Cockpit. The Lyceum’s latest smash.


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Photo credit:  Production photo by Mihaela Bodlovic

In 1948 the young Bridget Boland (I know nothing of her) wrote this site specific play.  And it IS site specific even though it is presented in the Lyceum Theatre because she sets her play, about a holding centre for displaced persons in the aftermath of WWII, in 1948, in a theatre.

Actual genius.

This gives her the opportunity to introduce some great theatrical gags; most memorably the line spat out in complete contempt by the theatre’s stage manager for Front of House personnel.  A laugh out loud moment.  One of several.  Although this is no comedy.

The concept is that in this Displaced Persons’ (DP) ‘camp’, a sort of Calais ‘Jungle’ of 1948, in an unnamed German city, two British military personnel (the latter day peacekeeping force) are trying to organise the transport of 1,000 DP’s to their homelands.

It’s a Tower of Babel with many languages spoken and, more importantly, many short and long term differences of opinion and prejudices.  Of course, the Jews fare worst of all because the Jews were no less persecuted by the Nazis than many other nations and creeds.  That comes across strongly.

But Latvians and Lithuanians, Yugoslavs (Bosnians, Croatians, Serbian et al), Poles and Russians, French sympathisers and resistance all harbour deep grudges and these constantly flare up in an electrifying first act until a moment of humanity transforms the situation. It would be a spoiler to reveal this so you’ll have to see the show to find out how politics can be transcended by human nature.

It’s an absolute cauldron of infighting that shows partly how ridiculous political belief and dogma is (religion gets a right kicking too) but also how complex it is.  That scene from Life of Brian about the Judean Liberation Front is a great touchpoint, although it is treated far more seriously here.

The cast is drawn from a number of European nationalities which could have led to a dreadful ‘Allo Allo’ mood overall.  But how director Wils Wilson overcomes this is one of the many directorial sleights of hand that really impressed this audience member and means we have a truly international feel, but an all English script.  I have to say Wils Wilson has a masterful touch throughout.

It opens with a full ensemble Ukranian folk song that is brilliantly performed (and composed by the inimitable Aly Macrae – you may recall him from the The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart where he is a lead character) before resolving into the show itself.  I’d have liked to have seen even more musical pieces as they are all highlights. None more so than a few moments of operatic spinetinglingness that draws the breath away (I’ll not spoil it for you by describing what, where or when, but I guarantee you will be spellbound).

An actual real life showstopper.

It’s sort of Brechtian in places I suppose.  And resonates strongly with Caucasian Chalk Circle.  If you liked the Lyceums CCC you will like this.

Universally the ensemble acting is strong – really it’s as impressive a cast as I’ve ever seen at the Lyceum – but Peter Hannah as the fresh-faced and easily overwhelmed ‘Man in Charge’, Captain Ridley, is outstanding and is ably abetted by his more experienced and world weary underling; Deka Walmsley as Sergeant Barnes.

The design is a considerable feat and splurges out into stairwells, bars and the foyer, further enhancing the site-specificnesss of the production. The sound design and musical underscoring combine to create a sense of place, an air of menace and frankly an utter joy when it erupts into full blown musical scoring.

But, really, what most enraptured me was the script.  How anyone could conjure up such a politically accurate and insightful overview of the aftermath of WWII at a time when surely obfuscation, fake news and propaganda must have been rife amazes me.  What’s even more remarkable is that its relevance today (yes I know that’s such a weary phrase) is simply dizzying.

“The trouble with the British is they just don’t understand Europe.”  I kid you not.  Bridget Boland wrote those words in 1948. (I probably paraphrased.)

I rest my case m’lud.

 

 

 

 

Our House. A pact with Guru Dudu.


In an earlier post I told you how Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour was one of five star hits of the festival.

So much so that when he said on his Facebook page on Sunday that he needed a room for a few days we offered the room in our Air B’nB free of charge.

On one condition.

He put on a Silent Disco Walking Tour here in South Queensferry.

It was particularly relevant as today was the day the Queen opened the new Queensferry Crossing so it seemed like an excellent way to celebrate.

He agreed and I put the jungle drums into motion.  24 hours later 45 Guru Dudu virgins were assembled in Scotmid’s Car Park and the tour began.

Starting with his legendary East meets West Yoga/Disco warm up we all found our inner Disco Chakra’s to Chic’s Le Freak.  And what’s more, with Guru Dudu having implored the Disco Divas to take the relentless rain away, they did, and we were treated to a pleasant autumnal evening’s weather.

