Saturday, June 15

Making it Up (One Playwright to Another) – Greater Manchester Fringe Digital

Making it Up (One Playwright to Another) is a touching tribute to the theatre industry and renowned playwright, Edward Albee. Written and performed by Norm Reynolds, the show was filmed for online streaming by John Bertram at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, Toronto. Director, Lesley Ballantyne has brought out the best in Reynolds and made this one man show about how one man’s life was touched by theatre, into something which has universal appeal and something which everyone, whether they are familiar with Albee or not, could take something from.

The play is primarily focussed around an interview with Edward Albee, and Reynolds narrates his character’s life before, during and after this interview. Beginning his career as a teacher, this endeavour was put aside on writing a semi-successful play about life in schools. This play was rendered unrecognisable by the production company who performed it leading to the narrator giving up on playwriting but remaining a member of the Guild – it’s difficult enough to get in without forsaking your membership on a whim. Reynolds then pursues a career in financial sales, before returning, on and off, to playwriting and teaching. The totality of his experience qualifies him to take a chance on successfully pitching an interview with Edward Albee.

Reynolds descriptions of surrendering your work to a production company (or anyone else who will edit and interpret it for their own creative purposes) are both enlightening and identifiable to anyone who has had this “success” with their own work. The painful cycle of rejection that everyone in theatre experiences is depicted well and there are some unique insights into imposter syndrome.

The performance has been filmed for streaming purposes and the inclusion of outtakes at the end of the piece are a fun addition which take advantage of the format. The stream is subtitled throughout, though there are some errors in the text, and it would improve the accessibility of the performance to correct these. The video is well cut, and the empty chairs used when Reynolds is performing two characters having a conversation is an original way to illustrate different characters in a one man show.

Reynolds portrays multiple characters very well, including Albee and the fictional characters referenced from the narrator’s own plays. His ability to switch from one character to another is excellent and there is no doubt at any point whom Reynolds is portraying at that moment. Movements through time and space are done simply but effectively and the overlap of sound and echo used creates disorientation at the appropriate moments.

Making it Up (One Playwright to Another) is a unique look at the theatre industry and the effect it can have on your life when you sit on the fringes of its existence, making it a particularly good choice for fringe festivals. Witty asides and commentary throughout give this unique take on the effect of meeting your heroes a fresh perspective which combines moments of tenderness with a circle of disappointments.

Making it Up (One Playwright to Another) is being streamed by the Greater Manchester Fringe until 30th July 2023. Tickets are available here

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 11th July 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.