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A Canadian Bartender At Butlins / Mile End / The Importance of Shoes - Edinburgh Fringe 2007

A Canadian Bartender At Butlins
Underbelly
3 stars
The phrase hi-di-hi probably doesn’t mean much in backwoods Canada. So when TJ Dawe arrived as a teenager to work a summer at the Bognor Regis branch of Billy Butlin’s idea of a cheap and cheerful fun palace for the people, you can only contemplate how alien a land it must have appeared. Such a mammoth cultural divide forms the basis of this motor-mouthed monologue, as Dawe finds himself serving endless pints of lager inbetween rooming with a Doncaster prankster, dodging the fire alarms and eyeing up the red-coats. Thoroughly British raconteur Jasper Carrott may have got there thirty years ago with observations on the linguistic differences that oceans bring with them, but they don’t get any less funny.

What emerges out of all this is a neatly observed reminiscence of apparent inconsequentialities which loops its wry snapshots into a more significant whole. There’s something of Raymond Carver’s plain and simple depictions of ordinary lives at play here, making for an off-peak, out of season gem.

Mile End
Pleasance King Dome
3 stars
When one man’s dream looks set on coming true, as any horror movie fan knows, you should try and avoid your destiny at your peril. So it is with Alex and Kate, who can feel static in the air, knowing something’s about to burst any second. Elsewhere, Michael’s having stairwell confrontations with himself, self-destructing by the minute until he can’t help channel his anguish elsewhere.

Not to be confused with the recent TV drama of the same name, playwright Dan Rebellato’s collaboration with the young Analogue company draws from a series of events on the London Underground involving potentially avoidable fatalities involving mentally unstable protagonists. Utilising new media into something that’s part psycho-supernatural thriller, part dissection of a city’s collective mental state, by throwing so much into the mix, company directors Hannah Barker and Liam Jarvis haven’t quite decided what they want Mile End to be.

The animation which peels back the floorboards so we get a bird’s eye view of the flat below may dazzle, but beyond such techniques its pretty domestic stuff. Taking inspiration from the likes of Suspect Culture and Frantic Assembly, and with clear aspirations on modelling themselves in those companies image, Analogue may be still finding their feet, but the possibilities look endless.

The Importance Of Shoes
The Green Room
3 stars
When Vanessa buys the pair of perfect shoes from Sebastian, a salesman who genuinely cares about her feet, it’s an irresistible addition to her addiction that sets in motion a laced-up network of liaisons. Chiropodist Dylan steps out with Marise whose collection of high heels become a totem of erotic potential that’s tried on for size by all involved. Somewhere in the midst of all this playing footsie, two monologues detail a brutal rape of a woman whose shoes were left on.

Jay Johnson’s script, produced and performed by the young Weaver Hughes Ensemble, aspires to the relationship merry-go-round of Patrick Marber’s Closer, but at the moment at least is far too mannered and self-conscious in its attempts at profundity. Timothy Hughes’ production puts its four curiously barefoot actors onstage throughout in a stylisation shoe-horned uncomfortably around what’s essentially a piece of bourgeois mid-1990s naturalism.

There are nevertheless some interesting things being said here, in a piece where footwear made for walking tall in are also made for walking away.

The Herald, August 2007

ends

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