Brighton: Mangled Yarn

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Edward Ferrow as Dr. Frankenstein

Neil Jennings & Chris Smart are at the heart of Mangled Yarn & their ebbulient take on the ultimate horror story


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Neil Jennings

Hello Chris and Neil, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Chris: I’m originally from Lichfield, in Staffordshire. It’s near Birmingham, but I’ve lived all over, including Italy and Denmark. I’m currently house hunting in Welwyn Garden City, in Hertfordshire.
Neil: I’m an Essex lad who grew up in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. I now live in North London.

You are quite the creative polymaths, can you tell us about your fields of operation?
Neil: I trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. I’m also a self taught multi-musician. My main instrument is Ukulele; but I can actually play it well! I’m also a keen illustrator, song writer and playwright.
Chris: I also trained as an actor, at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. I’m a multi musician too – Banjo, Accordion, Guitar, Mandolin. I write songs, sketches and plays and I also direct.

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Chris Smart

When did you first develop a passion for the arts?
Chris: of course I could say I fell in love with Shakespeare and classic literature at a young age and that was it, (of course I do love those things the requisite amount!) but I was brought up watching John Hughes movies and laughing at people like John Candy and Steve Martin. I think I always held out hope that I would get to do that. In the end I managed to combine the two.
Neil: As a kid I sort of popped in and out of the arts. Sometimes I was very keen, other times it didn’t really bother me. It was at University (I studied Drama at Aberystwyth) where I truly found that this was the career for me.

Can you tell us about The Pantaloons?
Chris: We met six years ago at an audition for the company. It was an unusual audition in that it was just really fun and everyone seemed as lovely as they were talented. We both got the job and haven’t looked back. The company creates hilarious and accessible theatre from Shakespearean and classic texts. Using all kinds of influences and styles to put their own incredible spin on a well known piece. Music is used heavily too and has also challenged us both to learn new styles and instruments . If drama school taught us the foundations of Acting, The Pantaloons taught us how to be comedians. We will always love continuing to work with “The Loons”!

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In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
Neil: For me it’s the thrill of how are you going to stage something. CGI in films and television makes everything possible, but on the stage, there’s a real magic needed to create the same effects. I love, not only working out how to do a particular thing, but also watching how others achieve it. You can really learn from each other.
Chris: firstly I think because it is not “on demand” there is always a sense of occasion and excitement with theatre, you have to get off your arse and go somewhere to watch a bunch of real life human beings tell you a story. No matter how amazing the box set is, you can’t replicate that on your sofa at home. Secondly we both love, and work within a style that is immediate; it embraces and works with the here and now to create a truly unique experience. Bringing the audience into the action means that every night is different; it comes with different risks, different failures and different successes, all of which combine to make something truly special.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
Chris: The Big Lebowski is a must, Uncle Buck because it’s John Hughes and John Candy but not tied into a season like thanksgiving or Christmas. Finally The Royal Tenenbaums, I love Gene Hackman in that movie.
Neil: It depends. Can the Back to the Future trilogy be on one disc? If not, then it’s those! If they count as 1, then I’ll throw in Labyrinth and Ghostbusters (the original).

Where, when, why & with whom was Mangled Yarn created?
Chris: At a Birthday house party last Summer. I think it was Neil’s birthday. We were a little drunk…
Neil: …very!
Chris: … and we were spitballing ideas for inappropriate text to style combo’s. Classic horrors as Pantomimes really got us laughing.
Neil: We joked about Frankenstein as a Pantomime for ages.
Chris: But the next day I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I knew it would be a really interesting project and I was convinced we could make it work.
Neil: We thought for a bit about just doing a normal Pantomime with the characters of Frankenstein and the monster in it, but that’s not an original idea – it’s been done quite a lot.
Chris: often by amateur theatre companies.
Neil: So we then talked about trying to do a faithful telling of the whole story, but with a Pantomime trying to burst out the whole way through.
Chris: That’s really when we became Mangled Yarn. It’s a mangled quote from All’s Well That Ends Well. “The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together”.

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What is the Mangled Yarn ethos?
Chris: We want to take incredible professional theatre to everyone, that’s for everyone. We are particularly focussed on bringing our work to those people that, for whatever reason, don’t usually have access to live theatre.
Neil: We are passionate about taking source material seen as “difficult” or “inaccessible” and innovating with it, creating productions that are first and foremost enjoyable and entertaining, but also remain faithful to the spirit of the original text.

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You’re performing at this year’s Brighton Fringe, what are you bringing to the table?
Chris: We’re passionate about comedy. We love to laugh and think it’s one of the most important things for an audience to do. If we can also give them the facts at the same time, we’re laughing… still.

Can you tell us about the musical side of Frankenstein?
Neil: Our cast are 5 actor musicians. We have both live and recorded music, and we’re going down a disco route. So we’ve written half a dozen disco parodies that tell the story!

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Rhianna Compton will be playing The Monster

What lead you to the unlikely pairing of Frankenstein and a Pantomime?
Neil: A simple response would be that we found the idea funny. Is it possible to tell such a dark and harrowing story faithfully, yet in the style of a family friendly comedy? We knew it would be a challenge, especially dealing with the subject of life and death. I think we’ve managed to do a great job with that. The finale of our show is a perfect example.
Chris: People often see classic literature as “stuffy” or “difficult”. We wanted to find a way to challenge those preconceptions and help an audience find the joy of the source material. We thought Pantomime was the perfect tool.

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
Chris: I don’t really have any particular rituals, sorry to be boring! I used to always brush my teeth just before beginners but that’s about it.
Neil: It depends on the show and the company. I’ve done shows where we’ve got into an almost superstitious routine of actions and words. I don’t really have a “thing” that I always do, though.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell Frankenstein to somebody in the streets of Brighton…
Neil: It’s Frankenstein as a Pantomime. If that doesn’t do it, I’m not sure what will!

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
Chris: We’re hoping to send Frankenstein out for a small UK tour this Halloween. We have a few venues pencilled in, including The Place, Bedford and the Old Library Theatre, Mansfield. We’re also going to begin work on our next project that we’re very excited about. We don’t want to say too much about it yet, but it’s very ambitious. What we can tell you is it WON’T be a pantomime.


Frankenstein the Pantomime

The Warren: The Blockhouse

May 24-26 (20:00)

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Brighton: Dom Mackie

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Dom Mackie is a young, storytelling master of therapeutic comedy…


When did you first realise you were funny?
To be honest, I still don’t see myself as funny, I guess the fact other people laugh at what I say is a bonus. Suppose the first gig where I got an applause break was when I first realised, I was funny, cause at least I was so funny the audience wasted their energy putting two hands together for it.

How did you get into stand-up?
When I was in my first year at university, I attended the comedy society and did some improv there. One of the members liked what they saw and invited me to an open mic night in the city, I’ve never looked back since.

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As a post-millennial, do you find that comedy is changing, is the material of older comics still relevant?
It is always good to keep up with the times as the more relatable your material is towards younger audiences, the better presence you have on social media (presence=promotion). I feel society is very PC nowadays so you do have to be very careful with what you say, but it depends if you are actually that bothered with what people think, which I’m not.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Oh this is easy! Chilling on the sofa, watching Netflix, not being bothered if you accidentally fall asleep when watching… bliss.

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If your comedy style was a soup, what would be the key ingredients?
Wow, from an easy question to a challenging one! I’d say the key ingredients are energy, storytelling and audience chatter, I do all three in my set and if I don’t, then clearly something is up with me that day.

Can you tell us about the show?
It is called “Poor Life Choices”, it is a therapeutic experience for the audience, where I not only go over the stupid decisions in my life, but the audience reveal stories about their lives. By the end, we feel like a community but it’s a hilarious community at the same time.

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You’ve been touring ‘Poor Life Choices’ across the world for quite a wee while now. How has the show evolved in that time?
From doing previews in pubs in Cambridge to worldwide shows has been an incredibly quick journey. I find it hard to even process how quick its been. It started with a 35-minute TED talk pretty much now, but now it involves the audience and it has become a solid hour long stand up show with good reviews.

How did it go down in America?
I am always concerned when taking my stand up outside the UK due to the different reactions I could get from it. I was beyond overjoyed by the different reactions I got from outside the UK and I am returning to America in July, I can’t wait to perform there.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets…
Do you like stupid stories? Do you like to watch someone suffer? Do you like comedy? Then come and see ‘Poor Life Choices’, the sell out show where sad times lead to good fortunes.


Poor Life Choices

The Caxton Arms

May 28 & 29 

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www.dommackie.co.uk

Brighton: Samantha Pressdee

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The ultimate Love Muffin is flying down to Brighton…


Hello Samantha, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I am from and reside in the Black Country. It’s a real place, but it’s like purgatory. A lot of people get stuck there. My town Walsall is actually the 4th most deprived area in England according to our local paper. It’s called the Black Country as there used to be a lot of factories there, the smoke from the factories would turn the sky black. The factories have mostly gone now but there’s still plenty of smoke, from spliffs and cracks pipes. There’s no place like home!

Who are your comedy idols?
I really love Russell Brand, Bill Hicks, Alfie Brown, Sarah Pascoe & Fern Brady. They all seem to be saying something interesting. I came to Edinburgh 4 years ago as an Actress and I saw Alfie, Rosie Wilby and Mark Thomas. They inspired me to try comedy. I see it as a platform for the truth. George Orwell said “Every joke is a tiny revolution.” I’m all about social change and am drawn to comics who have compassion for people. It was a shock to learn there are so many narcissists in this industry. I guess we all have to be a little bit vain to get up on stage and tell strangers about ourselves. I tend to avoid comics that talk ONLY about themselves though. They are energy vampires!

Can you tell us about Love Muffin Productions?
Samantha: It’s my social enterprise, baked in 2016 with the help of the new enterprise allowance. Which essentially means, my topless comedy show Sextremist was partly funded thanks to the Tory Government! Our mission statement is to create experiences which bring people together for the purpose of empowerment and the greater good. As well as Sextremist we’ve produced Back 2 Basics, The Men, Sex & Feminism Podcast and now Conscious Comedy. My number 2 in this operation is the wonderful Clare Morgan. She’s been with me since the beginning. I’m Bipolar. So get an access to work grant to pay Clare. Bipolar is a disability, there are things I can’t do as well as neurotypical people, like admin! But I also consider it a blessing. I have a deep compassion for humanity and am very creative. It’s a label I share with some of my comedy heroes Alfie Brown, Russell Brand, also Jim Carrey I read is Bipolar.. According to an article in The Guardian from 2014 us comedians are the most likely profession to be diagnosed. I had to show a judge that article when I had to go to court to get the Personal Independence Payments I was entitled too early in my recovery because a paramedic sent from the private company Capita had decided if could do stand up comedy, and didn’t take meds – I was fine. Cutting off resources which vulnerable individuals need to survive is a human rights abuse!

You have been described as an ‘anarcha-feminist,’which seems an unusual field from which to draw comedy. Is it a rich field to harvest?
I think confrontation can create comedy, or just enemies. Confrontation with bare breasts is very funny, but also very serious. We are serious comedians. I was actually a comedian before I became an anarcha-feminist, before I was just ‘a feminist’ but I had to separate myself from the ones who hate men and sex positive women. Anarchy is about challenging hierarchy, feminism is about challenging patriarchy. So it makes sense that feminism shouldn’t turn into a matriarchy. We need equal ground!

What is it about performing live you love the most?
The warm fuzzy feeling you get from intimately connecting with an audience. You can’t get that soul connection through a plasma screen. Last night I got both kisses and cuddles from my audience on their way out. That is way better than a thumbs up on

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Have your two stints at the Edinburgh Fringe toughened you up as a comedian?
There’s been 3 stints and yes. The first show was a baptism of fire. Most people duck under the radar for about 5 years then pop up with their debut hour. I did my first hour ‘Consume Shit & Die’ less than 2 years into comedy. I was in a nightclub called Espionage at 10.30pm trying to get drunk people to join the revolution! I had so much to say and felt it was urgent so there was no way I was gonna faff around for 5 years like some of my peers recommended. I needed a platform, where else could I express my truth without ending up back in the nuthouse? The show was not bad and definitely not good but I don’t regret it. Had I not done the full run with an hour there is no way I would have had the guts or the know how to produce Sextremist the following year. This is now my fifth year in comedy and 4th hour. I believe by industry standards, this is the year I am supposed to quit. The rules are you write a five year business plan, but fuck the rules! Anyway, just in the nick of time my work has become socially acceptable. I actually have a regular paid gig in telly, Psychic Today not 8 Out of 10 Cats but I’m making my own way. It’s comforting that my audience have seen me transform from an ugly duckling into a phoenix.

What is your ideal Sunday?
Sleep till I wake up, don’t bother getting dressed. Read a book in bed and then order a curry for breakfast at 4pm. I might then watch a comedy on Netflix or listen to a podcast. I’m mostly tearing around the country in pursuit of mischief, magic and mirth so it’s nice to just have one day to do nothing.

You are bringing Covered to the Brighton Fringe, can you tell us about it?
It’s a personal story that starts and ends with the police. Previewing ahead of my Edinburgh Fringe launch. This show is about trying to be taken seriously, while also trying to be a comedian. I know this will really shock people but I am a certified lunatic. I talk about trying to get my needs covered after a severe mental breakdown 5 years ago. Where do you go when all the welfare services have been cut and many people are scared to discuss mental health issues? Well I went to comedy, straight out of a mental hospital. I was encouraged by a Guardian article published at that time stating comedians are the most likely profession to be diagnosed with psychotic traits. Comedy is my home, but some see me as a pesky squatter. I’ve managed to resist the bailiffs so far but this is not the case for everyone. The show talks about the welfare state, social housing and the need for belonging. It’s seriously funny.

What do you think of Brighton as a city?
Brighton is badass. I called for a Free The Nipple rally in Brighton 2016, loads of people came and we made international headlines. After a day of topless marching along the promenade and sunbathing, some of the activists came to my preview of Sextremist again joining me in topless solidarity. My mom came too, we both slept in my van and used the co-op toilets to have a wash. True anarchy! I love the seaside and brighton rock. It’s a wonderful place I have many happy memories in Brighton. Only one bad memory. It’s the location where I got sectioned early in 2014, the police man seemed genuinely upset they’d had to put me in a cell while I was in psychosis because there were no beds available on the NHS. When I asked him through the flap “Where am I?” He had tears in his eyes. More about that in my new show Covered.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to someone in the street, what do you say?
It’s a story of resilience promoting compassion over schadenfreude. Chronicling how people are struggling to get their mental health needs met in austerity Britain. Perfect subject for comedy because the system is a joke!


Covered

Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant

May 3-4 / June 1-2

Brighton: The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé

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The riotous Riddlestick Theatre are winging into Brighton…


Hello Tom, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m was born and brought up in and around Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire. I am now based in Bristol.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
I first developed a passion for theatre when I was about seventeen whilst studying Theatre Studies at A-Level. I had always loved performing and when I was ten years old I had the illuminating experience of playing the crocodile in a local production of Peter Pan which was great fun. But I only really fell in love with it once a dog-eared copy of Equus was thrust into my unworldly hands.

Can you tell us about your training?
I studied Drama: Theatre, Film, Television at the University of Bristol. There was a great balance there between practical work and theory. You’re making theatre and films, but also thinking critically about the craft. I enjoyed studying everything from documentaries to Jacobean tragedies, and of course all of these things inform one another in very exciting, inspiring ways. The fact that Bristol is such a wonderful city also helps. Most of the Riddlestick troupe met whilst studying there.

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In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
I think the act of physically travelling to a space to watch something is very important in this day and age. It reframes and disrupts the pattern of everything being at our fingertips. And of course the inherent liveness of theatre is one of the things that makes it so magical. I remember hearing Complicite Artistic Director Simon McBurney quote Blaise Pascal in an interview with the Edinburgh International Festival: “The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.” McBurney applies this rather sombre observation to the theatre by arguing that “in a way, the intensity of the moment of theatre in the present is about living.” It is a rare moment where, if the performance engages us, we collectively live in the present. These days, we need as much of that as we can get!

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Beer in hand, looking at the Championship league table and seeing Leeds United in the top two.

You are a co-founder of Riddlestick Theatre; where, when & with whom was the company founded?
I founded the company with Kate Stokes back in 2016 in Bristol. However, the idea came a couple of years earlier when we were still at university. Kate and I write the shows together and Kate also plays the enchanting Madame Fanny. She is the company mastermind.

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What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create?
That’s an important question, because creating an atmosphere is such a vital part of what we do on stage with Riddlestick. Echoing the minstrels and performers of bygone eras, we want to revitalise the tradition of travelling actor/musicians popping up in all sorts of different spaces and entertaining all sorts of diverse audiences. In a Riddlestick show, music fills the space. Stepping into a room with us should be like stepping into a secret carnivalesque party full of friends. A bit like in the film Titanic when Jack takes Rose down to the Irish party in third class. There’s a real sense of fun. There can be a lot of pretentiousness and snobbery in theatre. Shows that aim to make people laugh and have a good time are sometimes dismissed as being silly and somehow worth less. We’re certainly trying to cut through that. The simple act of bringing people together to share a story is hugely valuable in its own right.

You know a good show when its happened, what are the special ingredients?
As I’ve just mentioned, atmosphere is a really important part of it. There’s an elusive, ineffable aura that comes with some shows. Sometimes it hits you immediately, and sometimes it crawls up on you weeks later. Fascination. I like to feel fascinated. Whether it be a West End musical or a verbatim play about toxic masculinity, it’s always nice to be left with a mind full of fascination. In the immortal words of Danish pop group Alphabeat: “we live on fascination.”

Can you tell us about The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé?
The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé invites the audience to meet the eccentric 18th century explorer, Madame Fanny, and to take their pick from her cabinet of curiosities. For whichever curio they choose, we perform the elaborate tale behind it. Amongst other crazy events, she battles with pirates and parties with Marie Antoinette. But while we’re all revelling in her outrageous stories, somebody far more serious is on the way to bring her down to earth. It’s a celebration of curiosity and story-telling, with lots of live original music, and we allow the audience to hand-pick the tall tales they are told.

