‘Replay’ is a new play written by Alex Wilson which premiered in Oxford earlier this year. Now playing at the Edinburgh Fringe, we have been talking to Wilson and the cast about the nature of putting on a play at the Fringe, and the difficulties that go alongside such an amazing experience.
As the world’s largest arts festival, Edinburgh is often a unique opportunity for student theatre to reach a wider audience. The programmes are as thick as telephone directories and packed with theatre, dance, comedy and every other conceivable performance art. However it is by no means easy. The Royal Mile is full of people handing out flyers for their shows all day every day in an attempt to garner an audience for that evening so that there is “lots of competition for audiences”. Every pillar and available surface is thick with posters which are replaced by new ones on a daily basis. On the bright side, the cast describe it as “invaluable training for learning how to market yourself as a performer”. In the theatre itself, there are the five-minute get-ins to contend with, requiring you to be “really fast-paced and you have to be on the ball”, according to the cast. They add that “the most significant thing for an actor here I suppose is the necessary stamina. Performing 26 performances is no easy task.”
As a new piece of writing it has been a long journey from creating a play from scratch to seeing it performed every evening at the Fringe. “I suppose I chose to write for the stage because I was eager to work quite collaboratively on this — writing is a very solitary game — and drama certainly gives you a lot of scope for working on writing in a company and making it as good as it can be,” says Wilson. Drawing on this collaborative element that Wilson focuses upon, Freya’s tale is punctuated by a chorus who fluctuate between “naturalistic characters” and “abstract symbolic figures”. Interestingly, talking to the cast, the role of the chorus is what they found most challenging to create: “We wanted to do something experimental here, so that we’re neither Greek tragic chorus nor highly choreographed Noh Theatre nor naturalistic “players” to be drawn on scene to scene.” Wilson describes ‘Replay’ as “the confession by a lonely music teacher (Freya) of her intense attachment to a student, but this confession is highly stage-managed to the extent we can never be sure of the nature of the “relationship”.”, a subject that Wilson describes as “very topical (constantly in the news) and of course controversial”. Wilson aims to go beyond the slightly clichéd representation of such a relationship, in his words “to explore the psychological effects of loneliness”.
He points towards various literary influences for his writing, including the “intense interiority” of Virginia Woolf’s writing which comes out in the psychological nature of ‘Replay’, as well as Henry James’ ‘The Turn of the Screw’. Wilson describes the play as “a veritable leopard always changing its spots” over the course of its journey. Focusing again on the importance of collaboration, particularly because of the vital role of the chorus, he says that it has been a continual process of honing with the entire cast, working together to create the final play which continues to progress throughout its run in Edinburgh.
If you need any more persuading to put it first on your list to see in Edinburgh, in the words of the cast, “you should come see the show for the crucial role a Victorian hip-bath plays throughout – and for a rather juicy scene involving a highly seductive sandwich!” Who could resist that!
REPLAY runs from 31st July to 25th August at C Cubed in Edinburgh