‘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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‘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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‘Howerd’s End’ (Town and Gown, 15-17 July)

“An insight into genius, a glimpse of the dark matter cushioning every star, a sense of a love that dared not speak its name, but spoke instead in a quiet and gentle whisper.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Outstanding)

Full disclosure. My credentials as an impartial reviewer for anything connected to the brilliant Mark Farrelly are zero. I’m a huge fan. I’ve been reviewing him since EdFringe ‘12 when he appeared in Roy Smiles’ ‘The Lad Himself: A Celebration of the Life of Tony Hancock’. I’ve seen both his solo shows, and was part of the team that helped bring them into print. Earlier this year I urged the renaming of our little arts thing from Edinburgh49 to GetYourCoatsOn based on a throwaway comment Mark made in an interview with Karl Steele, manager of the Town and Gown. You have been warned.

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We enter to find Farrelly nursing a drink and a bevy of grievances large and small. Here is Dennis Heymer, the oh so secret other half of the late, great comedy legend Frankie Howerd. Remembered chiefly as an established mainstream mainstay, Francis Alick Howard, OBE (1917-1992) was the first in that line of non-conformist comics who progressed through the latter half of the previous century. Howerd was followed by the Goons, who were followed by Beyond The Fringe, who were followed by the Pythons, who were followed by Izzard. 

The great strength of this script is that one really doesn’t need to know very much about Howerd’s life to comprehend the drama. Celebrated comedian (40yrs) walks into a bar behind which is a sommelier (28yrs). A spark is kindled between them that will burn light and dark down the discrete decades together. Theirs was a romance set in a time when same-sex relationships, especially life long bonds, were still the love that dared not speak its name.

As Frankie Howerd, Simon Cartwright skillfully treads a tightrope in a performance that remains both recognisable and real without falling into simple caricature. His Howerd is a sympathetic, gentle giant, a little boy lost in a sexually-abusive past, adrift in a secretive and uncertain present, complacent about the Christmases yet to come. It’s a quietly powerful performance that grows louder in the remembering.

As Dennis Heymer and several other characters, Farrelly brings his A-game – that mix of pace and pathos of which he is a master. On stage he is a unique blend of considered spontaneity, obvious vagueness, and resolute indecision. Nobody else presents ultra real people on stage quite as well as Mark Farrelly.

There is a third presence on the stage in this two-hander. June Mendoza’s portrait of Howerd hangs above the mantelpiece throughout, a silent witness to the drama unfolding between the corporeal Dennis Heymer and the ghost of his dead soulmate. The pictures sets the sartorial standard which Cartwright’s costume follows exactly, from the cut of his lapels to the narrowness of his tie. This play is an animation of Mendoza’s capturing in oils of her sitter’s ambiguity, calm, and resilience.

This was an early performance of a production much delayed by the COVID crisis. There were faults and unforced errors. The scene of the characters’ first meeting is not blocked well. Farrelly’s impersonation of Peter Cook needs fine tuning and amplifying. A potentially pivotal final moment, in which the departing Howerd puts Heymer’s smoking jacket back on is lost to the audience by Cartwright’s physical bulk along with a chance to see Heymer reflected in Howerd’s eyes.

Farrelly fans, including this one, will not come away disappointed. They will leave with a trove of theatrical treasures that will shine alongside his past performances. They will gain an insight into his method through the addition of a second performer, one skilled and talented enough to more than hold his own alongside the chic sheik of the solo script. For those of us less familiar with Howerd himself, we will gain an insight into genius, a glimpse of the dark matter cushioning every star, a sense of a love that dared not speak its name, but spoke instead in a quiet and gentle whisper.


Reviewer: Dan Lentell

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‘Adolf’ (Town and Gown, 4th & 5th June)

Pip Utton is THE leading solo player strutting the boards in our time.

