You’re a trained theatre practitioner, what’s the difference in making shows like At the Illusionist’s Table and your avant-garde theatre work?
When working in a traditional theatre environment you’re usually devising with a team of talented people, whereas when I’m developing my own shows I’m working with a very particular skill-set that’s perhaps difficult to explain to others. So, it’s a much more focussed and solitary experience.
But, in truth, I find both ways of working to be really rewarding. I enjoy the dynamic nature of devising a theatre show, and equally relish the individual and intriguing explorations that developing my own shows offer. At the Illusionist’s Table is a collaborative effort between myself and Helen Milne, who is the artistic director of our theatre company. She brings a potent team together to make the production run effectively, and directs the performance as well, so I’m now finding a satisfying crossover between my theatre work and other show developments.
And, yes, I’ve seen consistent themes appearing in my work: ideas of illusion and reality, free will vs determinism, and the nature of belief. These universal concepts really seem to connect with audiences, and I, perhaps subconsciously, seem to find myself coming back to them when developing new work.
What does performing at the SMWS venue of 28 Queen Street bring to your show?
I’ve found that for the type of shows that I currently create, the buildings play a significant role. The intimacy of the SMWS venue at 28 Queen Street not only allows the perfect contemplative and inspiring atmosphere for At The Illusionist’s Table, but the building and whisky itself directly relates to, and is woven into elements of the show. It’s also a rare experience for Fringe audiences to have access to such unique places, especially at that time in the evening, and this should make the entire experience all the more memorable.
What is it that you love about incorporating food or drink into your performance?
I appreciate a great meal, and really enjoy taking time to explore new chefs and restaurants. I’m fascinated by the elegance of taste. Good food and drink should provide a unique sensory encounter, and perhaps spark an emotional memory. To truly manipulate the senses and shape our memories is an acutely powerful experience, and something that I attempt to achieve in each of my shows. This is why the SMWS is truly the perfect partner for the show.
Undoubtedly, it’s my audiences that really keep me enthused. The rush of adrenaline that you get when you present a show that’s really connected with an audience is compelling and keeps me sustained on heightened levels of energy for the month. And, of course, a relaxing environment to wind down in, ideally with a glass of exquisite whisky – naturally, there’s nowhere better than the SMWS in Edinburgh!
What is the most amazing thing that has happened during one of your shows?
Honestly, in almost every performance there is an unexpected thing that happens that I could never prepare for. I’ve had partners propose to one another on stage, participants reveal their darkest secrets to the entire audience, even audience members faint with excitement. Come along to see what happens on your night…
What do you hope people take from At The Illusionist’s Table?
Every show I create is personal to me as I believe that I create the best work when I stay true to myself. At The Illusionist’s Table asks the audience to consider what makes them who they are and the show explores the uniqueness of each and every person in the room. We’re all driven by memories, decisions, relationships, and dreams, and the show investigates these aspects of ourselves, how they make us who are and how they will continue to shape us.
I would hope that what defines me is my creativity, my passion and innate drive to create. My primary objectives for the show are to delight, to astonish, and, ultimately, to inspire. It’s always about so much more than simple escapism. You’ll hopefully find yourself, your family or friends doing things you never thought were possible. It should make you look closely at your own life and consider what motivates you and what you’re capable of, all while enjoying some great drinks and food in spectacular surroundings. What could be a better night out?
At The Illusionist’s Table runs from 4-27 August at 28 Queen Street. Tickets cost £69 and include a three-course meal and two SMWS drams. Book your tickets at tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/at-the-illusionist-s-table