Into the Woods with Titania

“And so I go to the woods. As I go in under the trees, dependably, almost at once, and by nothing I do, things fall into place. I enter an order that does not exist outside, in the human spaces….I am less important than I thought. I rejoice in that.”

Wendell Berry: Essays 1969-1990
‘A Native Hill’ from ‘The Long-Legged House’, 1969
Edvard Munch – The Fairy Forest

Titania appreciates humans who understand the special nature of woods, and the Fairy Queen sometimes even appears to these mortals.

She can assume various guises – here she channels the spirit of Edvard Munch (famous for ‘The Scream’ painting)…

How long before you see her in Munch’s Fairy Forest?

If you would like to see Titania in person, visit the Edinburgh Fairy Embassy at Paradise Green, where she, Oberon and Puck will be welcoming visitors.

Please book your time here: Where Do Fairies Come From?

Persistent and Nasty Hope

This is the manifesto for Persistent & Nasty, “a script-reading, debate and art as activism initiative for women and gender minorities in the stage and screen industries.”

“Hope for the Future”

Having learnt much and really enjoyed myself at a Persistent and Nasty event at last year’s Fringe, I was absolutely delighted to be asked to take part in their “Hope for the Future” evening! This was recorded live at the CCA in Glasgow and is available now: you can watch it here

The event involved two rehearsed readings of short scripts by Jerusha Green and Tamara von Werthern, followed by a Q&A with guest speaker Dawn Sievewright and the actors, including Elaine Stirrat and Misha McCullagh of Persistent and Nasty.

Run by Civil Disobedience, “Persistent and Nasty is a script-reading, debate and art as activism initiative for the female-identified voice in stage and screen...Our goal is to create a project that is safe and supportive, but that is also an act of protest. Persistent and Nasty is about changing the cultural narrative through the stories we tell.”

Discussions from the “Hope for the Future” event include what makes a strong female character, differences between generations and cultures in Scotland / UK when it comes to making progress on equality, and what we can do to create the changes we want to see. I found I actually had things to say myself, especially on awareness and what is non-conscious.

I’d love to hear your opinions! What do you feel / think of the plays and the discussion?

The Last Days of Mankind

Martyn Jacques of The Tiger Lillies, with character Alice Schalek in the background
(Three actors playing single role together)
Photo: Chris Scott

Armistice Day of 2018 saw the world premiere of a major adaptation of Karl Kraus’ ‘unperformable’ play The Last Days of Mankind, featuring the Olivier-winning The Tiger Lillies. John Paul McGroarty and Yuri Birte Anderson directed this powerful satire about WWI, much of which was written in Viennese cafes at the time of the conflict.

At Leith Theatre, I joined casts from seven different countries which had been on different sides of the First World War. Now – 100 years later – artists from these allied and opposed lands united to work on creating an immense piece of theatre about the horrors of that war using Kraus’ words, dark humour and song.

Fine guests act out atrocities of war – I chose to be hanged!
(Actors from various different countries collaborating on one scene)
Photo: Douglas Robertson

This was truly epic theatre, as borne out by reviews (four and five stars) and reactions, some of which you can read here. People returned a number of times to see it, at least one audience member letting me know they had come up from England twice!

This was all wonderful acclamation for the companies involved in the project, which were Leith Theatre (Scotland), Theaterlabor (Germany), Teatr A Part (Poland), Plavo Pozoriste (Serbia), Association Arsène (France), Smashing Times (Ireland) and Kultura Medialna (Ukraine). England, Austria and Hungary were also represented by actors involved.

We all played a number of roles, but my main one was that of Alice Schalek, the only female war correspondent with the Austro-Hungarian War Press Office. There were three of us, always appearing together, who played this role – just one of the exciting approaches to the play which arose from the work of the different companies and styles brought together.

