Sunday, 22 July 2018

Want to Dramaturgy Me: Kevin Wilson @ Edfringe 2018

"Really Want to Hurt Me" 

A funny, bittersweet and painfully honest new one-person play about growing up as a gay teenager in rural Britain in the 1980s, featuring a soundtrack of that decade’s greatest music 



FLAMING THEATRE
presents
Really Want to Hurt Me

Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Assembly Hall, Baillie Room (Venue 35)
2–27 August 2018

A funny, bittersweet and painfully honest new one-person play about growing up as a gay teenager in rural Britain in the 1980s, featuring a soundtrack of that decade’s greatest music by Culture Club, Eurythmics, Tears for Fears,
The Smiths, Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins and more.

WATCH THIS NEW TRAILER!


Devon, 1984. Under constant pressure to be straight and act “masculine”, a 14-year-old lad feels his life is more like George Orwell’s “1984”. School bullies… Teenage heartache… Suicidal self-hatred… An accidental first orgasm… Trying to tape the weekly Top 40 from the radio without the DJ talking over the songs… Dancing defiantly to your Walkman…

With seven ★★★★ London reviews, this acclaimed play is a celebration of surviving all that life throws at you and escaping into the joys of pop music like your life depends on it. Because in a way it actually does. It may be set a long time ago, but are things really that different now? “Do you really want to hurt me?”
Written and directed by Ben SantaMaria. 

Performed by Ryan Price.




What areas of mental health are you looking at in the performance?

Really Want to Hurt Me is the most autobiographical play I’ve written, so I’ve tried to balance the intensely personal memories with what’s happening on the bigger social canvas. It explores a schoolboy’s growing isolation and suicidal self-loathing in Devon from 1984-86, and his coping strategies to survive that trauma and build a liveable identity. The regimented policing of gender and sexuality in that time and place, with violent bullying at the sharp end of it all, makes him retreat into the comfortable and transgressive fantasy world of pop music. The mental and emotional gymnastics he has to perform to make sense of himself in this daily life of compulsory heterosexuality and rigid ‘masculinity’ means he feels he has nowhere to turn but in on himself for failing to stick to the social script. The lack of role models, or even basic acknowledgement that queerness and gender diversity might belong in this world, gives him a stunted adolescence – an arrested development – that so many LGBTQ people still find themselves damaged by, at that age and throughout later life. We watch those with heterosexual privilege, and those who successfully pass as such, live out the lusts and loves and group bonds thate everyone needs to grow up with a grounded quality of mental health. Ironically, LGBTQ kids and teens are often punished and marginalised for an identity they don’t have the support or life experience to actually discover yet. The play uses comedy and intimate confessions to take audiences deep inside the boy’s secret struggles with all this, and to ask how much of this repression has actually changed significantly for young LGBTQ people since the ‘80s. Stonewall’s School Report study last year found that almost half of all LGBTQ pupils still face bullying, half regularly hear homophobic insults and many suffer low self-worth, self-harm and attempt suicide.

In what ways do you hope that your play can help the audience to move forward in their understanding and actions towards a greater sense of mental good health?

I’ve developed it to hopefully speak directly to anyone who sits down to watch it at Assembly Hall. It’s important to me that it feels genuine and recognisable for LGBTQ audiences, but also intimate and vulnerable for everyone, because it’s about going right to the heart of the character’s most shameful feelings of worthlessness and guilt, to then be able to push past that self-punishing internalisation of the rejection outside him and fight back. This is maybe where it connects with all of our different struggles to find balance and belonging. The play doesn’t reach for easy answers to the boy’s situation, or shy away from the lowest points where mental health and happiness feels alien and he’s convinced he has no future. But because we get to see all of this, the stumbling steps he gradually takes to connect with the world, instead of only retreating to listen to his headphones, possibly ring truer to audiences as brave risks than some more generic self-help advice would. That need to take real action beyond being soothed by a Walkman definitely still applies to most of us with our phone and screen binges!

And given the high pressure nature of the Fringe, do you have any ideas about positive self-care during August in Edinburgh?

