Archive for Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Songs from the Kop

songsfromthekop2

The Kop

Brunswick Young Women`s Players (Australia)
C too at St. Columba`s by the Castle

Inspired by the grandfather (a £10 Pom from Liverpool who emigrated to Australia in the post-war period) of Josie Coyle ,who introduced the performance, this was a lively and fitting musical tribute to a great period (1962-1994) in the history of Liverpool Football Club through the eyes of the Kop. The Kop was a terrace holding 28,000 standing supporters at the Anfield Road end of Liverpool`s Anfield Ground. Originally it was a vast mound of earth which acquired its name because it reminded soldiers returning from the Second Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa of Spion Kop, the Hill on which many soldiers from Lancashire had lost their lives in an unsuccessful attempt to relieve Ladysmith.

Before 1962 Liverpool F.C. had enjoyed an undistinguished history, inferior in every way to that of their great local rivals Everton. This was transformed by the appointment of Bill Shankly as Manager, which co-incided with the advent of the Mersey Beat, of which the Beatles are by far the most important example. Shankly`s rapport with the crowd and the performance of his team on the field transformed the atmosphere at Anfield. Success in Cup and League was accompanied by Shankly`s encouragement of the Kop to sing the hit song from “Carousel”, re-popularised by Gerry and the Pacemakers, “You`ll Never Walk Alone”, which has been the Liverpool Anthem ever since. By the time of Shankly`s retirement in 1974, although he never enjoyed success in the European Cup, he had become a legend. His successor, Bob Paisley, built on this, with his success in League and Cup AND three European Cups. Liverpool`s slow decline began after his retirement, and at the time of writing it is 28 years since Liverpool last won the League title. They have never won the English Premiership.

Unsurprisingly, the production concentrated on the glory years. The production was imaginative and performed enthusiastically. The songs, particularly the adaptation of the “Fields of Athenry”, were both relevant and moving. The inclusion of numbers hostile to Liverpool`s great rivals of the period, Nottingham Forest (who knocked out Liverpool in the First Round of the European Cup in 1978 and went on to win two European Cups themselves), Everton (inevitably) and Manchester United (who have won two fewer European Cups than Liverpool but two more League Championships) were not inappropriate. No-one who has ever attended a football match at Anfield can fail to have been moved by the Kop`s rendering of “You`ll Never Walk Alone” – an experience surely unequaled at any sporting venue in the world – and the audience participation in it proved a fitting end to the performance.

The Hillsborough tragedy of April 1989, when 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives, took over the last third of the performance. The anger of the population of the city at the way in which the supporters were traduced by the press, blamed unfairly by the police and let down by the criminal justice system, was transmitted to the audience effectively by the whole cast, with Matt Hood`s solo as a climax. I was, however, left with an uneasy feeling. No mention was made of the events of May 1985 in Brussels, when 39 Juventus supporters were killed when charged by a group of Liverpool supporters, compounded by the Club`s attempt to deflect the blame elsewhere – a mirror image of the behaviour of the police at Hillsborough. Don’t the deaths of Italians also matter?

Reviewed by Henry Falconer

Gold star

Gold star

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Joan Baez: a Tribute by Miss Irenie Rose

joanbaezirenerose

Irene Rose

Venue 53 The Space @ Surgeons’ Hall Theatre 2

August 3rd to 25th

Launching straight into the mournful Scottish ballad, Arise Mary Hamilton; with nothing more than an acoustic guitar to accompany her; Miss Irenie Rose takes her audience through the canon of the songs the American singer and political activist Joan Baez has made her own over the last five decades.

In her good-humoured style, she recounts how Baez’s politics and pacifism has permeated all her work. She was more political than her old beau Bob Dylan and made much more use of some of his songs. Bob was paranoid when he was on drugs; Baez never did drugs.

The venue is intimate, so Miss Irenie Rose makes it seem that she is talking and singing just for you. All the old standards are there; Blowin’ in the wind, the haunting Donna Donna and the darkly humorous Farewell Angelina.

