Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 Theatre Reviews 5 - Tonight With Donny Stixx – Pleasance - Four stars / Man To Man - Pleasance Courtyard - Four stars / The Deliverance - Assembly Roxy - Four stars

Edinburgh may be full of fame-hungry wannabes right now, though hopefully none are quite as out there as the boy magician in Tonight With Donny Stixx, Philip Ridley's latest assault on popular culture that provides a companion piece of sorts to his 2013 play, Dark Vanilla Jungle. Like that play, Donny Stixx is a solo, performed here with initial cheeky chappie charm by Sean Michael Verey in David Mercatelli's production for the Supporting Wall company.

Donny is doing a show. It's not the same sort of show he used to do at children's parties and old people's homes when he would do an excruciating magic act. He's got the attention he's always craved, but only because he took things too far and became a national hate figure.

Over a high-octane hour Verey lets the mask slip to reveal a kid on the edge, who attack anyone who dares question his precocious genius. It's furiously performed, with Verey's gradual unravelling going some way to explain the lack of emotional empathy that sees him lash out with such tragic consequences.

Verey attacks Ridley's impressive script with a close-up rage by Verey that makes you wonder just how far he can go without popping a vein in this powerful study of how a simple argument can turn into something far deadlier.

Runs until August 31st.


It's been almost thirty years since German playwright Manfred Karge's Man to Man was first seen in Edinburgh. Karge's portrait of Ella, a woman who adopted her dead crane driver husband Max's identity in order to survive was a kind of one-woman Mother Courage for modern times. This new production by Bruce Guthrie and Frantic Assembly's Scott Graham for the Wales Millennium Centre sharpens that even more in Alexandra Wood's new translation, which features a barely recognisable Margaret Ann Bain stuffing her trousers with vegetables as Ella shape-shift her way into Max's macho world.

Set against the steel-grey walls and bare floorboards of Richard Kent's set, here Ella / Max confesses her plight as she moves through history from Nazi Germany to the building of the Berlin Wall and beyond, learning to drink schnapps with the boys and warding off would-be suitors out of a necessity that ultimately leaves her alone. As she toughens up, so she saddens, losing one identity as she finds another.

It's a rivetingly bleak affair, with Bain looking increasingly like she's occupying a cell as her nightmares close in on her by way of projected shadow-play. Even her one moment of hope after the Wall comes down takes her down a blind alley, as Bain gives a remarkable performance in this haunting depiction of the pains of survival.

Runs until August 31


In the gloom of a Catholic church, a woman comes to make peace, both with her mother and her own past that has shaped her in The Deliverance, the third part of Quebecois writer Jennifer Tremblay's trilogy of one-woman plays presented by the Stellar Quines Theatre Company. Over the course of an hour, the woman attempts to purge away the hand-me-down baggage she's been carrying around with her since childhood in order to reconcile broken bonds.

The woman's tale of everyday estrangement began with Tremblay's previous two plays, The List and The Carousel, also produced by Stellar Quines. Under the guidance of director Muriel Romanes, Shelley Tepperman's translation transcends the ordinary to become something epic. This is especially so with the presence of actress Maureen Beattie, who has played the woman in all three plays with an astonishingly vibrant mix of vivacity, vulnerability and anger as she unleashes her angry prayer.

With the mood set from the off as the audience walk through the venue's corridor, this is an emotionally ferocious display, and with the opportunity there to see all three plays in one day, audiences should cherish this beautiful and merciful release.

Runs until August 31.

The Herald, August 17th 2015

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