Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 12

Sunday 12th August 2018

It was here. Our day off had arrived. And boy was I glad not to be flyering on this wet and gloomy Sunday. Even the usually wildly vocal seagulls had decided to have a lie in and avoid the vicious downpour.

Fiona headed out first for a day of bookish fun. First stop for her was a much-longed for lounge in a coffee shop with her poor slightly neglected novel. A few chapters down, she headed to Lighthouse Books (Edinburgh’s radical bookshop). She perused the tomes on offer with reckless abandon, finally deciding upon an anthology of short stories about political protests.

After lunch with a fellow-Fringing friend, she caught The Red Shoes by Young Pleasance. The show is based upon a Hans Christian Andersen and is brought to life through song and dance. The Red Shoes was full of gorgeous costumes, exciting dance and innovative lighting.

Meanwhile, director Jac and techie Paul pootled on down to Stockbridge market to soak up the hipster vibes (and the torrential rain). They described the vibe as ‘very Chorlton’ for all you Manchester folks in the know. They then spent the afternoon with family (as Paul hails from right here in the land of haggis), celebrating a birthday and stuffing themselves with what I’m told was truly delightful trifle.

Last but certainly not least, Laura, Tim and I had a very exciting day at the ZOO! We set the tone on the way there by cobbling together a makeshift playlist of animal themed songs from what we already had downloaded on Spotify (Octopus’ Garden, Shakira’s She Wolf and I am the Walrus all featured). The zoo was everything I dreamed of and more despite the downpour. Highlights for me were the proud penguin parade, the pygmy hippos and the panda gorging himself on bamboo.

We were all completely tuckered out but the day wasn’t over yet as we had tickets for three shows in quick succession in the evening. We refuelled with a quick and delicious supper of minestrone soup and crackers. Pea-hater Tim left all of his peas in the bowl which isn’t very inkeeping with the wartime spirit. Wasting rations, we shan’t be having any of that!

First show of the evening was Bugle Boys at Assembly Hall. This drag tribute to our beloved Andrews Sisters was full of sass, songs and sequins. It was jolly good fun and the Bugle Boys’ harmonies were so on point.

Next up, we hot-footed it to The Stand to finally catch a bit of the stand-up that Edinburgh Fringe is so renowned for. We took in Alun Cochrun’s show. Depressingly relatable was his observation about having to turn up the TV when the crisps you’re munching on are too loud. A crisis I face on an almost daily basis.

Our final show of the night was late-night Showstopper! The talented cast come up with a musical on the fly based on audience suggestions. We were treated to a Baywatch musical in the style of Hamilton, Mamma Mia, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Book of Mormon. It’s incredible to see the musicians pick up on the melodies the cast throw out and the ever-perfect harmonies. Seriously, don’t miss these guys if you’re at the Fringe. I could go see it every day!

For a day off, we really did jam-pack it full of activities, but you’ve got to cease those opportunities when at the Fringe!

Yours,

Catherine

(Greyhounds’ Ruby Winters)

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 11

Saturday 11th August 2018

Amazingly, given the fact that half the Greyhounds stayed up partying and singing Hey Mr Miller in the local takeaway until the small hours the night before, we actually managed to get out of bed on Saturday morning and have a somewhat productive day. I even met a friend for some much needed coffee and managed to have a full conversation with her like a functioning human being in what was a truly Oscar worthy performance. In other award worthy performances, apparently Catherine did a stunning rendition of Cool and the Gang’s ‘Celebrate’ in the shower, but sadly I was either out or dead to the world so missed it. Here’s hoping that there will be a reprise!

Most of the rest of our day was pretty much par for the course – flyering, flyering, eating, and more flyering. We managed to get another slot on the stage after a minor drama in which it appeared that a fire engine was going to attempt to drive up the Royal Mile – you know, that completely deserted and never at all busy road that doesn’t have 3 street stages on it. Once the stage had been moved a whole foot to the right (presumably to try and accommodate this fire engine that must have been lost), we treated the Mile to some jolly 40s tunes whilst Jac did a sterling job of rallying the crowds and throwing a few era-appropriate shapes with Tim and some eager spectators.

We didn’t have long to revel in the swing-dance spirit, as Jac, Paul, Laura and Tim headed off to catch a performance of the Dad’s Army Radio Show, accompanied by a spot of afternoon tea. Laura was very cynical going in as she’s a lifelong fan of the TV show. However, they perfectly captured the essence of the show from the incidental music used during the scene changes to the delivery of over 15 different characters between two actors (including the famous seven). David Benson’s Sergeant Wilson and Jack Lane’s Private Pike were absolutely spot on. The team were somewhat perturbed by the lack of cake but the scones were absolutely delightful.

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Anthony’s last Edinburgh Fringe performance with us went down a treat with our lovely audience. We’re very grateful that he was able to step in and do such a cracking job with the part, even after we nearly broke him the night before by making him come to the Hive (til 5!) with us.

A few well-earned drinks in the bar later, and it was home time for some of us early birds (me, who’d been a little bit too much of a night owl the night before…). However, the Space launch party beckoned for those feeling rather more lively amongst us. Space lanyards proudly on display, the rest of team Greyhounds went to dance the night away to the marvellous live band and celebrated what has so far been a truly spiffing Fringe experience.

Until next time,

Fiona

(Nancy Wilde – Greyhounds)

 

Reviews from the Home Front – Dulce Et Decorum Est: The Unknown Soldiers

Dulce Et Decorum Est: The Unknown Soldiers by Polymorph Theatre was a captivating two-person historical drama performed at theSpace Triplex. The year is 1941, two strangers are united as they take shelter from an air raid. Tommy is a World War One veteran; haunted by his past as he saw the rest of his regiment wiped out in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Ellen, a young American woman, is awaiting word of her fiancé who has gone to war. They confide in each other in this confined space, sharing their stories and slowly realising that they may have more of a connection than they thought.

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The premise of the play piqued our interest, rocketing the show to the top of our illustrious ‘shows to see’ board before we even realised we were next-door neighbours as well as WW2-show-buddies! The interweaving stories of the two World Wars is something we’ve not seen explored in any other play here at Edinburgh Fringe. It was a really interesting to hear the two experiences compared and contrasted and the characters’ perspectives on the other’s experiences.

Emilie Maybank (Ellen) did a wonderful job of capturing and portraying the feeling of being the one left behind and the agony of not knowing the fate of a loved one. Meanwhile, Jan van der Black gave a powerful and emotional performance as Tommy. Particularly poignant was his tale of going over the top with his pals at the Somme. You could truly believe that he had been there and seen the horrors of war.

The theatre space lent itself well to the setting of a make-shift shelter, with its low ceiling and intimate seating. The set design was simple yet effective, with period appropriate props pulled out of an up-turned vintage tea chest (almost identical to the one tucked away in our Greyhounds set!).

I’d be really interested in seeing more work from Polymorph Theatre in the future as Dulce Et Decorum Est: The Unknown Soldiers was such an evocative piece of historical theatre with beautiful detail. Jolly good show chaps!

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 8

Wednesday 8th August 2018

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.

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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.)

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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…

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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.

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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.

Goodnight folks,
Laura (Katherine Winters)

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 4

Saturday 4th August 2018

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

Adieu!

Catherine

(Greyhounds’ Ruby Winters)

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 3

Friday 3rd August

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.