I, Sniper tells the true story of soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, deemed one of the deadliest female snipers in history. Plucked from obscurity as a teenage mother, she joins the red army and fights to take on the traditionally male task. This was an aspect of World War II history none of us knew very informed upon so we were interested to find out more from the Scotland-based student group from Acting Coach Scotland…
The play opens in a powerful fashion, with rows of young women marching in military uniform and responding to the barks of their commander in Russian. This instantly sets the evocative tone of the piece and establishes its context in a very clear way.
The story is told in a candid diary-like style, drawing the audience into her story. This clues us into her thoughts, feelings and emotions throughout her wartime journey, helping to ensure that the character of Pavlichenko is sufficiently humanised. The lead role is passed amongst the predominantly female ensemble cast, with each actor’s portrayal impressively as strong as the next. They use the clever device of pinning a military medal on and tucking their hat into their belt so that the audience is left in no doubt as to who is portraying Pavlichenko at present.
This is a very slick and well-rehearsed production which totally hits the target. Coming out of the production, I felt well-informed about an aspect of history I’d never explored before and like I wanted to research more myself. An impressive feat for the production indeed!
Another day, another review waiting for us when we opened out eyes – this time from The List! And what’s more another amazing 4 stars! We’re getting spoilt by the morning reviews rolling in. It’ll go to our heads. No really, it will.
Fiona was out bright and early to catch her parents (devout and loyal Greyhounds fans) for coffee before they left our adopted Scottish homeland. The rest of us were rather slower on the wake up and departed midmorning after a leisurely munch of Cheerios and Wheetabix (other brands are available.)
We decided that today would be the day we went to the Elephant House – the birthplace of Harry Potter. J K Rowling used to write there when she first moved to Edinburgh and the toilets are now a dedicated graffiti shrine. It’s a place of pilgrimage for any Potter fan. I can also highly recommend their Hazelnut and Nutella cake which I nibbled (lol, wolfed down) alongside a big cup of coffee. We also had a wander around some of Edinburgh’s finest vintage shops, including the National Museum of Scotland, where we made a couple of new friends…
Due to a stroke of good fortune (and someone else not showing up) we were able to perform another round of rousing 40s close-harmony tunes on the Street Stage. The crowds gathered again – singing really does seem to be like a magnet to crowds of people – and the boys flyered to their heart’s content as the girls warbled away.
Being a kind and generous person of the highest degree, I whipped up a big bowl of pasta for everyone to devour for din dins. We ate early so we could get back to the Mile in time to catch Mission: Her, a show written to remind those with mental health issues that they are not alone. “Her is twentysomething, she has a five-year plan in place but life events put a spanner in the works. As Her begins to drown in the pressures of past and present society, her friends go on a mission to help.” It was a sharp and thought provoking performance with well integrated tech and effects to highlight the looming presence of social media.
We finished in perfect time to hit our empty car park space for the nightly warm up and prepare ourselves for the the show (recentre ourselves so we didn’t disturb our creative energy – thanks Ruby). The performance seemed to go well again. We’re getting very quick at setting up and packing down our WW2 set: folding chairs, moving tables, sticking up posters.
After drinks and a catch up with some of Tim’s friends, we headed back to the apartment for our beauty sleep. Now proud owners of Ridercards, we can bus back and forth to our heart’s desire. Just watch us go.
Gosh, it was a real struggle to remember the date. Being at the Fringe is like living in a lovely bubble where days of the week don’t exist and time seems to be fluid as we try to cram as much as we can into each day.
The day started with our dear Laura thundering down the stairs in a flurry of excitement. We had received another 4* review, this time from Edinburgh Guide who described Greyhounds as ‘pretty much perfect’ with a cast who ‘nail it, and are as genuine as the people they play’. To get such a great reception from the critics is wonderful, especially after all the late nights we’ve spent in rehearsals going slightly mad! Our latest success was celebrated with breakfast-time bacon sandwiches for the meat eaters and lashings of tea and toast for everybody else.
