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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(W) 6 out of 156
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Rating Guide
None = Unmissable

= Unwatchable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme

Waiting For Romeo (Page 213).
Dramsfull glass
Venue Hill Street (Venue 41).
Address Hill Street.
Reviewer Lauren McKie.

Adapting a play like Hedda Gabler must be a barrel of laughs - well, it certainly seems like it from this production. Although a bit slow to begin with and certainly true to Ibsen's original, it brings the discussion of gender roles up to date with a bang.

You can imagine these actors not feeling out of place on a bigger stage with more people in the audience, but the confidence they exude has a bewitching effect on the small number in the Hill Street Theatre. They use the space very well and deliver the very fast-paced script with energy and excellent comic timing. While Jamie Brough convinces as Man, the combination of Nicola Harrison and Diana Eskell as the two sisters is fantastic.

Anyone familiar with the story which Waiting For Romeo is based on will realise what a wonderful job Sarah Grochala - one of the founders of Widsith - has done in updating it. This accomplishment is added to by a superb sound design - punctuating the dialogue ever more into a superb anti-climax.The only thing which is slightly lacking is the costume and set design - and by all means it stands up to close scrutiny - but it feels a bit rushed. The lighting picks out clever blocking around it, but can't make it look quite lavish enough to be a "shrine of love" - which Talya is supposed to have designed in order to attract to herself a man.

For anyone unfamiliar with Henrik Ibsen or his work, this is a great way to see it, but have a drink so that you can see the great Ibsen-inspired theatre bar decoration!
©Lauren McKie 13 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs till August 28 at 20:35 (1hr) not 16.
Company Widsith.
Company Website http://www.widsith.org.uk .


Wasted (Page 213).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Dome (Venue 23).
Address 1 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Chris Mounsey.

The Moors Murders held a fascination for the British public that was probably unmatched until the James Bulger and Soham murders, and the protagonists - Myra Hindley and Ian Brady - are bywords for evil. But what were the two really like? Wasted attempts to address this, interspersing scenes set at the time with monologues from the older Hindley in prison.

Although it is Hindley that all of the publicity focuses on, in fact it is Ian Brady and his philosophy that are far more dominant in this show. Brady is well-played by Morgan Thomas, and the man's enthusiasm for De Sade and his philosophy of power are interesting to watch. Ultimately, however, like many of those who try to justify their crimes, his arguments are mere sophistry; syllogisms that make a mockery of the intellectual dominance that Brady believes to be his. And dominant he is; apart from during her monologues -- delivered from the side of the stage and away from the action -- Hindley plays almost no part in this play beyond displaying a chilling disregard for the feelings of the children that she and Brady murdered.

Altogether the play is slick, well-performed and interesting, ultimately, however, it doesn't add an awful lot to our knowledge of two of the most notorious murderers in British history.
© Chris Mounsey August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 18.55 every day.
Company - theproductioncompany with Wild Thyme Productions.


We Can't Reach You, Hartford. (Page 214).
Drams .
Venue Bedlam Theatre. (Venue 49).
Address 11b Bristo Place.
Reviewer Thelma Good.

Dramatising events around the Hartford Circus Fire of 6th July 1944 the actors of the Wesleyan University of Middleton display good ensemble playing under the direction of Jess Chayes in this collaborative work. Weary Willie was one of the clowns of "The Greatest Show On Earth". Yes, it was at a Barnum and Baillie show that at least 168 people died, many of them women or children, No one in Hartford was untouched.

The fun of the circus is evoked by puppets and performers. A large sheet becomes the Big Top at first, then transforming, accompanied by some very fine physical work, to the flames that consume. If you get an emotional charge from watching plays based on actual events, this production is a good example of the form. It expands beyond the story its self to comment on how the size and place of such true stories alters over time and circumstances. Others, myself included, may find its all-from-real-life-basis not as fascinating as an imagined drama with characters whose motives and failings are followed through again events we don't expect or know. On the stripped bare staging some of the performances are more confident than others, it's tough on actors when their characters rarely reappear. It does though offer cogent comment on those large accidental or deliberately engineered losses of human lives and the despair and awfulness of it.
©Thelma Good 13 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 19 August at 17:10 not 13.
Company - The American Story Project.


