Sunday, 31 July 2016

Aving Dramaturgy Large: Mad Cyril and DJ Spinoza @ Edfringe 2016

Plato's Ghost presents
Mad Cyril and DJ Spinoza
aving it large
The Royal Mile, Edinburgh
4-27 August, 3pm

"I like a bohemian atmosphere"

Following on from DJ Spinoza's award-winning Uncle Vanya In Dub and his legendary sound-clash with Glasgow's finest, Hush (Music Please), Plato's Ghost are proud to present aving it large, a collision of gangster aesthetics and transgressive politics.

In the heart of every person is a battle between the higher and lower instincts. In the space between Spinoza's techno re-imagination of philosophy, and Mad Cyril's feral displeasure, the tensions between cerebral morality and sexual deviance come out to play...

What was the inspiration for this performance?

SPINOZA: I have always been inspired by the potential of art to expose the metaphysics of social performance: the way that clothes, demeanour, speech and even desire is an expression of both construction and instinct. After making Uncle Vanya, I wanted to examine what it meant to use Goffman's ideas about the dramaturgy of everyday life in a performance context.

CYRIL: I wanted to meet some tasty birds in tight skirts. 

Is theatre still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

SPINOZA: Undoubtedly. I know that Cyril enjoyed CHRISTEENE's gig at the CCA, but he was perturbed by the speech that claimed masculinity is dead.

CYRIL: Too right. Nothing wrong with wearing a nice bit of schmutter. Like the ballroom scene in America, where they have all those geezers in suits, playing with 'realness'. I thought, I'll give them some fucking realness.

SPINOZA: What we are interested in is questioning the boundaries. Once you have no religion in the public sphere, is there any wrong or right? We'll be exploring ideas about feminism - and Men's Rights Activism - and whether a new morality is replacing the old. 

CYRIL: And I'll be chucking some dustbins through windows. Pinky promise.

How did you become interested in making performance?

SPINOZA: Everything is performance. If we take the definition of dramaturgy that you suggest - making an event in time and space - then walking down the street is theatre. I suppose I have always been making performance - music, even - since I first learnt how to cry.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?

CYRIL: I want to be clear. I am not his MC. And it's not like Alan Partridge and Glen fucking Ponda, either. We have this chat show vibe - I'll be talking to the artists who, when Edinburgh City Council was full of cunts, would upset the press and get all famous for it. But there is no process.

SPINOZA: I'll be dropping some dubstep, maybe a bit of funk. My aim is to expose the appropriation that is inevitable in DJ culture, maybe asking a few questions about whether it's any different from the exploitation of colonialism.

CYRIL: You fucking what?

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

CYRIL: I hope some of them will be experiencing mad love, if you know what I mean.

SPINOZA: A spiritual journey that allows them to reconsider their assumptions about identity.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

SPINOZA: I am influenced by Kode-9's thoughts on using music as a weapon. That is, not as noise - although I have tried to find 'the brown note' and 'the big whistle' sound. More promoting love through the atmosphere. So it is in the musical choices for me. The way an audience feels music. 

CYRIL: I just... what the fuck question is that? Strategies are for taking down rivals. So, I'm going to get people on the show who have good pieces, and do their heads in. That way, less competition.

Radio Practice

This was a little test run for the podcasting I hope to do for The List over the Fringe.

Please Excuse my Aunt Dramaturgy: Kevin Armento @ Edfringe 2016

The European Premiere of
Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally
By Kevin Armento

Pleasance Beyond, Pleasance Courtyard
Wed 3 – Sun 28 August (not Mon 15 or 22)
12.50pm (70mins)

An illicit affair between a high school maths teacher and her fifteen year-old student is told through the eyes of the student's mobile phone. 

What was your first experience of Edinburgh Fringe?
I was 20, struggling in community college, and had just arrived in London to start a semester abroad with NYU. The weekend before classes started, my cousin and her husband took me up to Edinburgh for this thing I'd never heard of called the Fringe Festival - I saw ten shows in two days, didn't sleep, and when I returned home after that semester, I dropped out of college and moved to New York to make theater.

What is the show about?
The show's about a high school student and his teacher falling in love, and is told from the point of view of the student's cell phone. It's a very intimate perspective, like a modern Greek chorus, and a surprisingly funny and adventurous one - but it also allows us to examine this kind of affair objectively, from the point of view of an inanimate object, which just might help us understand how something so seemingly unlikely, can actually be happening all around us. 

Why Fringe audiences should come and see Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally?
Sexy scandal, incredible physicality, and it's only 70 minutes. 
But seriously, the way these actors move through this show is unbelievable, and it's at such a breakneck pace - the entire play is a single sentence - that by the end you feel like you've gone through a tornado.

Why this title?
It's a phrase students are taught to remember how to solve large problems. 

What was the inspiration for the story of PEMDAS? 
There were a few strands of inspiration that came together at a sad time for me. I had just finished writing a screenplay with Rik Mayall, and had this commission from One Year Lease to write a play, any play I wanted. I knew I wanted to write about a teacher/student affair, because when I was in high school, a teacher I'd gotten really close to professed feelings for me. Nothing happened, but it was right in front of us. It had a profound impact on me, and how I view the prevalence of these stories in the news.

Anyway, so I had the story, but I was really stuck, because I didn't just want it to be a piece about how teachers and students shouldn't fuck. I wanted to unpack it, and look at it in an unexpected way, to better understand how it happens. And I just couldn't find an interesting way in.

Well then I landed in LA, and got a call that Rik had just died. It was so sudden, and such a shock. We had literally just finished this script a few months earlier. My partner and I in New York had made three long trips out there to work with Rik at his house, and we'd gotten so close. On one of the trips, his family made us an American Thanksgiving meal, and we stayed up all night together.

It was now the last thing he would ever write. A modern adaptation of Oliver Twist, in which Rik was to play Fagin as an unruly iPhone app who teaches kids how to steal. Now we had no idea what, if anything, we could do with it.

We still don't know what will come of that script, but it was what gave me my way in for PEMDAS. I wrote the play a couple weeks later, realizing that looking at that same story from the point of view of the boy's cell phone suddenly opened it up to become a whole new play. A more honest one, a funnier one, and I hope, a more compelling one.

Ruby's Reprise: Elizabeth Godber on the Dramaturgy of Music in Theatre

The idea of the performance as a gig: what qualities do you think make this the case? What do they share?

I definitely think that music can make a performance into a gig in a way, but I think musical theatre is always telling a story, and that’s the difference. That is the thing about ‘Ruby and the Vinyl’, there are great stand-alone songs, but when they all come together they tell a story. A gig doesn’t do that, unless it’s some sort of concept album.

Are there any musicians you'd point to as an influence - or a pleasure that may not influence but gives some sense of your approach to music?

I am not the songwriter, but I know that Ruby is heavily influenced by music of the 1950s and 60s - very do-wop, and also very acoustic. A little bit like early Elvis mixed with a female Johnny Cash…

What is gained by live musicians on stage?

Having three talent musicians on stage in ‘Ruby and the Vinyl’ in an absolute joy because it allows them to be so responsive to the audience. Recorded music cannot change in every performance. I also think there’s something really special about being in an audience and watching live musicians, it’s a performance just for you, and there’s nothing like listening to live music!

And is anything lost?

Maybe you can’t get as many layers of instruments or as many different sounds, but, I would pick acoustic live music over multi-layered digital sound any day.

Ruby and the Vinyl, a new pop-up acoustic musical set in a Hull thrift shop will open at Underbelly’s White Belly Venue on 3rdAugust

Written by Olivier Award and double BAFTA winner John Godber, and emerging talent, BFI film academy screenwriter and winner of Best Play award at the Ovation theatre awards, Elizabeth Godber, the production will run nightly at the Cowgate venue until 28th August.

The show features original songs, written and performed by Yorkshire based retro pop siren Ruby Macintosh, a BA first-class honours LIPA graduate who studied song-writing under Paul McCartney at the world renowned arts institution.

Ruby's self titled debut album is currently on release, and she is a listed BBC Introducing Artist. She is joined by two Hull University drama first years; East Yorkshire girl Grace Christiansen (whose album Three Corners is currently available on iTunes) and musician and singer Jake Marsden from Halifax, in a tale of love, communication problems, second-hand clothes, retro, vinyl and box sets.

This multi-talented group were described by the Musical Theatre Review as a **** ‘breath of fresh air!’ 

In Her Own Dramaturgy: Diana Spencer @ Edfringe 2016

In Her Own Words: The Diana Tapes is a historical thriller presenting the true story of one of the greatest media scandals in British history – the publication of Andrew Morton's book about Diana, Princess of Wales, which ended her marriage and shook the monarchy to its core. 
August 23rd - August 27th
Tues – Sat at 2.25pm
theSpace @ Niddry Street (V9)
Niddry Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TH

The play moves swiftly between Morton’s office, the sitting room where the Princess recorded her darkest secrets onto cassettes, and the dingy West London cafe where one of her best friends surreptitiously handed them over. The subterfuge and deception are brought to a terrifying climax that changed celebrity, privacy, and the Windsor family forever. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?
During his time at New York University our writer, James Clements, double majored in Acting and History. Through his studies he became interested in the life of Princess Diana and ended up writing his thesis on the subject. He was so fully captivated by her story, experiences, and cultural influence that he continued his research and wrote this play.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
We are an international group of artists who met while training at the Experimental Theatre Wing at the NYU: Tisch School of the Arts in New York City. Since our matriculation we have been co-collaborators on a number of projects ranging in both scale and content, making it a natural decision to come together in bringing this show to the Fringe. In addition, we were able to join forces with brilliant Scottish designers to make our show as authentic and well rounded as possible.
How did you become interested in making performance?
While studying at the Experimental Theatre Wing, we were trained and encouraged to explore ourselves, our communities, and our world as whole for potential inspiration for our artistic exploration.
åStudying the work of artists such as Jerzy Grotowski, Mary Overlie, and Bertolt Brecht (to name a few), instilled in us a thirst to create new work that is both entertaining and socially conscious. Creating performance is something that is a vital part of each of us on this team which is what makes us such an effective ensemble.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Yes! As a collaborative group we often work in the way that we did to create this show. One of us has an idea for a script or show, then we workshop with the company to expand and personalize the text, and finally rehearse the production script as we would any other text from another playwright. It’s a way of working that allows us to find the most honest version of a piece of text that has a little bit of each of us in it.  

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We hope that this performance will change the audience’s perspective on the incredibly known and publicized story of one of the world’s most well known media idols. The hidden story behind the familiar narrative deserves to be heard in our modern age because of how it represents our fixation for icons and the effect our prying eyes have on the individuals behind the images.  

What strategies did you consider towards shaping

this audience experience?

The fast-paced and unapologetic script throws the audience directly into the thick of the action from the very beginning of the performance. Through unyielding dialogue and quick action, the audience is exposed to the full effect of the events that transpired within the Royal family and shook the Monarchy to its core.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

This show follows the tradition of Scottish and Irish Political Theatre. Tackling issues of privacy and celebrity within our modern society, the performance looks to the future of the UK as a nation through its examination of the inner dealings of the Crown and British politics.

This play presents the truth behind a story stranger than fiction. The show merges techniques in documentary theatre and dramatic realism to tell the astonishing true story of Princess Diana’s secret tapes. The production gives voice to a woman so often defined by images and archetypes, and instead presents the complex and multifaceted reality. 

