Edinburgh Fringe 2006 Reviews

And Even My Goldfish *****
Chotto Ookii
It is a simple story: a ridiculously tall man becomes increasingly paranoid of the world around him, locking himself in his room, and hiding the doorknob in his pocket. As his chaotic mind and obsessive rituals run riot, his only comfort is listening to the sea through an imaginary seashell which he holds in one hand. Through his memories of the sea and idealization of the past comes a delusion of love and happiness. "And Even My Goldfish" is a surreal and darkly comic theatrical experience and the finest in physical theatre I have seen in a long time! A young company from Leeds, Chotto Ookii mastered their Edinburgh debut with more than bravour! What an excellent piece of theatre, done in the most simple way and yet stunning and unforgettable and what outstanding choreography. If I could, I'd give six stars!
MAN: Matt Rogers, WIFE: Kathleen Yore, GIRL: Rebekah Caputo, COUPLE: Jake England Jones & Rebecca Devitt, SOUND: Will Bartlett

American Football   *****
Act Provocateur International
Violence, war, nudity, music, comedy...American Football by William Whitehurst has it  all! This over the top comedy that is not a comedy after all, is the most outreageous   anti war play I have seen in a long time, is a mixture of everything you can think of.  Bored with shopping malls and video games, Billy (excellently portrayed by Garth   Maunders) joins the US Marines and goes to war to find love meeting Jasmine (Nika   Khitrova). The title is inspired by Harold Pinter's caustic poem, "American Football",   and the play is the bitter sequel. A second war in Iraq, more violent and bloody than  the first, and a second attempt to come to grips with the meaning of it, this time on   the stage. At the same time, this is more than just an angry response to the current  political situation, because the play deals with more fundamental things than the  immediate political situation. Questions such as: why do young men go to war? What   motivates them, really? Or alternately, how are they  manipulated into it? What are the links between the sexual urge and the urge to kill? And  then of course there is the twist that in fact what we are seeing isn't an American  soldier torturing an Arab, but an American (female) soldier torturing other American  soldiers...And ostensibly doing so for her "art"... This play isn't simply a diatribe against US imperialism in Iraq, but against war in general, and the message comes over in  a very bitter way.Wonderfully directed by Andy McQuade ( with Susanne Albrecht, who also did the costumes and set design) and with a very strong cast (Garth Maunders, Nika Khitrova and Marcus Sinclair), this explosive mix of humor, violence, cruelty, sex and  sadism will keep you breathless from the first till the very last moment!

The Black Jew Dialogues  *****
Larry Jay Tish & Ron Jones            
What's so funny about two American minorities that have slavery, the KKK, and chicken  livers in common? That's what you'll find out in this extraordinary two-actor play on  the history and absurdity of prejudice and racism within the context of the American  Black-Jew experience. The Black Jew Dialogues combines aspects of theatre,   sketch-comedy, improv, video, and spoken-word. "Switch off your mobiles and your  prejudices" is the start for the two friends Larry Jay Tish and Ron Jones for a 50   minute journey through the similarities and differences of two American minority groups.   And if there is one show to be seen this year's fringe, it is definitely this one. They   find humor in everything from the Jewish involvement in the Dutch slave trade to two  rednecks on a joy ride of hate. From a bar mitzvah boy explaining the cash kick-start   his manhood receives, to octogenarian grandmothers singing and dancing about the joys of  soul food and Jewish comfort food. The ONE Program, a  program designed to make white people less fearful of blacks, and JUDAR, the ability that Jews have to spot other Jews. A marvelous journey through history, prejudices, humor, a  stunning multi-media show about two apparently so different cultures, that are so  different, so alike, so who knew!  And a strong message that will hopefully keep the prejudices switched off when the  phones are turned on again. Thank you, Ron and Larry!

Black Comedy   *****
Dreamwalk Productions
Peter Shaffer's intelligent farce in reverse lighting. Unable to see, trying to impress a colonel; the father of his bride-to-be and a deaf millionaire who came to see his art, future groom-to-be Brindsley fights his way through confusion, darkness, Germans and a terrible mix-up of 'borrowed' furniture and alcoholic drinks which all becomes even worse when his ex-girlfriend suddenly apears as well. A fresh touch to Schaffer's classic play fulfilling every expectation about what fringe theater should be: new, daring, funny and outstanding in acting and directing. Simon Ginty as Brindsley and Ollie Coulombeau as the German electrician deserve special credits, as does Lay Holden in the role of Carol. Directed by Louis Hartshorn and Ollie Coulombeau, who is the youngest director of this year's fringe. A must see! 

