Pre-Fringe interview with the STAG’s Maddie Beautyman

Meet Maddie Beautyman, the writer and director, for Student Theatre At Glasgow’s ‘AH DINNAE KEN’. We’ve asked a few questions about the show and why it should be on your Fringe list!

 

Hello! How are you doing today?

Hello! I’m a combination of excited, exhausted and motivated – pretty much mimicking my expected emotions for the next month and a half!

 

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?

We have an exciting mixture of experience levels in our Fringe team. Some of our actors will be taking to the Fringe stage for the first time, while others are returning after success with the Free Fringe in previous years and one of our actors has even tossed in his director’s hat from last year to jump back into acting! Our Producer Chris is a veteran, the only excuse for him returning is that he eats, sleeps, breaths student theatre. Our backstage team however is entirely made up of excited new faces who are expecting to be busy yet buzzing – or at least that’s what I’ve assured them it will be like?

For myself, I am returning to the Fringe for the second year with Student Theatre At Glasgow – this time as Writer/Director. Leaving last year with a Sell Out run was such a high. I’ve pretty much had my rose tinted glasses on ever since the Edinburgh Fringe team sent out the ‘Official 2017 Sell Out’ Laurel. I guess I’m here again to uphold the level of fantastic theatre and fun we achieved last August. To be honest I’m “putting myself through it again” because I’m utterly delighted to be back. At least this year I know where to get the cheapest pint and how to overcome those tiring days – I’m ready to hurl my wonderful cast and crew along with me!

 

What is your main ethos that influences the work you put on?

In terms of the shows content, it was directly inspired by the lack of work which took an impartial and inclusive approach to discussing the Scottish Independence Referendum. This play does not seek to tell you what choice to make or to analyse the voting decisions made in 2014. It hopes to consider the effects of the debate on the nation, on the individual. Did you ever have a heated conversation with a friend or neighbour? Did the vote split our nation in two? If so, what happens now to those who ‘just don’t know anymore’, where do the ‘AH DINNAE KEN’s sit in terms of a possible future vote?

The ethos behind STAG, as a theatre company, and the work they create is really founded on supporting new writers find their voice. STAG takes new writing theatre to the Fringe every year and gives young writers and performers an opportunity to showcase their talent on a larger platform and where better to perform this type of theatre than with the Fringe audience? I like to support the opinion that Fringe-goers are a risk taking audience. The sort of audience that will take a chance and support something new. STAG are there to provide something new while striving for high quality student theatre. Hopefully we can prove to the risk taking audience that we are worth the gamble! Take the chance!

 

What makes this show stand out at Fringe?

The Fringe seems magical to me for 2 reasons. 1) Its the largest arts festival in the world and 2) it’s on my doorstep. As an Edinburgh born and bred “lassie” I think there’s something special about bringing a show which both celebrates and challenges the idea of Scottish nationality back to home soil. The Fringe attracts theatre makers and audiences from all over the world – something which makes it immensely strong. It allows us to celebrate cultures and debates far and wide, across many countries and continents. Perhaps what actually makes our show stand out is our focus on SCOTTISH theatre makers, with a SCOTTISH show, in SCOTLAND. Did I mention it was about Scotland?

 

Are you planning on previewing this before Fringe anywhere else?/Has it already been performed?

We have already performed this play as part of the STAG New Works Festival. To be exact ‘AH DINNAE KEN’ premiered at Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow on the 28th February – notably one of the heaviest days of snow fall Glasgow has even seen. We were ploughing through the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ just to get to our tech run. At one point I honestly thought it might not go ahead but in a classic cliché it was decided ‘the show must go on’ and so it did. Through red weather warnings it’s almost a miracle we had an audience. Those who did battled through the weather certainly warmed to the show and filled the theatre with roars of laughter and sounds of shuffling wet Wellington boots. After 6 weeks in rehearsal and an unbelievably torturous day it was just the boost the cast needed – it makes me assured that they are ready for anything the Fringe throws at them!

The snow was so heavy that after the performance we couldn’t get our moving van anywhere near the theatre so left our entire set behind and headed out into the knee deep snow to celebrate a fantastic debut show. The snow thawed and the reward quickly followed when the judges announced ‘AH DINNAE KEN’ as the Winner of the 2018 New Works Festival. While I suspect the weather conditions will be different in Edinburgh this summer I would be absolutely delighted to leave each show with the euphoria we felt that day – and this time we get to do it 14 times!

A juicy summary of the show please?

Scotland. The not too distant future. A second Independence Referendum has been called and pretty soon your parents will ask you to murder your neighbours. Inspired by the timeless classic; a pair of star crossed lovers stuck in the war of two families. This time? In the neighbourhood debate of Scottish Independence. How far will we go to defend our beliefs, to save our nation, to save our family? You’ll never see your neighbours in the same way as you leave asking yourself – what’s in a name?

There never was a tale or more woe,

Than that of the vote between Yes and No.

 

What are you hoping your audience will leave thinking after seeing this show?

I hope the audience leave with some sore abs – I recon laughing is better than any fitness workout. I mainly hope the audience find a new way to consider their role within the Independence debate and to envisage how the nation would respond should a possible ‘Indy Ref 2’ ever arise. What affects would another vote have on our country? How does any kind of political debate effect a country and the individual citizens?

Further afield, whether you are Scottish or not, I hope this play opens an opportunity to enjoy Shakespeare in a new context. The play springs off the exciting star crossed lovers concept first established in Romeo and Juliet so many years ago. I hope the audience leave with a new vision of how Shakespeare can slot effortlessly into contemporary theatre. In all honesty, it would be just be nice to have spectators leave having seen something different in Scotland, politics or comedy – or simply just to raise an audience’s expectation of the capacity of student theatre. The Fringe is a fantastic platform for the possible young student theatre makers of the future to bring their talent to the table. Hopefully the audience leave excited for more – having had a good wee giggle.

 

How long have you been preparing for Fringe? Whirlwind rehearsal schedule or has this been in the works for a while?

As previously noted ‘AH DINNAE KEN’ first hit the stage in February 2018. Since then, some of our cast and crew have graduated, others have just come on board yet all of us are attempting to draw out the knowledge from our previous rehearsals that is currently sitting under a pile of crammed in exam knowledge. Either way, it’s nothing short of a joy to have everyone back in the rehearsal room – laughing at our own jokes. Sam Fraser has joined the team as one of our actors and is keeping up tremendously well with the challenges of this quick pace 50 minute comedy. Our 3 weeks of July rehearsals are really his time to dig into his character and put his twist on the role. Our Assistant Director and Technician, Lexi Crawford, is attempting to familiarise herself with foreseeable tech challenges. She recently assured me that she just needed to familiarise herself with the equipment provided at the venue as “Everyone knows how to cook lasagne but it’s more confusing when you’re in someone else’s kitchen.” In other words, we have the opportunity to refresh the show for a ‘new and improved’ version – and we’re having a lot of fun while doing it.

 

Three words that you’ll be shouting during the inevitable flyering this August?

SCOTTISH… POLITICAL… COMEDY…

 

Scale of 1 to 10 – how excited are you to be coming?

Right now? I would rate my excitement as an 8/10. The excitement of the Fringe can only really be captured when you’re immersed in the Royal Mile chaos. When I’m standing surrounded by the erupting Edinburgh streets, ready to hand out my first flyer, maybe then I’ll shoot up the scale to a 9/10. Unfortunately I’ll have to save my 10/10 for a monumental moment, perhaps when Scotland do call a second Independence Referendum and this play becomes compulsory reading? Until then – I’m excited for everything to come this August. Hopefully we’ll see you there.

 

Finally – where and at what time and dates can we find you during the Fringe?

Venue 9: theSpace @ Niddry Street (upper)

Dates: 3rd – 18th of August (not 5th or 12th)

Time: 16.15 (50 mins)

 

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