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)