“I think Napoleon planned his offensive against the Papacy like a military campaign. Manoeuvring, invasion, battle, victory, and capitulation were the set pattern of his triumphs.” – Author Ambrogio A. Caiani talks about ‘To Kidnap a Pope’

“I’d love to ask Pius VII what kept him going during his imprisonment/exile? It would be fascinating to know if his faith that he would be delivered from and survive his incarceration ever wavered.”

WHAT: The story of The Story, of Christianity as it appears in the historical record, is a constant tussle between those empowered solely by their spiritual faith and those holding supreme temporal power. For the Catholic Church, the established church of Western Europe, the multidimensional Venn diagram of overlapping spiritual and temporal interests has been a fractal labyrinth through which very few have successfully navigated. There is scarcely a polity – not an Earldom, Dukedom, Kingdom, or Empire – in which Church and state have ever coexisted in perfect balance without the unfolding, all consuming drama of a Beckett or a Borgia, a Henry or an Honorius. Since the fall of Rome, the history of Europe has always been, in one sense or another, the history of Church and state.

Amid the aftershocks of the political and intellectual earthquake known to us as the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) and Pope Pius VII (1742 -1823) attempted to reconcile the latter’s old church with the former’s new state. The early signs were promising. Together in 1801 they formalized an agreement, but relations between them rapidly deteriorated. In 1809, to the horror of the faithful across the continent, Napoleon ordered the Pope’s arrest. Pius’ imprisonment, which would vary in severity and isolation, lasted until Napoleon’s fall in 1814.

In his pioneering account of the tempestuous relationship between the Emperor and his most unyielding opponent Ambrogio Caiani draws on original findings in the Vatican and other European archives. He uncovers the nature of Catholic resistance to Napoleon’s aggression; charts Napoleon’s approach to Papal power; and reveals how the Emperor attempted to subjugate the church to his particular vision of modernity.

“In gripping, vivid prose, Caiani brings to life the struggle for power that would shape modern Europe. It all makes for a historical read which is both original and enjoyable.” – Antonia Fraser, author of ‘Marie Antoinette’.

WHO: Ambrogio A. Caiani is senior lecturer in modern European history at the University of Kent. He is the author of ‘Louis XVI and the French Revolution 1789-1792‘.

MORE? Here!


Why ‘To Kidnap a Pope’?

Well, the title is meant to provide the reader with the basic storyline of the book: in 1809 Napoleon ordered that Pius VII be removed from Rome against his will. He would remain the French Emperor’s prisoner for nearly five years. I have always been fascinated by the politics of religion. The more I researched this topic in the Vatican Archives, and National Archives in Paris, the more I became convinced that its legacy cast a long shadow over the Catholic Church. Indeed, the age of revolutions catalysed the decline in church and state relations that had its roots in the long eighteenth century. The experience of persecution under the French Revolution and Napoleon ensured that the Papacy would view modern states with unconcealed distrust.

Biographers are often asked if they came to like and / or respect their subjects. How do you feel about these two personalities now compared to when you started out? Would you want to share a small and remote holiday cottage with either for an indeterminate period?

Ultimately, I learned to respect both my protagonists as men of principle. Regrettably for them their most deeply held convictions set them on a collision course that was to have disastrous consequences for Europe and the Church. If I had to spend a wet weekend with them…. that’s easy …. Napoleon would definitely be better company than the taciturn and contemplative, former monk, Barnaba Chiaramonti, who was elected Pope in March 1800. I imagine that it would have been tricky to pry even the smallest of conversations out of Pius. He was a deeply religious man, and I am not sure he was that keen on human company. His companions tended to be theologians and confessors. He only really spoke freely to a tiny circle of friends and family.

Whereas Napoleon adored conversation and, when he was not in one of his dark moods, he was, apparently, very good company and a scintillating conversationalist (you just have to read the memorial de Sainte-Hélène to realise that this was the case). Having said this, I suspect that a hyperactive guest, who barely slept four hours a night, like the French Emperor would have tried the endurance skills and energy levels of even the most consummate host. Despite this snag, I think I would be willing to risk it.

How does Napoleon’s struggle with the Papacy of Pius VII stack up against his more famous military campaigns in terms of planning, execution, and adaption to shifting circumstances? Did he have a particular idea of what ultimate victory might look like?

That’s a great question, I think Napoleon planned his offensive against the Papacy like a military campaign. Manoeuvring, invasion, battle, victory, and capitulation were the set pattern of his triumphs. He, probably, expected that he could follow a similar grand design, and ultimately subordinate the Catholic Church to his will. Yet, like in Spain and Calabria, he met a determined group of ecclesiastical resisters, especially the Pope, who simply refused to concede defeat and yield. Simply put, Chiaramonti, unlike a Habsburg or Hohenzollern sovereign, was unresponsive to bullying and military intimidation. Pius’ weapons and provisions were spiritual. He organised a mass campaign of passive resistance that made French rule in the papal states next to impossible. Such tactics prove much more effective in resisting Napoleon than brute force.

Neither Napoleon or Pius were especially modern political thinkers. Neither believed that political legitimacy rests exclusively on the consent of the governed. Keynes described Newton as the last magician rather than the first scientist. Did you ever find yourself wondering if you were chronicling a late medieval struggle rather than an early modern chapter of European history?

Well you say that … but I do wonder if anything, at the end of the day, is really that modern. Napoleon often drew parallels between himself and the medieval investitures crisis of the eleventh century. For example, the struggle that pitted Gregory VII against the Emperor Henry IV, or that which saw Philip IV, possibly, murder Boniface VIII bear remarkable analogies to the events of my book. Yet, by the same logic, the investiture crisis that set Communist China against the Holy See, in the early twenty first century, bears some, loose, though striking parallels to the Napoleonic Empire’s relationship with the Catholic Church. Governments, whether ancient or modern, have and will continue to put pressure on the Church to yield to the power of the state. A harmonious relationship between church and state remains an elusive objective even to this day.

What lessons from this period could the Papacy have absorbed and applied when it came to dealing with 20th century dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler?

Let me start by saying that in general concordats have a good track record in the long history of the Catholic Church. When both contracting parties have upheld the bargain, then, these treaties often created harmonious periods in church and state relations. This was particularly the case in nineteenth century Latin America. Such agreements cemented the Church’s position, rather than undermining it, in South America. A major problem emerges when one party is ‘not playing by the rules.’ The soft power of the church unsupported by hard power of the state could only go so far. The church negotiated these agreements in good faith, but it did not possess the means to force secular states to adhere to the terms of the concordats it signed. The dictators of the twentieth century proved unscrupulous and manipulative in their selective reading of the concordats they had ratified. Like Napoleon, they showed little respect for the Church’s prerogatives and position.

Unlike the French Emperor, they did not kidnap a Pope and exile him (although apparently at one point Hitler did consider kidnapping Pius XII according to one author). Ultimately, there is no easy lesson for the Papacy to draw from the Napoleonic period. Perhaps focusing on its pastoral mission, and avoiding politics where possible, could only be to the church’s advantage.

You express an admiration for Marie Louise, Napoleon’s second wife and the mother of his son. Why has she been so overlooked? Why does she deserve a greater share of the limelight?

I think we tend to be dismissive of arranged marriages in our society as they lack the romance and passion of courtship. In consequence, I guess, the public dismisses the marriage of Napoleon to Marie Louise as mere politics. This eclipses the fact that Marie Louise and Napoleon formed a notable political partnership. Unlike Josephine, she served as regent of France in 1813-1814 while the Emperor was on campaign. This was certainly a token of the trust and esteem Napoleon placed on her. Indeed, as Michael Broers has stated, she attended the council of state and was given a good education. After Napoleon’s fall, she became Duchess of Parma where she is remembered as an enlightened ruler. Under her beneficent guidance, Parma achieved some of the highest literacy rates in Italy, and she was a renowned patron of the arts, especially Italian opera. It has even been suggested that the quality controls and production standards for Parma ham were inspired by her. I also quite like that Napoleon was only husband number one (out of three), so she clearly was a strong woman who put her stamp on an age ruled by men. I do wish somebody would write a political biography of this formidable princess.

If you could directly ask one question of each of your protagonists what would you ask them and what answers would you expect?

I’d love to ask Pius VII what kept him going during his imprisonment/exile? It would be fascinating to know if his faith that he would be delivered from and survive his incarceration ever wavered. I suspect I would not be likely to get an honest answer. Once freed, the Pope claimed his emancipation was a clear manifestation of divine providence. We have no real source with which access to Pius VII’s inner most thoughts which is frustrating for a historian.

To Napoleon I would ask why he wavered (which was out of character) on what to do with his prisoner? Why he wrote to Fouche, his minister of police, claiming that taking the Pope into custody had never been his intention (a manifest lie)? Perhaps I would also ask if deep down he had some lingering belief in the Catholic God… I suspect we’ll never know.

If you could possess one artefact mentioned in your narrative, what would it be and why?

Oh dear, I am not very good when it comes to the ‘material turn’ in history or the current obsession some historians have with knick-knacks. But I would love to possess some of the notes and fragments of paper that Pius smuggled out of Savona, in the seams of his cassock, to communicate with the outside world. It would be fun to spend hours trying to decipher and reassemble his messages to loyal Catholics across Europe.

Was Pius VII an effective Pope? Does he have any wider claim to fame other than having reigned and suffered in interesting times?

