None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Tails You Lose (Page 166)
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Address 60 The Pleasance
Reviewer Fiona O'Hanlon
You've got a 50:50 chance – heads you win, tails you lose. So are you going to toss the coin? Or would you prefer not to so as not to gamble your hope for the sake of certainty? I suppose it depends on what's at stake and in John Finnemore's Tails You Lose the stakes couldn't be much higher.
Whilst trying to ascertain the circumstances of his grandfather's death, Steven becomes embroiled in the Innes family curse: Huntington's disease – a debilitating illness which causes involuntary movement and changing personality. Steven's odds are one in four, his father Victor's chances are even. Yet Victor refuses to take the test and doesn't want Steven to take it either.
As the selfish Victor stubbornly stands his ground the arguments as to whether the tests should go ahead constitute much of the piece. The plot is thus linear and slightly predictable. However, the representation of the development of the father-son dynamic 'like Steptoe and son without the love and affection' and the realistic portrayal of the relationship between Steven and his girlfriend Rebecca hold the audience's interest. Particularly strong is the performance of Imogen Rands who convincingly portrays Rebecca's eclectic moods. The set is basic but accurately reflects Victor's bachelor lifestyle, whilst the script itself is permeated with sharp, succinct one-liners which retain a level of lightheartedness in a play which considers a serious issue.
If the stakes were this high would you toss the coin? A touching, thought-provoking piece…remember it's Tails You Lose.
© Fiona O'Hanlon 15th August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 25th August, daily at 14.45.
Compa ny – Pleasance Theatre
Thebans - by Liz Lochhead. (Page 167).
Venue Assembly Rooms. (3).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Ksenija Horvat.
Look out for Lochhead's q uirky use of comedy in Barrie Hunter's Guard, which offers a welcome comic release from this monochrome saga. Directed with clarity and purist drive to place classic tragedy in a modern framework, which is especially evident in a good use of chorus, the show almost effortlessly leads its audience through two hours of classical material. Only occasionally does it lose stamina, and it doesn't making enough use of multimedia (though one must fully respect the director's decision to comply with the classical cannon that forbids the showing of violence onstage, much more could have been done to spice up the visual side of the show).
Though overall impressive, Thebans leaves its audience oddly disengaged. Perhaps this is an advantage, not a fault, because we are constantly reminded that what we witness before us is an artefact, an experiment. It is only in Ismene's final speech, in Rebecca Rodgers' empathetic interpretation, that we, the audience, find ourselves drawn into the whirlpool of words and feelings, our final catharsis.
© Ksenija Horvat 5 August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 24 August 2003, 15:15 (except Mondays).
Company Theatre Babel.
Company Website http://www.theatrebabel.co.uk
Thin Walls (Page 168)
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3)
Address 54 George Street
Reviewer Fiona O'Hanlon
In a dilapidated New York tenement which is as isolated as a leper's colony, a couple has moved into apartment 303. We know because the walls have ears...or if not there's definitely someone with a glass to the plasterboard!
This is the starting point for Alice Eve Cohen's perceptive, insightful and deeply moving piece Thin Walls. In a stunning solo performance, Cohen's chameleon-like command of accents and body language enables her to convincingly portray twelve of the tenement's eclectic residents. Using a minimal set (two chairs and a table) Cohen changes character thirty seven times, yet the identity of the individual she is portraying is never in doubt.
The show is more than impressive impersonation however, as the residents' experiences address the serious social, political and racial issues which characterised the years between 1985 and 1995. Alice Cohen's seventy five minute production effortlessly covers this ten year period, so the audience is able to witness growth and change in individual characters.
An astute appreciation of the individual's need to interact with others, Thin Walls is an engaging examination of the human spirit, a force which knows no physical bounds.
© Fiona O'Hanlon, 6th August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 25th August, daily at 18.30, not 12th or 19th.
Company – 78th Street Theatre Lab
This Lime Tree Bower. (Page 168)
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3)
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.
Conor McPherson’s play builds gently from an evocation of provincial Ireland that would have done credit to the late Patrick Kavanagh or Brian O’Nolan (aka Flann O’Brian). Picking up speed, we are treated to the everyday miseries of Joe and Frank, the younger and elder sons of a failing chip shop owner, in hock to the local ‘Mister Big’. The third character, Ray, reflects a different pattern of desperation as he attempts to seduce his college students and ‘get one over’ on a visiting academic long past his ‘read by’ date. All of them become more or less wittingly complicit in Frank’s wild scheme to redeem the family fortunes by robbing the local bookie’s.
The narration of this high point in mundane lives forms the play’s spine, with sharp characterisation and humour carrying the audience toward the twist which leaves the three wealthier but perhaps little wiser for all their carefully planned concealments. Nick Danan as Frank, Dermot Kerrigan as Ray and Peter Quinn as Joe bring ability and integrity to their respective roles, bowling us along through light and shade to an unexpected denouement.
Patrick Connelan has thoughtfully directed a production which satisfies in several ways, although as with McPherson’s earlier play, ‘The Weir’, one is left with the dissatisfaction that marks a tale well told, but one which frustratingly lacks a sense of its own morality.
© Bill Dunlop, August 2003 - Published on EdinburghGuide,com
Runs to August 24 at 16.45 every day (not Sundays)
Company: Richard Jordan Productions Ltd. In association with The Belgrade Theatre
Those Eyes, That Mouth . (Page 169)
Venue Plum Developments, Venue No. 286
Venue Address 32 Abercromby Place NB Venue change from that in the programme
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.
Vermeer's 'Girl with a pearl earring' has been getting about rather a lot lately, thanks to a re-consideration of the artist's work and the featuring of his model as the central character of a recent novel. The painting provides a leitmotif for Grid Iron's current Fringe offering. Perforce hastily re-located to Abercromby Place, the piece is a reflective consideration of loneliness and aloneness, and of what depression may be like from the inside.
Standing in the entrance hall, we hear Cait Davis's voice trying hard to communicate herself to a world we sense she's out of step with and doesn't really care that she is. Davis' characterisation gives hints of vulnerability and desperation masquerading behind an eident relish for solitude. As we follow Davis through rooms which are as much spaces in her head as spaces in which to be, we glimpse what the human mind may be capable of when left to its own devices and the damage it can inflict upon itself when left too long unattended.
David Paul Jones' music provides emphasis and counter-point to Davis' musings, as well as an effective brooding presence in some scenes. In addition to the (almost literal) trompe d'oiel of Grid Iron's settings, we are treated to some fine-tuned lighting effects. Altogether a thoughtful, reflective piece of work within (perhaps) its only possible setting.
© Bill Dunlop 2003 Edinburghguide.com
Runs to 25 August at varying and different times than in the programme.
Company - Grid Iron
Company website www.gridiron.org.uk
The Tiger's Bride. (Page 169)
Drams Absolutely None
Venue C cubed (Venue 50)
Address Brodie's Close, Lawnmarket, Royal Mile .
Reviewer Jamie Neil .
From the moment I first read Angela Carter's "The Tiger's Bride" I was captivated by the sheer sensual splendour and wonder of a fabulous story, beautifully told. So imagine my joy upon entering the C3 theatre, where I was greeted by fantastically masked lantern bearers around the grotto-like space, the gorgeous lighting within pulsed gently in time to a soundtrack of rolling surf, and thus began a truly magical theatrical journey.
Physically, this piece is mesmeric at times, and the simple use of white linen as backdrop, statuary and snow covered landscape is absolutely spot on. Fur and skin costumes complete the natural and animal feel to this production, and in this case, feel is an extremely apt description, as not only are all the audience's senses stimulated, but the performances are extremely tactile too. Eva-Maria Zeeb enchants with her dual role as playful child and Narrator, demonstrating total emersion in each. Grainne Keenan, as the 'Bride', is initially all icy maturity, but the shame and horror that ripple across her face when her father gambles and loses her in a game of cards is the heart breaking catalyst that sets her on a voyage of self discovery. The Tiger, into which Sam Wilkins has breathed heat and animal vitality, shares an atavistic dance with the Bride that completes her psycho-sexual awakening, in an adaptation by Director Jenny Byne that is little short of perfection.
