Edinburgh-based theatre company Grid Iron is pleased to confirm that its site-responsive outdoor adaptation of Erlend Loe’s best-selling book Doppler will take place as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2021.
The play was originally scheduled to be presented at last year’s Fringe with the plans then pivoted to a digital sharing in light of the Covid-19 related restrictions. With only a few days of outdoor filming achieved due to Storm Francis, the Company had decided to instead produce a documentary film charting the story of the show and its production, Doppler – The Story so Far, which was released for free in March 2020 and watched by almost 10,000 people worldwide.
Grid Iron is also thrilled to reveal it is one of a group of 15 shows and five venues awarded first ever Fringe Artist and Venue Recovery Fund.
Judith Doherty, Chief Executive and Co-Artistic Director of Grid Iron Theatre Company said: “After this roller-coaster of a ride that was Doppler – from the seed being planted in Ben Harrison’s mind when he read the book almost 3 years ago and plans for a Festival 2020 run, through to a digital sharing and finally the documentary – we could not be more excited to announce our 2021 plans for a live, outdoor sharing of the play.
“We are so grateful to the Fringe for this grant because it will allow us to provide BSL interpreted performances as part of the run and other access materials to make sure that our audience, although small in number, can be wide in reach.”
Doppler is an adaptation of a satirical novel by a Norwegian writer Erlend Loe, translated to English by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw. It focuses on Doppler, a man who, following the death of his father, decides to abandon his family and move to the forest on the outskirts of Oslo. He is determined to live a life as far removed from his previous as possible but struggles to maintain his isolation as his existence garners a lot of unwanted attention.
Produced and presented strictly following Scottish Government’s safety guidelines, Doppler will be staged outdoors and feature a small cast of four. Further information, including venue, dates and cast, will be announced in due course.
Grid Iron are an Edinburgh-based theatre company who, following their incorporation in 1995 and their first show Clearance at the Traverse, Edinburgh, swiftly gained a reputation for creating high-quality, high profile shows. The Company went on to specialise in presenting shows in unusual locations. They are a new writing company who work in challenging sites that lend themselves especially well to Grid Iron’s taut production style. Occasionally they create work for the stage or use theatre buildings in a site-specific, promenade manner.
In 1997 Grid Iron produced their first full-scale site-specific production, The Bloody Chamber, their adaptation of Angela Carter’s Bluebeard fairytale, which they presented in famously haunted underground vaults beneath Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile. It was the company’s first appearance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and, by the opening night, the show had sold out for its entire three-week run. Awards: Herald Angel for Outstanding Contribution and Achievement in Theatre and Total Theatre Nominations for Best Newcomers and Best Design.
Edinburgh International Festival, the world’s leading performing arts festival, announced a reimagined festival for 2021 which marks the return of live performance to Scotland’s capital. Taking place from 7 to 29 August, the 2021 International Festival uses bespoke outdoor venues to safely reunite artists and audiences to rediscover the magic of live performance.
A selection of performance spaces across the city will include three temporary outdoor pavilions designed especially for live performance. The pavilions will be situated at iconic city locations including Edinburgh Park and the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad and will feature covered concert stages and socially distanced seating.
The International Festival is working with the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and other relevant authorities to implement appropriate Covid safety measures. These include shorter performances with no intervals, physical distancing, regular cleaning, and contactless ticketing. Full details of the Festival’s security measures will be published in the coming months.
As part of an ongoing commitment to accessibility, the International Festival will release a selection of high-quality streamed performances free of charge during each week of the Festival, for audiences in Edinburgh and around the world to enjoy from home.
Full details of the 2021 programme, which spans opera, orchestral and chamber music, theatre and contemporary music, will be announced on Wednesday 2 June before general booking opens on Friday 11 June.
Fergus Linehan, Festival Director at Edinburgh International Festival said:
“Edinburgh’s summer festivals were officially cancelled almost exactly a year ago. Today, we are delighted to announce that in August 2021 the Edinburgh International Festival will return to live performance.
“While there are still uncertainties ahead, we are confident that this programme will give us the very best chance of delivering a season of live performance from 7 – 29 August. All our planning will be led by the advice we continue to receive from our partners in Government.
“We appreciate that these first steps back to live performances will be for audiences closer to home but are delighted to offer a parallel programme of digital work for those further afield. We are hugely grateful to the artists who have agreed to come on this journey with us, the stakeholders, donors, and sponsors who have stood by us through a tough year and our audiences who have cheered us along throughout. We look forward to sharing full details of the programme in early June.
“Welcome back to live performance, welcome back to your Festival.”
Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener, said:
“The Edinburgh International Festival is an explosion of performing arts, cultural exploration and sheer exhilaration that takes place across the city. After the challenging year we’ve all had and the disappointment of not being able to enjoy the festival in the usual way last year, it will be fantastic for audiences to share in the live performance experience again with an exceptional outdoor pavilions programme for local audiences alongside the Festival’s online offering.
“Public safety will of course be a priority, and this year’s line-up promises to be very special. We can all very much look forward to the release of the programme details in June.”
“We look forward with anticipation to audiences being welcomed back to live Edinburgh International Festival performances, safely and within the appropriate guidelines.
“Scotland’s art and creative sector has been hit hard by Covid-19 and its effects continue to have an impact, however, it has been truly remarkable how artists and creative organisations across Scotland have adapted to continue to deliver creative work for audiences.
“Using bespoke outdoor venues which will enable audiences in Edinburgh to experience live performance, complemented by digital broadcast across the world, art and creativity in Scotland will again shine bright on the global stage as part of the much loved Edinburgh International Festival.”
Visit eif.co.uk for further information about the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival.
What made you say yes to playing Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show?
It’s been a dream role of mine for a long time. I heard they were doing The Rocky Horror Show and I think Frank-N-Furter is one of the best roles you can play in musical theatre. It’s such an iconic role and the show has such a loyal following. It’s such a wonderfully written show and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great to play Frank?’ I rang my agent and said: ‘I hear they’re casting The Rocky Horror Show can you get me an audition?’ He did and so I went in, did the audition and got a recall. When I went back, I said to myself ‘I’m gonna get this’ and I did. I was really lucky because I fought off lots of competition from other well-known actors who were up for the part. I was like ‘No, no, no, this is my part!’ so when I got it, I was really proud of myself.
Everything! And of course, he has one of the best entrances in musical theatre. The reaction you get from his opening number Sweet Transvestite is amazing because it’s such a great song and you come out in a cloak, then take the cloak off to reveal his really out-there outfit. It’s a great moment.
Can you relate to him in any way?
For me it’s more about having fun rather than relatability. The part of Frank-N-Furter is so twisted and so dark and that’s such fun to play. I mean, he’s essentially a psychopathic doctor who wants to create a man for his own pleasure and he’ll kill whoever gets in his way. Coming from Hollyoaks where I got to play a serial killer I thought it’d be great to then go and play Frank – to explore that dark, twisted mind again of someone who is living on the edge, someone who isn’t afraid to do what he has to do to get what he wants. That kind of character is really fun to play.
Credit : Johan Persson
Presumably with this role you’re very comfortable in heels?
I am, yes, and I love getting dressed up every night, putting on the corset, the fishnets and heels. It’s such an empowering moment because when I walk out on that stage, I feel huge compared to the other cast members. I feel like I’m towering above everybody and instantly I get that sense of command that Frank has. [Laughs] And of course I’m not shy so I love strutting round. I’m really embracing it. Also, I have a bit of a fascination with drag queens and drag artists. I’ve become a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s like my number one guilty pleasure. I cannot miss an episode of any of RuPaul’s stuff.
Do you do much ad-libbing in response to the audience shout-outs?
There’s none of that from me. The only person who’s allowed to do that is The Narrator. They are the only ones who get to heckle back. I can do an eyebrow raise or a little smirk because, apart from The Narrator, Frank is the only one who’s allowed to acknowledge the audience.
What sort of shout-outs have you had so far?
There’s a lot of rude stuff and I got to do a scene in bed with Ben Adams from A1 when he was in the show. So it’s two boyband members in a bed, which is quite funny and prompts quite a few amusing shout-outs.
Why do you think The Rocky Horror Show has endured?
I think it’s down to the genius of Richard O’Brien. He created The Rocky Horror Show back in the 70s when it was really taboo to talk about certain subjects and having a man dressed up as a transvestite was unheard of. It was like ‘What on earth is this Tim Curry guy doing?’ It was banned in some countries because they thought it was completely wrong and it had a tough start because a lot of people didn’t know how to take it. A lot of people found it in bad taste but that was a sign of the times, of course. As attitudes towards sexuality, sex and transgender issues have changed we’ve become a lot more open-minded and liberal, haven’t we? It’s fantastic that we now embrace shows like The Rocky Horror Show. It’s great that this show in particular has stood the test of time. It seems to be getting bigger and bigger, with more and more people getting dressed up to come see it as well as knowing the story and shout-outs. The show gains more and more fans every time it goes out on tour.
When it comes to musical theatre, what have been your favourite roles?
I’m really lucky that I’ve gotten to do so many great shows. I loved playing Billy Flynn in Chicago. That’s a great role and I was lucky enough to play him again in the West End revival last year. I got to work with Alexandra Burke, who I adore, and we had great chemistry together. I loved playing Tick in Priscilla because it’s one of the most incredible, most liberating roles. Me having a child and being a gay man, I really related to the character. And The Rocky Horror Show is really good fun. It’s one of those shows where you get on stage every night and just have a really good time. It doesn’t feel like having to go to work and the audiences love it. The music is great, Frank’s words are so delicious and the way the story is told is just brilliant. I’m living my best life right now.
Definitely. As long as people want to come see us there’ll always be Blue. We’re very lucky that we get to travel all over the world. We get to play sold-out arenas wherever we go and we get to have these amazing trips away. We were in Bahrain recently then we went to Singapore and Malaysia, which was wonderful – to be able to travel to these countries with my friends and get up on stage and sing songs that everybody knows.
When it comes to theatre, do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?
This show consumes quite a lot of preparation with the make-up, the wig and everything. I have my little routine of doing my make-up, getting the wig put on, getting into the costume and then I’m on stage. There’s not a lot of time to think or prepare. After a show I take it all off then spend up to an hour at the stage door signing stuff and having pictures with everybody. There are always so many people at the stage door, which is lovely and I always want to make sure to give time to everybody. By the time I get home after that it’s like 11.30pm and I’m knackered.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on tour without?
My pillow goes everywhere with me. I cannot sleep in a hotel room without it because I can’t stand those horrible synthetic pillows you usually get. I have a proper old-school, feathered, heavy pillow which goes with me everywhere.
You’re bringing the show to the King’s Theatre, Glasgow. Does it have any significance for you?
Me and the Blue boys performed in Glasgow when we were on tour with Wet Wet Wet and we were the first act to ever play in their brand-new arena, which was great. The audiences were great too. I do find that the further north you go the rowdier they get.
The Rocky Horror show is coming to the Kings Theatre August 12 – August 17 2019 starring Duncan James (Blue) and Joanne Clifton (Strictly Come Dancing).