On the 1st of August just a few weeks ago, I began a 7 hour train journey to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to be the Marketing Assistant for ‘The Improv Musical’. I set off on my journey feeling anxious – the Fringe Festival was panning out to be an expensive venture, I only knew a few people and was not feeling very prepared. However, all my apprehension was quelled the minute I arrived and my time at the Edinburgh fringe festival was absolutely incredible.
Although my main purpose at the Fringe was marketing ‘The Improv musical’, I was really lucky and was also able to see a lot of other shows. I also had the opportunity to attend a lot of really cool events doing press releases, networking, talking to journalists and media companies like the BBC. Before the Fringe officially started the theatre our show would be in, C Venues, hosted an event called ‘Mingle Monday’ where we were able to meet other theatre companies and promote our show. This is where I met the cast of the first show I saw: ‘These Troubled Times’
‘These troubled Times’ is a play that explores religion, homosexuality, family, prejudice and aliens. Yes, aliens. I was seriously impressed at the way they tackled serious themes in a comedic way that I did not find myself cringing at. The play really was one of those “you had to have been there” moments as the on-stage cast chemistry and the audience rapport within their intimate theatre space was one of the highlights of the play. Likewise, not much can be said of the plot either without ruining it for others. A special shout out must go to Troy Diana who played Mrs. Raymond, a deeply religious and intolerant southern aunt. They decided to have a man playing a woman however, it did not play into the ‘man in drag’ pantomine-esque stereotype which was really enjoyable. As a personal preference I generally dislike multi-rolling therefore, a special mention must also go to Marchelle Thurman and Shawn Mahoney who went from playing husband and wife to brother and sister seamlessly which is a real testament to their acting prowess. However, my only complaint would be with John Curtis who was technically faultless but played a very grating character. I felt like the audience was supposed to sympathize with him but purely because of how whiny he came across I felt unable to. Whether this was a misjudgment in the acting style or merely the script I’m unsure. Nevertheless, the whole piece was thoroughly enjoyable and one I would definitely recommend.
My favorite show at the Fringe would have to be the musical ‘Zanna, Don’t!’ which I actually saw twice! This was another company that I met at ‘Mingle Monday’ and became fast friends with. The musical operates on the premise of an inversion of stereotypes where the “cool kids” in school such as the jocks are now the “nerds”, the most popular students play Chess and alcohol has been replaced by hot milk. Perhaps the most significant inversion and the underpinning notion of the musical is that it is the norm to be Gay. It is set in a high school and centers around the character Zanna who is a fairy and tries to help people fall in love. The school is putting on an end of term musical and they decide to write a musical questioning whether heterosexuals should be allowed in the military. Whilst rehearsing the female and male lead fall for each other and have to deal with the repercussions as in this world it is wrong and shameful for boys and girls to be together.
What I found most interesting was the way they managed to explore a hugely political statement in a really subtle and funny way. It really challenged societies perception of homosexuality without you realising it all. And the musical itself was really well done – I have already purchased the soundtrack! The only complaint that I have with ‘Zanna, Don’t!’ is that I did not get a chance to see it for a third time. It was colorful, fun and an all round great show. A huge congratulations to the cast!
I must also talk about the musical ‘Witch’ which was sent up from my university by Musical Theatre Warwick (MTW) a society that I am also a part of. The entire musical was student written and was put together in a very short period of time therefore I must admit I skeptically took my seat in the theatre desperately wanting them to put on a good show but was not entirely convinced.
However, I was absolutely blown away. Watching the cast of ‘Witch’ perform, you would hardly believe they were not a professional company. The musical centers around the character Leah played by Lucy Cooper who is a modern day Witch trying to find out about her past. Through chanting and a drop of her blood she is able to go back into the past and see how her ancestors lived. It was a really intricate story line and completely different to anything I have ever seen before exemplifying the creativity of the company.
A special mention must go to the musical directors (Tom Slade and Chris Poon) who did the most amazing job with the soundtrack which really was the best part of the entire show. The combination of complex harmonies, the four piece band and contemporary music took the show to another level. A particular highlight for me was the song between Kitty Murdoch and Danni Marsh where one had had a miscarriage and the other tries to console her. The vocals in this scene were absolutely spell-bounding and I felt incredibly moved. I really would have loved to see more of these two throughout the musical. I feel like this is a running theme with ‘Witch’, you are introduced to a character and grow attached to them and want to know how their individual story develops and then do not see them again. However, this one quibble is also positive because it definitely left the audience enthralled the whole way through. That being said, there are definitely some improvements that could have been made to the actual plot. Whilst I found the linking story line of Leah the young Witch to be very clever I also think it could have been better explained. Similarly, the ending felt very abrupt and I left feeling slightly confused.
Regardless, MTW put together a solid production that they can really be proud of. Watching them made me feel so proud to know many of the cast personally. It is clear they will go from strength to strength and I am already excited to see what they’ve got up their sleeves for next year.
I watched so many other really great shows which I simply don’t have the time to go into in great detail as this post is already getting quite long. But a couple other shows I would have loved to write about were: Sushi Tap Show and The School of Night. That is one the best things about the Fringe festival, there is a massive variety of shows to watch. If you’re still at the fringe, about to head out to it, or perhaps planning a trip for next year, I would suggest you download the Fringe App. This was really helpful for me and helped me maximise my time- especially the ‘nearby now’ feature.
As for ‘The Improv Musical’, I am so thankful to the cast and the production team for welcoming with open arms into the team and I could not be prouder of how well we have done. So far, we’ve been rated four stars by A Younger Theatre and five stars by Spotted Ed Fringe. We’ve had sell out shows where the demand has been so high that we’ve had turn people away, standing ovations and I am just excited to see what else was can achieve…
It’s just me, Dammy, talking about all things Edinburgh
Check all these awesome shows on Twitter:
These Troubled Times: @T3_play
Zanna Don’t – @zannafringe
Witch – @mtw_uk
The Improv Musical- @improv_musical
Sushi Tap Show- @tokyotapdo
The School of Night- @schoolofnight