Monthly Archives: August 2017

Fall of Duty

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Sweet Grassmarket
Aug 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 (17.40)

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png Performance: four-stars.png

unnamed.jpgA war story, a friendship story, a mother and son story and a historical story, Fall of Duty is a slick mix of media presented bare bones by two players. The story begins with a video call of a mother, Sue, trying to convince her adult son, Jack, to put down the video game controller, get out of bed, and get involved with the world around him. Sue is an academic, interested in historical lesbians, and has received funding to do research and put on a show about World War I era entertainment duo Elsie Janis and Basil Hallam. Jack is reluctant to join his mother’s project, but as he starts research on Basil he finds a synchronicity between the historical life and his own.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of modern and historical in the show. Jack’s world of video games and rap music is injected with 1914 theater music. Hearing the story of Basil Hallam and Elsie Janis made me think that in their time the entertainers gave relief to the soldiers facing the horrors of war. Today, video games make war an entertainment for people who are ignorant of any of those struggles, waged only a century ago. The actors do a great job of bringing to life the music from 1914, even helping the audience to sing along. This is a unique story of a mother and her son’s modern relationship, and also a riveting look into the lives of the people who fought in WWI.

Reviewer : Michael Beeson

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Thrill Me

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C – Too
12th – 27th (Not 14th)

Stagecraft: five-stars Book: five-stars Performance: five-stars  

Thrill Me 202 - Photographer Sebastian Akehurst.jpgThis theatrical masterpiece takes place in Chicago in 1924 and tells the true story of two young men who embark on committing the perfect, Nietzsche inspired crime through murder!!! Richard and Nathan are best friends but also tentative lovers. Chicago, in fact, is a unique place in which the first organization for homosexual rights in America was established here in 1924. This allowed the free flowing openness of their relationship to blossom. Fast-forward to 2017 & the stage is set out well, props are inviting to thought and transmogrify an eerie atmosphere about a full auditorium. The tension in the air is palpable to all present. Accompanying the actors is a well-written and devised musical score played out with incredible dramatic impact. Period clothes and haircuts set the characters on fire !!!! Then all is quiet…

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Nathan Leopold, Jr. & Richard Loe

Thrill Me is a piece of historical truth,  hardly known in 21st century Europe, but was once the ‘Crime of the Century‘ in America.  Any insight to the darker side of human nature always intrigues the willing minds of a curious fellow human beings. Thrill Me provokes you, twists you, bends you and at times catapults you into a world of unanswerable questions. With a splash of wit and humour tossed in to lighten the mood in pockets, the tension is slightly subdued but never gone. You become transfixed and thrown into a murky world of violence, love , betrayal, child killing and treachery.. Bad faith can wait…

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A musical piece of theatre with the art of storytelling at the center. With a flawless delivery and execution of the songs and lines, Richard and Nathan become more believable with every word. A dark tale of two obsessive men that are fueled by so much destruction, which evidently causes the ultimate fall from grace. If you wish to be tried and tested from a psychological point of view, “Thrill Me” will take you to that place. Explosive & intense  is a mere understatement. A play that leaves you speechless and gets under your skin can only be achieved through great research and acting, & Thrill Me offers this in abundance. Put aside the subject matter and you are left with a spellbinding & beautifully crafted take on a delicate story of death and love.. a must see at this years 70th Edinburgh Fringe.

Reviewer : Raymondo

five-stars

Mia : Daughters of Fortune

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Summerhall
Aug 8-27 (14.45)

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png Performance: four-stars.png

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Can you imagine expecting a baby and having a government official grill you about if you are truly ready to have that child? In Mia: Daughters of Fortune we see that this is reality for a person with learning disabilities who wants to be a parent. Performed by four quite excellent learning-disabled actors, this play excels in putting the audience inside the souls of the characters. Through story telling, dance, live music, videography, a science lesson and a game show we see parenthood through new eyes and feel emotions we didn’t know existed.

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Mia: is entertaining, while taking a hard look at learning disability parenthood. When a learning disabled person is expecting a child, they are sent through pokes and prods in the health care system, which add stress to an already difficult time in a woman’s life. One scene plays a video of a beautiful mother playing with her smiling baby, and the mother says that because she is learning disabled, she was never really sure that she would get to keep her baby. She had to live with the fear that a social worker would decide she was unfit for motherhood. We should not be adding more difficulties to pregnancy, it is not good for the mothers, not good for the babies, not good for the social workers and I am sure that the intention is not to make pregnancy worse.

I left the show wondering how I can change the situation. I don’t know how to make it better, but the play has done its job of starting a conversation. Mia: Daughters of Fortune is played by talented performers, uses a wonderful mix of media and starts an important conversation.

Reviewer : Michael Beeson

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Mine

MINE Flyer 109x152mm

Space Triplex
Aug 5, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 (21.15)

In a recent interview with the Mumble, the creative genius behind Junkbox Theatre, Georgia Taylforth,  described the play as being, ‘Modern day pregnancy under the microscope, with Nutella,’ a perfect summary of this fine play. Friendship, sex, love and pregnancy are examined via three very different relationships. The first is a couple who meet on a dating app just for a sexual fling, but find it is hard to separate sex and love. How common a motif is that? The second couple are newly engaged and accidentally become pregnant. More gritty reality! The third relationship is played out by a gay man desiring to be a father, but denied the adoption option, and his best friend, a straight woman. As character evolves steadily through the drama, & moods & relationships change, watching ‘Mine’ is like watching a rubix cube being put together, each color shifting through the puzzle. However, this are not neat and mathematical problems, these are human emotions on stage and the puzzle is unsolvable.

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‘Mine’ allows the audience a chance to understand & experience the rigorous trials & vigorous emotions of the modern pregnancy. All the characters are easy to connect with, even when they are acting badly (& is in behaviour, not dramaturgically) & it is educational to see how  bad behavior affects the other characters. We feel upset for the one being treated badly, but we can also see ourselves in the person making the mistake. For myself, I learnt that the next time I feel myself having a negative reaction to a friend or partner, I can remember what I saw on that stage, remember how these characters hurt each other, and change my behaviour for the better.

Reviewer : Michael Beeson

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Fix

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Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: three-stars.png Performance: three-stars.png

‘Fix’ is a play by ‘Worklight’ production company that started out life as a vehicle for highlighting the darker problems of addiction and drug abuse. When the doors open at its Underbelly venue, wone is guided into a room, an unexpectedly charming space with a very prominent stage already set for capturing us in our suspensions of disbelief. The three performing artists were positioned triangularly on boxes; the kind that you could tap on for a drum beat. They were playing chords on the guitar over and over, slow and melodic. We took our places on seats arranged around three sides of the stage, creating an aura of intimacy which took hold even before the action began. The darkened room was lit with blue and green spotlights that illuminated the back wall. The lights dimmed to darkness as the play began.

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I found a great resonant sincerity in the way the actors shunned extravagant costumes in favour of casual clothing. The simplicity of this meant that the focus was on the performance rather than any gimmick or other extraneous irrelevance. From the trio, a focussed emotional dialogue began to expand in many ways; from heart-warming and loving wisdom, to telling a story about the active pains of addiction and its part in the world.  A great many themes were explored throughout, aligning with the play’s subject, & circling around the contrast of bonds within brains and the bonds between brains. A smart example was given in one of the play’s first songs, dedicated to the natural stimulant dopamine that depicted the chemical sense of elation within the mind under its influence. Another early scene was a guide to issues of separation caused by addiction and neatly highlighted the chemical processes of the side-effects of drug use. Moments such as these elegantly illustrated and explained the life of the addict.

2017FIX image 1.jpgWorklight’s creation offers us examples of the feeling of love which comes from the heart, and yet in the end all this is in reality is a chemical response  forged in the brain. The story was told with much accomplishment by three, very hard working actors; Fiona Whitelaw, Rianna Dearden and Finlay Cormack – both together and separately – in well-paced dialogue. The hard-hitting adult material gripped in a number of ways and was especially effective in the confines of the small stage, where softly spoken words created an incredible sense of intimacy. Among the impressive assemblage of scenarios, all cleverly knitted together, one very poignant scene stands out. This was a conversation held between the actor looking out to face the audience but sitting with an imaginary counter-part in front of her. The spotlight held her face as she engaged in a compelling conversation which held the audience enthralled.

Fix offers excellent and extremely thought provoking entertainment, though one needs an open heart to enjoy its fineries, & is delivered through a myriad of light, sound and dialogue. In the process, we are encouraged to peer deep into the soul and join in the debate on what it is to be human.

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

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Joy Donze : 13 & Not Pregnant

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Greenside @ Infirmary
Aug 4-26 (20.50)

Script: five-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png Performance: five-stars.png

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Joy Donze has brought a relentlessly energized piece of one-woman, or rather one-teenage-girl, theatre across the Atlantic which transcends genres. I have seen my fair share of comedians this & Fringes past, few of which could match 13: And Not Pregnant for laughs – Joy Donze is absolutely hysterical. Her faces, her voices, & the sheer accuracy of the teenage love-angst contained in her diary if, ever published, would form part of a new self-confessional trinity alongside Adrian Mole & Bridget Jones. The son, the mother, & the holy ‘who-do-I-love-the-most?In a recent interview with The Mumble, Joy describes her show as featuring;

Verbatim journal entries from my 6th grade diary. I always knew I wanted to turn my diary into a theatrical piece, and began working on it in a solo performance class in 2015

IMG_20170809_205358937.jpgSo this is real life, & that’s what makes it beautiful. Joy Donze grew up in Perryville, she describes as being ‘located an hour and a half outside St. Louis. In other words, I’m from the heartland of America. The corn and the cows and the caves,’ & whether she has stuck to the same names or not (hello Stacey & Justin R if you exist) like a Homeric story-teller she brings them all to life in her arcane bedroom, from her antics down at ‘Wall-Fart’ to being kicked out of the Community Pool. Along the way, as she clutches her diary – or flings it to the floor in a screaming tantrum – we follow her love-gains & heart-losses from crush to crush. ‘I want a boy, an older boy?’ she sighs, then changes tack by praying ‘God, please let me be good at volleyball’ 

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Watching Joy is like driving down an empty motorway on a summer’s night, in the fast lane, with your full beam on, listening to some bangin’ tunes. For the whole show! When I came to mark Joy, performance & script were easy touches – both were amazingly hilarious & animated with the reality of teenagerdom being eked out on the spot, rather than a nostalgic & hazy retrospective. As for stagecraft, we are offered a plain, not even so authentic a representation of a teenage girl’s bedroom, but stagecraft is not all about aesthetic, there is blocking & movement too & it is the way Joy commands her set, leaping on chairs, boogieing to rock tunes, staring the audience in their eyes, that beefs up the score, & I am happy to give the girl five stars. Here we see two time-divided Joys – the teenage archivist & the accomplished adult performer – segued together into theatre of unadulterated & contraputal perfection… as all those giving her a standing ovation at the show I witnessed would surely agree.

Reviewer : Damo

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Dead People Don’t Have Secrets

 

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Greenside @ Nicholson Square
Aug 8-10 (12.45)

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png Performance: four-stars.png

IMG_20170808_130116407.jpgAs I type these words, a certain young theatre company from Lancashire is making a Hermes-like foray into the Fringe. Burnley Youth Theater affiliated ‘Byteback Theatre‘ consist of seven 17-year-olds who came to together round a blank page as recently as May. They were given the challenge of creating theatre – to both entertain us & to teach us – & their hard-hitting result should be heartily praised. It not only matches most of the adult theatre in Edinburgh right now, & surpasses many, it is also filled with the liquid energy of youthful philosophizing which is starkly honest & simplified, & perfect for the theatre. In a recent interview with The Mumble, Byteback’s artistic director, Karen Metcalfe, describes the play;

Dead People Don’t Have Secrets follows the lives of four young people as they go into adulthood carrying a dark secret. Rumours, dares, and lies get out of hand and friendships turn sour. The lives of people around them are affected, and they must work through their guilt and shame to find justice, peace, or truth once their secrets come to a head. The show explores death, consequences, and lies through physical theatre, spoken word and new writing. The show was originally inspired by the title of a Death, Sex and Money podcast of the same name and we were fascinated about the secrets that people carry with them through their lives that may only come to light once they are dead.

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From such a cauldron-like creative process, Dead People… contains a number of different but highly defined elements; a futuristic set design, in which a noose forms the oratorial centre-stage; Shakespearean soliloquies in hip-hoppy couplets; physical theatre & its most animated & synchronised best; & of course that wonderful lingua franca of East Lancashire, which after the Tuscan dialect is the most beautiful assemblage & elocution of words on the European continent. Together, they tell with a delicate flow the story of ‘Pervy Peterson’, a school-ground dare & the devastating consequences for all. Byteback presented a powerful topic which could have fallen flat on its face, overdosing on the sickly pathos, but no, once the clever little time-shifts had been properly understood, Dead People… wove & maintained a tense & hypnotic spell over the audience until the powerful, again Shakespearean, finale. Excellent theatre on many levels, packed full of emotions & visceral harsheties, Dead People… is an amazing feat for such a young group, & offers much promise for the future, wherever their feet may tread.

Reviewer : Damo

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Stiff Dicky

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Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png Performance: four-stars.png

As an Edinburgh resident, watching Stiff Dicky last night is what I love this festival for, that injection of ‘foreign’ funkiness into our traditional dreich, weather-smitten conventionalities. No, the Scottish Theatre world would not produce anything near as raunchy – & realistic – as that which Junkbox Theatre has just done. Led by Georgia Taylforth – writer, producer, actress, & all-round matriarch of the company – in a recent interview with Mumble she spoke about Stiff Dicky, & another of the company’s plays – Mine – & their arrival in Edinburgh;

I’m very lucky with the company that the actors have helped me workshop both plays and create pieces that we feel very proud of. Because of that, I think there’s a bit of me in both plays, but there’s a bit of everyone in both. If a scene or section of dialogue didn’t necessarily work, we’d go back and work together to make it fit. With Emma (Mine) and Alice (Stiff Dicky), I think they’re exaggerated versions of me and my friends at different points of our lives. Both plays aren’t necessarily everyday life, but I think he reason that they have worked with audiences is because, the characters are. I hope that as soon as each character starts talking, you can relate to them in one way or another. I love playing both characters, but Alice has a very special place in my heart.

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Stiff Dicky is a short, sexy piece full of cockney chit-chat, urban pezzazz & quality acting from a group of players who you know just get on together. You can feel it in the room. As a unit they define & frame for our entertainment a world of viagras, ‘good old-fashioned fucks‘ & their fatal repercussions. ‘O my god are you French?‘ pipes Georgia’s character as she chases a guy through a nightclub, whose ‘chat-up’ scenes are clearly carved from real memories, which make them all the more brutally brilliant to watch. ‘Were you gonna suck off a dead guy?’ ‘That might have been a distinct possibility,‘ &, well, I don’t really need to say any more, do I?

Stiff Dicky is a case of Millennial metro-sexuals finally putting down the ketamine bottles they bought down Brixton one night & turning towards an ascent of Parnassus. As the slick, chit-chatty script hurtles through the story, there are some really nice, well-thought-out touches of stagecraft, the transition between scenes for example, & a remarkably sitcommy finale, which does work but jars a little against the cooler earlier parts of the play. Stiff Dicky is also a little too fast-paced (perhaps on purpose) – like going too swift at a corner at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix – but that’s fine, for going to watch the classy Junkbox Theatre strut their stuff is a smart move, & its also good to experience the Cockney joie de vivre north of the Wall.

Reviewer : Damo

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Dick in Space

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The Cuckoo’s Nest (venue 106)
Aug 3-27  (20.00)

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png Performance: four-stars.png

Dick Spacey, private investigator, needs to solve a psychedelic, murder mystery packed in a labyrinth of puns, and he is taking us along for the case. We travel through time and space within a futuristic, film noir set, interrogating suspects and even suspecting ourselves of the murder. Dick uses an array of wacky props to bring the show to life and involves his audience in a fun, fun way. In a recent interview with The Mumble, the man behind the mask, Steve Attridge, described the play in his own words as being a;

Seriously bonkers piece of comic theatre about an intergalactic film noir detective hunting a murderer through space. Dick Spacey, the main character, has multiple selves and cannot always distinguish between himself and others and has bizarre and powerful relationships with inanimate objects and invisible presences. It’s psychologically a bit surreal and bizarrely physical in terms of language and action. Someone said the character is like Tom Waits on amphetamines.

The most impressive part of the show is the language used by Mr Attridge; there is a pun in nearly every sentence and I was in awe of the linguistic gymnastics. The poetry of the script was ever apparent and delightful to listen to. I felt like I was running along a track with Dick, and each time he slipped in a homonym I would slide into a new universe and laugh and continue on with the show. Dick’s one man universe invites you to exercise your imagination and you feel a new appreciation for the elasticity of the English language. For the potential punters out there, Dick in Space is a silly and entertaining journey to a delightfully mysterious world, & one which you will take with abundant cheerfulness!

Reviewer : Michael Beeson

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The Waiting Game

 

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Greenside @ Infirmary Street
Aug 6-26 (16.15)

Script: five-stars.png Stagecraft:  four-stars.png Performance: five-stars.png

Today’s Mumble Mission was a challenging & unexpected delight, a modern day tragedy that would give Theresa May and her coalition homophobes an education into the complex nature of love between men. Written by Charles Gershman and directed by Nathan Wright, this is a UK debut from a critically acclaimed, New York based theatre company called Snowy Owl. The Waiting Game has been brought to life through a very intimate performance by four talented actors, delivered with minimum props and setting, yet skilfuly drawing the audience into the personal world of the main protagonists. The ‘stage’ is set only with masking tape to outline the border, four chairs and a few items scattered around the edges to let us know we are in someone’s house. I loved the simplicity of that.

The story is woven around the relationship between four men as this play expertly delves into the complexities of human relationships, intimacy, sex, drugs, betrayal and jealousy. The acting is superb, honest, raw and emotional. The characters are literally up close and personal with the audience. You really feel like a fly on the wall in their living room, watching these four man interact with each other, slowly revealing deeper and deeper layers of intimacy and insight into how human beings live, feel and love. In a recent interview with the Mumble, one of this startling cats, Marc Sinoway, described the essence at the heart of the play;

The Waiting Game is a psychological drama. It’s a love triangle if we only consider the players who aren’t in comas. The Waiting Game is a love square if we consider all the players who’s hearts still beat. It is a love pentagon if we consider technology as a 5th character.

This incredibly handsome cast of actors embodied precisely the intensity, sexual frustration and emotional process of waiting for Sam to recover from his comatose state; or indeed leave the mortal coil complete. This is a tale of limbo that holds Paolo, Tyler and Geoff in the confusion of uncertainty. Three grief-stricken young men in their sexual prime shaken by the fragility of life and the coping mechanisms that they adopt… from smoking crack to unsafe sex… all graphically displayed in this intimate theatre. The sensual love making scenes and the beauty of the kisses, the aroma of sex and wet gussets was a tell tale sign that love displayed as sensually and convincingly as this, removed the taboo of gay love and grief. A brilliant example of theatre that demonstrates love and passion in equal measure. 5 stars, Amazing stuff!

Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

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