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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(U) 5 out of 156
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Rating Guide
None = Unmissable

= Unwatchable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme

The Umbilical Project: Cut (Page 211).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Rebecca Smith.

An experimental theater project scripted by a recent graduate with the tagline "Two casts, two crews, two directors, two venues, one new play... no communication" just smells of Fringe - ambitious, experimental, daring, perhaps even slightly indulgent, it lends itself to scepticism. To the theatrically unadventurous this could easily be dismissed as hogwash - but don’t fall into that trap! Cut is the epitome of organic theatre: home-grown, exciting and throughly original.

The Umbilical Project sounds like an avant garde piece on childbirth, but is reference to cutting the cord between the writer, Lucy Kirkwood and her work (a new play called Geronimo). This severed production Cut is directed by Matt Addicott, while Ms Kirkwood moulds her Uncut work opening at the Bedlam Theater one week later. This audacious experiment is courtesy of one-to-watch theater company Kandinsky. They've chose their material well in the rich, absorbing drama of Geronimo.

The play tackles the pain of betrayal in the once-loving relationship of Ben and Theo, further deepened by a debilitating stroke that renders Ben speechless but for a single word. The fabulously talented young cast takes the audience (in my viewing a shameful half-dozen!) on an emotional hour's journey as this relationship is tested by tragedy. Powerful, touching and flecked with biting humour, I came close to tears more than once - a compliment in itself considering the [much-appreciated] air conditioning and the tendency a small attendance has to inhibit emotive responses.

This is the kind of show you will want to boast about having seen when it hits the big time. I eagerly anticipate the Uncut installment.
©Rebecca Smith 10 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 14:00 every day, except Monday the 14th
Company - Kandinsky.
Company Website - www.kandinsky-online.com .
Uncut (EdinburghGuide's review Here) can be seen at Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49) at 21:00 until 26 August not 20.


The Umbilical Project: Uncut (Page 211).
Drams .
Venue Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Place.
Reviewer Rebecca Smith.

Uncut is the second instalment of the Umbilical Project: a theatre experiment looking at the effect a writer’s involvement has when staging their new work. Local playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s Geronimo is being performed in Edinburgh by two casts at two separate venues, under the direction of two different people. While Cut is directed by someone unrelated to the material, Uncut is the result of Kirkwood taking the reins as both author and director. This is an ambitious undertaking by the company Kandinsky and one that does make for some interesting comparisons.

Geronimo takes a glimpse at the troubled middle-class relationship of Ben and Theo, thrown into turmoil with the dinner-party revelation that Ben has been sleeping with his secretary. This cliché of a marital crisis is given a tragic twist when Ben’s guilt and regret bring on a massive stroke, rendering his virtually speechless and completely dependent on the one he betrayed. Kirkwood’s script takes an original and humorous look at the essence of communication and the devastating effects of love and loss.

One noticeable difference is the shift in genre between the two. I see Cut as a powerful, intense drama with occasional comedic relief, while Uncut feels more like a mad-cap comedy with a dark edge. Kirkwood’s Uncut version is visually detailed, and dedicates attention to the bed-time story narrative and symbolic references to wolves, Hindu mythology and the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes. This approach is well received by the large audience the Bedlam Theatre attracts, but my preference is for the more sombre, sparsely staged Cut version where Theo is tormented by her seething anger at Ben’s betrayal, and sense of responsibility to her vow "In sickness and in health".

The strength of The Umbilical Project is in the inventive, original writing - perhaps surprisingly, the writer's own interpretation has less of an impact than its Cut counterpart.
©Rebecca Smith 10 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 26 August at 21:00 every day, except Sunday the 20th
Company - Kandinsky in association with EUTC.
Company Website - www.kandinsky-online.com and www.eutc.org.uk
Cut (EdinburghGuide's review Here) is on at Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) at 14:00 until 28 August.


The Unattended. (Page 211).
Drams .
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14).
13 Bristo Square.
Ritchie Smith.

