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

THE PORTABLE DOROTHY PARKER

The Portable Dorothy Parker

Known for her acerbic razor-sharp wit and in being in possession of a tongue you most certainly wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of Dorothy Parker makes excellent subject matter for any playwright and this outing does a commendable job of representing this.
Written by Annie Lux, directed by Lee Costello and with Margot Avery in the central role as Parker- we, the audience are the invited publisher for Viking that Parker really can’t be bothered with- this production captures something of the spirit of its protagonist as she reminisces through her memoirs for selected works to be known as The Portable Dorothy Parker.
Taking us through a list of her achievements: writing for Vogue, Vanity Fair,. Her stint as a Hollywood screen writer to hanging out with literary bigwigs such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway all leading to those legendary lunches at The Algonquin Hotel where she held court with members of her ‘round table’; it is an exhilarating ride. It is of course peppered with wonderful anecdotes and spiky comments drip fed and delivered with almost icy detachment. In fact sometimes they are delivered a little too coolly and subtly so therefore are not always easy to spot.
Avery does a great job as Parker and you get the sense of the authoritative superiority and sense of entitlement those of supreme intelligence seem to possess. You also get a sense of the ennui and subsequent loneliness that lies at her core with the only real companionship she feels is with the ever-present bottle of Haig and Haig she keeps replenishing her glass from.
The portable Dorothy Parker is a nicely paced- not too fast as this would dilute the essence of the character whose laissez-faire attitude is essential to the role- and even if it does slow down towards the end it always manages to retain your interest.
****
The Portable Dorothy Parker is showing at Gilded Balloon Rose August 5th-28th-not 14th or 21st- at 4pm.

FROM IBIZA TO THE NORFOLK BROADS

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads

‘From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads’ borrows its title from one David Bowie’s greatest and most loved songs and cleverly opens with Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’, the song Bowie wrote ‘Life on Mars’ as a retaliation to after having his lyrics rejected –Paul Anka won out- and this one man play focuses on a teenager who is not only a Bowie obsessive but also suffers from mental health issues including an eating disorder.
Martin, played by Alex Walton, is the confused teenager at the centre of this work, which may actually disappoint Bowie fans expecting a musical homage to their hero but it is still a compelling drama in its own right. It is in essence a voyage of discovery for the teenage misfit as he tries to make sense of his dad who abandoned him at an early age but who left him a box to be opened on his 18th birthday which retraces the steps of both his life and that of his idol David Bowie.
Written and directed by Adrian Berry the production is not always easy to follow but it is always compelling. Likewise the use of Bowie’s music is slightly on the sparse side and more use could have been made of it in order to sustain a narrative thread.
In fact one scene which uses the isolated vocal from Ziggy Stardust track Five Years loses its momentum slightly as the impassioned vocal is set alongside a hysterical outpouring from Martin which distracts rather than adds to the drama. The vocal alone would have been more effective and I found myself more gripped by it than the dialogue.
At the end I was unsure of what conclusions had been reached and at times it felt as if the whole production was slightly under developed. I have seen this play before-about 15 years ago I think- and I felt much the same then. That said it is still worth seeing just don’t go along expecting it to enlighten you in any way about David Bowie as his role is a minor and at times inconsequential one even if he is the subject matter at its heart.
***
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads is on at Pleasance Courtyard August 5-28 at 13.55pm

THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN

The Girl who Jumped off the Hollywood Sign

This one woman play both written and acted by Joanne Hariston is a powerful tour de force which captures perfectly the illusion and subsequent disillusion of the golden age of Hollywood, 1949, where in a prescient warning to the wannabe stars of today ‘Celebrity has a short memory’.
Hariston plays Evelyn ‘Evie’ Edwards a budding hopeful starlet who has suffered one rejection and indignity too many and is making a last ditch claim for fame by jumping off the capital H , part of the Hollywood sign, which gazes authoritively over the city of dreams reminding those below of their failures or, in limited cases, their successes. Following in the footsteps of Peg Entwhistle who jumped off the same sign-different letter- twenty odd years previously due to the same lack of success and subsequent humiliation, Evie believes that if she can’t be a star in life then she should make a bid for it in death and even if she fails then at least she won’t have to be reminded of it.
The brutality of the movie industry is picked at like a sore scab as Evie prepares to make that final leap and peppers her thoughts with anecdotes involving Bette Davis,Judy Garland, Jean Harlow and MGM canteen gossip. She shares what led her to Hollywood in the first place and her family background is put in the spotlight also. She tears apart the Hollywood notion of ‘creating’ stars and how removed from the reality of the real person they actually are. It is a fascinating insight into a harsh industry which so many even today wish to enter even though the chances of success are slim if any.
The dialogue is helped along by musical interludes which provide poignancy and nuance while Vince Fusco does an admirable job as director.
Starting at 11.30 The Girl who Jumped off the Hollywood Sign is a prefect way to kick off a day out at The Fringe.
****
The Girl who jumped off the Hollywood Sign is at Assembly Roxy August 3-28 at 11.30am