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 – The House of Edgar

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A bleak Thursday night (it was drizzling a bit) nearing midnight (10pm) and we waited outside an old church (lit with bright green lights and manned by some friendly Fringe staff, but shhh) to see Argosy Arts Theatre’s The House of Edgar.
The atmopshere was tense and palpable, sort of, but we were most definitely ready to feast our eyes on this ‘gothic masterpiece’. The play promised to blend musical theatre with gothic horror to tell the story of Edgar Allan Poe, after his death, as a rival tries to seize his estate, and it certainly delivered.

The music was provided by a pianist and violinist who were simply brilliant. They kept time perfectly, instantly evoking an eerie atmosphere with their sliding chromatics and discordant melodies. As the cast began to sing the first number, we knew we were in for a treat. It was both snappy and smart, traits which continued throughout the performance, the transition from each number to the next seamless.

I’ve read some of Poe’s poetry and short stories (though after this I’m definitely keen to read more) and it was particularly powerful to see his famous words brought to life by song. The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven were especially captivating, particularly the brutal physicality brought to the former. But for me, the stand out performance of the night was Rufus Griwold (Eoin McAndrew). Right from the opening, he captured the audience’s attention and delivered a multi-layed performance as Poe’s former friend and rival.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone – definitely one of the best shows of the Fringe! We demand a soundtrack!

Reviews from the Home Front – Dear Lucy

With 2018 marking the centenary of the end of the First World War, it is no surprise that this year’s Edinburgh Fringe has many shows based on the Great War. Dear Lucy… by Flying High is one such show. Part of their Heritage Lottery funded project, ‘Then & Now: Rebuilding lives after the Great War’, Dear Lucy… focuses not on the conflict itself but rather its aftermath as the Lucy of the title has to pick up the pieces of her life which is shattered by the news that both her brother and fiancé were killed in action.

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The stage was adorned with poppies, old photographs, and letters to Lucy which were read aloud, transporting us back to 1918. This set a very poignant and sentimental tone which remained throughout the play, which featured contemporary dance, music and scenes of family life after the war, which were beautifully acted. I liked how female-focused this production was, as they explored women’s roles following the end of the war and female friendship. The family relationships portrayed – particularly between the sisters – felt real and well observed. All the actors did well with the multi-roling that this play required, creating characters that were distinct and believable.

My favourite storytelling device used by Dear Lucy… however was the recorded interviews. The play is very much a family affair as it is based on a true story, with Lucy being played by the real Lucy’s great granddaughter, and interspersed between the scenes were clips of recorded conversations with Lucy’s grandchildren. I love hearing people’s family stories, and the inclusion of these memories were heartwarming and made Lucy seem that much more real to the audience. It is clear that she was adored by her family, and the show was lovely tribute to her.

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 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 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)

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)

Reviews from the Home Front – Cry God for Harry, England and St George!

Cry God for Harry, England and St George! by Mulberry Theatre Company

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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.

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.