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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(P) 10 out of 156
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= Unwatchable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme

Pakita. (Page 196).
Drams .
Venue Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Place.
Reviewer Nathan Witts.

Patricia Rodriguez is a very talented actress. The play is split into three acts and in the first act especially Rodriguez is an absolute pleasure to watch. She plays the part of Pakita, an introverted Spaniard, who is consumed by love and driven by passion. Rodriguez has a natural ability to bring her emotions to the surface and manages to create a wonderfully layered and enormously watcheable character. She acts with her entire body and because of this one is engrossed by Pakita and gripped by her tale of woe.

Unfortunately the second act does not live up to the first. The director Roberto Corte makes some strange and distracting decisions that affect Rodriguez's performance. This is regrettable because he must take a lot of credit for Rodriguez's first act performance and for putting on an otherwise very good one-woman play. The only thing that Rodriguez shares the stage with throughout the production is a chair, the stage is otherwise bare and this lends itself well to the production. There are no other distractions and the audience can focus on Pakita. The use of light and sound is kept at a minimum which is also suits the nature of the play and again limits distractions.

An engaging production that is worth viewing.
©Nathan Witts 10 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 12 August at 21:00 every day.
Company - Barataria Teatro.


Pauline Goldsmith (Page 170).
Drams .
Venue Assembly at George Street (Venue 3).
Address George Street.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.

It's really hard not to like Pauline Goldsmith. She is, after all, an engaging performer who possesses a genuine gift for character acting and storytelling. And she goes to great lengths to make you feel included, even coming out ahead of the show to take the audience's orders, like a waitress in a silver-service restaurant. Nevertheless, although she moves from comic to tragic and back again, calling at pathos, whimsy and bonkersville in between, the show as a whole fails to truly satisfy.

With the huge success of 2002's Bright Colours Only, which celebrated the tradition of the Irish wake, Goldsmith has obviously become ever more drawn to exploring issues around the interplay between the living and the dead, and the ways in which the comic and the tragic sit right alongside each other in our daily lives. Hers is the humour of the small, irrelevant thought that invades your head at the most solemn or profound of moments - a variant of Chekhov's observation that any idiot can deal with a crisis, it's just getting through the daily grind that's really tough. And this sort of thing she does very well, drawing on her Catholic upbringing to good effect, particularly when relating the very un-PC views of some of her relatives. It did make me wonder, though, if it's really OK to exploit historical racism -- for perhaps we should not be invited to find a 1960s recipe for 'black and white minstrel cupcakes' funny, but rather so offensive as to render us silent? I'm still not sure about that bit.

Another abiding theme is elderly people, and in particular those living in residential care homes. Not for the faint-hearted, Goldsmith's anecdotes about her time as a care-worker could make you lose your lunch, and yet she knows very well how they engender a horrible compulsion to listen, to watch, to imagine one's own future. Less successful are the forays into adolescence and childhood, although the latter provides one of two moments of absorbing theatre, the other being a (true?) story of how Goldsmith's sister and brother-in-law were caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami.

In the end, though, it is the unevenness of tone that scuppers this piece. That, and an over-reliance on gimmicky props. I found myself wondering on more than one occasion why Goldsmith doesn't do stand-up, given the trend in recent years for that form to morph into quasi-dramatic monologues a la Kitson, Martin and Cochrane, et al? Perhaps the answer is simply that she is far too fine an actor to find stand-up satisfying. If so, then here's hoping her next show will give her something to really get her teeth into.
©Lorraine McCann, 8 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 August at 1700 every day, not 14.
Company - Assembly Theatre and Marshall Cordell.


The Pearl. (Page 196).

Drams None needed - besides you need to have your wits to pay attention to the detail.
Venue Hill Street Theatre (Venue 41)
Address 19 Hill Street.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.

Split Knuckle Theatre are a very talented company, if this devised adaptation of Steinbeck's The Pearl is anything to go by. I started my reading with Steinbeck; "The Red Pony" was the first novel I ever enjoyed. It has been noted by many that the purpose of his work was to make men understand each other. Steinbeck wrote timeless morality tales, this company have choosen a story which provokes a lot of thought on things Steinbeck to be preoccupied with - things which still trouble us today.

Highlighting the greed of Western so-called "democracy", assimilation of native culture and the opression and absolute power of organised religion, this production springs up with so much renewed life and dimension, it adds even more urgency to the issues. Split Knuckle's polished production is physical and atmospheric and almost completely technology-less, and so truly brings us back to the roots of storytelling.

Kino is a young Mexican husband and father eagar to provide a good life for his infant son. But his son is stung in the shoulder by a scorpion and the continental doctor will not treat a mere pearl diver's son, so Juana, Kino's wife prays for him to find the legendary "Pearl Of The World" to pay for the treatment - and he does. Then he finds out about his own human ability to be cruel, ruthless, greedy and violent while being manipulated by others and a paranoid obsession develops. It is not difficult to find the moral in this story but to really be made to think about it takes a special production.

With even the most tiny sound effects and set requirements provided onstage by the performers themselves - using very few props - the production captivates. The religion, the culture and the politics are all represented in various forms - even in the set and the blocking. Apart from oddly Richard Clayderman's "Ballade Pour Adelaine" being played during seating, the music was very well integrated into the performance and set the atmosphere well. Most importantly, the performers themselves are each individually endearing - I even had to dry my eyes after the tragic conclusion as Eva Sirp who plays the young mother - Juana - cries her heart out.
©Lauren McKie 9 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs till August 28th at 16:00 (1hr).
Company Split Knuckle Theatre.
Company Website www.splitknuckletheatre.org.


Perki & Mann Are Spooked (Page 196).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.

Is it just me, or does the sight of a lithe young actor with his shirt all stuck to him with sweat just kind of make you want to . . . I don't know . . . like them more? Y'see, Richard Mann is pretty much the only reason why this isn't a three-dram review. Cos he's got lovely black hair and he does a really funny Mick Jagger and he's just, like, dead nice. Which makes it all the more difficult to say what follows . . .

Perki & Mann are about two-thirds as funny as they think they are. Energetic, likeable and obviously huge fans of Bill & Ted, their brand of studenty humour boasts an impressive array of styles without really excelling in any of them. Part puppet show, part madcap caper, theirs is a journey into childlike fantasy of the Scooby Doo variety. Centred around one of them undertaking a quest to secure an inheritance, the show sees them embark on a series of set pieces with a ghostly theme. Sometimes Perki makes his 'thyroidy' eyes go big. Sometimes Mann preens himself in a folding mirror. Sometimes they get wee puppets to pretend to be them and climb up a rope.

On the day I went, a good-sized crowd seemed to find most of this quite amusing. But even the belly-laughers fell kind of quiet during the last quarter of an hour, for it all gets a bit samey in the end. Undoubtedly these lads are talented but they're not firing on all cylinders just yet.
©Lorraine McCann, 11 August 2006 - Published on = EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 1520 every day (not 14th)
Company - Future Legend Theatre
Company Website - www.perkiandmann.co.uk .


Petrol Jesus Nightmare #5 (In the time of the Messiah).(Page 197)

Drams .
Venue Traverse Theatre.
Address Cambridge Street, off Lothian Road.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Current events near the Lebanese border make Henry Adam's new play, Petrol Jesus Nightmare #5, a grimly apt contribution to this year's festival. It presents a macabre vision of an apocalyptic Middle East heading towards some kind of biblical catastrophe, played out in the confines of a bombed out apartment. Adam rather boldly rejects dramatic subtlety in favour of colourful, hysterical stage action, and the play's explosive thematic ingredients threaten to overwhelm any sense of coherence. Still, the result is a bluntly effective production that brashly burns its own unique trail across the Traverse stage.

Slomo (James Cunningham) and Buddy (Aleksandar Mikic) are two Israeli soldiers slowly losing their mind in a war zone, firing aimlessly at invisible enemies. The atmosphere is one of grim absurdity, and any semblance of realism gives way to parody when a Stetson-wearing Texan Evangelist, Lewis Howden, bursts through the rubble. Accompanying him is a lascivious, foul-mouthed Rabbi's widow, a venomous Susan Vidler. Both are escorted by the disillusioned Israeli officer Yossariat, Joseph Thompson, whose patience teeters dangerously close to breaking point.

It's a volatile cocktail, and the violent debate that ensues slides giddily from US interventionism to Jewish conspiracy theories to Old Testament Christian prophecy. Peering furtively through a broken window, Slomo sees a world ablaze - 'Sky's on fire', he murmurs - and amid the inferno director Philip Howard stirs his cast into a suitable frenzy. These really do seem like the 'last days', as the Texan pronounces them. Adam's deranged script pays homage to Catch-22's portrayal of military madness through the character of Yossariat - a Yossarian for modern times - and this production's frightening vision does justice to an arresting title. That said, the trouble with dramatising chaos is that, inevitably, it all tends to look a little chaotic.
©Edmund Gould 11 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27 August, not 14, 21 August, at various times.
Company - Traverse Theatre Company.


