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(S) 21 out of 258
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Rating Guide
None = Unmissable

= Unwatchable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme



Salford Stuffers. (Page 176).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue Old St Paul’s (Venue 267)
Address Jeffrey Street.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

As capital globalises and necessarily reduces skill and the initiative to advance, the space which people have to earn money and make sense of their lives (what we used to call work) diminishes also. Deskilled and marginalised, those defined by a term Nazis would be familiar with, this ‘ underclass’, from Auchenshuggle to Zanzibar, find themselves ‘shadow work’ on twilight shifts in order to exist. This is the territory of Christine Marshall’s new play, slicing the lives of women who ‘infill’ newspapers with advertising which they are well aware is binned without a second glance, itself a comment on their own existence. Undiminished by their role, the four characters portrayed bounce their way through a very long night, with acerbic humour and a robust view of life and themselves, whilst retaining dignity and integrity.

It’s certainly an eventful night, in the course of which a murder is discovered, physical and sexual abuses revealed. This may be par for the course for Greater Manchester police, (although one sincerely hopes not) but it’s quite a lot for your average Fringe audience to deal with, as Marshall and her cast steadfastly refuse to pull punches on some powerful material.

There’s fine ensemble playing from a strong cast who obviously enjoy the experience of working together; it’s therefore invidious to single out individual actors, however, Janet Charlesworth’s performance remains a crafted gem of understatement.

Salford Stuffers is one of two plays on this year’s Fringe which have benefited from an award form the WR Foundation, established by Willy Russell, Tim Firth and David Pugh to enable new writers to present new work on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Interviewed shortly after the announcement of the award last year, both Russell and Firth indicated that part of its purpose was to allow writers to take risks and challenge current thinking. On these counts Messrs. Russell and Firth’s intentions have been realised..
©Bill Dunlop 10th August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 13th at 12.15 pm every day.
Company Jelly Shoe Productions.

   

Savages. (Page 176).
Drams full glassfull glassfull glass
Venue Bedlam Theatre. (Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Square.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.

"Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamp-post how it feels about dogs."
Christopher Hampton, Quoted in the Sunday Times Magazine, 16 Oct. 1977.

There is always a danger with productions like this, that the puppets and sets will detract from the one-liners (and Christopher Hampton has provided a great many in this play). I am extremely shocked to discover that in this production puppets work quite well. There are a few points which could improve vastly given a bit more research - the rod puppets are clumsily operated and badly lit. Original rod puppets were lit by coconut lamps and such between the puppeteer and the screen - this would of course, go down extremely well today with the Stage Manager! However, it is still possible (without breaking any regulations) to light between puppeteer and screen - you just need to be very careful.

The acting largely lives up to Bedlam's reputation, but is brought down occasionally by one or two of the cast appearing to lose interest in their co-actors and staring off into space or fidgeting. David Reed as Carlos Esquerdo is extremely sympathetic and holds our attention consistently throughout all of his scenes. Also Tom Ferguson stands out as Miles Crawshaw - everything else sadly, seems a little lacklustre in consideration of the subject the company are dealing with. The Punch and Judy Show (which was superbly puppeteered) also needs a lot more rehearsal as we often struggle to understand what one of the puppets is saying (too high pitched and mumbled).

Savages is one of those really shocking reminders of brutalities the "civilised" world has committed against indigenous cultures - but a script as fast, darkly funny and exciting as this deserves a much more dedicated production. It is a very brave attempt and I would recommend that anyone who is intrigued by the subject see it, but it could be so much better.
©Lauren McKie. 8 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 20 at 18:00 except 14.
Company - Edinburgh University Theatre Company and Entropy Ink.
Company Website - www.eutc.org.uk
   

Scaramouche Jones. (Page 177).

