Outlander star to appear in first outdoor Edinburgh Festival Fringe play confirmed for this year

A star of the hit Scottish time-travel TV series Outlander is set to appear in the first outdoor play confirmed for this year’s Edinburgh Festival season.

Socially-distanced rehearsals for Doppler are already underway in Edinburgh.
Socially-distanced rehearsals for Doppler are already underway in Edinburgh.

Leith-based theatre company Grid Iron, which is best-known for staging site-specific shows in unusual locations like Edinburgh Airport, Debenhams on Princes Street, inside Mary King's Close, has announced plans to stage a week-long run of a production in an undisclosed location in the city.

Keith Fleming, who had a starring role in the third and fourth series of the historical fantasy drama, is expected to perform for audiences of up to just 20 ticket-holders along with two other actors, Itxaso Moreno and Sean Hay.

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Fleming, who played Lesley in Outlander, also starred in a previous Grid Iron production, Barflies, which was staged at The Barony Bar, in Edinburgh’s New Town during the Fringe in 2012.

Actress Itxaso Moreno will be one of the stars of Doppler.

The play, Doppler, is being adapted by director Ben Harrison from a satirical novel by Norwegian writer Erlend Loe about a man who decides to abandon his family after the death of his father and move into a forest to life a new life as far removed as possible for the one he was living before.

The show, which has been developed by Grid Iron over the last two years, was already planned to be staged outdoors at this year’s Fringe before the entire festival was called off in April due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

However Grid Iron, which has been staging productions for the last 25 years, has been exploring ways to ensure the production could be salvaged and announced that a limited run of the show was due to get underway within hours of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirming a provisional date for outdoor events to resume, as long as they have a limited capacity and social distancing restrictions are in place.

The Scottish Government is not expected to give the final go-ahead for outdoor events to resume until the next review of its route map out of lockdown on 20 August. In the event that the planned performances of have to be cancelled, Grid Iron will release a filmed version of the show.

Keith Fleming is among the actors who have been rehearsing Doppler in advance of its planned Fringe run.

Initial rehearsals of Doppler were carried out during Zoom meetings before socially-distanced sessions got underway recently.

The actors had their temperatures taken at home and again in the rehearsal space, while shorter rehearsals than normal were held to avoid anyone working on the production having to take a meal break.

All rigging and lighting on the final production is being designed so it only needs to be handled by one crew member, while the actors will be able to wear their own clothes during each performance.

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Judith Doherty, chief executive and co-artistic director of Grid Iron, said: “We are very cautiously excited about the possibility of bringing Doppler to Edinburgh audiences this August.

Musician David Pollock is involved in the Grid Iron production.

"We have been developing the show for over a year now and had hoped to bring it to Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

"Doppler was always meant to be an outdoor show and with our experience of producing shows in unusual spaces, we remain hopeful that we will be able to proceed with our plans.

"We are currently awaiting confirmation of our venue and then we can proceed with securing the required licensing.

“Having said that, we acknowledge the situation is developing fast and we might need to adapt quickly. We understand that 24 August, the date announced by the Scottish Government today as potentially the first day of live outdoor performances being allowed back in Scotland, is an indicative date which will be reviewed in 3 weeks.

“Safety and comfort of our audiences and team are always our top priority and we are simultaneously working on plans for a non-live sharing of Doppler.”

Harrison, who is also co-artistic director of Grid Iron, said: “Doppler has been planned for a couple of years but takes on new and unexpected

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resonances in the context of the pandemic.

"The central character is jolted out of his comfortable Norwegian existence by a bicycle accident and determines to live an isolated life in the forest away from his family and social circle.

“Determined to live a deliberately simple existence, a life fused with the rhythm of the forest, he slows everything right down.

“Through his comical one-sided dialogue with an orphaned elk calf that he adopts, muses on life, the excesses of capitalism, fathers and sons and the footprint we leave on the world.

"As the months move slowly by however, his alternative lifestyle of bartering and hunter-gathering attracts some unwanted attention, and he finds being alone not nearly as simple and straightforward as he had hoped.”

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