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Showing posts from August, 2012


Royal Lyceum Theatre 4 stars On a movie screen, a terrified young woman is pleading for her life in what could be a scene from a lo-fi horror flick. The next time we see the woman we find out is called Alice, she’s in front of a camera again, just as scared as she auditions for a hard-core porn film. Is Alice for real here, or is she faking it, to death if necessary? These are some of the questions being asked by director Matthew Lenton in Vanishing Point’s look at the dark side of pornography, co-produced with two Italian companies and Trmway, Glasgow. Here, as Alice’s tale is paralleled by an internet porn addict’s own descent, performers, directors and consumers become complicit in some psycho-sexual rabbit hole where love, erotica and even cheap thrills are forsaken in favour of what looks like extreme forms of mutual abuse. The third in Vanishing Point’s loose-knit trilogy of impressionistic works seen largely behind glass, where Interiors and Saturday Night loo

Dream Plays (Scenes From a Play I'll Never Write) - From Page to Stage

It's just before 10am in the Traverse Theatre, and artistic director Orla O'Loughlin has an awards ceremony to get to. It may be the last week of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but O'Loughlin has already been at work for two hours, as she has been for pretty much every day of August. The reason for such un-artistic early starts is Dream Plays (Scenes From a Play I'll Never Write), the series of twelve performed readings of newly commissioned works curated and directed by O'Loughlin with playwright David Greig, and which ran each day over two weeks. As the mini season's name suggests, each reading took place at 9am, a time when most Fringe carousers are just settling into some rapid eye movement after a night propping up their favoured watering hole. With a final hour's rehearsal for each play beginning at 8am, for O'Loughlin and Greig, at least, sleep has become something of a luxury in the rapid turnover required for each play. The first

Educating Ronnie

Assembly George Square 3 stars When Joe Douglas visited his Auntie Marie in Uganda on his gap year a decade ago, it opened up the then eighteen year old's eyes to a world of possibilities. One of these came in the form of Ronnie, a boy of his own age he instantly hit it off with. When Douglas returned to the UK, Ronnie sent him an email, asking him for a small amount of money to help get him through school. Another email followed, asking for more, and so it went, with assorted university fees, hospital bills and emergency payments, which combined almost hit the twenty grand mark. Bearing in mind that while Douglas was forking out all this, he was going through his own penny-pinching student years, and could have done with the extra cash himself. By transferring his real-life experience into a very candid monologue, Douglas has laid what is either a divine faith in people or spectacular naivete bare in an honest and self-deprecatory fashion. Where the subject might so

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It)

King’s Theatre 4 stars When a rowdy bunch burst noisily through the auditorium wielding a felled, full-size tree-trunk at the opening of Dmitry Krymov’s Russian language reimagining of Shakespeare’s frothiest rom-com, only the little dog padding about astride the tree truly knows what we’re in for. Krymov’s production, commissioned by the Chekhov International Theatre Festival for his School of Dramatic Art Theatre, after all, is billed as something ‘after Shakespeare’ rather than of it. So it goes in a wildly irreverent work that puts the Rude Mechanicals at the centre of the action rather than cast as the usual comic fall guys, even if there are prat-falls aplenty. Once the tree-trunk, then a leaky fountain, is disposed of on a stage covered with plastic sheeting, the troupe of players change into formal attire as they await their audience. This comes in the shape of a bunch of disgruntled toffs, whose mobile phones interrupt the action in a makeshift VIP area even

Les Naufrages du Fol Espoir (Aurores)

Lowland Hall, Royal Highland Centre 5 stars Before Theatre du Soleil’s four hour epic on life, death, revolution and the creative impulse itself has even begun, you’ve already entered into another world via a foyer transformed into an illusory idyll. With the company’s vast ensemble cast visible through a gauze curtain preparing themselves in makeshift dressing rooms, such an occupation sets the tone for an astonishing spectacle on a huge purpose-built wooden stage that recreates that contained in the company’s Paris home. What translates as Castaways of the Fol Espoir (Sunrises) is ostensibly based on a posthumously published Jules Verne novel, in which a pair of Socialist idealists attempt to make a film on no money as the First World War’s early rumblings begin to stir. Director Ariane Mnouchkine, writer Helene Cixous and an army of collaborators have created something so exquisitely self-reflexive that it goes some way to capturing the spirit and wisdom of Theatre

An Evening With David Hasselhoff Live – Pleasance Grand

3 stars The mock-up of the Berlin Wall painted with a German flag over-laden with peace symbols onstage is the perfect embodiment of East-West unification, especially when two dancing girls and a man in a sparkly 1980s jacket kick their way through the bricks that are holding it all together. By this time the beach-balls bouncing around the auditorium and the mass onstage Conga has already ensnared a room packed with willing worshippers. But this isn't some iconoclastic melding of east European avant-gardism and pop culture appropriating post-modernism. This is TV's best known former lifeguard's bombastic solo show, and we are all culpable. Opening with a big-screen montage of his greatest hits, Hasselhoff enters from the back of the auditorium singing a rat pack style rendition of Nina Simone's Feeling Good, before strutting his way to the stage for a tea-time diversion of taking stock, Hoff-style. What this means is a loose-knit narrative from Knight Ri

The Rape of Lucrece

Royal Lyceum Theatre 5 stars It’s a glorious sleight of hand, putting Brechtian style cabaret performed by a genuine Fringe phenomonan into the Edinburgh International Festival theatre programme. In Irish chanteuse Camille O’Sullivan’s vivid rendering of Shakespeare’s epic poem of one woman’s bloody violation and the self-destruction it inspires, EIF, along with the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose banner Elizabeth Freestone’s production falls under, have struck gold. The intensity of what ensues is difficult to gauge from O’Sullivan’s chattily casual entrance with pianist and co-composer Feargal Murray. Dressed in a floor-length death-black dress and wearing her hair tied up on a sumptuous-looking stage piled high with stacks of paper and descending wall-hangings that veer from stained to distressed, O’Sullivan segues her introduction into Shakespeare’s verse with a seamless charm her Irish accent lures you in with. This already is streets ahead of old-school readin

Theatre Uncut 3 – Traverse 4 stars

The final compendium of short new plays with a conscience done in a lo-fi script-in-hand manner in the Traverse bar cafe first thing in the morning was a part greatest hits, part world exclusive show that fully justified the initiative's Bank of Scotland Herald Angel win at the weekend. Two plays, Anders Lustgarten's The Break Out and Clara Brennan's heartfelt and life-affirming monologue, Spine, had been deemed good enough to merit speedy revivals. Lustgarten's piece about two female jailbirds who find they're able to break out with ease after prison budget cuts mean less bricks in the walls even had the added bonus of two different actresses playing the cell-mates to add a different energy to proceedings. It is Spine, however, that should be downloaded and distributed (free of charge, as with all Theatre Uncut contributions) post-haste. Rosie Wyatt's rendering of Brennan's beautiful play about a pan-generational alliance in care of a horde o

Dream Plays (Scenes From a Play I'll Never Write) – Traverse 4 stars

While Theatre Uncut occupied a 10am slot each Monday morning of the Fringe, the other six days of the week were equally occupied with immediacy. Taking place at what in Edinburgh terms is a bleary-eyed 9am, this series of compendium of brand new works by largely established writers allows them to run away with their imaginations in a series of script in hand presentations, with half coming under the directorship of Traverse artistic director Orla O'Loughlin, and half with playwright David Greig. The first week opened with Most Favoured, a look by David Ireland at how the second coming might work out if it involved a KFC obsessed angel and a far from virgin Mary in a cheap hotel room where a one night stand suddenly becomes bigger than both of them. With Gabriel Quigley's desperate singleton a priceless foil to Jordan McCurrach's junk-food obsessed angel, Ireland has penned a scurrilously sacrilegious bite-size sketch that one could imagine being developed f

Dmitry Krymov - A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It)

The Russians, it has often been noted, approach Chekhov in a vastly different manner than how English theatre-makers do. Where a home-grown production of The Cherry Orchard might be full of laughs, a British take on Chekhov is likely to make heavy classicist weather of the playwright's pre-absurdist ennui. Whether the same reverence applies to Russian directors when taking on Shakespeare's canon remains to be seen as Russian wunderkind Dmitry Krymov arrives at the Edinburgh International Festival this week with his version of ultimate seasonal rom-com, A Midsummer Night's Dream. In an EIF theatre season that is awash with reinvented classics, Krymov's Dream has been brought to Edinburgh via the Moscow-based Chekhov International Theatre Festival and Krymov's own Laboratory School of Art Theatre Production. The production was commissioned, however, by the Royal Shakespeare Company, who have just previewed it over nine days as part of the 2012 World Sha

