Dylan O’Neill chats with the UCD alumni about their experiences with Edinburgh Fringe Festival and their plans for the future. Photo credit: Tiarnan Fallon Verbruggen.
“We’re all just trying to get our heads together” explains Rosa Bowden, after normal life resumed for the BUMP&GRIND co-founder when she returned from Edinburgh after their run at the Fringe Festival. With members being in different countries and working 9-to-5 jobs, it was a challenge to get everyone together, but thankfully, we managed to steal a couple of BUMP&GRIND members away from their busy schedules to have a sit down and chat.
Rosa is one third of the original BUMP&GRIND Theatre company, along with fellow UCD graduates Rosa Torr and Cathal Sheerin. The trio, whose backgrounds in theatre range from studying Drama in college, to acting and directing with UCD Dramsoc, as well as with theatre companies in London and Dublin. Their flagship play, Bump, followed the story of 22-year-old Lily, who upon discovering her pregnancy, makes the hard decision to have an abortion. “We just wanted to give a more human account of the issue” explained Bowden. Given the current climate in Ireland surrounding the Repeal the 8th movement Bowden said, “we wanted to show a situation where abortion was free, safe, and legal, and what the implications were on that character. It’s not something she necessarily takes lightly.”
“I had to reign in the celebration until afterwards or I might have just spontaneously combusted on stage.”
Having first performed Bump in UCD as part of the 90th Session of DramSoc, they received the news that their application had been successful and would be performing in Assembly Festival, a curated venue famous for programming the best up-and-coming new writing each year and gave them great support as a new company. Torr described the excitement of hearing the news about 30 minutes before her third performance of Bump in the Dramsoc Theatre on campus, “I had to reign in the celebration until afterwards or I might have just spontaneously combusted on stage.”
The Fringe was a huge step up from university theatre. From the moment they received the good news, the process only began for the company who then had to fund their journey. “We had an Indiegogo campaign…you just have to beg, borrow and steal just to get there, and also just have your wits about you when you’re flying, and knowing which venues are the right venues,” recounts Bowden. Kelley Gissane, the producer of Bump during their Fringe run, described the behind the scenes technicalities of getting to the Fringe Festival, “The process started for us by looking at which venues we thought would be physically suitable for Bump and would attract the right audience for Bump.” After the offer was accepted and the registration and deposit fees were paid, the BUMP&GRIND Theatre set sail for Edinburgh.
Getting to the Fringe Festival was only part of the challenge, once over there, the difference between the university and the festival became apparent. As a director, Bowden describes that, “the most overwhelming thing about performing at Edinburgh compared to anywhere else…there is a constant pressure to self-promote…because there are 3000 other shows on besides your own.” Torr explains that even though she has had experience with the festival before, having acted previously with the 4th Monkey Theatre, “nothing can compare to the absolute buzz of being at Edinburgh Fringe. “The whole city is alive with theatre and you are immersed in it, as opposed to finishing the show and having to go to a lecture on moral law or something in UCD”.
With any fledgling theatre company, a festival such as this one was as much a learning opportunity as it was an opportunity to promote the company’s brand. “It was our first time there as a company so there were definitely some things we would smooth over next time” recounts Torr. “I would have gone on a few more runs, done some yoga, and eaten my greens because it was physically and mentally exhausting.” Bowden agrees “myself, Cathal [Sheerin], Kelley [Gissane], Ailis [Toal] and Shane[Gill] were going in blind.”
Last September, having finished on a 5-star review from Broadway Baby, the BUMP&GRIND company posted to their Facebook page “With Ed Fringe done and dusted, now we are on to the next one.” When asked about what this post means for the future of the company, Torr coyly responded “let’s just say you might not have seen the last of our girl Lily”. Bowden added that they were interested in “exploring more marginalized, less talked about ideas,” suggesting themes of gender and queer representation within theatre. The BUMP&GRIND theatre are trying to give their own voices to these political and current topics.
Both Bowden and Torr agreed that they’ll still be making theatre in years to come, with hopes of continuing on the Fringe circuit for the next few years.