|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals Fringe reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Hamlet. (Page 153).
Venue Old Saint Paul's Church(Venue 45).
Address Jeffery Street.
Reviewer Ellie Fazan.
'Brevity is the sole of wit I will be brief'.
David Keller's faultless acting is both modest and genuine throughout. His stage presence carries the production, and although he necessarily plays his part with none of the illusions of the reality 'playing', he makes the language really his own, so the illusion becomes complete.
Perfectly suited to this small venue with its intimacy and churchy smell, the simplicity of the stone of the building and the setting of the stage creates an atmospheric backdrop for the action that follows. The simplicity and constructedness of the stage adds to the intensity of the drama, as do the costumes and props. Stunningly effective are the mannequin and metal rods that become people, as are the use of props - the brightly coloured socks that play Rosencranz and Guildernstern; the spooky puppets that play the players; the military jacket for Claudius.
Lighting plays a key role in this production. The opening scene casts shadows over the audience and prepares us for the doom that will surely follow. Both the scenes with the ghost and the duel at the end mark impressive direction from Charlotte Conquest and the total power of script and action. This is a fast paced and extremely stylish production which really cannot be missed. So if you only see one Shakespeare all festival, refresh yourself with this witty and well made show.
© Ellie Fazan 10th August 2004 published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 28th August at 21.15.
Company Top Edge Productions.
Handbag (Page 153).
Venue Komedia Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 21) .
Address 2 Johnston Terrace.
Reviewer Emma Slawinski.
Suzanne and Lorraine, Tom and David. One baby with four parents – is he doubly blessed or doubly cursed? Two couples embark on a very modern kind of parenthood, and the road is bound to be treacherous. Mauretta and Phil are the main disruption to this circle of friends, prompting the degeneration of relationships. Their vulnerable and volatile characters also contrast with the self-assured and slightly smug young-professional foursome, and provide a darker take on the ‘parent-child’ relationship.
There’s also a subplot set at the turn of the nineteenth century, employing Wildean characters, which lightens the tone (slightly) in parts, and brings up themes of repression, and surface vs substance, both relevant to the contemporary story.
The performance is slick and confident, and shows off some great acting – particularly from Joseph Steyne and Imogen Harris as down-and-outs Phil and Mauretta. It’s an entertaining play with some cracking lines and tense drama, but I couldn’t help feeling that the “sincere response to the question of parenthood” that Mark Ravenhill claims for his script is sacrificed a little to the graphic nature of the play, and its rehashing of fairly familiar themes. In keeping with Wilde’s influence, is it a case of style over substance? Maybe in this superficial age we don’t really care...
©Emma Slawinski 23 August – Published on Edinburghguide.com
Runs til 29 August at 11.45pm
Company Glottal Stop Theatre
Hard To Believe (Page 154).
Drams None Needed.
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.
Some things change – they offer gable end decorating workshops in east Belfast now. Some of the older images still get a look in, but those once-familiar gigantic daubings of hooded paramilitary Kalashnikov-carriers are long gone. So too the gap sites, giving way to plush, prestigious office developments, hotels to house visiting businesspeople temporarily, bars and restaurants to feed and water same. Change beyond recognition. Hard to believe.
Some things remain like vestigial scars - keeping the fingernails trimmed to the quick minimises any trace of questionable substances, saves difficult explanations. A preference for seats facing the door, or the knack of weaving rapidly through a crowd without giving any impression of frantic urgency (handy in Edinburgh during August). Some things never leave one. Hard to believe.
