Sunday, 21 August 2016

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 Theatre Reviews 6 - Counting Sheep - Summerhall@ King's Hall, Four stars / The Red Shed - Traverse Theatre, Four stars / Mouse - The Persistance of An Unlikely Thought - Traverse Theatre, Four stars

“In a revolution you don't need a diary,” says an audience member to her partner during a mass waltz mid-way through Counting Sheep, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra's 'guerilla folk opera' retelling of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine that opened up in 2004 before turning nasty a decade later. A relatively innocuous beginning sees the room kitted out for what looks like it's about to host a church hall feast with big makeshift screens beaming out news footage above. The junkyard klezma euphoria that soundtracks the starter bursts wide open along with the space, so keening east European chorales accompany a military raid that tears the interior of the premises apart.

From that point on, the audience and the show's seventeen performers are pretty much inseparable in a gloriously messy barrage that sees us mucking in, manning barricades and embracing the still beautiful idea of revolution as carnival. Created by Mark and Marichka Marczyk, a Canadian and a Ukranian who met during the protests and formed an alliance of their own, the sound and fury that fires the show points to a sense of participation and people power which, in the Lemon Bucket Orkestra's world, at least, will never be defeated.

Runs to August 28

Mark Thomas has been the left wing conscience of the Fringe for some years now, and in The Red Shed, his latest piece of stand-up activist theatre, he channels a firebrand spirit which in the current political climate is more necessary than ever. On a red carpeted stage set up with wooden tables and chairs and with scarlet doors at its centre, Thomas invites us into the forty-seven foot shed that forms Wakefield Labour Club, a place where he cut his performing teeth as a young drama student, and where, more significantly, he discovered politics by way of the Miners Strike and the world of working class struggles immortalised on the Red Shed's walls.

Director Joe Douglas enables Thomas to steer through this past with an unashamedly partisan vigour that brings to life a past that is in danger of being buried. As with all his shows, this is as much a journey for Thomas as those watching. Having six of those audience members onstage is key here. Their presence taps into a need, not just to watch passively in the dark as history is removed ever further from us, but to participate and help make the sort of history that The Red Shed so passionately advocates.

Runs to August 28

“When will I learn to tailor my ambition to my ability?” asks Daniel Kitson midway through Mouse – The Persistence of an Unlikely Thought, his latest late-night show for the Traverse. When he says this, Kitson has just stepped out of character as William, a warehouse-bound writer who receives a phone call from a wrong number whose dialler sounds oddly familiar. It's one of several points in the show when he does this, acknowledging his own mistakes or else pointing out the heat of the room or a yawning audience member.

Despite attempts to hang up on his wrong number, Kitson's possibly auto-biographical creations strike up a rapport as they brainstorm William's protracted attempts to tell a story about a mouse. What emerges over the next one hundred minutes or so is a conciously discursive meditation on the solitary nature of the creative process as internal dialogues vye for attention. In this way, Kitson's sense of parallel universe style duallism is a way of him writing his own story-book, brim-full of obsessions, psychological detritus and a craving to connect in a meticulously trag-comic construction that is the most revealing hint at what makes Kitson tick to date.

Runs to August 28
The Herald, August 20th 2016

ends

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