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(J) 4 out of 258
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= Unwatchable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme

The Jew of Malta. (Page 157).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue Southside (Venue 82).
Address 117 Nicholson St.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

The publicity for Teatro della Contraddizione's highly original production of The Jew of Malta bills it as 'a physical nightmare', which isn't far from the truth. Marlowe's controversial play has always polarised opinion, and this disturbingly dark interpretation will no doubt prove no exception. Directors Marco Maria Linzi and Julio Maria Martino present the characters in ghoulish, leathery masks that reflect their various Christian, Muslim or Jewish faiths. The actors themselves move with frenzied, almost puppet-like jerks, and shriek their lines with a terrifying fervour that never lets up. The result is something closer to psychological horror than conventional tragedy.

Barabas, bizarrely played by several actors, sometimes on stage simultaneously, is a wealthy Jew whose fortune is confiscated by the Maltese Governor as a peace-offering for invading Turks. Using his daughter Abigail as bait to retrieve some of his gold, Barabas continues to pursue a plot of vengeance against his Christian masters by attempting to lure the Governor's son into a fatal trap.

The result is an astonishing spectacle, but one that is not always particularly comfortable for the audience. The largely Italian cast employ accents so thick as to be unintelligible for long periods, while their collective inability to stand still makes for tiring viewing. The direction is innovative and unusual, while a sparse set is used with real imagination. That said, despite the obvious professionalism of the production, its relentless intensity is overwhelming. It's unorthodox, intelligent stuff, but you'll need a dram or two to get through this with your sanity intact.
©Edmund Gould 20 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 19:50 (1hr 45mins).
Company – Teatro della Contraddizione.
Company Website - www.teatrodellacontraddizione.it


John Laurie, Frazer and I. (Page 148).

Drams None needed.
Venue Hill Street Theatre. (Venue 41).
Address 19 Hill Street.
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.

I wasn’t born in Scotland. Have only lived here for just over a year. Experienced my first traditional Burns supper not too long ago. But even I felt patriotic watching Ian Watt’s truly inspiring performance in John Laurie, Frazer and I. It was a treat to see a ‘severe Scottish actor’ brought back to life to delight.

Watt offers a fitting tribute to the man on this, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Laurie’s death. Although best known as Frazer from Dad’s Army, you soon discover there was much more to the man than the military part. Falling into the profession of acting as if by chance, he went on to appear at the Old Vic before the Second World War ruined his career. Laurie had a series of Shakespearean plays lined up at Stratford-upon-Avon at the time. And, as Watt magnificently demonstrates, the classics were another of Laurie’s strengths as an actor. He delivers a monologue so powerfully, for a moment you think you’re in the wrong play.

John greets us in his nightgown in the middle of the night. He’s soon donned his uniform and taken us from the trenches to the theatre. Watt’s rhythmic voice demands attention without doing much. It guides us through the play with mesmerising steadiness. Watt’s Laurie won’t let us leave without urging us to live our lives the best we can with all the talents we’ve been given. And as far as talent goes, John Laurie and Ian Watt were and are at the front of the queue.
©Marisa de Andrade 17 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 19.45.
Ian Watt & Crossword Productions.


John Ruskin Live: The 1853 Lectures (Page 157).

 Drams  full glass.
Venue  Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Address   1 Queen Street.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

Paul O’Keefe is an actor, writer and art historian, a clearly talented individual, and you probably have to be all three of the above to be able to deliver a recreation of John Ruskin’s 1853 lectures to the Royal Philosophical Society of Edinburgh. Ruskin took as his topic architecture, and, in the initial lecture, argued strongly for the pre-eminence of the neo-Gothic form which was then becoming fashionable, over the Greek neo-classicism with which Edinburgh by then abounded. O’Keefe gives an interesting impression of an innocent Daniel suggesting improvements to the lion’s den.

Although beginning with a certain, possibly deliberate, hesitation, O’ Keefe quickly gains speed and confidence as he expands on his theme. O’ Keefe’s is no simple one-person performance, but a genuine attempt to recreate an actual event in a context as close as possible to the original. It may be happy accident that this occurs in one of Edinburgh’s most impressive and successful gothic buildings, the National Portrait Gallery, but O’Keefe has taken full advantage of the surroundings in which we find him, the Gallery’s original library.

John Ruskin was, by the mid-nineteenth century a highly influential critic and writer, who caused people to look at their surroundings with a critical eye which owed as much to his own sense of ethics as to aesthetics, the study of which had been a particular development of Scottish philosophy from the mid eighteenth century. O’Keefe deserves the appreciative audience of his initial lecture, and it’s to be hoped that the remaining recreated lectures are as attentively attended.  
©Bill Dunlop 22nd August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 26 at 13.00 every day (note: One series of four lectures - no additional dates).
Company National Galleries of Scotland


Johnnie Jouk the Gibbet . (Page 157).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue St Peter's (Venue 17).
Address Lutton Place .
Reviewer Irene Brown.

The scene is the kitchen of the seventeenth century Glasgow provost Sir George Elphinstone. Mortified Baillie Angus Cameron has turned up dressed only in his shirt, the thief even suggested Cameron could do with a better tailor. This gallus gesture convinces those present that the local scoundrel, Johnnie McClelland, is back from the wars and up to his old tricks.

In these days the punishment for theft was hanging but Glasgow was short of a hangman, so Johnnie looks as though he's about to "jouk the gibbet" yet again. In thi Scottish farce while Provost, Baillie and Town Clerk try to find a new town hangman, the women, the Provost's wife, Lady Mirren, his sister Bell and the maids all collude to save Johnnie on whom they're all a bit soft.

The play was written in Scots by T.M. Watson, and in its 1953 premiere starred Duncan Macrae. Today's fringe audience had no bother following the dialogue that was delivered well by most of the cast. There were plenty of comic moments, particularly in Iain Fraser's music hall style of playing the Provost and Gordon Braidwood's greeting faced self pity as the shawled and chittering Baillie. But it was Ronnie Miller who most convinced as the world weary, chancing, bevvying Town Clerk with lines like "breckin the law an shooglin the facts are no the same thing." He was the only cast member with anything resembling a real Glasgow accent, though maybe that hadn't been invented in the seventeenth century. The strongest performance came from Mandy Black who played Lady Mirren. Her rendition of a strong, fearless, clever woman living in pre-enlightened and pre-liberated times was refreshing and convincing.

Editor's note - This review was originally published in Scots in the Scots Tung in the September newsletter, The Wittins, issue number 142, thanks to them for letting us publish this English version. Edinburgh People's Theatre was established in 1943 and has been delighting audiences ever since with a wide choice of plays, some of them written and performed in Scots.
©Irene Brown
Runs to August 27 every day, not Suns.
Company – Edinburgh People's Theatre.
Company Website www.ept.org.uk

(J) 4 out of 258
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