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Guest blog: Ray Rackham: “Going Beyond the Rainbow”

Ray Rackham

Ray Rackham

Picture it, 25th December, nineteen-eighty-something. Whilst the rest of my family were either falling asleep in front of the television, or arguing over a rather heated game of Trivial Pursuit; the pre-pubescent, spoilt, incredibly precocious younger version of me was watching my increasingly frustrated father attempt get my Christmas present to work; a portable colour television. They were all the rage in nineteen-eighty-something, and I was the only child on Middleton Street who had one.

After what seemed like an eternity; white noise was replaced by a distant sound of strings, and the television static faded to a grainy, almost sepia hue. I was devastated. I wanted full on “Goonies” inspired, He-Man and She-Ra technicolour. What I had was a young girl, wandering around a barn yard, in black-and-white (my tastes were not as developed to differentiate the sepia), singing about all the world being a hopeless jumble. Christmas was, for me at least, ruined.

But then, I heard the now incredibly familiar Over the Rainbow, with its bold, opening leap straight up an octave from Middle C, juxtaposed with darker, underlying chords to offset the apparent schmaltz of the melody, and I was hooked.

“Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby”.

Transfixed with that Christmas day memory, I continued through my childhood, and very much into adulthood, looking for that technicolour fantasy land, “where troubles melt like lemon drops”. I believe I found it, in the many school plays, attempts at amateur dramatics, and every time I got up to sing a song (or, as my grandmother would say, “do a turn”). My very own technicolour was to come from Fresnel lanterns, home-made star cloths and smoke machines. From the theatre!

Fast forward to two-thousand-and-something. I had just recently closed my production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins at the Pleasance Theatre, and had just accepted the position as Artistic Director of the soon to be formed London Theatre Workshop. I was also trying my luck at being a burgeoning librettist lyricist (a passion that resulted in my contribution to the musical Apartment 40C), and translating a 1980s film to stage (a passion that resulted in very little!). One might safely say that I had found the place where happy little bluebirds fly, and it was in the professional theatre. Having been invited to a very ‘Sloaney’ dinner party, where I was being my usual self, dominating the cocktail conversation (like a cross between Woody Allen, Liberace and James Corden), I found myself lucky enough to be sat next to an elderly producer who had worked on the movie “I Could Go on Singing”.

Judy! By Ray Rackham

“Of course, it was Judy’s last movie”

“Judy who?”

“Are you kidding me?”

This wonderfully caustic and acerbic lady then proceeded to teach me, chapter and verse, everything and anything a self-respecting theatre geek should know about the late, great, Judy Garland.

“Oh, you mean Liza Minnelli’s mum!”

She didn’t talk to me for the rest of the evening.

But what she did do was instil an absolute hunger to find out more about this deeply troubled, yet gorgeously triumphant human being, who was taken tragically too soon just around the corner from where I had been dining. On my way home, I rather coincidentally stumbled across the mews house on Cadogan Lane, where over forty years earlier Judy had died. And by coincidence I meant that I had jumped in a cab and had asked the driver to take me there. Even in the romanticised setting of the glow of a London street lamp, and my possibly having had one too many cherry brandies at dinner, it was clear that the tiny mews house had seen better days. The paintwork on the door was peeling off, I remember some brown tape had been placed across an upstairs window, and a solitary Christmas bauble could be seen from another, even though it was the middle of April. Overall, the place seemed to exist in a world of faded glamour. Forgotten and unloved. The garage door was covered in hardboard, as if there was some kind of building work going on behind it. Maybe the new owners were restoring it to its former glory? Maybe there has been a break-in? The overall shabbiness of the building lead me to believe that the former was implausible, and the latter inevitable.

I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Where was the blue plaque? Where were the garlands of flowers, or cards of heartfelt tribute? Where was the love? I may have been forty or more years late to the memorial, but where were the fans? I’d never felt sadder for someone I didn’t know, and never more so alone. As I started to leave, a faint glimmer of light caught my eye, reflecting from the shine of the London street lamp. It came from the temporary hardboard garage door. On second glance, I realised that scrawled on the door, in purple glitter pen, were the words “if happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why can’t I?”

Upon further inspection, it became clear that every inch of hardboard had a comment scrawled across in.