Pigeon Man Apocalypse. (Page 197).
Drams (and an iron stomach).
Venue C Central.
Address North Bridge, Carlton hotel
Reviewer Katy Wesley.

It is hard to imagine why Act Provocateur International, the company who delivers us this stark one-hander, picked upon this script as a fringe runner. While I realise that Edinburgh is a platform to challenge and provoke, I'm astonished Pigeon Man Apocalypse had made the cut.

The story is singularly depressing; charting the miserable, abused childhood of Arthur Cork, a man eventually driven wild and murderous by his demons and who, in an attempt to escape the world has bricked himself up in a disused building where he survives on rainwater and pigeons. This tortured soul, played with energy and conviction by actor Andy McQuade, is a social pariah comparable to Hitchcock's Norman Bates, indeed like the psycho character; Arthur also recalls his mother's taunts long after she is dead. I'd question the decision to give Arthur's mother a Scottish accent when Arthur himself is English, but given the number of voices McQuade employs perhaps this is a necessary device.

The staging of Pigeon Man is both engaging and confrontational; on one occasion audience members are actively implicated as accomplices in Arthur's torture. Questioning social apathy towards abuse and mental breakdown is, I suppose, the justification for staging this bleak show. I cannot damn it, the acting is excellent and the script engaging, but I did not enjoy it. Perhaps that is the intention, to revile and challenge? In which case I return to my original query, why choose Pigeon Man as a fringe show? Who do they anticipate will willingly sign up for such a depressing hour? Surely Act Provocateur International has made a rod for its own back?
©Katy Wesley 14 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs till 28 August except 13 August at 13:05.
Company Act Provocateur International.


The Play‘s The Thing. (Page 198).
Drams .
Venue Greyfriars Kirk House (Venue 131).
Address 86 Candlemaker Row.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Hamlet, that most durable of tragic heroes, tends to pop up all over Edinburgh during festival time, in various disguises. This year there’s even a ‘Hamlet for kids‘, which will no doubt have a cheery, not-so-tragic ending. Unthinkable, isn‘t it? Another incarnation of the miserable prince comes in the shape of The Play’s The Thing, a snappy, if rather hackneyed comedy. It doesn’t do much of note with the great Dane’s story, but skips by at a lively pace nevertheless.

An enjoyably narcissistic director, sporting a fetching red beret-and-waistcoat combo, wants to bring Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy to the stage. His co-directors, however, seem more concerned with muffins and coffee breaks, much to his chagrin. Some comically awful auditions follow, including a French thespian hopeful of making the part of ‘Ome-lette’ his own, and an over-sensitive American whose ‘To be or not to be‘ sounds almost constipated. Frustrated by his failure to find a lead actor, the director slowly starts to go, in the words of his colleague, ‘a little bit barmy’ - rather like a certain Mr Hamlet himself. You can probably guess the rest.

The director’s role is played with suitable pomposity, and we are treated to some winningly nonsensical rubbish about ‘the ubiquity of oneness’ and so on. There’s plenty of sly little references for the connoisseur to identify, but the rather smug game of ‘Spot the Quotation’ turns events on stage into a sort of Shakespeare-Safari that won’t be to everyone’s taste. Still, the script does enjoy some moments of real wit - the climactic suggestion to ‘cut’ the part of Hamlet out of Hamlet itself being the pick of them. It’s a fairly slight piece of drama, but it rattles along with enough energy and enthusiasm to make it a pleasant enough way to spend forty minutes.
©Edmund Gould 20 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 20 August at 14:30.
Company – Thing Theatre.


The Pool (Page 198).
Drams .
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14).
Address 13 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.

Leaves on the Track is a young English company whose mission is to bring together young actors and writers to produce fresh, contemporary theatre. They scored a hit in 2004, when they brought two new plays to Edinburgh. One of these, Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, was voted one of the top five things to see that year. So, all in all, The Pool has something to live up to -- and it pretty much does.

Set in a single day in Liverpool, this absorbing two-hander is a kind of Brief Encounter for our times. David, played by James Brough, is an impulsive Londoner who has fallen for a girl with whom he spent a boozy night near Euston station, only to find she has scarpered up north again next morning. Smitten, he embarks on a fruitless quest to find her, only to end up hungover and penniless in a shop doorway. Without his train fare home, he decides to gamble his last couple of quid -- and that is when he meets bookies' clerk Tina. What follows is a classic 'boy meets girl' tale, complete with romcom-esque verbal sparring and 'will they, won't they?' tension. On the plus side, Helen Elizabeth has luminous presence as Tina, with her slightly out-of-date fashion sense and her sad family history, but I couldn't help feeling the characterisation skirts the very edge of stereotype (is there any other kind of woman in Liverpool, apart from the fiesty-yet-fragile working-class goddess?). Brough also has his moments but, again, it's the characterisation that makes his wideboy-with-a-heart a little too on-the-nose at times.

The other character in the play is the city of Liverpool itself. From the beauty of the cathedral to the seedy grandeur of Hope Street to regeneration a la Tate Liverpool, the sense of place is allowed to permeate without feeling forced. Transitions from place to place are skilfully handled, with a scene on the cathedral roof working especially well. Less successful, however, is the decision to use verse for the characters' inner monologues, which had a unfortunate side-effect for me, in that I found myself anticipating the rhymes! Suspect blank verse might have worked better, here.

Overall, The Pool is a genuinely engaging piece that features some of the better acting you'll see at this year's Fringe. And OK, maybe it's let down by a silly 'twist' ending that can be spotted a mile off -- but apart from that, it's good stuff.
©Lorraine McCann, 9 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 22 August at 1400 every day.
Company - Leaves On The Track.


Press Escape To Continue. (Page 199).
Drams full glass.
Venue Pleasance Dome . (Venue 23).
Address 1 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Ariadne Cass.

It's all been done before; the boredom of the office, the frustration of its occupants, the territorial struggle for hobnobs. While it may not be the most original subject, it is hilariously, blackly funny. The script is very well written and structured, which is a credit to the company, who devised it amongst them selves.

The separate angst of the characters is well acted and, if their desires and dreams seem a little clichéd, it is at odds with their unique characters. The physicality of the acting solidifies the characters, who are portrayed with truth and honesty. I find myself aching with sympathy, but unable to stop laughing. A small story and small characters, but very funny. This show and this company deserve to do well.
©Ariadne Cass 16 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 19 at 13:15 every day.
Company - Small Fires.
Company Website - www.smallfires.co.uk.


Pumpgirl. (Page 199).
Drams .
Venue Traverse Theatre.
Address Cambridge Street, off Lothian Road.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

There's times a bare stage tells you all you need to know. Abbie Spallen's Pumpgirl opens to C and W standards as three actors appear to take us through the bleakness of South Armagh, where the Peace Dividend has yet to 'trickle down' to people who've been on the ground most of their lives. This used to be 'bandit country', and the scars still show, not merely in the military archaeology or the available evidence of low-grade economic activity still subsided by giros from the DSS. It's a background that matches Spallen's tale of Hammy 'No Helmet' McAlinden, stock-car racing fantasist and father of two, his wife and the 'pumpgirl' of the play's title.

Stylistically, we've been here before, as the three characters advance the storyline and reveal their character through short monologues. It's become a device of contemporary Irish theatre writing, brought to prominence in plays such as Brain Friel's' Faith Healer' and subsequently used to effect by writers such as Conor McPherson and Marie Jones. It can still work a treat, but in the case of Pumpgirl leaves the impression of being overused and somewhat stagey. The play manages a delicacy of sympathy for its three characters, caught in their own separate inabilities to recognise or deal with their real feelings. The format, however, creates an alienation which it's hard to believe the author actually intended. It's possible over-exposure to the formula has rendered this reviewer incapable of sympathetic objectivity (if that isn't an oxymoron), but it's perhaps equally possible this technique has simply become over-utilised.

Talking dirty in among the clapped-out cars draws out the hour but doesn't of itself take the audience's thoughts or understandings much further. The Bush, producing venue for Pumpgirl has a reputation as one of London's most innovative and challenging fringe theatres. While there's some very fine writing in Pumpgirl's not a particularly innovative piece - one can but hope that both the Bush and the Traverse find ways to encourage writers such as Spallen to tread more dangerous paths than this.
©Bill Dunlop 14 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 27 at various times every day; see Fringe programme and Traverse Box Office for details.
Company - The Bush Theatre.
Company Website - www.bushtheatre.co.uk .

(P) 10 out of 156
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