Letters from the Home Front -Edinburgh Diary Day 9

Thursday 9th August 2018

We had a busy schedule planned with lots of shows to see. The day started with us hot-footing it down to theSpace on the Mile to try and grab some last minute tickets for Noel Coward’s Still Life. However, it was all sold out! It wasn’t a wasted trip into town though, as we decided to head into the heaving crowds up on and around the mile and hand some flyers out before our next show of the day.

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Next up was Dulce Et Decorum Est: The Unknown Soldiers at theSpace at Triplex. It transpires that the company are staying right next door to us so we thought it jolly good form to go catch our neighbours’ show, especially as it’s also set in World War II! There were some lovely parallels between The Unknown Soldiers and Greyhounds, right down to the vintage tea-chest that sits proudly in the set of both shows.

Coming out of the show, Fiona’s grumbling stomach reminded us that we’d been so enthralled in the day’s activities that we’d forgotten to factor in time for lunch. Laura and Tim dashed off to grab some pasta whilst Fiona, Jacob and I rushed to theSpace on Niddry Street for Dear Lucy. We enjoyed the WWI show but I do hope the performers weren’t put off by our vocal tummies desperate to make themselves known. When back out on the street, Jacob, Fiona and I were on the prowl for some fast and filling food. The golden arches were looming. We accepted our fate and joined Ronald in a triumphant feast of burgers and fries. Meanwhile, Laura and Tim found director Jac and techie Paul and went to a performance of Dick Barton: The Tango of Terror by the Television Workshop Salford. Always great to support a fellow Greater Manchester production!

We reconvened on the Royal Mile, where Laura whipped out her ukulele and we did some impromptu close harmony singing for those passing by. Pretending to be The Andrews Sisters is definitely one of my favourite pass-times. It’s a shame we’ve only got four songs down at the moment!

Then it was time for another performance of Greyhounds. We seem to be racing through this run of shows at an alarming rate, it seems only yesterday we had those first night jitters. Another appreciative audience greeted us which was so lovely. We’re ever so grateful for the reception we’re receiving at the Fringe!

One of the great things about the Fringe is being able to go see a plethora of shows at almost any hour of the day. Tonight was the turn of The House of Edgar – a deliciously dark musical about Edgar Alan Poe. Post-performance, we trooped up to Greenside @ Nicholson Square which was bathed in green light. Here’s a snap of Jacob and Fiona having an absolute whale of a time before it was time to go and take in the show.

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The House of Edgar is an absolute must-see if you’re here at the festival. Such good music and physicality. We were riding high on the spirit of musical theatre and decided that when back at the apartment, we should pop a musical on the TV. We searched various streaming services to seek out a good musical. And there it was. Chicago. Amazingly, it was Tim’s first viewing of it (which makes me even more grateful for him putting up with our exuberant performances of the Chicago numbers on the way up). We sang and danced our way along, apart from Cell Block Tango, where Fiona hushed us all to take in the masterpiece. What a jolly lovely way to spend the hours after the show!

Reviews from the Home Front – I, Sniper

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

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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!

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 7

Tuesday 7th August 2018

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.

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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.

Until next time,

Catherine

(Greyhounds’ Ruby Winters)

Reviews from the Home Front – Fall of Eagles

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.

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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!

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 6

Monday 6th August 2018

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.

First up was Tychy, whose perceptive and detailed review which describes how Greyhounds ‘beautifully masters and combines both the Bard and the aesthetic minutiae of WW2’ left us smiling from ear to ear. But that wasn’t all! Broadway Baby also gave us a whopping 4 stars, stating that ‘you should think yourself accurs’d if you miss this clever and charming production’. We can’t help but agree! On a more serious note, we have all worked so hard to make this show the very best it can be, and we are absolutely delighted that audiences and reviewers are enjoying it so much and really understand the carefully crafted layers of the play.

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Laura with her medal, awarded by Jac, to commemorate our first 4* Edinburgh Fringe review!

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.

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Working hard, or hardly working?
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A most sophisticated afternoon!

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.

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Action shot of the sword fight (and those fabulous costumes!)

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.

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In our very glam car park warm up spot!

Toodle-oo, dear readers!

Fiona

(Greyhounds’ Nancy Wilde)

 

 

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 5

Sunday 5th August 2018
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.
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Sunday 5th of August shall now be known as ‘Cooper Day’.
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?
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Outstanding commitment to promoting the show at every opportunity!
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?
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Delicious cupcakes (pre-sparklers), courtesy of Bibi’s Bakery.

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.
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Pancake pro Jac in action!
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.
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What a handsome and happy bunch we are!
Happy birthday, Tim – we hope it was every bit as splendid as you are!
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Until next time, chaps!

Fiona

(Greyhounds’ Nancy Wilde)

Reviews from the Home Front – Shit-Faced Shakespeare

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?

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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!