Category Archives: Theatre

Fringe 2014 Review

Very pleased to have been able to make a trip up to Edinburgh for the Fringe this year, even though it was a two day flying visit.

I hadn’t been organised enough to get a hold of the Guide until the day before, so book was the (usual) excited flurry of planning and picking.

As always, who knows what great things I missed, and there were certainly many things I’d have loved to see that just didn’t make the cut. The only known unknown that I was disappointed not to get tickets for was Theatre Ad Infinitum’s “Light”, having been greatly moved by their 2011 work .

That said, here’s what we did see:

  • Narin Oz: Addicted To Love (C South Gardens) Picked on a whim to fill an early morning gap. Short 20 minute piece for an audience of four performed in the back of a car, the venue for an impromptu meeting of “Love Addicts Anonymous”. Very light-weight, some funny moments, some embarrassing ones – no room for a fourth wall here. Good ice-breaker for the day.
  • Dido and Aeneas, About Turn Theatre (The Space UK @ Venue 45) Despite being one of my favourite operatic pieces I’ve never attended a performance, I was delighted to see it in the programme.
    The performance space was very intimate, staged in the round, and I had the good fortune to bag seats directly beside the musicians. The singing was – for the most part – very good, with the soprano’s Lament bringing a tear to the eye. The acting was rather hit-and-miss, with quite a lot of gurning from the chorus.
    The choice to set the piece within a 40s military milieu worked reasonably well stylistically, though more attention should have been paid to make-up, which lacked the subtlety required in such a close environment.
    Having Dido shoot Aeneas worked in dramatic terms, I thought. I’m sure the thought of a romantic suicide after abandonment by one’s true love went down a storm with the hormonal girls at Josiah Priest’s school, but a modern audience is probably a bit more inclined to think Dido should pull herself together. The final gunshot rather spoilt the last lingering moments and should probably have been left to the imagination.

  • Woyzeck! , Time Zone Theatre (C Nova)
    Dropped this in, after having seen Punchdrunk’s The Drowning Man in ’12 which is heavily influenced by this play. One man show in an intimate setting, confidently performed; the actor captured the characters very well. The arrangement of the play brought out the absurdity well, and in parts reminded me of The Good Soldier Svejk.

  • Return To The Voice, Song of the Goat Theatre (St Giles) What a treat – my favourite Polish company back with a predominantly choral piece sung in Scots. Performed with great physical expression in St Giles Cathedral, an ideal acoustic environment for the rich polyphony and oft-accompanying deep drone.
    Very pleased that my friend, who was seeing them for the first time, was as overwhelmed as I was in 2005 at their Chronicles in the Barbican Pit.
  • The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland, Ridiculusmus (The Dissection Room at Summerhall)
  • Mental illness explored through the clever staging device of splitting performance and audience with a partition though which sounds and ideas intrude and interact: on one side brothers are bemused by their mother’s deterioration, on the other one of the bothers is counselled by his own therapist. Suffused with Ridiculusus’ typically mordant wit.
    I enjoyed the mental exercise of piecing together the story. Structurally it was disappointing, with the second half being a very close repeat of the first. Also, getting the audience to swap side halfway was a messy technical mistake.

  • Mark Ravenhill: Product (Rainy Hall in the Assembly Hall) Ravenhill’s 2005 monologue satire on the movie industry, a meta-play in which the action happens within the action, as the protagonist frantically pitches an increasingly absurd script. Well observed and pretty funny. Commanding performance from the wonderful Oliva Poulet (Shivered, Southwark Playhouse 2012). I do like Ravenhill, but I think I like Poulet more.

  • Horizontal Collaboration, David Leddy (Traverse 2) If there as a lead balloon (geddit?), this was it, especially after hoofing all the way across town in a downpour to get to it.
    Picked this after being intrigued by the synopsis, and having a vague recollection that I’d liked something else by Leddy (my mistake, I hadn’t). This was verbatim theatre of a particularly dry variety compounded by the use of the third person and the matter-of-fact delivery- the four actors in the role of lawyers blindly reading courtroom transcripts of a warcrime.
    Would work just fine as a radio play, but poor theatre. Plus points – I got to read along in Spanish, and one of the actors looked like Olivia Coleman.
  • La Loba, Lenka Vagnerová & Company (Zoo Southside) This was superb, probably the highlight for me. A brooding, raw, and occasionally wry contemporary dance piece, in turns feral and tender. Based on a Czech folk tale of a crone with a bag of bones from which she can conjure life. Superb physical and vocal performances from the two dancers. Exactly the sort of thing that I love.

    The company also had a second show at the Fringe, Riders, which I’m sorry to have missed, if for no other reason than that the music is so haunting.

  • Sirens, Ontroerend Goed (Main Hall, Summerhall)
    Finishing with a challenge. Ontroerend Goed are always confrontational and aim to put the audience under the microscope and watch it squirm.
    This starts powerfully: the actors – all women – assemble as a choir, displaying comedic tics that wrong-foot the audience, leaving it unprepared an assault of excruciating atonal screeching – sirens indeed. What followed was an uncompromisingly frank and slyly humourous exploration of sex, fantasy, mysogyny and jealousy. The deadpan delivery of a litany of awful ‘woman’ jokes was almost painful to endure, not least because some guy in our audience really did seem to be finding them funny. It’s a very powerful, provocative piece. I should have liked to discuss it with some of the women in the audience to get their perspective, but we had to dash for the train (Summerhall is possibly my new favourite venue, but it’s a damn long way from Waverley).
    In general I do like their work, but in this piece (and also their earlier The Audience) once the point’s been made and shock has worn off it can all verge on feeling a bit too earnest.

Final note – as was not entirely unexpected, the Android App still doesn’t do its job very well, so the paper guide remained our vade medum. At least it was useful during showers. Maybe next year…