An Interview with Anthony Keigher

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Hello Anthony, so where you from, & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Hi! I am from a small town in the west of Ireland called Roscommon. I grew up on a farm. Which of course lends itself perfectly to becoming the Eurovision-superstar phenomena that I am now (or will be someday…). Right now I am based in East London, surrounded by the whackiest and exciting drag and performance art. It’s a very exciting place to be!

Can you talk us through the earliest stages in your development as a performer?
Ice-cream. I was studying Fine Art Paint, and I suddenly remember feeling like this might not be the right path for me. So I started to develop what you’d call ‘Performance Art’ and in this case it involved a lot of ice-cream and singing ballads from one of my fave musicals,’ Evita. It has of course developed since then, but I do like that the need to perform came so organically and has developed so.

What is it about Musical Theatre that makes you tick?
I enjoy musical theatre that plays with form and with the very idea of what musical theatre can be. For me, this means it can push into something innovative and possibly merge all those other exciting forms of performance-making, such as live art or drag.

What makes a good musical, & which are your favorites?
I think empathy is crucial for me. Currently my favourite musical is Wicked. But that can change depending on my love life or career at the time! It has been Evita…Dreamgirls…each of these are inspiring in their own way.

What does Anthony Keigher like to do when he’s not immersed in the stage?
Anthony Keigher likes to lie on his bed, sipping coffee while he orders flowers for himself. Yes. That’s the kind of diva I am…

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This year you are bringing Douze to the Fringe. Can you tell us about it?
It follows my alter-ego pop star XNTHONY and his backing singers, The Penny Slots, as we campaign around the world for a place in Eurovision. We started in 2015…and it’s been ongoing. Something gets in the way. But we’ll never give up! The show presents 9 possible Eurovision songs…and each song has a relationship with either politics, pop culture or it’s just darn funny!

Of you & the cast, who has done the Fringe before?
None of us have done Ed Fringe before, but we have all been as audience members. Having toured around elsewhere, I am remaining calm about the sudden push of high energy that is required from myself and the team. I think the key is to keep the feet firmly on the ground and get to work (which includes lots of glitter in my case).

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Douze is a brand new musical. Can you tell us about its journey from being born to being played at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe?
This is a real funny one. I had just finished a show in Ireland, and someone quite well do-to in the theatre scene asked me…’What’s XNTHONY doing next?’. And I replied…completely off the cuff…’Eurovision’. He said it was a good idea…and I got to thinking…We then brought it to Dublin Fringe Festival..followed by a European Tour and BANG! Here we are!

Can you sum up Douze in a single sentence?
DOUZE is THE lovable, pop, comedy musical about Eurovision and stardom that will leave you in stitches!

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Anthony Keigher?
I plan on entering the Eurovision. Again.


You can catch Anthony in Douze at the Fringe

Aug 2-28 : C Royale (20.30)

An Interview with Claire Mckenzie & Scott Gilmour

Hello Claire, so where you & Scott from & where ya both at, geographically speaking?unnamed
Claire : 
At the moment we are both based in Glasgow, although since we’ve started getting more work internationally, we’re travelling around quite a lot! I’m originally from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne but moved up to Scotland to study composition, and have never wanted to leave because of the exciting new work that is constantly being created here. Seeing has I’ve now lived here for 12 years, am a McKenzie and have ginger hair, I think that makes me officially Scottish! Scott is originally from East Kilbride and similarly moved into Glasgow to study, and so far, hasn’t left!

Hello Scott, can you give us a brief outline of the origins of your partnership with Claire?
Scott : Claire and I were both students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and met in my first year of training. I was an actor and Claire was Musical Director. We spoke about stories and ideas we had in common and decided we’d like to try making something together. In my final year there was an opportunity to have a new piece made with The Arches in Glasgow, so I submitted Claire and I (without actually asking Claire…) and I our idea was selected. This became our first musical together; FREAKSHOW. Based on the true stories of Victorian freak performers, it was a site-specific song cycle which then went on a small tour to London, playing at The Roundhouse and Covent Garden Actors Church, before ending up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where is won the Daily Mail Drama Award 2012. It was at this point we decided to form our partnership company Noisemaker. Five years on we’re still having fun telling stories together, and our work is growing and becoming more and more international, through projects like ATLANTIC.

What makes a good musical, & which are your favorites?
Scott : I think a good musical is one where the story matches the style. I think musical theatre suffers from a stigma that’s a direct result of style coming before content or story. However, shows like WEST SIDE STORY or CABARET pair the style with stories big and important enough that it not only matches the size and scale of the style, but they allow the story to be told more clearly, and with more impact, as a result of it being a musical. That’s when musical theatre becomes interesting for me; when the a story can live on in the music audiences are left humming on their way home from the theatre. Some of my favourites are, as I mentioned, WEST SIDE STORY and CABARET. I also loved LONDON ROAD, COLOUR PURPLE and have a definite soft spot for OLIVER.

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What is it about Musical Theatre that makes you tick?
Claire : I’m a musician who loves to collaborate, and I think Musical Theatre is the ultimate collaboration between art forms; all working together to tell a story. I’m a believer that you can’t write a musical alone by yourself in a room; you need to work with other creatives and actors throughout the writing process in order to bring the different elements together and make a musical really work. I’m obviously passionate about the use of music in storytelling, as I think it has such an immediate ability to evoke emotion in the audience, while being a universal language that’s accessible to everyone.

How are you finding the public’s taste for musical theatre in 2017
Scott : Like everything, our taste is changing. The main thing I feel that’s shifting is how audiences watch stories. Stuff like Netflix allows anyone easy access to incredible, complex, beautiful stories and drama. Film is relying more and more on visual storytelling partnering with a rich soundtrack, over lots of text and dialogue. Our relationship to language is changing. We still like to be taken on a journey, but I think we’re a lot better at coping with having moments where we aren’t sure of what’s going on, where we are left confused and unsatisfied but are happy to hang for a resolution. I think that new musical theatre has been a little slower at making this shift in narrative. It’s still such a young form, I don’t think we’ve begun to understand all the ways song and movement can be used to tell new stories that speak about who and what we are. That said, I think people love a blockbuster. It could be the newest Star Wars or Marvel Superhero movie, but when as a big story with a big score comes along, something like HAMILTON, I think people will always want to escape into that.

Can you tell us about the creative processes between yourself & Scott?
Claire : At the start of each process we will spend quite a bit of time together working on the idea and mapping out the structure of the piece. We try and delve into the world of the piece together, by collecting pictures and making playlists to listen to, so we are both on the same page regarding the tone and language of the piece. We’ll then start writing; and generally, Scott will go first and come up with some lyrics and text, then I’ll follow with the music. I always like working with a lyric first as it allows me to be specific in matching the music to each word. We’ll then go back and forwards with the material a few times, being brutally honest with each other, about what we think is working and what isn’t. Ideally as soon as we finish a first draft, we’d want to workshop the material with actors and a dramaturg to start feeding in their responses and continue tweaking until the show is ready for production.

What is the raison d’etre behind your company, Noisemaker?
Claire : As Scott mentioned, we began writing together in 2012 and soon after our first project we formed Noisemaker. We wanted to create and develop new musical theatre together and challenge the form in fresh and innovative ways. A huge part of this is how we use music throughout the storytelling. We don’t always use traditional song structures and instead tell our stories more filmically, trying to create a feeling at times that is not always text or lyric driven. We also tend to pick challenging narrative structures – for example, our last trip to Edinburgh Fringe in 2014 was with The Girl Who, an interactive ‘choose-you-own-adventure’ musical, with 128 possible versions. Each show was unique as it was dependant on a series of choices made by the audience throughout the story – which wasn’t straight forward to write, or rehearse!

Can you tell us about your time at the prestigious Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed, Connecticut, & what have you learnt from the experience?
Scott : The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed was one of the most important experiences Claire and I have had as a writing partnership. It allowed us to have absolute freedom and space to start a new idea, in the insanely beautiful surroundings of East Haddam, Connecticut, whilst also being able to share our ideas and new material with other writers and hear what they were creating too. Often you can feel a little isolated as a writer; that you need to work alone before anyone else is allowed to come and play. But the community offered at Goodspeed allows you time with similar artists working on a similar process which was just really inspiring for us to work around. As a result of our time there, we’ll be returning to New York in early 2018 to begin developing the piece we started at the Colony into a full new musical, with support from Goodspeed, the National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep.