Edinbugh Festival Fringe 2012 - Theatre Reviews 10

The Shit – Summerhall 4 stars A naked woman squats astride a platform holding in to a microphone and precious little else in Cristian Ceresoli's solo play, performed in an unflinching, no-holds-barred howl of rage by Silvia Gallerano. Whether live art prop or practical aids to counteract the room’s boomy acoustics isn’t clear, but it certainly helps Gallerano spew out Ceresoli's litany of self-loathing to pin you to your seat. As Gallerano's mouth moves in rapid-fire shapes akin to some blood and lipstick smeared form of origami, nothing is hidden, not the narrator's bulimia, nor her messed-up relationships with her father, nor her chase after fame. Subtitled The Disgust Decalogue Number 1, this is a relentlessly confrontational piece of work that tumbles from Gallerano's gut as if ripping the skin from her very being. By turns shrill, even as she laughs at herself, Gallerano delivers an exhausting but utterly compelling verbal symphony that never flin

Theatre du Soleil - Les Naufrages du Fol Espoir (Aurores) / The Castaways of the Fol Espoir (Sunrises)

In the Bois de Vincennes, an old munitions factory on the outskirts of Paris, the day is just beginning for Theatre du Soleil, the radical theatre company founded on radical ideals of collectivism in 1964. The company are preparing to bring their epic production of Les Naufrages du Fol Espoir (Aurores), or The Castaways of the Fol Espoir (Sunrises) in English, to Edinburgh in an all too rare appearance on British soil. The production, loosely adapted from a posthumously published novel by Jules Verne, tells the story of a 1914 voyage of the Fol Espoir to Cape Horn, where the ship's passengers want to set up an idealistic community while the rest of the world drives relentlessly to what became the First World War. Meanwhile, a film crew attempt to tell this tale of doomed utopianism by using restaurant staff as actors. On one level, the tale reflects the existence, philosophy, working methods and ideals of Theatre du Soleil itself. When they were founded, the Cold Wa

Villa + Discurso

The Hub 4 stars When writer and director of this Chilean double bill Guillermo Calderon introduces his work at the front of the Hub’s intimate purpose-built stage, it sums up his entire aesthetic, if not the anger that follows in his dialogue. Because at no point is anything hidden by the three women who appear in both works that dissect Chile’s post-Pinochet legacy, linked by a song as they move the set around in-between the two. Villa finds the three gathered around a table holding a miniature of Villa Grimaldi, the former dictator’s notorious torture house. The trio have been co-opted to decide what should happen to the site in a democratic Chile. Should Grimaldi be flattened and the land re-developed? Or should it be converted into a museum as a reminder of the atrocities carried out there? An initial vote is split three ways, with one ballot paper spoilt. The fierce debate that ensues reveals far more than just the fact that they’re all called Alejandra. As the

The List - Stellar Quines Go Solo

Stellar Quines are full of surprises. The female-focused theatre company who have slowly but surely become a fantastical force in Scottish theatre may appear to be shrinking if the size of their new show is anything to go by, but in actual fact, the company's artistic imagination is more expansive than ever. The last two Stellar Quines productions, Age of Arousal and ANA, were big, main-stage affairs that looked at sex and sensuality through a woman's eyes via a form of magical-realism that defined both plays' Quebecois roots. The company's new show, The List, which has an Edinburgh Festival Fringe run at Summerhall before going out on a brief Scottish tour, is also written by a Quebecois playwright. In sharp contrast to the other plays, however, Jennifer Tremblay's piece is an intimate work written for one actor, who must look the audience full in the face as she confesses her role in a neighbour's death. Where ANA took five years to reach the st

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012 - Theatre Reviews 9

Monkey Bars – Traverse – 4 stars With the pan-generational mix of teenage angst and impending death onstage at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Chris Goode's new verbatim piece taken from conversations initiated by Karl James looks to an even younger generation for guidance. Goode's own co-production with the Unicorn Theatre then has adult actors suited and booted in grown-up office and dinner-party wear. The juxtaposition between half-formed voices possibly learned from parents by rote and a presentation and delivery that givers the performers the air of politicians or bureaucrats is a fascinating one. Talk of favourite sweets and playtime is subsequently given the weight by Goode's six performers of life-changing events that they actually do when you're eight years old. This avoids any Kids Say the Funniest Things style cutesiness, and is more akin to the very first series of Michael Apted's seminal and ongoing TV documentary, Seven Up. T

