18 June 2014, Varsity Online Culture Section
For many theatre-goers, the long sun filled days of August mean sitting in a small darkened room for an hour or two to watch an eclectic mix of dance, drama and comedy in varying degrees of refinement. It was perhaps inevitable that at some point one of its artists would write about the drab, dingy reality of the Fringe that exists alongside its colourful scenes of drunken merriment. The Moth of August attempts to capture the “disappointment and anti-climax” dispensed by The Fringe.
In Bethan Kitchen’s production, the audience eavesdrop on the conversations of three performers, poverty-stricken but happy, in their mundane Edinburgh kitchen after a day of inevitably dismal reviews. Kitchen explains the intriguing title by stating that she has always thought of moths as kind of “rubbish butterflies” which “aesthetically” sum up her characters “who are always trying to be something that they’ll never be”. That said the characters are quite a concoction of personalities as they already are: James (James Dobbyn) the unhappy Clown; Conrad (Conrad Jefferies) the pornstar who can also talk to the dead (but only about the dullest of topics), and Hannah (Hannah Calascione) the dancer and mechanic who loses her touch of glamour throughout the course of the action.
The play seems to be heavily meta and Kitchen admits that she’s “obsessed” with naturalism. As a result, collaborating with her actors is essential to the play as the script will be influenced by any improvisations the actors may make during rehearsals. Not only do the characters seem to be extensions of the actors themselves, but the cast and director will all be sharing a flat for the run of the play. Kitchen has “joked with the actors that if they fall out [she’ll] change the scripts so they fall out in the play.” The original plan was even closer to home – Kitchen originally wanted the play to be performed in their actual flat so that “the scenery would change as we lived in the space”, but this scheme was abandoned after proving to be too difficult.
Despite the dreary picture the play seems to offer, Kitchen seems uxorious about the Fringe itself. “It’s just the most incredible experience in the world! For an audience member, or an artist, it is so collaborative and welcoming”. The most important thing about the Fringe seems to be its acceptance of original work. “I think new writing is always faced with scepticism in Cambridge as there is so little of it”, whereas in Edinburgh, Kitchen argues, there is an “open space for trying out new work”.
Whatever the outcome, Kitchen’s The Moth of August aims to encapsulate the spirit of originality and novelty the Fringe promises.