Speaking of binges…! The Fringe is a great big glorious jump into all the fantasy worlds we’re bringing to life around the city. It’s a unique place to get lost in just about everything you could imagine. A refrain I keep hearing, though, is what a lonely experience it can be for most people at some point. So maybe we can all take a tip from that scared ‘80s schoolboy and dare to reach out to connect with others that bit more often, instead of getting trapped in thinking we don’t belong. I also personally swear by Transcendental Meditation - something worth considering as a more powerful form of stress release than the surface-level, thought-control “mindfulness” approaches to meditation that get more publicity. And a good old dose of keeping it all in perspective can’t hurt. Balancing Fringe time with getting to know the city beyond it. Remembering why you’ve chosen to share this particular story on stage this year, regardless of how much attention it gets. Or thinking about what it is you’re looking to get from the particular shows you choose to go see, instead of numbing out and just ticking them off. That all-important, elusive balance!


Ben SantaMaria, writer and director of Flaming Theatre’s Really Want to Hurt Me (performed by Ryan Price). 2nd-27th August, 3pm (not 13th or 20th) in the Baillie Room at Assembly Hall (Venue 35). Tickets and show trailer: www.assemblyfestival.com/whats-on/really-want-to-hurt-me.


Sold-out London previews at the Old Red Lion and at Theatre503. Pick of the Festival at the Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter. Developed with support from Arts Council England and Soho Theatre Young Company.

Stonewall’s 2017 School Report study found that almost half of all LGBT pupils face bullying, half regularly hear homophobic insults and many suffer low self-worth, self-harm and attempt suicide. With a growing public awareness of mental health issues for increasing numbers of young men, Really Want To Hurt Me has strong relevance in 2018.

Ben SantaMaria’s earlier play lulla reached the Top 100 list from 1060 entries for Soho Theatre’s 2017
Verity Bargate Award. He took part in the National Theatre Studio Directors' Course, assistant directed at Shakespeare's Globe and co-directed After Orlando for Chaskis Theatre Company at Theatre Royal Stratford East and The Vaults, Waterloo. His other plays have been staged at Theatre503, Southwark Playhouse and ARC Stockton.

Flaming Theatre’s previous work includes Jarman Garden about filmmaker/artist Derek Jarman at Riverside Studios. A finalist for the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award. Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) called it “a beautifully choreographed tour through Derek’s life and world”. The Times said it was “a rollercoaster ride of sensations…a sublime interdisciplinary sensual assault”. One of Mark Shenton’s 5 Best Shows in London.
London reviews for Really Want To Hurt Me

Wow, this is powerful stuff. A cracking script and a superb actor. Hilarious. Wonderful.
★★★★ LondonTheatre1.com

Enchanting, funny and uneasy in equal measure. Beautiful. Not to be missed. ★★★★ Reviews Hub

It certainly has something special. Natural charisma and vulnerability. Wonderful moments of  exploding angst.” ★★★★ Stage Talk

Funny, touching and beautifully showcases the talents of the charming Ryan Price.
West End & Broadway director Sean Mathias

Web:    assemblyfestival.com  Twitter: @FlamingTheatre  Facebook: FlamingTheatre

LISTING INFORMATION
Venue:  Assembly Hall, Baillie Room, Mound Place, EH1 2LU
Time: 15.00   Running Time: 60 mins  Suitable for ages 14+.
Dates2–27 August. Previews 2-3 August. No show Mon 13 & Mon 20 August.

Tickets: Previews £7; 6-7, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26 August £11 (£10); 4-5, 8-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27 August £10 (£9)

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Prehistoric Dramaturgy: Elbow Room @ Edfringe 2018


Elbow Room presents
Prehistoric
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
Part theatre show, part punk gig, this raucous, energetic four-hander explores nationalism, corruption and the pivotal moment that created Brisbane bands The Saints and The Go-Betweens
Directed by Marcel Dorney | Performed by Grace Cummings, Sahil Saluja, Brigid Gallacher and Zachary Pidd
Demonstration Room, Summerhall, 3 - 26 August (not 6, 13 or 20), 21:15 (22:30), 14+
This charged, award-winning Australian play - being performed internationally for the first time - is about social solidarity, cultural experimentation and discovering our capacity to resist, with an original live soundtrack played by the performers.


how would define the political content of your work?
are there ways in which your work can engage the audience beyond the immediate emotional rush of the content, and move forward towards further action?

