An Interview with Monica Salvi

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Three years ago Monica Salvi stunned the Fringe with her Mad Women in My Attic… & we at the Mumble are delighted to discover she’s coming back to Edinburgh with a new version of her magical show…


Hello Monica, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Monica: I’m originally from Milan, Italy, but I’ve been a London resident for the past 12 years.

When did you first develop a love of music?
Monica: Strange as it may sound, I was a hardcore heavy metal fan up until I was 16… Then just like that, I switched to a deep love for musical theatre! But until I was 18 years old, I had never considered the possibility of being a performer. I was shy, had never sung a single note in my life, and the only school play I’d done, I hated it so much, that I faked fainting just to be sent home before the start of the performance. Then, my personality, taste, and ultimately life, completely changed thanks to two musicals.  The Rocky Horror Show, which helped me connect to that inner part of me that actually wanted to be on a stage and wanted to be looked at and heard and acknowledged. And the Phantom of the Opera, which helped me to find my voice. At 19, only by singing along the CD, in my room, over and over again, I discovered that I could actually sing… and that I was a soprano!

Where did you train as an actress?
Monica: After the discoveries in the previous answer, I trained for three years in Italy at the Bernstein School of Musical Theatre, in Bologna, which had a great international flavour and style, as its founder is Canadian, and some teachers were American, British… Then, after the diploma, and to pursue my dream of doing musical theatre in London, I got a place on the Royal Academy of Music Postgraduate Musical Theatre Course (I know, it’s a mouthful!). I loved every second of it!

What does Monica Salvi like to do when she’s not performing?
Monica: I love to travel the world, and I’m able to do that a lot and afford it, thanks to the home exchange system. I go to people’s homes while they come to mine. This way, I’ve been in some gorgeous houses for free, in the Canaries, in New York, Canada, all around Europe.. I am also a gong practitioner and sound therapist. I have very big gongs and other therapeutic and shamanic instruments, and I play them while my clients lie on a mat. The powerful sound of the gongs reach deep into people’s souls like no other instrument, and the vibrations are deeply healing on a mental, physical and emotional level. The frequencies of these instruments, and the soundscape of harmonics they create, wash over the subconscious of the client and create a multi-sensorial experience, that can be described as a massage of sound, and it puts the brain into a semi-trance meditative state. It’s a one of a kind experience with many beneficial effects which leaves people pretty in awe, afterwards.

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This year you are bringing MAD WOMEN IN MY ATTIC! back to the Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Monica: I took the show to the festival three years ago, when it had some great feedback from both critics and audiences. But, being a perfectionist, I am always trying to improve the show, the script, my performance… Over the past three years, I think it has changed a lot, because I have changed a lot, and also because I occasionally discover new great songs to add to it. I love the Fringe, and I’ve been coming every year for the past 5 years, either as a performer or as a visitor. I thought my updated version of Mad Women in my Attic! deserved a chance to be seen again, and here I am!

Having acclaimed performances in London and the United Solo Festival in New York, having your official off-Broadway debut, winning Best Cabaret Award at the festival with Mad Women In My Attic. Has this level of success emboldened the forthcoming Fringe Performances?
Monica: If I have to be honest, no, it’s unrelated. I’ve always wanted to take the new version of the show back to Ed Fringe, but this is the first year I could afford it! If it was not so expensive I would do this festival every year. It also takes quite a lot of time and energy, which is something not many people are aware of. I’m a self produced performer, and I do everything by myself. Of course I act and sing in the show, but that is a holiday compared to everything else that goes into producing a run at the festival (especially if you are after a certain standard of quality). Since I don’t have an unlimited budget, I do my own PR, I am my own promoter, I take care of marketing and social media, I design all my posters and flyers, research and sometimes make or commission the props and costumes, look for the accommodation for everyone on my team (pianist and stage manager), deal with the venues and the fringe office, and once I’m in Edinburgh I perform not just my own show, but also various slots in other people’s compilation shows. All this requires a huge amount of energy and dedication, which takes up 3/4 of the year (if you are serious about the fringe, you usually start pre-production in January). I do not have the energy and money to do it every year, just every few years! So, catch it while you can!

