Monday, August 10, 2009

"Barflies" - Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Sometimes at the Fringe, even as low down the critical food chain as we are, you do definitely have the feeling that what we say here can make a difference to a show. But on other occasions, as with Barflies, shows come with such a reputation (and limited audience capacity) that they are sold out almost before the Fringe has begun. The question then becomes whether or not the show lives up to its reputation. Well yes... and no.

Firstly we need to cover a bit of full disclosure here. On the afternoon we saw the show it encountered technical difficulties and had to be halted for a good five minutes while they worked on the electrics and it then proceeded with a very limited lighting set-up. Unfortunately there's no way for us to measure the impact of the lighting but the delay did act as a significant disruption to the flow of the piece despite the best efforts of the cast. The second item I need to disclose is that I definitely fall within the category of people our lead character rails against - those boring sods who never let themselves go crazy. And lastly, I don't find drunks amusing. So please bear those factors in mind as you read on.

Based on the stories of Charles Bukowski, site-specific specialists Grid Iron are staging their show in the Barony Bar. Okay, so it's perhaps not as 'out there' as a former jute mill or international airport, and yes, this being the Fringe there are theatrical events taking place in many of Edinburgh's bars but I think this is the only one where they take over the bar entirely (although the bar is closed the ticket price does include a complimentary drink!).

Our 'hero', Henry is an unashamed drunk and would be writer and is brilliantly portrayed by Keith Fleming who holds court at the bar for pretty much the entire 75 minutes. While making a case for the merits of at least an occasional lost weekend the production doesn't hide from the consequences of the addiction - both in the violence meted out by Henry and the direct impact it has on some of the other characters we meet. The women in Henry's life are played by Gail Watson with performances that should see her being lauded in much more significant places than here. Her instant transformation between so distinct characters at times is truly remarkable.

But for me, character and amusingly fantastical tales aren't enough and I never really connected with the show (possibly for the reasons noted above). And given how directly I felt previous Grid Iron shows have spoken to me that has to go down as a disappointment. Your mileage may vary.

Barflies runs at the Barony Bar, Broughton Street Sunday to Thursday until 31st August - Tickets pretty much like gold dust.
Image by Douglas Jones used with permission

3 Heckles

shona said...

Both me and Lyn Gardner are with you on this one! Interesting how the response has been so varied.

http://www.onstagescotland.co.uk/reviews/barflies/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/aug/10/barflies-fringe-review

Statler said...

Thanks Shona - We were expecting to be out on our own on this one. Will be interesting to see more reactions as the month goes on.

claire said...

I saw it today - without any technical difficulties. And it was beautifully lit as it happened.

I agree that Gail Watson was really tremendous. And I loved "Silent Dave" who wasn't really. I thought the plot let it down a little but then it was such a cobbled together thing, I suppose this isn't surprising. Very nicely directed though.

I'm certainly glad I've been able to see for myself what all the fuss is about!