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Nae Bad)

Among the most damning things that can be said about Adolf Hitler is that he was a politician. Perhaps the most damning thing that can be said about politicians is that Adolf Hitler was one. We know that Hitler was a politician first and foremost because at the end of his 12 year reign of terror and error, the Germany that he had promised to leave stronger, happier, healthier, and wealthier was in utter ruin. Its cities had been shattered. Its youth slaughtered (yet again) on the altar of bombastic statecraft gone wrong. Its minorities piteously tormented, robbed, and murdered under the smiling guise of due process. Germany had been conquered and was occupied by the very people and nations Hitler had spent his public career vilifying. Germany would not be a single, united state again for the better part of half a century. It takes a politician to make such a god awful mess of things.

Hitler was a narcissist, a liar, a user, an abuser, intellectually shallow, personally callow. His biography is a case study in how the divine spark of a rather ordinary human being was snuffed out by a violently tyrannical parent, an indoctrinating hate-fuelled school teacher, a world indifferent to his early self-delusions of grandeur, exposure to the soul-crushing loneliness of life as an urban vagrant and the horrors of industrial warfare on the Western Front. This hapless self-involved manchild, a figure all too familiar these days, was spun by the fates into the author of atrocities great and small from which the world may never recover. Hitler became what he was because instead of seeking therapy he sought votes. He wanted unthinking adulation when he needed unrelenting help. Why would anyone vote for such a sorry specimen of putrid, pusillanimous, perversion?

Pip Utton is THE leading solo player strutting the boards in our time. No one in the business is more respected by their peers for the sheer bloody effort they bring to each game, set, match and championship. When I first reviewed ‘Pip Utton is Charles Dickens’ at EdFringe in 2011 the master was appearing in no less than three separate solo bouts – as Charles Dickens, as the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and as Adolf. It took a toll on the artist, but the art was all the more exquisite for his feat of endurance. Now, with the COVID-crisis having shuttered our theatre spaces, Utton is (naturally) among the first to return. It’s like hearing the purr of a vintage tiger moth or the growl of a perfectly maintained hurricane fighter coming out of a cloudless Duxford sky. A thing of not-so-quiet beauty. An engineering masterpiece roaring back to life.

Utton’s portrait of Hitler is pictured in the bunker in the final hours of that misspent life. Those wanting only a rehash of Bruno Ganz’ landmark and ultra-realistic performance in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 2004 biopic ‘Downfall’ will be disappointed, as will those hoping for a return of the camp clown presented by Dick Shawn in Mel Brooks’ 1967 ‘The Producers’. Pip Utton’s ‘Adolf’ isn’t about Hitler. It’s about us.

The show is about how an expert performer can tempt us, lull us, draw us away from what we know to be right and sink us in a mire of half-baked half truths. It is sad to think how many people come away from their encounter with the ultimate politician believing that none of the health warnings apply to their own preferred pedders of political spume. Arguing that one politician is better than another is like claiming that one bucket of lukewarm vomit tastes better than another. As Dr. Ben Carson put it, “We’ve been conditioned to think that only politicians can solve our problems. But at some point, maybe we will wake up and recognize that it was politicians who created our problems.”

Given how many problems the politician Hitler created for so many people it is a feat of editorial genius that this show is as tightly packed as it is. If the production’s Director, the legendary Guy Masterson no less, were a tailor for M&S we would all be looking sharper than Sinatra on our way to the office. Masterson is a genius for getting even very heavy and cumbersome material to hang just right. For all that this is a dark tragedy, there is a light, even a breezy feel to this intense and intensely upsetting piece of theatre.

Aspects of the script are in need of a little updating. These days Prince Harry wears a mask, not a costume, and wants us all to know that he is woker than woke (and open for business). Utton is in better physical shape than any of us, so the line about a tubby little English actor is as discorant as Blackadder’s describing Hugh Laurie’s Prince Regent as fat. But what’s so impressive (if not altogether unexpected) is how well the script has held up over nearly 30 years of performance. It’s proof positive that we cannot hear its warnings too many times. Whether we choose to heed those warnings on the other hand…


Reviewer: Dan Lentell

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Town and Gown, Cambridge – 2021 Season Interview: Shell Suit Cher AND Believe In Bingo & Bingo at Tiffany’s with Audrey Heartburn!

“Years of dramatic disco dancing and rolling around dance floors has not been kind to my lumbar region.”

