top of page

All Heart - An Interview with Paul Beeson

David Cox

Aug 24, 2022

One of our favourite shows of the festival this year was "A War Of Two Halves". Co-writer and actor Paul Beeson kindly opened the doors to Tynecastle revealing the background behind this moving story.

So, how has this year's festival been going so far?

Great so far… A War of Two Halves and Sweet FA have been well received by audiences and critics alike!

You are approaching the final stretch. Will you be glad when the run ends or will you miss it?

A bit of both. There have been long days and we have been working around Hearts getting the stadium ready for our European adventures… so there have been some challenges! However, we will miss telling these wonderful stories.

How are your stamina levels?

What stamina levels? Seriously though, we’ve done really well. Even if you are exhausted, your adrenaline (and caffeine) gets you through!

Tell us about "This Is My Story Productions"?

The company was formed when we did AWOTH the first time in 2018. It consists of myself, Tim Barrow (co writer) and Bruce Strachan (director).

Who had the idea for "A War Of Two Halves" as a play?

We all did, but at separate times! Bruce and Tim went to school together and Tim gave the McCraes Battalion book to Bruce as a gift. Bruce and I sat together at Tynecastle for years and we subsequently discovered we’d both had thoughts about staging the story. So the three of us put our heads together and away we went.

I gather this was first produced in 2018 and then in 2019. Has it changed over the years?

It has a little. Every time we have done it, we have taken slightly different routes around the stadium and we have had some different cast members over the years. But the script has remained intact.

Was it easy to write?

In some ways yes… the real story itself is amazing and we wanted to tell it as close to truth as possible. The hardest part was figuring out which footballers to focus on, as we couldn’t have all the volunteers in the play… the cast would be too big otherwise!

What is your background as a writer?

AWOTH was the first full length play I attempted. I had written some sketch comedy in the past, but nothing on this scale. Luckily I had Bruce and Tim to work with so we could bounce ideas off one another and it was a real team effort.

Have you been surprised how much audiences have enjoyed it?

We were overwhelmed with the response during the first run of shows in 2018, so now it’s not a surprise as we know how this show affects the audience. It still humbles us though!

I was impressed at how much an ensemble piece the play is, everyone has their emotional moment. How long did you have to rehearse?

Not very long, it was around a week of rehearsal. It helps when we have many returning cast members though, as they can very quickly get back into it and we use our time very effectively. This year we have 7 returning cast members and 4 newbies.

One of the joys of " A War Of Two Halves" is the site-specific aspect. How easy was it to get Hearts invoived during the football season?

It was easier than you’d think! Initially we planned to perform this piece on a stage, somewhere in Edinburgh during the fringe. We actually approached Hearts to see if they would support us in spreading the word and they very quickly decided to have us at the stadium! This year has thrown up some new challenges as the club are having lots of work done in the stadium to make sure Tynecastle is meeting UEFA standards for the European games. We also have to be away for the games, so scheduling is tough when the fixtures keep changing!

I loved that the trench scene was positioned by the Tynecastle grounds barbed wire. Was that a deliberate choice?

The location was a deliberate choice, due to its proximity to the memorial garden… the barbed wire was a happy coincidence!

The ending by the memorial statue and memorial garden was perfect allowing the audience to reflect, gather their thoughts and cry. Are the cast emotional at the end of a performance?

Very much so… it’s an emotionally demanding performance and the cast are fully invested in the story and the characters. We always want to do the boys story justice and that inevitably leads to an emotional reaction.

You do the show twice a day. Are you not exhausted at the end of the day?

Yes we are! We are also doing some 3 and 4 show days so we will be totally burst at the end of those!

I notice that in 2018 you performed it 4 times a day. How on earth did you manage it?

It’s hard to say… we just did it… we were younger then too, so perhaps we had more energy! The difficulty with this show is we have a limited audience number as we go into the dressing room, so we have to do numerous shows.

Have any relatives of the players been in contact as a result of the show?

A few! We had Alfie Briggs’ great niece in watching the show and Ernie Ellis’ has been in contact. We also had a distant relative of James Speedie in at some point. We’ve also had some former Hearts players, like Gary Locke and Colin Cameron in. And we did a performance for the first team in 2018!

You clearly, are a Hearts fan. Do you remember the first time you watched them live?

I do… it was away to Dunfermline in the 1990/91 season. My first home game was against Celtic in the same season. I was always a hearts fan growing up, but didn’t get taken to a game until I was 10 (most of my family are Hibs fans! My Jambo uncle who married into the family started taking me)

My festival memories go back to 1986. Can you remember your first Edinburgh festivals?

It was probably around the same time. I vaguely remember going to the tattoo around that time and being in the throng of people on the royal mile.

Thanks for your time and enjoy the rest of your run.

bottom of page