“I’d have to go to the Ordovician, about 470 million years ago, to see giant straight-shelled cephalopods–the planet’s very first monsters, who ruled the seas long before dinosaurs evolved!” – Author Danna Staaf discusses Squid Empire

“Cephalopods are not aliens from outer space, but they are the closest we’ve got. They’ve been on an independent evolutionary path from ours for over five hundred million years.”

Before there were mammals on land, there were dinosaurs. And before there were fish in the sea, there were cephalopods―the ancestors of modern squid and Earth’s first truly substantial animals. Cephalopods became the first creatures to rise from the seafloor, essentially inventing the act of swimming. With dozens of tentacles and formidable shells, they presided over an undersea empire for millions of years. But when fish evolved jaws, the ocean’s former top predator became its most delicious snack. Cephalopods had to step up their game.

Many species streamlined their shells and added defensive spines, but these enhancements only provided a brief advantage. Some cephalopods then abandoned the shell entirely, which opened the gates to a flood of evolutionary innovations: masterful camouflage, fin-supplemented jet propulsion, perhaps even dolphin-like intelligence.

Squid Empire is an epic adventure spanning hundreds of millions of years, from the marine life of the primordial ocean to the calamari on tonight’s menu. Anyone who enjoys the undersea world―along with all those obsessed with things prehistoric―will be interested in the sometimes enormous, often bizarre creatures that ruled the seas long before the first dinosaurs.

Danna Staaf is a freelance writer and science communicator with special expertise in cephalopods. Her writing has appeared in ScienceKQEDEarther, and io9, and her first book, Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods, was named one of the best science books of 2017 by NPR. She holds a PhD in biology from Stanford University and has spoken at dozens of venues, including the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the main Google campus in Mountain View, public libraries, universities and schools at every grade level. She lives in San Jose with her husband and an unruly collection of kids, cats, and plants.

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods was published in November 2017 by University Press of New England. To find out more click here.


Why cephalopods?

Seriously, you have to ask? All right, fine: Cephalopods are not aliens from outer space, but they are the closest we’ve got. They’ve been on an independent evolutionary path from ours for over five hundred million years. They’ve arrived in the modern world with features that seem incredibly weird to us–elastic tentacles, color-changing skin, suction cups and ink sacs–as well as features that are astonishingly convergent. An octopus eye, for example, has an iris, a lens, and a retina just like yours. Unlike yours, it has no blind spot, no color vision, and it can detect the polarization of light.

Without cephalopods, we would have just one kind of nervous system to study. A mouse, a frog, and even a fish are all so closely related to humans that you could say we all have the same kind of brain. Comparing our brain to an octopus’ brain, however, illuminates a great deal more about how nervous systems work, helping us ask new questions and look for new answers. If you’re at all interested in weird stuff, nothing beats cephalopods for raw coolness. If you’re just interested in humans and how we got to be the way we are–still, nothing beats cephalopods for a truly comparative system.

Cephalopods are remarkably intelligent. Should we feel bad about eating them?

My first impulse is to say “yes.” But that’s too glib, and I’m not into making people feel bad. I am a vegetarian, and I don’t eat cephalopods for the same reason I don’t eat cows or chickens or tuna. I don’t think they need to be considered separately from other animals in that regard. For a lucid and compassionate take on this topic, check out Barbara J. King’s “Calling Team Cephalopod: Why Octopuses Could Never Disappoint.” (link: https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2018/03/08/591530441/calling-team-cephalopod-why-octopuses-could-never-disappoint)

What advice would you give to a James Bond supervillain wanting to know which deadly cephalopod species they should restock their lair’s plunge pool trap with?

Blue-ringed octopuses. Despite their small size, these are the only cephalopods that have caused documented human deaths. Their venom contains a potent neurotoxin that can kill a grown human. But then I’d also say to this hypothetical supervillain: don’t bother. Don’t bother yourself, and don’t bother the poor blue-ringed octopuses. They only bite people when they feel really threatened–they’d much rather camouflage themselves and hide–and it’s shoddy supervillainy to make a bunch of innocent octopuses feel threatened all the time. Anyway, you know what’s more deadly than even a blue-ringed octopus? Water. Yeah, all the water that’s already in your plunge pool, because people can’t breathe it. Way more people die by drowning every year than by bites from any kind of wild animal. And with all the time you save by not trying to maintain a finicky venomous animal in a salt-water aquarium, you can get on with some really super supervillainy.

