Richard Gadd’s Monkey See, Monkey do at Summerhall: Review, Edinburgh Fringe


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I was taking no risks seeing this.  Voted the hit of last year’s Fringe Gadd has toured the world performing it over 200 times.

what I was not prepared for was its kick in the heart emotional trauma.

This is billed as comedy but it’s so much more than that. (But, yes, it’s outrageously funny.)

The ‘more’ is an entire treatise on sexual abuse and the resultant depression.

The monkey of the title is Gadd’s subconscious creating massive panic attacks and extreme self doubt.  The show is a metaphor about running away from money demons (the monkey on your back) and so, to bring that metaphor to life Gadd performs it from a tread mill and his vest top gradually saturates as his one hour run slowly overwhelms him physically.

But the low-fi technical brilliance of the show with his sound and video designer, Phil, is what makes it so original and ultimately extremely moving.

My wife is not one to demonstrate her emotions by way of leading a standing ovation.

Until last night.

Bravo.

Bravo indeed Richard Gadd.

*****

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).

****

Into The Woods. Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Assembly Hall, The Mound, review. Edinburgh Fringe 2017.


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Many lovers of Stephen Sondheim’s classic, Into The Woods, were disappointed with Disney’s movie version as it strayed too much off point. Not me, I liked the way Disney popularised a bloody difficult show.

But RCS is big enough, and talented enough, to go back to basics and stage an authentic labyrinthian production with so many characters, so many sub plots, but one whole, that demands a faultless ensemble to deliver (and a faultless band/orchestra).

This delivers.

The show itself is a blockbuster, with many great numbers and much classic Sondheim nuance, noodling and conundrumery.

In the world of musical wordplay Sondheim has no equal.  This is his masterpiece in that respect.

It might not reach the heights of his MUSICAL masterpiece, Sweeny Todd, but it ain’t far behind.

And if you want to put the next generation of Scotland’s (in fact beyond Scotland) best talent through their paces this is an inspired choice.

My one complaint is that the man behind us appeared to be breathing through some sort of oxygen mask and proved a great distraction but hey ho, you’re not going to say ‘Gonnae no dae that?’ to a man in an oxygen mask; are you?

At the interval we perused the situation.  He wasn’t in a mask he was just, you know, a show spoiler.

So we moved to shite seats, with a restricted view and poorer acoustics, but no sub-soundtrack of Holby fucking City.

Anyway, to the show.  Decent design.  Great lighting (whyever not, as Grant Anderson designed is in the chair).  Outstanding band. And brilliantly choreographed.

But, at the end of the day it’s about the ensemble.  There’s essentially 17 main parts and several secondary roles.  In a perfect ITW you need a 17/17.

This wasn’t that, but I’d say 14/17.

And the key parts delivered big style. (There seems, from the programme notes to be some doubling up of parts so apologies if I have called names wrongly and I will correct if need be)

Abigail Stephenson as Little Red Riding Hood steals the show in her skippy, dippy, innocent but vicious rendering of the role. Eu Jin Hwang pulls off the Baker’s role sympathetically.

Philippa Cassar is excellent as Cinderella and I liked Andrew Sowrey’s Steward.

Caroline Lyell is brilliant as the witch.

It’s an absorbing engrossing production in a great venue.  Go see it.

 

Forth Children’s Thearte. The Chess Game


Well, we’re three nights into our run with OK sized audiences  ; good for an unknown show.  But we need to up the ante on that if we are to cover our costs.  So that starts at 1.50 when we preform on the Lower Stage on The Royal Mile.

It’s an open air event and this is the scene from my window…

But we will carry on regardless with 39 kids and a battery operated generator.  Should be fun…

After that, a bit of flyering and back for a Barbeque at base.

The first review of the show has come in from Thom Dibdin.  He was very complimentary ad even used a couple of my pictures.

Apps, Happiness, Casablanca and The Chess Game

 

When Two Queens Go to War… Rebecca Gilhooley and Julia Carstairs in FCT’s The Chess Game. Photo © Mark Gorman

By Thom Dibdin

Start it up and lets go! Day One of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe dawned bright and clear. No monsoon, no rain, just a crisp morning with light wind and sunny skies.