Phenotype Genotype (PhG)

Summerhall until September 27th 2012 4 stars There is no more perfect show to illustrate where Summerhall has come from than this vast display of avant-garde detritus culled from the even vaster archive of the Edinburgh-based Heart Fine Art set-up. From John and Yoko to Gilbert and George to Jake and Dinos Chapman, everybody's here in an eminently tactile but tantalisingly untouchable display of all the abstract art-stars that made the twentieth century. Books, badges, manifestos, pamphlets, calling cards, provocations, an inevitable first edition of Guy Debord's 'La Societe du Spectacle', a Warhol print and a Fluxus game by George Brecht are all in the frame in this gloriously jumbled-up and refreshingly non-digital display of parallel universe memorabilia. Seen together, it's as obsessive a collection as the artists it gathers for a fantasy salon that the Swiss cheese of the original Cabaret Voltaire Dadaist boys club in Zurich could only wet-dream


North West Northumberland Street Lane Aug 18-19, 25-26, or by appointment 4 stars In a residential dribe-in, a portable TV sits on a rug on the floor, a bouquet of flowers laid down before it. On-screen, a collage of scenes from a 1980s TV compendium of schlocky horror play out in Rebecca Key with Melodien's 'Sevant! Sevant! Vol 1: Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense.'. On the walls around it and in two other lock-ups either side, pages of text-book guides to motherhood are pinned up and subverted by Ailie Rutherford's overlaid drawings of suckling pigs and jets of milk shooting from nipples, or else cotton reels criss-cross each other as they run from a clump of coloured straws plugged into the wall by Jo Arksey. With a dozen or so artists' works crammed into the three spaces alongside some back garden and front cellar installations, GARAGE is an ingeniously busy temporary occupation of places used for private hoarding or else plain old car parking

Wonderland - Vanishing Point Jump In

When Vanishing Point artistic director Matthew Lenton spoke out regarding arts funding body Creative Scotland's ill-thought out plans that put the future of some forty-nine major organisations in jeopardy, he was echoing the thoughts of everyone in the arts community who the bureaucrats in Waverleygate are accountable to. The fact that Lenton had the vocal support of National Theatre of Scotland head Vicky Featherstone should make those same bureaucrats take serious notice. As Lenton prepares for Wonderland, his contribution to Edinburgh International Festival's theatre programme, it is clear that Vanishing Point are a major international force, and their loss to Scotland would be unforgivable. Back in June, however, long before Lenton broke cover, he was getting lost in an even darker mire than even the lower depths of Creative Scotland could muster. On a big screen in a large Glasgow rehearsal room, a live feed of a young woman's face can be seen in close-u

Gulliver’s Travels - EIF 2012

Kings Theatre 4 stars The women who whinny and canter like horses as the audience enter are a striking introduction to Romanian maestro Silviu Purcarete’s impressionistic interpretation of Jonathan Swift’s great satirical novel. It’s as if they’re higher beings on a catwalk, tantalisingly untouchable but irresistible too. The fact that this image of Swift’s Houyhnhnms is almost immediately upstaged by something even greater speaks volumes about Purcarete’s power to impress, even as the feral Yahoos – human beings in their basest form – move in en masse. Taking the fourth book of Swift’s epic as his starting point, Purcarete maps out an absurd nightmare portrait of man’s inhumanity to man through two figures bookending the ages. As an old man is carted off to an institution, his storybook left behind, a little boy rides in on a wooden horse to pick up the pages. With the child onstage throughout, it’s as if the series of extravagant tableaux and ensemble-based sketches

Villa + Discurso - Chile's Legacy With Guillermo Calderon

There have been a lot of riots in Chile lately. As radical director Guillermo Calderon prepare to return to Edinburgh International Festival with Villa and Discurso, a double bill of plays steeped in  his country's heritage of the fascist dictatorship led for seventeen years by General Augusto Pinochet, it's a scene he knows well. Last week, the streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities were awash with protests by tens of thousands of students demonstrating about how the country's education system is run. With word of the demonstrations spread via social media, student leaders encouraged their supporters to take up pits and pans to indulge in something called 'cacerolazos', a noisy form of protest used frequently during the Pinochet regime. As Calderon made clear when last in Edinburgh with his production of his play, Diciembre, Pinochet's brutal reign is the main influence on him as an artist. Talking the day before travelling to Edinburgh with his new produ