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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012 - Reviews

A Midsummer Night's Dream – Botanic Gardens
3 stars

Why Do You Stand There In the Rain ?– C – 3 stars

Besides The Obvious – C – 3 stars

Shopping Centre – Gilded Balloon – 4 stars

 From the moment a gaggle of day-glo painted sprites lead the audience 
gathered at the Botanics Gardens North gate through all manner of 
exotic flora and fauna, its clear that Scottish Youth Theatre's first 
ever visit to Edinburgh is a punky, spunky junk-shop take on 
Shakespeare's evergreen rom-com, A Midsummer Night's Dream. As 
Peaseblossom, Cobweb and all the rest giggle, skip and frolic in the 
long grass en route to what they as celestial debutantes describe as a 
party, we duly promenade to the pool outside Inverleith House, where 
Fraser MacLeod's playful production begins. A stripy-blazered cyclist 
pulls a small, lead-adorned truck with a mini sound system inside, and 
the fairies dance some more.

As we move around already sumptuous-looking gardens dressed up even 
more by designer Kenny Miller, Titania morphs into a back-combed Mary 
Queen of Scots, while Ross Brown's original score,sounds like the 
missing link between Godspell and the Wicker Man. Even with the walking 
required between locations, the whole thing clocks in at just over 
ninety minutes, and is performed with abandoned gusto by a cast of more 
than twenty.

If there is actually too much wandering and too much of a hodge-podge 
in terms of sight-lines, there are some lovely touches, including a 
principal boy/girl as Lysander, a clever use of recorded voices played 
through hand-held speakers as Puck dupes all about him and a rare 
exuberance that more than justifies this truncated version's 'Twisted 
Shakespeare' strapline. Beyond the main action, it's the fairies who 
are rather oddly the show's force of nature. As the finale closes with 
a merry dance somewhere between the Dying Fly and the Timewarp, it's 
clear there's still plenty of life after dark at a party which, for 
MacLeod's young cast, has clearly only just begun.

There's more singing in Why Do You Stand There in the Rain?, Peter 
Arnott's new play written for students at Pepperdine University in 
Malibu, California as part of a Scots/US exchange programme. In Cathy 
Thomas-Grant's production, however, the tunes have more of a polemical 
bent. Arnott tells the story of the Bonus Army, a hidden but crucial 
part of America's radical history, when thousands of poverty-stricken 
World War One veterans marched en masse to the White House, occupying 
Washington for three months.

  If such a story sounds familiar in today's war on terror age, in 
Arnott's hands, it's probably meant to. By tapping into such a rich 
seam of source material as well as folk songs from the era, Arnott and 
Thomas-Grant have created a box-car pageant that is effectively an 
American take on Oh What A Lovely War by way of Clifford Odets' Waiting 
For Lefty and The Grapes of Wrath. In making his point, Arnott even 
initiates some buddy-style solidarity between a young firebrand and a 
contemporary who's essentially had his brains blown out. Anyone who 
still believes that marching doesn't change anything should join up for 
this post-haste.

Beside the Obvious is a far more intimate new play by Cameron Forbes, 
who brings two very different brothers together for an uneasy reunion. 
Eddie is a seemingly successful lawyer in the family firm, Daniel a 
soft-touch artist turned police photographer who escaped the nest for 
reasons only alluded to in a series of cryptic, quick-fire exchanges. 
As the sirens in Eddie's head become more pronounced, it's clear that 
Daniel has a heap of evidence to call Eddie.

Forbes developed his script with fellow graduates of Edinburgh Napier 
University and Queen Margaret University's Acting for Stage and Screen 
Course, and produced it via the alliance of New Celt Productions and 
41st 92nd Theatre Company. It's an ambitious if at times overloaded 
first effort, which adopts the clipped speech patterns and implied 
menaces of Pinter and Mamet. There are echoes too, in its depiction of 
families ripped asunder, of David Storey's In Celebration, albeit with 
an in-yer-face hangover.

While both Sean Langtree as Eddie and David Edment as Daniel spar 
convincingly, at just over half an hour, Forbes' text needs to be 
fleshed out, even as some of the more contrived lines need to be 
excised. The play's dark intentions are all there, however, in a short, 
sharp shocker announcing  a new voice to watch.

Also a bit messed up is Jim, the camouflage trousered, track-suit 
topped socio-path in Shopping Centre, Matthew Osborn's blisteringly 
incisive dissection of the broken Britain David Cameron's Big Society 
became. We first encounter Jim dragging an unconscious security guard 
into his basement lair in the precinct he's now living in since the 
collapse of his marriage. Like an Essex boy Travis Bickle, Jim offloads 
a heap of neuroses as he prepares for war. Preferring to touch 
furniture to people, Jim has written to the Prime Minister a hundred 
times, and now dreams of the hitherto unexplored erotic possibilities 
of his smile.

Performed by Osborn himself with scarifying intensity in Maggie 
Hinchley's production, Shopping Centre's tautly realised and 
fantastically performed script captures the troublingly recognisable 
downward spiral of a disenfranchised working-class male in crisis and 
about to explode. Reactionary, unreconstructed and sexually repressed, 
there are probably a million Jims out there fighting for survival. 
Osborn's study of this man on the street, however, is anything but 
ordinary.

The Herald, Aug 2, 2012

ends




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