The subject matter of your work, couldn’t be any more challenging and unique. How much of your work as a sound therapist has informed the writing of the script?
Monica: None, as I wrote my script a few years before I trained as a sound therapist (or even knew what that was).  It’s my acting career which inspired the theme and script of Mad Women in my Attic!.  You know how some people are typecast as the heroine, the mother, the ingenue, the villain.. Well, I was always typecast as a mad woman, or a quirky eccentric character. By studying and preparing for these characters, I started to find common points between me and them, and I figured out that the typical mad character in a story, is just a heightened version of psychological issues that we all have deep within. I started to collect songs about mad women, or with any relation to psychology and psychotherapy, not just from the musical theatre repertoire. Some of these songs are hilarious, like “I need a Stalker”, “The Ballad of Group Therapy”, others are pretty intense and dark, like “Sirens”, “Mam’selle Syphilis”. I also have some well known musical theatre mad women, but I won’t give any spoilers!

When we first saw you perform this show, it was in the Gothic Splendour of St. John’s Episcopal Church on Princes Street, which in my opinion was the perfect venue. This year you have chosen a 15th Century Free Masons Chapel in Riddles court on The Royal Mile. Again a place of mystery and worship. Is this coincidental or is it part of the plan?
Monica: You mean my plan to conquer the world? Mwahahahahaha (evil laughter).
I think it is a coincidence, though it’s never just that is it? I have always been hugely attracted to old ancient buildings, and gothic architecture. The whole of Edinburgh is a treasure trove to me. The choice of the gorgeous St. John’s church, three years ago, happened because I was looking for a venue with a grand piano, and with lots of “nooks” where I could hide during the show, for the costume changes (i.e. the pulpit!). The church was a fantastic space to play in, but it was a bit too light and spacious, and in the end this is a sultry cabaret with a dark theme, despite the comedy moments. So this year I decided to look for a typical black box type of theatre, but I also wanted it to be really central, and in a venue with a nice atmosphere. I had stumbled upon the beautiful Riddle’s Court three years ago, and it immediately intrigued me as it seemed I had entered another dimension.. Outside on the Royal Mile, the madness of the fringe, a few steps inside, peace, silence and no people. I took pictures of it and left. Then, a few months ago, I read that Riddle’s Court would be used as a new venue this year, and that they would build three different theatre spaces in it. I applied, and got the largest space, a 100 seater black box theatre, PQA One.

Are there plans for an album release of your recorded work, featuring songs from the show? (If so we would love a copy)
Monica: No, though I would consider it, if someone offered to produce it, market and distribute it. Having said that, this show is so visual, so “in the moment”, that I feel it would lose a bit of charm as a recorded album.

Are there plans to offer Gong therapy sessions after each performance?
Monica: You know, I had thought about that, but the problem is that the gong set is very heavy and it would be a huge expense to transport it to Edinburgh, also I wouldn’t be able to really carry them around by myself. I already have a heavy suitcase of props and costumes, and honestly I don’t even have space for normal clothes! But of course, who needs those, at the Fringe!

What does the rest of 2018 have in store for Monica Salvi?
Monica: Lots of travelling! Can’t wait to get back to my roamings and adventures, after all the production admin I’ve done in the past few months. And hopefully a few industry people who I invited to see the show, will pick it up and I will be able to do it again!


Mad Women in My Attic!

PQA Venues @ Riddle’s Court

Aug 3-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-27 (19.10)

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www.monicasalvi.com

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An Interview with Ben Dali

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Ben Dali is back at the Fringe, & each year he just gets better & better. The Mumble managed a wee blether with the boy wonder


Hello Ben, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Ben: I’m from North London 11 months of the year and Edinburgh the other twelfth.

When did you first realise you were, well, magical?
Ben: My grandpa used to show me magic tricks when I was a kid but it was shortly after uni I realised I was special – that I could really work out how people were thinking and what tactics they were computing, then exploit that for magical purposes. A few years later I discovered I could influence behaviour as well as predict it and things snowballed from there.

How did you get into performing your mystical skills live?
Ben: Working as an entertainer in the tourism industry carries a lot of public relations duty so I did vast amounts of close-up magic and mind reading then. After a few years with ample stage experience I learnt hypnosis and put a show together then started driving around entertainment venues, phoning and emailing social clubs and pubs to put my show on and taking any performance opportunities I could find to hone my craft.

