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(A) 4 out of 66
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Page number refers to the Fringe programme

1933 and all that - Brecht, Weill and friends (page 93)

Drams None
Performers Anna Zapparoli and Company
Venue Demarco-Rocket@Apex Hotels (Venue 16)
Address 31-35 Grassmarket
Reviewer Simon Daniels

This excellent production features Anna Zapparoli singing, mainly in English, cabaret songs by Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht and some of their less well-known contemporaries and antecedents. Zapparoli is accompanied by a four-piece band ably directed from the piano by Mario Borciani.

After the opening song of 'Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome' from Cabaret ( how could it have opened with anything else!) Zapparoli slid easily into the role of Bertold Brecht, cigar and all. The year was 1905 and Zapparolli introduced songs, both amusing and touching, by Frank Wedekind, the major cabaret songwriter of his day. The post-1918 section began with Brecht's 'The dead soldier.' Bathed in an expressionistic red glow, Zaparroli not only delivered Brecht's powerful lyrics with absolute clarity and conviction, but with a cold passion and intensity that was deeply unsettling. This was Zapparoli at her spine-chilling best.

The Weimar Republic years showcased Katie Samways' sultry tenor sax in Holländer's song written for Marlene Dietrich. The young Beniamino Borciani (surely up well past his bedtime) performed 'My brother is a Luftwaffe pilot' with a naive simplicity that made the tragedy of the final verse all the more affecting. Kurt Weill's sting-in-the-tail irony was used to great effect in the story of the soldier's wife, sung by Zapparoli.

Ira Gershwin and Weill's 'The Saga of Jenny' was delivered with great humour. Borciani's setting of the Brecht text 'Freedom and Democracy' ended the show in a more reflective and contemporary mood. Throughout this wonderful production Zapparoli commanded the entire stage and added irony, tragedy and sensuality to every word with every twitch of her eye and every sinew of her body. This really is a must see, not only for Zapparoli & Co.'s performance but for the chance to hear these gritty, irony-charged and challenging songs written before and during the conflict which tore the thin fabric of Europe apart.
© Simon Daniels. 07 August 2002

Run continues: August 8,10,12,14,16,18,20,22 at 21:20hrs


All the Divas of Arabia (page 76)

Performers Anna Zapparoli, Martina Cocchini, Benedetta Borciani, Beniamino Borciani, Mario Borciani, Katie Samways, Sandro Dandria and Carlo Battisti
Venue Demarco-Rocket@Apex Hotels (Venue 16)
Address 31-35 Grassmarket
Reviewer Angus Tully

Image © 2000 Linda Graham
With prophetic insight, the surprisingly humid weather in Edinburgh over the last few days could have people thinking that they were miles away from the heart of Scotland's Capital; however, right in the middle of the Grassmarket, in the plush surroundings of the Apex Hotel and in a climate to rival that of the Far East(!), the Zapparoli/Borciani family and friends were making a return visit to this years Fringe with All the Divas of Arabia.

On quickly browsing through the programme, the audience could be forgiven for thinking they were at an 'Oriental Songs from the Shows' evening, but this was not the case. A carefully selected number of songs, fused together with some original compositions, provided a charming evenings entertainment. Iin many ways, this show acts was a precursor to next years show: Eve and indeed, the first third is entirely from their next year's production. During this part of the performance, I couldn't help but feel the influence of Andrew Lloyd Webber (particularly Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat); they even went as far as quoting a few lines from ' Close my Eyes'. Sadly, the original (Zapparoli/Borciani) songs from the new show lack that originality. In the main, the music is melodically interesting and it certainly got the audience tapping their feet, but it could have been music from any number of shows with a flavour of the East. The Band comprised piano, sax, drums and string bass and despite, their good playing, it was generally on the loud side.

The story, such as it is, features Eve - as in the partner of Adam - with Zapparoli asking some interesting rhetorical questions of God, albeit in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion. She does her best to maintain a thread throughout these narrative passages interspersed between the songs. The inclusion of 'Sam and Delilah' (from Gershwin's Girl Crazy) and 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' by Noel Coward being perhaps the most memorable of the other titles.

In keeping with the racy title, Zapparoli exuded an infectious enthusiasm throughout her performing, whilst the 'chorus', a most useful accessory, occasionally took a more dramatic role in the proceedings. In fact, the chorus's costumes probably attracted more attention than their singing! Zapparoli's voice had a very distinctive quality and one that perhaps didn't suit every song; however, her style and on-stage presence was certainly captivating, in what is a toe-tappingly good show.
© Angus Tully. 06 August 2002

Run ends 21 August 2002


Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham (page 76)
Music Their own; Scottish traditional music; Napoleonic music; Folk music from Cape Breton and French Canada
Venue The Queen's Hall(Venue 72)
Address Clerk Street
Reviewer Angus Tully

In the pleasant surroundings of the Queen's Hall, an audience of 500 plus turned-up to see two of Scotland's household names in the folk music scene: Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham. This concert was the second night of a four-week tour of Scotland and the night got off to a flying start with three cracking jigs. The pair claim only to play music they know(!) and whilst this was said more for comedic effect than the actual truth, I'm sure the audience were probably so enraptured by their performance that it didn't even matter to them!