I must tread carefully to avoid plot spoiling, but suffice it to say that all the intensity, the magic and the beauty of the original remain intact. Brava! The rest of the cast also contribute wonderfully to this marvellous piece of theatre, with Craig McGregor's RainMan-esque Valet standing out. This whole production, from top to bottom and inside out, reeks of the magical, and of the essence of story telling, and was such a shot in the arm for this reviewer that he felt compelled to congratulate the Stage Management crew in person before leaving the venue. I have to ask, "Why can't all theatre be done this way?"
© Jamie Neil, 16 August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
10th August - 24th August at 12.00 noon (1hour 15mins)
Company: A Flying Machine Production.
Timon of Athens (page 170).
Drams - will definitely improve over time
Venue The Quaker Meeting House (Venue 40)
Address 7 Victoria Terrace
Reviewer Nathan Dixon
A very popular wealthy man loses all his money, realises that all his sham friends are in fact just flatterers and leeches and dies a misanthrope, cursing humanity. Nice.
Timon of Athens is one of Shakespeare's less commonly performed plays, so here is a good opportunity to get it under your belt with The Ealing Shakespeare Player's flawed but enjoyable production. It is often deemed necessary to adapt the play somewhat, as it isn't one of Shakespeare's strongest - a little turgid here and there and with some pretty two-dimensional characters. The changes made in the script for this production are well judged.
In these wealthy, hyper-capitalist days Timon of Athen holds more significance than it may have done - it describes a money obsessed "society prepared to sell itself for material gain", less interested in aiding those in need. The decision therefore, to bring the play into the present with modern dress - the rich are all dinner jackets and nice dresses - is the correct one. It also opens well with a good foreshadowed look at Timon asleep in his cave, emphasising the sense of fragility underneath the shallow, wealthy confidence of the early scenes.
The play's strongest moments are the wonderful streams of Shakespearean invective it contains (although there is a strong case for the fact that Thomas Middleton had a large hand in the play's scripting). Nobody curses better than old Will, and certain scenes of this play are chock-full of it. The play's resounding tone is bitter and unforgiving, concerned more with schematics (the plot of the play's two distinct parts almost mirroring each other) and the patterns of the ideas it is exploring, than with psychological realism. As a result there aren't all that many roles for the actors to really get their teeth into. But Richard Kinder is a good, convincing Timon - a long part - and he conveyed the requisite sense of vulnerability as well as power with real flair.
The problem is - with everybody presently - that too many of the lines are a bit shakily delivered, and on a few occasions the emphasis is off the nail. By next week it'll probably be much better, once everybody has settled in and a few problems have been ironed out, but it holds attention to the end and is sufficiently moving to warrant a look now. The people operating the lighting booth need to learn to keep quiet, though.
© Nathan Dixon 13 August 2003 - published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs from August 11 to 23, excluding 17
Company - Ealing Shakespeare Players
Titus Andronicus (page 170).
Venue Gateway Theatre (Venue 7).
Address Elm Row.
Reviewer Nathan Dixon.
Not for the faint-hearted, Titus Andronicus contains an horrific double-revenge plot. Queen of the Goths, Tamora, is out for revenge on her defeater, a Roman general named Titus, for the post-war execution of her son, Alarbus. She accomplishes this, after her release, by ordering her two sons, Chiron and Demetrious, to rape and mutilate Titus' daughter, Lavinia. Titus is then tricked, by Tamara's lover, Aaron, into sacrificing his own hand for the preservation of the lives of his two doomed sons. At this point the production halts for a five-minute interval, in order to clear the blood off the stage. When it resumes, Titus has been driven mad and is on a devastating mission for his own spectacular yet futile revenge.
The piling of bloody horror on top of bloody horror can often seem too ludicrous. Not so with KAOS's daring, almost subversive, powerfully visceral production. Despite the gore-fest, and the almost farcical body count at the end, all is directed perfectly so as to make the laughter stick awkwardly in the craw. The audience sniggers or chuckles, but with a concomitant disbelief at how it can find such cruel and twisted events humourous. It heightens the pity that often follows the mirth, and opens our eyes to our own natures - implicating us, through our laughter, in the shameful malice on display. The closing moments are exquisitely done, back and forth from laughter to tears in the blinking of an eye, and the modernisation and script re-workings are all a resounding success.
This glorious production tackles brilliantly Shakespeare at his most bloody and twisted. Through the rent in decency caused during internecine, hateful and barbaric political struggles, Shakespeare and KAOS show us a terrifying, malicious darkness that lurks behind a society's surface, awaiting the chance to break through and engulf. Nobody puts so much as a toe wrong throughout and Lee Beagley especially is sublime as the deranged, mercilessly vengeful Titus - yet it seems unfair to single out just one. There is something special to this production, to be felt in the bones for a long while afterwards.
The play is particularly relevant in a world that has never seen so many brutal civil wars. As we are often reminded, there is a terrifying potential for cruelty and evil in mankind: this magnificent ensemble will force you to stare it straight in the face - hopefully to feel a redemptive pity for the victims, and the survivors faced with the work of rebuilding. Mr. Bush, Blair and all the rest need to be strapped down in front of this and made to look Lucius in the eyes as the spotlight dims.
© Nathan Dixon 14 August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs from August 14 to 25 except 17 at 15:00
Company - KAOS Theatre
Company Website www.kaostheatre.com
Toast (page 171)
Venue C Central (Venue 54)
Address Carlton Hotel, North Bridge
Reviewer Lorraine McCann
I don't know if it would actually be wise to try and down four drams in the space of fifteen minutes, but if the producers of Toast were paying, I'd say go for it. I mean, I know this is the Fringe and everything, but when you're asking punters for £4.50 for fifteen minutes' worth of (fully clothed) entertainment . . . well, it's got to be pretty special.
Instead, what we get is a sub-Ionesco monologue from a woman up a stepladder, bookended with music by Frank Sinatra. She tells us in a simplistic, childlike tone all about the various places she has lived (inside a suitcase, or a cushion, etc.) and their effects on her. And OK, so it touches on the ways in which our relationships shape us and force us to adapt to apparently alien environments, and the woman does have a rather soothing voice, but about halfway (£2.25) into this the goodwill started draining from my veins. It's just all too slight, too casually 'anarchic'. Like a first-year Philosophy student jazzing up a banal essay with quotes from Camus and Neitzsche.
Toast is a little play about some big subjects, but really, it's just not worth the bread.
© Lorraine McCann, 1 August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 24 August at 13.15
Company Katy Slater.
Tonight We Fly. (Page 170)
Venue George Square Theatre (Venue 37)
Address George Square.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop
Confession time - put the words live Klezmer music in a show blurb and this reviewer reacts like a Bisto kid to the whiff of gravy. Trestle Theatre Companys show on the life of Marc Chagall offers this and more, and delivers much of what it promises, albeit in a rather laid-back way.
Not that Tonight We Fly or its cast lack energy - they have it in abundance and are not afraid to use it, along with life-size puppets, surreal masks, back projection and a highly adaptable set. These along with the aforesaid Klezmer musicians, take us through a rather hackneyed tale of artist-misunderstood-by-parents, fleeing to Paris and the dubious solace of a puppet cat, pursuing his art but always pursued by the image of the girl he left behind him, reconciliation and marriage to whom being the main strand of a rather frayed story-line. Trestles energetic imagination never flags, however, and Chagall-style masks, inventive use of the simple staging, and the raucous pathos which is Klezmer (traditional Jewish secular music), all help drive the show along.
