Archive for Drama

Battle: A modern mystery play

Venue 9; The Space till 27 August 

Few plays can boast 21 different characters played by just four actors, that’s exactly what Swanwing Productions have accomplished this difficult task using just a few items of costume and some basic props; a staff, three pairs of scissors, a longbow, and a framed picture of Princess Diana.

This thoughtful play, introduced by Old Father Time, runs through conflicts in history from the Battle of Hastings in 1066 through to the present day.

Battle has its humorous moments; who realised that our history is full of disputes between Harrys and Williams, for example? There are also deeply poignant moments. In one scene that moved this reviewer to tears, Bruce, a dying soldier shown crying for his mother, thought that a woman who had come to strip the dead and wounded for any valuables was an angel because she gave him a sip of water.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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1902

Leith Arches which hosts 1902 is very close to my home and Leith is very close to my heart. Though I will never be a Leither I’ve always felt at home here. Leith has real character and the people are genuine and straight talking. This play, from Saltire Square, captures that authenticity. The plot follows four young men: Deeks (Nathan Scott-Dunn), Sambo (Alexander Arran Cowan), Zippy (Cameron Docker), and Frankie (Josh Brock) from Leith (not Edinburgh!) who borrow money from a gangster to buy tickets to the 2016 Scottish Cup Final where the Leith based team Hibernian faced Rangers. The title refers to the fact that 1902 was the year Hibs had last won the Scottish Cup and it took 114 years for them to win it again!

1902: physical, passionate, and moving

Co-director and star of the show Scott-Dunn told the National newspaper that it’s the play’s authenticity that cuts through to audiences of all types.

“I think the show itself has like a strong sense of identity and I’ve also written it phonetically, it’s how we talk.

“If you went to a pub, and you’re sat there then these conversations are the real conversations that you will hear. It’s the authenticity I think, I think authenticity is what sells the show a lot because you know it’s real.”

The actors are very physical and in each other’s faces and even, sometimes, the audience. Their energy and passion are contagious – whether it is when they are arguing with each other, bursting into football chants, or describing the Scottish Final. The writer has a real ear for dialogue/banter. One thing this show communicates is how working-class lads bond and communicate with each other. We see their family dilemmas (the relationship between Deeks and elder brother Tony relationship isn’t exactly harmonious!), love interests, and lack of opportunities but beyond all that, we see their loyalty to each other. The relationships between them are turbulent and shifting but at base, they know they need one another. The barmaid in the pub where the action takes place, Mags, is great.

There’s a lot of humour in 1902 so it is a real mix of light and dark. I’d have to rate this as one of the most powerful performances I’ve seen. It’s immersive and sometimes that’s funny and sometimes it borders on intimidating. One thing is certain – 1902 makes you feel and it makes you think.

One of the things that I admired most about 1902 is that it avoids sentimentality and ends on a positive note. In fact, it ends with the great Proclaimers/Hibs anthem ‘Sunshine on Leith’ which echoed around the stadium when Hibs won the cup. The motto of Leith is ‘Persevere’ and you know that the characters in the play will do just that – together.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Saltire Sky’s 1902 is running until August 30 at the Edinburgh Fringe and tickets can be purchased here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/1902 Look out for the tour!

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Exodus

Exodus has been described as satire but it should more properly be viewed as part of the great tradition of the British farce. As Wikipedia defines it:

Aryana Ramkhalawon and Sophie Steer play the Home Secretary and her Spin Doctor. Photo credit Tim Morozzo.

“Farce is a comedy that seeks to entertain an audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, ridiculous, absurd, and improbable. Farce is also characterized by heavy use of physical humor; the use of deliberate absurdity or nonsense; satire, parody, and mockery of real-life situations, people, events, and interactions; unlikely and humorous instances of miscommunication; ludicrous, improbable, and exaggerated characters; and broadly stylized performances.”

That certainly sums up Exodus to me. A Home Secretary, Asiya Rao (a caricature of Priti Patel), is at a photo shoot in Dover, standing in the water to underline her desire to prevent illegal migrants from entering the country. It’s in preparation for the launch of Operation Womb, to separate Britain from the rest of the world with the slogan “Look inward”. All starts to go wrong when a living baby is washed up between her feet, and, instead of handing the baby in to the police, she stuffs the baby into her expensive handbag. On the train back to London St. Pancras an actress paid to play her mother, and a journalist interviewing the Home Secretary create a chaotic situation full of misunderstandings and miscommunication.

The performances are great. My favourite was Sophie Steer playing the scheming amoral advisor/spin doctor Phoebe. The show is very enjoyable. If you view it as a farce and don’t consider the underlying political message too critically there are many laugh-out-loud moments. You have to either suspend disbelief and treat this as pure entertainment or look at the message behind the play analytically. If you take the second route it raises difficult questions about what our immigration rules should be, how we became a wealthy nation, and what integration means. On top of that, you would have to consider what British identity is (to me Exodus put this in an overly simplistic and negative light). Perhaps you can view it as both entertainment and consider its message too – I found that difficult.

