|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals Fringe reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
After Andersen. (Page 155).
Drams - bizarre but comical and creative.
Venue The Garage (Venue 81).
Address Grindlay Street Court.
Reviewer Sophie Lloyd.
The new and very talented Holy Show Theatre Company have successfully squeezed a large scale production into 15 square metres. A vibrant and diverse piece of theatre, After Andersen retreats into the realms of the imagination combining fictitious events in writer Hans Christian Andersens's life with fragments of his fairytales.
Touching on famous stories such as The Snow Queen and The Shadow , the cast devised and directed the show themselves. The play is full of energy with rapid scene, character and accent changes depicting various episodes of the writer's life and creative world. Focused on the decaying corpse of Hans Christian Andersen, characters identify the need to retell and recreate story after story merging different levels of reality and fiction. With minimal props, costume and space, they cleverly construct images and shapes using sheets, shadows and themselves.
The cast are extremely versatile - aptly and quickly switching roles and playing multiple parts. The male actors, in particular, demonstrate a real flair for performing in a very intimate and cosy space. Although the meaning is at times ambiguous, it is a quaint production commendable too for its attention to detail and precise co-ordination of movement and scene changes.
©Sophie Lloyd 24 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 30 August daily at 14.15.
Company - Holy Show Theatre Company.
After Chekhov. (Page 126)
Venue C Central. (Venue 54)
Address Carlton Hotel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.
Literary figures are a popular choice for one-woman shows, offering an intimate portrait of a person’s creative life. In this new play, writer and performer Angela Barlow portrays Olga Knipper Chekhov, wife of playwright Anton Chekhov. His masterly comic plays are still perennially popular one hundred years after his death – but who was she?
Sevastpol, Crimea, April 1914 and Olga, elegantly dressed in neat skirt and jacket, blue lace hat, feather boa and clutching a brown leather bag, arrives at the theatre for a performance of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in which she plays the leading lady, Madame Ranevsky. The set is ready, wickerwork sofa, desk, books, child’s highchair and teddy bear, but it brings back painful memories – she desperately misses Chekhov who died ten years earlier. “My life is the theatre”, Olga explains, “I would have died too but for the theatre.” We hear of their first meeting in 1898 when rehearsing The Seagull, falling in love – “He is so funny!” – and later their romantic elopement. But Chekhov is ill and their honeymoon is spent at a Sanatorium.
Waiting for the cast to arrive Olga reminisces about good and bad times. She recalls all the Chekhovian characters she has played, reciting her favourite lines with stories of the great method actor/director Stanislavsky at the Moscow Arts Theatre. With a lively, sparkling spirit Barlow captures Olga’s strength of character, her fluctuating feelings and her undying passion for the theatre. Although there is a snatch of Tchaikovsky before the show starts, surprisingly there are no music, sound effects or lighting changes which would assist in varying the mood, ambience and pace to enhance an otherwise delightful performance.
©Vivien Devlin 6 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 20 August, even dates only, at 1.10pm
Company – performed by Angela Barlow who is also performing Reader, I Married Him about Charlotte Bronte at same venue.
Aisle 16 - Powerpoint (Page126).
Venue Pleasance Dome (Venue 23).
Address 1 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Emma Slawinski.
All my worst fears and suspicions about the vacuous greed of contemporary culture, its superficial and exploitative nature, flashed before me in the space of an hour. Was I nearing the end of my short and despicable middle-class existence? Apparently not. I was witnessing a sensory and intellectual onslaught that goes by the name of Aisle 16 - lucky for me their razor-wire satire came with enough laughs to keep at bay the light at the end of the corridor…
Four sharp-suited mock-execs are accompanied by the ubiquitous Powerpoint presentation that gives the show its name, and every bit of pretentious corporate self-help nonsense you’ve ever heard is chewed up and spat back out in blistering performance poetry. And that’s just the packaging. The content spares nothing and no-one – coffee, conceptual art, Channel Four, Linda Barker, fillet steak – all get the same derisory treatment and frankly, it’s not hard to see where the audience’s sympathy lies. In the final skit, there’s the tiniest glint of pathos and idealism, before - thud! - they pull the (Ikea recliner) chair out from under us one last time to finish in the same merciless tone.
