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    Interview: What We Didn’t Get Taught At School

    Holly Delefortrie on her one-woman show, Sex-Ed Revisited

    Do you have memories of awkward, red-faced sex-ed lessons at school? Lucky for us, Holly Delefortrie is here to save the day and rewrite the rules with ‘Sex-Ed Revisited’. This female-driven comedy, playing at the VAULT festival for one night only on 27 January, aims to answer your unanswered questions and put the fun and pleasure back into sex-ed.

    We were lucky enough to sit down with Holly and take a deep dive into the inspiration behind this intimate adventure.

    We’re so excited to discuss ‘Sex-Ed Revisited’! Could you describe the premise of the show for us?

    Sex-Ed Revisited is an empowering one woman comedy. It uses clowning, confessional storytelling, interactive games, and song to uncover missing gaps in our knowledge of female-focused Sex Education.

    The show starts by welcoming the audience into the fictional world of the ‘Oh, Oh, Oh’ orgasm support group; where it’s my character’s turn to share. Throughout the course of the show the audience and I embark on a quest for climax; uncovering the myths and filling the gaps in knowledge that get in the way of pleasurable sex. I would describe the feeling of the show as a Kylie-inspired sex-pop adventure, with a number of her pop classics playing throughout the show.

    Would you say that this is quite a personal show for you? Is it based on personal experiences?

    I00%! Instead of feeling empowered and prepared, sex education left me terrified. It took years of feeling sexually unsatisfied before I realised that it wasn’t just about the other person. Sex was something that I was able (and meant) to enjoy!

    It’s so refreshing to see such an open and honest discussion of sexual education; especially female-led! What do you hope audiences will gain from the show’s message?

    I think sex and pleasure need to be shouted about from the rooftops! So many people have unanswered questions, particularly when it comes to the female experience. This topic needs vulnerability and for people to feel comfortable enough to admit what they don’t know and also feel empowered to ask what they want to know more about.

    I always aim to stage open and honest conversations with an audience. Creating a space where an audience can have their say is really exciting for me. I also strongly believe in comedy’s power for making social taboo topics more accessible for a wide range of audiences. I’m always willing to be the idiot in the room as we figure things out together. With this show, it’s not about coming in with all the right answers, but the discoveries you make along the way.

    You described the show as a ‘Kylie-inspired sex-pop adventure’, so we need to ask the important questions: favourite Kylie song?

    Ok, it has got to be ‘On a night like this’. It’s the song I first imagined the show to!

    My favourite album is Fever (full of classics) and my favourite video is ‘All The Lovers’ which I feel encapsulates the show; especially from a pleasure perspective.

    Sex-Ed Revisited has a fair few content warnings and age restrictions! I’m interested to know if this aspect of theatre production affects your creative process at all?

    The show talks about sex in a playful and honest way; but there is no doubt that it doesn’t shy away from the subject! I don’t think restrictions should get in the way of Sex-Ed and encouraging positive conversations. For example, at one point the show teaches the ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes’ of the female anatomy. This is an entertaining part of the show but, genuinely, there are too many adults that don’t know their vagina from their vulva! The focus here is pleasure as a good thing and enthusiastic consent. Let’s ostracise violence and welcome orgasm.

    You describe yourself as an interactive solo artist, what makes you want to incorporate this style of storytelling into your performances? Does this sense of improvisation ever scare you?

    As a performer, I love the freedom and play you get from interactive shows. The comments and stories the audience come out with during some of the show’s games are brilliant and always surprising. The improvisational nature of the show means that every night is different, it keeps you on your toes and sometimes that can be scary. However, I love clowning! Putting yourself in the sh*t and not knowing the outcome can be really liberating.

    Do you have any particular goals in mind for ‘Sex-Ed Revisited’?

    The plan is to take the show to Scotland for my Edinburgh Fringe debut as well as tour other festivals and venues this year. I would love to make the ‘Oh Oh Oh’ orgasm support group a real thing in the form of game/activity-based workshop sessions for identifying women to share their thoughts on sex and pleasure. These will be run with a sexual health specialist present and launched as part of Camden People’s Theatre’s community engagement program.

