Last week, Katherine Edwards’ debut radio play Umbrella previewed to audiences before being broadcast live on Bloomsbury Radio
Umbrella is a radio play that examines how someone suffering from dementia might experience memory loss and the confusion that comes with the disease. Originally written for the stage, Katherine Edwards adapted this piece for radio and was selected by Bloomsbury for development under the New Wave programme for emerging talent. The play was broadcast live on Bloomsbury Radio as a part of this year’s Bloomsbury Festival.
For those in the audience, not only can they get to step inside the mind of someone experiencing dementia, but this piece also gives a voice to the families caring for their loved ones as they watch her disappear before their eyes. Using just their voices, the actors manage to convey great emotion and meaning. The experience of listening to this play was incredibly moving and emotive. It really is a heartfelt piece that strives to get to the core of this, often misunderstood, illness.
Edwards was supported by the Alzheimer’s Society and draws upon personal experience beautifully demonstrating the passage and blurring of time as we listen to the present melt into the past.
Dementia is an umbrella term that covers a number of different diseases, including the most common Dementia Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as Lewy Body Dementia and Vascular Dementia. The disease is still an under-represented theme on the stage and mainstream media platforms, despite the fact that most of us will experience some form of dementia either directly or through witnessing and caring for a loved one. So, it’s really good to see Bloomsbury supporting this kind of work.
Katherine Edwards is an emerging playwright and is taking part in some spoken word events in London later this year.
As Iphigenia in Splott comes to the end of its run at the Lyric Hammersmith, we were lucky enough to catch a packed-out matinee performance and Sophie Melville did not disappoint
Gary Owen’s critically acclaimed and powerful monodrama inspired by the Greek myth is a real story of our times. Iphigenia, in Greek Mythology, was the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. She was offered up for sacrifice to appease the goddess Artemis. This modern retelling sees Iphigenia – Effie – make a huge sacrifice, the likes of which will alter her life forever.
“What is gonna happen, when we can’t take it anymore”
Directed by Rachel O’ Riordan with a stellar performance by Sophie Melville, Iphigenia tells the story of Effie a young woman in Splott (Wales). She drinks too much and swears too much and parties too much until an event changes her life forever. For seventy-five minutes, Melville completely commanded the stage. We were drawn into Effie’s story, unsure at first about whether to like her or not. She’s sort of awful, but also kind of incredible. There is such truth and authenticity in this performance that you can’t help but get sucked into this world.
Owen has taken this classic tale and re-vamped it for a modern audience. When you watch Iphigenia in Splott you almost feel as though you’ve been punched in the stomach, multiple times, by the time the house lights come on again.
The play examines the harsh reality for people like Effie in towns and cities like Splott, places and people who have been left behind. Abandoned by the government and the establishment, but they are nevertheless still fighting for their right to live and their right to live well. With the current state of the government, this adaptation has never felt more relevant.
Currently, The Globe Theatre is home to the lively and bold retelling of Joan of Arc, ‘I, Joan’, which received criticism before it even arrived on the stage
Written by Charlie Josephine and directed by Ilinca Radulian, ‘I, Joan’, is the powerful and joyous new play that tells the story of Joan of Arc with a fresh new perspective.
“The men are all fighting, again. An endless war. From nowhere, an unexpected leader emerges. Young, poor and about to spark a revolution. This is Joan. Rebelling against the world’s expectations, questioning the gender binary, Joan finds their power and their belief spreads like fire.”
This production faced criticism very early on for taking a feminist icon and stripping her of her femininity. However, this play takes Joan’s story and imagines what it might have been like if the language we have now was around at that time. At its heart, it is a story about what it means to be human. Anyone who might have any doubts about this play should quickly dispel them.
The Globe released a statement on ‘I, Joan’ and Identity, stating, “We are not the first to present Joan in this way, and we will not be the last. Regarding the use of pronouns, ‘they’ to refer to a singular person has been traced by the Oxford English Dictionary to as early as 1375, years before Joan was even born. Regardless, theatres do not deal with ‘historical reality’. Theatres produce plays, and in plays, anything can be possible. Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He took figures of the past to ask questions about the world around him. Our writers of today are doing no different, whether that’s looking at Ann Boleyn, Nell Gwynn, Emilia Bassano, Edward II, or Joan of Arc. The Globe is a place of imagination. A place where, for a brief amount of time, we can at least consider the possibility of worlds elsewhere. We have had entire storms take place on stage, the sinking of ships, twins who look nothing alike being believable, and even a Queen of the fairies falling in love with a donkey.”
A rousing battle cry
This piece feels theatrical and rousing and exciting, with Joan’s army made up of Groundlings, it is an honour to join them on their journey of self-discovery. With a live band positioned directly above the stage, a fantastic set design on which actors slide in and out of the action, and amazing movement direction you really feel like you’re preparing for battle. Josephine’s use of language combined with an extraordinary performance from Isobel Thom (they/them) makes for a truly captivating show. It felt truly magical to stand amongst such a diverse audience at The Globe and watch this story unfold. And, whilst it could be painful at times, it really captured the essence of what it feels like to not fit into society’s boxes or labels. The language was often repetitive, reinforcing the notion of having to explain yourself over and over again to every new person you meet.
Ultimately though, throughout the course of the play, as more and more people were plucked from the crowd to join Joan’s army, it really felt like I was a witness to, and a participant in, something truly special.
For the past week, Just Stop Oil activists have been protesting outside parliament. We interviewed one member, Helen Shaw, about the campaign and why it’s so important
Just Stop Oil is a group of activists who are working together to urge the Government to cease new fossil fuel production and recently the association has been making their voices heard across London.
Across the capital, people have mixed opinions about the tactics used by Just Stop Oil. But, if you ask them, it’s necessary action and the only way to make the government listen. So, we spoke with Helen Shaw, a dedicated member of Just Stop Oil to find out more about the movement.
In Conversation with Helen Shaw, a member of Just Stop Oil:
Can you tell us a bit about Just Stop Oil and what the movement stands for?
Just Stop Oil (JSO) is a group that has developed as part of Extinction Rebellion, which aims to persuade the government to stop the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and the further development of fossil fuel sources in the UK (e.g. potential fracking sites). We also want the government to insulate our homes ahead of this winter to reduce energy usage and to improve means of public transport so we can be less reliant on cars as a country. One of the main ideas with JSO is to have very clear, reasonable, achievable demands that the government can’t ignore.
Why was it important for you to show up to this protest?
Personally, I got involved with JSO after a talk in Lancaster. Having studied environmental science, I know that the climate crisis is the biggest challenge facing humanity and the current government is nowhere near doing enough to avert this country’s course. For me, not getting involved whilst knowing this would equate to negligence and I’d not be able to live with myself in the future if I didn’t know I had done everything I could. The October actions are a continuous month of civil disobedience involving hundreds, if not thousands, of people from around the country and it was important for me to support everyone else too.
What were the aims/goals of this protest? What do you hope people will take away from it?
The October actions aim to get the government and the general public to wake up and realise the situation we are in. By causing mass disruption, the hope is that people will pay attention to the causes behind the actions. The fact that there are hundreds of people willing to risk their liberty (54 people were arrested last week, including Helen) should mean that the gravity of the situation is understood.
What do the Government and politicians need to do in order to start tackling the climate crisis seriously?
Politicians need to stop all fossil fuel production, invest more in renewable energies, insulate our homes and create a better, more functional public transport system.
What’s your message to those reading this, how can we all do our bit to help tackle climate change?
Everyone can do their bit by joining a local group. Our greatest power is in numbers. Even if people aren’t willing to risk arrest, other roles are available. Financial support is also much appreciated if people are able. Write letters to your MPs, and spread the word.
Actions are planned for the whole of October in London.
You can learn more about Just Stop Oil here. And find your local climate action group here
This October, hundreds of people up and down the country are taking the plunge and committing to a cold daily dip to raise funds and protect our oceans.
Our oceans are the beating heart of our planet, without them we simply will not survive. Surfers Against Sewage are a charity committed to protecting, preserving and cleaning up our oceans whilst also educating people on sea safety and how best to protect the water that surrounds us; “We create Ocean Activists everywhere 🌊 Thriving ocean, thriving people.”
Next month, people up and down the country are raising vital funds to support Surfers Against Sewage and the incredible work they do. Whether it’s a shower, ice bath, lido, local beach or river, anyone can get involved in this challenge. By taking a dip in cold water every day, not only will you be raising money, you’ll also boost your well-being! With stacks of evidence to suggest cold water immersion has tons of benefits to both your physical and mental health, what’s not to love?
If you’re interested in taking the plunge, it’s super easy to get involved. You just sign up, fill in your details and your fundraising page will be set up for you. Then all you need to do is ask people to sponsor you and complete your challenge.
All the information you need can be found on the Surfers Against Sewage website
A woman has been arrested in Edinburgh for holding an anti-royalist sign that read ‘abolish the monarchy’
The arrest of a woman in Edinburgh has sparked outrage up and down the country. Following the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II, thousands lined the streets to see the Queen’s coffin arrive in Edinburgh. One woman also took to the streets armed with an anti-royalist sign that said ‘F**k Imperialism, abolish the monarchy’. She was very quickly taken away by officers and arrested outside St Giles’ Cathedral, where the Queen’s coffin will be held before arriving in London.
Following her arrest, some members of the crowd started to applaud whilst others stated their anger towards the police and their actions. One man shouted “Let her go! It’s free speech.” Others were heard saying “Have some respect”.
All this woman did was hold up a sign. Whilst Piers Morgan and others from the GB News brigade often go on about the importance of free speech and how we should all be entitled to say what we want and express how we feel, they certainly don’t like it when someone expresses a view they don’t agree with. There is a strong sense of society slipping away toward an undemocratic state. Earlier this week, members of the metropolitan police shot and killed Chris Kaba in South London, a young black man who they believed to be armed but wasn’t. And now, they’re arresting people for expressing views that some may not agree with.
This week we’ve had to come to terms with two unelected officials; King Charles III and new Prime minister Liz Truss, neither of whom have been chosen by the public. The death of the Queen has triggered a variety of responses, but as we move towards an undemocratic state, we must keep our eyes open. All news and media outlets are flooded with stories about the monarchy which the government will use to their advantage to pass laws that are not just disagreeable but quite frankly dangerous.
Regardless of your views on the monarchy, we must keep alert and ensure we don’t turn into an undemocratic police state.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival is back in full swing this year: after a covid-related hiatus, artists are back in the streets and back on stage
With over 300 shows at Edinburgh Fringe this year, it was hard to fit all the good stuff into just a few days and this list is by no means exhaustive. There was no way one attendee could see everything the festival had on offer. But here are some shows worth shouting about.
Blanket Ban – Chalk Line Theatre Company
Chalk Line are a Luton-based theatre company that tour work both nationally and internationally. Blanket Ban is a powerful piece about Malta’s progressive LGBTQIA rights, their leading transgender laws, and their universal anti-choice views on abortion. Based on three years of interviews with anonymous contributors, it explores Malta’s restrictions on the freedom of women and their right to choose. Actors and activists Divina Hamilton and Marta Vella lead the show with outstanding performances. The show is funny and heartbreaking in equal measure.
Around the World with Nellie Bly – Shedlight Stories
This children’s show, based on the real-life role model Nellie Bly, follows her adventure as she tries to make it around the world in 80 days or less. It was fun and interactive and loved equally by children and adults! Children’s theatre is an important and rewarding genre and this is the perfect story for young people. With an engaging adventure story at the heart of it, it teaches children about resilience, determination, friendship and, most importantly, that a woman can do anything a man can. Written and performed by Katie Overstall, she brings an energetic and electric performance, never once breaking out of character. The kids loved it…and so did the adults!
Sobriety on the Rocks – A Tad Kiwi Productions
A Tad Kiwi is a London-based theatre company that brought this explosive show up to Edinburgh. Renee Buckland is an absolute powerhouse of a performer. Playing four different characters all involved in a drunk driving incident, this piece explores addiction and the implications it has on everyone affected by it. The clever use of physicality and characterisation really helped the audience to understand and empathise with these characters. The set was small, simple and highly effective. This is a really powerful piece of storytelling led by arguably one of the best actors at the Fringe this year!
My Son’s a Queer But What Can You Do? – Rob Madge
You may recognise Rob Madge from his viral TikTok videos or his West End performances as a child. Here he brings us an hour of music, storytelling, comedy and old home movies. Rob reflects back on his own life and how his love for musical theatre developed, and what this passion might have cost him. The whole show is interspersed with real footage of him as a child performing in the living room to anyone who would watch. It turns out there’s a whole community of us who used to put on shows in our living rooms. This show is truly special, we laughed, cried and felt overcome with joy and pride!
The Girl Who Was Very Good at Lying – Omnibus Theatre
The Girl Who Was Very Good at Lying, first performed at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham, is a fantastic solo show led by the phenomenal Rachel Rooney. Her performance is so engaging and captivating, and she has the best facial expressions! The story follows Catriona who has a history of making stuff up but she’s trying to get better. When she meets an impressive American man, the lies get a little bit out of control. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking, you cannot take your eyes off Rooney and she takes us through the stories we tell to escape.
My Lover Was a Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse – Bradán Theatre
Bradán is an Irish ecological gig-theatre company that brings this weird and wonderful show filled with folk songs, Irish mythology, romance, climate breakdown and a boy who thinks he might be a salmon. It sounds weird, and it is. But it’s also deeply moving and funny and urgent. It interrogates our complex relationship with the natural world, the damage we’re causing to the planet and what we might be able to do about that. The music, singing and storytelling really are beautiful.
Other fantastic shows at Edinburgh Fringe and to keep an eye on include:
The cost and commercialisation of Edinburgh Fringe are more apparent than ever – what does this mean for emerging artists trying to break into the industry?
The Edinburgh Fringe is more commercialised and expensive than it’s ever been before. Artists have always had to take financial risks when it comes to staging their work, but after two years of living through a pandemic, it begs the question; how sustainable can this model be?
One artistic company told me that their rent is twice as much this year as it has been in previous years. It’s still lower than the Fringe society’s rent cap which makes them question how useful the cap of £280 a week is for ordinary people. Venues are torn between offering affordable tickets and wanting to make money for the artists, and themselves, all performers want people to come and watch their work but they also want to reap at least a small financial reward for all their hard work.
The past two years saw a hiatus for the Edinburgh Fringe with all of their work moving online. The buzz is finally back this year but there still aren’t as many people as there would be in normal years which means artists are struggling to sell tickets.
All venues have had to raise their costs
Everything is more expensive this year, for the artists and the audience. Accommodation, show tickets, food, the list goes on. The price of everything has gone up. Many people have found themselves spending more time sitting around in their expensive flats than taking part in Fringe stuff; simply because they need to try and save money. There are more shows than ever this year, and even if you had time to see them all, there’s no way you’d be able to afford it.
The Fringe has always run on free, undervalued labour from enthusiastic art lovers offering to run venues for free. Now, with a cost-of-living crisis, people can’t afford to do that, meaning lots of venues are understaffed and stretched thin.
There’s no doubt that the buzz of the Fringe is one that cannot be compared to anything else. The standard of work this year has been outstanding and thousands of hearts have been left completely full after spending just a week at the event. But, the current model does have to be questioned. With many companies questioning whether they can afford to bring another show here next year, it will be interesting to see how the Fringe keeps running moving forward. This current form feels unsustainable and inaccessible in every sense of the word. The Fringe has always prided itself on the fact that it is an arts festival for everyone, but it’s going to have to come up with a new way of running in order for everyone to take part in the coming years.
The BBC has faced backlash over their questions around climate change in recent Tory leadership debate
Throughout the entire Tory leadership debate, only one question on climate change was asked. The candidates were asked: “What three things should people change in their lives to help tackle climate change faster?” Rishi Sunak went with recycling whilst Liz Truss put the emphasis on the virtues of green technology.
A group of environmental organisations have written to the BBC angry with their inadequate questioning. It’s no secret that the climate crisis is really hotting up, both metaphorically and literally! With recent heat waves causing huge disturbances, it’s clear that everyone needs to do their part to help tackle the crisis. However, this line of questioning makes it seem as though individuals are responsible for fixing these issues. Whilst it’s important that we all play our part, the Government has a huge role in how we approach the climate crisis. If Sunak and Truss are our only options as people who are potentially going to take over the running of the country, it’s important that we know what their views on climate change are.