With the Peace Dividend paying off big time, it’s easy to forget how it was in Northern Ireland less than a generation ago, yet a great many people continue to live with the damage of that conflict and will for the rest of their scarred lives. Conall Morrison’s Hard To Believe walks purposeful and tall through the rag-bag memories of John Foster, faultlessly portrayed by Sean Kearns. Foster, a former purveyor of disinformation, and flawed counter-intelligence officer in Her Majesty’s forces, claims to have ‘discovered’ Rats, the mongrel that went ‘on patrol’ with units based in Crossmaglen, one-time ‘bandit country’ (strange the way ‘armed opposition’ are always ‘ bandits’ ‘till the peace conferences start). To the strains of his parents’ beloved classical music, Foster unpicks the tangled skein of a life suddenly punctuated by the death of his mother. In less than ninety minutes of complex and highly charged drama, Kearns deftly weaves his way in and out of characterisations from his own mother, grandfather, and brother through sundry squaddies, informants, priests and politicos. Morrison’s drum-tight script leaves no holes to fall through, yet ample room for inference and interpretation.
The silences of a life damaged beyond self-recognition or repair echo deafeningly as Foster reflects on a divided sectarian past (father from an evangelical Protestant background, mother a devout Catholic), his own atheism ultimately no defence against despair. He is, of course, trapped as much by his own professional past and perceptions of it as by his background. In wars as dirty as that in Northern Ireland one should be suspicious of what any may claim (or suggest) they might have done. Yet as secret upon secret comes forth to haunt Foster, Morrison’s script becomes a powerful and moving elegy for the living.
©Bill Dunlop 11 August – Published on Edinburghguide.com 2004
Runs August 10-15, 17-22, 24-30. Time 3.15 pm
Company – Storytellers Theatre Co.
Company Website www.storytellerstheatre.com
Harry and Me. (Page 154).
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14).
Address 13 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Sarah Jane Murray.
In this age of spin, it is lamentably predictable that racial tokenism should be rife in Western media. However, rewind several years, and this was perhaps less inevitable. Prolific performance artist Robin Deacon takes us back to 1989 - the year in which Sir Harry Secombe visited a school choir in Bedford, to film his Christian television programme Highway. Deacon presents an engaging thesis on the question of tokenism – were black pupils hurriedly conscripted into the choir to present a more integrated vision of the town?
This is heavily loaded subject matter that demands serious consideration. Yet, in Deacon’s charismatic hands, the material is presented with deftness and humour. Resting comfortably somewhere between 1980s’ Open University professor and stand-up comedian, Deacon delivers his well-researched proposal aided by a pointer, and a pair of white Y- fronts. His video footage is well-researched and cleverly edited - although on occasion he does labour his point unnecessarily. Do we really need to be subjected to Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s vomit- inducing Ebony and Ivory to grasp the thread?
Towards the end of the piece, Deacon complicates matters, by questioning the authenticity of his own findings. The piece strays into new territory, posing the possibility of the unreliability of childhood memories. However, although his findings along the way are at times tenuous, this does not lessen the gravity of the issue at large. Deacon leaves the question of validity open, but – in this era of whitewashing prejudice (pun intended) – it is the conclusion of his initial argument that will hopefully shock many.
©Sarah Jane Murray 10 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 30 August, not 11 and 16 August, at 14.45.
Company – Robin Deacon.
Company Website www.robindeacon.com
The Hat. (Page 154).
Venue Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Place.
Reviewer Sarah Jane Murray.
The affair between Jewish political scientist Hannah Arendt and Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger provides the focus for this brief study of the forces that brought the two thinkers together. Arendt, a young and uncertain student of Heidegger's Marburg University class, is drawn to her tutor's bold beliefs on the nature of truth and existence. Their meetings in his office spark both debate and attraction.
However, twenty minutes could never be enough to grasp an understanding of the complex nature of their illicit affair. Rumoured to have begun in 1925, the relationship was revived again after World War II. Along the way Heidegger becaome a fully-fledged member of the Nazi party along the way. Perhaps the post WW2 period of their long relationship would appeal more to an audience curious about what it was continued to attracted them to each other.
But Zsuzsanna Ardo's new play remains with the lovers as they embark on their affair, and the ideas and thoughts shared in these early years. While their heated philosophical discussion does interest and engage, it is a case of too little too soon. Although Ardo does show us Heidegger's human side, this is rather abruptly jarred against raw outbursts of revolutionary political thought. Thankfully, Arendt is played with modesty. Subtle suggestion is offered of the ideas she would come to be famous for, in her writings on totalitarianism.
Ardo shows us only the very beginnings of what grew into a fascinating and tragic relationship. A play with big ideas, but denied the chance to fully develop them.
©Sarah Jane Murray 5 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs To August 21 not Sundays at 18.00.
Company - HatGang Productions.
Show Website www.thehatplay.org
Haunting of Hill House (Page 154).
Venue The Underbelly. (Venue 61).
Address Cowgate (entrance on Cowgate and Victoria Street.).
Reviewer Garry Platt.
Here's the idea, you give the audience control of what will happen next to the characters in this horror story. Rather like improvised comedy only with terror instead. It's an intriguing idea and one I was looking forward to.
Here are the problems associated with this approach:
1. You don't sit down during this production you stand and I'd be slogging around Edinburgh all day and my legs were killing me.
2. Being in the dark with complete strangers is the best way to intimidate your audience rather than terrify them; the audience seemed uncomfortable with the situation rather than engaged with it.
3. Requiring audience members to suggest what happens next requires that you gain their confidence but the situation plunges them into a state of unease the result were periods of strained silence while the actors tramped around waiting for ideas.
I like this idea and the actors gave good performances but the pace was sporadic and the result a little disappointing. Nevertheless this group is on to something and I hope they develop this idea into a more workable format - I'd go back to try it out.
©Garry Platt 17 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August except the 16th.
Company Total Fear.
Head by Zoe Simon (Page 154).
Venue Underbelly (Venue 61).
Address Cowgate / Victoria Street.
Reviewer Ritchie Smith.
Let me quote from this play. "Ah. Hurts. Didn't meant to. Shouldn't." – But they did... This play is a low-octane Sarah Kane, a teenage rant where... Everyone! Speaks! One-word! Sentences! And goes by street names like 'Head' and 'Urchin'. Anyway, the mentally-disturbed Head is her father's 'butterfly' and a child-abuse victim. The setting is the clichéd urban dystopia of 'the estates', where many have been killed by 'the filth' (i.e. police) in the constant riots.
The stage is piled with black bin-bags, and obscurely-motivated characters wander on and off stage shouting "Murdering bitch Thatcher, out out out!" Okay, I'm lying about that last bit, but that's how old and tired this play seems. And the direction! Characters scrabbling about on the floor, where only the front row can possibly see... I don't want to be unkind, but whoever let this apprentice exercise go on was doing nobody any favours – especially as author Zoe Simon, who also plays Head, is clearly an actress of passion and ability.
©Ritchie Smith 14 August 2004 – Published on Edinburghguide.com
Runs to 29 August (not 16th) at 6:15pm
Company – Fail Better Productions
Hedda Gabler. (Page 155).
Venue Jurys Inn Edinburgh. (Venue 260.)
Address 43 Jeffrey Street.
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.
Hedda Gabler has a fear of scandal and is cowardly. She is devious. So dangerous that she's not even safe from herself. Yet she encourages Eibert Louberg to "do it beautifully." Herein lies a lady of complexities. Almost impossible to understand and all the more difficult to portray.
But Exit Theatre give it their all. Under the ambitious direction of Al Corretta, they attempt to reduce her epic tale. Hedda Gabler has recently married George Tesman, but is already bored of the tiresome relationship. She resorts to playing with her pistols and later passes one onto an old companion Louberg, with devastating consequences. Her essence is sensed seventy minutes later, after severe script severing and despite the restrictions of a minute stage. A suitably menacing soundtrack guides the action, never once coming to a halt. This creates an essential air of suspense, but undermines moments in desperate need of a deafening silence. Hedda Gabler herself could sparkle with a similar stillness, but tries too hard to be affected. The position she assumes in a triangular relationship with her husband, Tesman, and Judge Brack, is reduced by presumptions she makes and maintains about herself. Drab moments are followed by magical ones, but the audience is captured and hangs onto the complicated plot.