“We love you Judy”

“JG – always in my heart”

“I still believe in the rainbow”

Immediately, I started to think of my own place in the world, my love of the theatre; the fantasy, technicolour world where you can forget your troubles and get happy. I believe in that world; and a huge part of the Judy Garland narrative, however you dress it, represents that. It was at that moment that I began to see Judy not a person whose sole legacy to the entertainment industry was of trouble, heartache and pain; but of skill, talent and determination, and most importantly of love.

So what if in her later years she cracked on that ambitious leap straight up the octave from Middle C in her signature song? Were the countless tales of pills and liquor all that was actually interesting about this incredibly beguiling woman? Why do we, almost a part of our DNA, like to wallow in the pain, when there remains so much to celebrate? It was at that moment I decided to write a play about Judy. I had for many months been working on a piece about stardom, and by the time I had got home that night the two ideas had morphed into one.

And now, that same show opens at The Arts Theatre in London’s West End, on May 16th, 2017. Having been workshopped and produced at the London Theatre Workshop in December 2015, where I am still, very proudly, Artistic Director; and then at Southwark Playhouse in 2016; it makes me very happy to say that in 2017 Judy Garland is back in town, with three actresses playing her, at the same time, a stone’s throw away from the Talk of the Town; where the actual Judy played her last London gig. I certainly never expected my show to go from 60 seats to the West End in eighteen months. Some might say it’s a bit like a Mickey and Judy film. Sometimes little bluebirds do fly.

I hope to see you there.

Oh, and the Liza Minnelli gag found its way into the first draft, and has been there ever since.

PS: Cadogan House that Ray mentions in the article has since been torn down.

Venue: Arts Theatre,
6-7 Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JB
Dates: Tues, 16 th May to Sat, 17 th June 2017
Time: 7.30pm (Thurs & Sat Matinees – 2.30pm)
(extra Matinees Tues 6 th & 13 th June)
Box Office: 020 7836 8463

The Honorable East End Company presents DUSTY HORNE’S SOUND AND FURY

The most famous foley artist you’ve never heard of… Dusty Horne.

It’s 1963.  The father of sound on film, Jack Foley, has inspired a generation of ‘foley artists’, pioneers upon the landscape of cinema history.  Dusty Horne is not one of them.

A laugh-out-loud aural extravaganza, Dusty Horne’s Sound and Fury is a journey through the magic of sound on film. From Hitchcock masterpieces to the B-movie fare of Roger Corman, you’ll hear thunderclaps, gunshots, broken glass and breaking hearts – and if you’re lucky, a hideous shriek from the odd crab monster or two.

Dusty Horne's horn

Dusty Horne’s horn

Watch – and even join in – as Dusty live-syncs dancing footsteps, murderous knife-slashes and creaking pirate ships with her rag-tag collection of madcap props, in a show which is bizarrely believable, innovative and triumphantly enjoyable.

Will Dusty keep her cool?  What does a radioactive spider sound like?  And should disaster strike and destroy her precious sound-reels (this may happen), will you, gentle audience, help to save her life’s work and salvage her foundering career?

Experience the subtle madness of this rarely-witnessed performance art, as Dusty moves like a dancer, drinks like a fish and bares her soul on her quest for artistic immortality. You’ll never listen to film the same way again…

“This is a perfect Edinburgh show… I bloody loved it!” Ellie Browning, Programming Developer at Riverside Studios

“I loved the concept, the energy, the audience participation – all so much fun” Sharon Burrell, To the Moon Productions

“Fantastic. That’s going to go down a storm in Edinburgh.” Lindsay Fraser, Fine Line Productions

To bring Dusty Horne to life, writer Frank Tamburin (Under Offer, Dave Shakespeare) and actor and co-creator Natasha Pring (The Love Project, Wraps) have studied foley techniques with Universal Sound studio and have been mentored by the fantastic, Emmy award-winning foley artist and performer Ruth Sullivan (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Dickensian, Downton Abbey, ENO’s The Magic Flute). Directed by Katharine Rogers. / @TheDustyHorne /


Dusty Horne’s Sound and Fury

The Honorable East End Company

Queen Dome, The Pleasance

2.30pm (60mins)

3 – 5 (£6.50); 16, 22, 23, 29 (£8.50 (£7.50); 10 & 11, 17 & 18, 24 & 25 (£10 (£8.50)); 6 – 9, 12 – 14, 19 – 21, 26 – 28 (£11 (£10))


Fledgling Theatre presents World premier of They Built It. No One Came.

Neither of us were very charismatic. That was a problem.

Eight years ago Tobias and Alexander came together to form a spiritualistic commune based on their shared values of a peaceful and harmonious community. They are still awaiting their first members.

Chris Neels and Patrick Holt.

Christopher Neels and Patrick Holt. © Callum Cameron

The story is inspired by a New York Times article written by Penelope Green:

Fledgling Theatre Company is an international theatre company based in both London and Sydney, formed by Callum Cameron, Christopher Neels, Chris Huntley-Turner and Patrick Holt in 2013, all of whom graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Edoardo Elia, a talented musician and composer who moved to UK from Italy to study music at Kingston University, joins the cast for his first Fledgling Theatre show.

The company is known for creating raw and visceral theatre that explores all facets of the human condition, with physicality playing the crucial part in every show.

Fledgling Theatre’s previous shows include Modern Jesus (2014) focusing on the aftermath of a burst of aggression of a young Sainsbury’s employee and Jericho Creek (2015), a tale of religious fanaticism in colonial Australia inspired by the works of Nick Cave.

Previews 3rd/4th August at 3pm

Performances 5th-29th August at 3pm

Pleasance Courtyard, Bunker Two

Suitable for all ages.

Artists’ biographies:

Patrick Holt (as Alexander) is a founding member of Fledgling Theatre. He trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. His work in theatre includes Doctor Scroggy’s War (Shakespeare’s Globe), News Revue (Canal Café), Wolf Kisses and The Medium (both in Arcola Theatre). He’s been involved in both Fledgling Theatre shows: Modern Jesus (The Nursery, Southwark) and Jericho Creek (The Cockpit).

Callum Cameron is a founding member of Fledgling Theatre. He trained at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. His credits include 1001 (Southwark Playhouse), In the City A Short Time Ago (Arcola Theatre), Story Project (Arcola Theatre), The Duchess of Malfi (The New Diorama Theatre), Richard III (Hiraeth Artistic Productions), Slingshot (Park Theatre),  NUTS (Proudfoot Films). He’s been involved in both Fledgling Theatre shows: Modern Jesus (The Nursery, Southwark) and Jericho Creek (The Cockpit).

Edoardo Elia was born in Modena, Italy and moved to the UK in 2009 to attend the undergraduate course in Music Technology at Kingston University. Since then he has played in many venues across the capital, including: Bar Vinyl, Solo Bar, Camden Proud, The Half Moon, Camden Rock, The Finsbury, The 100 Club, The Boogaloo, Stamford Bridge, Ye Old Blue Last and Blessings. He is passionate about folk-traditional music and in September 2015 released his first EP: FOCUS. Entirely self-produced, it was written, arranged and recorded between London, Kansas City, Amsterdam, Turin and was finally put together by Davide Cristiani at Bombanella Soundscape Studio in Maranello.

Christopher Neels (as Tobias)  is a New Zealand born actor currently based in London. He trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and has a Masters in Contemporary Acting. He is a founding member of Fledgling Theatre Company. Theatre credits include Crooks (Colab Theatre), Tempest (Globe/ Sonnet Walks), Taming of the Shrew (Arrows and Traps – New Wimbledon Theatre), Winter’s Tale (Arrows and Traps – Lion and Unicorn Theatre), Much Ado About Nothing (Arrows and Traps – Lion and Unicorn Theatre) and Bazaar (Arcola Theatre). He’s been involved in both Fledgling Theatre shows: Modern Jesus (The Nursery, Southwark) and Jericho Creek (The Cockpit) as both writer and director.


One Year Lease Theatre Company presents The European Premiere of Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally By Kevin Armento

An illicit affair between a high school maths teacher and her fifteen year-old student is told through the eyes of the student’s mobile phone. 

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally offers an intimate view as small choices pile up into indiscretion, and the student’s closest companion struggles to understand the complex human equation that emerges.  The story of an illicit affair between a student and his teacher is told from the viewpoint of his mobile phone in a breakneck journey from pockets to purses… One Year Lease Theater Company brings Festival audiences a daring, sexy, suspenseful and utterly unique coming-of-age story.

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. © Russ Rowland

Opening Off Broadway at New York’s 59E59 Theaters, Kevin Armento’s (Good Men Wanted – 2015 O’Neill National Playwriting Finalist/PlayPenn Finalist, 2015-2016 Ars Nova Artist-in-Residence, Companion Piece at Pleasance Theatre, London) new play thrilled audiences in its 2015 world premiere.

 “a supple fast-paced highly physical production” THE NEW YORK TIMES, Critics Pick

 “a gleaming portrait of our collective contemporary existence” AMERICAN THEATER WEB

 “for the inquisitive millennial who’s grown up in a technologically obsessed culture, it screams of novelty” HUFFINGTON POST

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally was commissioned and developed by the ensemble of One Year Lease Theater Company (Ianthe Demos, Artistic Director; Nick Flint, Associate Artistic Director) and presented at 59E59 Theaters (Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director, Peter Tear, Executive Producer).

The cast includes Danny Bernardy (Shear Madness, Cougar! The Musical), Sarah-Jane Casey (What We Know, Skin Tight), Nick Flint (pool (no water), What We Know), Christina Bennett Lind (House of Cards, The Heart of Robin Hood, pool (no water)) and Devin McDuffee (About Face, Crocodile; Peter Pan and the Pirates. Film includes Lightning Bugs in a Jar).  The production features an original score composed and performed live by Estelle Bajou (Once – First National Tour, pool (no water)) – Bajou’s score for Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally was nominated for a 2016 Drama Desk Award for Best Music in a Play -, set design by James Hunting, associate set and props design by Olivia McGiff, lighting design by Mike Riggs and costume design by Kenisha Kelly. Directed by Ianthe Demos. Movement Direction by Natalie Lomonte. | Twitter: @OYLTheaterCo #AuntSally

 Pleasance Beyond, Pleasance Courtyard

Wed 3 – Sun 28 August (not Mon 15 or 22)

12.50pm (70mins)

£9 (£8) £11 (£10)



Let Them Call It Mischief presents DRACULA World premiere, by Danny Wainwright and Daniel Hallissey, based on Bram Stoker’s original story

We all know the Dracula story…or do we?

‘Dracula’ meets ’39 Steps’ meets ‘Black Adder’ in this hilarious take on the best-loved classic.
1897 : Join Count Dracula, the first Romanian immigrant, on his visit to England where he inadvertently strikes fear into the male establishment whilst seeking love in order to break his curse. Every minute is filled with dry humour, surprising twists, and downright silliness. Present is the undercurrent of the suffragette movement, as its powerful message begins to influence young female hearts. I have a cunning plan…

Cleverly fusing 19th century English gentry together with the modern world, Let Them Call It Mischief’s production is a funny and fast-paced retelling of a well-known Gothic tale, superbly portrayed by five actors taking on various characters.

Dracula by Let Them Call It Mischief.

Dracula by Let Them Call It Mischief. © Heather Pasfield

Known for their playful and imaginative approach to best-loved classics, Let Them Call It Mischief was founded in 2012 by Danny Wainwright, Stephanie Martin, Hilary Puxley, Flo Buckeridge and Tessa Gillett and has since produced four highly successful shows: The Alchemist at The White Bear in 2012, London Cuckolds in 2013, The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes, and A Christmas Carol in 2014, the latter three at the Pleasance Islington in London.

Dracula will be the company’s fifth show and their Edinburgh Fringe debut.

…audience members will revel in the boisterous hilarity.  The Stage on The Alchemist

This has trimmings galore and is by far the best staged version I have seen. Relevant, cheeky, modern and still insightful everyone should see this show. ***** London Theatre on Christmas Carol


by Let Them Call It Mischief  website / Facebook / Twitter

previews: 3 – 5 August at 3.30pm

performances: 6 – 29 August at 3.30pm (please note FIRST REVIEW DATE is 5 August)

Pleasance Courtyard, Beyond

Suitable for children 12+. Please note stage blood will be used.

To book tickets click here.

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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?

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.


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