Skip to main content

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 Theatre Reviews 6 - The History of the World Based on Banalities - Summerhall - Three stars / Light Boxes - Summerhall - Four stars / The Christians - Traverse Theatre - Three stars

A young man plays bat and ball in a messy kitchen at the opening of The History of the World Based on Banalities Johan De Smet and Titus De Voogdt's new play produced by the Koppergeitery company as part of this year's Big in Belgium programme. Without a word being said, notions of velocity and gravity are being proffered up in this most everyday of exercises. When the boy played by De Voogdt starts talking to the audience, about his scientist mother who's lost her bearings through Alzheimer's disease, such a sense of his own isolation sparks up a curiosity that finds voice through a series of free-associating quantum leaps that fall somewhere between alchemy and idealism.

Accompanied by a hooded electric guitarist who skulks behind the fridge freezer twanging out some dust-bowl laden dirges, De Voogdt's character acts like he's home alone as he embraces new liberties en route to reclaiming his affinity with his mother from the totems left behind even as she slips further away from him. It's a deceptively poignant piece possessed with low-key depth accentuated by De Voogdt's perennially optimistic seeker after truth.

Runs until August 14

It is the bleakest of mid-winters in Light Boxes, Finn den Hertog's impressionistic version of Shane Jones' already fantastical novel, rendered here in Den Hertog's own production for site-specific auteurs Grid Iron as the grimmest of twenty-first century fairytales. Here the month of February has taken over, and even paper aeroplanes have been grounded in a place where flight is no longer allowed. For balloonist Thaddeus, his wife Selah and their daughter Bianca, a cold pervades the purity of their homespun topsy-turvy world. Rebellion is coming, however, as an army of animal masked insurgents set about getting airborne again just as Bianca is lost to the elements.

There's a gorgeous sense of hand-knitted magic to Den Hertog's production, from the way the cast of Melody Grove, Keith Macpherson and Vicki Manderson split the narrative between them as if telling a bedside story for dystopian times, to the way they play fiddle and junkyard percussion to accompany Michael John McCarthy's live backwoods slow-core score.

Karen Tennent's set engulfes the stage with an upside-down world of magical-realist abstractions which the vintage-apparelled family must navigate their way through in a way that is brutally unsentimental in its willingness to sacrifice lead characters. Whether as a metaphor for mass Seasonal Affected Disorder or for the effects of an authority who would rather keep their charges in the dark, Den Hertog and co have produced a living parable of just how hard it is sometimes to come blinking into the light and take flight.

Runs until August 30

Faith and what it means to believe are put under scrutiny in The Christians, American writer Lucas Hnath's play which receives its UK premiere in a production by London's Gate Theatre. Set in a mock-up of a real life church, as with any holy communion, it's easy to be suckered into a revivalist vibe by the sheer elation of community choir, Song Works, who open the show. Once William Gaminara's Pastor Paul introduces the play proper with a prayer and a sermon that marks the beginning of the end of his kingdom.

Flanked by his associates, his elders, his wife and, most crucially of all, his congregation, Paul's progressive suggestion that Hell might not exist is a calculated risk that doesn't exactly go down well. As assorted dissenters take the microphone to speak in turn, the play's construction is closer to Greek tragedy than the pulpit.

Rather than the church per se, this could be parliament or any other hierarchical constructions based on ideology. Although he's left with nothing, Paul and his wife, played by Jaye Griffiths, may be saved yet.

Runs until August 30

The Herald, August 20th 2015


end










Comments

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…

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…

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…