Posts Tagged ‘ The Pleasance ’



This powerful and visceral production attempts to tell the story of racial prejudice at different points of history ever since the first slave to break free of his mater’s control took the name William Freeman at the moment he believed he became a free man. However this huge step forward was only a beginning and as is shown time and time again during this cleverly performed collaborative drama between Strictly Arts and Camilla Whitehill his free status was perhaps not as free as he had assumed nor has it automatically been delivered to black people since that moment; not even- probably especially- today.
Cleverly utilising a cast of six who slip in and out of roles as quickly as there is a time shift the story is easy to follow as it focuses on prejudice, violence and inequality therefore the names, places and dates don’t really matter as it is an ongoing problem with possibly little hope of any real resolve.
Great performances and simplistic backdrop allow the stories to speak for themselves and the lightning pace of direction and nuanced dialogue reveal a talented cast who can slip in and out of characters and somehow manage to inhabit them simultaneously.
Freeman is definitely one of the most captivating, intense and powerful thought provoking productions on the Fringe this year. If you get a chance it is one not to be missed.
Freeman is on at Pleasance Courtyard at 5pm until August 27th


Ad Libido

Fran Bushe wants to talk about sex; fixing sex, having sex, fulfilling sex, her vulva and sex, masturbation and sex and let’s not forget about dolphins and sex.
During the one hour duration of her show , Ad Libido, she discusses all these topics and more and even manages to include a self penned song or two along the way.
Bursting onto the stage in a maelstrom of glitter, with shiny curtains- even the metaphors are sexually derivative- clad in a sequined top and the obligatory, for 2018’s Fringe anyway, dungarees the show manages to take in extreme wackiness, quieter contemplative moments and even a diagram of her vulva complete with a missing set of keys!
It is all highly amusing and well thought out and even if there were times I felt the wackiness was a bit too full on and contrived Bushe’s amiability and persona compensated.
Tales about a sex camp which led to disappointment and a conclusive view that sex is an issue for most of us and generally we all think others are having a better time with it than we are ourselves. The real question is why are we so obsessed with beating ourselves up over it?
Bushe is quite a force of nature onstage and as I said before she certainly knows how to hold an audience’s attention. The script was well thought out and very cleverly delivered; as were the musical interludes.
Definitely an amusing show that is worthy of your attention.
Ad Libido is on at Pleasance Courtyard until 26th August at 3.30pm



This show is refreshing in its ambitions to create inclusive theatre, tackling the hushed reverence most drama productions in the Fringe demand therefore you are free to stand up, leave or even talk during the performance and none of the aforementioned bother the actors nor will they be put off. To make things even more interesting it also comes with subtitles projected on a screen behind and much of the drama also includes sign language. So full marks to Zoo Co for making these efforts to ensure that those not normally catered to during the Fringe are considered and shown some respect!
The drama revolves around three sirens from Greek mythology are hurled into 2018 Hastings. Still believing that any man who comes into direct contact with them will die- a belief that gains credence when the first man they encounter dies when the cliff he is on collapses although this has nothing whatsoever to do with them-they soon discover that this is not the case and the curse is in fact non-existent.
What they do discover however is that some male attitudes towards women are still somewhat suspect and sexual equality although having advanced is still not wholly equal.
The production is fast, energetic, fresh and totally enthusiastic. The cast hang together very well and it is an enjoyable show.
Sirens is at Pleasance Courtyard at 3.35pm until 27th August (not 13th or 20th)



I suppose that in 2018 naming your Fringe production Brexit is a sure-fire way of piquing the public’s interest and certainly the queue outside the Pleasance for this early afternoon show confirmed that it is indeed enough of a crowd puller to almost fill out this particular venue. Obviously a subject that is on everyone’s lips and has polarised a whole nation along with different sub-sections of said nation but still seems far from any kind of resolve is enough to capture anyone’s imagination; therefore this play by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky- the latter also directs it- featuring a top-notch cast was a canny move.
The scene is set with the playground banter and rabble of PMQ’s where newly appointed Prime Minister Adam Masters (Timothy Bentinck) uses all his smarm and slimy techniques to see off his opposition whilst receiving support from his own party, who are desperate to regain some sort of solidarity.
Fresh from his success and basking in his short-lived glory Masters is reliably informed by his advisor Paul Connell (Mike Mc Shane) that complacency in victory is not an option as he is now expected to form a cabinet that will carry out a Brexit which will appease the warring factions of his shambolic Tory party. This is no easy task as his predecessor- obviously Theresa May but referred to throughout by the chillingly distanced name of Matron- has taken or lost all her staff during her departure.
Basically all that is left to usher through Brexit are two deeply opposing members; namely Diana Purdy(Pippa Evans) who is a committed remainer and uptight and pedantic Simon Cavendish (Hal Cruttenden) who is a staunch hard right Brexiteer. By putting them both in positions which are opposite to their beliefs he reveals-what most of us have now worked out- that politicians will always choose career over principles.
Of course the plot takes twists and turns and all manner of subterfuge and Masters meeting with EU head Helena Brandt (Jo Caulfield) do little to clarify what it is Brexit is trying to achieve aside from a constant state of doubt and uncertainty and the inevitable distraction tactics deployed to dupe the public. The phrase ‘frenetic inertia’ seems to me to accurately describe what Brexit has actually delivered since the referendum result and even more so since the triggering of Article 50. The word democracy is thrown around a lot but like Brexit itself it seems to suggest wildly different things to different people, depending on their own gain and perspective.
Of course there is always the option of Brexit not actually ever happening but even that comes with a very clever sting in its EU tail.
This production is very capably handled and the great ensemble cast each contribute to it greatly. In many ways it has the feel of the BBC series Yes Minister about it and uses the same sly humour as that programme. As a topical show it contains verve, wit and insight and whilst it doesn’t clear up Brexit in any way- that is one mess that is impossible to clear up at this time it would seem- it does approach it intelligently.
Brexit is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 25th at 1.30pm


Dietrich: Natural Duty

Whilst we are living in perilous times today, with a world seemingly permanently in free fall, on the brink of collapse and with the trialling of fascism hovering in plain sight this one (wo)man show attempts to take us back to the early nineteen-forties when Hitler had most of the world on the run as Nazism was in full flight.
Ironically it is America so many of us are fearing at the moment but back then America was positioning itself as some kind of democratic free-thinking saviour and Germany’s most famous export Marlene Dietrich went against her birth country to pledge allegiance to the land of democracy and forward thinking.
This show focuses on those turbulent times and the effect they had on this legendary Hollywood star whose name, even today, is synonymous with style, glamour, androgyny, mystique and a goddess like quality.
It is fitting therefore with such gender blurring in her own identity that the part of Dietrich is played- very well- by the splendid talent that is Peter Groom.
Using songs from Dietrich’s repertoire- The Boys in the Backroom, a stirring Where Have all The Flowers Gone and the inevitable Falling in Love Again amongst others- to capture how the star felt around this time as she abandoned her Hollywood mansion for a tent on the battlefront where she entertained the troops in a form-fitting sequined dress.
Groom inhabits his character well and it a studied performance which he never slips out of throughout managing to hold the poise and character of Dietrich exquisitely. If the show has one flaw for me it is that it never really gathers momentum or gains pace; at times I wished it would ignite a spark and slip below the icy detached demeanour of the public Dietrich and let us see the fire she so very obviously possessed.
All in all though it is an enjoyable enough show which provokes introspection as to how and why we are returning to dangerous times and also the lessons we should have learnt from past mistakes.



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 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.



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


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


Cold/ Warm
There is very obviously a lot of talent in this production, not least the outstanding performance by Ieuan Perkins , but ultimately the whole thing is frustrating. The script meanders a little too much in the first half and although it picks up somewhat it takes too long to establish itself and by the time it does the audience may already be lost.
Trying to win an audience back after their attention has wandered and no matter how Perkins tried to hold our attention unfortunately the script let him down a little so his endeavours were somewhat fruitless even if they were effective.
Focusing on the mental breakdown of an isolated youngster lacking the guidance he had relied on from his mother until the authorities intervened and placed her in care. Perkins does an excellent job of mimicking these authoritarian figures but meanwhile his life is becoming more and more internalised until he is only able to observe it from his high-rise council flat. The ritual abuse of a neighbourhood dog simultaneously fascinates and horrifies him and he is at once emotionally involved but somehow detached.
The dialogue in this play is extremely clever but it is also more than a little clunky. Trying hard to make a point it seems to forget to involve the audience or even consider entertaining them. As a lunchtime show it is extremely difficult to digest and although it picked up and had a suitably climactic ending it still felt as if it was just slightly too little too late.
Cold/ Warm is at Pleasance Courtyard until 29th August at 12.45 daily.