    Finally, what sort of advice would you have for anyone looking to pursue a similar style of storytelling? Any important life lessons you’ve learnt along the way?

    1) Trust your audience! They are here for the ride so take them on your journey.

    2) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes (easier said than done). Mistakes can lead to the most brilliant ideas and funniest of moments!

    3) Trust your instinct and your own way of making. There is no right and wrong way of making a show, it will be different every time.

    4) Note down all your ideas and concepts no matter how wild they seem! They have a funny way of coming back, just when you thought you had forgotten them…

    Thanks again to Holly for finding the time to chat to us. You can catch Sex-Ed Revisited at VAULT Festival on 27 January. Further information and bookings can be found here. More

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    Interview: Who Needs Phileas Fogg Anyway?

    Katie Overstall and Nell Thomas on Around The World With Nellie Bly

    From the Edinburgh Fringe to the Waterloo VAULT Festival, via a trip round the world, performer Katie Overstall has joined her character Nellie Bly on a massive adventure this year. We were delighted therefore when Katie, along with director Nell Thomas, found five minutes to tell ET about this fascinating explorer and what to expect from Shedlight Stories‘ Around The World With Nellie Bly

    Well, we’ve all heard of Phileas Fogg and his trip round the world in eighty days, but Nellie Bly is less well-known. Was she a real person, and what trip did she undertake exactly?

    KATIE: She was a real person! Nellie Bly was a journalist, living in New York in the late 1800s. Nowadays we’d call her an investigative journalist – she wrote all sorts of incredible stories, often putting herself in harm’s way to do so.

    NELL: In our show we focus on just one of her stories; her solo journey around the world, which was inspired by Jules Verne’s book published about 20 years beforehand.

    After convincing her male editors that she was more than capable of undertaking the journey alone as a young woman, she attempted to beat Phileas Fogg’s fictional record and make it from New York all around the whole world and back to New York in less than 80 days.

    Taking a similar route as Fogg in the book, she travelled across the Atlantic, through Europe, Africa, and Asia, across the Pacific and across the United States via trains and ships. Not an easy journey in the 19th century!

    She had to deal with ocean storms, snow storms, delays, and even a competing journalist attempting the same thing in the opposite direction. She visited some incredible places and met a whole host of people along the way (all played wonderfully in our show by Katie) and even got to meet Jules Verne himself.

    You wrote the show yourself: why did you choose to tell Nellie’s story, and why for a young audience?

    KATIE: Nell brought Nellie’s story to me, and I thought it was fantastic – bursting with theatrical promise. I loved that it was a story about a young woman standing up for herself and testing her own limits. I also really love that she started her journey just to see if it was possible. She had a magnificent sense of curiosity.

    NELL: I had come across Nellie by chance and the more I read about her, the more I knew I wanted to make a show about her. Katie and I have worked together quite a lot in the past and we love finding fun and imaginative ways to tell stories and this seemed like it would be the perfect fit. There was the opportunity for adventure, jeopardy, lots of silly characters, and even a monkey! It became pretty clear early on in the process that this would be for a younger audience.

    KATIE: The story presented the opportunity to tell an adventure story that isn’t just for boys, and hopefully we will be able to encourage kids of any gender to be curious and adventurous.

    NELL: I’ve seen studies that show that around the age of eight girls become less confident and lose interest in things they were previously invested in because they are considered activities or subjects for boys, so I really wanted to pitch it at that age range and hone in on the themes of self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-belief, and not letting others tell you that something you’re interested in isn’t for you just because of your gender.

    What kind of person is Nellie?

    KATIE: She’s bold and determined and very practical. She looks for the good in everyone and doesn’t put up with gossip or cruelty. She can be rather stubborn and single-minded though, but she usually admits when she’s wrong eventually!