We didn’t have long to bask in the glow though, as Jacob, Laura, Tim and myself were off to the Gilded Balloon to catch musical ‘Fall of Eagles’ by Green Ginger Productions. We’ve written a review of the show which you can read here, but to summarise – we thought it was jolly good fun! We caught the cast for a quick chat afterwards which was lovely, so great to talk to a fellow northern company. It was then time for some delicious lunch at veggie restaurant/bar Paradise Palms. This place has incredible eclectic decor, adorned with bright bunting, model pigs, a type-writer and vintage paraphernalia. We wolfed down our food with glee and chatted about the show we’d just taken in.
Meanwhile, Jac, Paul and Fiona took care of business on the home front. They gave the flat a much-needed spring clean and baked up some fresh bread. Paul, our techie, is not only a whizz with the sound and lights but also knows how to make a mean loaf! Whilst the bread was baking, admin was taken care of with Fiona taking to the blogosphere and updating you all on our comings and goings.
It was then time for Jacob, Laura, Tim and I to finally go see one of the shows right up there on our to watch list, ‘I, Sniper’ by Acting Coach Scotland. The play tells the true story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko – often called the deadliest female sniper in history. I came out itching to read more about her! We bussed it back to the apartment as director Jac was cooking up fajitas for dinner. We stuffed ourselves silly with the mexican deliciousness before rushing back out again to perform Greyhounds. We warmed up in our usual car park space and took to the stage. The audience seemed to enjoy the show again, which was great to see!
Back to the apartment again, this time for gin cocktails and board games. Fiona had bundled Articulate into the car at the very last minute on day one, and what a cracking call that turned out to be. The best moment had to Paul be trying to convey the word ‘horrifying’ to Jac, his description being ‘it’s like… a scary film but longer’. Laura, Tim and I were the eventual triumphant winners and reigning champions until the next board game night.
Fall of Eagles by Green Ginger Productions charts the political situation unfolding during the early 20th century, told in the style of the era’s music hall and vaudeville performances. Two soldiers, acting as compères, introduce the leaders of the Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian and British empires, as they sing and dance their way through the growing tensions and family feuds building up to the start of the First World War.
The production is filled with easily recognisable caricatures of political figures, which is no mean feat for the young company from Hull. The three youngest performers were especially confident and assured in their multiple roles – as Russian duchesses, serving girls and holiday-makers amongst others. Liam Asplen, who plays Katharina Schratt – the actress from Vienna who Franz Joseph grew close to in the later years of his life provided an excellently flamboyant performance, with strong vocals which really carried through the venue.
The show is well rehearsed and very slick. Multiple scene changes and large props were handled with no trouble. Fall of Eagles has a good pace which keeps the audience entertained throughout. In true music hall style, the audience were encouraged to join in with the rousing songs. Large boards adorned with the lyrics were brought onto stage which was a lovely touch.
If you’re looking to take in another historical show with a fun spirit, musical Fall of Eagles is a great choice!
Normally Monday mornings fill me with a vague sense of dread, knowing that I’ve got to battle the M60 ring road in Manchester twice a day for the next 5 days. However, this particular Monday got off to a brilliant start as we received the first reviews for Greyhounds! Like excited children on Christmas morning, we all gathered round to hear what the critics had to say.
As tempting as it was to spend the rest of the day basking in the glory of these reviews, there was work to be done! Jacob, Catherine and I attended a panel at Fringe Central about taking your show on tour (we have lofty aspirations for this play, don’t you know!). It was a great opportunity to hear experienced producers and programmers give some advice to those of us who refuse to move on after the Fringe want their productions to have longevity and the chance to be seen across the country. Meanwhile, Laura and Tim went for a spot of afternoon tea at the beautiful Colonnades at the Signet Library, dressed in their finest and most glamourous 1940s apparel.
Time flies when you’re having fun (or sitting in a lecture theatre taking notes like a keen fresher) and before we knew it, our debut on the Royal Mile stage was upon us. Hair coiffed, gas mask boxes stuffed with ration book flyers, and ukulele tuned, we took to the stage accompanied by the sound of the air raid siren courtesy of sound guru Paul. Director Jac did a sterling job of gathering a crowd and flyering whilst we sang our modest repertoire of 1940s hits: Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, and Hey Mr. Miller. Unfortunately the heavens opened – which couldn’t have possibly been anything to do with our beautiful singing although it did start when the boys came in with their verse (just saying) – but the rain didn’t dampen our spirits. The crowds stayed for the duration of our set, tapping their feet, singing along and even flossing, which though not quite era appropriate, we loved the enthusiasm! We stayed behind to watch the stage performance after us, which was for the show ‘The Servant of Two Masters’ by Il Vostro Teatro Capo, a theatre group all the way from Virginia, USA! They treated us to a group dance number and a well choreographed sword fight, all whilst wearing colourful and eye-catching costumes. You can catch them at C Venues at 1.35pm until the 11th August.
We had bite to eat, followed by our now customary car park warm-up, and then went into show #4 of our run which was another corker. It was lovely to see my parents in the audience (and on the front row, no less). Included in the price of their ticket was a conversation with me after the show, and the opportunity to buy me a French martini in the posh hotel bar. Aren’t they so lucky? A few of us stayed out for a gin or two, before heading back to the flat for pre-bedtime cups of tea and a good night’s kip, ready for another day of flyering, tea-drinking, and performing tomorrow.
The day of Sunday the 5th of August was no ordinary day. Sunday the 5th of August was in fact a very special occasion: our lovely Tim’s 30th birthday! Naturally much of the day was spent celebrating and compensating for the fact that we’ve made him ring in his 30th with that… interesting moustache. The morning started with cups of tea and Freddos in bed, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a healthy and age-appropriate breakfast.
Despite the fact that birthdays are meant to be fun, Tim decided to go for a run. I know, I’m not sure what that is or why anyone would want to do it either, but different strokes for different folks! Never one to miss an opportunity to promote the show, the birthday boy embarked on his torture trip run with our lovely Greyhounds poster pinned proudly to his top. Isn’t he just the best?
Tim’s jaunt around Edinburgh gave Jacob, Catherine, and Laura the perfect opportunity to complete their Top Secret mission, revolving around cakes and party paraphernalia. Bibi’s bakery had made us some beautiful cupcakes, which Catherine and Jacob managed to sneak back to the apartment. The next stage of the mission was to get Tim back into town so the rest of team Greyhounds could set up secret party central. Thankfully the promise of eating some gelato from Mary’s Milk Bar whilst sitting in the shade of the castle did the trick, leaving Paul, Jac, Jacob, Catherine and me enough time to transform the apartment into party paradise. I did my best to blow up some balloons, but apparently this is not something that I’m very good at. My excuse is that I have asthma and that, just like people, balloons also come in all shapes and sizes. Variety is the spice of life after all, and I happen to think that small balloons are cute, OK?
Tim and Laura returned to the apartment to the sound of classic party banger ‘Celebration’ and the somewhat less tune sound of party blowers. The cupcakes were adorned with Spitfire toppers (always got to be on brand) and sparklers. They were almost too pretty to eat, but somehow we overcame this and not a crumb was left. Life is hard sometimes.
Party hats were donned, presents and cards were opened, and delicious pancakes were also eaten. Following this, we whipped out the ukulele and all sat around for a good sing-song. Festive as it was, it had an ulterior motive. Monday sees our first performance on the street stage on the Royal Mile. We practised a selection of wartime songs: Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Hey Mr Miller. By the end of the rehearsal we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, and I secretly felt a bit like a Puppini Sister, only slightly less glamourous.
Our Sunday performance was a ‘Secret Show’ because of a printing error in the Fringe Programme which meant that it appeared that we did not have a performance that night. In the spirit of Keeping Calm and Carrying On, we flyered our socks off and lured people in with the promise of a free show if they used our code word. Another slick get in commenced at exactly ten past eight, an experience which was enhanced by seeing the audience already queuing up for the play. We were over half full, and it was a jolly good show!
After the show we went for some food in Byron, just down the road from our venue, chosen by the birthday boy. There was a slight drama over the delayed appearance of my cheese fries as I am afraid to say that I was getting rather hangry by this point and hadn’t yet had my daily ration of cheese. Thankfully they eventually arrived and were delicious, so I decided against flipping the table over Hulk-fashion and storming out. A few drinks followed at the Pleasance, which is fast becoming one of our favourite Fringe spots. A spilt pomegranate gin almost rained on our parade but we just hit the prosecco bar instead. The night ended with tea and biscuits in the apartment, the perfect finish to a special Fringe-based 30th.
Happy birthday, Tim – we hope it was every bit as splendid as you are!
Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Hamlet by Magnificent Bastard Productions
Shit-Faced Shakespeare first came onto my radar 5 years ago, when I spent the summer at the Fringe performing with Paperfinch Theatre. I was sitting in the bar of our C venue surrounded by frog puppets – don’t ask – when I heard a small voice pipe up: “Daddy, what does ‘shit-faced’ mean?”. Rather than regale the little girl with my own definition of ‘shit-faced’ based on years of personal experience, I decided to let her father handle the situation and made a mental note to try and see this show that sounded right up my street: drunken debauchery and Shakespeare – what’s not to love?
Sadly I didn’t get to see it that year, but upon returning to the Fringe this summer I was thrilled to see that Shit-Faced Shakespeare has become something of a Fringe staple, going from strength to strength. The venue has changed from the much smaller C Venues to the grandiose McEwan Hall, which has a beautifully ornate ceiling and seems to be a perfect fit for some classy Shakespeare.
Unsurprisingly, given the name and concept of the show, we didn’t actually see any classy Shakespeare. Instead we were treated to a production of Hamlet where the actor playing Claudius had downed a bottle of tequila prior to the show, and was also plied with beer throughout to keep him suitably sauced. From the offset, the audience were put in the party mood with music and a lively compere who explained the premise of the show and gave the all-important sick bucket to an audience member in the front row, who seemed a bit too enthused by the prospect of being the potential target of tequila-laced vomit.
There is no point in summarising the plot because this was pleasingly the least Hamlet production of Hamlet I’ve ever seen, particularly once Claudius had insisted that Laertes and Ophelia dress up as each other in order to protect Ophelia from Hamlet’s apparent madness. Claudius was even hornier than usual (a bit too much passionate snogging which I’m hoping the actress playing Gertrude was OK with), rather unsteady on his feet, a big fan of calling everyone a ‘twat’ and surprisingly progressive with his views on gender which is, to quote, ‘fluid at the moment’. The Saturday night audience were in the mood for a laugh, and this production provided plenty. Although Claudius was obviously a main source of humour, credit must also go to the other performers who responded well to his antics and even managed to do a bit of Shakespeare between all the drunkard-wrangling. A most enjoyable evening!
Saturday started in fine fashion; a civilised pot of tea over excited discussion about our opening night. With the lovely reception we received under our belts, we decided we must build upon the momentum. We began to devise a plan for the day to maximise our efforts. We would split up into two packs of Greyhounds to prowl the mean streets for the first time. Director Jac and writer/producer/actor Laura would hit the Fringe’s Meet the Media event, whilst the rest of us worked on spreading some good ol’ word of mouth – flyering and telling people a little more about our show! We donned full 1940’s regalia (as is customary these days), grabbed our gas mask boxes full of our patented ‘ration book’ flyers and headed our separate ways.
Jacob, Fiona, Paul and I headed to The Pleasance (the buzzing hub with lots of theatre spaces and cheese toasties, if you remember Thursday’s escapades). There we flyered with reckless abandon, ensuring that word got around about what was to be performed just down the hill later that evening.
