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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(A) 8 out of 156
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= Unwatchable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme

A-Haunting We Will Go (Page 144).
Drams   .
Venue The Zoo (Venue 124).
Address 140 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Chris Mounsey.

If you have ever seen Four Weddings And A Funeral, you may remember when - in response to the crass couple singing saccharine songs in the church - Gareth is seen grimacing and hugging his head in frustration at the awfulness of it all. Believe me, on watching this stultifying, badly-acted shocker I nearly did the same: only my professional politeness - and the sparsity of the audience - stopped me from doing so.

A-Haunting We Will Go was billed as a full-length mystery-comedy and I felt the full length of it. The story is based around the hoary old chestnut of someone vowing to stay alone overnight in a haunted old inn, wherein one of the three sisters who owned it was killed. Naturally, the "top TV producer" is not alone and as each new character cliche - the common-as-muck-but-good-at-heart kidnappers and their posh victim, the lost student, the psychic gypsy and her dippy but "sensitive" daughter, the grumpy gold-digging caretaker - was wheeled on I felt like doing some murdering myself; I laughed instead but not, I suspect, for the reasons the actors wanted me to.

Naturally there was a twist in the tail - it was, in fact, a pitch for a TV show. This ludicrous substitute for the "it was all a dream!" gambit did make the hackneyed characters a little more forgivable, but was such a heinous cliche in itself that I felt like throwing things at the stage. Preferably a brace of grenades.

All of this might have been played as a simply hilarious take on the old murder mystery had anyone on stage seemed like they actually cared one jot. In the programme, nearly all of the biographies earnestly assured us that many of the actors wanted to go to drama school: with one single exception, all I can suggest is that none of them waste the audition fees. Methinks a job in Customer Services -- where everyone will expect them to act like zombies -- might be a better career path.
© Chris Mounsey August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to August 27 at 17.10 every day.
Company - Venue 2 Venue.


Alice Through The Looking Glass. (Page 144).
Drams full glass full glass
Venue Bedlam Theatre. (Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Place.
Reviewer Ariadne Cass.

Lewis Carrol's classic is yet again presented at the Fringe. The show begins with a recitation of The Jabberwocky. It's a young cast, and the poem is recited in a forced, spooky way. I find this interpretation one-dimensional and I begin to fear that the whole show may follow the same lines.

Actually, the show is very good indeed, mainly due to their ingenious set. Cleverly, they have built a box which opens out fully with a chess board inside. It forms the whole surreal landscape as Alice encounters the Red Queen and tries to find her place on the chess board. Occasionally the cast picks the box up, rotates it, and opens a flap and there's a puppet theatre. Thus the battle between the lion and the unicorn is portrayed. The various openings also form exit and entry points for the characters.

The shifting world beyond the looking glass is directed quite brilliantly by Alison Neighbour with surrealism and rigid mathematical rules. The genius of Lewis Carrol is displayed to full advantage within the restrictions of theatre. The cast is focused and the whole thing is well acted, particularly Alice, Sam Birch. However, this is one of these rare occasions where the set has stolen the show and elevated what might have been an otherwise mediocre show to something truly original.
©Ariadne Cass 14 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 19 at 15:45 every day.
Company - Little Acorn Theatre.
Company Website - http://littleacorn.atspace.com


Allegiance - Winston Churchill and Michael Collins . (Page 144).
Drams .
Venue Assembly at George Street (Venue 3).
Address Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

This reviewer's maternal grandfather campaigned for Winston Churchill when the latter stood as Liberal Unionist candidate for Dundee, an historical footnote which need not detain us here except as a reminder of how tortuous a political road many British politicians travelled in the years before the creation of the Irish Free State. It's with the negotiations leading up to this event that Mary Kenny's play is concerned.

On the day seen, the queue for the Assembly Rooms Music Hall stretched half way along George Street, an indication of how effective a draw Mel Smith's much-publicised threat to flout the Scottish Parliament's legislation on smoking in public places had proved. As expected, Smith did not light up. Unfortunately, neither did the Assembly Rooms until the play was well in progress. This is not a reference to any technical hitch, but rather to the play as presently constructed.

Director Brian Gilbert may have taken Director Trevor Nunn route. Nunn is quoted as threatening an author that if he didn't behave, he would 'direct the play the author had written'. Such in this case appears to have been Kenny's fate. To what extent Kenny herself brought this about must remain uncertain, but the production isn't helped by the delivery of large swathes of historical information through singular narration of same. The essential premise of the play, that Winston Churchill, then Minister responsible for Ireland, privately met Michael Collins, then Minister for Finance in the covert Irish government and a known gunman, is an excellent one. It's therefore a pity that a contest of wills, the meat of all good drama, is over-sauced with background information.

It's certainly the fate of historical dramatists to end up with far more information than can or should be decently conveyed in the brief two hours traffic of the stage. It ought not to be the fate of audiences of such plays to have to suffer its regurgitation in indigestible lumps. If this play were in progress rather than production, means of communicating both background and necessary fact is already available within the casting constraints without recourse to an extraneous narrative voice, and it's a pity some such approach does not appear to have been considered.

Having observed the which, due recognition ought to be given to the contribution of all members of cast and crew working within the limits imposed by the present structure. Mel Smith and Michael Fassbender are generally excellent as Churchill and Collins respectively, although Fassbender perhaps credits his character with a touch too much 'stage Irishry'. Robin Browne is an under-used butler.

The Edinburgh Fringe has always been a place to try out new work and to learn by audience reaction ways and places it may be taken. One hopes Mary Kenny can use the experience to re-consider ways in which to tell a powerfully dramatic story.
©Bill Dunlop 9 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 13 August at 11.00 every day
Company - Mel Smith.


The Allotment. (Page144).
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

There was more than one allotment holder in the audience the day this play was seen - there was even one from Nottingham, where Andy Barrett's play is set. As a part-sharer in an Edinburgh allotment, this reviewer was looking forward to finding out how Barrett dealt with the niceties and etiquette of allotment holding and what effects this might have on the disparate group of asylum-seekers and other immigrants who form the central characters of Barrett's play. Like the therapeutic experiment of which these characters are part, The Allotment doesn't quite work.

It would be more than unfair (and would also be cheap) to describe the play as one of the characters describes the joys of allotments; '51% hard work and 49% disappointment'. The cast work hard with a script which sometimes veers a little too close to stereotype - part of the problem may lie not so much in the soil as in the play's length. One hour twenty minutes is barely enough time to properly delineate five very complex characters, let alone take an audience comfortably through their equally complex lives. There are some delightful comic moments, as there are ones of considerable dignity, but these alone are not enough to satisfy. To fully work, The Allotment needs not merely the radical overhaul the characters give the plot of land which is supposed to healthier shattered souls, but also consideration of what space is needed for each of the strands of storyline currently compressed into rather too little time.

The EcoWorks in Nottingham on which The Allotment is based date to c.1830, making them among the oldest in Great Britain. They have been the scene of a number of therapeutic endeavours, particularly with those with mental health problems. New Perspectives and Andy Barrett have identified something of great potential in this area of work, but it felt to this reviewer that perhaps another season was needed before it would burst into full flower.
©Bill Dunlop 9 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 15.40 p.m. every day, not 14.
Company - New Perspectives Theatre Company.
Company Website - www.newperspectives.co.uk .


American Football.
Drams .
Venue C Cubed (Venue 50) till 16 August then C (Venue 34).
Address Brodie's Close then Chamber St.
Reviewer Katy Wesley.

Gratuitous swearing, violence and nudity and a devoid of rational plot or character development, American Football is very nearly irredeemable. Luckily the actors are quite good, even if their script is not. A terrible play no matter how one slices it, but I admired the cast's gritty determination not to reveal their (almost certain) anxiety about it.

The story loosely follows the life of a dead-beat dope smoker turned marine, who goes into a war zone (Afghanistan?), falls in love with an American sounding Arabian girl, kills her faintly dangerous brother, gets caught on camera, made an example of and sent to prison. There only to be subjected to humiliation and violence while naked. Phew. Now imagine a few 'comic' interludes, such as the fated Arab brother's rendition of Queen's 'Another One Bites the Dust' or the cheerleader chant (complete with pom-poms) while training the new marine, "Fuck You! I am your master; you will do what I want you to do! Kill the pain! Kill the pain! Kill the pain!" Well I could hardly agree more, other than to suggest that you avoid this pain altogether and give American Football a wide berth.
©Katy Wesley 14 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs 3 -16 August at 16.40 at C Cubed then from 20 August at C venue Chambers St at 23:45..
Company Act Provocateur International.


And Even My Goldfish. (Page 145).
Drams . Even less if you don't want sense in your plays.
Venue C Central (Venue 54).
Address C Central, Carlton Hotel, North Bridge.
Reviewer Felicity King-Evans.

Surrealism can get a bad-press at the Festival. Hordes of students, eager to gnash their teeth and wave their arms to portray the inner-conflict of the shopoholic have perhaps marred its image. However, for those who enjoy it, or just want to try it, And Even My Goldfish is a very charming production.