    Can you tell us a bit about the puppet characters?

    NELL: We have a few, but our main puppet is a monkey (a long-tailed macaque to be more precise) called McGinty. He is based on the real monkey that Nellie adopted in Singapore on her trip and brought home with her to New York.

    Once we decided we were going to aim the show at kids we knew that we had to include him in our story. Throughout the development of the show he became an integral part of it and essentially becomes Nellie’s best friend, her confidant, and even the voice of reason on occasion (even though he is non-verbal).

    He is a fantastic puppet made by Shaun Lati, and is designed to be able to be puppeteered by one hand, allowing Katie to keep him moving while doing the million other things that need to be done in the show simultaneously!

    KATIE: Also he’s really cute.

    NELL: Yes, he’s been a very big hit with the kids. Big and small!

    Do you also use original music and sound in the production?

    NELL: One of the first things we discussed when developing the show was that it should be easy to travel. Like the real Nellie, we travel very light, there are no big set or tech requirements, so we rely a lot on sound to set the scene.

    We originally worked with a sound designer called Joe Hewitt who helped us through our R&D and then with Julian Starr who completed the sound design with wonderful music and a soundscape to really create the atmosphere of the play. It becomes a great shorthand to show where we are in the world at any given point and when there is danger or jeopardy, and we obviously do a lot of travelling in the story, so there are a lot of train and boat noises required to give a sense of motion.

    We also worked with a few other actors to build up some of the soundscape and add some additional voices in. Katie plays so many different characters that it’s nice to give her a bit of a break!

    Why do you think Nellie’s true story is not as famous as that of the fictional character of Fogg?

    KATIE: At the time, her journey was making national headlines daily and was a hugely popular story in America. On the last legs of her trip, crowds would be waiting at every train station she passed through in order to see her. She even wrote a book about her journey, but I suppose it’s hard to compete with an already famous author like Jules Verne, and history does have a tendency to overlook women…

    NELL: This year marks 150 years since the publication of the novel Around the World in 80 Days, and you just have to look at how many adaptations of the story there have been in that time to see that there is something about the tale that people love. I just don’t think they have been given the opportunity to learn that a woman actually attempted this feat in real life. I hope that our show goes a little way towards people recognising that this didn’t just happen in fiction.

    You were at Edinburgh this summer in the sunshine – are you bracing yourself for winter at the Vaults, or will Nellie’s resilience see you both through a residence at the dank cellars?

    KATIE: Honestly, I’m kind of looking forward to it. My costume is quite a heavy Victorian style dress – very beautifully made, but very hot! In the summer sun it was a bit much, so maybe a dank cellar is just what I need!

    Thanks very much to Katie and Nell for this fascinating insight into a true life inspiration. Around the World with Nellie Bly is aimed at families and children age 6+ and runs at the Vaults from Saturday 28 January to Sunday 5 February More

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    Interview: Singing The Elephant Song

    Jason Moore & Ian Nicholas on The Elephant Song

    OnBook Theatre are just about to bring Canadian playwright Nicolas Billon‘s The Elephant Song to Park Theatre for it’s UK premiere. The play follows the suddenly disappearance of a psychiatrist from a mental health unit and Michael, a young patient, is suspected to be involved.

    We are always excited to see new thrillers coming to the stage, so were delighted to be able to catch up with OnBook’s creative partnership of Jason Moore and Ian Nicholas to find out more.

    [embedded content]

    Great to meet you both, shall we do introductions first then?

    We’re Jason Moore and Ian Nicholas and we created OnBook Theatre in the summer of 2021. Jason is a director, Ian is a set and costume designer. Together we produce plays that we feel passionate about. We seem to be attracted to plays that deal with human relationships, with a dark, comedic undertone. The Elephant Song is no exception. It’s a psychological thriller, with a surprise ending. It’s the kind of play that will haunt you afterwards.

    Are we right in thinking that there is also a lot of humour in The Elephant Song? The press material talks about ‘verbal tugs-of-war’ – does this lend itself to black/dark comedy?