In doing so, the show explores not only the Princess of Wales’ extraordinary influence over British popular imagination, but also the systemic shifts in class, media culture, and deference in post-colonial Britain that she came to symbolize for millions. 

Mermalade Dramaturgy: Laura Stevens @ Edfringe 2016

Manhattan Children’s Theatre presents
World premiere

Based on the children’s book by Clare Cockburn-Martin
Illustrated by Anna Welsh
Directed and adapted for the stage by Laura Stevens

A Little Mermaid she is not.
A fast paced, interactive comedy. A universal quest. A play for all ages.

Left with a cryptic note, a pearl, and three annoying oysters for company, MERMALADE is determined to make sense of it all. She’s brave enough to approach the biggest forces in the universe. She’s strong enough to confront those that get in her way. But is she wise enough to find her answer?  

Add three life size Oysters as narrators, cameos from the Moon, Sun, Stars, Thor (God of Thunder), a beach setting, a splattering of pop music and one strong-willed 11-year-old girl that never quits and what do you get?

Pleasance Courtyard (Beneath) 
3-29 August at 11.15am 
60 minutes
Suitable for children 3+

What was the inspiration for this performance?

I was inspired to write a play for young audiences after reading a children’s book called Mermalade.


I had recently moved with my family to Edinburgh from NYC, where I co-founded Manhattan Children’s Theatre, a non-profit organization with a mission of providing affordable, high quality theatrical entertainment to children and families of the community.

For almost a decade, we served over 250,000 audience members with productions for young audiences based upon both classical and contemporary literature.

I had the extraordinary privilege of building a company, watching it grow, creating relationships with schools, teachers, families and community organizations, developing new work, working with hundreds of talented artists as well as directing many of the productions.

Needless to say it was a huge loss for me having to leave it. 

My heart had no choice but to carry on with MCT’s mission here in Edinburgh.

I produced and directed one of our shows, THE LAST OF THE DRAGONS in 2015 at the Fringe – Pleasance Courtyard - using all local talent and received solid critical acclaim. 


After reading the book, I found myself drawn to and relating with the heroine, Mermalade:  A girl looking for an answer and asking the biggest entities in the universe for help.

She was brave enough to ask WHY to anyone she thought could help her.  She had a difficult journey.  She didn’t give up.

I needed answers in my life too. I was close to giving up.


I knew I had to figure out a way to continue directing and producing live theatre in this new country.  I never thought I’d write a script, that is, until I met Mermalade.

I read the book to my 11year-old son, then found myself asking him to re-enact a scene between Mermalade and one of the other characters, Thor, the GOD of thunder.

I had him hold his nerf gun while standing on his bed, then I told him to shoot at me when I signalled to him as I was reading.

THOR: (shoots nerf bullet)
THOR: (shoots nerf bullet)
MERM: OWWWW!  Stop that!
THOR: (shoots a few nerf bullets)
MERM: OW. OW. OW. OW. OWWWWWW!  What’s your problem?
THOR: What’s my problem?  What’s YOUR problem?

In those few moments, an idea for a script found me. 

Note: I am not using nerf guns in the performance!

MERMELADE, the play, is a fast paced, interactive comedy suitable for all ages.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

The “google” strategy. 

Moving to a new country, I had to start from the beginning. 

IN NYC, with Manhattan Children’s Theatre, I went through the challenges of building and managing the organization from both an artistic and fiscal standpoint, after a few years I had a solid network of support and strong relationships throughout the community.

Here in Edinburgh, it’s taken a while, but I believe I have the beginnings of a solid network of industry professionals.

I was fortunate enough to find Infinity Artists in 2015.  The owner, Susie Dumbreck was extraordinarily helpful with identifying and casting The Last of the Dragons, as well as mentoring me throughout the process.

Since then, I have been fortunate enough to identify and connect with brilliant, local talent.

How did you become interested in making performance?

When I realized I couldn’t act!

