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Category Archives: Theatre

The Confessions of Gordon Brown

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The Confessions of Gordon Brown
Pleasance Courtyard
1.45pm (run ends 26th Aug)

 

If you want to know more about the man from Kirkcaldy who rose to be Prime Minister, this play won’t offer anything new or that you can’t get from other sources. His pact with Tony Blair, his volcanic temper , his strange gaffes and the family-nurtured compassion that got him into politics in the first place and the blind ambition that kept him there are all on display.

What it does offer are two worthwhile things. First, a stunning performance by the actor Ian Grieve who has mastered not just voice and mannerisms but also the spirit of the man. And second, time to reflect. In the end, we don’t really know anything new about what was wrong with Gordon Brown failed prime minister. But for me it raised another question. What is wrong with us, the electorate, that we can’t stomach as leader an erudite man of superior intellect and genuine passion for making the world a better place because he doesn’t look good on the telly?

RM Ballantyne

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Confessions of Gordon Brown, RM Ballantyne

 

The School of Night’s Spontaneous Shakespeare

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The School of Night’s Spontaneous Shakespeare
Gilded Balloon
2pm (run ends 25th Aug)

 

The team behind Showstoppers: the Improvised Musical have extended their talents to the creation of deathless prose and verse: the challenge is to “unscrew the Bardic tap” produce an entirely new Shakespearean play from the audience’s suggestions.

They warm up to this gradually with clever word games, developing complete narratives using phrases from books borrowed from the audience, and creating from the family history of an audience member another Canterbury Tale, in decasyllabic couplets. We then saw created The Lamentable Tragedie of Queen Celeste, Spirit of the Peat Bogs. This cleverly conformed to the guidelines given by the audience, used a number of dramatic devices, and made full use of the four humours, being by turns choleric, melancholy, phlegmatic and sanguine. The show ended with a game of musical poetry chairs, when they took turns to improvise in the styles of T S Eliot, e e cummings, nursery rhymes and Carol Ann Duffy.

As with the improvised musical, the more you know of the genre, the funnier these improvisations are: the audience were at times rocking with laughter, but at other times they were less involved – is this show too clever for its own good? The best bits for me were when they brought in music – pastiche Elizabethan lute and recorder music, and a brilliant ‘Sondheim’ number: maybe this talented team should stick to what they know best…

Mary Woodward

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in School of Night’s Spontaneous Shakespeare

 

Austen’s Women

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Austen’s Women
Assembly George Square
11.40am (run ends 25th Aug)

 

Jane Austen published six novels and left two unfinished novels and some juvenilia, through all of which move a cast of unforgettably real women who feel every conceivable emotion, which we can still recognise today. It must have been hard for Rebecca Vaughan to select the characters she brings so brilliantly to life – who is to be left out??

Of course we must meet Elizabeth Bennett we also encounter a splendid mixture of heroines, irritating or insufferable women – Miss Bates, Mrs Norris, Mrs Elton, Mrs Charles Musgrove – and less well-known characters – Mary Stanhope (The Three Sisters), Diana Parker (Sanditon) and Miss Elizabeth Watson (The Watsons), who between them run the full gamut of emotions we find so perfectly described in the novels. Scenes were linked by a commentary using Austen’s own words: to my particular delight, the opening address was Anne Eliot’s defence of the constancy of women, who love longest when all hope is gone. Part of the joy of this show for the Austen addict is identifying the origin of each part of this delightful potpourri, but for those who know no Austen, her wit and deep knowledge of humanity would be entertainment enough – and maybe even induce them to read the novels for themselves.

Rebecca Vaughan’s performance is outstanding. With virtually no props and very simple alterations to her costume, she brings each character memorably to life. I couldn’t see her moving Marianne Dashwood through the heads in front of me and was not 100% convinced by her Mrs Norris: but the other characters were perfectly portrayed. Her rapport with the audience was excellent, and the capacity audience loved every minute.

Yet again Miss Austen triumphs this Fringe – hurry and get a ticket before it’s too late!

Mary Woodward

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Austen’s Women, Mary Woodward

 

Kiss Me Honey, Honey!

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Kiss Me Honey, Honey!
Gilded Balloon
6.45 pm (run ends 26th Aug)
 

Two men of a certain age who find they are occupying adjacent rooms in a questionable boarding house strike up an unlikely friendship based on their shared love of Shirley Bassey. Together they search for the woman of their dreams – unfortunately their dreams are identical…

Andy Gray and Grant Stott are well-known to Edinburgh panto audiences, but this show gives them the opportunity to play straight roles as the two men who gradually reveal why they are living in such dismal surroundings, while demonstrating their impressive comic skills with lightning changes of character and gender for all the other characters in their story. There is a plot of sorts, which becomes increasingly complex and absurd, and the hysteria mounts as the dastardly plot is revealed and the villain unmasked.

The audience were in stitches even before the show got going, and roared at the comic characters, crosstalk and ‘in’ jokes, though there were uncomfortable silences as the sad truths of the men’s lives emerged. My discomfort came from some of the situations which everyone else appeared to find riotously funny – which is why I rarely go to panto. Not my cup of tea: but obviously a whole lot of other people‘s!

Mary Woodward

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Kiss Me Honey Honey!, Mary Woodward

 

Trash Cuisine

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Trash Cuisine
Pleasance Courtyard
3.30 pm (run ends 26th Aug)

 

This is a devised show by the famous and intrepid Belarus Free Theatre. It is one that should be seen by everyone who cares about both drama and humanity, except those who are too faint hearted to look reality in the eye.

We are welcomed to the Capital Punishment Café. The opening is deceptively gentle, with alluring guitar music originally composed by Arkady Yushin. Quickly, however, we see members of the cast apparently dying and being revived by other cast members, or are they receiving electric shocks, or shocked by what they become aware of….

Our compere then encourages us to vocally show our presence, rather as though this is stand up. We are told this will be a gourmet show, with a great new chef. The dishes to be served are not those we might ordinarily savour, and are anything but low down the food chain. Even when the subject is a small bird you may feel an impulse to become vegetarian.

This company is highly skilled and extremely professional, to an extent that they can make a great theatrical success out of a survey of the inhumanity of humanity, with very witty and creative culinary connotations. Electrocution, hanging, lethal injection, tribal violence, the injustices perpetrated in Northern Ireland, together with the appalling conditions that prevail in their native Belarus, all get due attention. Most of the time we don’t want to know, we pass by on the other side of the road. Only a company of the highest theatrical calibre could make us aware of so much that is so chilling, and make of that a great and memorable production. That is what Belarus Free Theatre has done here.

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Tony Challis, Trash Cuisine

 

Bygone

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Bygone
Zoo
1.50pm (run ends 26th Aug)
 

This original new drama by Caligula’s Alibi has two people living around each other in some form of space that appears to be a wasteland strewn with bits of broken detritus.  The relationship between Brandy and Tynan is not clear, are they friends, are they lovers, are they related – we don’t know?  Other people and other creatures come into the dialogue and equally abruptly leave, there are moments of anger and moments of tenderness, curious things are said, are this going somewhere, and are we at the end of nowhere already?  Memories are shared, and there is the beginning of writing a story for the future, which is discontinued.   Is there some sense or is it nonsense?

Jonnie Bayfield’s new drama is a strange piece that left me intrigued and curious and full of questions, but wanting to know more.  Bayfield and his fellow actor Russell Chadwick bring lots of energy and dynamism to the work.  Descriptions that occurred to me were abstract, apocalyptic, nihilistic, but there is also a warmth of tempo in the way these two fellows alone in the world rub along together.

Carrie Gooch

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Bygone, Carrie Gooch

 

Shylock

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Shylock
Assembly Hall
3pm (run ends 12th Aug)

 

This is one very exceptional actor on stage for ninety minutes, becoming a great variety of characters in that time, and telling much of the story of Jewish history also. It is difficult to avoid the cliché of describing this as a tour de force.

Guy Masterson presents himself at first in the character of Tubal, Shylock’s friend, who has only eight lines, and who is the only other Jewish character in Shakespeare. (Shylock’s daughter, it seems, has a non-Jewish mother). He reminds us that Shakespeare would not have met any Jews – not any who were legally present, anyway, because Jews had been barred from England for centuries, following the upsurge of the blood libel, of the idea of Jews using Christian children in rituals, in the 12th century. This idea spread throughout Europe, taking firm hold in Transylvania, and hence the story of a certain vampire.

We are treated to many other historical figures, to references to the holocaust, and to detailed references to Shakespeare’s sources, mainly in a much saucier earlier tale, and to Portia’s speech in detail and to Shylock’s fate. We see the masks that would have been used for early productions, we hear the words of Marlowe’s very caricatured Jew of Malta, and we see how famous actors through history have presented Shylock.

When this show is over, we have been made aware of much fascinating history, we have seen many characters come to life, we have heard much Shakespeare text very well performed, and we have seen a brilliant performance by a very distinguished actor. The very enthusiastic applause could not be more deserved.

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Shylock, Tony Challis

 

Newton

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Newton
Summerhall
5pm (run ends 25th Aug)

 

Jack Klaff can be relied on to bring a different and illuminating light to bear on any subject. Here he takes Sir Isaac Newton, who clearly deeply fascinates him, and presents him as seen from many different angles, through the voices of various people who have commented on him. We move from his rival of his own times in the Royal Institute, James Hook, to a scientist at CERN, to a Russian poet and to Usain Bolt. Each of these people is presented in his own voice and manner as Jack Klaff gradually builds a kaleidoscopic vision of this legendary figure.

As he moves through the characters, he repeatedly breaks down and rebuilds the fourth wall, speaking closely to us and looking at us, then retreating into a character. This is a warmly involving show, and Jack Klaff treats his audience with much consideration and respect. Whether we are hearing Maynard Keynes or a scientist at today’s cutting edge, Klaff makes each one communicate closely and personally with us. And if someone in the audience has a problem – as with a woman who had a coughing fit on this occasion, and who was treated with great courtesy – “it’s alright, you’re amongst friends…” – that can be very smoothly incorporated.

As we enjoy this roller-coater of impressions – and some input from Jack Klaff himself, including warnings about climate change – we become aware of the significance of Newton, of his very productive insights, and of the way in which there are many facets to any person, and as many views of that person as there are people who observe him. And maybe, to adapt Einstein, that observation changes the person. This extremely skilful and illuminating show is likely to have its audience seeking out more background on the subject, even if we thought we knew about him already.

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Newton, Tony Challis

 

Angus: Weaver of Grass

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Angus: Weaver of Grass
Scottish Storytelling Centre
4pm (run ends 25th Aug)

 

Angus MacPhee was raised on South Uist. He served in World War II and subsequently spent fifty years in a psychiatric hospital, where he did not speak, but wove remarkable creations from grass, some of which are now in the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne.

A mixture of puppetry, mask and shadow work, live singing, recorded sound and projection is used to tell Angus’ story. The gentle pace of island life and its close connection with nature are starkly contrasted with the horrors of war and Angus’ life in an ‘old style’ psychiatric hospital. I found the constant changing of medium was distracting and made the story harder to follow. A superb Gaelic singer, who is not credited by name, was one of the four performers: there were a few English words in her narrative but I became increasingly frustrated as I tried to follow the action.

There were many haunting moments – the young puppet Angus’s bedtime story about the magic bonnet, an older Angus setting off to war with his horse, crossing the fields over which flocks of oystercatchers were flying; the magic transformation of the stark off-white hospital screens into a brilliantly coloured natural landscape; the horrors of war; Angus’ ECT treatment and the hospital staff’s uncaring, inhuman treatment of him – but somehow the whole was less than the sum of the parts. A less complicated production could perhaps have enabled the story to shine more clearly and touch my heart more deeply.

Mary Woodward

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Angus: Weaver of Grass, Mary Woodward

 

Sandpits Avenue

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Sandpits Avenue
Zoo Southside
2.20pm (run ends 26th Aug)
 

Beatbox, choreography, folk music and the whole thing told in rhyming verse – this is the Boneyard Theatre’s dynamic  and thoroughly  engrossing 21st Century answer to the question of what happens to young men who leave their farming community homes and head off to war.

It also looks at what happens to their troupe of friends when, somewhat predictably, one of the soldiers doesn’t come home. In a tight piece of ensemble acting, each of the characters – the grieving sister, the cheating girlfriend, the two mates  – has the opportunity to take the lead and share their experience, energetically supported by the other four. What we learn is that Afghanistan is hell, a toxic mix of brutality, courage and duty, and insanity.

But life back home in Hereford ain’t that great either, where our friends are slowly losing all the battles against joblessness, hopelessness, and drug use.

At breath-taking pace they raise the questions of why – why are we fighting that war, and why are we losing the economic and social wars that force young people into addiction or depression, or having to leave their home communities to have any chance of a better life.

Every generation indicts and tells the story in its own way, using its own weapons of communication. World War 1 had the war poets – Brook, Owen, Sassoon. Afghanistan has got Sandpits Avenue and the breath-taking Boneyard Theatre. Do your duty – go and hear and see this exceptional production.

RM Ballantyne

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in RM Ballantyne, Sandpits Avenue

 

The Smallest Light

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The Smallest Light
Zoo Southside
5.50pm (run ends 26th Aug)

 

This is a new show from the Gramophones Theatre Company about the power of the individual to make a difference. In the queue outside the venue people were asked if they knew someone who had changed the world, and what had they done themselves to change the world. We then had a mad cap show, as three of the four members of the company, dressed in bright colours and exuding boundless energy, shared their own stories of injustices they had challenged, and how they had achieved change. For example: one person was infuriated by the food waste from supermarkets and started searching their bins for free food to redistribute; another cast member was outraged by the proposed new ‘Bikini Car Wash’ being set up in Nottingham and organised a letter writing campaign to get it stopped.

The cast made great use of video material projected on to impromptu screens made out of sheets and ladders or blank sign boards, which additionally enabled the forth woman in the company to be present in the performance; she is heavily pregnant and so couldn’t be here. Given this was a theatre piece, my criticism of it was that it felt as though too much of the script was delivered by the protest meeting loud hailer approach, enthusiastic shouting. This show contains idealism in bucket loads, so committed cynics will hate it, but it is a fun caper making a serious point about how much can be achieved by individuals if we just put our pessimistic fatalism to one side.

Carrie Gooch

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Carrie Gooch, The Smallest Light

 

Let’s Get Things Straight!

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Let’s Get Things Straight!
theSpace on North Bridge
1.05 pm (run ends 22nd Aug)

 

This is a really delightful comedy and the young cast seem to have great fun performing it. It takes the idea of a society in which it is normal for people to live in homosexual relationships, and where heterosexual relationships are taboo. The great thing is that the idea is acted out fully – quite straight, you might say. So you have a young guy who is concerned that he may be attracted to girls, and dare not tell his two mothers. A girl gets wind of this a makes herself very presentable to him at a party, and gives him lots of attention. She also is different and likes boys. He gets into deep trouble, and a woman in a straight relationship becomes like his fairy godmother.

The two mothers’ answering machine message got its own round of applause, and deserved it. Enlightenment does spread, and there is a delicious twist in the tail of this show.

If anyone came into this performance with a trace of homophobia it would surely be laughed out of them before the show was over. It is a really joyful show, and is a demonstration of how consciousness has changed. It is not a long play, but it is one with a point to make which it does at full pelt and with relish. It deserves to have really good audiences. Go out and give yourself a lunchtime tonic with this one!

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Let’s Get Things Straight!, Tony Challis

 

Open Wide Tour

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Open Wide Tour
The Fiddler’s Elbow Upstairs
2.00 pm (run ends 24th Aug)

 

The beginning is a list of names used in contempt of gays and lesbians, then a list of all 82 countries where being gay can land you in prison. Later, discussion of many actions that may be offensive…we like to think we are unshockable , but how easily that can be disproved. Then Doug has a doughnut – a Doug nut even? And Ashley a banana, and they make a virtual little orgy out of consuming these.

The two make good and friendly connection with the audience, but I did feel there could be more consistency of tone. Were they angry? Or just having fun? Maybe their material needs to be more focused, though it is good to mix heavy with light.

A list of people who have been killed for being gay has impact later, but I feel the whole show could have had more drive. These two appear to be really good actors, but they need to structure what they are doing with care. The crafted naivety of asking each other what do they owe the audience sparks a train of thought, but does it add to their intended effect? As someone who has been active in the LGBT movement for 40 years I feel that whilst much has been gained there is still lots to be angry about, and they could have got away with being angrier. Sock it to ‘em, Doug and Ashley – let ‘em know that every life is precious.

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Open Wide Tour, Tony Challis

 

The Year I Was Gifted

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The Year I Was Gifted
Sweet Grassmarket
2.50pm (run ends 25th Aug)

This comic semi-autobiographical piece, written and performed by award-winning playwright, Monica Bauer, is a gorgeous wee gem of a show.

Billed as a coming of age, gay-straight love story, Bauer depicts the fortunes of a working class 15 year old girl who lied her way into a prestigious American boarding school for the arts.

As we’ve come to expect from Bauer, her writing is stronger than strong. Not a word is wasted. Her performance is engaging, though perhaps she dropped out of character occasionally, when playing her much younger self.

The story of how she secured her place at Interlochen Arts Academy is endearing and entertaining. But the sequence of events that followed left me genuinely moved.

Why are gay lads are being expelled from the school at an alarming rate? Who is this gay best friend that influenced Bauer so much? Will Bauer risk everything to make a stand?

This is a play about a sense of belonging, of right and wrong and of loyalty. Anyone who still thinks that homosexuality is somehow immoral should see this piece immediately.

