Monthly Archives: August 2013

QUIETLY

Quietly

Traverse Theatre

August 1st to 25th

16:00

£6 to £19

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    There have been many production on both stage and screen about the troubles in Northern Ireland. All from various perspectives and all with various story’s to tell. This is a very intimate piece, only three performers, dealing with a very personal episode between two characters. As you might have guessed one is Catholic and the other Protestant. However, one of the unusual elements about this play is that the terrorist is the Protestant. And he has a very harrowing tale to tell.
    The story is set in modern post troubles time with the two protagonists attempting to reach some kind of reconciliation about an incident that occurred some 35 years hence in the very pub they are drinking in. A pub that is excellently recreated in the theatre, right down to the working beer taps. The Polish barman makes up the third character, and though he doesn’t get a hugely significant role, is well fleshed out by the suspicions raised about his own enigmatic and potentially dark past. This gives the two leads the leeway they need to wax lyrical with their own troubling narratives.
    And troubling they are. There is no doubt these guys are excellent performers but the long dark monologues they take us on are so heart felt, so worthy and so harrowing it kind of left me screaming out for a little light relief. I wasn’t asking for a clown to come on and start doing somersaults or a dog in a superman costume just something that could interject there sincere tirades with a little colour. After all, I have heard humour is something the Irish use frequently as a form of therapy. But then maybe I’m being too flippant about what is a very serious issue. But we’ve seen this issue dealt with so frequently and equally sincerely it’s maybe time for a fresh perspective. I don’t know what that is and I feel like a philistine for even suggesting it but maybe that would be a more constructive method to heal the wounds.
    Still, if you were a fan of In the Name of the Father and the ilk you will probably enjoy this tale of reconciliation. I don’t think it’s going to finally bring closure to the troubles but it is, despite it’s flaws, a worthy addition to the fold. THREE STARS
three stars
Review by Steven Vickers

 

THE DEAD MAN’S WALTZ – Story’s End

The Dead Man’s Waltz

Summerhall

14-18 Aug

£8-£10

23.30

 

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Last night, in a corner of the old Vetinary College that has been rebranded as an arts venue, I spent the most delightful hour with the creative intelligentsia of the wild & windy Isle of Skye. Blending cinematics, live music & the spoken word, a show was presented whose collective sensation touched every recess of the watcher’s psyche. The theme is death, though not of a morbid, gothic kind, but almost tender in its passing.

Taking our wooden seats in the old lecturing theatre, the space seemed perfect for the show, with the band below us on the floor & the film projected above them on the wall behind. The band are DEAD MAN’S WALTZ, whose haunting  sounds both accompained the cinema & supported their enchanting song-craft. Occasionaly, onto the floor, stepped writer & poet HAL DUNCAN, who read out his works with a highland relish.

The show flows like a dream for finer minds & it felt a privelige, for a tranquil while, to share that same dream. FOUR STARS

four stars

Reviewer – Damo Bullen

 

 

MASK

MASK

Venue 13

16-24 August

13.30

£6-£8

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MASK, from Calarts Festival Theatre,USA is a compact yet powerful play exemplifying the various forces at work within the heave & ho of a modern relationship. The two actors – Ernie Long & Sandy Simona – have an unbelievable chemistry, from tender moments of acceptance & rejection to the full-on heat of lovemaking. Like the layers of an onion, the couple tear away their personals masks both pysyical & metaphyscial, driving us deeper into the different facets of thier psyches & love-connection. This play is performed at a perfect pitch & I feel is real ‘page-turner’ of a production. FOUR STARS

four stars

Reviewer Damo Buillen

KUBRICK 3

Kubrick 3

19:10
Pleasance courtyard
31st July to 26th August
£6 to £12.50
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Firstly, if you want to see a play about legendary film director Stanley Kubrick this is not the play for you. This piece is about Alan Conway. Who? I hear you ask. Well, Alan Conway was a ne’er do well who spent much of his adult life pretending to be Stanley Kubrick. Largely in order to bed unsuspecting young thespians and aid him in a few somewhat below board business ventures. And the beauty of it is that it’s all true.

An actor and three actresses all play the part of the dead Mr Conway, with an additional actor playing the part of his son, come to his dead father in search of answers and some kind of closure on the disappearance of his mother. What he gets in return is all you can expect from a congenital liar and egomaniac. This is all illustrated very creatively by the various performers taking on different aspects of his psyche and the ingenious set which largely consists of a sliding panel behind which various locations made of a couple of chairs and a blackboard are created. All in all the whole piece has kind of a Samuel Becket feel. Which is no bad thing.

