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War at the Fringe

War has always been a theme that has been explored at the Fringe.

Theatre and spoken word often lay at the heart of that excploration, though music and comedy are also genres that are used to examine and present different aspects of war.

Here are some FringeReview recommendations based on tips provided by our reviewers as well as work from companies we have reviewed before.

Dr Korczak’s Example

Part of the Just Festival, Dr Korczak’s Example from Strange Town Theatre , is set in the WWII Warsaw ghetto, “the play tells the moving and heroic story of Dr Janusz Korczak, a Polish educator and children’s author, who ran an orphanage for Jewish children destined to face the Nazi oppressors.”

Falkland – The War the World Forgot

Falkland – The War the World Forgot, takes a fresh look at the Falkland’s War. Is this a war that has been forgotten and whose story needs to be told through the experience of some of those who lived directly through it? Tasty Monster Productions offer a play that achieved acclaim in the United States as well as at Brighton Fringe 2018.

Listen to our interview (at Brighton Fringe 2018) with the company here:


Conchies, from A Certain Demographic offers a unique exploration of conscientious objectors in the Second World War. “Hundreds of thousands marched for peace but when war came, only a few dared to be different. Conchies tells the story of WWII conscientious objectors who refused to fight. Instead they strove to create a community where they could put into practice their beliefs in co-operation and nonviolence while the rest of humanity was smashing itself to bits. ‘A powerful evocation; there was honestly not a dry eye in the theatre when I went with my family to watch it’ (Damon Albarn). ‘An amazing production. Really moving; very informative; a very complex, interesting piece of theatre’ (Jim Broadbent).” (Read an article in The Guardian here.)

Chamberlain… Peace in Our Time

Chamberlain… Peace in Our Time was highly recommended by FringeReview in 2017. “Returning for just five performances due to popular demand. The play is set in Downing Street during the dramatic hour leading up to Chamberlain’s declaration of war. Popular WWII songs of the day are cleverly interspersed throughout. A cutting and relevant political drama and a must-see production for 2018.” This has to be one of the more intimate explorations of war at the Fringe. You can hear our interview our interview with writer and performers from Searchlight Theatre Company recorded at Edinburgh Fringe 2017 here…

Willis and Vere: A Serious Play about World War II

War is also explored via farcical comedy in this popular Fringe show, Willis and Vere: A Serious Play about World War II. Described as “A comedy farce about pretentiousness and the tragedies of war….Willis & Vere have decided to adapt the memoirs of a Holocaust survivor in an attempt to win a Fringe First Award. But it turns out creating serious Fringe theatre isn’t such an easy task…”

The Unknown Soldier

The Unknown Soldier from Grist to the Mill Productions teturns to the Fringe and is a regular favourite for its powerful examination of ife in the trenches of the First World War. We gave this show a Highly Recommended rating in 2016 and then a further Outstnading review later in its run.. “Jack stayed on when the guns fell silent, to search amongst the rusty wire and unexploded bombs for those that could never go home. For Jack has a promise to keep and a debt to repay. A story of comradeship, betrayal and loss in a world forever changed by the carnage of the First World War”. It’s an unmissable solo theatre piece.

Remember Scarborough

Remember Scarborough is new work that comes from Jon Davis and Adam Smart. “War doesn’t end when the fighting stops. In a one-sided conversation with his long dead friend, an old man and his younger self look at the naive excitement of young RAF recruits, through the reality and pain of loss to the difficulties of post-war rebuilding.”

In Loyal Company

In Loyal Company from Lab Rats and the pens of Sascha Moore and David Williams Bryan. This is an untold, true story of missing WWII soldier Arthur Robinson, declared missing after his ship is sunk during the Battle of Singapore in 1942.  It is performed by David Williams Bryan.

Dance Focus: The Troth

A “gripping story of love and loss set during World War One, blending dance, original music and archive film. Moving from rural Punjab to the Belgian trenches where young Indian men have been brought to fight for the Allies, we learn about the secret promise made by one soldier, Lehna Singh, as he makes the ultimate sacrifice to save another.” With direction and choreography by Gary Clarke. Music by Shri Sriram.

