Thursday, 7 August 2014

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 Theatre Reviews 3 - Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-Up Comedian / Outings / Blind Hamlet

Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-Up Comedian
Traverse Theatre
Four stars
Traverse 2 is reconfigured as an up close and personal brick wall club
complete with cabaret tables for Gary McNair's pithy and personal
deconstruction of comedy. First seen in work-in-progress form at the
Arches in Glasgow, McNair dons the fantasy-wish-fulfilment mantle of
the sort of cheeky chappie act who you could see any night of the week
in Edinburgh throughout August. Using this device, McNair gradually
unravels a shaggy dog story about a wise-cracking kid he meets on the
bus before risking being upstaged by the show's post-modern finale.

It's a fascinating shtick which gives nods to everything from Trevor
Griffiths' dramatic exposure of the comedy of hate in Comedians, to the
relationship between stand-up and live art bridged by the likes of
Lenny Bruce and Eric Bogosian. McNair cuts an altogether more chipper
dash than all of those, however, in a knowing study of one of the
Fringe's most popular artforms that has a punchline to die for.

Gilded Balloon
Three stars
  A row of see-through plastic stools are lined up across the stage at
the start of Matthew Baldwin and Thomas Hescott's compendium of true
stories from gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and trans-gender men and women and
their experience of coming out in a straight world. As a troupe of five
performers lift scripts from a back-wall pin-board of newspaper
cuttings, the implication in David Grindley's production is that
nothing is hidden in a piece which doesn't pretend

Knitted together from a set of first-hand testimonies, things open
familiarly enough with everyday tales of awkward adolescents finding
out who they are or who they want to be, before opening out to look at
how assorted religions and races view homosexuality today.

Performed by Rob Deering, Andrew Doyle, Zoe Lyons and Camille Duncan
plus an under-used daily guest star (Rob Crouch from the Pleasance
production of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas the day the Herald is in),
the show's nearest relative is Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, in
that its power comes from giving voice to what is still too often
hidden from view, whilst remaining vital that they're heard.

Blind Hamlet
Assembly Roxy
Four stars
There are no actors at all onstage in White Rabbit Red Rabbit writer
Nassim Soleimanpour’s painfully personal coming to terms with losing
his sight. Instead, Ramin Gray's production for ATC opens with a stage
manager putting a microphone close to a mobile phone placed on the
spotlight-illuminated stage floor. When the stage manager presses play,
what we hear are effectively the Iranian born writer's final dramatic
gift to the world, as his disembodied voice engages the audience in
assorted theatre games that involve us closing and opening our eyes as
a process of elimination weeds out a pair of make-believe killers from
a set of willing volunteers.

At the heart of all this is Soleimanpour's love affair with Hamlet, a
play he has never read, but which his eyes are now too dimmed to ever
be able to finish it. As poignant as all this is, there is a
playfulness to proceedings as the audience effectively create a new
play with every show. At times one can't help but think of Derek
Jarman's similarly voice-led film, Blue, another set of sightless
meditations. The fact that Soleimanpour's work stems initially from an
empty stage and a mobile phone is a powerful statement on what is and
isn't required to play the Dane.

The Herald, August 6th 2014


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