Day 8 - Edinburgh
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
I work up at 9.30am to a tweet that I knew was coming. It was from Ed Theakston the producer and director of Bit of Sunshine, the play which I did not hold back on when discussing in my blog after seeing it on day 6. The truth though, is I did hold back. Normally I have been writing my blogs each morning, and posting them on the afternoon.
With this production, I was conflicted. Partly because I know Ed Theakston personally, I have known Ed for a few years, and I have seen his work before. I also know his boyfriend who is also an actor who I have interviewed and watched perform before too.
'If you've got nothing good to say, then don't say anything' people always advise me, and it is something I would go as far to say that I agree with and try to uphold. The continuous battle I have with this blog, is trying to see the best in everything I see. I love the industry, and I love theatre, and unlike some bloggers, I'm not out to needlessly put people down, upset or anger anyone. But then, I do believe in being honest and where possible objective.
Opinions are subjective, and we're all entitled to them, and they will naturally differ. When it came to Bit of Sunshine, Ed had already reached out to me via Facebook, sending a message through my That Stagey Blog page about this production. I chose not to respond.
I have a policy to accept, where possible any invitation, especially to see new writing which I firmly support. It's not because I'm just a girl that can't say no, or because I will go to the opening of an envelope, it is because I have always aimed to make my blog fully accessible and for everyone. I do not want it to become elitist, where I only see one form of theatre, and only attend the things I like.
Some reviewers I know, make a stance not to review people they know, in the interests of fairness. Because I knew Ed, I wasn't sure whether I could be objective. For this reason I initially did not want to review Ed's play.
I then received an email from Lola Clare which came through to my That Stagey Blog email. It was addressed to 'That Stagey Blog Team' rather than me personally. For anyone who knows me, or is familiar with my blog, they know I am a one man operation, there is no team, it's just me. The email went on to invite me to review 'Bit of Sunshine' and offered me comps.
I'm not sure where Lola got my email from, whether she knew of my blog or even read it, given that she didn't address her email to me by name, I also wasn't sure whether she knew that Ed had already contacted me.
Having worked as a co-producer myself within teams, I had been taught to always keep a record of who we each speak to , in some cases we compiled a datebase as a team which showed who each of us had contacted so that there were never any overlaps, and so that we were all on the same page. Whether Lola and Ed operate in this way at We Are Kilter, I'm not sure. But either Lola wasn't aware that I had received and ignored Ed's invite, or whether Ed had instructed her to contact me.
I waited a few days and thought about it, and decided that as the invitation had come through the official channels formally, that I would be professional and respond, after all I had no reason really not to see the show, and so I replied to Lola saying that I would be delighted to see her show and that I would be in touch to let her know which date would work best for me.
Two weeks later, Lola emailed me again to follow up which day I would be available so that she could book me a comp. I replied offering to see their first show, knowing that it was a limited run, so that I could write about it in my daily vlog immediately to help push the rest of their run. Lola said she would book me in and that they looked forward to it.
True to my word and obligation, I attended the show and went with an open mind. As with any show I don't read up about it in advance, so I knew nothing about this show.
I was immediately affected by this show, and not in the way I'm sure the producers or it's writer intended. It was a personal response, admittedly, but then isn't any response personal?
Bit of Sunshine was the last show I saw that evening, and afterwards I went straight to bed, rather than writing my thoughts down. Having slept on it, I still felt unable to form a response to what I had seen the night before, and as I said where I normally would have written my blog that next morning, I abstained.
I thought about it a lot through the day, as I continued to see other shows. I went back and read some of the reviews about the show from 2016, which admittedly were all positive. I also discovered that it had won Best Play at the Lost Theatre One Act Festival, and would have been judged by my friend Paul Vale who is a critic for The Stage.
Paul happened to be in Edinburgh this week, I then met him for a drink. After catching up, I asked Paul what he had thought about Bit of Sunshine and explained my reaction to it, and my conflict now over how to respond to it.
On one had, I felt like simply 'saying nothing' about it in my blog, but then would that be fair to their production. They had invited me to watch their show, given me a ticket, and they were now waiting for a response.
I once followed an interesting debate where Lyn Gardener was held accountable by a producer of a small fringe production for seeing his show and not writing about it afterwards. The producer was adamant that because he had offered Lyn a ticket that he was due a write up from Lyn, who on this occasion had opted not to review it after seeing it. I certainly didn't want to be accused of just taking a free ticket.
As I continued to debate with myself what my response should be, I reminded myself that I have always maintained that I do not 'review' shows as such, and I do not give star ratings. I use my blog as a response when I have seen something I have been affected by and I express my own personal opinion.
It is the responsibility of a producer or PR to know what I do, before inviting me. A good PR knows which critics to invite to which shows. Critics have varying tastes, and a good PR and a good producer will know which critics will be more susceptible to which shows. For example, you wouldn't invite someone who has a reputation for not liking musical theatre to see your new musical, but you would invite them to see your play.
Ed and Lola, if they are familiar with my blog, should know how I operate, and that I strive to only say positive, and constructive things, unless I really feel strongly about something.
In this case, I felt defiantly that Bit of Sunshine is not a sensitive portrayal of a girl with an eating disorder and that as producers We Are Kilter are not acting responsibly. I elected to write the blog and publish the vlog, I stayed up until 4am making sure that I got these both right. That I was happy with what I wanted to say, and how I was put it.
At 8.55am, Ed Theakston posted from his personal twitter account rather than the We Are Kilter account saying:
I responded with:
Ed followed up with:
Which I responded with:
I don't take back any of my response to Bit of Sunsine, it was exactly that, my response. I maintain it was not a personal attack on Ed Theakston or against his company We Are Kilter. It perhaps goes to show I should have trusted my first instincts when Ed initially invited me to review his show. Not because I feel I have been unable to be objective, I feel I was exactly that, I issued my response to his show despite my connection to him, however his response was compounded by his feelings towards me.
As I pointed out to Ed, even his responses seem more concerned with being 'liked' than the impact his show is having.
I felt compelled to then issue this statement across my social media sites.
The whole thing really did upset me, as I do care what people think about me, and I don't want to upset people. I did not set out to pick on Nicole Zweiback, and did not set out to upset Ed or any of his team, but I do feel I had a responsibility to respond to what I had seen and felt.
Ultimately I am building a brand and my reputation through every post and blog I write, and I consider everything I publish and would never jeopardize that by posting anything that I didn't fully support and stand by.
Undeterred I felt I had said my peace and will now try to move on from it. I then decided to try to continue to enjoy my time here at the Fringe and to remember why I am here, to find and support the best theatre that this festival has to offer.
I started my day by watching Marissa Landy in The Cat’s the Thing.
Marissa was one of the people who reached out to me to invite me to watch her show, and who I interviewed about the show last month in London before she brought it up here.
The Cat's the Thing, is a one woman play written and performed by Marissa which she describes as an absurd comedy based on the reality of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is based on her own experiences although she channels this through a character she calls Tanya.
Marissa has brought her mum and dad up to support her during this limited six day run, and it was her mum who was stood on the door tearing the tickets as she ushered us into the theatre space.
Marissa, was sat on the stage with a stuffed cat who she talks to for the duration of the show. I'll admit I was worried that this was going to be terrible, but I was wrong, and was very surprised by how great it was.
During our interview Marissa had talked openly about her experience with OCD, but even then it was difficult to comprehend was it must be like. Seeing Marissa visually manifest this in to a dramatic piece of art, was very moving and definitely helped me to understand what it must be like.
But more than that, Marissa hasn't just within a play about OCD, she has written a play inspired by OCD. The distinction being that this is a brilliant engaging and entertaining play that also educates and informs without overwhelming us with information.
Marissa, is a great actress, although I'll admit I was a little skeptical when she began to speak in a broad but not perfect Yorkshire accent. Marissa explained to me afterwards that she was infact originally from Yorkshire, and so the accent is actually an extension of her own, exaggerated for comic effect.
What aids this production is knowing that this is Marissa's story, although fictionalized and told through the character Tanya, knowing that these are her own experience definitely give a better context and weight to the lines.
I was also very pleased and impressed when at the end Marissa, addressed the audience, offering support to anyone who might have been affected by the piece, and saying that she will be outside if anybody needed to talk. Marissa also collected money and left a leaflet about OCD on everybody's seat.
This is the attention and after care that I felt the team behind Bit of Sunshine, failed to offer. Marissa has produced this work to raise awareness and support for people with OCD, and she follows this up responsibly by ensuring her audience know that she is open and happy to be approached afterwards.
