|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals Fringe reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Dancing with Auntie (Page 140).
Venue C Central(Venue 54).
Address Carlton Hotel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Neil Ingram.
"If you can remember the Sixties, you weren't there" - it's an old joke, frequently repeated these days, but I can remember, and so can Bill Cronshaw, the writer/drector of Dancing with Auntie. This is a particularly well-observed family drama, based on Bill's memories of growing up in Manchester, and revolving around Christmas at the Metcalfe's - Mum and Dad, son Barry, Barry's Auntie Molly, her daughter Marlene and son-in-law Jed. Oh, and Susan, young Barry's first girlfriend. After Christmas lunch there's a family party - a chance for Susan to meet all Barry's relations, and a chance for them to renew hostilities with each other.
It's embarassing for Barry - not being allowed to be grown up, and watching his elders behaving in increasingly childish ways. Things come to a head as the drink takes hold of several of the revellers, but Susan surprises them all with an act of generousity no-one is expecting.
In a strong cast all had their moments, and much of the ensemble playing was excellent, but particularly likeable are Iain Barton as Norman(Dad), Helen O'Reilly as Molly and Clair Benjamin as Susan. The simple staging worked very well in the confined space of the Cabaret Bar - but get in the queue early to get a good seat.
© Neil Ingram 15 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 21 at 16.45 every day.
Company – Bill Cronshaw Partneship.
Company Website www.dancingwithauntie.co.uk .
David Benson's Haunted Stage. (Page 140).
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3 ).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.
There is nothing more menacing than a dark, empty stage. Think of Phantom of the Opera and other ghostly spirits lurking in the wings. This show is not for those with a nervous disposition, starting as it does with spooky music, horrific sights and sounds to make you jump. This curtain raiser sets the scene for a dramatised debate about ghost stories, fact and fiction. David Benson believes he has a Father Time figure watching over him and in Peter Pan fashion asks the audience "Do you believe in ghosts?" followed by a ceremony of commitment to woo them from the shadows.
As he has proved in previous award-winning solo shows, Benson is a natural entertainer and master storyteller. Who better to explore our fears and fantasies about mortality, death and spiritual life? He describes the Henry James story The Turn of the Screw, filmed with Deborah Kerr as the governess. On a spotlit bare stage with just the haunting music of the Willow song we too believe in the ghostly figures she sees. Amongst other true and fictional ghostly tales, he recalls the scary bedtime stories his grandfather told him and dramatises a nasty encounter with caterpillars. Each is chillingly narrated with uncanny characterisation simply through quick change of voice, hat, jacket or facial expression.
As a highly accomplished actor, singer, mimic and raconteur, Benson’s greatest gift is his ability to suspend our disbelief – a magician of the mind. His relationship with his audience is on a very personal level. We are drawn into his private, intimate world – his haunted stage – richly tinted with a colourful imagination yet also a profound sense of honesty and truth.
©Vivien Devlin, 8 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 30 August date at 12.45pm every day, not 17th.
Company- David Benson.
Company Website www.davidbenson.info
Death and the Maiden. (Page 140).
Venue Sweet on the Royal Mile. (Venue No 39).
Address Radisson SAS hotel, 80 High Street.
Reviewer Georgina Merry.
The housewife of a prominent lawyer in a country formally under fascist regime is faced with demons from her past. Paulina’s husband, Gerardo, returns to their isolated costal home with Dr. Miranda after being stranded on the road. Upon hearing the voice of the “Good Samaritan”, Paulina is convinced he was one of her tormenters from when she was a political prisoner during the oppressive period. She’d been blindfolded, raped and tortured by her captors whilst a doctor had played a tape of Schubert's Death and the Maiden. After gaining her trust, he had then turned and participated in the brutality. When, by chance, Dr. Miranda returns to the house, Paulina uses this chance to determine the truth. Gerardo then has to choose between his wife and the law as the series of revelatory events ensue.
The set and sound effects in this performance are very effective. Although the male cast members are superb, especially Gerardo, the actress playing Paulina sturggles to convince as a woman who has suffered. Unconfident in her actions, her timid portrayal loses veracity as Paulina tries to bring her supposed torturer to justice. The result is a very one-sided performance.
Death and the Maiden is intended as a psychological thriller in which the audience are left questioning the outcome and the characters are left doubting their own principles. Unfortunately, the female lead’s lack of commitment makes the twist at the end almost inconsequential. It is otherwise a good production though and the general issues are still there – fascism, truth and trust.
©Georgina August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 21 at 20:45.
Company Sweet Productions.
Delicates & Smoke. (Page 141).
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Sophie Lloyd.
Delicates and Smoke are two interesting monologues exploring the effects of psychological disorders. The first comes from Moira, a single mum with 3 kids, and victim of much heartache. Next up is Greg, a level-headed, well-to-do fire-fighter - or so it seems. Both characters communicate their memories and experiences to the audience describing ambiguous scenarios, which shed new light on their personas.
Moira addresses the audience from a domestic haven. Between doing the laundry and deliberating over bills, she reveals a concern or perhaps obsession with her childrens' health. Her crazed tone implies that she suffers from MSBP (Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy whereby the patient inflicts harm on to others in their care in order to obtain medical attention). Actress Rebecca Russell , who wrote the monologues, maintains a steady pace and is extremely convincing as the emotional and unstable Moira.
The traces of a family home are then replaced on set by the interior of Greg’s humble abode for the second half of the play. Speaking to the audience whilst performing his morning routine, Roger Bartlett gives a running commentary on his lifestyle, experiences and a number of lectures on fire safety. His fervently self-assured tone verges on the insane and implies a deep-seated mental turmoil.
While the characters connect with the audience on one level with their seemingly banal everyday lives, these disturbing, yet at times humorous, accounts are actually exposing potential killers or abusers.
©Sophie Lloyd 11 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 22 August daily at 13.35.
Company Tidemark Theatre.
Diary of a Madman (Page 141)
Venue C Chambers St(Venue no 34)
Address Chambers St.
Reviewer Neil Ingram.
Is there no escape from the drudgery of being a clerk?. As hard as you try, the supervisor is always on your back, and you can only fantasize about escaping to be something more important.
The hero of Gogol's tale describes with increasing frustration how he survives his mundane existence, and dreams of what might happen. He keeps a diary, at first noting the everyday details of pen-sharpening and copying. “I could be a general” he says, as he dreams of a life with his Director’s attractive daughter, Sophie. He then starts to note down conversations between Sophie’s pet dog and another dog, but realises something strange is going on when the dogs start talking about writing letters. And his delusions finally take over when he reads a newspaper article about the problems in finding a new King of Spain, and he finds himself transported to Spain to be crowned.
Shaban Arifi is excellent as the madman, prowling around his apartment, acting out his ever more fanciful dreams of advancement and success. You really want him to succeed, but you know that reality will eventually catch up with him and confine him even further. This is a clever portrayal of a mind unravelling, with occasional beams of lucidity piercing the lowering gloom of madness.
© Neil Ingram 8 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 30 every day..
Company – Act Provocateur International.
Company Website www.actprovocateur.net
Dickens' Children. (page 142).
Venue C Central (Venue 54).
Address Carlton Hotel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Ksenija Horvat.
Something stirs in the C Central's Studio 1 in Carlton Hotel on the North Bridge. In the simple setting of an improvised black box theatre, a band of actors draw laughter and tears from their audience.They never miss a beat and are only occasionally overwhelmed by the sound of two fans, which bring much needed fresh air into this confined space.
Dickens' Children is a pastiche of scenes from his novels, sensitively adapted and directed by Nick Warburton. The common thread is Charles Dickens' depiction of the plight of children in Victorian post-industrial society - expect a delightful journey through a variety of works including Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, Bleak House and David Copperfield.
Amongst the superb company of players, special mention to James Dowson whose performance as Dickens and the children is absolutely delightful. Tricia Peroni creates a compelling Miss Havisham, and her portrayal of Fanny Squeers will have you in stitches. Guy Holme s is suitably ominous as Magwitch and Squeers, and Rosemary Eason's motherly characters humorously evoke Dickens' originals. Ken Eason, Suzi Turton and Martin Woodruff offer equally captivating performances - together the cast vividly re-create Dickens' bleak world of greed and misery.
This is a show for both children and grown-ups. It will engage you, entertain you and touch your heart. Do not miss it.
