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More Camden Fringe Interviews and Previews

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Here is our second set interviews and previews with makers of fringe theatre, comedy, cabaret, dance and more…

You can access more interviews here.



PREVIEW

PowerPlay takes a wry look at politics – and BrexitPowerPlay takes a wry look at politics – and Brexit

PowerPlay

PowerPlay is a new play for the Camden Fringe 2018, written and directed by former Member of Parliament Tom Levitt. 

About the Play

It’s 2022, shortly after the next general election, and Britain is governed by a coalition of national unity in a period of post-Brexit-transition transition. Two newly elected MPs, of contrasting backgrounds, meet face to face for the first time – in a secure room deep inside a Middle Eastern airport.

Unaware of why they’ve been detained, their only link with the outside world is through staff from the British Embassy. In this fable of what can happen when historic alliances are abandoned in favour of new rules for their own sake, the play takes a wry look at politics, democracy and Brexit before reaching a somewhat absurd – if inevitable – conclusion.

Its premiere is at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Camden on 1st August (8pm) and it’s also on 4th and 5th August (both 5pm). The play also shows at the Anteros Arts Centre in Norwich on 2nd and 3rd August (both 7.30pm).

Tom was Labour MP for High Peak from 1997 to 2010 and has been on many Parliamentary delegations – though not quite like this one. In 2010 he wrote and performed ‘Making Allowances’, again in Camden, a play about the MPs’ expenses scandal. He has performed his own show ‘No End of an Ass’ at the Buxton Fringe and is a former panellist on Nick Revell’s ‘No Pressure to be Funny’ occasional topical stage show.

The cast are seasoned actors from the Norwich area: Clive Stubbs, Joanna Swan, Ian Alldiss and Geir Madland (links to the actors’ ‘Mandy’ profiles). Fourth Sector Theatre Company was established for this performance under the auspices of Sector 4 Focus, Tom’s responsible business consultancy.

More details: http://sector4focus.co.uk/home/powerplay/

Dates, time and booking info here



INTERVIEW

Writer/Director Liam Lemkin Anderson from Tapioka Arts Collective talks about Wolf

Wolf

What’s the theme of your show?

Wolf is a twisted modern fairy tale that explores power, storytelling and retribution in the wake of the MeToo scandal.

What’s new or unique about the show?

Wolf draws from age old fairy tale traditions and presents familiar tropes in a modern context. However, the play then scrutinises those ideas and challenges their implications through the lens of the discourses that have emerged from the MeToo era concerning power, gender, consent and the justice system.

How did the show come into being?

The show began as a ten-page dialogue exercise. It then grew into a one act play that received a professional staged reading at the Hope Theatre. Then, after development workshops and professional feedback, Wolf developed into a full length three act play.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

The play is a continuous power struggle between the two characters. In our rehearsals we have placed an emphasis on working on how to depict those power shifts. In one of our first rehearsals we broke down the play’s events into which character held the power and why. From there we then discussed the ways in which that power would manifest onstage and whose side we want the audience to be on at different stages in the text.

How is the show developing?

The show is developing through the actors. This is a character driven, dialogue heavy play and we are working hard to bring out the nuances and complexities of the text through an acute understanding of the characters and their backgrounds.

How has the writer been involved?

The writer is also working as the co-director.

How have you experimented?

The play poses a multitude of questions surrounding innocence and culpability, but it leaves most of the answers up to the audience. Whilst we have decided that it is important for us to know our own answers, we have experimented with different ways that we can suggest innocence and culpability to the audience without offering definitive answers.

Where do your ideas come from?

The ideas in this play were drawn from my fascination and love of folklore and storytelling. However, many of our cultural mythologies are problematic yet their influence is far reaching. The play is heavily influenced by many of the events and stories that emerged from the MeToo scandal. I sought to draw parallels between the problematic ideas within our folklore and the contemporary issues regarding power, gender and sex.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

I like to make shows that linger in the minds of its audiences. Theatre is a immersive and participatory experience that should engage its audience beyond just the 90 minutes of the show. I think it’s important to find ideas and innovative ways of forcing that level of engagement and challenging the audience to evaluate the assumptions that they held before they entered the theatre space.

What are your future plans for the show ?

After the Camden Fringe we hope to take the show to other venues in London before applying for festivals in 2019 such as Vault and Edinburgh Fringe.

