|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals : Fringe Theatre Reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
East. (Not in Fringe programme).
Venue Pend at Gateway. (Venue 7).
Address Elm Row.
Reviewer Thelma Good.
Director and designer, Steve Collins and his company of fellow newly graduated acting students handle the East London accents of Stephen Burkoff's script in this honed production. And that's not all they deliver.
Physical characterisation and deft handling of the sets two wheeled boxes and a real sense of the frequently raw energy of the young boys and girl. The older characters move with the slower pace of more years. The result is the surroundings of the characters is theatrical evoked. A showcase of the talent strengthened by Queen Margaret University College is clearly and excitingly revealed with Lucia Rovardi gives particularly good detail.
The greatest strength of all is clear, stylish and crisp direction of Collins. He gets his cast to make excellent use of the small Pend Studio stage, convincing us that the production would read as strongly in a larger space. Berkoff's script not only brings to life the directionless lives of the young men and woman but the confusing disappointments of adult middle years and the wry resignedness of the old. He also brings out how tribal nationalism draws as such people in a script full of rhythm and poetry. It's a text which surges with vigour like the best Elizabethan texts. A fine late addition to the Fringe.
©Thelma Good 7August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 7August at 16.00.
Company - Contact via Email.
East Coast Chicken Supper. (Page 144).
Venue Traverse Theatre (Venue 15).
Address Cambridge Street, off Lothian Road.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.
The setting of Martin J Taylor's debut play is the living room of a cottage in a small Fife town. It seems like a virtual house has been transported to the Traverse stage, including garden stone wall, staircase, front and back doors, fully furnished lounge and kitchen with real gas hob and kitchen sink with running water. As a realistic representation of social life and working class values, it's a modern day 'kitchen sink drama' with a cast of four Osbornian angry young men.
Fred, Stew and Gibby now in their mid to late 20s are old school friends and still have a close bond, sharing a home, beer, whisky, chicken stir-fry, fags and drugs, running a shady 'Business' on the side. But the friendship is not as strong as they thought when Gibby disappears from Fife for three or four months without a word. He has now turned up again with no explanation of where he's been.
The pace of the sharp one liners during Gibby's interrogation is taken at a gallop from the word go like a verbal ping pong match. The bantering, with cheeky insults and colourful language, has some hilarious moments. Fred and Stew might make out they're tough and streetwise, but Fred is more of domestic God, the king of the Wok, while Stew is an absent minded chubby chap who needs mothering. They're both slightly terrified of Malone, the local radge, "a psychopath" just out of jail. Gibby is " the deep one", quietly observing.
Directed by Richard Wilson, at break neck speed, it's all rather reminiscent of a cross between an Ayckbourn farce and an episode of Friends. I could certainly see Fred, Stew and Gibby in a TV situation comedy - they are sharply defined characters. As a full length play, the storyline is a bit shallow with a one plot scenario which doesn't really get resolved properly. It's a strong cast with special mention for Paul Blair (Stew) and Paul Rattray (Fred). who make a great comic double act.
©Vivien Devlin, 7 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at different times each day. See fringe programme.
Company- Traverse Theatre Company.
Company Website www.traverse.co.uk
Easy Stages (Page 144).
Venue Sweet on the Grassmarket (Venue 18).
Address Apex City Hotel, 61 The Grassmarket.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
As anyone who has ever looked through Samuel French's catalogue will tell you, there isn't exactly a shortage of plays about people putting on a play. All the more baffling, then, that The Ding Millers couldn't find a better script to showcase their obvious comic talents.
The premise is textbook am-dram. A male stage manager is attempting to drill a quartet of incompetent female stage-hands in how to strike a set at the end of scene, in this case a state room at Elsinore. They, of course, cannot follow simple instructions or are endlessly distracted by mobile phones and the like. The stage manager becomes increasingly irate, not least because of interference from the producer, and the whole thing descends into chaos.
Now, it's not that there's nothing amusing here. Steve Jones, as the stage manager, has a nice line in the kind of volcanic fury that made John Cleese a household name; and April Joslin could give Pat Coombes a run for her money when it comes to dithering. But the piece as whole feels too much like a sketch, with a punchline rather than a denouement, and the over-dependence on stage business is no substitute for drama.
As this is The Ding Millers first Fringe venture, it is to be hoped they'll come back again, but with stronger material.
© Lorraine McCann, 22 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 14:20.
Company - The Ding Millers.
The Edinburgh Love Tour. (Page 144).
Venue Pleasance Courtyard.(Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin .
Edinburgh is the first Unesco City of Literature and is proud of its writers and literary history. There are numerous literary walks and tours such as the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, Trainspotting and Rebus walks. New to the Fringe this year you can also take the Edinburgh Love Tour which leads you to romantic places on a gentle stroll between the Pleasance Courtyard, Chambers Street and Bristo Square and through the Meadows.
Our guides are Rosemary and Steven who are in love. They explain that they met in 1995 when she was an actress in a Fringe show and he was working in the Pleasance bar. They are now happily married and back in Edinburgh to take people around "their city of love". We set off on a romantic walk, stopping a few streets away to hear about Robert Burns and his great true love, Nancy McElhose for whom he wrote his famous song, Aye Fond Kiss. Steven dons a Jimmy Hat and Rosemary a bonnet and holds a doll's teacup. The instant street theatre is magical. We wander on, in a meandering route, hearing love stories along the way. But then Steven and Rosemary meet a friend and things go particularly pear shaped. I shall not spoil the plot but the happy go lucky Love Tour slowly changes into a full scale personal drama.
Walking around the city streets is the best way to explore Edinburgh and the charismatic Rosemary and Steven are entertaining guides. It's a great way to enjoy theatre and get some exercise at the same time. But by the end you just wonder, are Rosemary and Steven really married or is it all a very clever fictional play? But what does it matter - it's all great fun.
©Vivien Devlin, 11 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29th August at 1330 every day, not 17th
Company -Festival Highlights.
Edward Albee's Play About The Baby. (Page 145).
Venue Drummond Theatre (Venue 212).
Address 41 Bellevue Pl.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.
20 people...this is a disappointing turn out for a rare production of one of the plays which helped - as pointed out in the programme - to win the author the 2005 Tony "Lifetime Achievement" Award.
But first things first - this is not a production for children, or anyone else you'd rather not expose to "what goes on under covers" or "how to make a baby". That said, I always liked this script and this production ultimately does present it well. The actors are so convincing - some more than others, admittedly - that Albee's "wangled teb" deep within the plot is sometimes almost missed. However, we all seem to understand and some of us are unsure as to whether we should laugh or cry. This is what makes Albee such a powerful writer; when his characters are deeply thought out by the director and actors, the audience are torn between loving them and hating them.
Although the two female actors are less involved in their characters, the director, company and cast really understand the script in this extremely well thought-out production.
One thing - the sound effects are unnecessary. You can feel patronised when one actor says "the baby is crying" and then there is a baby crying in "surround sound" - humans have pretty healthy imaginations and they should be trusted to use them!
Play About The Baby is part of the 22nd Festival Theatre USA Fringe season, and the company and cast are involved in many other productions at the venue. If you are looking for some good Absurdist comedy, this will keep you happy. If you are not, there is always the Star Wars Trilogy in 30 minutes!
©Lauren McKie 15 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
August 17,19 at 19:00.
Company Festival Theatre USA
Company Website - www.festivaltheatreusa.com
Edward Albee's Zoo Story. (Page 130).
Venue Gilded Balloon (Venue 14).
Address Teviot Union, Bristo Square.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.
It is a struggle to remain objective about this production - I am a fan of Albee's writing and certainly Zoo Story in particular, is one of my favourites. As anyone who is familiar with Edward Albee's script (in which a young, disillusioned and struggling writer performs a form of behavioural experiment on an unsuspecting Sunday paper-reader in Central Park) will know, the stage directions and physical/emotional descriptions are fiercely specific. Albee is also especially critical of directors who "take too many liberties".
This production is a somewhat successful attempt to challenge the conventions associated with the play, but from the offset there are too many discrepancies between acting styles, design and interpretation.
