theSpace @ Symposium Hall – Main Theatre
‘Eight Hundred Dollar Value’, 2021 Edinburgh fringe. I thought this play would be something of an American Wild West show from the title; it was American but told of the Mafia who aren’t cowboys; but perpetrate weapons and violence in very similar ways. The hard work part of this play had its own rewards. It was a monologue that told a story of a young man who was held in the throes of this life since before he could remember.
As we were let into the open door to the excellent Lecture theatre there was a man sitting at the corner of the stage with a mean look in his eyes. He stood and took us straight into his story. He took a moment then in his grey wise guy suit began his torrid and legendary story, speaking in a thick New York accent.
Donnie would have twists and turns unravel as though he had lived many lives. His commitment to the story was 10 fold taking us through the many details of things unfolding for him and his Mafioso existence. Many things came to transpire, each giving something to the structure of the plot.
He revealed that he had been in witness protection for his entire life, that he socialised with the FBI, committed or was party to murder and other such level crimes and lived a life that for many of us could not even be imagined.
His dialogue trickled into us as we unaware took in the story and all of its parts. The performance had a sort of truth to it, a kind of unreal quality that we didn’t figure before some reflection. All with a story told in that New York gangster twangs and Mafioso promises.
It was set up with only a music stand that he took his notes from. Reading from them he set up several certain compliments important to survival in this world of crime. They all made sense and came together as facts for living in and attaining a peaceful life, even as you sign some poor fool’s death warrant.
Was he as coerced as his story’s seemed? Had he lived through so much as to desensitize his own feelings? He seemed to stand there at peace going through everything, smiling and with a child like wonder.
We were shown a world and taken into his whole life. Sitting there listening to the colloquial highs and lows as steady as his appearance itself. A story he needed to tell for a well earned place at the fringe. It was so simple, so efficiently effective; we were welcomed to the family with a warning. The same warning he had early on to catch fire later.
Live Stream – 27th August
Dancing to Disco is, in its purest form, a university diary, acted out, one would say, unpassionately by Tom Claxton. He didn’t write the piece, that’s the work of Nick Dawkins, & it is perhaps the disconnect that made the piece imperfect. Diaries are personal things & its impossible to really feel the nuances thought & life happenings that drive the diarist’s pen.
As theatre, its a monologue, but its still a diary, fill’d with names of various people & the fun & quirky stuff they get up to & said, such as ‘Oxford, Oxford, taxis, coke, Oxford, “I’m doing politics… my dad’s a lawyer”,’ etc., etc.. The character, Tommy, is a young working-class Mancunian who loves his disco. I love my disco, but it does need a bit of glitz & glamour, not a cardboard box set & dancing in socks & dressing gown. Altho’ at one point, the boxes are turned into a night-time’s cityscape beside which Tom Claxton soliloquised his most poetic piece in a half-chaunt – which was a highlight.
Altho’ Claxton comes across as a fine actor, & especially an orator, I just didn’t think this was the play for him – he needs other actors about him to flourish, one expects. On another note, this is not the only play I’ve disparaged on the streaming platform, & maybe it would have been better to see it all in person. But then again, a university diary is not drama, even if you have join’d the first year drama club.
Damian Beeson Bullen
French Institute in Scotland, Online
On demand, Aug 2021
As a citizen of Scotland it is hard not to feel wonder when the name Queen Mary Stuart is mentioned. I tuned into a pivotal performance of 2021 Fringe‘s ‘Mary Stuart’. It was an adaptation of a 1833 play by Friedrich Schiller about the last days of the revered queen. She was imprisoned for murdering her husband Darnley but was in fact incarcerated because of her claim to the English throne at the time held by Queen Elizabeth 1.
Summer Tide Company wrote an original dialogue that hit the heights of this story and offered a great many insights into what great theatre is. The; what I’ll call ‘backstage play’ (in an amazing looking tunnel with old bricks) where they were somewhere deep in a castle or somewhere underground.
The two actresses, Marie Colombe Lobrichon had the role of Elizabeth and Pauline Prevost Mary. They met in this place in France with the American Pauline, an enthusiastic personality and the French Marie more composed who seemed to lock horns immediately especially in their eye dialogue. All at first in a; who plays who? dilemma.
Every second of this scene, and all that came afterwards was overflowing with written brilliance and utmost performance. It was a short movie of their rehearsals for a play about Mary and Elizabeth. But it was a play for its own qualities. Mary’s tale is a tough one, it would be performed in French but at this time Pauline could not muster any great capacity for the language.
We wondered how she had come to win the role of Mary to be performed in French. And as the spring was set for the plot to traverse she thought she was there for the part of Elizabeth. They seemed to attack each other verbally, like jousting words with body language of attitude and contempt, especially from Marie who at this point was still playing her great actor self.
We were already enthralled by the scene when suddenly the spirit of Mary and Elizabeth entered their awareness. The depth and bravado that came out was a golden performance in itself. For Mary began to speak fluent French! And so they conversed as Mary and Elizabeth for long well flowing dialogues of fierce confrontation.
The focus took genius positions from movie like camera work. Making close ups, blurring the distance, their rehearsing had become their performance fit as if to set the theatre on fire, unrelentingly. It was Mary and Queen Elizabeth; who so famously had words to wind up as a smartly acute echo in history that resounded in the play.
I was following the fast and fluent French that poured out of Pauline and Marie with a rapid interest and though my French is very limited I managed to still follow the play and its poignant moments, none less than Mary’s death. Pauline returned out of this trance like experience with no knowledge of anything that had happened. But Marie seemed to come out of it bewildered and a little scared.
It was compelling, attention grabbing sustainably and wickedly well acted from a witnessing of the long suffering Story of Mary Queen of Scots vs. Queen Elizabeth 1. In honour of these stern times it was acted with a stern and marvellously unravelling of the way of these human interactions brought about by the most sincere clause of their legacy as subject not observer.
Inclusive in the dialogue the revered worlds of these two actresses were thrown into chaos by the performance tasks in front of them. It could be seen as a ghost story of the dead being raised. But the powerful intentions went way beyond anything small or irreverent, with capacity in full focus and hearts were brought to the fore.
Quality, ideal, anger, rage, murder rang with the words the two were helping each other complete. The bell also rang in the scary circumstance where Marie would end up cowering in disbelief, with a look of strength as the Queen. It was a back stage play that took its moments from the highest theatre imaginable.
She took white paste and put on the face of doubt; staring and glaring right into the camera with fearful accuracy. In French she held the moment that showed every inner feeling of disgust and contempt for things, seeming to damn the play and Mary with it.
It was an astounding take on acting itself and a deep look into the real potentials of theatre. All shot with a loud and beautiful and scary but faithful enactment between two powerful characters. We were taken to the heart of a story known to so many and that went down as a special time in British but also human history.
The spirit that emerged from being called upon was a resplendent part of the plot. I hope more comes of this.
Fringe Player, Online
On demand, Aug 2021
Tim Clark opened up his world to us in the aptly titled ‘Timmy’s World’. It was an online offering for the 2021 Edinburgh Fringe that was a highly entertaining 40 min of fun from a man who’s done it all in theatre. Going from London’s West End to cruising the oceans; he has spent his life being extremely busy from dawn till dusk.
The online film based in his house (unless the whole thing was a farce) that was plush and well decorated. My suspicion that it wasn’t real was put to bed with all his pictures with the stars or actors and him hanging on the walls.
In his enigmatic way; for example he proceeded to comb the hair of a large photo of Barbara Streisand, he was very cute. The autobiographical nature of his ‘play’ included poignant questions asked him by a voice.
His work and life he said has taken him to every port in the world. For 14 years he was at sea where he felt a great belonging. Being drawn to the sea affected a change from your average Diva. Though when asked if he was one he simply said ‘no but I could have been’.
After decades of theatre and entertainment work he chose to put aside his theatrical character and chose to become a hairdresser; albeit a hairdresser to the stars. This was comedy because of his down to earth yet high in the stars personality where we were allowed into every story he had to tell, though having had such a life seemed but a fraction of everything.
The short film used effects such as a scrolling screen change, and footage of him in different clothes and in different locations; on a beach at sea and in varying rooms. His life was stranger than fiction lived up to such an extent of work as to seem to hide no weaknesses, or at least being open about them to be frank about them.
But his over whelming personality of abundant joy and high flying attitudes came across with the effect of giants and super stars. He sat with his tiffany lamp telling stories attuning us to revelations to rival any celebrity. We were taken deep into a behind the scenes operations such as when radio had him on for an interview, and when he auditioned for musicals in Italian.
The names he dropped didn’t swell his head or ego, only a little, he proved himself instead with strong mindedness and always surrendered himself for every occasion especially his own. He wasn’t withdrawn or superficial instead had great capacity for being in the moment. This film was flawless with an in-depth description of the world and life according to Timmy who after all is an entertainer.
To excel the way he did since forever was worth a showing in the fringe. There were so many levels playing out sometimes it seemed hard to know which was which, but then that too was a sign of a great performer. He cut dogs hair, chatted and sang and seemed lovely to be around, who knows what went on before scene 1?
This hour went by like visiting a spa and having a massage. He poured greatness over us with edgy,
no need to emphasise jokes that came about naturally and on their own. No puns, one liners, or anything contrived he stuck to his script and offered a great observation elevation celebrating his own much loved and self made career of success and splendidness.
Pleasance Courtyard – Rear Courtyard
20th – 22nd, , 24th – 29th Aug, 2021
I made my way up North Bridge Edinburgh for a fringe show 2021 called Skank. I was very pleased by the venue. It was a very large marquee but with three sides open to the elements, the elements being a forest behind the stage, it was just what I needed. There were many blue seats right up to the back and a nice looking good sized stage, framed with plants and flowers.
Clementine Bogg – Hargroves took to set as Kate; a character played out in a denim skirt and fish net tights. There was a table/desk that took the role of office for the first scene. Her dialogue was written in a cavalcade of comedy, filled with all her stories about the life she was living, mainly centred on work and boys. She fancied a character she called sexy Gary, there were many voices she would talk to over a tannoy, a skilled performance.
Her tight comments were made with humour, grace and youthful sexiness. She had a great sense of showmanship, theatrical acumen and complete confidence as an actor really throwing herself into the role as though she was just being herself. She took us through, office work (she said, I don’t do anything there), office relationships, and going out at night.
She made her way around the stage with an accent clear and ringing. While pausing for moments of tinnitus that caused her trouble and stopped the performance. The table funnily doubled up as a stirrup doctor’s bed for her smear test scene that had whoops and great laughter from the audience. She looked at us on her back with such a witty look as to really connect with us, understanding her amazing powers of comedic enthrallment.
The story was resplendently comprised, and we sat as though there was no effort to the performance. There was a staff night out where she with humour imagined that she pulled Gary (her dream guy). That was a scene of sensual celebration as she kissed and hugged herself, feeling totally flattered, but it was just a dream.
After mentioning cancer we realised that the purpose of her smear test was to test for cancer. Her brilliant personality was then devastated as she feared the worse, breaking down in grief. Her young persona had to contemplate the idea of death that was all she could think of.
So we could imagine her joy when her results came back negative, we joined her in her celebration. She took to the stage as one but had the act of many. The tannoy conversations completed an effect of coming together, with her act showing a sense of humanity through the eyes of someone young and new. Skank must be a term of endearment and so we were endeared.
Pleasance at EICC – Lomond Theatre
20th – 29th Aug, 2021
Back at the Pleasance at EICC I arrived for ‘Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her)’. The conference room space had its stage set with a bed with flowing sheets and a table with a radio on it. She took to stage with a meeting with a man whom she used to love; she was taken a’back and became tongue tied. She was conversing with a boy friend who used to beat her and manipulate her.
She stood looking so tall and strong having just come from a cycle. She went to her bedroom to converse with her audience, feeding off of us and responding to our reactions. She explained that she had words to say to this man, having thought long about it but she was too taken back to say them to him.
This dialogue was so natural and played with our hearts in the many laughs she had for her-self and life. Her stories held our attention and immersed us into her world which was the same one as ours. Her description covered a great many aspects of what it like to live both during the abusive relationship and post said relationship. The awful list of abuses she intimately took us through with the fragility of heart rending passages and self knowing sensibilities.
Her scenes with the bed where as though it was her friend also living with her mother, her best friend. In shows of great strength she joked comedically playing with us with full body movements that stirred the play a little. She came across as something innocent telling a true story that we denoted from the dialogue.
In her mind she went over what she would say to her abuser, because she had agreed to meet him for dinner, which didn’t seem like a good idea. She thought about denouncing him and wishing him the worst, word for word. Then she in a loving scene picked out what she would be wearing showing off to us her black number going through a few then choosing a very sexy Orange one. She loved this scene as did we.
We saw her in what we thought was complete happiness, but how easily we forgot the two years of heavy torment she had endured. Of being beaten, torn, put to pieces by this man whom she loved. Her love still filled her as he had done now a long time ago. She told us of pain that never really goes away and even still held a stiff neck she had caused by bracing her-self for each attack.
As her persona unveiled through the play we saw that it was difficult to imagine someone having such disregard for another, as she went over things for her own sake she almost spoke of her-self in the third name. Could we really imagine this if we have never suffered it, according to Patricia the answer was no we cannot, we can simply go home and find ourselves far from this story of hell that lasted an astonishing two years for Patricia.
She knew it as unfair, she knew it was wrong but she had these bruises inflicted forever upon her. Importantly figuring out her own way through, but in many ways it destroyed her. But her heart was strong and brave, she stood tall to give her-self an answer and bring her-self together. This sprinkling
of dialogue served so much information with a tactile, honest and very funnily and jovially put together play. Offering not the end of something but a hope for a beginning afterwards.
She put on her Orange dress looking great goes to meet him and gives him the piece of mind she was looking for; taking back her energy, her heart and her very life. She was highly flattered by this man and in this scene after she has her words she tells him that she still loves him. And so with a faith so tested came a whirlwind of in some way overcoming it she finished to read a small note that said everything an abused woman is and is not. Examining our indifference to these black incidences she asked us instead to at least accept that this was no joke.
Pleasance at EICC – Lomond Theatre
21st – 29th Aug, 2021
Pleasance was my first stop for a live show called Screen 9; it was good to be there in person to take in this powerful true story play written about the events that occurred in 2012 in Colorado where a mass shooting was to take place.
There were 4 participants in this recollection of the screen 9 unhappiest and upsetting tragedy. The room was a large conference space ay Edinburgh’s EICC, with a screen, a strip stage and socially distant seating. When we entered there was free pop corn and the effects of the set looked of a certain date that preceded 2012.
It happened at a showing of a midnight showing of the Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and so in turn the four relayed their stories and enthusiasm for being there as big fans or for boyfriends. They took turns of this dialogue and shared the stage with the audience who were there for serious reasons. In the Screen 9 cinema set up; the room would be used to recreate the actual events of the shooting, stepping over dead bodies and wounded people.
In the end James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 59, in the prolonged moments describing it four stories were to inter develop from their points of view. They all questioned their reasons for being there but they were in shock, and disbelief. With blood everywhere one of the actor’s boyfriends effectively hid his girlfriend tightly under a seat, saving her life but not his own as he was critically wounded.
Another sprang to life and instinctively began to salvage what he could, but the shock was so much that they at first couldn’t feel anything due to adrenalin. As they took seats in the audience their action was all in the dialogue, with a few lighting directions. The play drove home its purpose as we in horror listened to their voices and were a little stirred as we imagined the unreal, yet only too real, state of events.
The four were youthful as they represented the stories of the people who were there and who all these years later still suffer from this life changing and manic deterioration. The play worked into a debate about guns in America and we have to remember the size of the problem with one calling it complicated. On painful reflection they each had their own and different points of view in their debate.
But can a debate hold any real significance for actual change or will their gun laws remain the same forever? The world is aware of this issue especially due to the internet, but plays like this are sorely needed to bring it into our laps and our communities, after all the yearly numbers of gun crime victims are tenfold.
There can’t be anything good to come of this save a serious look at their laws. The quality of the play would have been fantastic but for its theme and their seriousness of important expression and tribute to the many victims who died watching a movie at the cinema.
We are closer to imagining something of the devastation in what is all too often called Mass shootings. So in this well attended venue on this day we witnessed an inhumane act as a second hand account but with a firsthand insight, disbelief, and have been shaken by a dark tale.
As I turned on my laptop to tune into The Edinburgh Fringes online performance of Rhiannon Boyle’s ‘Kill Me Now’ where I was very surprised to find out that it seemed like it was for a business model for funeral care; it would turn out to be quite something else, in fact it would become a deep fiction.
As I joined this zoom meeting I was a little confused that this would be part of the Edinburgh fringe. But I went with it and actually began to find it interesting and found it easy to follow. Her company called Joyful Endings had come about after inheriting the business from her father.
It was seemingly an interactive zoom meeting where we were all asked to contribute. We all fell for it sharing ideas about the world of deceasing; twisting it into something new and quirky. As the interactive side embellished she all of a sudden began to falter apologising for lapses of concentration.
In the chat box there was a person who called themselves M. At this time I felt easy and even trusting with Rhiannon directly responding to one of my comments, effectively talking to me. The person M began by throwing in a terrible comment upon the conduct of our host. Aiming at the heart he just about condemned her for keeping her father’s ashes for over two years.
She picked up the urn that was decorated as a huge Boddingtons beer pitcher while remaining to be upbeat about her loss, in a most professional and loving way. This prompted further exclamations from M who persisted in putting her down with force and abandon. We could very well see that it hurt her deeply.
In this moment she went from high confidence to very low aspiration looking dishevelled. And as we saw in front of our eyes was this transformation; she stopped short and was lost for words. After calling for a break to steady her-self, she had left microphone on and we listened to an excruciating phone call with her mother as she shouted at her mum totally upset.
The mood had changed, the eyes fell to the floor, this was no longer about shaping a business model. It was now about survival. She appeared back onscreen, eyes red and teeth chattering, with a defiant will to carry on.
With the plot thus revealing itself there was a moment of the interaction similar to the War of the Worlds original radio broadcast mid 20th and a little like the Truman show movie. She had transformed into a grieving councillor by taking her-self through each of the 5 stages of grief. M’s prompting continued viciously attacking her while she remained at the helm of the attending public eye, so rude and raw and had the power to take us a’back.
There was a real elation during the watching of this clever, extravagant think out of the box play, revealing this journey’s story but more measuring by its impact on us. The turn of a place of trust to a much truer place of great uncertainty was greatly examined and amplified.
To that extent there was an explosion in our senses that blew wide open a largeness that is still hard
to describe. Through simple footage and dialogue she achieved all of this and I was putty in her hands. Her Kill Me Now is an opportunity for self examination of turbulent times. As it finished was not as it began, all put together so we could feel immensity of joy and grief. We left her in tears asking ‘So this is grief’ in an open and unknowing way.
Zoo TV Live Stream
The online play at the fringe this year was called ‘Champions’ by Himerandit Productions for #Danish Digital and performed by Andreas Constantinou who is Greek actor. The scene we were met with was Andreas breathing before his show in his own ritual; he sat with two pictures of a man and a woman. We spent a prolonged moment with him doing this until a knock came on the door for curtains up.
He proceeded out of the door through a scaffold basement and found his way to the stage. The large venue was set with traditional sloping seats with the iconic positioning of the large stage. Set with mid twentieth century furnishings of a TV, a luxurious chair, a gramophone all of which he would tinker with for self explanatory reasons.
He took up his position at ground level to inform us of the purpose and meaning of his play that he has not performed since before lock down. We found out to ours and his dismay that he lost both his parents during the 2020 pandemic one of whom died having contracted Covid. As we were thinking ‘poor guy’ he finished his lightly dressed introduction by stripping his clothes off and sitting on the chair naked.
The levels of detail that was covered by this experimental plot, were all vividly striking in the light and colour changes, the distances between props. The room looked like something remote, cut off yet completely normal. He waved a hand to our deepest yet simple senses that can experience and create that have both darkness and light.
As the play went on around him he sat still on his chair neither moving nor speaking a word but with a highly relaxed persona that came through with a very controlled and complete action of stillness in the play. His story was of a recorded tape of him, his mother and his father all with a therapist. When we heard him converse with her his troubles began to be revealed.
All he spoke of about his mother and father was his loss and the fact that he had not played this tape so hadn’t heard their voices within the live component of the interview all about being gay and in love with men. His father strongly disapproved but his mother was much easier. As he sat on the chair omitting his relaxed persona the backing of the stage turned into a projector screen that was to convey repetitive footage including a long struggling wrestling match that moved from sea to field.
That story unravelled and still totally unobtrusively and in fact reeled us right into his sore heart, he smiled and seemed to find contention in his still expression. It was almost like magic as the play came together from the huge lessons he has endured in his fragile lifetime. We sat with him and we wanted to talk with his and console him.
But in his transcendent appearance as a performer on a chair his work had come together in a well thought out show and tell, exploration of and intuitive colouring of how his soul works when he simply moves back and is loved again by his lost parents. From listening to this four way conversation we could tell that even in a hurricane there is still love. In the end he forgave his father and his father forgave him, the hour finished with footage of his father’s funeral.
And in his final Eulogy in the church we came to realise that was the purpose of this play from a darling actor who allowed us to feel and think with dialogue, to escape into the scenes of wrestling, water, fields was to fulfil a Eulogy in the highest purpose and with the greatest of taste. As he was sad he sat, as he angered he sat, and as he smiled (with greatness) he sat, so thanks for sitting with us and allowing us to look into your mind and life. So personal, so real, so naked, so much like a champion.
Zoo TV Live Stream
Until 28th Aug, 2021
Two Men & A Plank has been brought to the Edinburgh Fringe on behalf of Danish Digital & I can see why. Its just so cool. A couple of cheeky chappies in suits, white socks & sandals strutting determindley around a desolate landscape with, well, a plank. Cue a variety of Big Top scenarios – its essentially traditional clownerie – while drunken swamp blues strolls around our consciences like a harlet in beads.
The enthralling hypnotrance of watching Two Men & A Plank is universal Tellytubbieness for all ages – a fun-filled 20 minutes of action & camera angles, with not all the show revolving around hijinks with our now famous plank. The central portions see changes of music & vibe – the plank disappears & is replaced by Laural & Hardy vibes, flamenco dancing & a slap fight. All good, but better on the stage I think, as televisual entertainment those days are long gone. Perhaps this change of texture was intended, however, for when the plank returned for the finale it was like welcoming a long-lost family member to the kitchen & I was buzzing.
So thank you DON and GNU – two of the stars from acclaimed trilogy MEN IN SANDALS – for inviting us to your fun & rather brain-startling soiree with that never to be forgotten plank.
Daamian Beeson Bullen