Archive for the ‘ FRINGE 2012 ’ Category



Die Roten Punkte


‘Make some noise, Danke Edinburgh’ and we’re off into 2013’s Die Roten Punkte show.

 I loved them the last time they were here and it is safe to say I loved them this time around. Still incorporating elements of Spinal Tap and the White Stripes-their brother and sister routine is twisted in a way Jack and Meg only ever pretended to be-  Australians Clare Bartholomew and Daniel Tobias adopt the personas of Otto and Astrid Rot as well as dubious German accents. What is interesting however is that the musical segments are actually really good and could blow several current rock acts out the water with their sheer verve and chutzpah. Cut through with salacious humour only makes this into two shows in one with both of them being extremely worthwhile.

 After preliminary introductions are out the way the duo launch into ‘Burger Store Dinosaur’ and are really rocking out until Otto  hits a bum note and Astrid calls proceedings to a halt forcing him to apologise for his mistake. After this we are informed that they are currently making ‘Kunst Rock’-art rock- and seeking inspiration from Brian Eno before launching into a Pixies influenced number ‘Bananenhaus’ then, in the true spirit of 1977 punk rock, a quick sprint through ‘The Situation’ followed by ‘Second Best Friend’ and the curse of the late sixties early seventies a mini rock opera before concluding with an improvised loop driven experimental piece then back to short, sharp delirious rock and roll

The musical numbers were interspersed with amusing banter alongside quick witted and racy audience participation which meant that this show never lost momentum and managed to keep the audience entertained and fixated throughout. The humour was as well constructed as the music so the talent on display was quite extraordinary. This is definitely a show to see if you want a fun night out with dark humour and good music. Once again, Danke Berlin!


Die Roten Punkte is on at 8.55pm at Assembly George Square, Bosco until August 25th.


OWWO Exhibition- Summerhall opens 11am daily and runs until 27th September.


 This exhibition has already been mired in controversy due to the decision by its curator-Sarah Wilson – to make it a show exclusively showing female artists and for, the first three weeks, only to other females. There has been much criticism of this in other factions of the press about this brave decision- I myself did not initially understand it and am generally resistant to segregation– and a bulk of hostility has arisen mainly from other women; so much for the solidarity of sisterhood then.

The initial premise was that it housed many works and subject matter which women may feel more comfortable viewing then later discussing away from the penetrative male gaze which has critiqued and censored their work –harshly on occasion- for years. The fact that women have been excluded from so many sections of society, including the chauvinistic and male-centric art world, for centuries and have only managed to gain some inroads in the last few decades to be taken seriously as valid artists seems to be getting ignored..

Surely therefore they could have just one thing to perhaps call their own. Especially as it was only for several weeks and at the same time in a city which has literally thousands of other cultural experiences on offer where both sexes are more than welcome. I have heard it said that this exhibition is operating as some form of segregation- which may be one take on it- but I see it more as some form of elitism and exclusivity and that goes on in many other business and social circles without an eyebrow or objection ever being raised.

Let us not delude ourselves that equality as anything more than a concept exists in our society. Whilst attending a party over the Festive period the gender divide could not have been clearer as the men took over one room discussing football and business, drinking bottles of beer. Meanwhile women were exiled to the beautifully modernized kitchen and talked of schools, their children and fashion. Both factions fell into their own roles quite willingly and submissively and this scenario caused me more discomfort than Wilson’s aims of banning men from her exhibition for whatever reasons. At least she was vocal about what she was doing and it did not fall into the so-called ‘natural’ order of things. Personally I cannot see what all the fuss is about and as Wilson will happily declaim in typically irreverent manner ‘I’m a conceptual artist so just get over it!’

So what about the art then?

With the exhibition now open to everyone I am pleased to report there are some very worthwhile pieces of art on show. Wilson’s own work involving collages of ceramics and other mediums barely contained in frames and actually quite fun. A million miles away from the radical feminist exploits you would expect after some earlier press reports. The jacket with false breasts by Jill Skulina that Wilson wore for press shots- and elicited some sexist and derogatory comments along the way- hangs on a wall and is another piece that contains humour whilst still sending out a serious message.

A series of paintings by Beth Fisher showing one woman’s diagnosis of breast cancer and the impact this has on her life and those around her is evocative, touching and quite beautiful. Jannica Honey’s gritty portraits of strippers is as bleak as it sounds and none the less impressive for this fact. A room with three screens showing different sets of women moving around to music is captivating. Val Atkinson’s shots depicting the mind and thoughts of women is also amazing especially the piece which operates as a modern day take on Medusa with winding serpents signifying the mental turmoil.

There was also a piece of performance art but as I am not over 6’6” I was unable to capture any of it but apparently it involved nudity, water splashing slapping of thighs and dripping honey. With that description I can’t say I will cry myself over not seeing it and performance art of this type sets things back a few decades further than barring men from the show. Mind you it gave the men something to gawp at and one of the reasons I couldn’t see was it was mainly the taller elements present-mostly males then- who crowded round the front and afterwards a lot of talk revolved around how sexually-or not- arousing the piece was. Maybe Wilson had a point about originally excluding them after all.

Wilson has been extremely brave with this exhibition and has used the space very well. No stranger to controversy-her Axolotl gallery also provoked a hostile response with a particular show last year and her decision to make it women only still escapes me but it was only for a short time. Usually I am against any form of segregation and believe wholeheartedly in the blurring of gender and making it more non-specific as opposed to specific. It has not however done the work any harm and whilst it deals with serious subjects very cleverly it also maintains a sense of feminine sensitivity and fun while not disappearing up its own conceptual arse as so many others wished it had.


Just an Observation Saturday 25th August


So the last weekend of the Fringe 2012 is upon us –rather swiftly I must add-and as it will probably not be the one remembered as producing the greatest or most innovative art it may be more fondly remembered as the one where it didn’t rain everyday. In fact it has hardly rained at all and has been unseasonably warm and pleasant. It may also be the year referred to as the one where the whole thing never actually kicked in.

Several factors are being blamed for this not least the Olympics but personally I feel that people have had enough of half arsed shows at full scale prices. Comedy ,in particular, has had a hard year of it-many of the big names played to half full auditoriums and I was offered review tickets, usually refused, with a plus one if I wanted which I never bothered taking- and it is not before time in my opinion. Many of these names can be seen on television on an average weekend peddling the same tired act and stretching it out for an hour is usually beyond most of their capabilities. Therefore twenty quid for a ticket plus about a fiver each drink is just an unnecessary expense not many can afford at the moment. Also I may be old fashioned but I actually like my comedy to be funny and make me laugh rather than just wonder why everyone else finds it all so hysterically funny. Usually I find myself dismissing it as Pinot Grigio comedy for people who really need to get out more.

On the other hand there has been some outstanding dram on offer, Razing Eddie, Big Sean, Mikey and Me, Glory Dazed and Half a Person, My Life as Told by the Smiths are all worthy of your attention if you have time to spare and want to see a show this last weekend. If dance or physical theatre is more your bag then the new production of A Clockwork Orange or Knee Deep are simply stunning pieces of work. My personal favourite act of the Fringe has to be Andy and the Prostitutes who are playing their last two nights in the Phoenix bar in Broughton Street tonight and tomorrow plus an extra show at the Institute in Marchmont tonight at 10pm. Last weeks visit to the Institute precipitated one of the most brilliantly bonkers nights out I have had in ages and captured the true spirit of the Fringe.

Tomorrow the much discussed and controversial OWWO exhibition at Summerhall has an opening to which all are welcome. The exhibition has previously only open to women and due to this fact has been the subject of much debate. I won’t enter into that debate until after I have seen the work but even though I originally had my own misgivings about such a project but having seen the reaction-mostly hostile- I feel that the curator Sarah Wilson made a brave decision by forging ahead with it and it is an interesting concept.

Back to the Fringe then and other things I have noticed including the rudeness which seems to overtake most people’s personalities at this busy time of year. I have been pushed, shoved and moved out of the way by people who-mistakenly- thought they were more important. I have sat in front of someone who answered their phone during a show, carried on a conversation and then turned around to their neighbour and related the contents of that conversation to them. And if this year is to be remembered as the ‘Death of Comedy’ then I only hope next year will be the ‘Death of the Flyer’.

Why in this day and age are we still bombarded with these useless bits of cardboard so relentlessly? I was waiting in the Pleasance one afternoon-queuing seemed to consume at least one third of my time in August- when I was approached and offered a flyer which I refused but was then told they would just put it on the table in case I changed my mind. Within thirty seconds another employee came up with a binbag and asked if I wanted the flyer I had just refused. When I responded that no I didn’t she picked it up along with all the others which had been left lying and shoved it onto her refuse sack. A pretty pointless exercise-and total waste of money- to have someone follow someone else around clearing away flyers which people have already said they didn’t want.

Now that the Fringe is over and Edinburgh settles back into being itself there are still some worthwhile things going on. The Picasso exhibition at the Scottish Nationa Gallery is a definite must see and so much more enjoyable now that a large proportion of tourists have departed. Also this week there is the last Neu! Reekie night at the Scottish Book Trust and after this it will relocate to a new base in the burgeoning Summerhall complex. It is sure to be an emotional night as it is an event which has grown over its duration mainly through word of mouth and by attracting a coterie of individual and like minded souls.

As for my last weekend of the Fringe I have the Andy and The Prostitutes gig tonight followed by a showing of The Audition-both at The Institute. Then tomorrow the OWWO exhibition at Summerhall followed by two parties is on the agenda. After that it is a couple of days of decompression before preparing for the Autumn round of events. There is also the return of the X-Crutiating factor for me to express my weekly disgust and disdain for the lowest form of human life known to man in the entertainment industry. Bring it on!


Me Before Marilyn- The Space UK, 4.10pm


The story of Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe is a familiar one but one that also keeps evolving and is subject to change, even now fifty years on from her mysterious death. Still an icon to new generations she is still one of the most recognizable faces of the twentieth century. The legend is kept alive by the mystery shrouding her demise and also down to the fact Marilyn was obviously a compulsive liar during her short life. Even her original name fluctuates from being either Norma Jean Baker or Mortensen- Mortensen is more widely accepted as the genuine article- and her early years as related to various psychiatrists takes on many different perspectives depending on who she was relating her tale to.

Capturing the fractured psyche and the schizophrenic nature of Marilyn/Norma Jean this play opens with various voices zooming in from different areas of the small theatre throwing questions at the doomed star. It then moves onto her first marriage to James Dougherty which was merely a ruse to prevent her from going into further foster care. Ending the marriage whilst her husband was serving in the second world war Norma Jean then bleached up her hair, perfected her wiggle, pout and impossibly sweet breathy voice  to re-invent herself as Marilyn Monroe.

The play continues by detailing her marriage to American hero and baseball star Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio which only lasted nine months and ended in acrimony and tales of domestic abuse. Following on from this she was ‘rescued’ by photographer Milton Greene and his wife Amy who helped instil her with a sense of self worth which had previously been lacking.

However as always with Marilyn the Greenes were shunned and dismissed from her coterie after she met and fell for the great American playwright Arthur Miller. This marriage lasted longer than the Dimaggio debacle but was also doomed from the outset. What followed after they divorced remains cloaked in scandal, intrigue and confusion and the truth will probably never be unearthed now as all the major players are dead.

This production by the young and aspiring Innovative Theatre Company Caged Theatre is an extremely adept effort by four actors who take on various roles. The central performance of Marilyn- Lucy Snowden- captures not only the legend’s beauty and poise but also her fragility. The other performances are also well executed and by not attempting American accents they have not allowed anything to detract from the performances by rendering it mere impersonation. The use of white clothes hanging on a black background showing footage of scenes of the stars life being played out was both clever and effective. I could have done without the Dire Straits soundtrack but that is a personal dislike and probably unnecessary griping.

All in all a valiant production and the only major flaw I could find was that at just half an hour long it was rather short. However they did cram a lot into that half hour without it ever feeling rushed.



Joyced –Assembly 4.45pm


There are two separate and very different schools of thought when it comes to James Joyce’s uber-novel, Ulysses, in twentieth century literature. One is that it is the greatest book ever written and changes the reader’s whole attitude to how books should be written and read whilst the opposing view is that it is an impenetrable bore and merely a dictionary in the wrong order. I subscribe to the latter view and was forced to read the damn thing during my tenure as a student and this play was a means of seeing whether I had perhaps judged it too harshly.

I have attempted to read it since the time I was force fed it to see whether it became any clearer, but to little avail and seeing this show was a way of discovering whether its prizes would eventually reveal themselves to me. Unfortunately the theatre this production is set in is the very lecture theatre where I sat and found more interest in the plain walls and an errant crack in the ceiling than Joyce’s stream of consciousness discourse.

Written by Donal O’ Kelly ,directed by Sorcha Fox and performed by Katie O’Kelly Joyced is a swift flight through Dublin in 1904, the year Ulysses is set in. On her journey which begins with Kelly in a very fetching pair of black wings she takes in a whirlwind tour of the city encountering the people who became the basis for the main characters in Ulysses as well as Joyce , his wife Nora-the inspiration for Molly Bloom- alongside other members of his family.

Kelly gives a great performance dipping in and out of characters seamlessly and capturing the essence of them intuitively. It is clear she has studied her subject matter and can imbue the characters with their defining nuances and conjure up something totally believable.

The dialogue is delivered at a breakneck speed and I must admit I found it hard to follow-much like Ulysses- and eventually gave up and submitted to just enjoying the performance without having a clue what was going on. Devotees of Joyce will love this show and there were many gathered outside before the performance discussing the book and the whole Joycean myth. Unfortunately it merely convinced me that despite a desire to get to grip with the book this show convinced me that perhaps I should continue to read literature I actually understand and enjoy and leave Ulysses to these converts and scholars.



Truth-Underbelly –10.25pm


 This latest offering from Australians Slow Clap is a freeform storytelling show which has frantic shifts of pace and characters and, at times, is exceptionally funny. Hinged on the talents of Vachel Spirason who carries this show virtually single handed with only the smallest of assistance from fellow creator-or conspirator if you prefer- Stephanie Brotchie it is fast paced and slightly surreal collection of different tales which for most of the shows duration feel as if they are not connected at all.

Billed as a storytelling show-a point hammered home by Spirason continually for the first five minutes- it appears to bear very tenuous links to any storytelling you may have previously encountered. Instead we are introduced into different scenarios including naked men, being stranded on an island and probably the most surreal version of Copacabana and its star Lola you are ever likely to see. Probably the best of all is Juan-‘The Juan and only’- a flamenco dancer like no other. Attired only in his double layered underpants, white vest and a rose between his teeth Juan is a great comic creation and probably the strongest point and highlight of the show; so good he re-appears again later for a further appearance.

If the show does have a flaw it is that it seems to be stretching itself out a little and therefore goes on about ten minutes too long. The night I attended it actually exceeded its one hour duration so perhaps it had overrun on this occasion. It definitely has some extremely funny moments and Spirason is an extremely charismatic performer even if the crazy dancing routines become a bit predictable. It is worth seeing however simply for the ‘Juan’ sections alone.



Nola- Underbelly 3.15pm


This docu-drama about the BP oil spill in 2010 is brought to the stage by Look Left Look Right productions –who produced my favourite show, the daring and site specific You Once Said Yes, last year- and attempts to show, through conversations with those directly affected in New Orleans, what the immediate and long lasting effects were on the community. It is a highly affecting work and even with the small cast of four dipping out of characters and various accents it is never hard to work out what is being said by whom.

The drama unfolds via various accounts and it is almost harrowing to hear those on the rig reliving their moments of escape followed by details of a selfless rescue on a fellow worker by one of the riggers merely following his natural humane instincts whilst articulating the fact he would want to be saved if he were in the others predicament. Tales of smoke filled water ablaze with heat searing flames-underwater was the only refuge-clearly help the audience understand the desperate nature of the situation.

This was only the beginning however as the after effects were just as destructive on a community which had not yet had time to recover from the devastation of the fairly recent Hurricane Katrina. It certainly sounds like a community blighted by disaster whether natural or man made. It was not only humans however which suffered as the constant oil spill into the sea affected marine life as well as the bird population. Disturbing images of pelicans encrusted in oil are shown alongside tales of how trying to remove oil necessitated stripping them of their feathers whilst simultaneously sending them into a state of extreme distress.

How the media responded was also explored and the nature of litigation prevalent in the United States was exposed as billboards immediately shot up all over the place encouraging people to sue and make extortionate claims. All of this paints the events as being worthy of note and not just some news item to be replaced by the next big thing.

This production is definitely drama with a conscience and whilst it certainly never falls into light entertainment it does provoke thought and emotion more than eloquently. The four very young performers swap accents –and on occasion genders- and give almost flawless performances despite a few excusable faltering moments. The quality of drama on this years Fringe is exceptional-in contrast to comedy which is a struggling genre and perhaps needs a re-think- and Nola is up there with some of the better offerings this year.



Knee Deep-Assembly 7.30pm


This show quite literally begins by walking on eggshells and continues to maintain that level of tension throughout. Created by Circa who were last here three years ago this latest addition to their cache never fails to impress or astound during it’s one hour duration. It is a show which shows consummate skill combined with intensity and trust between the performers. It does not go for shock tactics or overt dynamics but is not any less powerful because of this.

Opening with the aforementioned walking on eggs routine-eggs figure throughout as a metaphor to remind us how fragile we as humans are and the danger the performers are constantly in- accompanied by a new age soundtrack the intricacies of the four onstage artistes is compelling and almost Zen like. When the music shifts up a notch to electronica from the Aphex Twin school of sound so do the movements and routines. Among the extremely visceral, exhilarating and jaw dropping routines we are then entreated to include a tightrope of interwoven human limbs-which one of the performers edges their precarious way along- gymnastic acrobatics performed on what appears to be the world’s four smallest bar stools and hula hooping which provides a moment of light relief. There are also some impressive modern trapeze acts, body percussion, back flips, forward rolls and each movement is performed with balletic poise.

Muscles strain and sweat drips and it is obvious that all of what we are witnessing requires inordinate strength and is pushing the naturally toned bodies –none of which look as if they are acquired by spending hours in the gym- to the very limits of their endurance. This only makes the show more attractive as the obviously intense nature of the acts being performed are not made to look easy and they obviously rely on a gargantuan amount of trust between the performers as one minor slip or loss of concentration could be fatal.

Knee Deep is a truly astoundingly beautiful show which will have you spellbound and holding your breath throughout. Exquisitely performed, the visuals and music merge beautifully and although it is seamless it always feels as if it is teetering on a precipice-like an egg about to drop and smash- and this only adds to the proceedings. When it was over, the standing ovation the four exhausted performers received was not just expected but totally necessary.



Female Gothic-Assembly 11.45am

This one woman performance piece by Dyad Productions directed by Guy Masterton and starring Rebecca Vaughan- the two former names also had a hand in writing the piece- is as impressive and moody a tale as you are likely to encounter in a midday lunchtime slot. Vaughan carries the three separate tales more than adequately and uses nuance and skill as a major part of her storytelling style whilst capturing the right amount of melancholia without ever dipping into the overly theatrical many would associate with Gothic writing.

Taking the form of three short stories Vaughan begins by taking to the sparse but effective set with a leather wingback chair, subtle yet dramatic lighting which creates the right level of shadow and then lighting three candles –one is snuffed out every time she concludes an episode and this indicates another tale is about to unfold- begins the first of her Victorian themed pieces.

The stories themselves twist and turn with dramatic flourish as is needed. With very little assistance apart from a few sound effects –dogs howling in the distance, the swell of music as her character approaches the Paris Opera House- Vaughan carries the tales with aplomb creating the necessary ambience with her storytelling abilities alone. The subtle shifts in the lighting are the only other assistance she requires and these are so subtle as to be hardly noticeable.

The script itself is involved without being complicated. Likewise Vaughan’s performance could hardly be more fully realised or capable. Never faltering or showing any signs of hesitation she manages to make it through the one hour and fifteen minutes making it seem quite effortless indeed.



Peter Straker’s Jacques Brel-Assembly 6pm


 Beginning with film footage of Belgian chansonnier realiste  Jacques Brel giving an interview wherein he makes controversial statements claiming-amongst other things- there is no such thing as talent and that whilst he has no desire to sing, his need to speak his dreams and thoughts is inescapable.

The darkness of the worlds his songs inhabit still resonate profoundly today and he is probably best known-in this country at least- through Scott Walker’s renditions, more than ably assisted by his mannered baritone croonings.,  David Bowie’s championing of his songs in his Ziggy phase, most especially his decision to sing a stunning prescient version of ‘My Death’ shortly before he killed off his glam doppelganger live onstage, also raised the profile of Brel considerably to several generations.  The stage and mood is therefore set for Peter Straker to take the stage, accompanied by his extremely capable and tight three piece band, with his own interpretations of several of Brel’s greatest songs.

And what songs there are to choose from. ‘Amsterdam’, ‘Jackie’, ‘Carousel’, ‘Next’, ‘My Death’, ‘Mathilda’ and a paean to his Belgian origins ‘The Flatland’ all make a more than welcome appearance. The demi-monde the songs inhabit are not only apparent in the lyrics but in the narrative thread of the spoken interludes wherein Straker-as Brel- tells us of his love for cigarettes, alcohol and sex.

The simplicity of the musical arrangements and Straker’s onstage charisma and evident belief in what he is singing raise this to being a very worthwhile show indeed. If it has one fault it is that Straker brings nothing new to the material- and Scott Walker’s versions will always remain the definitive ones in my opinion- but by the same token why should he want to when the songs continue to speak for themselves