Costumes are cleverly employed - Peter sets a slightly manic tone with his "Pee-Wee Herman" look, and Jerry looks like a sorrier "Fonzie" which makes his turn as the playground bully all the more effective. The design ideas could work extremely well, but do not - largely because everything but the set suggests reality. The sound design immerses the audience in the typical sounds of birds in trees - but because the set is often not as interesting - it almost feels as though the director may be trying to coax us into closing our eyes and imagine the set for ourselves.
We are lucky then, that the action in the play is so bizarre because it is enough to keep our attention - but barely. Although both characters are believable, Peter is played more as though he were a Marx brother - and rather than being uncomfortable in the role of Jerry's "Guinea Pig", he enjoys himself. Some of the animal imagery in the script - which should be extremely prominent - is lost to this. It is difficult to present Peter well - and at the same time in a way which allows the audience to concentrate on Jerry - but I'm sure it can be done.
Jerry on the other hand - performed by Phil Nicol - has some fantastic moments though admittedly also some rather boring ones. His physical creation of important figures in his life - such as The Landlady, The Black Queen and The Dog - are exceptionally well played out and are worth seeing. But to add to this performance, there needs to be some support of the constant metaphor between man and animal. Also Jerry must provide a stark contrast to Peter - we sometimes see this but are not as sympathetic to Jerry's ideas as we might be.
Although this play is in my opinion one of the best Albee ever wrote - and the performance of Jerry is definitely worth seeing if you, like me, are a fan of Albee's work - the team should have spent more time on the whole production. If the set is left as blank as this one is, then the sound and lighting could also be left for the audience member's mind to determine - Fringe audiences are generally capable of using their imagination. Alternatively, the bird sounds were so realistic it made me think that this would be a great play to actually perform outside (it has been suggested before) - perhaps this company need to talk to someone about performing in the park?
©Lauren McKie 7 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 12:15 except 17.
Company - Zoo Productions in association with the Gilded Balloon.
Elaine Davidson's Brazilian Life. (Page 145).
Venue Theatre Workshop . (Venue 20).
Address 34 Hamilton Place .
Reviewer Pippa Tennant .
Enter Elaine Davidson - ashort Brazilian woman dressed in big black boots, fish nets, orange and green dreads, purple tutu, wings and matching feather head-dress, oh, and of course, her 3,920 piercings and tattoos. This vision joins the already peculiar set – complete with crystal ball, python and a host of bondage gear.
“Hmmm… It’s cool… Just be open minded, this’ll be fine”, I tell myself as a member of the audience is summoned reluctantly onto the stage and forcibly attired in dog collar and hand cuffs. I sink lower into my seat.
A different show every night, Elaine embarks on an assortment of mental travels. Her sadomasochistic identity is undoubtedly prominent each night however as this tortured soul cheapens herself to ‘sex devil’ status (her term, not mine!). The tales of her life in Brazil are few and far between her dark discourse, throughout which we continually question the reliability of her words. Towards the end, passionate pearls of wisdom are imparted to us as vague spiritual issues are addressed, culminating in a poignant “I believe in myself”. Maybe I am being overly cynical, maybe you should find out for yourself, maybe not. If you want to risk being beckoned onstage, told to lie on a bed of nails and tremble as Elaine asks the audience whether she should sit on your face then this is the show for you.
©Pippa Tennant 14th August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28th at 20:00 every day,apart from 21st
Company Elaine Davidson.
Enola. (Page 146).
Venue Baby Belly (Venue 88).
Address Niddry St South.
Reviewer Alex Eades.
Fringe 2005 must see!
Early in the morning of August 6th 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, ending lives on an unspeakable scale. Almost 60 years to the day, Kandinsky present the world premiere of a truly brilliant new play that is essential viewing at this years fringe.
The play follows the characters as they fall into involvement with the bomb, its creation and its ultimate use. Enola, who shares her name with the plane that dropped the the fatal weapon, guides us through the events. We see her as a child, drinking milk with the creator to be. Both thirsty for future and life. Both blessed with healthy ambition and goodness. Both only later to be associated with the past and death.
Enola delivers a powerful punch. Execellently researched, brilliantly written and topped off by first class performances, this is a truly superior piece of work. A play that educates, entertains and allows us to leave with healthier hearts and minds.When it is done well, this is what theatre does best. Theatre was done well today at the Baby Belly. Very well indeed. A truly remarkable experience that I doubt will be matched by anything else at the festival this year.