While I spent many of my younger years taking part in community youth/amateur theatre productions, I always thought of it as a hobby, not a career.

I went to university, graduating with a B.A in journalism.  My first job was in a tiny town called Jacksonville, Illinois where I wrote for the local paper.  I was “promoted” to a larger paper in Cleveland, Ohio.

I was making $22,000 a year.

While in Cleveland, I was approached to be a spokesperson for Toyota commercials. I auditioned, got the job.

It paid $600 an hour. 

I moved to NYC to become FAMOUS then quickly found out I COULD NOT ACT.  However, I did get the opportunity to direct a few shows.  I found out I COULD DIRECT and I loved it.  This led to being a co- founder of 2 Theatre Companies. (Vital Theatre & Manhattan Children’s Theatre)

My passion for producing and directing live theatre exists to this day. 

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?


I no longer had a network or the relationships created with MCT in NYC. At 46 years old, in a new country, I found myself feeling like I was walking into the first day of primary school. SCARY AS SHIT!

What are the OTHER THEATRES DOING GREAT WORK for young audiences?
What are the overall COSTS of producing theatre here without a company?  
How do I identify funding and sponsors?
Will people here care about my art?

I’m still trying to answer most of the questions listed above, but I figured enough out to put together an extraordinary artistic team. 

I’ve spent many moments HATING having to re-create my “typical process” of making a performance.  I continually have to remind myself that LIFE is like LIVE THEATRE – nothing is ever exactly the same from one performance/day to the next.  I’ll work it out.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

(MERMALADE is a 50 minute show)

50 minutes of intrigue, wonder and the need to know what happens next.
25-30 minutes of laughter
15-20 minutes agreeing or disagreeing with one or more of the characters within the story
A lifetime of feeling that they are not alone in this world and to have the urge to always ask WHY?

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I was fortunate enough to work and produce with The Pleasance for my 2015 production of THE LAST OF THE DRAGONS.  This opportunity has been crucial to my marketing, publicity, operational efforts and STRATEGY for my production of MERMALADE this year. 

Through this network, I was introduced to The Corner Shop, Out of Hand Marketing, as well as various other TYA groups.

All of these elements assisted me with creating a strategy for the AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE:

KNOWLEDGE OF THE VENUE – both the theatre and the outdoor space

KNOWLEDGE DIRECT MARKETING POTENTIAL – where do I put my money? (promotional give-aways? Ground team force?)

KNOWLEDGE OF PRODUCTION ABILITIES AND LIMITIATIONS – how will the performers & design elements work best in the space to engage the audience?

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

I’d characterize my work for young audiences on the stage – both as a director and as a writer - as a “SITCOM for the STAGE.”

I am quite certain this characterization cannot be considered a TRADITION, rather a stereotype of American TV:

Quick and consistent comedic dialogue with immediate audience response response (aka laugh track).

While somewhat similar, my work is not “PANTO”. 

The characters within the tale are real.  They each have a reason of being, with recognizable faults and redeemable qualities, discovered and challenged while telling the story.  The comedy exists strictly through the dialogue vs. the comedy of “stock” characters.

A subtle and challenging difference.

I love this challenge, just as I loved and still love US sitcoms. 

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I completely connected with one or more of the “FRIENDS” as they went through life.  I still find myself tearing up at the end of a “Modern Family”.  These characters struck a chord with me.  Somehow they made me feel I wasn’t alone.  I wasn’t the only one feeling what I was feeling. Through it all though, I laughed.  Often. I felt lighter and happier after watching them.

I TRULY HOPE THE PERFORMANCE OF MERMALDE makes the audience feel the same.

Unlike traditional fairy tales, MERMALADE’s story holds no moral decree. In the Socratic Spirit, the show offers more questions than answers with WHY? being at the top of the list. 

Why does everyone tell me what to do and feel? 
Why is a pearl so special?
Why do I have to keep asking “WHY?”