Show dates, times and booking info: The Cockpit.
9pm, July 31st.
http://thecockpit.org.uk/show/wolf

Book here



PREVIEW

A Game Of Two Halves presents Terry and Jude

Terry and Jude

About the show

Jude is desperate for a child, Terry is lost and looking for company. In a thought provoking, bittersweet, light comedy drama one of them decides to make the other an offer he can’t refuse! Written by Rod Silvers in collaboration with James Petherick, ‘Terry and Jude’ tackles the rarely explored subject; childless men. From the older man’s perspective it looks at the impact on their lives, their ex-partners and their futures.

Making it’s debut at the 2018 Camden Fringe the story draws it’s inspiration from the Rod Silvers 2011 short film ‘England Expects’.

‘We wanted to produce a play that will encourage a dialogue. There are thousands of men that want, but for various reasons can’t have children. We both know through personal experience how difficult this can be and the consequences of it. Terry and Jude gives a voice to those men’.

About the performer

James Petherick has been an actor for 26 years appearing in shows such as ‘Eastenders’, ‘Saxondale’ and ‘Chucklevision’ amongst others. He also appeared as Doc Brown in ‘Back to the Future’…in Japanese!

Former stand up comic and now actor, Rod Silvers has written plays and sketches for the Edinburgh Fringe as well as BBC Radio 4. He is about to publish his first novel ‘Chips On My Shoulders’. As an actor he has appeared in TV and film such as ‘Agent Cody Banks 2’, ‘The Infidel’ and ‘Namastay 2’.

Show details and booking

Upstairs at the Gatehouse, The Gatehouse, Highgate
Village, London N6 4BD

Mon 13 Aug 2018 7:00pm £12.00 (£10.00 concs)
Tue 14 Aug 2018 8:45pm £12.00 (£10.00 concs)
Wed 15 Aug 2018 7:00pm £12.00 (£10.00 concs) Thu 16 Aug 2018 8:45pm £12.00 (£10.00 concs)
Fri 17 Aug 2018 7:00pm £12.00 (£10.00 concs)
Sat 18 Aug 2018 8:45pm £12.00 (£10.00 concs)

Sun 19 Aug 2018 6:00pm £12.00 (£10.00 concs)

Book here



COMEDY INTERVIEW

Ros Ballinger talks about Better Than Dying Alone

Better Than Dying Alone

What’s the theme of your show?

The show reflects on my lack of a romantic life, despite a very active and adventurous sex life, and examines how and using what tactics I can achieve a monogamous relationship…or whether I even should.

How did your show come into being?

I’ve spent the last few years developing and performing my first show ‘The Idiot’s Guide to Kink’, which was about my adventures in S&M, and through that and the ‘research’ I undertook in that area, I realised the longer I went on that although I was very active in bed, I was being ‘left behind’ by friends developing meaningful relationships, and getting married. So I was inspired to write about my experiences of searching for love and the battle of having fun vs. settling down – which I’ve done.

How did you get into comedy and have you ever died on stage?

I got into comedy through meeting comedians at improv classes, and hooked up with the team at my local university at the time, who workshopped my material and gave me my first ever performance opportunity.

Like any comedian, I’ve died on stage a few times; the worst time certainly had to be when I picked on an audience member who’d been picked on by the compere earlier in the evening, and when I asked her a question, it turned out she’d fallen asleep, and I’d woken her up.

There was the guy who heckled me by yelling out, “ANAL!” that time as well…

How are you experimenting or trying something new in this show?: When I did Idiot’s Guide, I’d never seen S&M discussed extensively in a stand-up show, at least not as something to be unilaterally mocked. I feel that I cornered a niche in discussing those issues, and also have started to develop a standing on the fetish circuit, which a lot of people don’t realise has opportunities for comedians, and pays well! I like to speak honestly and explicitly about sexual experiences on stage, without any shame or need for justification.

Who or what are your comedy influences?

Two Victorias; Victoria Wood and Victoria Pile. Jessica Hynes, Sue Perkins, Ian Martin, Armando Iannucci, Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Dara O’Briain, Adam Hills…the list is endless.

Your show details: Dates, times, venues and booking info

7-11th August, 9:30pm, Camden Comedy Club
Tickets £7, on the door or online, see link below:
Book here



INTERVIEW

Pol Penter talks about Sertraline Queen

What’s the theme of your show?