A perfect day for a play called Happiness, it would seem, at a sparkling new venue to boot: The Playhouse at Hawke and Hunter Green Room. Good timing too, for the Tron Theatre’s revival of Casablanca, the Gin Joint Cut – which arrives in Edinburgh with a slew of four and five star reviews under its belt. And to round off the day, a visit to the first Edinburgh Local Hero, with the fabby FCT’s The Chess Game, at Inverleith.

 

The Cast of The Chess Game, by FCT. Photo © Mark Gorman

Finally the Local Heroes, Forth Children’s Theatre. I always enjoy reviewing their productions but was slightly concerned to be there on first night of The Chess Game, particularly when the company has just said good-bye to a very successful generation of young performers.

No worries, though, The Chess Game was excellent. Not perfect yet, but the voices will mature and grow in confidence over the years, as will the acting. There are several in the company who need to learn to speak up and out, as the mumbled spoken lines into their boots. Director Vic Laing could also have improved some of the blocking. He left several of the more diminutive members of the company stuck out of sight at the back in big ensemble numbers and tableaux which should have given everyone a chance to shine.

That said, the young company tackled this piece about war, redemption and taking responsibility with real maturity. There are several very problematic moments which they made pass by with a natural fluidity to their pacing. Their musical performances pushed right to the edge of their abilities too – well beyond their comfort zones – and they made the tricky arrangements sound simple.

Of course they do have some cracking support, and those responsible for the wardrobe did an excellent job. The live band were crisp and supportive under the leadership of Iain MacDonald who wrote the words, music and lyrics of the show – which FCT first performed back in 1984. A thought-provoking treat. And I found myself humming the tunes on the way home.

So, come along to our venue…at Inverleith Church Hall, Ferry Road (Top of Granton Road), from August 5th – 13th at 7.30 with matinees on Saturday 6th and 13th at 2.30 pm.

Tickets are priced £12 (£10 conc). All tickets are £8 on Sat 6th Matinee.

Call the FCT Ticket Hotline to place your order on 07794 144372.

And so the festival lies before us…


We saw the Wheel at the Traverse to kick off our festival and next we have the show that FCT is doing; The Chess Game.  I chair this youth theatre and we have 40 excited youngsters treading the boards for the 33rd year in a row at the Festival.

Next, I have Wondrous Flitting, which The Lyceum is staging at The Traverse;  The Lyceum Theatre Company’s first Fringe outing in many years.

Then there’s the shows I’ve booked so far.  I’m seeing Steven Berkoff in action in Oedipus next Friday.  That should be utterly sensational.

But also one of the hot tickets which I have is to see Marc Almond  In Ten Plagues.

But my aching hollow in my chest is for Dance Marathon.  Who will go with me to this experiential play in which the audience dance for four hours in a real life “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’

There is more…all at the Traverse at the moment, a site specific piece in Edinburgh’s Medical Hospital which is about death and the afterlife called “What Remains” and David Greig’s reputedly wonderful “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” with its promising Kylie Minogue finale.

You’ll notice I am not doing the Fringe Cancer; Comedy.

I may do Dave Gorman, and I’ve been invited to The Stand opening night pre-fest jolly with CBS, but I don’t do comedy because I’m a miserable Quantas flyer.

Oh, and a snob.

Dixies Tupperware party


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Ok.  I was in the minority.  I didn’t fancy this show much in the first place I admit but I didn’t expect it to be quite so lame.

I really hate the way that comedy has overwhelmed the Fringe.  And by that I mean it’s more of a Comedy festival than the Comedy Festival.

And if all comedy is this bad I pity the audiences at this year’s festival/fringe.

Why don’t they do something a bit more adventurous and go and see some drama? (There’s still plenty of it hidden away)

It’s just a three minute sketch dragged out to a mind numbing hour (and arse numbing as a matter of fact because the seats at the Wildman Rooms at The Assembly are VERY uncomfortable if you’re any taller than 5’5″).

But what do I know.  The audience loved it.  Sort of.