Meanwhile, Jac and Laura (with Tim acting as what I’m assured was a very efficient runner – fetching tea and snacks and boosting morale as required) joined the back of what was an extremely long queue to meet the Fringe’s media. Thus commenced a jolly long wait, a four hour wait to be precise. With 3000+ shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, I’m sure you can imagine the queue which snaked around the block when an opportunity arose to tell the press about what makes one’s show unique. Jac and Laura really got in the wartime spirit and took one for the team!
The next task for the rest of us was to distribute some more of our snazzy A3 posters to catch passersby’s eye. This was preceded by a quick pitstop at Greggs to refuel and (rather unexpectedly) catch a well-dressed man stealing sandwiches. Keen to commence our task we marched onwards, baked goods in hand, ready to get these posters up. So keen we were that Fiona managed to staple up a poster with a chicken slice in one hand and her weapon of choice in the other (stapler). What a gal.
We received word that Jac and Laura had now made it into the building where the media event was hosted but alas, they were now waiting in line to speak to the writers and reporters. When dropping a poster into theSpace Triplex, we spotted a chap from Error 404 Theatre Company‘s Wakey Wakey waiting to go on dressed in a flowing ivory wedding gown. We were intrigued and had to snap up some last minute tickets to see the show and find out more. Wakey Wakey is a newly-written comedy set at, you may have guessed it, a wake. Four twenty-something-year-old friends come back to their hometown to celebrate the life of Jessica, their best friend’s late wife. However, things don’t go as smoothly as planned as the bunch of misfits make faux pas after faux pas. The show is well-observed and has some real tender moments amongst the comedy when the characters divulge their feelings and stories about their late friend.
After taking in the show and doing a little more flyering, we reconvened with Jac and Laura once they had spoken to the media. We headed back to our apartment and got ourselves ready for the show. We didn’t quite have time to warm up as usual back at base, so ever the professionals we headed to the Radisson Blu’s car park, filed into an empty parking space and did our thing. I’ll admit we did get some funny looks from car park patrons as en mass we exuberantly proclaimed the word BA-NA-NAAAA. However, I’m glad of our weird car park warm up because we had a full house on Saturday! Jacob took this sneaky photo of everyone filing in pre-show…
After a smashing show (with thanks to our wonderful receptive audience!) and a cheeky gin or two it was time to take in a show. We went to see Shit-Faced Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There was a great atmosphere in the theatre as we watched Claudius get drunker and drunker and mangle the Bard’s words and story – insisting that Laertes and Ophelia swap costumes. Much hilarity ensued as the actor’s muddled through the chaos. This show is best enjoyed after a few beverages – it does make for a fun night out!
We had such a busy and exhausting day that we all flopped into bed with ease when back at the apartment.
Cry God for Harry, England and St George! by Mulberry Theatre Company
Given the fact that Henry V plays such an important part in our show, team Greyhounds was excited to see that another production at the Fringe was using Shakespeare’s play to create their own story.
Rather than the 1940’s home front, Mulberry Theatre Company took us to East London, where we meet a group of teenage girls who are attempting to stage their own production of Henry V. However, they initially struggle to relate to the play as it’s about a load of white men in a situation seemingly very far removed from their own. This in itself raises the issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in the stories that are told in theatre and the actors who get to tell them. The key turning point in the play comes when the cast – along with many other Muslims in the country – receive an anonymous letter, declaring April 3rd as ‘Punish a Muslim Day’, thereby inciting people to commit violent crimes against Muslim people and communities.
Sadly, this letter was not a fictional dramatic device made up for the purposes of the play, but was actually a real letter that was widely circulated across the UK earlier this year. It was a very poignant and uncomfortable reminder that Islamophobia is still rife in our country, and that it is all of our responsibility to stand up for, and alongside, Muslim communities. I thought the actors handled this sensitive issue with great maturity, showing a range of responses from angry defiance to fear, raising some really thought provoking questions about what it means to be British which tied in well with the Shakespeare.
Though the subject matter was serious, there were some really lovely and inventive moments in the play to enjoy. I was struck by the set when I first walked in the venue, which effectively gave the impression of a community centre and was used well by the performers throughout. Technical aspects of the play were also executed well, such as when the girls were reading comments about their production of Henry V (both supportive and abusive) and scrolling comment feeds were projected onto their bodies. There was also a lovely moment with a skull, suit of armour, sword and crown – I don’t want to give too much away, but it was a surprising and creative use of what I had previously just thought of as a nice bit of set-dressing!
All in all, Cry God for Harry, England and St George! was very impressive for an entirely student-led production and these young people should be commended for what they have achieved with this show.
We arose at the civilised hour of nine and began, what is fast becoming, our morning routine. RuPaul was blaring from our USB speaker, Tim went running, and Jacob polished off four sets of two Weetabix, because it’s only polite to finish the sleeve.
When you’re a hot vintage vixen, there’s quite a lot to do of a morning: pin curls to be pinned, eye brows to be plucked (covertly by torch-light while Fiona’s sleeping in the next bed) and red lips to be lipsticked. At eleven thirty we gathered in the apartment to partake of the daily warm-up. Nothing gets you feeling ready for a day of professional theatre work than shouting LIMMMEE, cherrrrries, BAN-AN-A at each other for twenty minutes (our warm-up is very fruit-based because we are mature professionals).
After an elevenses of Iced Gems and Mini Rolls (healthy snacks are essential if you’re going to survive the Fringe – little tip for you there) we headed out into the throbbing metropolis. Well, Leith. Our first port of call was flyering near Underbelly but the girls may have got distracted en route by the window of W. Armstrong & Son; purveyors of fine vintage togs. I couldn’t resist buying a new skirt to add to my repertoire of 1940s outfits. Catherine joined me in getting a cheeky new dress but Fiona outdid us all by nabbing two full new outfits. The boys did something useful like more flyering or getting our posters printed, or something, I don’t know.
We dropped off our beautiful posters at all the SpaceUK venues across Edinburgh, and then paraded up and down the Mile in our costumes (to raise awareness of our show, not to boost our egos, obviously) Gorilla flyering occurred when Jacob handed a flyer in through the window of a moving van (all procedures were safe and within the law)
Then time to nip into Frankie & Benny’s for a spot of lunch. We then hot-footed it over to theSpace at Surgeon’s Hall to grab our tickets for Mulberry Theatre’s ‘Cry God For Harry, England and St George’. We were excited to see another play using extracts from Henry V to tell a brand new story. Whilst we’d been doing all this, our director Jac had been at theSpace at Triplex attending the SpaceUK press launch. She got to watch an eclectic mix of snippets from the 300+ shows that theSpace is hosting at Edinburgh this year. Complimentary Champagne slipped down a treat too, as she tried to sweet talk the press, alongside our fellow performers, flashing our Ration Book leaflets and discussing all things war, Henry V, and vintage.
By then, it was already time to get back to our apartment and change into our costumes after a quick tea and toast break. The nerves were starting to mount. Social media was buzzing (at least we were publishing quite a lot of selfies on Twitter and the Gram) and lipstick was flying. Back on the bus into town – we’re going to know that route like the back of our hand before long – and then a nervous wait outside our venue as the clock ticked round to 8pm. As we prepared to get in, it was exciting to see old friends and members of the public alike begin to drift into the box office to collect tickets for Greyhounds. Having expected no one to turn up at all, as a first time Fringe company, we were beyond excited to be half-full on our first night. There was a good buzz to the room and then… we were off!
It was such a brilliant opening night! It was the slickest the show had ever been, leaving us plenty of time for a confident get-out. The audience laughed (lots of love for a gag involving Hamlet!) and left us some truly lovely feedback on our wartime feedback cards. In a celebratory mood we went down to the bar for a round of cocktails – Tim’s was naturally the campest. Once we’d drunk the venue dry of gin, we headed back out onto the mean streets and got a glamorous dinner of late-night McDonalds. Then it was back on our favourite bus and to the apartment for Prosecco and pyjamas.