For us, these are really the same question. Being in a room with strangers and becoming a community is an immensely powerful experience. It's also very easy for this experience to induce boredom, ennui and despair at the possibility of political change: and sometimes it's deliberately subsidised to do exactly that.

What we want to share with our audiences is that it's not just possible, but also exciting, to talk in public about power, and how it's used, and why. It's exciting to ask questions about why things are the way they are. It's exciting to be in a strange room listening and watching actors work, and feel that you and a room full of people you haven't met share their curiosity about those questions. 

We don't tell you how to vote, or what to throw at whom: we remind you that your attention is vital, and that power is furiously engaged with where your attention is focused, and how it's scattered.

how far do the material conditions of the Fringe impact on the process by which you make theatre for it?

'Prehistoric' is set in 1979, at the crest of the punk wave in Australia, in the notoriously authoritarian state of Queensland (a.k.a. Australia's 'Deep North'). More than chaos, or displays of rebellion, the deep inspiration of punk is in the maximum impact of available resources; grab what's to hand. For a show like this, the material conditions of the Fringe aren't the challenge: the challenge is to really make the most of everything that's available, to throw the focus on what's really important - the people in the room.

Set in Brisbane, Australia in 1979, Prehistoric, follows Deb, Nick, Pete and Rachel as they meet at a gig, start a band, and find out the hard way why their town stays so quiet and boring. Based on first-hand accounts of playing music and making history under the notoriously corrupt and brutal Bjelke-Petersen government, Pre- historic beams you straight to the beating heart of ‘Pig City’ (as Brisbane was dubbed) to remind you that while the fight is never over, it’s never futile.
Co-Artistic directors Marcel Dorney and Emily Tomlins said: “We grew up in Brisbane in the 1990s, and expe- rienced the social and cultural effects of the Bjelke-Petersen administration, which only ended in 1989. A number of our friends and colleagues still have scars from this period, some physical.
“Prehistoric’s central question of how culture - what we do together - can resist the pull of authoritarian nation- alism remains all too relevant today. Edinburgh and Glasgow, like Brisbane, have great and distinctive music scenes that really came to life in the late 1970s. In Prehistoric, we see an Australian cousin of that same spirit of cultural experimentation and social solidarity that resisted Thatcher in the 1980s.
“This story of a diverse group of dissident young people finding themselves in a fight against an ethnocentric, backward-looking nationalism will resonate with many young people in Britain, many of whom were and are finding out that they are profoundly at odds not only with Brexit, but the views that gave rise to and carried it.”

Heroine Dramaturgy: Susan Worsfold @ Edfringe 2018

Scene Change Productions

heroine 

WORLD PREMIERE Part of the 2018 Made in Scotland Showcase
This poignant and darkly humorous solo performance, based on the remarkable true story of a US military sexual trauma survivor, explores courage, healing, forgiveness and what speaking your truth really means
Directed by Susan Worsfold (Eve, NTS) Written and performed by Mary Jane Wells
Rainy Hall, Assembly venues, 3 - 26 August 2018 (not 8, 21), 12.00 (13:05), 16+

Danna Davis (her nom de guerre), is the only female soldier within her company in the US army. As a lesbian serving in the midst of the ’Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ policy, she is sexually assaulted by three male soldiers. On a dangerous mission inside a combat zone, Sgt Davis is forced to rely on one of her attackers to get her squad home safely. Can finding peace ever be possible?
Embarking on her most daunting mission yet, Danna speaks out for the first time. This incredible human story about one soldier's experiences reflects on the human paradigm of revenge, what one must give up to forgive, and the black humour necessary when there has been no justice. heroine delves into the grit required to be the only woman in your company, the courage you must find to lead your squad into combat, when your as- sailant is within, and the heroism it takes to finally talk about it.

how would define the political content of your work?

Its essential to me to be political rather than Political with heroine. My job as a writer and performer is to tell Danna's story it in all of its colours, so this piece is absolutely not affiliated with Agit Prop or pushing any political or legislative agenda in its content. I believe in letting art be art. In watching and participating in art this way, I have come to be more educated and outside the play I am an activist for the issues it raises, for zero tolerance and zero occurence.