Drams Even this late at night no drams needed.
Venue Bedlam (Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Place.
Reviewer Thelma Good.

a white faces clown in a bowler, tails and wing-collared shirt gazes hands grasping his shirt lapels. He has a big red nose and looks sad.
Scaramouche Jones - Painted Feace ProductionsCo.
Thom Tuck as Scaramouche
© photographer 2005.
Thom Tuck is Scaramouche Jones, a clown who's lived a century. We meet him just after his very last performance on 31 December 1999 in his lifetime he tells us he's worn seven successive white masks. His life starts in Jamaica, and Tuck's birthing scene is worth the ticket price alone. He takes us through Scaramouche's century moving across oceans and countries, and finds him sold into slavery with a Ethiopian snake trader, moving with Gypsies across Europe to Cracow, often on the edge of historical events until he arrives in Britain aged 51. Tuck is a lot younger than even this but his facility with accents, his flexible limbs, his considerable ability to take us on a theatrical journey belie his youthful years.

At first he makes us laugh as only clowns can do, but his Scaramouche is a man whose life and feelings become vivid and moving. Directed by Charlotte Jarvis the production never flags as the face of the clown dissolves to reveal the old but still vigorous man beneath. Justin Butcher's play was first performed by Pete Postlethwaite in 2002, Painted Face Productions in presenting it so well suggest this is a new company worth looking out for. Thom Tuck intends to pursue an acting career and this is a stunning showcase of his ability more than worth staying up late to see. I promise you it will become a performance you'll treasure.
© Thelma Good 19 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
The text of Scaramouche Jones is published by Methuen Books and is available from them and good bookshops.
Runs to 27 August at 22:30 not 21.
Company – Painted Face Productions.
Company Website www.painted-face.co.uk

   

The Screwtape Letters. (Page 177).

Drams full glassfull glassfull glassfull glass.
Venue Charlotte Chapel (Venue 251).
Address 204 Rose Street.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.

Best known for his children's literature, C S Lewis also produced a large quantity of grown-up writing, much of it inspired by his Christian faith and interest in theology. The Screwtape Letters is one such work, originally appearing as a series of letters in a religious journal, it has been adapted for the stage by Nigel Forde.

We follow the everyday, admin-heavy working life of important demon Screwtape, as he coaches his nephew and protegee Wormwood on how to successfully tempt a newly converted Christian away from the faith. The quality of the performances is variable, often veering towards mannered and hammy, with the actor playing Sarin's Dick Van Dyke inspired Cockney accent being a particularly cringeworthy lowlight. The unimaginative set adds to the sense of staleness, being cluttered and utterly uninspiring, and managing to make a fair sized stage look infinitely small and constricting. There is only one kind of joke, an effective example being "you are a true fiend" (instead of "friend", geddit?), and all the humour is based on this one reversal concept. This soon starts to get a bit wearing, and after a while the whole production starts to feel like one long sermon, performed by a very smarmy, self- satisfied vicar who fancies himself as a bit of a comedian.

It beats burning in hell for all eternity, but unless you are a die hard Lewis fan, this is two hours of your day that could be spent on something a great deal more rewarding.
© Ruth Clowes 24 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Run ended
Company - Saltmine Theatre Company.
Company Website - www.saltmine.org

   

Sexual Perversity In Chicago. (Page 179).

Drams full glassfull glass .
Venue Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 21).
Address 2 Johnston Terrace.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

David Mamet's breakthrough play takes the form of a series of short sketches exploring sexuality at its most primitive and animalistic. These days this dark territory seems like familiar ground in the theatre, with writers such as Patrick Marber and Neil LaBute gleefully following in Mamet's sizeable footsteps. Back in 1974, though, the coarse vulgarity of the language and the familiarity of its overlapping, urban rhythms would have sent shockwaves through the stalls, and thirty years on Sexual Perversity In Chicago has lost none of its bite and savagery.

The play follows the sexual meanderings, some more perverted than others, of four young Americans in Chicago. Danny, James Franey, is the best friend of the swaggering Bernie, played by the brilliant Mickey Killianey, and spends most of his life listening in awe to the sordid, depraved tales of his romantic conquests. One day Danny encounters beautiful student Debbie, Joanne Powell, and they proceed to fall in love, much to Bernie's irritation. Melanie Way is suitably hostile and aloof as Joan, Debbie's man- hating best friend, who in one scene comes face to face with the darker side of the male libido in a nasty encounter with Bernie.

The play seeks to dip fleetingly into the lives of its characters rather than follow them on any particular journey, and so there's no great sense of plot. Instead, we're offered fragments of everyday life that expose man as the crude sexual beast that he is. Some scenes work better than others, and it's clear that Mamet writes men infinitely better than he writes women. Killianey is terrific as the macho, posturing Bernie, a man whose sexual mores seem to be left over from the Stone Age. His performance unfortunately stands alone among a slightly ordinary cast, most of whom struggle to master the playwright's distinctive Chicago drawl. Still, it's a slick, spirited production that handles Mamet's wit with relative success.
©Edmund Gould 26 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27 August at 14:10 (55 mins).
Company - SEDOS.

   

Shakespeare For Breakfast (Page 179).
Drams full glassfull glassfull glass.
Venue C Theatre. (Venue 34).
Address C, Chambers Street.
Reviewer Garry Platt.

The best way to explain Shakespeare For Breakfast's (SFB) relationship to the Fringe is to use the British Film Industry as a comparison, SFB is the equivalent of the 'Carry On' movies. They both occupy the same territory; cheap laughs, social stereotypes, cliché, innuendo, crap accents and parody. It's comedy but using material of the lowest common denominator as its main currency. There's nothing essentially wrong with this approach, the audiences prove that - the place is packed out every morning usually with earnest parents with their spick and span children and they appear to enjoy themselves. However to lift this basic fare above the mediocre its needs a Kenneth Williams to breath life into it, and such a person is absent from this production.

The acting is competent, an all female cast, God knows why. The comedic material with which the actors have to work with is frequently groan inducingly bad. Being restricted to this kind of territory means the resuts never achieve anything much above mildy entertaining. There's really not much more I can say about this show, if you enjoy humour of the 'Carry On' variety, SFB is for you, if on the other hand you realise that it's 2005 and the world has moved on, stay away.
©Garry Platt 7 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to the 29 August at 10:00 every day.
Company - C Theatre.

   

Silly Cow. (Page 179).

Drams full glassfull glassfull glassfull glass.
Venue Greyfriars Kirk House (Venue 28).
Address 86 Candlemaker Row.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.

This is the seventeenth Edinburgh Fringe Production for the University of Central Lancashire's Crumpet Theatre Company. It is hard to imagine why, with so much experience under their belt, Crumpet does not use this annual opportunity to support new writing, instead falling back on big name productions, in this case Ben Elton's Silly Cow.

Silly Cow is a comedic farce about a vicious journalist who is the subject of a protracted hate campaign by some of the actors she has insulted in her reviews. It is also a play with serious problems in terms of consistency of pace. The first half is a sluggish drudge, with the emphasis being on introducing the characters, and very little action taking place. Then in the second half, events rapidly accelerate to a frenzied farcical finale. Crumpet make no attempt to address this discrepancy, and the production as a whole feels uneven and unpolished. Performances are variable, with some good delivery, but generally this feels like a very amateur production with the cast falling back on the inherent humour of Elton's acerbic one liners, without injecting too much of their own philosophy into the parts. The set is laughably dull and unimaginative, having more in common with my Gran's front room than the modern city apartment of a successful journalist.

Fans of Ben Elton's writing will no doubt enjoy this production, despite its faults. A big name such as Elton's is guaranteed to draw a respectable audience, but Crumpet needs to stop copping out, and take on some riskier projects if they want to pick up credit for anything other than longevity.
© Ruth Clowes 12 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 14 August at 20:05
Company - Crumpet Theatre Company.
Company Website - www.uclan.ac.uk

   

The Silver Swan. (Page 179).

Drams None.
Venue McEwan Hall (Venue 25).
Address Bristo Square.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.

Tear yourself away from the Pleasance and the Gilded Balloon, with their big name comedians and celebrity packed bars, and turn your attention to Bristo Square's lesser known venue. Something beautiful is happening in McEwan Hall, and it deserves twenty-five minutes of anyone's time.

The performance begins before the audience enters the hall, when a well-dressed, rather formal host welcomes his guests and leads us up to the first balcony, where he proceeds to arrange us according to an elaborate, colour coded system. When we are all seated to our host's exacting standards the immense hall falls silent and group of women in long white dresses glide soundlessly into the cavernous space below us. These seven ethereal singers weave together two haunting seventeenth century melodies, each lost in her own reverie, they seem like ghostly mirages from another era. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the vast chamber, a smaller, more personal drama is taking place.

