Friday, 30 June 2017

No excuse at all

It would be silly to announce that 'theatre is dead' (although it is fair to note that it is far from the dominant artistic medium in 2017). I have seen work - David Leddy's Coriolanus Vanishes springs to mind - that affirm the dynamism of theatre, and while I can't say that I enjoy everything at Buzzcut, the festival has an admirable vibrancy as well as some exciting performances.

It would probably be equally silly to say criticism is dead, but after reading the reviews of Jane Eyre, I am not willing to say it is healthy. Produced by the National Theatre, this adaptation was a lazy chronological romp through a well-beloved novel that failed to deal with the problem of a romantic hero locking his wife up in the attic.

I don't want to be joyless about this, but having the abused wife wander about singing Cee Lo Green's Crazy isn't just a breach of taste: it is an abdication of moral responsibility. A love song about mutual dependency lacks the gravitas to accompany a house fire that ends in suicide.

Perhaps because I am in a minority about this, I am raging about the National Theatre's Jane Eyre. It is one of the most tedious experiences that I have had in a theatre, and its version of 'the English Touring style' barely hides the witless dramaturgy that takes a romantic novel and converts it into a three hour long exploration of how thoughtless contemporary theatre can be.

Let's start with the easy targets. Jane Eyre is about a romance between a governess - abused as a child by a vicious aunt and a religious schooling - and an aristocrat who has some dark secrets. One of these secrets is that he has locked his wife in the attic. 

When the wife eventually escapes the attic, burns down the house and jumps off the roof, singing Cee Lo Green's Crazy is not a bold dramatical choice. It's a fucking insult, and an instance of how this adaptation repeatedly fails to think before it acts. For those not paying attention, being exotic and darkly sensual is not an excuse for locking away women.

Second easy target: the ensemble came up with a
neat choreography to represent a ride in a carriage. So they repeat it. Three times. Yes, it was cool the first time, the way they all jogged about, pretending to be both passengers and the horses. But your production is three hours long. Couldn't you have just assumed the journey?

And the length itself... the purpose of adaptation might be to reinterpret. Certainly, with a familiar text like Jayne Eyre, there are certain scenes they could be removed. A teaching scene, for example, doesn't need to followed by a conversation about the experience of teaching. I've got a train to catch, and I don't need a reminder of the protagonist's most recent action.

The desire to round out Jane's character causes problems - having seen her at home, at school, teaching and travelling, her personality's development is fully explicable. Never mind it takes ages for her to meet Rochester (and, yes, the novel is centred around that romance): when he does turn up, his awkwardness and mystery is attractive because there is some dramatic tension about him. What has he been doing? Why is he so odd? Jane, meanwhile, is so clearly a product of all the activity the audience has spent an hour watching that she lacks any interest. 

Oh - and just because a man pretending to be a dog gets a laugh, don't put it in every scene. Yes, we get it. Hilarious. 

But my rage is not directed at the company. It's directed at the critics who can't tell the difference between bog-standard theatricality and an imaginative direction. The show has received four and five star reviews for rolling out an over familiar bunch of tricks (abstract set like a 'climbing frame', characters pretending to be Jane's interior monologue). 

One duff production is no evidence that theatre is dead, but poverty of criticism is a worry: if this kind of performance is accepted without caveats, then what motivation do companies have to think carefully about the reasons for staging a play? 

Or it is possible that I demand certain thongs from a play, and this fails to provide them, making my opinion a valid one, but not quite as important as I am making out...

Friday, 23 June 2017

Home Time

Another Freaking Introduction to Critical Comics

Respect My Authority

He's Such a Dick...

Someone's in a Mood...

I love the Edfringe...

Welcome to the Fringe 2017!

The Dramaturgy of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck: Jimmy Jewell @ Edfringe 2017

Jimmy Jewell, in association with Children’s Classic Concerts, presents
The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck
Underbelly Circus Hub (Beauty), The Meadows, Edinburgh, EH9 9EX
Saturday 5th – Saturday 26th August 2017 (not 14th), 12:00

This August, children will be enthralled by The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck, performed by award-winning soprano and actress Michelle Todd and the Children’s Classic Concerts Festival Ensemble.

