|Edinburgh : A&E : Festivals : Fringe Theatre Reviews|
None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
The Rap Canterbury Tales. (Page 173).
Venue C. (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Guy Woodward.
Chaucer is rubbish. Any poor sod who’s been forced to wade through all eight million pages of Troilus and Criseyde, his most grandiose study in dullness, takes that as read, and recognises that almost all of the work of literature’s most elevated tax collecting rapist is nowt more than farts and mirrors. Rap music is also, for the most part, a culturally barren wasteland, seemingly entirely populated by overweight criminals brandishing tasteless jewellery and lethal weaponry, complaining loudly, insistently and falsely about their miserable, mink lined existences. So to combine the two and come up with something even barely tolerable would be a considerable triumph.
Baba Brinkman, a rapper and scholar from Vancouver has done much more than that. His rap reworkings of three of Chaucer’s most famous Canterbury Tales are frequently engaging and entertaining, and inject the familiar stories with some much needed invigoration. Instead of amongst a group of pilgrims on the road between London and Canterbury, we find ourselves on the tour bus of a hip hop collective, who are forced by their imposing MC to compete in a battle of wits and wordplay. And so the tales of the Pardoner, Miller and Wife of Bath are told, thankfully not to the sound of some bloody lute, but to the thumping background of hip hop beats and urban sound effects, as the tales are transposed by Brinkman to new situations that are more Compton than Canterbury.
For the most part, miraculously, this works, although the second half of the show, in which Brinkman gives us a self confessed five minute “lecture ” on the rise, fall and renaissance of oral literature, before donning a headscarf and faintly absurd effeminate voice to tell the Wife of Bath’s tale, is far less absorbing than the out and out vulgar excitement of the Miller’s and Pardoner’s tales. Brinkman is an excitable and enthusiastic performer, and this can sometimes grate, but on the whole this show succeeds in busting a cap in the withered ass of old Geoffrey.
©Guy Woodward 20 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 29 August at 17.00.
Company – Babasword Productions.
The Red Shoes. (Page 173).
Venue C Central . (Venue No 54).
Address Calton Hotel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Ed Thornton .
The dark and sinister subtext of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairytale is given physicality in Touch My Toes Theatre’s highly stylised The Red Shoes . Effectively transported to the suitably dark backdrop of war, a young girl steals a pair of red stilettos from her dead mother’s corpse. The first pair of many, these shoes give her a temporary escape from the reality of her life. Initially they allow her to dance above her problems, but ultimately they dance her to her death.
Most of the merit of this piece is down to Anderson’s original story. A morality tale where the little girl who steals and dances in church is punished by having her feet chopped off and left to bleed while her shoes still dance. It’s a wonder he wrote it for children, but it’s a compelling read.
It’s somewhat let down by the performers however, who are unremarkable at best. In the highly emotive moments there is little that convinces, and their physicality is rather slipshod and heavy. The relocation into an un-named war zone works well, but when the young girl dances through the death of the battle fields it’s the gruesome images conjured by the text that is evocative rather than acting. A brave adaptation of a fantastic story, but sadly this production lets it down.
©Ed Thornton 06 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 16 at 18.00.
Company Touch My Toes Theatre.
Rehearsal. (Page 174).
Venue C Electric. (Venue 50).
Address Clerk St (formerly Odeon).
Reviewer Alex Eades.
As soon as you walk into The Rehearsal, you immediatly feel comfortable and ready to stay there for quite a while. The audience sits in a bar-like setting and handed free beer (Yes free!!) before the performance begins. And then it begins. By the end, both the actors and the audience are exhausted. For them, because it is a highly physical piece and for us because we all have to keep up with what is going on.
The Rehearsal is an interesting look at the methods of creativity and is expertly acted by the female duo. Fast and funny, it also allows for audience participation which, although I was one of those people who suddenly became very interested in the shading of my beer bottle when the moment arrived, is actually not that daunting in that setting. Despite this, the show does has its flaws. The audience do find themselves a little lost at times (including the participants who have copies of the scripts) and the space isn’t really suited for their physical performance. On numerous occasions, they bumped into tables and spilt beer. Okay it was free, but I don’t think my I-pod underneath my t-shirt liked it very much. A bigger space is needed, but a similar setting that suits its intimate feel.
Overall, this is a show worth seeing, but it might be an idea to take an umbrella and some welly’s......no, that’s just bitterness. Free beers, some laughs and great performances. A great evening.
©Alex Eades 18 August 2005-Publised on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 29 August.
Company - Pigeon Theatre.
Richard II. (Page 175).
Venue Augustine's (Venue 152).
Address 41 George IV Bridge.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.
It's almost unheard of these days to find a Shakespeare production that stays entirely faithful to the original. It's as if people think that we'll only understand what's going on if the actors are wearing a suit and tie, using a mobile phone and brandishing firearms at every turn. While in terms of costumes and design Ariel Productions' Richard II is no exception, it's a relief to find that the one thing they haven't changed is Shakespeare's text. This is a competent, slick production, if a little lacking in ambition, that relies on the power of the script rather than any directorial gimmicks to make its impact.
Richard, Duncan Barrett, is a king whose rule has been poisoned by his own greed and corruption. Surrounded by a parasitic bunch of cronies, his abuse of power has alienated some of his subjects, including the exiled Bolingbroke, Chris O'Rourke. When his dying father John of Gaunt, played with real gravitas by Will Irwin, has his estate confiscated by the King, the rebellious Bolingbroke returns and dares to challenge the monarch, leading of course to political and emotional turmoil.
Barrett skilfully portrays Richard's fall from grace with quiet sensitivity, while O'Rourke is full of steely resolve as the increasingly flawed rebel. In terms of the supporting cast, a satisfyingly nasty David Walton stands out as Bolingbroke's henchman Northumberland. That said, it all looks a little bit bland; the set is starkly minimalist, and the pace tends to drag in scenes not graced by the lead actors. With a little more colour and dynamism, this could have been a real belter. Still, it's a confident production that does what it says on the tin, and for that matter, does it pretty well.
©Edmund Gould 22 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 16:50 (1hr 40 mins), not 22, 23, 25, 27 August.
Company – Ariel Produtions.
Company Website www.ariel.soc.ucam.org
The Riot Group: Switch Triptych. Page 20.
Venue Assembly at George Street. (Venue 3).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Garry Platt.
The Riot Group are a theatre company who frequently explore political themes through their plays and use the narrative of theatre to expose or 'confront the clichés of a post-modern ideology'. Nothing ever gets handed to you on a plate with this company, you have to listen, follow, absorb and analyse the words being spoken to understand what is going on. This is theatre with depth, or so they'd have us believe.
Sometimes this form of political theatre can slip into old fashioned arty farty bollocks, but not with this production, it's just plain old fashioned bollocks with none of the arty fartyness. Adriano Shaplin the writer, producer and actor within the Riot Group tells the tale of the Bell telephone company who in 1919 began to change their manned telephone exchanges to automated centres, with no switch operators to connect and transfer calls. It was automation, progress at the expense of the human resource and the first 30 minutes is spent shaping, defining and introducing us to the people who are about to be replaced by a more efficient system. Unfortunately the people chosen to represent the work force and management appear to consists of alcoholics, brain deads, half wits, bitter twisted bitches, perverts and completely bone idle to boot. When eventually the machine is introduced which is to replace them all I was rooting for the machine - anything to get these morons the sack and this tedium off the stage.
I'm sorry I just didn't enjoy this production, I didn't care whether these people lost their jobs or not, they certainly didn't deserve them so why should I give two hoots whether a machine replaced them? As for the play being a reflection or expose of the current corporate climate and the global economy. Well, if you're a worker, in the proletariat sense of the word you'll already know everything this play might have to say on that subject and a hole lot more besides - go and spend your hard earned cash on something more informed and entertaining.
©Garry Platt 9 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to the 29 August at 12:15 every day.
Companies - Soho Theatre Company & Chantal Arts with Assembly Theatre and Marshall Cordell.
Company Website - www.sohotheatre.com
Robert Burns - The Illuminated Memory. (Page 175).