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Moving to The Loan we were further uninhibited as we each took to the dance stage in our own style which was echoed by the assembled.

Next stop the harbour, with the 53 year old Road bridge and the aforementioned 12 hour old Queensferry crossing as our background to the West and the iconic 145 year old Rail Bridge as the dance canvas to the East.

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Post bridge orgy we headed to the High Street for our mass choir performance of Bohemian Rhapsody to the Orocco Pier posse.  It was awesome (plenty of air guitars on show).

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Up the West Terrace past the Ferry Tap to the East Terrace where we did a ‘Soul Train’ to Rose Royce’s Car Wash.

Next up we performed Our House by Madness.  IN. A. HOUSE.  (The pink one on East Terrace)

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Not to be outdone, a resident of West Terrace took us up The Vennel (painful) before inviting us into her back garden, where we jigged to Rihanna.

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As we basked in a glorious sunset we headed back to Scotmid for the piece de resistance and finale.

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Scotmid staff and customers were utterly bemused as this flash mob descended on their favourite supermarket.

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And just to top it all off we did a collection for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute that has a station in South Queensferry.  (Again it seemed appropriate, on this special day, as they have been saving lives around the bridges for many, many years.)

£280 later…

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Yerma by the Young Vic. Review of National Theatre live show.


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This is a ferocious theatrical experience.

It’s a little odd to see in a cinema because the episodic nature of it, and the titling that addresses each chapter and subchapter are rendered as video. In the theatre is it a lightbox or is video suspended above the stage?  I know not.

Accompanying each title is music that starts out loud and ends up deafening, moving from luscious Spanish folk to out and out death metal.

It’s a suitable underscore to the action on stage which charts the descent into madness of the main protagonist ‘Her’ played mindblowingly by Billie Piper.

Yerma is Spanish for ‘Barren’ and it’s a 1930’s tale by Lorca reimagined for 21st century London by Director Simon Stone in a dazzling production.  It starts in almost chaos with ‘Her’ and her future husband John (Brendan Cowell) raging against each other in drunken love with a disturbing undertone of violence, almost hatred, underpinning their love.

He’s a succesful consultant, she a struggling blogger.  Their highly sexual relationship is turning as she has notions of motherhood, he anything but.  Nevertheless ‘Her’ wins the day and he agrees to conceive.

They never do.

Perhaps her abortion of a foetus from previous lover, Victor (John Macmillan), is the reason.  But she has fertile eggs, he has strong sperm.

It seems it just isn’t destined to be.

And that drives him to erectile disfunction and stress, her to madness.

The sense of despair is tangible and grows unremittingly.

The pace picks up constantly.

The chapters flow faster.

The noise ratchets.

The glass box in which they perform is a goldfish bowl of voyeuriam.  We shouldn’t be here.  It’s JUST. TOO. INTIMATE.  JUST. TOO. PRIVATE. We REALLY shouldn’t be here looking in as this relationship collapses and erupts in total anger.

Technically the play is a masterpiece.  It reminded me of Malthouse Theatre’s incredible imagining of Picnic at Hanging Rock.  Massive snap blackouts.  Seconds later a carpet of grass, of carpet, of soil.

How?

Billie Piper is collosal.

Brendan Cowell is her match.

Simon Stone has imagined a masterpiece.

 

 

The Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe. The final Reckonings.


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You’ve put up with me so far so here’s the final evaluation.  And the Gorman Awards.

Best show:  Nederlands Dans Theatrer.

Best Musical (excluding Pippin):  Les Miserables.

Best Play:  The Divide (Part 1)

Funniest Show:  Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

Best Venue:  Summerhall

5 stars *****

Nederlands Dans Theater

Rain

Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

Border Crossing

Richard Gadd: Monkey See, Monkey do

The Divide (Part 1)

Meow Meow’s The Little Mermaid

£¥€$ (Lies) by Ontroerend Goed

Gus Harrower

Adam

4 Stars****

Les Miserables 4.5*****

Lilith: The Jungle Girl

The Gardener

Dolly Would

Meet me at Dawn

Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon

Staffa

Sweeney Todd

The Divide (Part 2)

Into the Woods

Nina

3 stars***

Flight

Blanck Mass

Guy Pratt

Seance

2 stars**

Party Game 2.5***

The Performers by Irvine Welsh

 

 

 

 

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.