Party Game by Blue Mouth Inc at the Traverse: Edinburgh Fringe Review


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Blue Mouth Inc’s Dance Marathon was my highlight of Fringe 2011 (eek 6 years ago).

Party Game was not my highlight of Fringe 2017.

It’s a similar concept in that it is all about audience involvement and being part of the show except for one fatal flaw.

There is no real audience involvement.

Instead what we experience is a fairly dull, close observational piece in which all the strengths of Dance Marathon are diluted manifoldly.

The dancing is mildly embarrassing, the nudity, frankly, stupid and all just a little boring.

My friend and aI agreed it was a three star show on the night.

It was two.

 

Blanck Mass at Summerhall: Edinburgh Fringe Review.


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I only discovered Blanck Mass the other day.  But have immersed myself in his magic vibe since then (but only when the Mrs is down corner shop, cos when she heard me training for the gig she said TURN THAT FUCKING SHITE DOWN. She is deluded.)

He is half of Fuck Buttons.

He is loud.

He is proud.

He is loud.

Really fucking loud.

And quick.

I clocked one number (the closer) at 200bpm, so I will probably need a fucking hip replacement next week. ‘Cos I was dancing along.

And a hearing aid.

And his videos are like sick (maggots and intestines doing peristaltic movement).

When he weren’t fucking our hips he went for ballads (80bpm), it was a wee bit dull.

But when he cranked it; it was FUCKING great.

Here’s to 200bpm.

Cheers man.  Short but sweet.

 

Sweeney Todd by Captivate: Edinburgh Fringe Review at Rose Theatre


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Another day, another sweat in the Rose Theatre.  (Aircon please for next year).

This time it’s Captivate’s older group and their excellent telling of Sweeney Todd – surely Sondheim’s masterpiece.  (We’d already seen The Conservatoire do Into The Woods this Fringe and that was equally compelling, but in a very different setting.)

The first thing to say is this…those boxes.  Great in Les Mis, brilliant in this.  Superb direction by Sally Lyall and Tom Mullins to make a few crates tell the multi storey (well two, and a basement) story of the demon barber of Fleet Street on one storey, with boxes.

(Christ I’m glad that is out of the way.)

This was a great show. Really great.

For Sweeney to work you need an electrifying double act between him and Mrs Lovett.  Darren Coutts and Hazrel Beattie did exactly that.  She, a brilliant character actor, he, a nuanced demon with a stunning voice.

Lovett ran the show with her hilarity and brooding love for Sweeney.  Todd just underscored, smouldered and grimaced and grunted and groaned and was suitably obdurate from start to finish (with some light relief during the hilarious “A Little Priest.”)

The thing about Sondheim’s masterpiece is that he develops song themes for all the characters and as the show develops they overlap, clash and evolve.  I love this about Sweeney.

It’s a brilliant piece of classical musical theatre learned from the classical composers and not only do the cast, but the orchestra too, deliver in spades (special shout out for Liz Woodsend on RedII).

Judge Turpin (particularly aggressive) and Beadle Bamford pull their roles off well but I was staggered by Colum Finlay’s finale solo which was more castrato than falsetto and just amazing.  He was a highlight of the show throughout.

Alistair Robertson pulled off the tricky Pirelli part really well.

The others did well without standing out but the company was outstanding at every turn (I have sung the company pieces in Sweeney and know how tricky and dramatic they can be.)

It’s a tricky venue but hats off to both sound and light.  Both delivered impeccably (if a little strong on the gobos for my liking).

****

Border Tales by Protein Dance at Summerhall: Edinburgh Fringe Review


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Another day, another Summerhall 5 star show.  This time it’s dance, but with a BIG twist.  It’s political and it features dancers that sing, act and deliver spoken word monologues that never outstay their welcome.

First off, can I just say the choreography is beautiful with monologues often delivered in brilliant flowing double-hander dance movements where the dancer/actor seems to flow like water supported by their counterpart whilst delivering their insights.

It’s mesmerising and the first time I’ve ever seen anything even remotely like this.

The show is about Britain’s rise of immigrantion from all over the globe.  The cast is led by a gruff Yorkshireman who displays many of the traits we regard as cliches, but performed with a humour and lightness of touch that protects it from parody.  I’m afraid there was no programme so I can’t name names but this central and leading character pulled a difficult gig off with ease.

The six dancers were supported by a Colombian multi instrumentalist who worked in tandem with excellent backing music and beautifully held the show together (he too could act when called upon to do so).

The remaining five in the cast represented a second generation African (Nigerian) Londoner fully immersed in UK culture, a Hong Kong Chinese man, A Taiwanese Chinese girl who, with her poor enunciation of English, became the butt of many of the Yorkshireman’s jokes, An Irish Catholic man and a hirsute Egyptian (parodied as an ‘Arab’) is he african?  Is he middle Eastern?

It all paves the way for questions about the value or otherwise of multiculturalism, some nice subtle digs at Brexit, debate about religion and which one (including trendy atheism) is best.

And it’s at times funny, always brilliantly delivered, original and downright fascinating.

