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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(S) 8 out of 156
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Page number refers to the Fringe programme

The Screwtape Letters. (Page 202).
Drams .
Venue Charlotte Chapel . (Venue 251).
Address 204 Rose St.
Reviewer Pippa Tennant.

The Saltmine Theatre Company bring the spiritual battle of the Screwtape Letters to life in a humorous and skilful way.

The celebrated book by C. S. Lewis, adapted for the stage by Nigel Forde depicts plans to keep humans from "the Enemy's" love in a school for devils. "Hello, hell and damnation customer care department" Screwtape proudly bellows down the phone. Screwtape, a senior devil in the spiritual realm is played well by David Robinson, as an evil sherry-sipping schoolmaster with penetrating lizard-like eyes.

Katherine Henthorne (Grabslatter, Wife & Church goer) stands out particularly in this production, effortlessly changing from one character to the next with distinctive stage presence and believability. Adam Stone (Husband and Subject) should also be commended for his natural performance. Despite an unconvincing Slubgob and Geraldine, the cast are generally good. The set is nothing spectacular, a school play kind of paint job, the show has smooth technical transitions and is well directed.

It's very good entertainment and by no means for believers alone.
©Pippa Tennant 23 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 26 at 19:15 every day
Company - Saltmine Theatre Company.


The Seagull. (Page 202).
Drams .
Venue C. (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

At one point in The Seagull, as one character performs on a makeshift stage, another cries out ‘What decadent rubbish is this?’ Having sat through Act Provocateur International‘s profoundly dull take on Chekhov’s tale of melancholy and jealousy in rural Russia, I felt inclined to echo such sentiments. A classic drama has been heavily abridged under Victor Sobchak’s direction, and the result is decidedly uninspired. Constantin is a thoroughly gloomy young writer who appears to be undergoing some sort of Oedipal crisis. His mother has fallen for a new beau, the respected novelist Trigorin, who in turn finds himself enraptured by a young actress, Nina. What confuses matters is that Constantin himself is desperately in love with Nina - and thus finds even more reason to despise Trigorin, dispossessing him of both mother and lover.

There’s plenty of sombre musing on the tortures of being a frustrated genius, and the cast sleepwalk through their parts without generating any real feeling. Scenes plod along at a snail’s pace, while the production’s tired air of lethargy is only compounded by one or two of the cast’s inability to make themselves heard. The symbolic power of Constantin’s seagull, shot dead by the shores of a lake, is lost amid the parade of bored faces on display. Chekhov can be heavy going at the best of times, and in a production as strangely static as this, it seems to act as a sort of theatrical sedative - both for the audience and the actors themselves. The blame must lie mainly with Sobchak, who has butchered Chekhov’s complex script with scant regard for his dramatic intentions. A-bridged too far, one might say.
©Edmund Gould 20 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 27 August every day at 11:00.
Company – Act Provocateur International.


Seven Points For 'Love' (Page 202).
Drams .
Venue C Cubed (Venue 50).
Address Brodie's Close, Lawnmarket, Royal Mile.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.

The only reason this isn't a no-dram review is because of the jaw- droppingly awful (non)sightlines in the Temple venue (cf. my review for Touched). As in that other piece, the main action of Seven Points For 'Love' takes place at a table. Apparently.

Brought to Edinburgh from the US by the Ithaca College Theatre group, this European Premiere is a delight from start to all-too-soon finish. Set round a Christmas game of Scrabble, it is performed by a cast who transcend all known boundaries of cuteness. I mean that. There are probably scores of professors in America immersed in Cute Studies 101 who give learned papers at symposia dedicated to discovery a new vocabulary for this level of adorableness. Or maybe there's a factory somewhere in upstate New York turning out these lovely, glowing creatures, with their luminous skin and perfect teeth, just so's they can come over here every August and dazzle us with their guiltless enthusiasm. Either way, I love 'em, and I love this play, too.

The premise is dead simple: a young man wants to use the Scrabble board to spell out the words 'Marry me' to his girlfriend. On hand to 'help' him is his girlfriend's mischevious little sister. And off stage to hinder him are some members' of his girlfriend's family who've got stranded somewhere by a blizzard. This latter device necessitates a series of phone calls that give the boyfriend and the kid sister ample opportunity to stack the board in their favour, all the while increasing the girlfriend's suspicions and providing a pleasing dash of farce. Indeed, one of the most satisfying aspects of this otherwise fairly slight piece is the way in which the boyfriend doggedly adheres to his plan even when it would be much simpler to abandon it and just say what he feels.

Dramatic irony and the technicalities of farce don't matter much in the end, though, because the charm of this piece is all in the playing. The three actors are just so brimful of life, so effortlessly engaging, that I simply wished they would hang around longer. As it is, the ending feels like a tiny bereavement, although I still have a smile to remember them by.
© Lorraine McCann, 16 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 1400 on even-numbered days only
Company - Ithaca College Theatre


Sherlock Holmes: The Three Students (Page 204).
Drams .
Venue C outside St Patrick's (Venue 219).
Address South Grey's Close, off Cowgate.
Reviewer Chris Mounsey.

The concept of wandering from location to location to perform the various scenes is a good one and particularly appropriate when adapting a Sherlock Holmes story, for it was his desire to be right on the spot that so differentiated Sherlock from his brother, Mycroft. Owen Dudley Edwards - Conan Doyle's official biographer - has adapted this short story, relocating it to Edinburgh, and our meanderings take us from St Patrick's, initially on a search for Holmes (who is found at Old College), and thence to George Square where the bulk of the play is acted out.

There were a number of things that mildly irritated this reviewer; there were some horribly jarring anachronisms (usually involving an attempt to be amusingly topical or politically correct) and, whilst one can accept that we need a number of guides, was it really necessary to split Watson into four people (including two who simply couldn't act)? However, Holmes himself, whilst being mildly camp, is convincingly played by Nick Salamone and Simon Tait is endearingly convincing as the fussy Greek lecturer, Hilton Soames. Altogether then, this is an entertaining production, ingeniously adapted in the main, and as pleasant a sunny afternoon as I have spent. Despite the reservations outlined above, this reviewer had a very good time and would recommend that you try to catch up with Sherlock Holmes: The Three Students.
© Chris Mounsey August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to August 26 at 14.00 every day.
Company - Frantic Redhead Productions.
Company Website - www.franticredhead.com .


The Shoemaker's Incredible Wife. (Page 204).
Drams full glass full glass full glass.
Venue Rocket at Roxy Art House (Venue 115).
Address Roxburghe Street.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

It's a perhaps unavoidable pity the flamenco guitar music which opens this show is pre-recorded. Despite the best efforts of the Arnold School students appearing in this show, the music nullifies the frantic intensity they try to convey as the play opens. They're an engaging bunch, it has to be said, directed into tight little groups across the stage, as 'The Playwright' introduced the piece and explains his use of peasant characters to convey universal truths. The Shoemaker's Incredible Wife is early Lorca, an essay into sub-Brecht which doesn't suit the author of The House of Bernarda Alba and other, stronger works. It's interesting, nonetheless, as an early indication of how Frederico Garcia Lorca, possibly the most significant Spanish dramatist of the 20th Century would develop his craft.

If you enjoy Lorca, this simple folk-tale of a hen-pecked husband who deserts his wife, to return disguised to learn how much she says she misses him, only to become once more the butt of her ill humour once they've been reconciled, is a familiar form of the 'world turned upside down' tale. The cast make a bold stab at being Andalucian peasants, but their years and backgrounds are against them. Nonetheless, there's some fine acting in the making here, and one hopes that at least some of this cast make it back to Edinburgh in future years. As elsewhere on the Fringe, the script appears to have defeated the actors but this ought not to reflect unduly on them. There's a point in any young actor's career when playing adults (or more specifically adult emotion) is an unreasonable expectation. The skill then, lies in choosing plays which can demonstrate their strengths. To return briefly to that flamenco music; it may well have been the case that circumstances were such that live music wasn't possible. If so, it's a great pity as it might have helped both audience and actors to settle in.
©Bill Dunlop 14 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 19 at 14.15 every day.
Company - Demarco Rocket Productions.


Spymonkey - Cooped (Page 205).

Drams None needed!
Venue Assembly at George Street. (Venue 3).
Address Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street.
Reviewer Chris Mounsey.

Good lord, but this is a good show! Cooped is, in essence, a series of vaguely themed sketches set within the framework - as our host, Forbes Murdston, informs us - of a "gothic murder mystery novella". The four performers are absolutely convincing, and consistent, in their characters - Forbes is the suave English gentleman; the "character parts" are played by a self-obsessed, toupee-adorned Spanish soap opera star; the heroine is the sexually rampant but slightly dippy Laura Du Lay; and, of course, there is Klaus, the insane German butler.