The Unattended is a tricky one to sum up. It's written by Daniel Maier, an established comedy writer who knows how to create quips, tension, and even character. He gives us an amusing sight/sound gag right at the start. I can also vouch for the authenticity of the two Geordie security guards, with Peter Reed fine as skinny Bob (think Stan Laurel) and Dave Johns really quite brilliant as Jack (think pompous Oliver Hardy - though Maier is clever enough to give this character sudden tragic depth). Mysterious young Nat (also ably played by Brendan Patricks) adds youth appeal, sex appeal, and mystery.

The set-up is workable, too: a bag, suddenly appearing in a monitor screen, which just may contain really big money from a robbery... This is all so well-done and well-paced and lively and amusing that I wonder why I slightly begrudge the three stars (equivalent) I have given here. But the two security guards are really rather two-dimensional sitcom characters, and the whole play is not advertised as a comedy sketch, it's in 'theatre' - you know, where you can see Ibsen, and Shakespeare, and Arthur Miller - and even as comic theatre it's just that bit hollow for my taste, professionally done though it is, and talented as Daniel Maier clearly is.
©Ritchie Smith, 11 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Company Suspect Package.
Runs to August 28 (not 15) at 16:30 every day.


Unprotected. (Page 212).
Drams .
Traverse Theatre (Venue 15).
Cambridge St., off Lothian Rd.
Ritchie Smith.

This is serious. Unprotected is a heavily-researched play about prostitution in Liverpool, with suffering almost all the way through, culminating in death. And, by the end, I found myself deeply, deeply moved.

However, the research (by four writers!) shows in the slow and unexciting start, where the play talks mundane politics about safe zones, councils, Parliament. There's lots of explanation, much of it only too understandable - though it is delivered with occasional flashes of Scouse wit. There are amusing anecdotes about punters - the description of button man's fetish still makes me wince - but it's not till we get to the wasted, genuinely tragic lives of two dead women, 'kaput from the crack and heroin', that I was truly touched.

The young prostitute is brilliantly played by a woman who may be Leanne Best (the Everyman press pack is annoyingly unspecific) but, whatever the actress's name, this is a performance which takes you on a real journey - from birth, through a tragic, truncated life, and finally to a sickening, horrible death. Over and above 'prostitution' as a social problem, in this play there is a touch of authentic tragedy, and also truly compelling theatre.  
©Ritchie Smith, 15 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to August 20 at various times (see Fringe programme).
Company Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.


The Unsinkable Clerk (Page 212).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Lorraine McCann.

I think it was always on the cards that this wasn't really going to float my boat. Y'see, I was the kind of kid who watched Mr Ben and found that I liked it better before he went through that changing-room door . . . Fantasy, adventure, meeting weird characters, trying to pilot a glider out of a whale's blowhole -- all very well but surely it's better if it's done in the service of an idea that's just a tad fresher, bigger or more sophisticated than that old 'Life is not a rehearsal' chestnut?

Felix Hayes plays Mr Plumley, a stereotypical post-war English drone, complete with snot-green tanktop, bowler hat and that tiresome strangulated accent that all actors adopt when they wish to connote that we should find this character dull. In what is probably the best bit of the piece, he completes his daily routine mostly in mime to a 1950s-style voiceover, and then gets up the next morning only to find his life disrupted by a flood. This, it turns out, is only the first of several mythical and Biblical allusions, one of which is his meeting with the god Poseidon, another his teaming-up with Jonah (played by Andrew Paton). Together, they manage to escape the whale and get picked up by a passing cruise ship, which turns out to be haunted, so they escape that and end up in 'paradise' -- or do they?

This is a neatly conceived show, performed with tremendous energy and skill, so I find myself sort of at a loss to explain why it didn't engage me. Perhaps it sailed a little too close to the scatalogical anarchy of something like Bottom? Or maybe it was just a wee bit too long and too self-consciously 'wacky' for such a slight cause? Either way, it all seemed a little bit like listening to someone you vaguely know describing their dreams: pretty boring, actually.
© Lorraine McCann, 18 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 August at 14:20 every day.
Company - Network of Stuff.
Company Website - www.networkofstuff.co.uk.

(U) 5 out of 156
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