Escape to Beatrix Potter’s wonderful world and enjoy her timeless tales of our favourite characters, Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck.
Stephen McNeff’s musical settings of The Tales of Beatrix Potter have enchanted children and adult audiences in the UK, America and Canada. With brand new orchestrations, Jimmy Jewell and Children’s Classic Concerts bring this enduring classic to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Beatrix Potter is adored across the world for her iconic stories that have captured the minds of children for generations. In the age of the internet where children are growing up quicker than ever, it’s important to keep the beautiful stories alive with the simplicity and timelessness of narration and classical music.

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

Performance will always be the most accessible and understandable way to express ideas and encourage an audience to open their minds. We can ask questions in performance and get answers that cannot be reached by listening to a single voice. The fact that an audience of 500 can watch a show and all have a different interpretation is proof that performance still opens the world up to discussion of ideas.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Getting the music right was key in the creative process of this show. The original scores are beautiful, and what Stephen McNeff is doing so brilliantly for our production is retaining the grace and nostalgia whilst elegantly bringing the music up to date. Working with such material is great because the stories by Beatrix Potter stand alone as great pieces of art but bringing it to stage for the Edinburgh Fridge is a welcomed challenge.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Our productions vary from profound plays by Berkoff to commercial musicals about the state of the NHS. We don’t have a theme, genre or style, all that is important to us is making something that people will remember and be glad they have seen. Working with a children’s concert is vastly different to our last few productions and it’s nice to be working with the memories of my childhood that Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck bring flooding back.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Although it’s a children’s show, any mum, dad, auntie, uncle or grandparent that steps into the show will relive the stories that they were undoubtedly told as children. I hope that the audience will enjoy having the generational gap stripped away and all enjoy the show for what it is.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We had to think about entertaining children without patronising them. Many children’s shows talk down to young people in silly, squeaky voices in an attempt to engage them and, yes, it works because it’s what they have become used to. The audiences that see The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck will be treated as the intelligent and understanding young people they are, and will experience the same delight that their parents are whilst watching exactly the same performance.

For twenty-three years Children's Classic Concerts have been delighting children, their families and teachers with their unique, fun-filled introduction to live orchestral music. In that time, their concerts have featured not only classical music, but also jazz, traditional Celtic and world music - all in a lively mix of entertainment and education that regularly sells out at concert halls across Scotland.

Helen Beatrix Potter, known as Beatrix, was always encouraged to draw, and she spent many hours making intricate sketches of animals and plants, revealing an early fascination for the natural world that would continue throughout her life. Two of Beatrix’s earliest artist models were her pet rabbits. Her first rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer, enjoyed buttered toast and joined the Potter family on holiday in Scotland where he went for walks on a lead.

Benjamin’s successor was Peter Piper, who had a talent for performing tricks, and he accompanied Beatrix everywhere. Beatrix died in 1943, leaving fifteen farms and over four thousand acres of land to the National Trust. Today, more than two million Beatrix Potter books are sold across the world every year – four books a minute. The charming stories have a timeless quality, passed down from generation to generation and discovered anew by more readers each year.

Producer Jimmy Jewell was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in 2015 for his ‘outstanding contribution to the UK music industry’.

He comments, I loved Peter and Jemima, my parents and grandparents loved them, and now my children love them too. The creations of Beatrix Potter consistently withstand the tests of time to remain some of the most recognised and loved characters across the globe. We all know them, we all watch them, we all read them, and we all adore them. To bring these fascinating and wonderful stories to the stage with Michelle and Children's Classic Concerts is a joy and a pleasure, and I can't wait to spend my summer with them.

Title The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck
Performance Dates Saturday 5th – Saturday 26th August (not 14th), 12:00
Running time 60 minutes
Location Underbelly Circus Hub (Beauty), The Meadows, Edinburgh, EH9 9EX
Box Office Tickets are available from
or 03333 444 167 Previews: £7; Weekday: £11 (£10); Weekend: £12 (£11)

Writer Beatrix Potter Adapted by Adrian Mitchell Music by Stephen McNeff Performed by Michelle Todd and the Children’s Classic Concerts Festival Ensemble

Dramaturgy Out: Old Kent Road @ Edfringe 2017

Fall Out

Old Kent Road

4 – 6 Aug | 16.30 | £10.00 (£8.00) | 40 mins

8 – 13 Aug |16.30 | £12.00 (£10.00) | 40 mins

Dance Base (Venue 22)
14–16 Grassmarket, Edinburgh
0131 225 5525 | 

Fall Out takes audiences on an experimental ride, using a live band, quintessential jazz and tap dancing to understand the journey of falling out of love.

Old Kent Road
make their Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut with Fall Out. The show begins a journey through quintessential jazz, entangling movement within the graceful perspective of tap dance.

Lead by a live band, conversations of question and answer between soloists of the band and the performers, expose emotions and trigger manoeuvres back and forth between each art form on stage.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Fall Out’ is loosely inspired by falling out of love, falling out of the thought of conventional tap dance. Showing raw relationships between the music and dance. I was (and still am) inspired by the tap dancers around me to create a show that shows a polished skill level. Using conversations of question and answer between the dancers and the band to expose emotions and trigger manoeuvres between each form.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
For me performance is a safe place to discuss challenging ideas and conflicting points of view. But at the end of the day, performance must still be entertaining.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I have always been interested in theatre as I grew up in my mother’s dancing school so I regularly performed and saw my mother creating shows. I really became aware that there weren't any tap dance shows/ performances in London/ UK and this got to me. 

We have so many people studying dance especially tap dance and nowhere for them to be showing what they can do. I am a innovator in our tap dance community (its small) and i was dancing with the best people in the UK regularly so it was just about putting all those people in a studio at one time with an idea and creating work to show the world.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

I love to work directly with the musicians to create the right feel with the choreography and vice versa. I followed a path in creating an order that would take the audience on a journey though many aspects of the dance showing them as much history, relevance, musical ideas, skilled footwork as I could, love for the form that all the dancers have.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
This is the first show i have created so i guess yes! I am currently co-choreographing a new show called ‘Dirty.Tap.Funk’ which has a totally different feel and energy to it.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

They will understand the traditions of tap dance linked with new ideas and musical interpretations of this generation. They should leave knowing there is a side of the dance that flourished before and after musical theatre became big in the West End and Broadway. They may also be intrigued to experience percussion from a different type of instrument being used to create music.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I want to share my love of tap dance and I want people to understand how important it is as a dance form and musicianship. So for me making it accessible to as many people as I could was very important. I used many styles of music to be able to captivate a range of ages and communities. People from any language background could watch the show and appreciate its beauty. The lyrics are relevant but the language of rhythm is far more important.

Using the sparse set up of wooden boards on which the dancers perform,
Fall Out pushes the boundaries of strength and intensity through the bare sounds of music and dance, articulated through complex rhythms and spectacularly technical performance.

A passionate group of tap dancers, who are together raising the game in the UK tap dance scene, the company aim to share their expertise through distinctive choreography, paying homage to the history of jazz culture along the way.

The show is presented by Old Kent Road, who were founded by Artistic Director Avalon Rathgeb in 2014, with the aim of gathering the very best tap dancers and musicians, to create unique passionate tap choreography.

Talking about the company, Avalon Rathgeb said:“My vision is for tap dance to be seen by people of all ages, backgrounds, genders and cultures. To see the positivity the form brings and to showcase our most proficient dancers in one show, accomplishing something that they love.”

  • Artistic Director: Avalon RathgebCompany Manager/Rehearsal Director: Lexi BradburnProducer: Jim Croxford for Theatre BenchLighting Designer: James McKeogh Sound Engineer: George Hider
    Dancers: Adele Joel, Ryan Campbell-Birch, Jamie Spall, Alastair Crosswell & Helen DuffyBand: Flavio Li Vingi (drums), Ollie Haycock (guitar), Hannah Jackson (vocals), Annette Walker (keys)

