|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals : Fringe Theatre Reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Habeas Corpus. (Page 151).
Venue Quaker Meeting House. (Venue 40).
Address 7 Victoria Terrace.
Reviewer Guy Woodward.
Sexual liberalisation reaches the crusty environs of Hove in Alan Bennett' s 1973 farce Habeas Corpus, presented by the Edward's Theatre Company of the King Edward VI Grammar School, from Louth in Lincolnshire. Superannuated cleaning lady Mrs Swabb, Stefanie Appleton, invites us into the chintzy home of Arthur Wicksteed, Russell Jackson, a sanguine and cynical middle aged doctor whose ordered suburban existence is about to be cut to ribbons by a furious tornado of sex, lies and death. His wife Muriel, Briony Bowe, is frustrated from too many years of having to exchange marital relations for cake decorating classes. His sister Constance, Nikki Pocklington, is wracked with insecurity about her under developed bust, and takes drastic measures to remedy the situation. His hypochondriac son Dennis, Michael Tyas, thinks he has three months to live. On top of this, Wicksteed is plagued by phone calls from a suicidal patient eternally on the verge of self destruction.
"This must be what they call the permissive society.", the characters exclaim repeatedly, as they are forced to face the often terrible consequences of their sexual appetites and morbid obsessions. Thirty-two years on, however, and unfortunately moths are beginning to gather around the play. Compared, for example, with Orton's What the Butler Saw, another highly self-conscious farce which also examines changing attitudes to sex at the end of the sixties using the lens of the medical profession, it has not aged well. The dialogue and the bizarre verse passages often feel stilted and unnatural.
There are still some laughs to be had though, both from Bennett's characteristically razor sharp observations of the suburban grotesques, and from the slapstick pratfalls at which this ensemble are so skilled. The performances for the most part are impressive. Jackson as Wicksteed occasionally seems uncomfortable in his role, and Appleton' s Mrs Swabb is a little too caricatured. Briony Bowe steals her scenes as the frustrated yet voracious Mrs Wicksteed, though, and there is something of Bennett himself in Chris Casswell's nervous Canon Throbbing.
©Guy Woodward 12 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 13 August at 20.15.
Company - Edward's Theatre Company
Halo Boy And the Village Of Death. (Page151).
Venue C (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Garry Platt.
Halo Boy is a story of how organised religion can sometimes (indeed quite frequently) can become worse than the very elements its seeks to expunge from our souls and our societies. It tells the tale of how one essentially 'good' person surrounded by a sea of malcontents, hideousness and depravity is finally pushed to limits of their tolerance and then driven by their need for revenge becomes the very thing that was persecuting them. Westminster School do a fine job particularly in the characterisations they achieve helped enormously by the grotesque make up and elaborate costumes. The characters themselves are stereotypes running the whole gamut of types from the carnal priest through to the smothering and torturing mother. Nearly all of them at some point deliver a killer line which causes the audience to break out in laughter.
This is a ensemble piece with no stars but every one on the stage delivers 100%, and collectively they have developed a smooth and professional piece of work. The play uses a bare black set with few props and the pace is kept running all the way through. Dialogue is delivered confidently and in a manner that is a credit both to the actors and the director. There is very little to fault in the delivery of this play, so why only the equivalent of three stars?
It's the play itself which I found to be the problem, I was left with a feeling of 'so what' at the end. And on reflection it is I think because the play itself delivers nothing new. A Grimm's like fairytale story told these days needs to highlight something which is inherently wrong but overlooked or ignored by society. However, the play's essential message of 'beware of becoming the very thing you despise' is only too apparent to everyone with half a brain and a partial awareness of what is happening on our own doorstep, and if they aren't aware of it this play isn't going get the message across. Perhaps I'm too cynical, never the less these are polished performances from a young cast.
©Garry Platt date August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to the 28 August at 14:45 every day except the 14.
Company - Westminster School.
Handy Pantomime. (Page 151).
Venue Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 21).
Address 2 Johnston Terrace.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.
In 1955 a frustrated housewife seduces the postman. In a parallel existence, fifty years on, an equally unappreciated Marriage Guidance Counselor cheats on her husband with one of her clients. On these two tired clichés is built a play that is trying to make a point about the tendency of people to hide behind a conveniently manufactured pretence, rather than face the daunting realities of their mundane lives. Instead what we get is a bitter warning to married men that you'd better remember your wedding anniversary or you might come home to find your outwardly satisfied wifey spread-eagled on the kitchen table being humped by a Royal Mail employee.
While enjoying a pot of her beloved tea, it dawns on Eva Wellman that shagging the postman might be more fun than polishing her husband's shoes. Meanwhile, back in the present day, her daughter-in-law Anna is similarly devoid of any moral sensibility, not to mention professional principles, as she arranges to meet a sexually frustrated client for a quickie while her husband is preoccupied working on his novel. It is a cynical presumption that women have moved on so little in the last half century that we are still defining ourselves through our relationships with men. It implies all the financial independence and meaningful employment in the world is irrelevant if beloved hubby forgets Valentines Day, or fails to notice your new shoes and you're perfectly justified in shagging the first tertiary worker to cross your path.
There are some good performances here, notably from Claire Houlton, who plays the frustrated fifties housewife with the perfect combination of innocent poise and cheeky naughtiness. The musical score is jolly and well thought-out, and Eva's musings on the joys of tea and the new-fangled "tea-bag" are full of subtle comedy. Oh, and you get a free box of tea at the end. I shared mine with the milkman.
© Ruth Clowes 16 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 21 August at 14:15
Company - Moot Theatre Company.
Company Website - www.moottheatre.co.uk
Heart of a Dog. (Page 152).
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3).
Address 54 George Street
Reviewer Bill Dunlop .
The problem with public schools is they let anyone in (provided they get paid for doing so). This reviewer’s school days included exposure to the sons of what was then Rhodesia. Small regret, then, when Ian Smith’s banana republic gave way to Zimbabwe. Yet in true Animal Farm fashion, Zimbabwe’s present day tin pottery appears a distorting mirror of the country’s history.
The problem with government in countries like Zimbabwe is anyone appears able to dominate, provided the money doesn’t run out. Echoes of other effectively one-party states, such as Russia under the NEP (New Economic Programme) have led Rogue Sate to draw on Russian literature of that period - Bulgakov’s ‘Heart of a Dog’ - for parallels with present day Zimbabwe. As with all historical comparisons, it doesn’t quite work, although Rogue State’s energy and commitment make for a fast and compelling ninety minutes of theatre.
Rogue State’s own press makes mention of using ‘the process of devising and collaborating to animate texts which possess a magic realist quality leading to an intensely theatrical identity which is undeniably unique.’ Worthy as this objective may be, and skilled and talented as the performers undoubtedly are, it doesn’t quite work. The transposition of Bulgakov’s parable is, perhaps unavoidably, burdened with reference to recent events, but these are not wholly satisfactorily incorporated into the story itself.
But perhaps the real problem with this production lies in the ending, where Scruff, the much-experimented and put-upon dog of the title and his erstwhile owner and friends appear to have won a victory over the forces of oppression, a resolution likely to provoke the derision of any MDC-supporting Matabele facing eviction.
This may read as carp rather than criticism, when there is much to enjoy in a lively piece of high quality physical theatre. Go, hopefully enjoy, and judge for yourselves.
©Bill Dunlop 10th August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29th at 14.05 every day
Company - Rogue State
Website - www.roguestate.org.uk
Hello Dali. (Page 152).
Venue Club West at Theosolophical Society (Venue 151).
Address 28 Great King Street.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.
The prolific Scottish playwright and actor, Andrew Dallmeyer won a Fringe First and 5 star reviews for his play, Hello Dali several years ago. In this revival, Dallmeyer plays Salvador Dali himself for the first time. Very tall and slim, Mediterannean tanned face with the addition of a glamorous moustache, dressed in a Bohemian white kurta-style tunic and trousers, he looks every inch the Spanish Surrealist artist.
We are taken on a biographical journey of his life: aged 7 he was worshipped by his parents despite the fact that he was "a little demon", behaving like a tyrant. He was a talented and precocious child prodigy who was easily impressed by anything outrageously eccentric and unconventional. He developed various bizarre fetishes, phobias and passions - he adored oysters, cherries and French bread. His humour was scatological and he was a follower of Freud. Dali was his own master as a painter, "the saviour of modern art", dismissing most of his contemporaries, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, the worst being Turner.
Dali - who undoubtedly behaved in a mad and extreme fashion -is played by Dallmeyer in a wild OTT style on a rather high pitched level throughout. The small stage with a chair, easel, and a few props is perhaps all a little too simply presented. The text is certainly entertaining and informative but in this performance with poor production values, it doesn't quite reach its potential.
©Vivien Devlin, 21 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August date at 5pm every day.
Company - Club West Productions.
Company Website - www.clubwest.co.uk
Here (Page 153)
Venue Hill Street Theatre (Venue 41)
Address 19 Hill Street
Reviewer Lorraine McCann
It's a perennial Fringe dilemma, isn't it? Do you go with a well-known playwright's work being performed by an unknown company; or take a chance on unknown work performed by an established group? In the case of Here by Michael Frayn, you choose the former. But it just goes to show that, on the way to Copenhagen, even Frayn wrote an absolute genetic doppelganger of the kind of large, feathery fowl that graces your average Christmas table.
To give you a flavour of Here, you have to imagine trying to discuss a subject like, say, astrophysics with a seven-year-old. For every statement you make, you get back twenty-seven questions, twenty-six of which are 'Why?'. For Frayn, this kind of experience is something he would wish upon the theatre-going public, who have to sit through an hour of such sub-Stoppard guff in order to be pointed solemnly at a clock and left with the revelation that the preceding torture was some kind of meditation on time.
The actors do a sterling job of delivering dialogue that cannot have been easy to learn, given its mind-warping repetitiveness and circularity. Indeed, once or twice I woke up and thought I was back at the start again, so it's easily done. But no performances are big enough to rescue a sterile, uninvolving script, and they would do well to turn their talents elsewhere, fast.
© Lorraine McCann, 22 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 1600 (not 17th)
Company Seagull Productions
Hook, Line and Sinker. (Page 154).
Venue C (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.
What is it with the male species that they can only bond if they're doing something else? Drinking a couple of beers in the pub, throwing themselves around on the football field, or as in Hook, Line and Sinker, out fishing? You almost feel as if you're intruding on the pair as they kick back, beer in one hand, fishing pole in the other, erected tent nearby and radio on standby. Quite literally feel like you're eavesdropping as the half-brothers share secrets and insults. And that's the tone of the entire performance. A mixture of funny one-liners and light-hearted conversations, with an undercurrent of drama.
This is meant to be the geekier brother's stag do. But he insists on a quiet one, probably because he's getting over his father's recent death. So he ditches grab-a-granny night in the city, and heads to the country for a bit of rest and relaxation. Do things go according to plan? Of course not. Not with a half-brother who's getting over a separation and family baggage big enough to weigh him down.
The laughs come thick and solid, ensuring a steady rhythm to the modern day tragi-comedy. These boys take themselves seriously, and that's where the humour lies. It's smooth sailing until the climax, when you find yourself wondering how catching a monstrous fish is enough to mend a patchy relationship? Set to what sounds like the soundtrack of their lives, Hook, Line and Sinker's out to make sibling rivalry seem like a recreational activity.
©Marisa de Andrade 18 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August, 19.30.
Company - Flying Pig Productions.
Hospitals And Other Buildings That Catch Fire. (Page 154).
Venue The Underbelly. (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.
Something about this script grabs me as I enter the claustrophobic bomb-shelter-like space. Immediately we are confronted by two extremely animated characters - Annabelle and Ros - who reassure us that everything will be okay. It takes a while to understand how this is connected to the story within this production - but at the very end, all becomes clear.
Tom and Katie have lost a child; we never find out how or when, but the situation is very softly suggested by each character. Tom's pain is more obvious and excrutiating for the audience than Katie's and the effect it has on the audience is amazing. In odd moments it feels as though the entire room is united in the same awkward silence as he screams his frustration at the other characters, or describes his disenchanted dreams of fatherhood.
The rest of the ensemble are equally effective - particularly Annabelle and Nic whose outbursts and outcries have the audience wondering if they are supposed to do something to make them stop. It is difficult to understand - with such a moving and well-written/devised script by Phil King of InForm Theatre, and such a balanced and talented ensemble - why there is need for puppets. In actuality, the extremely pleasant to look at puppets add a more surreal element to the production - but they distract us from the human performers - who truly deserve our undivided attention. In many productions, puppets are essential to make moments work - in this case, they don't seem to serve any purpose at all. The imagery between Tom, the priest and the sinister expressionless puppet head-on-a-stick is sometimes effective, but it does not do anything for the audience which Tom could not have.
The most emotional impact in this performance (which contains much more than I have described) is brought on as Annabelle leads the company in a childish song which gradually turns into an opportunity for the characters to release pain and frustration - much needed catharthis for those of us who often supress the desire to stamp our feet or scream.
The costumes and set are quite bland adding to the claustrophobia - as if the audience are hearing stories they are not supposed to know about. The lighting cues could be a little better timed - but in a production which seemed to fly so freely between impromptu audience interaction and the actual script - it is more than excusable. The set is suitably sparse in order to keep the attention focused on what the actors are doing; this is a nicely adapted Brechtian technique - reflected in the acting style and the layout of the space.
©Lauren McKie 6 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 14:15 except 22.
Company - Royal Holloway Theatre and InForm Theatre.
Company Website www.rhul.ac.uk and www.informtheatre.co.uk .
Hot Pursuit (Page 154).
Drams None needed.
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
This is Clare Plested and Adam Brown's fourth visit to the Fringe and they've definitely come up trumps. Hot Pursuit is as daft a show as you could ever wish to see, and even contains a free song that'll go round and round your head and drive you mad for weeks!
The caper starts with a hard-bitten DS Cassidy (one of Plested's many characters) sitting in the nick, the noirish shadows of venetian blinds falling across her scowling face, reminiscing about how she first met Brown's PC Butler. It was in the sleepy little village of Upper Lower Greater Middle Gobbleston, when she was called in to solve a series of brutal murders, and although she initially thinks Butler makes Jessica Fletcher look like Jack Reagan, perhaps there's more to this cuddly copper than meets the eye . . .
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this bubbly production is the sheer verve of the staging. Using a set of three or four cabinets, the actors continually surprise and delight the audience with a range of backdrops and micro-sets of seemingly infinite invention. The songs are spiffing, too, and both actors are impossible to dislike. Adam Brown is adorable in his matching duvet and jim-jams, while Clare Plested has clearly spent many a profitable hour watching Helen Mirren (and Pat Butcher, come to that).
If you like your comedy bright-eyed, pacy and with just a smidgin of searing political comment, look no further!
© Lorraine McCann, 11 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 17:10 (not 16th)
Company Plested and Brown
Company Website www.plestedandbrown.co.uk
The Hothouse. (Page 154).
Drams None you'll laugh so hard - you'll think you've had plenty.
Venue C Electric (Formerly the Odeon) (Venue 50).
Address Clerk Street.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.
I don't think I have laughed so much at anything else, save perhaps Durang B4 Dinner. This is a script I'm not familiar with but - having read other plays by Harold Pinter - I have been looking forward to this. Far from being disappointed, I am shocked at how meticulously this production has been fitted together.
The set is eerily reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited - and the actors onstage as we enter change position every few seconds or so. This coupled with an excellent sound and lighting design makes for an extremely attentive audience.
Throughout the play I realise that all of the actors are really enjoying themselves and throwing themselves whole-heartedly into this strange comedy. As the story of Christmas at "the asylum" gets murkier, no-one believes that the company are all under 18 years old! I find the age of the performers does not register at all as the sordid plot unpeels. Every twist in the tale from the puzzle of patient 6457's death and 6459's pregnancy is handled with maturity and not once do the actors struggle with lines or miss cues.
It is a shame that I can't get hold of a cast list because I would like to make particular mention of the actor playing Mr Roote - the Chief Executive of the asylum, of sorts. This performer is so smooth, charismatic and extraordinary to watch, that even a mixture of Chris Barrie (Mr Brittas/Rimmer), Jeremy Irons and Simon Callow (in "Four Weddings...") couldn't match his startling timing. Watch out for this one!
The rest of the cast are also far too comfortable onstage to be younger than 18, surely? But I kid you not - "the best of Eton's acting talent" are here to make the Fringe happen and for me, they already have.
©Lauren McKie 20 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs till August 29th at 19:45.
Company Double Edge Drama.
Company Website - www.doubleedge.co.uk
How I Learned to Drive. (Page 154).
Drams No drams required.
Venue C Central (Venue No 54)
Address Calton Holtel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Ed Thornton.
A young girl learns to drive sitting on her uncle’s knee. On that day her childhood ends. .
Living in a family whose nicknames are all derived from different words for genitals, Lil ‘Bit is used to people wearing their sexualities on their sleeves. Her sexual awakening at the hands of her uncle Peck however stains her perception of the world, of herself and of men forever.
Paula Vogel’s lyrical writing and the sing-song intonation of some impeccable accents will transport you to the southern states you may never have seen. Jumping through episodes of their lives together, what at first appears to be a grotesque one-sided relationship between an older man and a young child becomes less clear. At times an innocent kid and at others a sultry temptress Lil Bit gives physicality to her uncle’s torment.
This play achieves everything in one short hour that Nicole Kassell's film The Woodsman didn’t. Vogel has not been afraid to delve deep inside Uncle Peck’s head, and while never endorsing his actions, managing to evoke a real empathy for the internal disorder of a man tormented by the girl he cannot live without. The harrowing subject is treated with such sensitivity it is impossible not to be affected; it’s distressing but not revolting. A deserved winner of the prestigious Pulitzer prize this is perhaps one of the most powerful pieces of writing around.
©Ed Thornton date August 8 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29 at 16.30.
Company Collapsible Theatre Company.
How To Build A Time Machine. (Page 154).
Drams None needed.
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.
What would you do differently if you could travel back in time? Dr Patrick Beer knows what he has to do, and he is not giving up until he has completed his daunting task. Ensconced in his chaotic laboratory, this is a mad professor on a mission, and he's taking us with him. Beer, played to fragile, unstable perfection by Greg McLaren, is a likeable, if unpredictable host, whose true reasons for wishing to embark on this dangerous, and apparently impossible, journey only become clear later.
It is a superb performance by McLaren, hitting just the right note of instability, whilst still retaining all the cuddly affability of a kid's TV presenter. The show itself consists mainly of an informal theoretical physics lecture, combined with a host of quirky practical tips on time travel, including a packing list which includes oven gloves and a Daphne Du Maurier novel. Within this light-hearted set-up is the emerging narrative of the background to Beer's obsession, which gradually takes over, building to an apocalyptic climax.
It is hard to imagine anyone not enjoying this show, there is something for everyone, with complicated scientific concepts such as black holes and the nature of space time explained, with the help of props, in such a skillful way that they become comprehensible. Meanwhile, there is a thought provoking and beautifully acted sub-plot, and threaded through it all a wide ribbon of humour. This is an hour of your non-reversible time that you certainly won't regret - highly recommended.
© Ruth Clowes 22 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 29 August at 14:05.
Company - Festival Highlights.
Company Website - www.festivalhighlights.com
Hush (Page 155).
Venue Pleasance Dome (Venue 23).
Address 1 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
Samantha Wright is an award-winning playwright in her native Canada, and is a member of Foresite, a new writing collective. Hush is a powerful two-hander written with the tutelage of playwright Simon Stephens, and must rank as one of the most disturbing pieces of drama at this year's Fringe.
Griff and Lydia Savage are a young couple expecting their first child. They're doing everything right: moved house, got promoted at work, read all the latest surveys on what to eat and what to avoid. But as the play opens, Griff, Alex Palmer, is sitting alone at the kitchen table, drinking scotch and listening to a child whining for its mummy -- who then arrives home, with the child as yet unborn. There then begins a process of gradual loosening of Griff's grip on reality, as the prospect of fatherhood heightens his nascent paranoia. Suddenly he doesn't like his neighbourhood, or his friends. Or his wife. And the more Lydia, Juliet Cowan, tries to placate him, the more danger she is in.
Hush is dark, complex, edgy theatre performed with startling honesty. Palmer's Griff is by turns a sneering, dangerous predator and a confused, desperately lonely man. He cannot comprehend what it is like for a woman to carry a child and the play brings out a taboo horror of inhabitation that many men might feel but can't discuss. Cowan's Lydia is so likeable that the genuine sense of her jeopardy is at times excruciating to watch, but I urge you to do so. Gripping stuff.
© Lorraine McCann, 13 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 12:40.
Company Andy Jordan Productions.