    The playwright, Nicolas Billon, has peppered the script with lots of witty, intelligent dialogue and in that respect, it feels like dark comedy at times. But at its core, it’s an emotional story of a young man who is fighting to be heard.

    How did you first come across the play and what piqued your interest about it?

    Ian saw the movie some years ago and loved the story. After researching its background, he went on the hunt for rights, which led him to playwright Nicolas Billon and his agent in Canada. Finding out it had never been produced in the UK made him even more determined. Several emails and phone calls later, we were in business.

    Have you spoken with Nicolas directly then, and has he been involved in the process so far?

    Absolutely. We reached out to Nicolas and were thrilled to hear from him. After a zoom meeting and several emails, we feel very lucky to have his blessing and involvement in the process. Even better, he’s flying to London to see our production, and he’s agreed to participate in a Q&A after the performance on 24 January. It’s a rare privilege when a theatre company gets to work closely with the writer so we are extremely lucky.

    You’ve brought together three very experienced actors, how was the casting process?

    The casting process was a little unusual. We both saw Gwithian Evans perform last year and were immediately impressed. He was the first person we cast. Louise Faulkner and Jason went to drama school together. Ian was talking to her about another production altogether. While he didn’t think she was right for that part, Ian instinctively felt she was perfect for Miss Peterson. He sent her the script and her marvelous audition proved she was perfect. We never auditioned anyone else. Similarly, in casting for Dr. Greenberg, we reached out to friends at CDM Talent Agency. They sent Jon Osbaldeston over and again, same story. Wonderful audition and never auditioned anyone else. So, all three actors were our first and only choices. How lucky can you get?

    How have rehearsals been going? Did you take a break for the festive period or has it been all go?

    Rehearsals have been going great. We had Christmas Day off but that was it. As producers, we work 24/7, always checking emails, always putting out fires. That’s what theatre producing is about. Managing everything. It’s not for the faint of heart.

    Park Theatre is a lovely venue and PARK90 can be configured in so many ways, can you give us an idea of what you have planned?

    We’re performing in the thrust, so we’ll have audience seating on three sides. It’s a modern, intimate space and just the right size for this play. The last two plays we produced were in the thrust too, it’s a ‘fly on the wall’ approach that we really enjoy. Firstly, there’s not a bad seat in the house. Secondly, there’s no distraction, you’re just a few feet from the stage, immersed in the action.

    What is next for you after The Elephant Song?

    We are producing Neil Simon’s classic comedy California Suite at OSO Arts Centre in Barnes. That opens February 21. And we are currently piloting OSO’s Youth Theatre project, working with young people interested in Theatre. After that, we’ll be working on two brand new plays, one’s a comedy, the other a courtroom drama based on true events. But we’re also passionate about musicals and produced two sell out cabarets in 2022, a format that we want to expand upon in 2023. We are blessed.

    Our thanks to OnBook Theatre for taking some time out of rehearsals to chat with us.

    The Elephant Song plays at Park Theatre from 18 January until 11 February. Further information and tickets can be found here. More

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    Interview: Going 12 Rounds With On The Ropes

    Director Anastasia Osei-Kuffour on bringing Vernon Vanriel’s story to the stage

    Boxing and theatre might not seem the most obvious of bedfellows, but we reckon there have been some wonderful plays that bring the two together. And we hope that On The Ropes, which is playing at Park Theatre right now, will add to that list.

    So we were delighted that director Anatasia Osei-Kuffour found some time out of her busy schdule to chat with us about bringing this real life boxer’s story to life.

    Photo credit @ Dujonna Gift-Simms

    What can you tell us about the play?

    It’s a dynamic musical drama set in a boxing ring with a twist, telling the story of the pioneering Lightweight boxer Vernon Vanriel. We see his highs, his lows and how he kept on fighting despite the challenges he faced in his life, not least the challenge of being caught up in the Windrush Scandal and being prevented from coming back home to the UK after visiting family in Jamaica.

    Was Vernon someone you were aware of prior to getting involved with the play?

    I wasn’t aware of him unfortunately. Realising that when I read the script, I immediately felt the draw to join the effort to bring him back into mainstream consciousness because his story is so inspirational.

    Did you get along to any boxing matches as part of your research/ prep for this?

    Zahra Mansouri, our designer, and I went to Wembley to see a set of matches and some of the actors and I went to a second boxing event at Alexandra Palace, both visits were very informative and useful for the process of working out how to put the show together.

    It’s a musical drama about a boxer – which sounds different! How does the rhythm and structure of a boxing match lend itself to music?

    Having visited a modern-day boxing match, I was struck by the many similarities there are to theatre, from the announcer who theatrically announces the boxers, the boxers entering the hall and then the ring to thumping music in performance mode, portraying the character they know the crowd have come to recognise them. At one match there was even a live professional singer performing for one of the boxer’s entrances. I was mostly struck by the thumping music played during breaks in the action and how the crowd sung along to anthemic songs and waived country flags in support of the boxers. It felt celebratory and animated, much like the style of our play.

    What musical styles can we expect then?

    The music in the play is the soundtrack to Vernon’s life and includes Reggae, Blues and Gospel.

    The play’s blurb promises us “12 metaphorical rounds featuring key moments in Vernon’s life” – how has it been working with that kind of structure as a director, what different challenges does it raise?

    It has felt right for the story to be presented in this way because the writing is so clear, Vernon and Dougie Blaxland, the co-writers have set out the story so clearly that we are easily guided by the script. Artistically the main challenge has been working out how we can take the staging of a boxing ring and make it say something more, communicate something theatrical and metaphorical about the story. Working with Zahra Mansouri was a great joy and really helped in figuring this out.

    It’s co-written by Vernon himself, have you spent time with him to discuss his vision for the play, or is he more hands off at this stage of things?

    In summer 2022, we had a research and development week where Vernon communicated his hopes and desires for this production. It was inspirational to have him in the room, have him talk about his life and even take the actors through some boxing training!

    The play is of course also about Windrush, is it important to keep making sure we talk about what has, and is in some cases, still happening with this less than flattering part of British history?

    It is important. The headlines have disappeared from news outlets, so we need to highlight the fact that there are still thousands of families still dealing with the repercussions of the injustice that happened to them. It’s important that the government stick to their promises of compensation and reversing some of the chaos they caused.

    On The Ropes is playing for a month at the Park Theatre, are there other plans to take it elsewhere afterwards? 

    There is hope that it will have a further life. What that will be will be determined by how the run at the Park Theatre goes.

    Our thanks to Anastasia for chatting about On The Ropes. The play is on right now at Park Theatre until 4 February. Further information and bookings can be found here. More

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    The Etties: Best Fringe Venue Nominations

    The Etties really are just our way of rounding of 2022 with a nod to some of the best shows we’ve seen. But of course you can’t see a good show without a good venue, so we thought we also needed to include a Best Venue category.

    Of course we all have our favourite venues, and often for very different reasons. It might be because of the welcome you always receive there, or it may be because the view is great, or if could be because they never let you down with their shows.

    So we asked our team to nominate their favourite venues to come up with our shortlist below. The only real criteria is that it had to be a venue we visit regularly, and one we would call a Fringe Theatre (which as we all know, is a broad church!).

    We’ll be announcing the winner on 18 January during our Runn Radio show.

    Battersea Arts Centre

    Why? Because “BAC have absolutely leading edge work, they are totally inclusive with their Pay What You Can performances and relaxed policy. The bar is lovely – you always meet someone interesting and unusual there, the staff are friendly and the Press contacts couldn’t be more helpful.”

    Finborough Theatre

    Why? Because “Finborough have a standard of quality pretty much unmatched in London pub/fringe theatre. Even the rare shows that I have not enjoyed so much have had such a strong cast and technical work behind them. A real testament to all involved.”

    Lion and Unicorn Theatre

    Why? Because “The Lion and Unicorn always feels the most welcoming of venues, not just for the audience, but the artists as well. It’s rare to go along for press nights and not to bump into artists coming along to support others.”

    Southwark Playhouse

    Why? Because “the welcome we receive there is always so friendly, and you suspect it isn’t just because we are there to review. And their programming has delivered regularly quality all year round.”

    The Space

    Why? Because “The Space really is a place that does what fringe theatre should do, encourage new voices and offer support to all the artists that pass through their door. And their move into live streaming has opened it up to a whole new audience.”

    Turbine Theatre

    Why? Because “their front of house staff were absolutely lovely when I couldn’t get there on time because of transport and the staff and crew dealt with a show stop amazingly!” More

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    The Etties: Best Comedy Shortlist

    The Everything Theatre Fringe Theatre Awards, or Etties for short, are simply our fun round up of the past year. Previously, come the end of the year we’ve asked our reviewers to pick some highlights which we would publish as a round up of the best of the year. But in 2022 we decided we should do things a little differently. And that led us to the Etties.

    Obviously we don’t have a team of assessors to go and watch every show, so we aren’t going to pretend these are anything more than a fun way to highlight some of the shows our team have loved in the past year. The shortlists have been put together by looking back at our 4- and 5-star reviews, and then with the help of some of our reviewers, whittling them down to a shortlist. It’s not the most scientific approach but what awards ever are?

    We’ll be announcing the winners on Wednesday 18 January as part of our Runn Radio show that evening.

    The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much

    Photo credit @ Jake F Wadley

    Omnibus Theatre, March 2022

    I can’t remember the last time I came out of the theatre wanting to book to see the same show again.
    Dave Bushe

    Project Dictator

    Photo credit @ De Giglio

    New Diorama Theatre, April 2022

    Project Dictator was outrageously energetic and terrifyingly audience-inclusive. Given the starting point of talking to artists who live under oppressive regimes, it was both worryingly hilarious and seriously worrying.
    Dean Wood


    Camden People’s Theatre, April 2022

    Qrumpet draws deeply from the ideas of 20th-century absurdism – at times feeling like an Ionesco for the modern day – and applies them to the weirdest scientific theories of our time
    Matt Aldridge

    Experiment Human

    Credit: Michael O’Reilly

    Cockpit Theatre, July 2022

    Experiment Human is an extremely well made, bold, unique, surreal comedy that explores the things that make us human, and what makes us happy.
    Aaron-Lee Eyles


    The Hope Theatre, August 2022

    The tone is set almost before the first sentence is completed, leaving us laughing at the absurdity of it all.
    Rob Warren

    Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story

    Photo credit @ Dave Bird

    The Pleasance, November 2022

    Oh Linus, you extraordinary beast you. This is a magnificent piece of work – whacky, wayward and totally unique. If Diana is looking down now I am certain she’ll be joining in the fun!
    Mary Pollard

    Winners will be announced on 18 January. More

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    Interview: Make Mine A Pint

    Matthew Blaney on The Best Pints.

    After a successful one-off night south of the river at the White Bear Theatre in 2022, January sees The Best Pints returning for four more nights, this time north of the river at The Hope Theatre. We caught up with Matthew Blaney, fresh from an Offie nomination for Lead Performance in Not Now at the Finborough Theatre, to find out just what is The Best Pints.

    Tell us about The Best Pints. What can audiences expect in the Hope Theatre this January?

    The Best Pints is about three old friends who meet down at their local a couple of times a week. They have a good laugh over a few pints of stout. But today one of the lads decides to go a little deeper… I think audiences can expect a fun and fast comedy about male friendship that’s ultimately very sweet and wholesome. It’s about the better side of drinking culture, which at its core is about community; being ourselves with friends and family. And I do a bit of dancing too, which’ll be well worth the price of admission.

