Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Dildon't" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

A show set in and around a sex shop is a little further into the Comedy section of the Fringe programme than we normally like to delve. But an unspoken promise to see the first show who sent us a press release after the programme launch resulted in Casual Violence's "Dildon't" being added to our plans. And although a little lacking in subtlety for my taste, it illustrated perfectly that great performances can turn up in the most unexpected of places.

While there were plenty of sex toy based gags in the script, there's actually little to offend and much of the humour is of the daft rather than dark variety. However, I have to confess to being a little uncomfortable with the show's use of Rose West as a plot device. There are plenty of genuine laughs here, including the musical number 'Dead Girls Don't Say No', but despite a sell-out audience the small size of the venue seemed to limit any momentum. In a bigger venue I could see this really going down a storm.

The ensemble cast all perform well, but it's Luke Booys as independent dealer Axl and Dino Kazamia as Detective Glasseye who have the greatest impact. Booys creates an electric relationship with the audience through a mix of chumminess and fear of interaction - and it's the best performance of that nature I've seen for a long time. Similarly, Kazamia does a sterling job of engaging the audience and sells some lines that could otherwise be groanworthy - some of them twice. And it's a brave man who is willing to risk the potential rage of an audience fairly early into their night out by throwing a cheese sandwich into their midst.

This is a show without pretensions, and it succeeds in delivering an amusing hour of entertainment.

Dildon't has completed its run at the Spaces on the Mile.
Image used with permission


Monday, August 23, 2010

"The Typhoid Marys" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Phil Tong's play dovetails the parallel tales of the original 'Typhoid Mary', Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant to the US in the early 1900s and a group of women identified as typhoid carriers and held in isolation in London. It's a clever technique as it highlights the genuine dilemma faced by the authorities - particularly in the days before antibiotics.

The central cast are outstanding, with Maddie Dempsey giving a show carrying performance as Mary Mallon that gives her a personality beyond her circumstances. Charlotte Duke as chef's wife May, Millie Chapman as young mother Florence and Elise Wilkinson as teacher Mary Brooks bring three of the London internees vividly and movingly to life.

They are supported by a strong ensemble cast, although the decision to play some aspects for comic relief seems misjudged given the general tone of the piece. And while not out of place as such, and certainly well performed, the incorporation of several dance segments damages the show's pacing. Although in fairness, that's possibly my own lack of appreciation of dance in general colouring my judgement.

Tong's treatment of a clearly emotive issue is sympathetic to all those involved, and while a stance is taken on society's failure of the women in later years, there's understanding shown for those responsible. With several plot elements to draw together there is a serious risk of things feeling disjointed, yet Tong's direction moves deftly from woman to woman while clearly establishing every character.

City of London Freemen's School have brought a production to Edinburgh that they can be rightly proud of. And for those of you new to View From The Stalls, please bear in mind that we maintain a policy of considering all student, youth, amateur and community theatre in the same manner as we do any professional performance - to do otherwise would be patronising to those involved.

The Typhoid Marys has now completed its run at Quaker Meeting House.
Image by Phil Tong used with permission.


"Speechless" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

This was Waldorf's choice on the basis of Sherman Cymru's "Deep Cut" being her highlight of 2008's Fringe, and with ticket availability at a premium we made a special trip through to catch this one at the Traverse. With that in mind, it's tempting to put our disappointment down to high expectations, but in truth I think it just wasn't very good.

Linda Brogan and Polly Teale's play features the true story of twin girls who refused to communicate with the outside world as they grew up in early 1980s Britain. The discovery that it was based on a book, 'The Silent Twins' by Marjorie Wallace, came as no surprise once I had seen it - it feels very much like a selection of chapters. And not even the best ones - a quick read of the Wikipedia article on the twins shows just how much more interesting this could have been.

There's nothing wrong with the performances, especially Demi Oyediran and Natasha Gordon who commit fully to their roles as June and Jennifer, but the central element of the girls' communication, in what is essentially their own language, is poorly conveyed. When alone, the audience see them communicating freely in perfect English and it seems as if they are just refusing to relate to others - it's only late on in the play it becomes clear that they are, in fact, unable to communicate. Surely it would have been better to isolate the girls from the audience by showing them clearly communicating with each other - just not in a way we could understand?

The play touches on racial tensions and awakening sexuality at times but it's difficult to see this as anything other than a very personal and unique set of circumstances. And given their peripheral nature in the tale as told here, the portrayal of the sex scenes seems unnecessarily gratuitous.

In any work based on 'true life' elements, accuracy is everything. Yes, poetic licence can be deployed, but only within the established framework. It's all too easy for anachronisms to creep in and shatter the audience's confidence in the illusion of truth. And I'm afraid here the inclusion of Caller ID or '1471' as a plot point in a scene set in the early-mid 1980s when it wasn't introduced until 1994 is unforgivable and cast doubt on exactly how much research investigation was undertaken into less easily verifiable matters.

I'm afraid it's difficult for me to view this as anything other than a good idea for a play thwarted by a series of bad choices that were made along the way - both in deciding which elements of the girl's story to focus on and in how to convey their isolation to the audience.

Speechless is a co production between Shared Experience & Sherman Cymru and runs at the Traverse until Sunday 29th August.
Image by Robert Day used with permission


"Memory Cells" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Forgive me for being more than a little vague about this show, but it 's definitely a show that's best seen without knowing too much about it. If you are considering seeing it all you need to know is that it is a quality piece of theatre with two great performances. If you've already seen it, and just want to compare notes then feel free to read on...

Seriously, if you haven't seen the show yet but are planning to, just stop reading now.

Emily Taaffe excels at bringing captive Cora back to life as the story unwinds in reverse. The transformation is almost unbelievable given that there's no time off stage for physical assistance - although I think some clever lighting helped. John Stahl as her captor doesn't face quite the same challenge but impresses with a chilling performance that encompasses tenderness and brutality.

Writer Louise Welsh has carefully crafted the piece to gradually reveal its secrets and for the most part these are well executed verbally, however, some of the prop based time markers didn't seem to be used as effectively as they might have been resulting in the confusion lasting longer than perhaps necessary. But then, having seen a production of the play last year I went into this with very different eyes from most others, so I may not be best placed to judge. For those encountering the play for the first time, this is undoubtedly a striking and memorable piece of theatre.

Memory Cells runs at 5:20pm daily until 30th August (excluding the 24th) at the Pleasancedome
Image used with permission.


"2020 Vision" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Perhaps "2020 Vision" has suffered from being pared down to fit a tight timeslot, or perhaps the "devised by the company" credit has left them all too closely involved to see it from the view of an audience member. Either way, the result is that we're left feeling that a vital piece of the jigsaw is missing. However, while the structure of the show may be problematic, it features some absolutely exquisite moments.

Set in a call centre after a catastrophic event has trapped the staff inside, the action intercuts between several timeframes including previous events in the office and what appear to be flashbacks of individual characters. The time switches between periods in the office are well handled but the flashbacks (initiated by a female character credited as "The Onlooker") left me confused and frustrated. Have they died in the disaster? Are these the moments when their lives flashed in front of their eyes when they thought they were about to die? What does the obviously 'meaningful' removal of their ties actually mean? How is one character seemingly able to reject his vision?

But this conceit that hurts the play, also provides its most powerful moments. The flashback sequences are beautifully directed as we see each character regress while other cast members provide voices from the darkness for unseen characters. David Peel's portrayal of Adam as he re-experiences abuse from his childhood is traumatic to watch, while Emily Thornton's discussion with her parents about being pregnant is immensely moving. Back in the 'future', the whole cast deliver excellent performances with Stuart Davies a stand out as Bill who finds dealing with the calls particularly distressing.

The show makes its point forcefully about companies that make money out of the misery of others, but some of the religious discussion felt a little heavy handed. There are several nice nods to futuristic technology such as embedded chips and overhead drones but little discussion of their significance other than as convenient plot elements. There's also a sense of the show running out of steam and bringing things to a swift conclusion when I felt like I wanted a less rushed explanation of their company's role in events.

Nevertheless, this is an ambitious, stylish and clever show and is more than enough to make sure I add Paper Zoo to my list of companies to look out for in next year's Fringe progamme.

2020 Vision has now completed its run at Augustines
Image used with permission


Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Wild Allegations" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

In Edinburgh University Theatre Company's "Wild Allegations", Matthew John Curtis is a well known sitcom actor who has alienated both his girlfriend Theo and brother Alex to the extent that they are working with a journalist to expose his failings to his adoring public. It's almost the perfect Fringe show - original, funny, fast paced, well performed and creatively directed. All it lacks is an ending that delivers the punch it deserves.

Ed Sheridan plays Curtis brilliantly, both for laughs as an actor of somewhat limited talent (think Joey from "Friends") and in his more passionate scenes as a man who wants to break out of the mould he has created for himself. As Alex, Paul Brotherston is hugely engaging and connects instantly with the audience. Some of the moments the two share are comedy gold and phenomenally well executed. Alexandra Wetherell gives a compelling performance as Theo and succeeds in making the character sympathetic despite her dubious actions. The cast is completed with impressive supporting performances from Llinos Henry as journalist Caitlyn and Sophie Pemberton and Tom Watret in numerous roles.

The writing from David K Barnes and David Leon is of a very high quality, ensuring that the many laughs are not at the expense of characterisation. Indeed, the three central characters are far more emotionally complex than we have any right to expect in a show of this length. And it's a testament to the strength of the writing that the ending feels unsatisfying - the audience is invested in the characters to the extent that we need a big finish for them. Barnes and Leon also share a directing credit and give the piece a very striking look and feel, although perhaps a more objective director may have cut a cinema scene whose payoff doesn't justify it's place in the production.

But any flaws do little damage to the whole - this is unquestionably a fantastically enjoyable way to spend an hour. And while we don't normally comment on ticket prices, I doubt you'll see anything better than this for £5.

Wild Allegations runs at Bedlam daily at 1pm until Saturday 28th August
Image by Camille Acosta used with permission.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Alan Cumming - I Bought a Blue Car Today" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Much as he had when we saw him in the lead role of the National Theatre of Scotland’s “The Bacchae” , Alan Cumming held the audience in the palm of his hand on Friday night. There can be few performers at the Fringe this year to rival Cumming for star status – Tony award winner, Hollywood star, recurring role in a successful US TV show, not to mention Edinburgh Fringe legend as one half of “Victor & Barry”. He may have been touring his cabaret show “I Bought a Blue Car Today” around the globe, but this version had a very Edinburgh flavour and after an energetic 90 minute performance the audience welcomed him back as one of their own.

Delivering some great vocals, he treated the audience to renditions of some of his favourite musical numbers complemented by several songs, some self-penned, which appeared aimed at securing a place as the rightful heir to the Big Yin as king of comedy songs. Personally I’d have liked to have seen a couple of better known songs but as it’s a very personal show it’s only fair that the choices are Cumming’s own. And there’s enough on show here to suggest that maybe, some day, we’ll see a full scale musical penned by Cumming and his musical director and collaborator Lance Horne.

Anyway, we were there as much for the patter as the singing, and there was no disappointment in that respect. Despite his protests to the contrary, Cumming appears as comfortable on stage as any stand-up and has a range of amusing anecdotes with which he entertains us. He’s also clearly still a bit of a political firebrand and doesn’t shy away from commenting on political matters.

He playfully teases us about whether or not he will return to the stage for an encore and then gives a rendition of Victor & Barry’s ‘Edinburgh Festival Song’ to the delight of the audience. And then as he films the audience on his own camera during the final number we realise he’s perhaps having every bit as much fun tonight as we are.

A genuine star who comes over as entirely unaffected by his status, and who hasn’t forgotten where he came from. Credit is also due to Cumming and the Assembly team for keeping prices to a very reasonable £20.

I Bought a Blue Car Today has now completed its run.
Image by Ned Stresen Reuter used with permission


Sunday, August 15, 2010

"The Apprentice" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Nonsense Room have been part of our Fringe-going since 2006 and have produced delightful shows year after year. Part of the attraction is their venue, the stunning Rosslyn Chapel, and never more so than this year where they revive their show based on the chapel itself. Theatre just doesn't get any more site specific than this.

The legend goes that an apprentice stonemason completed an intricately carved pillar with a design that came to him in a dream while the master mason was abroad seeking inspiration. As he had intended to carve the pillar himself, the master mason was somewhat less than pleased on his return. Writer Simon Beattie has filled in the gaps with a tragic love story that left me feeling how I always think I should feel when watching Romeo & Juliet - but never do. The sense of being made to choose between love and loyalty really hits home here, and unlike Shakespeare's pairing there's no sense Beattie's tragic couple have brought this on themselves. However, this emphasis on the tragedy leaves little room for the humour we've become used to in Nonsense Room's shows and Waldorf in particular missed the lighter tone.

But for me, the accomplished script and performances more than made up for the required shift in our expectations - and in truth as we knew the legend we should have been prepared for something rather darker. As the apprentice mason, Marcus, Rhys Teare-Williams has to carry much of the show on his shoulders and makes an impressive job of it. Colin Moncrieff delivers a remarkably intense performance as Vincenzo the master mason while Alison Macfarlane makes Megan's relationship with Marcus charmingly believable. Beattie's dialogue and fine performances from James Bryce and Catherine Owen as Sir William and Lady Sinclair make their characters three dimensional and elevate them beyond the plot devices they could easily have been.

There are some lovely moments of direction from Bruce Strachan - particularly a dance sequence by Marcus and Megan and the final confrontation between master and apprentice. The accompanying musical score adds much to the production and of course, the setting is sublime.

I'm unsure if 'enjoyable' is quite the right word for such a sad show, but it's certainly a beautiful and moving piece of theatre.

The Apprentice runs at Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin until Thursday 19th August
Please note that Roslin is some distance outside of Edinburgh city centre and make appropriate travel arrangements.
Image by Peter Searle used with permission.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Miles Jupp: Fibber in the Heat" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

As confirmed theatre lovers we're a little tentative about entering the comedy section of the Fringe programme. But with several serious and dark shows in our plans we wanted to ensure we had a bit of fun as well. As we don't follow the stand-up circuit, choosing can be a risky business - especially as we're keen to avoid any audience interaction. However, thanks to a ticket offer in Scotland on Sunday we had the chance to see a show without concerns of wasting our cash. Miles Jupp's tale of blagging his way onto the press corps for an England cricket tour fitted our timeframe, seemed suitably unthreatening, and fortunately proved to be genuinely funny.

Jupp makes for an amiable host and his tale, while more interesting to cricket fans, is perfectly accessible to those like us with only a passing knowledge of the game's bigger personalities. He's also very self deprecating and his gentle humour makes the hour fly past. Despite any disapproval I may have felt of attempting to pull off such a charade, Jupp quickly had me onside and willing him to succeed.

I suspect any serious stand up fans will find the show too tame for their taste but as an engaging storyteller Miles Jupp provides a delightfully entertaining and risk free evening.

Miles Jupp: Fibber in the Heat (A Cricket Tale) runs at 8pm at Gilded Balloon Teviot until August 29th (not 16th)
Image used with permission


"Sub Rosa" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Sub Rosa draws audiences into the murky world of music hall troupes and artist exploitation at the Winter Palace theatre. The story of young Flora McIvor’s revolution against cruel theatre manager Mr Hunter unfolds gradually as we move from room to room encountering members of the company. Pay close attention as seemingly throwaway remarks may take on huge significance before the end.

The six strong cast of Adam McNamara, Angela Darcy, Isabelle Joss, Benny Young, Isabella Jarrett and Clare Dargo give compelling performances and with the audience often only inches a genuine connection can be created. It’s unfair of me to single out one performance above the others but Jarrett's steel eyed callousness was chilling beyond belief.

David Leddy's tale is gruesome in the extreme and there are times since the show I've wished it was a little less unforgettable. In many ways the show is a puzzle and while the outcome of the artists' rebellion is eventually revealed to us, other aspects are left very much for the audience to piece together. Technically the show is almost flawless - the only problem we encountered were a couple of occasions where views of the performers were restricted if you were unfortunate enough to have a tall person in front of you. There are several sets of audiences each night and many of these will be in the venue simultaneously - yet the way we are moved around by our guides ensures that we feel as though our group is in an otherwise empty space.

The script has been tweaked from the production that we adored at the Citizens last year to take account of its new location in a Masonic Lodge but while lighting and sound help to create an intense atmosphere, the venue simply can’t accommodate some of the most striking visuals from that earlier show. In its new home Sub Rosa is unquestionably a marvellous piece of theatre – but it remains a piece of theatre. The previous incarnation in the backstage spaces at the Citz was so utterly immersive that it felt like we were watching the past unfold in front of our eyes.

But while it may have lost a little bit of magic in the move to Edinburgh, for anyone who loves theatre, Sub Rosa will probably still be the best thing they see at the Fringe this year.

David Leddy's Sub Rosa is a Fire Exit production in association with the Citizens Theatre. The show runs several times each night until 30th August. Audiences meet at New Town Theatre at 96 George Street before walking to the venue.
Image by Douglas McBride used with permission.


Friday, August 13, 2010

"Jacobite Country" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

It was very tempting for this review to simply read "If you can't say something nice..." but we like to think that we're better than that. So I will try to convey how bad this was - although I suspect 'Option 1' may have been kinder.

Over the four years we've been writing reviews at View From The Stalls we've seen over 300 shows and Jacobite Country is undoubtedly in the bottom five. It is painful to watch and has no redeeming qualities.

Set in a mental institution in the Scottish highlands we are introduced to Haggis McSporran (Sarah Haworth) who fancies himself as a stand up comic and local bad lad Craitur Face (Fiona Morrison). The cast is completed by Annie Grace as Uncle Angus and Mairi Morrison in a number of roles. The observant amongst you may have picked up on the fact that 3 of these male characters are portrayed by female actors - and one of Mairi Morrison's roles is also male. Now, I have no problem with cross-gender casting and it can often bring a new angle to a play, but this is simply bizarre. There is no obvious rationale behind it and it would seem straightforward enough if the company wished to use a female cast to rework the text a little. And what makes it worse is that another of Mairi Morrison's characters appears to be a female nurse - named Eddy.

McSporran's stand up routines are pretty awful but I'm prepared to give writer Henry Adam the benefit of the doubt that this was intentional - however this makes it no less painful for the audience. The only moment during the whole play that got a laugh out of me was a line about the previous comic persona of a Scottish comedian who made it big in the States - a gag I'm certain flew over the heads of at least 90% of the audience.

What follows appears to be intended as a comic romp with Haggis and Craitur Face on the run - including encounters with Craitur's gun-totting, mobster granny and a showbiz agent. We also get a subplot about Uncle Angus and his nationalist extremist campaign. Now some of these scenes may be delusions but I was long past caring by this point - as were many others in the audience. I'd put the initial audience at around 30 and we lost our first two after twenty minutes, and then another one around an hour, quickly followed by another two. There may have been other escapees sitting further back that I didn't notice and there were at least two 'sleepers'.

To be fair to the cast, there's nothing wrong with their performances. It's just that, with the exception of a couple of pointed lines about Scottish identity, the whole thing is drivel. I haven't the faintest idea what made writer Henry Adam, director Matthew Zajac and Dogstar Theatre decide to mount this production.

The one saving grace of the afternoon is that although we have a policy of not accepting press tickets we're happy to take advantage of offers open to the general public - so my ticket was free courtesy of an offer in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.

I hate that I've had to write such a negative review and I hate the fact it may be to the detriment of a small theatre company. So I'll just say this... If you were considering seeing "Jacobite Country" - don't. Instead go and see Dogstar Theatre's other show at this year's Fringe - "The Tailor of Inverness". It's a fantastic piece of theatre which we enjoyed immensely last year.

Jacobite Country runs at Udderbelly Pasture until 30th August (not the 16th)
The Tailor of Inverness runs at Udderbelly Pasture until 30th August (not the 16th)
Image used with permission.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Fresher. The Musical" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

After an afternoon of really dreadful theatre, I sought reassurance from the Zoo Roxy box office that Fresher wasn't going to compound my woes. They were convincingly enthusiastic about it, so I took them at their word - and they were right. 'Fresher. The Musical' is the perfect tonic for just having seen a really bad show.

For a musical to work, every element has to be perfect. One underperforming vocalist or overacting cast member can be the death of a show, and I've lost count of how many times poor sound levels have rendered a musical almost pointless. But when everything comes together in harmony, like it does here, nothing else can energise an audience in quite the same way.

Set in a flat share during Freshers week, we begin with the first meeting of five students and watch as the dynamics within the group are established. The cast of five all make significant contributions vocally but they also bring additional strengths to the piece. Andrew Bryant shows great comic timing as the cocky and laddish Tuc, but also gives him a believable depth as the show develops. Natasha Barnes does well with the difficult task of making the unlikable Ally more than a cliche and displays some serious vocal talent. Steven Aspinall makes the twit-ish Rupert endearing and has the audience in fits of laughter while Mark Lawson convincingly conveys the turmoil Baz is experiencing. As Hayley, Victoria Gimby is the emotional heart of the show and she delivers a perfectly nuanced performance.

Sally Torode's book and Mark Aspinall's music and lyrics make sure the laughs keep coming but don't shy away from how hard those first days of student life can be. It doesn't take itself too seriously and happily mocks the musical genre at times to great effect. The balance of dialogue and songs is spot on and there isn't a poor musical number in there - and two or three are instantly memorable. A word also for director Guy Unsworth who keeps the show moving at pace while allowing the quieter moments room to breath.

Seeing the show is rather like the experience of Freshers Week itself - an absolute blast of energy and laughs, Fresher deserves to sell out every night.

Fresher. The Musical runs at Zoo Roxy until 30th August (not the 16th) at 17:35
Image used with permission


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Spring Awakening" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Like many, we were aware of the existence of this musical which has quickly established itself with a cult following - if not always combined with commercial success. And while we knew a little of its 'controversial' plot, neither of us had heard any of its musical numbers. We went into the show looking for a bit of a lift in tempo after a couple of serious plays and it didn't disappoint.

"Spring Awakening" is every bit a modern musical, despite its source material dating from 1891. Teenagers are teenagers, regardless of their place in time, and Steven Sater's book and lyrics use the language of today to express their shared angst. As a result, this makes some of the language a little...shall we say..'robust'. When combined with Duncan Sheik's music we get something reminiscent of 'Girls Aloud' or the latest flavour of Boy Band. But despite that, there are several songs that made sufficient impression on me that I'll be hitting iTunes or Amazon later to buy the Broadway cast soundtrack.

RSAMD's One Academy have put together a show with high production values - large cast, live musicians and considerable effort put in to costumes and choreography. The cast perform the musical numbers well, but with the majority being of the pop/rock variety and the venue's less than ideal acoustics there's little scope to really blow the audience away with stunning vocals. But what does that matter when you can generate an intense enthusiasm in the audience for the performances with sheer energy? I can't say that there was a widespread standing ovation given at the curtain call but there were certainly a good number on their feet.

I think it's pretty clear that this is going to be one of the hits of the Fringe, so don't delay booking (but do be careful you don't confuse it with the original play which is also being staged at this year's Fringe).

Spring Awakening runs at the Pleasance daily at 3.05pm until 30 August (not 18th, 19th or 25th)
Image by Kenneth Dundas used with permission


Monday, August 09, 2010

"Alcatraz" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Aireborne Theatre's "Alcatraz" poses significant difficulties for anyone wishing to review it. Some shows by their very nature are best experienced by an audience that has little advance knowledge of the piece - something we achieved by accident rather than design as the show was a late replacement in our schedule for the day. But it then leaves me wanting to give a flavour or sense of tone for it without giving too many pointers. Please bear in mind that reviews elsewhere may be less circumspect.

So let's try and work out if this is 'your kind of show'...

You should give this a try if:
You like theatre that is, in the best sense of the word, 'artistic'.
You enjoy clever, wordy theatre that makes you smile rather than laugh
You don't mind being halfway through a show and not being at all sure what's going on (as long as it makes sense by the end).
You have a bit of free time afterwards to have a think about it before your next show.

