The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has had a Scots comedy production from Edinburgh People’s Theatre every year since 1947, an impressive record.
I didn’t join EPT however until 2018, after having had an introduction to the club by attending a series of their Act Too workshops which take place once a month from January to June. The workshops are free to members but are open to everybody for a cost of £5 a session for non-members. The workshops were interesting, informative, friendly and fun, and the decision to join the club was an easy one to make.
My first EPT production was the 2018 panto when, shiver me timbers, I was heartily chuffed to be cast as Slim the pirate in Little Red Riding Hood. (I know – pirates?? It’s a long story!) The following year I was lucky again to land the part of Ida, a New York Jewish widow in The Cemetery Club by Ivan Menchell. Later in the year there were auditions for the fringe play, which was to be Second Honeymoon by Sam Cree. It is EPT tradition that the fringe play is always a Scots comedy, so that is where this English woman thought her luck had run out.
I’m happy to give any accent a bash, but Scottish in Scotland? No! I’ve done a Scouse accent in Shirley Valentine, but I wouldn’t have wanted to perform it in Liverpool, Noo York in The Odd Couple (female version), a southern drawl in Steel Magnolias and a Birmingham accent in Robin Hood. (Nottingham is somewhere near Birmingham, isn’t it?) But there are too many people in Edinburgh who do a Scottish accent so much better than I can, so I prefer to leave it to the experts. My luck was in however, because one of the characters in Second Honeymoon was a female from Manchester, so I auditioned for that and got it!
Now I’ve often noticed in American T.V. programmes, that if one of the actors has an English accent, they will inevitably turn out to be the murderer/fraudster/devious devil or downright bitch. Mrs Mansfield in Second Honeymoon was the latter and a joy to play. She had a spiteful tongue, a look that could kill from several feet away and a voice that could perforate eardrums. Her poor husband wasn’t so much hen pecked as vulture pecked. The actor playing the unfortunate Mr Mansfield had to be changed during the rehearsal period following a re-shuffle of the cast. I didn’t mind, both were equally lovely to be shouted at and to suffer at the receiving end of Mrs Mansfield’s verbal venom.
The Church Hill Theatre in Morningside is the usual venue for EPT’s productions, but the fringe play is performed at Mayfield Salisbury Church, on a good stage in a good hall. The changing room however, is along a passage, down some steps, through a door, along a dark basement passage, through another door, up a flight of stairs, through another door, down a short passage, across a hall and into the door of the dressing room. Phew! Depending on how many changes you have, you could suspend your gym membership for the duration of the run. Quick changes can, and must be, done backstage.
My most abiding memory of that production is just one thing – fun. There was laughter at every rehearsal, banter in the dressing room and good humour in the green room. There’s a thing that happens with the cast and crew of a show that’s hard to explain, (and I’m in danger of sounding like a luvvie here), but it’s a kind of bonding; a camaraderie that occurs for that period of time that you’re all together and you form real friendships. You help each other, encourage, comfort, praise, share stuff, lend stuff, give stuff and most of all, have fun together with one goal in mind – to put on the best show you can.
There may be productions that don’t work out that way. I feel fortunate that I can say I have never experienced one of those. And may it continue to be ever thus.
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