©Alex Eades 8th August 2005 - Published on edinburghguide.com.
Runs until 28th August at 12:10.
Ether Frolics. (Page 146).
Venue Smirnoff Underbelly (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Lyndsey Turner.
I left Ether Frolics angry and confused. A one hour exploration of unconsciousness and the horrors of deep sleep, this is not a play for the faint hearted. Or, as it turns out, for those who have cultivated a profound fear of going blind. Sitting in total silence inside the inkiest darkness I have ever encountered for five minutes at a time, I began to wonder if I would ever see again. Waving my hand in front of my face, recklessly searching for a single atom of light in the blackness of the Big Belly, I came as close to a panic attack as I have ever been. And what's worse, I'm not entirely convinced that the pain I was put through had anything whatsoever to do with art.
Ether Frolics is a defiantly non-narrative-based experience. Three actors take a variety of roles, from surgeons to disembodied heads to figures from a Victorian music hall nightmare. They are clearly very talented performers, but here they are working for the powers of darkness. As lights flash, spectral imprints are burned onto the retina. A scene plays out in near darkness - floating body shapes dance backwards and forwards as if surrounded by water.
Framed by an exquisite and unnerving musical score made up of the bleeps and squeaks of hospital machinery and the sound of metal on metal, the vignettes become more and more disturbing until the three actors simply disappear, leaving the audience to walk alone into the Edinburgh dusk (a highly comforting moment - I hadn't gone blind after all). London-based collective Shunt are a prodigious bunch, but here they manage to say very little about the mind or the body. Instead the experience was akin to a thoroughly nasty little ghost train which - as far as I was concerned - could not end soon enough.
©Lyndsey Turner 22 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 20.00.
Company - Sound & Fury in collaboration with Shunt artists.
The Exonerated (Page 28).
Drams None needed
Venue Assembly Queens Hall (Venue 72).
Address Clerk Street.
Reviewer Ritchie Smith.
The Exonerated is real. No, not 'real'; REAL. It is the true stories of people, entirely in their own words, from Death Row, USA. The poster describes it as 'a unique theatrical experience' and it was the New York Times 'number one show of the year'. Praise indeed. Is it deserved?
To blues music, we sit. The cast enter, their mood visibly sombre. They sit at lecterns. There are ten of them. Three women actors. Five black actors. With ease, they tell us their stories. It is an odd experience, lulling and shocking at the same time. Sunny Jacobs (played by April Yvette Thompson) tells us how, by accident, she was in a car driven by a cop- killer, and when the police find them and open fire the car 'is bouncing with bullets'. Later she describes how her husband, also innocent, had to be electrocuted three times, over a period of thirteen minutes, before he died, horrifically, with flames shooting out of his body. She asks, 'Why do we do that?'
Another of the exonerated calmly describes his prison experiences: how he was gang-raped in the shower by three convicts, who razor-cut 'PUSSY' into his buttocks. After 22 years on Death Row the authorities did a DNA test, to prove their case and his guilt. Instead, this man too was exonerated...
The vision of America seen behind the individual stories is a dark vision indeed. 'The folks in charge is the folks in charge,' as we are told. America here is a frightening giant, scowling and sometimes vindictive, and a giant utterly convinced of America's gigantic rightness - and that is truly frightening. But somehow the show doesn't depress. As the old black thinker says, 'It's better, now, in Mississippi.' There is deep emotion here, but not showy, stagy emotion. And the people represented on stage for us have got through their terrible, terrible experiences without being destroyed. They are damaged, but somehow they are - very emphatically - not destroyed.
So what I finally got out of this show was moral uplift. It could hardly be more caustic about America; but Americans are still fighting and they certainly aren't all the moral caricatures of cheap art. I salute them, and the people pictured here, and this show. - And I made very, very sure I put my money in the collecting bucket afterwards, to help the real exonerated, so brilliantly portrayed here. And maybe my money, our money, is the best tribute of all to the power of theatre and the power of The Exonerated.
©Ritchie Smith 13 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 27 at 17:30.
Company The Culture Project, Assembly Theatre and Marshall Cordell