Laura Crow takes an alternative look at World War II in GREYHOUNDS at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: Laura Crow, Time and Again Theatre Company
Name of Edinburgh show: Greyhounds
Venue: The Space on the Mile (Venue 39)
Performance time: 8.15pm
Show length: 1 hour
Ticket price: £10

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
Hi, I’m Laura. I wrote Greyhounds and I also act in it, playing the character of Katherine Winters, a young woman that is highly literal, highly logical but completley inept at any form of social interaction.
I have a huge passion for acting and the theatre, and I watch and participate in as much of it as I can, around my home city of Manchester.
If I’m not on stage acting, I’m probably writing or reading or drawing (I’m an illustrator!) whilst drinking a big mug of tea and eating cake. I think I was probably born in the wrong era. I love old things: big abandoned buildings, vintage fashion, victorian literature – anything nostaligc or slightly gothic.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Greyhounds combines the everyday trials and tribulations of village life on the home front during WWII with Shakespeare’s Henry V. The action all takes place in Shuttlefield’s village hall, where 5 residents are attempting to take on all 52 parts in Henry V in the production they’re staging to raise money for their local Spitfire fund. Gradually we see how each character’s life has been transformed by the war, and explore themes such as pacifism, family obligations, the morality of war, and propaganda. The themes of Henry V really resonate with the WWII setting, with some of the play’s most beautiful and iconic speeches being used to tease out those parallels. In short, it’s new writing combining a touch of comedy, a taste of the Bard and true vintage flare!

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I started writing Greyhounds in the summer of 2016 when I was going through quite a low period with my OCD, as I found that writing helped to distract me from the compulsions and rituals by giving me something to focus on and put my energy into. The summer after, we performed it for the first time in a sell-out run at the Greater Manchester Fringe. After a few gins, our director half-jokingly suggested taking it to Edinburgh, and a year later, here we are (with a few more previews under our belt) getting ready to perform at the world’s biggest Fringe festival! So in a way, it’s been a long time coming, but it also still feels new and exciting as the play has evolved and developed so much.
Although the play is set in 1941, many of the themes we address are still relevant today – family relationships, war, feminism, pacifism, and mental health. Even the speeches we use from Henry V strike a chord which is what I love about Shakespeare; it’s still so enduring even hundreds of years later. Though the themes we explore are big, there’s a cosiness and warmth to the play that comes from the sense of community spirit throughout, which I think most people can identify with. Also, anyone who’s done or watched any am-dram may recognise a few moments..!

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Although some of us have been as visitors before, this will actually be our first time performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for most of our company, which is hugely exciting but also quite daunting. One thing we’ve learned is the importance of reaching out to other performers for support and advice – if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and you’ve got nothing to lose by trying. Using Twitter has been really helpful for this, and through using the ‘Into the Unknown’ hashtag, we’ve managed to connect with a few other theatre companies. Someone even spent almost an hour on the phone to us giving us loads of really thoughtful advice about different ways to sell our show which, some of which we might not have thought of, being first-time Fringe performers. It was so kind and helpful, and it all started with a tweet!
As for visitors, I’d say it’s a good idea to plan a few things to see, but make sure you leave enough time to be spontaneous and see what takes your fancy whilst you’re there. I once went to see a show purely because I loved the actors’ costumes when I saw them on the Mile. That was 5 years ago; they’re now one of my favourite theatre companies and I’ve seen every show they’ve done since. If you are planning ahead, plan geographically so can squeeze in as much as you can. And wear comfortable shoes!

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
I have a huge love for the works of William Shakespeare. I saw the RSC’s Cycle of Kings at the Barbican in January 2016 and it was one of the most inspirational theatre experience I’ve had. I loved how they conveyed so much through a very minimal set, and how ideas and themes returned throughout the four plays, giving you a bigger connection to the narrative. The history plays are my passion; combining my love of the past – the people, the politics – with my love of theatre. My favourite play is Richard II and that would be my dream play to produce/direct or act in.
My favourite actor is David Tennant. He introduced me – properly – to Shakespeare.
His Hamlet was the first time I felt compelled to watch or read an entire Shakespeare play outside of school. His performance in Richard II is a particular favourite of mine. His internal thought process is on display to the audience throughout, becoming more pronounced and desparate as his downfall becomes apparent. He makes a fundamentally dislikable man sympatheic – which is quite the task for an actor!
I also love the work of Jez Butterworth. The way he entwines ancient mythology – giants, folklore – into his plays is really beautiful and atmospheric. They’re blunt and hard-hitting but also magical.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Having OCD makes this a bit of a battleground, as I’m sure you can imagine. I try not to let myself start any rituals or I’d never make it onto stage! A few things sneak under the radar though. I always like to wear the same perfume when I’m acting and like to lay my things out very neatly and particularly backstage.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Greyhounds was fortunate enough to be featured in The List’s ‘The Best Shakespeare Coming to Edinburgh Festival Fringe’. We’re in great company, so we’ll be looking forward to supporting the other shows on the list – nothing beats a bit of the Bard. Showstoppers is also definitely on the agenda, as I’ve heard it’s equally impressive and hilarious – we love a musical. We’re also hoping to see some outrageous, only-at-the-Fringe type theatre, so will be keeping our eyes and ears open on the Mile!

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
Greyhounds provides an alternative look at World War II. So much work set in that era focuses on the soldiers, the decision-makers, the extraordinary accounts – Greyhounds zooms in on the everyday; the people that just kept going. And actually, they’re pretty remarkable.
It also provides a fresh way of looking at Shakespeare. It blends the narrative of one of his most famous plays – the drama, the battles – into the comic, yet often poignant, exploits of the residents of Shuttlefield village as they try to navigate the daily life of World War Two.
We also have stunning vintage costumes, ration book programmes, perfectly pin- curled hair, era-accurate props, and enough red lipstick to sink a battleship. Essentially, we’ll take you all the way back to Shuttlefield in 1941. Rehearsals for Henry V are about to begin – we hope you’re ready!


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