Can you tell us about the musical side of ‘The Cabinet’.
Music is a huge part of the show! For starters, there are lots of songs. We draw inspiration from a different genre for each of the different stories we tell, Django Reinhardt hot jazz and Kraftwerk-inspired surreal techno to name but a couple; all woven together with our folky sound. Pretty much the entire show is underscored. I guess if I had to pick one primary influence, it would be Balkan folk music. You can head to our Spotify and Vimeo pages to get a taste of the music we like listening to. On stage with us we have a guitar, cello, piano-accordion and six voices that help conjure up Fanny’s world of adventure. Most of the time, we’re performing in very intimate spaces which really allows us to fill the room with sound whilst creating a real spectacle in the process.

Being a pop-up theatre, you must have to make certain sacrifices in stagecraft – can you give us an example or two of what is affected, & how as a troupe you adapt to the situation?
We love it! Aside from making technical rehearsals a hell of a lot easier, it is actually very freeing. It’s about stripping theatre back to its storytelling essence. There’s no hiding place. We create this array of worlds on stage with only our words, bodies, instruments and a little basket of props. And most importantly, it means we can be truly accessible and take the show everywhere and anywhere. One of my favourite memories of doing this show was when we performed it in a forest at Brainchild Festival (just up the road from Brighton), peeping out from behind trees, the audience all huddled together in blankets, the sun peeking through the branches, with only the distant sound of kids wailing at the nearby Go Ape to compete with.

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You are bringing ‘The Cabinet’ to this year’s Brighton Fringe, what are your thoughts on that romantic, seagirt city?
I love coming to Brighton (usually on a replacement bus). It’s an incredibly vibrant, welcoming and creative place. Plus it’s often sunny when I’ve been there. Long may that continue.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Brighton, what would you say?
Come to our riotous musical comedy and choose the curious tales we tell! Action, romance, comedy, tragedy, brilliant live music, a fabulous and fierce leading lady and a bunch of men in dresses. One of the Guardian’s Best Shows at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018!

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
We have a couple of other festival dates cropping up later this year, and I’m delighted to say that Fanny will be going on another summertime jaunt to the Scottish capital in August. Beyond that, there may well be a new show lurking up our collective sleeves.


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The Cabinet of Madame Fanny…

The Warren

May 4-6 (20:30)

www.riddlestick.co.uk

Brighton: Agent November

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Agent November is a true master of his craft, which is designing & operating the fun-filled frolics that are Escape Rooms. He’s also on his way to Brighton…


Where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from Penzance, Cornwall, where I grew up as one of five children. It’s tough to compete with my overachieving siblings – for example my twin sister has won 2 gold medals at the Olympics (for rowing the women’s pair in London and Rio)! I’ve studied in Cardiff and Birmingham Universities, and now I live and work in Bloomsbury, London, where I operate my fictional detective agency. There I play the titular “Agent November, battling my nemesis Marty Orri on a regular basis.

Where did the idea for your escape games originate?
It’s hard to say, as there are so many little ideas that are woven together to make the final product, and I draw pieces of inspiration from board games, role playing games, immersive theatre, computer games and movies. But if I had to pick my biggest influences, I’d say it was the two British Classics – Bond and Holmes. The original idea was to tie together the tense action of 007 with the brainpower and lateral thinking of the world’s first consulting detective, and I always have that in mind as I develop new ideas.

Can you tell us about “Unlock Parliament?”
Unlock Parliament was the first (and so far only!) escape game to run inside the Houses of Parliament, and it was designed as a bespoke experience to engage people in the work of Parliament. Teams of players had to race against the clock and solve a series of challenging lateral thinking problems. Each one of these problems related in some way to the problems that members of Parliament have to overcome in order to pass laws for the U.K. It was great to get people excited about what Parliament does, and show them how complicated and nuanced lawmaking is. The ending of the game changed depending on whether or not the team completed all the puzzles in time or not. If they were successful, a bill would be passed giving Agent November special crime fighting powers to deal with super villains, if not then the bill would fail. It was great to combine lots of different elements in the game, including physical puzzles, video content, actor narration, audience interaction, and role playing.

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This will be your third year running the game – what have you learnt from the previous two outings?
We’ve run the game twice before at the Edinburgh Fringe, but this is our first time taking it to Brighton. What I learned in my first year was that running 275 shows is actually quite a lot of work! I ran most of those shows that year, and that really wiped me out; I needed another month to recover! So this year I will have another actor doing more of the games, just so I can have a bit of a break, and actually go and see some of other shows myself. That’s definitely something that I’ve learned on previous years; Fringe is a great chance to expand one’s horizons and I mustn’t get too focused on just my show and forget to enjoy the experience. Something else I’ve learned is how much fun people get out of joining in solving puzzles with strangers. In London we mostly run “private” events, i.e. someone will book a show for 3-8 people, and everyone in that group knows each other before the game starts. At Fringes we have “open” ticketing (the same as conventional theatre does), so you never know who is going to be on your team! I’ve found that this has been a great social mixer for people coming to the Fringe, and I know that some people have gone on to make friends with their new teammates in the bar after their game is over!

How do you win a TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence, then win two more?
You have to get consistently good reviews, for 12 months in a row, to win a certificate. 97% of our reviews are 4 or 5 out of 5. I think the key to keeping the standard high is to never really be happy with how things are; always be looking for things that we can improve. I have pages of things that I still want to add to the experience, and I’m sure that this year I’ll think of several pages more. I always take feedback from customers and my actors seriously, and I encourage a culture of honesty in my staff. That way people feel like they can speak their mind about ways that we can improve, and feel like they are going to be listened to.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
Fight Club, Shawshank Redemption and Castaway. That last one is a good movie, and it’s definitely helped by the irony factor in the situation.

What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
The new environment – I’ve never done the Brighton Fringe before, so it’m sure it’ll take me a while to work out all the foibles like the best place to go give out flyers, or the times that things will be busy / quiet. But at the same time it’s the thrill of the unknown that makes it exciting for me!

What have you got for us this year?
We’ll be investigating the Museum of Secrets, a mysterious enclave that houses politically sensitive artifacts. The museum was recently robbed, which could have potentially world-shattering consequences, so you’ll have to act fast to prevent a disaster!

Why the two different adventures?
The two different adventures allow players to investigate different aspects of the same crime. In a sense, these “missions” are like sequels to each other, except that people can play them in either order, and don’t need to have played the other one first to get the full experience. However, by playing them both, one starts to develop a bigger picture of the universe that links the two missions, and there are hints of a bigger mystery lurking beneath the surface. I have plans to potentially bring a third adventure to the Fringe next year, and hope one day to produce a “final stage” challenge, that will only be accessible to people who have already taken on the other challenges.

What materials did you use during the research period?
I watched a lot of spy and detective dramas, plus my background in the Army certainly gives me an insight into the way that the real life security services operate.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Brighton, what would you say?
Hi there, have you played an escape game before? No? Well, now’s your chance! Come to the Brighthelm Centre and help me investigate, there was a robbery last night. You have to solve puzzles and challenges against the clock to defeat my nemesis and save the day. I need you! Here’s a flyer.

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
In late May we will be bringing our adventures to ConFuzzled for the 3rd year running – ConFuzzled is the U.K.’s biggest gathering of the “furry community”. (https://confuzzled.org.uk. We will also be returning for the third year running to the Edinburgh Fringe, with The Stand Comedy Club. We will be running 3 of our missions there, for the whole of August. In December we will be running our “Christmas Crisis” mission, a festive outing where players have to solve Christmas – themed puzzles to find out where Father Christmas has vanished to, and save Christmas itself! And of course all year round we will be running our missions in Bloomsbury, London: http://www.agentnovember.co.uk


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The Escape Room

Brighthelm Centre

May 3-12 / May 25-June 2 (various times)

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www.agentnovember.co.uk

Edmund Dehn: Death of a Hunter

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Ernest Hemingway has a new avatar, & his name is Edmund Dehn…


Hello Edmund, so when did you first develop a passion for theatre?
I have loved acting since I was at school. The first play I was in, when I was 9 or 10 years old, was Andre Obey’s “Noah”. I played The Man, someone who told Noah that he was talking nonsense & there wouldn’t be a flood. It was a small part: he drowned! I went on acting throughout my school days, playing Captain Cat in “Under Milk Wood” when I was about 13 – a wonderful play & a wonderful part! I then acted at Cambridge. While I was there, I also ran a Children’s workshop for 2 years. We produced 2 totally improvised shows acted by children aged from 8 to 16. I will never forget them or their performances in “The Children’s Crusade” by Brecht & “The Odyssey”.

Can you tell us about your training?
I did a History degree at Cambridge and then, a few years later aged 25, trained at LAMDA. Strangely I was on a one year course for overseas students, although I’m British. But it worked out well because I got out into the business quicker and anyway some of the lessons from LAMDA didn’t sink in until 5 or 10 years later. I always was a bit slow! But I hope I am still learning today, more than 40 years later.

What is your ideal Sunday afternoon?
At this time of year it would be watching England beat Wales in the 6 Nations. Not this year sadly!

You’re performing at this year’s Brighton Fringe, what do you think of that seagirt city?
I don’t really know Brighton well, although I worked there for a week last autumn making a short film, which I enjoyed. We found a very nice Italian restaurant near our digs! I am looking forward to getting to know Brighton better and especially being part of the Fringe scene. It sounds exciting – even if many of the other performers at the same venue look young enough to be my grandchildren!

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Can you tell us about the play?
Hemingway is trying to find the courage to commit suicide. It’s very early in the morning and he has to do it before his wife (his 4th) wakes up & stops him. He hasn’t written anything worth reading for 9 years; and he believes he never will again because doctors treated him with electric shock therapy and, as he puts it, “destroyed your only asset as a writer, your memory”. As he fights his last and loneliest battle, he remembers his past – his wives, his children, the things he’s ashamed of &, most important of all, his father. Can he die like a man?

Do you identify with Mr Hemingway in any way?
It would be presumptuous, I think. He was a great writer though a flawed man. Perhaps I identify with the flaws & with his attempts to be honest with himself about them (with limited success)? In many ways he was not a nice man: he behaved appallingly to women for instance; the nastier they are, the more fun they are to play! Hemingway wanted to “write one true sentence”; as an actor I aspire to speak one true line. I can identify with him that far.

Can you tell us about the play’s radical German creator, Rolf Hochhuth?
I was lucky enough to meet Rolf Hochhuth in Berlin in 2017. He is one of Germany’s most significant and controversial living playwrights; he lives in a flat in the centre of the city, with a view down onto Berlin’s Memorial to the Holocaust. He signed a copy for me of his most famous play “Soldiers” with the inscription “Thank you to Mr Edmund Dehn, who will play my Hemingway in London”. It is a treasured possession.

This is not your first Hochhuth portrayal, can you tell us about the others & why they resonate so much with you?
While I have never played in “Soldiers”, I have also appeared in Hochhuth’s “The Representative”, which accuses Pope Pius XII of conniving with the Holocaust in return for Hitler protecting Europe from the (Godless!) Communists. In 2014, I also appeared in “Summer 14: A Dance of Death”, Hochhuth’s play about the causes of World War I from a German point of view. Both of these were also at the Finborough, where we premiered “Death of a Hunter”. I love the fact that they are big plays addressing big issues: their scope is Shakespearean. “The Representative” was 3 & a half hours long and my last appearance was as a Jewish grandfather on his way to a gas oven. By the time the curtain came down, the pubs were closed! So, after our last scenes but before the curtain call, you could have seen me & 2 other actors, one who played the Pope, still in the full white Papal costume, complete with skull cap, drinking beer from cans outside the back door of the Finborough. Sadly none of us took a photograph!

How is director Anthony Shrubshall handling everything?
As yet, we have not started rehearsing – or re-rehearsing. We originally opened in Berlin before our UK premier in April 2018. Berlin was a ‘pros arch’ venue while at the Finborough we played in traverse, with audience on 2 sides, which is challenging for a 1 Man Show! In Brighton we will again be in ‘pros arch’, which will entail re-imagining the show. But that is what I like most about working with Anthony: he is never content simply to ‘warm up’, or rehash, an old production; we will, I know, be starting afresh. He has already told me that there’s more to find and that I can do better! I can’t wait to find out what new torments (make that ‘challenges’!) he has in store. He never seems to run out of ideas & he keeps me on my toes. Who could ask for more?!

What emotive responses do you expect from the audience?
In terms of “emotive”, Hemingway was, by current standards, pretty politically incorrect, so some people may find him challenging company (albeit for only 55 minutes)! But the play also explores the all-too-human side of this iconic literary figure, hopefully opening up more conversations around mental illness and male suicide in the process. Fundamentally however, I hope the audience enjoys the play, and that they are moved by it.

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You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Brighton, what would you say?
Unable to write anymore, Ernest Hemingway fights his last and loneliest battle as he tries to find the courage to commit suicide. He confronts his demons, questions old certainties and comes face to face with the ghosts of his past… Clinically, precisely, harrowingly and in real time, radical German playwright Rolf Hochhuth explores the final hour in the life of an American icon, examining the cult of celebrity, the trappings of fame and “the ultimate futility with which we are all cursed and ‘blessed’”.

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
I wish I knew! Ah, the actor’s life!!!


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Death of a Hunter

The Warren Theatre

May 3/4/5/6/7/9/11/12 (various times)

www.andtomorrow.co.uk

 

Danny Dorling: Rile Britannia, Brexit & the End of Empire

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Danny Dorling is coming to Brighton to explain just what the hell is going on in mid-Brexit Britain…


Hello Danny, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m from Oxford, born and bred. Left the city at 18 and went to live in Newcastle upon Tyne for ten years. I think it was Ian Brown who said “Its not where you’re from – it’s where you’re at” – or some such. I’m 51, i have lived in the North for 23 years, roughly half of the years I can remember and most of my adult life. I lived in Bristol for three years and New Zealand for five months.

