Holy Land

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There is a certain sublime genius to the works of Elegy Theatre, & they are bringing something fresh to the Edinburgh Fringe


Hello Matthew, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m from Bedford originally, but I’ve been in South London ever since drama school!

When did you first realise you were, well, theatrical?
Never. I still deny it to this day!

You’ve trained as an actor at Italia Conti Acting in London, can you tell us about the experience?
Conti was great, it’s a real family atmosphere there, and I was a fantastic safe space to spend 3 years working out who I was and what I stood for. Drama school for me was more about the life experience than anything else; technique is great and gets you so far, but for me acting is just about constantly expanding your capacity for empathy – which only comes with time and the experiences that life provides. Also they really encouraged my writing, and I’m not sure I’d be writing now if I hadn’t had the support that I received there. More and more the industry is shifting to the idea of producing your own work, so I think I was very lucky to train at a place that has it’s finger on the pulse of the industry, so-to-speak.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
A huge lie-in… followed by a nap… followed by regretting my life choices, and then I’ll probably meet up with some friends and play some Warhammer! I’m a massive nerd, and a big tabletop war-gamer – so I try and fit it in around running Elegy when I can. Eat some good food, play some games, spend time with friends.

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Can you tell us about ELEGY & your personal role?
So Elegy formed in 2018 whilst I was at Conti, as a platform for small intimate shows, about huge sprawling ideas. We want to champion new writing that tackles those fundamental questions that affect everyone regardless of race, creed or culture. I’m the artistic director, so I generally decide what projects we tackle and what our future plans are likely to be. However we like to work as an ensemble, so when we’ve started working on a project my role is rather organic, and tends to float towards whatever the needs of the project demand of me; it’s different every project. We’re currently floating several ideas for new projects and I’ve got different roles in developing each of them. It’s rather exciting!

You’re bringing a play to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about it?
It’s a deep dive into the world of gory, horrific viral content on the dark web, framed around the lives of three individuals – but really it’s much more than that. At its core it’s a human story, asking big questions about fate, possibility and control. The characters are all wrestling with these ideas: Kate’s trying to break out of her small town, Jon is trying to cope with his daughter’s death, Tim is trying to reconcile his past decisions with his new lifestyle; and we bounce between these narratives and timelines as they gradually reveal a darker picture…

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Your first major production, ‘ Faith & Heresy,’ played to sell out houses at several London Fringe venues in 2018 – so why try something new for Edinburgh?
Faith & Heresy was an absolute beast of and show, technically and creatively – it had a huge cast, and just didn’t sit well with the logistics of touring. Taking a show to Edinburgh is a mammoth task and Faith & Heresy is a show that needs a lot of time to set-up, which is hard to do when most places only let you have a 5 minute get-in! We’d love to bring Faith & Heresy to the fringe, it’s the sort of show that audiences would love to see at the fringe, it’s tender, ambitious and visually stunning, but it would have to be somewhere down the line when we can take it to a spacer that would really allow us to give it the time and love to deliver the quality show that Edinburgh audiences deserve. Also creatively who wants to do the same thing forever? We wanted to evolve, explore new ideas and forge our craft onwards! Holy Land is a definite step up for us, and we’re very excited to share it.

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Where, when & how did the idea for Holy Land originate?
I started writing the show more than a year ago as I was coming to the close of my time at Drama School. It’s a time in your life where you don’t have a lot of control over your life or decisions and that’s really what sits at the core of the play – How did we get to be here? How little control do we have? How much of it can we take? It went through a lot of iterations, but it wasn’t really sitting right for a long time – until one day I was talking to an old friend from home and she told me she’d found a video of herself online, on a less-than-ideal website… and that just struck me as horrific. Imagine finding a video of a terrible incident you went through posted online for millions to see, and then discuss, joke over, and be able to do nothing about it. It was brimming with all the same ideas I was eager to discuss, and so I started doing some research and digging into these websites. The things on there I’ve seen have honestly shaken me to my core, and no one is really talking about it. So I took it straight back to my writing desk, and in a few months there was a finished draft.

If your writing style was a soup, what would be the key ingredients?
Lyrical dialogue, vast ideas, a fragile hope.

