Tag Archives: Fringe

Review: RuneSical by Sian Thomas

4/5 stars

Having been invited to watch RuneSical as it came online, I thought the opportunity would present itself as a fun morning. My experiences with RuneScape are fairly minimal – I remember my uncle playing it in the early 2000s, and by “remember” I mean more of “vaguely recall the low-poly, very triangular shapes of the game”, and my partner enjoys grinding the game while watching a movie, or a TV show. He’s pretty well-versed in such a universe both in its actual gameplay and its general public reception, and I asked him to watch it with me for references I definitely wouldn’t get (which happened) and jokes I wouldn’t understand (which also happened). I did initially worry I would be left in the lurch if I didn’t understand much of anything about RuneScape before diving in, but the show is fairly gentle with its audience, with things for people who land anywhere on the spectrum of their familiarity with the game. Ultimately, I like theatre, and he likes the game, so we were both in for a good time.

We watched it together, roaming through the choices presented to us. I went into it aware of it being a choose-your-own adventure (which I admit, I was really interested to see how it would have worked live, and wish I could have seen it in its most natural state!). Each segment of the story presents you with two or more choices for the next, altering your adventure each time. Some choices presented lead to the same decisions being made regardless (Lance adventuring with Odin, for example) in order to get the story moving and not to abruptly end the play before it was to even begin. It was a fun twist to traditional theatre in that way, with a kind of audience participation that I, for once, didn’t find myself dreading with a lump in my throat since I was sat comfortably in my pyjamas, at home. I think the decision to put it online was fantastic – it was interactive and fun, while keeping a strong hold on a traditional theatre atmosphere. I felt like I was there, which was impressive.

RuneSical had a small but talented cast: Christian Maynard (Lance), Katie Pritchard (Odin), Jenna Sian O’Hara (Pearl), Sam Cochrane (The Wizard), Alex Prescot (Player 1), Theo Diedrick (Player 2) & Lydia Barton Lovett (Player 3). Each was skilful in their acting roles and musical ones, the show was filled with fun and lively music, Broadway-esque notes and runs.

While there are around 20 videos to the story overall, as a viewer you will only see 7 each run, so each song sticks out with individuality as each choice is presented and made. My favourites from my particular experience were, The Fisherman Song #2, and It’s Bad Being Good. And, though I never realised it having never played the game, my partner picked up on musical motifs from the game acting as the springboard for some songs, which I thought was a really fun addition to the play!

The album for the musical is available on both Spotify and Apple Music.

RuneSical was a fun, vibrant show sprung from a source I’d never have expected to have or get a musical adaptation, and I really enjoyed watching it! It was more than just a fantasy play and, I felt, more than just a fistful of references and jokes. There was a good heart to the show and a fun plot with a nice twist for its characters.

Sian Thomas

An interview with Catherine Paskell, Artistic Director, Dirty Protest.

Hi pleased to meet you. Can you please give our readers some background information on yourself and your role in the arts in Wales?
I’m Catherine and I’m the Artistic Director of new writing company Dirty Protest. I’m directing SUGAR BABY by Alan Harris, which Dirty Protest is taking to Paines Plough’s ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall venue with Wales in Edinburgh this summer. I was a founding creative associate of National Theatre Wales – it was this opportunity that brought me back to Wales. I love what I do and connecting to people with theatre making in Wales.
Can you tell us about the work your company is taking to this Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
SUGAR BABY is a new one-man comedy drama, about a young lad from Fairwater, in Cardiff, called Marc. Marc is trying to borrow £6,000 from a local loan shark, help out his old man, save a girl and survive the day. It’s very funny. Alan’s got an exceptional voice for these Welsh characters, the stories and details pull you in, and you are rooting for Marc the whole way. The cast is one man: Alex Griffin-Griffiths, he’s a graduate of RWCMD and he’s brilliant. It’s a lot of fun to work on together and we are previewing the play in Chapter at the end of July. Chapter are fantastic supporters, their help means that anyone who can’t make it to see the show in Edinburgh can come and see the previews in Cardiff, and help us to develop the play before we head up.
How is work selected to go to the festival?
We want to showcase the best of Welsh new writing, from a writer living in Wales. Alan’s writing is exceptional, and we wanted a play that was uniquely Welsh but that wasn’t stereotypical in its exploration of a lived Welsh life. We chose Sugar Baby because it’s authentic, and an antidote to all the poverty porn plays and TV programmes that we have seen lately. Sugar Baby is a Welsh play at an international-looking Fringe Festival, and will stand alongside some of the best theatre in the world.
Wales Arts International who have funded some of the companies this year state,
The idea is to help the selected Welsh companies to present their work at the Fringe in the best possible way – with the best conditions – and, importantly, to connect with international promoters and programmers participating in the British Council Edinburgh Showcase.”
 Why is their support important along with Arts Council Wales and British Council Wales?
We couldn’t go to Edinburgh without this support. It’s vital for our company growth and to get the best new writing out of Wales. We took Dirty Protest’s production of LAST CHRISTMAS by Matthew Bulgo to Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014, supported with Wales in Edinburgh funding. That whole experience was very successful for Dirty Protest. Producers, theatre programmers and promoters from across the world came to see our play and booked it for their venues. We produced LAST CHRISTMAS in the Soho Theatre in London and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. We also had many more conversations about other projects, that are now starting to come to fruition. This happened with the support of Wales in Edinburgh. Dirty Protest is a project-funded company, and usually the grants we receive only allow a maximum 15% of a project to happen outside Wales. For us to build our company, we have to stand on a more prominent stage. It’s difficult to get reviewers and promoters outside Wales to see our work when we perform at home. Going to such a high-profile festival as Edinburgh Fringe has benefits for us, for the artists making work here and for the promotion of Wales’ arts.

The festival features a huge range of productions and there is great deal of competition for audiences, why should audiences come and see your companies work?
It’s a proper laugh – you’ll leave and have had a really good time for less than an hour, so you’ll have loads of time to walk to your next show without having to rush! SUGAR BABY is part of an incredible programme in an amazing venue. There’s something really exciting about being in that environment, watching an excellent actor as you are pulled along this funny and edgy Cardiff story. All that matters is the writing, acting and the relationship between performer and audience. It’s the ultimate live event!
Welsh artists/Companies will be showcasing a range of art forms including theatre, new writing, site-specific work and contemporary dance. In your opinion is there anything that is distinctly Welsh which links them?
What links the artists and companies is a distinct camaraderie. We are a collective who are representing Wales and are proud of presenting our world-class work together. We are all there to help each other out, to bring each other up, and that is something special about the Welsh arts scene. The diversity of art form in the WIE showcase shows that this community belongs to everyone, whether they are into well-made new plays, live art, contemporary dance, reimagined classics – and this needs to be reflected not just in Edinburgh, but in Wales throughout the rest of the year.
What would you recommend seeing from the other Welsh/Wales based companies going to this year’s festival or perhaps the festival as a whole?
I loved F.E.A.R., the one-man show created by Mr and Mrs Clark and performed by Gareth Clark when I saw it earlier this year. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s going to see it, but there are so many joyful and beautiful and thought provoking moments in the performance. I’ve heard a lot about Revlon Girl, the cast are awesome and I have a huge love for Pontardawe Arts Centre, so I’ll be seeing that. I thought A Regular Little Houdini was great at the Fringe, so I want to see Flying Bridge and Daniel Llewellyn-Willians’ next show, Not About Heroes. I can’t wait to see Seagulls, especially because Volcano who are making it have a whole venue in Leith we can hang out in! I haven’t yet seen all the shows this year, so I’m looking forward to seeing all the productions in the WIE showcase. For the festival as a whole, I’m mainly looking for new, young companies, actors, playwrights and comedy writers. Every year at the Fringe, I discover artists who I know I’ll be looking out for in the years to come. This year, I’ll be checking out FRED AND ROSE in Venue 13. The show is by a group of USW Atrium drama graduates, who are going to Edinburgh for the first time and it looks great contemporary theatre piece. I’ll be watching a lot of comedy too. I’m excited by Tom Neenan’s ATTENBOROUGH, Tom’s a great character comic. His show last year was a about a haunted old vaudeville theatre and it was great comedy storytelling. And who doesn’t love David Attenborough?! Also, the brilliant Jordan Brookes’ newest comedy show on the Free Fringe is him talking about his nan; last year, I saw him re-enact his own birth. This guy is surreal and excellent. And if you missed it last year, my favourite show of the Fringe in 2016 was the Free Fringe comedy, Richard Gadd’s Monkey See Monkey Do. It was exceptionally funny but also hugely brave and just incredible. The show won the Edinburgh Comedy Award last year and is back, this time at Summerhall, just for a limited run.

What do the artists and companies do when they aren’t performing?
We watch other artists’ shows, we see people we haven’t seen since last year, we support each other and meet promoters and venue programmers to get the show on again after the Fringe. Edinburgh is a bit of a bubble, so you try and maintain some perspective and remember there is a world outside the city. I always go to the art galleries and museums in Edinburgh because they are chilled spaces with wonderful exhibitions during August. They open my mind and give me space away from the buzz of the festival. Last year, I went to the Harry Benson photography exhibition in the Scottish Parliament and was in there for 4 hours.
 What’s the best Fringe show you’ve ever seen?
I’ve visited the Fringe, as an artist and a punter every year except one for the past 17 years. The Fringe show that sticks with me through that whole time is VICTORY AT THE DIRT PALACE by Adriano Shaplin and the American theatre company, the Riot Group. I saw it in 2002. It was an intense, satirical play, in a tiny performance space that wasn’t one of the big commercial venues. It was about the post-September ’11 American mindset. 9/11 had only happened less than a year ago; the writing was sharp, funny and urgent. The details acutely observed. The ensemble of four were witty and clear. As an emerging artist, about to leave the UK for training in America, I knew that was theatre I aspired to make.

Thanks for your time Catherine.

An interview with Gareth Clark

Hi Gareth pleased to meet you. Can you please give our readers some background information on yourself and your role in the arts in Wales?
Hello… I’m Gareth Clark and I work with Marega Palser under the name Mr and Mrs Clark. We make theatre performances and community art projects to share some of our thinking about the way we live and interact with our surroundings. The Clarks have been making performance work since 2006 and we are constantly trying to develop the way we make work so that it is surprising or engaging in different measures…. If that makes sense.
Thanks Gareth, can you tell us about the work your company is taking to this Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
(F.E.A.R.) is a solo show. It’s the first time we’ve produced a solo piece of work and it came from the research I’d done during a Creative Wales Award. It’s an autobiographical show that examines the multiple layers of fear used to control us in childhood and in our adult lives. It’s a direct and sometimes revealing account of how public information films, like those warning us against strangers, and news accounts of terror attacks constantly feed a wariness of other people. How distrust and fear perpetuate loneliness. It is a direct confession of fear from a man conditioned never to talk of such things and I think this opens up the debate about men’s mental health and our willingness to discuss our inner most feelings.
Why is the support of Arts Council of Wales, Wales Arts International and British Council Wales so important?
Edinburgh is a competitive place. The very best are there and it costs a lot of money. The support is essential to help offset some of the risk companies take. However the opportunities are great. Four weeks at the fringe is like a years worth of business in one short hit. The number of people, promoters and producers attending make the festival an essential part of the calendar. Recognising that Welsh companies should be represented makes a lot of sense as the opportunities that are created beyond the fringe are excellent.
The festival features a huge range of productions and there is great deal of competition for audiences, why should audiences come and see your companies work?
That’s a good question and one that we have to constantly ask ourselves. This show. (F.E.A.R.) is a timely reminder that we are being manipulated through some of the press and political powers. There is a strong suggestion that uncertainty and fear allows governments and certain politicians to push through strong and divisive mandates. We’re seeing it across the world and we see it more and more in this country. I think now is a prime opportunity to talk about fear so that we can start discussing hope. However there is a strong lobby that thrives from chaos and war and that is something we have to overcome.
Welsh artists and companies will be showcasing a range of art forms including theatre, new writing, site-specific work and contemporary dance. In your opinion is there anything that is distinctly Welsh which links them?
I’ve not seen all the work. What I always get from watching Welsh companies is the incredible sense of passion. I think Wales has a thriving theatre scene that goes somewhat unnoticed… I think the same of the North East of England too… and I believe it’s time to shake the system up a little.
What would you recommend seeing from the other Welsh/Wales based companies going to this year’s festival or perhaps the festival as a whole?
I’ve been so head down working and trying to sell this show I’ve barely looked at the programme. However I would always recommend what Dirty Protest are doing and I particularly like the writing of Alan Harris. I think Revlon Girl will be on our radar as would fellow Newportonians Flying Bridge. At Zoo venues this year Liz Agiss is performing Slap and Tickle and it’s a real gem of a show. And whilst in Edinburgh I can never resist seeing Stewart Lee who never fails to delight in a subversive masterclass of comedy and Mark Thomas is always inspirational.

What do the artists and companies do when they aren’t performing?
There is always something to do. The morning is generally social media hype. Selling, prompting, reminding, sharing reviews online. Then we take to the streets and hand out fliers for the show usually picking our some key spots or performances that we think liked minded people might attend. The great thing about Edinburgh is seeing loads of shows. We will go to something everyday and sometimes see as many as five shows… supporting other companies in the hope they will do the same for you. Eating and drinking is added to this with some sleep but that how the four weeks will shape up.
 And finally what’s the best Fringe show you’ve ever seen?
There are so many. In 2015 it was On Track – Kristien De Proost at Summerhall. She ran for 70 minutes on a running machine whilst directly addressing us and changing costume and shoes. It was mind blowing, life affirming and challenging. I went twice.

Credit: Mirjam Devriendt

Thanks for your time Gareth and all the best for the festival