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This year you are bringing Atlantic : A Scottish Story to the Fringe. Can you tell us about the transatlantic ideas behind its creation?
Scott : We began the process for ATLANTIC back in October 2016. Claire and I had lots of calls and Skypes with the American writers (all at weird times of the day) about what story we felt we all wanted to tell in this setting, and also what was appropriate and right for the students we were working with too. Eventually the idea of home and heritage started to emerge as a fundamental point of difference for both teams. Claire and I’s families both have lived in Scotland for generations, whereas the Americans were either third or fourth generation immigrants.

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They began to explain the idea that where many Americans “come from” is rarely America itself and that, for many, there are family and roots to be found all over the world. We took this as our starting point. A SCOTTISH STORY for us then became about looking at the story of an girl who is unable to escape the roots and hold of family and place, to explore the world and see what else might be out there. If it is prescribed where you belong and who you are, can you still be happy there? Is it a curse to never leave? That is idea we explore through ATLANTIC: A SCOTTISH STORY.

Are you in touch with the team in the States producing the American version of Atlantic?
Claire : Absolutely. I think we’ve been in touch with the American team via every platform available in the past few months! But nothing beats working with them in person, and we were very lucky to be able to spend time with them during the Chicago workshop of ATLANTIC in May. It’s been wonderful collaborating with another writing team – something you very rarely get to do – and we’ve learnt such a lot during this process that will undoubtedly shape Scott and I’s writing in the future.


Claire & Scott’s creation will be sailing in to the Edinburgh Fringe

Aug 3-27 : Assembly Hall (15.00)

 

PUNoccio

A Panto, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor
Glasgow

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Stagecraft: 5  Book: 5  Performance: 5

Happy July everybody. It’s panto-time in Glasgow and PUNoccio, written by Gary McNair, is a cracker full of topical gags, word play and bouncy songs. Hingmy Cricket (Kirstin McLean) sets the scene and tone with a cheeky wee poem, rhyming Oran Mor’s pie alternative quiche, with keech. In a workshop surrounded by her puppets, mistress-carver, Jan Petal (Dave Anderson) longs for a son to end her loneliness. Her wish for a wean is heard by a scary, Fairy Odd Mother (Darren Brownlie glittering like a disco mirror ball). A high-kick later and PUNoccio (a bubbly Francis Thorburn) is no longer a tethered marionette but a walking, talking puppet free to PUNish everyone with an irritating string of double meanings. Well with a name like PUNoccio he wood, woodn’t he?

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As in the Disney tale, which for copyright reasons we are frequently assured this isn’t, a naive PUNoccio encounters (hiss-boo) villains. These political sounding scoundrels, Trumpoli, Bear-is Johnson and the sleekit cat, Faragio are all thwarted as PUNoccio becomes a real boy… and farts. As tradition demands, all ends happily with an audience split in two, contesting which side sang the closing song best. This lively, clever comedy, as bright as PUNoccio’s primary coloured costume, continues at Oran Mor throughout July. Oh yes it does!

Reviewer : David G Moffat

five-stars

An Interview with Rebecca Humphries

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Hello Rebecca, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?

I’m from Norwich, live in Shepherds Bush but am currently in Stratford Upon Avon, where I is doing a play.

Can you talk us through the earliest stages in your development as a performer?

Hmm, well I suppose it all starts when your parents recognise you as a terrible show off and send you to drama clubs and that sort of thing. I don’t know how much I really ‘developed’ during the years before drama school, other than gaining in confidence!

Since then, you’ve acted on stage & screen, but you also have a writer’s vein. Your debut, Dizney Rascal, was quite a smash & the book & lyrics were yours. What made you do it?

I suppose what I’m saying is that will always be the point I consider my true development to have started! When I realised in 2014 that the kind of work I was doing post drama school didn’t really reflect my taste or ambition, and that was the moment where I sort of threw the rule book out of the window and said ‘fuck it, no point in being halfway up a ladder I didn’t even want to climb. I’m doing my own thing’. Funnily enough, it was when I started having that attitude the acting work I really wanted followed.

Can you tell us about the creative processes between yourself & composer Jo Cichonska?

Jo and I absolutely love working together, and we don’t actually do it all that often because real life and other jobs get in the way. Generally speaking I’ll come to her with a concept for a song, a ‘personality’ of it if you like, often with the lyrics. And together we’ll make it catchy and fun and make sure that we love performing it. If we don’t it’s dead. But we usually do!

What makes a good comedy musical?

Quality. Every song needs to be on point, the acting has to be brilliant, it needs to have great gags and bags of class. I don’t mean that in a snooty middle class way. You can be silly and irreverent and filthy and still have style.