Let’s make one thing clear though - this four-man rant doesn’t just take pot shots at easy targets. In their hands (or mouths), the tired soundbitey language of the media gets an intelligent reworking, and the creative visuals are a bonus and not a distraction. If the gags don’t always pack as much punch I might have liked, this is amply made up for by the ferocious intelligence of the act. Totally irreverent and just the kick up the arse that middle-Britain needs.
©Emma Slawinski 17 August – Published on Edinburghguide.com
Runs til 30 August, 18.00.
Company - Aisle 16.
Aisle of Life / Aisle of Dogs. (Page 15).
Venue Café Royal Fringe Theatre (Venue 15).
Address 17 West Register Street.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop .
One Handed Women unfortunately had but a handful of audience on the nights this reviewer saw these shows in reverse order, owing to arrangements elsewhere, in Charlotte Square Gardens. The three performers who make up this company make creative use of the audiences till receipts to provoke some thoughts on whether we are what we eat, are what we buy (or if we imagine our shopping trolleys make some sort of statement about us, then maybe we really have fallen off our trolleys). In character or out, Georgie the gorgeous, Jew, much-married Marilyn and ever-munching Judith would possibly regard such searching for profundity as po-faced pomposity, for this is very much a show with a light touch, but with some serious questions, the deepest wisely kept to last.
Aisle of Dogs involves some fairly laid-back audience participation, (which this reviewer was relieved to be lightly let off) but the few good jokes it contains cant disguise a sense of haste, which its more well run in predecessor doesnt have. Its rather more of a mongrel, lacking both the gentle wit and shrewd observation of Aisle of Lifeand its smooth assurance. However, both are the type of show that require an audience in relaxed mode to be enjoyed to the full, and it can only be hoped that in the crowded traffic thats the Fringe, Marilyn, Judith and Georgie find the audiences, if not the men of their dreams.
Note : Regular visitors to this website will be aware that drams work in reverse order to other systems of recommendation. An extra dram may be advisable for this show, to block any resistance to audience participation.
© Bill Dunlop 17th August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs: August 15-30 time; 19.00-21.00.
Company: One Handed Women.
Alice through the Looking Glass. (Page 127)
Venue Quaker Meeting House. (Venue No 40)
Address 7 Victoria terrace.
Reviewer Georgina Merry.
The weird and wonderful world created by Lewis Carroll is given a post- modern treatment in this oddly directed piece. Although very cleverly adapted, it lacks a certain something. Yes, it sticks closely to the original story, but perhaps that is why it doesn’t work well as a fringe piece.
It must be said - it's a very ambitious play to take to the fringe. Mainly because the multitude of characters and settings. The use of puppets and stuffed toys help with this problem, but somehow the way in which they are used doesn’t quite cut it. There are only three actors - Katherine Kingsford and Catherine Nicholson are splendid in their many roles. After a while though they seem amalgamate into the same two. It's not their fault - They have over four roles each plus the puppetry to handle. Marieke van Hooff, in a rather forced and unimaginative performance, is unable to pass off as the inquisitive and capricious young girl loved by so many .
The black and white set, intended to resemble the giant chess board Alice must cross, becomes too much after a while. It’s a pity, as this piece has the potential to be great under different direction, with a few more actors and a set that doesn’t give the audience a headache.
©Georgina Merry 10 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 14:20 not Suns.
Aliens are Scary. (Page 127)
Venue 5065 Lift at The Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Georgina Merry.
If you like cheese then you’ll love the stilton-stuffed Sci-Fi/comedy. It has Action. It has Aliens. It has comedy, gore and even romance – all in the space of half an hour! And to top it off, it all takes place in an elevator. This clever use of space with modest special effects make this quirky little show an ideal appetizer before taking in a longer performance. Yes, you’ll be in the lift with them, so claustrophobics should give it a miss. Otherwise, this fun little venue is ideal.
The USA have been drilling for oil on other planets and have managed to disrupt the lives of the planets' inhabitants. Two hapless soldiers and a talkative journalist end up fighting for their lives as they find themselves stuck in the middle of something very scary indeed…
With the current global concern regarding the US led Coalition, Aliens are Scary is more poignant in its ridiculousness than one might at first expect. But don’t be fooled, this show is light-hearted and comical. It’s a wonder the actors are able to keep a straight face!
©Georgina Merry 6 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 30 August except 17, 24 at 20:30am.
Company – Stephen Keyworth.
Amajumba - Like Doves We Rise. (Page 128)
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3)
Address 54 George Street .
