|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals Fringe reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Drams None needed at all!
Venues Sweet on the Grassmarket, Apex City Hotel (Venue 18).till 15 August,
at Diverse Atttractions ( Venue 11)after to 28.
Address 61 The Grassmarket then from 16 August at 322 Lawnmarket.
Reviewer Emma Slawinski.
The first impression we get from Joy McBrinn’s assured and measured style is of the technical accuracy in her recreation of the slightly batty old woman we have all encountered. She was a fixture at the bus station or on a preferred park bench in the town where you grew up, and you walked by her briskly so as to avoid her raving. In this setting, however, we cannot choose to move swiftly on, but must submit to a barrage of fragmented memories and mental images that gradually crystallise into a harrowing autobiographical tale of love and violence, repression and loss.
McBrinn performs against a simply designed set of only a swing and a wooden bench, but in reality the stage might as well be bare - when we are not mesmerised by her perfectly judged movements and facial expressions, we are visiting another landscape, a labyrinth of Catholic guilt and shame, constructed around symbols. White and red, fire and water, birth and death are woven into images as chaotic and disturbing as a painting by Hieronimus Bosch.
Frank McGuinness’s script is rich and lyrical, incorporating qualities of myth into stories that originate in the home. It is also disjointed, though, like a word-association game that has taken a dark turn, and strayed too far into the realm of psychoanalysis – there is always an inescapable tension between this randomness and the themes that recur insistently. We are in the disconcerting position of failing to understand what Baglady is saying, and yet understanding only too clearly.
The only thing lacking from this performance is a venue of a calibre to match the production – I had the sensation of walking into a broom-cupboard (complete with distracting ventilation noises) that someone had hastily attempted to convert into an auditorium. Despite this, McBrinn , under the sensitive direction of Charlotte Harber, pulls off a sophisticated piece that is demanding on its audience, but genuinely moving. Someone give this awesome pair the venue they deserve.
©Emma Slawinski 9 August 2004 – Published on Edinburghguide.com
Changes Runs until 15 August 6.30 pm, then at Diverse Attractions, Riddles Court, 322 Lawnmarket (Venue 11) 16-21 August at 7.30 pm, 23-28 August at 6pm.
Company Joy McBrinn and Charlotte Harber.
Bang Bang You’re Dead. (Page 129).
Drams Couple of problems but it’s interesting and competent.
Venue C (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Sophie Lloyd.
With a simple black backdrop and a few props, The Red Chair Players, a high school group from Connecticut, experiment with sound, words and movement. Bang Bang You’re Dead explores the inner turmoil and conflicts of a teenager killer, based on the high school shootings that took place in America. Although slightly rushed, it is an interesting and compelling insight into the motives and sentiments of an adolescent with a gun.
The play centres on a rapid rhythmic dialogue between the dead victims and their murderer. A series of interrogating voices haunt and torment the protagonist inviting the audience to question and try to understand the tragic sequence of events. Philippe Bowgen is excellent as Josh, the killer. He puts on a very convincing performance, particularly during the death scene of his parents. Fundamental to the overall effect are the movement, lighting and alternating voices. The opening and closing scenes are particularly gripping with torches lighting only the victims’ faces, elsewhere there are some comic interruptions as light relief.
The overly eager pace spoils the intensity of the production. What could be potentially evocative scenes are stopped short so while the audience may be left stunned, they may also not have chance to register in their minds half of what they see. Nevertheless, an interesting technique and some good ideas.
©Sophie Lloyd 4 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 14 August at 14.50 daily.
Company – The Red Chair Players.
Company Website www.bangbangyouredead.com
Bash (Page 130)
Drams (with ice)
Venue Komedia Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 21)
Address Johnstone Terrace
Reviewer Max Blinkhorn
A reviewer can compliment the actors, praise the writer and laud the director but if the whole doesn’t come together into a cohesive production, the individual components are worth little. In Bash two tales are told in 75 minutes. The only common denominator is two unpleasant murders by characters it’s hard to feel sympathy for. The dominant character in both pieces is the fan in the corner which, but for its merciful cooling effect, I'd have cheerfully toe-kicked into the Tattoo crowd.
The first tale, A Gaggle of Saints is one of queer bashing – a couple tell of how they and a group of friends attend a college "Bash" in Manhattan. The hotheaded members of the group beat the life out of a "homosexual" they meet "under the toilet door" fashion. Though well delivered the graphic description is a bit unnecessary (am I getting old?). Oscar Rickett enthuses about his crime plausibly. However, Camilla Lawson as Sue, the protagonist’s girlfriend is a perfect example of the old adage, "less is more", with her quiet, convincing contribution. The end is annoyingly a little inconclusive, but as a moral tale, this first part of the piece is very engrossing.
The second tale Medea Redux (can you guess what it is yet?) features Rebecca Hanna Grindall in an overlong confession of how she murders her bastard son. Britisher Grindall, delivers her lines in a convincing U.S. accent, working hard to cover the lengthy script. But it’s too much – her character is distraught throughout but implausibly angerless. Givenher past – her teacher coerced her into sex at 13 years old – you'd think anger would burst out somewhere but no, she smokes (yuck!) at least three fags, instead. The pathos of the one-woman talking head betrays its U.S. roots. No endearing qualities emerge during her forty plus minutes rendering it unengaging. Plain confession is a bland dish.
A more imaginative approach to this play could yield a more unified production. Unfortunately, as it stands, it’s a bit messy. Bash needs more work, less pathos, less words. And less fags.
©Max Blinkhorn 11th August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs 6-29 August, (not 17th, 24th) at 9.45pm
Company – Kitchen Sync Productions
Bedtime Stories. (Page 130).
Drams None Needed.
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot. (Venue 14)
Address 13 Bistro Square.
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.
Hush now darlings -it's bedtime. Time for Les Enfants Terribles to explore what happens between the sheets when the lights go out. Sex. How men are obsessed with it and woman would rather dream of tomorrow's lunch and dessert. And vice versa.
Oliver Lansley's fermented four saucy scenes of sexual passion that are so real, you'll think it's you they got their ideas from. Whether you're the calorie-counting gal who just doesn't feel like sex tonight, the pre-menstrual boiling pot who's giving up smoking, or a sexy dominatrix type who just can't get enough of it, you'll feel right at home. And the lads will chuckle at mastered stereotypical monologues of men being men and women just being themselves.
The bedroom becomes a place of agitation, emotional exploration and sexual frustration as four couples subvert sexual perceptions in stable relationships. Through them, we discover that not all men want sex all the time, women are just as needy at times and hormone fluctuation in women is not an excuse to start or avoid an argument. Moments of sheer comic excellence are followed by a poignant silent scene, unraveling the intricacies of inter-relationship rape. Les Enfants Terribles manage to smack such gender issues on the nose, delivering an admirable series of bedtime stories.
© Marisa de Andrade 22 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs Aug 6-30,at 12.30.
Company Les Enfants Terribles.
Beef And Yorkshire Pudding. (Not in Fringe Programme).
Venue Assembly at St George's West (Venue 157).
Address 58 Shandwick Place.
Reviewer Thelma Good.
We meet Dave Cookson 30 years apart, as a 17 year old schoolboy and a 47 year old stand-up comedian. Set in the West Yorkshire coalfields, it's a familiar tale of working class lives at a time when the pits were starting close and futures became unclear.
Playwright John Godber's plays have celebrated and documented the lives of what are still described in Britain as the working class, a class nearly all of us are now in. This new play of his isn't one of his best, its anger about the lives of lower income groups merely confirms long-held prejudices. Even when Dave's adult life has taken him into a different economic and material world it's still the old us and them he bangs on about. Like so many whose lives have changed in the last thirty years he still identifies with his past and not with his present successful self.
If John Godber had shown some irony about this, the play perhaps could have gained a sharp and fierce examining edge. As it is, it's the same old Beef and Yorkshire pudding re-warmed too many times, even though Nicholas Lane performs it with considerable skill .
© Thelma Good 24 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 30 August.
Company Wakefield Theatres.
Company Website www.wakefieldtheatres.co.uk
Beowulf. (Page 131).
Venue Church Hill Theatre (Venue 137)
Address Morningside Road.
Reviewer Georgina Merry.
In a word – great! Hope High School Theatre Company performs a fresh adaptation of the famous medieval poem and what a fine job they do! There is not a dull moment. With monsters, dragons and a great hero, you won’t be short of excitement. This talented and enthusiastic collective create a vibrant and golden show and give it their all. They speak in rhythm, pounding their staffs and moving with effortless energy.
Admittedly, it is an amateur production and there were a couple of hiccups. But regardless, the rest of the show is pulsing and well performed so that little mistakes just don’t matter. I think we can forgive them. The Grindel and his mother, both monsters, are great! What fun costumes! Not too scary for younger viewers but still very effective.
I, for one, was hooked from the very first moment - it's a spectacular production. It's also fantastic that these youngsters have been able to raise money through bake sales and the like to make it to the Fringe.
©Georgina August 20 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 24 (Not 23) at 21 at 12:12, 22 at 22:15, 24 at 16:15.
Company Hope High School Theatre Company, Providence, Rhode Island.
Between The Quiet Poles. (Page 131).
Venue Komedia Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 21).
Address 2 Johnston Terrace .
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.
Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustusdoesn’t get too many outings in our present-focused world. Perhaps the suggestion that the science we have all come to believe so much in may be as corruptible as anything or anyone else sits ill with a ‘blue-skies’ vision of a world we delude ourselves we can control. Marlowe took the Faust/Faustus story of a man prepared to sell his soul to the devil and shaped it for his own times and purposes. Deeply political as well as theological, Marlowe’s version is located in the heart of a Europe torn apart by the kind of ideological conflicts we associate with more recent times. Doctor Faustusowes much of its impetus and inspiration to these struggles fought across ‘the great bog of Europe’ by powers certain their successes were manifestations of divine approval and their destiny to direct the futures of other states.
Fringe regulars Firefly are back after a year’s absence with their production of Keefe Healy’s Between The Quiet Poles, which follows the narrative spine of Marlowe’s play, utilising quotes from it to preface each new scene. Healy’s script, however, turns Faustus’ demonic tempter (Mephistopheles in the original) into a highly unorthodox doctor, willing and apparently able to re-constitute Jonathan/Jack (the Faustus character) as the charismatic musician he once was. Jack slowly come to question where this pact is taking him. Hell on earth is a seedy strip-tease club where Faustus/Jack becomes the musical icon he once dreamed of being. Yet he begins to find the adulation and demands of adoring audiences unbearable. Entranced by a woman he tries to save from the consequences of on-stage protest (presumably against exploitation of women, although this is never made clear) Faustus/ Jack’s efforts to protect her from the retribution she seems to be seeking (again, for motives which remain inexplicit)
There remains something of a problem with Jack’s muddy motives too - musicianship
is not alchemy and however it may seem that gangster rappers and sub-basement
Eminems may have today’s youth in thrall, the idea of music as crowd-pleasing
crowd-control isn’t strong enough fully convince. Which is a pity, as otherwise
this adaptation bowls nobly along, sustained by some very fine ensemble acting
and strong performances. It’s always invidious to single out but Dennis
McSorley, Dennis Smith and Sarah Hordorf ably support Thomas Dubee
and their fellow actors. Firefly have created a worthwhile ensemble piece
in Between The Quiet Poles, one which deserves an audience.
Bill Hicks: Slight Return (Page 131)
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address The Pleasance.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
I have to say immediately in its favour that at least Bill Hicks Slight Return starts with Chas. Early asking for the audience’s help to conjure up the spirit of the late but legendary American stand-up Bill Hicks. It doesn’t expect to just vault you over that pesky verisimilitude hurdle the way that certain other sleb-based bio-plays are doing this year. But, for all its honesty, the endeavour just isn’t funny.
For anyone who’s just back from living under a rock for the past twenty years, Bill Hicks was a stand-up comedian who specialised in breaking taboos. Whether it be cancer jokes, advocating drug-use or the delights of porn, he made it his business to expose the suppurating underbelly of American ‘family values’. This was pretty original back in the 1980s, of course, but the world is a far more confusing place nowadays, and it really won’t do to berate people for liking Michael Moore when the message at the end of his films is identical to the message ‘Hicks’ hammers home at the end of his act: DO SOMETHING. It’s also pretty lame to have to listen to a torrent of incredulity directed at the US electorate who voted for Bush, when most of the audience undoubtedly didn’t.
Chas. Early’s evocation is, as I remember Hicks, not bad, particularly in those ‘dialogues’ with the redneck mentalists. I strongly suspect, though, that some of what doesn’t work in this reincarnation of wouldn’t work with the real deal either. Because, fond as people are of asking ‘I wonder what Bill would make of this?’, viz-a-viz Bush and Blair and 9/11, the truth is, stand-up isn’t the right medium any more. This is a screen culture, Bill, and that’s why Moore’s got the gig.
© Lorraine McCann, 9 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 30 August (except 11 and 18).
Company Bill Hicks Slight Return.
Company www.hurst.dsl.pipex.com/ bill/
Bima And Bramati. (Page 132)
Venue Traverse (Venue 15.)
Address Cambridge St, off Lothian Rd.
Reviewer Thelma Good.
Translated by Grace Barnes from Tord Akerbæk's Norwegian original, the dialogue is sparse and almost eliptical. It's more than little suggestive of his own countryman Jon Fosse and the world mould-breaker Samuel Beckett. Wrapped like merpersons they never move from their swinging seats. The effect is like Happy Days or Not I (also being done at this year's fringe) - you concentrate on the words which sometimes but not often enough contain universal resounances. It's not an amazing script, and setting it in high tech modern world it lacks Beckett's powerful timelessness. But as that writer's estate keeps such a extreme control it's surprising more writers don't venture in this direction. It's interesting to note also that this Norwegian play had two men when it premiered - there has never been a female "Waiting For Godot". The Company Det Åpne Teatre are the Norwegian equivalent of the Traverse, both are theatres of new writing.
Bima And Bramati demands acting of integrity and understated strength, Maureen Allan and Nicholas Hope provide it in a beautifully paced production directed by Franzisca Aarflot (Artistic Director of Det Åpne Teatre). It's a derivative work but still liable to haunt your memory after spending an period of time with these two dependant people. People who may or may not actually exist, may or may not be the product of one imagnation or two. In a world where, depending on your lookout, high dependancy wards force people to live a very constrained existence or may enable them to recover most of their lives this piece unsettles.
© Thelma Good 5 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Text published in English by Transit and available at Traverse during run.
CORRECT DATES (changed from Fringe Programme) Runs to 28 August at various times Not Mons.
Company – Det Åpne Teatre.
Company Website www.detapneteatre.no
Bird In The Bush. (Page 132).
Venue Gilded Balloon Caves (Venue 88).
Address Niddrey St South off The Cowgate.
Reviewer Thelma Good.
The Aussie actors bring conviction to this short play set in the bush. Paul Sugars is Andy and Mat Betteridge os Mike, two friends who reunite for a trek into the vast and sometimes dangereous Tasmanian wilderness. The heat and the wildlife is created by lighting and sound as the old mates set camp and talk about what they've been doing. Mike has settled down and got a family and the love of one woman, Andy has roamed the world and rested briefly in many females' arms, but the affection between them is realistically drawn in Geoff Weate's script.
They discover a note from an antropologist whose female companion has been captured by another man, Brady. The mens' the innocent journey turns into an attempt to save lives, at first the girl's and then their own. Weate's characters are ones you want to survive. When the play ends literally on a cliff top you find yourself try to push the story forward to a happy ending, but the underlying menace of the unseen Brady ensures you know that's unlikely. It does feel like an excert from a longer piece one whose future may be in film rather than on the stage, but Bird In the Bush has memorable atmosphere where the scenery and what the pair see develops in the watcher's eyes.
© Thelma Good 25 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 30 August at 15:00.
Company Excalibur Productions Ltd.
Black Cocktail (page 132).
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address The Pleasance.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
Hmm. Ever get the feeling other folk know something you don’t? Like Jonathan Carroll. ‘Who he?’ I asked myself as I read the programme before settling down to watch Ben Moor’s one-man show based on Carroll’s novella of the same name. Turns out Carroll is a cult novelist who’s ‘huge in Poland’ and he writes ‘adult fairy tales’ in which nasty things happen and nothing is quite what it seems . . . or is it?
The story of Black Cocktail is told by Ingram, a recently bereaved late-night talkshow host who meets up with a character called Michael and is drawn into a mysterious web of metaphysical jiggerypokery. His flat gets vandalised and his life becomes a series of ‘puzzling’ encounters with figures from the past who might or might not wish him harm. Flanked by two small television screens showing a variety of landscapes and human actions, and a multi-purpose umbrella, Moore imparts all this in an archly enigmatic manner which pretty much excludes the vulnerability that you’d need in order to actually care about his character’s fate. In addition, for me, the ‘twist’ explaining what’s been going on is easy to spot coming.
Inevitably, aficionados of Carroll’s work will find a lot more in this than the uninitiated. I’m fully prepared to accept that, in its original medium, Black Cocktail could be a compelling and original piece of work. But on a stage, if you’re going to do ‘weird’, you have to do more than just keep intimating ‘This is weird, right?’ for an hour or so.
© Lorraine McCann, 8 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 30 August at 15.15.
Blackbird/The Three Golden Hairs of the Devil. (page 132)
Venue C Central. (Venue 54)
Address Carlton Hotel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Ksenija Horvat.
Two shows for the price of one can never be a bad bargain, and in the case of Paraphernalia's double-act, the hour and fifteen minutes pass quickly enough. Blackbird and The Three Golden Hairs of the Devil are not commercial shows, and if you expect to see something profound and technically perfect, you are advised to look elsewhere. This show is pure unadulterated fun, presented by eight young hopefuls, seventeen and eighteen years of age, as their first stab at the infamous Fringe.