The audience joined in a rousing chorus of hope in the time-honoured civil rights standard, We Shall Overcome and went into ecstasy when her sister, Elsa-Jean McTaggart, joined Miss Irenie Rose on stage to finish the show with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.  Joan Baez is in her seventies now; although she is still touring.  Fans who want to remember her at the height of her powers will enjoy this superb, respectful tribute from a young, talented Scottish folk singer.

Reviewed by David Kerr

#EdFringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

five-stars

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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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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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Dietrich: Natural Duty

dietrichnaturalduty

Peter Groom as Marlene 

Theatre (cabaret)
Venue 33
Pleasance Courtyard – Beside
15:30
Aug 22-27
1 hour

Peter Groom is outstanding as Marlene Dietrich in this one (wo)man show. When Peter first appeared on the stage as Dietrich the audience applauded. The appearance, dress, make-up and figure were immediately convincing and captured Dietrich so well. Everyone sensed from the start that this was going to be good.

The material he has to work with is fascinating. It starts with her discovery and starring role in ‘The Blue Angel’ (1930) through roles in the US to the start of the conflict with Germany. It shows how Dietrich took the Allied side in the Second World War. She even held the rank of Captain and travelled to the front-line to entertain the troops and raise morale. Cue bawdy humour about being “long at the front” etc! A word of warning, if you sit at the front of the audience you might get roped in. It was a bit discomforting when I was included but also good fun.

Groom presents an image of Dietrich as a disciplined performer who worked hard to craft her presentation in whatever she did. The focus of the show are her songs and her relationship with Germany. This isn’t a show about her many love affairs (with both men and women). If it was an hour might not be enough!

Although a one (wo)man show there are voice only interruptions from a subtly threatening and yet entreating Goebbels and an insistent media interviewer. The dialogue hints at a hard side to Marlene, even a cruel one. It is not explored, perhaps because the focus is on the performer more than the woman.

Peter has a great voice and captures the spirit of Dietrich with a wry humour and passion. I must admit that whilst familiar with many of the songs I hadn’t realised that Dietrich had performed Pete Seegers “Where have all the flowers gone”. For me the delivery of that song on the futility of war was the most powerful in a show filled with emotionally charged songs.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Editorial note: As an aside there is a lovely story here about how “Where have all the flowers gone” originated: https://performingsongwriter.com/pete-seeger-flowers-gone/

#EdFringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

 

five-stars

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The Dolly Parton Story

dollypartonstorytheSpace @ Symposium Hall
Venue 43 13:45 daily until 25th August

The Queen of Country, Dolly Parton, needs no introduction to most people; she seems to have been around forever. She’s one of those entertainers that many people affect to despise but that won’t annoy her loyal fans one wee bit. They love her energy and her passion. Behind the big wigs, silicon tits and loud clothes, there is a fascinating story of success against the odds.

This production is in the new (to me) ‘show-umentary’ format. A large screen with a running commentary tells Dolly’s life story from her earliest days, punctuated by songs from all parts of her career. Although I haven’t come across this format in a live show before, it really works. I learned a lot about her early upbringing in dire poverty in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. She certainly didn’t get it easy. Who knew that the sentimental song, Coat of Many Colours was based on her actual childhood? This knowledge adds extra pathos to the song. I could feel involuntary tears trickling down my cheeks.

Dolly draws a big crowd, even in cosmopolitan Edinburgh. While Hannah Richards looks nothing like Dolly Parton she sure can hit those high notes in Tennessee Mountain Home and I Will Always Love You. Her renditions of these songs and others in her country music and mainstream pop canon delighted the audience. This production is bound to pack them in for the rest of the run. Hannah told the audience that The Dolly Parton Story might tour the country. If you can’t see it in Edinburgh look out for it somewhere near you soon. You’ll not be disappointed.

Reviewed by David Kerr

#EdFringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

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