Posts Tagged Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013

Review: A Family Beyond the Army

family-beyond-the-army_30573_thumbCategory Theatre
Genres new writing, theatre
Group Family Beyond The Army Charity Production
Venue Sweet Grassmarket
Times 16:00
Suitability 16+
Duration 1 hour

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Maintaining a good ‘work-life balance’ is hard enough for most of us but what if you’re separated from your loved one for months at a time and in danger of never seeing him again? That’s the tension at the heart of this gripping, poignant drama.

It opens with a blazing row between Scott and Lou.  She wants to know what’s troubling her soldier husband.  He bottles it all up.  He won’t tell.  He can’t tell.  She has no idea.  She wants to get inside his head but feels shut out?  How did things come to this?

We flash back to how Scott and Louise first awkward meeting at a wedding when Scott’s army pal Ben marries her friend, Sarah, through to their own marriage, Scott’s posting to the battlefields of Afghanistan, Lou’s pregnancy, the birth of their son and his first birthday. The script manages to avoid all the potential pitfalls in a powerful combination of  wry humour and pathos.

The staging for this was very simple, but worked really well.  Cast members stood in one of three frames facing the audience, enabling us to see the faces of  the speakers in all sides of every conversation.

We all have our views on the rights and wrongs of the Afghan conflict, but whatever position we take, we must recognise the sacrifices made by the families at home as well as the men and women sent to fight in far-flung war zones around the world. . This moving play gives it to us straight with no sugar-coating. Let’s not forget them, but do our damnedest to make sure that politicians who keep spouting nonsense about Britain ‘punching above its weight’ don’t throw away more lives of mothers’ sons or fathers’ daughters to satisfy their deluded ambitions.

Three service charities: Help for Heroes, Erskine and Scotty’s Little Soldiers share the proceeds from this production. Don’t miss it.

Reviewed by Dave Kerr

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Review: The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe

unremarkable-death-of-marilyn-monroe_31321Category Theatre
Group Dyad Productions
Venue Assembly George Square ​
Event Website http://www.facebook.com/DyadProduc…
Date 16-26 August
Time 13:10
Duration 1 hour 25 minutes
Suitability 12+
Country of Origin England

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It’s quite astonishing that Marilyn Monroe is still remembered, more that half a century after her death at the early age of 36. The term ‘iconic’ is often overused but in her case it is apposite; she really was one of the twentieth century’s true icons.

Writer Elton Townend Jones was first captivated by Marilyn at the age of twelve, twenty years after her death.  In this production he imagines that she is able to reflect on her life in that last hour before she slipped away.  Working from as many sources as he can, Jones conjures up the shade of the ‘real Marilyn’, “a talented artist, a brilliant comedian, a frustrated intellectual, an attractive, loving woman afflicted with physical and mental conditions that cursed her working and emotional life.”

Lizzie Wort’s performance in this one-woman show brings to life Marilyn’s vulnerability, her sensuality and her own confusion and indignation in her final hour on earth at how she has been so misunderstood. She knows that her same has become synonymous with prurient gossip; as she puts it, ‘It was scandal that brought you here in the first place’. She confides in the audience telling us all about the high points and the low points of her relationships with Bobby and Jack Kennedy, her turbulent marriages to Arthur Miller and Joe Demagio; her miscarriages, her times on the sets of her best known movies – good and bad – and how she was abused by a family friend as an eight-year-old.

There are some memorable lines in this bittersweet script; my favourite is her observation that in Some Like it Hot she ‘played a blonde so dumb she mistook Tony Curtis for a chick’.  As she talks, she constantly swallows pills, and intersperses her bright observations with moments of indecision and confusion. Marilyn’s love of life and attractiveness comes through clearly in this spellbinding performance and tight script, but we know it isn’t going to end well. This strong performance makes you care so much that you want to shout out, tell her to throw the pills away, and go to the beach. Sadly, she didn’t.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Review: Titus Andronicus

