Alison Skilbeck talks about bringing her show ARE THERE MORE OF YOU? to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: Alison Skilbeck
Venue: Assembly Hall (Baillie Room)
Time: 11.10am
Length: 70 mins
Tickets: £6 – £12.50

Tell me about yourself and your performing background?
I’ve been an actress for over 30 years; after Oxford University had five wonderful years with Ayckbourn’s Scarborough Company, then theatre all over UK and in West End. Other theatre highlights include touring Shakespeare all over USA, and for last 10 years creating and touring three one-woman shows, all getting 5 stars at Edinburgh. Television highlights include Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Soldier Soldier, Beiderbecke Affair – and recently Midsomer Murders and Call The Midwife. I’m an Associate Teacher at RADA, serve on the Admissions’ Panel, and am a trainer for RADA Business. Years ago played Polly Perks in The Archers..!

Tell me about your show, what is it about?
ARE THERE MORE OF YOU? Is four linked tales – bit like ‘Talking Heads’ – of four wildly different contemporary women, all imaginary, linked only by their postcode..I’m on stage all the time, making small costume changes; the tales are at times sad, often very funny, but ultimately celebratory; they each have a journey to go.

How long have you worked on it, and what makes it relevant in 2018?
I actually first performed it over 10 years ago, and have since toured with it intermittently – in London, all over the UK, to Eire, to Edinburgh before, to Sri Lanka and US Universities. Only small changes have been needed ( references to technology for instance) and indeed it had great response from an English audience in Spain early this year. The stories seem pretty timeless – and the need to create work for and about women – and women of ‘a certain age’ – is still there! It is also a celebration of theatre acting, and how we can say a lot with very little, and turn on a sixpence, and in full view to ‘ become other’. It’s about ‘less is more’ and also, I hope, shows women can be funny!

Do you have any top tips for survival at the Edinburgh Fring Festival?
Get a good umbrella that does not blow inside out; a good waterproof, strong shoes. Get a season ticket for the bus. For older performers – get a few early nights! Keep smiling and be polite – especially in human traffic jams. Try not to get too hung up on reviews; remember WHY you are doing your show, and think of your audience. Enjoy the city!

What is the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on stage?
Has to be a matinee at Scarborough years ago: during a lull in a big musical number an elderly lady farted loudly – half the actors stopped singing and dancing; in the next lull she said, also loudly ‘ Oh, sorry!’ The rest of the actors seized up. Unforgettable.

Who are your biggest inspirations in this industry and why?
Alan Ayckbourn: amazing output but quality too – continues great British Drama tradition of saying something serious through comedy. He writes only for the theatre, and theatre-in-the-round, which is egalitarian – no-one can upstage – and he writes wonderful parts for women. Miranda Hart ( whom I once taught) persevered and finally, deservedly, made it; Michelle Terry, whom I admired at RADA, is creating a great company at the Globe and taking on roles big and small, ‘male’ and female’, yet remaining true to the text and spirit of Shakespeare.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Nothing superstitious. Go over lines; warm up breath and voice, be on time, early if possible. Imagine audience – and don’t expect them to react in the same way last night’s!

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
Those of friends: my husband, Tim Hardy, in A SUBSTITUTE FOR LIFE, which I directed, right after me! Also Jeremy Stockwell ( who directed my show) in KEN and A SOCK FULL OF CUSTARD, Jan Carey, also produced by Hint Of Lime, in a show about Ivor Gurney at Pleasance, Lily Bevan and Lorna Beckett, Assembly George Sq., and then my big thrill to see again ‘Attrappe Moi’ by Flip Fabrique, the wonderful Canadian acrobats, on at Assembly. Watching them you can’t believe we belong to the same species – and they’re funny!

Why should people come to see your show over all of the others?
Because of what I said above – because it combines so much: middle-aged woman writing, and writing about very different active middle-aged women, and moving you to laughter and maybe tears; getting back to simple ‘two planks and a passion’ theatre and acting in this techno age. It might surprise some people.. ‘Are There More Of You?’ yes – many more!


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