    The play ran for one night only at the White Bear last year. Has the show changed at all since then? Were there any takeaways which have informed the return?

    We’ve only just got back into rehearsals again, but I think the main change now is we’ve more time to try things out in the space. As is the way with most fringe theatre, you’re really on the clock and have got to make fast decisions. There’s a pressure to get it right, which is understandable but unhelpful. We want to do a good job but it’s nice to know we’re able to rediscover the play and experiment a bit more this time around.

    If we put you on the spot now, do you remember your lines from that night? Are they something that vanishes totally out of your head once a play finishes or will they maybe come flooding back to you as you prep for this run?

    Nope. In one ear, out the other. We did a recall exercise the other day, where we just tried to go as far as possible without drying. I probably only got through half the first page before folding. Sorry Kay! [Kay Dent is the director – ET]. We’ll be off book after Christmas, here’s hoping.

    We have to assume the idea for The Best Pints came from a real conversation that writer Jack Gallagher had once (or nineteen times) in the pub with friends. We’ve certainly had it ourselves – what about you?

    Definitely. I think that’s what drew me to the play; being able to be social with your tribe is vital to anyone’s survival, and pubs do play a part in that. Whether that’s telling jokes, playing games, sounding out your worries or actually saying how you’re not doing very well to your mates. We’ve all done it! I know I have. And I think Jack’s captured that in this play very well.

    We had a chat late last year before Not Now played at the Finborough. This was a massive success, sold out for its run with great reviews (including our own) and several Offies nominations – not least of all one for yourself. Could you reflect a bit for us on the whole Not Now experience? 

    I just feel very lucky. David and Max took a chance on me and I think it paid off. I was given the opportunity – which we all need as young actors – to cut my teeth, so to speak. To be onstage seven shows a week for a month, opposite an actor as accomplished as Stephen Kennedy, my fellow Offie nominee, was all I’ve wanted since leaving drama school, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

    Tell us what you have coming up after The Best Pints?

    Back to grafting! Auditions and meetings hopefully.

    Obviously, our last question just has to be ‘tell us about your own best pint?‘

    Good question. I had a real heart to heart with my dad a few months back. It’s been a long couple of years for everyone, and it was the first time in a long time we were able to get into it and put the world to rights. We went for a drive from Belfast to Donegal in Northern Ireland, couple days on the road, and on the second we stopped off at a beautiful little pub down by the water. Couple of stouts and a good chat. We got proper into it! We took a picture of our round and it’s been my screensaver for the last few months. Then, I’m back home for Christmas and I found a photograph of our two pints overlooking the sea and a massive sky in a little frame in the hallway. That’s the best pint we’ve had in a while no doubt. Hard to beat!

    Our thanks to Matthew for taking time out from rehearsals to chat about The Best Pints. You can follow Matthew on Twitter here.

    The Best Pints plays at The Hope Theatre on January 22-23 and 29-30. Further information and tickets can be found here. More

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    Interview: Lining up with Emilia Teglia

    Emilia Teglia chats about On The Line

    Writer and Director Emilia Teglia has developed On The Line with participants from Camden’s Action Youth Boxing Intervention. It plays at Stanley Arts in January and VAULT Festival in February, and we caught up with her to find out more.

    Tell us a little about On The Line. What can audiences expect?

    You’ll be hanging out with Tia and Kai, lifelong friends who’ve grown up on the same council estate. They’ll chat to you about that mad day they skipped school to go to the new schoolmate Sienna’s mansion – because “someone’s got to check it ain’t just Tik Tok filters” – and how their lives changed forever that day.

    On the Line is a Gen-Y play. It’s fast-paced with twists and turns, wit, deep themes, banter and emotion, and all told in contemporary London slang. It’s immediate and honest. It’s a bit like scrolling through your Instagram feed but it’s real. It’s based on the real experiences of a group of young people from Camden’s Action Youth Boxing Intervention.

    (c) Alex Brenner

    On The Line deals with a lot of socially relevant themes. Can you give us some insight into these and the importance of sharing them?

