Eliza Strassheim - Mortal Fools Youth Theatre Member
Note to start; we were truly blessed with the Edinburgh weather this year, which was a pretty good backdrop for our trip from beginning to end. Overall we rate this weather 4 stars out of 5. Only on the second night, the weather decided to turn a 180° and we were faced with biblical-levels-of-raining and we got soaked, but it was certainly worth it!
DAY 1 - So the first show we saw was f.off, performed by the ensemble National Youth Theatre students with Paul Roseby directing.
The performance put Mark Zuckerberg and his social media minions on trial, questioning them on the manipulative policies they have placed upon their social media platforms, used by people across the globe.
It involved a lot of audience participation, but never lost the central focus, a courtroom drama to interrogate the "Zuck". Woven into the story line were accounts from a range of people's experiences with social media.
What made this show such a joy to watch, was it's ever present message, the question “Why has this been taken so far?”
The performance created an accurate representation of politics in the UK today and depicted IT manipulations, influencing voters in real time with adverts and algorithms to exploit the Election Day.
The next show we went to see on our first day in Edinburgh was by the "Baby Wants Candy" Ensemble. It was a fully improvised musical of "Big Little Thighs" (Play on words for the American Drama, starring Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies).
Since it was improvised this show was utterly unpredictable so you could never of guessed what was going to happen. Precocious sister, Savannah, and peculiar sister Jamantha battled against their mother, librarians and the freaky “mom-friend” neighbour with a dark, ‘dead’-ly secret, to discover what happened to their father.
This was probably the best comedy we got to see, and songs such as “Family Tree”, “Secrets” and of course the finale interlude of “Big Little Thighs” made it impossibly wonderful to watch.
Outside of the shows, we looked around the venues and ate street food in George Square Gardens. It was a pretty brilliant first day.
DAY 2 - We kicked off our second day with not a performance theatre show, but an all-immersive sensory experience in a shipping container. The container had been mocked into a hospital ward-type setting with bunk beds that smelled of surgical spirit and fresh paint. There was a silent disco element to the experience and we had to lie on the beds and wear headphones, which were wired into the walls of the container.
At the beginning a voice spoke, from both the headphones and speakers mounted in the container, introducing the ‘experience’. A warning was given to say if we didn’t like the dark or had problems with being in total darkness we should probably leave now, because we would not be able to leave at all once it all began.
The lights then switched completely off and we really were in total darkness on the bunks. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was like being in a coma.
Oh yeah, it was actually called “Coma”. The voice in our headphones was that of our doctor, who talked us into eating a pill on a dish next to the bunks. Obviously this pill had nothing in, but that was the point, because we knew we would all still experience a placebo-type feeling after having it. We would all feel different.
The voice started describing the room, and situations which had happened in it. We were subjected to smells like coffee, perfume, marzipan while being talked through the scenario. It was like living in other people’s memories. All in the total darkness through the headphones. Weird and slightly scary stuff- but very cool.
Our second show of the day was a rendition of Jekyll and Hyde by New Zealand theatre company A Slightly Isolated Dog. The performance involved a lot of audience participation which we thoroughly enjoyed, and some musical intervals which we were in awe of. The cast created a wonderful atmosphere of adventure, innuendo and comedy which was magic to be part of as an audience.
Speaking of casts creating atmospheres, we then saw Electrolyte, which actually had nothing to do with GCSE Chemistry and electrolytes at all.
It was acted out by a cast who also played as band throughout. The show was centred around a young woman battling with mental health issues all the while, trying to balance her friendships and wild partying-lifestyle.
The show used lighting and music beautifully, but fell through when trying to connect, relate and include to the audience, so it just came across as a “One foot in the rave” storyline.
However, we certainly learned one thing; “We are all made of stardust,” Oh yeah, and dreams too, don’t forget dreams, Silly.
Our final show of the day to see was The Brunch Club, a show inspired by the iconic John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club and other high school-based teen flicks like Clueless and Mean Girls. Most scenes payed homage to these tropes, and the characters introduced were modern versions of them; the mean girl, the nerd, nandos kid, activist vegan and more.
We were shown the evolution of these stereotypes throughout time and how media and pop culture had shaped them, which was interesting to watch unfold.
We then went back to camp to enjoy a cover of “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls from a few members of our Ensemble in the main tent, and then to bed.
DAY 3 - On our third and final day of Fringe, we went to see a contemporary performance, which after viewing was considered to be one of the top shows we saw by quite a lot of members of the group.
The show was called Are we not drawn onward to new erA, which is a palindrome so if you read it backwards it will say the same thing.
At first it was very confusing as the performance evolved. The production was recorded as it was performed by the Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed. The piece was contemporary, and could (just like the title) be viewed forwards and backwards. Performers spoke completely backwards throughout, which took us a while to realise. Plastic bags were thrown around, a tree was destroyed, a statue was put up, and finally, smoke machines turned the stage into a solid grey mass.
Then the recorded footage was played backwards.
The message can be read both ways. In the description on the Fringe website, they have made the entire performance a palindrome, played forwards or backwards to portray the identical piece, because “some believe humanity is moving forward, while others believe the opposite...Are our actions irreversible or can we undo them?”
This performance was poignant, political, artistic and visually dynamic, and very significant to the time we are in now as a society.
Our final show of the Fringe was called Standard-Elite another entertaining and comedic performance which used vivid story telling of two very different characters to engross the participating audience members, who were put into two groups; standard and elite.
Elite members of the audience could decide what happened to story when given the option to through the two narrators. Standard members helped act this out, using given props from the narrators.
This performance flowed brilliantly and never failed to impress with its use of props and excellent comedy.
Similar to our previous show, the message left to the end was one of importance, and the performers had succeeded in making us as an audience feel like we really were part of the story, since most decisions made effected us.
Edinburgh Fringe 2019 was brilliant! The weather was kind and not even a head cold could spoil our enjoyment! Thank you Mortal Fools! As ever it was a blast :)
Don't forget: you can still see the full 'Fringe Takeover' on our instagram highlights!
It’s been an exciting couple of years at Mortal Fools – we’ve reached more young people and audiences than ever before, won several awards and embarked on some new, exciting (and sometimes a little terrifying) projects and performances.
Our funders can be the invisible partners in our success story and we want to make them visible, thank them publicly and share just how vital they are to our work.
We are humbled and grateful for whatever funding we receive – pocket change donated after a show or a large grant – every bit counts and makes us do a little jig! We couldn’t achieve much without financial support and in the last few months, it’s fair to say that we’ve been doing quite a lot of little jigs…
SUPPORTNG US AT OUR CORE…
This year we have received core funding from GARFIELD WESTON FOUNDATION. It’s so important to support a charity’s overheads because it is the foundation for their success – without it, it’s impossible for us to build a robust model of sustainable activities and services for our beneficiaries.
Core funding can be difficult to come by and so for this we want to say a huge thank you.
We were delighted to receive business development funding from the GROWTH AND RESILIENCE fund via Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. We have ambitious plans for growth – increasing the size of our core team, improving the way we do things so the quality of our work gets better and better and increasing the numbers of young people we work with in more areas.
This funding will support us to work with expert consultants, increasing the skills and knowledge of our team and help us to build our income streams, supporting our growth and sustainability.
TRUSTING IN THE QUALITY OF OUR WORK…
ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND have awarded us a series of project grants for our work with young people in the last year. We make theatre with young people of comparable quality to a lot of professional theatre produced in the UK.
The Arts Council recognise that great art, applied well, can have transformational effects on children and young people and we appreciate their ongoing support and belief in our work.
SIR JAMES KNOTT TRUST has recently given us a multi-year commitment to supporting our largest young people’s programme, Creatives of the Future. This is a programme of high-quality theatre and drama activities made for, with and by young people in non-academic settings, mainly in Northumberland, but also featuring touring work to venues across the North of England.
Multi-year grants enable us to build more resilience as an organisation, to think more ambitiously, plan ahead and reduce the hamster-wheel effect of securing short-term project funds one after the other after the other.
INVOLVING OUR YOUNG PEOPLE…
When it comes to raising money for our charity, we need to give a lot of credit to the young people that we work with. Without their hard work and dedication to the projects, there would be nothing to raise money for. Their efforts are what inspire us every day, and often what inspires the funders we are reaching out to.
Sometimes, their impact is even more direct and they actually raise the money themselves! THE KEY provide a framework by which the young people involved are directly responsible for assessing their own skills, developing their own project and ideas, and presenting this to a funding panel.
This year, funding from The Key has enabled four of our youth theatre members to work with professional practitioners to develop their facilitation and leadership skills, and in the process deliver drama workshops to 70+ other young people across the North of England.
KEY FUNDING RELATIONSHIPS…
THE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION are a great example of where we have successfully developed an ongoing relationship with a funder. The funds they represent have supported us with a combination of small project and activity grants, multi-year programme grants and business development funding.
By always providing thorough reports on the outcomes and impact of the activities they support, we have grown into an organisation that they trust and recommend to their funders, championing our work and acting as advocates and advisors to us as an organisation.
NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY COUNCIL (NCC) have supported us in every aspect of our work, for many years now. We are one of their key partners within Northumberland Arts Development strategic forum, with an annual SLA to lead the development of theatre and drama activities for young people in the county. NCC have also provided additional project funding, which we often use as match funding to help us attract further funds into the region.
It is worth mentioning that the funders we have named specifically here are those who have supported us just within the last 6 months. If we were to thank every funder who has ever supported us, this post would be pages and pages long.
And finally, to everybody who supports our work, we say THANK YOU. When you donate, buy a ticket to a show, like a Facebook post, or tell a friend or colleague about our work, just remember… we are doing a grateful little jig every time!
CLICK HERE for our full list of funders
CLICK HERE TO MAKE A REGULAR OR ONE-OFF DONATION TO MORTAL FOOLS
Mortal Fools Artistic Director (CEO)