The three Schaleks (L to R: Danielle Farrow, Alina Tinnefeld, Sophia McLean)
with just one of the incredible backdrop projections of visual designer Mark Holthusen
Photo: Douglas Robertson

I also had lines at the very end of this production’s script, spoken by one simply known as ‘Mother’. While lines from a show normally leave my head once I’ve left the production, on this occasion those last words stayed with me – a haunting testimony to their strength and the honour I felt in saying them.

Never, through all the days that you disgrace, will you avert your eyes from this dead face!

And may, when you have ended your descent to hell, this image greet you there as well.

May the splinters of this little one’s skull penetrate your brain and soul!

Long may you live and may you be terrorised through all your nights by this mother’s cries!

The Last Days of Mankind by Karl Kraus, translated by Patrick Healy

A powerful anti-war play, indeed.

Mother has cursed
Cast from seven different theatre companies gathered to end the play with a haunting song
Photo: Douglas Robertson

A few responses to the production…

“spectacular… a series of stunning images to illustrate the text… a mighty theatrical feat” The Herald – Neil Cooper

“a thrilling sense of occasion and momentum… a biting, superbly-performed score… huge, brilliantly-blended visual images of the war” The Scotsman – Joyce McMillan

“a musical and artistic triumph… Hard hitting and impactful… several scenes brought a lump to the throat and the last 20 minutes of the play are worth the ticket price alone” Commonspace – Professor John Davis

“powerful anti-war play… stroke of genius… superb cast… highly relevant” Edinburgh Guide – Irene Brown

More reviews, images + responses here, including comments of:
“astounding” “brilliant” “passionate” “amazing” “stunning” “incredible” “fantastic” “moving” “epic”

Who is the “greatest director of all times”?

Great interview with Nigerian-British actor Chukwudi Iwuji, recently on BBC2 in the Anthony Hopkins ‘King Lear’ and currently playing Othello at Shakespeare in the Park, NYC.

There is a lot worth listening to, and here I’ve listed some favourites of mine – what would you pull out?

07:25 (10:25) “Steeped in the language”: the very sounds of the words, Shakespeare as “the greatest director of all times” – the importance of the language

11:50 (13:15) How Iwuji copes if he doesn’t feel something coming from another actor for him to respond to and he is “looking at dead air”

21:15 On Hamlet (including women playing)

23:00 On Ira Aldridge, great 19th century black actor

29:30 “Acting is happening constantly” for an actor, not just when in a job (part of the Q&A section that starts at 27:00)

So… what strikes you most?  Comment below!


Scarlet Pimpernel Returns to Stage

Leslie Howard & Merle Oberon in The Scarlet Pimpernel, dir. Alexander Korda

Predecessor to heroes from Zorro to Batman, that dashing, disguised saviour with a wonderfully entertaining – and seemingly indolent – secret identity, The Scarlet Pimpernel has long been a favourite of mine. I’ve read the original novel (and more, if I recall correctly) and on screen I’ve enjoyed the performances of Anthony Andrews (with Jane Seymour), Richard E. Grant (with Elizabeth McGovern) and the wonderful Leslie Howard, who played both The Scarlet Pimpernel and ‘Pimpernel’ Smith, the latter set in WWII.

Have you seen any of these? If so, which was your favourite? Comment below…

Now – to the stage! Thanks to a new play, I found out that Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel actually appeared on stage (1903) well before the first novel was published (1905).

The Scarlet Pimpernel is returning to the stage in a play by Helen Bang, directed by Jennifer Dick.

I was delighted to read the script a few years ago in its development period and have followed its progress since. You can now follow along online with Helen’s blog and the Pimpernel Productions website.

Check out the wit Helen is infusing the play with, and sense her joy in working with this special time and hero…

See the wonderful costume designs by Carys Hobbs and help The Scarlet Pimpernel buckle his swash across the stage:

The Scarlet Pimpernel - the original superhero - on stage - logo

Here’s to a rip-roaring, rabble-rousing, rotters-roasting return!