Reviewer Bill Dunlop
Give this reviewer a scintilla sound-bite of African acapella and he’s
very likely to collapse in an ecstatic heap. Farber Foundry’s devised production
opens in glorious modulation and keeps on going through eighty minutes and some
very weighty matter in song, dance prayer and physical theatre of a very high
order. Apparently based on the personal and close experiences of the five-strong
cast, the show charts the lived, daily experience of the apartheid years for
many South Africans of colour. Each member of the company has their own tale
to tell of those times, and of the ways in which family and social life was
scarred by laws and practices over which they had no say or means to influence.
And In The End (Page 128).
Venue C (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
What is it about The Beatles? Is it that they were the first band to write their own songs? Or that they redefined pop music as a serious artistic endeavour? Or that they had cool hair in a decade of mostly awful barnets? Or that all the guys who grew up with them as idols have been using their growing wealth and influence to foster and promote myths of greatness? Well, let’s see . . .
Alexander Marshall’s play begins at the ‘end’, with John Lennon, the superb Valentine Pelka, being shot outside the Dakota building in New York on 8 December 1980. It is, without doubt, a ‘Kennedy’ moment for anyone over the age of 40 (as a good portion of the audience the night I went were). Lennon is aware he has been shot but not that it’s fatal and embarks on a journey through the widely acknowledged ‘five stages of death’: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. En route, his life flashes before him and we learn about the pattern of abandonment in childhood which probably led to his restless creativity and ultimate dependency on Yoko, via George Martin, Brian Epstein, the Maharishi and various pharmaceutical helpers as well. What doesn’t come across is what John Lennon might have found in music that he didn’t find anywhere else, but perhaps that’s impossible to discern, much less impart in a little over an hour.
As a spectacle, And In The End cannot fail to impress. There were moments during the play when I asked myself to imagine that it might really be Lennon up there and, I can tell you, it was spooky. Especially in the Sergeant Pepper outfit, for some reason. It’s a shame there’s no Beatles music (copyright problems/expense, no doubt) but, as bio-plays go, this is well worth seeing.
© Lorraine McCann, 8 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 30 August.
Company The Walrus Group.
Company Website www.andintheendplay.com
The Andy Warhol Syndrome (Page 128).
Venue Pod Deco (Venue 75).
Address 7 Clerk Street.
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.
How far would you go to be in the spotlight? Is there really no business like show business? Carol Fletcher, Jenny Eclair, sheds light on these questions in true show biz fashion in The Andy Warhol Syndrome, playing a dinner-lady come reality-TV-star with much enthusiasm. At 44, 'a bingo number not a birthday', she should be resigning to the life of a middle-aged 'has been' and not reliving her fifteen minutes of fame - but Carol is not ready to give it all up without a fight.
The play is set in her bedroom, where she dresses, undresses, prepares for work, returns from work and reminisces of days gone by with the help of somewhat intrusive audio inserts. They initially seem to intercept her monologue for no apparent reason, then redeem themselves at crucial moments for a creepy climax. Carol's humour takes a while to warm to. She's a bold Dewsbury gal with a crude motto that you can't help but laugh at. Her jokes take the form of odd one-liners rather then a relentless stream of humour, but they're biting.
You can't help wanting to love Carol - even though she goes on a bit at times and jumps from one thought to the next without warning. She's almost as addictive as her own addictions of fags and booze. But 'it's alright, pet,' as she would say - she's out to make you remember her, one way or another.
© Marisa de Andrade 14 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs August 4-29 (not 17), 7.10pm.
Company - Jenny Eclair.
Anger Box. (Page 128).
Venue Sweet in the Royal Mile (Venue 39).
Address Radisson SAS Hotel, 80 High Street.
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.
Nine, naughty monologues are wrapped up in TheatreZone's Anger Box, waiting to explode. But they're hardly the gifts you are expecting, although they appear to be from their deceptive packaging. Ordinary people (for the most part) talking about regular situations - delivering pizzas, dinner orders and Christmas. But then something really ticks them off. 'Fundamentalist crap', lousy tips or terrorist attacks, and they find themselves wondering if God's got anything to do with goodness in the world. Is He the rock of salvation, or just a jester in search of another person to test his next joke on?