The story is hackneyed but, naturally, this fact is a joke in itself; anyone who has seen one of those cod-shlock, pulp horror movies will be utterly familiar with the plot (such as it is). But none of this matters because the real laughs come from the troupe's incredibly able physical comedy. The company have been playing with famed circus Cirque Du Soleil and their experience shows through in the slickness - and apparent effortlessness - of their slapstick routines. The set - which is beautifully constructed and hides a myriad of doors, switch-arounds, nooks and crannies - is integral to the show and the company make full use of the whole (including the ping-pong ball launcher. Don't ask).

The show is not perfect in itself; some of the random "dream sequences" (which are really excuses to fit unrelated sketches into the show) are longer than they need to be, as is the inevitable fart gag. But it does have an ending that will make you jump out of your skin!

Although he encoutered a couple of people who were not keen on Cooped, for this scribe it is the perfect Fringe show: funny, well-acted, varied and - above all - inventive.
© Chris Mounsey 18 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 17.20 every day.
Company - Spymonkey.
Company Website - www.spymonkey.co.uk .


Strawberries in January. (Page 206).
Drams full glass.
Venue Traverse (Venue 15).
Address .Cambridge Street.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin .

Originally written in Quebec French by Evelyne de la Cheneliere, this award wining play has now been translated into English by Rona Munro. The setting is contemporary Montreal where Francois runs a café while attempting to write screenplays. For him life is a romantic movie, viewing the world through a rose tinted camera lens. Like a lay psychologist, he enjoys getting involved in other people's lives while trying desperately to analyse and understand his own.
Sophie, his long term flatmate wants commitment and marriage. A new acquaintance, Robert, a university lecturer, seems a lost soul seeking love and friendship. And then there's Lea, another lost soul, trying to track down Sophie, her old school friend. Rather like Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, what ensues is a comedy of sex, lies and seduction between lovers and strangers.
An economic set crisscrosses scenes in the café, city apartment, country house and a restaurant. Like a movie, we follow the ups and downs of relationships, past and present, in a series of brilliant - and often hilarious - dramatised flashbacks. Sitting having coffee with Robert, Francois, played with gentle naivety like a young Woody Allen, by Paul Thomas Hickey, begins to narrate the story of Sophie's admission of love. The scene is renacted. Enter Sophie, offering him a punnet of strawberries and marriage. He is stunned into silence which prompts her to leave. As he sadly confesses, in a film of course, he would have run after her in the rain. But it wasn't raining.
All the characters are superbly portrayed with insight, truth and humour. Gabriel Quigley in particular, playing the sweet and scatterbrained Sophie, has real talent as a comic actress. It's a beautiful poetic script, coloured with a few subtle Scottish colloquilisms without losing the ambience of French Canadian culture. As an engaging and ingeniously crafted rom-com, it would make a great film!.
©Vivien Devlin, 13 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27 August date at different times each day. See Fringe brochure.
Company - Traverse theatre company in association with Paines Plough.
Company Website - www.painesplough.com.


Stroke. (Page 206).
Drams .
Venue Bedlam Theatre.(Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Place.
Reviewer Thelma Good.

Two men ponder over women who are in or recently been in their life. Paul's an artist, a failed one, his conceptualism has just not caught on, though he looks attractive enough for the glossies. He inhabits one half of the stage, at times he paints the wall behind him attempting to whitewash Katrina out of the picture. He's hurt and bemused about why she left him. Even though he's a bit of a weakling and a prat we find it hard to dislike him. Michael inhabits the other half of the stage - his attraction is his success as a novelist, as he talks you feel sorry for the people who have paid to hear him read, he is as pompous as a leather bound visitors book, and as uninteresting as those who write in them. But his songs are hilarious and when he sings his voice is a real pleasure.

Nick Helm and Rob Stott are the two men and they deliver their two interwoven monologues so that we find ourselves longing for Katrina to go back to Paul. Michael seems to have it all, the woman included, but a commodity himself he sees women the same way. Gradually you find yourself even liking him. And mild mannered Paul? Well his eventual concept of how to deal with Katrina is ingenious, I'll never look at specially tinted paint in quite the same way. The actors' company Bad Ash Productions call their work light tragedy, you will laugh but you'll also be engaged by two very well performed characters. That's even if you feel when two actors are gathered in front of an audience they should talk to one another to get most theatrical energy. True to their natures these isolated men never do, and the result is more powerful.
©Thelma Good 16 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 26 August at 19:40 not 20.
Company - Bad Ash Productions.
Company Website - www.badashproductions.com .

(S) 8 out of 156
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