Oh, definitely! He was, to an extent, the architect of the Catholic revival of the nineteenth century. The re-establishment of the Jesuit order in 1814, the rediscovery of baroque/popular piety and the drive towards Marianism, can all be attributed to his post-Napoleonic reign. He was determined to not only ensure the church survived the Napoleonic episode, but prospered after one of its darkest hours. He showed an iron determination that the Papacy should retain its central Italian principality. This turned out to be a lost cause and left something of a burdensome legacy. He created a church that was spiritually vibrant. Indeed, numbers of vocations and worshippers increased in rural Europe in the decades following his pontificate. Yet, at the same time, he left much unfinished business with the modern secular state. He would not be the last Pope forced to leave Rome and lose his principality.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a political history of Global Catholicism during the age of revolutions 1700-1903. It is a great challenge but must say I am loving every minute of it!

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‘Delivered’ (Town and Gown, 15-17 November)

“Melia’s choices are excellent, she is an Alice through whom we experience this strange and skewed reality.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Nae Bad)

Tabitha has received a liver transplant. She writes to thank her donor family, but her letters go unanswered. So she takes matters into her own hands, creating an algorithm that will allow her to independently track down the family who saved her life. Will Tim return the letters to sender, or is he ready to be delivered?

We enter to find the audience divided, like a chocolate bourbon, with the filling in the middle also divided between the realm of Tabitha on one side and that of Tim on the other. This is an ultra Fringy set, one that could quickly be taken down under the gaze of the most time-conscious festival venue manager. It speaks to the future ambitions the writer has for this most ambitious script. First workshopped at the Arcadia theatre all those eons ago in 2019, ‘Delivered’ is the debut play from the Town and Gown’s own Lisa MacGregor, inspired by her own family’s liver transplant journey.

As Tabitha, Jessica Melia breathes life into a role that provides numerous potential avenues, a rabbit warren of persona, personality, passion, and pain. Melia’s choices are excellent, she is an Alice through whom we experience this strange and skewed reality. Together with Adam Boyle (as Tim) MacGregor’s material is stretched out but not frayed or torn. The standing ovation and the tears of the audience speak to MacGregor’s skill as an authentic storyteller who really does make us laugh and cry.

This production is a young wine which could (and should) mature into a premier vintage in the right conditions. Whereas Melia’s performance as Tabitha is a skillfully placed shotgun to the heart, Boyle needs to improve his more shadowy sharpshooting. We know what Tabitha is thinking and feeling. Tim is a darker horse, a grieving widower as well as a young father with the parent’s job to do alone. Last night, Boyle seemed hesitant to fully illuminate the emotional rollercoaster his character is on. He hit all the right notes, but not as hard as he might have. Hopefully this will change as the number of live performances under his belt sharpen Boyle’s focus.

Get your coats on and go see this debut play from an author in the early days of a long and illustrious career. Come for a script that is deeply personal and darkly funny. Stay for two performances which are sharp and which will (hopefully) get sharper as the nights roll on.


Reviewer: Dan Lentell

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‘Bonny and Clyde’ (Town and Gown, 3-6 November)

“Edge does authenticity like Sir Francis Chichester did knots. He’s intricate, solid, reliable – as perfect a pairing with Tapako-Brown as when gin met tonic.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Nae Bad)

Go big or go home. Karl Steele’s gone big. Two tons big. Two tons of building sand delivered to central Cambridge and then wheelbarrowed, personalmente di persona, by The Town and Gown’s in-house director up, up, and up to the black box in which he has framed Adam Peck’s #notthemusical portraits of Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (b. 1 October, 1910 – d. 23 May, 1934) and Clyde Chestnut Barrow (b. 24 March, 1909 – d. 23 May, 1934).

Bonnie and Clyde are so famous that you know who they are even if you know nothing about them. You won’t have learned very much more as you exit this show. Peck’s script is thinner than what they fed to Oliver Twist while he was still at the orphanage. Least said soonest mended. So in brief, Bonnie and her beau are (presumably) in their hideout, (presumably) recovering from a recentish gun battle, (definitely) a bit nuts, (definitely) squabbling like only people in love can.

We enter to find Steele’s sand as the stage on which the drama will play out. It brings a depth and physicality to the piece that must be seen to be believed. Actors Sharni Tapako-Brown and James Edge are toe-deep in the stuff. Brooding. Bickering. Bullshitting. Tapako-Brown brings a Black Annis, banshee-ite energy that is ferocious, frightening, and full on. She walks softly while never letting go of the big crazy stick. Tapako-Brown glides across the sand more elegant than Audrey Hepburn juggling bottles of Chanel °5. Yet she’ll turn on a sixpence, 0 to 60 faster than a Bugatti Chiron. It’s a hell hath no fury performance that’s not to be missed by anyone who’s ever wondered what it might be like to watch a Hollywood star of the old school live on stage.