 

Where the play is let down a touch however is on how unsympathetic the lead four actors are. Alan Conway had few redeeming features and even the kind of rock and roll aspect of his devil may care attitude came across more as sleazy than anti-heroic. Although maybe that’s the point. But the potential saving grace of his sons character was not fleshed out adequately enough to make him the sympathetic protagonist either. So, all in all, I was left somewhat cold by the whole experience. Never the less this is an interesting story creatively told, just don’t expect anything life-affirming or certainly any new insights into one of the world’s all time great directors. THREE STARS

 

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Review by Steven Vickers

AMERICAN GUN SHOW

American Gun Show
2nd to 24th August (not the 12th and 18th)
17:30
Gryphon Venues
£7 – £9
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    The American gun laws are somewhat archaic. Or at least that seems to be the prevailing opinion of the audience and is certainly the opinion of the playwright. To say the least. The play is largely centred around the desperate need not only for reform of the American gun laws but for a complete abolishment of guns full stop. A worthy topic in these troubled times and one handled with discretion and sincerity by this play. The idea that didn’t sit so easily with me at first however was the notion that this was a play performed as though it were a stand-up routine. The two did not seem to altogether make great bedfellows. There was audience interaction and the first part of the play veered off on a number of subjects with a number of appropriate gags, but the illusion was never quite complete and I was never wholly convinced that this was an actor and not a stand-up comedian. He just never seemed relaxed enough in the role. This was also not aided by the fact that we were told right from the outset that he was an actor which may have detracted from some of the potential impact later in the play.
    Never the less there were some genuinely powerful moments which we were told by the performer not to give away. And so I won’t. Hence I urge any possible gun nuts to see this show and maybe get their arms twisted a little in the opposite direction. For the rest of us, however, it was kind of like preaching to the converted. Being as Britain is generally a gun free zone. Personally I remained with my opinion unchained and not a great deal of extra ammunition to reinforce my current one. I don’t know whether they have toured this play around America yet but I believe it will be there that it would pack the most punch. Particularly in the southern states. A little overly sincere and with a bit of an identity crisis the American Gun Show is never the less a good opportunity to cement your liberal, anti-gun, faggot, hippie, commie agenda further. And that can’t be a bad thing. THREE STARS
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Review by Steven Vickers

MERCY KILLERS

Mercy Killers
1 -26 August
Assembly Hall, Baillie Room
14:45
£10

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With great pride in our NHS, the pain of the unequal American healthcare system always breaks my heart and the pain expressed in Mercy Killers certainly struck a chord.  I was moved when I read about this play, yet it is an odd feeling to want to go to a performance that is sure to make you uncomfortable.  I choose to use it to remind me of the strength of my values.

Poignant from the start, you can tell the story begins at the end, but the narrative remains unpredictable and captivating throughout.  The play evokes a true need for a humanist approach to health, all the more moving as told through the experience of a Republican tea-party faithful, right-wing in his ideals.  In the face of adversity, following his wife’s cancer diagnosis with initial treatment bills of $14,000 rising to $500,000 in total, Joe is forced to compromise himself. He is forced to rethink his honest work-ethic.  A man who has understood his responsibilities in society, a man who desired love, life and chose a family for his future; all for it to be stolen by a broken system.  Quietly demonstrating the impersonal and inhuman nature of politics.  Values and beliefs all too easily extreme until you feel them personally.

As a health advocacy piece it emotively illustrates the loss of control when faced with a poor health diagnosis, desperately seeking access to appropriate care and treatment. Part of Harold Clurman Lab Theater group, Michael Milligan certainly does his subject matter justice.  His performance is inspired, quite literally. He excellently embodies that desperate need to save a loved one, to save their health, something in the end that simply has no price.

Billed as a solo performance this is more than a one man show, more than a narrative, it’s a dialogue.  You feel part of the experience, you empathise and feel you are there to offer comfort to this story, to share the heartbreak and share in the condemnation of this faulty healthcare system.  This is sadly no doubt, not just one man’s story, but the story of countless others.  The story of a system that abandons its purpose, the story that reminds you that for so many there is no care in their healthcare. A drama to be believed. Four Stars.

four stars

 Reviewer – Elinor Dickie

NORTHANGER ABBEY

Northanger Abbey
Gryphon Venues
12th to 24th August
18.15pm
£7-£9
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Noel Byrne and Antonia Christophers star in this original adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s earlier works “Northanger Abbey” which takes a gothic romance and uses puppetry and acting to tell the story.
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As a bit of a cynic I didn’t initially warm to this despite the skilled use of puppetry and successful switching between characters. However I think that is because I don’t think this is one of Jane Austen’s best works. The idea of a more gothic side to Austen’s literature was lost save for one or two scenes, with the emphasis kept on romance; I would have liked more sinister puppets! However despite the low budget sound, lack of expensive lighting and costume usually seen in a jane Austen film, the actors beautifully conveyed the important elements of the plot and I couldn’t help but be endeared to it.
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Definitely not one for the super cool but a good shout if you are a shy English Lierature fan or perhaps one to bring an eternal romantic or shy teenager too. Would like to see these actors tackle another classic with some more grit and some more bad-ass. THREE STARS
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Reviewer – Antionette Thirgood

FIGHT NIGHT

Fight Night

Traverse Theatre

Times Vary Aug 1-25, not 5, 12, 19

£17–£19 

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This new show from multiple fringe First-winning company Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed and Australia’s The Border Project put the power in the hands of the audience to vote for your favourite candidate amongst five actors. ‘Five performers, five rounds, your vote, one survivor’. Fight Night makes elections a theatrical game and comes across between ‘Big Brother’ and an Italian general election.

 As the audience member you are handed a voting pad whilst entering the auditorium. Once seated you are greeted by a tubby bespectacled host in a checked suit who conducts the voting in a flat voice, and is monitored by two boffins behind the screen. We test the technology with some warm-up questions to determine the average age, relationship status, sex and finances of the audience. Following this little exercise, five “candidates” march out into the ring, cloaked in black boxing robes. At the start you vote for your favourite, purely on appearance. A winner is then declared and we hear their voice for the first time, a single one-line that introduces them to the audience.

 Throughout the rounds of voting, the various candidates make coalitions to strengthen their positions and elimate other candidates. So will our desired candidate make it through to the next round? And if not, who do we align ourselves to the most? Each actor appears to take a different stance on subjects that we vote upon, be it racism, religion, the type of voter they naturally appeal to, and answers to situations such as what they’d do in a hostage takeover. With each round we learn more about the candidates, and we vote for the one that appeals. As the voting narrows and more candidates leave the stage, it becomes apparent that the system in which we’re voting is mimicking that of the real democratic voting system we have here. At one point, the host “resigns” his position to become a candidate espousing “change”, ironically finding himself voted out in the very next round. And yet, considering that not a single candidate ever really proffers an idea, an opinion on government or issues or policy. With this in mind, one of the final candidates on the performance attempts to break the system, to rebel from it and force the system to collapse.In Fight Night the choice is eventually removed as the voting becomes narrow to the point of only two choices: vote for one candidate or leave the auditorium in protest.

See a trailer of the show here…

 It may not sound particularly theatrical, and it may not appeal to those driven to narrative-type theatre, but Fight Night challenges you to move from being a spectator to being an activist, to stand up for the right, or to continue to feed a system. Not every theatre company can ignite political passion in me, and it seems in a number of others too. One audience member became frustrated with the system at play and questioned why she had to vote at all, whilst other more conservative individuals happily voted upon each round with little consequence. Fight Night, like all Ontroerend Goed’s productions leaves many divided, but it can’t be denied that it is a company which continually pushes the ways in which it interacts with with audience, and with this produces challenging work that questions and provokes.

 three stars

Reviewer – Robert Kerr

 

CLEAN

Clean

Traverse

16/18/21/23/24 Aug

9.00

£14 (inc. b’fast)

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Throughout the Festival, the Traverse is offering on alternate mornings, two plays directed by in-houise artistic director, Orla O’Loughlin. Alongside ‘A Respectable Woman Takes to Vulgarity,’ this new play by the young & highly talented Sabrina Mahfouz is a compelling start to the flow of inspiration that the crowds are said to recieve in Edinburgh during August. I first encountered the abilities of ms. Mahfouz two years ago, when she wrote & starred in a one-woman show.  Roll on two years & she has divided her voice into three, played with great spirit by Nadia Clifford, Chloe Massey and Rosie Wyatt.

They play three classy female criminals, who are ‘clean’ in the fact that they leave behind no blood, guts & corpses. After various monologues introduce the characters, they are brought together & plunged into a Lock-Stock style caper which is brought to life in our imagination through the poetic wordplay & relentless engergy of Mahfouz’s writing.  As I watched I felt I was in the audience of Pesistratan Athens, watching the Rhapsodes unfold the lays of Homer, that timeless  blend of narrative & theatre that has been reborn in this very modern, & yet very classical play. FOUR STARS

four stars

Reviewer – Damo Bullen

ECONOMY OF THOUGHT

Economy of Thought

Assembly George Square

1st to 26th August (excl. 12th and 19th)

14.40pm

£8-£14

 

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With the Global Financial Crisis still affecting many people’s daily lives, there is still a visible wedge between those who work in the public or voluntary sectors and the private financial sector. Many feel outrage at the fact that some financial workers seem to be unpunished for reckless behaviour, yet often little is known about the actual daily working life of investment professionals outside of those who work in the industry. “Economy of Thought”, by Patrick McFadden, takes a real-life event, (when City bankers were seen waving notes at G20 protesters), and imagines the reactions of four investment bankers as they try to cover up the disastrous consequences of their actions, when a protester ends up in hospital as a result of them dropping cash out of the window of their office floor.

This play avoids taking the obvious route of simply berating the bankers for having behaved outrageously, by adding depth to the character’s backgrounds, showing us their professional and emotional motivations. Although there are some who behave recklessly, others do try to maintain a moral conscience. The comedy highlights are actually mostly thanks to the two most dislikeable characters in the play, (Reece played by Jonny McPherson and Rich played by Oliver Stoney), which in turn makes you think about whether if in the same position would you actually act morally, or find the situation just as hilarious as they do. An amusing and enjoyable look at a topic which many have an opinion on, but few have attempted to put onto the stage. An exciting and upbeat performance. THREE STARS

 

three stars

 Reviewer – Antionette Thirgood