    It’s about growing up at the bottom of the social ladder whilst having to negotiate life-long loyalties, family values, aspirations, and handed-down generational trauma. It’s also about the real barriers to social mobility, the complex experiences of individuals behind the statistics. In Camden, like in other areas of London, the rich and poor gap is widening but is not unusual to see a student from a very wealthy family sitting next to a student living in poverty.

    The awareness is painful. Armani*, an outspoken sixteen-year-old girl living in an overcrowded situation, put this plainly during the writing process: “Our school is basically a prison for poor kids with the random children of famous leftie actors or Labour politicians.” Her brother Tyrese*, who has ADHD and a history of gang affiliation, talks about some of the richest streets in the borough. His eyes sparkle as he describes the flashy ‘whips’ (cars) and the ‘cribs’ (houses). Then he gets gloomy. He says: “this level of rich makes me feel sad. There’s people who’ve got too much, and we got jack.” All this is in On The Line, verbatim.

    You have a fabulous promo image for your show – it really caught the team’s eye here. How did the design come together?

    I’m glad you are curious about the image. People say it makes total sense after watching the play, so I’m not going to give too many spoilers.

    Photo: Paul Grieve, Giorgia Valentino  Design: Max Batty

    Like the rest of On The Line’s creative process, the design developed collaboratively. We wanted to show the ‘fish out of water’ essence of the story and at the same time the grit and the harshness of Tia and Kai’s background, as well as their playfulness. For the photo, I approached Paul Grieve, a street photographer that has a talent for capturing defiance, humour and tenderness in his portraits of everyday people. That was important because we also needed to convey the amazing friendship between the two protagonists and their ‘one front’ against adversity. Props were lent by friends and sourced by our amazing Assistant Stage Manager Andreea Pieleanu. We shot on Chalcots Estate in Camden, the actual setting of the play. Our leading actress Giorgia Valentino, who is also an incredibly talented portrait photographer took the headshot of Zacchaeus Kayode which ended up in the final image. Then Max Batty did the magic with his graphics. Max has been designing Odd Eyes Theatre’s posters and book covers for the past ten years and was immediately on board with the concept and aesthetic. It takes a village…

    On The Line has been touring around schools and we’ve seen some great feedback. How has that been, and are there any differences between playing in schools and playing in theatre venues?

    Huge differences! To begin with, theatre audiences come with a completely different attitude. They’ve bought their ticket and are determined to have a good time, a return on their investment. They’re easy. They respond, react, suspend disbelief immediately and get lost into the world of the play.

    In schools, we are playing to groups of teenagers who have often only experienced theatre as part of their statutory education: they are somehow compelled to watch it: it’s not a choice. So that’s already setting their attitude in a different way. They sit down, legs stretched, arms crossed or in their pockets, looking unfazed with a ‘show me what you’ve got’ kind of attitude. And then they hear the language, they start to get the story, the familiar Drill and R&B tunes come up, they get the jokes. You see them start leaning forward, elbowing each other, laughing, gasping, and they can’t get enough of it. Teachers turn to the low achieving students to ask the meaning of some of the words. It’s all in London slang – finally something they’re masters at.

    Most importantly, school performances are followed by Odd Eyes’ Creative Debate workshops. The students have a chance to let us know what they think of the issues in the play and develop scenes and short plays based on their response to the story and on their personal experience. Some of their stories go on to be developed professionally, and this is how On The Line was developed.

    Finally, what is next for On The Line and Odd Eyes Theatre?

    More theatre and school tours and a screen adaptation of On The Line. The film will be another great opportunity to involve young people in the rewriting process and as cast. Funders, producers and schools interested in partnering with us, get in touch!

    *Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality

    Our thanks to Emilia for taking the time to chat with us. You can find out more information about Odd Eyes Theatre on their website.

    On The Line plays at Stanley Arts on Thursday 19 January (tickets and info) and VAULT Festival on Saturday 11 February (tickets and info). More