It’s a one-woman stand-up show ostensibly themed around mental health, but really it’s about a lot of things, including flying, escaped crocodiles and the incongruity of oyster bars in airports. It even includes a couple of songs.

What’s new or unique about the show?

On the surface it feels like a topic that’s been overdone (I joke that I am a comedian talking about her mental health struggles, and my follow-up show will be about how the Pope is a Catholic) but there’s still plenty to talk about, and different ways to approach that sort of subject. There are lots of amazing comedians I’ve seen who sort of play a character onstage that’s awkward or lonely or an outsider, and use that as a basis to talk about mental health. I’m naturally an extrovert, so am trying to approach the subject in a very upbeat way that might hopefully be enjoyable to people.

How did the show come into being?

I’ve been doing stand-up for several years and wanted to try doing a show on my own. I had enough material, and was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of it fitted quite neatly together. I originally started doing stand-up as an escape during a very odd period in my life, when my birth family (I’m adopted) had all turned up out of the blue, and a lot of the content of the show grew out of that. 

I’ve done a couple of previews, which were really useful. I cut some stuff altogether (the bits that got no laughs at all!) and extended a couple of sections. So I’m now feeling fairly happy with it.

How have you experimented?

I’ve only recently added songs to my show. I’ve always enjoyed singing but wasn’t sure how to incorporate it into my act, but it seems to work (I hope!) I also couldn’t play anything useful (the violin doesn’t led itself to comic songs!) so took up the ukulele as a way of accompanying myself.

Where do your ideas come from?

Everyday life and experience. A lot of my material isn’t “written” so much as stolen from daily encounters and maybe embellished a bit. I also really enjoying doing different voices, so have made the most of material that lends itself to that.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

If I see/hear something funny I write it down, and challenge myself to try to do something new at every gig, even if it’s just rewording an existing joke or story.

What are your future plans for the show ?

I’d love to take it to other festivals or fringes, but I’ll see how this one goes first!

What are your favourite shows, and why?

I’m a big Radio 4 fan – I like clever comedy, and I love a good pun (but can never think of any myself). I discovered Mitch Benn when I was 17 and have loved every show of his I’ve seen. He’s probably the reason I’ve finally put some tentative songs into the show. At the Fringe this year I’m also really looking forward to seeing Tez Ilyas. He’s a genius, and a Northerner like me!

Show dates, times and booking info

Monday 30th July and Tuesday 31st July, 6.30pm, Camden Comedy Club, Camden High Street.

Book here



INTERVIEW

Exploring Complicity: Performer/Writer Chloe Hatherley from Powder & Ink talks about Oubliette

Oubliette

What’s the theme of your show?

Oubliette is primarily a show about complicity, the extent to which those around us can be held accountable for our actions, and the complicated nature of what it is to exist closely beside those in power. The piece also explores narcissism and self-obsession, isolation and the consequences of a deeply inequitable society.

What’s new or unique about the show?

We see women in Oubliette’s position every day on the news- women who do not directly hold power, but pictures and stories of their fashion, charitable visits and society gatherings flood the media constantly, often presented as escapism from the usual ‘depressing news’. This piece is unique in that it addresses how celebrity culture can be harnessed to distract from horrors in the world but presents this seemingly modern concept in a historical context.

How did the show come into being?

I graduated from the Arts University Bournemouth last year without an agent, and so I set about creating this piece in order to try and gain some representation. I’ve always been fascinated by history and so wanted to create a piece that both reflected my love of the past, but also that was resonant to today. I initially set out to make it a two-hander, with Oubliette and a tutor teaching her etiquette, but something just wasn’t working. It took the decision to have her four siblings present in the piece to really get things going!

Describe one of your rehearsals.

Since it’s a one-woman show, the rehearsal process is quite sporadic- I can do little bits and pieces whenever, wherever I need to. Mostly I’ve been rehearsing in a music room in a school, learning the pages before I get in the room and then listening to music in the space to find the emotion and movement. Then it’s just putting the two together. In upcoming rehearsals, since multi-roling is featured quite heavily, I’ll be exploring the characterisation of Oubliette’s four siblings, and how I will uniquely distinguish each one using my body and voice.

How is the show developing?

The development of the show has been a very challenging personal experience- I initially wrote the piece for five actors but didn’t get enough responses to the casting call. The piece has had to be re-worked to be for one actor, some characters’ roles had to be diminished, others given more, to make multi-roling easier. It was disheartening, and honestly, very isolating, but it just proves that theatre is organic and has to evolve with your changing circumstances. And the show is still evolving!

Where do your ideas come from?

I am always inspired by history, and people’s lives- Oubliette was inspired by the Romanov children’s experience of being under house arrest during the Russian Revolution. I also love a sense of fantastical in my work, a dream-like or faerie tale quality, to establish with the audience that it is quite literally another world on stage, and for this, I love taking inspiration from nature.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

By taking ambitious leaps of faith- like putting on this show!

What are your future plans for the show ?

I’d love to try again to produce it in its original form, with five actors. I think it’d be interesting to see how I could bring this version and the original version together in one show!

Show dates, times and booking info

Hen and Chickens Theatre
13th/14th/15th August – 6pm
25th/26th August – 3pm

Book here

Company web site: https://www.chloehatherley.co.uk/



INTERVIEW

Olugbeminyi Bammodu, Director/Playwright from HiddenViewz talks about Clingfilm

Clingfilm

What’s the theme of your show?

Love…

Loss
Heartbreak
Growing Up
Money
Art

What’s new or unique about the show?

It’s a new show written by me and is very contemporary and I feel relates to everyone in some way and deals with universal themes, that everyone regardless of socio-economic standing, race, gender, sexuality and religion can enjoy.

How did the show come into being?

After being a part of the cast a show, which was in the Camden Fringe last year, it inspired me to write my own.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

A lot of my rehearsals are about fingin’ fun and interesting ways to bring the correct energy and feel to the scenes. I like to explore scenes through games and do a lot of improv around the world of the play with the actors to allow them to explore who the characters are and then bring that to the text.

How is the show developing?

The show is at a stage now where the actors are really getting a sense of the interpersonal relationships and the script is forever changing slightly and i hope improving from these changes.

How has the writer been involved?

I am the writer and director so I’ve been very involved in one sense, but i like to think that i can split Director and Writer me up and switch between the two depending on which me is needed in the rehearsal room.

How have you experimented?

I’m very big on letting the actors help develop the work and when a scene isn’t working for some reason, allowing the actors to drop scripts and just improvise and let something organic form.

Where do your ideas come from?

They just pop into my head to be honest. Sometimes I just being to write ad find the meaning of it later on.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

I try make all my characters 3 dimensional and i think being an actor myself, i try to write to the demands of actors who want to play complex characters.

What are your future plans for the show ?

To see how Camden goes and take it from there. That may mean a bigger Fringe Festival or back to refining the script.

What are your favourite shows, and why?

I love ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf’. Its just layered so beautifully and it relies on having strong actors and dialogue. There is nothing to hide behind.

Show dates, times and booking info

The Water Rats
7pm (90mins)
30th July -1st August
Book here

Company web site: https://www.hiddenviewz.co.uk/



INTERVIEW

Exploring Communication: Writer/Producer David Coverdale talks about To Anyone Who Listens

To Anyone Who Listens

What’s the theme of your show?

The overriding theme of To Anyone Who Listens is communication. We meet a family at various points over a five year period, including times of crisis, breakdown or renewed understanding.

Joshua, who may not necessarily be the central character in the piece but certainly acts as a catalyst for events around him, suffers with a wide range of mental health issues and there are a number of occasions we encounter him sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

The play also deals heavily in the idea of truth – and what that means, and how the truth can be manipulated to suit the end of an individual.

What’s new or unique about the show?

It would be foolish of me to say that my play was unique because of the fact it carries a major plot point involving mental health. What makes this work different is that the focus is on the family left on the outside – not necessarily on the person living with mental health issues. This play carries a huge amount of truth and real life experience as I have been that person left on the outside trying to process what is happening to a loved one, and I have had the difficult conversations trying to fill the silence in times like that.

My main aim when writing the play was to illustrate that families facing trials such as a sectioned loved one, still face the same trials any other family would consider ‘normal’ and how sometimes there can be a small comfort, if only for a moment, in tackling an every day problem.

How did the show come into being?

I can tell you the exact date and time I first began work on To Anyone Who Listens. Thursday 2nd February 2017, at approximately 10pm. It was the second day of the 28 Plays Later writing challenge and I had just finished a ten hour shift at work. I already felt out of my depth with the challenge and was so close to throwing the towel in and admitting I had bitten off more than I could chew. My partner forced me to sit down with my computer and just write whatever came into my head so I could survive through to day 3 of the challenge.

It was in the following half an hour that Joshua wandered into my head, clutching his plant pot (see the play, and all will become clear!). The opening monologue of the play remains almost entirely unchanged from when I first wrote it 18 months ago.

Turns out I was right about the challenge being more than I could handle – I dropped out on day 18, not bad considering I had never written a word in my life prior to February 1st 2017. Whilst I was handling the daily challenges much better, I could not shake my focus from Joshua and the family beginning to form around him. I promised myself I would continue to write every day until I found closure with the project – and whilst I didn’t necessarily stick to writing every day, I never imagined I would still be spending time with Joshua and his family over a year later.

The first version of the play appeared in the 2017 Stockwell Playhouse One Act Festival and came highly commended in all three categories – writing, direction and performance. That night was the first time I had ever seen work I had produced be a real living thing on a stage – and it is a night I will never forget. It was overwhelming, terrifying but by far the most fulfilled I have ever felt creatively (and that is coming from a chap who had a spectacularly unsuccessful career as an actor…)

What I also won’t forget is the immediate crash down to earth we received upon leaving the theatre to find ourselves in the midst of the London Bridge terror attack last June.

The Camden Fringe festival was on my radar for around six months prior to submitting my application. I won’t lie – I was so unconvinced by the idea of submitting my play that I had to sink rather a lot of gin in order to finally hit the ‘send’ button on the application.

As far as the production itself goes, it is a product of me working a ridiculous amount of over time between January and March. The project is entirely self funded (and I made a promise to myself that every actor and creative involved in the process would be paid) and seems like a pretty damn good way of spending some extra money I worked extremely hard for.

But here we are… eighteen months on from the very first draft, six months from the gin soaked night I submitted my application, an absurd number of rewrites and a major restructure, an invited read through at the Wyndhams Theatre (cool, right? It was crazy – I had the most amazing day) and it is now just over three weeks until the first audience sit down at the Hen and Chickens.

Deep breath.

How is the show developing?

I have a feeling I answered this in my ridiculously long answer to ‘How did the show come into being?’

If you made it through that section and are reading this – congratulations. You’ve survived me waffling on.

Although as I was writing this, the final set design landed in my inbox and I did a little happy dance.

Focus, David…

Shall we carry on..? Yes. Let’s go for it!

How has the writer been involved?

This is probably a question for my director to answer – but as I’m here, I’ll go for it! This has been a REALLY challenging part of the process. Being a writer is great, but being a first time writer is both great and terrifying. I’ve had to hand control of my ‘baby’ over to the creative team now – and I’ve had to learn to butt out and leave them to do the job I’ve asked them to do!

I intend to appear at the beginning of the very first rehearsal, and then not appear again until the final run through before we go into tech.

Being the writer who is also the producer of the project is both a blessing and a curse. I have had to learn the boundaries very quickly, and where I need to speak up and where I need to sit down, shut up and have a coffee.

And hey, on the plus side, producers sit and do sums and drive themselves to close insanity over ticket sales. My ‘day job’ is being a Deputy Box Office Manager on a major West End show – it’s almost like being at work!

And if I was to ask my director this question, I remain optimistic that he’d say I was wonderful and a joy to work with. Mostly because I always buy the beer when we meet to talk shop.

Where do your ideas come from?

The idea for this play originally came from nowhere. It then became very clear the more I wrote, that this was actually therapy for me and a way of dealing with something I had been through. Once the original draft was finished, I felt I understood my feelings more than I ever had done. At that point, I briefly stopped working on the play.

I then realised there was a real story here, and it was my job to write it. We all have our own story, and this one was definitely mine to tell. Woah, cliche. But true. The focus of the piece shifted away from Joshua, and it became about his entire family.

A lot of my ideas came from conversations I had with my family during the difficult times. The piece has a very strong northern voice – and that is also where a lot of the humour in the piece comes from. I was initially reluctant to label the piece as a family drama – until I realised that families are very funny things, and we all have a specific language through which we communicate.

What are your future plans for the show ?

I am under no illusion that this production will be the finished article. I am certain there will be further tweaks to be made – I know the audience engaging and reacting will tell me everything I need to know about what works and what doesn’t.

