With the applause of the London stage still ringing in her ears, Cayman actress Melanie Ebanks is currently in a cyber comedy at one of the world’s largest arts festival this month.
The 23-year-old is appearing in “You Tweet My Face Space” in a 21-show run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from Aug. 5-27.
The Boots and Cats Productions show, which played to appreciative audiences in the English capital last month, has a cast of 10 and is getting full-throated praise at the Fringe.
Among more than 3,000 live acts, shows and performances this year, the play is set around the push-button world of social media. Most of the characters represent apps, including Snapchat, Facebook, FarmVille and Melanie’s character, Tinder.
“The Edinburgh Reporter named us the Top Pick for the Fringe, and Julian Eaves of BritishTheatre.com has laid odds that we will win several prizes,” said Ebanks of the feedback so far. “[We’ve] had fantastic audiences and they’ve been incredibly receptive.”
“The story has a serious theme as well as highlighting the risks of the virtual world. It is complicated, yet funny.
“In our production, [Tinder] is, for lack of a better word, quite terrifying, almost to the level of ‘bridezilla,’ needing love from anyone who may be willing to give it.”
The George Town actress and accomplished musician graduated last year with a degree in performing arts from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London. Promoted as one of the U.K.’s leading art schools, whose current president is Dame Judi Dench, the academy’s alumni include Joseph Gatt of “Game of Thrones” and “Star Trek” fame, Brendan Coyle (“Downton Abbey” and “Lark Rise to Candleford”), Glynis Barber (“EastEnders” and “Emmerdale”), as well as Amanda Holden (“Britain’s Got Talent” and “Shrek the Musical”).
Not a dress rehearsal
The satire, written and produced by Tom Hartwell, explores finding love in the Internet age and the results of oversharing in hilarious and non-threatening ways. Having earned several frame-able reviews during its two-date debut last month, its current venue is the Greenside @ Royal Terrace, an intimate 60-seat theater at the Fringe festival.
Hartwell said the 55-minute play was developed by Mountview graduates while in training.
“Since first performing the show in the London Fringe, the show has gone from strength to strength from sellout shows in the West End to five-star reviews,” he said.
When asked by Weekender what post-Fringe plans there were for further performances, the playwright said, “[It] will go under a new theater company who hope to take it to the next level.”
“There are plans in the works for a national tour and even a theatrical education version to take around to schools to teach children about the risks of social media,” he added.
Speaking of the experience so far, the play’s director, Lilac Yosiphon, said, “Playing at Edinburgh has been the culmination of three years of hard work and this company of artists/friends have made the experience a treasure and joy to be part of.”
Despite daily performances (except Sundays), the cast and crew have managed to take in a few of the Fringe’s thousands of shows, acts and events dotted in various venues across Edinburgh. Ebanks said, “We are able to see shows every day and have the ability to network with a variety of different creative people at the festival.”
In her first time that far north of the border, the actress is clearly impressed with the city, whose skyline is dominated by Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Mount and Edinburgh Castle. With narrow cobbled streets, wide boulevards, ancient alehouses, smart townhouses and sooty buildings, “Auld Reekie” is a bustling metropolis in the dog days of summer.
“Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. The architecture and views … [I] can’t wait to explore more of it,” Ebanks said.
“J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter here, and it’s not hard to see where she got her inspiration from.”
Student credits, acting credits
Ebanks, who is a talented soloist, attended Cayman Prep and High School, completing IGCSE’s and ‘A’ Levels in music, drama and English before taking a gap year and enrolling in Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy, majoring in theater.
A huge fan of English character actress Imelda Staunton, what switched her on to acting was playing the Artful Dodger in a school production when she was 10. She later joined the Cayman Drama Society appearing “in numerous productions, including ‘Dracula, ‘Lucy’s Kiss,’ ‘A Christmas Story,’ ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’”
The highlight of drama school, she said, was performing in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at the [replica] Globe Theatre, in Neuss, Germany.
“I love the experience of being on stage and being able be a different person, to be transported to another time and place. Live theater is an amazing experience. I have never wanted anything else,” she said.
Living in London, Ebanks has an agent. Between acting gigs, she attends auditions, plays the saxophone and viola, and gets back to Cayman when time and finances allow.
This year, however, “You Tweet My Face Space” is bringing the islands to Ebanks. The recipient of last year’s Proud of Them award for advancing Cayman culture and promoting community service is expecting her mother, sister and cousins any day now, and they’re all eager to see her, sample the Fringe, explore Edinburgh, and, of course, catch that hotly tipped show.