Long, sinister shadows are cast against intricately carved wood, pitch-perfect voices resonate around the vast, delicate chamber, a complicated seating plan disguises deeper insecurities. As well as being a feast for the senses, this performance provides a deeply emotional experience, which will stay with its audience long after they have left the powerful, fragile interior behind.
© Ruth Clowes 24 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 August (not 26) at 18:00 and 20:00
Company - The Clod Ensemble.
Company Website - www.clodensemble.com

   

Sisters. (Page 180).

Drams None needed.
Venue Assembly Rooms (Venue 3).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Barbara Bryan.

Declan Hassett has especially written this one woman show for the acclaimed Tony award winning 82 year old Irish actress, Anna Managan. Inspired by the story in the bible of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, the play deals with the spiky subject of sibling rivalry, which is fuelled and perpetuated as the years progress by memories of parental favouritism of one child over an other. In two acts, we hear contrasting accounts of Martha and Mary's life in rural Ireland in the 50's and 60's where secrets and misunderstandings abide within their dysfunctional family.

With only a minimal set - a table and chair - we are first of all introduced to Martha - a couthy Irish character, embittered by her beloved father's premature death and unable to relate to a mother she sees as cold and distant - but only to her, not to her sister Mary. In an impassioned outpouring Managan embroils the audience in Martha's pain as she recounts her subjective memories of happiness with her father and subsequent rejection by her mother. Her bitterness is tangible, unabated by the years.

Mary on the other hand, is refined by comparison. A schoolteacher - Managan suffuses the character with controlled dignity. Her performance poignantly portrays the differences between the two sisters as she imparts her recollections of a wayward father involved in a loveless marriage and a sterile relationship with her sister. But the unifying theme of Sisters is resentment that boils over into blood unexpectedly at the end.

Both the set and costumes highlight the contrasts between the two characters. And Declan Hassett's script is very well suited to the versatility of Managan's powerful acting. It is a mark of her mesmerising performance that she is able to portray the nuances of the sisters' different personalities to such good effect.
© Barbara Bryan 10 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs at 15:50 until 29 August not 15.
Company - SFX Theatre Dublin

   

Six Degrees Of Separation (Page 180).

Drams full glass.
Venue Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 21)
Address 2 Johnston Terrace
Reviewer Lorraine McCann

There could seem to be something inauthentic about the Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society staging a production of John Guare's polemic about class division in Western society -- but if there is, they're hiding it awfully well. For this bald, highly textual production certainly does pack a punch and stays in the mind long after the lights come up.

The 'six degrees' premise is surely known by all: that every single human being on the planet can be linked to every single other human being on the planet by the chain of just six people. It's a notion that suggests familial bonds with total strangers, across all the continents of the earth. And yet it's brought home to the affluent New York art-dealers, Flan and Ouisa Kittredge, when a young man staggers into their apartment one night and begins an acquaintance that changes their lives, and their marriage, for ever.

The theme of Six Degrees of Separation is biblical in tone and Priestlian in application. What do the wealthy owe the poor? What does it mean when 'the poor' splinters and detaches itself from being a monolithic noun and becomes a real, live human being dripping blood in your living room when you've got reservations for dinner? There are also issues of 'mad vs. bad' and the extent to which America really does offer endless opportunity to its non-white citizens, all of which seem to have survived abridgement more or less intact.

The narrative technique of having the Kittredges gloss their story even as it is happening works well here, even if it does place heavy demands on the supporting cast, who are onstage throughout. Of the leads, Katey D'Ancona excels as Ouisa, bringing out the mother's essential warmth towards Joseph Coelhoas's Paul. With Guare's superlative dialogue, it all adds up to quality guaranteed.
© Lorraine McCann, 22 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27 August at 13:00.
Company SEDOS
Company Website www.sedos.co.uk


   

Snuff. (Page 180).
Drams full glass.
Venue Traverse Theatre (Venue15).
Address Cambridge Street, off Lothian Road.
Reviewer Ed Thornton.

