The North East at the Fringe

Reporter: Peter Lathan

Dateline: 28th June, 2015

In addition to the work from the North East programmed by Northern Stage at Summerhall as part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe (Cinema by ZENDEH, Key Change by Open Clasp and Live Theatre, Going Viral from ARC Stockton, and Five Feet in Front (The Ballad of Little Johnnie Wylo) from The Letter Room) - see our earlier news story, a number of companies from the region are travelling to Edinburgh independently.

Rosie & Me is a company made up of director Rosie Kellagher and writer Alison Carr and, in association with Live Theatre, they are taking The Soaking of Vera Shrimp to the Pleasance Attic at 12:45 from 5 to 31 August (not 18).

In the midst of an almighty rainstorm, Vera Shrimp discovers she has a remarkable ability: she can ‘read’ raindrops, each one having soaked up an emotion from those their water has come into contact with. But when her mother dies and her father struggles to cope, Vera’s special gift takes on a darker and more urgent significance.

The play was awarded the 2013 Live Theatre/The Empty Space Bursary Award, awarded to innovative artists interested in exploring different ways in which text and performance can be brought together, and Carr has been nominated as Writer of the Year in The Journal Culture Awards, the winner of which will be announced on 30 June.

Another company closely associated with Live is Mixtape whose show of the same name will play at the Underbelly from 6 to 30 August at 22:20 (and will preview at Live on 24 July).

Mixtape is part theatre show and part music quiz. The performers, called Mixtapers, take songs and, using only the song’s lyrics, create mini-comedy sketches. Only the lyrics from the song can be used to form the script and the running time of the sketch must not be longer than the track that inspired it. The lyrics can be reordered and repeated in any way that the Mixtape writers choose, but no additional words can be used to form the plays script (bar the occasional improvised ad-lib).

Audiences can join in and every night they have the chance of winning the highly coveted Golden Mixtape if they manage to correctly guess the songs and bands or solo artists that inspired each short sketch.

Writers for Mixtape’s Fringe show include Traverse 50 writer Alison Carr (Fat Alice, Traverse), Lee Mattinson (who won the Royal Exchange’s inaugural Hodgkiss Award in 2014) and Nina Berry Rendezvous, Live Theatre), as well as writer and director Melanie Rashbrooke who originally conceived the idea.

Also with a connection to Live Theatre is Button Box Theatre’s An Illuminating Yarn. It is written byJane Pickthall who graduated from Live’s New Writers course in 2013 and it will run at theSpace on the Mile (Space 3) at 13:20 from 7 to 15 August.

A mysterious series of knitted dolls has been appearing along the pier in the north eastern seaside town of Saltburn. It's late and, after a few drinks at the local, Clare has brought her friend Nina along to have a look in an attempt to cheer her up from her redundancy-fuelled despondency. However, when Clare accuses Nina of stealing Tom Daley, a storm starts to brew. Will lairy Clare be able to calm neurotic Nina or will the locals have something other than the strange knitting to talk about after tonight?

Directed by Andy Patterson, the play features Jill Dellow, Hannah Walker and Matt Howdon.

Plane Paper Theatre was founded in Newcastle in 2014 after its four core members met at Newcastle University. It will be taking Richard Sheridan’s play Odd Shaped Balls to SpaceTriplex from 17 to 29 August at 19:15.

This one-man show tackles issues of homophobia and sexuality in sport and the pressures of intrusive media attention. With his life crumbling around him, does James have the courage not only to be true to himself, but also to be a role model for others?

The play went to the Fringe in 2014 where it received five star reviews and was shortlisted for an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. Now director Andy Twyman has worked with the author to re-devise and define the script.

Every year, Newcastle University Theatre Society takes a piece of original student writing to Fringe. Previous productions include Threads, Rock ’n’ Roll and Big Brother: Blitzkrieg; this year it will present If Only Diana Were Queer! written by Josh Turner and Laura Chitty and directed by George Smith.

In the dressing room of Coming Up Roses, three drag queens, Rhonda, Alexa and Riley, tell three very different experiences about sex, becoming a queen, and being a part of the LGBT community. The audience is invited into a world few know much about, to look beyond the fake boobs, suspenders, sequins, and fierce attitude, to the real and raw emotions of being young and confronting your sexuality.

If Only Diana Were Queer! plays at Greenside @ Infirmary Street from 17 to 29 August (not 23) at 23:15.

A Scottish actress living in the north east comes to Edinburgh to muse on what it really means to be Scottish. Eilidh Talman is the writer and performer in Tartan Socks Theatre’s production A Haggis Queen Abroad which runs at theSpace on the Mile (Space 1) at 10:05 from 18 to 22 August.

In September 2014, Scotland was whipped into a political frenzy around the Independence Referendum. Swept along in the excitement, the Haggis Queen found her national pride reawakened, but was torn by her loyalty to her adopted home in the north east of England.

Smugly enjoying being the only Scot on the block, she finds herself suddenly adrift when she must decide on which side of the fence her loyalties lie. With a toe in the ‘Yes’ camp and a heel in the ‘No’, the Highland-dancing-Haggis-Queen debates her right to even have a say inthe fate of the country she loved but left.

Through musings over the myths of Scottishness—the jokes, the flaws, and the downright untruths—the Haggis Queen takes us through her inevitable identity crisis as she tries to understand who she is, and where she truly belongs.

Skimstone Arts, based at Newcastle Arts Centre, is taking its production Doorbells to Spotlites in Hanover Street from 16 to 22 August at 13:30.

A physical theatre performance about surviving loneliness through surreal and humorously imaginative worlds, Doorbells is inspired by true stories, literary and historical characters, journeys unfold which transport us beyond the everyday.

In today’s supposedly connected world of social media how do people cope when they live alone behind their doorbells? What memories, dreams and wishes do we imagine to carry us through long hours of isolation?

Doorbells uses original songs featuring double bass, guitar and voice, projections and soundscapes.