What does Rebecca Humphries like to do when she’s not immersed in the arts?

Ha, well she doesn’t have time for much else at the moment! (I love talking about myself in third person, I’m so glad you asked). An honest way to answer this is to tell you what I’ve done with my time off in Stratford-go to the pub*, go to the fun fair*, browse in Waitrose and play with my cat who is literally the most beautiful cat in the world. He really is.

*not on my own
**on my own

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This year you are bringing Dizney Rascal’s follow-up to the Fringe, the delightfully named Prom Kween, can you give us the spiel?

Sure! Prom Kween follows the story of the first ever non-binary kid to be crowned Prom Queen at their high school in 2016. It’s based on a true story, and is all kinds of fabulous. We have the most amazing, AMAZING cast and team with a ludicrously impressive combined experience and I’m so excited for it. Our producer Aine was behind the cult hit Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho and last year’s smash How to Win Against History, and ours sits somewhere between those and my own Disney show. That’s a pretty good summation.

You’ve already performed Prom Kween at the Vault Festival. How did it go down & will there be any tweaks for Edinburgh?

It was performed as an R&D (research & development) piece, so in a very early stage. We couldn’t believe the response. We sold out, got standing ovations every night and won a comedy award for it. I mean…..yeah I was chuffed with that. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come but you never bloody know with Edinburgh, sometimes it’s enough of a challenge to get anyone to turn up!

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Rebecca Humphries?

Well first I have to finish my show here at the RSC, then Edinburgh, then holiday. I’m going to go on a totally lovely holiday after all this.
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REBECCA WILL BE PERFORMING IN HER OWN
‘PROM KWEEN’
Aug 3-27 (20.35) : Underbelly Cowgate

Spuds

A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor
Glasgow
19-24 June

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Stagecraft: 5  Book: 5  Performance: 5

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Your wife chokes on a fish bone and dies suddenly leaving you no time to have her properly insured; can there be a worse nightmare for a man living in the west end of Glasgow? What lies ahead without her income to pay the mortgage on the big house, surely not a move to… Dennistoun??? No wonder a distraught, drunken David finds himself in Toni’s fish ‘n’ chip shop in urgent need of some comforting Irn Bru and deep fried potatoes. A fortuitous accident leads to the discovery of an addictive product worthy of Breaking Bad’s Walter White. Soon, encouraged by his daughter Daisy, the merchandise is being pushed to Herald readers and then things start to spiral out of control.

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Spuds-1RS.jpgAndy McGregor has written and directed a terrific piece of musical theatre, full of wit and invention with lots of playful G12 references for the Oran Mor audience to enjoy. The principle vocalists (there is also a singing, dancing chorus of nine) are all Class A with Richard Conlon (David) dramatically commanding, Darren Brownlie (Toni) hilariously flexible and Joanne McGuinness (Daisy) showing her versatility  by doing a bit of rapping as would-be gangsta Lucille. Music is provided throughout by Gavin Whitworth on the piano (except when Lucille slaps him off it to lay down some beats). This is a show bursting with funny moments delivered by a dynamic, talented cast. Spuds you’ll like.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

five-stars

Dirty Dancing

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Dirty Dancing takes us to 1963, to a holiday camp in the Catskill mountains; an American version of Butlins. Places where Jewish families, still facing discrimination in the U.S., could spend their summers, and many a young romance was forged. But the one developing between the lead couple in this story, well known from the classic 1987 movie of the same name, like in all good love stories, is fraught with problems. Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Katie Eccles) is a wilful and warm hearted teenage girl, determined to change the world. Visiting with her family, she falls for the in-house dance teacher, ‘bad boy’ Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths), to the chagrin of her beloved father Dr. Houseman (sympathetically played by Julian Harries). Directed by Federico Bellone, but with Eleanor Bergstein as both the writer of the screenplay and the stageplay, it retains the choppiness of a film, adds some new scenes but keeps the characters we know and love.

Roberto Comotti (set) and Valerio Tiberi (lighting) bring typical Italian flair to the production, creating the colourful brashness of the resort with rotating towers like the ultimate high-tech dollshouse. Daytime brings cheerful smiles, plaid summer two pieces and family fun, nighttime hidden struggles, power dynamics and troubled liasons amongst the staff. The classic, beloved scenes from the film were given their full due; self-knowing tricks that brought laughter from the audience, and augmented by rich greens and atmospheric multi-hued lighting suggesting the rich, fresh feeling of the mountains and lakes that form the perfect backdrop to Johnny and Baby’s inevitable attraction.

Most of the focus of the show goes on the storyline and the choreography (Gillian Bruce), with the usual big musical numbers giving way to a medley of familiar tunes from both the movie and of the time, augmented by the quality ‘resort’ band. Special mention must go to the two big voices of the night; Michael Kent as Billy Kostecki and Sophia MacKay as Elizabeth, both exuding surprising gravitas in their relatively minor roles. Carlie Milner is a perfect Penny, a visual ballet Barbie injecting star quality into her raunchy moves; real in her suffering, and hyper-focused in her mentoring of nervous new dancer Baby. The choreography was varied, from sensual to sensational, with the expected flashy group dance routines eventually delivered at the end of a lumbering second act. ‘Hungry Eyes’, in particular, kept us fixated on Baby, sandwiched between Johnny and Penny, unable to do anything but relinquish herself to their mesmerising dance expertise.

Baby and Johnny are such iconic characters, they must be hard boots for any actor to fill. Physically, they are satisfying to watch, down to Baby’s adolescent awkwardness and earnest walk, to Johnny’s chiseled chest drawing whoops and wolf whistles from the ladies in the audience at every possible opportunity. Griffiths does a great job, though his character is particularly rough and offhand with her in the beginning. Of course, Baby gives as good as she gets, and troubled Johnny’s tenderness and vulnerability begin to shine as he unburdens himself with her strong encouragement. Eccles has a vast range of emotions to express, and although at times holds herself back from throwing herself fully into the rawness of those emotions, does a competent job at holding such a massive role together.Their chemistry is just strong enough to be believable, and their dance scenes were fantastic, and although there’s playfulness and intensity between them, there was just a little touch of romance missing. Maybe it was the over reliance of taking their shirts off and on again; this simple flash of flesh just not being particularly sexy or imaginative.

The performances were a delight across the board, and although the entire production at times felt like it had a little too much flesh hanging on the bones, Dirty Dancing was a fun, fluffy affair, but with a classic story that has stood the test of time. The play is able to enhance the film and give us a wonderful treat with its full range of drama, comedy and romance. Through its careful and realistic character development, we stayed emotionally connected to the story right until the satisfaction of the long-anticipated ‘lift’.

Reviewer: Lisa Michel Williams 

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Wee Free!

A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
12th-17th May

IMG_6263i Pauline Knowles, George Drennan, Neshla Caplan and Chris Forbes

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IMG_6292i George Drennan (1)Wee Free! is a rare & scintillating treat, a genuinely funny play with lovely musical interludes. It comes to us via the classic sounding ‘Brooks & King’ – i.e. composer Hilary brooks & playwright/lyricist Clive King, both of whom are Glasgow based. The story they give us us essentially a blend of Mary Poppins, Footloose & the Wickerman; where a young Glaswegian music teacher (played by Neshla Caplan) is given a posting on a far-flung, god-fearing, refridgerator-lacking Hebredean rock – where all the man (except Hamish down the pub) are called Angus.

Pink-haired, day-glo Caplan is an excellent watch as are the rest of the cast. Chris Forbes is more known for the comedian string to his bow, but his acting as the tweed-adoring headmaster who falls in love with this ‘exotic’ newcomer is top notch. ‘Your language is as colourful as your attire,’ pipes Pauline Knowles to Caplan, playing an amazingly sketched out caricature of the bible-bashing, never-leave-the-island minister’s wife, while her husband, the gravel-faced, brimstone-spitting, ‘Dundee is an east coast sodom,’ George Drenna is another scarily-drawn portrayal. Together they form a perfect macrocosm of island life & its inevitable clash with the ‘sinful’ world of the cosmopolitan mainland, & a great pleasure it is to be there.

IMG_6270i Neshla Caplan and Chris Forbes

The music is a perhaps a little unnecessary, as ‘Wee Free!’ is such a good story & so well written – I mean, the one-liners explode into the audience with a great regularity – that the music actually detracts from the experience, when usually in musical theatre it is the other way round. But I’m not dissing the music – its fine, its just that the script is abnormally funny & cannily observant, & perhaps the only place one can still hear today Boy George being called a ‘Godless Gargoyle’ whose ‘real name is Beelzebub!’

Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen

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