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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(J) 6 out of 156
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Page number refers to the Fringe programme

Jago. (Page 177).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Dome.(Venue 23).
Address 1 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

It's surprising that Arthur Morrison'slate nineteenth century novel A Child of the Jago hasn't been adapted for the stage before now.Italia Conti Ensemble, second year students of the well-known theatre school, perform well in this striking adaptation by Nick Mosley. The novel isn't quite as obscure as the programme notes suggest - Morrison was a prominent socialist, several of whose novels were concerned with those who are now termed 'socially excluded' and Morrison's work prefigures the similar themes of Patrick McGill's novels about the Donegal Irish poor in Glasgow and elsewhere. The Jago of the novel's title was part of the warren ignored by the communities of Hoxton, Silvertown and more 'respectable' locations. Part of Morrison's concerns was to show that it wasn't only the well-to-do who victimised the poor - all too often it was also the poor themselves.

This is a lively, highly physical re-telling of Morrison's story, inventive and eye-catching, which nevertheless remains faithful to its original in both narrative and spirit. Stefan Davismakes a convincing Kiddo Cook and excellent narrative voice, and Hannah Thomas and Darren Harpermake the transition from older to younger central character a delightful moment of theatricality. Carlo Bosticco, Gary Trainor and Olivia Macecreate finely drawn characters and elsewhere there is much fine work from a company of actors who clearly enjoy playing together.

A great deal of work and thought has obviously gone into this production, so it's a wee thing disconcerting that the opening music is the 1913 Bobby North hit - 'Get Out and Get Under' - when the late nineteenth century music hall has a plenitude of sufficiently suggestive material to pick from. Indeed, despite some excellent chorus work form the cast, if there's a lack to 'Jago', it's in the area of music. It's likely the denizens of the Jago wouldn't have the wherewithal for even the 'Penny Gaffs' of the day, but it feels that theirs is a very deprived world indeed if no-one ever sings. That, however, is to pick faults where few lie. This is a very worthwhile production and it's a pity its run is so short. It's to be hoped that at least some of those appearing in this production will be seen on future Fringes. As it is, this reviewer leaves the stage muttering in the manner of 'Young Mister Grace' (of whom none of the cast will thankfully be familiar) muttering 'You've all done terribly well'. For once at least, it will have been true.
©Bill Dunlop 25 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Penny Gaffs - Temporary theatres held in shops in the C19th in London, with short plays and variety acts.
Runs to August 28 at 12.30 every day.
Company - Italia Conti Ensemble.
Company Website - www.italiaconti-acting.co.uk.


Janey Godley's 'The Point Of Yes' (Page 177).
Drams .
Venue Assembly at George Street (Venue 3).
Address George Street.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.

I have to say straight off that I've met Janey Godley. It was at a comedy-writing workshop thing in Glasgow last year. 'So what?' I hear you say. Well, so this -- the thing about wee Janey Godley is, she's a wee bit scary, OK? A wee bit scary and a big bit talented. So that's all right, then.

The Point Of Yes is about heroin. 'Chemical warfare', as Godley puts it. Her perspective comes, of course, from the front line. As a pub landlady in the East End of Glasgow for 14 years, Godley has seen at close quarters what smack can do to a person's life. In the personae of two versions of the same woman -- one who says 'yes' and one who says 'no' -- Godley vividly illustrates how drugs can emerge at the fork in the road, offering release from harsh circumstances. In a world where underclass women are perpetually abused and dumped on, it is chilling that the only thing that stops the woman who says 'no' is that she is more afraid of her husband than she is of heroin. 'He didn't want me to be controlled by anything except him,' she says. Some choice.

In the persona of the addict, Godley is pathetically watchable. She's childlike in her rubbing her eyes and whining that she isn't a junkie, grotesque in her gleeful revelation that she's been saving a vein in her calf for her birthday hit. And while all of this could be dismissed as old hat, or a form of class tourism for the well-heeled of Edinburgh, there is something undeniably controversial here. Because we have in Scotland a faction of the socialist left who advocate legalising heroin; and yet here is their natural constituency depicted as victims of drug culture. Of course, the play is called The Point Of Yes, not The Inevitability Of Yes, and so it doesn't follow that addicts become so without their own volition. Nevertheless, it is a bold reminder that the liberal left often condone policies whose consequences they are best-placed to avoid. As Godley says of 'John', a good-looking bodybuilder turned into a haggard wraith by smack: 'There's nothing worse than a sophisticated junkie who's become a philosopher.'

Thought-provoking, absorbing and occasionally funny, The Point Of Yes made its Fringe debut in 2003 and is back this year as one of three shows in which Godley is appearing. She also has a couple of books out, too, and is pretty much ubiquitous on radio and telly as well. But if you have time to catch only one of her shows, I would recommend this one.
©Lorraine McCann, 9 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 27 August at 1620 every day.
Company - Janey Godley.


Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell (Page 178).
Drams .
Venue Sweet ECA (Venue 186).
Address Edinburgh College of Art, Lauriston Place.
Reviewer Chris Mounsey.

The journalist Jonathan Meades once described Jeffrey Bernard's Spectator column as a "suicide note in weekly installments" and, indeed, Bernard was a legend in his own lunchtime. Or, more aptly, a legend in his own closing time, for Bernard was one of those flamboyant, romantic alcoholics - though married four times, he was often heard to describe booze as "the other woman".

So, at the beginning of the play, Jeff wakes up at 5 in the morning, locked in his local pub, The Coach And Horses. And, for lack of anything else to do, he liberates a bottle of vodka from the bar and tells us about his life. And a fascinating life it is. As a society, we seem to nurse a fascination for the doomed and reckless and as such, although he behaves appallingly to the people who were close to him, Bernard is still an attractive character.

The ensemble cast is perfectly competent, but they are hardly more than props for the young Gareth White's astonishingly convincing Jeff. It is never easy for a young man to play someone who is supposed to be so much older than himself (and who is drunk into the bargain) but White pulls it off beautifully, holding our attention throughout the 100 minute show. Peter O'Toole would have been proud, I am sure.

This is a throughly entertaining performance and your humble reviewer felt real pity for the hunched figure who shuffled unsteadily out through the "pub" doors at the end of it all.
© Chris Mounsey August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to August 27 at 18.40 every day.
Company - Centre Stage Theatre Company.


Johnny Miller presents ..Skylight. (Page 179).
Drams .
Venue ENCLA (Venue 132).
Address . 67 Northumberland Street.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.

David Hare, like fellow playwrights Bernard Shaw, John Osborne and Harold Pinter, uses the theatre stage for debate and diatribe about change in British society, class, employment and the political state of the nation. Skylight written in 1995 is a modern day "kitchen sink" drama performed in a naturalistic setting of a kitchen/living room complete with working cooker. This is Kyra's small, unheated London flat, where she lives alone and apparently content. But out of the blue, two old friends reappear which force her to relive a previous relationship and past life.

Enter Edward, the teenage son of Tom, her former (adulterous) lover. He asks Kyra, who had been a close friend of the family, to help his father now widowed and alone. Kyra recalls happy days with Tom and their leisurely gourmet breakfasts of scrambled eggs. Later Tom himself appears at the door, desperate to talk, chat and discuss their love affair and why it had to end. This is the heart of the play - a dialogue between Kyra, now an impoverished schoolteacher of East End disadvantaged kids, and Tom, a successful restaurateur and businessman. They compare their lifestyles - Kyra goes to work on the bus; Tom has a chauffeur. They analyse their relationship, the betrayal and deceit of their affair, and engage in bitter argument. Kyra meanwhile cooks pasta, with chilli and tomatoes for supper.

Nikki Powell captures both sides of Kyra's personality, the calm, self-assured single woman but with a hidden fiery temper. As Tom, Danny Easton is less convincing, delivering his speech on one flat level with little colour, while young Edward is well played with sparky passion by Jack Johns. What is extremely strange is the cutting of the final scene. In the original text of the play, Edward returns to the flat the next morning with a romantic breakfast for Kyra. This is the crucial denouement which makes you think, what will happen next. I wonder why director Oli Lyttelton decided to omit the ending?
©Vivien Devlin, 24 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 26 August at 5.15pm every day.
Company -Johnny Miller presents.
Company Website - www.johnnymillerpresents.com .


Johnny Miller presents Rope. (Page 192).
Drams .
Venue ENCLA (Venue 132).
Address 67 Northumberland Street.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin .

Hitchcock's 1948 thriller "Rope" starring James Stewart was based on an earlier stage play by Patrick Hamilton. Similar to "Dial M for Murder" and "Strangers on a Train," these are not Who-dunnits, but Will-they- get-away-with-it murder thrillers. At the very start of Rope, two young men kill an old school friend, just for the experience, without malice or motive. Like an extreme dangerous sport, they plan to commit "the immaculate murder" .. to create "a work of art".