What are the key ingredients to your magical style?
Ben: Hypnosis and Mind Reading can only work if you have a deep understanding of behavioural psychology and individual differences – how people think, adapt, and act in the specific environment you create at the exact time they find themselves in it. On top of that you need to be able to deliver your material so that the participants and audience are engaged and enthralled throughout. So I’ve crafted a unique stage persona in which I’m basically running two shows simultaneously – one for the volunteers and one for the unhypnotised audience. I try to be as entertaining, funny, educational and charismatic as possible to give as many people as possible some personal memories.

This will be your 4th Fringe. How have you evolved as a performer in that time?
Ben: Well my work ethic and place within the Fringe have certainly evolved over the years. My first time round in 2015 I didn’t know anyone, and was blagging my way through the month. My show was great but I’d been touring and adapting it for 4 years and nobody in Edinburgh had seen it before, but apart from that I was just taking on 100+ guest spots and trying to meet people. After that I started running my own cabaret shows, getting to know the cabaret and comedy scenes pretty well, working on new material and solidifying my place as the festival’s go-to hypnotist for the generation. I’ve also learnt to manage my time better and not burn out during the run. This year I’m even taking 2 days off which is a first!

What have you got for us this year?
Ben: So Trance Of A Lifetime is all new, with some exciting new sketches exclusive for Edinburgh, including tragedy on the Antique’s Roadshow, simulated nudity and the world’s first 5D cinema experience. As always nobody is picked on but invited to volunteer from the audience, and given happiness and confidence boosts to help them enjoy the rest of the festival. It’s going to be quite the extravaganza, with the biggest change being my timeslot – up til now it’s been 13:30 but now at 22:00 I can do more adult things that wouldn’t have worked before (but still no humiliation). With my variety show the Not So Secret Society we’re also in a new timezone at 18:30 so this is family friendly, all suitable for 8+ audiences with some really huge names across the festival which can be viewed on facebook.com/NotSoSecretEd. There’s a couple of special adult one-offs for people who miss the ol’ burlesque and x-rated comedy sets of years gone by.

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What does Ben Dali like to do when he’s not being, well, magical?

Ben: In general I’m also a pub quizmaster, and have spent the last year working as a teaching assistant in a year 3 class in North London primary school ahead of September when I start training to teach my own class for next year. While teacher training won’t leave me with much free time, I love appearing on TV game shows (most notably Countdown, The Chase and Take Me Out), movies, music and catching live comedy and cabaret.

You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Ben: Well we’d have to start with Franz Mesmer the Austrian inventor of hypnosis as an artform. I’d love to find out how he realised he had his powers without having 2 centuries of inspiration before him like I did, and how he harnessed those powers for the purpose of entertainment. Then I’d like to show him how things have evolved since the 1770s. Alfred Hitchcock would need to be there, he’s a massive hero and influence – not just the quality of his films but the methods he used to create suspense and climaxes which I always think about carefully when designing new skits, trying to use the peaks and troughs in my pieces like a Hitch film. Finally my greatest hero of all time and the biggest influence on my public persona in the early years of performance was Richard Whiteley. I watched him constantly as a child then met him when I appeared on Countdown at 19. He was a beautiful man who mastered his craft as best befitted his personality and capabilities, was universally lovable and controlled that studio like it was his own living room in which his contestants, audience and viewers at home were utterly welcome. He seemed to genuinely like me in our short time together and I’ve often channeled my inner Richard while hosting gameshows and stepping on stage. For food, I don’t want to spend a moment away from my guests so we’d Uber in some gourmet Pot Noodles.

You know a good show when its happened, what are the special ingredients?
Ben: For a hypnosis show the key element in a good show is good volunteers. With most live entertainment there’s a strong correlation between the quality of the performer and quality of the audience, feeding off each other’s energy and propelling the show along. With hypnosis – sure, I can have a good day or bad day, the audience can be good or bad but everything pivots on how good the best subjects are at interpreting my suggestions. A show with 2 great volunteers and an audience who aren’t that into it with me on a rare day underperforming is still more special than a show with 5-10 volunteers who achieve mild trance and aren’t responsive even if the audience is enthusiastic and I’m at the top of my game. Of course, if all 3 of us are on form then that presents the kind of show that people will hold dear as their most memorable Edinburgh Fringe moment and that’s what I’m trying to achieve – so that when the punters tell their friends, family and colleagues what they did over summer, they’re telling people about my show. Trance Of A Lifetime does what it says on the tin.