Why is it a big deal that nautiluses are being added to the endangered list?

Nautiluses are the only living cephalopods that still have external shells, and people have been collecting these shells and turning them into jewelry or simply displaying them for hundreds of years (at least). But eventually demand outstripped supply and now many populations of nautiluses are nearly gone. At one location in the Philippines, fishers have to set out a hundred traps to catch a single nautilus, in the same place where their grandparents would catch several nautiluses in each trap. The 2017 inclusion of nautiluses in CITES, the treaty that protects high-profile animals like elephants, is the first legal protection these strange, beautiful cephalopods have ever had. Keeping nautiluses around gives us a living window into 500 million years of evolutionary history–and also preserves the most laughably awkward yet astonishingly efficient swimmers on the planet.

If you could vacation in and around a prehistoric sea, when and where would you go?

I’d have to go to the Ordovician, about 470 million years ago, to see giant straight-shelled cephalopods–the planet’s very first monsters, who ruled the seas long before dinosaurs evolved! The arrangement of the continents was so dramatically different back then that it’s hard to describe exactly “where” I would go. This was pre-Pangaea; most land was glommed together in the southern hemisphere so I guess I’d plop myself somewhere in the watery northern hemisphere and hope for the best.

To be clear, “best” means that I would get to see Cameroceras, a horizonal ice-cream cone over twenty feet long, close enough to count its tentacles, look it in the eye, and find out whether or not it had a beak. Does that mean my vacation would be cut short by entering the digestive system of the earliest giant cephalopod? Maybe, but time machines are notoriously unreliable, and death by Cameroceras could be a better end than trying to make it back home.

If you could Jurrasic Park an extinct species of cephalopod which would you bring back to life?

Nice verbing! I’d bring back one of the heteromorph ammonites for sure. The heteromorphs were a bizarre and diverse group of cephalopods with external shells that lived in the Cretaceous. Most ammonites had spiral shells that looked superficially similar to modern nautilus shells, but heteromorphs broke all the rules. There were heteromorphs with corkscrew shells and totally straight shells, with shells bent like paper clips and shells twisted into knots. No one really knows how or why their shells grew in such strange shapes. I’d probably pick Nipponites, because seriously, friend, what are you doing with a shell like that? (link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nipponites)

You’re an expert writing for a lay audience. What’s the biggest tip you have for someone attempting to persuade others of the value of their particular field of specialist study?

Let your enthusiasm show.

You write about the individual scientists who inspired you in your early career. Who are you most excited by today? What are they working on?

Last summer I visited Robyn Crook’s lab at San Francisco State University and was completely captivated. (link: http://crooklab.org/) She and her students study pain in cephalopods, which might sound awful, like poking squid with sticks. But in fact, they were able to use noninvasive techniques to find the first evidence that cephalopod anesthesia actually cuts off sensation, instead of simply immobilizing the animals–a pretty important thing to know for ethical research! Crook is the one who turned me on to the idea of cephalopods as the only truly comparative systems for vertebrates. Since the perception of pain evolved separately in cephalopods, they provide an opportunity to study the evolutionary roots of this sensation, the ways in which it’s useful and the ways in which it can be problematic.

I’m also fascinated by the work of Bret Grasse and his team at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. (link: http://www.mbl.edu/cephalopod-program/) Grasse pioneered the aquaculture of pajama squid and flamboyant cuttlefish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and now he’s working with a tremendous array of cephalopod species at Woods Hole to make them available for all kinds of research. I admire his team’s focus on the welfare of the animals, and I can’t wait to see what unexpected discoveries will come from scientists being able to work with so many cephalopods that were considered too finicky to handle before. It may seem weird to make such a big deal out of these “niche” animals, but we should remember that modern neuroscience grew almost entirely from breakthrough research on the giant axon of squid. Cephalopods really do offer unique research opportunities, not just in neuroscience but in robotics (all those flexible arms!), medicine (all those arms can regenerate!) and more.

Where is the best place to go diving with cephalopods?

One of my fellow squid scientists once saw six different cephalopod species while snorkeling off Okinawa–so that’s now on my dream dive list! I’ve always wanted to see the giant cuttlefish matting off Southern Australia, too, and then there are the sites off Seattle where you can see giant Pacific octopus (just don’t try to hunt them, link: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/magazine/the-octopus-that-almost-ate-seattle.html). One of my favorite cephalopods to watch underwater is the Caribbean reef squid, which can be seen in many places throughout the Caribbean, even just snorkeling. They’re relatively easy to find and follow around, so scientists use them for a lot of the most interesting research on cephalopod communication and social behavior.

Whats next for you?

I wrote a couple of essays for an anthology coming out in October called Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres (link: https://pages.e2ma.net/pages/1887808/9576). It’ll have lots more useful information for that Bond supervillain! I’m also finishing up a novel set in a post-sea level rise future where squid racing has replaced horse racing as a high-stakes, high-adrenaline jockey sport. And of course, I’m always writing short science stories here, there, and everywhere.


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+3 Interview: Little Shop of Horrors

“I feel privileged to haven been given this opportunity to perform with Delicious Theatre at this year’s Fringe Festival alongside such talented, lovely and sometimes human-hungry people.”

WHO: Morgan Meredith, Audrey

WHAT: “‘I’ve given you sunlight, I’ve given you rain. Looks like you’re not happy unless I open a vein!’ Delicious Theatre invites you into the New York City underworld, where a young florist named Seymour is attempting to grow a mysterious-looking plant. The plant will only grow in exchange for one thing: human blood. Stumbling across it after a solar eclipse, he names the plant after his crush and co-worker, Audrey. As he discovers the true cost of keeping the plant alive, a series of moral dilemmas make him realise his own capability for true human monstrosity.”

WHERE: theSpace @ Venue45 – theSpace @ Venue 45 (Venue 45) 

WHEN: 11:10 (100 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

Yes, it is which is simultaneously exciting and daunting but I feel so lucky to be performing alongside such a brilliant cast! Although this is my first time at Fringe, the company are returning this year after their successful run of “The Best Play Ever” in 2017. After 5-star ratings and excellent audience reviews, “The Best Play Ever” returns to the festival this year alongside the musical, which the entire company are buzzing about.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’17?

From a personal stance, the biggest (and scariest) thing that has happened to me since last year’s fringe is graduating from the University of Manchester, obtaining a degree in Drama. My undergrad allowed me to establish both personal and professional relationships that I’m sure will last despite my return home to the South Wales Valleys. I feel privileged to haven been given this opportunity to perform with Delicious Theatre at this year’s Fringe Festival alongside such talented, lovely and sometimes human-hungry people.

Tell us about your show.

Little Shop of Horrors is such a weird, wonderful and witty little show. Although the original performance is set during the 1960’s, Delicious Theatre’s production reimagines a world of terrifying impact of temptation in our current capitalist civilization. The satirical musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken is both ridiculously silly and tragically poignant and has a talking sassy plant; what more could you want from a musical?! Delicious Theatre is a company set up in 2017 by University of Manchester graduates (and one Durham graduate!). The aim of the company is to contribute bizarre and comical work to cities’ fringe scenes that pushes the boundaries of convention and showcases young adults’ interpretations of the world around us. We want to reflect the hilariously ironic and messy planet we’re making theatre on. For Little Shop of Horrors, the cast are under the direction of Emily Oulton and the musical direction of Charlie Perry.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Delicious Theatre’s sister show ‘The Best Play Ever’ of course (20-25 August, TheSpace on the Mile, V39)!! There’s a great deal of shows going to fringe this year that have originated from the University of Manchester such as new musical “The Fear” which is brilliant, alongside the drama societies productions of “Duck Gutters” and “Pomona” by Alistair McDowall. “Man Presents: Woman” is a girl power cabaret comedy has had great reviews AND has been produced by our very own Sophie Graci. (Co-founder of Delicious Theatre) “Flushed” by Catherine Cranfield was brilliant at the Manchester preview so everyone should go see that too! No Door Theatre Company are taking up “Bitter” this year after the success of “The Voices in Annie’s Head” at last years fringe, again, brilliant at the Manchester preview. “Living with a Dark Lord” by sisters Cait and Meave O’Sullivan had a fantastic audience response so I’m excited to see it at Edinburgh. Spies Like Us Theatre are taking both “Our Man in Havana” and “Woyzeck” this year and as I’ve seen work by the director Ollie Norton-Smith, it’s going to be super interesting! Physical theatre play “Action Man”, produced by Plaster Cast Theatre was fantastic in Manchester so I can not wait to see it again. Festivus Collective’s “The Henriad” looks like a must see as its a collaborative project with the University of Edinburgh and Manchester and retells shakespearean tragedies and comedies within a contemporary setting. Our other co-founder Katie O’Toole has produced a mint production of Sarah Kane’s ‘Crave’ from Durham University, and one of Emily and Katie’s friends Dan Richardson is in an amazing play called ‘Eat Me’ about people suffering from and surviving through the horrible mental illness that is anorexia.

We cannot recommend all these shows enough – from working with these people over the last three years I’m sure you’ll be in for a treat.


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+3 Interview: Joe Sutherland: Toxic

“It’s me doing my funny talking words for 55 minutes. It’s about gender, masculinity, my grandma, the Midlands and the Spice Girls.”

WHO: Joe Sutherland, Star

WHAT: “Masculinity – isn’t it, like, over? Or are there new ways to model manliness? Growing up Joe felt less like a boy, more like a Spice Girl. Now he’s sort of grown up, and technically a man. This is a show about embracing girl power to create your own brand of manhood. ‘Richly entertaining’ **** (ScotsGay.co.uk). ‘An engaging hour of stand-up with an important message and many laughs to be had’ **** (Edinburgh Festivals Magazine). ‘So much originality’ **** (VoiceMag.uk). ‘Oozing star power from every pore’ (Mirror). ‘Edgy and unpredictable’ (ToDoList.org.uk). ‘Definitely one to watch’ (Chortle.co.uk).”

WHERE: Underbelly, Bristo Square – Dexter (Venue 302) 

WHEN: 20:10 (60 min)

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Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

No, this is my second solo show, and I’ve been coming to the Fringe for pretty much my whole life, so a good 59 years now. I know, I look good. I’ll have to show you the painting in my attic at some point.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’17?

I decided to consider veganism which means I’ve had to cut out Frazzles, so I’d appreciate some privacy at this difficult time of transition in my life.

Tell us about your show.

It’s me doing my funny talking words for 55 minutes. It’s about gender, masculinity, my grandma, the Midlands and the Spice Girls.

I was very lucky this year to have direction from the fab Jess Fostekew and production support from the top lads that are United Agents.

You see what I’ve done here is used ‘lads’ ironically because the team is, in fact, entirely female. How edgy of me.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Their own reflection in a toilet mirror in a portacabin as they take a deep breath and ask themselves, “what now? How could it possibly get any better?”

Oh and Sarah Keyworth, Harriet Kemsley, Sophie Duker & Lulu Popplewell (Duke Pop) and Mawaan Rizwan. Top lads.


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+3 Interview: Margo: Half Woman, Half Beast

“I had the idea for MARGO in my head for about six years as her story is quite compelling.”

WHO: Melinda Hughes, writer and performer

WHAT: “Margo Lion, celebrated Weimar Berlin cabaret star and lover of Marlene Dietrich, is gripped by the decadence and debauchery of 1930s Berlin. This is the story of her tragic relationship with the lyricist Marcellus Schiffer, fuelled by alcohol, cocaine and jealousy set within a world of political unrest. Margo is packed with iconic Weimar cabaret songs by Kurt Weill, Mischa Spoliansky, Friedrich Hollaender and original songs by Melinda Hughes and Jeremy Limb who received four and five-star reviews from The Times and Musical Theatre Review for their satirical cabaret. Margo is directed by Sarah Sigal.”

WHERE: Assembly Rooms – Drawing Room (Venue 20) 

WHEN: 17:55 (60 min)

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Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

This is actually my third time to Edinburgh and the experience gets better and better. I first came here in 2013 and did a one week run at Space Venues with a cute cabaret show called French Kiss. I returned in 2014 with ‘Cocktails with the Diva’ at Assembly Rooms. This was another satirical cabaret show packed with newly written songs and a jazz trio. We had a lot of fun!

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’17?

I’ve done a lot of travelling and have performed twice in Barbados at a small festival which was amazing. I sang a Mahler 4th with orchestra in London which was a wonderful experience and I’ve also completed researching and writing and Margo which was a lot of work!

Tell us about your show.

Margo Lion was a celebrated Weimar Berlin cabaret star and lover of Marlene Dietrich. She’s gripped by the decadence and debauchery of 1920’s Berlin and has a tragic relationship with her husband the Jewish lyricist Marcellus Schiffer. Their relationship is fuelled by alcohol, cocaine and jealousy set within a world of political unrest. Marcellus who suffers from bouts of depression, sees no way out of rise of fascism and overdoses and Margo flees Berlin for Paris in 1933. The show is packed with iconic cabaret songs of the day and is a rollercoaster.

I wrote the show myself. I had the idea for MARGO in my head for about six years as her story is quite compelling. I’m also producing it as I have a small company which produces cabaret, classical concerts and curates seasons.

We had two previews in London at JW3 which were well reviewed. It was quite emotional to see something I had worked on for so long to finally make it to the stage. I would love to take this show to small theatres and particularly to America.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

They should go and see FRAU WELT also on at The Blue Room. Assembly Rooms for a double dose of Weimar. The show is so clever and he is an amazing actor. Its more of a Weimar fantasy but it is extraordinary and compelling!

I’ve only just started seeing shows but I recommend Rachel Parris – (she’s top of my list), Jess Robinson – an astounding singer, Flo & Jo, Dusty Limits, Adele Anderson and Austentatious. Ali McGregor’s show is always amazing. I also love stand up too and there’s just so much to choose from. So far only seen Robin Morgan who was great but will see Christian Talbot tomorrow (another favourite) For drama I recommend Diary of an expat which was clever, De Profundis with Simon Callow which was very moving and Song of Lunch with Robert Bathurst.


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+3 Interview: Falkland – The War the World Forgot

“My wife, partner, and playwright decided we didn’t have enough to do so we needed to fix the nation. Well, at least the state of Maryland anyway. So in January she decided to run for House of Delegates and I became her treasurer.”

WHO: Luke Tudball, Director & Performer

WHAT: “On a hovercraft, no one can hear you bark… Fringe legend and Olivier Award winner Guy Masterson’s uproarious tales of woe, a dog and transcontinental wedlock. The dog came with a package… it could not be abandoned in Paris, and the next eight years tested everything: marriage, career and sanity. A tormented, often hysterical life of poo, piss and pooches.”

WHERE: Greenside @ Nicolson Square – Emerald Theatre (Venue 209) 

WHEN: 13:50 (55 min)

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Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is an old friend at this point, a wonderful place to return to and celebrate whenever we can. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs but like any good relationship we kiss and make up, we walk, we get soaked in the rain, and then we make wonderful things happen. This will be my nineteenth Edinburgh Fringe and the fourth with Tasty Monster Productions – a crazy journey but one which I have learnt from, grown with, and been seduced by.

I first came to Edinburgh as a drama student over twenty years ago and since then have brought many productions to the city including in recent years SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL, Ferdinand, and this year, FALKLAND – The War The World Forgot. The Fringe is eclectic, ridiculous, challenging, and exhausting, but I can’t seem to stay away or resist the call of the fest.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’17?

As a company, this year we were lucky enough to take FALKLAND to Pittsburgh Fringe where we won the Selke Award for Best Show in the Fringe and that was amazing. Though awards aren’t the reason we do what we do this one was especially meaningful because I was able to work with the inspiring woman who the award was dedicated to and we are very honored that our show was recognized in her name.

For me personally, something quite big and unexpected has been working on a political campaign because my wife, partner, and playwright decided we didn’t have enough to do so we needed to fix the nation. Well, at least the state of Maryland anyway. So in January she decided to run for House of Delegates and I became her treasurer. Her treasurer and treasure, she calls me.