Pigeon Man Apocalypse   *****
by William Whitehurst
Art Provocateur International
Forget whatever you knew about "Psycho" and Alan Bates!  "Pigeon Man Apocalypse", the new play by the American playwright William Whitehurst  ("American Football"), deals with more than "incest, madness and love". Arthur Cork has   walled himself up in an abandoned building where he lives on only pigeons and rainwater.   Until one day when a young couple with a baby move in next-door and Arthur's long  dormant demons awake. Living on a diet of pigeon and rainwater cocktails, the prospect   of insanity gives him something to look forward to. Irrepresively disturbing, this   irreverent tale holds a broken mirror up to the face of society and touches a topic that   is not easily put out into the open. Andy McQuade does not play Arthur Cork, he  transform completely into his character. In the London performance Pigeon Man was   advertised as being "funny". McQuade's version is not funny, but very serious and   disturbing. There is nothing funny about the way Arthur Cork grew up with an abusive  mother and the consequences he has to take. And Any McQuade can feel him, he has been   there, sharing an emotional background and family history he is not ashamed of. That is  exactly what makes his Arthur Cork honest and emotionally the closest an actor can get   to in this role. A brilliant play, an outstanding performance and definitely a must.  

My Brother's Keeper  *****
During the hard years of the Taliban, one thing kept the Jewish community of Afghanistan together. They both hated each other. Apparently based on a true story, this a religious farce about Menorahs,  meshugenehs and the price of carpets. But as you keep watching the shown you get drawn into deeper and deeper, while this strong feeling of discomfort becomes stronger. A  very deep and symbolical play, almost too intellectual for this year's fringe  festival that leaves you exhausted and with the desire to discuss it with  everyone who has seen it. Michael Flexer, the playwright and  director of My Brother's Keeper is also the founder of the "apikoros  theatre company" which aims to deliver theatre workshops and productions aimed at enhancing  cross-cultural sharing. An "apikoros" is a holder of heterodox views. A questioner. And that is  what the members of the company believe theatre should be: a process of  exploration, experimentation and interrogation. Such, "My  Brother's Keeper" is a play meant to contribute to solving social, religious  and political issues. Not through didacticism. Not through preaching. But providing the stimulus and the space for thought and discussion. Highly recommended! 

Parasites   *****
Ant & Dick Productions
Inspection day, and the alcoholic Professor Anthony Kirk (Richard Ings) is about to embarrass the faculty and his ambitious head of department,  Professor Trevor Harris (Damien Warren Smith) by giving a make-or-break lecture in front of the  government inspector, Professor Clara Baff (Antonia Windsor). However, Kirk's well-meaning but ditzy sister, Lucy  (Heather Wilds), has returned to reverse her brother's fortunes by  infecting Baff with a parasite that will turn her into a  flesh-eating  lunatic. If you want real fringe comedy, that is it! A brilliant  script  by this year's Soho Theatre Westminster Prize winner Ali Muriel and  directed by Samuel Miller, "Parasites" is a beautifully written and  fresh script  with an excellent cast that will entertain throughout the 50 minutes. A genuinely  fun experience with brilliant ideas and a  rather black humour. Sold out for days, so try to get a ticket as long as you can. 

Desperate Improvisations   *****
Magic Factory (in co-operation with API)
A  writer (Tim Metcalfe Wood) invites three friends, Greg, a young American sci-fi writer (Kevin Sherwani), Maurice, a fantasy writer (Charles Delaney) and Vera, an excentric  artiste (brilliantly portraied) by Frederic D'Amore). Together they will come up with the  idea for a new play, but soon, the question arises: who is in charge, the writer or the  characters? When the four friends involve also two actors , Maureen (Natalie Louka) and  Emanuel (Shaun Nethercott) into their creative process, the situation appears to get out of hand and devolps on its own in a totally unpredictable way. This bitter-sweet story,  written by the Dutch playwright Jan Hendrik Verstraten and directed by the talented Georgian director Dimitry Devdariani is a must see! A beautiful, dream like story, full  of surprises and sudden turns, that never looses its relation to reality however and a  brilliant cast - don't miss it!  

Chinese Traditional Arts Performance ****
Red Fan Dance Society
A rare and fascinating presentation of Chinese traditional dance and instrumental music. Chinese dances are mainly divided into two groups: Chinese ethnic & folk dances and Chinese classical (traditional) dances. Chinese folk dances include many different styles as there are fifty-six different ethnic groups in Chinese territory and each of them has their own dance style. The same group may have a large variety of different dance styles due to geographical differences. Chinese classical dances are ancient traditional Chinese dances and there are many different styles due to the five thousand years history and over ten different dynasties. Red Fan Dance Society covers a broad spectrum from traditional dance performance dating back to the Tang dynasty to contemporary fan dance and selected pieces of Shaolin Kungfu to Szechwan and Tibetan Opera. Brilliant!

Tarts and Knickers ****
Travers and Foley
It was rather by chance I walked into this two-women show and did not regret a moment. Humour of its best, intelligent sketches, witty, innovative and satirical – Anastasia Travers and Hazel Anderson keep you laughing and giggling throughout their multi media show. A TV interview with the not so happy Virgin Mary,, a Scary Movie type shooting of a commercial, a chav breakfast show and between the acts DG, the fictive TV show of "Daddy's Girl" on screen – a brilliant performance circling around the big question: What if?

Crime and Punishment   ****
Act Provocateur International
To capture Dostoevsky's novel in a 50 minute condensed stage version appears to be out  of any question, but the word "impossible" is not in director Victor Sobchak's  dictionary, and once again he fuses physical and psychological theatre. The adaptation   of the novel was written by the four members of the performing cast under Sobchak's  guidance and inspiration, and the result is fascinating. Apart from Raskolnikov's fate,  the play deals with themes including charity, family life, atheism, alcoholism, and  revolutionary activity, with Dostoevsky highly critical of contemporary Russian society.  Although Dostoevsky rejected socialism, the novel also appears to be critical of the  capitalism that was making its way into Russian society at that time. Raskolnikov's real   punishment is not the labour camp he is condemned to, but the torment he endures. This   torment manifests itself in the aforementioned paranoia, as well as his progressive  realisation that he is not a "super-human",  as he could not cope with what he had done. Corin Rhys Jones, who appears to be one of the most vertasile and talented actors of API is the perfect Raskolnikov, while Geir Kjelland metamorphosis into the role of Alyona is breath taking. Marcus Sinclair in the role of the detective Porfiry Petrovitch gives a light hearted and comical touch to the rather dark theme of the play.Sonya is played by the very young actress and student of  Victor Sobchak, Aleister Kapsaski. Aleister, who suffers from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis is real life also uses her crutches on stage, such adding an extra dark element  to the sad , innocent and fragile character of Sonya. A visual masterpiece.  

Farewell to the Tooth Fairy   ****
Lynn Ruth Miller
Lynn Ruth Miller's stories and feature articles have been published in over fifty  publications throughout the country. Her current column "Thoughts  While Walking the Dog" is a regular holiday feature in the Pacifica  Tribune. This is not a show in he usual sense and also not stand-up comedy. But if you want to escape from the hectic of the festival and are in search for some quiet and reflective time, go and  see (or rather  hear) the 72 year old Lynn Ruth Miller. With charm and humour she recalls her childhood years with her Rumanian grandmother, her  upbringing as the child of Jew immigrants, the terrible revelation that  she was tone deaf, her first experiences with the other sex and that  the tooth fairy is not real. A fairy tale  for grown ups that will leave you with a very warm and tender feeling that might  linger on throughout  the day. She has become the symbol of achievement to all who  know her. "If I can make MY dreams come true, anyone can," says  Lynn Ruth Miller. She is probably right! 

Andy's Promise   ****
Voted by the company NUTS (Newcastle University Theatre Society) as their best production of 2006, Andy's Promise is an original work by Edward Beresford. Andy (James Johnson) makes a bet with his brother (Ed Clifton) not to tell a lie for a week, swearing on their mother's life (played by Rachel Gay). But soon he has to realize that  this is not so easy as he thought, and soon the first white lie slips from his lips in order not to hurt his autistic sister (marvelously portrayed by Helena Zara). His mother collapses in the kitchen, and Andy can't stop wondering if his promise or lies are to be blamed. He tries harder to tell the truth, no matter what.  A gentle and funny play with many awkward and nail-biting situations, dealing with lies, truth and when a lie is a lie. Excellent acting with witty and tongue-in-cheek humour.

The Train 4  ****
Cho-in Theatre
Physical theater never fails to keep you breathless and if you want something special,   go and see The Train 4 by Chung Euy Park performed by the Cho-in Theatre, the gold prize  award-winning physical theatre group from Korea with an anti-war message. An empty lot   in front of an old train station with occasional bombing sounds; an old couple who  missed their train and a begging brother and sister, loss, misery, violence and after   all hope..a dreamlike atmosphere that will capture and enchant you, although you might  have the returning impression of having lost the plot throughout the performance.

Alyssa Kyria – A Spark In The Dark ****
I am not easily impressed by stand-up comedy, but Alyssa Kyria's one-woman show "A Spark   in the Dark" is more than genuine and definitely funny. Her humour is as black as it can  get and sharp-edged, her voice is brilliant and the ten characters of her show keep you  laughing non-stop. She has got it all, from a French jazz singer who can't speak French   to a Greek WAG; every single sketch is equally witty and well –written and performed. If  you love "Little Britain", you'll adore Alyssa Kyria.

The Freaks in the Box  ***
Variety Cabaret Spectacular
After  all the rubbish and disappointment during this year's fringe festival,  why not go and see a show that is completely brainless, pointless and  out of focus? Clownery, panto, stand-up comedy and acrobatics – these  guys have it all. They are over the top, rude, and the jokes are at the edge of being insulting, but weirdly enough, the entire show is hilariously funny and entertaining. Maybe because everyone is brain dead anyway after almost four weeks in Edinburgh, but I had a wonderful time. Don't go if you can't handle black humour, and don't sit in the  front if you are not keen of ending up on stage. You might get your  special feed with birthday cake and a personal striptease or, as it  happened to a gentleman, get your feet licked and toes sucked. A complete nonsense show with a very fast rhythm that takes you back to  street theatre and vaudeville.   Strictly for adults only!

Wasted   ***
theproductioncompany with Wild Thyme Productions
After Fassbinder's "Preparadise sorry now" there is not much "Wasted" can add to the psychological background of the moor murders. But  nevertheless, this new approach is  fascinating. Well written and directed by Henry Filloux Bennett, the play deals with  the difficult questions how and why Myra Hindley was so deeply influenced by Ian Bradey and participate in doing whatever they did. And there she is sitting towards the  front of the stage throughout the play, marvellously played by Gemma Goggin. Based on  letters and diaries, the play tries to expose the background and motives from different angles in a subtle and thought provoking way. Interesting and well directed  with a  good cast, but by the end of the day, not what you really expect, and the character of Ian Bradey is portrayed in a way that does  not seem to fit with the spirit of the  production.

My Dearest Byron   ***
Another Midas
Incest, love and scandal. "I have immortalised you as a statue of my genius" wrote Lord George Byron in one of his letters to his sister Augusta Leigh. In 1816 the relation of Byron and his sister ended, an incestuous love story that was considered to be one of the most scandalous relationships of its time. Based on letters and poems, Bernie C.  Byrnes wrote and directed the play "My Dearest Byron" shedding light on the sensuous  affair and the final grief-stricken goodbyes. The result is literary theatre that  captures the spirit of the epoch combined with physical theatre, minimalist props, beautiful costumes and excellent lightning. Unfortunately the acting of Karen French in  the role of Augusta seems to lack emotion, but she makes it up with her abilities as a  dancer and physical actress. Harper Ray, who looks indeed like Byron is amazing in the  role, portraying the poet torn between arrogance, emotional outbursts and paranoia. At some points the story seems to slow down and the referral to the chapters of the book is a bit annoying, but all in all a beautiful play for the afternoon. 

Treasure Island   ***
Spotlites Theatre Company
Interactive theatre for kids: I shouldn't have gone there at the first place. The  Pirates are a fashionable theme this year and so, Stevenson's classical story comes in   very handy. The costumes are beautiful, the acting is done with bravour and a  presentation fit for children, but the plot gets somewhat lost in between all the  interactive turbulence on stage and the entire project rather turns into a workshop for  kids. Nice idea, but stay away if you are older than ten years old.

Urinetown the Musical ***
Windward Theatre Company
The choreography is beautiful, the acting is great, the voices are brilliant and there  are funny moments, but all together, it is hard to see why the writer had to escape into   toilet humour to tell his story about repression and rebellion. A futuristic city, where  the government has put a ban on private toilets which provokes a revolution for the   rights to "pee for free". Was there no other inspiration to put the idea into praxis?  This is too absurde to be funny anymore. And who would eventually like to humm along  with the song" It's a priviledge to pee"? I don't. And I feel sorry for the very   talented members of the entire show to be caught up in such a brainless production.

Finnegans Wake: The Tale of Shem the Penman  ***
Adam Harvey
Shem the Penman. So? Who do you no tonigh, lazy and gentleman? ... A tale told of Shaun   or Shem? All Livia's daughter-sons. Dark hawks hear us. Night! "I will give them back their English language when I am done", James Joyce wrote to a friend about Finnegans  wake. Adam Harvey gives it back to the audience after more than an hour and a breath   taking, enchanting journey through a chapter of James Joyce's masterpiece. Rather a  symphony of words than a play it laves you gasping and delighted. A journey through   words, sounds, images – not for the faint hearted, but definitely a challenge for those  who love literature.    

Regina Monologues  **
Tidemark Theatre
Put six women on a stage and let them ramble on about their life. The wives of Henry VIII narrate their relationships with the absent figure of the King, but somehow the   contemporary context does not seem to fit with the story. At some points the modernised  version of their well know fates catches your attention, but there are moments where I got rather bored. Is the title suggesting any connection to the "Vagina Monologues"? I   don't even want to know. A pity for the rather talented actresses to be caught up in such a lame script.  

Girl in Box  **
The story about abuse, incest and isolation is not bad to start out with, but somehow  the story gets lost  and the action is painfully slow. The scenery, minimalistic and   consisting only of a small hut with shower curtains, rather adds up to the confusion,   because these curtains are drawn open and closed randomly, a lot of soap bubbles on   stage and too much ado about nothing. I was expecting much more  from that performance,  because the flyer to the show had, among other things promised a new theatre language   and a lot of physical theatre and the photograph used for the posters had nothing to do  with the show. Emma Bailey, who played the clown, was obviously the most talented member   of this show, while I could not help wondering if Richard Jackson in the role of Alan  was not even more bored than me.  

Shakespeare for Breakfast *
C ensemble
In their 15th year, the all-female cast of C venue's in-house company is back for another early morning parody on Shakespeare, and this year it is the Taming of the Shrew. Sold  out throughout the years...maybe it is enough to attract audiences by just mentioning previous successes? Because neither the rather weak and forced script nor the very amateurish acting could otherwise justify how the theatre filled up. If you are into cheap jokes and soap show related humour, this might be your show. Otherwise, you might  get your coffee cheaper elsewhere.  

A Slice O'Minelli   *
Rick Skye
Impersonating Liza Minelli, part of the basic repertory of every so mediocre drag queen,  doesn't seem to be such an original idea to smart out with. And as mediocre as the idea   is the entire performance. Rick Skye may be convincing to audiences who glorify Minelli,   but all together it is rather a waste of time and money, in spite of a few jokes and the  characteristic "I am Liza" thing. At least one good point: he has got stunning legs.

Godspell   *
Lidunian Productions
Three times "Godspell" at this Edinburgh Fringe. Based on the last days of Jesus, this  probably the best known "rock opera" of its kind and it keeps appearing on International   stages for more than 35 years now.What can I say? I have seen better things before and  this production was rather suitable to be performed in front of highschool kids and  their friends and parents rather than at an international fringe theatre festival. Nice try, but eventually the untrained voices started to get on my nerves. A waste of time  and money!



Scene4 Magazine-International Magazine of Performing Arts and Media

september 2006

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