|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals : Fringe Theatre Reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Philip Pullman's 'I Was A Rat'. (Page 12).
Venue C. (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Guy Woodward.
This new adaptation of Philip Pullman’s modern day fairytale has potential but sadly fails to sparkle. The first problem is its length. Brevity is truly a virtue at the Edinburgh Fringe, especially in the case of childrens’ shows like this one, and it’s just too long. Billed as lasting an hour, by my reckoning it ran for at least another fifteen minutes, by which time I was thoroughly sick of the whole business, and had succumbed to the welcoming arms of Morphius on at least one occasion. The dim lighting and warmth of the theatre, coupled with the tedium of the storyline, do conspire to create an incredibly soporific atmosphere for the play’s duration. So if you must go, do have some caffeine beforehand.
The second problem is the story itself. Whilst I’m more than willing to be persuaded of the merits of Pullman’s book, and the man himself has endorsed the production, this is, for the most part, simply too dull to engage. It tells the story of a boy, Roger, who appears one night outside the home of a kindly old cobbler and his wife, convinced that he was a rat in a previous life. They take him in and look after him, and although initially shocked and bothered by his rattish mannerisms (bad table manners, preponderance to chew things, etc.) grow to love him as their own, and are devastated when he is snatched away from them by evil circus owner Mr Tapscrew, who is eager to exploit Roger’s freakshow potential.
The play mostly concerns Roger’s descent into circus life and crime, and subsequent redemption, but also relates the story of a controversial royal wedding, between a Prince and a common working girl. By the end of the play it is clear that the two storylines are closely bound together. Well, so what. Barely any of the actors manage to summon the energy to make us care about any of this, although Thew Jones as Roger does a commendable job conveying the physical nature of the rat, and Amy Jackson as the Princess-to-be puts in a suitably fragrant performance. The production feels not so much tired as exhausted, and close to expiring: the use of props is uninspired, the direction sloppy and the music intrusive and irritating. Give this a miss, and go and see Halo Boy instead.
©Guy Woodward 16 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 11.00. except 29 August.
Company – Collapsible Theatre Company.
Phone Play (Page 170).
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)
Address 13 Bristo Place
Reviewer Lorraine McCann
This new comedy 'that reminds you it's not always good to talk' comes from Playground Productions, who brought us The Laramie Project, and Evan Placey, who gave us Dinner on the Fourteenth Floor, so its pedigree is good. It also won a clutch of gongs at the Ontario Drama Festival. Strange, then, that it should turn out to be the play so light that you can see it between phone calls without ruining your appetite.
The set-up is simple: a bunch of people, a bunch of phones. Granted, the hardware is interesting rendered in massive, lurid papier-mache but what we're dealing with here is talking heads. And what do they talk about? Well, it sounds very much like the results of a brainstorming session around the question, 'What do people use phones for?' Answers: sex, test results, surveys, organising events, etc, etc. All stuff we knew already but offered up as if it's news from the frontline. It isn't. Oh, and can I just add a couple of words on the nagging Jewish mother? Enough, already. There's even the old-hat device of having them talk about getting into phone-use as if it were heroin . . . Zzzzzzzzzzz.
The problem with Phone Play is that it bases its entire appeal on the audience's recognition of the fact that we all use our phones way too much and for mostly trivial purposes. And there's only one thing more annoying than knowing that, and doing that, and that's paying nine quid to have a bunch of actors telling you that. Again.
© Lorraine McCann, 15 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 1515 (not 16 or 23).
Company - Playground Productions.
Company Website - www.phoneplay.org.uk
Pilgrims (Page 171).
Venue Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Place.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
Writer Jamie Carmichael is a graduate of the Royal Court's Advanced Invitational Workshop, so you'd expect his newest play to be pretty 'advanced' itself -- and you'd be right.
On a stage backdropped with venetian blinds painted in gorgeous autumnal forests, the characters in Pilgrims play out a story of love, loss and redemption. Tamara's brother has died, so she answers an ad in a personals column and ends up in 'therapy' with a self-appointed guru by the name of Serge, who seems simultaneously to believe in his own methods and yet be unsettled when they seem to have the effect on Tamara of making her believe that she has been visited by her dead sibling. Around and between all this is another relationship between Serge's flamboyant sister, Lauren, and a rather vulnerable, studious type called Alvie.
