Thursday, 7 April 2011

An Audience With Lord Buckley /An Air Balloon Across Antarctica / The Iron Eyelashes - Edinburgh Fringe 2007

An Audience With Lord Buckley
Club West@The Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor
4 stars
Sergio Mendes Brasil ’66 is playing on the lounge bar stereo like its cocktail hour in Heaven. It may be hip for squares, but it’s the perfect pre-cursor to Bob Sinfield’s solo recreation of one of comedy’s great eccentrics. For those who ain’t down on all that jazz, Lord Buckley was the creation of one Richard Buckley, who dressed in a pith helmet and had the manners of the gentrified English upper-crust, but who reinvented the classics in a jive-talking semantic head-rush that pre-dated Rap by decades.

Pretty fly for a white guy, and something which Sinfield tackles with boundless aplomb in this fantastical and devoted run-through some of the great man’s finest works. From the story of Jesus, aka The Nazz and Vasco da Gama (The Gasser) and even Willy The Shake (Shakespeare)’s Julius Caesar, in which ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen’ are reborn as Hipsters, flipsters and finger-poppin’ daddies, it’s a whip-smart semantic stew in which Sinfield throws in a couple of latter-day props for good measure.

The extended re-telling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, featuring Old Scroogey Scrooge shows exactly where Buckley’s clever-clogs story-telling roots were, and turned into a performance art routine that’s stood the test of time. Despite the late-hour, this show is worth the schlep out Haymarket way. The Hilton is irresistible gig for a classical gas to treasure.

An Air Balloon Across Antarctica
3 stars
Caitlin is flying solo. Or rather, in Darragh Martin’s play she’s high above the clouds, accompanied by a chubby hamster as her co-pilot and an urn full of ashes, she’s intent on pushing herself to the limit to remind herself she’s alive. Surrounded by the ghosts of her explorer ancestors Amelia Earheart, Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott, Caitlin has all the space she needs in a grand adventure to help her re-connect with the world.

What initially looks like a piece of quirky magical-realism gradually reveals itself as a tender and elliptical treatise on loss, grieving and other matters of life and death in a production by young Australian company Three To A Room that doesn’t quite match the quality of Martin’s writing. Performed as it is with heart and soul by a cast of eight, its introduction of younger versions of Caitlin and her partner James would only work better if the entire cast were the same age as their characters. At the moment it’s hard to delineate. Even so, with a lovely piano score by Christopher Elliot, this remains a touching tale of one woman’s purging that has little pearls of beauty bursting from every seam.

The Iron Eyelashes
Green Room
3 stars
When The Lives Of Others captured so brilliantly the murky world of Cold War Berlin, it was a stark reminder of the near fanatical surveillance culture that existed behind the Wall. Imaginary Forces have analysed this era via a cycle of five loosely linked but stand alone plays revolving around the fortunes of a cabaret singer and his sister locked on either side of the Wall and their dealings at the hands of the Stasi.

Rather than render such material, already familiar from seminal TV dramas Heimat and Berlin Alexanderplatz, as grim-faced naturalism, in the fourth play, Exhibit B, at least, a form of off-kilter audience interaction sets up questions about control and the willingness of ordinary people – in this case the audience – to obey orders without thinking.

With each audience member given a specifically allotted seat, we become Berlin’s brightest sparks, invited to a meeting headed by two near fanatical agents who proceed to instruct us how to spy on our near neighbours. At times its increasingly ridiculous sets of visual codes resemble an in-flight safety demonstration, and only when the chief agent Karl starts having daydreams about the fiancé he loyally reported to his masters, does a narrative reveal the human consequences of such actions.

It’s a quirky if slight affair, the ambition of which outweighs the execution. Nevertheless, anyone interested in mind games may wish to stand up to the authorities in a novelty that’s part fascist rally, part soap opera.

The Herald, August 2007


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