Skip to main content

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 Theatre Reviews 7 - The Titanic Orchestra - Pleasance Courtyard - Three stars / Walking The Tightrope - Underbelly Topside - Three stars / Polyphony - Summerhall - Four stars

As austerity bites, everyone's looking for a way out. So it is with the four tramps eking out their lives at the abandoned railway station in The Titanic Orchestra, Bulgarian playwright Hristo Boytchev's play, seen here in Russell Bolam's production in a new translation by Steve King. As the quartet dramatise their existence by rehearsing what might happen if a train stopped to pick them up, a quasi-Beckettian landscape emerges as they start to lose faith in the things they can barely imagine anymore.

When an equally shabby huckster turns up on their patch claiming to be a magician called Harry, things appear to be possible again as the motley crew are co-opted into the ultimate vanishing act.

As Harry, John Hannah laces his performance with an affable charm alongside an international cast in the UK premiere of this archly-played curio that questions the nature of reality, fantasy and the things you have to kid yourself about in order to survive.

Runs until August 31.

Free speech on the fringe was put under the microscope last year when the young Israeli company, Incubator Theatre, were forced to cancel their hip hop opera following protests from pro Palestinian groups. The eight plays in Walking The Tightrope are a direct response to that, as well as to the cancellation of Brett Bailey's Exhibit B at the Barbican in London following the show's Edinburgh International Festival run.

Radio reports of these and similar events play prior to Cressida Brown's production of a varied compendium, which opens with Mark Ravenhill's What Are We Going To Do About Harry? a wry dig at how private sponsors can hold undue influence on theatre programming, to Caryl Churchill's Tickets Are On Sale.

While Neil LaBute's wilfully provocative Exhibit A asks how far art itself can go as a performance artist has anal sex with his model onstage, some of the other plays look too much like theatrical in-jokes. With two male and two female performers tag-teaming throughout, and with each show followed by a panel discussion, he programme is worth it alone for Churchill's piece. Here conversation is rendered meaningless by the sort of vacuous managerialist marketing-speak beloved by box-ticking funding bodies across the land.

Runs until August 31.

Also contemplating his own art is the ever wilful Daniel Kitson, whose healthy disrespect for the theatrical status quo extends to him not issuing press tickets for his new show, Polyphony. Such a gesture may or may not be part of the overall concept for his ingeniously constructed meditation on the absence of others, but what follows as the audience navigate a Spinal Tap size Stonehenge-like circle of fifteen iPod shuffles attached to small speakers as they enter. Either way, as Kitson hands each one out at random, he reveals that each iPod will 'perform' a play about an old man in the future who buys a job lot of iPod shuffles and writes a play with them.

Except that as he explains, assorted voices on the iPods which are now forming part of the audience proceed to interject, question and at times aggressively question Kitson's artistic process and, eventually, his entire raison d'etre. Kitson argues back, sparring with the disembodied until he runs out of time and his play is lost to the bottom drawer of his mind.

Playing on his own perceived persona, Kitson has created a play for voices which is as if composer Gyorgi Ligetti had orchestrated his piece for one hundred metronomes, Poeme Symphonique, to Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of An Author. The result might easily have been dubbed Kitson's Last Tape in a dramatic orchestration as wry as it is profound.

Runs until August 30th

The Herald, August 21st 2015



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1 1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77) 3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77) 4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77) 5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77) 6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77) 7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77) 8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78) 9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78) 10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79)  11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79) 12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79)  13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79) 14. JOLT See Saw (6/79) 15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79) 16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79) 17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79) 18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79) 19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79) 20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79) 21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79) 22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79) 23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79) 24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80) 25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980) 1. THE REZILL

Losing Touch With My Mind - Psychedelia in Britain 1986-1990

DISC 1 1. THE STONE ROSES   -  Don’t Stop 2. SPACEMEN 3   -  Losing Touch With My Mind (Demo) 3. THE MODERN ART   -  Mind Train 4. 14 ICED BEARS   -  Mother Sleep 5. RED CHAIR FADEAWAY  -  Myra 6. BIFF BANG POW!   -  Five Minutes In The Life Of Greenwood Goulding 7. THE STAIRS  -  I Remember A Day 8. THE PRISONERS  -  In From The Cold 9. THE TELESCOPES   -  Everso 10. THE SEERS   -  Psych Out 11. MAGIC MUSHROOM BAND  -  You Can Be My L-S-D 12. THE HONEY SMUGGLERS  - Smokey Ice-Cream 13. THE MOONFLOWERS  -  We Dig Your Earth 14. THE SUGAR BATTLE   -  Colliding Minds 15. GOL GAPPAS   -  Albert Parker 16. PAUL ROLAND  -  In The Opium Den 17. THE THANES  -  Days Go Slowly By 18. THEE HYPNOTICS   -  Justice In Freedom (12" Version) 1. THE STONE ROSES    Don’t Stop ( Silvertone   ORE   1989) The trip didn’t quite start here for what sounds like Waterfall played backwards on The Stone Roses’ era-defining eponymous debut album, but it sounds

Carla Lane – The Liver Birds, Mersey Beat and Counter Cultural Performance Poetry

Last week's sad passing of TV sit-com writer Carla Lane aged 87 marks another nail in the coffin of what many regard as a golden era of TV comedy. It was an era rooted in overly-bright living room sets where everyday plays for today were acted out in front of a live audience in a way that happens differently today. If Lane had been starting out now, chances are that the middlebrow melancholy of Butterflies, in which over four series between 1978 and 1983, Wendy Craig's suburban housewife Ria flirted with the idea of committing adultery with successful businessman Leonard, would have been filmed without a laughter track and billed as a dramady. Lane's finest half-hour highlighted a confused, quietly desperate and utterly British response to the new freedoms afforded women over the previous decade as they trickled down the class system in the most genteel of ways. This may have been drawn from Lane's own not-quite free-spirited quest for adventure as she moved through h