If this all sounds vague and a bit disjointed, then it's because I have to be honest and say that I found Pilgrims tough going at times. A directorial decision to have spot-effects performed onstage, with actors tapping their feet and clapping their hands and singing, etc., ramps up the attention-level required to comprehend an already challenging script. But the grace and fluidity of the performances, especially that of Eric Murdoch as Serge, is absorbing and the whole thing has a kaleidescopic flair that makes it stand out against other, more route-one writing.
I liked Pilgrims. It's oblique, elusive, profound and probably a little pretentious, but I liked it a lot.
© Lorraine McCann, 16 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27 August at 1330 (not 14 or 21).
Company - Babel Theatre Project.
Company Website - www.babeltheatreproject.org
Pip Utton - Adolf. (Page 171).
Venue Roman Eagle Lodge.
Address 2 Johnston Terrace.
Reviewer Alex Eades.
I first came across Pip Utton last year in a show called In The Name Of The Father, quickly coming to realize that this was an actor of tremendous power who had the ability to scare his audience with as little as a stare or a whispered word. This year, Pip Utton is back. Back with a show that has been here before and indeed has been all around the world with great success. Audiences from all walks of life have flocked to see him. To see a great leader. To see Adolf.
Pip Utton is scary. At least he scares the hell out of me. But when he slips on that jacket, that hair and that moustache, he becomes something that truly does make your blood freeze and your soul shrivel like burnt paper. Utton’s performance is brilliant, outstanding and downright terrifying. You cannot tear your eyes away and your ears are hypnotised by his words, which are perfectly written and researched. The audience are his and, for a while, you believe in what he is saying, which is probably the most frightening thing about the entire experience.
2005 marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Such shows, therefore, are inevitable. There are shows about Hiroshima, the Holocaust and Hitler. “Do we really want to see that?”, I hear you ask. “Take a look at the world around you. Isn’t that enough?”. Perhaps. It’ s your choice. Some shows, however, do a lot more than simply regurgitate the past. Some shows make you look into yourself and confront thoughts and feelings that you didn’t even know you had. Thoughts and feelings that will show their ugly face when you least expect them unless you search them out and understand them. Theatre cannot (or should not) think for you. But it can make you aware. Adolf is one of those shows that do just that. A truly eye opening experience.
©Alex Eades 10 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs at 19:30 until 28th (except 16).
Company-Pip Utton Theatre Co & The Merlin Theatre.
Pip Utton - Bacon. (Page 171).
Venue Pleasance Courtyard. (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Garry Platt.
Frances Bacon even when he was alive was an enigma. Now several years after his death and the passage of time has begun to colour and shape the memory of this unique individual it must be even harder to get closer to the 'truth' what ever that maybe when it comes to knowing and understanding another human being. Pip Utton bravely attempts to do just this in his one man show to cast some light on this incredible artist. Utton in his representation finds a human being and describes a life so far from any social norm that I think I might begin to see how Bacon could have eventually come to produce work which is truly horrifying, his 'Screaming Pope' for instance is hideous and disturbing in its effect. The roots of genius and madness must surely spring from the same plot of ground and Utton's performance illustrates the thin separation of these two qualities.
The relationship that Bacon had with his father appears as a focal point in a significant amount of writing about Bacon as it seems to have been a major influence. Utton does reference it , though it might be argued not to the degree that many might say it warrants. The play focuses on Bacon's sexual dalliances just as much as it looks at Bacon's psychological motivations for painting, neither of these two elements are addressed badly; the former is not salaciously used nor the latter in a purile way.
Utton's performance closely reflects the conflicting qualities of Bacon and he moves through pathos, through the banal, though the visceral like a free running drop of mercury. There is an honesty and depth in Utton's portrayal that only comes from hard work, research and the finest attention to detail. This is a memorable performance.
©Garry Platt date August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to the 28 August at 12:40 every day except 16.
Company – Pip Utton Theatre Company and The Merlin Theatre.
Playback Theatre (Page 171).
Venue Diverse Attractions. (Venue 11).
Address Riddles Court, 322 Lawnmarket.
Reviewer Garry Platt.
Very, very occasionally something will appear on the Fringe which is different from anything else you might have encountered and, because of the wide diversity of the Fringe that is a rare occurrence, but it happened last night. In one of my favourite venues, and in one of my favourite performance spaces I was introduced to the Random Acts Theatre Company.
Here's how the show works; the audience, who are treated gently and respectfully are asked by Tig Land to talk about an incident or a story they would like to share with the group. The cast - Helen Rogerson, Kirsty Dodds, Rachel Earnshaw supported by Richard Brock on a variety of musical and percussive instruments re-enact the scene improvising the situation and using just a handful of props. It's fascinating to watch, almost voyeuristic (in a nice way) and judging by the company's web site highly therapeutic.
