+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: Dysney Disfunction

“The show’s a heart-stopper. You’re going to be swept up in the magic of it all, but the rug is also going to be pulled from underneath you.”

WHO: Michelle Sewell, Writer/performer

WHAT: “In Brexit Britain happily ever after (and UK residency) is just a marriage visa away. But Australian Alice’s visa expires today and she’s only got Primark flats for glass slippers, an Oyster card for a pumpkin coach and a prince who won’t twerk. Love, Alice thinks, is a fairy tale. Visa-less and forced to return to a country she doesn’t call home anymore, she waits at the tube for Prince Charming to rescue her. Alice quickly learns love changes people and childhood stories have no place in the adult world. Created by Malcolm Bradbury Award winner Michelle Sewell.”

WHERE: Assembly Rooms – Front Room (Venue 20) 

WHEN: 15:40 (60 min)

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Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

It’s the first time I’m bringing a show that I’ve written and performed in. Last year I came up on a StartEast mentorship programme working with British Showcase productions Rhum & Clay’s Testosterone, and had worked on Curious Directive’s Frogman.

Although the first time I ever performed a show at the Edinburgh Fringe was when I was eighteen and it was my first year in drama school in Sydney. I was chosen to be part of this show where I only had like two lines. Now I have fifty minutes to myself. I guess I have a lot more to say now. Haha!

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

Finding out that I can’t renew my visa at the end of the year. That was a shock (to say the least…). It gave me the impetus to write this show and it has actually made me appreciate my life in the UK a whole lot more. It’s also made me consider that tear between your home home – being Australia for me- and my home – being Norwich in England. I’ve also been thinking about Tim tams a lot more than I probably should be.

Tell us about your show.

The show’s a heart-stopper. You’re going to be swept up in the magic of it all, but the rug is also going to be pulled from underneath you. The director, David Gilbert, has done an awesome job in building the show into a really enjoyable theatrical piece of drama.

I wrote the piece which started as a three minute performance with SOHO and The Barbican’s Stage at the Walthamstow Garden Party. This then became a five minute journey with Cambridge Junction, Vaults Festival and the Lyric Hammersmith. Now it’s a 50 minute Beast of a play. We’ve previewed at Theatre 503, Cambridge Junction and Norwich Arts Centre. This has been such an incredible experience being able to take the show across the UK.

We’re hoping to transfer it to Adelaide Fringe next year then West End (a girl can dream, yeah?).

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

Oh goodness, there’s so so many kick-ass shows this year. I would definitely say Weird and Dangerous Giant Animals- two one-woman shows that deal with disabilities, which I think are just going to be beautiful and stand out this Fringe. There’s some really great shows from our Norwich friends, Laughing Mirror, who are on at The Space- definitely go check them out! And F*ck you Pay Me at Assembly.


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+3 Interview: Belly of a Drunken Piano

“Each time he performs in the UK, Stewart pulls together an awesome band of Scottish artists and this year is no exception.”

WHO: Sandy Bruns, Producer

WHAT: “Multi-award winning performer and artistic director Stewart D’Arrietta (My Leonard Cohen, Fringe 2016-17) returns with a new show for 2018. Belly of a Drunken Piano offers gritty, imaginative arrangements of the most-loved music from the most enigmatic and influential songwriters of the age, punctuated by D’Arrietta’s laconic humour and compositions of his own. The lyrical tragedies and jocular narratives of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, Ian Dury, and others, inhabit the underworld of D’Arrietta’s drunken piano. All five-star reviews at Adelaide Fringe 2018 – ‘Not to be missed’ (BroadwayWorld.com). ‘10/10!’ (TheAdelaideShow.com.au).”

WHERE: Assembly Rooms – Ballroom 18:15 (Venue 20) 

WHEN: 18:15 (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

Stewart is a regular at the Edinburgh Festivals, this year being his fifth year at EdFringe. In 2016-17, ‘My Leonard Cohen’ was a big success with audiences, but he’s returning with a new show for 2018, titled ‘Belly of a Drunken Piano’, in which he’s taking on the material of Tom Waits, Ian Dury, Randy Newman and other musical legends.

Each time he performs in the UK, Stewart pulls together an awesome band of Scottish artists and this year is no exception.

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

The biggest thing for us since 2017 was the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Feb/March, at which Stewart premiered ‘Belly of a Drunken Piano’, to great acclaim. The show earned four reviews, all of them 5 star, including 5 stars from the Adelaide Advertiser (which is the Adelaide equivalent of getting a 5 star review from The Scotsman).

Tell us about your show.

We premiered the show at Adelaide Fringe Festival earlier this year. It represents a welcome return to some of Stewart’s favourite material, the music of Tom Waits, which he has worked with extensively in the past. Having performed his Tom Waits show (also titled ‘Belly of a Drunken Piano’) in New York for five years, Stewart was surprised to find himself faced with a ‘cease and desist’ order from the man himself!

This reincarnation of ‘Belly of a Drunken Piano’ offers gritty, imaginative arrangements of music from the most enigmatic and influential songwriters of the age, including Tom Waits, Randy Newman and Ian Dury, among others, punctuated by D’Arrietta’s laconic humour and compositions of his own.

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

The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign – I saw it last year, very good. And we’re really looking forward to seeing stand up comedian Camilla Cleese, daughter of John Cleese, who is producing his daughter’s show. We bet it’ll be brilliant!


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Jane Austen’s Persuasion: A New Musical Drama (Assembly Rooms, 6 Aug – 9 Aug : 21:30 : 2hr 45)

“The cast were undeniably talented”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars

I’m always a bit wary of American troupes performing very British shows in Britain, as I’ve so rarely seen them pulled off well. Unfortunately this production did little to change my mind, although there were some very promising moments.

This presentation billed itself as a new musical drama adaption of one of Austen’s finest works. And while I was expecting (and honestly would have preferred) slightly more Broadway than the Gilbert and Sullivan that was presented, the main fault with this show was something of an identity crisis – trying to force twee Jane Austen into a rather melodramatic and operatic saga just didn’t quite fit.

However – the positives: this is a big budget (by Fringe standards) show with fabulous costumes and incredibly detailed projection on the backdrop to show changes in location, time and weather. The cast were undeniably talented, with some incredibly strong voices on show in both solo and group numbers, and the band were faultless.

The narrative stayed very faithful to the original book, was easy enough to follow without ever feeling clunky, and that should be a feather in the cap to adapter Barbara Landis. The script contained enough detail to properly establish each scene and character in full, even if, at just under three hours (including interval), it’s a bit of a slog.

When it came to the acting though, there was a distinct contrast in styles between some of performers, which didn’t help the sense of jarring between what I think the company were trying to achieve and what we saw. While Jeff Diebold as Captain Wentworth showed great sensitivity to the emotion and style of Jane Austen, Barbara Landis as heroine Anne Elliot and John Boss as her father were perhaps the most guilty of over-theatricalising every line. This would have been great in a full-scale opera or vaudeville, but didn’t work with what should have been a more gentle approach to a British masterpiece.

Putting that to one side, the chorus numbers (in particular Who Could Love Like an Irish Man and A Sailor’s Life) were spectacular – they were performed with vim, energy and an incredible blend of voices. Moments like these brought a sense of contrast to a show that was in many other respects distinctly lacking in light and shade due to severe overacting in the more gentle scenes, which made them all feel somewhat samey in mood.

Overall, this show has a lot of the basics to be fantastic, and while the period music and libretto were not to my personal taste, the bones of this original adaptation were sound and would probably please anyone with a preference to more traditional theatre. Although there were some wonderful moments of character and hilarity, I don’t feel the piece really hung together as an operetta, and stricter, more sensitive direction and more variation in melody and musical style of each number could have helped bring out the layers of Austen’s writing.

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin  (Seen 6 August)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED