Martha weaves her magic at Dame Cleo Laine’s Music in the Garden Festival

MPMC Martha Shrimpton
MPMC Martha Shrimpton

The first time you try your hand at anything, it’s usually a pretty shoddy affair. After all, the phrase ‘practise makes perfect’ certainly came from somewhere.

Well, not for Martha Shrimpton. The first time she set her mind to scriptwriting, magic happened.

MPMC Cafe Ruse

MPMC Cafe Ruse

Cafe Ruse was originally written for Debut Festival, held as part of her drama course at E15, London and led by Uri Roodner. The play was such a success that Martha and her three-strong company are gearing-up to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.

But, before that, Martha, 22, will be showing off her writing and performing talents to an audience closer to home.

Having already secured a gig at London’s Roundhouse, the next stop before Edinburgh will be at Dame Cleo Laine’s Music in the Garden Festival. The closing show of the Festival’s five-week long run, Martha, a local girl who hales from Bletchley, is excited by the prospect.

“I’m really looking forward to playing to a home crowd. If anything, it’s more daunting - you want to impress even more than usual!” said Martha, who has been marked as ‘One to Watch’ by THE STAGE.

But it won’t be the first time Martha has showcased her theatrical talents on Dame Cleo’s turf.

“I’ve been lucky enough to perform in The Stables’ Christmas shows with Cleo for years. She’s definitely an inspiration. I look up to her.”

It’s not only Dame Cleo by whom Martha has been inspired from an early age. With her mother, composer Sarah Shrimpton (Watts), father, musician Chris Shrimpton and sister Chloe also in the family business, Martha’s certainly got music in her blood.

“I’m lucky to have grown up in a creative environment with music around me - it’s definitely helped me to broaden my imagination.”

Martha, who had the original idea for Cafe Ruse, a musical farce, and spent a year putting together the script, then began working on the piece with her theatre school peers. Ellie Routledge and Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson all came together to form the cast and crew. Each has a multitude of roles in this fast-paced story. They are directed by Jesse Britten.

The young troupe, who celebrated their graduation two weeks ago, then set about adding music and movement.

“We’re a good group because we’ve got a bit of everything. The boys are really good at physical comedy and Ellie and I love the ridiculous.”

Martha, who is hoping for good reviews at Edinburgh to lead to a longer run of the show, is inspired by vintage British comedy.

“I love things like Acorn Antiques and Fawlty Towers. That kind of comedy is certainly going through a re-birth with people like Miranda Hart leading the way, but not necessarily in theatre. I think theatre is used a lot for political statements and serious messages, but sometimes it’s good to be able to sit down and enjoy something and forget about your problems for an hour or two. It’s a form of escapism - that’s what we’re trying to achieve with Cafe Ruse - theatre should be entertaining!”

So, with The Stables, The Roundhouse and Edinburgh all checked-off, what’s next for this generation’s champion of old school comedy?

“Ellie and I are working on a two-woman comedy show - that should be fun.”

Her advice for other budding writers?

“Let your imagination go wild. Don’t think about what people might want - just write it!”

You can catch Martha and The Fracture Theatre Company performing Cafe Ruse at Music in the Garden this Sunday at 2.30pm where they’ll be joining Jackie Dankworth and Charlie Wood to close this year’s festival. For tickets, call 0190820280800 or visit

Or, of course, you’ll find them at Edinburgh’s Zoo Studios from August 2-25.

Wherever you go, you’ll certainly be hearing a lot more from Martha and friends.