Monthly Archives: February 2015
Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
The Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
19.30 (mat wed & sat)
Twelve Angry Men is the story of a court case based quite uniquely around the Jury, who deliberate the case in a locked room. The set is sparse : a table in the middle, three large windows hung at the back & a toilet off to the left for those intimate, private conversations. These, & all the rest of the dialogue I found to be flowing flawless through out the whole production. The crime in question revolves about the murder of man, whose son is in the dock for the deed. To my mind, it seemed that unless it was a set up, the kid was bang to rights – but Tom Conti’s character does not see it this way at all. The whole jury is swayed in the end but it is a battle of wills. One fellow uses brute force & threats of violence, while Conti, more detective than juror, Conti questions all the facts, whose accent and stage presence made me think him a Columbo – all that was missing was his cigar.
Of the actors, Conti is the most well-known, but definitely not the best of the players on offer, drawn from a cross-section of society. New York testosterone, for instance, is depicted pitch-perfectly by Andrew Lancell, whose character just wants to see the lad in the chair so he can get home to see ‘the game.’ Ominously enough there are no women, in fact not even an effeminate man – a portrait of the times in which the script was written about and thankfully not indicative of the present. If it had been women, I imagine there would have been a lot more bitching in the toilets! FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Sarah Marshall
Circle Studio, Citizens Theatre Glasgow
When you are eventually allowed in [5 minutes before curtains up], to what seems the most Spartan of venues, the reason you have been kept waiting soon becomes apparent. The two actors, Wendy Seager and Neil McCormack, despite explanation to the contrary, are already in character. They meet and seat the audience whilst setting the backdrop for what’s about to unfold in this piece of ‘verbatim theatre’. A sense of intimacy with the small, but sell-out audience has already been established in preparation for a piece of in your face, black comedic storytelling.
The story is about a married couple [Jim and Liz], a pair of sharpies specialising in the trade of snide designer handbags, and their chance encounter, whilst on the lash, with the writer in a Glasgow pub. Having fallen foul of the East End Mafioso in a turf war, they find themselves being extorted to the tune of £250,000 and being forced to hatch a get-rich-quick scheme to avoid enforced removal of their mortal coils. They go to visit ‘The Wee Man’ for guidance and so their quest in becoming the world’s most notorious art forgers begins.
As the story unfolds, often at breakneck speed, the underbelly of a world of forgery, hard nosed art dealers, child prostitution, sex trafficking, armed robbery and arson is exposed. Although having seemingly more faces than Lon Chaney and clearly intent on breaking more than one felony in the pursuit of their mission, both characters, in true ‘Breaking Bad’ style, come across as the baddies with a moral compass. In comparison to the other villains in the narrative, which includes a Russian Oligarch with an unhealthy interest in farmyard gonadectomy, you could be forgiven in thinking of them as heroes.
If you go to see this play, as is Leddy’s penchant, be prepared to be exposed to a bucket full of conflicting emotions. I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion and being simultaneously conscious of the smile sliding off my face. Huge praise must go to the actors in this thoroughly entertaining production for making the characters seem so real/fake with numerous, seamless, protean transformations which were delivered with an amazing energy. Little wonder that they looked completely drained when I saw them in the lift after the show.
In the ‘final chapter’ the machine-gun’ like manipulation of the most profound of feelings made me come came away from this boxing ring like arena, somewhat appropriately, punch drunk and feeling largely different from what I did before I went in. A must see, five star production. FIVE STARS
Reviewer : Fitzroy
“Brechtian” is the sort of phrase lacklustre undergraduates pepper lacklustre essays with. To say a play is Brechtian is to say that it is the sort of theatre that tries to thwart the audience’s emotional attachment, so that we might focus on causes -not characters or their individual fates. A shame, cause if we were to judge the man himself by this standard, Brecht himself is typically far from Brechtian. He was just too good at writing engaging, sympathetic characters and placing them in compelling situations, and too damn funny. A lot of Brecht in the theatre, though, is pretty Brechtian alright. It can be bleak. It can feel like being lectured at, and the studious Dogma-style stripping away of elaborate sets and costumes, can be, well… dull. By contrast, the elegant Lyceum’s new production, the Caucasian Chalk Circle, is a shambolic, circus of a play. A joy.
It’s not that there aren’t lots of indications that the play tries to reach beyond the stage, members of the cast are playing in the bar before we are seated, the ladies loos (didn’t check the gents) are covered with printed out quotes about inequality. There’s no doubt that this is political, theatre breaking its own boundaries. There is no rise of the curtain, but rather the cast drift onto the stage as the audience arrive at their seats. The backstage area has been opened up, and made part of the set, props are wheeled about by cast members, So far so Brecht, and so effective.
There are some innovative departures too. Sarah Swire, our singing narrator is every inch the rock chick, full of fire. Her delivery is often “in your face”, which is how Brecht wanted the moralistic elements of his plays to be, right enough, he was the man who said : ‘Art is not a mirror with which to reflect reality but a hammer with which to shape it.’… He probably wasn’t imagining this Anni De Franco/ Amanda Palmer hybrid though, and the snarling grungy vocals sometimes get in the way of annunciation, and it’s hard to decipher what our story teller is telling us. . When the accordion comes in, or the play moves into a Country folk style, a soft ballad, an Irish jig, a tango, it’s such a relief to have the narrative communicated in a medium that is genuinely tuneful. Swire’s words become clearer too, and we can hear the language itself, which is, like her voice when it’s allowed to be, genuinely beautiful.
The cast also form the band, and the music, generally, is brilliant, an absorbing mish-mash of cultures and instruments. There’s a brilliant rag-tag quality to their continually dropping character to pick up this or that instrument– a trombone, a washboard, casually passing one another a double-bass. There are some stunning instrumentalists amongst them, certainly enough to pull off a great range of styles and create some genuinely moving and invigorating music, but some are undeniably greener in the gills, musically speaking. My companion, an aficionado of African drumming took umbrage at the djembe “player” who was, in her words “flailing about” with the thing. Then again, you don’t go to Brecht for the djembe. And fair play to them, not only does this cast play a lot of instruments, they each play a lot of parts, and generally do so excellently. A lot of gender-swapped parts here, too, which brings it’s own challenges, both for the actors, and the audience.
Deborah Arnott’s portrayal of the Sergeant a sexual predator and bully brutalised by war, was particularly brilliant a chilling portrayal an convincing, understated, performance of “masculinity.” Andrew Bridgemont’s scheming old mother wan another excellent example- he brought alive Brecht’s witty characterisation and deftly avoided being a “for laughs” granny drag-act. Others were less successful. Both the governor and his wife were played by opposite sex actors, who reduced them to cringingly reductive vaudeville which obscured almost any other aspect of the characters. Liam Gerrard’s Ludovika was straight up drag, and to be fair the audience adored him for it, but I wonder if I was he only one who cringed. One problem with modernising Brecht and that is that some parts are genuinely not modern. Ludovika, -a girl whose father in law has found her with a stable boy, and pressurises her to say she was raped, rather than unfaithful, might have been seen in a more sympathetic light. The famously wise Judge Aztec rules that, because of her downright sexiness, Ludovika has in fact raped the peasant… her beauty was so potent as to render her irresistible, more than asking for it, her appearanceforces the poor young man to have sex with her. Our drag-tastic Ludovika parades about in wobbling heels, simpering with gratitude as she’s belittled, and a moment that should be light is heavy with awkwardness.
How much more there is to like. Adam Bennett, the puppeteer, is genuinely brilliant- truly, he makes some white rags and a polyester mannequin’s head into something genuinely moving. Amy Mason, the actress playing Grusha, does so brilliantly. She looks and sounds like Katie Morag, so sweet, vulnerable and believably flawed. And falls in love with this child so convincingly that by the time of reckoning, in the chalk circle, the scene is tense indeed. A brilliant, challenging, play, brilliantly, and challengingly, played. One to see for sure. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Katie Craig
From the people who brought you the complete works of Shakespeare in less than 2 hours, comes a new comedy show that attempts to chronicle the whole history of comedy. Starting at the earliest joke (and jokers) all the way through to modern times. The Comedy Trio demonstrate amazing talent with all the different comedic arts on show from satire to slapstick.
The story begins with the guys finding an ancient text called the art of comedy, written by the art of wars author -Sun Tzu’s younger brother Ah Tzu (Achoo!). Each chapter tells of a different type of comedy which they go on to demonstrate to varying degrees.
As with their other shows this is performed at breakneck pace. The wide variety of different jokes mean that not everything is going to hit the mark but when a joke fell flat with the audience they would recover with brilliant one liners. There was a feeling throughout the show that it this was written for an American audience with several references that may not be picked up by the UK audience- including a Abe Lincoln stand up. That said they are still worth a watch if only for the over the top slapstick routine.
Reviewer : Lucy Tonkin
To mark A Play A Pie And A Pint’s 350th production, this week’s play was by American playwright Emma Goidel and was originally commissioned for American theatre group Tiny Dynamite. This international theme will continue through the current season of plays. The play, We Can All Agree To Pretend This Never Happened wraps up a serious topic (global warming) in what amounts to a classic comedy of errors. The action takes place in a scientific research lab deep in the furthest frozen wastes of Siberia and concerns four Americans (two male, two female) involved in climatic research. The characters are played by James Young (Lincoln), Robert Jack (Andrew), Sally Reid (Liz) and Helen McAlpine (Maya).
The well-designed and lit set placed the action firmly “in the round” both in it’s circular construction and position within the packed audience. The protagonists have obviously spent too long cooped up together in their isolated icy outpost (shades of The Thing?) , nerves are frayed and emotions and feelings, real and imagined, are running at fever pitch.
Thus, the scene is set for some farcical misunderstandings over romantic liasons and a plot to fake damning global warming data by the use of a manufactured deadly virus. To say more would spoil the plot, but the whole scenario was well acted by the ensemble, in particular James Young’s Lincoln was reminiscent of Richard Dreyfuss at his most exasperated and apoplectic.
The play was crisply directed by Gary McNair but never quite fulfilled it’s promise by being a little short at forty minutes and somewhat unfocussed in it’s ambition. Was it a comedy or a serious comment on global warming? We never really reached a conclusion in that respect. In any event, it was pretty entertaining and probably the only time I’ll be on the stage at Oran Mor. (Some seats had to be put there-it was so busy)
Reviewer : Dave Ivens
Two Creepy clown pirates with impeccable beards grace the stage as floating heads on a seaside style portrait-booth. These are cross-dressing alcoholics that smoke.. in front of a live audience. Actually, the smoking was fragrant, so clearly not the real thing but they made up for it by spraying a can of toxic spray paint to write Carmen. These demonic white-face-painted degenerates use the effects of smoking and severe alcoholism to animate their concerns in their small world created for themselves on stage. Their props, of which there seems to be an inexhaustible amount, include suitcases and doll. These dolls are tied to a reel that makes a square track around the two men. It appears like a boxing ring and they compete to see who can spell their words out the best. The words are Jose and Carmen, for the inspiration for this performance piece comes from Carmen by Prosper Merimee written in 1845 and of course is more commonly known because of the opera based on this story.
The words are spat out in wine through projected light, or written in silk atop a voodoo doll with the pins that are farrier’s nails. It is all very inventive, & its sheer brilliance to see such people really experimenting with how truly weird they can be : the world is way too full of people trying to be normal and these two men are clearly not that. The characters have a unique eccentric bond, and although they compete they are one and the same. In fact I had to ask myself how much these fellows are actually like this for real and if so I wondered where they they be heading for a drink next…..I’d like to join them! They stab at each other with knifes and steal each others cigarettes, as if they are siblings.
A performance of Carmen five years ago
The show is surrealistic in nature and quite like a horror in content, the score is dark and ominous at times or chaotic and unsettling at others. This creates an intensity that is a direct contrast to the more slapstick style comedy parts of the show, and it makes for an ingenious emotional roller coaster. The beards are pretty trashed by the end but that’s mostly because they are saturated in wine.
Reviewer : Sarah Marshall
Some of us think we’ve had it bad in life , then all you need to watch butterfly to discover its not all that bad. The opening scene introduces our performers, Ramesh Meyyappan, Ashley Smith and Martin McCormick, in a synchronised dance. Ashley plays Butterfly a kite maker who’s affections are sought from a customer (McCormick) she is clearly not up for this but when Nabokov (Meyyappan) the butterfly collector comes along she changes her tune. The romantic scenes I found a bit cringe worthy….in fact in my notes it says BLERGH….and I found that the character Nabokov looked maniacal throughout this. Maybe this was deliberate as we realise his intention is not to nurture Butterflys individual creativity and freedom but to trap her in his world like the real butterflys in the jars he keeps. He is livid to find another man has affections towards her and tortures her as punishment. On finding the kite maker living with the other man her enraged customer takes her physically and rapes her. This scene is particularly traumatic. Slow motion movement is used and it directly contrasts with a scene next to it which is set in a blue lit ambience of the butterfly collector who is oblivious to violent red lit incident that is occurring in his absence. The customer is transformed from a gormless admirer to a predatory hillbilly.
As described by my friend Heidi, we then see the ‘butterfly effect’ of rape and domestic abuse. The scene is replayed over and over as the trauma causes Butterfly to be rejected by Nabokov and for fighting to become common place. As the show is without words various interpretations are triggered. In he following scenes we become less sure of what is dream, real or repeating memories. A shadow baby is projected onto one of the kites as a visually effective womb, Butterfly is pregnant. The baby is born and Butterfly is left alone looking after all the dead butterfly’s in jars. The baby grows to a toddler, a soft cuddly toy type puppet and although the movements created by the trio are very convincing the baby looks scary, like a mini Mr. Burns. Eventually the child breaks a precious butterfly and in a rage it killed by his own mother. The play ends here as the jarred butterfly’s flicker alive in the jars, perhaps symbolising the entrapment of this unfortunate woman in prison either a real one or metaphorically in her mind.
This play depicted real issues that effect many people. Domestic violence are tricky subjects to cover and it was an opening for myself and my friend to talk about it in a way that wasn’t too harrowing as thought we have about it could be referenced using the play. Cycles of abuse are common place in society, work like this gives people a chance to view such a taboo in a way that means you can be thoughtful without becoming overwhelmed by the horribleness of a situation that people too often have to go through. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Sarah Marshall
Until 7th feb
19.00 (wed & sat 14.30 matinee)
The King’s Theatre is a beautiful venue with ornate marble stair cases, stained glass and carved wood. There is also many ornate plaster cast sculptures in the auditorium, your eyes are kept busy as you are reminded of the regal olden days of theatre! Dead simple is an adaptation of the novel by Peter James. It begins in Brighton and instanly reminds me of the movie Shallow Grave. The playful communal behaviour of financially adequate (posh) property developers. Two friends Michael (Jamie Lomas; Stella, Eastenders) and Mark (Rik Makarem; Emerdale, Torchwood.) Our lead lady Ashley ( Tina Hobley; Holby City, the Bill), Michaels soon to be bride and her Uncle Bradley ( Michael McKell; Casuality, Emerdale)have candid character building joviality in a grand sitting room. They are happy but we all know this isn’t going to last. The reason for this coming together is the wedding and a planned stag do….and a prank which involves the groom being buried alive in a coffin. Michael has to contend with suffering the worst fate that is possible, particularly when he discovers all but one of his friends have been killed in a car accident. The only person that can help him is Davey,(Josh Brown; Grange Hill, Shameless) a young man with learning difficulties who lives with and in constant fear of his father. He plays computer games in front of the T.V. in his bedroom and talks to Michael via a walkie talkie he finds at the crash site. We can see Michael through a veil in a hidden compartment behind the bedroom wall. The effect works well as a way of being able to experience the two contrasting environments at the same time. The use of the walkie talkie is not the only time technology is used as a plot device. Mobile phones, texts and recorded messages are used throughout this show in way where you know it would be impossible without them.