Tell us about your show.

Tasty Monster Productions came about, as many things do, in a bit of a whirlwind in 2011. After meeting while working on a show, Heather Bagnall, my now wonderful wife and partner, and I knew we wanted to produce new writing of our own and challenging productions which change how people perceive and think about storytelling. Over the last few years we have created and produced five original plays including FALKLAND which was inspired by the uplifting and moving stories of the people of the Falklands and their experiences of the Falklands War in 1982.

Originally premiered in Orlando, Florida, the show honors and commemorates the people whose lives were forever changed by the ten and half week conflict in which almost a thousand people died. This is not a history play – rather a play about people, politics, and power. It’s an eerily timely reminder of the damage that can be done when politicians are careless with their influence. It’s impossible to view it in a vacuum so it has become somewhat of a cautionary tale for for what is happening in our world right now.

As a person with family and friends in many nations of the world, including Britain and the United States, it is hard to not draw parallels and be wary of the road our leaders are taking us down. After Edinburgh, FALKLAND is traveling to Scranton Fringe in Pennsylvania and Charm City Fringe in Baltimore, Maryland and we hope to tour it all over the United States ahead of the midterm elections.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

I will confess that for me the Fringe is a bit of a family reunion and one of the things that is so exciting is seeing so many friends and collaborators bringing their best work to the largest arts festival in the world. I’m especially looking forward to Gavin Robertson’s poetry-meets-standup one-man show GREG BYRON: WORDSHOW as well as Nicholas Collett’s unique look at Shakespeare, YOUR BARD, and as a huge fan of mystery and thrillers, I can’t wait for Guy Masterson’s THE MARILYN CONSPIRACY – a new look at the death of the iconic actress. Having seen and been wowed by Box Tale Soup at Brighton Fringe this May

I’m also eagerly anticipating their new adaptation of Henry James’ TURN OF THE SCREW and no Fringe is ever really complete without the horrific and hysteric poetical rantings of Dandy Darkly who brings his newest foray into the macabre, DANDY DARKLY’S ALL ABOARD!, to the Underbelly at Bristo Square. And if you’re looking for something wacky, fun, and totally unique, you should not miss Peter Michael Marino’s SHOW UP – a show entirely about you which even has a kid-friendly version at noon every day. I never cease to be astounded at Peter’s slightly maniacal energy and supreme showmanship.


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+3 Interview: Queer Words

“Expect real, authentic, colourful characters in a flamboyant, funky and fabulous show!”

WHO: Johnny Autin, Choreographer/ Director

WHAT: “Queer Words: stand-up comedy meets dance theatre! Performed by an all-LGBTQ cast of three exceptional performers, Queer Words is a bold, provocative, and multidisciplinary performance. Combining storytelling, spoken word, dance and physical theatre, Queer Words investigates toxic ideals and the crisis of masculinity at an open mic night. Brutally honest, darkly funny and at times controversial – Autin Dance Theatre is tackling a culture of violence and insecurities with sketches about personal stories around the male perspective, feminism, gender inequalities, and homophobia. You’ll be sure to enjoy an epic, vibrant and outspoken slice of pride, hope, activism, and courage.”

WHERE: Greenside @ Infirmary Street – Forest Theatre (Venue 139) 

WHEN: 16:15 (45 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

This is the first time the company will be bringing a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We are keen to present this brand new show to audiences in Edinburgh and go on this crazy experience that is The Fringe! Queer Words is the ideal performance for us to make our mark at The Fringe. Our show is not what you’d expect from a dance show, and in the best possible ways! Queer Words has something for everyone, dance, music, poetry, singing, and a lot of sass! We are not shy, and tell it like it is. Expect real, authentic, colourful characters in a flamboyant, funky and fabulous show!

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’17?

A lot had happened to us since Festival ’17 but the main 2 successes that we’re super proud of it are:

We’ve been touring and presenting ‘Dystopia’ our new dance theatre duet for outdoor and unusual spaces to International Dance Festivals to great acclaim. A dance theatre duet with a fashion design twist. ‘Dystopia’ is a show-stopping and thought-provoking performance, looking at our human need for connection and belonging, in opposition with our modern anxieties based on fear and violence. Striking physicality and an exciting soundscape take the audience on an intense journey through hell and back.

