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Sandcastles - Steve McMahon Edinburgh Fringe Interview

Steve McMahon's award-winning Sandcastles is heading to the Edinburgh Fringe playing at Assembly Rooms at 12.50pm every day (4th to 27th August, no performance on the 16th). 

Produced by Brite Theatre and directed by Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir. Kolbrún describes what attracted her to the piece "I was drawn in by the beauty and emotional depth of Steve’s script. It’s a coming of age story peppered with tantalising visions of New York, a true-to-life female friendship (which we hardly ever see on stage) and a grappling with grief."

Ahead of the festival, I spoke with Steve to delve into Sandcastles further. 

Our chat began with Steve explaining to me a little more about the show "Sandcastles moves back and forth in time and memory to depict the tumultuous lifelong friendship of millennials Hannah and Beth. Beth is moving to New York. Hannah should be happy for her. When Beth goes missing Hannah can't reconcile how she reacted with the fact Beth might be gone."

For Steve, the inspiration for the piece came very much from those around him "It was partly inspired by my friends at drama school, an international group who'd found themselves living in New York from across the US, and further afield from Scotland, Sweden, Australia, England and more. The excitement and hopes and fears and triumphs and failures of all of that. And also partly inspired by the vehicle ramming terrorist attacks that had been happening with what seemed more common occurrence. An attack from a military veteran with PTSD happened in Times Square not far from where I was working one day and that really stuck with me."

The central friendship of the characters Hannah and Beth in the piece for Steve were "based a little on those New York friends, a little made up, and a lot on myself."

For the piece, Steve was transformed by those terror attacks happening close to his workplace, something that certainly informed part of the piece "The Times Square attack spooked me and led to me reading more about it and about the history of such attacks. But that's just one part of the play and really the majority of the play is based on my own lived experience and a healthy dose of my imagination."

Steve McMahon

Our chat turned to what he'd hope for an audience to take away from seeing the show. Steve explained "I think the play confronts our hopes and fears about living in the world today, but also reminds us of what's important in life. I hope people leave the show and call their loved ones.

With the festival now a matter of days away, getting to this point has been a challenge through the pandemic but Steve is clearly excited ahead of the run "I couldn't be more excited. Some of our brilliant team - director Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir and one of our actors Marion Geoffray - were due to do the show in 2020 and that didn't happen for obvious reasons so it's been a long time coming and I can't quite believe it's actually happening. (touches wood)"

The piece has already been warmly received and has picked up a couple of awards. I posed does that add any extra pressure or comfort ahead of the festival "We're very lucky that the 2 awards we've won - Assembly Festival's ART Award and the Carol Tambor Incentive Award - exist to help emerging artists bring their shows to the Fringe. They've offered a mix of financial, administrative and technical support, along with great advice, that's taken away a lot of the pressure so we can focus on the show more. That being said, the Fringe is a mammoth undertaking for everyone involved so we've still had a lot on our plates, but it's been our great fortune to have some help along the way."

Describing the Sandcastles in 3 words, Steve said "Bold, funny, moving." Our chat ended with Steve explaining further why he thought an audience should come and see the show "We've got a brilliant international cast and creative team from Scotland, Iceland, France and England, making bold theatre full of heart that reflects the world we live in. And it's funny! And it might make you cry! And it might make you want to hug your best friend."

Sandcastles runs at Assembly Rooms - Front Room across the Festival - 4th to 27th August, not the 16th. Tickets are available from

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