Equations for a Moving Body

equations for a moving body

It is a little less than a week since I watched Equations for a Moving Body and I just went for a run. I use the term ‘run’ loosely, because I’m new to this – I was doing a mix of running and walking but I did it. Then I went to the gym and smashed some weight training (again, gently).

As my feet hit the ground and my heart sped up it felt good. As I pushed against the weights it felt good. I felt strong. It was hard and it was hot but I feel strong.

Normally, when I work out (which varies from ‘hardly ever’ to ‘a few times a week’ throughout the course of a year), it is a chore. It’s hard. I suppose the way it made me get out and run says more about Equations for a Moving Body than anything else I could write, but what was amazing was how good it made me feel.

Hannah Nicklin did a triathlon when she turned 30. Through Equations of a Moving Body, she methodically breaks down the training and the triathlon itself, peppering it with the science that makes your body and mind work, as well as the people who supported her through it. The heart is a muscle; train it and it gets stronger. I wept through it.

Hannah has rooted a show in fact, in science and in psychology and I wept, because she has constructed something gorgeous, strong and tender.

We are storytelling animals. We create anecdotes and chapters in our own lives. Hannah set her own milestone when completing her triathlon. Hannah’s triathlon was a headline in her story, dedicated to those who helped – but for her.

I’m quite hefty. When I exercise normally it’s not for me. It’s for the people who make comments, who shout things from their car windows, who write articles about being big being wrong. It’s not for me, it’s begrudingly giving in.

After watching Equations for a Moving Body and after going for a run, I felt strong. Someone shouted something at me from their car window and I didn’t even care. Hannah’s triathlon was hers – her story to tell, her achievement. My body is mine and I want it to be strong. I want to feel good. In my story, I want to be as strong as Hannah. For me.

Northern Stage at Summerhall


The Glass Menagerie

the glass menagerie

During my first year of university the student theatre company I did stuff with put on both A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. Sometime during the latter, there was a conversation between me and 4 other women – I think – about whether you identify more with Glass‘ Laura or Streetcar‘s Blanche; my affinity is firmly in the hands of Laura, and that has meant The Glass Menagerie has become one of the few *texts* I really like. I have some doubts as to whether my affinity with Laura is born from much more than the fact I just once talked about it, but when I was watching John Tiffany’s production I found a great deal of myself in Laura.

I’ve never seen the same play more than once, I don’t think. Or, at least, I’ve never seen the same play, then seen a different production of it at a later date. Except The Glass Menagerie. The first was a student production in 2011, the second Headlong’s version directed by Ellen McDougall in November 2016, and then this – John Tiffany’s version at the Edinburgh International Festival.

The student version was good, if I remember. It set the foundation for me watching it the next time, more than anything. Here, I decided I liked this play, which paved the way for me to have far grander opinions about a play than I’ve had before.

When I watched the Headlong version, I was taken aback by how quickly having previous knowledge of a play made me an insufferable cunt. I was full of shit about character depth and vulnerability and what it was all *actually* about. I think I might be better at shows where I’m going in with minimal knowedge because I am not such a smug nob about the whole affair. Also, it’s not like I’d read the text. I’d seen a student show of it four years ago, ffs.

I did hate the Headlong one, though. I’m a bit concerned that having prior knowledge of a play – and therefore some idea of what will happen and the bits I think matter – actually turned me into a massive traditionalist. Suddenly I didn’t care for the artistic flourishes and unusual interpretations – I just wanted it to be a Laura that I felt connected to. While I do think there were issues with that show, including that a lot of choices (such as giant shoe to symbolise disability, putting crepe paper on lamps to demonstrate tidying up) were shallow and didn’t seem to be grounded in anything other than a desire to be quirky, I don’t think I ever engaged with it. I sat, distanced and judgmental, waiting to pounce on all the things they’d done wrong.

(in a lot of respects they actually did it right – it’s a “memory play”, everything’s hazy, and so there is license to fuck with it. But I was too busy being a stone cold arsehole to think about that at the time)

When watching John Tiffany’s The Glass Menagerie, I started with that same full-on-arseholery as before. I *knew* a thing or two about this play, don’t you know. But it went and sucked me right in. It didn’t find the things I knew and present them back to me, it found a whole new meaning, one I longed for and loved and so sat completely in awe of it all.

Firstly, what I really adored here was the way in which the relationships between Amanda, Tom and Laura was tender and loving as well as tense as fuck. Tom and his mother laugh and joke. Whereas I’ve normally seen Tom as a pure emo in a permanent state of angst, Tiffany’s Tom is frustrated by his circumstance and responsibility, and so he lashes out ocassionally – he is not just in a permanent state of hating his family. This adds so much charge to his real moments of rage – he is the boy who’s parents voted Tory and now he can’t buy a house, he is the boy who worked hard at school but £9k fees are a bit steep, he is the man who can’t afford care for his family and so his life is theirs to keep. In smaller doses, Tom’s anger seems to matter so much more.

Then, there’s Jim, Laura’s first “gentleman caller”. Jim has been turned not into a charming out-of-reach hunk, but the personification of the mainsplain. He meets Laura and within moments of meeting her tells her exactly who she is and what is wrong with her, all the while talking himself up and waiting to accidentally treat himself to a self-entitled kiss. Tiffany teases Jim into a fragile, arrogant bellend, the perfect encapsulation of modern masculinity. Laura, meanwhile, is shattered when the different pressures on her collide: look feminine, look strong, be successful, become a wife, do not celebrate the person you are. For a show that sticks to the period the text was written in, this feels like it is being viewed through a clear, modern lense. Memory, with modernity to colour it.

This Laura really was my Laura. This is not a Laura I can identify with because she is lonely and awkward, this is a Laura I can identify with because the men of the world keep explaining to her why she is wrong, why she shouldn’t be lonely and awkward and why she should be fixed. This is a Laura who gets told to fix herself by the same people who are breaking her. This Laura is the Laura of all the girls at Fringe shouting at the top of their lungs in their fighty feminist works. This is my Laura.

King’s Theatre


How to Win Against History

I loved How to Win Against History. I’ve seen (and sort of written about) it before, though – so we all knew I would. Instead of trying to think of new things to say about this sparkling star of a show, I decided to help them become totally mainstream – by going full fan art! I wholeheartedly encourage all others who loved the show to make some fan art, too. I might do a bit more while I wait for the glorious release of the soundtrack #camphamilton

Includes Henry Cyril Paget dressed as a horse and a sword made of Swarovski diamonds.

how to win against history 2

how to win against history 1

(no idea how to make scans look not total shit, and I can’t digitally colour stuff… but I might try to work on it and update in future)

Assembly George Square 



*spoilers, for sure – if you’re fussed*

Nel is SO NEARLY a brilliant show. It’s funny and inventive, endearing and a bit silly. But, during a Fringe full of feminists getting their rocks off and sticking it to the patriarchy… I sort of feel like Nel is letting the side down.

Not completely, of course. Scratchworks Theatre are an all-female collective who have made a show that depicts women in different roles, allows them to be powerful, timid, funny, smart and daft through an hour. It shows women being successful in their careers. It shows women being unsuccessful. It shows them being clumsy. It shows women without men without it being a big deal. It’s a bit like Bridget Jones without being too obnoxious.

It SO NEARLY ticks all the boxes while also being a really enjoyable show.

(There is also a danger here that I am telling people off for being BAD FEMINISTS. I am not, I really hope I am not. Scratchworks Theatre have made a fab show with good intentions, I just had some problems with it, and I hope that by writing this sort of thing I’m not tearing them down too much, and maybe just offering helpful feedback? Sorry sorry sorry if this seems a dick move.)

Nel falls into traps and tropes.

Nel is timid. By day, she is a foley artist fooling about with coconuts and juggling balls to make movie sound effects. This, alongside some folksy, warm singing, is also the tool used to provide the soundtrack to the actual show. By night, Nel likes to stroke her cat (stroking a hot water bottle to make the sound of a cat is genius, by the way) and read a book and be on her own. The other people in her life mistake this comfort in solitude for unhappiness and try to change her, and so she dutifully changes herself.  To make others happy.

And herein we begin to encounter problems. Nel’s lifestyle change is accompanied by a new jacket and shoes, tying her appearance quite firmly to her standing in the world, and her sense of self completely to the comfortableness of her footwear. In a show that otherwise has successful, funny women peppered through its script, it still says women are what they wear.

It goes some way to exploring this through the pressures put on women – the pressures to meet someone, to be popular and to be successful. It’s nearly a depiction of the difficulties of femininity (but fun, because I realise that sounds dry as fuck, which this certainly isn’t), but it ties too much to Nel’s new appearance rather than any change in temperament.

And then… well, look. I’m a timid person. If you met me during Fringe you might even choose to describe me as painfully awkward (you likely didn’t meet me at Fringe because I was probs trying to avoid speaking to people sorry). There is minimal reason for this, I am just a bit timid at times.

There is no tragic accident in my past that lead to me being timid.

So, when there’s a flashback to Nel’s childhood (which is told with a brilliant puppet-type-thing that essentially involves hanging a parka backwards over someone’s bum – it’s proper great), and we see that both of her parents are killed in a tragically clichéd car accident. That’s when I got frustrated.

This creates the idea that people need a reason to be timid. It creates an excuse for Nel to be timid, meaning without an excuse it would be weird if she wanted to be on her own. Which, y’know, is sort of bollocks. In the end, of course, Nel is gifted with a piece of knitwear and realises she’s great the way she is (another unfortunate instance of self-tied-to-wardrobe but tbf it is a cracking jumper), timid or not. If this had been a show about how it is totally fine to be a bit shy despite societal pressures, then I would’ve LOVED it. I want that show – that’s the kind of show I love because it’s reaching out and holding my hand and saying ‘it’s Ok’. Nel is so nearly a celebration – she is so nearly my Bridget Jones – it just falls slightly short in a quest for backstory. But because Nel’s timidness is rooted in tragedy, it as though it is a negative side effect to be accepted rather than a cause for celebration.

Pleasance Dome

Some Tiny Plays About How Fucked We All Are

grumpy cat

In response to Middle Child and Luke Barnes’ Some Tiny Plays About How Fucked We All Are I have composed a poem (maybe poem should be in inverted commas…). This one off show at the Roundabout in Summerhall used the internet as source material – taking verbatim text (arguments about the numbers of days in the week, instructions on selling knickers online, for example) and performing it. The following poem is composed using words and phrases from the comments on The Guardian’s Edinburgh Fringe 2016 coverage.

along to Summerhall
during the brief interludes between showers
Art, huh.
intimate, poignant stories one minute and raccous, filthy anecdotes
passion, a sting wit and foul-mouthed-ness only adds to the comedy value
This is not some sinister class conspiracy.
something intolerant that somebody may take offence to.
always bring welcome glamour and unpredictability
maybe the most common reaction was shock and confusion; sometimes curiosity; occasionally
the doubling up in laughter
Singing ability would be a plus, of course; but not necessary.

the audience were actively involved and not just observing like a flock of mindless believers
power to the people!
it’s the most fun incarnation of Russian roulette there is.
MUCH NEEDED in 2016.

I am an aesthete, you understand. My taste is, if I say so myself, exquisite.
the very best shows will be from middle class progressive left feminists
I’m glad someone is screaming into the void on my behalf.

modern, selfish world.
refreshingly clear and unpretentious
a more creative response to the dire political reality that we are all facing
And it’s much punchier than Chilcott.

That’s a win.
The end.

Roundabout at Summerhall

(Most of) A Day at Forest Fringe

dan canham

(I skipped the first two shows because I needed to sleep and eat some fruit. Sorry for this slightly incomplete round up, but let’s all remember self care is important during the stressful Fringe time. Although I have seen Break Yourself before and can vouch that it is good.)

First up, I watched Mish Grigor’s The Talk and it offended every single ounce of Britishness I carry. Which is to say, it’s brilliant. It’s about the sex life of your immediate family, and so deeply uncomfortable. As audience members step up to play family members, we learn that Mish’s mum likes it hard and her brother had a threeway one time. It sounds like it should be creepy as fuck but it’s actually full of warmth and love. Of course, I wanted to crawl out of my own skin and flee throughout – but that’s the point, isn’t it? Maybe the things that are uncomfortable to talk about are actually the most vital conversations we can have. Also: free cava *thumbs up*

(Course, I’m papering over the fact that I had to read one character – one with only one line – and I spent the ENTIRE SHOW fretting that I might be called on to read again, and therefore largely wishing I was dead and trying to sneak as much of the free cava as physically possible. Sometimes that thing where audience members join in works so well (here, for example), but my god I quietly hope that trend dies. I spent the hour between this and the next show recovering.)

The NDN Way looks AMAZING, but I do not have a single solitary clue what the fuck was going on. There was a voiceover track that I drifted in and out of (I got distracted from listening because the dude in it started playing the spoons like an absolute legend), so maybe’s that why I remain so utterly lost as to what it was all about. Ritual, I think, and ceremony, but that’s all I’ve got to stab at. But it looks so beautiful, full of colours and disco ball style lights and really, really great dancing.

(Here, I started flagging. I ate a Tunnocks tea cake and that helped.)

I spent quite a lot of Search Party’s Growing Old With You feeling a little bit… bored, really. Originally performed in 2011, a lot of the style and objects this piece employs have since become a bit common, I think: salt, marking out the space, repetition, cameras. It feels a bit ‘default live art’ to me. When I saw Herons at the Lyric in January, it felt really dated – like all the theatre I’d seen hadn’t been around to influence anything else. Growing Old With You, being a revival, feels like that; like I have seen the ripples of this work take effect, seen this practice embed in other artists, to such an extent that now the earlier work is the one that seems run of the mill.

(There’s barely a second to breathe before Paper Cinema kicks off.)

Paper Cinema’s The Night Flyer is technically impressive rather than dramatically gripping. The story is simple, the stuff of a children’s book, and it is lovely. It’s the sort of thing I would’ve gone mad for a few years back, but I’ve reached a cynical point where I can no longer be won with loveliness alone. It is remarkable, though, and I was a bit entranced by Irina and Nick sitting behind the camera, as they swooped and flourished the puppets with delicacy and dexterity – I just never found the pleasure in their story that I found in their movements to tell it.

(big up for the lightning fast turnaround between these two bits, because by this point I realised this was too many shows in one day and was ready to go home and cook dinner)

Dan Canham closes the day with 30 Cecil Street. It might be the perfect 10 year show for Forest. It was the last show performed in their old home on Bristo Place, and it is about a decaying, closed theatre and the memories it contains. It is gorgeous; a dance full of power, nostalgia and sorrow. It somehow manages to be both warm and haunting at the same time – like a ghost giving you a hug, and not dissimilar to his show about Fenland a few years back. There is a moment where Canham dances toward the front of the stage, and behind him are 3 or 4 of his shadow, each a towering stature, and it is so, so beautiful. Canham’s dancing is sculptural and abstract and so perfectly evokes emptiness, the sadness of a once bustling place now left desolate.

(On the bus back to central Edinburgh, I think on the day. Previously at Forest Fringe, there has been work that completely floored me – in 2013 it was I Wish I Was Lonely, in 2014 Hug stole my heart. This year, there’s nothing that really set me on fire, and maybe’s that why I gave some time to thinking about Forest itself. And because Forest is 10, a lot about it is to do with memory and history, and so legacy too, I think. There is a feeling that Forest are a bit bullet proof, PR wise – sitting on the fringe of the Fringe and offering up exciting work for free – and there is no doubt that should be celebreated.

But I have a few issues that I can’t escape. I should say that I have spent time at Forest only while it was at OOTB, in 2013, 2014 and again in 2016. In 2015 I skipped Fringe, but in a session of pining for Edinburgh noticed their 2015 website ‘About‘ section. It doesn’t make it easy to decipher what Forest is or does. Which is fine, but doesn’t necessarily align with what I perceive to be a key part of Forest’s ethos.

This year, ‘Accessibilty’ sits at the top of Forest’s website. It also features prominently in this interview about Forest, from last year. This year’s website has no ‘About’ page (their main site does have a better one, but their URL redirects to the 2016 site currently). I am in no way denying that Forest’s commitment to accessibility because it is of course amazing and brilliant that they offer BSL interpreted shows, are wheelchair accessible and support people who are visually impaired. But, accessibility is more than that. If the way you talk about yourself and your work is obtuse, you shut out those who cannot interpret it or do not already know it. I’ve never seen posters or brochures for Forest outside of Forest (could be wrong, willing to be corrected), and they don’t list in the Fringe guide – unless you already know about Forest, you’ll probably not hear about Forest.  If you offer minimal explanation of yourself at your primary source of info (ie your website), then you don’t offer outsiders a path in.You might read about it, mind – Forest pull fair press coverage. But it’s a a shame if you live in Leith and don’t see theatre and then a load of awesome free stuff turns up on your doorstep and you don’t even know.

But Forest is potentially also shutting our people who want to be involved – who know about it, but can’t join in in certain ways. FF runs using volunteer FOH and technical staff. They do not receive regular funding, nor do they keep any of the donations following their shows, and so obviously it is a challenge to pay people. But, this is still an access issue. If you cannot afford to work for free for a few weeks then you cannot join the team at Forest for the ‘great opportunity’ on offer. As Fringe Whistleblower has taught us, working for free is common practice in August in Edinburgh – but if Forest aims to challenge the Fringe model, can it do so while also relying on unpaid labour like so many other venues?

Right now, in terms of its artistic output, Forest Fringe is thrilling. Its a game changer. But I can’t feel that their way of working entirely aligns with their ethos – there is nothing radical about unpaid labour, not much that encourages risk taking without talking about those risks. So when I see shows about the conversations we should be having, I feel like we might not be having one about the venue I’m sitting in as I watch, and I think we should. So, that’s why I was thinking this on the bus home.)

Out of the Blue Drill Hall