©Ksenija Horvat, 16 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 21 August, 12:15.
Company - BAWDS.
Company Website www.bawds.org
Distortions. (Page 142).
Venue St. Mark’s Unitarian church. (Venue 125).
Address Castle Terrace.
Reviewer Georgina Merry.
A young traveller discovers an ancient mirror on a hillside near Rome. When she looks into it she sees its previous owner, a noble Etruscan woman who lived two and a half millennia previous. The traveller then witnesses the story of the Etruscan woman’s family and their conflict of rationale and the supernatural when the mirror predicts their future.
This play doesn’t quite seem to realise what it is. The mystical quality that can be created by a period of which we have little information is lost in this production making it more like a soap opera than a historical drama. The idea is wonderful - it is just not executed in a way that can be appreciated. The cultural clash between the Etruscan nobility and the young state of Rome is touched upon briefly – through a Roman worker whose soliloquies are delivered in a stilted and unimaginative way. Instead, the play concentrates on the family members' relationships to one another over along period of time, reminiscent of of a Jackie Collins novel. Performed at a slow pace although acting is satisfactory from other cast members, the play lacks a certain gusto.
If this play becomes a little shorter it may well become a lot more exciting and emotionally involving. Instead it dawdles on for so long that when the action actually does happen it goes almost unnoticed. But it contains the basis of an excellent play and with a few nips and tucks it could be.
©Georgina August 28 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 30 – 29 19:45, 30 14:30.
Company Spirit of Etruria Players.
The Dispute (Page 142)
Venue The Zoo, Kirk O'Field Parish Church(Venue 124)
Address 140 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Neil Ingram.
In this comedy of manners by Marivaux, translated by Timberlake Wertenbaker, the Prince and his lady, Hermiane, are disputing which sex was responsible for the fall in the Garden of Eden. He then reveals that he had four newborn babes raised separately in the forest by his servants, so that now at the age of 19 they can be introduced to one another to replicate the first meeting between Adam and Eve. The Prince and Hermiane then sit in the audience to watch the experiment unfold.
The first couple we see are Egle and Azur. They are devoted to one another, and determined to stay together forever. But the Prince’s servants suggest they should separate for a while so that they can enjoy each others’ company more when they meet again. They go away separately, and we see an equally devoted couple, Adine and Mesrin, who behave in a similar way, but when Adine and Egle meet, they do not know how to react to a rival rather then a lover. Each is upset at not being admired, and when Egle meets Mesrin, he is captivated and forgets Adine. By this time the two men have already met and become firm friends, but their friendship is threatened by their rivalry for Egle.
The resolution to this complex affair is clever, but rather abrupt. The young company, supported by Goldsmiths College Drama Department, play the piece with style, but rather too quickly in places, where a more measured pace would have brought out the subtleties of the plot and language.
© Neil Ingram 24 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29 at 19.15.
Company – Nisaea
Dracula. (Page 143).
Venue Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Place.
Reviewer Thelma Good.
Produced by the Oxford/Cambridge University Light Entertainment Societies this is is a punning jape of a play. It's stuffed full indeed of the bad puns promised in the Fringe programme but the arch hammy acting over sauces the mix. As awful joke follows awful joke the production slides into over parodying itself as well as Shelley's gothic tale and the acting increasingly hints at too short a rehearsal period and too little experience of this tricky style.
Sure it delivers what it promises, but it's not sharply enough directed, acted or written to live beyond this brief run.
© Thelma Good 24 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 19:00.
Company Two Shades of Blue.
Company Website www.twoshadesofblue.org.uk
Drinking and Writing. (Page 143)
Venue Waterloo Buffet (Venue 303)
Address 3-7 Waterloo Place.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.
Chicago company the Neo-Futurists (Fringe first winners 2000)are back with a new show Drinking and Writing which questions the links between creative writing, imbibing and intoxication – performed in a pub, the upstairs lounge bar at the Waterloo Buffet. The three protagonists Sean, Chloe and Steve sit at, stand behind or sit on the bar as they begin to relate literary anecdotes and read extracts from the work of infamous American writers who were partial to a wee drink. “I used to drink beer and Scotch but wine is the best for creation” remarked Charles Bukowski, “the blood of the gods”.
There are two shows performed on alternate nights, Volume I about 20th century writers from Hemingway to Kerouac. Volume II focuses on the years of Prohibition, 1919-1933 when Jack London, F Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, H.L. Menken and Sinclair Lewis came to prominence. As drinking was a vital part of their inspiration, many writers like Janet Flanner and Fitzgerald left to live in Paris. We learn about Al Capone earning $60 million from bootleg liquor and the illegal Speakeasy clubs. The script is littered with dates, facts and figures and rather tedious irrelevant stories about the actors’ own love affair with alcohol.
The actors are engaging enough, bursting with enthusiasm and passion for their favourite Pulitzer prize-winning novelists. Chloe sings a few blues songs and every so often Steve shouts out ”Pub quiz for a pint” featuring questions such as how many bubbles in a bottle of champagne (zillions apparently). The show is amusing, entertaining and certainly educational. But it’s a lecture on American literature, not true theatre.
©Vivien Devlin, 14 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 30 August at 7pm. Volume I: 19,21,24,27,30 Volume II: 20, 21(at 8.30pm), 26,28
Company – The Neo-Futurists .
Company Website www.drinkingandwriting.com
The Duchess of Malfi (Page 143).
Venue C (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Ritchie Smith.
Webster's play? – Think of a stunningly-written but rather confusing 17th century video nasty, with, literally, buckets of blood...
The Duchess of Malfi is a merry-ish widow thinking of marrying again. But her bloody brothers, with eyes on the family inheritance, have different ideas. With 'love next to fear' the atmosphere of this production is spot-on Jacobean, and the cast do some very impressive cross-dressing and role-playing to keep up our interest (for example, the Duchess is played by two different actresses - and both are good).
I really enjoyed this high-speed and highly original production. There’s great verse-speaking, grotesque face-paint, colourful costumes, excellent theatrical effects - involving puppetry and well-sung music - and, of course, Webster's language. An excellent performance – we should expect great things from this company.
©Ritchie Smith 14 August 2004 – Published on Edinburghguide.com
Runs to 30 August at 12:00am
Company – Apricot Theatre
The Dumb Waiter (Page 144).
Drams don't want you nodding off.
Venue Pod Deco (Venue 75).
Address 7 Clerk Street.
Reviewer Ellie Fazan.
There were people laughing, but I wasn't one of them. Maybe it was just the day, but the actors didn't really seem to click and consequently the witty exchange between them died – and the pace simply wasn't fast enough. At one point Ed is supposed to casually light a match off the heel of his shoe, but the actor just couldn't get the match to light.
The actual acting and use of space and setting were perfectly sound but the production just didn't feel very creative. Overall it was ok - there was just something missing…the spark?
©Ellie Fazan 7 August 2004 - published on Edinburghguide.com
Runs until 29 August 2004 at 14.25
Company Cyclops Events
Durang Durang. (Page 144).
Venue Iron Belly - Underbelly. (Venue 61).
Address Cowgate (entrances on Cowgate and Victoria Street.
Reviewer Georgina Merry.
An odd combination of stories. Writer Christopher Durang takes a satiric stab at aging, loneliness and ancient Greek literature. There are twelve short pieces showing in total, a different six on alternate nights. And being Durang, it was a mixture of deeply dysfunctional characters in abrupt and abstract situations. Skullduggery are a theatre company who certainly know how to push the boundaries, as I for one felt more then a tad uncomfortable more than once. For example, one character, suffering from her own inferiority complex - her sanity slipping as her plastic surgery does likewise - attempts to seduce her own sons. I tried, my kind of humour is wide ranging but I don't find this kind of thing comic, even though her children are all played by the same very large, bald-headed, bearded man.
However, many of the audience seemed to like the absurdity of it. The actors were indeed great in their execution of the various roles. Yes, this performance is well acted, directed and visually effective. I just don’t think it was funny…
Of course, it is always exciting to think that you are watching an entirely original performance – it’s one of the best things about the fringe. If, like me, you don’t find it amusing, you can at least value the style and uniqueness of the performance. And, you, unlike me, might laugh.
©Georgina August 12 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29 at 18:50.
Company Skullduggery Theatre Company
Company Website www.wskullduggery.co.uk