Archive for the ‘ Fringe 2017 ’ Category

THE REVLON GIRL

The Revlon Girl

Set not long after the Aberfan disaster of 1966 when 116 school children, along with 28 adults, lost their lives when colliery waste collapsed from an overlooking hill devastating a local school and community in one fell swoop. The fall out was heartbreaking for those who lost loved ones and with responsibility lying with those who granted approval for placing the pits in such an obviously unsuitable place there was also the matter of blame and subsequent compensation.
Based on true events this play by Neil Anthony Docking finds us eight months on from this tragedy and a town still swamped in grief and anger. A group of local women making up a support group have uncharacteristically enlisted the services of a Revlon representative to come and show them how to apply make up in the hopes of gaining some self-respect; encouraging them to feel positive about themselves by attempting to make themselves feel beautiful again.
It is a feisty production and the five actors on stage all lend the piece the necessary drama, conviction and pathos it deserves. Standout performances come particularly from Bethan Thomas as the feisty, swears like a trooper Rhona, Charlotte Gray as the eager to please Sian and the Revlon Girl, Charlotte, Antonia Kinlay who herself has hidden depths and an empathy not at first imagined.
It is however the ensemble itself which gives the performance its real innate strength and in a Fringe where one man shows and two-handers are all the rage it is a pleasure to see actors actually engage with each other and interact in a way which captures the different nuances of various individuals.
If the play does have a fault it is that the direction by Maxine Evans is a little flat and due to the lack of any stage effects or backdrops perhaps a little more imagination could have been applied to the use of space. This is a small complaint however and the performances are really what matters here. Capturing the range of emotions and how differently people adapt to them following a tragedy such as this, reveals a powerful, moving work where some people want to leave the scene of their heartache while others simply can’t.
It is also especially poignant in the wake of the Grenfell Towers disaster of a few months back when a community decimated by corporate greed pay the highest price for negligence on the part of those out to make a quick buck at the cost of human lives proving that over fifty years on not much has really changed.
****
The Revlon Girl is on at Assembly Roxy until August 28th at 1pm.

5 GUYS CHILLIN’

5 Guys Chillin’

Certainly not one for the faint hearted, 5 Guys Chillin’ makes its intentions clear almost from the outset. Throwing a non-judgmental eye over the Chemsex chill out parties that lead to group sex sessions this no holds barred production by Kings Head Theatre and Em Lou Productions is not afraid to dress its nudity, drug taking, sex chat and promiscuity up in skimpy clothing.
The scene revolves around a late night party –possibly after a club- with the five invitees having found their way there via dating apps. The intentions are implicit but they are also extremely explicit. The idea is simply to take as many drugs – crystal meth, here frequently referred to by its street slang name ‘Tina’, MDMA, Speed and of course the ubiquitous cocaine- and let things evolve, or degenerate, into a sexual scene. Of course as is expounded throughout the show that by taking as many drugs as they do it kind of dulls the sexual experience; that is if they are able to function at all.
It is a stark and honest look at a scene which remains a mystery to many and whilst it never addresses exactly what motivates those who participate into participating it does give a clear indication that those involved are unhappy, frustrated, lonely and rather desperate. Despite this they still claim that they enjoy what they are doing and the alternative-settling down in a monogamous relationship- is unlikely to make them any happier or less lonely so perhaps it is more complex than it appears on the surface.
Certainly this play offers no judgment nor does it take a moral stance either way. Based on verbatim conversations from gay men who participate in these soirees there is a gritty realism throughout. At times it is hard not to empathise with characters such as the Punjabi man whose background and culture simply forbids homosexual behaviour but somehow he has found resolve with his wife who knows of- and to some extent tolerates- his leanings but even this is not enough for him so he attends these late night parties and allows himself to engage with multiple partners.
As said at the beginning this is not one for the faint hearted. A couple of people left in its early stages; perhaps they thought the ‘chillin’ of the title referred to sitting around with a cup of tea politely chatting. It is definitely a full on show with lots of strong language, nudity and sexual references that are maybe not for the uninitiated. It is however a fascinating, entertaining insight into a demimonde which is obviously now a part of our society and culture. Be warned also that the theatre is so hot that you may be tempted to disrobe yourself!
****
5 Guys Chillin’ is on at Assembly Roxy until August 27th at 9.50pm

