Posts Tagged ‘ ASSEMBLY ’


Iconic: A Brief History Of Drag

The title of this show is slightly misleading as it barely touches on the history of drag unless it is the personal history of Ian Strouighair aka Velma Celli and the drag that influenced him. There is however recognition of the crowning moments in drag culture such as the Stonewall riots and David Bowie draping his arm around Mick Ronson in the legendary 1972 Top Of The Pops performance of Starman. However the latter tale is somewhat diffused as it is followed up by a version of Under Pressure which came out at a time when Bowie was trying to re-heterosexualise his image so,for me, the song lost its impact.
Along the way we are treated to Velma’s other favourite moments including Queen’s I Want to Break Free, the Rocky Horror Show’s Sweet Transvestite, something from the musical Rent and Gloria Gaynor’s I Am What I Am which was swiftly followed by an encore of I Will Survive.
Loughair certainly does have an impressive set of lungs on him and his voice is expertly matched with the musical theatre leanings of his material. Likewise his band is tight and sync in with his act perfectly.
It could more realistically be called Drag for Beginners however as it barely touches on the themes of drag as performativity as Loughair so often steps out of his character as a means of attaining a knowing laugh.
All in all it is more than an adequate show if you are a fan of light cabaret with musical theatre leanings.
Iconic: A Brief History Of Drag is on at Assembly Checkpoint until August 26th at 9.30pm


Free & Proud

Written by Charles Gershman and directed by Peter Darney Free & Proud explores the ins and outs and ups and downs of a relationship between two gay men who come from totally different backgrounds with different values and the problems this engenders.
Essentially a two-handed production between the two characters Hakeem( Fasiz Mbelizi and Jeremy ( Michael Gilbert) the show pulls no punches from the outset when Hakeem’s death in a bus crash is passed onto Jeremy who sadly finds he doesn’t know how he feels about this nor even what emotions he should summon up.
From here the drama utilises flashback mode as we see the beginning of the couple’s relationship and get a sense of its organic but awkward growth culminating in the pair getting married. However the audience already sense the marriage is rushed and the relationship founded on different principles and expectations from both parties involved: Hakeem who has had to work for everything in his life is serious and committed whilst Jeremy is more privileged and is more frivolous and lax in his attitudes.
Almost from the early days of their marriage problems are exposed and although an open relationship is agreed upon to heal inflicted wounds it merely serves to open them further resulting in a split which is more final than either one realises at the time.
A very intense production with a few light moments along the way Free& Proud is a well observed and thought out insight into gay relationships- a couple of gay themed shows I have seen this year focus on the problems monogamy within gay relationships causes- that is wholly credible. The performances are excellent and so much so that when the actors spoke in their own accents after the show’s denouement I was quite shocked as they had been so thoroughly authentic and convincing. Definitely a show worth checking out.
Free & Proud is on at Assembly George Square until August 27th at 2.55pm

The Marilyn Conspiracy

The Marilyn Conspiracy

There was something especially poignant about seeing this production on the 56th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s tragic and still mystifying death. Set in the hours immediately following the blonde beauty’s demise the scene is set around those closest to her at the time of her death: Her analyst Dr. Ralph Greenson and his wife, her friend Pat Newcombe, actor Peter Lawford and his wife Patricia ( interestingly also a sister to Bobby and Jack Kennedy), Marilyn’s housekeeper Eunice Murray and the doctor who pronounced her dead.
What emerges over this show’s duration is that there is no simple truth as to what actually happened on that fateful night in August 1962. Peter Lawford comes across as particularly vile and self-serving and his closeness and subsequent allegiance to the two Kennedy brothers suggest some sort of cover up. First up the body had been moved and cleaned up before anyone else had been informed of the death, not to mention the changing and washing of the bed-sheets which may have held some clues as to what actually may have caused the star’s death.
One thing everyone in the room can agree on is that suicide is possibly the least likely option although it emerges as the most convenient one for certain parties who may or may not have been involved.
The tragic thing about the whole debacle is that only Pat Newcombe as Marilyn’s friend has any interest in discovering what actually really happened. This however is the last thing on Lawford’s mind and due to some confusion over the times he claims he received the news that something was wrong and when he actually did suggests he has a far clearer idea of what really went on that fateful night; his primary concern seemed to be coaching everyone into telling the same chain of events in essence concocting a story ‘make it all go away’.
As the drama unravels it becomes clearer and clearer that the official story concerning Marilyn’s death is very likely not the true one although most people have known that since day one.
This particular production was absorbing, clever and held together by a great cast- I had no programme so unfortunately no cast list available- and Guy Masterson who wrote and directed also stepped admirably into the role of the doctor due to a fellow cast member being indisposed. A great production and definitely worth seeing!
The Marilyn Conspiracy is on at assembly George Square until August 27th (n0t 13th) at 1.45pm