WHO: Tracey Collins: Writer and performer

WHAT (Cher): “Imagine if Cher left showbiz behind, swapped leather for leisure wear and became a shell suit wearing, chain smoking, bingo host…

Well, imagine no longer as award-winning performer Tracey Collins brings her brand new weird and wonderful character to the stage for SHELL SUIT CHER: I Believe in Bingo! 

She’s flammable and her balls are on fire! 

* Laugh, dance and play to win life-changing prizes!

* Singalong to all Cher’s hit songs hilariously reworked!

* Be amazed as Shell Suit Cher unzips the story of her wild journey from Vegas to Mecca and beyond! 

She’s got balls babe!

WHAT (Audrey): “Daaarlings!

Calling all dream makers, heart breakers and bingo lovers!

Join award winning character comedian Tracey Collins (Tina T’urner Tea Lady) as she hosts Bingo at Tiffany’s with Audrey Heartburn! An evening of hilarious bingo games, raucous singalongs and glamorous dancing!

Laugh, dance and play to win luxury prizes as Audrey spins her deluxe cage of bingo balls and shakes her maracas to a marvellous party soundtrack.

Fresh from performing all over the UK, including a sell-out Edinburgh Festival Fringe run in 2019, Audrey Heartburn leaves Hollywood once again in search of love and laughter in the real world.”

WHERE: Town and Gown Pub & Theatre, Cambridge

WHEN (Cher): 11th June 2021 and 3 other dates

WHEN (Audrey): 2nd July and 27th August 2021

MORE: Click Here!


What does Cambridge mean to you?

I adore Cambridge! It’s such a beautiful place. I have wonderful memories of going on a guided punt river tour in the winter – which was very romantic. Taking in the architecture and then sitting in a cosy pub for hours.

Tell us about your show.

I perform two regular events at The Town & Gown Theatre. ‘Bingo at Tiffanys with Audrey Heartburn’ and ‘Shell Suit Cher – Believe In Bingo’. The shows merge musical character comedy performance with bingo games.

I’ve been writing and performing character comedy for almost a decade now, and in recent years I have really enjoyed merging my heightened, ridiculous character comedy with songs, games and plenty of audience interaction. Its a chance for the audience to let go, have fun, play together and win some fabulous prizes!

The two shows differ in the concept, story and style. ‘Bingo at Tiffanys’ is a melodramatic, classy, night of entertainment delight! Whereas ‘Believe In Bingo’ is a wild, trashy evening hosted by Cher in a shell suit with pop-rock anthem parody songs and a lot of costume changes!

What kind of art makes you ‘Get Your Coat On’ and go see it?

Oooh I am a huge fan of mixed bill variety shows. I especially love Pull The Other One in London, where you’ll always find incredible creativity and freedom. I love venues such as Bethnal Green Working Mens Club and the eclectic shows they curate. I also adore Lenny Beige and his band of freaks – he always puts on an amazing show.

I love The Edinburgh Festival Fringe and really hoping to return again. Nothing beats having no plan and wandering into a show in a sweaty cave and being mesmerised by an artist/ company you’ve never heard of.

You’re the age you are now. What’s the one thing you wish you could tell your younger self? What’s the one thing you’d like your older self to remember about you now?

I would tell my younger self to look after your back! Years of dramatic disco dancing and rolling around dance floors has not been kind to my lumbar region.

I would like my older self to remember this time of creativity and freedom. To cherish the random and ridiculous memories.


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“The biggest lesson has been to trust in the strength, power and resilience of young carers.” – Playwright Matt Woodhead discusses ‘Who Cares’

“We want to find those unidentified young carers, get them the support they need and tell them – You are not on your own.”

WHAT: “There are an estimated 700,000 young people caring for a loved one in the UK. One third of these young carers come from low income families. Many do not have access to essential technology such as wifi/laptops/smartphones to help them do school work or manage their caring responsibilities.

On 9th February 2021 at 14.15, award-winning ‘​Who Cares’ ​will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4. This gripping verbatim production is based on 2 years of interviews with young carers and offers a rare insight into their lives of young carers in Salford. The show was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the House of Lords and it embarked on two national tours.”

WHO: “Matt Woodhead is the co-artistic director of LUNG. Who Cares was produced by The Lowry and LUNG in partnership with Gaddum.”

LISTEN TO THE SHOW: Here!


Why ‘Who Cares‘?

Oh my days, there are SO MANY reasons why! There are an estimated 450,000 young carers in the UK who are hidden. This means they are caring for a loved one behind closed doors, unknown to services. They literally aren’t
receiving any support. Who Cares is for them. The show has been on two national tours, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and it’s just been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. We want to find those unidentified young carers, get them the support they need and tell them – You are not on your own.

What’s the one thing (is there a one thing?) that individuals can do to support a young person caring for a loved one in the UK?

You’re spot on – there are so many things people can do to support a young carer. One third of young carers are from low income families. We want to get vital technology to these teenagers who need things like laptops and phones to fulfil their caring responsibilities. RIGHT NOW, we are trying to raise £5,000 to support young carers who are facing digital poverty.

The show has played at the Fringe and the UK House of Lords, which crowd is tougher?

I completely filled my pants at the thought of both audiences! Fringe theatre goers were scary coz I got the fear it was going to turn into Mean Girls. Decision makers at the House of Lords was terrifying coz it was like we had one shot to make some political change. It was totally fine though. On both occasions the young people and the power of their stories swooped in and saved the day.

What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of this creative journey?

So many things!!! I think the biggest lesson has been to trust in the strength, power and resilience of young carers. Who Cares is based form 200 hours of interviews with Antonia-Rae, Ciaron, Kerry and Paige. Their voices are at the
heart of this play. These young people spoke their truth and it’s such a powerful thing.

LUNG specialises in verbatim scripts. What are the particular challenges of that method of writing?

If I had a pound for every time I went into an existential tail spin about making verbatim theatre, I’d be loaded. For me, the thing that keeps me up at night is whether the people whose story is being told are happy. With Who Cares it’s been so important that Antonia-Rae, Ciaron, Kerry and Paige have been involved in every step of the process. Casting, reading drafts of the script, choosing the songs in the show – you name it, they did it. A lot of challenges that verbatim theatre sometimes throws up have been resolved by giving autonomy over to these young carers. This has been the key to making the play so artistically exciting.

Verbatim scripts often focus on important stories, stories that involve a lot of heartache. Are there any lighter moments to be had along the way?

Even in some of the darkest moments in life, I think it’s human to find joy. There are so many light moments in ‘Who Cares‘. As well as focusing on the reality of caring for a loved one, the play gives an insight into the day to day drama of being a teenager. There is everything in this play from the crush of the morning school bus to failed dates at Nando’s.

How have the original contributors responded to seeing their lives on stage?

Ah it’s been amazing. Antonia-Rae, Ciaron, Kerry and Paige all did speeches when the show was performed at the House of Lords. For me it was so humbling and incredible to see these young carers not only standing up for their rights, but for the rights of young carers across the UK. I don’t want to steal their thunder though… If anyone wants to hear what they made of the play, check out the BBC Broadcast, they do a fantastic segment at the end…

What should be the one thing that people know about ‘Who Cares‘ before taking their seats?

This is real life. These are real stories. This is happening right now.

You’ve been a script reader for Leeds Playhouse, Chichester Festival Theatre; The Papatango Playwriting Prize. What are you looking for? What’s the thing most likely to set off an alarm bell or make you shout ‘NEXT!’ in you head?

For me it’s all about the story and the voice. Andrea Dunbar wrote her first play in the back of an exercise book. It’s not about having a polished script that is beautifully formatted. I think for writers, the main thing is having a story you are burning to tell. A story that can’t wait another second longer to be told. That is usually the most powerful thing.

What’s next for LUNG and ‘Who Cares‘?

LOADS. We are not slowing down. We have a sexy, high quality recording of the show and education resources to accompany it. This will be rolled out nationally in the autumn for schools to access for free. If any teachers or services that support young carers would like more information, click here!

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Interview: seeds (postponed for the duration)

“…brace yourself, you’re in for an emotive and important ride!”