At the 2016 Fringe you started running your own cabaret night, the Not So Secret Society, which has grown from strength to strength in both Edinburgh & London. Can you tell us about the idea?
Ben: Sure thing Mumble. So the Not So Secret Society was set up a few years ago in Glasgow by my producer Frodo Allan, who also ran the legendary Bongo Club Cabaret that introduced the concept of the variety show to Edinburgh. We started working together in 2016 and I was running another variety show, so he asked if I’d like to open a London branch of Not So Secret running monthly year round, which I did. When Ed17 rolled around we brought in a NSSS branch, and I scouted out some top acts from across the festival. I’ve done another year of the London shows and pulled in some really big names, so our database of acts is getting quite spectacular and that really shows in our lineups for this year.

Who have you got for us this year?
Ben: There’ll be about 80 different performers putting in appearances this summer and every one of them is immensely talented. The biggest names we’ve got are Rory Bremner and Jan Ravens, Stuart Goldsmith, Grammy winner Lady Rizo, Sweden’s Got Talent winner and Edinburgh’s undisputed best magician Charlie Caper, Best Newcomer 2017 Natalie Palamides, Carl Donnelly, Carey Marx, Mark Thompson – we’ve got performers from all the big name venues, sellout acts, and every show is different. Check out our full list of acts on facebook.com/notsosecreted.

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You’ve got 20 seconds to sell both shows to somebody in the street, what would you say?
Ben: Well I wouldn’t promote both shows in the same 20 second pitch, but… “Free hypnosis show! Trance Of A Lifetime!” Come to the festival’s funniest, most unpredictable and unforgettable show. Come on stage and get hypnotised or enjoy the show from the audience as you prefer.” For Not So Secret the promotion methods would depend entirely on the day’s lineup.

Using my own mind-reading powers, I do believe this might be your last Fringe for a while, whats the angle?
Ben: Yep, my last one. You’re a very impressive mind-reader. Or simply ‘reader’. I want people who have thought over the last few years ‘I’ll see him next year’ to know that there isn’t going to be a ‘next year’ again. And for those who have seen me before to come pay tribute to the past by witnessing my 21 swan songs. And for people who haven’t heard of me before to bask in the fact that they discovered me just in time. And to lead a more nocturnal existence for once now I don’t need to be flyering in the mornings, enjoy the night time cabaret scene a bit.

Well good luck with that Ben, & thanks for chatting. One last question, can you describe the experience of performing at the Fringe in a single sentence?
Ben: Thanks for having me Mr Mumble, it’s been a pleasure. Performing at the Fringe is the ultimate journey of self-discovery – when you’re pushed to the limits in the most competitive environment any performer can find themselves you get to know your strengths and weaknesses and work ethic and just how much you’re prepared to put in to achieve the best you can.


Trance of a Lifetime

Liquid Room Annexe

Aug 4-13, 15-21, 23-26: (22:00)

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www.bendali.co.uk

An Interview with Rosie Sings

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It is a rare gift indeed to be funny AND sing like an angel. The Mumble were honored, then, to catch a wee blether with Rosie Houlton…


Hello Rosie, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?

Rosie: Hello Mumble, well I was born in the city which lacks all culture – Milton Keynes! I now live in the city where culture thrives – EDINBURGH!

When did you first realise you could sing really well?
Rosie: When someone told me they thought I could and then I asked someone to teach me how to try and do it well.

Which singers inspire you?
Rosie: Oh SO many singers are inspirational and I am constantly learning! However the artists I’m listening to at the moment would mainly be Morgan James, Shoshana Bean and Anne Marie.

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When did you first develop a passion for performing?
Rosie: Being born a Princess I’m no stranger to performance. I grew up touring the UK with my Dad in the circus and I often got asked to help with his act which I found fun and got to have a small taste of ‘showing off’. It wasn’t until I started Rosie Sings where I found the passion because I can just express who I want to be in the ways I want. It’s more of a true and honest passion.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
Rosie: Three movies to pick me up if I was ever to be bored of the sea and sand would be – From Up on Poppy Hill, Moulin Rouge and Batman Begins.