Four More to See

Here are four more shows themed on war that we haven’t seen but look interesting…

A Gallant Life

“It’s August 1918 and it’s finally beginning to look like an Allied victory is on the cards. The Kippers, the performing members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in St Omer, are putting on a show to celebrate. Amongst them is Muriel Thompson, motor-racing champion, suffragette, ambulance driver and decorated war veteran. But where did she come from and how did she end up here? A true and heart-warming new musical from an acclaimed company about what happens when a woman defies expectations and takes matters into her own hands.”

All that Remains

“All That Remains is a moving reflection on loss and memory based on true stories from the ongoing war in Ukraine. A woman who has lost her brother to the war and is left with only a few of his belongings tries to make sense of what happened. Into her story, the show weaves the voices of her brother and others affected by the war. Using documentary theatre, music and storytelling the show explores what remains when someone dies in armed conflict. A touching and challenging story about trauma, bereavement and finding the strength to live on.”

Brothers in Arms

“Brothers in Arms tells the story of WWI through the inspiring true story of two soldiers, Noel and Christopher Chavasse. These twin brothers were both highly decorated soldiers who served with great distinction in the Great War. Noel Chavasse is notable for being one of only three soldiers who have been awarded the Victoria Cross twice. His brother Christopher was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and steadfast service. Their lives tell an inspiring story of courage, service, sacrifice and faith lived out under fire.”

Conflict of Interest

“When stand-up comedian Richard Pulsford decided to research his family tree, he uncovered some seriously interesting stories of ordinary people caught up in world wars – on both sides. With the centenary of the 1918 armistice looming, this show focuses on two of his serving relatives who died that year, how they got caught up in the conflicts, the far reaching effects of the war on their families’ lives, and considers how such conflicts of interest still resonate today.”

INTERVIEW at Army @ The Fringe

Writer/Director Anna Íris Pétursdóttir from Rokkur Friggjar talks about Forget Me Nots

What’s the theme of your show?

A touching love story between an Icelandic man and a British soldier during WWII, Forget Me Nots is a new side to our collective history told through a series of overlapping monologues and physical scores.

What’s new or unique about the show?

It covers subjects seldom talked about even after so many decades.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

We warm up with games and songs, then stretch, then go over floorwork and stunts, safety checking everything. Then we run scenes, usually interrupted a few times by the director for notes. Some days we run the whole show, other times we just end rehearsals with a cool-down and discussions.

How is the show developing?

It is important to us that the actors are involved in the process, so every step of the way we devise around the text, play with nuances in the script and try to find the joy in working together.
We have been working for a few months to bring it together, starting vague and playing, but getting more specific with every rehearsal.

How has the writer been involved?

The writer is the director and has made changes to suit each actor’s style as we all get to know each other. It helps with the sincerity of the show.

How have you experimented?

We have played with stunts from all sorts of different directions, capoeira, ballroom dancing and contact improv to name a few. We also love to play and keep trying new ideas that pop into our heads at any given time. We like to play with tempo since the show is set up in an order that is inspired by memories, that is, not necessarily chronological. The scenes blend together and we have tried many ways of transitioning between scenes.

Where do your ideas come from?

We love to bring in outside stimuli, we did a lot of historical research and looked at both photos and interviews. Playing with music or text or rhythm that didn’t make it into the show, but helped us realise the characters and the story was integral.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

We are constantly improving the show, we might add in or change lines or whole conversations between one show and the next. We never see the show as “ready”, it is a journey we love to invite the audience to take with us.

Show dates, times and booking info:

Venue: Army @ The Fringe in association with Summerhall, Hepburn House Army Reserve Centre, East Claremont Street (Venue 210)
Dates: August 12, 14-19, 21
Time: 13:00
Duration: 60 mins
Ticket prices: Standard £10 Concessions £8
Suitability: 16+
Warnings and additional info: Strong language
Book here

Company web site: https://youtu.be/VG6OYmoF_68


Amid the violence of the British withdrawal from Basra…Playwright JM Meyer from Thinkery & Verse talks about Bride of the Gulf

What’s the theme of your show?

Amid the violence of the British withdrawal from Basra, Iraq in 2007, a sharp-witted Iraqi woman goes in search of her missing husband at the behest of her mother-in-law.

What’s new or unique about the show?

To build our show, we collaborated with Qais Ouda (an Iraqi composer) and Elham Al-Zabaedy (an Iraqi poet). Qais partnered with American music student Sean Ullmer to score the play. Dr. Samir Talib from the University of Basra served as one of the shows dramaturgs, as he solicited feedback from his students on an early draft of the script, and led them in two staged-readings of the play. This show therefore involved extensive artistic collaboration and dialogue between artists in the United States and Basra.

How did the show come into being?

Our process began in 2016. Fort Point Theatre Channel commissioned a short play from me (the playwright JM Meyer) in 2016, and, thanks to the playwright Amy Merrill, asked me to collaborate with artists in Basra and Boston as a part of the Basra-to-Boston project. Iraqi-Canadian playwright and professor Amir Al-Azraki developed the connections between American artists and Iraqi artists. I then pursued connections with an English professor in Basra in order find out what students thought about the short play, and then I folded their responses into the text of the play via new characters. In 2017 an ensemble of actors from the conservatory at Rutgers Mason Gross, including Karen Alvarado, adopted the play, deepened its connection to the Basrawi collaborators, and pushed for a full production process of a full-length script.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

We’ll tell you about a rehearsal discovery that happened just last week. Our play begins with two scenes occurring simultaneously: on one part of the stage a young married couple argue about whether or not its safe to work for the British military, and on the other part of the stage a pair of militiamen set up a mortar tube to target the couple. Just last week we realized that our use of ‘realism’ had hit a wall, and we needed a device to move the play in a more Brechtian direction. An actor playing a militiaman began using gaff tape to constrict the entire play space: it was wasteful, expensive, annoying, ugly, violent, and crude, and that pretty much sums up the ways in which militiamen can constrict life in modern Basra. The surrealism supplanted the realism, and that’s for the best. Our game-playing broke us from the ‘naturalistic’ rut we had fallen into.

How is the show developing?

Like most plays, a fair amount of the work is simply in rehearsing a narrative script. But whenever a new artist joins the show, I try to engender a direct connection between them and our collaborators in Basra. Sometimes this means a Skype call, but more often it means the translation and discussion of a poem, or an interview. It’s a tough process. But I think American artists–even those born elsewhere–can be a bit blind to the perspectives of people from another country.

How has the writer been involved?

As the writer (or at least the playwright) I’ve served as the ‘interpreter’ of the art we’ve received from Qais and Elham. I was also responsible for creating the narrative arc of the play. I’ve had some success as a playwright in the past (in Austin, Texas in particular), and I think that gave people the confidence to ask me to guide this project. It’s not an accident that I am a US military veteran–I was recruited because of my past connections to Iraq. I don’t think that my deployment in 2007 made the country much better, but it was one of the most important events of my life, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to write a play that–in part–honors the interpreters and Iraqi local nationals that I worked with in Iraq.

How have you experimented?

Translating Elham Al-Zabaedy’s poetry into English proved challenging, and required formal experimentation in order to communicate its images and ideas. Though she writes in Arabic, she uses English syntax, and a modernist style similar to Gertrude Stein. She also pairs her poems with evocative paintings, and it felt most appropriate to ‘translate’ the images from both the paintings and the poems into the text of the play. Sometimes we incorporate the poems using song, sometimes as monologues, sometimes as a strand of dialogue or a movement sequence, and in at least one occasion we don’t translate the poem at all, but deliver it entirely in Arabic. Not all of these experiments work, but Elham has never shied away from any of them. That said, she has also not shared with us her opinion of the play as a whole. So perhaps she appreciates the deep reading we have given her work, but could do without the theater! She has praised the direction of the project as a whole, however, so that helps us feel we are close to the right track in interpreting her work.

Where do your ideas come from?

Most of my ideas come from long interviews that take place over many years. I try to capture the way people speak, and the ways in which language shapes thinking. One of the hardest parts of creating the show was deciding what the characters should ‘sound’ like. We ultimately decided to use a fair amount of Iraqi Arabic. But when using English, we opted to use the ‘creole’ English-Arabic dialect that one tends to hear in Iraq. In a play that hopes, in part, to pay homage to the translators I worked with, I thought this was a way to partially honor the creative and vibrant and perfect way they manipulated the English language in day-to-day conversation.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

To do this story justice, we had to gather a group of more than twenty artists to create the play. Collaboration begets arguments and tension, but it also enables a beautiful sort of surrender. Everyday, we have to enter the space and hand ourselves over to each other. It’s even more daunting to do this when you are never likely to meet some of your collaborators face-to-face.

What are your future plans for the show ?

We hope to remount the show in London, and make use of the UK’s outstanding pool of Middle Eastern stage actors. Our current actors are volunteers from the international community in New York City, as well as the Rutgers Mason Gross Conservatory. If we were to tour in the UK, it would be best to make use of local UK actors. We have performers with Middle Eastern ancestry, but with limited connections to Islam, and little cultural connection to the region. We’ve already sent out some calls for actors–we hope that they will see our show, perhaps rehearse a bit with the playwright, and ask themselves if they are interested in carrying the project forward.

Show dates, times and booking info

C cubed (main space) venue 50 Brodie’s Close, Lawnmarket, EH1 2PS.
2-27 Aug (not 14) at 15:10 (1hr00)
Tickets £9.50-£11.50 / concessions £7.50-£9.50 / children £5.50-£7.50
Recommended 12+

Tickets available online at http://www.cthefestival.com/2018/bride-of-the-gulf

Also book here

Company web site: https://thinkery-and-verse.weebly.com/


Writer & Director HelenMarie O’Malley talks about inVALID voices

In-Valid Voices Helen-Marie O’Malley

What’s the theme of your show?

The theme of the show is an insight into the lives of the families of Commonwealth Soldiers who serve in the British Army.
The play examines the mental health and emotional journey of these women through a deployment period.

What’s new or unique about the show?: This play began as a verbatim piece and is based on interviews with armed forces wives from Scotland and Fiji. One of the wives interviewed was herself a veteran British soldier from the Commonwealth.

How did the show come into being?

HelenMarie the writer and Director is herself an ‘Army Wife’ married to a Fijian soldier (now veteran) who served 14 years in the British army and completed 3 tours of Iraq and 2 tours of Afghanistan. This was a play she always intended to write.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

A possible rehearsal day would include
• Vocal and physical warm-up incorporating music, song, dance and language from Fiji and Gaelic Scotland
• We will be rehearsing in the army reserve centre (which is also the venue) we will be utilising the space there and also involve the armed forces personnel – Scottish and Commonwealth Soldiers
• Sharing of cultures and vocal workshops learning Fijian and Gaelic words and phrases
• Actors working with armed forces wives and understanding what they go through mentally and emotionally.
• Targeted movement workshops elaborating on the mental trauma the women suffer when their men are at war.

How is the show developing?

The play is on track. It is an emotionally charged experience and the purpose is to allow the audience to witness the journey the wives make – a journey they have no choice in and they will always be an after thought because the army comes first.

How has the writer been involved?

The writer is also the director.

How have you experimented?:

This show takes from the rich cultural tapestry of each country – Scotland and Fiji – using dance (and war dance) music, singing and folklore, the women share their heritage with each other and try to connect – blocking out the horrors of the situation they find themselves in – having their husbands at war.

The writer/ director has tried to let the audience experience in 1 hour – the rollercoaster of emotional turmoil these women face over a 6 to 7-month deployment. To do this the piece incorporates sound/visual imagery/cultural diversity in the form of music/dance/singing and storytelling.

Where do your ideas come from?

The ideas from this play have stemmed from first-hand experience of the discrimination the Commonwealth soldiers, families and veterans face in the UK

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

I am challenged by going some way to magnify injustice. I will never run out of raw material to create plays which make social statements.

What are your future plans for the show ?

The company aim to proceed after the festival as ‘The Talanoa Project’ a not for profit company who will work with the armed forces and veteran community and their families to create new writing/plays/educational theatre. We will be conduction educational workshops using the show as the stimulus for further discussion.

What are your favourite shows, and why?

I want to see theatre which will alert me to what injustice is going on in the world – theatre which will empower me, theatre which will excite me.

I am drawn to work which embraces a challenge, which takes risks, work that leaves the audience asking ‘What can I do to make the world a better place?’.

Show dates, times and booking info

Tickets: £12/£10
Dates: August 10 – 25th 2018 (Not Mondays)
Time: 16:00 (1 hour)
Box Office: boxoffice@summerhall.co.uk. 0131 560 1581
Like inVALID voices on – FACEBOOK
Find inVALID voices on- Twitter
Follow inVALID voices on – Instagram

Book here

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

We’ll be adding more previews and recommendations of shows themed on war at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018.