This kind of theatre is so novel and different from anything else and also so enjoyable it deserves bigger audiences though I think the performance space they have chosen is perfect for their needs, there's an intimacy I believe needed for this kind theatre and the room within which they perform has it. If you want to see novel, highly original and highly entertaining theatre this Fringe go and watch this show, I absolutely guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Note From Editor - Sadly this space will not be used for theatre next year as it will cease to be a public access building and will be sued for private housing.
©Garry Platt 7 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to the 13 August at 19:30 every day.
Company - Random Acts.
Company Website - www.randomacts.freeuk.com (Informative - worth visiting.).
Playing Burton. (Not in Fringe programme).
Venue Pleasance Dome. (Venue 23).
Address Bristo Square.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.
"Virtuoso writing, lyrical and rich. I had to keep reminding myself that this was not actually Richard Burton in front of me." Norman Mailer.
Playing Burton was a terrific hit at the Fringe in 1994 and 1997, followed by a sell out season in New York and has since had hundreds of performances around the world. Brian Mallon is now back in the role at the Pleasance Dome as a last minute replacement for the cancelled play Stuck.
The stage is set with an elegant button back chair, a table with a bottle of vodka, cigarettes and ashtray. A BBC archive news report states that Richard Burton has died of a cerebral haemmorrhage in August 1984, aged just 58. Brian Mallon saunters on - tweed jacket, rollneck sweater, oil-slicked floppy hair, handsome, chiselled square face, pockmarked skin and intense dark eyes. Already he has captured the look and then we hear the voice, rich and deep - we later learn he smoked over 50 fags a day and three bottles of booze. He scampers through his family history, losing his mother aged 2 and brought up by his elder sister and brother. Leaving school at 14 for a dead end job in an outfitters, his life turns upside down when teacher Philip Burton adopts him as his protégée. Elocution lessons, drama classes and an introduction to Shakespeare leads him on the road to theatrical stardom.
With simple lighting, sound effects and music, the empty stage turns scene by scene into a Hollywood swimming pool party (where he meets and seduces Elizabeth Taylor - "She and I, it had to be" ), Cleopatra and Camelot film sets, and Stratford with a mesmerising extract from Dr. Faustus. Despite a glittering career he never received a knighthood, dying in his prime, tragically destroyed by drink, divorce and excessive success and fame. As Norman Mailer claims, Mallon virtually does become Burton with a subtle yet powerful and truthfully profound performance - especially as he gets progressively drunk. In just over an hour, we are taken on an emotional journey from his humble Welsh childhood to Stratford, Broadway and Hollywood.
©Vivien Devlin, 11 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 1910 every day, not August 18
Company- Andy Jordan Productions.
Poppycock! (Page 172).
Venue Augustine's (Venue 152).
Address 41 George IV Bridge.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
This engaging two-hander from Gist Theatre Company charts a couple's journey into love and back out the other side, the couple in question being Mike and Bex, two very typical co-workers who get together in a state of inebriation and then find their love-lives sobering up, fast.
Written by Jeremy Williams and Lynsey Mellor, who also play Mike and Bex, the piece begins at the end, with each of them talking to a friend on the phone about the sorry state of their love affair. It then rewinds back to the beginning, and takes us through the initial attraction, the drunken kiss, the awkward first date, meeting the parents, the first holiday, and so on. All of this is done with a bittersweet tinge, knowing where they end up, and each of the actors takes on ancillary roles as required, with varying degrees of success.
There's nothing startlingly original about Poppycock!; but what it does, it does with some charm. Mellor is utterly convincing as the slightly ladette-ish Bex, while Williams has a disarming vulnerability. My one suggestion would be that they need to watch the background music doesn't drown out the dialogue at times, but otherwise it's nicely observed and bound to raise many smiles of recognition.
© Lorraine McCann 23 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 16:00.
Company Gist Theatre Co.
The Prelast Of The Monikin. (Page 173).
Venue Augustine's(Venue 152).
Address 41 George IV.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.
Every so often, you hear something which makes you think from a completely different perspective, or about subjects which have never concerned you. The Prelast Of The Monikin - exquisitely and mesmerisingly performed/directed by Nicos Kalamo - bombards you with such moments.
