficulties?
Nothing other than my own clumsiness.

Anything you’d like to add? 
Please come to see 4D Cinema.

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Interview: What sort of man is Shôn Dale-Jones? 

Shôn Dale-Jones

Shôn Dale-Jones

Shôn Dale-Jones performs as part of Hoipolloi and under the alias of Hugh Hughes in jovial shows such as Things I Forgot | Remembered and Floating.

His work is quite good and people like him. His current show The Duke is a free show – with proceeds going to Save the Children’s Child Refugee Crisis Appeal. It has been well received, and after Edinburgh’s outing it heads to the Royal Court and Plymouth.

We ended up chatting about his favourite critic, an average day and the most beautiful theatre in the world.

Hello! Can you tell us about an average working day in the life of Shôn Dale-Jones and Hugh Hughes. And tell us how they differ. 
Shôn gets up around 6:30 am, puts on a tracksuit, eats some muesli and fruit, heads to his studio and writes until his belly needs lunch, then after lunch he reads what he’s written and decides what to do next.
Hugh rolls with life’s curiosities.

What is the most beautiful regional theatre that you have performed in?
Liverpool Everyman…It’s the best theatre in the world…

Do you feel an expectation that you’ll achieve similar level of successes working on some of the projects that you do?
I definitely try to start each project with a blank canvas.

How would you describe the cultural ecology in Wales in 2016?
Excellent.

The Duke is playing at the Pleasance in the heart of the fringe – what can audiences expect?
A funny and poignant comic story that’ll challenge what they value.

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR TICKETS FOR THE DUKE 

What three things should every good Edinburgh Fringe show have?
Commitment, commitment, commitment.

During the devising process, how long do you stick with a show that’s not working? Do you persevere or should it click instantly?
I think it’s good to try stuff out for a week here and there before going at it hammer and tongs…

It must be quite exciting, having written and performed in so many shows, to do something different and not charge (donations going to Save the Children) for The Duke. Is it different staging a free show?
Very. I’m surprised how liberating it is. It frees the mind to consider things other than the number of people in the audience and the amount of money clawed in at the box office.

With the way the industry’s changing, do you worry about the future of making theatre?
Yes. It’s really tough financially again. And audience habits are shifting. However, theatre is more vital now that the world is changing so radically and so rapidly.

Who’s your favourite critic and why?
My daughter, Josie. Because she’s sharp, clear and no nonsense!

Anything that you’d like to add? Cheers!
I love Steffi, my wife.

The Duke is at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, until 29 August