Archive for Drama


justposter12 to 17 August,
Paradise Green at St. Augustine’s on George IV Bridge

Just starts with a young woman, Victoria, standing at a bus stop. A corpse lies near her with an umbrella stuck in its back. From there the audience witnesses a tale of Kafa-esque injustice unfold. There are many surreal features including a blindfolded Judge, townspeople who speak in (bad) synchronised verse and a forgetful policeman who confuses his words.

This production is performed by Sixth form actors from Oundle School (near Peterborough). These are Robbie Younger (Grafton) playing Albert, Victoria shared by Lily Spicer (Sanderson) and Livvy Sellers (Laxton). They are supported by Emma Kelmsley-Pein (Sanderson), Georgie Anstey (Laxton), Alex Wallitt (Kirkeby), Monica Dahiya (Laxton) and Annabelle Sherwood (Wyatt), with Polly Halstead (Sanderson) as stage manager. All of them did a great job in what can be a difficult play to perform.

At the heart of the play is the issue of Justice, or perhaps injustice. The writer spoke of the blind Judge Mrs Wright:

“I had no specific person in line for Mrs. Wright. In fact the character started off as a man then she became female and you can read her as anything you like. Justice is blind but hers is a different kind of blindness. It is a chosen kind of blindness. She almost always decides which direction to look.”

Themes of class and the treatment of outsiders are hinted at but never fully developed. This is a deliberate tactic to provoke thought as the audience is left to fill in the gaps in the narrative. Sometimes just a word or phrase is used (like a reference to shopping at Waitrose or the statement that someone doesn’t come from “round here”). There is a clear theme of suspicion of the ‘other’.

There are clear Brechtian influences at work in the play too. The characters indicate that they are aware that it is a play and refer to ‘our play, our unending poem, our theatre of here’. The actors sometimes peer out at the audience. The writer makes it clear that they could walk out if they really wanted but they seem trapped in a cycle. In that sense the play is pessimistic. If they realise they have a choice they lack the will or courage to exercise it. This then is a play with a message, very subtly put and ably delivered by a talented young cast.


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siddhartha-the-musical_2014SIDDHAR_8VAssembly Rooms, Edinburgh
54 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2LR
Aug 10-12, 14-24

I read the novel Siddhartha by Herman Hesse many years ago. It’s about the life journey of Siddhartha Gautama, Prince of Kapilvastu, Nepal. Siddhartha renounces his position and fortune and seeks spiritual enlightenment. It isn’t a straight path and one woman in particular knocks him off course – the Courtesan Kamala. She even persuades Siddhartha to go into business with the merchant Kamaswami!

You can’t blame him. The girls are hot and the money is flowing. When he goes off for enlightenment I had to suppress my cockney inner voice: “some people are never happy”!

An unlikely subject for a musical you might think. A musical that started as a rehabilitation programme in a maximum security prison in Milan! But it works. Even the fact that it is in Italian doesn’t stop the fun. Surtitles are provided for those who don’t know the language.

The dances, story and songs are great. I particularly liked the fight scenes which are incredibly graceful and, by way of contrast, the comical Kawaswami. It’s a sexy production with pounding beats and by the end the audience were clapping along in rhythm.

Combine this with the way the show gets you to reflect on the message of the Buddha (which I will not even attempt to summarise) and you’ve got enlightened entertainment!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Private Peaceful

Scamp Theatre

Underbelly, McEwan Hall, Bristo Square (Venue 300)
Aug 10-12, 14-25

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes

This deeply moving play by the forprivate-peaceful-by-michael-morpurgo_2014PRIVATE_MImer Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo tells the story of young Tommo Peaceful. In a powerful one-man show Tommo tells the story of growing up in the Devon countryside in the shadow of his big brother Charlie. He tells of happy times at school; how he met Molly, the love of his life – and that of Charlie’s – his guilt at the death of his father in a tree-felling accident.

Tommo is sitting by himself and walking around the stage with only a bed as a prop. Interspersed between his reminiscences he keeps checking the passage of time on his watch; his father’s watch which we learn was later given to him by Charlie. Gradually, as the rapt audience hang on every word, we realise that something is wrong. This young lad of sixteen – who lied about his age to join up – is in a condemned cell. He had a travesty of a trial that lasted less than an hour and he is due to be shot at dawn for cowardice in the face of the enemy. No wonder he keeps checking the time.

Coming at the centenary of the start of the Great War in 1914 this play is a timely reminder of that bloody slaughter that offers a counter-argument to those jingoistic revisionists of the Michael Gove school who try to whitewash the conflict as just and necessary when it was plainly neither.

The lighting and staging and the sheer talent of Andy Daniel, the young actor portraying Tommo, succeed in building up the atmosphere. The audience – laughing easily at some of Tommo’s innocent recollections of his early school days – are soon reduced to rapt silence and then to tears. This was Fringe Threatre at its best.

Just one word of warning, though for the vertically challenged. Short people should avoid the front two rows. The seats are packed in very tightly to the front, so you’ll find that the stage is very high and you won’t see much. These seats must have been placed by a race of giants.

***** Five Stars

Reviewed by David Kerr

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altamont_2014ALTAMON_YGat C Nova (venue 145)
Until 25 August

This one man play by John Stenhouse tells the story of the tragic events of the Altamont Speedway Free Festival of December 6, 1969. My vague knowledge of that day was only that Hells Angels had turned on a largely hippie, peace and love audience and some people had died. I knew this day was seen as marking the day when the counter-culture dream turned into a nightmare.  Other than this I knew nothing.

I certainly came out of this show knowing a lot more. The story is told from the perspective of Joe a hippy fan. Stenhouse is engaging in this role and a great storyteller (he is also the writer). Staying in character (apart from breaks when he depicts an intimidating Hells Angel and Mick Jagger) he brings the day alive from arrival to departure. A still at the end tells us of subsequent events. Stenhouse gives us a real sense of the layout of the show, the chronology of events and the mistakes made but more than this he gives us a sense of the hope and optimism of those attending and the shock when everything started to go badly wrong. No mean feat for one person in a fairly short performance!


Reviewed by Pat Harrington


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Assembly George Square Theatre (Venue 8)
12:00noon; Aug 9-10, 12-17, 19-24
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes

George Orwell’s tale of a revolution betrayed is brought to the stage by the Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Georgia’s most famous son was the model for the pig leader, Napoleon; former Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

In this allegory, the animals of Manor Farm overthrow the rule of the tyrannical Farmer Jones and set up a new regime where all animals are equal under the new ideology of Animalism. However, to defend the revolution, the newly christened Animal Farm gradually cedes, without realising the consequences until it’s too late, all power to Napoleon and his coterie of pigs.

Props and costumes are minimal in this production but that is not a problem. This performance  is in the Georgian language with simultaneous English language surtitles displayed overhead. In practice this works well. Arguably, it allows for greater concentration. Through dance, movement, gestures and a cracking soundtrack we can soon work out who are the sheep, the pigs, the hens and the dogs in this effective piece of physical theatre.

Stalinism is dead and gone everywhere but in North Korea but the temptation to trust a ruler who is ‘always right’ is still with us today. Animal Farm is great reminder of the truth of the words of the Psalmist who said, ‘Put not your trust in princes’.

***** Five Stars

David Kerr

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As you Like it

Princeton Day School Theater
American High School Theatre Festival
Pilrig Studio Venue 103

4 August – 9 August

In the midst of all the furore in Belfast over whether or not the Union Flag should fly daily over the City Hall a friend confided in me that the part of his British culture and identity which he really values is not a piece of coloured cloth but the works Milton, Keats, Burns, the King James Bible and Shakespeare.

Sometimes quite dreadful things are done to Shakepeare’s plays at the Fringe. As one stand-up comedian wryly observed, it would be really radical if somebody did a Shakespeare play as if it was set in the bard’s own day. Well, he could have his wish if he takes a wee trip down the Leith Walk to the Pilrig Studio to see this wonderfully exuberant interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedy of exile and love, As You Like It.

This young American High School cast don’t hold back anything in this show. The casting and the direction is perfect and it’s obvious that everyone involved is really having a great time. The chenistry between the cousins Celia and Rosalind is perfect, as is the sense of animosity between the brothers Orlando and Oliver. I can’t name any of the actors involved as the main roles alternate.

One nice touch is that some seats in the audience are kept free, so cast members sit in them from time-to-time giving the sense of action going on all round you, rather than just on the stage in front of you. This is immersive theatre at its best. Audience participation goes much further as one member of the audience will find himself plucked from his seat to preside over the wedding scene as Hymen, the god of marriage.

Only one thing marred this production for this reviewer; in some scenes a group of musicians played a series of notes on piano, guitar and tambourine which made it difficult to hear some of the dialogue. Despite this minor irritation – my seat was right in front of the piano after all – the packed audience didn’t seem to notice and they really enjoyed this show and it’s superb value for just a fiver.

**** Four Stars

David Kerr

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The Onion of Bigotry: a History of Hatred

The Onion of Bigotry: a History of Hatred

Black Dingo Productions.
Running time 60 minutes

blackdingoJust at St John’s, St John’s Church, Princes St, EH2 4BJ (Venue 127)
1 – 25 Aug 2014

Production: Kielty Brothers
Performers: John Kielty, Gerry Kielty, Jordanna O’Neill, Stanley Pattison

This lively light-hearted rattle through Scottish history might fall flat on non-Scots or anyone not familiar with some of the highlights and lowlights of the country’s past. There are some great songs; how else could you manage to rhyme Reformation, Protestation and Excommunication? We learn that past kings called James had a rough time of it and we have to endure some excrutiating puns; Orthodox Sea, bloody big Hanover and ninety-five faeces anyone?

That said, this story does remind us that dreadful things were done in the past but offers a simple solution is a rousing chorus at the end. Your people did some dreadful things to mine. My people did awful thing to yours. But instead of indulging in more whataboutery let’s just get over it. Simple, eh?

**** Four Stars

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