Missing Macbeth

I’ve just updated the acting and directing tab with Macbeth, and it reminded me how much I miss working on this play. It was an utter joy from beginning to end. The most expressive, professional, flexible and fun group of actors and a magnificent show that blew the audience away.

Jacqueline Harper as Lady Macbeth and Guy Steddon as Macbeth

Here you go. Photos, promo videos, reviews and audience feedback. Feast. https://www.susannecrosby.com/acting-directing-singing-more/n

Meeting An Acting Hero Day

Today I met one of my acting heroes. I’m very grateful to Helen for stopping me motoring through and asking if I wanted a photo – because I hadn’t noticed at all, on a mission, places to go. “Photo?” Yes, yes, Mike McShane, standing talking to some friends. MIKE McSHANE. I’ve been a fan since “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” and then the double act show he did following that, and of course, of course, one of my favourite films of all time: “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves”. I bloody loved him in that, recognised him instantly, am pleased I kept my cool at least a little and didn’t fan quote all the lines in that movie to him. But I did get my pic with him. And what a totally lovely guy, talked with us for quite some time. And I managed not to gush. I think. I did cry though. After I was out of his sight line!

Context – Helen and I watched the play “Brexit” written by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky starring Mike McShane and other acting legends – which was seriously the best observed political play I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t even an allegory, it was written for now, with acutely witnessed political machinations and the madness of Brexit politics – as well as politics in general, which in this was all about staying in power and winning approval, rather than choosing the right policy. It was incredibly funny, although so true in hindsight it’s likely to cause as many tears of futility and sadness as well as joy. One of the best things I’ve seen on stage. I don’t just mean in this Fringe, I mean ever. Not just because Mike McShane was in it. A little bit. But not the main reason.

When we came out there were a pile of people exit flyering – thrusting different flyers into hands, when I heard someone saying something about being interested in God. This made me look up and there in Tudor dress was one of my acting teachers – Jules, fabulous voice teacher! I had not expected to see anyone I knew and all 3 of us ended up chatting for a while. Helen and I are going to see the play she is in tomorrow.

Just the five shows today. Again. I’m clearly a five-shows-a-day kinda gal. I’ve been a dirty stop out since 10 this morning. I saw Alan Bennett’s “Say Something Happened” which is a joy to watch, and so layered that it stays with you and comes back at you in layers when you’re thinking about something else. An amateur production but still really enjoyable. After that I found a cafe called “Spoon” which was almost a little piece of Brighton in the heart of Edinburgh. It seriously felt like Brighton. Artisan toast. Portobello mushroom and goats cheese with sourdough toast and pea shoots. You can’t really get more Brighton than that! And real tea – I mean REAL tea, with a tea strainer. Mismatching teapot with the cup and saucer. Ahhhhh I felt a little homesick.

After Brexit I ran up almost to the Castle to see the next show for me to review: James Dean is Dead, Long Live James Dean. Wow what a show. What a performance. He also looked so like James Franco I did a serious double take. Wowsers.

This was right at the top of the Royal Mile – where most of the insanity seems to be concentrated, perhaps. And I saw the strangest sight. In this city, that’s saying something.

This guy was hovering off the ground. I walked around and around him and he was floating. I could NOT see how he was doing this. Honestly I have no clue. I thought maybe it was him holding on to his stationery counterpart but no, his arm was resting. The rest of him was not touching anything. Seriously, I walked all around him. Then I shook my head, took a picture, and walked on. BONKERS.

As I came out of the James Dean show I heard singing, and it was the way I was going, so I looked – and these guys stopped traffic. Singing Mamma Mia. About 50 of them. Tons of onlookers. Again, seriously, they stopped traffic. Cars were beeping to get past. Walking on, 30 seconds later and of course there were people from Star Wars. I mean, what else?

This was about tea time so I searched for somewhere which satisfied my criteria: 1. quirky 2. not too expensive 3. nice food 4. most important: wifi. As I had reviews to submit with a deadline approaching.

I found a cafe off the mile: St Giles, which was high ceilinged and bare floored with cafe tables and quite disinterested staff. Quirky not too expensive food, including a cream cheese, walnut and honey bagel which was just delicious and I will have to remember to make at home! So there I sat, freaking out the customers either side of me – simply by being a woman on her own in a reasonably visible eating establishment with a laptop in front of her, content with her own company. (Yes. Sometimes this freaks people out. No really, it does.) When I spoke to Andy via facetime at home and talked with Mia who looked so happy and tired and it made my day, but I made the mistake of swearing (it just tumbled out) about how good the James Dean play was the Americans on the table to my left visibly bristled and huffed and puffed their disapproval for the remainder of their time there. Honestly, I’m clearly too much, I need to get back into my box and realise what’s important in the world, which is that women shouldn’t swear, and if they do it’s a heinous crime, punishable by social ostracisation and disapproval; and that the things that I believe are important and require disapproval and above all action, such as child poverty, starvation and homelessness – these are of course not important at all, that it’s all about the odd slip of the F word in a passionate statement said in a public place due to that requires me to be publicly flogged.


So I stayed there writing for quite some time and gradually realised that I felt like I had been transported to France. It was the most French place I’ve seen outside of France. I can’t believe I didn’t notice when I first went in. If it hadn’t been for the specials blackboard announcing the “whisky of the day” I would have really believed I was in France. With Edith Piaf singing out “Non, rien de rien…” (I am not making this up) if you’d told me I was actually in France I would have believed you.

Then onto Antling. Ah Helen’s wonderful creation still makes me laugh and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen it. Had a big Adam Ant fan in this evening, who said his wife was an even bigger Adam Ant fan – I offered him to live stream it to her on his phone but I think he thought I was joking. Helen was particularly awesome this evening.

We then went to Bristo Square which I’d not seen after sun down and the lights made it look even prettier. While we sat and had a chat and wind down, we were flyered – by a New Zealand comedienne with her show “Ladylike”, starting shortly, so we went to see it. Just what we needed. Not highbrow, just funny. Watching her make “chicken liver pate” with cocktail sausages in order to impress the neighbours but keep costs down was really quite hilarious. She did manage to hit a few nails on heads about the impossible standards of having to be a woman.

Tired and happy.

And hey, I met Mike McShane.

Just in case you missed that bit.


Waxing Lyrical

Day 3 in this wild fabulous city of Edinburgh in the largest Fringe Festival in the world, and the realisation dawns that even if I had been here for a month, I couldn’t possibly get to see everything I want to see. And even when you think you’re choosing well, it could be that their marketing blurbs are just written well. Mind you, I’ve not seen anything I regret spending that time on. Including experiencing Ruby Wax teaching mindfulness. I kid you not.

Another 5 shows today and I’m back early with more reviews to write – but mainly because going to sleep at 2.30 a.m. each morning then being up early has taken its toll and I’m knackered!

Here is a little example of how busy this place is. Below is a small section of the map of Edinburgh with all the Fringe venues on it. A very small section. So, look at number 33, on the right of the picture. Kind of on its own there.

One number = one venue. Right? Wrong.

Walk in, to a little cobbled courtyard. Loads of picnic tables. Prosecco bar. Other bar. Food serveries. Coffee hut. These places (and there are lots of them) remind me of Riads in Morocco: extra large houses with a courtyard in the middle. Also – there seem to be tons of prosecco bars… maybe a Scottish thing..? I digress. The point is, that one number represents about 6 or 7 different venues each of which has their own programme of shows. It’s absolutely astonishing how much is going on here.

First show I saw today was with Helen and was Weird. Not a value judgement, that was the title. Holy cow. So incredibly moving, and brilliantly performed. One young woman with hardly any props. It’s hard to sell a show about OCD in its stark real form but this was both funny in places and desperately sad. OCD is used so flippantly in every day language now as a term for being fussy or fastidious which is hugely insulting to those who actually suffer with it. It was also educational, hearing the inner monologue of someone with this condition, and the difference between that and what they say out loud, as well as the way everyone else around them reacts to their behaviour which is just regarded as “weird”.

I stayed on after, wiping tears, and then couldn’t walk past a little table with 3 whisky bottles and little tasting cups without being drawn in. I have no idea whether they were selling it in the pub to which the whisky belonged or just giving it away; but I ended up being educated in where the whiskies came from, how they were made, and the history behind them. I smelled all of them and wow did they smell different from each other, I was amazed. I wasn’t going to try but one of them was intriguing so I did – and goodness me it tasted bloody lovely, which I was not expecting, having previously believed I’d grown out of liking whisky.

I stayed in the courtyard, once again having random conversations with total strangers – I love that there is no expectation to swap numbers or stay in touch or be forever pals. It’s nice to have these interactions with people and take them for what they are.

That’s where I discovered that Ruby Wax was just about to start her one woman show “Frazzled” and there were tickets available. I had no idea what to expect but I always loved Ruby Wax on TV so why not.  Turns out she was talking about people being frazzled, which she explained is not the same as stressed. People need a certain amount of stress, but now we don’t know how to stop being on alert: the fight or flight response. We are flooded with cortisol and can’t switch it off. Until we involve a different part of the brain to quell those spiraling voices. How do we do that? How do we activate the sensing part of the brain? Mindfulness. Which she then proceeded to get us all to do. I never in a million years thought I would be taught a version of mindfulness and good mental health practices by Ruby Wax. Don’t get me wrong, she was still really funny while she did this. And I agree with every word. If I hadn’t been paying such close attention, I would have been nodding. Her description of us as a human race as very clever, with very powerful brains that we have forgotten to use properly by saying we have a ferrari on top of our heads but someone forgot to give us the keys; is an analogy which will stay with me. We, as a race, are definitely clever she emphasises. After all, “we invented bubble wrap”.

I then ran to my next show. OK, walked very fast. Could I find it? Took until it was just starting by which time I was breathless from running up and down hills. Then that over ran, and the thing that I was due to see at the moment when that finished (which was supposed to be in the same venue but was in a different part of the venue) was just starting as I snuck in and sat down. I’m reviewing those and still mulling. Maybe I’ll get up early in the morning and do that. Maybe pigs will fly though.

The cafe opposite the alleyway to the venue for Antling is a real safe haven I really love it. I just fancied some comfort food to be honest, so I asked for egg beans and chips. Sometimes egg and chips is the bomb.

Helen was fabulous in Antling – again – of course. I wish us bigger audiences, she deserves it, and people deserve to see it. It’s a brilliant piece. The people who’ve been have totally loved it. And I’m loving my Edinburgh Fringe office (pic below) for the week. I really am.


Edinburgh, Day 2 – the weirdness

The Fringe vibe in this amazing city is vibrant, quirky, wonderful – and above all: weird. Deliciously so.

Turning the corner on the way to review a show there were an a cappella group of young attractive men singing and flyering (not busking) – by the time I got my phone to capture it, they had stopped “the bare necessities” and moved on to a funky version of “swing low, sweet chariot” until a corporate woman came and told them to shut up because they were disturbing office workers. I’ve worked in offices. Anyone who doesn’t respond to this kind of vibrant fun (and they were good!) needs a serious injection of needing to ‘get a life’.

2018-08-21 14.12.30

I walked around today and found the Bristo Underbelly – which sounds a little like a medical condition, admittedly, but reminded me a little of the Warren during the Brighton Fringe. A little enclave, flanked by food stalls and bars, artificial grass on the ground, and communal seating where everyone huddles together (I had hoped for conversations with random strangers again but was disappointed, seems everyone was avoiding that).

Amid the University buildings. Plus of course access to lots of Fringe venues. They seem to make venues out of everything.

So I’m sitting there eating, having seen two shows, when a group of people dance up all wearing headphones and singing along with the song that they were all listening to: Uptown Funk. This was such a spontaneous show of happiness it was simply wonderful. “Silent Adventures” apparently.

On to show number 3 of the day in a fabulous little site which was a little like a tardis. From the outside, you had no idea that there was so much inside. Including a bar with the strongest coffee the world has ever known. I might be buzzing all night. I was only one of 2 people in the audience for that one which was a little sad given how much they were both putting into this two hander – but with so many shows competing for audiences, it’s understandable.

Onto the fabulousness of Antling. OK, so I am obviously sound and lighting tech for the inimitable Helen Pepper Smith but I do still get to watch the show so it still counts. We had a reviewer in, who bought us a drink after the show as a thank you for his (and his friend’s) free tickets! How super is that? He said he loved it. Hoping the review is indeed as lovely as him and his friend were.

So we then checked to see if there was something we could see to unwind with – Mike Bartlett’s “Contractions”. Mike Bartlett is fast becoming one of my favourite playwrights so I thought ‘yes please’ – Helen has seen a previous version and was all in favour. So we went… and it was truly one of the most bizarre experiences… We were handed little radio packets with an earpiece and then given instructions on how to fit it and how to turn it on by a very strong accented woman. The man handing them out was saying “translation” in an equally strong accent. Helen and I just stared at him and the woman and then it suddenly dawned on me – a Russian company… so we watched this bizarre Kafka-esque two hander performed completely in Russian while a quiet female voice with yet again a strong accent translated what was going on in our ears.

At one point I leaned to Helen and asked her if this was really happening or if I was dreaming. She said it was real and pinched me.

Bonkers day. Totally flippin bonkers. Love this city.

Edinburgh Fringe – Day 1

Yes, this is the first post in ages; yes, there has been so much to update and yes, I have to start somewhere.

So today I landed in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to give its full official title, as part of Pepper Productions’ team Antling. After a successful run in the Brighton Fringe Festival and Hove Grown Festival this year, we opened tonight at the largest Fringe Festival in the world, and Helen Pepper Smith was brilliant. As time has gone on it has enriched and deepened and even now having seen it probably 50 times (at least) I’m still laughing and being moved by the poignancy of the story and the performance.

But I’m starting at the end of the day instead of the beginning! The taxi to the station this morning, booked last week for 5.15 this morning still hadn’t arrived by 5.25 despite me phoning them in a panic, they seemed completely disinterested in my urgency to get to the train that I had a prebooked ticket for… then I tried to go through security at the wrong terminal of Gatwick (I blame the illegal time of the morning and the complete adrenalin surge of the taxi situation including being thrown around the car despite the seatbelt in the driver’s attempt to get me to my train on time) – I had to look no further for the third thing to go awry when I got to Gatwick and realised none (none!) of the departure boards were working, showing gate numbers etc., but instead there were handwritten white boards with this information on and everyone crowding round those at least 5 people deep (not good for – ahem – average height people like me).

But with a shrug of “it is what it is”, onwards and flightwards. I had intended to read my book on the flight but ended up talking to the person next to me: Matt, who works for the airline (EasyJet) and loves it and was hoping to have a career in musical theatre at one time – needless to say we chatted 19 to the dozen for the whole flight time which was brilliant. Lovely guy. I left my water in my bag (firmly deposited in the overhead locker and therefore inaccessible) which I just mentioned in passing so he got a bottle of water for me from the cabin crew which was so thoughtful. We talked theatre and the industry and directing and flying – I love interesting conversations with random strangers I really do.

Later in the day Helen (the fabulous Helen Pepper Smith, creator of Antling and founder of Pepper Productions) and I found the Royal Mile: the heart of the Fringe here in Edinburgh. And this area assails at best assaults at worst all of your senses at the same time. Bustling crowds, people giving fliers to you and promoting their shows in sometimes the most inventive way possible – for example 3 men all dressed as Lady Bracknell (including wigs) advertising “The Importance of Being Earnest” (assume a slightly different version); various incredible ‘statues’ including one in black and white on a bicycle in the wind; music: from rock to bagpipes, from a banjo to opera; a man in a tail coat ‘clowning’ and making passers by shriek with his often startling interactions.

So here we are. We have arrived.

Of course there have been a few (other) odd things. To add to the fairground taxi ride and the weird makeshift Gatwick departure boards. Including cups of tea, served with pot, cups & saucers, milk jug, sugar… and a straw. Maybe we looked like we had a sensitivity to heat..?

Helen was fabulous in the opening of Antling this evening which is great but timings are tight. We have 60 minutes in total which means 5 minutes either side in and out so trying to curtail the brilliant creation into 50 minutes is tricky – there really isn’t any fat, it’s all really good and deserves a place there. But it is what it is…

After that we sought some light hearted comedy which is what we got with “Three’s Company, Where’s Our Crowd? An improvised comedy night”. Lots of laugh out loud moments. And even better as we got in with our performance passes so it cost us nothing. Sometimes you just need a bit of silly.

So with the motto of the day “It is what it is”, I look forward to what tomorrow will bring, including 2 shows that I’m reviewing, having collected my official (and very bright orange) press pass from the Fringe Hub earlier (having tried to find it for a good few hours). Such a joy to get to see shows and review them: see a show and write about it? Yes please

With EasyJet as well it’s been a bright orange day.

Here’s to orange.