After a sell out success at The Arches in Glasgow, Davey Anderson’s Snuff has arrived in Edinburgh to shake up the festival.In a tatty high-rise Glasgow flat, Kevin, Brian Ferguson, has been left to rot by a world that doesn’t care. Paranoid and disillusioned he has sunk into an alternative reality of video cameras and murmuring voices. Returning from Iraq, from the war without a cause, his childhood friend Billy, Steven Ritchie, discovers sometimes things do change on this run down old housing scheme.

Anderson uses gritty, realistic language to paint a compelling and uncompromising story of friendship, betrayal and disillusion. It’s like Anthony Nielson in the Gorbals. He encapsulates with great skill the banter and ‘one up man ship’ of volatile young men, while never losing control of the tension for a second. Supported by an evocative sound design both actors are excellent in their performances, together they bludgeon the audience with Anderson’s award winning script. This is a young writer to look out for in coming years. .
©Ed Thornton 5 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to Aug 11 at various times.
Company Arches Theatre.
Company Website www.thearches.co.uk
   

Some Explicit Polaroids. (Page 180).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue Diverse Attractions (Venue 11).
Address Riddles Court, 322 Lawnmarket.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.

This is a challenging piece of political theatre by the author of Shopping and F***ing, Mark Ravenhill. The play follows political activist Nick, as he attempts to readjust to life in the late 1990s after having spent twenty years in prison. Alongside his story runs a loosely connected narrative following lives of a group of young friends struggling to find meaning in a supposedly "happy world" of drugs, sex and booze which they have fought so hard to achieve.

Performances are generally very good with the cast eschewing stereotypes to bring out the depth and complexity of these confused and often contradictory characters. Sean Lithgow is particularly successful in his portrayal of gay Russian party boy Victor, instilling his character with humour, strength and a touching vulnerability. Andy Ellis, as designer, has done a superb job with the set, with careful, well thought-out lighting creating three distinct worlds, particularly impressive given the small size of the stage and its proximity to the audience.

There are inherent problems with the script of this play, the biggest being the unevenness between the two created worlds, with Tim's "happy world" being much more stimulating than that of the older political trio's stale, bitter existence. Nick, played by Nick Cheales, soon becomes wearisome, with his dialogue resembling one long bitter tirade against society. He does not appear to develop, as the other characters do, through the course of the play, and although he eventually reaches some form of comfort, it appears to be due to resignation, as opposed to any kind of shift in opinion or acknowledgment of wrongdoing. However, fans of Ravenhill, and of political theatre in general, will enjoy Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group's skilful and well thought-out production.
© Ruth Clowes 19 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 20 August at 21:15.
Company - Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group.
Company Website - www.egtg.co.uk

   

Spanish Interludes. (Page 181).

Drams full glassfull glassfull glassfull glass.
Venue C Central. (Venue 54).
Address Calton Hotel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Ed Thorton.

This is a new translation of three 17th century Spanish interludes by Cervantes - their answer to Shakespeare.

In the first a jealous old man imprisons his young bride in his home, only for her to betray him with the help of her neurotic niece and her helpful neighbour. In the second, a pair of puppet show fraudsters lightens the purses of a bigoted Christian town. And the third follows two competing suitors as they battle for the hand of a beautiful maiden.

Cervantes wrote these simple plays for light relief between the acts of his more serious productions, as stand alone performances they don’t posses enough depth to satisfy. It’s like only serving entrees at a dinner party; there’s just not enough to get your teeth into. The stock commedia dell’arte characters lack energy apart from the ones played by David McGrath who injects a Rick Mayle-like frenzy into everything he does. A number of songs offer welcome breaks from the rest of a dull production, but that’s not enough to make a visit here worthwhile. This is a translation from Spanish that’s more of a fiasco than a fiesta.
©Ed Thornton 8 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 14 at 14.45.
Company Collapsible Theatre Company.
   

Spilling More Beans. (Page 181).

Drams full glass .
Venue Greyfriars Kirk House. (Venue 28).
Address 86, Candlemaker Row.
Reviewer Guy Woodward.

In 1953 a young Lisa Wright left her father’s vicarage in East Ham to work as a teacher in the United States. Each week for the next three years her mother Margot wrote to her with news from home, and after the success of Spilling The Beans last year, Lisa Wright returns with another hour’s worth of readings from her archive of letters. This isn’t Reservoir Dogs, but then it’s not trying to be. The letters are a positive goldmine of witty and heartfelt observation, and offer a beautifully rendered snapshot of post war suburban life, a way of life on the brink of disappearing for ever.

Wright’s gently paced readings draw us effortlessly into the world in and around the cavernous and draughty twenty seven room vicarage, with scores of sometimes touching and often laugh out loud funny tales that come together to build up an incredibly personal portrait of her parents and their lives. And it must be admitted that much of the attraction of Spilling More Beans lies in its gossipy charm, and the chance it gives the audience to eavesdrop on such an incredibly detailed account of someone else’s personal life.

There is nothing else quite like this on the Fringe. Very few shows can match Spilling More Beans for sheer lack of pretension and acuteness and subtlety of observation. Furthermore, m’dears, each ticket entitles the holder to a free vicarage bun from the café at Greyfriars Kirk House, which should be encouragement enough for most.
©Guy Woodward 19 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 29 August at 11.25, except 21,22,28.
Company – Margot, Rupert and Lisa Productions.

   

Squeeze Box. (Page 181).

Drams full glass.
Venue Assembly at George Street (Venue 3).
Address Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.

Fresh from a six-month run Off-Broadway, Squeeze Box has won several awards for writer and performer Ann Randolph, including a "Best Solo Performance Award" from the Los Angeles Times. The original show was produced by Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks, and has undergone several rewrites since its conception, the end result being this beautifully polished gem of a show, which skillfully combines warm storytelling, dark humour and insightful characterisation.

In this autobiographical tale, Randolph talks about her experiences working in a shelter for homeless women with mental illnesses. In the course of her lively monologue she plays several different characters with warmth and shrewd perceptiveness, instilling even the most repugnant individuals with dignity and worth. The story that unfolds is not one of epic tragedy or grand heroics but of everyday struggles and small achievements and Randolph weaves her tale with eloquence and a self-depreciating comedy. The audience is drawn into the story, empathising with Randolph's situation as she looks back on a happier past and questions the importance of her present work. It is an incredibly skillful and passionate performance.

This show would have received zero drams were it not for the fact that Randolph cops out with a syrupy happy-ever-after ending which is at odds with the rest of this fiercely unsentimental show. However, this is the only blemish on an impressively written and beautifully performed piece of theatre, which sets the standard for solo performance at this year's Fringe.
© Ruth Clowes 11 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 29 August (not 17) at 12:35
Company - Festival Highlights.
Company Website - www.festivalhighlights.com

   

Saint Oedipus. (Page 176).

Drams None needed.
Venue Theatre Workshop . (Venue 20).
Address 34 Hamilton Pl.
Reviewer Pippa Tennant .

An ingenious piece of theatre. The Oedipus myth, so central to Freudian theories, is employed in dazzlingly innovative theatrical technique to examine the dark desires of human sexuality. The exceptional acting on the part of both performers in terms of movement and voice is complimented by the stunning visual banquet of the intensely creative set and costumes.

Extremely eerie throughout, this is seriously heavy theatre, based on themes from the Gesta Romanorum and Thomas Mann’s novels, Doctor Faustus and The Holy Sinner. Beginning with a Polish monologue, and then sliding into English, the vigour of this production is outstanding. Moving at an incredible pace – this time-defying, enthralling collage of lust, fear, guilt, rage and emptiness is not for the faint hearted. Paint is used in inventive bursts, such as covering genitals before uniting as mother and son and very effectively signifying wounds on a writhing body in a disturbing scene of punishment. The seduction of Satan’s temptations and glimpses of the grace of Jesus are expressed in chants and ghostly mask sequences, rooted in perfectly chosen dynamic music.

Most impressive show yet!
©Pippa Tennant 15 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 14:00 every day, not 21.
Company - Wierszalin Theatre.

   

Steiner Graffiti. (Page 182).
Drams full glass.
Venue C Central . (Venue No 54).
Address Calton Hotel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Ed Thornton.

His philosophy has spawned a world wide sect of alternative free thinkers, whole communities have been constructed and run according to his rules, and his Waldolf schools have released upon the world a steady stream of spiritual creatives who can knit better than they can spell. The man behind the ideology has been dead for 80 years and yet his following has never diminished. One of Rudolf Steiner’s more fiery followers is at the fringe this summer to share his personal relationship with Austria’s radical philosopher.

Using a mixture of theatre, lecture and Steiner’s Eurhythmy, Chris Marcus and director Klaus Jensen have constructed a fascinating and forceful one man show.

Every moment of your life is predetermined; every relationship is a choice, by you. Steiner said that after you die you begin the process of re-birth, and part of that process it to map out your new life, even down to who your parents are. But you forget soon after you are born and every unexpected crisis you come up against forces you to choose, either you break something or you change.

Marcus changed.

He doesn’t use the stage as a soap box, nor does he preach, instead he lays his heart open for the audience to take from it what they will. Somewhere along the line the show becomes more about him than about his ideological leader. Obsessed with what’s behind the door at the end of his knowledge, he has lived his whole life in his head searching relentlessly, driven by a force far stronger than the desire for facts, in an unrelenting quest for real answers.

At times no more structured than a steam of consciousness it feels more like therapy than theatre. It’s an organic experience that will be different in every performance, but I imagine the level of profound intensity will never falter.
©Ed Thornton August 7 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 29 at 19.35 not the 11,12,13
Company - Circle X Arts.

   

The Story of The Panda Bears Told by a Saxophonist Who Has a Girlfriend in Frankfurt (Page 182).

Drams full glass.
Venue Greyfriars Kirk House. (Venue 28).
Address 86 Candlemaker Row.
Reviewer Pippa Tennant.

This brilliantly bizarre, yet fantastically funny philosophical comedy by Matei Visniec is extremely entertaining.

She, Geraldine Cottalorda, and he, Adam Hypki, are strangers and yet lovers, one of the many paradoxes which constitute the haze of dreamlike enchantment which we experience. Intimacy and knowledge are examined through the nine nights of sexual levitation he spends with his ‘black cat’ temptress, who holds “all the answers”, possessing mystical oracle status in this detached limbo land, littered with beer cans and vodka bottles. Does this woman exist we ask ourselves? As we become confronted with ever increasing abnormality culminating in the birthday present of an invisible bird, continually impregnated by light, producing hundreds of offspring which unremittingly proceed to make love to Michel, we realise that the answer to this question is insignificant!

Focusing on obsession and one’s descent into insanity, this play is far from pretentious. It overflows with interesting observations, poignant analogies and examines vast depths of emotion, wee elements of which seem worryingly familiar!
©Pippa Tennant 11 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 14 at 14:45 every day
Company Rouge28 Theatre.

   

Strangers.  (Page 182).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue C Venue. (Venue 34).
Address C, Chambers Street.
Reveiwer Ariadne Cass.

I want to see Strangers because it says in the programme that it is influenced by Lecoq and Complicite. Good, I think. European style, physical theatre. I skim over the bit which says it is also about despair and the beauty of ludicrousness, because after all, what self respecting Lecoq - influenced peice wouldn't have a bit of despair in it?

I find myself and the six other members of the audience in a claustrophobic theatre at the bottom of C Main, with the sounds of jazz from the main bar and the babble of the staff outside invading. The theatre is evidently not well sound-proofed. I try not to let it get to me, but it does.

The show itself does have a lot of despair in it. Each scene is a beautifully played out physical ode to despair. But unfortunately, it also appears to have no discernable plot, save that one of the characters suddenly becomes a little crazier and starts to attack the others. I am never sure whether each scene is a separate sketch, or if I'm supposed to be keeping track, trying to connect them together. I spend a lot of time puzzling over the threads of plot I manage to pick up. I like my theatre to have a plot. I know physical theatre is supposed to be symbolic, but what is the point if you've no idea what it's supposed to be symbolising? Abstract emotion does not keep me occupied, no matter how well done. Nor does existential loneliness. It's too uncomfortable.

