|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals : Fringe Theatre Reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Abigail’s Party. (Page 128).
Venue The Zoo. (Venue 124).
Address 140 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Guy Woodward.
Balls to Desperate Housewives, whatever that is. This is the original and best of the suburban grotesques, and this production is nearly perfect. What we see isn't Abigail’s party, but the diabolical creation of Beverly, one of the most revolting and monstrous characters ever to totter on the stage. Over the course of an hour she presides over an orgy of humiliation, bullying, snobbery, and lechery, all fuelled by industrial measures of booze and fags and culminating in the blackest of black endings.
Her instruments of torture have since become legendary, and they are important symbols for her own relentless materialism. The cheese and pineapple chunks, the Jose Feliciano records, the sheer beige horror of her bilious décor; all these things anchor the play firmly in the nineteen seventies, but these anachronisms should not deny the play its power now. The paraphernalia may have changed, but the Beverlys are still out there, so watch out. These days they may have swapped Feliciano for Bedingfield, and prefer falafel to cheese and pineapple chunks, or have subjected their front room to a Linda Barker style makeover, but the unacceptable face of middle class Britain is still alive and kicking. This play lays bare its moral hypocrisy with devastating, surgical precision.
The acting in this Cambridge University production is almost flawless in its naturalism: if sometimes chafed then this is surely by design. Playing Beverly in the shadow of Alison Steadman must be like following Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell, but Jess Brooks makes the role her own with a blisteringly grating performance. Robyn Addison is superbly gawky and nervous as Ange, and Tom Stoate’s terse performance as her stony husband Tone is masterfully economical. Peter Boulle as Beverly’s doomed and pretentious estate agent husband is by turns submissive and vicious, but perhaps the real star of the show is Giulia Gastro, as Abigail’s apprehensive mother Sue, recently divorced and hopelessly out of her depth in Beverly’s suburban snake pit. Her beautifully understated naturalism is as impressive as anything you’re likely to see on a Fringe stage this year.
The staging of this production is achieved with an acutely observed eye for 1970s detail, and the set and props evoke the poisonous atmosphere of the lounge at 13 Richmond Road instantly. I’d rather eat my own head than accept an invitation to one of Beverly’s soirees, but to observe from the safety of the auditorium is divine.
Â©Guy Woodward 14 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 21.15.
Company – Bats-Reds.
Website – abigailsparty.co.uk
Accidental Death Of An Anarchist. (Page 128).
Venue The Zoo. (Venue 124).
Address 140 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.
This is a popular script this year, for very obvious reasons - a lot of people feel they have a lot to complain about - which is mostly justifiable. Accidental Death parodies an factual investigation into the Italian Police force over the suspect death of a rail worker - accused of being an anarchist - in police custody. Eventually - in 1974 I believe - one of the Policemen present at the incident was charged in association with the "accidental death". Dario Fo's play is a hilarious but unnerving observation of corruption in the police force of his country. This production does not - by any means - achieve the hilarity or the unnervingness of the script.
Other than some mildly comic moments from Rufus Tanner as The Constable, none of the characters is convincingly distinguished from the others. They all have the same slow, half-hearted delivery of fast comedy and don't really seem to believe in the "biting political comment" they are selling.
Despite the best intentions (I'm sure), the company's confused adaptation of Dario Fo's controversial c.1970 stab at the Italian police into a comment on the controversy of the policing of the anti-G8 protests earlier this year seems extremely misinformed and misdirected. When I observe that people have justifiable complaints, I am speaking of innocent people in London living in constant fear of something awful happening again, and the unease about being misidentified as a terrorist. There are so many other things in these areas we are forcing to the back of our minds right now. This is what is so confusing about this production of the piece - in bringing Fo's writing to a new audience, you have a wealth of issues to choose to address, why of all the things to bring to your audience's attention, the policing of the Gleneagles protests? This is an odd and befuddling choice.
Of the rest of the cast, there are some moments in which Phil Sarson is true to the lunacy of the antagonistic character Maniac, but mostly his performance is more like a Shakespearean hero (without the variety). The actors playing Inspector Bertozzo and The Superintendant both huff and puff as though emulating the Big Bad Wolf - which is slightly amusing for a few minutes - whereas the Inspector Pissani actor immediately wears out - his passion for the piece coming across as something close to sub-zero.
Within this production, there are some good practical set ideas, the cast are sometimes convincing and obviously the story is particularly poignant given the police tensions in London, but Feet and Fingers Theatre Company have missed the mark here and I'm sure you'll find a better Accidental Death Of An Anarchist around.
©Lauren McKie. 13 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 20 at 14:40 every day.
Company - Feet And Fingers Theatre Company.
ADHDU. (Page 128).
Venue Hill Street Theatre. (Venue 41).
Address 19 Hill Street .
Reviewer Pippa Tennant .
This intensely creative production is typical of a cast in which each member has been diagnosed with the plays subject matter – attention deficit disorder. An original and informative piece of theatre, ADHDU bounces to and fro from ‘Something-About-Mary-style’ singing narration complete with guitar and mouth organ to imaginative topical sketches.
The nature of the condition is demonstrated in numerous ways, such as a therapy session for personified pills, which strikes a cord of comical cringe, characteristic of the general mood of this production. Ironic insights are conveyed, concerning the pressure to conform in ‘free’ America, reminiscent of the personality controls placed on McMurphy in One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest and the potentially severe consequences of medication. In an entertaining classroom scene, including Van Gogh, Picasso, Beethoven and Einstein, we learn that many creative geniuses experienced ADHDU. An amateur piece of theatre, but filled with great imagination and energetic performers, most notably the remarkable Patrick Murney who opens the play by prancing around the stage to “I got ADD” (Jackson 5 ‘ABC’).
Caution: Distinctly American in terms of energy and humour.
©Pippa Tennant 14th August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 16th at 13:10 every day.
Company On The Spot.
After The End. (Page 129).
Drams None Needed.
Venue Traverse Theatre.
Address Cambridge Street, off :Lothian Road.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.
After The End meditates on these themes with remarkable force and clarity. This, however, is not clear from the start, when we discover Mark, Tom Brooke, and Louise, Kerry Condon, as survivors of a presumed terrorist 'dirty bomb'. They've taken refuge in a nuclear shelter conveniently situated in the garden of Tom's house, and it looks suspiciously as if we're in for an update of John Fowles disturbing novel 'The Collector'.
Not necessarily so - sexual politics and power relationships are here in plenitude, but the paths are muddier, more complex, messy and more richly disturbing in the analogies which can be drawn to the way we live now. Dennis Kelly's script emphasises our individual atomisation and inarticulatness in an increasingly object-focussed world, where Mark's screams for a love he can neither accept nor understand speak of a wider rootlessness and ruthlessness in which we continue to pursue our own ends, denying the means we're prepared to contemplate or countenance.
Mark's response to Louise's reluctance to react as he wants leads to starvation and threats and Kelly's script opens out from the personally political to the global, from office politics to transnational confrontation. Both Brooke and Condon deliver performances of integrity and intelligence which illuminate the script and it's dark matter, driving it tenaciously forward, while Miriam Buether, Chahine Yavroyan and Matt Mackenzie give the actors a design context which amplifies their work. .
Note from Theatre Editor - The text is published by Oberon Books and may be bought from the Traverse during the play's run there and from good bookshops thereafter.
©Bill Dunlop 8th August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28th August date at various times every day
Company - Paines Plough and The Bush Theatre.
Companies Websites - www.painesplough.com and www.bushtheatre.co.uk
Aisle 16 (Page 129).
Drams - for the ending.
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 33, The Pleasance.
Reviewer Max Blinkhorn.
You might expect Aisle16 to be rappy and ahem, up-to-date and all that stuff, given their Boyband build up. But no - it's real poetry - brilliant stuff! They present in a strong framework courtesy of Powerpoint. The hard bit - working four handed effectively is a breeze to them - everything is in synch and slick. Luke Wright, clearly pushing the Aisle 16 trolley along straight and true, introduces the band with a fake swagger that drew appreciative giggles from the mostly female, twenty-thirty something audience (it worked guys!). Joel, Ross and Chris all follow in turn, each delivering a sharp, punchy, witty piece, supported by graphics and a non-crashing computer. All the guys are excellent writers and deliverers of the performance art - no runt of the litter here.
There is delicious irony in sending up BoyBands this way. The format is a masterstroke. Aisle16 show how poetry has been done a disservice by the fusty, dusty, mid-forties-plus, poetry establishment (they know who they are) and it was a real tonic to see a full venue and an audience of ordinary folk having their entertainment boundaries redrawn.
But, arghhh, pass me the whisky bottle - I need a dram, guys. The good build up and sustained quality through the performance (well a couple of blips but this isn't stand up comedy) were sharp, HOWEVER, the ending threw me. I mean, you know, Boyband, formula, the obligatory finale - teach the audience a poem and get them recite-along-a-aisle16! Or everyone wave their lighted ticket stub or well something like that without safety implications. But there, the ending was not. A clean ending is always needed unless you're trying to make a point about having no ending. Even a slide that says "Leave Now for Maximum Effect" would be good but no - twas a precipitous come down for the audience. We would have applauded longer and harder but space and time is needed for it. Give it room guys!
I was immensely cheered by Aisle16 showing that poetry has a popular seam which no-one has yet mined to any great extent. With the right management and just the right material, these guys could be on "Top of the Pops" and look great although, leave Richard Madeley in the dressing room or until you reach Channel Four or Five! People, audiences, get a ticket NOW if you intend to go - there were only three empty seats in the house and word is spreading. Go for it.
©Max Blinkhorn 14th August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Dates on till 29 August at 16:40.
Company Website: www.poetryboyband.com
All In The Timing. (Page 130).
Drams None required.
Venue Assembly at George Street (Venue 3).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.
Peepolykus are exhilarating. This compact, high-concept sketch group bring five new one-act comedies, All In The Timing, to the 2005 Fringe - every scenario a gem. The interplay is seamless, the synergy snaps, crackles and pops, the shapes they throw are mysteriously fluid yet angular all at once - it's a joyous hour.
NY writer David Ives, has done the three members of Peepolykus proud with these sophisticated, slick vignettes, covering ground from surreal to pure slapstick. Throughout the hour we are treated to a coffee shop encounter with a literary twist, three (wise) monkeys and their typewriters, scaffolders with oddly endearing delusions of grandeur, the birth of a new world language - and the final sketch is so clever, immaculately conceived and charmingly executed, that I refuse to give the game away. Go see it for yourself.
All In The Timing is lean, taut and skilful, with not an ounce of flab to be seen. If it is indeed a comedy truism that the magic exists 'all in the timing', then you won't leave disappointed, this show is split-second perfect.
This is enchanting stuff indeed. It experiments, it takes risks and it emerges triumphant. It's what the Fringe should be all about. Highly recommended. .
© Leanna Rance 12 August - published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 29 August at 16.50 every day, excepting August 16.
Company – Peepolykus.
Almost There (Page 130).
Drams None needed.
Venue C Central (Venue 54).
Address Carlton Hotel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
There would nothing easier than to begin this review by saying that the thing about Almost There is that it's . . . well, almost there. So that's that done, then. Seriously, though, is pretty much on-target with its dissection of our modern-day preoccupation with happiness and how to get/misunderstand/lose it.
Writer-director Foteini Georganta presents us with Clive(Thomas Mitchell), a notebook-wielding columnist for the 'Art and Process' magazine, as he peruses the details of his own funeral. He is then joined by Will (Alex Trippier), Clive's successor in the affections of Sarah (Alexis Terry), whose desertion precipitated Clive's suicide. With the triangle's ending established, we then go back to its beginning, to the chance meeting of Sarah and Clive on a bus, then later at a restaurant, when Clive thinks he's meeting someone else. Throughout these vignettes, Clive is revealed as someone dedicated to observing his own processes, and that this guarantees he will never be happy.
On a flower-strewn stage, the fragrant cast conjure up a genuinely affecting presence. It's easy to believe in them, even as cyphers, and the agony of their choices rings true in these narcissistic times. The assumptions we make about other people's fulfilment are nicely brought out, too, with Sarah's conviction that archaeologist Will must like nothing better than to watch Indiana Jones movies particularly funny. In short, it's a bit like Woody Allen with a side-order of Wim Wenders. Tasty.
© Lorraine McCann, 15 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 1115
Company - Ex Animae
Company Website - www.ex-animae.com
Ancient Lights (Page 130).
Drams in fact a whole bottle!
Venue Diverse Attractions (Venue 11).
Address Riddles Court, 322 Lawnmarket.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
The term 'ancient light' comes from English property law, and refers to the right of a building- or house-owner to the light received from and through her windows. Windows used for more than twenty years could not be obstructed by the erection of any edifice within fifty yards. (Who said the Internet wasn't educational?) Now that I'm clear on the meaning of the play's title, however, I still need an explanation of details such as: who are these people? why are they behaving so annoyingly? what do they want? and what on earth is going on?
From what I can gather, this play has something to do with a closeted movie star, a famous Irish novelist (who turns out not to be Irish after all, shock), an obscurely-related pair of women who work in PR or journalism or something, and a shallow, cliched teenager who just wants to be famous, yeah?, all holed up in a big old Northumberland house at Christmas.
The most baffling thing about all this is that Shelagh Stephenson is an award-winning playwright, and doesn't really have form when it comes to penning such a poorly structured, flaccid affair. To be honest, the actors don't really help, either, and are generally too young to resonate in these roles. There are a few laughs to be had from the odd one-liner in the dialogue but overall it's about as tense as Anne Widdecombe's knicker elastic. Give it a miss.
© Lorraine McCann, 17 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 20 August at 11:15.
Company - Kings Players
Angry Young Man. (Page 130).
Drams None Needed.
Venue Pleasance Dome. (Venue 23).
Address Bristo Square.
Reviewer Ed Thornton.
On arrival I thought I’d stumbled into the wrong show.
These weren’t the usual skin head, Doc Martin wearing asylum objectors, nor were they the long haired slightly sweaty socialists calling for peace between the warring sides. These suited and booted fresh young lads had a relaxed air about them that didn’t shout POLITICAL RE-EDUCATION, and how refreshing it was.
The central character of a young Russian surgeon is tossed effortlessly between the cast, each taking on his mannerisms at different times in a slick, professional production from the talented hand of Ben Woolf. Fresh off the plane and facing the usual problems of BMP enthusiasts and well intentioned, politically correct idiots (mentioned above), the young man tries to find his feet in the confusing city of London.
A descriptive narration, ironically written in the most high-feluting English now only found in outdated detective novels, has the audience howling with laughter, and the performances are outstanding. They address all the right issues but in a light hearted and intelligent manner. Choose this one over the rest! .
©Ed Thornton 9 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29 (not 15)at 20.20.
Company - Mahwaff Theatre Company.
Company Website www.mahwaff.com
Arabian Nights - The Three Treasures. (Page 130).
Venue Hill Street Theatre (Venue 41).
Address 19 Hill Street.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.
This is one of five productions at this year's Festival by New York's Singing Harp theatre company, who perform stories adapted from traditional fairy tales and classic literature. In this luscious production we are treated to the tale of The Three Treasures, a luminous story of jealousy, revenge and redemption.
The set is immediately inviting, with sumptuous furnishings and thoughtfully chosen props. The company has gone equally to town on the stunning traditional costumes, and it is easy to imagine that we are looking through a window into an opulent Persian palace. Four women perform the story, Alyssa Reit introduces us to the tale and performs a beautiful and unobtrusive accompaniment on the harp, while Leanne DeCamp, Una McGillicuddy and Lisa Wenzel take turns narrating and acting out the unfolding narrative. The performances are polished and the three women switch between the different roles with impressive fluidity, while never compromising the clarity of the narrative. There were murmurings of discontent from fidgety children in the audience as their attention waned towards the end of the show, implying that the relaxed pace of the story is a bit too serene to maintain the attention of younger audience members. Perhaps a bit of an adrenaline injection is needed, and more use of physical theatre, dance and song might inject a bit of pizzazz to offset the soothing bedtime story facet of the show.
This production provides a welcome bit of escapism from the Fringe frenzy outside, so sit back, relax and allow yourself to get lost in a timeless, tranquil fable ably performed by a group of talented storytellers.