WHO: Anastasia Osei-Kuffour, actor

WHAT: “On Michael Thomas’ birthday, his cake sits in his mother’s living room, its candles burning undisturbed. Jackie wants to clear her conscience, whilst Evelyn’s got a big speech to deliver on the 15th anniversary of Michael’s fatal stabbing. Are some things better left unsaid?

Shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award, seeds tells the story of two mothers united in sorrow, sharing the hardship of protecting their sons.”

WHERE: Traverse 2

DATES: Postponed for the duration

TIMES: 20:00

MORE: Click Here! (Including information about possible disruptions to the tour)


Why ‘seeds’?

When I first read the play, the writing hooked me: the measured way Mel writes means you’re constantly trying to work out what is and will happen. It’s a real thriller. I feel that it’s unique in its representation of two middle-aged women, two mothers fighting for their sons in a world where the rise in knife crime means that too many families are dealing with the aftermath of these tragedies.

What’s the one thing about this show that everyone should know BEFORE they take their seats?

This play presents two characters often underrepresented on stage and deals with subjects that feel so urgent. It might feel tense, uncomfortable at times and triggering because of the subject matter it explores but these ideas need to be explored in order to create change. So brace yourself, you’re in for an emotive and important ride!

What makes this production unique?

The fact that it looks at those left behind after a tragic incident, years after it happened, which is something that the media doesn’t often do. I feel that, as a society, we need to support those who are still dealing with the pain of loss years later and be aware of the effects it has on families and loved ones. ‘seeds’ explores real-world, important issues, it feels like something that can touch people and be a catalyst for change.

What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of rehearsals?

That this production was going to work out as well as it has. At the start of working on any project, you hope and pray that you can create something of quality that resonates with people. I knew that the material was strong, so I wanted to do it justice. The feedback from audiences has been very positive so far so I really thank God for what we as a team have achieved.


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Antigone, Interrupted (The Traverse: Feb 20 – 22 : 19:30: 1hr)

“An elegant and transparent solo piece of dance”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

Antigone, interrupted is somatic poetry, cathartic ritual, political embodiment. 

Lately I’ve been coming back to Jonathan Burrows’s handbook and something I read really caught my eye: Simple things sometimes accumulate in virtuosistic ways. 

That’s the beauty of simplicity: with few tools we treasure infinite assets. Antigone, interrupted is an elegant and transparent solo piece of dance where the Greek tragedy is revisited through contemporary storytelling. 

It is great to see a collaboration that actually depicts Scotland’s reality: heterogeneous, European, international. Under the direction of Joan Clevillé (Catalan), the body of Solene Weinachter (French) orbits around the myth while her voice lies behind, to gently comment about  it with the audience. Sortir-de-soi- the Anagnorisis of the character/performer of Antigone. 

French philosophy comes to mind. Solene’s movement seems to deconstruct the levels of the body, unravelling the corps sans organes (the body without organs) of Deleuze, closely linked with the Théâtre de la Cruauté ( Theatre of Cruelty) of Artaud- how the State exercises violence against the bodies, and punishes them (Foucault). Modern Day Catalonia’s situation (just to name one) comes to mind. Young bodies and old bodies getting hit, bodies stretching, bodies longing from freedom. This longing, along with Antigone’s moral fight, is sketched in Solene’s movement when she plays with disruption, intermittence, reassembly, estrangement, awkwardness. The conversation with Creon using her feet while talking is a defiance of power (mockery of modern politician’s gesticulation?). In any case, the way Solene interprets Creon and the Chorus is a clear political parody. 

Discovering the revolutionary body, Antigone, interrupted is also an analysis of desire. Desire blooms out of an absence. Freedom and desire are like Eros and Thanatos: they are interdependent. The dynamic and pulse of the choreography is anxious, violent, organic- the character is in Agon, in agony. The body recognises its own existence: it’s corrupted, it’s dirty, it sweats, it squirms, it struggles, it’s exposed, it’s naked, it’s covered, it falls, it rises. 

