Skip to main content

Travesties

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

Who would be a bit-part player in some of history’s most seismic events? Stand up Henry Carr, a real-life British consulate official minding the shop in Zurich circa 1917 in Tom Stoppard’s audacious play, revived here by Richard Baron in a suitably wild production. With novelist James Joyce, Dadaist Tristan Tzara and Russian revolutionary VI Lenin in residence, everything goes cuckoo in what is effectively Henry’s unreliable memoir. As he gives himself a starring role, such myth-making liberates Stoppard to run riot with a dramatic cut-up of form, ideas and a series of routines that interrogate art and revolution as seeming polar opposites that turn out to be two sides of the same coin.

In a Zurich that is a diplomatic no man’s land which becomes a capital of culture caught in the crossfire of several intellectual uprisings, Mark Elstob’s Henry dreams himself as a dandyish hero of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. In actual fact, he is a crusty little Englander abroad, whose stance against both art and foreigners gives him the air of a latter-day Brexiteer. Either way, Elstob plays him with a delicious archness that infects all about him, making a song and dance of Stoppard’s still pertinent debate concerning the respective merits of socially aware constructions and art for art’s sake in a way that heightens things to the max.

There is fine support from Graham Mackay-Bruce as Tzara and Alex Scott Fairley, but it’s Carl Patrick’s insurgent butler Bennett you have to keep an eye on in a big play of ideas that wears the pop cultural trappings of a fringe show. In a mash-up of Tzara and Joyce, it leaves you saying yes, da, and indeed da once more.

The Herald, June 29th 2018

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a busy woman. The thirty-two year old actress who burst onto our TV screens as writer and star of Fleabag, the tragi-comic sort of sit-com about a supposedly independent woman on the verge is currently overseeing Killing Eve, her new TV drama which she's written for BBC America. As an actress, Waller-Bridge is also filming a big screen project which we can't talk about, but which has already been outed as being part of the ongoing Star Wars franchise.

These are both pretty good reasons why Waller-Bridge won't be appearing in the brief Edinburgh Festival Fringe revival of the original stage play of Fleabag, when it opens next week at the Underbelly, where it was first unleashed to the world in 2013. In her place, Maddie Rice will take on the role of the potty-mouthed anti-heroine after touring Vickie Jones' production for Waller-Bridge and Jones' DryWrite company in association with Soho Theatre. This doesn't mean Waller-Bridge has turned…

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…