Atlanta Hayward talks about bringing the murky streets of WW1 to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in TOBACCO ROAD

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I found growing up in Brighton so inspirational. From a young age, I noticed how prominent Brighton’s arts scene was and I just had to get involved. I performed in a lot of plays during my school years and was encouraged by my drama teacher at the time to pursue it further. That’s when I began training at Shana Goldman’s stage school, which I attended alongside my studies. At 14 I became a member of the National Youth Theatre and spent a summer training with them in London, which was an invaluable experience! I studied Performing Arts and English Literature at college, then went straight to the University of Bristol and graduated with a first in Theatre and Performance. I feel like I’ve been brewing in this little incubator of training and education and now I’ve finally burst out into the real world. It’s all very exciting.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Tobacco Road follows five young men and woman who are trying to make a name for themselves in the murky backstreets of London in the aftermath of WW1. But then again there’s so much more to it than it gives off. It explores these people as individuals, it tells raw, dynamic stories, stories that have been lost beneath the glamorisation of the 1920s. I had no idea about the level of authority female gangsters had at the time! That, mixed with its explosive physical sequences, has made a powerful, fun, wicked piece of theatre.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I’m actually the newest cast member, so I’ve been working on Tobacco Road for the least amount of time! The company did a research and development back in December 2017 and I can’t wait to get back in the rehearsal room and start working with it! I think this show brings out the nitty gritty of its time and will have the ability to subvert the audiences expectations. It opens up the individual struggles of young men and women in the 1920s, which I believe also plays tribute to the position of many young people today. I’ve learnt a lot whilst working on this show, I have no doubt the audience will leave feelings the same.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Believe it or not this is going to be my first Edinburgh Fringe, I am absolutely buzzing to get up there! The company as a whole have a great mixture of Fringe experience, from eight times to three, so I’ve been getting my advice from them. Top tips I’ve received so far is to eat well and drink plenty of water! Oh, and take a rain mac – apparently I shouldn’t forget my rain mac. So for any first time performers or visitors who also had the impression it’d be glorious sunshine, we were wrong! Don’t forget the mac!

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Here we go. So, I was performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Dome Theatre in Brighton. There was a scene where I had to be hoisted up by another cast member to dress the top of a pillar with ivy. I was so nervous I’d get dropped, to the point where we were practicing the lift more than our lines. Anyway, complete waste of time because she dropped me on my arse in front of a sold-out audience. How does a fairy elegantly get out of that one?

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
I’ve always found it really difficult to answer these kinds of questions as my answers are always changing. But the first person who comes to mind is Kate Tempest. My dad sent me some links of her work earlier this year and I was just blown away. She really, really made me feel. Her work just affected me in a way, that not a lot of writing, or music, or art has. I think that’s something to be proud of both as an artist and a consumer. Isn’t that what most creators are trying to achieve? Emma Rice also goes without saying. How is this industry supposed to bring in new audiences if we’re constantly sticking by the book? Do you have any pre-show rituals? Lots of sleep, lots a water, big cup of coffee, just start the day right! Feel like stretching? Stretch! Feel like dancing? Dance! Actually, saying that, I’ve heard there’s a pre-show dance Incognito have done before every show, so I’m sure that’ll be on the agenda!

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
As this is my first Fringe, I’m honestly down for anything and everything. I really want to get a feel for everything the Fringe has to offer. Flushed will be one of the many I won’t miss, it’s playing from the 2nd to 26th August at the Underbelly Cowgate – Belly Laugh at 3.40pm!

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
There’s absolutely no doubt the Fringe is bursting at the seams with talent. But our audience will spend an hour of their lives grasping the true history of the 1920s in this valiant, animated, and stimulating piece of theatre. Incognito have always produced storytelling at its most exciting. I can assure you, Tobacco Road will not fall short of this!

Tobacco Road
Pleasance Courtyard (Upstairs), 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh, EH8 9TJ
Wednesday 1st – Monday 27th August 2018 (not 14th), 15:15


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