Much of the mime is carried out in complete silence, and this is very unfortunate, because, thanks to the ambient noise, it isn't silence which accompanies what should be some wonderful dramatic moments, but jazz or careless conversation. When music is played, it is a relief. It helps me to be absorbed into the show.

There are some funny moments and some good clowning in this peice, but everyone seems to be too shy to laugh. The audience almost manages to portray loneliness and isolation better than the performers do.

I want to see this show again, and this time, I want to enjoy it. I want to like it. I want, above all, to understand it.

The performers from this international company are impeccable in their discipline and their emotional expression. Each actor, and each scene, is very good. But true understanding of what they're collectively trying to convey is always just beyond my grasp.
©Ariadne Cass 7th August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs 3 - 29, Aug at 18:10.
Company - Somatic Tintamarre.

   

Swansong (Page 183).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue C Electric (Venue 50).
Address Formerly the Odeon, Clerk Street.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.

I really do have to say that Screen Four at C Electric is a pitiless venue for this show. For a start, it's so hard to find that there are bound to be latecomers, wandering to their seats as Andy McQuade performs heroics onstage. (The day I went, the latecomers then commenced taking photographs, too!) And then there's the stage itself. Where this one-man tour de force might flourish in a more intimate setting, up there, on that big old stage, McQuade was on a loser from the start.

Nevertheless, given that Swansong's theme is that of the actor's struggle in a world indifferent to his talents, the man certainly underlined his credentials to depict the same. Adapted from a Chekhov monologue, it is almost like an extended audition piece, interweaving highlights from Lear and Salome with 'autobiographical' resonances from Nabokov and the like, all delivered with unimpeachable commitment and technique (although I couldn't help being reminded of Jack Lemmon's comment about how to act drunk: you must remember that what a drunk man wants more than anything else is to appear sober). The piece also tingles with that eerie, undefinable weirdness that characterises an empty theatre, and the terror of being locked up with one's demons -- and quite a bit of booze -- overnight.

As an engrossing, involving theatrical experience, I don't think Swansong could ever work in this space. But, perhaps ironically, its failure can also be seen as a vindication of its theme. You want it to work because you intuit that it will be better for the actor if it does. Still, I was very pleased to return his beaming smile as he came and took his bows. Respect.
© Lorraine McCann, 17 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 16:30 (not 14).
Company Act Provocateur International.
Company Website www.actprovocateur.net

   

Sweet Love Adieu (Page 183).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue Southside (Venue 82).
Address 117 Nicholson Street.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.

Wasn't it Doctor Johnson who said that a woman writing is like a pig walking on its hind legs; it's not about whether it does it well or badly, but that it does it at all? Well, I feel the same could be said about someone who writes a Shakespearean comedy of errors in rhyming couplets and then stages it in one of the least sympathetic venues in the entire Fringe.

Sweet Love Adieu is the brainchild of Ryan J-W Smith, a precociously talented writer-director-actor, ex-tennis pro and all-round self-starter, who wrote the piece in 1999 and has been promoting it at home and abroad ever since, and to good effect. The list of review quotes on the website is long and overwhelmingly positive. Most of them focus, of course, on the writing, which weaves its Bardic spell with admirable verve and colourful variety. The plot is fine, too, with the usual ingredients of balcony scenes, sleeping draughts, cross-dressing and a kindly friar.

But I found the problem with this production of such a flamboyant piece of high farce at Southside is that it's just not a good fit. The actors have to use a daylight-flooded corridor for their offstage, while at times there is barely room for them all on the playing area. I don't normally have a problem suspending my disbelief but this was tough going. Also, in such a small space, the larger-than-life, wild-eyed campery of the huge Lord Edmund of Essex was downright scary. Having said all that, though, the performances were generally faultless. Paul Booth oozed bawdy charm and Adam Stone played the lovestruck William with liquid grace.James Kermack also excelled as Lord Ed's recalcitrant lackey.

If you enjoy implausible plotting and broad humour delivered in iambic pentameter, then your prayers have been answered.
© Lorraine McCann, 16 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs 6-20 August at 1450; and 21-27 August at 1920
Company Abandon Theatre
Company Website www.abandontheatre.co.uk


(S) 21 out of 258
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