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Tag Archives: Edinburgh Fringe

Romeo and Juliet by Curious Pheasant

Stumbling out of another theatre, again physically shaken by the performance I’ve just witnessed, I am awestruck by the ability of creatives to breathe new life into one of the oldest and most frequently redone stories in the canon. But this one was something extra special.

Plonked gently into lad culture, using the images of rugby to speed the story along, our gay pair of star-cross’d lovers shine brilliantly in this show. The cast is condensed to six, the dialogue is abridged but rarely altered: and yet the story rarely diverts significantly from the original.

Curious Pheasant’s Romeo and Juliet successfully stands up to an intellectual scrutiny without becoming a mere academic exercise. The emotion is raw and gutteral, the performances robust and delicately nuanced, and even this middle aged English teacher felt like he was watching the story for the first time, despite knowing essentially what was coming next.

And what it achieves is to show all love as equal. Humane folk care about Juliet and Romeo as much regardless of their gender, and it is specifically a toxic masculinity that gets in the way. Words that ring with familiarity are reinvigorated in this context: that rose, by any other name, really does smell as sweet.

And so, quietly I stepped out of the Bijou into the hustle and noise of Edinburgh’s festive streets, somewhat deafened to the hubbub and still lost in the tragedy. Hoping, maybe, that better days are coming.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 15 August 2019 in Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Ripped

I have been impressed with quite a few performances so far this Fringe, but the most impressive skill an actor can possess is the ability to elicit a gut reaction to a scenario that is beyond the ken of most audients. And Alex Gwyther left me barely able to stand up and walk out of the theatre.

In Ripped, Gwyther portrays a male rape victim masking his trauma by taking action to fulfill a gender stereotype; a stereotype he struggles to define throughout. Gwyther also embodies the victim’s associates, and just keeping the plot clear is a challenge that he rises to with the deftest of hands.

On one level, I want to praise Gwyther’s technical prowess: he is skilled and professional in every way. But the technical skill he demonstrates, regardless of how worthy it is of praise, pales into insignificance against the creative choices he has made in developing the monologue.

This is a story that balances the need to energise and engage with an edifying glimpse into the morass of toxic masculinity. That is a remarkable achievement, and I cannot describe how impressed I am with Gwyther’s achievement.

At the end of this performance, I applauded with the rest of the audience, but I could barely move, and had to take a moment gathering my thoughts before I could leave. That is the mark of a stellar performance.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 14 August 2019 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Vulvarine

Vulvarine, wowing audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe

There is a subtle difference, I think, between efforts to bring about gender equality by political action, and efforts to shift or reinforce gender equality as a paradigm and a goal. The former was needed in the last few centuries, but the latter will be needed much longer.

Fat Rascal Theatre’s Vulvarine, currently wowing audiences at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is one of the most enjoyable examples of musical theatre to stand up to the challenge of building the gender equality paradigm.

The story centres on Bryony Buckle, a nerdy office worker with a crush on another nerdy office worker and a cough. After accepting a new medication from a misogynistic doctor, she is struck by lightning and becomes a superhero. You can guess what this hero’s name becomes…

The greatest strength of this production is how effortlessly it engages the audience, with slapstick humour and a light-hearted, whimsical air it screams along at a cracking pace, with barely enough time for the audience to draw a breath between guffaws. And the deeply important messages it delivers come with a depth or pathos rare for any musical, let alone such a comic one.

Performances are exceptional. There are five performers, and I lost count of characters at some point, but although Allie Munroe is spectacularly perfect in her depiction of Bryony Buckle, each one is a consummate professional worthy of the highest praise Edinburgh can offer.

My one objection is that I thought I was the only playwright to ever use High Wycombe in a play!

I don’t know if many misogynists would be persuaded by this work, but it reinforces messages of gender equality in a light hearted and positive way, building the culture of gender equality as paradigm, rather than movement.

But most importantly, this is musical theatre at its finest: engaging, witty and pointed.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 13 August 2019 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Rob Cawsey: Just Cruising

Desperately running out of time to take in everything the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has to offer, I stumbled late into Banshee’s to see Rob Cawsey. Apparently he’s a comedian.

A comedian he may be, but what I saw was a brilliant comic actor presenting slapstick comedy with a cohesive and engaging plot that elicited both laughter and a touch of empathy.

It’s a rare combination.

