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!

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 10

Friday 10th August 2018

Friday dawned bright and clear. Possibly. We’ve been here for so long that we’ve lost all track of the concept of time and each day goes in a second, but also takes an eternity, and we can’t remember one from the next. However, I do remember this…

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We split off into two contingents: Jac, Paul, Fiona and Catherine went to watch Italia Conti’s The Dark Philosopher, who were performing at a fellow space venue, whilst Tim and I headed into town to sort out some admin. As the others were enjoying the play, we visited the printers to collect more posters and pull quotes. Whilst we waited we couldn’t resist popping up the road to our favourite shortbread shop to have a cheeky biscuit to keep us going (hazelnut and dark chocolate – yes please).

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We reconvened for lunch – big bowls of pasta and plates of pizza at Bella Italia, conveniently located right outside our venue. It was our final meal with Jacob (for the time being anyway) as he was leaving us to go gallivanting back to Crewe (in aid of the war effort of course). How would we cope? Who knows? Probably not very well.

We made our way to Princes Street to flyer outside the Virgin Money Half-Price Hut. 10 half price tickets were up for grabs! It was rather splendid to see our name in lights, up on the big screen. Definitely check out the Hut each day as it’s a great place to nab discount tickets to some really great shows (and I don’t just mean ours here, I’m being genuine. Really I am.) Whilst flyering, our eyes were drawn to the splendid market stalls that surrounded the National Gallery. Some marvellous insect brooches and Fringe inspired tote bags were particularly tempting.

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Afterwards we trooped back to the Royal Mile and did a spot of singing. The crowds seem to be drawn to the dulcet tones of Glenn Miller and the Andrew Sisters like a flock of seagulls to our bedroom window at 4am. They love it.

Then something very exciting happened. A new member of the company arrived in the land of Bagpipes; Anthony had arrived to take over the role of Will. He’d be filling in for the next two shows and we were delighted. To herald his grand arrival the heavens opened. Thank you weather. Love you.

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He swung by the apartment to catch up on some alterations we’ve made to the show and to collect his costume. Before he knew it, he was stood in a multi-storey car park space warming up like a professional. And then it was time for the show! Anthony hadn’t run through the show for over two weeks and yet he was word perfect and did us all proud.

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To celebrate, we decided to head to a Victorian séance at midnight. It was part of the Free Fringe. We collected Fiona from the Pleasance on the way. She’d gone for a few drinks with her friends and happened to see Dara O’Brien but was too shy to make contact. Better luck next time, Fiona.

The séance was an interesting hour where we were promised that the spirits would be crossing the veil tonight. They didn’t. But Catherine did have to go to the front and check that the rope was legitimate. To settle our nerves, we indulged in a little bottle of wine or two afterwards. Purely medicinal.

Night, night,
Laura (Katherine Winters)

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.

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)

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!