Bolder blocking and greater use of space would have amplified this. Still, actors fare well under the circumstances, and demonstrate a deep understanding of their characters. They abide to the conventions of the script, dictating that the entire play be set in Tesman's living room, so there's little room for adventure. Exit Theatre are on their way to doing it beautifully.
©Marisa de Andrade 26 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs Aug 8-28 at 21.15.
Company Exit Theatre.
Hello Dali (Page 155).
Venue ClubWEST @ Theosophical Society (Venue No 151).
Address 28 Great King Street.
Reviewer Max Blinkhorn.
Salvador Dali needs no introduction. However, as one of the greatest and most enigmatic figures of 20th Century art, Dali was in some respects difficult for anyone to fathom. Charles Baillie’s direction adds light and shade to melting watches and for me warms Dali’s profile. As an exposition of the nature of the man, Hello Dali is fabulous. The portrayal is slick and entertaining – a real pleasure to watch. I also felt I understood Dali more on leaving the theatre, and that was a pleasant surprise.
The heart of this piece is the energetic character created by playwright Andrew Dallmayer, but effective execution is down to the actor - if this is measured on sweat, Tom Jude scores 10 out of 10. The passion of the artist is transmitted through Jude’s measured yet animated portrayal of arch-egocentrist Dali, making his performance very realistic – especially the bit….uh, let’s not go there. The venue is not ideal – this kind of production needs atmosphere, darkness and no distractions. But these shortfalls do not diminish the quality of the piece too much – certainly I felt I was drawn into the fascinating tale.
The performance provided another piece to the jigsaw that is my understanding of 20th Century art. The tensions that existed between the artists who worked in Southern France and Catalonia are well known. Their expulsion of Dali from the surrealist movement looks like the action of people who had had their artistic hand of cards trumped by the ultimate game player. Dali deliberately and petulantly went beyond the limits of his contemporaries’ capabilities and it seems to me that they reacted in an unworthy way. Dali just laughed – to him their rejection was an affirmation of his superiority and time seems to have proved him right. The placing of that jigsaw piece is a tribute to the quality of this production and it’s why you should see it too.
© MaxBlinkhorn 12 August 2004 – Published on Edinburghuide.com
Runs to 28th August 2004, 4:30pm
Company – Clubwest Productions
Highway Diner *Works of Temporary Solace. (Page 155).
Drams – you may need one to warm you up before you set out.
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Sophie Lloyd.
Highway Diner “rewrite the story of Edinburgh” by taking you on a journey through the “mean” streets of the city’s new town. It is a touching and abstract mixture of theatre, dance, music and live art exploring the realms of time, space and lost love.
Each provided with a bag of props, including a blind fold, audience members are led through the streets being stopped at intervals to watch a variety of scenes and movements being performed. Encouraged to observe all that is around them, reality merges with the theatrical – and it is up to the spectator to make of it what they will. The actors communicate using words, gestures and posters, which make poetic statements concerning the surroundings, the emotional and the effects of the passing of time. One of the most surreal moments is walking down Queen Street to very haunting music and seeing performers dance and move in the middle island of the busy main road. The moment is enhanced with posters attached to railings on the other side of the street with thought provoking messages such as “The road is a stage where everything is held”.
Although it drags on a little towards the end, it is a unique and beautiful performance giving audiences the opportunity to appreciate the sounds and sights of Edinburgh. It is something quite different and stimulating. But be prepared to walk and hope for an evening of good weather.
©Sophie Lloyd 16 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August daily at 22.00.
Company – Highway Diner.
Company Website www.highwaydiner.org
Hitler Sells Tickets. (Page 155)
Drams None Needed.
Venue The Assembly (Venue 3).
Address 54 George St.
Reviewer Alex Eades
In this post September 11th world that we live in, war is something that we are confronted with on a daily basis. In every newspaper, television channel, film or theatre listing there is, nine times out of ten, something there that will remind us that, outside the comfort of our homes, there are some very bad things happening. This years fringe is full of such shows. Thankfully, there is one show that taps into the subject but, instead of lecturing us with another morality tale, makes us laugh and laugh.......and laugh!
H itler Sells Tickets is a miracle of a show that is set to be one of the highlights, if not the highlight, of this years fringe. The cast act their socks off, with some of the finest comedy timing I have seen in years. Ross Randall captures Mussolini splendidly in all his arrogance and baldness. Duncan Henderson is hilarious and compelling, playing multiple characters throughout the production with great skill. Beth Fitzgerald, who is the gem of the show, completes the cast. Just when we thought we were being drawn into darker chapters of the play, Fitzgerald manages to surprise us with wonderful comedy quirks that make you break down in stitches. A superb actress who deserves all of the praise that she gets.
Brilliantly written and expertly acted, Hitler Sells Tickets is a must see. So shoot down to the box office now and maybe, just maybe, you might
just see a flash of facial hair that will make you shudder.
© Alex Eades 13 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 30 August at 16:00.
Company – EVA.
Horror Vacui: A Twisted Tale. (Page 155).
Drams None at all (and suitable for children).
Venue Pleasance Courtyard.(Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Eleanor Fazan.
Faulty Towers meets in the Adams Family in this delightful tale set in an empty hotel which forever waits for its first guest. Hotel Vacui is run by three strangely charming sisters - Charlotte with her clipboard - Maud with her cookies - Wilhelmina with her romantic novels - and they plan - bake - read while they wait in expectation for their guest. When their guest does arrive the three sisters are delighted and will do anything to please, but as promised there is a twist in the tale.
This story is told full of fairy tale charm and a dazzling almost cartoon like quality which will appeal to both adults and children. The stage is set simply yet effectively with such attention to detail that even the rickety old piano is set just off stage, with giant hand drawn sheet music entirely in the style of the play itself. Music forms a key part of this production, with a spooky plonkety plonk accompanying the sisters and much more silly pink sounding music for Tallulah, their pink powdered guest. The script is fairly minimal, but movement is fantastic - so that making a cup of tea becomes a sequence of physical comedy and exacting study of manners. The sisters come together to form clocks and cars in a really brilliant and entertaining way, the pencil duel (a real clash of characters) is hilarious.
The three sisters are absolutely fantastic in their roles, and play their parts to perfection - each portraying entirely different characteristics and mannerisms at every single moment of the play. I kept looking, hoping to catch one off guard, but never managed - even their facial expressions did not droop. They are perfectly off set by Charles, their hopelessly romantic brother (who wonders aimlessly around reciting terrible poetry) and their truly twisted guest Tallulah. This play isn't about anything but great story telling, a refreshing change at this end of the festival.
©Eleanor Fazan, 18th August, 2004 published on the EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs until 30th August daily at 14.40.
Company Theatre Run.
How To Philosophise with a Hammer. (Page 156).
Venue Sweet on The Royal Mile (Venue 39).
Address Radisson SAS Hotel, 70 High Street.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop/
Friedrich Nietzsche was the person who invented existentialism (if its possible to invent a philosophical position). A mass of confusing contradictions, Nietzsche is at once the bogey man of modern philosophy (God is dead, all those nasty Nazis, etc.) and one of the prophets of the modern world, along with Sigmund Freud, James Joyce and other thinkers whose pronouncements we still wrestle with. Along with Jean Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche continues to influence existential thinking in various fields.