Laura Stevens, who recently moved to Edinburgh from her native New York, co-founded Manhattan Children’s Theatre in 2002 and directed over 30 plays since, including theatrical productions for very young audiences (Little Tales, based on folk tales from around the world). Between 2002 and 2011, MCT welcomed over 250,000 audience members through its doors. Laura’s production of The Last of the Dragons debuted at Fringe in 2015 to rave reviews and toured to Biggar in Scotland and Warsaw in Poland to sold-out audiences.   

Now Scotland-based, the mission of Manhattan Children’s Theatre is one of providing affordable, high quality theatre entertainment to audiences in Scotland, children in particular.  

Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Life and Times of Dramaturgy: Natalie Rawel@ Edfringe 2016

What was the inspiration for this performance?
We were interested in exploring how the human mind works, looking to creatively portray escapism in a very anxious character. However we wanted to avoid the troupe of a character talking about their own problems. 

Working on Lionel gave us a chance to take our own experiences and knowledge and feed it into a process that gave us total freedom to explore the type of surreal and unusual ideas that we naturally leaned towards. With each character comes a new vocal or physical challenge. Creating a performance that is visually, textually and aesthetically exciting has been our goal.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
 The fortunate thing about our team is that we were already friends at university (meeting on a Theatre & Performance course) and had worked together in various combinations, but this was the first time all of us came together on a project. 

The group began with four but soon auditioned a fifth cast member, interviewed and found a producer and re-invited the man who had been orchestrating our tech from day one.

How did you become interested in making performance?
We’ve all had previous experience working on shows and were all actively involved in extra-curricular theatre whilst at university, both performing and writing. Getting to work together as a group meant that we could make performances that we were passionate about, developing our own style and voice. 

As soon as we started, we naturally fell into a process of working that was quite often distracted but ultimately effective in creating work that all of us were proud of.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
 We wanted our performance to combine all the different things we were interested in and all the different writing styles we like to use. By our own admission we have quite a short attention span and this probably plays a large part in informing our performance! 

The crux of our method seems to revolve around communicating the narrative and themes through a series of isolated, madcap ideas. 

Not only does this hopefully keep the audience entertained but also keeps us on our toes! I think we enjoy constantly trying to surprise an audience and giving them an experience which is both imaginative and satisfying.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
 Plain and simple, we want the audience to enjoy themselves, have a good evening’s entertainment and to reflect on some of the issues raised with an open-minded attitude. 

First and foremost I think we very much see ourselves as story tellers. We enjoy the basics of narrative and characters but are always looking at different ways of exploring and presenting them.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Throughout our exhibition performances of this piece we have monitored our audience reactions and taken their feedback and have relied on them to make the performance the right balance of comedy, pathos and wit. 

We’re careful not to be too precious with anything, if we feel something drags or doesn’t land then we typically cut or alter it. It’s very much about flow and consistency.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I think we are all the result of the styles and tastes we’ve been exposed to. We may not be 100% aware of what is influencing us, but that’s what adds to the dynamism of our collective. 

Even if it’s not always intentional, we do consistently return to comedic conventions and humour as it is a huge part of how we convey a situation. As a blanket rule we tend to try and keep things imaginative, and if that means cherry picking from a variety of styles then we’re happy to work like that. 

Our frameworks are often broad with scope for anything to happen. However, within this working method we always take measures to ensure the material is relevant to the story and palatable for the audience.

5th-13th August
19:40 (55 minutes)
Lime Studio
Greenside @ Nicolson Square, EH8 9BX

The Company
Jordan Larkin (Boss/Ensemble)
Robin Leitch (Ritchie/Ensemble)
Joshua Ling (Lionel)
Leanne Stenson (Emily/Ensemble)
Natalie Rawel (Producer)

Collaborators for The Life and Times of Lionel
Liam Ashmore (Technical)
Tom Claxton (Cast)
Matthew Harrup (Technical)
Simon Mitchell (Poster/Logo Design)