Drams . It is only right to partake of a few wee drams of the bard's beloved "barley-brie" on this very Scottish evening.
Venue The Royal College of Surgeons (Venue 122).
Address Nicholson Street.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.
If you fancy a change from comedy and theatre then how about this - a fascinating evening lecture focussing on the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns. David Purdie tells Burns' story, giving a thorough overview of his work and personal life, and relating his activities to those of other writers and thinkers of the time. This monologue is accompanied by contemporary images and broken up by live performances of some of his more famous songs.
The talk has obviously been meticulously researched and it is interesting to see Burns' life viewed in a wider cultural context. The narrative itself is occasionally overwhelmed however by the sheer number of images that have been squeezed in, and the velocity at which they are shown. The volume of pictures could easily be halved, retaining the most relevant, and ensuring that the audience is able to concentrate on both the talk and the visual accompaniment. The songs, beautifully performed by Soprano Moira Burke, Baritone Douglas Burke and pianist Walter Nimmo offers the opportunity to experience Burns' work as it was meant to be, with the familiar words coming to life in a way impossible through reading them.
While this might not be everyone's idea of a fun Fringe night out, it is certainly informative and Surgeons Hall has the advantage of containing probably the comfiest seating of any Fringe venue. So ask yourself if you really need to see another comedy sketch show, and consider giving this very different evening's entertainment a go instead.
© Ruth Clowes 23 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 25 August at 19:00.
Company - Illumni Productions.
Rope (Page 176).
Venue Rocket at Demarco Roxy Art House (Venue 115).
Address 2 Roxburgh Place.
Reviewer Neil Ingram .
Though Patrick Hamilton's classic thriller from 1929 is better known from the Hitchcock film of the same name, the original stage version is still a fascinating study of the clash between good and evil. It starts with a body in a trunk, and the tension builds as the murderers entertain a group of friends, deliberately invited to share the room with the deceased. While one villain is suave and calm, the other is agitated and becomes increasingly drunk, and a flippant comment from one guest about the possible contents of the trunk becomes a grim foretelling of the gruesome truth. But there are many further twists in the plot of this gripping if not entirely naturalistic play.
In this stylish production by Funbus Productions, the acting is strong throughout, particularly from the two conspirators, Wyndham Brandon, Sam Vieira, and Charles Granillo, Jonny Weller, and their mysterious friend the poet Rupert Cadell, Daniel O'Neill. Nina Stocker's direction is taut and measured, letting the actors find the pace of the unfolding drama. Worth seeing, especially as once the ban on smoking comes into force, it will be almost impossible to stage!
©Neil Ingram 9 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 13 at 22.25.
Company - Funbus Productions .
Rough Crossing (Page 176).
Venue Sweet Ego (Venue 204).
Address 14 Picardy Place.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.
As one of the lesser-known of Tom Stoppard's forays into playing-with-plays, it is educational to see Rough Crossing brought to life here at the Fringe by an energetic and likeable cast. However, the play is lesser-known for a reason, and that, alas, is that it's a bit of a mess.
Adapting Ferenc Molnar's The Play's the Thing, Stoppard indulges his endless capacity for mischief in the service of two playwrights, both of whom are aboard a ship sailing from England to New York, accompanied by a composer and two actors, all of whom are trying to give a final polish to their rom-com-musical hybrid production before the voyage ends. Linking this lot together is the most engaging character of Dvornichek, the ship's steward, who spends much of the play staggering about as if he alone is in touch with the elements in which they exist.
Self-consciousness is not something you can ever 'charge' Stoppard with because its his point, not his downfall. But he has done it so much better elsewhere. Here, the over-bright 1930s tone becomes wearing, as the endless superficiality deflects any attempt to care about these people or their fate. As often happens when sending up the form, the playwright also becomes too interested in his own processes, and the result is cleverness at the expense of involvement.
With some good musical turns, and the spectacle of indentical twins amongst the cast, it's not without its plus-points. But, really, this doesn't show either Stoppard or Theatrical Theatrics Productions at their best.
© Lorraine McCann, 23 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 14:10.
Company - Theatrical Theatrics Productions
Company Website - www.ttproductions.com