His final collapse in the streets of Turin forms the central image of Meltdown Productions' Fringe presentation. Quotes frorm Nietzsche take up a large proportion of the show, but almost completely decontextualised, so were left with a cut and paste production without knowing what has been cut from where nor very often the reason behind the pasting. These quotations are interspersed with reports from the 2036 Olympic Games being held in Iraq, in which an event known as the mud crawl figures largely. Its the fate of plays with highly contemporary references to be overtaken by events, and such is the fate of How To Philosophise With A Hammer, playing against the unfolding agony of Najaf and the fate of the Imam Ali Mosque. The less than parallel plots fail either to cohere or to convince, leaving at least this reviewer and possibly others in the audience confused not to say aggrieved at a lack of text (apart from the afore-mentioned quotations) and substance that reeked undergraduate theatre in all directions.
Nietzsche might himself have had a quiet chuckle over the way his words and
thoughts have been ruthlessly pillaged to produce this collection of tawdry
jokes desperately trying to find a target and failing miserably. Somewhere out
there (one hopes) is an opportunity to bring something of the essential Nietzsche
out of the shadows of our preconceptions and let the contradictory, humane,
misogynistic, comic pessimist have his own words on matters which are clearly
Hunting Diana by Henry Naylor (Page 156)
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)
Address 13 Bristo Square
Reviewer Lorraine McCann
The writer/director of last year’s hit, Finding Bin Laden , returns with a new show based on conspiracy theories about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. And although not particularly timely, like the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and JFK, it is still a subject that sets off many a febrile imagination. The question is, does it work on its own terms?
Agent Darby Burton,Julia Morris, is an Aussie MI9 officer assigned to royal protection duties at the time of the Paris car crash that killed Diana, her lover Dodi Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul. As portrayed here, the Secret Intelligence Services are stuffed with the usual complement of patrician bosses and honest, bolshie foot-soldiers, who clash on everything under the sun, expecially when our potty-mouthed heroine begins to suspect that there might be foul play within her own ranks. Startling revelations and incongruities are dropped into the mix mainly unchallenged, although a senior SIS figure is given a withering soliloquy which casts doubt on both the motive and opportunity for the Establishment to kill Diana. What we can never be sure of are the facts.
Hunting Diana has a provocative feel to it, an aura of deliberate confusion about who the good guys are in the highest echelons of the British state. At one point, less than 24 hours after the Paris crash, an MI9 employee says there are ‘already 300 websites saying we did it’. And yet the play also portrays genuine loyalty and public service values in SIS. But for all that this makes us think and wonder, maybe Naylor could take a leaf out of Oliver Stone’s or Michael Moore’s books and give us a list of sources or something, too.
© Lorraine McCann, 18 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 30 August at 16.00.
Company Gilded Balloon with Henry Naylor.
Hypocrite. (page 156).
Drams - heavy stuff.
Venue Sweet on the Royal Mile (Venue 39).
Address Radisson SAS Hotel, 80 High Street.
Reviewer Sophie Lloyd.
Rapid Construction by name rapid construction by nature. This theatre company limit themselves to a rehearsal period of two weeks and it shows. Hypocrite is a brief insight into the relationships within a conservative middle class family with a problem child for a son. As the play unfolds the audience learn that the adolescent’s racist and abusive tendencies are linked to his father’s deceit and his mother’s self interested lifestyle and greed.
The focus point on set is a smiling family photograph – a stark contrast to the dysfunctional family that appear before it. From the moment the lights go up, the audience are witness to a torrent of crude verbal and physical abuse. There is too much swearing and while the actors look the part, the acting is not particularly convincing. Nor does it provoke any feelings of sympathy for the miserable misunderstood teenager who has been living in the knowledge of his father’s dark and shameful secret.
Although the play is thought-provoking and deals with some unfortunate truths about society, it does not stick in your mind as anything very compelling. It has potential, but the theatre group may want to reconsider their intense and speedy approach if they are going to deal with such challenging contemporary issues.
©Sophie Lloyd 24 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August daily at 20.40.
Company – Rapid Construction.