Martin Walker

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Martin Walker, The Year I Was Gifted

 

SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL

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SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL
TheSpace at North Bridge
8pm (run ends 24th Aug)

 

The stage opens with Laurel Spears aka Heather Bagnall on a swing in what can best be described as a giant wooden mechanic climbing frame. She uses the imaginative set to great effect as she uses the frame to take us on a speedy journey through her life with her hard to pin down husband – who was obviously no Christian Grey!

The play, SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL is based on a successful blog of the same name and you get the sense that the blog entries became Spears’ her own private confessional. The climbing frame acts almost as a metaphor for each entry as she moves and jumps through her highs and lows unpeeling and unhooking herself from her dead end marriage – from receiving self-penned emails from her better self to taking herself on date nights in an endeavour to discover her who the heck she is. Although her delivery could be a tad slower ,Bagnall definitely charms her way through her major identity crisis and is highly likable, engaging and funny.

There is no doubt that Heather Bagnall is an accomplished, writer – sometimes quirky, sometimes off beat. This 50 minute one woman show will certainly have traction with the straight community, yet its exploration into coupledom’s hiccups will appeal to everyone who has been in a crappy relationship.

Anne Francis

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Anne Francis, SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL

 

Pirates and Mermaids

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Pirates and Mermaids
Scottish Storytelling Centre
Times Vary (run ends 25th Aug)

 

We are greeted by our guide to New York’s Central Park who takes us to a quiet part thereof, where we are encouraged to listen to the silence, breathe the fresh air, and take our seats on some nearby benches. There we meet a young man who is dressed in his best kilt suit and are drawn into the tale of Cameron and Eilidh, childhood sweethearts from a remote part of Scotland. Cameron explains that 25% of Scots are pirates – drawn to adventuring on the high seas/ around the world – and the other 75% are mermaids, who don’t want to leave their rock, and spend their whole lives within a very small distance of their birthplace.

Cameron’s family moved to the States when he was eight, but come back to visit every summer, and every other Christmas. Slowly Cameron and Eilidh realise they are more than just Best Friends – but long-distance relationships are not easy. He shows us photos on his phone – his treasure box, which he’s never without – and describes the frustrations of communicating electronically [you can’t hug by Skype]. He brings members of both their families vividly to life, and we see his internal conflicts: what is his identity, where does he belong, how can he be ‘self’ when he is also part of Eilidh, how can they be together when each feels the tug of the life they currently live?

Jeremiah Reynolds holds us in the palm of his hand for the entire show, weaving together our own stories [childhood dreams and treasuries of pictures], his and Eilidh’s, and his gran’s bedtime story of a selkie [a seal woman who can assume human form and is torn between her love for her man and the pull of the sea from which she came]. His mastery of accents and character is outstanding, and his use of his phone to provide scenery and soundtrack for his tale is a stroke of genius.

The show is billed as ‘a fairytale for adults’: like all good fairy tales, it has a deeper meaning, and leaves us with much to ponder.

Mary Woodward

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Mary Woodward, Pirates and Mermaids

 

Our Fathers

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Our Fathers
Summerhall
12.30pm (run ends 25th Aug)

 

Mike and Bert are in a long-standing relationship. Sonia is their flatmate. Mike receives an email asking him to father a child with his dead dad’s friend’s daughter. He has never met this woman, but he is excited and intrigued – he has never thought of becoming a father. Mike’s father died when Mike was thirteen, and he wonders what that loss did to him. (As someone who only first met his father at age nineteen, I always find treatment of this subject a glimpse into an unknown world, and thereby fascinating).

Bert reacts very negatively to the idea of Mike as a father. He does not speak to his religious and homophobic father. Sonia begins to wonder about the man behind her Greek father’s happy and spontaneous façade. Family stories are explored using diary entries, archive film and baby pictures. Sonia talks with, questions and teases various audience members – on this occasion she shared wine with a guy, asked about his father and found the father was sitting beside him. This created an intimate atmosphere, but I didn’t see how it helped the stories unfold.

Mike gets books on fatherhood, but is warned by Sonia that sperm donation may be all that is wanted. Dancer Bert has a phone conversation with his father, with Mike and Sonia standing in to voice the father, and some progress is made. Mike goes in detail into his father’s life.

This is a very imaginative show, using innovatory approaches, and is charming, with each character exposing aspects of themselves. Mike, especially, comes to see memories in a new light. We share some on-screen enjoyment of her father’s company with Sonia, and are shown visually how things change over time. I’m all for experimental theatrical approaches, but on this occasion and with this subject I did not feel that the topic was explored with anything like the depth and thoroughness that might have been achieved with traditional narrative.

