Skip to main content

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 Theatre Reviews 2 - Ndebele Funeral - Fopur stars / Can I Start Again Please - Four Stars / Fable - Four Stars

Summerhall until August 30

When is a door not a door? In the case of Ndebele Funeral, Zoe Martinson's new play for the New York based Smoke and Mirrors Collaborative company it's when it's a coffin. Set in the Soweto townships which huge swathes of South Africa's black community still call home, a city sickness hangs heavy over Thandi's shack, where she is woken from her slumber, first by a government inspector looking into how she has used the wood allocated to improve her housing situation, then by old college friend Mandisi, whose enthusiasm for twenty-first century pop culture fails to bring Thandi back to being the woman she was before her self-imposed exile.

With Martinson herself playing Thandi, Awoye Timpo's production of her play exposes a loss of faith, not just in Mandisi's sullied devotion to something higher, but more devastatingly in Thandi's wilful self-destruction that is her last gasp for autonomy in her poverty-stricken existence. With the naturalism of each scene broken up by ebullient bursts of South African song, gumboot dancing and out-front monologues, Martinson, Yusef Miller as Mandisi and Jonathan David Martin as the inspector reveal a moving but no less troubling portrait of a post apartheid South Africa where for some life is still very much on the edge

In Can I Start Again Please, two women sit formally side by side wearing frocks ornate enough to suggest they're about to give some polite parlour room recitation. With pages of text spread out on their laps like a musical score, on one level that's exactly what Sue MacLaine's fifty-five minute meditation on how words fail us becomes. As MacLaine and co-performer Nadia Nadarajah relate untranslatable quotes from Wittgenstein both in everyday English and in sign language with coded references to childhood sexual abuse peppered throughout, something darker and more philosophical emerges.

Part performance lecture, part unspoken interrogation of the audience and part purging, MacLaine's piece plays with form as much as content in a production overseen by Jonathan Burrows, described as an outside eye rather than a director. Provocations on what it means to be silent are punctuated by choreographed hand gestures or else Maclaine and Nadrajah ringing hand-bells that only one of them will hear. Wry intellectual gags are delivered in precise, deadpan tones. Even the lack of a question mark in the title seems to be a line of inquiry that goes beyond words to get to a stark and mesmeric dissection of actions that speak a whole lot louder.

When a girl with a magic heart meets a boy with stars in his eyes in Fable, the fact that they were brought together in a West of Scotland village by a dating app rather than fate suggests that opposites attracting in such a way might not quite work out. J is a would-be astronaut grounded by physical limits not of her making. Blair is a small-town boy who'll never get out of town if he's not careful, even though he's too careful by far. As it is, through a series of everyday epiphanies, each opens the other up to infinite possibilities, and they both learn how to soar.

The fact that The Flanagan Collective's lo-fi austerity age rom-com manages to go stratospheric using little more than looped guitar patterns played live by Jim Harbourne, who plays Blair, an old-school what-we-did-on-our-hols slideshow and a series of spoken-word style monologues from Veronica Hare as J makes Joe Hufton's production even more charming. There's something quietly anarchic about the show's call to arms to rise above hi-tech led consumer culture and to be everything you want to be. With Harbourne and Hare sparking off each other with a mix of dynamism and vulnerability, whatever the risks it seems to say, the possibilities are endless.

The Herald, August 13th 2015

ends






Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

James Ley - Love Song to Lavender Menace

James Ley had never heard of Lavender Menace when he won an LGBT History Month Scotland Cultural Commission award to write a new play. While Edinburgh's pioneering gay book shop that existed between 1982 and 1987 before reinventing itself in new premises as West and Wilde wasn't on Ley's radar, he had vaguely heard of the Gentlemen's Head Quarters, the nickname for the public toilet that existed at the east end of Princes Street outside Register House. He was also half aware of Fire Island, the legendary gay nightclub that existed at the west end of Princes Street in a space that now forms the top floor of Waterstone's book shop.

As he discovered, Fire Island was a central focal point for what was then a still largely underground gay scene in Edinburgh's capital. Alongside the likes of the Laughing Duck pub on Howe Street, Fire Island was one of the few places where HI-NRG music could be heard in what would these days be dubbed a safe space for gay men and wo…