Skip to main content

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 Theatre Reviews 7 - The Titanic Orchestra - Pleasance Courtyard - Three stars / Walking The Tightrope - Underbelly Topside - Three stars / Polyphony - Summerhall - Four stars

As austerity bites, everyone's looking for a way out. So it is with the four tramps eking out their lives at the abandoned railway station in The Titanic Orchestra, Bulgarian playwright Hristo Boytchev's play, seen here in Russell Bolam's production in a new translation by Steve King. As the quartet dramatise their existence by rehearsing what might happen if a train stopped to pick them up, a quasi-Beckettian landscape emerges as they start to lose faith in the things they can barely imagine anymore.

When an equally shabby huckster turns up on their patch claiming to be a magician called Harry, things appear to be possible again as the motley crew are co-opted into the ultimate vanishing act.

As Harry, John Hannah laces his performance with an affable charm alongside an international cast in the UK premiere of this archly-played curio that questions the nature of reality, fantasy and the things you have to kid yourself about in order to survive.

Runs until August 31.

Free speech on the fringe was put under the microscope last year when the young Israeli company, Incubator Theatre, were forced to cancel their hip hop opera following protests from pro Palestinian groups. The eight plays in Walking The Tightrope are a direct response to that, as well as to the cancellation of Brett Bailey's Exhibit B at the Barbican in London following the show's Edinburgh International Festival run.

Radio reports of these and similar events play prior to Cressida Brown's production of a varied compendium, which opens with Mark Ravenhill's What Are We Going To Do About Harry? a wry dig at how private sponsors can hold undue influence on theatre programming, to Caryl Churchill's Tickets Are On Sale.

While Neil LaBute's wilfully provocative Exhibit A asks how far art itself can go as a performance artist has anal sex with his model onstage, some of the other plays look too much like theatrical in-jokes. With two male and two female performers tag-teaming throughout, and with each show followed by a panel discussion, he programme is worth it alone for Churchill's piece. Here conversation is rendered meaningless by the sort of vacuous managerialist marketing-speak beloved by box-ticking funding bodies across the land.

Runs until August 31.

Also contemplating his own art is the ever wilful Daniel Kitson, whose healthy disrespect for the theatrical status quo extends to him not issuing press tickets for his new show, Polyphony. Such a gesture may or may not be part of the overall concept for his ingeniously constructed meditation on the absence of others, but what follows as the audience navigate a Spinal Tap size Stonehenge-like circle of fifteen iPod shuffles attached to small speakers as they enter. Either way, as Kitson hands each one out at random, he reveals that each iPod will 'perform' a play about an old man in the future who buys a job lot of iPod shuffles and writes a play with them.

Except that as he explains, assorted voices on the iPods which are now forming part of the audience proceed to interject, question and at times aggressively question Kitson's artistic process and, eventually, his entire raison d'etre. Kitson argues back, sparring with the disembodied until he runs out of time and his play is lost to the bottom drawer of his mind.

Playing on his own perceived persona, Kitson has created a play for voices which is as if composer Gyorgi Ligetti had orchestrated his piece for one hundred metronomes, Poeme Symphonique, to Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of An Author. The result might easily have been dubbed Kitson's Last Tape in a dramatic orchestration as wry as it is profound.

Runs until August 30th

The Herald, August 21st 2015



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…

Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a busy woman. The thirty-two year old actress who burst onto our TV screens as writer and star of Fleabag, the tragi-comic sort of sit-com about a supposedly independent woman on the verge is currently overseeing Killing Eve, her new TV drama which she's written for BBC America. As an actress, Waller-Bridge is also filming a big screen project which we can't talk about, but which has already been outed as being part of the ongoing Star Wars franchise.

These are both pretty good reasons why Waller-Bridge won't be appearing in the brief Edinburgh Festival Fringe revival of the original stage play of Fleabag, when it opens next week at the Underbelly, where it was first unleashed to the world in 2013. In her place, Maddie Rice will take on the role of the potty-mouthed anti-heroine after touring Vickie Jones' production for Waller-Bridge and Jones' DryWrite company in association with Soho Theatre. This doesn't mean Waller-Bridge has turned…

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…