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.

Reviews from the Home Front – In Loyal Company

In Loyal Company by David William Bryan

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Despite the fact that we had been in Edinburgh for less than 24 hours, we were chomping at the bit to see what else the biggest Fringe festival in the world had to offer. Before even getting to the Fringe, we had been following the progress of In Loyal Company on Twitter, so it made perfect sense that David William Bryan’s one man show about a prisoner of war during WW2 should be our first watch of the festival. We had been looking forward to seeing it for a while, and it certainly did not disappoint.

In Loyal Company is based on the true story of Bryan’s great uncle, Arthur Robinson, who went missing during his service in the Second World War. The story starts before he signs up to fight, as we are introduced to Arthur’s family (his mother has the cleanest doorstep in the street, don’t you know) and get a glimpse of what life on the home front in Birkenhead is like. There is great warmth and humour in Bryan’s performance here, endearing you to Arthur – known as Joe – straightaway, which makes his later ordeals in the war all the more of an emotional punch to the gut. These shifts in tone are handled masterfully by Bryan, who shifts seamlessly from gentle comedy to heartbreaking pathos like the flick of a switch as he describes the horrors of what he saw and experienced. It was fascinating to see a different aspect of the war, after we focus so much on small village life on the home front in Greyhounds; our characters struggle to deal with the repercussions of war, whereas Joe is right in the thick of the action.

As Bryan takes us from Birkenhead to India, Singapore, and Thailand we meet a few other characters who, although their appearances are often fleeting, are still distinctive and well played. They feel rounded and their respective relationships with Joe feel convincing; I was particularly moved by his fellow soldier, George, and Joe’s interactions with his parents.

Bryan is an excellent story teller. The script is tight and well written, and well balanced between moving the plot forward and world-building details that help the audience to imagine what it was like to live and serve in these conditions. As a performer, Bryan works extremely hard in this hour long play; his performance is as physical as it is emotional. I was struck by how his body almost seemed to transform before our eyes as the war took its toil. His physicality was excellent.

I cannot finish the review without giving a specific mention to the technical aspects of the performance. The lighting and sound complemented the action perfectly and was extremely slick. Each part of this production was well executed, and the hour flew by. Congratulations and well done to everyone involved on a thoroughly excellent show!

 

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 2

Thursday 2nd August 2018

Dear reader,

Today Time & Again Theatre Company’s Edinburgh escapades started to feel a little more real! For me, the day started out with a quiet few chapters of my book (I am utterly storming through Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro) before the rest of the happy few woke up. Soon enough, my fellow cast members began to blunder into the kitchen in search of caffeine and we cracked into a classic cereal variety pack courtesy of writer/producer/actor Laura’s lovely mother. Three cheers for Cheerios!

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After a brief social media interlude (got to keep you lovely lot updated on our goings on haven’t we?), we began to put together our fierce 1940’s looks for the day. Fiona who plays Nancy Wilde – Shuttlefield’s aspiring actress and ever the optimist waged battle on the curling wand yet again. Alas, she lost her fight but came away with less battle scars than usual! Here’s a snap of Fiona, Laura and I serving up some WWII realness.

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Into an Uber we hopped and we were on our way to see our first play of the Fringe. We had been looking forward to seeing In Loyal Company at The Pleasance for quite some time. The one man show, set in WWII, got a standing ovation from us having taken the audience on quite the rollercoaster of emotion. The Pleasance is such a buzzing hub of activity with lots of cute little food and drink booths alongside the performance spaces. I thoroughly enjoyed my falafel wrap and I hear the cheese toasties were marvellous.

Next, we trotted down to the Royal Mile swinging by an artisan shortbread shop on the way. When in Scotland, you know.

We headed to our venue theSpace on the Mile for the very first time. It’s a lovely (air conditioned) oasis of calm in the midst of all the royal mile madness; at the moment at least.  We handed over some of our much-coveted ration book flyers to the lovely box office staff to be displayed in the venue. I wonder when we’ll stop making quips about not being to eat without your ration book whilst handing them out. We started to set up for our technical rehearsal and Jacob (who plays Will Croft in Greyhounds) arrived, having zipped back from Spain the very same day. The whole gang were back together again. The excitement was palpable.

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Imogen and Claire our technical gurus were very helpful and got our show looking and sounding great in the space by the end of the session. On our way out we were handed our performer’s passes which felt very official and exciting. Before dinner, we simply couldn’t resist a spot of flyering on the Royal Mile!

Once we had consumed a big old meal, we arrived back at our apartment. However, the day’s activities didn’t cease then. At 11pm Laura finished up painting the scenery she had been slaving over the day before. This task was fuelled by well-earned Cadbury’s Mini Rolls – other brands of chocolate miniature roll are available – and de-caff tea. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast excitedly leafed through the Fringe programme and picked out all of the excellent shows that we endeavour to see and support over the next two and a bit weeks!

