Tag Archives: St Stephens

“The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project” – A Conversation

*Originally written with Catherine Love for Exeunt*

Dan: In the opening address to audiences of The Bloody Great Border Ballad ProjectLorne Campbell attempts to convey his own internal struggle when considering the question of the referendum of Scottish independence next year. He initially began as leaning towards being anti-independence, but after talking to other artists and friends, he realised it wasn’t as simple as he thought, causing him to enter a state of confusion about the whole thing. Now, a few months down the line, as this massive, knotty, crazy idea gains traction, he realises he is just as confused. But it’s “a higher quality of confusion”.

And, to me, this is what makes The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project so special, inhabiting a position far more interesting and exciting than Tim Price’s I’m With the Band. Continue reading “The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project” – A Conversation


Stars in My Eyes

This Twitter conversation happened on 12th August 2013 (I can’t work out how to embed the whole thing, so this is a link to it): https://twitter.com/MarcusRomer/status/367028584818671616

Now, I didn’t directly take part in this conversation, but seeing as the brilliant Eleanor Turney was my editor for my time in Edinburgh and I was pounding out reviews for A Younger Theatre, Romer’s thoughts certainly hit a bit of a nerve.

The tweet which really rankled me was this one:

Now, I didn’t give any show five stars when writing for A Younger Theatre this Fringe. This wasn’t due to timidity or being scared to nail my ideas to the mast – Christ knows I do that often enough anyway. Continue reading Stars in My Eyes

“There Has Possibly Been An Incident” by Chris Thorpe

at Northern Stage, St Stephens, Thursday 8th August 2013

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

How best do we fight against something which we don’t agree with? Who decides who is a hero and who is a villain? What compromises do we have to make if we are to change anything? Chris Thorpe’s There Has Possibly Been An Incident doesn’t answer any of these questions, and it’s all the better for it. Rather, it throws them out into the open for debate, acting as a springboard for discussion, using a quasi-documentary tone and aesthetic in order to force an interrogation of truth.

The stage in Sam Pritchard’s production isn’t ready as we enter the auditorium. Three actors – Gemma Brockis, Nigel Barrett and Yusra Warsama – are in the process of setting up a number of microphones, Continue reading “There Has Possibly Been An Incident” by Chris Thorpe

“The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project”

at Northern Stage, St Stephens on Thursday 8th August 2013

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

I’m so glad The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project exists. With the independence referendum looming and the possibility of an independent Scotland and (perhaps) independent England at some point in the future, it is important that we think about national identities and what it means to be a member of either country. In creating this project, Lorne Campbell (Artistic Director of Northern Stage) has found a way of bringing people together in an attempt to understand who we are. It’s a mad, huge idea, and it makes for a great evening out.

Six artists (Cora Bissett, Daniel Bye, Lucy Ellinson, Kieran Hurley, Alex Kelly and Chris Thorpe) Continue reading “The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project”

“If Room Enough”

at Northern Stage, St Stephens on Thursday 8th August 2013

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

There’s a lot of Shakespeare at the Fringe. It’s a fairly smart way of getting in audiences and allows you a large amount of creative licence with a well-known play. I doubt there’s any productions more inventive than If Room Enough, however, which takes the story of The Tempest and strips it back completely to form an inventive, imagistic and joyous production which allows us to see the world a little differently.

At the beginning of withWings’s production, the Ariel character (Tom Coxon) emerges from a washing machine (like large cubes, people coming out of white goods seems to be becoming a bit of a trend in UK theatre), Continue reading “If Room Enough”

“How to Occupy an Oil Rig”

at Northern Stage, St Stephens, Tuesday 6th August 2013

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

Early on in How to Occupy an Oil Rig, Daniel Bye tells us that this is a show “about demonstration that takes the form of a series of demonstrations”. Within this description is the dialecticism that the show employs: does protest work or doesn’t it?; Should theatre be a place of protest or not? Should political theatre contain emotion or should it be purely a intellectual exercise? Through a number of “How to…” sketches grouped around a central couple, Bye asks questions about all these things and by using play, extraordinarily, it never feels like we’re being lectured.

As we enter the auditorium, we are invited to make a plasticine representation of ourselves and place a personalised placard with an anti-oil slogan on it. Continue reading “How to Occupy an Oil Rig”

“The Ugly Sisters”

at St Stephens, Saturday 18th August 2012

It’s not as if the story of Cinderella needs a reboot. So many reinterpretations, reimaginings and retellings of the tale have been made that you’d think there would be no room for any more. The central premise behind The Ugly Sisters is one which has surely been observed before, but Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen add RashDash’s trademark charm and energy, creating something which turns the Cinderella story on its head in an hour of pure joy.

The Ugly Sisters (“reclaiming the word”) are here a cabaret duo who want to tell the story from their point of view. In their opinion, it was all Cinderella’s fault (here named Arabella). In this telling, her materialism and the sycophancy bestowed upon her by her stepmother are the truly ugly aspects, causing resentment in Pearl and Emerald. After appearing on a reality TV show to win the Prince’s heart, they are turned against each other in true manipulative Big Brother style, causing the viewing public to turn against them. The show is a clear swipe at celebrity culture and commodity fetishism.

The way in which the piece is presented is its strongest aspect; the use of a cabaret-style setting means the sisters can address us and talk through their story methodically. Along with their backing band, they sing, dance and DJ their way through some toe-tapping music with smart lyrics, interspersed with digressions and duologues. It’s ideal for a late night show, and means the slightly amateur nature of the presentation makes sense. The final moment sees Greenland and Goalen appearing on stage, botox-ed and bewigged, the recogniseable Ugly Sisters of pantomimes.

Though the music is performed well by a three-piece band and sung with stunning versatility by the sisters, the characterisations of all involved is a little weak, making it hard to buy fully the story which is being told. Band members who play other characters in the story are a tad wooden (though this could be a conscious decision), and more could be done with these sections of the piece. Greenland and Goalen are hilarious at points, and it’s clear they’re attempting to show the sisters as simply misunderstood and innocent, but the fact they are in a cabaret setting is not fully exploited; it’s difficult to tell where the characters’ ideas for a piece of theatre end and the actors’ begins.

Regardless of these small issues, The Ugly Sisters achieves its goal of turning the story of Cinderella on its head whilst raising a smile. Some clever lyrics and ideas test our intellectual muscles, while we sit back and enjoy the show. RashDash aren’t doing anything revolutionary or mind-blowing, but my god they do it well.