Given Leicester’s prolific community of artists, comedians and theatre-makers, it’s hardly surprising that the city is usually well-represented at Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
What’s perhaps more surprising is that a first time playwright would receive a sweep of 4 star reviews, extend their run, then return the following year with a prime-time slot for the whole festival. This is exactly what happened to Doug Deans and his play Mine which he’s taking back up to the Fringe in August this year.
“Last year was an unexpected success” says Deans. “The aim was to take work up to Edinburgh as a testing ground. This year we’re going back to maximise on our success. If this show got 4 star reviews in a short week run, what could we manage in a full month?”
The Scotsman was quick to praise Deans for his “quietly compassionate writing” and Maisie Barlow’s performance as “tremendous” as the play’s sole actor delivering a compelling monologue. Mine follows Barlow’s turmoil as she struggles to come to terms with the unnamed crimes of her teenaged son and the devastation it leaves in his wake. Broadway Baby described it as “perhaps one of the most intense hours at the Fringe” due in no small part to Barlow’s searing examination of a mother pushed to the limits of her ability to love her child.
“I had no doubt that it was a good play but receiving the critical acclaim just allowed me to be a little more firm in my belief that we have something really good on our hands” says Barlow. “We’ve taken the show back into development to make sure it’s the best it possibly can be and with a few clever sound design ideas and guidance from director Kathryn King, we hope to continue the success of the show.”
Taking a show up to Edinburgh is no small task and can seem daunting. For Deans, Mine wasn’t just his first play, but the first piece of extended writing that he completed – which is pretty extraordinary. “No matter where you are in your career, everyone taking part in the Fringe is on the same playing field” he explains. “If you’re entertaining the idea of going, visit as a punter first and foremost. Go and watch shows and chat with the performers. Spend some time speaking to someone who’s been up before.”
Returning as a veteran, swapping the unknown for the pressure of building on that success, presents new challenges. “It’s very daunting” says Barlow. “Once you’re up there I think the Edinburgh bubble can consume you a bit so it’s important to remember to take the time to just relax and reflect every once in a while. I think as a performer or just as a creative up there it’s crucial to remind yourself that you’re spending time doing what you love – to an audience of one or an audience of 100, it shouldn’t matter.”
You can catch Mine at the Studio, ZOO Southside between 4th – 27th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017. It will also be returning to Leicester on Friday 23 June 8pm at Attenborough Arts Centre.