Monday, 24 August 2015

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 Theatre Reviews 8 - Smash it Up - Summerhall - Four stars / Tar Baby - Gilded Balloon - Four stars / Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer - Underbelly - Four stars

It's not just City of Edinburgh Council who are wilfully ignorant to their city's artistic past as they flog off everything in sight to any property developer who comes calling. In 2013 in Newport, South Wales, Kenneth Rudd's mural commemorating the Chartist uprising of 1839 was destroyed in the underpass it was built into alongside adjacent buildings so the privately owned Friars Walk shopping centre could be built.

The response of the South Wales-based live art troupe, Mr and Mrs Clark and their artistic cohorts, Bosch, is Smash it Up, a furious hour-long cut-up of performance lecture confessional, artistic actions, film, dance routines and a welter of pop-art detritus that rallies for an assault on the sort of reductive money-led culture that is now the norm.

Using Gustav Metzger's notion of auto-destructive art as its thesis, the two men and one woman who make up Mr and Mrs Clark unleash a wild and often witty plea for artistic and civic preservation that's high on theory even as it throws live art shapes that become increasingly madcap in a gloriously messy collision of activism and art

Runs until August 29th.
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To suggest that Desiree Burch is playing the race card in her one woman extravaganza, Tar Baby, is something of an understatement. Over ninety minutes Burch dissects institutionalised racism as she becomes an old time carnival barker co-opting the audience into demonstrating exactly what slavery means to unleashing her own experience of what it means to be black and American right now.

Burch's huge burst of energy sucker punches the audience into thinking they're on course for a straight-up comic routine. What they get instead is a series of provocations which, while laced with humour, are the deadliest of wake-up calls for the institutionalised racism that prevails.

As she flirts with cultural stereotypes before blowing it up in our faces, Burch tells it like it is in a rough-shod hymn to civil rights that's sealed with a kiss.

Runs until August 31.

It's been more than a decade since Penny Arcade regaled Edinburgh with her frontline dispatches from New York's original demi-monde. In the intervening years the all-pervasive horrorshow of gentrification has conspired to destroy what once made the Big Apple and pretty much every other city in the world, Edinburgh included, great. The motor-mouthed conscience of the counter-culture isn't happy about this, and pulls no punches in Longing Lasts Longer, an hour-long free-form call to arms for the freaks who got swept aside in in NY's upgrade to strike back.

Accompanied by an aural collage of some of New York's most iconic auteurs who soundtracked points ranging from Andy Warhol's Factory to Studio 54, Arcade takes no prisoners as she peers out from her shock of scarlet hair. Cupcake eating hipsters, middle youth and a generation currently having their own youth robbed by debt and careers are all in the line of her rapid-fire verbal machine-gun charges. These are spat out as perfectly polished epigrams designed to provoke a generation who never had to fight for anything into doing something more real with their lives. Ms Arcade has already been there, done that and is still doing it. Now she wants you to do the same.

Runs until August 30th.

The  Herald, August 24th 2015

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