Archive for the ‘ FRINGE 2014 ’ Category


The Trial of Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda was one of those few in Hollywood who actually put her money and, more importantly, her presence where her mouth was back in the seventies when she spoke out against the American governments and army concerning their involvement in the Vietnam war. This production written and directed by Terry Jastrow and starring Anne Archer focuses on little known events sixteen years later when Fonda was in Waterbury, a town highly populated with war veterans, about to make a film with Robert De Niro and was meeting with extreme resistance from a large number of vets who felt that she had betrayed them and placed their missions in deep danger.
What unfolds throughout this production is the two opposing and different sides and attitudes to war with both parties revealing throughout the, at times heated , confrontation that both parties had been used to meet others own particular needs and agendas. Fonda revealed that a world famous photo of her sitting astride a weapon for shooting down American aircraft whilst seemingly laughing and clapping was a set up and radically misinterpreted by a hostile press. Fonda also reveals the heavy price she paid for such a miscalculated manipulation and eventually concurs it was a serious mistake which cost her.
The veterans in turn reveal how her actions diminished everything they were trying to achieve but what does emerge is that both parties were both misled in their intentions by authorities who were hell-bent on achieving as much antagonism and discord as possible. There is a poignant touch at the play’s denouement wherein the moderator at the meeting reveals that Fonda’s intervention-no matter how misguided- did actually have a hugely positive result on his life and this goes someway to consoling her for all the other mistakes she made.
This is an extremely skilled production and whilst at times it could do with a little more spice to spark up the dialogue it still manages to be engaging throughout. The performances all react and interact effectively and it is very poignant piece at a moment when history seems to be repeating itself with the current situation in Gaza where yet again innocents are being killed in the name of something other than the mass genocide it actually is.

The Trial of Jane Fonda is on every day at 4.05 in the Assembly Rooms until August 25th


_2014BETTEDA_8XBette Davis Ain’t For Sissies

Moving from last year’s Free Fringe-when I recommended it wholeheartedly- Jessica Sher and her production seem perfectly at home in the upmarket and opulent surroundings of the prestigious Assembly Rooms. A remarkable leap by anyone’s standards and one that feels wholly deserved.
Focussing on Oscar night 1939 when ‘Gone With The Wind’ swept the board and Davis and her role in ‘dark Victory’ were overlooked in favour of Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’ Hara. Sweeping out of the ceremony after learning this news in advance Davis returns home where she pours a stiff drink and lights one of many cigarettes while she reflects on those she holds responsible for her loss which if she had won would have meant she would have taken home her third Oscar. Run ins with director and former lover William Wyler are recounted as is her affair with Howard Hughes whilst friendly jibes at Olivia De Havilland are punctuated with not so friendly ones at Vivien Leigh.
Sher captures the nuances of the Davis diction as well as many of her facial tics and expressions. It is a commendable performance which keeps the audience in its thrall and it is punctuated all the while with incessant phone calls to and from Ruthie-her mother- who pleads with Davis to return to the ceremony and accept her defeat graciously but it is all to no avail. Bitchy, winsome, gossipy, thoughtful, articulate and intelligent; these are all traits of Davis which appear during the show’s duration and each one to great effect.
Vey much at home in the Assembly Rooms this production is still as enjoyable as it was last year and those discovering it for the first time will find it a mid-afternoon delight.
Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies is at The Assembly Rooms until August 25th at 2.45pm.


_2014JANISJO_CWJanis Joplin:Full Tilt

I suppose your enjoyment of this show will depend on how much you rate Janis Joplin and recognise her as a valid contributor to the legacy of women in rock. Personally I go both ways on Joplin-in this I feel the same as I do about her male contemporary Jim Morrison who at times I consider to be overblown, pretentious and deluded but at others see a spark of something special especially in the simplicity of tracks such as ‘Love Street’ which is like being enveloped by a warm summer breeze- as at her best ,Mercedez Benz’ and ‘Me and Bobbie McGee’, she actually cuts through the crap, drops the wrenched out angst and actually delivers.
Similarly I don’t think she did much to further women’s causes in rock and roll-unless you class looking like an unmade bed a step forward- as she was outclassed by men and rather than using her unconventional looks as strength she tried to feminize herself with feather boas and jewellery and simply managed to look like a particularly bad drag queen. She was however the first female in rock and roll to receive a huge amount of attention and there is no denying her unmistakeable charisma so she does warrant a place in the pantheon of rock greats.
This production however does her proud and Angela Darcy provides an authentic-if infinitely prettier- Joplin capturing perfectly her cheeky chuckle along with her over punctuation of everything with ‘man’ whilst slugging out of a bottle of Southern Comfort. The band is tight and sound convincing and if an evening in the company of Janis Joplin and her music is your bag then this is very much a show for you.
I, myself, was enthralled by the show as it captured the mood, tempo and music of the Joplin I admire. It becomes apparent that she always lived in character and outside of herself so therefore her alienation and dependence on drugs and alcohol became more and more inevitable. When the band and Darcy leave the stage during ‘Ball and Chain’ and we are left with the real Joplin performing her legendary monologue at the Monterey festival with a voice that is already cracked ,weary and a thousand years old; it is easy to believe her when she croaks ‘It’s all the same fucking day man’


Black Is The Colour Of My Voice

This powerful tale about a young singer, Mena Bordeaux, based on Nina Simone as she discovers her musical talent, wrestles with her past and considers her future as she spends three isolated days after the death of her father. Performed brilliantly by Apphia Campbell-who also wrote the piece- it is a stunning piece of work which manages to retain tension and attention throughout with a spellbinding score and dialogue.
Beginning with the young Mena’s realisation she was blessed with a musical gift enhanced by a love of Bach she is also extremely proud of her colour and her activism in the civil rights movement began at a tioung age when she demanded her parents be treated as equals at a school recital. This determination continues throughout her life and it even loses her the one true love, Stanley, who may have made her happy rather than pursuing a career which brought little happiness. Instead by forsaking love for success she ends up with a man who beats and rapes her and her personal struggle unfolds against a backdrop of civil unrest which is equally violent.
The music however saves Mena and the score and its delivery are outstanding: ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ ‘I Put a Spell on You’ and ‘It’s A New Day’ are just three highlights although interestingly her best known number-which Simone allegedly hated- ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ is absent.
Exquisitely performed and captivating throughout ‘Black is the Colour of My Voice’ is a worthwhile show and definitely one to catch.

Black Is the Colour of My Voice is showing everyday at The Gilded Balloon at 2.20pm until August 25th



This production about the legendary comic film star-probably the most revered of the twentieth century- based on his autobiography and including clips from his original works is a light show that is a pleasant enough show but at the same time offers nothing new or particularly interesting to the legend.
Beginning with his impoverished start where poverty was simply something to be accepted Chaplin then had to face the trauma of his mother’s mental breakdown and her subsequent incarceration. Salvation arrived in the form of his brother Sydney who encouraged him in his acting ambitions and together the two of them made their way to Hollywood where stardom welcomed Charlie and he became internationally renowned.
With fame came fortune and women-Paulette Goddard and his last wife Oona are the only two to really feature here although Chaplin was a renowned womanizer to the point it got him into trouble on several occasions.
There was also a downside to this fame as he discovered when he made political affiliations with the communist party and of course the film ‘the Great Dictator’ which mocked Adolf Hitler at a time most Americans were avoiding the issue and did not see the humour or irony in the work. This came close to ruining him but Chaplin was no stranger to scandal; in fact he often courted it. Alienating the press he had once courted and seduced was another miscalculation which almost ruined him.
This production directed by Sven Sid is definitely geared towards a more mature audience. I couldn’t see much in it anyone younger than, say, forty-I am being generous here- would find in it to interest them in an age where every nuance of a celebrity’s life is reported by the hour, on the hour. For the age group this is aimed at I would say it is probably a four star show but for anyone younger it would be a generous three. This is not to say it is a bad production it is just maybe a little too staid and conventional for a younger audience although it is good to see that amore mature audience is actually catered for as the Fringe is meant to be for anyone with no restrictions.
Chaplin is showing every day until August 25th at Pleasance Courtyard at 12.20pm


This extremely powerful work written by Sabrina Mahfouz and directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward already has the ingredients required to make it a success but it is Jade Anouka’s mesmerising performance which adds that extra ingredient to take it to an even higher level. Loading every moment with potent significance and poignancy whilst filling every crevice of the venue with tension she recounts the tale-via recipes and menus- of a haute cuisine chef whose life spirals out of control becoming both the victim of domestic abuse and a convicted prisoner.
Although it is a tale of a life on a downward spiral it is also a life of triumph whilst seeking and finding solace and pleasure in the simplest things; such as a peach or a red wine risotto. Extremely wordy it is not always easy to follow every exact nuance or meaning but Anouka’s delivery is so captivating that sometimes it is the feel rather than the actual words which articulate her intentions.
Certainly the full to capacity house on the day I went were entranced and caught up in the protagonists circumstances and Anouka’s, one moment dark the next illuminating, performance which must rate as one of the best I have seen this Fringe when I have already encountered several outstanding performances Definitely a show not to be missed and the sold out signs at the box office confirm that already it is a runaway hit of 2014.
Chef is showing at Underbelly every day until 25th August at 6.10pm


Away From Home
This outstanding new work starring Rob Ward-co-written with Marin Jameson who also directed the piece- focuses on the taboo subject of homosexuality in football and the homophobia said taboo then engenders. It looks at sex as currency and transaction and how this simplistic approach can cause complications and stresses even when such a relationship seeks to avoid such things.
Ward plays Kyle-although he frequently adopts the personas of his friends, and family throughout the recounting of his tale- who is coasting along quite happily with his life as a rent boy. His family are aware that he is gay and his friends suspect but neither are aware that he sells his body to other men as a means of making a living. However a request from an important client who has especially requested his services opens up an opportunity in which his life can radically change overnight when it turns out that the mystery client is a premier league footballer.
Initially Kyle is reticent about the role he will have to play as the footballer’s regular ‘fixture’ but considering his alternatives- an encounter with a balding magistrate in his sixties goes someway toward convincing him- he decides to embark on a relationship whilst being made fully aware that it can never be made public knowledge outside of a very immediate circle.
Frustrated by this condition, as he feels he is denying something of his own identity, but his lover reveals the deep rooted homophobia which still exists in football and even references the late Justin Fashanu-the last major player to come out- who hanged himself nearly twenty years ago.
Ward gives a totally compelling performance throughout this show and his ability to hold the audience’s attention even when slipping in and out of characters is astounding. ‘Away From Home’ is a great production which has its comedic moments but also has a strong underlying theme of extreme seriousness at its core which gives the audience plenty to ponder on.
Away From Home is on at Assembly George Square everyday at 3.20pm until August 25th.