Welcome to our exclusive interview with Plaster Cast Theatre, the team behind Action Man, a high energy physical theatre show about a homeless veteran with PTSD coming to the Edinburgh Fringe this August.
Hello! How are you doing today?
I’m doing good! It’s really great weather, so the stress of doing rehearsal schedules and press emails is somewhat soothed by the sunshine!
Is this everyone’s first time at Fringe? If so, what do they expect from the festival – if not, why are you all putting yourselves through it again?
It’s not everyone’s first time at fringe, but for the majority of us it is! Those who haven’t gone have been bombarded for six months with stories of the incredible nature of the festival, however gruelling it may be. I think that’s the reason those of us who have experienced it are itching to go back: it’s a month of theatre wonderland.
What is your main ethos that influences the work you put on?
Our main ethos is accurate representation. We are definitely fuelled by the desire to convey the issues that we seek to discuss as accurately as we possibly can. Working in an industry that often sensationalises serious issues, or capitalises on “poverty porn”, its important to us to make sure that we treat homelessness with the level of attentiveness such a matter deserves.
Having worked with street charities such as StreetWise, we have made sure that our portrayal of rough sleeping, and the factors that lead to it, are as close to the current situation as can be. An enormous amount of research is conducted both before and during the production process. We believe that in order to actually make a difference, we need to spark a conversation that has a well-researched and knowledgeable basis. Even now, we are in contact with varying homeless charities about their experiences and what we can do to embody them.
It is extremely gratifying to be told by both veteran soldiers and rough sleepers that your work is one of the best representations they have seen.
What makes this show stand out at Fringe?
I think the level of research that has gone into it, plus the combination of both physical theatre and realism gives it this unique edge. While the show of course has a political message, and seeks to shed light upon the nature of mental health and homelessness in 2018, it is nonetheless embedded within a tale that is filled with wonder and marvel. With the visual effects such as shadow theatre, plus the high-intensity choreography, it is quite a spectacle to watch. The relentless gear changes between humour and heart-wrenching tenderness, gives the audience little rest.
Has this been performed anywhere else prior to this coming Fringe?
We have performed it before, for a three-night run, down in Manchester before Christmas 2017. We enjoyed creating it so much, and we had such great feedback, that we were loath to let it go. Edinburgh Fringe Festival was a great excuse to keep reworking and performing it.
What are you hoping your audience will leave thinking after seeing this show?
I think if we managed to achieve even half of the effect that we had upon our initial audiences on our audiences in Edinburgh, we would be so thrilled. We really hope our show continues to transform the ways people see homeless people, as well as reconsider the way they view veterans in our society. While we nonetheless love performing and throwing ourselves about on stage, our main aim really is to connect people with the issue of lack of mental health services for rough sleepers.
How long have you been preparing for Fringe? Whirlwind rehearsal schedule or has this been in the works for a while?
We are incredibly lucky, because we already have the blueprint for most of our physical theatre sequences from the original production, so we have that to bounce off of. We are of course planning to rework it, and infuse it with new life. We want to make it even more spectacular than before. Hopefully, two weeks of intense rehearsals will do the trick. I think our lead Mike hasn’t stopped reciting his lines since December!
Three words that you’ll be shouting during the inevitable flyering this August?
physical, political, homelessness
Scale of 1 to 10 – how excited are you to be coming?
Right now, the general median of everyone in the cast is around a 7. Right now, we need to get through all the difficult production sides of things and do some hard-core problem solving. But, everyone agrees that come the week or so before, everyone will be buzzed.
Finally – where and at what time and dates can we find you during the Fringe?
We are performing at Paradise in Augustines, preview on the 3rd at 19:20, or on the 4th-11th at 17:35. Looking forward to seeing you there!