Posts Tagged Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: All Quiet On the Western Front

allquietonthewesternfront

The Cast from Incognito

Pleasance Courtyard
13:45

Aug 18-29
1 hour
Incognito. Edinburgh Fringe 2016

This year’s centenary of the Battle of the Somme makes this revival of “All Quiet On The Western Front” particularly timely, drawing attention as it does to the horrors and sacrifices endured by German soldiers during the Great War of 1914-18 – and, by implication, to those of the French and British. Based on the book “Im Westen nichts Neues”, first published in book form in German in January 1929, translated into English and made into a film in 1930, it was instrumental in helping to establish the image of the War which has endured to this day. Douglas Haig, Commander – in – Chief of British and Commonwealth forces 1915-18, had been given a hero’s funeral in Westminster Abbey in January 1928, but within a year of his death the foundations of his later reputation as “Butcher Haig” were beginning to be laid. R.C. Sheriff’s “Journey’s End” was premiered in December 1928. A full edition of Wilfred Owen’s poetry followed in 1931, and Vera Brittain’s “Testament of Youth” in 1933. Popular attitudes to the War would never be quite the same again.

Incognito’s production opened with the famous scene of the teacher exhorting his pupils to volunteer, “Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori” in defence of the Fatherland – a timely reminder that most Germans believed themselves to be fighting a defensive war against Russia. After all, Russia, France’s ally, had been the first country to mobilise and had invaded Germany in August 1914. Disillusionment set in quickly as the true nature of the fighting became apparent. The five actors conveyed this with total conviction. Soap boxes were the only props. The use of the small stage space was ingenious with careful choreography. Lighting and sound effects were highly effective. It must have been physically exhausting for the actors when responding to the frequent barrages of machine guns, shells and shrapnel. The scene when Paul returned home on leave was especially moving. Two of the actors proved convincing mimics of Irish and Scouse (I think) respectively.

The similarities between this play and “Journey’s End ” are striking. Written from German and British perspectives within a few weeks of each other, they have done much to cement the “Futility of War” as the enduring image of 1914-18, a War which will surely come to be seen by future generations as a European Civil War. A viewing of this production is strongly recommended.

Five stars

Reviewed by Joe Ward

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Mata Hari: Female Spy

Aug 7, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 30
ZOO VENUES, Venue 124, EDINBURGH FRINGE, 2.20PM

http://www.zoofestival.co.uk/whats-on/theatre?zid=413
Mata Hari was shot by the French in 1917 as a German spy. The press at the time claimed that she had been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of soldiers. This riveting performance by Katherine Hurst is based on the actual words of the Dutch exotic dancer Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod herself.
Using humour, pathos and a minimum of props: some flimsy veils, a couple of fans and a battered suitcase, Hurst confides in the audience. She recounts in moving detail how Margaretha became the first femme fatale – Mata Hari.

She didn’t have an easy life to start with but she made good. She was wilful. She was promiscuous. She enjoyed the company of officers and she scandalised many by enjoying life too much. That sealed her fate.

Was there enough evidence to convict her in a fair trial? No. Was she guilty? That’s another story. You won’t know the real truth from this powerful one-woman show but you will be drawn in by its narrative.
**** Four Stars

http://www.gavinrobertson.com/mata-hari-female-spy/
A contemporary eye-witness report of the execution of Mata Hari: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/matahari.htm

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Review: Nikki Sinclaire – The EU, It’s Not Funny!

Image courtesy of Nikki Sinclaire's The EU, It's Not Funny web blog

Nikki performed her one woman show on Wednesday August 21 2013 at Fringe Venue 290, the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre

Nikki threw a party and the people came.  She looked a bit surprised that the packed room in the Arthur Conan Doyle centre needed more chairs brought in for her first ever Edinburgh Fringe show about the EU.

This was a light-hearted, satirical and moving look at the European Union.  A view as to its characters, and the effect it has on people’s everyday lives.  Nikki’s take on the EU is that it is NOT funny and neither really are its eccentrics.  We were given a passionate and realistic perspective of the EU by a Member of its own Parliament.  Nikki in the past represented UKIP, but more recently she has started the We Demand a Referendum Now party.

This was a one woman show, and those are not necessarily easy to pull off.  Nikki arrived to greet the crowd, visibly nervous and a bit surprised that so many people were interested in coming to hear her speak about the EU.  But Nikki had a natural rapport with the audience perhaps because she is passionate about her convictions and truly genuine, a rare gem among the run of the mill machine politicians.

She began to loosen up as she  started to describe the odd characters she meets in the Parliament including ‘Colin’ from EastEnders, Nigel Farage and the “village idiot”, Godfrey Bloom. Her spoof on the MEP out of work at the job centre after the next election was quite funny.  By the end we sit around her eagerly waiting to hear what she has to offer next and for me, the show ended much too soon.

A little background on Nicole “Nikki” Sinclaire. She is a politician from the We Demand a Referendum Party and represents the West Midlands as an MEP.  She was elected in June 2009 as a UKIP candidate but later resigned from the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group in which UKIP is part of in the European Parliament, citing the extreme right-wing views of some of the group’s members.

After that she sat as an Independent MEP from January 2010 until September 2012 when she set up the We Demand a Referendum Party. She has campaigned on issues affecting the West Midlands ranging from jobs, to the environment and human rights.  If you follow her blogs and Facebook page, you can see she is extremely hard-working for the people in her community.  I follow her myself with great interest, because to me she is the hardest working and most creative MEP representing the UK.

Nikki Sinclaire, MEP, sits on the Committee for Employment and Social Affairs, Committee on Petitions, Subcommittee on Human Rights, Delegation to the EU-Chile Joint Parliamentary Committee, Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly and is a substitute member on the Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

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For more details and a video from Nikki’s show: Visit here.

You can follow Nikki  on twitter at twitter.com/NSinclaireMEP

Reviewed by Michelle Harrington

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Review: You All Know Me – I’m Jack Ruby!

cliffordbarryasjackrubyCategory  Theatre
Genres drama
Group Clifford Barry
Venue theSpace @ Surgeons Hall ​
Event Website http://www.cliffordbarry.co.uk/jac…
Date 19-24 August
Time 14:05
Duration 50 minutes
Suitability 14+
Country of Origin England

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Despite the assertion in the title I hadn’t realised how little I knew of Jack Ruby before seeing this show! Of course I knew that Ruby was the man who gunned down Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspected assassin of President  Kennedy. Like many I’ve even seen footage of Ruby shooting him in the Dallas Police Department. I’ve also heard some of the mafia/communist conspiracy theories.

This compelling one-man performance shows Ruby the man. The monologue is delivered in a flawless Chicago accent (Ruby grew up there and returned after brief stints in California and the armed forces) before moving to Dallas. Ruby is shown as a man with many problems. He came from a disturbed family background. His father was an alcoholic and his mother spent time in mental institutions. Jack himself spent time in juvenile detention and foster homes.

His attitude toward the women who worked for him in his Carousel strip-joint seemed psychotic and his fawning attitude toward authority is depicted brilliantly through a one-sided dialogue with his prison guard.

At times Ruby seems delusional spinning conspiracy theories with fantastic plots against Jews. Jack Ruby was born Jacob Rubenstein in 1911, one of eight children of Jewish parents who had left Poland. The audience hears of the Nazi style views of LBJ  and his intent to destroy Israel. As a counterpoint Ruby himself was to become the focus of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. On stage he castigates the John Birch Society who accused him of being a Communist.

Scenes are broken up with lights off and snatches of music from the era or news reports. It is somehow discomforting to hear songs like the bitter sweet ‘The Good Life’ sung by Tony Bennett after hearing Ruby.

The show is meticulously researched drawing on evidence from the testimony given by Ruby to the Warren Commission and notes smuggled out of prison amongst much else. It convinces you that Ruby was a troubled man, prone to violence who was angered by the assassination and believed he would be considered a hero for what he had done. If it were not for latent antisemitism and a desire on the part of the embarrassed Dallas authorities to be seen to take action perhaps he would have been. Let’s not forget that the first reaction of the crowd when told of the shooting of Oswald was to applaud.

This show is engrossing on so many levels, almost overwhelming in the amount of information packed into every expression, gesture and phrase. Clifford Barry is utterly convincing as Jack Ruby.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Review: The Tiger Lillies

tigerlilliesCategory     Cabaret
Genres     music
Group     Bound & Gagged Comedy by arrangement with Tim Whitehead Management
Venue     Underbelly, Bristo Square
Event Website     http://www.tigerlillies.com
Date     6-17 August
Time     22:20
Duration     1 hour
Suitability     16+
Warnings     Age 16+
Country of Origin     England

The Tiger Lillies returned to the Edinburgh Festival for a limited run of just 11 performances, entitled the Either/Or Cabaret.  They performed a mix of songs from their most recent shows and albums along with some old favourites.  Often described as the forefathers of Brechtian Punk Cabaret, these three characters are a cult British musical trio formed in 1989 by singer-songwriter Martyn Jacques.
Theirs is a distinctive panache which hints of a macabre pre-war Berlin with a sardonic edge.  Current members included Martyn Jacques – vocals, accordion, and piano, Mike Pickering – drums, percussion and backing vocals, and Adrian Stout – double bass, backing vocals, musical saw and theremin.
Characterised as provocative and avant-garde, they combine cabaret or alt cabaret, vaudeville, music hall and street theatre.
The naughty little prankster Martyn Jacques is our mordant compere and main vox for this evening’s sacrilege.  His vocals range from falsetto screams to growls and seductive warbles as he mischievously winds his way through each number with a fiendish sneer and a snarl.

Martyn has stated in interviews that he has been influenced and inspired by the circus. He grew up with punk, and while they weren’t heroes when he was young, he feels he has been influenced by the attitude and the alienation of the genre.
Their album Circus Songs, romanticises the history of traveling and gypsies, and Jacques has alluded before to one of his primary influences being the ThreePenny Opera.  However, he recounts that the Tiger Lillies have always been considered an artier band who generally play to older crowds.
He believes in credibility and craves honour in the artistry and yet he has no illusions of grandeur and feels that the Tiger Lillies are not for mass consumption.  He feels that their audience has a kind of ‘specialist knowledge’ or distinct taste to even find them.
Upon further research into this delightfully wicked trio, I was quite amused to find out that the Tiger Lillies fan base consists of names such as Matt Groening, Edward Gorey and Jhonen Vasquez.
Gorey was such a fan of “Banging in the Nails”, that he and Martyn ended up collaborating together when Gorey sent him a box of unpublished work, which he went to work on turning into songs.  Unfortunately Edward Gorey died before they could see the project through to completion. Martyn made the album anyway, and it was nominated for a Grammy which he finds amusing.
Martyn’s unique vocal stylings and macabre song content mean that he has had difficulty in making the individuality successful due to the industries need to categorise music neatly.
The Tiger Lillies have a bit of a cult following and Martyn finds a ‘subversive delight’ by shocking his audiences who sometimes find it all a bit much for their oh so delicate palates.
The Tiger Lillies are certainly not for the easily offended and I took great delight in watching the audience around me titter nervously as the threesome cavorted through scandalous tunes comprising themes of bestiality, prostitution, desecration and many other depravities.
Their musical style is mainly influenced by Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill’s masterpiece The Threepenny Opera and pre-war Berlin cabaret and circus.
Adrian Stout, smart in his tartan suit has a bit of a Victorian air about him, and this most endearing character unassumingly steals a bit of the show from our morbid compere with his well-placed vocal embellishments, strolling double bass, weeping saw and poignant and haunting theremin.
Regulars at the Fringe, this year the trio stand on a simple almost empty stage.  This show has been described as “an hour of swirling melancholy and beautiful grotesquerie.” To see them live is a tremendously unsettling and fabulous carnival of horrors.

Reviewed by Michelle Harrington

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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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