titusonstreet

Titus brought to the street on the Royal Mile

Category     Theatre
Genres     drama, tragedy
Group     Deadly Theatre Productions
Venue     C venues – C nova ​
Event Website    http://www.titusdtp.blogspot.com
Date     31 July – 17 August
Time     12:15
Duration     1 hour 45 minutes
Suitability     12+
Country of Origin     England
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Most people would probably imagine that fans of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill vengeance movies rarely overlap with those worthy folk who appreciate the plays of William Shakespeare. This blood-drenched interpretation of Titus Andronicus  re-imagines the ultimate vengeance play as a graphic novel set in post-communist Russia. Changes of scene are signalled by a large back projection in stark black, red and white. We move from the Kremlin to back allies, dark forests, and Titus’ home. This is very effective yet it never dominates or gets in the way of the action.

The real strength of this play is the quality of the acting.  The images of the sexy, manipulative Tamora who stops at nothing to avenge the loss of her own son, her evil confederate Aaron and the broken-hearted character of Titus himself, who – until the penny drops -spends most of the play wondering what the hell happened to him and his family are likely to haunt the mind of anyone who sees this play for a very long time.

Deadly Theatre Productions have produced a bloody masterpiece. Don’t miss it.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Review: Ulysses Dies at Dawn

ulysses-dies-at-dawn_30225Category     Cabaret
Genres     music, sci-fi
Group     Mechanisms / PBH’s Free Fringe
Venue     Whynot? ?
Event Website     themechanisms.com
Date     15-24 August
Time     17:30
Duration     1 hour
Suitability     18+
Warnings     Strong language.
Country of Origin     England

fourstars

 

 

This is a clever retelling of the classical Olympic Greek tales of Ulysses, Heracles, Orpheus, Oedipus and Ariadne as seen through the eyes of a bunch of bloodthirsty space pirates calling themselves the Mechanisms.  Does this work as a cyberpunk musical?  Surprisingly, it does. It brings a touch of the first Mad Max movies to the original Greek tragedies richly overlaid with grim gallows humour.

The players have added together an array of fiddles, banjo, keyboard, beatbox and bass guitar to go with some terrific folk and blues songs to create a performance that comes close to perfection.  The ancient Greek Choruses were never like this.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Review: Kazakoshi: Mountain Wind

kazakoshi-mountain-wind_31548Category     Music
Genres     classical, world music
Group     Wadaiko Tokara (Japan)
Venue     C venues – C too ​
Event Website     www.tokara.net/kazakoshi
Date     14-26 August
Time     16:55
Duration     50 minutes
Suitability     U
Country of Origin     Japan

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Wadaiko Tokara, a Taiko drumming group from Japan is currently in the Edinburgh Fringe as part of  a world tour. In this era of health and safety awareness, a sign by the booking office tells all; ‘Mountain Wind: patrons should be aware that this production contains drumming’.  It sure does!  And get this, some of it is very loud and very fast. It is also enjoyably infectious. mountainwind

Taiko drumming melds together a very fluid style of drumming, dance and martial arts. One of the pieces is an arrangement of a traditional item but this repertoire adds a number of original compositions by the group’s affable founder and artistic director, Art Lee.  These four performers are very fit – and no wonder – they all do 200 push-ups and 400m sit-ups and a 12km run every morning before breakfast. It shows, too in the disciplined choreography of this performance.

If you like percussion, this show is unmissable. It’s banging great fun.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Review: Funny Stuff for Happy People

martinbigpigCategory – Children’s Shows
Genres – children’s, family
Group – Martin ‘Bigpig’ Mor
Venue – Laughing Horse @ City Cafe
Event Website – http://www.martinmor.com
Date – 12-18 August
Time – 12:30
Duration – 1 hour
Suitability – U (5+)
Country of Origin – Northern Ireland

fourstars

 

Martin Mor from Northern Ireland was a successful circus performer, but has since turned to the comedy circuit.  He has worked professionally as a performer for more than 25 years and is well established in the UK as a popular comedian.  He has performed in many venues, from an Italian prison to performing before members of the British Royal Family. He has even supported the iconic Tina Turner.

For the Fringe this year, Martin is performing a family oriented circus show as Martin BigPig. And what a presence he is, from his outrageously long ZZ Top style beard to his boots, he is genuinely hilarious, with a mischievous streak and dead right audience rapport.

This is no show for the timid, as Martin draws in kids and adults alike to take part in his madness.  As I scrambled to a dark corner to watch the show from a safe distance, Martin BigPig pulled up onto the stage, unsuspecting victims. er audience members, who he swiftly integrated into the show.  The audience was having so much fun, you could see the children jumping up and down to happily become the next casualty of his folly.

Johnny Vegas reports that BigPig is a very funny lad with the best beard in the business and funnyman Frankie Boyle has said that Martin has been a big influence on him.

I won’t spoil the show for you, but there were rabid bunnies, rappin daddies, lickable lollies and tricksy tricks with gravity, raw eggs and water….
This show had laughter galore, shouting, cheering (and jeering!) and lets not forget the fart jokes.  Suitable for children and adults alike, BigPig Martin Mor gives us an hour of comedy, storytelling, circus and stupid science.  That’s right repeat after me kiddies, Stupid Science..Kids, bring your adults to Funny Stuff for Happy People, this is a rib tickling good time for both parents and kids.  I caught myself chuckling all the way through it and I recommend a good dose of BigPig for you lot.

Reviewed by Michelle Harrington

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Review: We will be Free! Tolpuddle Martyrs Story

tolpuddle-poster-square-6cmx6cm-with-writing-300x300Category     Theatre
Genres     drama, music
Group     Townsend Productions / The Assembly Rooms
Venue     The Assembly Rooms ​
Event Website     www.arfringe.com
Date     10-25 August
Time     12:30
Duration     1 hour 10 minutes
Suitability     12+
Warnings     No latecomers. Under 14’s should be accompanied by an over 14yr old.
Country of Origin     England

fourstars

 

 

The synopsis for this show says that it is ‘based around the true story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Set in 1834 and the extraordinary story of George and Betsy Loveless. He was a Methodist minister and the leader of the six Dorset farm labourers who were tried, convicted and condemned to harsh transportation by an oppressive Government for having the temerity to swear a secret oath and form a secret union to fight against a succession of wage cuts inflicted by the local landowner.’

This then is a show with a message and that’s made clear from the start with The Casterbridge Mummers
depicting Saint George fighting and slaying the wicked Dragon. There is no doubt who represents good and evil here, no ‘grey areas’.

In the 1840s the ‘dragons’ were those exploiting the poor and dispossessed. The six men arrested in Tolpuddle in 1837 were trying to gain a modest rise in their daily wage from a pitiful eight shillings. Before organising a  Union they had sought to reach agreement with the Farmers and Gentry but as the show depicts they reneged on an agreement to match wages in other  neighbouring areas.

The sentences for stepping out of line could be draconian. Hanging was common, Transportation for minor felonies was widely used. It was no small matter to oppose ‘the powers that be’ during this period and could lead to personal ruin. Only a burning desire for Justice and the fact that it was next to impossible to live on the wages paid led people to risk the penalties and fight for change.

Elizabeth Eves and Neil Gore (also the writer) portray Betsy Loveless and her labourer husband, George. Despite the serious subject there is much fun as they play the different characters, both good and evil. The  show tells the story of Tolpuddle with humour and in song. There is a pantomime aspect to the show with the audience invited to hiss and boo  the establishment figures. That is just one aspect of the show, however, as it is also a love story and it shows the difficulties and pressures caused by adverse, even bleak circumstances and the sorrow of being forcibly parted.

There is a small, sparse set with just a bit of back-projection but in truth it is the music and acting that you focus on when watching.

I found the show both educational and entertaining. Discovering that a point in favour of the Tolpuddle men was the swearing  of secret oaths by members of the Orange Order (including a relative of the King) fascinated me. The  succeeds in  setting the story into a social context making us aware of the effects of enclosure and the establishment fear of unrest and revolution.

The Chartist lyrics woven into some of the songs were great and the musical abilities of the actors (showing mastery of accordion, mandolin, violin and tabor) humbling . This show will be of interest to all those who care about Social Justice (and at times it is heart wrenching) but it is more than that – it is fun!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Good news!  We will be Free! is going on tour. Check here for dates and venues.

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