Name of Edinburgh show: Paradise Lodge
Venue: Underbelly Bristo Square (Dairy Room), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG
Performance time: 13:15
Show length: 60 minutes
Ticket price: Previews: £7, Weekday: £10 (£9), Weekend: £11 (£10)
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I’ve been a jobbing actor for 35 years. I’ve had some dream jobs on TV and in the theatre, as well as some nightmares, but I’m not jaded or burnt-out yet! I learnt the craft on the job and treat every gig the same – the most important thing going on in my life. The gig’s the thing! Along the way I’ve done kids parties, play-schemes, corporate roleplay, stand-up, promotion, adverts, care-home gigs and much more… anything but work.
Tell me about your new show, what it is all about?
Paradise Lodge is a musical comedy about dealing with dementia – two actors play multi-roles.
The premise is: ‘The Doodlebugs’, a dysfunctional 1940’s duo, are doing a gig in a care home (‘Paradise Lodge’). We meet some of the care-home residents and hear their stories of life, love and loss. As the duo disintegrate, we see how the onset of dementia has affected the lives of those living with it and their carers.
It doesn’t sound like a comedy, does it? It is an emotive issue and we pull no punches, but trust me, it’s bloody hilarious.
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2019?
The play has a couple of years in the making. It’s based on my experience helping to care for my mother-in-law, Dorothy, when she was living with dementia. Writing it has helped me come to terms with what was a very trying few years. I made notes so I could keep track of what was happening and try to make some sense out of it. After Mum died, I started putting my notes together and a year later, I had enough of the play to start workshopping. The scenes are all from life, sometimes almost word-for-word. Even some costumes and props were Dorothy’s. Me and my wife Tracey cried plenty through the plays development but we are telling her mum’s story and others seem to take some comfort in that.
In the UK, one in three people will develop some form of dementia and that is only going to increase with an ageing population. It is more relevant in 2019 than ever.
Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
I’m the one who needs the top tips. This is the first time I’ve been to the Fringe since 1986. Back then I slept on a dirty floor in a room with eight other people, was in a serious show that didn’t start till midnight and occasionally appeared drunk on stage. I’d say avoid doing any of that.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
In the show I did in Edinburgh all those years ago there was a scene where a character slowly shines a torch over the audience. There were rows of empty seats and only two punters – a reviewer and my dad. My dad was asleep and snoring. The review wasn’t good.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Anyone who gets their act together and puts on a show without wealthy parents or benefactors has my utmost respect. Regular people who don’t just sit in their bedroom waiting for a knock on the door, they make something happen because they feel they must be heard, that inspires me (especially if they’re northern!)
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
A bit of yogic breathing (my cod version), file my nails so they don’t catch on the ukulele, then, just before we go on, I ask my acting partner, Sophie; ‘What’s the first song?’ She says; ‘Wish Me Luck’. I say ’Good luck but what’s the first song?’ She says ‘Wish Me Luck’ and we go on.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Are there other acts on? They won’t be competing with us for audience though, will they?
Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
Sounds a bit daunting when you put it like that. The feedback we have had so far, the word-of-mouth buzz created, the people returning with friends, tells me that we have more than just an hour’s good entertainment. We have a show that people connect deeply with and feel ownership of. Why would you want to miss out on that?
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
Thank you for having me, Wilma. It was a lovely brew.
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