|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals : Fringe Theatre Reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Macbeth by William Shakespeare. (Page 161).
Venue Assembly at Assembly Hall (Venue 35).
Address Mound Place.
Reviewer Lyndsey Turner.
Possibly the most powerful and least pretentious production of the Scottish play at this year's Fringe, Theatre Babel's Macbeth is the perfect antidote to the multitude of cross-dressed, rehashed, cut and paste horrors which pass for 'radical new reworkings of Shakespeare's text'. The staging is beautifully simple - naked swords lie fallen like soldiers on a bare stage, before being hoisted in the air - Damocles-like - to hover over the fated couple. Costumes are bold and effective - Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff echo each other like good and evil angels.
The production is mercifully free of the pseudo-lesbian Riverdance- inspired witches prevalent in other Fringe shows - instead the director has opted for a child-like prophetess who rivals Lady M for the affections of the Thane of Glamis. Lady Macbeth is also employed as a messenger, sending word of the attack on the Thane of Fife's castle to Macduff himself. The result is fascinating, shedding new light on the fiend-like queen's descent into madness. In this production, the Macbeths are very much in love, and Macbeth receives word of the fall of his troops whilst clutching his dead wife in his arms.
There are some issues with projection - Banquo is painfully quiet on occasion and some of the verse speaking is rather garbled (nothing at all to do with the fact that many of the key parts are taken by Scottish actors, I can assure you). But otherwise there is a clarity and urgency to Theatre Babel's interpretation which creates a chilling and fluid theatrical experience.
Note from Theatre Editor - After the Fringe this production is touring to Scotlland, England and Wales and abroad to Malaysia and the Philippines, details on the company's website.
©Lyndsey Turner 22 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 12.45.
Company - Theatre Babel.
Company Website www.theatrebabel.co.uk
Madame Tellier's Establishment. (Page 162).
Venue Quaker Meeting House.
Address 7 Victoria Terrace.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.
Villageidiots production, based loosely on the Guy de Maupassant short story, 'Boule de Suife' starts with a burst of energy which the largely young cast attempt to maintain throughout. They largely succeed in this, but high energy and the fractured franglais in which this piece of pyhsical theatre is delivered fails to do much justice to the original. A lack of programme or press release left this reviewer guessing as to what Villageidiots are actually trying to achieve. Lots of sauce of a Donald McGill variety and rather too much relish in the 'spicy bits' left one wondering where the beef had got to.
We begin this tale of a day out for ladies of the night in Madame Tellier's 'establishment', which seems to be hosting a 'Tarts and Vicars' night and altogether much too innocent an outfit to engage in any sleazy traffic in human flesh. Villageidiots are undeniably a lively bunch who clearly share a dedication to physical theatre, and a number of scenes in this production work quite well, but it's really only when the 'ladies'' journey into the countryside begins that the play does. The sibling rivalry of their host's two daughters becomes a particular highlight, but as with one or two other scenes, is expanded at the expense of narrative.
Maupassant's story shows how innocence can corrupt experience simply by being honest. There, the 'ladies' encounter people who regard them as fellow human beings rather than as commodity to be bargained over. There's an area of the Maupassant original which would be hard to reach in purely physical terms and the audience suffers as a result. Eventually, the McGill tomfoolery palls and the final scene is unneccessary. There's very possibly a bright future for some of the cast of this production, hopefully in a better chosen piece.
©Bill Dunlop 18th August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 20 at 14.30 every day.
Company - Villageidiots.
Madman's Diary. (Page 162).
Venue C Electric. (formerly the Odeon) (Venue 50).
Address Clerk Street .
Reviewer Ksenija Horvat.
One thing is certain, Shaban Arifi is a name to remember. Whether partaking in ensemble work in Act Provocateur International, or starring a one-man show, Arifi's unstoppable zing shines through in whatever circumstances. On this occasion he mounts the monumental task of bringing to life Gogol's classic tale of one man's spiralling descent into madness, and he attacks it with gusto.
Madman's Diary (sometimes also published under title A Diary of a Madman)reflects Nikolai Gogol's lifelong fascination with the weird and the demonic. Under Victor Sobchak's direction the play becomes an intimate sojourn into the recesses of human irrationality, a quest for identity, and a personal statement against social marginalisation. Arifi embraces Gogol's dark humour and embodies the protagonist whose soul is being eaten away by unrequited love and delusions of grandeur. He makes most of the less than perfect space in C Electric, breaking away from the tiny stage of the old musty cinema, bouncing off his audience, demanding a response to his antics, and winning their attention and sympathy almost instantly.
While Arifi's act is spot on, the technical side of the show leaves much to be desired. Arifi is a dangerous actor, responding to audiences' emotions and his own inner vibrations, he is never still, and he uses every inch of the performance space. The young lighting crew had difficulty in catching up with him, sometimes leaving parts of the stage in semi-darkness, unwittingly obstructing the performer's movements. This is a shame, because with a different technical backup this show would come across as much stronger. Hence three drams for the crew, none for the player.
© Ksenija Horvat 6 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 12:15pm, not 14 August (50mins).
Company Act Provocateur International.
Company Website www.actprovocateur.net
The Magnets - Magnetude. (Page 162).
Venue Assembly at St George (Venue 157).
Address 58 Shandwick Place.
Reviewer Lyndsey Turner.
Look for The Magnets in the music section of the Fringe programme and you'll find that the cupboard is bare. This year, the talented six piece have migrated into the heady world of Theatre. And not without justification: Magnetude is a decidedly theatrical journey into the mythical origins of the acapella group, a narrative piece which attempts to add something more performative to the idea of a 'gig'. With narration provided by the disembodied voice of Ian McKellen, the audience are treated to a witty and parodic take on the formation of a band.
But the audience aren't here for a postmodern take on the concept of a supergroup, they're here for the music. And nobody left disappointed - running through a diverse and eclectic set list, the suited and booted Magnets provided something for everyone. A delicate version of Sting's Fragile was set against a rich and bassy Nobody Does It Better. Reworkings of songs such as Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat (from the musical Guys and Dolls) reveal the group at their most musical and creative.
The Magnets use no musical instruments or backing tracks. Instead their style (self-titled V'n'B as in vocals and beats) relies entirely on the miraculous adaptability of the human voice. The results are stunning: the audience were in raptures at the solo beatbox performance, and there was universal foot tapping and hand clapping all the way through the rockier numbers. Many of the other vocal groups at this year's Fringe would do well to get themselves down to Magnetude for this masterclass in understated showmanship. A real winner.
©Lyndsey Turner 17 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 21.00.
Company - The Magnets.
Company Website www.themagnets.com
Mala And Edek: A Tale Of Auschwitz. (Page 163).
Venue The Baby Belly (Venue 88).
Address Niddry St South, off Cowgate.
Every year, you can guarantee that there are going to be at least half a dozen shows focusing on the horrors of the holocaust. With that, it is sometimes hard to grasp what the motivation behind it is. Is it a genuine heartfelt event, urging us never to forget? Or is it a case off “Lets talk about the Holocaust! It’ll get bums on seats!”?
Mala and Edek: A Tale of Auschwitz is very real.
Moving and deeply disturbing, the piece pulls the audience deep into the dark heart of humanity and never lets go. In some ways, there is nothing especially unique about the show. There have been many shows set in Auschwitz, many with different stories to tell, but all attacking the heart from the same source. What makes this show stand tall amongst the rest is the outstanding performances by the cast. Hope and despair twinkle in each of their eyes and ache in their bones. Their voices are as strained as their souls and you can’t help but feel anger about what has been before. Anger, yet at the same time a little bit of hope. Mala and Edek find love in the last place you would ever dream of finding any. If you can find love on hell on earth, then I guess there is hope for all of us.
This isn’t a company wanting to bleed cash out of a tragedy. And it isn’t just another Auschwitz show. It is beautiful and brilliant. You won't enjoy it and you’re not supposed to. It will, however, touch you in a way that we all need to be now and again.
© Alex Eades 7 August 2005 - Published on edinburghguide.com
Runs until 13th August at 13:00.
Company - The Holocaust Project.
Manopause. (Page 163).
Venue Sweet Ego. (Venue No 204).
Address Sweet Ego, Picardy Place.
Reveiwer Ariadne Cass.
Manopause is an unusual piece of theatre - a show which deals with the angst and confusion of male, middle class, white heterosexuals in Edinburgh. It is a potentially very interesting premise, and my expectations are quite high. What is the modern man? How do men define themselves in what is essentially an undefined era of gender roles?
I soon find myself disappointed on a few counts. The question, although asked, is never answered, and what could possibly have been a thoughtful exploration of the subject seems to be clouded by lack of direction and by the temptation to make gay jokes. Film is heavily employed as a medium to the point of self indulgence. Many of the filmed sketches would have been easier to see, and funnier, staged. What the audience is given is half a film, and half a sketch show. The film itself contains occasional nuggets, in particular the street interviews. But overall there is far too much of it.
The 'Manopause boys' are natural performers and the show is very funny. But ultimately I learn absolutely nothing about the state of modern men, and quite frankly, if the worst you can complain about, after hundreds of years of oppression of the sexes, is confusion, then that's just tough.
©Ariadne Cass 7th August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs 4 - 29 August at 20:45.
Company - Born Ready Productions.
Company Website www.bornreadyproductions
Martha Loves Michael. (Page 163).
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.
Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of a topical news story, as this show's title might suggest, a fan's obsession with Michael Jackson is used solely as a handy metaphor for escapism of many kinds. Martha's love of the superstar is the one certainty in her life, her sole retreat from an existence that terrifies and bores her in equal measure. Martha is the link between three other characters, all equally desperate for escape and understanding, all finding different ways to temporarily forget their everyday lives.
The acting is exceptional, with each performer displaying spectacular talent, and interacting with each other to create wholly believable relationships. Michael Begley, who co- wrote the script, is particularly convincing (chillingly so in fact), as Barry, the mild mannered, quietly menacing bus driver who fights a constant, silent battle with his own abhorrent desires.
On the whole, the narrative is well paced, with the characters developing consistently throughout the play. The ending however is somehow both predictable and unlikely, and feels like it has been hastily tagged on in a bit of a panic. This unfortunately detracts from the performance as a whole, and leaves the audience feeling more bewildered than rewarded. Overall though, this is a thought-provoking and memorable play, with the quality of the performances making up for any inadequacies in the plot.
© Ruth Clowes 20 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 29 August at 14:30
Company - Ruffian Productions.
Company Website - www.ruffianproductions.co.uk.
The Maun's A Balloon. (Page 163).
Venue Roxy Art House (Venue 115).
Address 2 Roxburgh Place.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.
This show's title may mystify some of its potential audience, unfamiliar with the Embro descriptive for a foolish or boastful person. This would be a pity, for Thistle Sifters' tight little number offers clearly well-researched background on one of this city's most neglected luminaries. More than a few of us may have encountered a character of the type portrayed by Robert Stuart as James Tytler - the kind of improvident, ever-confident chaser after straws which slip through the fingers of more grounded mortals, but of which they retain a firm grasp as they determinedly pursue their goals, regardless of the cost to themselves or others.
Tytler was one of several 'lads o pairts' thrown up by an enlightened eighteenth century and the Scottish system of education - familiar with prescription chemistry, medicine, and the science of his day, editor of the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, taking it from a three volume miscellany to ten volumes of authoritative information, instigator and perpetrator of the first manned balloon flights in the British Isles and political agitator and pamphleteer.
A life so busy can scarcely be given its due in the space of one hour, and the political Tytler is less in evidence than the aeronautic, leaving the audience to wrestle with late eighteenth century radical politics in very small space. Nevertheless, Robert Stuart is an engaging performer, taking his audience confidently through the vicissitudes of Tytler's colourful, hazardous life with an easy grace which wisely ignores the passing thirty years of age his character goes through in the space of a pleasantly packed hour.
©Bill Dunlop 4th August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 13 August at 20.55, then 14 to 20 August at 22.25.
Company Thistle Sifters.
Me and Marlene (Page 163).
Venue Cafe Royal Fringe Theatre. (Venue 47)
Address 17 West Register St.
Reviewer Neil Ingram.
When you seek to portray on stage a celebrity as well known as Marlene Dietrich, you have to aim high if you are to succeed. Some of your audience may have seen her live when she performed in Edinburgh 40 years ago, and many will have grown up knowing her songs and seeing her image on film.But Patricia Hartshorne achieves this and more in her new show, which she has written and directed with Michael Elphick.
The show tells the story of Dietrich's life from her early days performing in Berlin, through her first major film, Der Blaue Engel, the move to Hollywood and her growing fame as a screen star, her wartime performances and her later life in Europe. It is told in a blend of narrative and song, with just enough story to provide a framework to some beautifully performed songs. There are many highlights, including of course "Falling in Love Again" and "Lily Marlene", and also "You're the Cream in my Coffee" and Cole Porter's "You do Something to Me". I particularly liked the Burt Bacharach arrangement of "Where have all the Flowers Gone?", a highlight of her 60s stage act, sung with a poignant mixture of regret and anger, and Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose".
Although it's a conventional way to present a singer's life, it's very well thought out and stylishly presented. Patricia Hartshorne really gets beneath the skin of one of the most charismatic performers of the twentieth century, and brings her stage presence to life before us.
©Neil Ingram 20 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 13.45.
Company Gloves Off Productions
Company Website www.glovesoff.co.uk
Meat. (Page 163).
Venue Underbelly. (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Guy Woodward.
This hugely energetic production of Ethan Lipton’s Meat is visceral and startling. Superbly physically directed and frequently hilarious, the play survives its abridgement necessitated by Underbelly schedules and more than succeeds in delivering a hefty kick to the audience’s collective pants.
Until the play’s bloody conclusion, the action is split between two animal communities. Half concerns a trio of dogs, eking out a paw to mouth existence on the mean backstreets of an anonymous American metropolis, scuffling and fighting over slabs of meat, slaves to their pure animal lust for food and sex. We meet Heinz, a troubled and confused ex police dog, Willy, his intemperate and high pitched accomplice, and Poopsy, a deceptively tough female pitbull. The other half concerns three female gazelles in the city zoo, engaged in a complex game of social one- upmanship as they attempt to secure the affections of Buck, the herd’s alpha male. These are: queen bitch Babette, her long standing stooge Evelyn, and large bottomed Clara, a new gazelle on the block, initially rather unsure of herself in the face of taunts and jibes.
The contrast between the two groups is brilliantly rendered, and this is testament to an extraordinarily physically skilled cast. The dogs yelp, scream and roll around the stage, crashing into dustbins as they scrap and curse; the gazelles preen and pose on an elevated area like Stepford wives. The message may be writ large - either you eat meat or you are meat - but the real achievement of this production lies in the subtlety of observation. This is an unfairly talented ensemble, but special praise must go to Katrine Bach, who plays Babette with ruthless and sickening fragrancy, the Mary Archer of the gazelle world, and Rebecca Hunter whose boundless energy as Poopsy enlivens some of the weaker moments in the scenes set in the alley. Succulent.
©Guy Woodward 27 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 August at 21.15
Company – Upstart.
Medea. (Page 163).
Venue Rocket at Demarco Roxy Art House (Venue 115).
Address Lady Glenorchy's Church, Roxburgh Pl.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.
The idea of transplanting Euripides' Greek tragedy Medea into present day British working class life is a daring gamble, but it works well enough as a concept. Medea, forcefully played by Emma Buck, is the put-upon mother of two whose restless husband Jason, John Johnson, is looking to free himself from the shackles of family responsibility. He soon ups and leaves in search of money and a younger model, which he finds in wealthy businessman William Creon, Chris Williams,and his off-stage daughter Grace. Medea can't pay the bills without her child support, and when Creon offers to solve her money worries if only she'll offer him a 'service' in return, things start to turn nasty in the way that only Greek tragedies can.
On the plus side, props are imaginatively and economically used. Who'd have thought that two babies could be successfully represented by a couple of old bin liners? Emma Buck in particular delivers a brave performance, and her physical mobility is impressive – downtrodden by a brutal masculine society, the image of her crawling under the feet of her male oppressors is fairly striking.
However, as trendy as 'physical theatre' might be these days, it's very much overused in this case. Quite what's gained by having the two male leads slide around on each other's backs is beyond me. As for Medea and Jason's cringe-worthy disco-dancing routine, it has to be seen to be believed. The production is ultimately let down by a clunky script – don't mention the Tweenies in a Greek tragedy, for God's sake. Still, held together by a strong performance from the leading lady, this could have been a lot worse.
©Edmund Gould 20 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 20 August at 16:25 (1hr).
Company – Zero.6 Theatre Company.
Men of the World. (Page 163).
Venue The Subway. (Venue 79).
Address 69 Cowgate.
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.
Men of the World are a little lost. They're meant to be bus drivers on a trip to Scarborough, but their escapades are mostly off the map. It's not that they're bad actors or the play is particularly dire, more that it doesn't know where it's going and gets side-tracked along the way.
