Archive for the ‘ FRINGE 2014 ’ Category

AND THEY PLAYED SHANG A LANG

‘And They Played Shang A Lang’ ended my run of good productions by a very long mile! By far and away the worst thing I have seen this year its banality was not really enhanced by its late night slot and the fact the venue was less than a quarter full. I tried to enjoy myself and force myself into liking it- honest!- but it just wasn’t happening and the less I tried to cringe the more I felt the need to.
On first inspection the idea of drawing events of seventies Edinburgh together with a narrative driven with some of the best music of the era-as well as some of its most turgid- seemed like an entertaining idea. I am just unsure how a ramshackle production such as this made it to the Assembly Rooms whilst shows which probably have a fraction of its budget but twenty times its professionalism and innovation languish in tiny theatres or even on the Free Fringe.
It seemed like every random idea had been thrown at this show in trying to create something out of the flimsiest of premises. Therefore as a means of covering all bases the musical interludes include ‘Block Buster’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Shang A Lang’, ‘Chirpy Cheep Cheep’ and –God help us- even ‘Anarchy in the UK’.
Just when I thought the show had reached its nadir and things could only improve- a Nativity scene which was more tortuous than the real thing- a moment of sentimentality was tracked with the turgidity of a drawn out version of that pile of steaming shit, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. No edited highlights were offered up as a salvation for this particular lowlight. Oh no, a full length drawn out unedited version was served up lacking even the emotional void the original tried to cover up with bombastic excess and florid musicianship.
I felt sorry for the cast who I felt did not understand the material they were working with but I sense they realised it was not going to be their finest hour so in turn responded with performances which resembled a non stop infant stomping party. At times I wondered whether I was merely witnessing a series of tantrums held together by musical interludes.
Definitely not a show I would recommend to anyone I like-even those I don’t particularly care for merit more than this it must be said- it certainly has been the worst show I have seen so far this year.
**

BROKE

_2014BROKE_PS
This show by The Paper Birds-namely Jemma McDonnell, Kylie Walsh and Shane Durrant- focuses on an issue which affects most of us in our pursuit of keeping up with modern life as well as contemporaries, namely borrowing money via various means and the debt that this automatically incurs. Canvassed from real life members of the public, the facts and stories related throughout this show may be random but they relate to a vast majority of the public as each tale is laced with a sense of familiarity and whilst waking up in the middle of the night in a sweaty panic is far removed from simply putting it out of your mind and ignoring the problem at the same point both have a remarkably similar outcome in that they don’t actually deal with the problem in any active way.
Well presented the show is basic but effective-it would be churlish if it was a big budget production- and one feels that a lack of funds available to the participants has provided an active muse. Each of the trio on stage inhabits their various roles with consummate ease and the whirring sounds and motions which represent the being caught up in more debt, financial misunderstanding and encroaching cash chaos is extremely effective and summarises the feelings many of us have inside our heads when presented with our own financial situation; confusion blurred with even more confusion all operating at a seemingly breakneck speed.
The production offers up the neat summary that constant spending will only lead most of us into more debt but, at the same time, only constant spending can rescue the economy so it is a vicious circle our society and culture can’t get out of. More importantly it is a circle those in overall charge of our finances cannot afford to let us out of. Not exactly an appetising thought is it?
‘Broke’ looks at contemporary issues in an intelligent and entertaining way with minimal fuss. It certainly provides food for thought; even if the food for thought comes not from that least trusted of financial institutions, the bank, but instead from one of those current saviours of society, a food-bank.
***

CUTTING OFF KATE BUSH

cutting_off_kate_bushCutting Off Kate Bush

‘Cutting Off Kate Bush’ is that weird anomaly, a show wherein its greatest strengths are also its greatest weaknesses. Built on the flimsiest of premises involving an obsession with Kate Bush-insert your own icon of choice here if Bush is too much for you to bear- which the lone protagonist of the piece Cathy, after her musical and counterpart in ‘Wuthering heights’ of course, relates the Bush experience with the highs and lows of her life.
Written and performed with undeniable verve and gusto by Lucy Benson-Brown the musical pieces rely generally on Bush’s recorded output – therefore ‘Running Up That Hill’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Red Shoes’ and ‘The Man With The Child in His eyes’ are some of the impressive canon offered up- and this is no bad thing. At first Benson-Brown’s whirling arms and flailing limbs routine seems based on parody but as she carries it through to its logical conclusion it becomes clear that her performance and study of the moves is extremely competent, bordering on reverential.
The narrative darts around the fact that it is Cathy’s 27th birthday and as a dreamer, who has suffered the heartbreaking loss of her mother a few years before, feels it is time to put her life into perspective and order. Outside influences are encouraging her in this path also but Cathy seems as fixated on following the guiding light of her heroine’s music as a means of living her life.
This fixation on celebrity as spiritual guru is basically the play’s central premise and it is indeed an interesting one where we are surrounded by celebrity and faux-celebrity everywhere we look. Bush though is an entity all her own and has waged her own way through life on her own terms and in her own fashion seemingly untroubled by outside influence. Perhaps, by choosing someone as iconic and independent as Bush this is no bad thing after all in Cathy’s mind.
Another great thing about this play is that although the central idea is quite flimsy it seems to recognise this and doesn’t hang around long enough for you to notice this. It finishes without trying to resolve the issues at hand and this works in its favour considerably. Oh, and the music was fabulous. Of course!
***
Cutting Off Kate Bush is showing daily at Gilded Balloon at 1.30pm

THE SECRET WIVES OF ANDY WILLIAMS

secret-wives-of-andy-williams_2014SECRETW_N6The Secret Wives Of Andy Williams

This play based on tales of love and sacrifice through the eyes of a young novice nun, Caitlin, in the late ‘60’s is an eccentric and occasionally very funny production. However it often trips itself up on those very eccentricities but when it slows itself down, takes its time and lets more insightful moments occur it gathers more strength revealing more depth. Performed by an exceptionally strong and gifted cast Sadie Hasler-who also wrote the piece-, Sarah Mayhew-who directed it- , Charlie Platt and Edward Mitchell it is economical but effective in its execution.
The narrative focuses on the tale of Caitlin who enters a nun’s order with every intention of joining but along the way finds herself unable to reconcile her I ternal feelings and desires with what is expected of her if she is to continue on this path. Starting off at a frantic pace which verges on skittish slapstick the mood soon shifts and the feelings she reveals are not wholly exclusive to novice nuns but to every teenager. What makes them more intense for Caitlin however is the fact thay if she ignores them then she has to put them aside and not allow them back in.
Each cast member takes on various roles extremely effectively and the whole production is expertly handled. There were times I felt they tried to cram too many things into a short space simply to show how versatile they were but this is minor quibbling and also what the Fringe is all about. All in all an enjoyable show with lofty ambitions that it occasionally met.
The Secret Wives of Andy Williams is on at Underbelly until August 25th at 3.30pm
****

THIEF

_2014THIEF_YIThief

Definitely uneasy and unsettling viewing, ‘Thief’ embraces all the elements of what used to make the Fringe so very vital: coy sexiness, nudity and exotic subjects exploring the demimonde. Written by Liam Rudden and performed by Matt Robertson ‘Thief’ is based on the tales of Jean Genet and in Particular ‘Quenelle De Brest’, a fact highlighted by the main character being referred to throughout as Sailor. Definitely Robertson gives a taut and brave performance- a lot of nudity is involved- which allows for silences in the dialogue which merely adds potency to the script rather than any sense of hesitation.
Sailor lives a life away from the gentility of society, earning-if that is the right term- a living as a rent boy who stalks his quarry then dissuades them of their money, jewellery and anything else of value; sometimes using violence and at others merely the threat of violence or, worse, exposure. Occasional dips into his past allow us a glimpse of hiw things got this way for Sailor, revealing a dysfunctional relationship with his mother and a sexual relationship with his one true friend, Blue.
Inevitably this lifestyle comes with danger-which acts as an addictive drug to Sailor as it is the only way he knows- and eventually seeking solace in heroin which leads him into even further depths until the drugs and violence conspire in creating a life spiralling ever downward into a pit where he can find no redemption either in himself or the rest of the world.
‘Thief’ is no easy watch and throughout your discomfort is palpable and this is its intent. Robertson gives a bravura performance in a set which is as stripped down as he frequently is. Nudity aside this is shocking tale of a life in the shadows with little chance of light bruising the darkness. It is however a great theatrical performance!
****
‘Thief is on at Hill St. Theatre until August 25th at 9.30pm