© Ruth Clowes 13 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 August (not 17) at 15:00
Company - Singing Harp.
Aruba. (Page 131).
Drams No Drams - It's the best champagne.
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Thelma Good.
Ben Lewis's Mark, an advertising executive whose day starts going pearshaped when he nearly gets hit by a falling man, his shoe receives just a little of resultant mess. But it's a big day for him, he's got to get back to the office to deliver his pitch, but his tainted footwear proves hard to forget. His is the largest story but Nikki, Sophie Fletcher, a phone-centre travel agent with no opinions and Darren, Kieran Fay, an Auzzie, also feature in their stories. All three are full of keenly observed details about our hyperactive hyper-connected lives with the actors playing added characters, each a varied gem from our many veined culture and speech rhythms of urban life.
There are some hints that this is all happening in a near future, one even more frenetic than now. Whether you're into consumer culture or scoff from the side lines Aruba in a crisp hour long show will satisfy. From a company stuffed full of talented creative persons. A real find.
© Thelma Good 16 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 14:45 not 17.
Company – People Can Run Theatre Co.
Rob Evans Website www.robevans.info and People Can Run email.
Asylum. (Page 131).
Venue C Electric. (Formerly the Odeon) (Venue 50).
Address Clerk Street.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.
Almost immediately you can see how closely this script, by Performing Arts lecturer Jason Riddington-Smith, is inspired by Paolo Coehlo's novel, The Alchemist. It's extremely well done. However the two worlds we are presented with, the Alchemist and the young man free to explore the world and searching for his ultimate dream and the young asylum seekers seeking freedom, are sometimes not sufficiently linked unless you are already familiar with what connects them.
What I am more completely impressed with, are the striking set, costumes and lights. These are all used to their most evocative potential with excellent syncopation between technical team and the actors bring out some outstanding moments. The cast's superb physicality distinguishes the production. The ensemble show definite skill with their Japanese mask and sword work - these young women really know how to handle their blades.
The play is sponsored by BRASS (Bedford Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support). Not only is the play particularly poignant for them - remembering the 2002 Yarl's Wood Detention Centre fire - but it also resonates with the tragic events in London recently.
Although the music is a bit too soothing and repetitive, the overall production only requires one dram. Though don't overdo it - because the music may soothe you to sleep - you don't want to miss this play. Asylum is a wonderful achievement, and a great example of one of the good things about Fringe theatre - that we can react to things we disagree with, in a way that encourages others to see the wrongs as well.
Note about the venue - It's Fringe Week Zero and as happens so often then, the play was delayed by 15 minutes by the preceding show, but the staff at the venue are very efficient and keep everyone informed. In fact the audience do not even seem to mind the seemingly endless trek we have - to get from the foyer to the theatre. The old Odeon building makes an ideal theatre venue, but the maze-like corridors could do with some signposting!
©Lauren McKie 4 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29 at 18:30 every day.
Company - Total Theatre Experience.
Company Website www.theplacebedford.org.uk
An Audience with a Transvestite. (Page 131).
Venue Club West. (Venue 151).
Address Edinburgh Theosophical Society, 28 Great King Street.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.
With just three people sitting in the audience (two are reviewers), Maxine looked a little apprehensive as she welcomed us to her "intimate soiree". We are offered wine and a pink iced gem, before she takes the stage. The purpose of the show is very much along the lines of "Everything you wanted to know about a tranvestite but were afraid to ask". This is her personal story of how she changed from Max to Maxine.
From a boys' grammar school to training as a motor mechanic in the family business, he was an ordinary middle class boy in middle England. The escape from this macho world came out of the blue when he was invited to play the part of an Ugly Sister in pantomime. "That first dress felt good" he admits. From that day on, collecting a wardrobe of women's clothes and wearing them, in public and private, took over his life.
The show is a gentle, amusing monologue with anecdotes about awkward police encounters, (waiting in costume for a taxi in Stockbridge) and the dilemma of which loo to use, Gents or Ladies. It's a fairly entertaining hour in which you do learn the inside story of one transvestite's brave decision to exchange his mechanic's oily overalls for size 8 high heels.
© Vivien Devlin. 8 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 13 August date at 1.15pm.
Company- Max Speed.