Anger Box does to religion what XXX does to sex. Presents a controversial concept in a twisted and offensive, yet surprisingly effective way. Don't get me wrong. The comparison is purely on a thematic level. Anger Box could not be more innocently performed. Actors of all ages, conventionally clad for the most part, clutching bibles and crosses as they barely move across a miniature, black-box set. But the suggestive power of the well written monologues is shocking enough to stir up the sacrilegious. Blasphemy, the religious folk would call it. Although the writer Jeff Goode reminds the audience 'that these are things someone else has thought of. Not you.' Still, those of rock solid faith would be wasting their time at this play. It's for those who dare to challenge the Almighty.
Some of the finer moments include 'The (drunken) Goddess of Victory's' redundancy as humans opt for participating rather than winning in life. A cynical Santa and pushy waitress taking orders at the restaurant (roadhouse?) on the highway to heaven or hell. Other moments are persistantly punted and somewhat self-indulgent. But Anger Box showcases some of the finest actors I've seen at the festival. And it sure gets the baleful bit of the imagination going.
© Marisa de Andrade 11 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 8-15 at 17.50.
Animal Farm (Page 128).
Venue The Bongo Club (Venue 143).
Address 37 Holyrood Rd.
Reviewer Alex Eades.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm is arguably one of the greatest political fables ever written. Over fifty years after its publication, its relevance is poignant as ever, proven here with this marvellous production at the Bongo Club. The youthful cast are superb, breathing fresh vitality into the story with their boundless energy and talent, be this acting or singing.
The production is extremely physical and visual. Throughout the show there are projections of various political figures and events that coincide with the action reasonably well, though the connection between the destruction of the twin towers and the falling of the windmill is quite loose and doesn’t really work. It’s also occasionally difficult to see the projections because of the positioning of the performers and the brightness of the lights, which can be irritating.
These, however, are minor problems in a thoroughly enjoyable show that address such subjects as ‘New’ Labour, Iraq, the war on terrorism and the Blair-Bush relationship in a fun, yet sobering, hour. As we’re told at the beginning of the show, "Animal Farm is the story of you". This it certainly is. For that reason alone, this is a show worth seeing.
©Alex Eades 16 August - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 20 August – 3pm.
Company - First In Last Out Theatre Company.
Anorak of Fire: The Life and Times of Gus Gascoigne - Trainspotter. (Page 128).
Drams None Results in chuckling at Trainspotters.
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Sophie Lloyd.
Returning for its 10th anniversary, Anorak of Fire – The Life and times of Gus Gascoigne – Trainspotter is a comedy hit. Who would have thought that James Holmes could single-handedly entertain audiences with the art of trainspotting for a whole hour. He certainly succeeds with a hilariously funny one man show written by Stephen Dinsdale .
Strolling on stage, Yorkshire man Gus Gascoigne sets up camp equipped with a stool, packed lunch, and binoculars wearing his infamous anorak and preparing for a session of spotting. Fulfilling the stereotype, he embarks on a collection of witty tales about his life and his passion - from his earliest ‘spotting memory’ to stories of Father Bob (a fellow trainspotter) and his first and only encounter with a girl. With accounts of locos, ‘night spotting’ and much more he teaches the audience the ins and outs of the innate talent. His excitement and enthusiasm keep the audience amused throughout the show right up until he discloses the key requirement -the ‘godly sheath’ that is his anorak.
James Holmes’ performance as the comical Gus is excellent. He breaks up the monologue by an occasional glance through the binoculars and a bite of his sandwiches to ensure things do not become monotonous. You really do believe that he is hurrying off to see that 225 on platform 7 at the close of the show.
©Sophie Lloyd 7 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs 4-30 August at noon, not 10, 17 & 23 August.
Company – James Holmes.
Company Website www.pleasance.co.uk
Arabian Night. (Page 129).
Venue Old St. Pauls Church Hall (Venue 267).
Address Jeffrey Street.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.
Its a hot, sultry night in (possibly) Istanbul, though the location of Arabian Night is never specified, beyond somewhere in Europe which leaves the title of this play focused on the tale it tells rather than the place its located. Peter the janitor is worried about the water he can hear but cant produce three floors of the apartment block he concierges dont have the water they ought to running where it oughter. His is but one problem strand in this tangled story, as Fatimas lover Kalil doesnt turn up as arranged, having trapped himself in a malfunctioning lift. Fatimas flatmate Franziska is left collapse don the couch as Fatima searches the building and then its surrounds for Kali, succeeding only in locking herself out while Kalil desperately tries to release himself.
