Skip to main content

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012 - Theatre Reviews 5

Mies Julie – Assembly Hall – 5 stars

Woza Albert! - Assembly Hall – 4 stars

The People Show 121 – The Detective Show – Assembly George Square – 4 stars

Assembly Theatre's South African season is an intoxicating mix of old and new theatre from the frontline of the country's creative ferment. Baxter Theatre and South African State Theatre have joined forces to present Mies Julie, which places Strindberg's psycho-sexual pot-boiler in their post apartheid homeland. The result in Canadian playwright Yael Farber's own production of her version, set in a farm in the remote Eastern Cape Karoo, is a devastating reinvention that throws racial taboos into the mix of cross-class shenanigans and self-destructive power games between genders that already fester.

Here Julie is a white young woman, a troubled wild child who's just been dumped by her fiance and is drunk after gate-crashing the black servants' party. The object of her affections, John, is a black servant who cleans her father's boots before the simmering sexual tension that has grown between Julie and him spills over, as the electronic pulse which has throbbed throughout the play rises and falls with increasing intensity. All the while John's mother does her chores as ancient ghosts manifest themselves anew.

Put simply, Farber has concocted an electric piece of theatre, the sensual heat of which more resembling something by Tennessee Williams than Strindberg. Hila Cronje's Julie is an emotional mess even before she eggs Bongile Mantsai's John into brutal, animalistic sex which provides both a form of rebellion and a father figure. When the pair come together, it's as if the shackles of centuries of repression have been smashed. Yet, even when John stands defiant with rifle and blood-dripping sickle after Julie takes self-harm to symbolic extremes,, it's still John's mother that washes away the mess. Until August 27th

Also in the South African Season is the Market Theatre of Johannesburg's revival of Woza Albert!, Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon's devised apartheid era satire that brought black South African theatre to the world in the early 1980s. More than thirty years on, the trio's yarn about what happens when a reborn Christ turns up in the townships remains a vibrant document of its time that channels a panoply of South African street-life onto the stage in a raw and urgent fashion.

Now, as with the original production, two actors play a roll-call of prisoners, shop-keepers and presidents. Mincedisi Baldwin Shabangu and Peter Mashigo switch between these with little more than a couple of pairs of glasses and the odd robe pulled from a hung floor-board that acts as a coat-rail. Prince Ramla's production sticks too to the poor theatre techniques of old, which both men seize with physical abandon. While things are far from perfect in the new South Africa, Woza Albert! Is a timely reminder of how art and politics can combine in a fearless and joyful romp that's a turbo-charged delight. Until August 27th .

The People Show were similarly pioneering when the company now regarded as the UK's first ever experimental theatre troupe first appeared way back in 1966. The People Show 121 – The Detective Show continues the company's particularly English strain of surrealism in a self-referential investigation that throws Agatha Christie, Hedy Lamarr, Bob Dylan and Adolf Hitler's sperm into a big daft post-modern whodunnit designed for ageing hippies everywhere.

Gareth Brierley, Fiona Creese and Mark Long play-act a series of Life on Mars style coppers circa 1976, a somewhat effete Christie expert and a feckless wannabe actor called Gareth, played by his real-life namesake. There's true-love and antagonism in equal measure in a riot of free-associative pop cultural silliness on show here. This set the template for Edinburgh, and, just as The People Show got their first, they'll probably be the last men and women standing.

The real mystery of The Detective Show, of course, is what became of the mysterious Sadie Cook, the seemingly absent cast member advertised on the show's flyer, and where are the bodies buried? Of course, this may be a theatrical red herring. Either way, it's a clue worth solving. Until August 27th.

The Herald, August 10th 2012



Anonymous said…
Yael Farber is not Canadian, she's South African, but lives in Canada.


Popular posts from this blog

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…

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…