Archive for Drama

 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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That Bastard Brecht

thatbastardbrecht

Mark Howard as Brecht

Theatre (new writing, drama)
Venue
152
Paradise in Augustines – Sanctuary
21:35
Aug 23-25
1 hour 35 minutes

Wow! What a show. Fifteen original songs, amazing choreography and sharp dialogue tell the story of Brecht through the eyes of Elizabeth Hauptmann (Tove Berkhout). Hauptmann first met Brecht in 1922 when she came to Berlin.

Hauptmann is said to have written most of The Threepenny Opera (1928) but was denied any credit while Brecht lived. She also, reportedly, wrote at least half of the Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927), including one of the best known songs, the “Alabama Song“, but again was not credited.

The cast, who hail from Melbourne, Australia, have an incredible energy and the pace is fast. It doesn’t hurt that some of the ensemble are strikingly good looking either! Myra Davidson playing Lotte Lenya was stunning.

Brecht had an open relationship where his partner and later wife,from 1930 until his death in 1956, Helene Wiegel (Jenn Walter) was happy for him to have other female lovers. Mark Howard plays him as an egotistical charmer, full of charisma – a rock star of his day. He struts, he rants, he cajoles and persuades. He talks of collaboration and progressive values of equality but you know that whatever he says (or sings!) there is a boss and only one. Does the fact that his female partners (mainly) put up with this make Brecht any less of a bastard?

As Nuworks Theatre point out Brecht never lived up to his Socialist principles when it came to money:

“He was a Marxist, presumably believing in a redistribution of wealth and the plight of the poor. That’s the general tenor of all his best works. Yet this is at odds with his lack of desire to share his own wealth, even amongst his closest and utterly deserving of collaborators. They must have been paid but little in proportion to Brecht and then there’s the old, tasteless joke (no pun intended) that he paid most of them in semen and as for literary recognition, most of them never received other than a footnote of that in their lifetime.”

The background to this free love party is the spectre of the rise of the Nazis. Appearances from an angry, threatening Brownshirt (Lachlan Smith) keep this in our mind. We know, and Brecht and his collaborators gradually realise, that their party isn’t going to last much longer. Perhaps that knowledge led them to take more risks and push more boundaries?

I will certainly be looking out for Nuworks visiting the UK again. It was a gripping story told by a talented ensemble with passion. It was great that the music was original and live and there were certainly some stand out songs for me. As I said at the start – wow!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

#EdFringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

five-stars

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Don’t Say That

dontsaythat

How far should we limit free expression?

The Age We Are’s ‘Don’t Say That’ raises questions about our use of language reminicient of Newspeak in Orwell’s 1984. Newspeak is “politically correct” speech taken to its maximum extent. Newspeak is based on standard English, but all words describing “unorthodox” political concepts have been removed. Don’t Say That asks whether we are censored or self-censor to avoid causing offence. Should we just say what we want? Should we be frightened of causing offence? Is it possible to be conditioned to avoid causing offence? Is there a line and where should it be drawn?

The production is set in a paralell world centred around The Bureau. The Bureau monitors communications to limit expression in order to limit the possibility of causing offence. Serious stuff but the cast work in a lot of humour. I particularly liked the physicality when they came togehter in a choreographed routine to represent censorship machines. I also loved the sketches of a supermarket checkout girl and customer showing the politically correct and incorrect ways to conduct a transaction. The language of the Bureau was spot-on, New Labour helping or facilitating your ‘choices’ (which was, in truth, a thinly veiled coercion).

The production raised more questions in my mind than it answered but perhaps that is no bad thing!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Fri 28 Aug
1330
Space 3, 80 High Street, EH1 1TH
£5 / 0845 508 8316

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Pip Utton: Playing Maggie

piputtonplayingmaggieIf you go to see Pip Utton playing Margaret Thatcher looking for a flawless impersonation you will be disappointed. Pip looks nothing like Maggie even with a wig and make-up! He has the voice close though and the combative and imperious manner down to a T.

Here’s the really strange thing though: after a while the audience starts to buy-in to the whole thing. They want to ask Maggie questions and even get quite heated about reliving past political battles. At the performance I attended we had questions about the sinking of the Belgrano, the miners strike and the effect on her of the Brighton bombing (I actually asked that one!). Pip was amazing showing that he had done loads of research and was able to answer in character everything that was thrown at him. Even more impressively when asked about present issues such as her views on Corbyn’s bid for the Labour leadership the answer given seemed to be in tune with what Maggie was likely to have said. Predictably given how divisive Thatcher was the audience seemed to align themselves along political lines but you could sense that all understood that agree or disagree with her that her stance was clear.

There was also a conceit of the actor playing Maggie being the Son of a miner which was interesting but not really necessary. The principal enjoyment was centred on listening to Pip perform a speech as Maggie at the start (which was very well done) and the question and answer session with the audience. It was funny, informative, strange and hugely entertaining.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Assembly Rooms. Until Aug 30. Tickets: 0844 693 3008; arfringe.com

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Beethoven in Stalingrad

beethoven

Universal Soldier? Jesper Arin

12 letters are read to the audience. 12 letters from trapped men facing almost certain death to loved ones. Letters written by dispirited, depressed and doomed German solidiers to their relatives, friends and lovers back home. To people who had no idea of the reality of their situation and who were being fed a diet of propaganda and misinformation about the war. Jesper Arin gives an intense performance as he takes as through the distressing but sometimes touching letters. All is accompanied by a mix of the Appassionata by Scottish violinist Ian Peaston with electronic distortion that creates a chilling, sorrowful atmosphere.

The play hits you emotionally and makes you think about big questions of belief, survival, suffering and love. As the production notes say: “The letters contain messages of hate, longing and despair but they also send us reassurance, love and hope.” You can’t help but identify with the soldiers because they are experiencing emotions which are part of all of us, they are universal.

The letters never arrived, they were censored because they did not support the German war effort.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Sun 16th – Mon 31st Aug – 12.15pm
(45 mins)
Spotlites
Venue 278. 22 Hanover Street. EH2 2EP

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Trainspotting

When I told friends I was going to see a theatrical interpretation of Trainspotting they were sceptical. Mainly because they loved the 1996 film and it had such an impact on them. They couldn’t see how the story, centred on heroin addiction in Leith, could be translated to the stage. “How would the play deal with the famous/infamous ‘toilet scene’?” was one question. I didn’t know whether they were right or not. Certainly the film set a high bar of expectation and to meet that in a different medium would be challenging.

There doubts were answered when I saw the production, it is simply one of the best things I have ever seen. The passion and energy of the cast as they rove the audience and stage just communicates to all present. The audience is put on edge by the interaction and that creates a strange tension between the cast and them. They certainly had my attention as I wondered what they would do next and if they would ‘pick on’ me! Gavin Ross as Renton acts as a kind of narrator and he confronts us with a disturbing, yet sometimes bleakly funny, alternative view. One minute the audience were laughing but then the mood changed and we were gripped by the tragedy unfolding.

And, let’s be frank, Trainspotting is a tragedy. How could it be anything else? Happy endings aren’t that common amongst Heroin addicts. The best that can be hoped for is recovery but often the conclusion is a life cut short. Trainspotting is a bleak story of alienated, trapped people who are slowly killing themselves and sacrificing everything for the drug. Erin Marshall hits your emotions when she screams and writhes in tortured agony at the loss of her child. Renton and the others are incapable of holding her or offering comfort. They babble and are concerned more about their next hit.

Trainspotting was accused of ‘glamourising’ drugs by some stupid Tories when the film first came out. I wonder if any of them actually bothered to watch it before condemning and pontificating in their hostile soundbites. The script is based on the 1994 adaptation by Harry Gibson which is bleakly honest.

Like the book and the film this production is informed about the appeal of heroin and the rituals surrounding it. It partly answers the question as to why people take it, what they get out of it. It is educational, in that sense, but never boring.

The cast just carried the audience with them through every change of pace or tone in the narrative. The company are ‘In Your Face Theatre’ and the performance is certainly that but it is also subtle and nuanced. The company have performed Trainspotting in London and I expect they will be offered more venues after this huge hit at the Fringe. They are certainly ones to watch.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

You can catch Trainspotting at Assembly George Square (Underground) until the 31st August, performances at 18:00, 20:30 and 22:45.

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