It’s also my view that the villain should get some good lines. That didn’t happen here perhaps because it was in a farce format. Aryana Ramkhalawon playing Home Secretary Asiya Rao had few persuasive arguments in the script or even any half-way convincing points or rebuttals. It also dodges the question of how a second-generation immigrant has adopted such a hard-line stance on migration and asylum. The only answer put forward is opportunism and a lust for power but is it that simple? Real life is not so cut and dried. Sometimes the villains have good (or at least seemingly convincing or popular arguments) – that’s one of the things that makes them so dangerous.

The play ends with footage of people in Glasgow preventing the deportation of a migrant while chanting “The People united will never be defeated”. Of course, people have never been united on the subject of immigration. Perhaps Exodus will contribute to a debate where we can reach a consensus on the many thorny issues it raises. Here’s hoping!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Venue 15
Traverse Theatre – Traverse 1
Aug 23-28
1 hour 25 minutes
Group: National Theatre of Scotland
https://tickets.edfringe.com/

Can’t see it in Edinburgh? The check-out tour dates on the website.

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Review: Leeds – United!

Henry Falconer reviews Leeds – United! a BBC Play FOR To-DAY (1974) available on YouTube

Nothing to do with the Football team of that name, this is a film based on an unofficial strike of Leeds female garment workers in January-February 1970. Directed by Colin Welland, already well-known for his acting role in Z Czars and soon to win an Academy Award for his screenplay for Chariots of Fire, and with a leading role for Lynne Perrie (Ivy Tilsley in Coronation Street), it is a brilliant portrayal of working- class life, living conditions and industrial relations in what now seems a bygone era. Being filmed in black and white gives it an added air of authenticity.

The plot involves a three-way struggle between the employers, the official Trade Union leadership and the employees in the Leeds garment industry. The industry itself was fragmented. A few firms, most prominently John Black`s, employed 100 or more workers. Others employed only a handful, with the owner and employees working side-by-side. The exclusively male Union bosses had in the previous year negotiated a deal with the employers which gave an increase of 5d per hour to male workers but only 4d for females. The case for equal pay had been made forcefully two years earlier in a 3 week strike of Ford Dagenham workers; this clearly served as a stimulus for what was about to happen in Leeds. A meeting of John Black`s workers elected an Unofficial Strike Committee demanding an immediate increase of a shilling an hour across the board under the slogan “gi` us a bob”. Its elected leader was one Harry Gridley, a member of the Communist Party (C.P.). The women marched around Leeds calling on workers in other workplaces to join them in the interests of solidarity. Nearly all did so, and a mass meeting was called in Leeds Town Hall with an atmosphere similar to that of the recent Civil Rights protests in the U.S.A., singing “We Shall Not Be Moved”. The Union leadership, fearing that it was losing control, refused to support the strike. Harry Gridley, true to the C.P.`s tradition of insisting that it should be in control, attempted manipulate the strikers into negotiating with the employers through official Union channels (“trying to ride two horses with only one arse”, as one of the unofficial strike leaders colourfully put it). By the fourth week the strikers, without Union backing and therefore receiving no strike pay and running out of funds, began to drift back to work. However the Equal Pay Act, passed later in 1970 and due to come into effect in 1975, perhaps gave them some satisfaction.

Viewed from the perspective of 2021, Leeds United is a piece of social history. By 1970 the textile mills in the surrounding towns in West Yorkshire and across the Pennines in East Lancashire were employing large numbers of immigrants, mainly from Pakistan. Towns such as Bradford, Huddersfield, Halifax, Dewsbury in West Yorkshire and Rochdale, Oldham, Burnley and Bolton in East Lancashire were already feeling the political effects (in the 1972 Rochdale by-election one Jim Merrick, a Bradford-based candidate for the British Campaign to Stop Immigration received 8.9% of the vote). Yet the workforce in the Leeds strike was exclusively white. Few if any of the strikers could have foreseen what lay ahead. A moving moment in the film was the pride of a young worker telling her mother that she had acquired “a skill for life”. Little did she realise that only a few years down the line her work would have been outsourced to cheaper labour overseas and the “bob an hour” would be on “the dustheap of history”. Leeds-United stands as one of the last hurrahs of the organised manual white working class. The road to zero hours contracts lay ahead.

