Thursday, 25 August 2016

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 Theatre Reviews 7 - The View From Castle Rock - Artspace@St Mark's, Four stars / The Hours Before We Wake - Underbelly - Three stars / The Way the City Ate the Stars - Underbelly, Three stars

Canadian writer Alice Munro is something of a heroine in literary circles. This is something that the sell-out staging of two of her short stories in The View From Castle Rock confirms, as it brings to life Munro's real life nineteenth century ancestors, the Laidlaw family, who leave the Scottish borders behind for a new life in Canada. Rather than focus on what happens when they get there, Munro's text, adapted faithfully by Linda McLean and split between five actors in Marilyn Imrie's production for the Stellar Quines company as part of Edinburgh International Book Festival, charts the voyage itself.

As the actors enter along the pews of St Marks' magnificent interior clutching copies of Munro's book, we ushered into a messy world of lives in motion, as several generations of Laidlaws attempt to make themselves heard,criss-crossing dialogue and description between them. In this way the story is given weight, depth and a poignancy elevated both by Pippa Murphy's score and sound design, which seems to echo down the centuries, and a closing coup de theatre which can't fail to tug at the heart-strings.

There's a quiet beauty at the heart of a story that becomes a piece of hand-me-down history that gets to the roots, not just of Munro's background, but to a global DNA that makes clear more than ever, just as Young Fathers did at their Edinburgh International Festival gig, that we are all migrants now.

Run ended.

There aren't enough science-fiction plays around, and late theatrical maverick, Ken Campbell, who produced a legendary twelve-hour staging of Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus with his Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool in 1977 would surely approve of The Hours Before We Wake. Produced by the young Bristol-based Tremelo Theatre, the play is a bare bones black comedy set in a world where people have the power to control their dreams and make them freely available for all to see. For one man, this mean becoming a hero and getting the girl he loves to notice him.

In a world where everyone can be a star after dark, it also makes for a flesh and blood nightmare of high voltage conspiracies and noirish plot-turns that both intrigue and entertain. While themes of technology careering out of control have been a staple of sci-fi for decades, for the generation the play's young cast belong to they are more pertinent than ever, especially in a present increasingly dominated by social media and virtual reality. There's subsequently a freshness to a show created and devised by the company under Jack Drewry's direction, both in the story and in a playing style that fizzes with wit in a wilfully lo-fi construction.

Runs until August 29

When Australian performer Wil Greenway begins his latest piece of storytelling theatre, The Way the City Ate the Stars, with a scene-setting prelude about how a Christmas kiss is usurped by Santa Claus, it ushers in an even more twinkling tale about how a wrongly sent text message changes the lives of its recipients forever. Out of this, Greenway gradually unravels a tale of criss-crossing lives linked by a woman named Margaret, who reaches out to people who need her more than she'll ever know.

Greenway is an engagingly wide-eyed presence in a beautifully understated show made even more so by having each section of the story punctuated by live songs in an initially charming yarn that gradually evolves into a matter of everyday life and death.

Runs until August 29

The Herald, August 25th 2016
 
 
ends

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