The focus is a rubber-faced and endearing, but paranoid and desperately lonely man. The actors are excellent, their expressions and eloquent groans, gasps and sighs more than compensating for the lack of script. The show has moments of horror, tragedy, comedy and cartoon-like exaggeration. Using physical theatre, metaphor and song to dice up the mind of the paranoid fantasist, it lets you have a good gory look. Lovingly blocked, the cast move confidently. In places the show is beautiful and it's constantly impassioned and intense.

The play is more of an exploration of a situation than a movement through a plot. Result? It becomes a little dull. It makes sense within its own surrealist capsule, but for those who prefer a story they can lose themselves in, this is not for you. If you want something to dissect in the pub afterwards, to argue about, and to impress your friends who just stayed on the Mile to watch the fire-eater, then I firmly recommend this play. Just please don't expect it to make any sense.
©Felicity King-Evans 4 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to August 28 at 18:35 every day.
Company - Chotto Ookii.
Company Website - www.chottoookii.co.uk


Animal Farm.(Page 146).
Drams .
Venue Assembly at St George’s West (Venue 157)..
Address 58 Shandwick Place.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Everyone knows Animal Farm. Countless GCSE set texts, school plays and kids‘ cartoons have made Orwell‘s rustic allegory of Stalinism a permanent fixture in the nation’s cultural heritage. It seems an odd choice, then, to reinvent such a celebrated novel as a one-man stage show, as Guy Masterson has done. It comes off largely thanks to the extraordinary Gary Shelford, who chameleon-like condenses the diverse voices of a sprawling farmyard menagerie into a captivating solo performance.

It helps that Shelford has something of the everyman about him. His malleable facial features are put through their paces as he writhes around the stage, contorting himself into various shapes and postures with admirable elasticity. He renders the key players with real confidence, but copes equally well with the lesser figures - the hens, the sheep, even a lethargic tabby whose lazy yawns find amused recognition from cat lovers in the audience. While at almost two hours the show does go on a bit, Shelford somehow manages to unflaggingly maintain a high tempo throughout.

The adaptation rarely deviates from Orwell’s original, and the account of the animals’ revolution faithfully retains the best-known episodes - ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’, ‘Beasts of England’ and all that. However, Masterson and director Tony Boncza do manage to drop in a few sly references to New Labour in an attempt to connect with a new audience. So we are treated to a pair of dogs named Prescott and Blunkett, a bitter swipe at the ‘National Horse Service’ and even some ‘Weapons of Mass Castration’. While the politics may be a little awry, Shelford’s tireless performance makes for an impressive, gently amusing show. To cap it all off, there’s even a pig who talks like Tony Blair. If you think I‘m telling porkies, you’ll have to see for yourself.
©Edmund Gould 15 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August (not 20/27 August) at 11.00.
Company – TTI - Guy Masterson.


Anyway. (Page 146).
Drams full glass full glass full glass.
Venue Greyfriars' Kirk House. (Venue 28).
Address 86 Candlemaker Row.
Reviewer Thelma Good.

Lorraine McCann's comic script has lines which should be shot into the ether with a light spin. All of the cast are capable of doing that. Unfortunately, on the night I saw it, two of three actors were suffering Fringe exhaustion, resorting to overegging the lines, with eye rolling or exaggerated faces. The third, Wendy Brindle kept under playing the lines and got the best reaction. She plays Yolande, the one with a new boyfriend prone to tongue-twisting his way to ecstasy the other women on a night in, are Vanessa, Lisa Borland, who's got a yen for a Mexican in the Victoria Wines and Megan, Sara-Jane McGeachy, who has a secret admirer of her own. Nor is it the only secret that these three discover. Vanessa, who comes as across as thick as several planks, is hiding something under her sombrero and it's not her clean locks.

Vanessa is unemployed, all three are like many women in their late twenties, early thirties, the ones who haven't great jobs, flats or possessions. The play comments on ordinary lives and what they do have, each other. During the evening the three talk of their lives and their relationships, their take on the bizarre ways we live. The way they treat one another rings true and is sometimes hilarious. Not helping is the wee stage with only one exit/entrance. The space just doesn't allow for the free flowing, confident physical movement a comedy like this needs. Playwright and Director Lorraine MacCann has stuffed just too many words and not enough comic tension into this three-hander 45 minute play. Her Love Story play, seen last November in a short run, also directed by her, got the balance right and handled surreal elements more sucessfully and vigourously.
©Thelma Good 13 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 18:55, except 41 and 21.
Company - Dandylion.
Company Website - www.dandylion.org.uk .

(A) 8 out of 156
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