Meet Me at Dawn by The Traverse Theatre Company at The Traverse: Edinburgh International Festival Review


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My Summerhall Fringe was brilliant, but so too were my Traverse experiences.  With the exception of Party Game by Blue Mouth Inc, which mis-stepped (pun intended) a little, we were fed a great diet of work.

This 4**** show is an intense experience and so created an almost perfect set of emotional experiences; alongside Adam 5*****, Lilith: The Jungle girl 4.5****, Nina 4****, and Party Game 2.5**.

This is the Traverse’s foray into the official Festival and the EIF is to be congratulated for giving ‘The Trav’ this opportunity to impress on the ‘big stage’, in their own home. with their resident director, Orla O’Laughlin, on board – she grows in stature steadily.  I expect this show to feature heavily in the CATS next year.

This is a big, profound piece of theatre, centred on grief.  Its story takes its time to unveil itself as a gay couple (it later transpires) are washed up on a fairly remote island after a boating accident that at first appears to be simply a foolhardy act, but gradually it emerges the consequences of the accident are far greater.

It transpires the accident was indeed fatal and this remote island is an island of the mind where the two lovers are granted a wish.  That one so often said on death beds.  “if only we could have one more day together.”

They do.

But, one day?  One fucking day?  Why not a year?  Why not a fucking new lifetime?

The additional day doesn’t play out perfectly. and in a series of time shifts it’s tricky to decide really which time is now, which then and which in the future.

It’s a bold complex theme, brilliantly directed, designed and lit.

The central performances of Robyn (Neve McIntosh) and Helen (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) are electric.  They revel in the depth of Zinnie Harris’s dense plot and shine light on all the key emotional triggers.

I could hear several sobs coming from the audience as the play reaches its finale.

Great, grown up theatre.

 

 

 

Lilith: The Jungle Girl by Sisters Grimm at The Traverse: Edinburgh Fringe Review.


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Sisters Grimm is a multi-award winning Melbourne based experimental queer theatre group and Lilith is the barmy brainchild of Ash Flanders (who plays Lilith) and Declan Greene.

The three person cast includes Candy Bowers as the hilarious Sir Charles Penworth a Dutch based brain surgeon and Genevieve Giuffre as his assistant, Helen Travers, who is deeply in love with him (her as it happens).

The show concerns the civilisation of a feral jungle girl Lilith, who has been brought up by Lions in the jungles of Borneo and has an irrational fear of Penguins.

From the off it is obvious that Lilith is actually a man as Ash Flanders makes his entrance completely naked and ‘soaped up’ in a pink gunge that makes the vinyl floor of the set a veritable ice rink and creates many off script moments of hilarity.

Bowers’ hilarious Victorian bombast creates belly laughs a plenty.  Her performance is at the heart of the show but all three are excellent.  In a particularly amusing ongoing gag he can’t (or won’t) pronounce Helen’s name correctly; it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

There is a degree of Pygmalion about this because if Lilith cannot reach an acceptable level of civilisation and language she will be lobotomised by Sir Charles (or worse).

The threat pushes her onwards and the transformation is real until it all goes wrong and we are transported to London Zoo where Bowers has now assumed the persona of a South London Rapping Lion.

It is again hysterical.

This show is brilliant.

I’m not sure it has any deep meaning, but with its mix of a fine ‘Ripping Yarn’, slapstick, gender bending, extreme full frontal nudity and terrific acting it’s an absolute treat.

4.5*****

 

 

The Gardener by Cumbernauld Theatre at Summerhall: Edinburgh Fringe Review


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My goodness has Summerhall had an immense Fringe.  And I’ve only seen part of it.

It has been my main home for the Fringe having seen this show ****, Dolly Would ****, LIES *****, Charlotte Church ****, Richard Gadd *****, Blanck Mass ***, Border Crossing ***** and Seance ***.  (2 x 3 star shows, 3 x 4 stars and 3 x 5 stars.  That’s a pretty good investment in my book).

My main reason for seeing The Gardener was because Nicola Roy plays a supporting role in it to Crawford Logan.  She’s an unsung star of Scottish Theatre and one of our best comic actors. (It just so happens she is a delightful human being to boot.)

Any way, it did not disappoint.

To a deliberately very small audience of  20 we are shown into the bowels of Summerhall – the brightly lit ‘Machine Room’ which, it transpires, is the meeting room of the Pine Grove Villas ‘Retirement Community’.

There are no pines and “it’s an Old Folks Home” observes Frank (our host) “Should be called Altzheimers Acres.”

Frank is hosting a lecture on gardening to us, his 20 fellow ‘inmates’, but the lecture is merely a device to reflect on his love of gardening.  Fecund as he is in his ‘Cultivation of the Soil’ he is sadly less fecund in his life, with his beloved wife Joan who is three years passed.

Gardening is the great metaphor for a life that he constantly breaks off from the lecture to retell.

Initially hysterical, thanks largely to Roy’s interventions as the “only nice” carer in the home, it becomes increasingly sad, but Crawford Logan (brilliant as Frank) doesn’t milk the pathos.  He is a stoic character who sees life as what it is, with it’s inevitable outcome.

Tony Cownie has beautifully crafted a lovely Dramaturg by Lynda Radley and the cleverness of the design by Ed Robson has an ace up its sleeve as the show comes to an end, with no bows.

A poignant, heartfelt piece that will surely keep popping up around the country.  If you get the chance to see it.  Jump.

 

Dolly Would by Sh!t Theatre at Summerhall: Edinburgh Fringe Review


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Well, this one comes from left field.  It’s a mash up of love, real love, for Dolly Parton (in which her legendary breasts feature very prominently and not just in the image above – from near the show’s conclusion) and the fact that Dolly the Sheep (named after Dolly Parton) was created near to Summerhall in the Rosslyn institute.  Given that Summerhall was previously a Veterinary School this is perhaps also appropriate.

The cloning theme is developed by showing the veneration Dolly Parton creates with clone fans galore (famously Dolly herself entered a Dolly Parton lookalike show and lost).

We are left in no doubt that Sh!t Theatre’s two players, Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit, are lesbian lovers and their love for each other and of Dolly Parton (not uncommon in the gay world as I realised with no uncertainty when I was in the crowd for her legendary Glastonbury legends gig) was a relationship-saving writing project.

Their love for Dolly has no bounds and this reunited them and has led to a totally insane celebration of her life during which the ridiculous treatment she received from the media, focussing largely on her looks and her assets, is ridiculed.

But also her own sexuality is deeply questioned.  Was her great friend Judy really her lover?

I liked the way they used the 1977 Barbara Walters interview with Dolly as a narrative musical device that was a recurring theme in the show, supported by a neat live music loop.

I suppose more questionable was the way they cut their vest tops to expose their breasts for most of the show.  It might make some of the more strident feminist wing of their devotees uncomfortable, but I was fine with it.

Some of Sh!t’s performance is shambolic (the balloon bursting scene for example) and wilfully amateur in its look and feel (a fair bit of corpsing occurs) but that’s all part of its charm.  And I have no doubt it is intended.

I loved it.  My wife hated it.

I guess that’s part for the course.

4****