Army at the Fringe challenges audiences to look at armed forces in new light

Senior Army officers hope to challenge public perspective of the military as their programme for this year’s Fringe gets under way.

Eight events will feature in the Army at the Fringe, including a one-man play titled Heroin To Hero which follows the journey of Paul Boggie – a former heroin addict who smoked the drug in the Craigentinny area of Edinburgh.

Mr Boggie quit heroin aged 30 and went on to join the Scots Guards. After six months, he found himself on duty at Buckingham Palace, guarding the Queen.

Actor Tony McGeevor, who also served in the Army, plays Mr Boggie in the play.

“It’s really a story of redemption, rebirth, but what we’re also trying to break the stigma of heroin addiction and the way society views heroin addicts,” he said.

Mr McGeevor said the play is very topical due to the debate surrounding drug deaths in Scotland.

“Scotland has the worst death rate from heroin,” he said. “I feel theatre isn’t doing enough so here I am trying to tell Paul’s story to get to as many people as possible.”

Mr McGeevor is the only actor in the show and says that is a “challenge”.

He added: “The reason being is that Paul is his own one man show, so this fitted with the piece. I was trying to challenge myself as an actor and a person.

“It had been a long time since I’d challenged myself mentally and physically.”

Mr McGeevor went to drama school following his stint in the Army and said he has played “nothing but soldiers”, but thanked the Army for their support.

“If it wasn’t for Army at the Fringe, financially this show wouldn’t be possible. It’s well publicised how difficult and how expensive it is to put on a show in Edinburgh.

“The MoD came to me and said: we will give you a venue for free, and that’s the biggest support anybody can have.”

Neil Summerville plays Major Denis Rake in For Queen And Country, which portrays the contribution the LGBTQ+ community made to the Second World War.

Major Rake was recruited into Winston Churchill’s special operations unit due to being gay and ultimately performed as a drag queen for Nazi officers in Paris during the occupation.

“Churchill was actively recruiting gay men because at the time, it was illegal and they had to live a lie. So that’s perfect training to become a spy,” Mr Summerville said.

“There’s lots of fun, lots of laughter, there’s also moments in it where his experience hits home and it’s quite raw.

“It’s such an amazing story and it is not very well known. I have a feeling it’s because it doesn’t end with an easily acceptable tragedy.

“The wonderful thing about this story is that it’s a positive story. It’s about a gay man who did wonderful things.”

Major General Alastair Bruce, who is governor of Edinburgh Castle, said audiences will be “staggered” by what is on offer.

“Army at the Fringe surprises me, audiences will be staggered and it will not be what they were expecting,” he said.

“The Army has within it people of all different types who played their part and I don’t think people realise that.

“What the Army at the Fringe points out is that the diversity celebrated today has brought a lot of people together who perhaps were discriminated against, had challenges in their lives and yet get a second chance by joining the Armed Forces and being part of a team.

“As governor of Edinburgh Castle I have the privilege of having this amazing view of Edinburgh and during the Fringe, the place is alive with arts and culture, challenging us to think again and look at the world in a different way.

“I think if we challenge people to look at the Army in a new way, I think they’ll be surprised.”

Heroin To Hero runs until August 28 at 7.15pm and For Queen And Country is performed until August 14 at 8.30pm, both at the Army Reserve Centre on East Claremont Street.