Last year you were performing at the Fringe. How did it go?
Rosie: Last year was my first show at the fringe however a lady from the audience after one of my shows did came up to me and say ‘I come to see you every year – but this year you were the best you’ve ever been’… so I’m going to go with what she said and say – I was the best I’d been!

What have you got for us this year?
Rosie: This year the show is about all the men from my love life… or as many as I can fit in within 60 minutes.

Your show is quite a mish-mash of styles, just what exactly ARE you?
Rosie: … I’m me Bitch … I love everything from Old School Garage to Whitney.

How much of Rosie Houlton the person is there in Rosie Houlton, the performer?
Rosie: All of the stories in my shows are factual. How I perform them and the confidence I have on stage is the Rosie I inspire to be in my day to day life… but usually I just spend my time eating oreo cookies while I bathe.

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Can you tell us about your band?
Rosie: The band well … the band are what bring my show to life and add the unique character and sometimes aroma most boys bring along with them. I’ve been a very lucky Princess indeed as I’ve had a wonderful time working with different musicians throughout the year which has helped adapt the show creatively. The arrangements for the show have mostly been worked on with my Fairy Godmother Neil Metcalfe, if you live in Edinburgh and work as a musician you will know or want to know Neil, he is a genius and I wouldn’t have a show at all without him. During August I’ll have the wonderful Doug Price flying over from Canada to take on the role of Musical Director for the Fringe. Doug and I worked together last year and it will be so much fun to have him back by my side to see what we can get up to this time! I’ve also worked with Linda Stewart who stepped in on keys Sunday 1st July who has been working with the musical Wicked and touring the world on cruises. But the boys who make me smile and often wet in my pants are the very tall, sexy Scottish duo you got to see me perform with recently – Damien Quinn and Callum Morrison. We will be seeing more of them alongside Rosie Sings in the future but for now my lips are sealed!

How do you select the songs for your show?
Rosie: The songs I select can be for a number of reasons. Most importantly I have to like the songs I’m using and make sure that they have relevance to my story. Sometimes the song comes first because it reminds me of a story and other times I have a story and have to find a song to go along with it.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street, what would you say?
Rosie: I’m the voice of an angel with the mouth of a sailor. I will sing some of the greatest love songs to compliment the stories of my turbulent yet fruitful love life… and I just discovered Gin, which has nothing to do with me turning 30.

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How will you know & feel when you have just given a good performance?
Rosie: From how it effects my audience. I’m always pushing myself out of my comfort zone and encouraging others around me to face their fears. With this show being specifically about the trials and errors of my Love life, I’ve already found in my previews it is connecting with some people who can relate to a mutual experience. The show is to entertain through being honest about who I am. I’ve made some mistakes and I’ve learnt some things and when an audience member connects with that and tells me afterwards, I find that really rewarding.

Can you describe the experience of performing at the Fringe in a single sentence?
Rosie: Last year I caught a photographer taking photos of me and so I stopped to smile at him, he said, ‘No don’t stop, I’m just here to capture your struggle.’

What will you be doing after the Fringe?
Rosie: I’ll be getting on the next plane to the hottest place where I will stay until someone pays for me to come home … and eat cheese.


Rosie Sings Facts About Love

Fingers Piano Bar

Aug 4-26: (16:20)

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www.Rosie-Sings.com

Tango Moderno


Edinburgh Playhouse
23-25 November 2017

It was a crisp Winter’s evening as I whisked through the city to be on time for my rendezvous with the very beautiful Minky. My companion and Strictly Come Dancing fan of the night. Luckily Minky was running late too, which gave me plenty of time to collect the tickets before her sparkling arrival. Divine never likes to keep a lady waiting. I had received prior knowledge that Vincent Simone wouldn’t be dancing due to a crook back, injured in rehearsal for tonight’s production. But in his place not one, but two very sensual gentlemen – Pasquale La Rocca and Leonel Di Cocco-  brought their own erotic flavour to the tango, filled Vincent’s shoes extremely well, and Flavia was in her element.  Of the situation, Adam Speigel, producer of Tango Moderno  told the Mumble; ‘Both dancers are sensational, world class performers, having represented their countries in ballroom and tango respectively. They have been working with Flavia and the company to ensure that Tango Moderno remains a terrific dance show.‘ Adam was right, they were brilliant, & they were supported by a cast of amazingly versatile dancers and a live band providing the groove, with lead vocals expertly sung by Tom Parsons and Rebecca Liswski.

