Getting ready for The Fringe? Our Edinburgh Fringe Report is back (you can still read last year’s Report here) with six more amateur theatre companies – all of them performing plays licensed by Nick Hern Books – revealing the state of their play as they get ready to launch themselves on The Fringe…
Holes by Tom Basden
C South Main Theatre, 14–20 August
Holes is an absurd, hilarious and fast-paced comedy by Tom Basden, the writer of some of Britain’s most acclaimed TV comedies (Fresh Meat, Plebs). Flight BA043 has crashed on an island. Stranded, four survivors wait. Surely somebody will find them. Planes don’t just disappear, do they? And, if no one’s coming… what do they do now?
We are Lyons Productions, a theatre company made up of University of Exeter students and graduates. Last year we performed our highly successful debut show, Party by Tom Basden, across Devon and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where we achieved a five-star sell-out run. Our choice to return to the Fringe with another Basden play was a very simple one – we feel that Basden’s writing is perfect for Fringe audiences, delivering big laughs whilst being subtly balanced with politics and poignancy, often making his work scarily relevant to our world today.
Rehearsals have been in full swing this week (in between the odd graduation and fundraising event!) which has propelled the company to the next level of the rehearsal process. The blocking is becoming more fluid and layered as the actors develop their confidence and understanding of the script. We have also thrown every prop imaginable at them in order to create the chaos of the plane crash on an island. Although the scale of the show is challenging, the group is in high spirits and we are eager to get Holes to Edinburgh!
– Talia Winn, Producer
Bull by Mike Bartlett
The Rude Mechanicals Amateur Dramatics
SpaceTriplex, 23–27 August
‘Don’t hunch. Stand up to him, stand up straight, smile a bit, you never know, you might win.
I mean you won’t.
But you might.’
Bull by Mike Bartlett is a dark comedy about the brutality of workplace politics and the pleasures of being mean. As Isobel, Tony and Thomas compete to keep their jobs, nothing is off limits. Mind games and dirty tricks abound as each character negotiates the brutal, Darwinist world they are trapped in.
So we’re half way through rehearsals for Bull, and it’s still making us laugh. We chose the play because it’s an impactful, dialogue-driven comedy with a healthy streak of menace. Having been up to the Fringe with plays in the past, Bull seemed perfect for what we wanted to do this year – its minimal set allows for an unwavering focus on the complex characters Bartlett has created.
The good thing about doing a play with meaty characters is that it always feels like everyone’s fully engaged in each rehearsal. Nick and I (co-directing the play) have chosen to take a more collaborative approach to the project, so before each rehearsal we all sit down to discuss and debate the scene before us. This has really helped our actors to identify with the characters they are playing, and their interactions on stage already feel very natural.
We still have lots of work ahead of us; a play such as Bull, driven as it is by sharp and precise dialogue, needs careful choreographing and creative direction to constantly challenge ourselves and our actors to look at the play from different angles. With just a few weeks left now before we head up to Edinburgh, we’re all very excited to put the finishing touches on our production of an amazing play!
– Priya Manwaring, Co-Director
Burying Your Brother in the Pavement by Jack Thorne
Eagle House School
SpaceTriplex, 8–13 August
Wow – this is a great play! We’re performing Burying Your Brother in the Pavement by Jack Thorne, a play written specifically for young people to perform, by the playwright behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
We have all learnt lots as a company and rehearsals have been quite an adventure as we tell the story of Tom, who decides he wants to bury his brother, Luke, in the pavement, on the exact spot where he died rather horrifically. Tom, unable to cope at home, camps out on the pavement where his brother died and begins to meet all sorts of people who inhabit the Tunstall Estate.
It is both funny, sad and gripping as we watch a boy deal with his grief in the most unexpected way. For young people this has all the ingredients for a great show: music, drama, emotion, joy and our audiences are in for a real treat. A vibrant soundtrack, including some pieces we have written for the show, pulses through the narrative. The young cast, aged 12–15, are current and former pupils of Eagle House and are thrilled to be showcasing both the play and their talents in Edinburgh.
Jack Thorne, one of the UK’s brightest playwrights, has written a mesmerising piece of youth theatre and we are delighted to be performing it at this year’s Fringe. Come and see us!
– Matthew Edwards, Head of Drama, Eagle House School
hang by debbie tucker green
Yellow Jacket Productions
C Venues, C Nova, 3–27 August
‘When they’ve seen their dad damaged, their mother motionless, our marriage disfigured our family f***ed…You tell me what to do then.’
Today is the day that Three (the character I’m playing in hang by debbie tucker green) must finally decide how her attacker is to be executed for his crimes against her and her family. This is a new Britain, a Britain where the death penalty exists. And state officials One (Kim Christie) and Two (Jessica Flood) must see that she comes to a decision. hang has the capacity to send a thrilling chill down the spine, for it takes place in a world that could exist, is not far from existing and, in some parts of the world, actually does exist.