At the crease, batman James Edge must play over after over with (seemingly) no idea of what kind of ball will be bowled at him next. Bouncers, inswingers, yorkers, and then the deadly slower paced deliveries that really show off Tapako-Brown’s range and skill. Edge might have played defensively, given up the sandy ground to let his colleague strut her stuff. Instead he gives as good as he gets modulating his performance from sleepy lion to buzzed-up fox. Edge does authenticity like Sir Francis Chichester did knots. He’s intricate, solid, reliable – as perfect a pairing with Tapako-Brown as when gin met tonic.

Get your coats on. Come for the set. Stay for the performances. Despite the script, you won’t be disappointed.


Reviewer: Dan Lentell

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“I don’t think the CSA would have won independence had Breckinridge bene president. No one was going to make that happen given the determination of Lincoln and his people.” – Author William C. Davis talks about ‘An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government’

“I do suspect that by the time of the flight from Richmond, Davis had become intermittently delusional, as he could not see, what all around him saw.”

WHAT: “A dramatic retelling of four months in 1865…; A true story full of political treachery and physical adventure; Author is arguably the foremost authority on the American Civil War; In February, 1865, the end was clearly in sight for the Confederacy. Lee was defeated at Gettysburg, Grant’s victory at Memphis had cut the South in two, and Sherman’s brutal march through Georgia had destroyed what was left of the Southern economy. With the land shattered, people starving, and no hope left, the reality for the secessionist government was grim. An Honorable Defeat is the story of four months in 1865, during which the South surrendered, the North triumphed, and President Lincoln was assassinated, told with style and with absolute historical accuracy.”

WHO: “William Charles “Jack” Davis (born 1946) is an American historian who was a professor of history at Virginia Tech and the former director of programs at that school’s Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. Specializing in the American Civil War, Davis has written more than 40 books on the American Civil War and other aspects of early southern U.S. history such as the Texas Revolution.[1] He is the only three-time winner of the Jefferson Davis Prize for Confederate history and was awarded the Jules and Frances Landry Award for Southern history.”

MORE? Here!


Why ‘An Honorable Defeat’?

I have always found the story of the last days of the CSA government and the flight of Davis and the cabinet to be fascinating. Inevitable, tragic, at times comic, and at others suspenseful.

Did the CSA ever have a viable path to victory via an exclusively military route?

In a word, No. That is to say, I see no way the CSA was going to win independence on the battlefield so long as Lincoln and the people of the Union were willing to keep fighting, which they showed they were from the outset. Only massive foreign intervention might have turned the tables, and no European power regarded having an independent CSA as worth the potential cost of being at war with the Union’s huge army and modern navy.

Was Jefferson Davis too quick on the draw in 1861? Should he (could he) have exhausted
any of the other options – such as attempting to establish the legal right of states to exit the Union in the courts – before firing on Fort Sumter?

I think so. In fact, in February-March 19861, I think the CSA’s best chance was in the Supreme Court, which had a pro-Southern majority on the bench. Instead of seizing arsenals and other clearly warlike acts, they could have filed suits through the federal district court in Richmond or elsewhere, which they surely would have won, and then Washington would have appealed it to the supreme court. Of course, like Andrew Jackson before him, Lincoln could simply have ignored a court ruling.

Could Davis have made a worse job of leading his government into exile? Does this chapter typify his wartime presidency, or did everything in his public life become him EXCEPT the leaving of it? Were you ever tempted into thinking he was trying to be captured and put on trial?

I do suspect that by the time of the flight from Richmond, Davis had become intermittently delusional, as he could not see, what all around him saw. He was simply too invested in the CSA mentally and emotionally to admit it was dead. Consequently, I think it possible that he even hoped to be killed during the flight rather than outlive it. Failing that, he very definitely wanted a trial so he could make the case that secession was lawful, and there he and the seceding states were not traitors. Fear of such a court ruling was a bit part of why Washington chose not to prosecute him.

Who was John C. Breckinridge? You seem to suggest that had he been at the helm the CSA
might have stood a better chance of winning its independence. Why’s that?

I don’t think the CSA would have won independence had Breckinridge bene president. No one was going to make that happen given the determination of Lincoln and his people. However, I think it probable that had he been president in 1865, he would have negotiated a peaceful surrender and gotten some concessions in return that might have made the transition to reconstruction easier on the South.

“He had so large a hand in making Southern character, as it existed before the war, that he is in great measure responsible for the war.” Was Mark Twain right about Walter Scott?

Twain, as often, was being glib and hyperbolic.

In Europe we live our daily lives amid the physical reminders of our past political follies and once trendy cultural foibles. Do you think Americans could ever learn to live with their past rather than in it?

Perhaps not. We—or our leaders—are too fond of making political and social capital out of misstating the past to further contemporary aims.

If you could personally possess one physical item described in your narrative, what would it
be and why?

I’d like to have the pocket compass Breckinridge carried. I believe it is at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, though not on exhibit.

If you could interview just one character from your drama (without changing the course of
history), who would they be, what would you ask them, and what would you tell them?

Breckinridge of course. I have studied him for more than fifty years, and still find him interesting. I would ask him his innermost feelings about slavery and secession. He was opposed to both personally, but regarded them as lawful and therefore beyond interference. I wonder if he let ambition cloud his judgment when he went over to the CSA.

What are you currently working on?

No books. I am restoring a 1928 Pierce-Arrow convertible coupe to running order. Don’t really know what I’m doing, but I am enjoying it!

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‘Ordinary Days’ (Town and Gown, 13-17 October)

“Lisa MacGregor utterly steals the show, stuffs it, mounts it, and hangs it in pride of place.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

Four ordinary lives experienced through the inner lives of four typical New Yorkers. We enter to find one of them, Warren, hard at work distributing fliers like it’s the Royal Mile in August. His fliers are pop art. They feature words of wisdom and insight which (almost inevitably) go entirely unnoticed by Manhattan’s madding crowd. It’s an epically subtle hint that the dramas that are about to be played out occur in a time before Facebook walls and Twitter timelines.

The show’s lyricist/composer, Adam Gwon, is a Bostonian by birth but a New Yorker by choice. In his four person sung through musical, first performed in 2008, Gwon captures and distills the essence of what it is to be alone in the big city. It’s a powerfully big, yet graciously small, set of stories requiring strong, yet subtle, hands. Jason and Claire are alone in a relationship together, unable to break through an unseen wall between them. Meanwhile, the uptight grad student Deb is alone without the notes for her thesis which she has left on the subway. Warren is alone running menial errands for a much better known artist. 

Warren is not yet everything he could be – and that’s putting it charitably. He’s going with the flow rather than rising to his full potential. A character who might so easily have been played as comically trivial is given an authenticity, gravity, and dignity by Duncan Burt who brings to the happy go lucky Warren a pitch-perfect balance of the playful and the soulful.

As Deb, Dora Gee wryly captures most of the on stage laughs some of which are definitely at the expense of her highly strung, yet flaky character, her many, many hang ups and occasional pretensions. It is said that opposites attract, but to bring two such divergent individuals into alignment in a manner so captivating and real is a remarkable feat of theatrical artistry. Any producers out there scouting for talent with which to people the next hit TV sitcom should look no further than Burt and Gee for the leads.

As Jason and Claire, James Edge and Lisa MacGregor breathe life into two seemingly stuffy characters (is ‘basic’ too harsh a description?). Here are a couple entirely without the quirkiness of Deb and Warren. Many surprises – good, bad, Earth shattering – come out of a clear blue sky. But the final twist of the narrative, the moment at which Lisa MacGregor utterly steals the show, stuffs it, mounts it, and hangs it in pride of place – that moment is the result of a steady clouding over of the dramatic horizon in collusion with Edge. They’ve spent their time in the spotlight carefully laying down a thick fog that blankets us until we can see no further than the taxi cab in which we are stuck, snarled in traffic, and snarling at each other. Then everything changes.

This production is produced and directed by the Town and Gown’s own Karl Steele who first brought these four heavy lifting stars and this weighty script together at the Old Joint Stock in Birmingham. Though minimal, the staging and the lighting are a fringe theatre nerd’s wet dream. Simple yet essential. Maximising the minimal. Always a help, never a hindrance to the storytelling. If this is what we can expect from inhouse Town and Gown productions then the tickets will be hotter property than the contents of Colonel Thomas Blood’s overnight bag circa 9 May 1671.

Perhaps it was Nick Allen on piano who worked the hardest for the longest to make the magic happen. After what we’ve all been through in the past couple of years it’s easy to forget how much sheer bloody talent is required to do every aspect of great theatre well. Get your coats on and go see this show. If you can, try and sit near Allen. When there’s a lull in the action, watch him tickle the ivories without hesitation, repetition or deviation and thank Dionysus that it’s him working so hard and not you.


Reviewer: Dan Lentell

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+3 Interview: Flanker Origami

“This first hybrid edition of the Fringe festival is juggling with lot of challenges and opportunities, and it is great that it opened to online performances as there is so much experimentation going on.”

WHO: Bianca Mastrominico: Performer, co-creator

WHAT: “An artistic couple expose their daily rituals and lockdown coping routines, digitally unleashing two eccentric performance personas bent on transforming their Edinburgh home into a glittery alternative reality. Through dressing up, dancing, disembodied animations, forced karaoke and improbable ASMR storytelling, they are on a quest to enhance their own wellbeing and yours! Stranded on Zoom, their relationship reveals a tender and funny, if slightly disturbing, world of online intimacy on the edge of misunderstanding and manipulation. Award-winning Organic Theatre returns to the Fringe for a digital world premiere.”

WHERE: Fringe Online – Zoom (Venue 362) 

WHEN: VARIES (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

We have presented work at the EdFringe before and we are an Edinburgh-based company so even when we haven’t performed we have been lucky to have it on our doorstep – it’s addictive!

This first hybrid edition of the Fringe festival is juggling with lot of challenges and opportunities, and it is great that it opened to online performances as there is so much experimentation going on. This is very exciting and enriching, and also fair for artists who cannot afford to travel right now. It feels like the Fringe is returning to its origins, with theatre-makers taking the lead over the needs of venue programming, and we are thrilled to be part of this new iteration. Besides, we’re working from home so it’s cost-effective…

What are the big things you’ve learned since 2019 and have you absorbed any of the lessons yet?

Like many other theatre makers, we found ourselves confronting the need to be creative, learning new ways of working and making the most of the constraints of being ‘at home’. With Flanker Origami we are affirming the power of creative action over habits forced upon us by the health crisis and our home has now been transformed into a (rather messy) digital stage… We couldn’t have imagined an emergency that would have forced us to reconsider how we make, perform and meet our audiences, as well as how we live our lives, and Flanker Origami is our joyous, slightly dark but liberating response to the time that was lost to fear and shock.

Tell us about your show.

Flanker Origami is a ‘home-specific’ performance, so John Dean and I are inviting our audiences to gaze, imagine, and be voyeurs of our personal spaces in our real house. There isn’t a narrative, but a roller-coaster of dynamics between our two eccentric alter egos Flanker and Origami, out of which emerges a darkly comedic and – at times – grotesque journey into the collective psychological drama of the lockdowns. Flanker (and) Origami are seen stranded on Zoom in their own house, with no other escape than playing out preposterous online wellbeing routines, under the illusion of healing themselves and others.

The performance is a world premiere produced by Organic Theatre, it has been devised for digital audiences on Zoom and will be live-streamed daily during the last week of the festival. The process started with adapting our studio work during the pandemic and once we understood that this year’s Fringe was including a digital programme, we decided it was a good fit.

We’re not alone in the show, as we have animated replicas of ourselves in 2d rotoscope animations by artist and animator Cristiana Messina, and a fantastic technical collaborator Chiara Menozzi. It’s a weird experience that we live in the same city and we only ever see each other online…

Organic Theatre started in 2002 as an intercultural performance lab, devising and touring performances and workshops in the UK and internationally – we have performed in theatres, art galleries, museums, streets, barns, village halls and festivals. Our processes are collaborative, interdisciplinary and based on extended periods of research and development. In Flanker Origami we dance, our performances are physical, but there is also a strong emphasis on using text which is improvised and becomes scripted as part of our final performance. We like to create on our feet, through improvisation and repetition of the bits that made sense to us, so the resulting work feels somehow in-between art and life.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Supporting online work is crucial as many artists are experimenting with the digital medium and what came out of necessity has become a new way of engaging with audiences, producers and press, possibly beyond the Fringe. We particularly recommend the curated programme at Summerhall, which gives a lot of food for thought in terms of creative hybrid exploration. Both these shows play imaginatively and topically with online forms:

> >  iMelania – Summerhall online – Gather.Town
> >  Knot: The Trilogy, Summerhall online – Darkfield App


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+3 Interview: Triple Bypass: Three Ten-Minute Plays About Living for Death and Dying for Life

“The magical thing about fringe is for so many of us, once we attend or become involved in any way, the urge to put up your own work becomes not only irresistible, but it doesn’t seem so impossible any more.”

WHO: Deena MP Ronayne, writer and producer

WHAT: “Deena MP Ronayne’s award-winning debut as a writer takes audiences on an emotional journey ranging from fear and hate to delight and joy. Seeking Dignity is a suspenseful drama with a twist in its tail; Close To Black sees two young women who meet as strangers, but discover they have a lot in common; and Tango-ed Web is a laugh-out-loud black comedy about fatal attraction. Filmed live and fully-staged in an empty Aberdeen Community Theatre (South Dakota), the plays are captioned throughout.”

WHERE: Online@theSpaceUK (Venue 132) 

WHEN: On Demand (50 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

I am ‘attending’ virtually this year. I visited Edinburgh for the first time as a tourist in 2011 and I attended the EdFringe for the first time in 2018 as a scouting producer, disguised as a tourist! At that time, I had just produced my first show at the Orlando Fringe Festival (‘Shakespeare’s Ghostbusters’), so I was delighted to be present at EdFringe. What I loved the most was all the street performances and how easy it was to connect with other artists. The magical thing about fringe is for so many of us, once we attend or become involved in any way, the urge to put up your own work becomes not only irresistible, but it doesn’t seem so impossible any more.

What are the big things you’ve learned since 2019 and have you absorbed any of the lessons yet?

I think I’ve really developed my leadership style since then. I prefer to lead by quiet example and empowering my team. It also didn’t take me long to realize that part of leadership is paying for things you didn’t break, apologizing for things you didn’t do, and offering an explanation for things you didn’t say. It can be frustrating and isolating, but my favourite part of that learning curve is realizing that mistakes happen, and they are ok and important as long as you take earnest ownership of the occurrence and the solution.