I chatted to Marissa afterwards and couldn't wait to tell her how brilliant I though the play was, I also wanted to let her know that her work had helped me gained a better understanding of OCD, which is precisely what she wanted her work to do. I told Marissa how it was a shame that she wasn't doing a longer run, as it won't have chance to attract much word of mouth. It's also a tricky time slot, as on one hand it doesn't compete with some of the bigger shows usually put on in the evening, but it also will limit the audience to people who are looking to see shows in the morning.
You can watch my original interview with Marissa here. https://youtu.be/HpgOoS4xI1A
I grabbed some lunch and made my way across to watch a play called Smoke.
Smoke had been recommended to me by Paul Vale, who had reviewed it for the Stage and had given it four stars.
Presented at Zoo Playground in one of their twenty seat venues, and produced by Bound By Theatre. It is a two hander written by Kim Davies and directed by Simon Usher and performed by Vincent Santvoord and Kristin Winters. It was honestly brilliant, and not only one of the best plays that I have seen at the Fringe, so far, but is one of the best plays I have seen recently anywhere.
The play takes place in the kitchen at an S&M party where the two characters have sneaked out for a cigarette and meet, the play explores explores their cat and mouse encounter and is highly sexual. The sex is handled and directed incredibly well, without feeling too graphic but without compromising on it's realness.
The dialogue is sharp and clear and superbly delivered by the pair with accomplished and convincing performances that demonstrate an incredible connection. The play had intrigue and intensity as well as a great use of power play. I was incredibly impressed.
After this I went to watch Wrath of Achilles at the Greenside venue.
Although I had already watched a preview of this before meeting and interviewing the cast, I wanted to revisit the play to show support for the whole team, who I have begun to get to know and I have a lot of time for. I was also intrigued to see how the play had developed, or rather how they had all settled in to it.
Written by Jack Fairey. Composed by George Jennings. Directed by Joe Malyan, it also stars Michael Ayiotis. Laura Hannawin. Amy Tickner. Tabitha Baines. Keir Buist. And produced by them through their production company Bedivere Arts.
Although I imagine they were all tiring as they come to the end of their run, their performances did not waver, and as I expected they were all more assured and confident.
The play also made much more sense to me, after chatting to them when I interviewed them, I feel I understood the play more, especially the roles of the Gods.
Seeing it for a second time, I really enjoyed the play, and think they all have done a really really great job.
I managed to chat to them all afterwards in the bar, and did a short interview with Michael which is in my Vlog.
I gave him a huge hug before running off to watch a play called Sex Education.. When I got there, the performance had sold out, and the staff at Summerhall were a little aggressive and didn't try to help me.
I happened to bump into Paul, who had come from watching and participating in West End Producer's show. He seemed giddy by the experience and said it had gone well, which I was pleased about. We got a drink and I ordered a pizza as Paul showed me around the Summerhall venue which I had not been to before.
After we caught up, I went to watch Misfit Warrior by Stuart Saint.
I had been introduced to Stuart the night before by Paul. Stuart had given me a flyer and invited me to watch his show, although it was already on my list of things to see, having been recommended to me by Nick from the Space's PR department.
Misfit Warrior is a play with music devised and based on Stuart's own life and experience living with HIV and surviving cancer.
Keith Ramsay, who is a friend of Stuart's was also there to watch, which was nice as I was hoping to see him and it was great to have some company and both watch the show together.
The show was brilliant, as Stuart plays him own inner voice opposite Kieran Mcintosh who plays another inner voice. They both command their performances and sing brilliantly along with with Kimberley Ensor, who I have met before.
The play is a tender and honest account of Stuart's turbulent life, and is very moving. I was incredibly impressed by how brave Stuart was to talk about his experiences and to portray them every night in this way.
The music was very enjoyable with all three commanding the stage and captivating the audience. There were moments which felt reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys. Kieran in particular is a very sexy performer, it has to be said.
I then squeezed in one more show by revisiting The Lost Musical Works of Willy Shakes by Guy Hughes and Joe Leather.
Again, I had seen a preview of this show in London, but wanted to watch it again, not only because I wanted to support the boys and see how they were getting on, but because I genuinely think this show is brilliant.
Having watched it at Above the Stag with a few teething problems and not all the props were ready, it was brilliant to now see the show as the boys fully wanted it to be realised, and I still adore it.
I gave the boys a sweaty hug after the show before heading back to my hostel close by to get some sleep.
The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my YouTube channel here:
And the audio version can be found as a podcast here: