Thursday, August 22, 2013
'Futuristic-good-cop-rescues-bad-corporation's-secret-test-subject-while-falling-in-love-and-defeating-OTT-Bond-villain' plot aside, Humans Inc is actually a rather good show. Stylish, imaginative and with a bit of a swagger. I didn't even mind the elements that sailed perilously close to the dreaded 'Dance & Physical Theatre' section of the Fringe programme...
The seven strong cast deliver a very polished set of performances but there's a bit of a difference in tone that hampers the show as a whole. Jonathan Stephenson has a genuine stage presence and plays Isaac, our cop-having-a-bad-day with a level of sci-fi gravitas last seen circa Blade Runner, while the rest of the cast camp things up Galaxy Quest style. Individually, the performances are excellent but the contrasting styles didn't sit well for me. The exception being Lily Levin's gloriously dead pan take on Isaac's wife which comes closest to matching Stephenson's approach. I get that 'serious' sci-fi is a hard sell to an audience, but the creativity of the company displayed here suggests that The Alchemist are capable of pulling it off.
A fun bit of fluff to fill a gap in a schedule - and the venue in C-1 is as comfy as you're likely to get at the Fringe this side of 2440.
Humans Inc runs at C Chambers Street at 18:10 until 26 August
Posted by Statler at 10:55 pm
Back in the early nineties Sandy Nelson & Keith Warwick's fictional Proclaimers-esque duo "The Telltales" achieved minor chart success in the UK but were a surprise No.1 sensation in Japan. 21 years after their pop career fizzled out, they are reuniting to perform at a ceremony in their honour in Tokyo. The show cuts between the present day and pivotal moments from the group's past, featuring a number of songs along the way.
Some shows at the Fringe have actors doing a very passable job of playing musicians, but Nelson & Warwick are undoubtedly the real deal - and should really be selling CDs post show in the foyer. But while the music is a strength, the show's desire to establish its 'muso' credentials works against it. This was my era and I struggled with some of the references. There's certainly a danger that cultural touchstones written for its original incarnation as part of Oran Mor's "A Play, A Pie & A Pint" in Glasgow simply won't transfer to the Fringe's more diverse audience. But that's a minor quibble - the music, comedy and characters are universal.
Nelson & Warwick may play up the comedy, but they are equally comfortable as the tone shifts to more serious considerations of friendship and their post celebrity lives. Kirstin McLean completes the cast with a fine performance in a number of roles including the band's manager Zara. With the exception of an unnecessary filler scene in Norway, the show is slick and tight; never feeling anything like its one hour runtime.
Bite the Bullet runs at the Assembly Rooms until 25 August.
Posted by Statler at 9:15 pm
Monday, July 22, 2013
With tickets for the entire run at Manchester International Festival selling out in nine minutes, it's fortunate that NT Live enabled us, along with thousands of others, to watch a live broadcast in cinemas around the UK and beyond. The pairing of Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston is clearly one that features on many "Macbeth" dream cast lists, and it would be convenient to put our general sense of disappointment down to overly high expectations. But in truth, despite glowing reviews just about everywhere else, and some fine moments of spectacle, it was just a bit bland. There's a distinct lack of any stamp of creativity or new take on the play. Is it asking too much to want to remember the production in future as something other than 'the Macbeth where they traipsed through a lot of mud'?
There's no doubting Branagh's ability to deliver Shakespeare in a clear and accessible manner, and his ability to deliver a perfect tear on demand is truly impressive, but there seemed little behind the words to give insight into the character. For her part, Alex Kingston has no difficulty in bringing the text to life, but as a performance I found it largely forgettable - save the overcooked sleepwalking hysterics which stay in the memory for all the wrong reasons. As a classic treatment of Macbeth it would make for a great 'study text' for schools, but brings little new to anyone familiar with the characters - and even with co-director Rob Ashford's pre-show interview giving crib notes as to how they perceived the characters' motivations, I saw no real evidence of this once the play began.
Yet, there are some great performances elsewhere in the cast. I was just about on the verge of giving up on the play and joining Waldorf in her 15 minute snooze when Rosalie Craig as Lady Macduff revived my interest with a performance more affecting than any other on the night; closely followed by Ray Fearon's portrayal of Macduff's grief on learning of her fate.
I'm really glad we saw this, and can tick a 'Branagh Shakespeare' off our non-existent 'to-see' list (albeit virtually - although I don't think seeing it in the flesh would have been any more rewarding) but I can't say it made much of a lasting impression on me.
Macbeth has completed its run in Manchester, however recordings of the live broadcast are being shown in limited cinemas over the next few weeks.
Image by Johan Persson used with permission.
Posted by Statler at 9:47 pm
Monday, June 17, 2013
All in, this was a very enjoyable evening out at the 'theatre' and has given us a bit of our appetite for seeing some more 'proper' local theatre in the near future.
The Audience has completed its run at the Gielgud Theatre, but 'encore' performances of the NT Live show are available at cinemas across the country over the next couple of weeks.
Image by Johan Persson used with permission.
Posted by Statler at 7:57 pm
So, it's been a while...
Posted by Statler at 7:55 pm