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SLEEPOVER - Edinburgh Fringe Interview

CUMTS (Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society) has enjoyed international success as the original company behind the smash-hit musical Six. Now they bring their latest work SLEEPOVER to the Edinburgh Fringe running throughout the festival at Just The Tonic at The Caves. Tickets are available here.

SLEEPOVER is a coming-of-age musical about four immigrant teenagers set over 12 hours and with one suspicious box teeming with questions about sex. Join Jenny, Anita, Nina and Ruth as they dive into a world of sex discussing everything from monogamy to masturbation, dating preferences and penises. The musical promises top-class comedy delivered with a side of well-rapped bars in a spectacular piece of new writing.

Ahead of the Fringe, I sat down with writer and actress Laura Chan (who will play Jenny) and director Mia Urwin to delve into the show further.

Our chat began with me asking the pair to tell me a little bit about the show. Laura explained "It's a bit of BME Shakespeare, a bit of Puccini, set to iamdick pentameter…. No, I'm going to be honest: it's a group of confused teenagers singing about vaginas It’s every question you had when you were 11 (or 21) that you didn’t know how to ask your 40-year-old science teacher who very much did not want to be teaching sex ed. It's all the questions you ask your friends, and then pretend you're just kidding when they look at you shocked, except here they're set to Caribbean and Chinese music!"

Photo Credit: Robert Barker

Away from the Shakespearean and Puccini SLEEPOVER comes from Laura's mind something she explained as I asked where the inspiration for the piece came from "Once my friends and I showed our breasts to each other as a team building exercise, and they said they could see the Jamaican in Jamaican Chinese…that was really validating for me as a mixed person."

"Also, it feels like so many stories about BME people revolve around trauma. And shitty
moms. And I love my mom and she doesn’t deserve that. I want us to have a lighthearted,
funny, sex musical, just like everyone else."

Photo Credit: Robert Barker

For Laura, the show is very much a personal piece "The show is my personal life. I've opened myself up to enourmous amounts of ridicule and will definitely cry after every single show. And probably before them as well. And maybe in the middle…? The advice goes 'write what you know' I instead wrote about all the aspects of sex that I don't know. That being said, there are also a lot of fun moments with my friends in there - I hope the audience feels our joy."

For director Mia, I asked what attracted her to working on the show "Sometimes you're sitting alone in a McDonald's trying to recharge because you have far too many things on your plate and a very stressed producer calls to suggest another commitment for you. And sometimes the chaotic pitch that ensues is so intriguing that, despite questioning your sanity, you say yes. And by the time you've finished your burger you're knees deep in incredibly witty songs about boobs and friendship. Then there's no going back."

For Mia her directorial choices were inspired by working with Laura "Laura is (and I say this, much to her disdain and embarrassment I’m sure) an incredibly talented writer. She manages to entangle beautiful comedic timing, with such intelligent lyricism, and then soak all that in rich and interesting culture. Her use of both Caribbean and Chinese music was something that really hooked me, and you can tell her heart and soul has gone into this piece. So in answer to the question? Laura was my inspiration. She has a very specific vision, and we trust each other to make that a reality."

Photo Credit: Robert Barker

Taking the how to the Fringe is clearly something that excites (and slightly unnerves) the pair. I posed if you have to prepare any differently for the festival. Mia explained "I suppose the length of the run, and the being far from home are the main differences. I know it is going to be a hard slog for such a small cast and crew, performing every day, but I’m sure the enthusiasm of youth will pull through. Many of us are first-time Fringe goers, so we are all pretending we know what we are doing until, we hope, we do know what we are doing. It is an exciting challenge regardless!" 

Laura added in jest "Yes, as Scottish people will be there."

Photo Credit: Robert Barker

With the show currently in rehearsals I asked how the process has been going so far Mia explained "I was the last member to join the team (unless Sandra Oh replies to our DM about getting her onstage) which can often be a challenging position to be in, but it's been such a delight! Our tiny team has provided endless enjoyment and entertainment, and the whole process has had such a spirit of collaboration that it's given the show a real spark. I have enjoyed every second, especially choreographing some dances featuring a crocheted aubergine…. You can see them on our TikTok, @sleepover.edfringe (subtle plug: nailed it)"

There's clearly great friendship among the cast (watch those TikToks and you'll see!) and they're having a great time preparing for the Fringe but I asked what they hoped an audience would take away from seeing a musical about sex. Laura "Hopefully, some condoms, as we ordered 5 thousand. I can do a demo after the show to make sure people are using them right (check for an air bubble before you open it to make sure its not popped OR punctured). Also to get tested for STIs (you can get tested for most by just peeing in a cup!)."

"To be honest, I would like to create a space where everyone’s a little more honest about the
fact that we’re all a bit confused too. We’re all figuring it out. And we can figure it out

Photo Credit: Robert Barker

Mia added "I’d love for an audience member to leave and feel like they want to reconnect with their friends. The show is funny yes, and covers many a taboo and hilarious topic, but it is also so feel-good (I’d have said pleasurable but with the nature of our show…). I really hope even just one audience member calls up someone who used to be important to them to ask weirdly intrusive questions about
their sex life"

As ever I posed the question 'what does theatre mean to you?' with Laura saying "It’s an opportunity to build a world and invite the audience in. It’s an escape, it’s a dream, it’s a lot of fun!!!" and for Mia "Procrastination of my medical degree. But genuine, meaningful and exciting procrastination, where I get to express myself and allow my creative brain to take over. Theatre is such a safe space for me, and I wish I could spend all my time on it. This answer is making me question my entire future career path so I may have to stop here…. NHS here I come!"

Photo Credit: Robert Barker

Our conversation wrapped up as the pair explained why an audience member should come and see SLEEPOVER. Mia explained "Honestly? Observing a Canadian writer/actor navigate the very concept of Scotland has already been enough comedy for me, but just in case you needed more we've got a song about pegging - I mean, how can you miss that?!". Laura added "I called your mom and she said you’re allowed to come, so no excuses. And it’s rude to turn down an invitation, especially as I’ve ordered pizza already! (And also we're being funded by the people behind SIX which is a lot of pressure - please help us not let them down)"

SLEEPOVER runs at Just The Tonic at The Caves across the festival (Aug 4 - 28, every day but not the 15th) at 4.30pm. Tickets can be purchased from or you can follow the show across social media including the official website

Photo Credit: Robert Barker

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