Add susceptibility to Franziskas obvious charms, a wandering tenant from another building who finds himself sucked inside a brandy bottle, and the stage is set for comic misunderstanding and blackly comic revenge. This may read as an early draft from the pen of Georges Feydeau, but Arabian Night is a more subtle piece of theatre than the above might suggest, in which dreams are chased and caught by other characters, becoming the only currency in which alienated people are able to communicate with one another.
Greg Foster as Peter, Louise Ras as Fatima and James Kenward
as Kalil are ably supported by Hedvig Hansell's Franziska and Daniel
Benoliel. Queen Mary Universitys Smudge Clinic Theatre Company are
to be congratulated on discovering a little gem of a piece and running the full
nine yards with it. Venla Hatakka has directed unobtrusively but highly effectively.
A definite post-lunch treat for those with an hour on their hands.
Ash Wednesday:Stop Drinking. (Page 129).
Venue Komedia Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 21.).
Address 2 Johnston Terrace.
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.
Catholic conventions are challenged in this pre-lent piece. For 40 days, quirky boy with the hots for apparently harmless girl is to be alcohol free. But first, the night before the famine to come. They meet in a smoky jazz bar, are joined by a 'friend' and drink whilst sexual scandals stir..
It's talk, talk, talk for most of the show, except for one sudden outburst of musical theatre style song and dance. It's more than a little out of context, especially since the three are alleged to be 'so drunk' by then. They manage to soberly execute a perfectly arranged number, free from drunken stumbles and disorderly off-key singing. And then they get right back to their chain-smoking and incessant sexual banter.
For a piece that barely moves, it's quite compelling. Dialogue is pre- empted by the hasty cast, but it's charming and driven. And even though the pace is impressive, it would do them more justice to slow down for witty reactions. It's over before you know it, without leaving you tingly from a magical theatrical experience, but satisfied by a sweet yet slightly sinister piece.
© Marisa de Andrade 9 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs 7-28 Aug, not 17,24. 19.10.
Ashes to Ashes. (Page 129).
Drams – talented cast but quite heavy stuff.
Venue Metro Gilded Balloon Caves (Venue 88).
Address Niddry Street South, off Cowgate.
Reviewer Sophie Lloyd.
Performed in an intimate venue with little distance separating actor from spectator, Harold Pinter’s Ashes to Ashes is a dark and intense piece of theatre fitting for the Caves. It is an intriguing script that oscillates between the banal and the serious raising various issues and questions.
Lasting only 40 minutes, the production is a single scene of dialogue that explores the complexities of the human mind and relationships between men and women. Rebecca is a psychological abnormality who remains in her seat throughout the piece being tormented by Delvin, her lover and/or therapist. It is a mysterious, sinister and hypnotic play in which the characters both reveal and conceal truths and memories from their audience as universal themes of oppression, identity and gender merge.
The acting is of a high standard, particularly considering the depth and intensity of the parts. Not an easy piece of theatre to get your head round and you will probably spend the rest of the day thinking about it.
©Sophie Lloyd 10 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 14.00 daily.
Company – Splinter Group.
Audience with Murder (Page 129).
Drams None required.
Venue Theatre Truck (Venue 197).
Address Charlesfield, off Bristo Square.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
For those of you who don’t know, Theatre Truck is a theatre . . . yeah, in a truck. It’s not as claustrophobic as it sounds, though (well, not for anyone who regularly flies no-frills, anyway), with two seats on either side of an aisle, and a postage-stamp-sized stage at the far end. But even if you have reservations about the venue, you should ditch them and go take in a delight of a show.
Just like Columbo used to turn ‘Whodunit?’ into ‘Whydunit?’, Audience with Murder is a kind of ‘Whatisit?’ It’s a chameleon of a thriller in which the characters are transformed and have layers of identity peeled away as ‘reality’ morphs into ‘theatre’ and back again with dazzling frequency. At the core of the piece, however, are four exceptionally accomplished performances, with Tim Charrington particularly compelling in his different guises. Leda Hodgson , too, really gets her teeth into her roles.
Audience with Murder is the sort of play that can be spoiled with too much foreknowledge, so suffice it to say that this is a show packed to the gunwales with guile, chutzpah and inventive humour. Catch it if you can.
© Lorraine McCann, 20 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 29 August (not 23) at 14.00 and 17.00.
Company Theatre Maketa.
Company Website www.theatremaketa.co.uk