The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest and perhaps most famous arts festivals in the world. Taking over the beautiful Scottish capital every August it showcases some of the finest artistic minds across a huge range of disciplines, including theatre, comedy and dance. This year the festival boasts a performance from our very own Sussex University Drama Society (SUDs), and I was lucky enough to talk to writer and director Lucy Grey, soon to complete her Masters in Journalism here at Sussex, ahead of the show.
The Squire Sisters, set in 1949 in Pickford, is a romantic period coming of age drama with a feminist them running throughout. Lucy tells me ‘the play follows the lives of three sisters who are bored of their post-war experience in Pickford and want to start living. Through singing, laughter and romance the three sisters begin to forge their way into the turn of the decade. The play focuses on the blurring between the roles of a sister and a mother and of the coming of age of women in different scenarios.’
Lucy is no stranger to The Fringe; last year she co-directed SUDs production Toys at the festival with writer Jack Kelly, and all the actors from that show are also returning in The Squire Sisters. She has also attended many times as a journalist for The British Comedy Guide, and her passion for the festival is clear. Lucy tells me ‘I adore Edinburgh and working on a piece to go up their just adds to the excitement of a show. It gives you an added pressure to make the performance as good as you can. I also feel it heightens the stakes for the actors.’ This added pressure stems from the significance of the festival – the actors ‘know press and industry people could easily walk through the door, so that makes them bring their A game every night.’ The atmosphere can be reassuring as well as pressured though, and Lucy says ‘it’s also great to be a part of the arts community up there. There is a real sense of camaraderie among the performers at the festival and the chance to see other work is fantastic’.
Rehearsals for the play started in May, but due to other commitments there hasn’t been much time, so intense coffee-fuelled sessions have been required. The show going up there is an abridged one due the constraints of the festival, and Lucy tells me this was an extremely difficult but interesting process that has resulted in a very different version of the play. She is very happy with the result though; confident that this version lives up to the original and believes it has forced her to ‘find detail in more subtle ways’. She is gives credit to her ‘fantastic’ cast– George Pundek, Andrew Crouch, Dodie Finemore, Lizzie Parkinson, Anna Mould, David Amey and James Briefel– for making the process so successful. along with producer William Walker.
Unfortunately Lucy herself can’t attend to the festival due to commitments with the National Youth Theatre, but she has done her bit and has every confidence in the cast and crew. She tells me she will miss not being there and is unequivocal about the ‘huge’ opportunity the festival offers – ‘the chance to be seen by press and industry professionals is what normally springs to mind, but I feel it’s more important that other theatre makers come see you. The chance for other small theatre companies to see us and us see them is something quite unique to fringe festivals and can help create great connections.’
The Squire Sisters runs from August 22nd to 27th at venue ‘theSpace on the Mile’, and we at The Badger wish the cast and crew the best of luck with the show, we’re sure they will take the festival by storm!