The stage set-up is quite literally a bus information centre. There's no confusing where you are - a bold red and white sign screams 'East Yorkshire'. The intimate space is stuffed with luggage. When the characters speak for the first time, you can tell you're in Yorkshire. That's the good part. The trouble is the long, bumpy trip they take the audience on. Three drivers give detailed explanations of their passengers, then become them by donning head scarves for the old women, hats for old men. It's funny at first, but soon their actions become stereotyped, their dialogue repetitive. These characters would do well in stand-up, but seem lost in a well-scripted plot.
The journey becomes a little less bumpy when the group of travellers arrive at a two-star seaside resort for the night, and a cabaret act unfolds. The only female actor gives a charming rendition of 'All that Jazz', tells a few jokes, then disappears. It's entertaining, but misplaced.
When the mystery trip is over, it's a relief. It could be faster, more rehearsed and the blocking a little more structured so characters don't cover each other. Perhaps with a little re-routing and more speed, this play could move up a gear.
©Marisa de Andrade 6 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 21 August, 20.30.
Company - Harland Hamstrings Theatre Group.
Me, Not I. (Page 163).
Venue Sweet Ego (Venue 204).
Address 14 Picardy Place.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.
With Me, Not I, the aptly named Human Symphony Orchestra have composed a beautiful, poetic performance, with ordinary objects and everyday actions as its music, and a heartfelt message at its core. A woman takes a sip of water and lies down to sleep, she wakes, looks at her phone and gets up, this action is repeated in a recurring, rhythmic bass line. Meanwhile, around her, other people are completing their own tasks, a man repeatedly lights and blows out a candle while a woman searches through a gold plated rubbish bin, examining her finds as if they are treasure, all are utterly absorbed in their own cyclic actions.
Through this reiteration we are forced to examine in detail the simple everyday objects and actions which we take for granted, to see the innate beauty in the mundane. To really push this point home, the props, including a rubbish bin, bicycle and kettle, have been somewhat unnecessarily painted gold and covered in glitter and jewels. This does give the set an attractively opulent quality though, and the continually echoed circular, gem encrusted forms on the stage add an extra layer of reverberation to the rich melody.
The problem with all this repetition is that it does get a bit, well, repetitive - there is a seriously soporific element to this show, which threatens to overwhelm at times. This is not helped by the dim lighting, or by the minimal acoustic element, which consists only of a few muted notes on a cello, the gentle whirring of the fan and the tick-ticking of the spinning bicycle wheel. Sleep-inducing qualities aside, this is a unique and mesmerising piece of theatre, with a universal, valuable message.
© Ruth Clowes 19 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 21 August at 12:30
Company - Human Symphony Orchestra.
Company Website - www.hso.ru
2005 - The Dark Root. (Page 164).
A Midsummer Night’s Dream From the East. (Page 164).
Venue C . (Venue No 34)
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Ed Thornton .
Shakespeare in another language doesn’t sound much fun and when it’ s lead by the verse with the movement following it’s generally not. But Korean based Yohangza Theatre Company have reversed the convention, demoted the spoken word to second place and created a piece of theatre so astounding in it’s physicality, it makes no difference the average audience member won’t understand much of what’s being said.
They are assisted in the telling of their tale by the almost universal familiarity of Shakespeare’s famous comedy of magic and mischief in the enchanted wood. Gliding across the stage with the grace of ballerinas and the comic energy of clowns the cast are kept in check by the rhythmic beats of a mass of percussion instruments behind them.
As in every staging of this play, the four lovers are less interesting than the supernatural entities and their minions whose genders director Yang Jung Ung has seen fit to re-shuffle. Titania becomes a man whose wandering eye causes his wife Oberon to put a spell on him so he falls in love with the first creature he sets eyes on. Cue old Bully Bottom Park So Young. As the only mechanical to represent in this particular production, this tiny lady (another gender exchange) possesseses a comic stage presence that more than makes up for the lack of her friends, she is fantastic.
In their white tunics with sashes made from sacking, the whole cast display precise physicality and expressive facial expressions that challenge the effect of even the great bard’s words. There are helpful lines in English dropped in occasionally as navigation tools, but if you’re a bit rusty on the goings on in the wood it might be wise to read a synopsis before you go..
©Ed Thornton 11 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29 at 16.15.