The ritual side of Greek drama (post-modern performance always wants to come back to that moment) is honored on this show. The clever configuration of the audience, oval and on-stage, improves audience’s immersion, like a storytelling session or a foliada around the hearth. Sharing time, just breathing, we meet the Catharsis. Word and movement are completely melted. It’s not just related with time or silence- Solene’s dance outlines her words and her voice structures her movement. Literal body language. Solene Weinachter has, like a friend would say, a Daimon that is shown on her multifaceted skills. The dramaturgy is clearly made for her comedy and naturalness. Despite being a tragedy, we couldn’t stop laughing throughout the show. Through dance, power and old-fashioned narratives can be subverted. Maybe the birth of tragedy was that.

outstanding

StarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Helena Salguiero (Seen 20 Feb)

Interview: Harpy (20 March ’20)

“Sometimes the life beyond Edinburgh for a piece comes in a way you never imagined. It always surprises.”

WHO: Philip Meeks: Writer

WHAT: “National treasure Su Pollard gives a one-woman tour-de-force performance in this razor-sharp and bittersweet dark drama.

Birdie’s a hoarder. The neighbours call her a harridan and a harpy, although most have never even met her. They see her hoard as a hazard for house prices. But it isn’t rubbish. It’s her life’s work and it exists because years ago something deeply cherished was stolen from her; Birdie’s not been able to give up anything since.
She’ll do anything to get this priceless thing back. Anything at all.

National treasure Su Pollard gives a one-woman tour-de-force performance in this razor-sharp and bittersweet dark drama from Fringe First award-winner Philip Meeks (‘Kiss Me Honey, Honey!‘, ‘Murder, Margaret and Me’).”

WHERE: Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh

DATES: 20 March

TIMES: 19:30

MORE: Click Here!


Why Harpy?

Harpy is one of the many derogatory terms about women borrowed from mythology. I’m sure these terms were originally used in this way by men and since one of the themes of the play is that men are frightened of women, like rich people are frightened of poor people, I decided it was a good short sharp title.

The play is also partly a homage to the sub-genre of horror films often called Grand Dame Guignol. The first of these was ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane‘, which was born out of cruelty. Jack Warner wanted to see how desperate two of his aging out of work stars really were. He cast Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as aged grotesques and then marketed the film by spinning tales of battles between the pair on set. Of course, these two fantastic women triumphed and the movie saw a revival of both their careers. So, Harpy has a sort of dark thriller feel to it.

Finally, the story is about a hoarder and in mythology Harpies hoarded precious things they often stole from their victims.

Harpy premiered at EdFringe’18. Does the Fringe still have value as an incubator of productions?

Absolutely. But you have to really work out what you’re doing when you take something there. I’ve tried taking plays that already existed and it can feel like knocking a square peg in a round hole. I think its best if you do something you create specifically for the environment. An idea you know you will be able to expand and build upon beyond the time and production constraints of Edinburgh. But first you have to have to focus on making it as complete as it can be for Edinburgh and have no expectations for a life beyond. Often you can have a huge success and the play will never see the light of day again. Sometimes the life beyond Edinburgh for a piece comes in a way you never imagined. It always surprises.

Of course you need stamina for Edinburgh. It’s a bit more brutal than it used to be. But whenever you feel you’ve got a huge disaster on your hands you don’t have to try too hard to find someone having a tougher time than you. In 2018 one of the shows at our venue was really struggling and I overheard one of the actors desperately trying to flog it to punters by saying, “you must come and see us. We share a dressing room with Su Pollard.”

Are there any differences between what was on stage in ’18 and what’s going on stage in 2020?

We have a largely new creative team and the director Abigail is bringing a wonderful energy to the proceedings – she’s really asked me why I’ve written what I’ve written. It’s great to be challenged so wonderfully and makes the writing process far less lonely. The production is bigger and we’ve now got an elaborate set full of surprises, more musical moments and far more nods to movies that inspired it. I think its sadder and funnier. I’ve also been able to build upon the fact that it is set in the corner of South London where I live and all the people Birdie encounters actually exist.

What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of rehearsals? 

Why there are so many parakeets living in London! The reason is now in the play and it’s one of my favourite bits.


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