A totally relevant and impressive piece of multi-media drama focusing on the worrying trend of online shaming written and performed by Belle Jones and directed by Allie Butler, Shame looks at how this harmful trend not only affects the person at the centre of it but also their family and friends and even, in this case, the actual perpetrator.
Keira-Sarah Miele- seems like an average sixteen year old who likes to party, enjoys a drink and has experimented already with sex but her life and that of her mum Vicky-Jones-is turned upside down when she goes to party gets drunk then allows two older boys to have sex with her; unbeknown to her though the two boys film the aforementioned act on their phones to later post online to ‘shame’ her.
It doesn’t take long for the video to go viral and along with it a whole world of hatred, opinions and criticism follows in a torrent of ill-will and malice. The force seems unstoppable and when Vicky is called into the school to discuss the matter things only worsen as under the pressure of being in such an abusive spotlight it transpires that Keira has disappeared.
Panicking, upset and blaming herself Vicky herself goes into meltdown but salvation arrives in the form of long-term loyal friend Cheryl-Sarah McCardie- who starts a new twitter hashtag ‘unshaming’ which involves posting a video of yourself reciting a tale of the most regrettable thing or mistake you have ever done and how quickly it can be forgotten becoming yesterday’s news.
Soon the ‘unshaming’ tales are more prevalent on social media platforms and it seems the hostilities and condemnation turn into voices of support as it becomes clear many others have something they are ashamed of and if they are lucky enough to escape having had it posted it on social media then it really is just luck and an escape.
Jones gives an impeccably strong performance in this show but the drama unfolding behind her on a video screen from Keira and other peripheral characters along with the constant twitter updates showing the reaction to the shaming and its subsequent fall out is just as equally captivating. A worthwhile play that has a clear message showing that cyber bullying and shaming which is such a harmful disease in the modern world, where people are so detached and physically removed they sometimes can’t envision the hurt they are causing, but that it can be fought with a thoughtful approach.
Shame is on at Assembly George Square at 4.15pm until August 28th.


Glitter Punch

Perfectly capturing the awkwardness of adolescent teenage angst and the joys and heartaches of first love Glitter Punch, by Some Riot Productions, is a convincing tale with several underlying stories which contribute to the tale as told by Molly Shannon Davis aged 16 who with frequent regularity in a self-deprecating way reminds us she ‘is shit with words and my tits are too small’. Flawlessly played by Emily Stott one thing that can be said of her character is that she ‘is shit with words’ as the dialogue is almost poetic in its delivery and articulates everything she has to say quite comprehensively.
Commencing on Molly’s first day outside college where she is having a cigarette before going inside but finds herself drawn to John- Anthony Fagan- a 21-year-old who fascinates her with his conventional footwear and ,to her at least, his posh accent. Deriving that he is not from around Salford, where the play is set, it is established that he is from London and has recently lost his father which has brought on a serious bout of clinical depression that he is trying to work his way through.
We learn most of our facts about John via Molly’s discourse as he remains enigmatic and uncommunicative meaning we only know what we know by what wants Molly to know.
The burgeoning relationship starts to develop into something more and the two inevitably fall in love. During the course of related events a sexual relationship occurs and the awkward ness and sense of achievement on losing her virginity- from Molly’s viewpoint she loses nothing and gains so much more- is brilliantly enacted by Stott.
In fact Stott’s performance is a veritable tour de force and definitely rates as one of the most impressive I have seen on the Fringe this year. Written by Lucy Burke the dialogue is equally impressive and the direction is simple but highly effective. The simplicity of complex emotions reveal a depth in this work and the twist in the story towards the end is highly unexpected.
Glitter Punch is showing at Assembly George Square at 1.15pm until August 28th


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)


Just an Observation
So the last weekend of the Fringe/Festival is upon us already!
Somehow it feels like it is already over and for me personally I don’t feel that this year it ever really got started.
No doubt at sometime over the next few weeks some ‘official’ will use the media to report that it has been the busiest and most successful one yet when in fact this is so far from the truth. Granted more money may have changed hands- have you noticed the price of tickets for most shows? – But in most other ways this year’s Fringe has been far from successful.
The streets are as annoyingly busy as ever-perhaps even more so- and the traffic is so slow it is hard to differentiate between driving and being parked but there has still been nowhere as near as many people around the venues or even in them as there usually are. Mind you when shows are £10 upwards on average, a pint of lager is over a fiver and six pound is the going rate for a bacon roll-re-named pulled pork and served by a bearded hipster in denim tights (that’s just the girls by the way) so that makes it a bargain obviously- or even more for a burger then it is an expensive night out even if you are doing it on the cheap.
Of course the weather has not helped matters either. The Fringe in sunshine is a totally different beast to the Fringe in perpetual grey, drizzle, rain and wind and unfortunately this year these are what we have had for the most part. Getting wet queuing for shows then drinking warm beer in cold outdoor venues is not my idea of a good night out. Obviously the weather cannot be helped but it really does alter the whole experience.
What about the shows then?
The Fringe is supposed to be at the cutting edge of new talent with innovation and experimental ideas offering an insight into the next big happening thing. Or so we are led to believe.
However I have not seen much evidence of anything groundbreaking or innovative this year and several shows were ones I missed last year due to a busy schedule so were returning productions, admittedly with a tweak here and there, so hardly cutting edge.
Perhaps the fact that 2016 has been such a pivotal year in cultural change –the deaths of Bowie, Prince and Muhammad Ali amongst others then there is the little matter of Brexit here and the rise of Trump across the Atlantic- means that real life has afforded us more incredible drama than anything the theatre could produce and as such has been rendered almost redundant. Life no longer simply imitates art it would seem it now dictates it.
Also things have moved at such a swift pace this last eight months that capturing anything topical has proved harder than usual. Who needs to go to the Fringe for thought-provoking drama when the news requires you to suspend your belief almost on a daily basis?
As for the shows which have stood out for me and worth catching over this last weekend, well there is Trainspotting at Assembly, The Club at The Gilded Balloon, Boris:World King at The Pleasance Growing Pains and Cut at Underbelly all on until Monday whilst Anohni’s one off live performance of one of the year’s best albums, Hopelessness, at the Playhouse ranks as one of the best and most modern live music shows I have seen in years and possibly the most memorable show of the last month.
So this time next week the streets will be clear, the traffic returned to normal and as habit dictates the sun will probably have returned. There will of course still be plenty to complain about though as Parliament returns soon with our new unelected Prime Minister and whatever schemes she has cooked up for us over her summer vacation. I imagine soon we will be wishing the Fringe back to at least distract us from how bad things are likely to get!


Eight months on since the shocking news of David Bowie’s death and somehow it still doesn’t seem real. More than a rock star Bowie’s influence and presence are so ingrained in our cultural DNA that his spectral presence still hovers over us informing our thoughts and his music is as potent, poignant and essential as ever.
This show by Sven Ratzke places some of these songs in a cabaret setting and accompanying narrative. It is not such a shock to hear some of Bowie’s greatest works given the cabaret treatment as Bowie himself was as influenced by cabaret as any other genre.
I mean what are Five Years and Rock and Roll Suicide –the opening and closing tracks of his classic Ziggy Stardust album- if not cabaret informed by the currency of rock and roll and even this show’s title song Starman leans so heavily on Judy Garland’s Over the Rainbow that it could be considered grand theft. That was always Bowie’s genius though, being able to steal all the right elements and put them together in a totally new and imaginative way.
The songs that Ratzke features in this show include a jazz tinged Rebel Rebel, a beautiful Lady Grinning Soul, a Weimar influenced Time, Space Oddity and a strident Heroes.
I wasn’t quite as keen on the inter-song banter however and found it overplayed and on occasion meandering. It was never quite as funny as it aimed to be and often felt added on and unnecessary.
The songs however speak for themselves and who cares if Ratzke is no David Bowie as there never was and never will be another like him, so trying to compete is pointless. The show has its moments and when it shines it really does sparkle in stardust. It is a shame that the dialogue in-between doesn’t match these moments as if this wasimproved upon it would make the difference between merely a good show and a great one!
Starman is at The Assembly Spiegletent at 20.45 until the 28th August


Attrape Moi
Attrape Moi is essentially Flip Fabrique, a six piece dance and physical theatre group from Quebec, whose show is never anything short of impressive.
Whether it be hula hoops, juggling balls, trampolines and yoyos all combined to create a thoroughly entertaining show.
The loose narrative revolves around six friends re-uniting an playing tricks on each other whilst involving themselves in escapades.
If I have a criticism of this show it is that the venue-Assembly on the Mound- lacks intimacy preventing involvement or engagement with the audience; particularly if you are up in the balcony as I was. At times it felt I was watching something on an exceptionally small television screen.
For these shows to be successful the audience has to sense some kind of tension- I saw Closer by Circa last week at the Udderbelly and you could almost bathe in the perspiration, concentration and intensity of the performance whilst getting caught up in the total palpable atmosphere- but this was non-existent for me at this show.
Yes, I was impressed by the skill and ability of the performers and of course the trust they must place and have in each other is beyond words but ultimately I felt quite disconnected from it all.
Despite this it is still a worthwhile show although I would recommend getting there as early as possible so you on’t feel you are watching the action from a distance.
Attrape Moi is at Assembly Mound at 18.00 until August 29th (not 22nd)


Back Of The Bus
Whilst a dance show on a moving bus may seem like a novel idea for the Edinburgh Fringe, for many attempting to get around town at this time of year a bus that moves at all is an experience in itself. In fact a bus that moves could actually be Fringe show in the making.
However The Java dance Theatre decided to combine the bus and dance theme and came up with their show ‘Back of the Bus’. I must admit I was curious as to how this would work and just how successful it could be; traffic is notoriously tricky at this time of year and the 4.30 show coincides with rush hour so disaster is always a likelihood, especially for anyone with time constraints.
On the day I went everything went smoothly so obviously the route- along the Meadows and through Tollcross then heading back to George Square- has been well conceived.
The show itself consists of a bus route that is interrupted by a late-comer who makes her way to the top deck in a flurry of panic, scattering crisps, popcorn and other delicacies in a frantic search for her ticket. It is amusing in a mildly charming way but verges a little too close for slapstick for my own personal tastes.
Next up another dancer appears and offers up another zany routine before the bus stops an we are all asked to disembark- luckily it wasn’t raining for a change- and regroup on the Meadows where we are encouraged to form a circle and hold hands. Unfortunately this was all a little too Daisy-Age for me; at times like these I know I should embrace my inner hippy but then I remember I don’t actually have one!
Not being able to get back on the bus quickly enough we make another stop at a treatment centre where we are entreated to some actual serious dance which is far more impressive and what I was really hoping to see all along.
It is then time to board for the last leg of the journey where another skit is performed and again some others found it more hilarious than I did. Some didn’t though!
Whilst I acknowledge that this is a very entertaining show I could not quite fathom out why it was performed on a bus other than to try to be different. The dance routines when they were performed were good enough on their own to not have to resort to such gimmickry. It all felt a little too forced and try hard for my liking and the sequence holding hands in the Meadows was not to my taste at all and felt contrived and a little pointless.
Back of the Bus is on at Assembly at 16.30 and 18.15 daily until August 28th (not 15th).