Wednesday, 14 August 2013

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


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