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Tim Foley’s The Goddess of Walnuts, after a successful run in St Andrews, went on to a crowd-funded production at the Edinburgh Fringe. Directed by Ben Anderson, produced by Natalie English, and starring Cara Mahoney and Emma Taylor, the show met with critical praise and strong ticket sales. Lachlan Robertson interviews several members of the production team about the process of bringing this short student-written work to the Fringe.

 

 

How was the experience of not knowing which part you would play each night? Was the process of getting into character a more difficult one, or did it come naturally?

 

Cara: Honestly, switching roles made this the most terrifying acting experience I’ve ever had. Usually you have the comfort of psyching yourself up to the performance ahead, but with the added ‘spice’ of this audience interaction, that was completely taken away. The rehearsal process (a full week immediately before we went to Edinburgh) was probably the hardest part of the entire process, however, as during that very short week we had to become acquainted with both parts, and therefore two completely different plays. After the first few nights of sheer panic, the not-knowing became a definite rhythm, which, whilst being mildly unsettling immediately before stepping onstage, did maintain a freshness throughout the run. By about day four, we knew both of our respective characters so well that it didn’t matter which way round it was – stepping into either character became instinctive. Although it was an undeniably challenging process, switching roles is something that I’m proud to say we have done successfully.

 

 

How did you find working with such a small crew?

 

Cara: Aside from being a small crew, most of us knew each other beforehand, as we came together as a group of friends who wanted to be at the Fringe, so it was a lovely environment to walk into. Although it was understandably a highly intense process, we grew closer because of it, and that, alongside all of the theatre we did and saw, is why it was such a wonderful and irreplaceable experience.

 

Ben: Absolutely exhausting! It would have been impossible if I hadn’t had such a dedicated production crew and cast. Emily and Natalie were the best marketing/ production duo that I could have hoped for, doing an incredible job and their jobs whilst going far beyond their defined roles. With such a small group everything became a lot more collaborative and, I think, the better for it.

 

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Cast and Crew

 

 

Your show was not funded by Mermaids. What were your main methods of fundraising? What advice would you give to others interested in taking a show to the Fringe?

 

Natalie: No our show was not funded by Mermaids though it is important to note that The Goddess of Walnuts was never proposed to the committee as a show to be funded for the fringe, however it did come about by the rejection of other shows!

Our main methods of fundraising were from Anthony Tudor, the cabaret that we held in conjunction with The Just So Society and our Indiegogo page which is where people sponsor us in return for cool things like signed copies of the script and NUT BADGES! We also had to invest some of our own money in the show, this made us work even harder to ensure the show was a huge success and we managed to fully reimburse ourselves.

To anyone else interested in taking a show to the fringe, DO IT! It is such a good experience for anyone who enjoys theatre, it is hard work but as long as you are willing to put in the effort (hours of flyering a day can only ever be a good thing) then the experience will be entirely rewarding!

 

 

How do you feel that you made Goddess stand out amongst the many shows of the Fringe?

 

Ben: The character switching was a massive part of what made us stand out. I wanted to ensure it was a fundamental part of the show, rather than a gimmick, and I had a lot of conversations with Tim about how we could do it. He ended up writing me an extra minute of dialogue on top of what people would have seen in the preview in St Andrews that helped us develop the theme of Vivien living entirely for her audience. I was really pleased with how we integrated the character switching into the show- bringing the audience experience outside of the venue before the show allowed us to build the excitement before people came in and meant that people started queuing earlier and earlier in order to be allowed to choose who was playing who. The fact that the play itself was being performed by two incredibly talented actors (in Emma and Cara) also helped. A lot.

 

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Role-swapping stars Emma and Cara

 

What was the attraction of putting on a very short show?

 

Ben: For me, the attraction of a short show was in the challenge. In a short play everything gets magnified and scrutinized to the nth degree. You’re left with very little room to let the pacing drop or blocking to become sloppy, even for a second because it’s all the more noticeable. Vicky’s pinwheeling around Vivien had to be choreographed to ensure that the spaces were constantly used and it never became too static. It also means you don’t have a lot of room to develop the characters as the play progresses so there were a lot of discussions about how we could immediately create the characters on stage in front of the audience. I ended up having both Emma and Cara go on stage as ‘blank canvasses’ and assuming the physicality and mannerisms of their roles in front of the audience, which helped to set the tone immediately.

 

There was also the attraction of being able to work with Tim, a chance I’ve not had before (not for lack of trying!). He’s been incredibly supportive of me since the first week I arrived here and I think working on putting on a play of his was a fitting way to say thank you and goodbye.

 

Lachlan Robertson

 

Photo credit: Ben Anderson