Tango Moderno is a contemporary take on Tango, infused with Hip-Hop and Breakdancing. Street arts that had their beginnings in rebellion and passion, choreographed and directed by Karen Bruce. The whole production oozed sex and was packed with eye-candy. From the moment the lights went down the audience were on the edge of their seats, captivated by the athletic flow of the stars of the show and any disappointment from the audience that Strictly’s Vincent was absent dissipated in an instant. The stage set was a street scene complimented by lighting that was equally as sensual as the moves presented. Indeed, Flavia Cacace was mesmerizing. The closing dance was led on violin by Oliver Lewis, who happened to be the Guinness Book Of Records fastest violinist in the world, smashing the previous record on the BBC’s Blue Peter in 2010. This was a show that left everyone wondering why they had missed their calling to be a professional dancer. The standing ovation at the climax and the musky odour was a testament to how hot this show had been.

Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

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An Interview with Kevin Quantum

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This Christmas, the Edinburgh International Magic Festival will be returning for a four-night run. In the lead-up to that wonderful event, The Mumble will be chatting to some of the performers, starting with the irrepressible talent that is Kevin Quantum.


Hello Kevin, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m in Edinburgh, near the Botanic Gardens. Lovely part of the world.

When did you first realise you were, well, magical?
After being on a reality TV show. I was a physicist up until 12 years ago. Then I was plucked from obscurity to go on C4’s Faking It and found I had not just an aptitude but a love for being on stage. So I ceased the PhD and became a magician. Needless to say mummy was surprised.

You are a Guinness World Record Breaker, can you tell us about it?
Sure, like most of my work it was a collaboration, this time between myself and Royal Blind Charity here in Edinburgh. We brought 2000+ people together and I taught them a magic trick. The biggest magic lesson ever! It was so surreal.

You’ve recently gone down well at the Adelaide Fringe. Can you tell us about the experience?
What a blast! I loved Adelaide. A wonderful city. I made friends and won awards and had sell out crowds. Kinda the perfect overseas tour. I’m not really one for the city-city tour circuit. It’s pretty tough moving every day somewhere new, so when a festival opportunity arrises then I’m well up for it. Edinburgh and Adelaide have lots in common, they both come alive during the fringe. I felt right at home.

What does Kevin Quantum like to do when he’s not being, well, magical?
I play in a tennis league, I compose music for guitar and bass, I spend time with my family. My daughter is 4 now and I love spending time with her. I have a huge family (mum is one of 9 kids and dad is one of 7 so lots of cousins, uncles, aunts etc ) and I’m one of 4 kids myself. We’re close and I really take the time to spend time with them. I love them all.

You are coming to Edinburgh this winter to perform at the International Christmas Special. Your show utilises visual magic with modern technology and unique inventions, what’s the backstory?
It comes from the Faking It show. I was a physicist before becoming a magician and recently I’ve realised they have a bit of a cross over. I just try and find some cool science and eek the magic our of it. Or take a cool magic trick and frame it with science.

You know a good show when its happened, what are the special ingredients?
From the performer’s side, there are three things. 1) attention to detail. 2) Rehearsal. 3) Heart.

Will you be catching any other magicians over the festive period?
I don’t know if there are any other magic shows on in Edinburgh over the festive period? Morgan And West were here last year and I spent a bit of time with them. Great guys.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Kevin Quantum?
I’m doing my first full evening show in London. Can’t wait for that. Off to Alicante, Moscow and a top secret project I can’t talk about. It’s not ‘strictly’ but I wish it was. The rest of the time prep for MagicFest xmas, and my 2018 tour to Australia. It’s two months this time and I’m going to Perth too. Bring it on!

An Interview with Thomas Small

In two weeks time, an internationally-acclaimed piece of physical theatre shall be hitting East Lothian. The Mumble managed to catch a few words with multi-award winning choreographer, Thomas Small.


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Hello Thomas, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I am born and bred in Dundee, a pure Dundonian through and through. At this very moment, I am in Ibiza enjoying my holidays after a very busy Summer term.

When did you first realise you you could dance?
I realised I wanted to direct productions early on when I was about 13 years old and I used to boss my friends around to create shows. Then contemporary dance really got into me and I decided to study it to become a professional. Still, my interest was not in performance but in choreography and direction.

