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EDINBURGH 2016: BWW Q&A - Immortal

BWW speaks to GreanTea Productions about their Second World War drama Immortal, which is heading to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August.

Tell us a bit about Immortal

Immortal is a World War II drama set in 1944, about five British bombers who survive a crash in Nazi-occupied Holland.

One of the men is badly injured, and the soldiers take shelter in an abandoned school. They start off in fairly good spirits, using humour to make light of their situation. But gradually, the reality of their predicament begins to dawn on them and they have to decide whether to wait it out with their wounded comrade or try and make it back to Allied territory. Then, just as things don't look as if they could get any worse, a very unwanted visitor arrives.

It's a gripping, almost psychological drama about trust, friendship, loyalty and, as the title suggests, mortality. It's amazing how much the writer, Ciaran McConville, has managed to pack into less than an hour.

It's been 14 years since Immortal debuted at the Fringe - why bring it back?

Ciaran McConville was a mentor of mine at the Rose Theatre in Kingston. When GreanTea was formed in 2013, we crowdfunded our first show and Immortal was the first play we ever produced. The first version that went up to the Fringe in 2002 has been rewritten and extended multiple times since then, and now we're bringing it back to the original length but with fresh material, which Ciaran has written for us.

When the play was first performed at the Fringe it was a huge success, and so we're hoping to echo the same response with the revised and updated version. Our production has had some great reviews when it's been performed in London, so we're hopeful audiences in Edinburgh will love it just as much.

Who would you recommend Immortal to?

What drew us to Immortal as a production was we think it has a very broad appeal. There's the historical context, which we hope will attract anyone either learning about World War II for the first time or an older generation already familiar with the history. And although the plot might sound bleak - five airmen trapped behind enemy lines and facing up to their own mortality - there are actually moments of terrific comedy. It encapsulates a rather wide range of genres: it's a comedy, tragedy, thriller and even has echoes of the supernatural. Anyone looking for gritty and naturalistic productions, who enjoys historical settings and high-paced dramas, will hopefully not be disappointed.

This is the first time GreanTea Productions have taken a show to the Fringe - do you think you know what to expect?

We've been preparing for over a year to tackle the Fringe, but no matter what we do I'm certain we will encounter things we never expected. Getting the set right has been a challenge - we only have 10 minutes to put it up and take it down before the next show starts. But our set designer May Curtiss is superb and I'm really impressed with what she's come up with. I think audiences will be too.

Obviously with more than 3,000 shows taking place at the same time getting your name out there can be hard too. But we've got a good social media presence and we've been chatting to other people on Twitter who are taking shows up this year. What's been really nice about that is discovering how supportive everyone is - there's no rivalry, we feel like one big family trying to put on the best entertainment possible. We've also been garnering as much advice as we possibly can from other companies and the Fringe Society, who have been enormously helpful.

I'm expecting a tough road ahead, but hopefully an enjoyable one too. It's a very strange mixture of excitement and fear!

Are there any other shows you're hoping to see at the festival?

Lots! I suppose because I'm directing Immortal I'm drawn to some of the historical dramas, so Agent of Influence: the Secret Life of Pamela Moore at Underbelly caught my attention. It's about a socialite recruited by MI5 during WW2 to keep checks on Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII. I'm looking forward to Incognito Theatre's adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front at The Pleasance too.

This year's production by The Young Pleasance, Alice Unhinged, is looking very good, as is The Berkovian Medea. There's a multimedia performance called The Dwelling Place that I really want to see, where you're transported to an abandoned cottage in the Outer Hebrides. Exactly Like You is directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward, a Fringe First Award winner, so I'd like to see that, and Fourth Monkey's Genesis and Revelation looks insane. Going Underground is a story about life on the Tube late at night, which I'm sure I'll identify with.

We've also discovered some great shows through conversations on Twitter, so we'll be going to see BubbleRevolution and Temper Theatre's Terra Incognita too. So that's quite a lot to fit in!

Timings and ticket information are available on the edfringe website.

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From This Author Natalie O'Donoghue