We’ve been awarded funding from Arts Council England towards further touring of ‘A Positive Life’ (22 tour dates in 2017) an immersive theatre experience for teenagers about sex, love and relationships with an uplifting and engaging message on self-love, sexual health topics and sex ed’ stories.

Tell us about your show.

I have had the ideas of making a show about toxic masculinity from a queer point of view for a couple of years. We did a call out for an all-LGBTQ cast of dancers and poets, and selected our fantastic cast through an audition process! We have been working on this show (devising and rehearsing) since February this year, and it will be premiering for the first time at The Fringe. I directed the rehearsals and worked in collaboration with the performers and our whole creative team of composer, dramaturg, producer, costume & lighting designers.
This production was commissioned by Dance Hub Birmingham as part of their artist commission programme, and with the support of Midlands Arts Centre – MAC.

We believe our show is very relevant for audiences in 2018, looking at homophobia, toxic ideals of masculinity, gender roles, and sexism. We unpick some of those issues and themes in the piece by making taking them to some extremes and making fun of them.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Dance show wise, I look forward to seeing ‘5 days of falling’ by Sam Amos, and The Troth by Akademi, but also Jonny Woo’s All Star Brexit cabaret, and the ever-so-sexy boylesque’s Briefs! And so many more, the whole company will binge on shows and make the most of the festival’s activities!


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+3 Interview: American Idiot

“The amount of passion and work put into this show is honestly astonishing and it promises to be 90 minutes of raw, visceral entertainment where the audience won’t have a second to catch their breath.”

WHO: James Hart, Co-Producer

WHAT: “Green Day’s visceral and provocative Grammy and two-time Tony Award-winning musical. Three disillusioned men search for meaning in our broken world. Will tries to care for his pregnant girlfriend but dissociation wins. Tunny, captivated by the American Dream, joins the army. In the city, Jonny finds purpose with rebellious activist Whatsername but in his intoxication and apathy, finds a reflection of himself that won’t let him be. Ninety minutes of breathtaking raw energy and electrifying music that is not to be missed. Edinburgh University Footlights return to the Fringe following their sell-out 2017 production.”

WHERE: C venues – C – +3 (Venue 34) 

WHEN: 13:45 (95 min)

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Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

Edinburgh University Footlights returned to Fringe last summer, after a 20 year hiatus, with our 2017 production of ‘Sister Act’ which I was also the producer for. As an Edinburgh-based company, most of us have experienced the Festival before and could not be happier to be coming back this year with ‘American Idiot’. Last year went so well for us, we sold out our 7-day run and hope to do the same again this year with lots of familiar talent, and some fresh new faces!

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’17?

Our term-time show, ‘Fame’ in February was a huge success for Footlights, as was our Showchoir’s production ‘Encore’. We received 4* and 5* reviews for both, being dubbed a “professional level show at amateur prices” with it being “difficult to distinguish these young performers from professionals”. Finding an incredibly talented cast for ‘American Idiot’ and working towards this show, has also been incredibly rewarding.

Tell us about your show.

‘American Idiot’ is a musical based on Green Day’s concept album of the same name. The album has been adapted, with additional script written by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer, and the show follows the story of Johnny, Will and Tunny as they leave the suburbs to pursue big dreams in the city. I am producing the show alongside Annabel Reid, and it is being directed by Maddie Flint. The amount of passion and work put into this show is honestly astonishing and it promises to be 90 minutes of raw, visceral entertainment where the audience won’t have a second to catch their breath. The show only runs for 1 week during the Festival and so shouldn’t be missed!

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Our fellow university society EUSOG are putting on ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ which promises to be incredible, as well as EUSC’s production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, Room 29 Theatre’s ‘Dogfight’, and Bare Productions’ ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’. I also wouldn’t even be in Edinburgh at university or doing this show were it not for Young Pleasance who I first experienced Fringe with in 2012. This year they are putting on ‘The Red Shoes’ which I’m sure will be stunning, as their shows always are!


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