Director: Roy Battersby
Writer: Colin Welland
Stars: Lynne Perrie, Elizabeth Spriggs, Lori Wells, Bert Gaunt

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Chaika: First Woman in Space 

chaikatheSpace on North Bridge – Argyll Theatre
14:20, 18:20
Aug 22-24
50 minutes
Suitability: 12+ (Guideline)
Group: Acting Coach Scotland

The “Chaika” of the title was the codename given to Valentina Tereshkova, who became the first woman in space on 16 June 1963 and is Russian for seagull.

This play brought to us by Acting Coach Scotland is both informative and entertaining and tells the story of her life from a young girl who lost her father to war, had her schooling delayed by the war and who as a young woman went to work in a factory and became an avid parachutist in her free time, a path that was ultimately to lead to her trip into space.

The all-female cast takes turns at telling Tereshkova’s story with a Russian Cyrillic Velcro name badge being at times passed from actress to actress and Nikita Krushchev is even briefly depicted as the ultimate arbiter of which of the female cosmonauts will go on the mission. Props are minimal and some effective use of lighting techniques helps to take the audience into space with Tereshkova.

Prior to watching this play, I had only a basic knowledge of Tereshkova’s story and the information that I gleaned from this production has resulted in me going on to read further about her. The cast of “Chaika: First Woman in Space” convey real energy and enthusiasm for telling her story and this play is very much worth going to see.

Reviewed by David Andrews
#edinburghfringe2019 #edinburghfringe

Stars5

 

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Interview with Eddy Brimson

naughtyboy

Eddy Brimson as Joe in Naughty Boy

Eddy Brimson is currently performing in Naughty Boy at the Edinburgh Fringe.

1) You have written about football hooliganism in the past; how did that equip you to create the character of Joe? Is he perhaps based on, or in part on, a particular individual that you encountered in this world or is he a product of the parts of several different people?

I have written a few books on football fan culture and the violence that can go with it. Back in the late ’70s and early 80’s I was involved in the darker side of football and so I have a good knowledge of the subject. The books blew open the stereotypical view of what a football hooligan was and his background and so they made quite a stir. This play has been adapted from the book I’d written, which I will now release as an audiobook post Festival. There is quite a lot of personal experience in the character as well as attitude. I hope the political side of Joe comes across. he is definitely a man of the people, or the cogs, as he puts it. There is a lot of Them against Us in his thinking. There is a political edge to his outlook on the world.

2) Previously, you’ve worked in comedy. What inspired you to venture into the rather dark world of Joe?

I am a full-time comedian, I’ve been pro for 17 years and I’m very lucky to be so. I think that if you are a creative person you need to test yourself. And this has been one hell of a test.

3) Joe expresses the view that violence makes him feel truly alive. Can you explain why Joe feels this way? How did you understand his motivation to participate in violence?

Violence sets Joe free from the weights life places upon his shoulders. In such moments nothing else matters, he feels truly himself and so that is the motivation that drives him.

4) Joe seems to hold ‘normal’ life and people in contempt. Why do you think that is? Does he see himself as better than them?

Joe holds those that follow the herd in contempt. He despises those that just follow trends as he feels they have just given in and handed themselves over to being what those he sees as controlling us want rather than who they truly want and should be.

5) How important is being part of a group for Joe?

I think being part of the group reassures Joe that he is not alone. That said, he is a violent man, and a violent man will always find a fight alone or not.

6) What sort of reaction and feedback have you been getting from audiences?

The play has exceeded all expectations. I’ve never attempted anything like this before and the kind words on my ability to pull it off, both from punters and reviewers are really encouraging. Whoever, the most important thing for me is the writing. People seem to really like and understand it. That is just amazing.

7) Where next with “Naughty Boy”? Do you plan on performing it elsewhere? Is it a genre that you would continue next year at The Fringe with another show or repeat?

I would love to tour this, and a few offers have been made and so fingers crossed. My next aim is to record the audiobook. That’ll be a good 4 hours plus so it’ll take a while to knock that into shape as the play has evolved and that will affect the style of the book, and then who knows. Next year seems a long way off but it has been such a great experience that I am already tempted, which means I’ll be back. Maybe something lighter next year.

8) What other projects are you working on just now?

As I’ve said, the audiobook and seeing about a tour for the play will be top of the list as I need to keep the momentum going. I’d love to get an agent for the acting and writing side of things as well. Aside from that, it’ll be back on the road doing the stand-up with a tour of Asia to look forward to in October, which’ll be nice …. Onwards

Tickets for Naughty Boy can be purchased here

The Counter Culture review of Naughty Boy is here

 

 

Eddy Brimson was interviewed by Pat Harrington
#edinburghfringe2019 #edinburghfringe

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And They Played Shang-A-Lang

andtheyplayedshangalangEdinburgh Little Theatre
At: Hill Street Theatre.
12:25pm until 25 August.

“And They Played Shang-A-Lang” is a rip-roaring musical comedy that takes us through life, love, and death with a musical soundtrack from the 1970s.

It opens with a young woman mourning the untimely death of her uncle and turning to read the memoirs of his childhood. The uncle then appears as narrator and takes the audience through a roller-coaster account of his growing-up during a decade well remembered for its music. We experience such landmarks as the school disco and nativity play, girls and boys going through the awkwardness of asking for a first dance, family gathering at Hogmanay and how we lose those family members over time. While at times poignant, the overall feel of this show is vibrant and happy and the music and energy of the cast easily got members of the audience clapping, tapping their feet and singing along to numbers by groups including Queen, Abba, Sweet, and The Bay City Rollers.

Not everyone will be old enough to get the references to Argentina 1978 or the food and drink of those times but that should be no barrier to enjoying this production!

The actors in this show deserve praise for a fine performance which encompassed acting, singing, and dancing.

If you are looking for a lunchtime show this Fringe event should be high on your list.

Reviewed by David Andrews

#edinburghfringe2019 #edinburghfringe

You can buy tickets here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/w…/and-they-played-shang-a-lang

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Naughty Boy

naughtyboy

Eddy Brimson as Joe

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, Edinburgh
3 Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1HR
15:15
Aug 4-12, 14-26
1 hour
Suitability: 16+ (Restriction)

Eddy Brimson plays Joe, a football hooligan, in this thought-provoking one-man show. Joe is a man who is forthright about the excitement and energy of violence. Joe only feels truly alive when he is indulging in violence. Violence fills an empty space for Joe and enables him to believe that he is different from the rest of a constrained, boring society. Brimson does not shy away from describing the violence initiated by or directed at Joe and his gang over a weekend fueled by alcohol and anonymous sex.

This show is challenging and gives a glimpse into another life, a life Joe exhorts you to admire and adopt.

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You can buy a ticket here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/naughty-boy

#edinburghfringe2019

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 Just William’s Luck

justwilliamTheatre (comedy, family)
Venue 61
Underbelly, Cowgate – Iron Belly
12:10
Aug 23-26
1 hour
Suitability: 3+
Group: Shedload Theatre

This adaptation of Richmal Crompton`s only full-length “Just William” novel did full justice to the spirit of its creator. It was fun throughout, faithful to the original without ever quite merging into parody. The obvious enthusiasm of the actors communicated itself readily to the audience.
The plot revolves around the antics of the Outlaws, a “gang” from a more innocent era when 11 year olds got themselves into scrapes, before the emergence of the gang culture we know to-day. Its self-appointed leader, William Brown, and his associates Ginger, Douglas and Heny, occupied their spare time by devising a series of adventures which although well-intentioned, never quite achieved their objectives. The one girl, Violet Elizabeth Bott, was kept at more than arm`s length. In this production, however, she was allowed fuller participation, a concession to our contemporary values, perhaps. The roles of the adults were acted by the Outlaws themselves. William remained himself, but his much-older siblings, brother Robert and sister Ethel, were played by Douglas and Ginger, his father by Henry (using a hairbrush as a moustache) and his mother by Violet Elizabeth. This imaginative deployment of the cast was similarly evident in the changes of scenery, using sheets and banners to make the most of the limited resources available.

William`s confused recollections of his History lessons led him to the transformation of the Outlaws into the Knights of the Square Table, a round one being unavailable, with a mission to right the wrongs of the world. Improbably, the impending marriage of Ginger`s elder brother and his gift to Ginger of a bicycle, led the Outlaws into attempting to arrange the marriages of all their older siblings to acquire bicycles. The resulting mayhem was played by all the cast with infectious enthusiasm, and, of course, all ended happily.

A highly enjoyable performance, strongly recommended.

Reviewed by Henry Falconer
#EdFringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

Gold star

Gold star

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 Alma, a Human Voice

almaTheatre (new writing, solo show)
Venue
26
Summerhall – Old Lab
11:50
Aug 23-26
1 hour

Group: Nina’s Drag Queens

Lorenzo Piccolo gives an accomplished performance as Alma Mahler. Visual aspects of the show are excellent from the start with Lorenzo entering with a suitcase and laying out clothes right up to the fizzing pills placed in twelve glasses of water at the end. We hear Ingrid Bergman’s voice in the telephone conversations which show a deeply disturbed woman. This woman, driven mad by love, is the subject of Jean Cocteau’s poetic drama La Voix Humane. Bergman played the role in one of the many film versions. We also hear the surreal story of the creation and ultimate destruction of a life-size doll of Alma by her former lover, the artist Oscar Kokoschka.

The performance is, however, let down by the narrative. No clear context is given and a knowledge of Alma and her significance as a muse to (amongst others) Gustav Mahler, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel is assumed. For me the show is about love, loss and obsession. It’s a show that is very good but could have been excellent.
Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

#EdFringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

Gold star

Gold star

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