Posts Tagged ‘ GILDED BALLOON ’

ASSESSMENT

Assessment

Extremely relevant in the current climate with the fear over pensions and how future generations are going to cope left to the devices of a government who don’t feel they can sustain the ever-growing elderly population much longer. Assessment takes a dark look at how a future government could provide one way of solving this seemingly unstoppable problem and it does so with wry, curmudgeonly humour but also a worrying hint of truth.
Alan McDonald(Stephen Clyde) has reached his 77th birthday-celebrating may be too strong a word- and his daughter Karen(Karen Bartke) is trying to galvanise him into some semblance of party celebrations with little success. The icing on the birthday cake arrives in the form of the slimy government ’salesman’ with nearly as much oil in his manipulative manoeuvering as there is in his hair Amrit Roy (Taqi Nazeer) who is under strict instructions to make Alan commit to a new scheme the government is trying to implement.
This new scheme is on the surface an attractive one- so attractive that unbeknownst to him Alan’s daughter Karen has arranged for Roy’s visit- and involves a lump sum of £30,000 to be paid in place of the weekly pension he is already in receipt of. There is only one catch to this seemingly generous offer and that is that Alan will not be around to benefit from it.
Certainly the idea of voluntary euthanasia is initially abhorrent to Alan but Roy’s persuasiveness not to mention the added sucker punch of his superior Siobhan Clarke (Selina Boyack) soon makes him reconsider although obviously nothing goes quite the way anyone planned.
Written by Robert Dawson Scott the script is taut and full of dry witticisms despite the gravity of its subject matter. If it falls short anywhere then it is in the slightly pedestrian direction which at times feels flat-especially during the scene changes where some momentum is lost- and a little dated. It is however an extremely enjoyable production and the acting talent on display is highly commendable.
****
Assessment is on at The Gilded Balloon Rose until August 28th at 2.30pm

SAFE PLACE

Safe Place

This interesting production focuses on the discordant dynamic between a well-respected elder generation feminist, Maxine, who has come under the spotlight of criticism and controversy with her views on transgender women’s rights and a young transgender woman, Rowan, who turns up on her doorstep claiming she needs a safe place to stay after reading a newspaper article wherein Maxine claimed she would feel compelled to offer shelter to a homeless person should she ever come across one in need.
Of course things are rarely as they initially seem and Rowan’s appearance and pleas for help although seemingly genuine come with an agenda all their own. What follows is a barbed battle of wits with both sides making convincing cases for their argument. Maxine as a long serving feminist- Germaine Greer is an obvious reference point and Greer herself has spoke disparagingly of the transgender issue- still feels the struggles she has suffered and the fights she has fought for women to be accepted on a more equal footing although she doesn’t feel that fight is anywhere near over yet. Her attitude to Rowan whilst not wholly unsympathetic is definitely not empathetic and the idea that a male having lived sixteen years as a male suddenly deciding to become a female is something she views as a male right; Caitlyn Jenner in a corset on the cover of Vanity Fair, coming from a position of privilege and money, is thrown up as an example of how suspiciously she views the idea of transgender rights and equality.
Rowan however tries to explain that it is not that simple and before she actually came out as trans she had struggled daily in her life beforehand and only found any solace after she had made the admission to herself and then to others.
Written and directed by Clara Glynn, Safe Place is an intriguing thought-provoking work that looks at an issue that is very relevant in our culture today. The cast, Jennifer Black, Nalini Chetty and Shane Convery as Rowan, all handle their roles with skill and nuance. It is a worthwhile play which raises interesting questions and gives a balanced idea that life as a female-transgender or biological- is never easy and by creating subdivisions and categories this merely weakens the battle as it creates unnecessary distractions.
***
Safe Place is on at Gilded Balloon Rose at 12pm until August 28th.

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.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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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!