It could, however, be at least fifteen minutes shorter and still pack in those highlights of an eventful life which it does, although this reviewer couldnt help but feel that despite the liveliness, the life of the artist was barely examined, the events of the twentieth century no more than subjects for some effective back-projection. A few of the audience left before the end, bound no doubt for another Fringe experience, which its to be hoped they found more gripping.
© Bill Dunlop August 2003 published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Company - Trestle Theatre Company
The Tragedy of Othella: The Hip Hop Diva of Venice Beach. (Page 170)
Venue Rocket @ Demarco Roxy Art House(Venue 115)
Address Lady Glenorchy’s Church
Reviewer Shona Brodie
This strong and enthusiastic young cast attempt a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello. This time gender reversed hip-hop diva Othella takes centre stage and the opening scene as her big entrance is made to a strong musical number sets high expectations for the show.
Unfortunately maintain interest is difficul, particularly through extremely rushed dialogue making the plot difficult to follow and not giving the audience any time to really get to know the characters and ultimately feel for their plight. With such a large squeaky staging area to work with the cast seemed to be at all times spread out and continuously running off and on stage adding again to the lack of intimacy.
Taking the lead role, young L.A. gospel singer Siobhan Heard certainly had presence, belting out songs with a strong confident voice and showing herself to be truly professional despite some technical microphone difficulties. Great idea, clever visual ending and youthful enthusiasm, but what keeps it all together is the band. Although very together and relaxed, they were maybe too relaxed as while on constant show they managed to look like they really didn’t want to be there…or is that how most hip-hop R&B bands should be?
© Shona Brodie 9 August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
August 13 & 15 at 21.45
HWS Rembiko Project
Traverse Four - Ladies and Gents (page 170)
Venue Traverse four @ Your Convenience (Venue 290)
Address St James Place, Edinburgh, behind St Mary's Cathedral. .
Reviewer Kim Oliver.
This venue could be seen as a cheap publicity stunt, but Paul Walker wrote the play with public toilets in mind. An air of intrigue is created from the outset when audience members are issued with a black or white card determining the toilet and scene they will view first.
Entering the normally forbidden territory of the Gents heightens the tension. It is dark and the audience are positioned carefully around the edge of the interior allowing them the opportunity to eavesdrop on this illicit rendezvous. Every aspect of the space is used to maximum effect. The reflective quality of the tiling allows us to anticipate the arrival of the pimp as his sillouhette is bounced before him into the toilet as he enters. Cigarettes and match light create extra intimacy, and echoing acoustics exaggerate each drip of water, each footstep and potential moment of discovery.
The following scene in the Ladies lacked some of the dramatic tension so skilfully built in the first. Too much light floods the space and over exposes the actors who are already performing under incredibly intimate circumstances. Emmet Kirwan's performance seems drained by the verve and energy of the other cast members.
The script is tightly condensed into two seamless vignettes, exposing the darker side of class warfare and sexual politics. Paul Walker has the ability to strip the veneer from the persona of his characters without robbing them of personality and wit.
Any space can be a theatre and Semper Fi have profoundly realised that with this production.
© Kim Oliver 7 Aug 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to Aug 23 at 19.15pm,20.15pm and 21.15pm every day except Aug 11 and Aug 18
Company Semper Fi.
Trebus, Buster Keaton. (Page 170)
Drams Two and a wee nip.
Venue Rocket at Demarco Roxy Art House. (Venue 115)
Address Lady Glenorchy's Church, Roxburgh Place. Tel: 0131 556 3102.
Reviewer Ksenija Horvat.
A five year old boy is taken by his parents to a circus in Genova and meets Buster Keaton - an encounter that will change the rest of his life.