You might want to think twice before booking if:
You want to turn your brain off for a bit and just be entertained.
You are already seeing a lot of 'complex' shows today.
You want plenty of laugh out loud moments.
You have been to San Francisco/Alcatraz and found the title intriguing.

I really enjoyed it and despite not being entirely convinced by the central conceit, it kept my attention throughout and showcased some strong performances. Waldorf on the other hand wasn't quite in the right frame of mind for this one and it struggled to really pull her in.

Alcatraz runs at Underbelly at 13:25 on the 10th, 12th, 14th, 17th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th.

Image used with permission


Sunday, August 08, 2010

"In Memory" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

On reflection, starting our visit to this year's Edinburgh Fringe with a piece of theatre about the loss of a parent to a brain tumour was perhaps unlikely to provide much of a feelgood factor. And yes, Waldorf predictably left the venue a little 'damper' than she entered and was heard muttering "I need chocolate". But despite the emotional toll the show takes on the audience it has plenty of heart - and enough lighter moments to ensure it won't cast a cloud over the rest of your day.

With this being a show from Gresham's school, I'll reiterate our long standing policy on reviewing youth/student/amateur/community shows: we consider these on exactly the same terms as any professional production - anything else would be patronising to those involved.

The cast of twelve perform scenes showing the impact the illness has on the family - at times utilising multiple cast members to simultaneously represent the father, mother and daughter. When combined with a lack of volume from the cast, it's a method that risks confusing the audience, and given the initial school setting it was was some way through before we appreciated the daughter was not a pupil but, in fact, a teacher. In fairness, I'm now considering the possibility this was an intentional ploy by writer/director Victoria Harvey-Seldon, but at the time it certainly felt more like something we 'hadn't got' than an intended moment of revelation. I would also mention that the performance we saw today was the first of the run, so I would expect the volume issue to be swiftly remedied. (We suspect the noise of the fan may have added an unforeseen element for the cast to contend with.)

And although we had to struggle to hear some lines, our effort was rewarded. Victoria Harvey-Seldon has written some acutely observed moments and her ensemble cast succeed in evoking a true-to-life sense of confusion, frustration and anger at their situation. But there are also some wonderfully stylised set pieces including an inspired corruption of an aircraft safety announcement. And impressively, while packing a formidable emotional punch, it avoids cheap audience manipulation - the power here lies in the small and human details.

Even for those like me who tend to recoil from what could be 'another tearfest' there is, instead, much to appreciate.

"In Memory" runs at C at 11am daily until 13th August.
Image used with permission


Friday, August 06, 2010

Edinburgh Fringe 2010

And so it begins...

Today is the official start date of the Edinburgh Fringe - although many shows have been previewing for some days. Our first visit will be Sunday, when we plan to see "In Memory", "That Moment", "Spring Awakening" and then either "Imperial Fizz" or "Honest" depending on timings. Our plans for later in the week are still sketchy but we will be seeing "Sub Rosa", Alan Cumming's cabaret show "I Bought A Blue Car Today" and "The Apprentice" out at Rosslyn Chapel between now and next Saturday (details and links on our Fringe Preview).

We'll have our first Fringe reviews posted on Sunday night or Monday morning but we've already posted our thoughts on Grid Iron's "Decky Does A Bronco" which has been touring for a while before its appearance in Edinburgh. In the meantime here are a few links that may be of interest...

Our Fringe 2010 Preview

Our tips for Fringe goers

Theatre Ninjas is a new website/iphone app that has been created to allow performers to distribute free tickets. It's early days yet, but it looks as if it may have a good number of shows participating. The exact method of securing the tickets varies from show to show (and some sound like they have the potential to be problematic) but it's certainly worth a look. We'll give it a go on one of our trips and report back on how well it works.

We'd also point you in the direction of other sites that will be providing Fringe coverage. Do let us know if we've missed any..
Three Weeks
Broadway Baby
Edinburgh Festivals
Onstage Scotland
Edinburgh Festival Punter
A Local's Guide to the Fringe
Fringe Guru