When did you first realise you had a gift for writing?
About a year ago. Honestly. I find writing hard. I did not learn to read until I was eight years old. But I have things I want to say. In books you can say what you want to say in a way you can’t do when writing academic papers (I used to do a lot of those).

Are there any particular catalysts which set you off on a writing binge?
Working with a lovely group of people in Bristol, 1996-1999 where we met in pubs and wrote books together. We ignored what the university wanted us to do and just did what we thought we should do – but in our spare time.Two of the three (Dave Gordon and George Davey Smith) were older than me and had an idea of what they were doing! The younger one, Mary Shaw, could actually write properly, which did help – and she was enthusiastic and very thoughtful. I say younger as she was about six weeks younger than me I think! She now teaches.

When you are authoring a book, how meticulous is your research?
Meticulous with the data, but not with the reading. I do read a lot. I skim read a book a day (on average) and I seriously read a book every two weeks. My room at work is full of books, thousands. I get sent a lot for free and it feels like a crime not to read them. But there is so much you could read that I always feel inadequate over having not read enough. Usually my co-authors are better read than me. With the data – there basically is no excuse for making a mistake as often what I do with data is quite easy. And I am a bit obsessive about not making a mistake. Most of my books are full of diagrams which I usually put up for free on the web, for example these are the ones in Rule Britannia.

You’re stranded on a desert island for an indeterminate amount of time with only three books – what would they be?
Definitely not the bible. I was made to read that in Sunday school (which I hated as a result as I had only just learnt to read). And no Shakespeare. I was made to read (some of) that later at secondary school. Having to read Shakespeare at school made me appreciate maths, not English. As I would have a lot of time I’d choose some books I would never otherwise read – a translation of the Buddhist Diamonds Sutra or some book like that, although I would probably regret that pompous cerebral choice as I would already be bored; then possibly something I really should have read and never have – anything by Jane Austin ( a collected works?); and then a book on how to make the perfect sandcastle on the island’s beach (which would, of course, be washed away with each tide each evening).

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Buy Rule Britannia

You have recently releas’d ‘Rule Britannia’ – can you tell us about the book?
I have just emailed you a PDF – have a look. It’s an attempt to try to work out why the UK is now very odd. The first EU country to try to leave the EU is the UK; possibly the last to try to leave for some time. Sally and I try to work out – why us? Why are we strange? Why don’t we know we are strange? Just how strange are we? And so on and on.

What is the state of social inequality in Britain in 2019, & how has it changed since the occasion you first became concern’d?
I was probably first concerned when at school; but more so since. It has got worse. 2018 may have been the year of “Peak Inequality” in the UK (but then I would say that as I published a book with that title. As house prices fall in much of the south of England in 2019 wealth inequality falls slightly. People hardly notice. It is a little like how 1920 was a little more equitable than 1919. Few people noticed then that we were just beginning to become more equal. But, of course things are also getting worse. Two people who went to my school died when homeless in Oxford at the start of this year (2019). They were both younger than me. You don’t expect children in your school to later die in the city they grew up in for want of a home.

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How did you find working with Sally Tomlinson?
Lovely. She doesn’t worry. I have not met anyone who worries less than Sally.

The book has a message of hope – can you condense that message into a single paragraph?
A single sentence: When the old and those in charge make a big mistake, as they did in the UK by taking the country to war in 1914, and as they did with the Suez crisis, and as they will again some day, the young see that the old and those in charge are fallible – and start to both demand and secure a better future.

You will be giving a talk on the book at the Brighton Fringe, how did you get the gig?
I didn’t know it was the Fringe. I just knew it was in Brighton. A friend, Mike McCarthy, got it me.

What are your own thoughts on that romantic, seagirt city?
It’s where a Prince of Wales had to go to get his leg over and get inebriated in peace – I think that is the first thing that comes to mind.

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What does the rest of 2019 hold in store for Danny Dorling?
A lot more talk to people about Brexit; and listening. I’m sick of the sound of my own voice – but I think Brexit is really interesting – so I ask people what they think again and again over time – and I listen to the answers changing over time and – I think – a country, this country (England), is slowly coming to see itself differently. Brexit is knocking the brass off and exposing the bigotry fr what it is. Later, in 2019, at some point I get to make some sandcastles on a beach somewhere (Brighton beach is terrible for that – no sand). And I am working on a new book called ’slowdown’ – slowly.


DANNY DORLING: RULE BRITANNIA,

BREXIT AND THE END OF EMPIRE

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Sunday 5th May, Komedia (18:00)

 www.dannydorling.org