Where did you study the art of dancing & how did it go?
I was very fortunate to receive local support to study in one of the world leading institutions, the London Contemporary Dance School, The Place, where I studied under the tutelage of leading experts from all corners of the world.

What does Thomas Small like to do when he’s not involved in dancing?
I love walking my dog Molly, meeting friends for cocktails and karaoke, and just lately I am getting the exercise bug with my personal trainer.

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Can you tell us about Shaper/Caper?
Shaper/Caper is a charity based in Dundee. The company makes dance-theatre productions that tour nationally and internationally, as well as delivering an impressive creative learning portfolio, with just one of our projects reaching 7,000 primary school children per year in Tayside. We work with people of all ages and abilities, from babies to 101 years old (our oldest dancer, so far!) and are known for our site-specific and mass participation work. We are lucky to have robust and long-lasting partnerships with organisations such as NHS Tayside and the McManus: Dundee’s Art and Gallery Museum. We are also regularly supported by Creative Scotland, CashBack for Creativity, and Leisure and Culture Dundee, through the Dundee Dance Partnership.

Can you describe your creative relationship with Clore Fellow?
Creative Scotland supported my attendance to the full Clore Fellowship programme, where I was able to learn first-hand from world-leading cultural forerunners on governance, cultural policy, and insider tips such as failure, something that we tend not to talk enough about it socially, risking to recognise its transformational power. The experience and knowledge have shaped the way we operate the company and has also provided incredible network opportunities and friendships of the most disparate nature.

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Yolanda Aguilar

You guys also organise creative learning projects headed by Yolanda Aguilar. Can you tell us about these?
Yolanda is an experienced professional trained in dance and theatre, with a Masters in cultural management. She has led international creative learning commissions, and her expertise lies in working with vulnerable groups such as older dancers and those with non-traditional abilities and alternative learning pathways.

You are just about to start a Scottish tour of ‘Within This Dust’ can you tell us about it?
We are looking forward to sharing our piece with Scottish audiences after having performed at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York, where the work was informed by the expert Chief curator Jan Seidler Ramirez and by Dr Lindsay Balfour’s profound analysis of the art and its context. Unfortunately, the theme of terrorism and its impact on Western and global societies continue to be relevant, so we want to engage in a dialogue with our audiences with the view to eventually effect change.

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What was it like to perform at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City as part of the museum’s 15-year anniversary programme?
It was the most overwhelming experience, both poignant and beautiful at the same time. We were given several private tours with access to information not shared with the general public that made our presence there just so special. It was sold-out and the museum placed a screen in the foyer so people could join us and it was also live-streamed, so the event became global. New York audiences are very immediate with their reactions and people were happy to fully disclose their emotions, experiences and memories during the post-show discussion. We also met Richard Drew, the photographer that captured the iconic image of the falling man plunging form the World Trade Centre and that was the inspiration for this work. I was very humbled by the generosity of all involved in the event, from cultural partners to audiences, as my work became the catalyst for an honest and moving conversation.

How has the show evolved since its premier to today?
The piece started in 2011 with a research and development period working with one male dancer, as at the time it was envisioned as a single solo piece of work, rather than the triptych that has become. The production now also includes a female dancer, and although this has been the case so far I am not too concerned about the gender of my artists, so who knows? This might change in the future. The show starts with the female solo in a section called Embers, then moves to a duet in S/He, and ends with the Falling Man, the original male solo. The show received Made in Scotland support in 2012 and toured Berlin and Brazil. The production has been informed by different casts over the years and by the political circumstances the world has experienced since, so it now feels like the best existence it never had.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Thomas Small?
We have just finished our Business Plan with the Board, which will take our activities until 2021, so there will be more productions touring the world, and more creative learning projects to reach across Scotland. I am now making a film to support the Dundee 2023 bid for European Capital of Culture, a great project to involve the community and show that Dundee used to be well known in Scotland for its dance halls. I will be starting shortly the production phase of my new show Unwanted, a tongue-in-cheek meets psychotherapy cabaret-like space that explores failure and invites all to share and celebrate its inevitability, accepting it as part of growth.


Within This Dust can be seen at The Brunton Theatre on 21st October at 7:30 pm. Tickets can be booked via The Brunton website or calling 0131 665 2240.  For further information about Within This Dust, visit www.shapercaper.com