Skip to main content

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 Theatre Reviews 4 - An Oak Tree - Four stars / Swallow - Four stars / A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing - Four stars

Traverse Theatre
Suspension of disbelief is a wonderful thing. Just ask the woman in the Traverse Theatre audience for the opening performance of the tenth anniversary production of An Oak Tree, Tim Crouch's meditation on truth and artifice performed by Crouch and a different actor at every show. So convinced was the woman by Crouch's impersonation of a bad pub function room hypnotist asking for volunteers that she gamely stepped forward, despite Crouch having already pointed out that he was only pretending to be a hypnotist and on no account should they respond to his request.

In a way, this incident is a perfect illustration of what An Oak Tree is dealing with, and Crouch dealt with it beautifully before his actual foil, in this case actress Aoife Duffin, who is appearing elsewhere at the Traverse in the Corn Exchange's production of A Girl is A Half-formed Thing, stepped up from the audience having never seen the script of An Oak Tree until that moment.

The story that unravels concerns a man whose daughter was killed by the hypnotist, whose shambles of a show he attends and takes part in, making his identity known. With Crouch giving Duffin instructions throughout, the layer on layer of meta-realities Crouch conjures up puts flesh and blood on an idea that begins with make-believe but which transcends it to open the doors of perception beyond.

Runs until August 16

The three women in Swallow are a mess of emotional bits and pieces of one form or another. Rebecca's just been dumped by her long term partner, Sam is finding out exactly what gender she is, and Rebecca's upstairs neighbour Anna has cooped herself up indoors for two years, has smashed up all her mirrors and squats in her room like a bird.

Over the course of the next eighty minutes, Stef Smith's poetic treatise on love, pain and everything it takes to smash out all the badness shows the extreme measures that are sometimes required to take leap beyond yourself and remind yourself you're alive. Orla O'Loughlin's Traverse company production leaves its performers as exposed as the lines they're speaking on designer Fred Meller's minimalist set.

Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Sam, Anita Vettesse as Rebecca and Emily Wachter as Anna let rip with a set of fearless performances pulsed throughout with heart and soul. Although the three women only connect fleetingly in Smith's skewed narrative,, it's somehow enough of a connection for each to learn how to feel again in a beautifully composed call to arms for emotional outlaws to take on the world once more on their own gloriously messy terms.

Runs until August 30.

It's not easy getting through to the end of A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing, Annie Ryan's adaptation for her Corn Exchange company of Eimear McBride's novel. That's not because the solo performance by Aoife Duffin as a troubled young woman is anything less than stunning. It's just that this first person litany of a dysfunctional and doomed existence is so relentless that it's at times almost too hard to bear.

Yet, as Duffin stands on a stark and unadorned stage, her rolling, self-destructive poetry becomes a touching display of a fragmented life told without any fuss or hysteria, but with a resignation made all the more harrowing by its understatement as it unveils a devastating life. The wilful minimalism of Ryan's production is unflinching, but it is Duffin's performance as the girl that is most extraordinary of all in a fearless display of back-street tragedy rendered as something that transfixes even as it leaves you despairing for the young girl's fate.

Runs until August 30.

The Herald, August 17th 2015



Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …