So, what can we expect from "Confessional"?
You can expect a whirlwind of a ride! It's set in a bar (Monk's bar) over the course of one evening. It also happens to be the evening that the lives implode of several of the bar regulars... My character Leona Dawson being one of them. Expect tears, high emotions, laughter (and to laugh) and to be taken on a journey that sounds far away but is much closer to home than you'd think.
More than anything though it's a rare opportunity to see an unfinished work by Tennessee Williams, so the writing is top notch, however it's unpolished... He released it under a different title (small craft warnings) a few years later with some minor alterations, but what we are bringing to the fringe will actually be the first UK premiere of the play.
Tennessee Williams plays are notorious for their subject matter. Is there anything controversial in this show?
Definitely. The show features Williams first openly gay character (and issues of homophobia which Williams undoubtedly experienced first hand in his life), it touches on topics of mental health, infidelity, alcoholism as well as drug dependence and of course love and loss too.
How are preparations going?
Good! We've been getting together regularly and I keep being awestruck by the stuff that the cast and team bring to rehearsals. We've still got our work cut out (with 25 performances in 26 days to sustain ourselves vocally and physically for) but I'm confident that it's going to be a good run and that it will be different every night because we really listen and react to each other.
Why did your group pick this play?
It was a decision made party between the director Jack Silver and myself. He wanted to take a play to the fringe, knew I'd been last year, and because we'd worked together well in the past decided to see if there was anything we'd want to take together. We each brought a couple of plays that we loved to the initial coffee meeting, one of his was Confessional, and I fell in love with Leona (my character) by her third sassy comeback, which is basically on the second page. Then it was just a matter of filling in the other roles with the people who'd play them truthfully and who we knew we'd love to live and work with for a month! Simone somers Yeates is a brilliant actress who selflessly produced my solo show at last year's fringe, who is doing amazing things with the role of Violet for instance. We're harvesting a community of art makers who are all passionate about creating a really great, truthful show.
Last year you appeared in your own solo show "Beat". What are your memories of this experience?
So much. More than anything I remember just this feeling of the streets, being as packed as they were. A hum of life, of fellow art makers and art worshippers. It was vibrant and exciting. I also remember excruciating fear in the days and weeks before, and overwhelming pride in the moments and days after my show and above all overwhelming gratitude to the people that came. It's hard getting audiences in! I remember one nice old man accompanied by his grandson on a skateboard who loved the show and spoke to my dad, and a man with a blue moustache who came out of nowhere as I definitely didn't remember giving him a flyer... He must have just stumbled into my performance and yet he stayed to congratulate me on my work. Where these people are now and what their lives have dealt them I don't know but I'm so grateful for the experience of sharing my words and my art with them. Something like that is beautiful.
Assuming it was your first Edinburgh, why do you bring a show last year?
I was fresh out of drama school. I was agent-less and scared of the industry and of life. But one of my best teachers, Lowry Marshall, (who spent some time on Broadway herself) told me to run towards my fears. And create my own work. I already had the solo show in an iteration I'd written under her guidance some years before, - and who hasn't heard of the fringe? Naturally I was terrified of doing it... so I had to. On a more personal note I also got a sign from some form of higher power that I should do it which I followed. A little girl on the street that I lived sold me a silly band bracelet she'd made, which was blue and red in the exact colours of my dwagon costume (a dragon character I play) and when I asked her to tell me about it she said it was made by 'Dragon weave'... what that meant I still don't know but I knew it was time to revive the show and Scotland seemed to be singing my song.
What did you expect from the Edinburgh fringe festival?
I had no idea. Really, no idea what to expect. All fear was getting in the way of anything rational. All I know now was that I needent have been scared.
How did reality differ from your expectations?
I thought that if my play was received horribly it would be the end of my career. What I now realise is that a bad play doesn't stand out as an exceptionally bad play at the fringe it just gets lost and swallowed up, so really there is nothing to lose but to strive for greatness and have fun in the process. If you can get over your fear you have overcome the biggest hurdle.
What were the best ( & worst ) things about that festival?
Putting all this effort in and only being able to bring in tiny audiences was the worst. Especially when I realised how much my audiences did love the show after all! As was the serious amount I was in debt afterwards as a result.
The best was the reminder that I love making my art. They are moments that keep me making it, that keep me from choosing a 9 to 5 on a good salary, that keep me happy. And that is finding truth, sharing what I create, and telling stories that move people. It's becoming a character by studying their lives and their words such that they become your own and that when you get it right you are flying. I love what I do and as long as I can keep saying that I know I am doing the right thing. The fringe was another way of exercising that need and proving I know I should keep following this passion. I'm a 24 year old girl in a cut throat industry. I need all the reminders I can get. To be honest, you guys at dark chat, Ruth Irwin, a voice and opinion of authority, who liked and 9 starred my show validated that it was all worth it! I would like to think I'd still make art regardless, but knowing it's appreciated makes it all the more rewarding.
What shows did you enjoy last year?
Big Brass. Three dorky guys on a mission to make laughter. Boy did they succeed. I love them all and hope they are back.
And there was a big comedian battle off at just the tonic I loved too, sorry I've forgotten the name. One of these 9 o'clock slots in their biggest venue.
So, why have you moved from a solo show to such an unusual play this year?
Leona Dawson. A beautician from Essex. 100% the character. In truth I'm not the best writer... I'm an actress before anything else and I wasn't confident enough in the words I wrote to really go deep in finding the characters behind them last year. Ironic as they were my words! But half the fun in being an actress is that you are only dealt some cards with which you can only do the best you can. The cards being the words on the page and the best you can in being finding some truth within or out of yourself to make those words and the space between them come alive. I fell in love with Leona from the page. I wanted to play her instantly and I'm still running towards my fears because she's so different from me. She's a beautician from Essex, lives in a trailer, an alcoholic etc. I'm not well off but I'm privileged in that I have two degrees, and I speak with quite a posh BBC accent. But she's all heart and although she's felt a lot of pain in her life she struck some inner chord with me which hopefully you will see on the stage.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the festival?
Shit faced Shakespeare. I love and have worked with some of those guys before in other productions in London but I've never seen their act and I'm a massive fan of Shakespeare... He remains the best acting teacher to ever walk the planet. Can't wait. They sell out every year so book early.
How do you plan to survive that month of mayhem?
Water. Friends. Time alone running up Arthurs seat. Limited, very limited alcohol (bar the 30th - my 25th birthday) and by pouring myself into my art.
Confessional by Tennesse Williams is on at 7.05pm from 6th August to 31st August at C-Cubed’s Main Space in Celtic Lodge on the Royal Mile (Lawnmarket).
Since this interview we have discovered that Tramp productions are offering this astonishing workshop:
2 Day Free Drama School and part in Edinburgh Fringe 2015 show for Scotland’s unemployed
Thirty unemployed people from Scotland will receive free acting training and the chance to audition
for a part in a Tennessee Williams play at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. The Two Day Drama School
project will give 30 young and long-term unemployed people two days of professional acting training.
5 people will then be picked by audition for a shared part in Confessional, a Tennessee Williams play
being put on at Celtic Lodge on the Royal Mile, part of C venues The project, run by London-based
production company Tramp, aims at helping unemployed people build confidence and gain practical
skills that will help them in job interviews, as well as giving them a chance to try acting.
5 unemployed people who will complete the Two Day Drama School will share the role of a police officer
on different nights through Confessional’s 25 nights run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2015. The play, which
is set in a seaside bar, follows the fortunes of a group of low-lifes through the course of a single evening.
Jack Silver, Tramp’s Artistic Director, said, “We’re as excited about the Two Day Drama School as we are
about putting on Confessional. We are honoured to be able to give people the chance of experiencing
acting and to be able to help them gain the confidence that it can bring: this is a highly useful transferrable
skill. It’s not necessarily about turning out 30 professional actors, but if we find the next Ewan McGregor
or Karen Gillan, we’ll be delighted.”