We Don't Know Shi'ite. (Page 214).
Drams .
Venue Underbelly (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

I tell my Jewish director friend the reason I buy halal meat is because I know it's kosher, which is perfectly true. And she points out to me that one of the ironies of the way we live now is our ignorance of how much people in the Middle East have in common rather than what they don't. Which is something the popular press prefer not to publicise. We might start seeing them as human beings, for heaven's sake. This is the starting premise of WMD's show We Don't Know Shi'ite. Note; so far in writing this review, Microsoft's dictionary has thrown up two words it doesn't recognise; 'halal' and 'Shi'ite'. It does, however, recognise 'Microsoft'.

There's no doubt WMD have good intentions; however, much of the enlightenment they offer about Islam ought to have been covered by a Standard Grade or equivalent syllabus in Religious Education. To judge by the quotes offered from members of the public questioned on matters Islamic, it would seem that any information imparted in schools hasn't stuck, but this could sadly be said of the average Joe or Josephine's understanding in other areas. WMD's efforts to fill the gaps in our knowledge don't, unfortunately, add up to as much as might have been hoped. The differences between Sunni and Shi'ite aren't fully explained, and Sufi barely get a mention. The curious might be better advised to have a word at their local mosque, where they're almost certain to be offered a copy of the Qu'ran, which is possibly more of a start than this little number. What WMD seems to have failed to appreciate is that no-one is better at satirising and sending up a belief system than members of its own congregation - in the same way that no-one is better placed to explain a religion or sect than one of its own.

To be fair, We Don't Know Shi'ite is a very worthy effort; its problems lie in the worthiness of its intentions and its seeming conviction that a few brief sketches and a Q and A session constitute a show. What was even more disturbing that although there was at least one Muslim in the audience when this show was seen, not one member of the cast gave any impression of having known or spoken to any Muslims prior to doing the 'research' on which this was based. Government spokespersons may prattle about 'multi-culturalism' and 'engaging with the Muslim community', but until we all become more than merely polite to our local halal butcher, the state of affairs depicted by 'We Don't Know Shi'ite' is likely to prevail.
©Bill Dunlop 12 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to August 27 at 19.40 every day but 15.
Company - WMD Theatre.


Whale Music. (Page 214).
Drams .
Venue Sweet ECA (Venue 186).
Address Lauriston Place / Lady Lawson Street.
Reviewer Ritchie Smith.

Whale Music is a briskly-paced student production, carried off well, with Caroline played by an actress who is easy and yet interesting to listen to.

'Whale music' the music is what you listen to, to calm you down when you are pregnant - and Caroline, unmarried but pregnant, and returned in some shame to her small and inward-looking seaside town, has a lot to try to be calm about. Not least that the unknown father is one of two boys - and probably the one she likes least. There's also lesbian interest from her former teacher, and the (somewhat trite) shock of her well-meaning mother. Anthony Mingella's play is a well-written slice of UK life and is carried off well here - admittedly with a slight touch of sixth form girls in a school play. (There are no men.) The cast didn't seem too pleased after curtain, but this is a good go at a very slightly dated play, with a human and affecting performance at its heart.
©Ritchie Smith, 14 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to August 28 at 17:25 every day.
Company Stage Presence.


White Open Spaces. (Page 214).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Dome. (Venue 23).
Address 1 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Pippa Tennant.

White Open Spaces is brought to us by Pentabus Theatre, BBC radio drama and a group of extremely talented writers. These seven monologues were written after a week at The Hurst in Shropshire and explore issues of countryside "passive apartheid"in an immensely insightful way, delving to profound levels with humour and intellectual fervour.

The same praise cannot be given to all the actors however, who vary considerably in their ability. The outstandingly witty and perceptive script, Completely Fucking See-Through by Francesca Beard certainly deserves a far finer delivery than the overacted and artificial performance of Endy McKay. On the other hand, Janice Connolly's performance is spectacular. Connolly excels in Joy's Prayer, by Ian Marchant and Letting Yourself Go by Kara Miller, creating thoroughly believable characters with remarkable depth of emotion. Saraj Chaudhry also displays striking talent and gives a funny and touching performance, inviting us into a deeper appreciation of nature as a place of regain our identity. Rommi Smith's Mountain Knows Me, which protests against the destruction of nature and recognises its spiritual qualities, must also be commended for its astute observations.

White Open Spaces is well worth checking out and generally the production is strong. Shame about some of the acting, but the writing is guaranteed to impress. .
©Pippa Tennant 21 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to August 27 at 17:15 every day, not 22.
Company - Pentabus Theatre.

(W) 6 out of 156
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