Dorainpoiteatro's show Trebus, Buster Keaton is a blend of biographical facts, scenes from Buster Keaton's movies and music and language of the circus. This might not be everyman's cup of tea, but it is nevertheless a quirky and entertaining exploration of Buster Keaton's on-and off-screen personality by means of unusual music and clowning. The main feature of this show is the performer's ability to open completely to his audience, showing the flair and fragility, both his and of the character he plays. The audience is encouraged to actively participate at several points, and one almost wishes that the actor would involve them even more, breaking down the invisible barrier between the stage and audience spaces completely.
Performed in Italian and English; this one grows on you.
© Ksenija Horvat 20 August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 25 August 2003, 19:00.
12 Angry Men (Page No 171)
Drams Just half a dram not quite there yet.
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
Given that the publicity for this show highlights its 'all-star' cast, it's not surprising that it's already one of the hottest tickets on the Fringe. Indeed, one can almost see it becoming a short-lived boys' repost to The Vagina Monologues, for there's certainly plenty of testosterone on display. But does it work as drama or just as an event?
Well, luckily for everyone concerned, Reginald Rose's play is still as relevant and tightly crafted today as it was back in 1956, when it exploded into an America riven with racial distrust and paranoia. The dissenting voice of Juror No. 8, trying merely to sow the seeds of doubt, not even sure what he himself believes but fixed on the absolute necessity of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, would be a lonely one in Guantanemo Bay. And it's this sort of profound resonance in the play, more than the obvious celebrity of the cast, that makes it compulsive theatre.
Having said that, several performances are remarkable this early in the run, Phil Nichol's swaggering, round-shouldered wiseguy is a treat. But it's the play that really shines. Catch it if you can.
© Lorraine McCann 4 August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 25 August (not 11) at 12.30.
Company Theatre Tours International & Guy Masterson Productions.
Company Website www.theatretoursinternational.com
Twisted. (Page 171)
Venue Theatre Workshop (Venue 20)
Address Hamliton Place Stockbridge.
Reviewer Thelma Good.
How do you know when a person who has committed a dreadful crime can be released back into the community? In Twisted, Anthony Nielson's play we watch as Ebbing, Lyn McAndrew a psychiatrist interviews Willis, Mike Tibbetts to see if he is ready to be set free. It's a engagement of opposing wills which has you realising how impossible it is to assess in any analytic way such a question. By the end you're relieved you don't have Ebbing's job or Willis's circumstances.
Simply staged and lit Rapture Theatre's production is Twisted's UK premiere of a play originally written for radio. The dialogue is very important in this play and if the pace is played flexibly it should grip an audience all the way through. Director Michael Emmans makes sure the combatants' moves underscore and never undermine their respective positions.
McAndrew is best at keeping the tension taunt but varied. Unfortunately
when seen, Tibbetts started too strong and wound up - consequently he
had fewer levels available to play. Just a little less male agro at the beginning
could make this production vibrate more fully for there are many tense tussles
set up in Neilson's script, given added dimension with the different sexes of
the protagonists. It's not wholly satisfactory text, the major plot twist niggling
strains credibility -at least, for those who have not experience a time when
freedom is something you have been locked away from.
The Typographer's Dream (page 171)
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Address 60 The Pleasance
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
If you've ever cringed when someone's asked 'So what do you do?', this show was made for you. Especially if your answer would make most people go 'Huh?'
It's a little-pondered fact that virtually everything we buy, use, listen to or look at on a daily basis owes its existence to processes we don't understand. I, for example, once dated a man who said he was a biscuit-designer and spoke in hushed tones about the excellence of the HobNob. Likewise, when you get a typographer, a geographer and a stenographer in the same room, talk will inevitably turn to serifs, plate tectonics and POSTEM analysis. It's all to do with what Larkin called 'that toad, work'. Like it or loathe it, we all spend most of our lives doing it.
What makes Adam Bock's play worth seeing is the journeys the characters make, from simple enjoyment of what they do, through near-obsession, to the final realisation that no matter how much of yourself you pour into your job, it's the bit left over that always causes trouble.
© Lorraine McCann, 3 August 2003 - Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 25 August (not 5, 12, 19) at 17.10
Company Bright Choice Productions