As one might expect from a first-time piece, lighting is all over the place, the acting styles leave a lot to be desired, the voice projection seems to be totally lacking, and the pace of both pieces is all wrong; and still the young performers manage to keep our attention at all times and entertain us beyond measure. So, what is their secret?
Blackbird and The Three Golden Hairs of the Devil are products of youthful and fresh imagination, unspoiled by commercialism and devoid of any pretention. They are devised by the company who so clearly enjoy themselves that the audience can do nothing else but catch their contagious enthusiasm. Of course, they could do with an experienced dramaturg who could point out at the flaws in their performances. Their acting could do with a faster pace and more booming, energetic approach. Their voices sorely need proper coaching. And a few hours with a professional choreographer would be a good investment. But, then again, why spoil the fun and turn it into a preposterous attempt at quasi- professionalism?
The point is, these young people really communicate with their audience. They are not afraid to make mistakes, in fact, they turn them into a part of the show. They can act themselves out of any sticky situation, and that takes sound sense of horseplay and a lot of courage. And where else can you find the cast relaxed enough to let their audience wait in the auditorium while they prepare for the show, scratching their heads because they have forgotten where some silly little prop should go?
Yes, there are some cringing cliches in these two one-acts, but there are also some wonderful moments. Perhaps not all of them will go on to become "serious" performers, but I do hope that the Edinburgh's audience shows up and enjoys their fresh, playful style before it gets sacrificed, in the name of perfection, upon the altar of professionalism.
© Ksenija Horvat, 22 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 30 August, 11:10.
The Blind Fiddler. (Page 132).
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3).
Address 54 George St.
Reviewer Ritchie Smith .
There was a palpable sense of anticipation at this Friday 13th performance of Marie Jones' new play. Immediately we're in old Ireland - misty rural landscapes, haunting traditional music, the Catholic religion, the dominating past... We follow Kathleen, who is herself following the footsteps of her dead father. Though an irreligious man who kept a pub, he used to disappear for three days every year on a pilgrimage. Kathleen, quite movingly, is taking the same pilgrimage, wanting to understand her father - and, by extension, her family, her past, and even old Ireland herself...
I liked her father, who fills the stage with a cheery, pubby presence. By contrast Kathleen's mother is a cold withdrawn shrew, wanting to move the family away from tradition and community and warmth. 'No music in this house,' she sneers...
I am afraid it was around this point that the play began to lose my attention
somewhat. How many plays have I seen where feisty girls refuse to be crushed
by cold, snobbish, domineering mothers, who are 100% wrong about everything
- ? Too many. And ... this Irish thing! Of course, the cast here are excellent,
there are no false notes, the script is amusing and touching - of course. And,
of course, much of this is set in the family pub... But by this point my inner
voice was loudly saying, 'I have seen MORE THAN ENOUGH Irish plays set in Irish
pubs full of quaint Irish characters, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!' And there was no
mystery to me
The Blue Room . (Page 133).
Venue Sheraton Hotel (Venue 114).
Address Lothian Road.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.
The Blue Room by David Hare caused a sensation when it opened to ecstatic reviews in London in 1998 starring Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen. Their dynamic portrayal of ten separate characters linked by their various sexual encounters was described as “pure theatrical viagra” by the Telegraph. It’s an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's play La Ronde about sex and betrayal in Vienna, banned for obscenity when premiered in 1921. Hare’s tragicomedy of sexual manners updates the play to the present day and set in an unspecified “great city of the world”.
In this new Arkle Theatre production, Caroline Bell-Emie plays five characters - the Girl, Au pair, married woman, model and actress, while Alex Donald takes the roles of Cab Driver, Student, Politician, Playwright and Aristocrat. Through a series of short scenes the individual couples meet either by chance or arrangement, indulging in sexual relationships, illicit or marital for love or lust. The cast do their best with the quick character changes through dress, hairstyle and accent but what they both fail to achieve is any emotional dimension. Flat and cold in tone and mood, there is little sense of any passion or sexual chemistry which is the essential heart of this erotic drama.
Unfortunately the actors are not helped by the staging. The makeshift “ theatre” is a hotel function room with ten unraked rows of chairs with poor sight lines from even row 5. Set changes were slow and cumbersome while we listened to bizarre songs from Elvis to Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Stilted, disjointed and even comical at times this was more like “Bedroom Farce”.
©Vivien Devlin, 18 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Company- The Arkle Theatre company.
Company Website www.arkle-theatre.com
Blue Velvet (Page