However, storytelling as an activity these days for me is Political. The central tenent on why I am doing heroine is my belief that "It is not the event that has the power to define our lives - but the story we choose to tell about it."

Women are just as corruptible as men. But too often their stories are as patriachy has told them - and the way patriachy has told them, as this is what many women recognise as standard. heroine embodies what it is like when we move from a patriarchal storytelling model to the way a woman tells a story whilst she is making the transition into acknowledging her narrative.

Stories like Danna's have value, that culturally we do not recognise enough yet. Stories like hers show what trying to birth them is like when patriarchy's hammy fists are all over everything. :)

On a personal note, action for Danna held a transformative potential for self worth that words could not. She needed her story heard, felt, understood. Hannah Gadsby talks about the exhaustion she felt without a community to witness, understand and take on her story - "Please help me take care of my story." The implication is not just that she is too tired to carry it alone, or even that it is so lonely to carry it without human connection but also that we might not ultimately GET THE VALUE of it.

True stories like Danna are powerful in what they tell us about power, and how to treat the vulnerable. To be powerless does not destroy our humanity. Resilience IS our humanity. Humanity has been destroyed in those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. 

But Gadsby says "to yield and not break - THAT is incredible strength".I agree. I also think diversity is strength, and giving up authorship is a strength. It's an actor's job is to embody each perspective and make an audience feel each perspective, so then the entire picture can be seen without one perspective getting stuck and favoured for so long we think its the right and only way of telling it. We invalidate these other perspectives in favour of the one we recognise - that of the white straight male - and that has been the one that we end up believing and investing in.

#timesup for storytelling too.


are there ways in which your work can engage the audience beyond the immediate emotional rush of the content, and move forward towards further action?


Great question. I have a shoutout for a "Brown Envelope" after the show. Its a digital way to connect directly to Danna herself to say hello and pass on a message, and also to raise awareness of the non-profit I partner with called Protect Our Defenders who exist solely to advocate for service members who are Military Sexual Trauma survivors and fight to reform the training, investigation and adjudication systems related to sexual violence and harassment in the Military. 


It means a dialogue can begin, and other resources can be laid out and clearly introduced in a way that the audience member can direct. Taking care of the audience and why they might be motivated to reach out is also something I want to take care of, so for Edinburgh we are also partnering with Safe to Say, who are on hand to counsel anyone during our entire run in Edinburgh who comes forward with a disclosure or is affected by the play's themes and needs support.


how far do the material conditions of the Fringe impact on the process by which you make theatre for it?