Until next time,

Catherine

(Greyhounds’ would-be bohemian and hapless director Ruby Winters)

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 1

Wednesday 1st August 2018

I woke up this morning at about half past nine and lay quite still for a moment, just letting it sink in – the day had finally arrived. D-Day. It was later than I’d hoped, but I’d been up until 2am the night before collecting gas mask boxes for flyering on the mile and receiving a ‘Red Cross’ food hamper from my lovely Mum (complete with World War II sticker on the front!)

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I breakfasted – cornflakes, because my heady days of stardom haven’t quite started yet although I’m sure I’ll be dipping little delicate pastries into hot chocolate and sipping Champagne for brekky tomorrow – and read a couple of pages of my book to try and calm the slight tingle of nerves in my tummy, but soon flung it aside and went downstairs to finish off the last of the packing. It’s amazing how many pairs of shoes you can fit into one suitcase if you really put your mind to it. Think positive. Sit on the lid.
A producer/writer/actor/stage manager’s life is never dull (who am I? 24601) and so I naturally had a quick backdrop to knock up. No biggie. Google: Battle of Agincourt, Laurence Olivier Henry V, battle scene, flags, tents. Job done, well, half done; I’ll have to finish it at the appartment once we’ve arrived, and I got a blob of red paint on the carpet but at least we now have something vaguely resembling a piece of scenary.

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The rendezous was midday. We actually set off at approximately three. That’s an impressive late start even for me, but hey – we’re on no schedule (phrase of the day).
Our designated driver was Tim (former RAF pilot Edward Holmes in the play) as he’d been bequeathed with the covetous title of most responsible adult. The car itself was a beautiful display of Tetris, shoes wedged up cracks and bags of booze and food balanced on laps (because who knows if they even have shops in Edinburgh?). And the playlist; well, let me just toot my own horn for a second, but the playlist was banging. We hit the road to the dulcent tones of the Proclaimers and from there it just built: Britney, Gaga, Rupaul, Hamilton, Chicago, Disney, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Queen. You can’t buy taste, it’s just a natural blessing some of us are burdened with.

Our first stop was Westmoreland Farm Shop, officially the nicest service station in the world (official by me, 2018). I had a pot of tea and an iced Empire biscuit with a little cherry on the top – civillised. Fiona (Nancy Wilde in our little play) tried to buy a ukulele, which I encouraged greatly because unadalterated spending and a slide into frivolity is always an enjoyable sight to behold.
The car alarm was set off by the kids, because you can’t turn your back on those little scamps for two minutes, and Dad (Tim) had to come and fix it.
We ended up stopping for three more wee breaks (this is the glam blog of a sophisticated company, don’t you know?) including having to traipse into a little bistro with Catherine (playing my sister, Ruby Winters) in the Arse-End-Of-Nowhere (actual name) where the bell over the door rang, instantly alerting all occupants to our sneaky toilet break antics, made worse when we got lost coming out and ended up in the kitchen. But the less said of that the better.

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Finally, after many weeks on the road – or five and half hours, same thing – we pulled into Edinburgh with 500 Miles blaring out. Start as you mean to go on.
The apartment is SO nice. It’s bigger than we were expecting (when does that ever happen?) and it has such a cute homely atmosphere with fairy lights and big sash windows. The stairs coming up from the front door are lethal though so that’s going to be fun to navigate after a few cheeky Beverleys. Will any of the company make it to the end of the run? Watch this space.

Jac, our director, had a lovely casserole already warming on the stove and it was served up pretty much as soon as we sat down. Slippery slope – we’ll expect this level of service every night. As we took our seats, a bottle of bubbly was popped open to toast our first night, the show, and the fact that we’d actually made it to Edinburgh in one piece. Well, almost. Jacob (Will Croft) shall be swimming over from Spain on the morrow, so let’s not count our chickens just yet. Supper supped it was time for the pub to be pubbed. This is the hour also known as Gin o’Clock. The words ‘line run’ were written onto our rehearsal schedule but we ignored this with reckless abandon. Tomorrow would be for such mortal practicalities. This was our First Night. I fear we haven’t found our regular haunt. Our first pub was deathly quiet, with just the sound of the air vents pumping around the echoing room. The second felt altogether too murderous for my liking. But we sipped away with determination and didn’t return to the apartment until gone midnight, wild things that we are.

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All that remained was to make tea, eat biscuits, and order a big shop to be delivered by Tesco on Friday. Because actors don’t survive on air, darling. They survive on Cheerios, pasta, and the cheapest fruit and veg available to mankind.
With the sound of seagulls accompanying me, I head up the stairs to Bedfordshire with my hair pincurled in a headscarf, ready for our first leafletting assult on the Mile tomorrow. See you in the morning.

Over and out,
Laura
(Katherine Winters)
(Time & Again founder/writer/tea-drinker)