Sunday, 11 February 2018

Bingo Dramaturgy: Anita Vettesse & Johnny McKnight @ Stellar Quines

 Grid Iron and Stellar Quines present 
A new musical comedy. An unforgettable night at the bingo.
“Have you ever done a bad thing, like really bad?”
“Yeah. I started Breaking Bad when our Davey was on the night-shift.”
A new musical comedy focusing on lives of six characters and one fateful night at the bingo. 

Bingo! tours Scotland in March and April 2018.

Every week more than 2 million women pour into local bingo halls across the UK, each one hoping that all elusive HOUSE will change their fortunes forever. Daniella’s one of those women. Except she isn’t just hopeful. She’s desperate. She needs Lady Luck to smile down on her tonight. She’s done a bad thing. No, a really bad thing and if her card doesn’t have those winning numbers, she’s going to have to resort to desperate measures to take home that prize money.

Tour dates:
Assembly Hall, Edinburgh: 6-7 March 7.30pm (previews) and 8-17 March 7.30pm (not Sunday 11th), 10 & 17 March 2.30pm (matinees)

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling: 22-23 March 7.30pm, 23 March 2.30pm (matinee)

Ayr Gaiety Theatre, Ayr: 27-28 March 7.30pm

The Brunton, Musselburgh: 31 March at 2pm and 7.30pm

Tron Theatre, Glasgow: 12-14 April at 7.45pm

Eden Court, Inverness: 19-21 April 7.30pm, 21 April 2.30pm (matinee)

What was the inspiration for this performance?

A: We were commissioned by Stella Quines and Grid Iron to write a play/ musical about Bingo.  So that was out starting point.  Then we just sat and talked and talked about what Bingo meant to us and our associations with it and then developed our story and characters from there.

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

 A: Totally. There’s nothing nicer hearing audiences leave a theatre and be in debate or arguments over what they’ve just seen. It starts conversations.

J:  Theatre transports you in a way I don't think TV or cinema does.  The sweat is there in front of you, the live experience has jeopardy, anything can (and sometimes does) go wrong.  I think that intensity of watching cant help but make you think and feel on a deeper level, with that comes discussion, debate, rage, empathy. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

 A: For me I wrote as I needed to be able to create work on my own (having been an actor for 20 years) and relying on other people to give me work. Also I was of an age that I felt I needed to try something new and terrifying.  Which it was and still is.

J:  It became a necessity for me.  I was cast in quite a few camp light parts when I graduated.  I decided I'd do my own camp instead.   It started
with devising in a group but, after a while, that started to feel like a compromise to what I wanted to say or investigate (or maybe I just got more anti-social as I got older!?!?) 

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

 A: We both know one another really well so approaching this show was lots of chatting and story sharing and we begun with characters and then put them in a scenario we thought they’d work well in. The story changed from first draft – but the characters remained the same…we just wanted in second draft to make life harder for them and see how they coped.

J: there was a lot of post-it notes.  A lot of coffee.  A lot of telling stories about people we knew and things that made us laugh.  I think this was a completely different thing for us both, we've never written as a team with anyone else before, we're so used to being the solo voice.  Surprisingly it took a lot of the angst and dread out of writing, that fear that can cripple you at times, it wasn't there for this one.  It felt like you'd let the other person down if you weren't firing on and trying to make them laugh, or move them. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

 A: This is a first musical for me. A first at co-writing as well. I’ve loved working with Johnny but I think that comes from years of being pals we have a shorthand. I think the themes and the humour is quite similar to things we’ve explored before…but the story / music is different.

J: I think yes and no.  Anita and me are good friends and we have a lot of similar tastes and view the world through similar lenses, so I think anyone familiar with either of our work will still
see us individually in the piece.  

However two minds can only be better than one so we've really looked at it from a hundred possible angles.  Personally, working with another person has pushed me harder – make it funnier, brighter, shorter, be economical, fight for your ideas.  Its like working with a dramaturg on your own material all the way through the process. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

A: A good night out firstly. A tear too and to leave the theatre feeling they want to organise a night with their pals and go to the bingo!

J:  I want them to fall in love with theatre, to forget its crap weather outside, to laugh with wild abandon, and to remember the power

With cracking original songs, a lot of banter and cheeky humour, Bingo! is co-written by Anita Vettesse Johnny McKnight, with music by Alan Penman and directed by Stellar Quines’ Artistic Director Jemima Levick.

Cast of Bingo! includes stars of British stages and television such as Louise McCarthy (Daniella) of BBC’s Scot Squad and Two Doors DownWendy Seager (Mary) who played Susan inKilling me Softly and featured in Still GameBarbara Rafferty (Joanna), star of River CityBrave New World, Rab C Nesbitt and The Last King of Scotland film, Jo Freer (Ruth) who starred in Dundee Rep’s Sunshine on Leith as well as River CityDarren Brownlie (Donny) known from Dundee Rep’s Witness for the Prosecution and BBC Scotland’s Scot Squad as well as Tron Theatre’s pantomime and Jane McCarry(Betty), Still Game’s Isa and Scottish pantomime star who also played Dolly in Tony Roper’s The Steamie and featured in Rab C Nesbitt.
Bingo! reflects the current state of affairs for many people living in the UK, for whom a visit to a bingo hall is both a night out and a financial plan. Brought to Scottish stages by two award-winning Edinburgh-based theatre companies: site-responsive specialists Grid Iron and Stellar Quines, who celebrate the diversity of women and girls, Bingo! promises to be a show that entertains and provokes.

Bingo! receives its world premiere at Assembly Hall in Edinburgh. The show then goes on tour to venues around Scotland, including Stirling, Ayr, Musselburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

Jemima Levick, Artistic Director of Stellar Quines said: “As one of Scotland’s longest serving touring companies, Stellar Quines’ work is created to inspire women & girls, and the men that know them.  We realise that women and girls come in different shapes and sizes and with a variety of tastes and expectations, so our programme of work aims to respond with broad appeal.

Every time I read Bingo! or hear it read aloud, I am reminded of just how brilliant women are.  It’s a play about comradery, friendship, parenthood, and strength in numbers, but also about hope, and ‘that’ fantasy that we all have – of how our lives might change with that big win.  It’s a play that never fails to take me by surprise, it makes me laugh and cry. 
We are particularly delighted to be co-producing alongside our long-time colleagues, Grid Iron.  It’s a collaboration that’s based on many of the qualities of this play, so we’re thrilled to be on that journey with them.”

Judith Doherty, Co-Artistic Director of Grid Iron said: “Grid Iron have been talking to Jemima about Bingo! for quite some time so, when she took over the helm at Stellar Quines, it seemed the perfect opportunity to bring together two Edinburgh companies who share a mission to provide strong roles for women on and off stage.  Anita and Johnny have written a truly cracking script and I would bet on it that we’ll hear people humming Alan’s music as they head down the street after the show.
Although Grid Iron are best known for site-responsive work, this is far from the first time we’ve toured work for the stage and indeed, isn’t our first musical either. We’re really looking forward to taking Bingo! out on the road and are delighted to be travelling with Stellar Quines.”
Sharon Burgess, Assembly Managing Director said: “Assembly are thrilled to be working with two such prestigious Scottish Theatre Companies to present work at Assembly Hall out with the month of August. We very much look forward to hosting the world premiere of Bingo! in March next year.”

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