Much of the programme featured compositions by Phil Cunningham, whose works often appear on television and at Scottish/Celtic Festivals; however, some of the pieces, written either for others or for his own pleasure, see him at his compositional best. With beautiful flowing melodies over simple harmonies, the audience were hanging on every note. During the night, we were treated to "tunes" dedicated to Napoleon and with that Aly Bain mentions that "without Bonaparte, we'd have nothing to play!" But Napoleon was not the only French influence in the programme. The folk music that comes from Cape Breton and the French Canadians was also featured.

What is perhaps is most impressive, is that they play completely from memory and their techniques were equally astounding as every piece, however fast or slow, appeared totally effortless. A set or piece did not pass without a joke or amusing anecdote entering its way into the fray and I have to say that Phil Cunningham's gags are probably up to that of any Stand-up comic appearing in the Festival Fringe! They made the evening pass seamlessly, in what was nothing short of a First-Class, thoroughly entertaining show.

© Angus Tully. 11 August 2002. Published on Edinburghguide.com
Run: August 9-10 at 19:30

Amanojaku - Taiko Drums (page 76)
Drams full glass
Music: Bujin, Kagura, Dotou, Komoriuta, Hayajishi and Tamashi no hibiki
Performers: Yoichi Watanabe (Director); Ogawa Hiromi; Kawana Mayumi; Makui Harumi; Nohito Watanabe; Daieuke Watanabe
Venue The Garage (Venue 81)
Address Grindlay Court Centre, Grindlay Street Court
Reviewer Pat Napier

Read Garry Platt's review of this show in the Theatre section
Aficionados of the previous taiko drumming groups to visit Edinburgh under the aegis of The Garage's Japanese manager Shakti will have a very different experience this year. As the first night's audience proved, there are many - and they are knowledgeable. Because the morning show didn't happen, appetites were whetted, especially as the group are totally unknown in the UK.

Yoichi WatanabeFormed in 1986 under their Director Yoichi Watanabe, Amanojaku is the leading Japanese contemporary taiko group and includes three of Japan's finest female taiko drummers. 'Contemporary' is important, because Watanabe's vision and wide-ranging interests have forged a new approach to taiko drumming. He combines his love of exuberant Japanese festivals with the pulsating rhythms of South American dance, and weaves in modern, Western music to incorporate all these into modern Japan's outward-looking fascination for trans-Pacific lifestyles. The result is the musical expression of electronically-obsessed Tokyo's exciting buzz underpinned by the still-alive traditional standards. The essence of taiko drumming is to awaken the pulse of life by the rhythmic beating of drumsticks on skins, in endlessly varying combinations: steady, slow, excited, apprehensive, fearful, deeply meditative or highly charged on drums of differing sizes. The drummers must develop formidable technique, combine this with delicate grace, have huge stamina and strength as well as outstanding artistry. Above all, they must have impeccable, split-second timing. All this and more was set before the audience.

There were three very big pieces, each 15 to 20 minutes long. Yoichi Watanabe, the benign father figure, played a harsh, bright small drum which, together with brash, high-pitched sets of finger cymbals, underpinned the more traditional taiko drums, invoking a restless, uncertain, modern feeling. His drum woke the show in Bujin, was joined by the cymbals growing in insistence, then the three girls, playing four drums, exuberantly shouting instructions, introduced rhythms, volume and pace. Dazzling virtuosity was on show in every single piece; particularly memorable was the Director playing totally different music on two drums at once. In Dotou he woke the medium taiko using deep throbbing strikes so that we were caught up in more familiar visceral responses to fast rolling rhythms, like the waves of the sea breaking over us. Komoriuta was the most South American, dance-like piece, almost jazz in places, yet very Japanese, ending like a swirl into a rock pool.

Nohito WatanabeTamashi no hibike was the only piece to feature the big taiko, placed so as to dominate the tiny stage. Here, Nohito Watanabe was outstanding, full of flowing grace and total absorption in the music, fluidly at one with it and master of the enormous taiko, every movement a poem. When his solo ended, we were too caught up in the music to applaud him but he wouldn't have heard it anyway. The Maestro, stripped to his abundant waist, had taken over the big drum and led the group into a frenetic, dizzying section backed by insistent, clanging, non stop percussion, feeling like drumming on speed hitting hung-over brains. It didn't take too much imagination to conjure up Tokyo by night, all bright gaudy lights and grating traffic noises. Truly, contemporary Taiko drumming is different from the traditional flavour but equally exciting.
© Pat Napier. 04 August 2002

(A) 4 out of 66
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