Having been lucky enough to watch Marianne Jean Baptiste’s powerful performance in hang at the Royal Court Theatre in 2015, I was left clutching the script and feeling inspired. I was keen to tackle the text with an all-female cast, so I recruited Kim and Jessica, fellow graduates from The Poor School, and together we formed an exciting new company, Yellow Jacket Productions.
We started rehearsals in June and it didn’t take long before we realized that the text we were working with had a powerful simplicity paired with a structural complexity that was going to be an exciting challenge. The writing is truly superb and we discover new things and levels of meaning in each rehearsal. This is an extremely clever text.
Our director Kevin Russell, founder of New Dreams Theatre, brings a playful energy to each rehearsal. Kevin has a unique ability to find the humour in the darkest of moments, the perfect balance for a dark comedy like hang. There are moments in the play when even we, the actors, don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s genius.
Amusingly, there have been moments when we’ve seen ourselves in the characters – their habits, phrases, gestures. Some uncanny resemblances have left us often wondering if the play was actually written with us three in mind.
Now in the final few weeks of rehearsals, it’s all coming together. We’ve had the privilege to work with some extremely talented creatives along the way. Complete with an original score, purpose-designed costumes and a vivacious cast, we are proud to bring a fresh new version of a great play to the audiences of the Edinburgh Fringe.
– Tiannah Viechweg, cast member
Howie the Rookie by Mark O’Rowe
Revived Emmanuel Dramatics Society
Paradise in the Vault, 15–28 August
We are a group of four students from the University of Cambridge working with the Revived Emmanuel Dramatics Society in order to bring a stellar performance to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.
The play we’ve selected for this year’s Fringe is Mark O’Rowe’s Howie the Rookie. O’Rowe’s 1999 verse play is a drama of two halves, featuring The Howie Lee and The Rookie Lee, two men with nothing in common except a last name and one ill-fated day.
Set in the suburbs of Dublin, Howie the Rookie takes a nightmarish dive into the darkest turns of human behaviour, littering the descent with moments of comedy and intensely lyrical verse. The play consists of two monologues, delivered by each of the two characters consecutively, giving their story of the day’s twists and turns. The actors speak directly to the audience, and the play becomes a fascinating exhibition of the importance of point of view, and how it shapes the experience of the audience. Furthermore, it becomes a masterful example of the importance of story-telling in theatre, which we have spent a lot of time focusing on in rehearsals.
We’ve spent a lot of rehearsal time on researching the environment in which Howie and Rookie live, which has been truly enlightening for bringing the performance to life. We’ve mapped out our precise vision of Tallaght, the suburb of Dublin in which the play takes place; we’ve drawn up the pubs and bars where fights take place, the houses our characters and our characters’ friends live in; we’ve even been learning how to box so we can really visualise the fights themselves. This is more important than just a backstory, though; it’s a way to really do justice to the nature of the play. Each monologue is essentially its own story, and with no set, no other actors and no props, our job is to take the audience through the town of Tallaght and the, at times, terrifying detail of the action: purely with the words of O’Rowe.
When we ourselves know how everything looks, sounds, smells and feels in our heads, only then can we hope to create this environment, flavoured by the characters’ emotions, in the audience’s heads too.
We think this is going to be a truly exciting show, and we cannot wait to get it to Edinburgh!
– Rebecca Vaa, Producer
Immaculate by Oliver Lansley
C Venues, C Nova, 3–9 August
Finding a way to balance rehearsals for Immaculate with revising for A-Levels was much easier said than done. Despite this, the comical nature of the play has certainly helped inspire the cast to get the balance just right.
After performing Immaculate in front of a school audience for three days, and receiving a very positive response, we were spurred on to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. I think it’s fair to say that as a cast of young, keen actors, we underestimated just how tough this would be. However, the drive of our two directors/producers turned ideas into reality and have opened the door for an incredible opportunity.
The play itself is fast moving and funny, and the situation that the characters find themselves in is very relatable to a contemporary audience. Oliver Lansley manages to make the Second Coming a modern-day comedy drama as opposed to a biblical prophecy. Mia is the mother of either Christ reborn or the spawn of the devil. This problem is further complicated by the arrival of her needy ex-boyfriend and a friend from school with whom, it turns out, she’d had a one-night stand.
The nature of the plot and the way in which we, as a cast, have decided to dramatise the script has created a very amusing production which was well received by members of staff, parents and students alike when performed at school, and so we hope that it will be enjoyed by everyone, whatever their age, when we bring it to the Fringe!
– William Ellis Hancock, cast member
Look out for Part II of our Edinburgh Fringe Report next month, when we find out how our companies fared on the Fringe.
And don’t forget to check out the exciting new plays we’re publishing alongside their Edinburgh premieres this year. Click here for all the details, plus a special discount code you can use to buy any of the playtexts.
See you in Edinburgh!