Tell us about your show.

I am producing my show through my company, Hardly Working Promotions LL, and it is also the first play I have written. It is called ‘Triple Bypass: Three Ten Minute Plays About Living for Death & Dying for Life’. It consists of one heavy drama, one fan fiction, and one comedy, all with a different take on life and death. There are trigger warnings, because it deals with some heavy issues, but it ends with the light-hearted comedy that hopefully leaves audience members with overall enjoyment. This show has gone through nine virtual festivals before EdFringe, picking up three awards in the process (Most Viewed – Elgin Winter Fest, Producers Award – Front Row Fringe, Spirit of the Fringe Never in a Box – Front Row Fringe) and after EdFringe, it will be available virtually through The Boulder Fringe, The St Lou Fringe, The Lahti Fringe, and The Melbourne Fringe. My hope is to bring this show to several festivals live with local cast and crew members in 2022, including Edinburgh. I encourage everyone to please feel free to contact me if you are interested in being involved in one of the live productions in the future.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

There are so many great options for shows produced, performed and written by women this year. Check out ‘Afterparty’, ‘Hitler’s Tasters’ and ‘Sweet FA’ for some women empowered work!


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+3 Interview: Spaces Between Us and Satori

“Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in the world and I don’t think there’s anything quite like Fringe time. We miss it!”

WHO: Lewis Major

WHAT: “Envisioning a world of impermanence and shifting atmospheres amongst different patterns of sound, light, and movement, Spaces Between Us and Satori is an approachable, sensitive, and moving double bill of contemporary dance by acclaimed Australian choreographer, Lewis Major. Imagining a system where things are kept suspended and in movement by each element’s own gravitational fields and contending forces, the dancers and their stories form the locus, generating their own rhythms and luminosity.”

WHERE: Black Box Live – Black Box Live: From Australia (Venue 417) 

WHEN: On Demand (40 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

No, although it’s the first time presenting digitally. I’ve been very fortunate to spend a few summers in Edinburgh performing in other shows, although I’ve also headed up just to take in the incredible experience of the festival. I’ve often rocked up in the last part of the month, put out a call to friends to see what is worth catching, then spending a week taking in 4 or 5 shows a day. Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in the world and I don’t think there’s anything quite like Fringe time. We miss it!

What are the big things you’ve learned since 2019 and have you absorbed any of the lessons yet?

Always, always be ready to pivot – on a dime if necessary. The world is still in turmoil and even as we seem to start to get a hold of things, it’s been shown time and time again that those artists flexible enough to change things on the fly will be the ones to survive and thrive. Also, we should be kinder to each other.

Tell us about your show.

Spaces Between Us, the first half of our show, is about a number of things. Firstly, the physical distance that separates people – whether they are kept apart by work, geography, or a global pandemic – and how that affects a relationship. It’s also about the gulf in understanding between people, empathetically, emotionally, or otherwise, what happens when someone wants something that the other person doesn’t and how that interrelation between people plays out. It’s a deeply personal piece born out of the Covid crisis but connected to daily life also. Satori on the other hand is about as pure a dance piece as I’ve ever made. Based on the idea of impermanence and constant flux, we’ve used the juxtaposition of these very straight, very stark lighting tubes and the fluid, rolling, flowing choreography of the dancers to suggest ethereal beauty and universal rhythms of the universe seen in a non-specific, very suggestive way. This is a premiere for Edinburgh Festival made possible by the incredible crew at Black Box Live, though we’re taking it on tour in Australia very shortly.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

You must see all of the shows that Black Box Live is presenting but especially Egg by my dear friend Erin Fowler and The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign by Joanne Hartstone. I’d also highly recommend Botis Seva’s BLCKDOG and T.H.E. from Singapore and their show Pan.


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‘Thomas Benjamin Wild Esq – Live From Bedfringe’ (Bedfringe, 30 July)

“A perfect performance by an artist who is at the beginning of the beginning of a brilliant journey.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

The worst thing you can do in a review is talk about the rest of the audience. What matters, I always say to new members of the writing team, is your reaction. How did the show impact you? Avoid phrases like, “the audience seemed disengaged” or “the audience seemed to like it” they’re just not useful. Last night was the exception that proves this rule. We, the audience, were very excited about this performance.

Thomas Benjamin Wilde esquire in the county of Bedfordshire has been one of those artists who’ve helped make the past 18 months almost tolerable. His YouTube covers encompass every kind of gem from Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell to Jack Buchannon’s Everything Stops for Tea. His original compositions are smart, funny, occasionally smutty, and catchier than COVID at a Trump White House event. Last night had the celebratory feeling of a comeback tour, yet it was only the first gig of a relatively recent newcomer’s much-delayed first ever tour.

The audience know that TBW is good. So good that had Bertie Wooster played banjolele even at two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and nine to one against as well as Thomas Benjamin Wilde esquire in the county of Bedfordshire then Jeeves might not have left him and Wodehouse would have lost a plot. Everyone in the room is a fan.

Last night was streamed live over YouTube (see above) and this is where I got that thrill that only comes from seeing someone you already greatly admire succeeding at something really chuffing hard. TBW was equally present for both the live audience and the folks at home. It was a beautifully balanced act, pulled off with the gracious humility of a true professional who has worked at their craft morning, noon, and night until it’s sharper than a cavalry saber slicing open a bottle of 2002 vintage bubbles.

It’s a funny thing that Burgess never much liked A Clockwork Orange. Graves wasn’t overly fond of I, Claudius. Graham fell in and out of love with The Wind in the Willows and we all know what Conan Doyle tried to do to Sherlock Holmes. So it follows that Thomas Benjamin Wilde esquire in the county of Bedfordshire has a complicated relationship with “That Song”, the one that made him a sensation.

BedFringe’s James Pharaoh claims credit for inspiring the little ears (no swearing) version and it’s a great twist on a much loved (by us at any rate) newly minted classic. This is the first show I’ve seen with Daughter 1.0 since EdFringe ‘19. She’s 6 now and a big TBW fan (although admittedly she prefers Tom Carradine). This was a brilliant family-friendly show to reawaken her excitement about live performance.

The unexpected move from the garden to the bar – the afternoon’s rain had tried very hard to stop play – amplified both the music and the energy of the crowd. It’s a long thin space with exposed rafters which were played to front and back. There was some Rodney Bewes style ad hocs when things went awry, but this forced improv only made things all the jollier. The flashing TV screen in the background wasn’t quite covered by the set, but other than that this was a perfect performance by an artist who is at the beginning of the beginning of a brilliant journey.


Reviewer: Dan Lentell

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+3 Interview: Patricia Gets Ready (For a Date With the Man That Used to Hit Her)

“I’m half Scottish and so my Dad took my when I was very little to just walk amongst the buzz the fringe creates, and then when I got older, I went a few times as a ‘gals trip’ with my mum. It’s such a great festival; the perfect mix of chaotic and focused.”

WHO: Martha Watson Allpress: Writer

WHAT: “Patricia has spent a year crafting a kick-ass speech while recovering from an abusive relationship. But when she bumps into her ex on the street, and accidentally agrees to dinner with him that night, she’s got some big decisions to make; what to wear? What to say? And whether or not to go? Join Patricia as she gets ready for the date, tells stories of her past and how it has affected her present, and looks honestly at her future.”

WHERE: Pleasance at EICC – Lomond Theatre (Venue 150) 

WHEN: Varies (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

It is! I’ve been before as an attendee, but not as part of a show. I’m half Scottish and so my Dad took my when I was very little to just walk amongst the buzz the fringe creates, and then when I got older, I went a few times as a ‘gals trip’ with my mum. It’s such a great festival; the perfect mix of chaotic and focused.

What are the big things you’ve learned since 2019 and have you absorbed any of the lessons yet?

That your priorities are never what you think they are. Oddly I have found that in a rather painful way, the numerous lockdowns and the entire pandemic has helped me take pressure off myself creatively. Over the past eighteen months I’ve been so occupied, thinking about my family and well-being, that when I returned to writing it felt so much more like a choice, rather than an obligation.

Tell us about your show.

So Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her) is a one hour, one woman show that follows Patricia getting ready in her bedroom, after accidentally agreeing to dinner with her ex that night. It’s a funny, heart breaking, and honest hour with a genuinely likeable woman who’s trying to understand herself a little better. Initially it ran at the above pub theatre in Kenington; The White Bear; and it transferred from their to the VAULTS festival in 2020. We snuck our run in just before the first lockdown which is sort of insane?

We have the wonder team behind it. Patricia has always felt like a culmination of all the right people at just the right time; written by Martha Watson Allpress, directed by Kaleya Baxe, performed by Angelina Chudi, produced by Nur Khairiyah and the tech is done by Steven Frost. It’s a small team for an intimate show, and everyone handles the piece, and each other, with real delicacy and care. Our team’s created something really special.

After the fringe, the hope is the show gets the opportunity to tour; I think taking this specific story to different areas will be so fascinating, as it’ll resonate different everywhere. It’s always exciting to think of the conversations that happen after the curtain call, and these’ll be so different and unique to each place. The more chat the better!

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Oh my gosh! There’s so much incredible stuff to be seen, and the Pleasance’s line up kind of floored me with excitement. But honestly, I think walk the Royal Mile, find a poster that looks vaguely interesting but you have no idea what the show is or about, and GO SEE THAT. Surprise yourself. It’s always fun!


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