11:87 Theatre made its debut at this year’s Fringe with THE WAY IT IS, a piece of musical theatre written by West Mainland resident John Casey to raise awareness of parental alienation. Founder and Artistic Director of the company, he tells his story.
By John Casey
Sleep! Ah sleep..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
That’s all I did for a week after the Fringe. It had been two months of intense rehearsals, the culmination of nine month’s work.
Finding people to play and sing the parts was the first hurdle and it took me from Orkney to Glasgow and finally to London where an open audition brought talented singer/actors.
Jessie Waterfield and Charlotte Early were a dream choice.
Jessie gave her heart and soul to the character of Sophie who falls victim to her partner’s manipulation of Family Courts. Her portrayal of Sophie’s torture at losing her child was almost unbearable to watch. Her powerful and expressive voice took us into a world of anguish difficult to imagine. Jessie played and sang the pain to the hilt every show. She broke our hearts every time and to do so she had to repeatedly break her own.
Playing the Angel, Charlotte’s singing and smiling compassion was tender and moving. Her natural joy in living made her liked and loved by audiences so that she turned us inside out when she sang her gospel plea to ‘Reach Out’ and help her save Sophie.
And the Angel Wings’ duet with Jessie was a show stopper.
When they did it on the Royal Mile to attract bums on seats people would stop across the road to listen. The song’s soaring harmonies by former Stromness Academy pupil and music graduate Ellen Casey, and Jessie and Charlotte’s singing, raised it to a hymn to compassion that reviewers found ‘stunning’.
Robert Maksymowicz’s understated singing of ‘Manhattan Sunday’ at the start of the show, about a father travelling to keep in touch with his little girl, was tender and gentle.
His later character’s manipulation of Sophie (‘Gaslighting’), was a relentless hammering that left her bewildered and vulnerable. Robert gave a dramatic and shocking performance that left the audience in no doubt who would win in the family courts.
And Orkney Fastliners’ Don Holderness, multi-instrumentalist, blues guitar man, lead guitarist who knock socks off, showed another side to his talent. His rendition of the last song of the show ‘A better Way’ was quiet and honest. Decades of experience playing and performing making less more. Gentle and deeply moving.
Asked which show went the best, most of the cast felt that bigger audience numbers meant a lot more energy and a bigger experience. The comedy benefited greatly. My romps as Demo, the hapless demon, with Don Crerar’s hilarious boozy Devil and drag Hell’s Accountant were such fun to do.
But the one performance when the audience was made up of nine or so people in their late fifties and upwards was very special. You could feel the immense weight of sadness coming from them during ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ – Sophie’s plea to her lost child to ‘keep your heart free, that’s where you’ll find me.’
That audience knew what we were on about.
Another audience who knew was when we performed a benefit show at the HQ of Families Need Fathers in Edinburgh. During chat afterwards there were tears and recognition of the challenges and hardships of the journey each victim of parental alienation (children too) has to make to keep their heart free.
As Don Crerar’s self-congratulating Devil says at the end (no longer a comic character but now The Prince of Darkness):
Betwixt man and woman
From unseen corners
We slither and spit.
Takes the easiest route!
What greater evil
than sever child from loving parent?
What greater compliment
to our depravity.
It was a special cast. They made it a special show. And it was a marvellous way to launch 11:87 Theatre Company.
And perhaps the last word should come from a member of the audience in her early twenties.
‘During the show I became aware that having children taken off you was something that was happening to men too.’
For more info on 11:87 Theatre Co, our time at the Fringe, and future productions, go to: