Fringe Theatre - An Actor's Lament – Assembly – three stars Kiss Me, Honey, Honey! – Gilded Balloon – three stars Hooked – Sweet – three stars
When two or more theatrical types get together, excessive gossiping will ensue. As alcohol and other substances flow, this will invariably descend into a laughter-punctuated bitch-fest of epic proportions. So it goes in An Actor's Lament, the latest vehicle for tireless Fringe veteran, one-time enfant terrible and theatrical icon Steven Berkoff, who has been venting his spleen onstage outwith the mainstream for almost half a century. This grotesque pastiche of theatre line might well be Berkoff's manifesto, as an actor turned playwright, a writer and an actress unleash their rhyming coupleted litanies on targets including the critics (natch), the theatrical establishment, bad directors, writers and other actors, the West End, the TV drama treadmill, and, ooh, anyone who isn't them, really. While one actor riffs on their personal pet hate, the other two drape themselves behind, miming out the largesse and excesses of what looks like one endless first night party. Set on a stage bare except for an ornate chair that will eventually become Berkoff's Shakespearian throne, this is a bitterly observed and flamboyantly self-reflexive in-joke. A million conversations like this may be going on in rented Edinburgh flats right now. They won't, however, possess the classically inspired relish of the man who turned bile into an art-form. Until August 20th. Middle-aged spread moves in mysterious ways in Kiss Me, Honey, Honey!, Philip Meeks' new comic vehicle for the double act of Andy Gray and Grant Stott, both more used to sharing a stage during panto season. Ross and Graham find themselves neighbours in a shabby bed-sit, where they bond over old Shirley Bassey records and eccentric Graham's guinea-pigs, Bette and Tom. Both in search of true love following their downwardly mobile change of circumstances, speed-dating and online chat-rooms brings out every grotesque desperado I town, while the mysterious Pepper Tiptree becomes the object of both mens' affections. Meeks' play is a game of two halves in Sam Kane's quick-fire production. One minute it's a sit-com style bedsit-land Odd Couple peppered with slapstick and occasional flashes of pathos, the next it lurches into a madcap absurdist detective story before Ross and Graham finally find their way home. If that makes for a slightly schizoid seventy minutes, it's more than compensated for by both men's performances. Gray is an old hand at playing the hang-dog loser, and he does it with aplomb here. Stott, however, is a revelation capturing Graham's every oddball tic with guileless intent. It's with the smattering of wig and hat changes that sees Gray and Stott morph into assorted landladies, house-guests and dogging vicars where they really come into their own in this two for the price of one comic confection. Until August 26th. Art, love and children, writer Elizabeth Smart suggests at one point in Hooked, Carolyn Smart's series of bite-size biographies of seven 'scandalous' women, are the only things that matter. Performed by Canadian actor Nicky Guadagni in Layne Colman's production, these are a set of variables that occupy most of Smart's subjects to a greater or lesser degree in a variety of forms. Perhaps not so much with moors murderer Myra Hindley, who tells her story with Guadagni curled up on a dimly-lit chair, although her obsessive love for accomplice Ian Brady is akin to that of Unity Mitford's bond with Adolf Hitler. One thing that is consistent here is that, despite their own wilful and powerful personalities, each woman appear to have ended up being defined by the men or women they loved, from Zelda Fitzgerald to the Bloomsbury Group's Dora Carrington, Elizabeth Smart, Carson McCullers and Jane Bowles. By giving them voice, however briefly, Carolyn Smart's poetic interpretations of each don't fully give them enough breathing space to say anything other than the acolytes and literary fan boy and girls already know. This is a shame, as Guadagni makes each flesh with a virtuosity that can flit from a northern English murderer to an upper-crust right winger in an instant. Until August 25th.
The Herald, August 13th 2013 ends