The ULTIMATE goal for the piece is for it to play eventually at a venue like the West Yorkshire Playhouse (or the Leeds Playhouse, but I will never adjust to calling it that). I fell in love with theatre at that venue, long before I moved to London, and as there is such a northern spirit and voice at the centre of the piece – it seems the perfect venue.

I am also incredibly interested in the fact the Trafalgar Studio have started programming short runs of new writing in Studio 2 – gosh, what a moment that would be for me if it was to happen.

Of course there are many steps and obstacles in the way before I could potentially get close to these goals – but hey, why not?

An extended fringe run in London is absolutely on the cards, and I have extended invites already to a number of people who could potentially make that happen.

What are your favourite shows, and why?

My answer to this question changes daily. Outside of writing, and working in a theatre, I also seem to spend most of my days off at theatres also.

I set myself a challenge in 2017 to see 100 different pieces of theatre – and I did! My count for 2018 is currently at 52.

Highlights so far for me have been The Inheritance at the Young Vic, Girls and Boys at the Royal Court, Fun Home at the Young Vic and Nine Night at the National Theatre.

I also saw My Name is Rachel Corrie last year and it absolutely rocked my world.

Show dates, times and booking info

We are playing at the Hen and Chickens Theatre on Friday 17th August (9pm), Saturday 18th August (4:30pm) and Sunday 19th August (3pm)

All tickets are £10 and available at: https://cam.tickets.red61.com/performances.php?eventId=3113:2462

Or book here



INTERVIEW

Devised Theatre: Heidi Nielsen, Associate Artist at Fingers Crossed talks about Central (Story) Line

What’s the theme of your show?

Closing borders, refugees, WW2, friendship, antisemitism, history repeating itself.

What’s new or unique about the show?

Central (Story) Line is a play more relevant than ever as we watch world events slowly taking the direction of something we’ve seen before…

The play starts in 1940, when the last Kindertransport to escape the German forces arrives in London and three Jewish children are left on their own.

The whole play is sat in a London tube, and every scene jumps 10 years as we watch the three main characters grow up.

The show premiered last year at the IF 2017 festival at East 15 Acting School, where was live-streamed to 30+ contries and received great feedback from audience members around the world.

How did the show come into being?

It started with a ride on the tube where we encountered to elderly gentlemen who where lifelong friends, and we wanted to go back in time and see their friendship from childhood, through adulthood and to where they were now.

As artists we were quite concerned with the refugee crisis that hit Europe in 2015 and still is going on, and we wondered why the United Kingdom, who accepted 10.000 unaccompanied Jewish child refugees before WW2, now is closing their borders on unaccompanied Syrian child refugees.

We wanted to tell the story of the young Holocaust survivors.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

After lots of research, watching documentaries, reading books/biographies, talking to family members of the Holocaust survivors, we partly wrote the play and devised the show on our feet.

A typical rehearsal with director Daniela Atiencia starts with intense physical ensemble building exercises, in depth text analysis, character exploration exercises and finally detailed scene work on our feet.

Even though the topics of the play are heavy, we also have a lot of humor and heart warming moments found through playing games and engaging improvisations.

How is the show developing?

We’ve been working on the show since 2017, and after a great short run in November we have made some rewrites and are now ready to take the show to four different London venues in August and September.

How has the writer been involved?

The three actors have devised and written the show. The director has been the dramaturg of the story.

How have you experimented?

Lots of improvs. Lots of rewrites. Staged readings for an audience.
We did a full run on the Central Line, which really engaged the passengers.

Where do your ideas come from?

With all the historical events we’ve encountered in just a lifetime and – really – in just the last two years, loads of topics have inspired and provoked us to make this show.

We often try out loads of ideas in rehearsal and after ditching 95% of the ideas we end up with the cleanest and most effective scenes.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

The devising process of this play has been very exciting and challenging. It’s always tricky to devise a show since we’re all equal contributors to the development of the story therefore agreeing isn’t always a smooth process.

We have shown our scenes to a smaller audience and then rework the show from the feedback we receive.

What are your future plans for the show ?

After our runs in August and September we are hoping to take the show to bigger Off-West End venues.

Show dates, times and booking info: AUGUST 8-11, 7.30pm – MONKEY HOUSE
AUGUST 16-17, 8.00pm – ACTORS CENTRE (part of the John Thaw Initiative)
AUGUST 22-23, 7.15pm – CAMDEN PEOPLE’S THEATRE
SEPTEMBER 9-13, 8.30pm – THEATRE N16

Book here

Company web site: http://www.fingerscrossedtheatre.com



INTERVIEW

Relationships in Extreme Circumstances: Actor Rachel Thomas from 7th Sense Theatre Company talks about Memory Soldier

Memory Soldier

What’s the theme of your show?

Memory Soldier is a story about relationships in extreme circumstances, looking at the effects of PTSD not just on the sufferer, but the people who love them. Through honest, unfiltered characters with their own voices, moments of humour and exploring the brotherhood and family found on the front line.

What’s new or unique about the show?

PTSD, particularly in military veterans, is a topic that’s been covered quite regularly in theatre over the last few years, especially since the emergence of traumaculture in the 90’s. What sets Memory Soldier apart is that in what Jason Warren refers to as ‘A muscular yet sensitive dissection of a pervasive crisis’, Memory Soldier focuses not on the war or PTSD itself, but provides a new angle by looking at the wider impact of the issue.

Often, theatre or films dealing with PTSD show the sufferer flipping tables and punching walls, but in Memory Soldier we never see that. The danger is there, but never the action. In fact, in Memory Soldier, the character suffering from PTSD is probably the least interesting character – the relationships at stake become the ‘thing’ instead.
Without ever side-stepping the realities of living with PTSD, Memory Soldier follows these ripples out from the initial trigger, becoming not a political or judgemental narrative, but a story about real characters, relationships, love and friendship in the face of crisis instead.

How did the show come into being?

Phillip John Jones, one of the founding members of 7th Sense Theatre, first came up with the idea that sparked Memory Soldier on hearing the sound of a metal teaspoon being stirred inside a mug. This set in motion an influx of ideas about the impact of sound triggers and silence on returning from a warzone – where silence can only mean very few things – and the impact these little everyday sounds might have once a soldier returns home. This developed into a pitch for a new play looking at a story of relationships in extreme circumstances, and Memory Soldier is the result!

Memory Soldier was created and devised by the company from this initial spark, and first performed as part of the MAP Festival at East15 Acting School. It is now being redeveloped and extended for the Camden Fringe 2018.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

Our rehearsals are focused, but creative, active and usually a lot of fun! We’re very much company based, and we take care to do a lot of work as an ensemble, even on the scenes we’re not personally involved in. Our rehearsal room walls are usually plastered with paper full of ideas and images, and we usually get some Nirvana or similar punk-rock music going in the background during our warm ups.

We also nominate roles per rehearsal as a company, deciding who will facilitate writing, direction, and our group warm up for that day, so our outside eyes on scenes are being consistently shaken up and refreshed. Most of our creation happens through extended improvisations, which we then redirect and uproot to see what else we can find!

How is the show developing?

Having lovable, honest character’s that audiences will care about is absolutely central to Memory Soldier, so we’re using the redevelopment process predominantly to further explore and fill out some of the character arcs and deepen relationships, making the story the most rounded and human it can be. We’re incredibly proud that our show gives voice to strong female characters in what might be expected to be a male-centric topic, so we’re using our redevelopment process to focus firming up the agency of our female character a little too.

How has the writer been involved?

The writing process for this show has been quite unique. Majority of the dialogue and action in the script for Memory Soldier was originally created through extended improvisations which have then been recorded, typed up, reworked and played with. It’s been an incredibly collaborative process, so in a way we suppose it’s been written by the whole company, and all of us have been directly involved throughout.

How have you experimented?

We think all theatre making is experimentation! But we’ve taken this further during the Memory Soldier process through the way we constantly shake up and turn our improvs on their heads. We also take inspiration from numerous practitioners as tools to play with in the rehearsal room, so we’re always approaching scenes from new angles and perspectives, even if it’s just to see what jumps out!

Where do your ideas come from?

As a company we’re incredibly inspired by the atmosphere and ideas evoked in the works of playwrites like Sam Shepard. Particularly for this play, some of the themes explored in Shepard’s play ‘Action’ – the energy, mundanity and honesty of human existence, relationships and writing characters with their own voices.

Most importantly for this piece, we’ve been inspired by his use of environment in ‘Action’: the disillusionment between what’s ‘seen’ and what’s actually in front of you, and the way he evokes the entire world outside the immediate space seen by the audience.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

The main challenge for us as a company approaching a play like Memory Soldier has been going from exploring our own pains and trauma that come with the topic, and then switching these into the interpretive art of acting. Truthfully though, we think that all theatre that truly matters and packs a punch is likely to be inherently challenging all by itself!

The subject areas explored in theatre are often not the nicest or happiest, and delving into them to find an authentic voice and understand them better is never a walk in the park, but as artists we see it as our job to tell those stories, so we’re incredibly proud to be taking that head on.

What are your future plans for the show ?

The topics hit on in Memory Soldier are ones with huge possibilities for further exploration and it’s a story we firmly believe needs to be told, so we’re absolutely hoping to take the show to future venues in the Autumn and beyond!

We also feel strongly that theatre is an incredibly powerful tool for change, so as we move forward we’re hoping to continue forming relationships with mental health and PTSD charities, using our ability as artists to keep telling this story, and using our voices to help further open a vitally important conversation about an issue affecting thousands of men, women and families on a daily basis.

Show dates, times and booking info

Memory Soldier runs at the Camden People’s Theatre from the 13th-15th August at 9pm, as part of the Camden Fringe Festival 2018.
Tickets: £8 Adults, £6 Concessions
Tickets available now via Camden People’s Theatre or the Camden Fringe

Book here

Company web site: https://7thsensetheatre.wordpress.com



COMEDY INTERVIEW

George Abbott talks about George Abbott Changes Your Life

George Abbott Changes Your Life

What’s the theme of your show?

The show begins as a series of “life-changing” lectures conducted by George Abbott. The idea stemmed from self-help programmes and gurus, who I often think are in much more need of ‘help’ than the people they’re trying to fix. As the performance progresses, the focus centres much more on George Abbott as a character and his crippling insecurities. How far will this man go in order to try and impress people?

How did your show come into being?

I did a show at my uni, titled George Abbott Makes Love To The Audience. It was essentially marketed as a last-minute stand-up show, which completely divebomed and then degenerated into something much more absurd. I wanted to take this combination of absurd comedy, uncomfortable audience interaction and metatheatricality further. We formed a company and asked ourselves where this extremely insecure man would go next in order to convince people how special he is. We decided that the next logical step would be for him to organise a self-help programme.

How did you get into comedy and have you ever died on stage?

I’ve been acting for as long as I can remember, but have always enjoyed performing in comedies the most. There’s something about the connection you have with an audience in comedy that is difficult to find in other forms of theatre.

I once did an open-mic where I whistled the whole of Diamonds by Rihanna for an uncomfortable four minutes. Some people were chuckling at the beginning, but by the end I think most of that room wanted me to leave as soon as possible.

What’s unique about your comedy? How are you experimenting or trying something new in this show?

In a sense this piece is a bit of a social experiment – since doing George Abbott Makes Love I’ve become really interested in how far an audience will commit to doing something just because someone on stage is asking them to. We have a lot of rather intense interactive sections which aim to put the audience on the edge, asking them to do things they’d never consider doing in real life.

There’s also a lot of metatheatrical surprises we’ve incorporated, which escalate drastically as the performance goes on. As an audience member, I think it’s exciting to be questioning whether something happening on stage is ‘real’, or actually an intended part of the performance.

Who or what are your comedy influences?

Andy Kaufman was a huge influence on me since I discovered him at university. He was the first stand-up I’d seen who properly introduced elements of theatricality to his shows, and I loved the idea that nobody ever really knew whether his antics were sincere or part of some kind of character. He was interrogating what people assume a comedian is meant to be and how a comic is meant to act, which I think is great.

The manic, slapstick style of the show has certainly been inspired by Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson’s work, as well as American comedian Eric Andre. Steve Coogan and Rowan Atkinson were comedians I grew up with, so they’ve certainly seeped through into how I present myself on stage.

Your show details: Dates, times, venues and booking info

DATES: 19th – 22nd August.
TIMES: 19:00 on the 19th – 21st, 21:00 on the 22nd.
VENUE: 2Northdown, Kings Cross.
BOOKING INFO: https://camdenfringe.com/show.php?acts_id=2236



We’ll be adding more previews and interviews in the run up to, and during the Fringe.