Springwatch presenter Chris Packham said the question was “completely irresponsible” as it focused on “individual action rather than governmental action when the purpose of the debate was to test the candidates’ credentials for being the next prime minister”
The letter, also signed by the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and Green Alliance, said, “The purpose of a leaders’ debate is to interrogate our future prime minister on their policy positions for vital issues so the public can make an informed choice about which candidate will do the best job for their country. This question failed to provide them with those answers. For this to happen at a time when the cost of living is driving millions into poverty, largely driven by fossil fuel prices and rising energy bills, is unacceptable.”
Whilst individuals can do their part to cut down on waste, drive and fly less, recycle and so on, it is the Government’s responsibility to tackle this crisis head-on, and if recent debates are anything to go by, they show no sign of doing that.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is returning this year with August jam-packed full of weird, wacky and wonderful shows!
Here’s a quick run down of shows you really won’t want to miss:
Around the World with Nellie Bly – Shedlight Stories
Venue 53, The Space at Surgeons Hall – Theatre 3
August 5-13 and 15-20
Age 5+ (6-12)
The year is 1889 and intrepid journalist Nellie Bly is about to embark on her biggest adventure yet: racing around the world to beat Jules Verne’s famous fictional hero, Phileas Fogg […] She traverses continents, faces fierce ocean storms, and even adopts a monkey! But can she make it back in less than 80 days? Shedlight Stories uses puppetry, audience interaction and a host of colourful characters to bring this amazing true story to life and prove that adventure stories aren’t just for boys. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/around-the-world-with-nellie-bly
This informative and immersive children’s show will be fun for all the family!
The Hippie Shakes – Sweaty Palms Productions
Venue 236, Greenside at Infirmary Street – Forest Theatre
August 5-13, 15-20 and 22-27
Based on a true story, this new piece of gig theatre is a distinctly female story of motherhood, survival and intergenerational cycles of abuse. Chickie is a woman divided. She is torn between her desire for freedom and her responsibilities as a mother […] Set during the turbulent 60s and 70s, this one-woman show combines intimate storytelling, dark humour and live music to tell a truly incredible story. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/hippie-shakes
I was lucky enough to see a very early work-in-progress performance of this show, it really is not one you want to miss.
head/lining – Knuckledown
Venue 43, The Space at Symposium Hall – Annexe
August 5-13 and 15-27
A profound, thrilling mix of music and storytelling, head/lining is a lyrical deep dive inside the mind of a working-class white lad coming to terms with his life so far; from noxious upbringing to alcoholism and homelessness. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/head-lining
Writer/performer Charlie Heptinstall uses words and poetry in this spoken-word/indie-rock gig to confront themes of identity and mental health, examining Britain’s ever-growing prejudice and obsession with class.
The show has been described as punchy and fast-paced, offering audiences an insight into the struggles that often go unspoken.
Sobriety on the Rocks – A Tad Kiwi
Venue 36, The Space on North Bridge – Argyll Theatre
It’s Richard’s fourth day in hospital, involuntarily detoxing, and he’s itching for a drink. Cherie, his wife, is barely keeping her head above water. Jamie, their son, who’s somewhere between a boy and a man now faces what life would be like without a dad, and Kimberley, the ambulance paramedic at Richard’s crash has to face the past in order to be set free. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/sobriety-on-the-rocks
Written and performed by Renee Buckland and directed by Tadeas Moravec, this one-woman show from New Zealand is inspired by true experiences had by an alcoholic. This show looks truly gritty and engaging.
52 Souls – Chronic Insanity
This show is an open and fun examination of death and our reactions to this terrifying inevitability. Using a pack of cards, the audience randomly generates a performance to understand humanity’s obsession with, and ignorance about, death.
Some Other Mirror – Laurie Owen
Pianodrome at the Old Royal High
August 5-9 and 11-12
A solo show about a gender identity crisis, in the high-pressure isolation of lockdown. The performer fights to come to terms with being a trans man and is visited by alternative versions of himself who offer their advice.
There are so many wonderful shows going on at the Fringe this year, this is just a small selection. And as the Fringe isn’t always financially accessible for everyone, do keep an eye out at your local venues for any previews that may be going on. Previews are a great way to access theatre at a cheaper price and support the artists in their process.