About Old Kent Road:
  • Old Kent Road train weekly, to share ideas and experiences, and have now developed a company language and a body of work. In 2015 they were invited to share the first stage of ‘Fall Out’ at Resolution - the UK’s biggest dance festival.
  • In 2016 the company were awarded Arts Council England funding to create and perform the first full-length show of Fall Out, which was performed at the Blue Elephant Theatre, as part of Brighton Tap Festival Gala and at the Tabernacle in London.
About Dance Base:
  • Dance Base is Scotland’s National Centre for Dance, situated in Edinburgh, and encourages and celebrates the potential for dance in everyone. Providing classes and workshops for the community, masterclasses and residencies for professional dancers, and an extensive programme of outreach work, Dance Base reaches out to inspire wellbeing and creativity, and cultivates a future for dance in local, national and international communities. Dance Base is a Regularly Funded Organisation (RFO).
  • Dance Base’s festival programme is curated by Artistic Director, Morag Deyes, MBE.

  • Dance Base’s Festival 2017 programme has 21 shows from 12 countries including Scotland, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Argentina, Canada, Egypt, India, Lebanon, Palestine, South Korea and Taiwan.
  • During the Festival, Dance Base supports performers and visiting companies in Edinburgh with a special programme of classes and workshops. It offers a high-class venue for professionals to rehearse, a space for their practice and low-cost studio hire.
  • Throughout the year, the £7m dance facility is visited over 50,000 times, for 130+ different classes and workshops. Alongside this, Dance Base’s professional programme exists to support and nurture professional dancers and their work at all levels through classes, workshops, and a programme of residencies.
  • Dance Base was recently accepted as a member of the European Dancehouse Network (EDN). With its acceptance as a full member of EDN, Dance Base is making history for dance in Scotland as it is the first Scottish dance house to be accepted to the network; opening opportunities for Scottish dance artists.

Ethiopian Dramaturgy: Circus Abyssinia @ Edfringe 2017

Venue: The Lafayette, The Underbelly Circus Hub, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 Dates: Sat 5th August – Sat 26 August, (not 14th or 21st), 3pm Prices: Aug 5, £10 Aug 6, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, £13.50 (£12.50) Aug 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, £15.50 (£14.50)

Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams is an
unashamedly joyful mix of astonishing stunts, astounding circus skills and enchanting adventure. The 14 strong cast will bring their exuberant message of the power of imagination and dreams with a celebration of transformative circus to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time.

The realisation of the dreams of its cast, the show dramatises (in surreal, often comic and mostly wordless ways) a tale of a magical journey told by two Ethiopian brothers whose dream of joining the circus is made real by the Man in the Moon. Performed from the perspective of a young Bibi and Bichu, through the language of circus, the show mixes autobiographical and fictional narratives to tell how the two brothers became world-class jugglers.

What was the inspiration for this performance? 

The dreams and stories of its all-Ethiopian cast.  We all grew up dreaming of joining the circus, but there is no circus tradition in Ethiopia - no circuses rolled into town, and there was no chance of running away with one!  

So we learned our skills in the city streets, performing for the sheer love of performing. The show is a surreal retelling of how in following our dreams, we found each other, and in each other, found the means to make our dreams a reality.

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

Absolutely.  As we see it, performance can raise and provoke ideas in ways that go beyond what is possible in other settings.  Particularly with more and more communication and discussion taking place online, the power of theatre and circus to connect people with each other and the world in an immediate way - to shake up attitudes and challenge assumptions, and create a dialogue between opened minds - is more important than ever.  

For us, circus is a creative response, an art-form defined by a sense of participation and empowerment. We created our show to speak to the power and importance of dreams in a world too often marked by cynicism and doubt, and too often forgetful of the extraordinary diversity and possibilities that lie outside or are hidden from sight in mainstream popular culture.   

How did you go about gathering the team for it? 

For years, we’ve been sponsoring a circus school in Ethiopia, Circus Wingate, doing what we can to help other Ethiopian circus artists who started out just like we did - performing improvised street circus, with little hope of ever making a living by their skills. 

