Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Round-up 2 - Men in the Cities – Traverse – Four stars / Spoiling - Traverse - Four Stars / The Carousel - Traverse - Four Stars

A soldier is murdered by Muslim extremists. Around the same time, a
young gay man commits suicide. Somewhere inbetween the two events is
Men In The Cities, Chris Goode's solo response to what it means to be
male these days.

Standing at a microphone flanked by an array of electric fans, Goode
ushers in a series of criss-crossing lives, including the gay suicide
victim and his partner, an older man taking stock, a punk and porn
obsessed ten year old, and indeed Goode himself as his authorial voice
dips in and out of the narrative.

Goode's style is laid-back, with his patchwork of everyday ennui in
Wendy Hubbard's production  being undercut by some deadly one-liners.
That's what men do, you see. They make light of things, however serious
in a piece that's about Goode's methodology as much as anything. He can
play God, he says, and kill off any character he doesn't like.

Eventually, all his and his characters bottled-up rage explodes in a
torrent of frustration, confusion and out and out terror of the world.
This is Goode showing his sensitive side, and a whole lot more besides.

In Spoiling, John McCann imagines a post-referendum Scotland that voted
for independence in his new play for the Traverse which forms part of
this year's Made in Scotland strand, and is now squaring up to a bold
new future. Or is it, as maverick Foreign Minister designate Fiona
emerges from a mountain of screwed up paper after an all-night session
in her home office redrafting her flagship speech she's giving that day
alongside her Westminster equivalent?

The trouble is, the unnamed party she's a minister for have got wind
she's about to go seriously off-message, and have sent political minder
Mark to keep her on track. Mark uses words like 'dis-positive' and was
schooled in Northern Irish politics, so knows how to play hard-ball.
Fiona, however, pregnant and plain talking, has got wind of an even
greater plot designed to undermine the new regime.

As political satire, the absurdity of McCann's script recalls Dario Fo
or Vaclav Havel in intent. Such comparisons show just how low politics
has stooped in what is currently the UK in Orla O'Loughlin's
production. Fiona's creative swearing comes straight from the Malcolm
Tucker school of charm, with each phrase delivered with relish in a
whirlwind of a performance by Gabriel Quigley in what might just be the
first post referendum play.

The Carousel is the second of Quebecois writer Jennifer Tremblay's
trilogy of solo plays to be produced by the Stellar Quines company
following Muriel Romanes' Herald Angel winning production of The List.
Here,  we meet the same female Narrator played once more by Maureen
Beattie in a more expansive if no less beguiling work. As she channels
the voice of her grand-mother, the woman tries to tap into all the
family secrets that shaped her in ways she doesn't fully understand. At
the forefront of these is the reason why her mother was sent to
boarding school while her brothers and sisters stayed at home. The
answer, when it comes, is the most painful of revelations.

There's an exquisite artfulness about Romanes' production that takes it
beyond the words of Shelley Tepperman's translation, however rich they
may be. Flanked by John Byrne's ornate set and bathed in the near holy
glow of Jeanine Byrne's lighting, both elements conspire to make
something exquisite. It's heart, however, remains in Beattie's
performance, a magnificent mix of the fragile, the vulnerable and the
tower of strength she must be as she finds the most troubling of
enlightenments.

The Herald, August 5th 2014


ends

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