1 Aug 2014 – 24 Aug 2014 Edinburgh

at the Edinburgh Festivals - BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals 2014 Sleight & Hand

BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals 2014


Tuesday 19 Aug 2014 BBC Arts Live Stream

A dazzling, whip-smart slice of Victoriana

Rising star Marieke Audsley directs the story of struggling illusionist Edwin Sleight who finds fame and fortune after joining forces with the quick-witted and light-fingered Iphigenia Hand.

Director Marieke Audsley on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, challenges in an online world, and making people smile.


Marieke Audsley arrived at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe with the aim of making people laugh.

However, the 26-year-old Londoner was nowhere to be found on the stand-up scene.

Instead, the director was pulling the strings for two separate plays: the Victorian magic mystery Sleight & Hand, and a comedy called Civil Rogues, set in England in 1649 - an era when theatre was banned.

“Making people laugh is a really great gift,” said Marieke. “I think there is very little more joyful than being transported to another world for an hour or two and forgetting about whatever problems and boring everyday stuff.”

Of course, she has plenty to smile about. This year’s Festival Fringe marked her first as a director.

Sleight & Hand follows illusionists Edwin Sleight and Iphigenia Hand who become central to a police investigation into a daring theft.

Her actors use Victorian-era props around them on stage to quickly transform into different characters.

She said: “The thing with Edinburgh... you have to build something that can be packed away and brought out at a moment’s notice. Because of the makeshift nature of the play, we are going to make that a virtue of the show.”

Meanwhile, Civil Rogues gave Marieke the opportunity to highlight a period of Cromwellian history where the arts were controlled by Puritans.

The era fascinates her, and allowed the 26-year-old to draw some parallels with today.

“It could be a very serious piece about the value of theatre, but it is a bit of a romp about some actors on the run trying to not be caught by soldiers.”

“It is difficult to get a show up and running. In a way, there is censorship at all levels: ‘no you can’t have money’; ‘you can’t put this on in our theatre’; ‘we don’t think that will get an audience’.

“Luckily, in this country, we are not too scared. It is very unlikely you would have soldiers bashing down the doors with pikes coming to spear your actors.”

Asked about the challenges for a modern-day theatre director, Marieke believes social media has introduced an added layer of pressure.

“Usually in the shows, you have a preview period where the idea is to try and get it right. You are allowed to muck up a little bit.

“But because you know someone will be sat there watching it from that first performance, it will be tweeted.”

Marieke grew up in London with the arts all around her. Her father Mick Audsley is a film editor who worked on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Marieke attended ballet and acting classes in her youth before she settled on directing.

Her first experience at the Edinburgh Festivals was as a 15-year-old playing a witch in Macbeth.

Now, with assistant director credits at the Royal Shakespeare Company under her belt, she is focussed on her growth as a director.

After a run of Civil Rogues in London, her next project is assistant director on a tour of A Mad World My Masters, a comedy about a man trying to swindle money out of his uncle.

Laughter, it seems, will remain director’s raison d'être for now.

• Civil Rogues will be shown at London's Pleasance Theatre, Islington from 4-7 September 2014.

• Watch the Edinburgh Fringe production of Sleight & Hand here on the Festivals website, and on BBC iPlayer, until February 2015.

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