The setting is an elegant Edinburgh New Town drawing room draped with white curtains with blood-red Francis Bacon-style painting on the wall. Philip is playing the piano as Brandon casually chats to their friend David when this quiet scene of respectable hospitality turns to horror as David is attacked and strangled. His body is wrapped in a blanket and hidden in a large trunk centre stage. They then give themselves the ultimate challenge by inviting a few friends to the flat for a party. First is Leila, a beautiful blonde, fussing over the canapés, Kenneth, the quiet intellect, Rupert, former school teacher and mentor. With cool conceit, they have even invited David's father and aunt.

Pink champagne is poured as Philip and Brandon chat politely with small talk to their guests. But when the conversation turns to why David has not arrived, and a discussion on the morality of murder, like the Macbeths, the two men gradually show palpable signs of stress and guilt. With the action taking place right in front of us, rather than a cinema screen, the atmosphere and tension is unbelievabably gripping. Alex Warren (resembling a young Ian Charleson), plays Brandon with a chilling, controlled manner, is partnered well by Charlie Harrison as the emotionally frail Philip. This remarkable mature ensemble from Manchester University pull off this classic drawing room drama with conviction, pace and dramatic skill.
©Vivien Devlin, 23 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 26 August at 3.30pm every day .
Company -Johnny Miller presents.
Company Website - www.johnnymillerpresents.com .


Johnny Boskak is Feeling Funny.(Page 150).
Drams .
Venue Traverse Theatre (Venue 15).
Address Cambridge Street, off Lothian Road.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Billed as a unique fusion of Shakespearean verse, American rap and South African road myth, the publicity for Johnny Boskak is Feeling Funny did not fill me with much confidence. Call me old-fashioned, but this heady mixture of styles all sounded rather gimmicky - a ghetto Bard cruising the mean streets of Durban? As it happens, such a description turned out to be rather misleading. While Greig Coetzee‘s one-man show does in fact use rhyming couplets and the percussive speech patterns of rap music, it is as South African as biltong and springboks. Coetzee’s monologue floats off his tongue in a flurry of Afrikaans slang, and the audience are even provided with a glossary.

There’s really no need, as Coetzee’s impassioned delivery and vital physicality transmit his sentiments clearly enough. Coetzee, previously an award-winner at the Fringe for his 2000 show White Men with Weapons, has created a new alter-ego based on his own experience of military service in South Africa. Johnny Boskak is an old soldier now living the civilian life, and Coetzee’s narrative takes him on a car chase across the country that incorporates both an earthy romance and a search for faith. Of course, it’ s delivered at high-tempo in a loose rhyme scheme, allowing Coetzee to really indulge his flair for wordplay. Highlights include his riff on the town-name of ‘Escort’, and a playful recollection of his tour of duty in ‘ Nam…Nam…Namibia’.

Johnny stumbles into a bar, where he meets a fiery temptress named Eve - cue lots of passing references to serpents and apples. She convinces him to flee with her in her ex-lover’s car, and they roar off into the night, Johnny riding alongside a woman he colourfully likens to ‘Mona Lisa’s slutty sister’. Their love affair is both pure and flamboyantly dirty at the same time, and Coetzee relishes his recounting of their amorous liaisons. Their ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ act dominates the show, and as the two of them drive wildly onwards, hoping to outrun a ‘demon truck’ on their tail, it’s hard not to get swept up in Coetzee’s vision.

A couple of things bring one down to earth every now and then. Sometimes, the constriction of the rhyme scheme really starts to grate. Eve’s suggestion that ‘I’ll be your Tom, if you let me Cruise’ is particularly painful. Boskak soberly notes that ‘One day, your life doesn’t rhyme anymore’, as if recognising the limitations of his own medium. Despite the odd hiccup, it is Coetzee’s brazen poetry that gives the piece its energy and character, and Syd Kitchen’s lilting guitar accompaniment likewise contributes to Johnny‘s mystique. That said, while Coetzee manages to craft a style that is all of his own, his tale holds the old, familiar smell of ’Easy Rider’ and ’On the Road’. It’s a well-trodden genre, and Coetzee fails to bring anything particularly new to the table. Still, it’s a vibrant performance that manages to recast the classic myth of the Beats in a distinctly South African mould.
©Edmund Gould 19 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27 August every day at various times. See Fringe programme for details.
Company – Greig Coetzee.

(J) 6 out of 156
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