OUTINGS

Outings

This show features a regular cast-Andrew Doyle, Adam Riches, Camille Ucan and Zoe Lyons- but also features a guest star which changes every performance. On the day I attended this guest was Jo Caulfield whose contributions fitted seamlessly and it is hard to tell as the cast refer to scripts throughout. It focuses on the process of ‘coming out’ amongst gay people –although it does state quite falsely in its blurb that this is something every gay person goes through although I would hotly contest that assertion through first hand experience, but this is minor quibbling- and how it affects those coming out and those they come out to.
Families, friends and lovers all figure in this entertaining show as do celebrities, sportsmen, transgendered people and those who attempt a heterosexual lifestyle as a means of postponing the inevitable. Mind you there are many who never make that transition and spend a lifetime in denial of their true sexuality.
Fortunately there are none of those in this show which takes real and imagined scenarios to concoct a varying and varied look at different approaches to the coming out process and the different reactions it engenders. Obvious celebrities such as the most famous of recent times –Tom Daley- are held up against others such as Justin Fashanu-the footballer who stood alone within the football world as gay and was eventually found hanged in his garage-, Rock Hudson and Boy George. Ellen Degeneres are also notable ‘out’ celebrities but the question still lingers as to why there are still so obviously-especially within football and other sports- many others who are still uncomfortable about speaking about their sexuality. Surely in the twentieth century they cannot imagine it is career suicide anymore as society as a whole has progressed-of course there are those who are not so accepting but they are becoming more and more of a minority. There is also the belief that it is no-one’s business but their own and whilst I agree with this thinking and right to privacy I also feel it can only become less and less of an issue, and therefore a matter of interest to muck-rakers who use it as a means of salacious gossip, if more people come out and remove the stigma further.
An interesting show which deals with some serious issues with moments of humour and pathos. I hope for the day when such matters are no longer wortgy of debate and discussion and someone’s sexual orientation should not be in question. There are a lot more obvious things we need to worry about in the world-including other sexual predilections- other than whether someone is gay or straight!

BLOOD ORANGE

_2014BLOODOR_5YBlood Orange

Right from its energetic, high octane opening-all writhing bodies and blaring clubland classics- it is clear that this is a challenging and visceral work and indeed it never lets up all through its duration gathering momentum and reaching a climax which challenges you in a less obviously corporeal fashion but instead moves into cerebral territory giving its audience food for thought to digest after they have left the theatre. Written by Graham Main and performed by the Electric Theatre Workshop ‘Blood Orange’ focuses on a small community within the Scottish club scene-borrowing from true life events when the SDL invaded Dundee- and how racial hatred preys on the weak and vulnerable to further its own agenda.
Zander is still grieving after the death of his mother after his father’s business closed down as he was unable to compete with the competition from the burgeoning Asian community. The racist character Mole recognises that this is the type of recruit he seeks for his own requirements so then swoops in with his race hate rhetoric and incorporates Zander in his fight against the Asian community. It is a tale which inevitably ends in violence and ultimately tragedy.
Although this is a thoroughly modern production it incorporates and draws on other genres to add gravitas as well as a further sense of drama and tension, in particular Shakespearean elements which add potency and poignancy.
At the play’s denouement, after a bloody and viscerally moving confrontation, we are left with the thought that perhaps the incidents detailed are not as isolated or as distant as we often hope and believe they are.
****