Lily Casson is bringing her show, I Heart Musicals, to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with English Cabaret this summer, which will coincide with the launch of a new website that will share her exploration of a century of song. Leading up to her show's premiere, we are offering a preview of some of her musical thoughts.
In this post, as she prepares for this year's shows, Lily shares her performer perspective on 10 years spent at the Edinburgh Fringe, and reflects on how the Scottish capital is her own 'Brigadoon'.
Through an extraordinary set of circumstances, I ended up performing at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh last August. During the run of Dreams of Peace & Freedom at C Cubed on the Royal Mile, I found myself reflecting on the 10 years since I first came up to the Scottish city.
As anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting or performing at the Fringe would tell you, Edinburgh is a special place during the festival season. The Royal Mile bustles with actors and audiences alike soaking up the electric atmosphere. The relationship between performers and audience on the Mile is different to any other theatre experience as there are no barriers to the interaction you can have. The air seems thick with creativity as everyone comes together to celebrate the arts.
Time passes quickly, Each today soon transforms into yesterday, Weeks grow to seasons, Seasons repeat with the passing on years...
Sue Casson's The Happy Prince
I came to the Fringe for the first time as a performer in 2012 in a 4-hander chamber musical, The Happy Prince. It was a dream to play the role of Pandora and I have an amazing collection of memories of the experience as it made concrete the career that I wanted to pursue.
It was a special time, as it was my first run in a show, not just a single performance on one evening but 28 days with only one day off. I found it a great training in the day-to-day work of putting on a show - as you have to learn how to balance keeping healthy and resting with taking part in the Fringe and socialising with cast members and other companies.
One of my favourite memories from that year is spontaneously playing the Muppet's 'Rainbow Connection' on the ukulele for cast members of Lights! Camera! Improvise! in a coffee shop round the corner from our theatre. These cast members are now well-known as Mischief Theatre and creators of the global success, The Play That Goes Wrong, and the BBC's Goes Wrong show. They were so kind to me, and it was such an inspiration to meet people who have gone on to make a success of their work from humble Fringe beginnings.
I dreamed I saw an Albion, Of ancient history, A sceptred isle...
Edinburgh is a wonderful place at any time of year but particularly during August. Last year I discussed with other companies its' similarity to 'Brigadoon' - a mysterious village in the Highlands that appears for only one day every 100 years. The Fringe has a mirage-like quality - theatres are housed in unexpected places, bringing with them an enchanting creative energy. And when it's all over the moment is gone for another year. This myth of a magical moment was brought to life in Lerner and Loewe's musical of the same name that came before their later hits, My Fair Lady and Camelot.
The show was first produced in 1947, the same year that the Edinburgh International Festival first took place, inviting artists from around the world to perform to celebrate the inspiration of music and theatre after years of war. Eight other companies also came to perform that year uninvited, and so the Fringe was born. This year marked the 75th anniversary of that first Festival and its success as the biggest fringe in the world makes clear how much impact it has had on the artistic landscape over those years.
All Shall Be Well and all manner of thing shall be well...
All Shall Be Well - Conclusion from Dreams of Peace & Freedom
Throughout the pandemic, it felt as if live theatre was a long distant memory - not unlike Brigadoon. There was a feeling that happy recollections of theatre being part of our lives had disappeared into the mists of time, never to return again. After 3 difficult years, for me, last year's Fringe was like a messy rebirth.
In addition to my work on stage, I had the chance to explore other opportunities behind the curtain - helping out with front of house and meeting people coming to the shows. Everyone seemed to have the same objective - to take in the Fringe spirit as much as they could and to savour every minute.
Over the last decade of performing at the Fringe, I have been lucky enough to perform at C Venues run by Hartley Kemp with a selection of shows - from musicals to cabaret to my own solo show. His programme lives up to its tagline of vibrant vivacious variety with companies coming from around the world to perform on stage and latterly online, bringing them together under one roof.
And this year I’m so looking forward to being part of it all again. Already we’re up in Edinburgh rehearsing Two Tigers, and once that show is up I’ll be putting the last touches to my solo show, I Heart Musicals. This is the first year the pandemic is properly behind us, and I feel grateful to have the opportunity to be part of such a special time and meet more lovely people who care deeply about live theatre and its' place as an important pillar to our lives. Before, just like Brigadoon, the Fringe disappears back into the mist.
This post was first published on lilycasson.com. Her new site IHeartMusicals.co.uk is in development and her live show is playing at 21:20 on 11th, 13th, 20th, 25th and 27th August at C Venues at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. BOOK NOW!