Jan Carey talks about bringing a life affirming story to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, initially as a pianist and singer. It was the only place in London at the time where you could combine both music and drama. After, I went into rep all over the country for four years which was generally how life as an actor started. My first job was a summer season in Colwyn Bay with a midweek weekly change over. It was a wonderful learning curve and I miss the camaraderie of a long- term company – so rare now. It was straight from there to the West End premier of Bill Naughton’s Spring and Port Wine for a` year. And then onwards!

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
At its centre is the First World War around which this story is told of Ivor Gurney, a young poet/composer who fought in the war as a private soldier and his lifelong friendship with an older woman Marion Scott, a musician and pioneer for the equality of women musicians. Their incredible friendship was tested by the horrific consequences of war, particularly for Gurney with his decline into madness. It is not all doom and gloom! There is joy and triumph too!

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
This year. I wrote a full-length version some time ago which twice packed the Purcell Room in London. 2018 being the final year of the First World War centenary I thought this condensed version was perfectly placed.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
This is my first Fringe, so my guess would be for performers to take deep breaths and for audiences to pace themselves!

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
In rep in Birmingham in the middle of a matinee. I was sitting on a chair near the front of the stage acting away, when an elderly lady rose from her seat in the front row and walked to the edge of the stage and tapped me on the knee and said: “I thought you were very good last week, dear”!

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
That group of wonderful women actors in their eighties. A fantastic example of keeping going!

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
No rituals but warming up.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
My two friends in their solo plays. Alison Skilbeck in her own play Are There More of You? And Tim Hardy in A substitute for life, both in the Ballie Room at the Assembly Hall.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
Told through letters, memories, and wonderfully accessible poems and songs, it is a fantastic life affirming story.

Author, Composer, Soldier-of-a-Sort plays at Pleasance Courtyard, 1-27 August at 2pm (excluding 14 August)

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