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Our Fathers, Tony Challis

 

London Road, Sea Point

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London Road, Sea Point
Assembly George Square
1:50pm (run ends 26th August)

 

London Road, Sea Point despite its romantic sounding address in Cape Town is not a place where you’d particularly want to live. There’s drug deals going down across the street, illegal immigrants in stinky rooms on the top floor and signs of neglect everywhere. But when two of the residents’ world’s unexpectedly collide, a kind of magic that transposes age, race and circumstances, is born.

Ntombi Makhutshi as Stella is young and beautiful, while Robyn Scott as Rosa is decidedly unlovely, trembling, shuffling and sometimes almost screeching. And yet, by just being the nosy-parker that she naturally is, and the fighter for justice that she’s become, it’s the old and frail Rosa who is able to reach out the hand of friendship to her testy younger neighbour.

The relationship unfolds slowly revealing their respective alienations – Rosa because she argues so hard with her family, they’ve decided to live abroad and never visit. And, Stella who has alienated herself from her cheating husband in Nigeria and from her new country by being there as an illegal.

So far, so bad, you might think. Here comes another tale of the ugliness of life at the edge. But no, London Road, Sea Point manages to transcend that by offering us a slow reveal of challenges which can be – if not overcome by a helping hand – at least forced into the background so that the finer points of life like friendship and love and laughter can be brought to the foreground.

The Tracy Chapman track The Promise is a fitting ending, and will give you a moment to pause and wipe away the tears before the lights come up.

A prize winning production in South Africa and part of the Assembly’s South African festival

RM Ballantyne

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in London Road Sea Point, RM Ballantyne

 

Kubrick Cubed

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Kubrick Cubed
Pleasance Courtyard
7.10pm (run ends 26th Aug)

 

This is a brilliantly imaginative take on the story of Alan Conway, failed gay man who decided to become Stanley Kubrick, and did so in many circumstances over three years, including underwriting a gay bar in Kubrick’s name – no money was ever forthcoming, of course. This show won the 2013 Enfants Terrible Award, and very much deserved to do so.

We are presented with Conway’s son, (Andy McLeod) who encounters his father’s ghost and has many questions to ask. The spirit reappears as four shades Alan himself (Ed Cobbold), Alan as Julie Walters (Leah Milner), Alan as Frank Rich (Madeleine McMahon) and Alan as a Nigerian producer (Sophie Wallis). Being mere shades they are in outfits which give new meaning to fifty shades of grey.

We see Alan using his alias in many circumstances, chatting up women, getting privileged access, special tables in restaurants, the gay bar episode, being interviewed as Kubrick, and much more. Watch out for the multiple giant heads of Kubrick, looming and closing in on Alan! Energy, enthusiasm and sheer joy in performance comes across from the whole cast throughout. It would be unfair to single out any one. Scriptwriter and director David Byrne has done himself proud. This is a show that is a delight from beginning to end. It’s a big venue, there’ll be room for you – get along!

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Kubrick Cubed, Tony Challis

 

For the Trumpets Shall Sound

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For the Trumpets Shall Sound
C aquila
6.45 pm (run ends 17th Aug)

 

Ruth is investigating donations to her vintage shop with the reluctant help of her son, Jamie. Jamie finds an album with photos from France in World War I. Ruth is surprised to see pictures of ‘Grandfather James’ and ‘Grandmother Nora’, but does not recognise the man with them: her grandfather never talked about his wartime experiences. In the accompanying diary, Ruth learns the secret of his relationship with his comrade Robert Baker and Robert’s cousin Nora.

The two officers on the front line deal with the unspeakable on a daily basis with gallows humour reminiscent of R C Sherriff’s Journeys End. They talk of ‘the girl back home’: James says he hasn’t got one, and Robert urges him to get to know his cousin Nora, who is nursing nearby. James is wounded and Nora nurses him: when he returns to the front, they write to each other.

One evening Robert reveals that he has never been attracted to girls and confesses that he is jealous of Nora: he fully expects James to be horrified – he does not expect his feelings to be reciprocated… The next morning, neither regrets their “act of treason”, but they fully realise the impossibility of not conforming to the norms society expects of them: Robert, the realist, continues to urge James to marry Nora. It is clear from her letters that Nora is attracted to him: she and James have a brief leave together in Paris – she clearly wants him, he is obviously conflicted. Robert is killed in “the Big Push”: James tries to get himself killed in action, unable to bear the thought of living without him. He fails, and decides that he will go to Nora – “it’s what he wanted, and now it’s all I want”…

WWI songs hauntingly punctuate this play. “If you were the only girl in the world, and I were the only boy” is a constant refrain – if only, if only things could have been different! The tragic waste of life in wartime, the impossibility of living a life that didn’t conform to society’s norms, the pain of carrying on living when your love is dead are all poignantly portrayed. The relationship between Robert and James is delicately and tenderly expressed, as is the men’s acceptance of the sheer hopelessness of their situation. Marina Walters touchingly displays Nora’s hopeful ignorance and willing offering of herself to James; Samuel Morgan’s Robert is a cleverly understated portrait of a man who knows and accepts that what he is and wants can never find true fulfilment. Richard Hills-Ingyon gives an outstanding performance as James – young, idealistic, hopeful and ultimately heartbroken but determined to remember his lost love in the only way possible.

A tragic reminder of how LGBT life used to be, and a deeply moving performance which should not be missed.

Mary Woodward

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in For the Trumpets Shall Sound, Mary Woodward

 

Entertaining Mr Orton

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Entertaining Mr Orton
C
8.25pm (run ends 17th Aug)

 

Martin Mulgrew’s play is Joe Orton’s life as if he had written it. It is full of very Ortonesque lines, and has a very entertaining trial scene where two defendants could almost have stepped out of Orton’s Loot. The first part of the play is sharply observed, but then we have a lawyer and a psychiatrist who are pretty stock characters. The unfortunate Halliwell (Stuart Denman) has his well-known faults displayed, but he does not get to show his strengths – but maybe because this is being seen through Orton’s eyes. Joe himself (Jack Burns) is mostly impassively distant – maybe he does have no real feelings for Halliwell and is purely acting a role.

There are fewer laughs later. If you are going to include one of the most brutal and high-profile celebrity murders of the past half century in a play, then it is a good idea to go for it. The audience will largely be anticipating it. But here there was a single blow, pills swallowed and the pair ended looking almost cutely cuddled. Failure of nerve or what?

There are many moments and lines here which will be familiar to those who know certain books and films, including in the final scene. Yes, it was good to see Orton’s alter ego, Edna Welthorpe (Helen McCormack) in the flesh and there were some good double entendres. Yet, if this was to be the life through Orton’s eyes surely that provided the opportunity to do something new, rather than, with the exception of certain moments, rehash much material that many will be familiar with. The play had its good sections, but for me it was too flaccid, and never grabbed the blessed Joe by his horny horns!

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Entertaining Mr Orton, Tony Challis

 

Ciara

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Ciara
Traverse Theatre
Times vary (run ends 25th Aug)

 

We see a grey brick cavern lit by a single candle: melancholy Irish folk music plays – ‘black is the colour of my true love’s hair’ with the haunting refrain “I love the ground whereon she stands”…

Ciara walks in, wine glass in hand, arranges her evening gown to display her long legs to their best advantage, and launches into a monologue about her art gallery, a piece she has acquired for herself of a monumental sleeping woman lying above a cityscape of Glasgow and her attempts to get a once cutting-edge artist, Alan Torrance, to provide some new work. Slowly she reveals a tangled web of relationships with herself at the centre: the wife of Brian, the sister of Ciaran, the beloved daughter of Glasgow hard man Mick who says he wants to protect her from the violent life he leads outside the home.

Blythe Duff is compelling in this complex piece, written for her by David Harrower. With the minimum of props, moves, and lighting changes, she holds her audience spellbound for over an hour, slowly revealing the secret underside of Glasgow life, unflinchingly describing the horrific violence upon which its empires are founded, portraying herself as a passive victim, even as she builds and loses her own art empire – but is finally driven, like Malvolio, chillingly to declare “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you!”

This dramatic tour de force is rapidly selling out: miss it at your peril!

Mary Woodward

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Ciara, Mary Woodward

 

Bent

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Bent
C Too
10.10pm (run ends 17th Aug)

 

This now classic drama opens with a scene many, especially amongst the gay audience, will be able to recognise and maybe identify with. Max (Peter Calver) has had a wild night out and cannot remember what happened. He has brought someone back from a club (Wolf, played by Mark Mear) to whom he has told elaborate lies about himself which he cannot now recall. His dancer boyfriend Rudy (Danniel Horton) tries to ease things, but is more concerned about his plants. It is one of the brilliant aspects of Martin Sherman’s script here that we seem to be almost in a farce, and we relax and laugh. But this is the night that Roehm, the top gay in the Nazi establishment, has been killed, and all associated with him are targeted – including Wolf. This is Berlin 1934, and S S men burst into the flat and shoot Wolf. All is altered.

This is an excellent production of the play, directed by Chris Bassett. The tension builds, and the second half is extremely moving. I have seen a number of Bents, way back to Ian McKellen, and I have not been more moved by any of the others. The relationship between Horst ( Anthony Eglinton) and Max is excellently portrayed, with a deliberate and unhurried pace that brings the audience fully into their special intimacy. The brutality of their captors, who, having denied their own human feelings, wish to bring others down to their own level, is graphically portrayed.

There are moments of brutal violence that could have greater impact. When the killers burst into the flat this should be a great shock to the chuckling audience. That did not really hit us in the solar plexus at this show, and was very brief. Again, in the train, the scene is very painful, but those specs could have been mangled – a complete lack of respect and compassion has to be conveyed. Anthony Eglinton as Horst is very good from the beginning in his use of voice and the presence he has. Peter Calver’s Max brings across very well how he is consistent throughout and yet how he changes and develops .

Some may feel that a play substantially set in Dachau concentration camp is too much for them, but to say that would be to miss out on an opportunity to observe a very imaginative account of how human beings can preserve their emotional integrity. There is wit and humour in this play, and late on there is an amazing transformative scene that is a highlight of the play. Go see this production, and see a very good account of a deservedly famous play. Unlike a good deal on the fringe, it is well paced, unhurried and the cast fully engage their audience and bring them into a special emotional world.

Tony Challis

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Bent, Tony Challis

 

All or Nothing

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All or Nothing
Space North Bridge
4.05pm (run ends 10th Aug)
 

This is the first outing to the Edinburgh Fringe of The Drama Boys, a company of teenage boys from Cornwall led and directed by Caroline Secombe ( a former Miss Moneypenny). They have been touring Cornwall and entertaining there for five years. There were a number of facets to this show which played to a packed audience. I laughed aloud a number of times during their sketches, which is quite an achievement. Their presentation of the Dance of the Cygnets from the Bourne male Swan Lake, in appropriate costume, was very funny. Having one guy out of step makes it harder but much more amusing.

The centre piece was the scenes from Hamlet which were interspersed through the show, ending with the final conflict, including some good fencing. Outstanding in the company was one of its younger members who took the part of Hamlet. Having taught Drama in schools I would say he is exceptional and maybe we will see him on the professional stage in due course.

All of the company gave a good account of themselves – I have seen decidedly less entertaining shows on the Fringe. This is a show that is well worth anyone’s time, and the company should be proud of what they have achieved.

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in All or Nothing, Tony Challis

 

According to Oscar

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According to Oscar
Mayfield Salisbury Church
6pm (run ends 9th Aug)

 

The Mercators annually present a Fringe tribute to a famous author. They are an amateur group in Mayfield, and this year they are doing Oscar Wilde. We were told at the beginning that there would be a focus on Constance, Wilde’s wife, and his devotion to her. I do not recall hearing the love that then dared not speak its name actually mentioned during the show, though there were references to Bosie. Constance was, as was stated, an early feminist and liberal speaker and activist – as, more notably, was Wilde’s mother, and she was also an Irish nationalist. It’d be good to see a Fringe show about her one day.

We began with an early Wilde childrens’ story, The Remarkable Rocket. This contained a number of characteristic Wildean aphorisms. It was primarily a rehearsed reading. We then had parts of An Ideal Husband, De Profundis (nothing about the circumstances of the writing of that, of course), Lady Windermere’s Fan and of course, The Importance of Being Earnest. It was different seeing the final scene where Gwendolyn is the only young person, and when it was over I could not recall hearing the famous, “handbag!” exclamation.

This was an amateur group doing their annual obeisance to literature, and they have done Austen, Barrie, Stevenson and so on before. I wonder what they made of the circumstances of those writers, who were all pretty full-blooded in their way. Famous writers very often live intensely, break society’s rules, and show us new possibilities in life. It does no-one any good to pretend they were safe, conformist and unthreatening. That way, the excitement of literature is lost. With Wilde, the group chose to omit one of the central aspects of his life, though what they did emphasise was significant. Yes, he did live a bisexual life – ah, but we did not hear that word.

It is very good that local groups in all areas maintain the memory of significant writers, and much effort and enjoyment will have gone in to the preparation of what I saw. However, I did feel that I was spending time in the past during the show, that I could have been a child in the 1950s watching a show about Wilde, and that was very sad.

Tony Challis

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in According to Oscar, Tony Challis

 
 
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