That Stagey Blog
Day 9 - Edinburgh Fringe
My day started incredibly well. The sun was shining, the bag pipes were playing, and Charlie Kristensen tagged me in this tweet:
For those of you who don’t know who Charlie is. Last month, actress Jacqueline Hughes posted on Twitter, an appeal for people to send love and support to one of her students Charlie who was being bullied for liking musical theatre.
The response was huge, as people across the industry started making and sending in videos and words of kindness and encouragement using the hash tag #CheerUpCharlie. And suddenly Charlie had become a superstar.
Charlie represents a part of us all who have ever felt different and left out, and what theatre is brilliant at is bringing people together.
When Charlie was invited by Mark Petty to attend one of his Crazy Coq Presents shows, I wanted to tell Charlie that I was once just like him. A young boy growing up in Middlesbrough who loved musical theatre and struggled to make friends, and now I live in London and most of my friends work in musical theatre. I wanted Charlie to know that it gets better.
I had just interviewed Alex Lodge, and decided that I wanted Charlie to have one of my That Stagey Blog T-Shirts.
I’m proud to wear my T-shirts which I designed myself with the help of my friend Justin Williams, and I wear them for every vlog and every interview I do. Until now, nobody else has one of these, apart from my best friend Sarah and my ex boyfriend Marc who has a vest.
I chatted to Charlie’s mum and told her she might want to wash it before Charlie wears it.
I was not expecting the lovely tweet and photo of Charlie wearing the T-shirt to Layton’s dance class and it really cheered me up to see it.
#CheerUpCharlie had cheered me up.
I had been feeling a bit up and down this whole trip, it had begun to feel like a lot of work, and after the reaction from We Are Kilter when I responded badly to their show Bit of Sunshine, I was feeling a bit sensitive, and had lost sight of why I make this blog.
Charlie, without knowing it, had timed his tweet perfectly. It serves to remind me why I do it, why I care, why I love theatre and this industry, and that sometimes even a small gesture and act of kindness can go along way, and that kindness can come back to you when you pay it forward.
My act of giving Charlie one of my T-shirts was a small gesture and Charlie had now done something to cheer me up. It’s amazing how things happen.
My first show of the day was the hugely popular FishBow lat the Pleasance’s largest venue The Grand.
FishBowl is a new comedy from France created and performed by Pierre Guillois, Agathe L’Huillier, and Oliver Martin-Salvan.
It’s a comedy farce with no words, set in three tiny adjacent Parisian apartments. The 75 minute show is a collection of short scenes which depict the three neighbours daily lives and exchanges, a subtle but beautiful through plot is woven neatly in to the narrative.
The characters are brilliantly depicted and illustrated by the simplicity and effectiveness of the action, helped by the staging and set.
At points it is very fun, and has a charming soundtrack, but at times it also felt a bit relentless and did drag, with moments of fatigue.
It’s obvious to see why this show has a huge appeal to a universal audience, the characters are well devised and recognisable, and the omittance of any spoken words enables this show to be understood by anyone.
The slapstick performances are enjoyable and fun and the play has a timeless charm to it, which you could compare to Charlie Chaplin but with an updated feel of Mr Bean, but to be honest, I was never a massive fan of the Rowan Atkinson series and found some of the toilet humour a bit crass.
After this I went to see Anything With a Pulsewhich Paul Vale had recommended.
I had tried to see it the day before but it had sold out due to it being performed in the Zoo Playground’s small twenty seat venue.
As I arrived, I bumped into my friend Louise who used to be my boss at the Actors Centre. We had a quick chat and a nice catch up before I got called in to watch the play.
Anything With a Pulseproduced by Wonky Donky is written by Eliana Ostro and performed by Rufus Love and Annie Davison.
It is a two person play that explores both sides of an encounter and courtship of a pair who meet in a night club.
The two actors play the central characters as well as each playing the adjacent characters. This is done to a relative degree of success, as some of the characters are illustrated by simply putting on a questionable accent to differentiate them.
The story was a pretty generic boy meets girl, exploring the opposing sides to how men and women view and recall the same events differently.
The story is told unconventionally by the characters mainly breaking the dirty wall and narrating the entire action rather than playing it out, which did get a little overwhelming.
It’s a comfortable if obvious examination of the differences between men and women, told through an enjoyable enough story with good performances if a little erratic at points.
I then raced across to interview Tom Brandon and Denis Grindel from The Choir of Man which we had rescheduled from the day before.
I only had an hour to record it between shows I was seeing and so met them at their dressing room at Assembly Hall where they have been performing each night.
Denis and I once went on a couple of dates, and he is incredibly charming. I watched the Choir of Man last year while I was in Edinburgh and fell in love with it, and met Tom Brandon who is one of the original line ups. Denis joined in its second year.
I was really looking forward to sitting down to discuss the show with them and we had a really lovely chat which can be found on my YouTube page:
I next went to see The Mystery of the Bonnie Sporran and the Loch Ness Monster.
A comedy presented by nine actors from the Chanticleer Players collective and it was really good.
All the cast were brilliant and well cast with excellent comic timing and accents.
The story was neat and engaging and well paced, lampooning the likes of Famous Five mysteries, it was fun and witty with lots of clever innuendos and puns.
There was also an excellent use of lighting and sound and the costumes were all brilliant and authentic to the period.
I was really impressed to see such a well formed piece performed by a such a strong cast.
The whole cast sang a rousing closing song demonstrating even more of their range.
After this I treated myself to a burger and milkshake before going to watch another play that I had been invited to called How to Mend the World (with a student play).
It had attracted a large audience thanks to the venue pushing it as their recommended show of the day, although as I looked around most of the audience had staff lanyards and I think were mainly performers from other shows.
Performed by Francis Nunnery. Tilly Price. Joshua Silverlock. Ollie Tritton-Wheeler. The play has a very good concept and some well developed characters.
Set in a production meeting of a group of students who are brainstorming ideas for a play they want to put on and pitch to investors.
Written with a dry sense of humour it felt at best reminiscent of Ricky Gervais’ series The Office. Which i think was also partly down to the fact that one of the actors Francis Nunnery looked and acted remarkably like Stephen Merchant, although I’ll be honest it was a poor imitation if that is what he was trying to do. His performance was a little over the top, even in keeping with his character which I understand was designed to be erratic.
Similarly Tilly Price was the weakest link in the team, with a very forced performance which felt like she was trying too hard to make the audience laugh and came across as a bit exaggerated.
The other two actors Joshua Silverlock. Ollie Tritton-Wheeler were very good, with much more natural and grounded performances.
On the whole I liked the play, particularly when the scenes were interspersed with them acting out the whacky suggestions they were coming up with. These moments worked really well.
I do have to say though, that I was sat behind three of the most annoying girls who incessantly laughed at every line, as if they had been planted and prompted to. Their canned laughter was particularly off putting, as they seemed either drunk or deranged. They too were wearing performers lanyards although I’m not sure which show they were from.
It just goes to demonstrate how an audience can impair your enjoyment of a show. As much as some people get frustrated if someone has sweet wrappers or uses their phone during a production, for me, incessant laughter and giggling is just as annoying and distracting about talking.
The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my YouTube channel here:
And the audio version can be found as a podcast here: