Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Three Shows and a Dramaturgy: Tim Marriot @ Edfringe

A Warning From History – Mengele 
As the Labour Party argues over the definition of anti-Semitism* and the Israeli government approves a Jewish Nation State**, divisions deepen and boundaries blur.

All across Europe and the USA extremist views advance and the Far Right begins to creep into government.

Against this contemporary background, Smokescreen Productions offers a warning from history at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Mengele takes us back to a beach in Brazil in 1979 when a drowning man is washed up on a beach where he meets a mysterious woman.
The play imagines the notorious doctor of Auschwitz confronted by the woman he assumes has saved him. 

Mengele Trailer from Smokescreen Visuals Ltd on Vimeo.

Shell Shock Tackles Major Mental Health Issue Related Deaths of Veterans
Fringe Encore Winner and Best Solo Show, Adelaide Fringe 18

The Ministry of Defence has just admitted that it “does not hold information on the causes of death for all UK Armed Forces veterans”*.

This includes the growing numbers among our estimated 2.6 million former service men and women who take their own lives.

The multiple award-winning play Shell Shock,which is coming to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 11 August as part of the Army@TheFringe programme, tackles the mental health challenges faced by some veterans trying to return to civilian life. 

All Change – Ivor’s Not Going Quietly
Ivor waits, his train of thought broken by his fragmented and decaying memory. 
His daughter Lily packs a bag, preparing him for a “home”. But Ivor’s not going quietly. As fast as Lily packs, he unpacks...

Performed by sitcom veteran Tim Marriott  with Stefanie Rossi as Lily, it’s a tale for our times, addressing the issues of failing memory and caring for an aging parent – something growing numbers of us can expect to face in years to come.

First of all, how do you define mental health? What does the term mean to you - do you have a social model of sanity, for example, or is it concerned with neural atypical conditions?

We are all happy to discuss our physical health… I wear a Fitbit tracker and will happily bore anyone to death about how many steps I have taken today, this week, this month… but there is a stigma around mental health that, in order to be truly healthy, we should address. Mental health therefore means to me exactly that – a healthy, balanced, exercised and fit mental state… or not. 

I don’t think of mental health in terms of expected social norms, or psychosis, but more in terms of how I react to stress and pressure on a daily basis. There are neuroses, injuries, degenerative conditions, physical and mental traumas and imbalances covered by the very general term ‘mental health’, but on a day to day, the phrase makes me think of emotional and intellectual well being.

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

I am doing three shows at EdFringe that
can be seen to deal with different aspects of 

mental health. Two established shows and one new one. ‘

Mengele’ exposes the mind of a narcissistic sociopath, ‘Shell Shock’ charts the descent through toxic masculinity into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The new show, ‘All Change’ is a deeply personal family story about living with dementia interpreted through a domestic and comedic setting.

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?

In ‘All Change’, we use humour to bring the audience into the world of Ivor and his daughter Lily as she attempts to prepare him for life in a ‘home’. Her gentle handling of this irascible character says much about how we can respond to the condition and ease the confusion of the sufferer. Though the play also contains other complexities in that Lily has her own issues that she struggles to share with her father as his mind slips away. The play is not didactic, that is not our style, but hopes to at least provoke a conversation or two.

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

Performing three plays during the fringe will be a challenge and the level of involvement in each one, the emotional and physical demands of each role will make us vulnerable to anxiety and stress. Audience reaction and reviews can feel very personal and you can’t win ‘em all, so we need to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth. 

As a reviewer myself, I try and take account of
this when offering a written response as I know what negative criticism can feel like and how destructive it can be to one’s mental health. 

I will try and make myself and my company as resilient as possible by keeping physically fit, eating and sleeping well, keeping regular hours and avoiding too many late nights and alcohol!

Josef Mengele, known in the camp as “The Angel of Death”, escaped justice after WW2 and escaped to South America. 
The woman challenges him to attempt to justify the unjustifiable and in so doing exposes the rhetoric of a sociopathic narcissist, echoing arguments we hear again today.
Created following advice from the Holocaust Educational Trust and endorsed by the Amud Aish Museum of New York, Mengele seeks to engage, educate and provoke conversations about the issues of today as much as of the past. 
A short run at Edinburgh last year was followed by an award to take the play to New York as a Fringe Encore winner, then on to a sell out season at Adelaide Fringe 2018. 
Inspired by the novel Right to Die, the play is written by Philip Wharam and Tim Marriott, who also performs it with Stefanie Rossi and Emma Wingrove.
Mengele, the play, is inspired by and written to acknowledge the chilling truth expressed by Auschwitz survivor Lydia Tischler who said: “all of us have the capacity to be sadistic and horrible to other people. The potential for destructiveness is in all of us.”Marriott says:“It is vital for us to understand such men as Mengele, to learn from history, to stop others like them from rising again.”

Adapted from Gulf War veteran Neil Blower Watkins’ autobiographical novel of the same name Shell Shocktells the story of long-serving soldier Tommy Atkins’ attempts to return to Civvy Street and his undiagnosed PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). 
The effects of PTSD amongst generations of ex-military and first responders in a social media driven society where we are constantly under pressure to live “happy and fulfilled” lives are huge. 
Shell Shockwas adapted for the stage and is performed by BBC comedy veteran Tim Marriott (The Brittas Empire) and was created in association with military and mental health charities as a stigma reduction project for the military community and beyond. Earlier this year it was named Best Solo Show at the Adelaide Fringe.
The play is ultimately positive, offering hope and support, and is followed by informal interactive feedback sessions, or “Fire Circles”, where others are encouraged to share their own stories.
Marriott said:“PTSD can be a huge challenge for veterans. All too often the symptoms are repressed, unrecognised and often go untreated, especially in a culture defined by masculine grit. For generations we have taught our young men tobe embarrassed about their emotions and hide them, or avoid communicating them – unless in anger. This is now recognised as Toxic Masculinity.”
As Tommy shares his observations on the absurdities of the everyday with the audience, so the cracks in his military grit become apparent. As he represses his reactions to flashbacks, he rails at the world in increasing outrage. Nothing is safe. From post office queues to Ikea, computer games to ‘phone zombies, all feel the force of his frustration. 
Listings Details
·       Venue: Army @ The Fringe in association with Summerhall, Hepburn House Army Reserve Centre, East Claremont Street (Venue 210)
·       Time: 17:30
·       Duration: 60 mins
·       Dates: 11, 12, 14-19, 21-25 August. Previews 10 August. 
·       Tickets: £9 to £12
·       Advisory: Contains strong language

Marriott said:“Hundreds of thousands of families across the UK are affected by dementia every year. It has an immense impact on the lives of everyone it touches and as time ticks on its something that any of us might eventually suffer. But whilst the personal tragedy of dementia is at the heart of All Change, it’s very much a play filled with humanity, warmth and humour.”
All Changebegan life as a devised project, inspired by the work of St Wilfrid’s Hospice, workshopped with drama students and scripted by Toby H Marriott, on an emerging writers course at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre. Based on personal experience, the play was then developed into a compact professional production, researched and developed in Bristol and at Brighton Fringe and now premiering at Edinburgh.
Alzheimer’s Society fact file
·     There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over one million by 2025. This will soar to two million by 2051.
·     Some 225,000 will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes.
·     One in six people over the age of 80 have dementia.
·     Some 70% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems.
  • There are over 40,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK.
- Ends -
Listings Details
·       Venue: Assembly George Square Theatre, The Box, EH8 9JZ (Venue 8)
·       Time: 12:20  
·       Duration: 50 mins
·       Dates: 9,11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 27 August. Previews 9 August 
·       Tickets: Previews £10 (£9); 11-27 August £12 (£11) 

Marriottis best known for seven series of BBC TV's leisure centre sit-com The Brittas Empire, appearing in every episode as deputy manager, Gavin. Other TV credits include Allo Allo, Doctors, The Bill, An Actor's Life for Me, The Main Event, Luv and film credits include the forthcoming features The Real Thing, Love Type D and Revelation. He recently returned to the stage after an 18-year career break teaching English and drama. He is also appearing in two other Fringe 2018 productions, Shell Shockand All Change.

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