Hugely. If we had not won a Made in Scotland Award I would not consider doing it. We are so privileged to be platformed in a sea of incredible international work and to be funded at the fringe is one of those wildest dreams that never seemed possible.
Writer and performer Mary Jane Wells states, “There are two separate justice systems – one for soldiers, an- other for the rest of us. Since the cultural sea change sparked by #metoo last November, #metoomilitary has seen little comparable movement: on both sides of the Atlantic, military justice systems are broken.
“The Pentagon estimates that sexual assaults increased from 19,000 in 2011 to 26,000 in 2012 and the figures are actually higher for 2013 - 2016. According to these figures, female soldiers in the US army are statistically more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than they are to be killed in com- bat. According to the most recent US Department of Defence report, there is a sexual assault in the US Mili- tary every 35 minutes.
“I wrote heroine from a sense of outrage at what one soldier endured, admiration for her character and be- cause I wanted to support her healing. Her truth needs to be out there and she was clearly ready to talk. I knew that in order to tell this story responsibly and truthfully, the dark humour we share was also essential. My bones said, ‘Write’.”
Mary Jane Wells trained as an actress at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and worked in Scottish theatre before dividing her acting career between the UK and the US. She played Josie Marks in HBO’s The Newsroom and her duet with Gerard Butler in How to Train Your Dragon 2 hit the Oscar list, whereupon she became a full-time voice actor, working at Starz and Dreamworks. She was nominated in 2016 for Outstand- ing Body of Voice Work by SOVAS (Warner Brothers), won an Earphones Award for excellence in narration in 2017 and was a 2018 Audies finalist. Upcoming work includes sci-fi neo-noir feature The Tangle. Mary Jane
For all press enquires please contact: Sharon - sharon@smpublicity.co.uk on 07970 178643 or the SM Publicity team - fringepress@smpublicity.co.uk on 07401 878154
was also lead artist on new writing site-specific show I Confess, supported by Arts Council England. She also works as a story coach, notably on Sundance Select / CNN documentary Holy Hell.
heroine was developed in Scotland with support from Aberdeen Performing Arts, Creative Scotland and Capi- tal Theatres before winning The Olwen Wymark Award with Nicola McCartney, and Made in Scotland support.
Susan Worsfold is an award-winning theatre director who has worked with the National Theatre of Scotland and been supported by Creative Scotland, Made in Scotland, British Council Brazil and British Council Scot- land. Susan is co-company director of Queen Jesus Plays, working with Jo Clifford to direct the internationally acclaimed The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven, which toured to Brazil in 2016, won a Made in Scotland and Scottish Arts Award and continues to tour to South America, UK, Europe and the USA. She is Creative Development Director of the Nadine George Voice Centre and is Associate Teacher to the Centre for Voice at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, from which she graduated with a BA Hons in Directing in 1998. In 2017 she directed Eve by Jo Clifford & Chris Goode for The National Theatre of Scotland performing at the Traverse theatre, Edinburgh and Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, The Last Post (St Magnus International Festival commission, Made in Scotland 2017 Award performing within the Summerhall programme), Lysistrata, Three- penny Opera (Kings Theatre, Edinburgh), War in America (Old Royal High School, World Premiere) for The Attic Collective, The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven (UK Tour), Heroine by Mary Jane Wells (Edinburgh Festival Theatre), and Cleopatra, at Sesc Palladium, Belo Horizonte, Brazil. heroine is her third show to receive a Made in Scotland award.


Dramaturgy to Remain: Ollie Harrington@ Edfringe 2018

FOUND IN TRANSLATION THEATRE COMPANY
present
  Leave. to Remain 

(An Aristophanic Brexit Tale)

  3-11 Aug 2018 @ The Argyll Theatre, theSpace on North Bridge, Edinburgh



Leave. to Remain imagines an alt-reality Brexit Britain, where crashing out of Europe with no deal has brought ridiculous consequences. The Government has outsourced democracy to TV voting show, pizza has been banned for its foreign origins, and a visa to France now costs €30 (£300).

Eventually Dick, the everyman protagonist, has had enough and rejoins the EU all on his own. The play follows him on his journey to Brussels and back, where Ol' Nige and the chorus of angry Brexiteers are desperate to shut down Dick and his makeshift 'single' market.

What was the inspiration for this
performance?

'Leave. To Remain' is based on an ancient Greek play called 'Acharnians' by the comic playwright Aristophanes. Aristophanes always had plenty to say about democracy in Athens, and I found that many of the issues he managed to make people laugh about - the rise of populists, polarised societies, incompetent governments - are once again problems for us living two millennia later. 

So in the chaotic days following the 2016 referendum result I looked to him for a story and found 'Acharnians', where one man gets so fed up of nationalists stoking enmities with a neighbouring state he negotiates himself an exemption from it all. It fit like a glove, and so our 'Brexit' tale began.

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

Absolutely, theatre was invented to bring communities together to consider the state of their society - Aristophanes and his ancient Greeks prove that this is especially true for comic performance. In a world where the most important ideas, particularly political ones, have to navigate the absurdities of reality we have to be able laugh along to understand them.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I've always had a wild imagination and enjoyed creative new worlds and stories in my mind, performance allowed me to articulate that and make myself more understood. I also loved how it brings people together even in the most testing circumstances, something I truly realised when putting on plays in ancient Greek when I studied at King's College London.

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

At Found In Translation we make sure the whole company gets to contribute creatively toward our shows. For 'Leave. To Remain' we would use improvisation workshops to help devise the script - whatever was funniest made it in and I built the script around those lines before going into rehearsals.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

This was the very first show the Found In Translation produced, so in many ways it's the company's flagship, although since then we've development more work, including far more tragic material.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Ultimately it's a comedy, so I want them to experience lots of laughter! It would be nice to think the show might shake up peoples ideas about Brexit and get people of different opinions talking together in a constructive way, but more than anything I want everyone to have fun.

Based on The Acharnians by Aristophanes, director Ollie Harrington's "naturally funny and original" script (The Open Door) explores the contemporary political landscape with all the silliness and satire of Greek Comedy. Here the chaos of direct democracy in ancient Athens is "masterfully incorporated" (The New Satyrica) into an absurd near-future which explores the issues facing Britain today, from the rise of populism to the problem of patriarchal power. 

Brought to life by FIT Theatre's talented ensemble, Leave to Remain is packed with keenly drawn caricatures and (in)famous faces which reflect the personalities at the heart of British society in 2018.





Found In Translation Theatre Company was set up in 2016 with a mission to tell today's tales with adaptation and inspiration from our classical past. Leave. To Remain, the Company's flagship production, debuted at The Water Rats (London) as part of the 2017 Camden Fringe Festival and was reprised at the Etcetera Theatre (London) in January 2018. It will be performed on 16th July at Cheney School (Oxford) in collaboration with the Iris Project, which supports the teaching of classical subjects in the state sector, as part of the Company's educational outreach programme. 2018 will mark FIT Theatre's debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Revenants Dramaturgy: Nichola McAuliffe @ Edfringe 2018



Revenants

Pleasance Dome (King Dome), Potterow, Edinburgh, EH8 9AL
Wednesday 1st – Monday 27th August 2018 (not 8th and 15th), 17:00

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The play was inspired originally by my fascination with the lack of information about King George V and Queen Mary's feelings about the murders of the Romanovs for which they had been in part responsible.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
Live interaction in the theatre - a coverall word for a performance space - is, for me, vital to a healthy society. The rigour of the electrical circuit formed by actors and audience in the space (the Crucible of creativity director Annie Castledine called it) can't be bettered as a launching pad for discussion, debate and further thought. The actor should be as stimulated by the audience and vice versa. Unless it's musical theatre, in which case servicing the audience is the job.



How did you become interested in making performance?
I don't understand the term 'making performance'. There is a world of difference in performing and acting. Between doing and being. I am really only interested in acting as a way of examining the truth. The performer wants the audience to look at them, the actor wants the audience to look at the character. Performance requires admiration, nothing wrong with that. Acting allows the observer to walk a mile in another person's shoes. You may not, as an audience member, like the character but hopefully at the end of the play you will understand them.

Is there any particular approach to the making
of the show?
This play has been rehearsed in the time-honoured manner: learn the lines and don't trip over the furniture.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
In that it is a play with a small cast who are required to turn comedy and tragedy on a sixpence - yes. I tend to write for older casts with one or two younger characters as the counterpoint of age and experience interests me more than generational ghettos.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope they'll laugh a great deal while perhaps finding themselves walking 90 minutes in the shoes of four very disparate characters:  An actor who was openly Gay during World War One and who wrote the definitive book on embroidery, Queen Mary, widow of George V and grandmother of the present Queen, who was party to the abandonment of the Romanovs, her proudly British Jamaican chauffeur, Walcott, and a brutalised young black G.I Waverley Monk who is contemplating mass murder.

They'll also experience the diverse brilliance of actor Kevin Moore, legend Peter Straker, RADA graduate Tok Stephen and multi award winner me - the Pointless Celebrity winner's perspex block taking pride of place on the piano.

Revenants

Pleasance Dome (King Dome), Potterow, Edinburgh, EH8 9AL
Wednesday 1st – Monday 27th August 2018 (not 8th and 15th), 17:00


Friday, 20 July 2018

Henry's Dramaturgy: Mark Down @ Edfrige 2018

Award winning Blind Summit return to Edinburgh with Extreme Puppetry
 
Multi-award winning puppetry innovators Blind Summit present the UK premiere of their brand new show HENRY, a 3 person, 1 puppet theatrical memoire from beyond the grave, at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival FringeHenry will be staged at the Pleasance Dome (venue 23) from Saturday 11 to Sunday 26 August 2018; and follows the huge Edinburgh Fringe successes of Citizen Puppet (2015) and The Table (2011), both Scotsman Fringe First Award winners.
 
Henry is set within a puppetry Master Class on the subject of 'puppetry possession', hosted by master puppeteer Mark Down.  Mark brings to life a puppet made of bin bags which begins to take on the character of his father, celebrated actor and old ham of the title, Henry Chessel.  
 
With the help of two slightly sinister, hooded puppeteers (Fiona Clift and Tom Espiner) masquerading as students, Mark tells the story of Henry's rise to fame, fall from grace and the last week of his father's life.  Haunted by his father's recent death and a neglected childhood Mark explores the relationships between father and son, acting and puppetry, form and function, life and death.


Mark Down, Blind Summit’s Artistic Director and Master Puppeteer, who performs in and directs their new production Henry answers the Dramaturgy questions.

Blind Summit will present the UK premiere of their brand new show HENRY at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018. It follows the huge Edinburgh Fringe successes of Citizen Puppet (2015) and The Table (2011), both Scotsman Fringe First Award winners, amongst many other awards when touring internationally.

Set within a Master Class on 'puppetry possession' Henry is a one man, three-man show with puppetry. It’s narrated by puppeteer, director and “control freak” Mark Down who explores the mystical power of puppetry, assisted by two, slightly sinister, masked puppeteers. Things get out of control when the spirit of “Henry” enters the puppet. Who is “Henry”? What does he want? And is he dangerous?

What was the inspiration for this performance?

We usually begin with a puppet and in this case with an old puppet that I wanted to revisit called “the tramp". He was made as a tramp character out of bin bags and sitting on a shopping trolley. I took him apart and started to remake him, and slowly he morphed into an "old hammy actor" and then "my late father”, and became someone called “Henry”.  It a tortuous and sometimes torturous process. The show develops from finding a way to use him on stage. 

Where The Table was about being a puppet, Henry is about being a puppeteer. Specifically a furious, fifty year old puppeteer.

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

That’s such a difficult question. I want to say it is, and I want it to be. The mixture of intellectual argument and empathic engagement is potentially very powerful and should be, in theory, the perfect way to debate. But on the other hand Trump is a great performer, and indeed all the so called “populist" politicians, so I think we should be very wary of performance per se.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I went to see Romeo and Juliet at the RSC in 1986 and I understood the play in a way that I really didn’t when I read it. That was revelatory for me. I wanted to do that for other people.

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

I "follow the puppet". And I get lots of help. Everyone involved is invited to share their opinions. Honesty is encouraged and has to be accepted in return. I work with some performers I’ve known a long time and like and trust. We have a shared ambition for puppetry. And we try it out on audiences before we are ready and get them to tell us what they think too. And we keep asking the question - why do we need a puppet to do this? What does a puppet bring to the story?

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

It is experimental. It’s for grown ups. I don’t know if it’s any good. I like it. I hope it is funny and will move people. I hope it will make people think. And I hope it will fill people with wonder. And I will only know when we show it to audiences. So in those senses, yes.


What do you hope that the audience will experience?

See above! I hope they will come with open minds and tell us what it is. The Table became The Table in front of Edinburgh audiences. I hope they will help us bring Henry to life...




In an absurd twist all is not as it seems. As Henry tells his actor’s tales, Mark reveals that he never actually knew his father and the entire basis of the relationship between father and son, actor and puppeteer, puppeteer and puppet, narrative and truth are drawn into question.  Is Mark making it all up? Is his father? Does it matter?
 
Henry is an entertaining but thought provoking show that ultimately acknowledges that everything is invention and the greatest truth is found in the biggest lie.
 
With their brand new show Blind Summit tear up the puppetry rule book again, employing their own unique performance style - 'Extreme Puppetry' - a character led, improvisational reinvention of traditional Japanese Bunraku puppetry - together with their trademark irreverent humour. 
 
Blind Summit Artistic Director and Master Puppeteer, Mark Down, performs in and directs Henry.  The incredibly accomplished puppeteers Fiona Clift (The Table, Citizen Puppet) and Tom Espiner (The Table, Madam Butterfly) play the hooded students.  Julian Spooner, Co-Artistic director of Rhum and Clay Theatre Company, and Freelance Theatre Director Alex Crampton are collaborators and assistant directors of Henry.  The production was devised by Blind Summit and written by Mark Down.
 
Blind Summit is a London based, internationally touring producer of puppet-based theatre under the artistic vision of Mark Down.  The company was founded by Mark in 1997 and is considered one of the world’s leading puppet theatre companies. 
 
Blind Summit are an Arts Council England NPO and Henry was made in association with Il Funaro, Pistoia. 
 
 
Henry Listings Information:
Venue: Pleasance King Dome, Pleasance Dome, 1 Bristo Square, EH8 9AL
EdFringe Venue Number: Venue 23
Dates: 11 - Sunday 26 August 2018 – No days off
Time: 15.30 - 16.30 / Running Time: 60 mins (no interval)
Ticket Prices: £9.00 - £12.00
Box Office:  0131 556 6550 
 
The Blind Summit Team for Henry:
Cast (alphabetical):                          Fiona Clift, Mark Down, Tom Espiner       
Writer & Director:                              Mark Down
Assistant Directors:                          Julian Spooner and Alex Crampton
Design:                                                                        Ruth Paton
Lighting:                                                    Hansjorg Schmidt
Technical Manger:                             Greg Cebula
General Manager/Producer:      Ellie Simpson
 
Devised by Blind Summit Theatre
 
Mark Down and Blind Summit Theatre
Blind Summit is a London based, internationally touring producer of puppet-based theatre under the vision of Artistic Director, Mark Down, one of the world's leading puppeteers.
 
It was founded in 1997 by Mark Down and is considered one of the world’s leading puppet theatre companies.  Since then Mark and the company have been pioneering their own style of “Extreme Puppetry", a character led, improvisational reinvention of traditional Japanese Bunraku puppetry, provocative, funny, political, outrageous, accessible theatre that pushes the boundaries of puppetry. 
 
Their shows such as Low Life (2005), 1984 (2009), and The Table (2011), have toured the world in theatre and puppet festivals.  Mark’s work as Director and Master Puppeteer has drawn plaudits in a series of landmark opera and theatre productions all over the world.  He has collaborated to create the breath-taking puppetry in large scale productions such as Anthony Minghella’s Madam Butterfly, for the English National Opera, and Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony. In 2014 Mark directed his first full scale puppet opera staging of Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol for the Bregenz Festival, since voted the Best Festival at the International Opera Awards 2014. 
 
Mark’s work as Director and Master Puppeteer has drawn plaudits in a series of landmark opera and theatre productions all over the world, including commissions for the Spoleto and Bregenz Festivals and, in Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly, for the English National Opera and, currently, the Met Opera in New York.
 
Their shows are devised and directed by Mark Down in collaboration with a cohort of exceptional trained puppeteers, makers, designers and lighting designers, who have also contributed to the creation of some of the most extraordinary spectacles of recent years, including War Horse and Pinocchio at the Royal National Theatre, Boris & Sergey by Flabbergast Theatre and The Lorax at the Old Vic.
 
Past productions include: The Table (2011-present); Madam Butterfly (ENO, Met Opera, LNOBT, 2005-present); Citizen Puppet (2015); Le Rossignol (Bregenz Festival, 2014); The Magic Flute (Bregenz Festival, 2013-14); A Dog’s Heart (Complicite, ENO, DNO, La Scala, 2010-14); The Heads (2013); London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony (2012); 1984 (2009-10); The Call of the Wild (2010), Low Life (2005 – 2009), Kommilitonen! (Royal Academy of Music & Julliard, New York, 2011); Faeries (ROH2, 2008-10); El Gato Con Botas (Broadway: Gotham Chamber Opera, Tectonic Theatre Project, 2010-14); Shun-kin (Complicite, Setagaya Theatre Tokyo, Barbican, 2008-13); Angus, Thongs and Even More Snogging (West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2012); On Emotion (Soho Theatre, 2009); His Dark Materials (Birmingham Rep & West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2009); Pirate Puppetry, Martin’s Wedding, The Spaceman, Mr. China’s Son and Tramping the Boards.