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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012 - Theatre Reviews 2

All That Is Wrong – Traverse until Aug 12th – 4 stars

Mess – Traverse until Aug 26th – 4 stars

Blink – Traverse until Aug 26th – 4 stars

Tam O' Shanter – Assembly Hall until Aug 26th – 4 stars

I,  Tommy – Gilded Balloon until Aug 27th – 4 stars

A teenage girl and a young man sit on a stage with only a blackboard, a 
couple of overhead projectors and some pocket-sized mobile video 
cameras for comfort. A silent sideshow displays images of various forms 
of protest culture which are becoming increasingly prevalent as a 
younger generation become politicised. Without a word, the girl starts 
chalking out words about who she is, and what's going on in her head. 
As her scrawls become more urgent, it becomes clear this isn't teenage 
angst. Rather, this young woman is taking on the world.

As with previous shows by Belgian iconoclasts Ontrorend Goed, All That 
is Wrong does what it says on the tin. Here, however, it suggests a 
coming to terms with a world beyond hardcore partying. The result in 
Alexander Devriendt's production is a kind of Fluxus meditation on the 
hard facts of life, not so much performed by Koba Ryckewaert and Zach 
Hatch as lived in real time. They may be stating the obvious, but their 
philosophy of rubbing it all out and starting again is driven home in 
powerfully mesmeric fashion.

One might think an autobiographical play about one woman's struggle 
with anorexia to be similarly troubling. This isn't the case with Mess, 
however, in which Caroline Horton plays a fantasy version of herself in 
a piece of absurdist musical cabaret that laughs its way through its 
heroine's plight.

Beneath a pink-lit parasol on a tower of towels, Josephine holds court 
like Samuel Beckett's Winnie in Happy Days. Josephine is doted on by 
Boris, an over-eager boy in a Biggles cap, played by Hannah Boyde. 
Watching over all this is a corkscrew-haired keyboardist who is both 
accompanist and chorus.

Commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre and Parabola Arts Centre and 
produced by the Warwick-based China Plate company, Horton's play is 
relayed with a quintessentially English frothiness that channels Angela 
Carter by way of The Comic Strip's Famous Five pastiche. Alex Swift's 
production lends an oddball air to proceedings in what turns out to be 
a wryly self-deprecating piece which, as Horton's alter-ego Josephine 
acknowledges, is far from over yet.

Love is strange in Blink, Phil Porter's duologue between Jonah and 
Sophie, a pair of not entirely ordinary twenty-somethings who become 
intimate via a form of virtual voyeurism after the loss of their 
parents forces them to leave their very sheltered nests. With the pair 
living on top of each other, Porter's pair of inter-twining and 
lovingly penned monologues are transformed by director Joe Murphy's 
bright staging into a sad, funny and bitter-sweet delight.

As Jonah and Sophie go through a crash course in romance – he tries too 
hard, she's overwhelmed - Harry McEntire and Rosie Wyatt heighten the 
lovers quirks without ever laughing at them. Make no mistake, though. 
Porter hasn't written a rom-com, and there are no real happy endings in 
this beautifully realised collaboration between Soho Theatre and the 
ever inventive nabokov company. What there is is a delightful insight into 
how people function outside the norm, and how two people can find, then 
lose each each other in the most peculiar ways.

There's something about Communicado Theatre's rambunctious reinvention 
of Robert Burns' Tam O'Shanter that works much better in an Edinburgh 
environment than it did when it premiered in Perth three years ago. 
Director Gerry Mulgrew's all-singing all-dancing production 
subsequently proves as intoxicating as the liqeur that fuels the 
hapless Tam before he and his mare Meg stagger into the winter night 
where witches dwell.

In this recast version, Sandy Nelson leads an eleven-strong ensemble 
through a ribald series of choreographed tableaux that burst into life 
via Malcolm Shields' furious choreography and Jon Beales' strident live 
folk score. With barely a word spoken in the first twenty minutes, 
these physical and musical elements combine for a vivid evocation of 
Burns which is as libidinous as it was no doubt intended.

There are some witty contemporary touches in Mulgrew's script, and if 
things flag slightly in the extended bar-room scene, once Tam gets in 
the saddle it becomes one of the most energetic shows in town. Nelson 
is wonderfully deadpan, while Pauline Knowles makes a fine Meg as the 
pair gallop off into the night in costume designer Kenny Miller's all 
purpose tartan coat. The witches too are a relentless presence, 
especially as led by newcomer Courtnay Collins, who works her 
other-worldly apparel for all its worth.

 From one randy Scottish rake to another in I, Tommy, Ian Pattison's 
decidedly partisan comic version of the rise and fall of former 
Socialist firebrand Tommy Sheridan, whose life and work turned into a 
real life laughing stock after flying too close to the Sun.

  Pattison has taken Sheridan's former comrade Alan McCombe's account of 
an affair which ripped the left in Scotland asunder as his starting 
point. As played by Colin McCredie, McCombe narrates us through 
Sheridan's downfall, as writ large by some devastating one-liners 
delivered via Des McLean's pitch-perfect impression of the perma-tanned 
ex MSP, . The many women in Sheridan's life appear too, including a 
cutting portrayal of Gail Sheridan as a grotesque diva.

While Sacha Kyle's production is still a tad rough around the edges, 
it's already en route to becoming as outrageous in its slaying of 
sacred cows as anything by Dario Fo. Watching I, Tommy with several 
people who testified against him sitting behind me gave things an extra 
edge to a real-life mix of tragedy and farce that one suspects has yet 
to reach its full conclusion.  The logical next step, of course, is to 
follow the example of Elaine C Smith's recent homage to Susan Boyle, 
and have Sheridan  himself come onstage. Given the stance I, Tommy 
takes, however, this may be some time coming.

The Herald, August 6th 2012

ends

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