As his name would imply, Kalamo is as Greek as is this monologue by Paris Tacopoulos - and his accent is instantly identifiable as such. However, unlike other heavily-accented performers (some of us Scots being perfect examples), he manages to deliver every word of the text in a clear and engaging voice. Every controversy and complexity of this text is underlined by this performance and it has such a lasting effect on me that I am still contemplating life, existence, death, love, art, religion, war - and everything else - hours later. It isn't just the words which resonate, but also the physical creation of this bizarre figure "Monikin" who conducts his own last rites in preparing us - his congregation - for his "sacrifice". I hardly notice the time go by as I am so drawn in by the character and his philosophical debates.
Unfortunately, the company encountered many problems in bringing this show to the Fringe this year, resulting in no set and no properties - nada...zilch. I can sympathise because I have experienced similar predicaments myself. Nevertheless, the otherwise captivating production is impeded slightly by the lack of appropriate properties and the large, blandly lit venue. This is such a shame because the impact on the audience would be so much greater were the lighting designed and stage set to compliment the performer (eg. shadows on Kamalo's face would work well as his expressions range from outrageously exaggerated to almost impossibly subtle).
Other than the effect of the unlucky setbacks, this is a production well worth seeing and thinking about for days afterward. We have extra fuel for our internal discussion courtesy of the publicity/promotions company, who have kindly printed a copy of the whole script inside the programme. I do like it when people do that! It is very interesting to see how the company has interpreted the script.
Catch The Prelast Of The Monikin while you still can or encourage them to come back next year and do it again (hopefully in better circumstances.)
©Lauren McKie 20 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs till August 29 at 19:05.
Company - Theatrico Phytorio Aeginae.
Pricked (Page 173).
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3).
Address George Street.
Reviewer Ritchie Smith.
'Pricked' is a two-hander written by Anita Sullivan, and 'based' it says here, 'on a true story'. Roz is 'ordinary'. Roz is also HIV positive...
This is a solid achievement with some touching moments, and Ruth Mitchell's perky, expressive voice and lived-in eyes fit the bill excellently. The play is mainly written in standard present-tense monologues, which are effective. Though the story is a little too bogged down in the everyday and the author's research (including details of Roz's insurance-selling job), the email exchanges ('certified virus- free'!) raised a smile. The most imaginative scenes - the expressive language of the near-death hallucinations, for example, or the sea = death metaphor, with a haunting description of drifting away from life and the father-daughter exchanges (featuring Derek Flood ) in the hospital scenes are powerful.
I'm not entirely convinced by the flash-forward, flash-back complications of the story, and on a number of occasions scenes were just coming really alive when they were abruptly truncated. The start is a little awkward, and some lines were fluffed. However, this held me. It is real writing, and real theatre, and recommended.
©Ritchie Smith 10 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 21 (not 16) at 1.45 - 3 pm.
Company Ripple Theatre / Drum Theatre, Plymouth.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Page 173).
Drams None( but One Dram - for the Venue).
Venue Radisson SAS Edinburgh Hotel.
Address 80 High Street.
Reviewer Max Blinkhorn.
You can spend as much money as you like on a production and put it in the best theatre available but the thing that makes it swing and cast its spell upon an audience is the company's desire to put on a good show. The audience of Practical Magic’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie were rooted to their chairs, such was the strength of the company’s efforts for this performance. O.K. "Jean Brodie" is not cutting edge theatre exactly; it’s more of an Edinburgh standard, but this production must have taken some of its audience further than they have ever been before in a theatre. Not that the Radisson Hotel venues are particularly theatrical – they are simply function rooms with a few adaptations. This ought to present a further obstacle to any production but Practical Magic have just got on with it and bent it to their needs.
In case you don’t know "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" was
originally a novel written by Muriel Spark who grew up in Edinburgh.
The story is that of a charismatic teacher in an Edinburgh girl’s school who
has dedicated herself to teaching "her girls" - roll those r's! However,
behind the charisma lurks a needful and injured woman who uses people to glorify
her own dedication and ignores the needs of others. The consequences of her
adherence to such a flawed and warped self-perception turn out to be tragic
for just about everybody close to her. In Practical Magic’s production, Jean
Brodie herself is played by Yvonne Waring who is outstanding.
However, if you know the story in one or more of its many forms, you’ll know
that Sandy, played here by Seonaid Ballantyne steals the show. Her genuine
youth and strong grasp of "Sandy's'" pivotal role in the story results
in a very true and real performance which at points left the audience slack-jawed
and more than a little uncomfortable, which is the way it should be.