The story is his own: a big night out trying, increasingly desperately, to pick up. And throughout, there is this splendid balance between humour and despair. It is a great story presented brilliantly. Right up there with the best I’ve seen this Fringe.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 25 August 2017 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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About a Goth

Life is all about transitions. Moving from one stage of life to the next, sometimes gracefully, sometimes stumbling, and sometimes holding on for your life.

About a Goth explores such a transition as a young man grapples with understanding himself.

Delivered as a monologue, the plot is revealed as a series of events that would frustrate the heck out of any gay goth teen: an unhealthy obsession with a straight mate and Starbucks’ lack of Gothic options are compounded by his family’s obstinate refusal to reject him when he comes out. Selfish buggers.

Clement Charles gives a stellar performance, full of energy and life throughout. It is beautifully written by Tom Wells, and explores this young person’s journey through a transition with empathy and humour and spirit.

So far, the best performance I’ve seen at the Fringe.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 17 August 2017 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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How Eva Von Schnippisch Won WWII

From the moment she has an audience, it’s clear that Eva Von Schnippisch is not going to let anyone leave the room without getting a right belly laugh out.

She engages the audience in the action from the start, telling the story she has kept silent for 72 years, about how she worked with the Allies to infiltrate the relationship between Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. I was enthralled for the entire hour, which is an achievement in itself.

Stephanie Ware is a consummate performer, dealing with the viariables of live performance professionally, and with excellent humour. Her comic timing is impeccable, and her awareness of the audience remarkable.

Simply one of the best shows I’ve seen this Fringe.

 

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 17 August 2017 in Cabaret, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

 

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Cannonballl

Cannonball starts well.

I’m impressed by the dialogue. I’m impressed by the actors. I’m impressed that it’s genuinely naturalistic and the media being projected is atmospheric and well coordinated.

Slowly, though, it unravels. Maybe I missed a thread somewhere, a vital piece of information that I needed to follow the plot. It started with two mates talking about girls, then one of them ends up with a girlfriend who becomes a wife and has a baby… and he slowly descends into a kind of depression, until the play peters out with us wondering whether he’ll take his own life or not.

By the end it’s feels terribly melodramatic without enough plot to carry the emotion. Which is a shame, given the promise the beginning held.

The quality of the performances don’t really decline, nor does the quality of dialogue, which is why I think it might be me who missed something. If you’re reading this, and you’ve seen it (as opposed to if you’re in it, or maybe even then!), let me know what you thought.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 17 August 2017 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Not About Heroes

My first show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe was this rather intense exploration of the relationship between Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. And after flying from San Francisco to Edinburgh and coming directly to the theatre, it’s an achievement not to be understated, that the play held my attention throughout.

The simple set being used for this fringe run works brilliantly, and provides excellent scope for the two performers to establish varied locations and times. Daniel Llewellyn-Williams, playing Sassoon, builds a strong presence in the early stages of the play, and transitions well to the rather more fragile Sassoon who reminisces at the end of the war. Iestyn Arwel, playing Owen, marks an inverse transition. It would be easy to dismiss the strength of his performance in the early stages, but the character is brilliantly established.

This is a strong piece exploring the relationship between two historical figures who were passionate about showing the horror, and not the glory of war. It is especially pertinent in the world’s current state, though it could perhaps draw a slightly longer bow into the present to ensure it doesn’t merely register as a history play.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 in Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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The Peablossom Cabaret

Peablossom Cabaret Sofa Press ShotAfter a false start yesterday, where the performers found out at the last minute that their venue wasn’t opening, I am incredibly glad we made it back to see this brilliant performance today. Unfortunately the alternate venue they had secured was an over 18s venue so I was unable to bring Offspring Number One along to that performance, and today we had to change our plans to get there, but get there we did, and it was well worth the effort.

The Peablossom Cabaret is cabaret improvised in response to conversations with the audience. And as such, it hinges entirely on the personalities and talents of the two performers, Dylan Townley as Mr. Pea, and Sylvia Bishop as Miss Blossom. These two consummate performers had their audience laughing before the show even started, and it only got better throughout with their clever banter, quick wit and charming voices.

The pair improvised a song about an audient’s sister reading her diary, then about a lad who admires his brother for not being boring. I could go on, but the very nature of improvisation means it would not be terribly interesting; you really have to be there. And the more people who are there the better; these splendid performers deserve all the applause they can get!

 
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Posted by on Monday, 4 August 2014 in Cabaret, Improvisation

 

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Trainspotting

trainspottingI wasn’t prepared for an immersive experience when I went to see In Your Face Theatre‘s production of Trainspotting, and when I realised there was no auditorium, I will admit to a little hesitation. The experience, however, was just as this incredibly grimy story needed it to be, and was only enhanced by not knowing where the performers were off to next.

The venue could not have been more appropriate. This former Masonic Lodge occasionally flashed up glimpses of the names of its members or phrases such as ‘trust in the lord’ all in a gold print that jarred eerily with Irvine Welsh’s confronting story of the lives of urban junkies.

Though I’ve not been able to find the names of the performers anywhere, they were all very impressive (and this is a very large cast). Rents, Sickboy and Tommy were at once pathetic and yet able to command my sympathy. And a chorus, accompanied by a very appropriate soundtrack from the last twenty years was not a mere addendum to the action, but was critically important in establishing the atmosphere and moving the audience to the appropriate part of the space (or distracting us from the set change).

While the script seemed to skim too quickly over some moments of character development, and though I felt the use of narration didn’t really suit this style of performance, in all, I was surprised at how closely this production elicited the same emotions in me as the novel and film did so long ago.

This is a story that has neither aged nor lost its edge, and remains as gritty as it was when it first saw the light of day in 1993.

 
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Posted by on Sunday, 3 August 2014 in British Theatre, In Your Face Theatre, Theatre

 

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Bunbury is Dead

Disappointed twice in a week by productions that stem from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest? I never thought it would be possible.

Bunbury is Dead is not really about the friend Algernon Moncrief makes up as an excuse for not performing his social duties in Wilde’s play, though the character does share much of Algernon’s DNA.

As the plot unravels, it is clear that Christopher Cutting’s script has a lot to offer. The concept is unique, new and engaging. Bunbury, a character who had to be created out of source material from Wilde’s plays, is every bit as strong as Wilde’s Algernon, and his butler is an equally fine creation. But just about all of the dialogue is borrowed from Wilde, and this I don’t understand.

The play is strong, and could be set in the 19th, 20th or 21st centuries perfectly well. The plot is relatable and the characters recognisable. Wilde’s words simply have nothing to offer here, and they become a distraction. As an inspiration for a lead, even Bunbury is perfect, but as far as I can tell, Cutting really doesn’t need Wilde’s help. The story would be more interesting without being interrupted by Wilde’s words.

It is unfortunate that this didn’t live up to its possibilities.

 
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Posted by on Sunday, 3 August 2014 in British Theatre, Theatre

 

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Dracula

draculaDracula is one of those brilliant stories that just never gets old. Its universal themes seem to always thrive in the present, presenting new insight into humanity. And different wonderful people just keep imagining brilliant new ways to bring this story to life. The one I saw tonight is the work of Action to the Word, and they certainly made an impression.

Perhaps it was just Zoe Koperski’s steampunk design that made this such a memorable production. Or maybe it was the in-your-face indie rock the whole cast blasted out into the auditorium. Either way, it was an aggressive and courageous take on Bram Stoker’s gothic horror novel, and I loved it.

Despite a few prop hiccups (and did I possibly detect a line drop?), the performers were genuinely brilliant. Jonno Davies‘ Count Dracula struck just the right balance between inciting a come hither and a piss off, while Henry Bauckham’s Jonathan Harker was at once noble and vulnerable. But it was the women who genuinely shone. Olivia Bromley, Rachel Bright and Claire Petzal played Mina Murray, Lucy Westenra and Jack (here Johanna) Seward respectively and all three deserved the ovation one enthusiastic member of the audience in front of me tried to give them for their remarkable performances.

However highly polished and professional these performers were, there was one thing they couldn’t compensate for, and that was a lack of focus on character and plot. In the effort to create a great spectacle (and a great spectacle it was), Alexandra Spencer-Jones’ adaptation didn’t allow enough depth for the characters to be fully engaged, and at the end no matter how much I enjoyed the spectacle, I certainly didn’t feel I’d encountered a story.

And as a rendition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Well, you would do well to have another read before you go to ensure you have the plot clear. I was stretching my memory once or twice trying to remember how the plot went, and I’m a fan.

Nonetheless, this really is a great show, even if just for the sake of enjoying the cast’s amazing music and the brilliant steampunk design, and it deserves a great deal of attention in Edinburgh.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 24 July 2014 in British Theatre, Pleasance Theatre, Theatre

 

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