The story sees many unexpected twists, surprises and MURDERS. Lighting and sound effects make the whole show intense and moody. Particularly effective scenes were of cars approaching and turning in the woods of the burial site. This is achieved with a limited amount of space . Dark periods were made to create the feeling of suffocation, just like the fate of the man in the coffin. This is broken up with plenty of humor, our detectives are commonly joking around and taking cracks at each other as is familiar in T.V. Detective dramas. Our manipulative leading lady’s character hails from Morningside and I assume this will change at the plays next location, it was a nice touch for a place to be familiar…even if it was the location of a tragic car accident. Or was it…really you need to see this play to see all the twists and even if you don’t get a chance to I wouldn’t want to ruin the book either. The presence of familiar T.V. soap opera faces makes it reasonable to assume that this show isn’t supposed to be constantly intense, certainly the two ladies behind me find most of the show hilarious so we don’t hold back at the parts where we are not sure we should be laughing. ( Safety in numbers!) Its always interesting to meet regular theater goers and for these ladies this is just the first of three shows this week! FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Sarah Marshall
By way of an explanation to those of you who have not come across the phenomenon that is A Play, A Pie And A Pint before, they are one hour plays performed at lunchtime in the crypt of what was once a large church, the entirety of which has been converted in to a bar/venue/restaurant complex called Oran Mor situated at the very top of Byres Road in Glasgow’s West End. The owner of the building, Colin Beattie and the Scottish actor and playwright, the now sadly deceased David MacLennan, had the idea of putting on lunchtime plays in the crypt. For your money you get, you guessed it, a play a pie and a pint (quiche, wine and soft drinks also available). The doors open at 12 noon which gives you ample time to finish your pie/quiche, read a paper or chat to your pals in the relaxing surroundings before the performance commences at 1 o’clock.
This week’s play, “Hooray For All Kinds Of Things,” was written by, and featured Sandy Nelson (Chris the postie in Still Game and self-confessed Jon Gnarr afficionado) in the lead role as Icelandic stand-up comedian and non-conformist ex punk, Jon Gnarr, who stood for and won the mayorship of the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, in 2010. Supporting cast were Rebecca Elise as Heida Helgadottir as his election agent and (the very lanky) Jamie Scott Gordon as ageing punk and co-conspirator Ottar Proppe.
In 2008 the banking-led Icelandic economy had imploded and the population were completely fed up with traditional politicians who had led Iceland to the brink of total ruin. Into the breach strode Jon Gnarr and “The Best Party.” This play basically tells the story of what happened from The Best Party’s beginnings as a joke to cheer up the people of Iceland through to Jon Gnarr’s election as mayor of Reykjavik, by means of several scenes strung together as a flashback from Gnarr’s(Nelson’s) opening stand-up routine.
The Best Party stood for “Sustainable Transparency” and had the snappy slogan, “Hooray For All Kinds Of Things.” Aims included; A Polar Bear in Reykjavik zoo, free towels at the public baths and A Disneyworld with free entry for all. Gnarr proudly proclaimed that when elected, “I will go back on all my election promises.” They exposed icelandic politics for the worn-out, self-seeking, hypocritical mess it had become (some parallels with the UK I think) and in doing so won an election against all the odds.
The play, directed by Gary McNair was very tightly written and never faltered over the hour’s duration. There were many hilarious moments including a very different version of “Simply The Best”(pun intended) which got a great round of applause from a very appreciative audience. A serious point was made, along the way, of the importance and place of Art and artists of all kinds in modern society. The acting and delivery was of the highest order and the only (very) minor criticism was that some of the lighting cues were not up to the mark. Much recommended. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Dave Ivens