A true melting pot of our times in a show you should do your best to get tickets for.

The Divide by The Old Vic: Edinburgh International Festival Review


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This show has had (incredulously to me) mixed reviews because it is a stellar piece of theatrical work and in particular a stellar piece of direction by Annabel Bolton.

The design of this six hour, two-piece, marathon takes the breath away and it’s a gift that keeps on giving.  The use of gauze which I wonder if the director meant to echo her use of mesh over the actors’ faces as a means of protection from ‘the plague’ was brilliant throughout.

Gauze is an ancient theatrical device that’s rarely exploited these days , yet it is a centrepiece in this outstanding production.  It strikes a chord with me because its ‘old fashioned’ technique chimes beautifully with Alan Ayckbourn’s vision of the future.

His vision has no technology.

Literally none at all.

No snapchat.  No hand held devices.

(OK, a spot of email at the end but that’s it.)

It’s radical and it’s brilliant.

It’s ‘human’.

His dystopia is a romantic one. (And it’s complicated.) Maybe he likes Blur…

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

The story is so brilliant on so many levels; sexual, political, racial. His future vision is of a world where black is white and vice versa.

In this play;

  • Women are the dominant sex (but have no self esteem).  They have assumed power and out-bred men.  Yet men STILL pull the strings, somehow.
  • Same sex marriage is the norm.  Heterosexuality is repulsive (Cue a sort of Romeo and Juliet subplot)
  • Republicanism is dead.  Certainly in the UK neoliberalism and free thinking (leftist) politics grow gradually throughout.

I loved every minute of the 6 hours and 5 minutes of this brilliant play.  Sure, it needs tightening but that will happen when you see it LONDON.

Can I just say in closing how mesmerisingly brilliant the two main protagonists were; Erin Doherty and Jake Davies who narrate the show through their childhood to adolescence.

Truly great performances, both.

(Check out the photo above and the amount of highlighting on that script.)

 

Les Miserables by Captivate Theatre: At the Rose Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Review


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I know how difficult Les Mis is for a youth group, trust me.  But Captivate have been honing their skills on the Fringe with this show (different casts each year) for a while now so they should know how to go about it.

And they do.

The Rose Theatre is a welcome addition to our theatrical real estate in Edinburgh and when they sort out their technical teething problems it will be a brilliant venue.  Today’s was more succesful than the National Youth Jazz Orchestra gig that I reviewed earlier in the year, but it’s not quite nailed on yet.

But let’s forget about that, shall we, and concentrate instead on this stupendous production.  The nature of working a shared venue necessitates a parsity of set design but Director, Sally Lyall, has done a good job in utilising a bunch of grey wooden crates that come into their own at the barrier scene which works really well.  I also liked her devise for transporting the ‘souls’ of the many fatalities in this celebrated show off the stage and through the audience.

It’s a lovely visual leitmotif.

In general her direction is assured and light handed, but at times there is a tendency for ‘enthusiasm’ that I’d like better if it was dialled down to 9.  But in the quieter, more poignant, moments such as Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, I Dreamed a Dream, On my Own and Bring Him Home she creates an electrifyingly intense audience connection.

The ensemble is brilliant.  Every number they perform is welcome, solid, and really well pitched.

The orchestra (it’s not a band) is big, beefy and boisterous.  They do a fine job

But it’s the succession of excellent principle performances that really gets you.

I loved Conall Ross’ Marius (one of my favourite parts in the show) and I adored his Empty Chairs (for me the song of Les Mis).  He’s nicely soppy but engaging with it.  The scene with his comrades, prior to battle, where he declares his undying and sudden love for Cosette is really well done.

Cosette herself is simply wonderful with Naomi Anderson reminding me of a young Irene Allan (her delightful soprano voice really resonates with emotion).

The Thenardiers are both brilliant (but especially Georgia-Lee Roberts who would give Les Dawson a run for his money in any gurning competition), Eion Mullen though is also great.

Rosie Graham’s hapless Eponine gathers momentum throughout the show and she puts in a lovely understated performance.

Kara Chalmers is beautiful as Fantine and she totally hits the spot with her show-stopper moment.

The youngsters; Little Cosette (Isla Manson/Georgia Sim/Kayla Travers) and Gavroche (Tom Barclay or Seamus Cross – I know it wasn’t Andrew Gilbert as he used to be in my Youth Theatre) were also excellent.

But, for the show to really work, you need a strong Valjean and Javert.  Both were outstanding.  They bounced off each other convincingly and Benjamin Collins’ rendition of On my Own hit all the high spots with an assured use of falsetto.  That can be the death of many a Valjean; long before the Epilogue. Finlay McKillop sounds like an opera singer and is destined for good things in the future.  I would’t be surprised if he turns up at the Conservatoire.

Collectively, their excellent diction really helped move an extremely complex story along, at a fair old clip, in a very coherent way and that can be another real problem with Les Mis.

Not this one.

That was a 4.5 stars for me guys.  Enjoy your run.  The standing ovation at the end proved I was not alone in this view.