It was at Circus Wingate that we discovered the cast of Ethiopian Dreams - the incredible Konjowoch Troupe. The rest of the creative team we were lucky enough to meet over the course of many years performing in the UK, all incredibly talented people whose collaboration on this show has been its own dream come true.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Since we were little it’s all we’ve ever wanted to do. As young boys we remember carving our first juggling clubs out of wood because we had nothing else to juggle. They were ridiculously too heavy of course, and we got splinters (so many!), but it's always been a matter of when and how, not if, we would perform.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
Although the show opens with a wonderful scene of dialogue - written by amazingly funny Cal McCrystal - we made the decision early on to focus on wordless ways of telling stories, of making meaning. 

Ours isn’t a nostalgic view of circus, a celebration
of its vintage appeal - we've worked very hard to make a show about what circus can and could be, so our approach has been one necessarily marked by elements of exploration and play. Bichu (the director) is very interested in ways of blending the surreal, the lyrical and the physical, and the show does its storytelling through the musical and physical media of circus itself.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
We’ve worked on various small-scale projects over the years, including an early version of an Ethiopian circus, and we’ve been lucky enough to perform in a huge range of productions over the course of our careers - from CBeebies to opera! - but Ethiopian Dreams is the first large-scale, story-telling piece we’ve created.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Hilarity, thrills, empathy for those seeking a better life, and the desire to wholeheartedly pursue their dreams.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We’ve worked hard to harness the tremendous, contagious energy of the cast to create an immersive and highly interactive experience for the audience - the audience is a vital part of the show, which literally requires their participation at times! 

For instance, there's a hilarious silent clowning act – not quite in a slapstick vein, but a subtler form of comedy – that establishes a dialogue with the audience that is visual, physical and wordless, inviting spectators to engage with the circus on its own terms.

The show also dreams a little bigger as Bibi and Bichu team up with the Konjowoch Troupe to celebrate the birth of a new Ethiopian tradition. Fusing theatrical storytelling with astonishing stunts, the show combines the arts and innovations of contemporary circus with Ethiopia's artistic heritage to create one of the world's first full-blown Ethiopian circuses.
From humble beginnings Bibi and Bichu learnt their skills at a young age busking and tumbling for crowds in the city streets of Jimma, working tirelessly to master their craft and realise their dreams of joining the circus. Now world-renowned jugglers they have performed in thousands of shows in countries all over the world ranging from Japan to Germany. Their performance credits range from the family friendly to the radical to the
prestigious including; CBeebies, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, The Paul O’Grady Show and English National Opera’s production of Akhnetan. They later attended the National Centre for Circus Arts, where they trained under Sean Gandini, director of Gandini Juggling and this summer, they start the filming for Big Ears, Tim Burton's live action remake of Dumbo.

The brothers who now reside in the UK were also resident jugglers at the acclaimed Giffords Circus from 2002 - 2016, touring for 11 seasons throughout the south of England. It was during their time with Giffords, performing as part of Moon Songs in 2015 alongside renowned stage and screen director Cal McCrystal, that the brothers found their inspiration for Circus Abyssinia. The new show unfolds with a dreamlike sense inspired by the 2015 production but the driving force behind the performance is the transformative magic of circus itself, and all its acts play with the possibility that such magic and energy are forces that can be mastered.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe audiences will be plunged into a world of daredevil wonders as they encounter a host of other circus dreamers: dancing, contorting, gravity-defying figures, all weaving tales of their own. Featuring the inimitable Konjowoch Troupe, a team of dazzling and prodigiously talented acrobats from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, whose reputation for bold and vertiginous acrobatic displays are both awe-inspiring and heart- stopping to watch.

Bibi and Bichu discovered the 12 incredible acrobats at Circus Wingate, a circus school they have sponsored since 2010 as part of their ongoing commitment to support the development of Ethiopian circus in an effort to repay the kindness they received from other artists in their own careers. The troupe's burgeoning circus careers have changed their lives and the lives of their families for the better in very real, significant ways: most were living in poverty until 2015.
Bibi and Bichu’s future plans as a company
include scaling up the show and working with more acrobats from Circus Wingate. They conceive of circus as nothing less than a means of social change, and not just in Ethiopia: further down the line, they're looking to set up a circus school in the UK for immigrants and refugees.

Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams is a surreal retelling of how the cast dreamed of the circus in a country without one and created a phenomenal new Ethiopian tradition. The show is an unmissable event for children and adults who will love the extraordinary physical feats of strength, dexterity and fluid grace, and the reminder that, when we work together and fight for them, dreams are for there for the taking.
The Cast
Bibi and Bichu The Konjowoch Troupe: Betty Dejene, Etsegenet Ashenafi, Helen Shimelse Semeret Getachew, Abraham Menbere, Alemayehu Mulugeta, Befekadu Esmael, Ezra Nigusse, Daniel Gezahegn, Hailu Amare, Seid Jemal, Zena Shmelse
The Creative Team
Writer – Cal McCrystal Director – Bichu Tesfamariam Costume Designer - Lara Skowronska

Bibi and Bichu
Ethiopian brothers Bibi and Bichu picked up their first juggling clubs at 13 and 14 years old, inspired by a shared childhood dream of joining an English circus. After working tirelessly to master their craft, they took to the road with Circus Jimma, embarking on a European tour which brought them to the UK in 1999. They quickly discovered the London Circus Space where they met the brilliant Sean Gandini, whose generous and ingenious guidance over the years has helped transform their youthful vision of a circus life into an adult reality.

Since making their home permanently in the UK, Bibi and Bichu have worked with a cavalcade of artists, companies and theatrical circus groups, from the wonderfully funny and endlessly inventive Giffords Circus to the deliciously freakish Circus of Horrors.

They have juggled in thousands of events and festivals in dozens of countries, at venues including the O2 Arena and the Fuji rock festival in Japan, and in shows ranging from the most family friendly to the radical to the prestigious: from CBeebies to Gandini Juggling, to the English National Opera Jubilee. With world records to their names, and numerous television appearances to their credit, Bibi and Bichu rank among the finest jugglers in the world.
Currently in their eleventh season with Giffords, Bibi and Bichu are touring the South of England with Old West love story, 'The Painted Wagon'. They are also thrilled to announce the launch of their own show this year. 'Circus Abyssinia', featuring the amazing Konjowoch Troupe, is an exuberant mix of autobiography and dream.

Konjowoch Troupe
It is with immense pride and delight that Bibi and Bichu welcome to the cast of Circus Abyssinia a team of dazzling and prodigiously talented acrobats, also from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: the inimitable Konjowoch Troupe, whose flying feats and daredevil stunts are equal parts strength and liquid grace. The troupe joined us for the first time in the UK in 2015, for their debut in Giffords Circus' Moon Songs, and have since been taking the Cotswolds by storm with a repertoire comprising contortion, foot juggling, hand vaulting, riveting ensemble dance numbers and an eight-strong Chinese Pole act that has had audiences gasping with amazement.

Founded in 2005, their attitudes of wonder and delight, which exude their sheer love of performing, are just as compelling as the high level of technical virtuosity with which they tackle the terrifying risks involved in their trade today.

That most of the members joined as children has shaped the dynamic of the troupe into that of an oversized, acrobatic family. And in the ring their extraordinary rapport proves infectious, manifesting as an open connection with the audience, which they maintain with every lithe trick, joyful somersault, flip, spin and daredevil leap.

X- The Dramaturgy: Robert S J Lucas @ Edfringe 2017


WORLD PREMIERE OF                                                                                                          X THE MUSICAL                                                             
                        Music, lyrics and book by

Robert S J  Lucas         

Directed by Robert S J Lucas.                                                                                 

Fri th Aug (preview), 7th,


16th, 17th, 22nd 23rd                                                                                   Time:  22.05   

                                                                                             SpaceTriplex (Fringe venue 38)     
Inline image 1                                
What was the inspiration for this performance?
It’s been such a full on year politically that I didn’t really need to reach very far for inspiration for the plot. With the tragic murder of Jo Cox, the rise of populism, the very decisive referendum on Brexit and the widespread globally perceived terrorist threat it seemed that if I was ever going to write a political thriller it would be here and now.

When I outlined the original story I intended the show to have a more futuristic, apocalyptic backdrop but as I started putting the show together it became clear that to really resonate with a broad audience I needed to make it as contemporary as possible but without attributing the story to any particular people or events that were unfolding (mainly because they were all so changeable!).

The music came directly out of the way the narrative was coming together and so a more angry, rock/indie sound emerged which I personally think suits the piece very well. It’s difficult to explore politics, press, radicalisation, populism and relationships all together but I think we’ve managed to create something very poignant and special for this year’s Fringe Festival.

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

I suppose the real question is whether public discussion is performance in itself. We see politicians discussing a variety of things which really matter to the world, but it’s all performance. They stand in front of cameras and vast crowds monologuing, they give us plot twists and surprises and they even fall neatly into the good guy and bad guy categories for us. It’s writing without a writer.

I’d say that any performance is a space to explore, explain, educate, persuade and articulate our points so absolutely it’s essential to the running of a functioning, free society.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I studied drama and theatre technology at school so I’ve always had an interest in theatre and more precisely the theatrical experience. I love being an audience member, especially at musical theatre, but I’ve always been one to pick apart what I see and wonder whether I could do the same (or in some cases better!).

I used to write short plays and songs when I was studying and, although I went through a spell of thinking I wanted to be a Psychologist and then a spell of working in The City, the arts always stayed with me as a hobby and a pastime. Over the years I developed my own production company but I’d moved more into screen media. I moved up to Edinburgh two years ago and I made a decision to dust off my keyboard and get to work. It’s a decision I’m very pleased I made.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

My approach for this and the other shows I have on at this years Fringe Festival was always to include the cast and creative team in as much of the shape of the work as possible. After all my music, lyrics and book wouldn’t be anything without the actors inhabiting the characters and bring it alive. I started off with a rough draft of the script (which I always format as a screenplay because the ideas come to me as though they are on a screen film before they are a stage production).

After I have the bare bones of the show I go through it from beginning to end, scene by scene, rolling out the flesh of the idea until the show becomes more than just a load of notes on a page. The music is written in conjunction with the script as, for me, it’s as much a part of it as the words. I guess many people work in teams to create musical theatre but I think I’m too much of a control freak to do that. I enjoy sitting in my flat, drinking wine and making the ridiculous people and events in my mind become a reality. For me, that’s writing.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
The three musicals I have on this year are incredibly different in tone. X is the most ‘grown up’ of the three being more based in our political climate, however I’d say that each of the shows has a lengthy essay of purpose behind them to give the shows more bite and less fluff.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love a frivolous show, but my style is definitely shiny with a sharp edge. You’re drawn in but you’ll probably cut yourself. That’s my hope anyway.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

With my musical X, the first thing I hope the audience will experience is enjoyment! No one can sit through a musical they aren’t enjoying let alone take anything away from it. Despite my work having a jagged undertone I've done my best to give the audience a fun journey. Yes, the topics can be a little hard hitting but it’s framed in humour, love, friendships, hope and a catchy score. Life (and art) is balance.

X The Musical receives its world premiere at SpaceTriplex (Venue 38). It has been written, composed and directed by London born, Edinburgh-based Robert S J Lucas.

In the not-so distant-future and one world government dominates all, continuously changing its politicians to ensure the global population remain constantly entertained. When Mia, one of the latest batch of politicians, offers popular new set off ideas, she rapidly gains public and media support that threatens the established order. Before long, she discovers that not everyone supports her vision of a fairer world, but can they convince the electorate? 

In our current turbulent political climate, (inspired by Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump and the murder of politician Jo Cox) X The Musical is a timely warning of a possible tomorrow, a darkly entertaining show is set to make you think about who’s shaping our world view and how.

The cast includes: Mark Kydd, Alex Booth, Alex Card, Rio Brady, Robbie Lytollis, Bob Bowden, Danielle Robertson, Ashleigh More and Liliana Fonseca.

X The Musical is produced by Disclosure Group who are also previewing two other original musicals written and composed by Robert S J Lucas: Porn and Suicide The Musical.

Music & Lyrics, a unique concert featuring musical highlights from all three shows, takes place on Aug 26th at the same venue.

Ticket prices: 5th Aug preview: £6 (concessions £5) All other performances: £11 (£9)

Venue: SpaceTriplex (venue 38) The Prince Philip Building, 19 Hill Place, Edinburgh EH8 9DP