Politics at the Fringe









“I’m noticing a lot more political shows in the Edfringe programme this August – comedy and theatre shows. Brexit of course but also shows questioning the role of war in our world and exploring its consequences. Had to be a good thing given some years there seems to have been political silence and indifference.” (Paul Levy, Editor, FringeReview)

Here are our recommendations for political shows at the Fringe. We’ll be adding to this list as the Fringe draws nearer.

Our recommendations are a moving feast so check back to see new ones as reviews come in.


Dark Comedy. Andy Moseley,  Writer at NoLogoProductions, talks about A Beginner’s Guide to Populism

What’s the theme of your show?

The play is a dark comedy about the rise of populism and what it can lead to if it’s allowed to go unchecked.

It’s set in the fictional village of Little Middleton. Villagers are opposed to plans to make the village part of a garden city. A would be MP takes on their cause, not because she supports it herself but because her party is trying to reconnect with local voters and this is the way to do it.

They use the modern day weapons of fear and panic to get the public on their side, but then find out what can happen if people actually believe them.

What’s new or unique about the show?:

t’s a political comedy but people of all political persuasions seem to believe it’s about ‘the other side’. I think that’s fairly unique but also something we’re proud of, as the play is an a satire of populism, whether it’s right wing or left wing politicians that are using it.

How did the show come into being?

I was looking for a way to take a fresh slant on populism, Brexit, Trump et al, when I read an article about Government plans to create new garden cities. There was a quote from someone who said it would destroy their village. The reasons they gave seemed to be a mix of one part truth and nine parts scare mongering. Straight away I knew that this had to be the setting for the show as we could play out international politics at the local level.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

David Wood is the director of the play. He lets me into rehearsals, but I try not to go too often!

The rehearsals are great fun, a lot of experimenting and pushing the characters and situations as far as they can go so that you get to what’s really at the heart of it and the actors know so much about the characters and what’s driving them.

How is the show developing?

We first performed the show at the end of 2017 at the Voila! Europe Festival at The Cockpit. It went incredibly well, so we’re keeping it largely as it was.

Biggest change is that one of our original actors is now based in America, so we’ve got a new actor in that role which always brings something new to a show.

How have you experimented?

I’ve left it to the director and the actors to experiment (and for me, that’s experimenting!)

Where do your ideas come from?

Probably easy to guess where the ideas for this one came from, but generally ideas tend to come from anywhere, small snatches of conversation, newspaper articles, or just hours staring at a laptop thinking I need to start writing something.

How do your challenge yourselves?

As a writer I challenge myself by trying to really vary what I write and not to settle for a particular genre or format.

As a company the challenge is always looking at how you can improve things, do things differently and really affect an audience with a show.

What are your future plans for the show ?

After Buxton we’re taking the show to Edinburgh for two weeks, then who knows? We’d like to take it further. The dangers of populism is a hot topic the world over at the moment, so I’m sure there’s a few other countries where the play would go down well, and a few others where we might get arrested if we tried to put it on!

What are your favourite shows, and why?

Too many to put into one list, but favourites from last years fringe were;
The Man on The Moor – brilliant one man show based around the story of the man found on Saddleworth Moor in 2015;
The Giant Killers – True story of Darwen Football Club and their 1878-1879 FA Cup run; and
The Revlon Girl – Set eight months after the Aberfan mining disaster in 1966 when a Revlon representative was invited to the weekly meeting of bereaved mothers.

Show dates, times and booking info

The Arts Centre Studio, Underground Venues Buxton, 10,11,18 and 20 July (9.00pm except 10 July 9.45pm) Book at http://2018.underthefringe.com/shows/populism

TheSpace Triplex, Edinburgh, 13 to 25 August (except 19th). 12.35pm (13th to 18th) 5.35pm (20th to 25th). Book here

Company web site: https://www.nologoproductions.com/


 The Increasingly Worrying Rise of the Alt-right: Playwright Davey Anderson fromPepperdine Scotland talks about The Abode 

What’s the theme of your show?

It explores the increasingly worrying rise of the alt-right and its appeal to young, white males who feel unvalued and see themselves as oppressed. It also asks what can be done to redeem them.

What’s new or unique about the show?

It highlights the impact of social media by imagining a world where the Internet does not exist – but the behaviours it has nurtured have still evolved.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

Up to this point rehearsals have varied widely. We started with a week of generating ideas in February 2017 in Glasgow, with 3 Pepperdine students and 4 2nd year BA actors from RCS. A year later we had another week with the full Pepperdine company in Malibu, working on my second draft of the script. This was a collaborative process incorporating feedback from the entire company on strengths and weaknesses of the script. Right now, the company are on an ensemble building residency in Glenelg, in the West Highlands, where they have a couple sessions to begin more traditional rehearsal work with the third draft of the script. I’ll join them again next week in Glasgow.

How is the show developing?

The script has taken on lots of input and stories of personal experience from the cast, crew, and creative team. I also keep making adjustments to coincide with developments in current events.

How has the writer been involved?

I have been closely involved throughout, workshopping the play with the cast, taking on board their ideas and those of the director. The idea is to keep refining the work so it is as powerful as possible.

How have you experimented?

As mentioned above, this play is set in an alternate present where society behaves the same as our world, but where technology stopped advancing somewhere around the mid 1980s. It has been a great and enlightening exercise to experiment with what this looks like. So instead of an online message board we have a group of people communicating via walkie talkie. And instead of hacking someone’s computer and releasing their nude photos to the world online, a ‘hacker’ has to physically go into someone’s room and dig through their drawers to find the photos, which they must then physically post on a noticeboard in a public place in order to ‘release’ them.

Where do your ideas come from?

I have a long-held interest in politics and the threat from the Far Right, dating back to the 80s and 90s. I’ve watched it ebb and flow and always been interested in the process by which it draws people in. In the last few years the emergence of a new, more tech savvy generation of extremists with a worldwide reach through the Internet has been a major source of interest and concern to me.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

I think there’s an inherent challenge of communication whenever you’ve got artists from very different backgrounds collaborating on a project. When it all comes together it is an amazing thing, but getting (and staying) on the same page is always a challenge. Pepperdine’s primary method for addressing this is at the commissioning/concept stage. The brief is, “what is the one story that this particular playwright and this particular group of students is better equipped to tell than anyone else we know of?” and I think it’s very effective at making sure we’re on the same page from the beginning.

What are your future plans for the show ?

Ideally I’d like to get this script published so that other university and young adult troupes can perform it again in future. I think Pepperdine are also exploring the possibility of a Hollywood Fringe run of this current production next summer.

What are your favourite shows, and why?

One of my favourite ever Fringe shows is Particularly in the Heartland by Brooklyn based theatre company The TEAM. The play is set on a farm in Kansas where three siblings have been orphaned by what they imagine to be the Rapture, but might just have been a tornado. Then they are visited by three strangers, including the ghost of Robert F Kennedy, with whom they form an alternative family. This is the show that opened my eyes to a way of making theatre that is collaborative but rigorous, political without being polemical, that addresses big themes of national mythology and identity, explores the political divisions within a society, asks questions about who we are and what we believe, but all with a playfulness and lightness of touch, full of movement, music and infectious curiousity. That’s the kind of play I aspire to write.

Show dates, times and booking info: Venue:

Underbelly Big Belly
Dates: 2-16 August
Time: 12:30pm (75 mins)
Ticket prices: Preview £7.00. Concessions £9 and £10, full price £10 and £11
Underbelly box office: www.underbellyedinburgh.co.uk/whats-on/the-abode or 0844 545 8252
Book here
Advisory: Contains strong language and material that some people may find offensive.

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