ONE DAY MOKO

One Day Moko
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Created and performed by New Zealander Tim Carlsen I must admit to being somewhat perplexed and frustrated by One Day Moko. Matters were probably not helped on the ay I attended as torrential rain had probably convinced a few Fringe goers to remain at home so therefore the audience on this particular occasion was disappointing to say the least as I feel an immersive work requires some sort of audience feedback and participation.
As it was, the audience barely filled the front row so there was a slight awkwardness between us and Carlsen from the very outset. Despite this there were some promising moments as Carlsen attempted to create scenarios involving those we tend to ignore in our daily meanderings; an urban landscape which involves encounters with MacDonald’s staff, the police and club bouncers but unfortunately they never came to any real fruition.
Along with this his regular catchphrase of ‘Any requests?’ which was supposedly a cue for someone from the audience to shout out a song they would like him to sing often hung around the air like a guest who has over-stayed their welcome; more often than not a dreaded silence hung heavy in the air.
To be honest I found this show somewhat not fully realised. Obviously matters were not helped by the reticence of the audience participation but this aside the material just didn’t feel strong enough to stand on its own merit. There were simply too many awkward moments and poignant silences which prevented the whole production from moving forward as it should have if it wanted to be a relevant and entertaining piece of theater.
**
One Day Moko is on at The Gilded Balloon at 15.45 until August 29th.(not 22nd)

LUCIE POHL: APOHLCALYPSE NOW

Lucie Pohl: Apohlcalypse Now
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This fast paced comedy show crackles with sparkly wit, inventiveness, lightning speed character and location changes and high velocity humour. Raised on New York but of Romanian/ German descent Lucie Pohl makes much use of her family’s background in theatrical circles where ‘drama ala carte’ is nearly almost the household dish of the day.
Whether it be her father and his eternal frustrations with his printer- a common place problem many of us can identify with- her mothers own special dramatic flourishes or even her Romanian grandmother’s contributions they all create a hilarious mixture of sage advice or piquant observations wrapped up in their own individual theatrics.
Add to this melting pot of crazy characters an amphetamine fuelled agent, a Greek boyfriend, aptly named Adonis and a Turkish lover.
Combine the aforementioned people with a dead-end job as a waitress in a meatball joint which is abandoned in favour of a job in an ad for urinary tract infections before what promises to be the career highpoint of an acting part in a film with Michael Madsen.
Phew!
And breathe!
Well actually how Pohl finds time to breathe is a mystery as she pauses for nothing, not even breath, for the whole duration of this one hour show and somehow it never feels forced or rushed. The drama which unfolds so wraps you up in it that you simply don’t notice the hour whizzing by.
Generally I am not too much of an advocate for comedy and I don’t review it too often as general rule but I thoroughly enjoyed this show finding it refreshing and funny whilst relishing the rapid fire delivery so many character changes necessitates.
Definitely recommended!
****
Lucie Pohl: Apohlcalypse Now is at Gilded Balloon at 17.30 daily until August 29th

HORSE MCDONALD IN CAREFUL

Horse McDonald in Careful
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This extremely affecting autobiographical piece of theatre is at various times heartfelt, touching and very emotionally raw. Only occasionally does it stray into over sentimentality-I am thinking particularly of the inclusion of the concrete slab of bombast that is Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’ over-killed by Leona Lewis which accompanies her wife’s wedding proposal- but most of the time steers a course in comprehension into her loneliness and isolation.
Describing growing up in the rather reticent town of Lanark in the nineteen seventies where glam rock, as portrayed by Bowie and Marc Bolan and the experimentation it encouraged, probably died as the end credits to the weekly dose of Top of the Pops fade from the screen raised her hopes briefly but eventually helped to perpetuate her loneliness.
Gender fluidity was not such a hot topic for discussion in those days and any thoughts of re-assignment was met with horror, dismay and questions about her sanity. Psychologist followed psychiatrist and talking about dreams led to filling in questionnaires before ECT was offered up as a ‘cure’.
Even her relationship with her parents which had always been good until this point suffered although it is clear that the deep love between all parties was ultimately unbreakable.
Basically a spoken word piece incorporated into theatrical prose aided by musical interludes- the Snow Patrol moment aside these are usually well chosen and fitting to the dialogue it surrounds- Careful is an extremely worthy production.
Horse herself gives a great performance never losing her stride even when describing situations, times and emotions which have obviously been harrowing and upsetting. Definitely a form of catharsis it often feels like the audience are the psychiatrists and psychologists who permeated her youth only now they are listening to what she has to say rather than languishing in their own preconceived ideas and notions.
****
Horse McDonald in Careful is showing at The Giled Balloon Museum until August 29th at 19.30 daily.