Skip to main content

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 Theatre Reviews 4 - The Whip Hand - Traverse Theatre - Four stars / Cosmic Scallies - Summerhall - Three stars / Jess and Joe Forever - Traverse Theatre - Four stars

First world problems abound in The Whip Hand, Douglas Maxwell's new play, a co-production between the Traverse and Birmingham Rep in association with the National Theatre of Scotland. It opens in Lorenzo and Arlene's swish living room, where Arlene's ex Dougie has just turned fifty, and has a big announcement to make. Arlene and Dougie's daughter Molly is about to go to university, while Dougie's sister's son Aaron is equally smart, but appears to have mis-spent his youth in the pub with Dougie.

While Louise Ludgate's blousy Arlene and Richard Conlon's artsy flibbertigibbet Lorenzo have embraced the ghastly pseudo hipster posturing of craft ale culture, Jonathan Watson's heroically unreconstructed Dougie sticks strictly to old-school tinnies.

In Tessa Walker's production, what starts out as sit-com style awkwardness awash with wicked one-liners erupts into an explosive treatise on class, racial prejudice, social aspirations, acquired familial guilt and some of the pretensions and hypocrisy that go with them.

While all about Edinburgh are experimenting with all manner of theatrical forms, it's perhaps a bit of a shock to see such a piece of domestic naturalism. Skim beneath the play's surface, however, and the extremes it plugs into behind closed and well respected doors is a provocative assault on would-be liberal mores in every field.
Until August 27.

Dent and Shaun grew up in together in Skelmersdale, the urban new town somewhere between Wigan and Liverpool. Inseparable when they were kids,they are unexpectedly thrown together for the first time since Dent went off to university after she calls out for a handyman. Things have changed, however, and Dent is in need of medication to help ward off a debilitating disease. What emerges in Jackie Hagan's debut play, Cosmic Scallies, is a small town yarn of thwarted ambition, shared history and reconciliation told with a wicked back-street wit.

Amit Sharma's production for Graeae Theatre Company and Royal Exchange Manchester taps into Hagan's Shameless sired council estate wit with a rough and ready swagger carried by Rachel Denning as Dent (so nicknamed after Countdown's Susie Dent after being caught in possession of a book) and Reuben Johnson as Shaun. Out of this comes a far more serious exposition of a part of this country's population who the powers that be would prefer were marginalised out of existence. By the end, a good-natured yarn on the essentials of co-dependence and community looks like a TV show in waiting.
Until August 26.

At first glance, Zoe Cooper's bittersweet teenage romance, Jess and Joe Forever, looks for all the world like a charming but throwaway coming of age story. In a Norfolk village where everybody knows your business, local lad Joe and holiday home posh girl Jess catch each other's eye after she's caught spying on him and his mates swimming in a part of the river so small it doesn't even have a name. They are nine. Over the next four summers we watch their awkward relationship blossom as childhood turns to the growing pains of adolescence. Like the river, however, there are other things that can't be named, but which are only hinted sat darkly by the local busybodies who get to set the agenda about what's 'normal.'

All this is told by Jess and Joe themselves as they role-play their own recent history as if doing a high school show and tell. As the pair mess with retro cassette players and microphones, this makes for a lovely conceit in Derek Bond's production for the Farnham Maltings in association with the Orange Tree Theatre. Nicola Coughlan and Rhys Isaac-Jones capture that curious but self-protective air of clumsy enthusiasm and over-earnestness of the would-be couple. It is the unspoken you-and-me-against-the-world conspiracy of their relationship that proves so infectious in the play's heady mix of innocence and wisdom beyond their years.
Until August 27.

The Herald, August 14th 2017

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…

Rob Drummond – The Mack

Rob Drummond was at home in England when he looked at the news feed on his phone, and saw a post about the fire at Glasgow School of Art. It was June 2018, and the writer and performer behind such hits as Grain in the Blood, Bullet Catch and Our Fathers initially presumed the post was to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2014 blaze in GSA’s Mackintosh Building, which was undergoing a major restoration after much of it was destroyed.
As it turned out, the news was far worse, as reports of a second fire were beamed across the world. As someone who had taken Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic construction for granted while living in Glasgow, Drummond was as stunned as anyone else with even a passing relationship with the Mack.
While emotions continue to run high in response to the disaster, Drummond channelled his thoughts on all this into what he does best. The result is The Mack, a new play that forms part of Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint lunchtime theatre season in Glasgow prior …