Company Yohangza Theatre Company.
Company Website www.yohangza.com
Minor Irritations. (Page 165).
Venue Pleasance Dome . (Venue 23).
Address Bristo Square.
Reviewer Ed Thornton.
Lonely out of work actor Ben, Peter Jackson, needs to evaluate his life choices - against the better judgment of his friend, Dulcie Lewis, he decides to set off to New York to visit his ex, Nick White. Who he still loves. To clear his head! Accompanied by his ‘Emotional Diary’, a book in which he writes all his profound, ground breaking thoughts, this sensitive soul embarks on a journey of self actualisation in the Big Apple.
The performances are solid and there are some tender moments here, but I have my own minor irritations with this show, the foremost being that the script is painfully self indulgent. It’s like writer/performer Jackson is using the stage as his very own emotional diary, and one can’t help wondering to what degree this is a documentary..
©Ed Thornton August 8 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29 at 5.40.
Company - Instant Irritant Productions.
Missing Persons - Four Tragedies and Roy Keane. (Page 165).
Venue Assembly @ George Street (Venue 3).
Address Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.
Classical actor Greg Hicks stars in this one-man show consisting of five monologues written by Irish playwright Colin Teevan. Hicks' most recent work includes playing Hamlet during last year's Tragedies season at the Royal Shakespeare Company. His flair for portraying dark drama and tortured masculinity is the perfect match for Teevan's engrossing, melancholy tales of anger, loss and desperation.
The stories unravel with the poetic resonance of Greek legend, the themes of myth and fable amplified by Hicks' lyrical, technically skillful delivery. His performance breathes life into each of the embittered, wretched characters we encounter, eliciting a guilty empathy for even the most unforgivable acts of violence and cowardice. There are welcome moments of humour in all this gloom, and the final tale, the light-hearted "Roykeaneiad", is full of irony and dark comedy.
At times the writing slips into sentimentality, with the third story, of a man waiting on a beach with a bunch of a flowers for a lover who we know will never come, being over-populated with lazy botanical metaphors. There are a few uneasy moments too in scenes where Hicks is required to speak the dialogue of both characters in a heated argument, with the story itself taking a back seat to the performance. However, these are minor points on a show which is consistently well written, beautifully acted and which, even its darker moments, carries with it a message of hope and redemption.
© Ruth Clowes 9 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 29 August (not 15) at 12:30
Company - Eleanor Lloyd/Critical Mass.
Company Website - www.elproductions.co.uk.
Modern Dance for Beginners. (Page 165.)
Venue Venue 13.
Address Lochend Close, Canongate .
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.
Sex, relationships, love, marriage - these mean different things to different people. But somehow, we're all inextricably linked through our experiences of some form of these physical and mental acts. Whether we're learning how to love, to please, to let lovers in - we're initially beginners, trying to make sense of it all. Modern Dance for Beginners assures us we are not alone in our quests to understand the language that needs no words.
But it's a good thing there are words in this racy play, as they're the backbone of the impressive display. Writer Sarah Phelps has scripted a powerful tale - a series of separate scenes cleverly intertwined through direct dialogue. Her work can only be as a result of a deep and thorough understanding of the human condition, patiently observed and masterfully penned.
She creates the dilemma of a newly married groom slipping into the traps of infidelity only hours after tying the knot. Yet portrays him so pitifully that you cannot condemn him for it. He's misunderstood and doesn't understand. Neither does the bridesmaid he sleeps with - arguably the only woman he has ever loved. After this fast-paced scene enacted by actors mature beyond their years, the extraordinary cast of six dance their way into the next scene. Their movements on the contemporary set are both functional and suggestive. They complete costume changes whilst swaying their hips and flirting with the audience. Then the next exchange begins with new characters so distinct in manner, yet equal in suffering. The individual acts could stand as mini-shows on their own, but are perfectly fused together to form part of a coherent play.
The subject matter isn't mild, but it's tastefully executed. And where razor-sharp words don't serve to heighten the moment, provocative actions do. It's an hour of dancing around the topics of sex, relationships, love, marriage. See it and you may not feel like such a beginner.
©Marisa de Andrade 11 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August, not 15 & 16, various times.
Company - RWCMD.
Monkey Think, Monkey Do. (Page 165).
Venue The Zoo. (Venue 124).
Address 140 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Marisa de Andrade.
It's almost like monkey see, monkey do, but is fundamentally different. You see in this monkey phenomenon, one isn't carrying out an action one's already seen another carry out. No, one's acting on impulse, carrying out one's own urges. And there's only one person to blame for the worldwide trend. Frank. Frank, who decided one glorious day to claw himself out of the firm clasp of society, and did what he wanted to do right then and there. And so Monkey Think, Monkey Do was born.
It isn't a brand new concept. I'm sure we've all thought of what would happen if we left our inhibitions at the door and dared to shock mankind. But We Could Be Kings manages to present the idea in a novel if not tangible manner. Despite the subject matter being so blatantly silly, there's just enough truth from the actors and incidents they enact to make the whole display seem feasible.
Their tale is told within a montage - a mishmash of scenes fused by cheeky 'monkey' music and a competent narrator. He casually introduces the impressive characters, who're magically brought to life by three first-rate actors. As the Monkey marvel gets out of hand in the real world, the characters' erratic actions spiral out of control. And the acting gets stronger; the notion more surreal.
Eventually Monkey Think, Monkey Do catches up with Frank after over an hour of irrational behaviour. And entertaining as it was, it's quite a relief the monkey's been tamed. It's slightly philosophical, a tad fanatical, most definitely enjoyable, ahead of its time, but also somewhat retro. I'd say this ensemble hasn't received the attention it deserves.
©Marisa de Andrade 26 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August, 18.40.
Company - We Could Be Kings.
Moriarty Is Crying. (Page 166).
Venue Hill Street Theatre.
Address 19 Hill Street..
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.
Emergency Productions have done well by this black farce from Derek Boyle and Raymond Friel.
In a small town somewhere in Scotland's Central Belt, three young men are stirring up trouble for themselves and others. Disenchanted by the dead ends thier lives appear to have wandered down, self-condemned to lives revolving around play-station based fantasies, they plot the big heist which will somehow magically liberate and elevate them. Johnny, Andrew Stephenson, sinks ever deeper into his parent's debt as they attempt to fund an ever grander life style from a share of his wages at the local electrical goods, while his friend Ralph, Paul Chaal, fuels near-psychotic grandiosity on large amounts of alcohol.
With the questionable assistance of Kenny, Ronald Agnew, they plan to rob a consignment of plasma screen TVs. However, they've reckoned without the intervention of local 'Mister Big' Cormack, Andy Brown. Although rightly played for the many laughs in Boyle and Friel's script, this is at times at the expense of the potential tension which also exists within the piece. Nevertheless, some fine acting and excellent ensemble work help to highlight the changing shades within the script, which veers from situation comedy to stark near-tragedy in the space of just over an hour.
In such a fine ensemble cast it's invidious to single out performances, but Ronald Agnew subtly judged performance once agian demonstrates that there are indeed no small parts, merely small actors. Moriarty Is Crying is one of two plays appearing on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe partly as a result of grants from the WR Foundation, established by Willy Russell and Tim Firth, with David Pugh, in order to enable new writers to present their work as part of the Fringe. Moriarty Is Crying amply demonstrates the value of allowing writers to develop work in these highly competitive conditions and to learn in and by the process.
©Bill Dunlop 10 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29th at 20.00 every day, not 17th August.
Company Emergency Production with Theatre In Action.
Moving On Up. (Page 166).
Venue Roxy Art House (Venue 115).
Address Lady Glenorchy's Church, Roxburgh Place.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop .
'There's nothing wrong with entertainement' a director friend reminds me when seriousness keeps breaking in - and of course she's prefectly right. When the Fringe and this reviewer were younger, shows with the cheerful spirit of Moving On Up could be found, in the days before 9/11 and 7/7 manipulated our anxieties into paranoias. Molly, Clare Naylor, is a flight attendant with several challenges on her first flight, two of them in the shapes of the talented Stephanie Halimi and Robert Brazil, a pair of passengers as argumentative as two terrorist factions if slightly less dangerous.
Fear of flying, however, gives way to fear of the unknown other, however, as relationships tentatively form on a Thanksgiving day flight from New York to Boston. This slight flight gives the cast a variety of opprtunities to entertain the audience and present their skills in acting, song and dance. They're an enjoyable ensemble, who work well together and obviously enjoy doing so. Moving On Up isn't quite in real time nor quite in reality, but makes for a very pleasant cocktail and much better for one than those bloody marys. t cocktail
Once the Fringe was intended as a counterweight to the solidly constructed Official Festival programme, a place where both performers and audiences could relax a little and take the weight off their minds. In amid the busy traffic, which is possibly the world's largest trade show for theatre-based product, it's refreshing to find three young performers willing to take things back to a simpler and possibly more pleasant age.
One of Scotland's serious national newspapers makes a 'Spirit of the Fringe' award, which has been given to a number of deserving individuals since its inception. The real spirit of the Fringe, however, does not rest in individuals but in the collective commitment and action of performers and companies such as this group.
©Bill Dunlop 10th August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 13 at 16.25 every day
Company - Behoovers
Murder We Wrote. (Page 166).
Venue Café Royal Fringe Theatre (Venue 47).
Address 17 West Register Street.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.
As enthralling as Dame Agatha Christie's mysteries are, she could not have cooked up one as "wacky" as this. WeaselFood Productions - despite having already been through a week of Fringe audiences - are on top form today and what is most impressive is that the company is completely balanced. There are no performers less convincing than the others and this makes for a really enjoyable "evening - I mean - afternoon" - as observed by Andy Pandini (I can't make up my mind as to whether this is a real name, but am disappointed there is no Loopy Lou in the company!) as Detective Flashwing - our witty compere.
Actually, the time of day is really the only problem with the production. Something as fun and interactive as this (I won a prize for guessing the killer correctly!) should be programmed accordingly for people to attend when they are relaxed and ready to throw themselves into the audience participation role. I'm afraid something in my conscience or just my common sense, prevents me from drinking alcoholic beverages before the evening kicks in, so I wasn't at my most forthcoming. Maybe if the play was toured to Germany?
Another selling point for me is that this production really does make you think differently about the things we children-of-the-80s watched on television. The likes of Timmy Mallet, Gordon the Gopher, Going Live and all the others I'm too embarrassed to own up to remembering, all take on a new - more sinister - feeling of tackiness and consumerism. Eeek...
This said, I really enjoyed this - they just need a more enthusiastic and lively audience to help them along, so get your tickets and maybe even dress up accordingly (see Sarah Green and Paul Schofield for style ideas!)
©Lauren McKie 15 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 20 at 12:00.
Company WeaselFood Productions
Company Website - www.weaselfood.co.uk
My Pyramids! Or: How I Got Fired From the Dairy Queen and Ended Up in Abu Ghraib, by PFC. Lynndie England. (Page 167).
Venue Traverse Theatre. (Venue 15).
Address Cambridge Street, off Lothian Rd.
Reviewer Ksenija Horvat.
My Pyramids is a show about Lynndie England, the US private who came to disrepute when featuring in the photos depicting tortured Iraqi war prisoners in Abu Ghraib. This is not a theme to be taken lightly, it deals with the issues that go far beyond the question of female notoriety. This play is about unnecessary warmongering and uncalled for violence, it is about the society that demonises its children as easily as it glorifies them. It is also about ignorance, justification of the unjustifiable, hiding one’s head in the sand and pretending that all of this is happening somewhere else and has nothing to do with us. Wrong. It has everything to do with us, because we are all potential Lynndie Englands, Charles Graners and Jeremy Sivits.
Does this statement make you raise your eyebrows?
The people who commit atrocities are never monsters to begin with, any messy war situation can unleash a monster that hides in all of us, what the playwright Judith Thompson calls walking through the looking glass. This is an important point that needs to be made, and My Pyramids hints at it, but fails to clearly state it.
The playwright does not turn Lynndie into an unsympathetic character, quite rightly, and in Waneta Storms’s interpretation she comes across as a real ingénue, puerile and uneducated. Storms gives a solid performance and succeeds to keep our attention throughout the show. She even gets a few laughs from the audience.
And here is the rub. This show is entertaining. It is well written and competently performed, no doubt. But it does nothing to challenge the audience’s attitudes, or add to the ongoing political debate surrounding the Iraqi conflict. If anything, it trivialises these issues in the name of remaining unbiased, and, therefore, it becomes rather pointless, despite the author’ s good intentions, Storm’s best efforts, or Ross Manson’s apt direction.
© Ksenija Horvat 10 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs at various times not Mons to 28 August..
Company Volcano (Canada).
Company Website www.volcano.ca