How is the dual-role of writer & actor coming to you, – is it natural or a struggle?
They’re constantly clashing, especially with as we are constantly refining our work; cutting, changing the script. Pat has to remind me to just be an actor sometimes,

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Rick Romero as ‘Jon’

You are currently touring Holy Land about the UK – is the production still being tweaked?
Oh definitely! It’s part of our company ethos, we always are tweaking, night to night! You can only really tell if something truly works when it’s infant of an audience. What we’re tweaking changes though, the script is pretty solid right now, but we still like to dabble with the technical elements and try things out… it’s slightly different every night!

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
A father’s revenge, a young girl’s dream, a young man’s regret – Holy Land is an odyssey into the Dark Web told through interweaving, explosive monologues and stunning audio visual projection.


Holy Land

C Aquila

 Aug 14-26 (13:00)

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www.elegytheatre.com

An Interview with Lottie Walker

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Edinburgh welcomes a consummate mistress of Musical Hall


Hello Lottie, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from the East End of London. Home is now South West London, but I’ve lived all over the country – I’m a bit of a nomad.

When did you first realise you were theatrical?
When I tried to slide up the banisters after seeing Mary Poppins at the age of 5. My parents had to endure many “concerts” from behind the dining room curtains

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Your first love, it seems, is Music Hall – what is it about variety that makes you tick?
Family folklore says that my great grandmother was “on the halls” in the late 19th century, so it is apparently in my genes. However, this could be an urban myth as no-one seems to have any solid evidence or know her stage name. It’s a nice story, though and one day when I have time I’ll do some proper research and see what I can find. I would love to sing one of her songs if she had a signature tune (if she existed!). On a more practical level, my first professional job was a six month summer season doing Music Hall in Blackpool. I learned so much during that 6 months both about performing and also about the heritage of our variety tradition. I am a member of the Grand Order of Lady Ratlings, too and the organisation is full of proper variety “turns” with some wonderful stories of theatre-land past.

In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
It’s dangerous – no retakes, no airbrushing, just the show and performer doing what they do and hoping their audience go away happy. Theatre – especially in the smaller Fringe venues is so much more personal and offers the opportunity for performers and audience to engage with each other. Each performance is different in theatre. One can see the same show several times and have a slightly different experience at each one. On demand entertainment is a wonderful thing (I’d be lost without the BBC iPlayer) but it’s never an “event”

You’ve got three famous actresses from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Sarah Bernhardt, Maggie Smith and – of course – Nelly Power! What I’d like to cook and what my limited culinary skills will let me get away with are quite different. And anyway, the conversation would be so interesting I think the food would take a back seat. So, my VIP guests would get what all my friends are bored to tears of:
Starter: Goats cheese & fig salad
Main: Poached Salmon with boiled Jersey Royal potatoes & Asparagus (summer) or Leg of Lamb with root veg cooked in red wine & mashes spuds (winter)
Dessert: Cheeseboard with lots of fresh fruit

Can you describe your working relationship with Steve Taylor in a single sentence?
We’re a good team; Steve makes me focus on the essential practical stuff when I get distracted by the peripherals – and we laugh a lot!

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Can you tell us about Blue Fire Theatre Company?
We’re a tiny company formed just 18 months ago. Our focus is on performing plays (both new and established) about our theatrical heritage. The state school system is no longer supporting the arts at all and we are trying to introduce younger generations to the theatre of the past by making the characters accessible. It is a happy coincidence that both plays we are bringing to the Fringe this year cast very famous people (MArie Lloyd and Shakespeare) in supporting roles whilst we tell the stories of their lesser-known contemporaries. Blue Fire is independent and self-funded so often have to be very creative in our approach. Touring with literally one trunk and a cushion makes us very low maintenance and also means that as performers we have nowhere to hide!

You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, can you tell us about the play?
Marie Lloyd Stole My Life is a piece of new writing by J.J. Leppink. It is essentially a monologue punctuated by well known music hall songs. Nelly tells of her own life in theatre from the dizzy heights of topping the bill at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to the sad moment her most famous song was performed by a younger singer, Marie Lloyd who went on to become much more famous and well-remembered. Along the way we learn of sea-rescues, divorce, jewellery theft and the ups and downs of life upon the wicked stage. Nelly was a strong and feisty woman and so is J.J. Leppink, who has woven in the social history of the suffragist movement to the play and also conveys the submersive element of Music Hall in Nelly’s dialogue. I view the play as Nelly’s own private Victorian Melodrama; I think she’d have liked that.

Where, when & how did the idea for Marie Lloyd Stole My Life originate?
I trained as a tour guide for Clerkenwell & Islington in London last year and one of my projects during the course was to do a 10 minute presentation on any subject at all as long as it was in the area. I chose to speak about Marie Lloyd and even got the class and tutors singing along at the end! One of the stories I discovered in my research was that the song “The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery” was originally performed by Nelly Power (who I’d never heard of) and stolen by a 15 year old Ms Lloyd who made her name with it and was a superstar within the year. I wanted to find out more about Nelly – and the rest is history! Lots of people have got behind the idea and I’ve had friends do independent research just for fun, That andthe support of the British Music Hall Society has made the whole process quite special.

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You are also playing Nelly Power on the streets of London – what is the back story?
Islington (where I’m a guide) was the home of several of London’s music halls, including the famous Collins Music Hall (now Waterstones) which is still standing with the original facade. I always intended to create a themed walk about the subject and the idea of doing so as Nelly was just irresistible. As a happy coincidence the Islington Museum are running a Music Hall exhibition this summer and I’ve been able to tie in with them, which is really exciting.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Come and see my show! It’s a one woman Victorian Eastenders with a sing song thrown in for good measure!


Marie Lloyd Stole My Life

The Space on the Mile

Aug 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16  (18:55)

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An Interview with Steve Taylor

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Will Kemp has been reborn for the 2019 Fringe, The Mumble went to find out the who & the why


Hello Steve, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Rochdale many years ago, but now live in West London (not lost my accent though!).

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
It was always there. My interest was first ignited in primary school, with a passion for singing and acting increasing during my secondary years.

Can you tell us a little about your training & acting experience?
My “training” has always been “on the job” but from my late teens the experience came thick and fast. I learned a huge amount about both acting and directing from my late friend, the playwright Jimmie Chinn.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Storyline, acting quality, and great direction.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
A perfect one – with friends, preferably in an hostelry with great weather, although usually I spend an imperfect one looking at an ironing board.

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Can you tell us about Blue Fire Theatre Company?
Blue Fire was formed just 2 years ago as an independent theatre company with the specific remit to produce work about theatre and the wider entertainment industry. The company’s mantra is to re-invigorate and keep alive characters and works from British drama history lost from the past and to educate new generations of performers about their heritage.

Can you describe your working relationship with Lottie in a single sentence?
No, but I will try. Working with Lottie is a truly collaborative and professional experience, with the collaboration and creative element usually being at its best over a few drinks. We have completely different approaches and skills sets so are a good team on and offstage. That is not answering the question in one sentence, but then I said I’d not be able to do that!

At the last Edinburgh Festival Fringe you won rave reviews for playing George Pepper in Noel Coward’s Red Peppers – what did you learn from the experience?
Keep energy levels high, serve the playwright and keep your teeth in.

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You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe with something new, can you tell us about the play?
In short it tells the tale of a marathon Morris dance from London to Norwich that took place in 1600. It’s based on the “Nine Daies Wonder”, Will Kemp’s own journal of the dance he undertook when he parted ways with Shakespeare. Kemp was an international mega-star in the 16th Century and a creator of many of Shakespeare’s comic roles. The show is full of anecdotes of both his travels and life in The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. He fell out with Shakespeare after one too many arguments over “serving the playwright” (see above) rather than improvising and putting his own variety “spot” in the middle of Shakespeare’s fine works. The key thing to note is that the show is accessible and fun for people who are not Shakespeare afficionados (like myself!) as much as for Shakespeare fans looking for something a little different.

Where did the idea for Kemp’s Jig originate?
From Chris Harris, a friend of Lottie’s, who originally wrote and performed the work around the world. Chris played most of the Shakespearean roles originated by Kemp and also had a background in clowning so it was a natural progression for him to devise this show, that is a mix of stand-up, story-telling and acting with a bit of clowning thrown in. Morris dancing in the 45 minute version is kept to a minimum!

This is your first foray into Shakespeare – why now?
Well, it’s not strictly Shakespeare. Apart from two small excerpts of his plays in the show that serve as illustration, the piece is about Kemp’s relationship with Shakespeare the man. It was this relationship that first piqued my interest; that and the fact that Shakespeare is very much a minor character in this play about a superstar of his time who is barely known now. I have to confess to enjoying playing both Launcelot Gobbo and Dogberry, though – so who knows what the future holds….

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Join me on an Elizabethan roadshow with Will Kemp and enjoy a factual, comedic look at one man’s rise and fall in his relationship with The Bard. Will Kemp – Shakespeare’s forgotten clown – and the original 9 day wonder!


Kemp’s Jig

The Space on the Mile

Aug 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17 (18:55)

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An Interview with Alessandro Onorato

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A ‘crazy’ Italian ‘sex drama’ is flying into the Fringe this August


Hello Allessandro, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Rome, Italy, but I moved to Milan aged 5. I’ve been moving quite a lot during the years, and left Italy several times, but now I’m set back in Milan, where I work with my two theatre groups “Avanzate Idee Teatrali” and “i Birbanti”

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
It all started when I was quite young, my parents took me quite often to see some comedies and musicals when we were abroad. It was always close to a dream for me. Then it suddenly started: they asked me to write a play, I was 17, I have never stopped since then. I never thought I’d direct a play, but it became the best part of my life quite fast.

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Baraghini Alberto

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
I would say 4 things overall: the play, the director’s concept, the cast and the rhythm. Today the latter has become crucial: it’s always harder to keep the audience attention to a high level, and a strong rhythm becomes fundamental. It’s a hard task: but if you keep them all very far from the temptation to look at the smartphone for one hour it’s already a success. We live in a world where people like more to watch a 10 seconds story on Instagram than anything else and consider a youtube video of 10 min too long. As authors or directors we need to face reality and make our works as strong in rhythm as possible.

Italy has a rich cultural tradition – what has inspired you the most, & why?
I feel quite ashamed, but honestly I’ve never worked on a play written by an Italian author. Maybe we always have the feeling that what happens abroad is always more interesting, sometimes it’s true but sometimes not. I grew up reading English and American plays. But for novels I am still close to my country: Stefano Benni, Alessandro Baricco and Isabella Santacroce above all – and all contemporary by the way.

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Salvodi Alessandra

What is the theatre scene like in modern Rome?
Rome is quite sleepy at the moment, cinema moves faster, and theatre is still quite too much underground and self-referenced, with a few good exceptions. Milan is moving much better and much faster, and has really reached an impressive level on the drama and comedy side. Unluckily, it’s not able to reach massive and international audiences and is still quite weak on some kind of shows, such as musicals. In the last 5-10 years we started to organize our festivals – that is a good step.

You’re bringing a play to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about the show?
“The Last King of Porn” tells the story of a porn actor performing his last record-breaking movie: a sex marathon over a full day with 100 women. As the most important people of his life meet, we discover that the movie they are shooting is actually a snuff one, as the actor decided to kill himself during the performance. The atmosphere moves in short time from sexy to an anxiety-filled thrilling situation, where the attendees are not who they seem to be and hidden interests by his relatives come out. It’s an explicit drama about sex, love, family, suicide and much more. When I started writing the play I thought it could have been a good chance to dig inside all the dirt that lies behind the world of porn and show it, but then this actually was not enough. The women that spend hours talking, that at the beginning are recognisable only by numbers, waiting for their turn to participate to this sex marathon, confront themselves about their lives, discussing about sex, love and family, and actually show up as knowing each other pretty well.

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Iagulli Stefano

Where, when & why did the concept of “The Last King of Porn” originate?
It all started by reading, as it always happens for me. I read even 4-5 books at the same time, over 50-60 a year, depends. The biography of the porn star Asa Akira made me start to think it would have been interesting to write a play set in the world of porn – then the inspiration arrived after Chuck Palahniuk’s “Gang Bang” novel. At first I thought about writing an on-stage version of the book. Later I changed my mind and re-wrote the story in a completely different key, with a male actor as leading role (in Italy male porn stars are more famous than female ones) and massively changed characters and the story itself. But the directing idea was still missing – so I left the pages on the shelf for over two years, when at last the idea came: to divide the stage in two and play with shadows: it was after witnessing a Giavanese Wayang Kulit performance, and I thought to translate it into my work throughout an innovative space design.

How do you translate such an x-rated subject to the stage – is it gratuitous or tactful, or a blend of both?
Such a crazy story could live only in the world of porn. I tried to do it in the least aggressive way as possible. The play is for a mature public – for the themes and for the sex scenes shadow-shown – but does not contain nudity nor violence, since sex and deaths are happen only behind the shadow-sheet. And it goes way beyond porn. The theme of orphanage and abandon is quite persistent, and a hidden moral comes out obsessively: one wrong choice can change an entire life, as only one single moment destroyed the life of all these characters.

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Magni Gaia

You have assembled quite a talented cast, can you tell us about them?
I am very proud of my team. We all work together for the first time but chemistry was immediate. Gaia Magni, who co-directs the play with me, is also an author and director of several awarded plays, and made an amazing work with the girls: Sara Dho; Paolo Grassi graduate, who also worked for the Greek theatre of Siracusa; Alessandra Salvoldi, from Odin Teatre, actress in several shows, plays, tv commercials and music clips; Laura Traina, who acts in some of the most prestigious theatres in Milan such as Franco Parenti and Out Off, and also worked for Asia Argento; plus the performers Claudia Campani and Claudia Veronesi. But I cannot forget the boys! This big cast sees on stage also Alberto Baraghini, who starred in movies such as “L’abbandono”, “Maxi” and “il Caso Pantani” and several web-series and Stefano Iagulli, graduated Nico Pepe, who worked in several productions all around Europe, and also performed at the Podium Festival in Moscow.

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Sara Dho

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Hey! Want to see something veeery different from all the other shows around? The Last King of Porn! A crazy sex drama. Want to lose it?

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
As soon as our days in the UK will be over we’ll finally bring our show to our hometown in Milan in September and go for a small tour in northern Italy later on. The group will later split up for other works that don’t see us working together, as myself, I’ll be on stage with the “Macbeth” with the group “i Birbanti”. We are working to close the year with a replica of “The last King of Porn” in Rome. For the future, I am thinking to move back to comedy after this sex drama


The Last King of Porn

Greenside @ Infirmary Street

Aug 2-17 (21:50)

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www.ibirbanti.it

An Interview with Blair Christie

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Raised Voices comes straight from the Homeless of Edinburgh. The Mumble caught up with the caring heart behind it all


Hello Blair, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from Shropshire but I’ve been living in Edinburgh for about 20 years. I moved out to Musselburgh last year.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
I’ve always loved writing and performing and have always been creative from a young age. As I’ve got older this has turned in to writing and performing in shows, which I really enjoy.

In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
Theatre is so real, you can see and feel the emotion of the actors so much more than if you are watching them on a screen. It is also live and adds an air of excitement to the performance. Theatre is also anoccasion, you have to plan to go and actually leave the house and people usually make a day or night of it, which makes it feel that bit more special.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Spending time with my family, I have a young son which usually means an early start. I also like to watch sport, so if there’s football or a Grand Prix on I’ll try and watch that. Around this time of year I will be working on the Fringe show, there never seems to be a time when something is not waiting to be done.

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Can you tell us about Raised Voices & your role?
I founded Raised Voices in 2013 to offer creative writing and drama classes to people who have experienced homelessness. As the charity has progressed we are also with people with mental health issues and other people who may find themselves isolated. It’s a really inclusive group we have and nowadays it is hard to define as much as it was previously. I call myself ‘Director’ but in reality I am a bit of everything. I do the finances, produce the shows and I’m also hands on in the running of the group.

You’re bringing a play to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; what are you bringing to the table?
I’m writing and directing along with my assistant Archie Gray. I also look after the production of the show and I’ll be doing the lights and sound when we are performing.

How have you found working with Archie Gray?
Archie was the first person to come to Raised Voices back in 2013 and I know him very well. A couple of year’s ago I asked if he wanted to become a trustee and assist me with the charity and he jumped at the chance. He is so dedicated and brilliant at what he does and the charity would be a lot poorer without him, as I’ve come to rely on him so much.

What materials were used during the research period?
I interviewed one of our members – Kevin. The show is about his life and how he became homeless. I took in a Dictaphone and spoke with him at length and then used his words to form the basis of the show. With the help of Archie and input from the cast, we have developed the script.

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Can you tell us about the cast?
We have a core group of members that have been with us for years, they have all experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. We also have new members that have come on board that have not been homeless but have experienced or are experiencing some other issues in their life. All are not trained actors which brings a real rawness and energy to the performance.

What emotive responses do you expect from the audience?
I think the audience are going to be really moved by Kevin’s story. There are some parts of the play that will tough to watch but ultimately the play is uplifting and shows how he has come back from the brink to where he is today.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
This show is performed by people who have all had big challenges in their life and they have come together to bring you an amazing story of despair, hope and redemption that will leave you inspired.

What will you & Raised Voices be doing after the Fringe?
After a short break we will be moving on to starting to work on our Christmas Show. There have been mutterings of the group wanting to do a musical, which fills me with a certain amount of dread. Either way we will be working hard to produce a great show for the public.


Raised Voices

SpaceUK Triplex Studio

Aug 12-17 (15:00)

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www.raisedvoices.org.uk