PJ HARVEY

PJ Harvey

Marching onto the stage against a minimalist but effective backdrop with stark lighting a lone, slight female figure amongst a ten piece male band, PJ Harvey stands holding a big saxophone and in possession of an even bigger voice intones the opening number Chain Of Keys.
From this atmospheric opener she proceeds to launch in and out of last year’s’ The Hope Six Demolition Project’ album interspersed with favourites from her impressive back catalogue.
An imperious Ministry of Self Defence follows the subtle opener and ramps the ante up and we are off on a journey which brings in a percussive and pulsing The Wheel, the melancholy of Ether and White Chalk, the crunching 50 ft Queenie, the murky blues of To Bring You My Love, the political Words That Maketh Murder and This Glorious Land then rounds it all off with a dreamy, persuasive River Anacostia before returning for an encore.
Fronting the ten piece band Harvey cuts a diminutive and ethereal figure shrouded in black feathers. The band themselves are faultless and provide an excellent soundscape for her to paint her songs onto. Make no mistake this is as much theatre as it is a rock concert.
Focussing solely on her performance Harvey only speaks once during this one hour forty minute show and only then to introduce the band, including the ever-present John Parrish and long time collaborator Mick Harvey.
The music speaks for itself however and last night proved that she is one of our great musical icons whose talent is overwhelming and can never be under exaggerated. Never afraid to take a left turn in her musical ambitions-2008’s White Chalk is proof of this- the fact she is able to bring such diverse musical styles and turn them into a cohesive whole shows a breadth of vision most artists can only ever dream about.
Definitely a Festival highlight, it was excellent in its execution and profoundly moving in its conclusions. As the last notes died away I felt privileged to have been part of something so special.

BRUTAL CESSATION

Brutal Cessation

The claustrophobic intensity of this Milly Thomas play is well suited to the confines of the Assembly Box as the relationship being painfully dissected feels like tow people boxed into their relationship by what is expected of them by social norms. However it is what is left unsaid that harbours resentment and what at the art of the play feels like familiarity that only couples forge in their relationship but pretty soon it is obvious something darker and more malevolent is manifesting beneath the surface; the systematic breakdown of a relationship.
It is the challenges that make up a relationship that are put on trial here and the series of everyday routines leading to a battlefield of proving a point to whatever end.
Thus we are treated to the female character –Lydia Larson- describing in intricate detail a violent fantasy regarding the male character-Alan Mahon- showing that beneath the lovey-dovey exterior some serious issues are rising to the surface via her subconscious. Demanding, baiting, provoking and pleading their relationship seems to be all about control; both losing and gaining it.
A civilised mealtime quickly degenerates into something far darker and the symbolic smashing of a water melon emphasises and heightens the tensions even further. In a twist, dialogue is delivered by one character then later repeated by the other to disorientate the senses even further.
Directed by Bethany Pitts Brutal Cessation is an involving and engaging production and its two actors deliver astounding and intense performances which more than do the material justice.
****
Brutal Cessation is on at Assembly George Square at 4.20pm until August 28th (not 14th)

CONFABULATION!

Confabulation!

I think it’s a scenario most of us are familiar with; the re-telling of a story from our past embellished with intricate details but which, although we believe it ourselves during the re-telling, in fact turns out to be a false memory. If what defines us are our memories and we are defined by such memories then how can we trust ourselves if said memories are false?
This is the subject Eamonn Fleming sets out to tackle in his one man show Confabulation! – confabulation being the psychiatric word for fabricating memories which lodge themselves in our brains as truths.
With Fleming it began with a Motorhead gig in his early teenage years which he can describe in vivid detail even down to the set list, who he was with and how it made him feel. There is just one problem however; he wasn’t actually there! In fact he was prohibited from going by his parents but several of his friends went and he seems to have involuntarily assimilated their experience to the point it has become his own.
An amiable and pleasant show Confabulation! takes a light-hearted look at this phenomena using scientific research-nothing too baffling or incomprehensible- shot through with humour and anecdotes.
All in all Confabulation! is a pleasant enough show which looks at something which effects most of us even if we are unaware of it. Fleming is a capable enough performer with a great delivery who holds the audience’s interest but his material and subject matter is hardly earth shattering.
***
Confabulation! is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 27th at 1.40pm

TESTOSTERONE

Testosterone

Testosterone by the Rhum and Clay Theatre Company is quite probably one of the best shows you will see at this years Fringe with its unique and singular perspective on what it is to be ‘male’. Taking the intriguing step of looking at masculinity from a trans-man’s perspective and drawing attention to how minor incidents can become major issues very quickly in a world where trans-etiquette is still trying to find its own place and set of rules. Written by Kit Redstone who plays himself and directed by Julian Spooner, Testosterone is a fun fantastical ride which addresses some very serious issues.
Kit is a trans- man who has been transitioning for about a year after starting hormone therapy and has decided to take a huge leap forward in his attempts to be accepted as a de facto male by entering that exclusive enclave only open to ‘real’ men; the gym locker room. To Kit this is a place that engenders fear in him as it is a scary place for the uninitiated and as he is not privy to the behaviour patterns which pass as acceptable he is wary of any encounters or making a faux pas which might reveal that he is not a genetically born male; for him the simplest social situation can become a social minefield.
Having engaged in the standard fare of social interactions which seem to pass as changing room manners things then become rather more complicated when he mistakenly picks up a towel belonging to a Marlon Brando muscle type- Julian Spooner- who demands it back immediately. This causes concern and panic for Kit as by removing the towel he will be quite clearly revealing himself in his naked form and the secret that he had not planned, sharing or revealing in these particular circumstances will be out.
In the meantime the drama delves in and out of fantasy situations with dance routines and musical interludes throwing up such favourites such as It’s Raining Men and Kelis’ Milkshake, delivered by semi-drag of The Diva, Daniel Jacob, while the sportsman played by Matthew Wells completes the quartet of different types of male on display.
To say Testosterone is a fun play addressing serious issues is selling it short somehow as it has so much more than this to recommend it. It takes different ideas of men and dresses them in clichés but simultaneously it sets out to debunk said clichés quite effectively. It is a fascinating work which had the audience on its feet cheering on the afternoon I attended and I feel it could be one of the big hits of this year’s Fringe as it approaches Trans issues with verve, intelligence, humour, pathos and ultimately, defiant strength.
Recommended!
*****

CATHY

Cathy

An imagined re-fashioning of Ken Loach’s social commentary film of 1966 Cathy Come Home, this production by Cardboard Citizens written by Ali Taylor and directed by Adrian Jackson called simply Cathy is a powerful and thought-provoking work which looks at how although we are supposed to be a civilised society it is still possible for someone to be failed by the system, through no discernible fault of their own. It captures perfectly one person’s spiralling descent into a nightmare situation from which it seems there is little chance of resolution, escape or halting.
The drama revolves around a Cathy, a single parent, and her daughter Danielle who have lived in private accommodation for years but recently she has got behind with her rent. Her landlord, spotting an opportunity of new tenants at increased prices due to the recent gentrification of the area, hands her an eviction notice unless she can meet his demands.
Unable to meet this ultimatum Cathy gathers Danielle, who is close to sitting her GSCSE’s and could really do without such upheavals at an already stressful time, and moves into emergency housing for supposedly 33 days when a more permanent solution will apparently be offered. Of course 33 days becomes 97 days and when an offer is made it is for another part of the country and if it is refused then social services will become involved and mother and child could be separated.
Suffice to say that the situation becomes progressively worse and Cathy’s predicament worsens and worsens until she hits rock bottom.
This production is a very powerful work and Cathy Owen in the title role is quite outstanding and she is ably supported by a small but effective and flexible cast: Hayley Wareham, Amy Loughton and Alex Jones. It certainly gives you something to consider in that on the surface there have been huge changes in social care but not so many that situations, such as Cathy’s, can still occur. It feels unnecessary and the system which is supposedly in place to prevent things such as this occurring can, if abused or not thought out properly, sometimes do more harm than good.
A powerful, thought-provoking work !
****
Cathy is on at Pleasance Dome Aug 5th-26th (not 14th) at 3,30pm