The Dip

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 3.39.06 PM.png

You know when it’s your 8th birthday and you beg your parents to take you to Disney Land/Chucky Cheese/(insert animatronic hell-scape here), and you’re so excited to see the robotic band but when its finally time the robots start to sort of disturbingly glitch out, but you can’t leave  because it’s your own party so you scream, cry, and endure the cold, dead gaze of the anthropomorphic monstrosity before you, suppressing the trauma for years to come? You don’t?... Well, you could always go and see Milk and Blood Theatre’s The Dip.

The Dip is a deeply hallucinogenic, somewhat nightmarish spectacle of surrealism, complete with a giant fish and some eggplant fascism. What we’re trying to say is, what was marketed as a late-night stoner comedy about a man dealing with his homosexual urges, quickly descended into something even Hunter S. Thompson might have deemed “...a little bit frightening, man.”

There’s an impressive level of technicality behind The Dip—there’s a psych-rock soundtrack performed by a live band, who also serve as the supporting cast. The lighting is immersive, and the songs are catchy. There’s some strong physical comedy too, leaving some of the cast dripping in sweat. The trouble is that, while The Dip was immensely atmospheric and dragged the audience along (and into) it’s trippy wake, the experience itself was pretty terrifying. Like, “Pink Elephants” terrifying. There were audience members who were audibly uncomfortable, and a great deal of nervous laughter. I myself was brought on as a “wedding guest,” where one actor stuck his finger into my nose and wiped it on my shirt. I’m a good sport at the best of times and I appreciate surreal comedy, so I didn’t take it too much to heart. Arguably, however, under the wrong context this sort of audience interaction might not be taken too well. It’s important to remember that while we all like to have fun, and get involved with shows when we can, having a performer dressed as a giant flatfish (whom is otherwise naked besides a strap of fabric) drag himself across you mid-show can cause some discomfort. Art, understandably, can be shocking, but try not to do anything that might have you slapped with a harassment charge. Some of the more sexual jokes catalysed an air of awkwardness too. Not an awkwardness at the sexual nature of the jokes, but rather an awkwardness of trying to discern exactly what it was we were supposed to laugh at, as the action of sex by itself felt a little dated as a punchline. Though that didn’t stop all the laughs from landing, they remained consistently relevant to the comic universe of the piece. I speak Spanish, and the wedding segment contained some amusing lines from Iulia Isar and the vocal prowess of the entire cast cannot be overstated enough—the score is one of the most impressive things about The Dip. Major points for Josh Tucker there.

The Dip is an immersive, nightmarish spiral into utter lunacy, accompanied by a somewhat obscured Alice in Wonderland narrative about homosexual awakening, some polished prop gags and excellent scoring. Milk and Blood have finished their run at the Edinburgh Fringe, and hopefully they can take the time to pare some of their audience interactions down to a slightly less intimate level or at least include a warning if they decide not to. However, we recommend that they keep in mind that with such disturbing characters on display, physical interaction becomes jarring for audience members that may not respond well to such contact due to trauma or some other impetus. That being said, we hope Milk and Blood continue to perfect their surreal brand of theatre for the 8 year old in all of us, that needs to face their anthropomorphic demons. 

Secret Mountain

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 1.45.01 PM.png

Despite West Lynn Productions’ apparent newness on the scene, and certainly to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, there is a lot to be said for Secret Mountain’s originality. Not much, mind you, for its parabolic content (taking any of the life lessons put forth in the show would be deeply inadvisable) but a great deal nonetheless for almost everything else. After an opening montage reminiscent of Too Many Cooks, the Secret Mountain thirty-something-teens launch into improv, sketch comedy, and nihilistic absurdity that feels like an hour of Peewee's Playhouse if Paul Reubens was indeed, on that 'whack crack.' 

Though deeply enjoyable, the production isn’t without its missteps. There are one or two “commercial breaks” that warrant a little polish— they stagger a little and draw momentum away from a very intelligent and otherwise driving script. That said, it’s not entirely clear how much of Secret Mountain is actually scripted; there are a few instances where scenes are slowed down by line fumbles and interruptions, worsened by Oliver the pig’s sometimes confusing accent. That said, the very same porcine puppet has been a mainstay in my heart since the end of the show. He’s incredibly quotable, as are a plenty of other jokes from across the entire script. The morbidity of the “ghost boy” scene was a particularly strong point, bolstered by the captivating comedic timing and delivery of Mason Pitluk. Since viewing this show, we've found ourselves jokingly shouting "Come on kids let's go find my body!" more times than we can count. Improv is a consistent strength throughout the piece, as are the attempts at childlike wonder from the supporting cast— they are established and then dashed again and again throughout. Pete Parsons, the creator of the show, flexes his own improvisational might during a creatively portrayed time-machine segment, as he unpacks suggestions from the audience and goes on tangents accordingly. The suggestions took a predominantly political tone, but Pete managed to work through them effectively, using “Oliver” to inject scathing pessimism and catchy jingles into some of history’s more significant moments. There are other puppets too, including a brain-damaged mouse, a well loved dog, and the looming omnipresent threat that is “The Hawk.”

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 1.44.53 PM.png

Is there some deeper meaning to be found in Secret Mountain? Something beneath the surface of it’s depraved, extravagant nonsense? If there is, to be honest, I don’t think such a reading would be encouraged. The main take-away from this show is that you are a terrible, selfish person, and if you have an ear for improv and jokes that will stick with you for a long time to come, you should keep an eye on West Lynn Productions. Secret Mountain is an earworm. It crawls into your head and puts awful ideas in you, and I love it. I will exclaim “sweet sassy mowassy” till I die. Though West Lynn Productions don’t currently have a web presence, Mason Pitluk (or “Ghost Boy”) is the creative Director of Fallout Theater, whose new website will be launching soon.

On top of sufficiently ruining our childhoods, West Lynn Productions is chaired by some extremely personable, and lovely people. They're heartwarmingly humble and appreciative, and that added to our enjoyment of the production. With some more polishing, tightening of lines and improved pacing, I could easily see Secret Mountain as its own sketch series, with new "episodes" being performed weekly or monthly and for the sake of Austin, Texas (where the cast resides) we hope this comes to fruition. You can follow wowsecretmountain on Instagram for further updates from this company. "Secret Mountain!" 

How to be a Bad Girl

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 12.57.41 PM.png

Going into How to be a Bad Girl, fittingly, takes you directly through a Hotel Bar. Ert Records’ press release promised a night of debauched singing, and that is exactly what was delivered. Sabrina Chap, the sole performer, blazes through her boozy, bluesy set with all the delicacy of a pneumatic drill, dishing out smut, satire and existential dread in equal measure. The onslaught is relentless; Sabrina hopes to make you “feel this f*cking thing” with her.

It’s not all chaos though, as How to be a Bad Girl’s narrative suggests. Sabrina mentions an upbringing punctuated by classical piano lessons and attempts for parental approval. She certainly earns our approval—the classical piano paid off. Sabrina doesn’t so much as glance down at the keys as she cracks jokes and openly mocks the audience for their alphabetical illiteracy. She’s not drinking, surprisingly; Sabrina drinks water at regular intervals throughout the performance, presumably to protect her voice from the perils of late-night crooning. Think Eartha Kitt. Think female Tom Waits. Think nihilistic Cole Porter. There’s a real intelligence to Chap’s performance, made clear by her references to obscure literary figures and her own lyrical literacy. Her emphasis on education is also a notable highlight, albeit not one I feel appropriate to repeat in this review—it’d spoil the fun. It would also necessitate some profanity.

Chap’s timing is consistently precise, with the audience being incorporated rather than merely participating. Chap is quick, reactive, and oozing with personality. Her comedic deftness is matched by her musical prowess, and her magnetism is undeniable. What’s even more impressive is how Chap somehow manages to make erudite points about sexual politics, and just plain old politics, whilst simultaneously preserving her “slutty” stage presence. There’s a lot to be said for the balance of the performance; it’s delicately maintained, despite the indelicacy of literally every other aspect of Chap’s performance.

How to be a Bad Girl is on at 22:30 until the 26th in The Laughing Horse at The Place Hotel. If you feel like getting your rocks off, Somna highly recommends you choose Sabrina Chap to assist you.

In Their Footsteps

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 12.44.40 PM.png

Infinite Variety’s In Their Footsteps presents an informative account of the feminine experience during service in the Vietnam War. Given IV Productions’ focus on historical entertainment and educating their viewers on the consistently underplayed female story of some of our planet’s bloody courses, In Their Footsteps is an understandable choice for IVP’s 2018 Fringe Production. The production aims to share the story of five female veterans, giving a personal air to what otherwise might have been a dry, historical account.

The issue with covering so many perspectives in one sitting, however, is clarity of focus. Fringe Venues have short slots, ranging from around an hour to perhaps two, at the longest. Due to the brevity of the piece, In Their Footsteps (unintentionally) glossed over some of the more poignant elements of its central quintet. War, as we well know, is hellish— this becomes difficult to convey with full emotional efficacy when tackled from five sides, at a rapid pace, in staggered anecdotes. Moreover, weight of focus seemed a touch off; by the play’s conclusion, IVP had only briefly touched on some of the more deeply interesting after-effects of the Vietnam war on late 20th century women, such as the psychological displacement of female veterans, social ostracization, guilt and the true impact of Agent Orange. Had the piece had more time, an exploration of these issues would have struck a well-needed balance with the earlier sections of the piece, which focussed largely on American Exceptionalism, Patriotism, fear of the enemy and the experience of male soldiers.

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 12.43.33 PM.png

What must be commended, however, is IVP’s commitment to accuracy and research. Having spoken directly with five female veterans (one of whom we later learned was actually in the audience,) In Their Footsteps draws on real historical data, adding emotional weight and shedding light on stories that otherwise would not have immediately come to mind when prompted by the phrase “Vietnam War.” IVP’s use of sound, both electronically generated and vocal in nature, was particularly effective at building tangible scenes in quick succession. Moreover, the set work remained fluid and imaginative, extracting as many possible set-ups from what was ultimately a black-box theatre. The work that Infinite Variety Productions are doing is indisputably important, and their outreach efforts are impressive to say the least. All these NYC natives need now is either a longer run-time, or a tighter focus; in order to truly do justice to the emotional and personal journeys of the women who form its character basis, a narrower lens is needed, to provide both clarity of narrative and of emotional beats.

 For updates regarding future productions and the continued humanitarian work of Infinite Variety Productions, Somna also recommends checking out their website at http://www.infinitevarietynyc.org/

Like Drowning

To be as fair as possible for this review of Like Drowning, I poured through Theatre Paradok’s social media pages and promotional material for insights and context on their 2018 fringe production. Camilla McMoody, one of Like Drowning’s directors, stated in an interview with studentnewspaper.org, that Like Drowning at its core is a production that asks “What is the theatre of the future?” This question is beyond intriguing, offering up beautiful and imaginative explorations of theatre’s newfound relationship with the digital age. While many other artistic mediums have fully embraced Web 2.0, theatre still seems trepidatious about its incorporation, so it’s refreshing to see a company embrace technology in its narrative. Like Drowning however, draws its true creative power from its collaborative script. In another interview, Directors Camilla McMoody and Penelope Hervouet explain that Like Drowning has been partially crafted by specially designed AI and cleverbots. These machines generated most of the script, in tandem with human editing, to craft this production.  http://www.studentnewspaper.org/student-spotlight-like-drowning/.  

In doing this, the directors explain that they came to the realization that AI programs come with their own inherit set of biases and prejudice, and Like Drowning, according to its fringe blurb, tries to position itself as a piece that ‘explores gendered power relationships,’ and to what extent human prejudices around gender have influenced AI programs.

Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 6.42.59 PM.png

What’s unfortunate then is that Like Drowning’s final execution does not seem to match up to the great effort and wealth of mythos invested in it’s construction. This is not a piece a viewer can go into cold; doing so will make for an extremely disorientating experience, as Like Drowning does not clarify any of this information in its runtime. This is troublesome, as it clouds the intentions of the piece. In order to better understand the thematic elements of the piece, or approach its central critique of gender, you need to go in fully-loaded with context. Otherwise, the piece’s surreal elements (it’s caricature characters, well-crafted props and excellent soundscape)  fail to clearly represent the concerns that Theatre Paradok wish to dissect. Again, I’d like to clarify that this is not because Theatre Paradok employs absurdism to tell its story, its because the context of the piece is entirely absent from the work itself. Its difficult to establish a performative flow when you aren’t quite sure what the performances are meant to embody, so some engagements between characters can detract from the momentum of the piece. This detraction is most apparent in the interjections of the monochromatically dressed characters that disrupt AI’s E and V’s conversation- these sequences pale in comparison to the central, compelling narrative between E and V, and I found myself patiently waiting for these segments to end in order to continue with the more engaging AIs. The purpose of the monochrome characters and their male counterparts seemed to be that they represented living caricatures of gender bias, as one of the AI’s observing them remarked “is that what all men and women are like?” but this is just my interpretation.

In terms of technical and performative work, Like Drowning does boast some impressive performances, from Anna Philips and Grace Dickson in particular, who take the narrative through vibrant character monologues, poems, and conversations. The two brilliantly convey some powerful emotions and through them, Like Drowning makes me deeply aware of the beauty and complexity to be found in humanness. It’s a funny outcome, for a show created in collaboration with machines. Though I am aware this doesn’t seem to line up with the intentions, I felt Paradok Theatre’s piece did a wonderful job at exploring feelings around concepts like vulnerability, love, and heartache. So though I was unable to experience this piece to the full extend of its intentions, the artistry of its narrative was still able to shine through.

Like Drowning is on at The Space at Niddry Street everyday at 6:50 till the 25th.

 

Those Worrisome Sleeps

Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 6.51.23 PM.png

The press release for Those Worrisome Sleeps ensured me that, despite featuring a wizard, it would be unwise for me to expect pointed hats, beards, or any other such stereotypically wizardly tropes. The set seems to contradict creator Ben Blow’s assurances— the knotted, wooden pillars and orbs of light conjure memories of summer D&D sessions in a dimly lit café near my old flat. Thematically, however, the production is as devoid of fantastical escapism as a Dawkins text. Those Worrisome Sleeps seeks to tackle the problem of grief and acceptance; of our failings, and what we have lost.

Those Worrisome Sleeps oozes whimsy. Its atmosphere is rock-solid, peppered with skilful use of lighting and a soundscape fit for a show on a much grander scale. The sheer effort put into the world-building elements of this piece is astounding. So rich, in fact, is the world behind Those Worrisome Sleeps that I can’t help but feel a more detailed, comprehensive history of its characters would not only be justified, but also deeply compelling. The central character, Jay, is a complex and infuriating figure. Their immense power is juxtaposed with their frailty and short temper, making this mystical entity feel much more proximate and human. I feel similarly for Jay— I want to learn how their power was acquired, who their teacher was, how someone comes to be a wizard in the world of Those Worrisome Sleeps. Moreover, I feel the humanity leant by Jay’s emotional immaturity was undercut somewhat by the florid dialogue. In a play with such raw thematic potential, and convincing emotional performances, verbosity can sometimes serve to drain energy and emotional clout from certain scenes. Granted, the play does have a quasi-medieval setting, but the inclusion of modern curses further confuses this. Though the writing boasts rich imagery and a wonderful turn of phrase, I feel some further concision is in order, if only to sharpen the already keen edge of Those Worrisome Sleeps.

For all its mysticism, fantasy, and spectacle, there is a deeply human story at the heart of Those Worrisome Sleeps. The fantastical framing doesn’t detract from the emotional impact of its central theme, grief. Its emotional lows are harrowing, and the cold, deadpan delivery of the supporting cast serves to solidify the harsh realities underpinning the whole story. Jay learns to let go and forgive themselves as the piece transpires, processing anger, love, apology and joy in equal measure throughout. The supporting cast are equally varied, embodying bitterness, servitude and scorn to deep efficacy. Those Worrisome Sleeps is an emotional journey for the viewer, one you are guided down by the memories of a wizard. This is just as enjoyable as it sounds.

Those Worrisome Sleeps runs at 18:35 until the 26th, in Grassmarket, Sweet Venue 2. For a human story, in an inhuman realm of possibility and magic, Somna recommends catching Those Worrisome Sleeps

Dreamland

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 4.30.42 PM.png

In the middle of watching Hyperdrive Theatre’s fringe production, Dreamland, I am struck with the realization that there is much to be said for the similarities between the cut-throat world of stockbroking and that of theatre-makers. Indeed, being positioned behind the Manning Corp CEO’s desk hearing “you have 15 seconds to sell yourself...12” I am suckerpunched by a similar feeling to Edinburgh Fringe flyering.

Dreamland is set in the turbulent world of 2008 London, following the year’s disastrous economic recession. This is an ambitious subject, and Dreamland taps into the possibilities for human cruelty, when we are threatened with failure. They very pointedly ask the audience from the start, ‘who is responsible for a crisis?’. While I am pulled in by this set up, and the mounting sense of drama and devastation that this time period promises...I can’t help but feel a little disappointed by the angle the script focuses on. The story of a wide-eyed young, white man rising to power and wealth through immoral but “devilishly charming” actions feels extremely played out. Nonetheless, Dreamland does it’s best to circumvent cliché with complex supporting characters and an engaging setting. Manning Corp itself serves as an excellent narrative battlefield, and a good entry point into the atmosphere around the financial drama, making the world around the business feel more fleshed out. Make no mistake though, there are bits of very smart writing peeking out of the script. For example, when one character needs to explain their idea about generating income through a mortgaging scheme Dreamland gives us this information through a character performing a ‘practice interview’ that makes all of this explanation feel natural and more visually interesting.

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 4.30.33 PM.png

In fact, visually is where Dreamland deserves the most praise; cast and crew of Hyperdrive Theatre pay very close attention to details and pacing and it shows, brilliantly. Dreamland boasts spot-on transitions that feel mesmerizingly slick,beautiful costumes (complete with custom ID badges for every character), and a gorgeous soundtrack. Moreover,  Dreamland employs the use of compelling physical theatre, and I can say confidently that these sequences were some of the best representations of how to do an on-stage version of a cinematic montage I have seen. Ever. However, this cinematic quality seems to be a double-edged sword for Dreamland. From the marketing, to the script’s angle, the production feels entirely too reliant on its influences (The Wolf of Wall Street being referenced right on their poster). Slow-mo, champagne spraying, rampant drug use, and non-diegetic character monologues made the piece feel like it was a stage adaptation of the Scorsese picture with a British accent. Which is a shame because there are moments where Dreamland starts to find its own identity outside of its cinematic crutches...and when it does it truly shows off the impressive talent and creativity of its cast and crew. I leave wishing the piece had trusted it’s own path more, but with extremely high hopes for the success of this young company. Because what Dreamland lacked in identity it more than made up for in acting prowess, design, and direction. Dreamland is performed at the Zoo Southside venue at 3pm till the 27th.

Waiting for Ofsted

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 4.07.04 PM.png

Waiting for Ofsted was pitched to me by a teacher, which marks a first for me in terms of my reviewing career. I was a little reluctant to go along, initially — I’ve been in enough school shows to know what they’re usually like; some half-baked Shakespeare, or a spotty-faced Arthur Miller adaptation. The Westcliff boys, however, presented me with neither. What I ended up seeing was an amalgamation of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and a healthy serving of English private-school surrealism, a la Monty Python’s Flying Circus. This was an ambitious undertaking, especially since the cast only had a week’s rehearsal.

Waiting for Ofsted’s greatest strength is its commitment to surrealism. There are long, uncomfortable silences, some playful use of bananas and movement sequences that subvert the setting of the piece, transcending school drama and taking the audience for a conceptual spin. These same sequences, however, served to drain energy from the piece in the long run, as Westcliff’s younger actors seemed less than committed to their choreographed movements. They did, however, only learn them in a week, which is pretty extraordinary. Voice work was consistently solid (served well by the well-spoken student body of Westcliff.) Particular commendation must be afforded to the pieces “Headmaster,” who dominates, in terms of stage presence, from the very outset. The more peculiar elements of the piece are carried off with aplomb, considering the age of these performers ranges from the dawn of double digits to mid-adolescence, by my suspicion. These did serve to bewilder the audience — nobody really expects to go to a school play and meet with the nebulous weirdness of Beckett. It was a nice touch.

The reason I did go to see Waiting for Ofsted is simple. Westcliff, at present, doesn’t have a drama department. The school’s lack of emphasis on the theatre becomes palpably obvious at the end of the piece; I saw Waiting for Ofsted on A-level results day. Every boy who had undertaken their A levels had managed to secure a place at their chosen University, which was nice to see, but I was a little disheartened to hear that only one had any inkling of an artistic future in mind. And he was the sound tech. Westcliff High isn’t exactly under-funded, so I find it baffling that they don’t offer Drama as a core subject, opting instead to encourage a solely extra-curricular engagement with dramatic performance. If you can afford to send your pupils off to Iceland, and you’re willing to encourage them to join the cadets, I’d suggest you afford Drama the same courtesy. A Mr Jeffreys, who orchestrated Waiting for Ofsted, shares my opinion. I personally spent the majority of my higher education devoid of curricular Drama, and I feel I suffered for it. I feel the same way about Waiting for Ofsted — the boys’ lack of training is apparent. Its impressive, granted, to tackle Beckett in your teens (or even beforehand,) but to pull it off, you need a guiding hand. As such, I implore the staff at Westcliff to consider the addition of Drama to their syllabus— I am absolutely sure there are boys at your school who’s passion for Acting goes beyond an elective interest. “Westcliff will always indulge,” reads the school website. Indulge me then.

Waiting for Ofsted has finished its run at the Edinburgh Fringe, but the promise for more from the Westcliff boys is an enticing prospect. They’re keen, intelligent young performers— all they need is a little guidance from say, a Drama teacher.

American Idiot

American Idiot - Favourite Son.png

I love musicals, but I grew up emo. This seems irreconcilable, until you consider the fact that American Idiot exists. Corresponding directly with the eponymous concept album that swept me through my adolescence, American Idiot unpacks the various themes explored by Green Day’s lyrics and extracts a narrative from them. When the Edinburgh Footlights got in touch with us for a review, I was immediately excited.

American Idiot (the album) is a sharp exploration of Americanism, consumerism, small-town desperation and patriotism in a neo-liberal society. It’s seriously articulate, for a band whose namesake is a day-long bong smoking session. I walked into the venue and was greeted by a sea of masks, depicting America’s current cultural pantheon— Kanye West, Donald Trump etc. I’m swiftly thrown into a narrative featuring war, drug abuse, hopeless rock n’ roll dreams and small-town entrapment. The band are incredibly tight, and they blaze through my teenaged anthems with ease. I’m giddy by this point—the rhythm guitarist is wearing black nail varnish. The costuming has me consistently gobsmacked. I don’t know how the Edinburgh Footlights time travelled back to noughties and raided my wardrobe, but the stage is bedecked with ripped denim, band tees and eyeliner. I saw a man skip in platform boots…majorly impressive stuff all around. American Idiot (the musical) is raunchy, gritty, and unkempt. For a (mostly) reformed emo, this is a godsend. It is also the source of my main criticisms.

American Idiot - Extraordinary Girl.png

I saw the penultimate show of the Footlight’s run, which will mitigate this critique somewhat, but it still stands. The vocal delivery of certain songs was lost to the “punk” aesthetic of the piece, affecting pitching and volume quite severely in some cases. The play’s principle trio suffered the brunt of this damage, with the supporting cast (particularly the female performers) remaining consistently strong. Some tech issues were also to blame for vocal dips, so I’ll let a few of them slide. Further difficulties were experienced by the band— you can’t beat a guitar to death for a full show and expect it to stay in tune. Another pass for that one. Choreography was a little off, in terms of timing, but this was more than made up for by the stellar dancing in Extraordinary Girl, I could have watched it for hours. 21 Guns was another standout, but this time the vocals were the source of my awe. I had chills, my emo little heart was fluttering; the harmonies were executed brilliantly. Less impressive were the acoustic numbers — poorly-executed barre chords from the principle cast lead to some unpleasant fret buzz and rogue notes, but barre chords are difficult, so I won’t crucify anyone for that. Maybe some warm-up exercises are in order though, your hands need to stretch quite a lot.

Speaking of stretching, I found the believability of certain performances to be an imaginative one. Characterisation was a little weak across the principle trio, which was made quite palpable in juxtaposition to the richly nuanced performance of “St Jimmy,” whose constant shaking and menacing glare had me checking for my nearest available exit. It’s hard to give life to characters in such a fast-paced musical though—the songs are practically back to back. With some polish, the Footlights have a stellar production under their belt. Their run of American Idiot has concluded, but I look forward to seeing what they do in the future.

Everyone Keeps Broken Pens

The Free Fringe makes venues out of some interesting spaces, posing challenges to even the most experienced performer. For Everyone Keeps Broken Pens, I’m upstairs in Revolution Bar. I actually met Kate Mayne, the writer and sole performer of the piece, on my way in—she was doing some last-minute flyering.

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 3.55.37 PM.png

Everyone Keeps Broken Pens is, in many ways, character-driven. It’s a study of Kate’s character, in the form of a dramatized narrative. Naturally, this involves several characters. Kate seeks to exonerate her inner demons, or at least, bend them to her will in an act of self-improvement. Her struggle is a relatable one — we all face the same issues in dealing with the opinions of others, self-indulgence and competing with the pressures we mount upon ourselves. Kate incorporates these trials by literally bringing them to life, and then some. One character is played by a phone on a selfie-stick, which was a first for me.  The other characters were distinguishable by the unique voices and mannerisms that Kate attributed to them, as Everyone Keeps Broken Pens is of course a one-woman show. This sort of characterisation always tears me two ways— I appreciate that it’s a personal piece, so I can conceive of why Kate wanted to do it on her own. On the other hand, I find it pretty jarring watching one actor switch from character to character on the spot, just by a change of stance, gait, or diction. Given the subject matter of the piece, however, I feel I should make allowances.

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 3.55.48 PM.png

What makes Everyone Keeps Broken Pens enjoyable is its relatability, and enjoyable story. We have all, at one time or another, fallen victim to our “unhelpful thoughts.” Kate weaves an engaging story about a fictional hotel, where her thoughts work. The set is basically non-existent, given the venue, and some use of mimed walls serves to slightly disrupt immersion later in the show. But Kate’s attention to prop-use and costuming quickly remedies this, as do her amusing, personally-generated sound effects. The narrative is also littered with excellent word-play; it’s consistently impressive. Kate uses her voice effectively too— the venue is surprisingly large despite being part of a bar/restaurant. Some additional scoring wouldn’t have gone amiss. It might have bolstered the setting somewhat. That said, the characterisation is solid, despite the slightly jarring transitions. Kate Mayne shows serious range as a performer, she’s not one to be missed.

The Mayne Event are an emergent Glasgow-based Theatre Company. Though their run of Everyone Keeps Broken Pens has ended, it’d be worth your time to keep an eye out for what they do next.

Is That Right Aye?

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 4.48.47 PM.png

It’s 8pm. The room is dark and there is thumping, incessant dance music donking its way into my ear drums. There are Scotsmen around me with pints in their hands, bobbing away to some classic, bammy tunes. No, I’m not up the dancing. I’m at Is That Right Aye, Weegie Hink Ae That’s follow up to last year’s Where Ye Fae? I saw them last year, and nearly broke a rib laughing. This year, their material has been sharpened even further, with the addition of new, more complex songs and slick video transitions to help keep up the pace that these bright young comedians establish from the outset.

It is my personal belief that there is no substance on earth more elastic than Gregor Mackay’s face. His simultaneous gurning and two-stepping, accompanied by a spaced-out voiceover outlining his fleein’ train of thought is deeply funny. Don’t judge this book by its cover though—Mackay swaps his bleary-eyed dance moves for dulcet singing and delicate piano-playing later in the show. As it transpires, each of the four “weegies” is a capable singer and musician, with Is That Right Aye feeling equal parts sketch comedy show and acoustic gig. The boys try their hand at a dance number too; long-term followers of the weegies will understand that it’s a nod to a prior show. The branding is rock solid— Weegie Hink Ae That have an intelligent, well-cultivated image.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 4.46.20 PM.png

No show exhibiting Glaswegian stereotypes could ever be free from vulgarity, and it’s here that the Weegies falter slightly. Not every audience member they’re going to attract will appreciate the crassness of Glasgow humour, to the point where I feel some might feel slightly offended. Moreover, there are one or two sketches that don’t quite hit home, notably a brief encounter with a sausage roll that was less than satisfyingly sausage. We can probably cite the unintelligibility of Glaswegian culture for this, but some revision wouldn’t go amiss.

That said, I can confidently say I’ve never been so consistently impressed by a group’s comic timing before. Every beat was flawlessly timed, the songs were water-tight, and no transition felt too drawn out. Even the dance routine looked choreographed to perfection. The tracksuits that adorn Weegie Hink Ae That conceal a richly comic intelligence beyond the meagre years of their performing body— the combined age of the group is somewhere in the 80’s, and there’s four of them.

Is That Right Aye is on at 20:05 tonight and tomorrow, at the Radisson Blue on the Mile. If you’re planning on seeing it, ensure you book your tickets promptly—The Weegies always sell out. Even if you can’t catch them this time around, keep your eyes peeled. These boys are going places… but not anywhere posh.

Sophie, Ben and Other Problems

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 3.46.21 PM.png

Sophie, Ben and Other Problems made me want to immediately grab my phone and call someone close to me. It’s an endearing slice of life piece, ostensibly concerned with the ins and outs of Sophie and Ben’s relationship so far. I believe them. I believe them so hard. From the outset I want the absolute world for these millennial dorks. The acting is what really sells Sophie and Ben as a couple—the performances are nuanced, naturalistic and heart-warming. The script is resplendent too, to the point where I almost forget that the actor playing Ben is also the writer. I wonder if there’s any autobiographical element to this piece; his commitment to the dialogue is scintillating.

As far as the writing is concerned, there are some interesting framing devices. The fourth wall is immediately brought down, and a night-club smoking area is used as a motif for many subsequent scenes. It’s incredibly slick—there’s not a single slip up with tech, and some of the prop work is insane. Conor, the actor playing Ben, miraculously produces a bottle of Stella Artois from nowhere and I am still dumbfounded as to how.  It’d be a disservice to Sophie, Ben and Other Problems to praise its comedic prowess; there’s more to be found than laughter. The intimacy of the whole show shifts in tone quite detectably as the show progresses. Sophie gives Ben a chance to speak on his own, citing issues surrounding his confidence. It turns out that Ben has had a rough upbringing, and this becomes a more central concern towards the end of the play. I can’t spoil anything about the ending, but what I can tell you is that it caught me by surprise, and I found myself feeling wounded. It’s a tonal about-face that comes out of nowhere, allowing for the equal development of each character. This was my only real caveat with Sophie, Ben and Other Problems—Ben is afforded a little more character development. The ending makes it clear why, but the run up to the play’s conclusion feels a little Ben-centric, glossing over Sophie’s story in favour of diving straight into a cross-section of their relationship.

Even now as I write this, though, I find it difficult to come up with anything else I didn’t like about Sophie, Ben and Other Problems. The imbalanced character development is such a minor gripe when posed against the great writing, totally engrossing naturalism and well-framed narrative twists and turns that frankly I’m inclined to ignore my own criticisms of the work. Go see it. You’ll probably cry a bit, I very nearly did. The After School Club are showing Sophie, Ben, and Other Problems at 14:50 from the 14th to the 19th, and then again from the 21st to the 27th in Assembly George Square, Studio Five. For endearing naturalism and great writing, it’s not to be missed.

Breathing Corpses

corpses.jpg

By now, Laura Wade is becoming a bit of a household name. The filmic adaptation of her 2010 play Posh, The Riot Clubfeatured a star-studded cast that included Jeremy Irons’ son. Equally resplendent with star-power (albeit not yet realised) was the debut of her 2005 work Breathing Corpses; it featured a baby-faced James McAvoy. Split Brick Theatre’s adaptation of Breathing Corpses has a similarly youthful cast, as each of its actors is a recent theatre graduate. The challenge posed by Wade’s script is undeniable; its narratively convoluted and boasts a range of emotional highs and lows that the newly accredited company seem a little daunted by. We found volume to be a consistent issue, with diction playing second fiddle. Lines were never fumbled though, complimenting the play’s slick scene transitions. With such a minimal set, it’s remarkable how much longevity Split Brick managed to squeeze out of the table they had on stage—it served as a container, shop front and hotel bed from scene to scene without so much as a crinkle in the play’s immersive potency. Claire McCarragher stood out too, with her subtly comic and charming characterisation lending Breathing Corpses a truly enjoyable respite from all the dead people.

While Split Brick immerse us in the world of Breathing Corpses, this isn’t necessarily to their benefit. Wade has advanced her narrative ability greatly since 2005, and this is apparent after the opening scene. It’s an old play, and its thematic engagement with the inevitability of death demands a direct approach— Wade’s anachronistic narrative serves to boggle the mind of spectators and this, coupled with the sparse staging choices of Split Brick Theatre, sheds new light on the script’s glaring issues. Split Brick are an emergent, youthful company and choosing to produce a show that demands us to believe that its members are a dysfunctional middle-aged couple, or an overworked businesswoman locked in a dissatisfying relationship seems a slight misstep, particularly for what seems to be their debut production. That being said, Split Brick are certainly an ambitious group to tackle such a complex show, and to do so with such heart is even more commendable. A measured reflection on what might not have worked in Breathing Corpses would surely prompt new and exciting things from this still developing company. It is our firm belief that Split Brick have the potential to make great theatre, provided they keep at it and are more selective with their next show.

Breathing Corpses is on from the 12th to the 24th of August on even-numbered days. The play starts at 15:45 each day, in Space 3 at The Space on the Mile. For a promising young company’s Fringe debut, STC recommends you catch Breathing Corpses before the festival is out.

Fear No Colours Company Showcase

FNC 2.jpg

Bucket Men

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.56.16 PM.png

At a certain point in Bucket Men I’m actually unsure if I’ve walked into a performance venue, or Samuel Beckett’s tomb. Fear no Colours’ 2018 Fringe show boasts both impressive acting and a palpable atmosphere that more than effectively makes use of the claustrophobic basement of the C Royale. The titular “bucket men,” known only as A and B, enter from outside of the venue itself, giving me the uncanny impression that they’ve used the door as a portal from their reality into our own. It’s an unnerving feeling, one that’s only heightened by the play’s increasing absurdism. The production follows A and B (brilliantly played by Jack Houston and Max Aspen) who appear to be trapped in a cycle. The bucket men are tasked with a gruesome job from unknown higher-ups, requiring absolute adherence to routine at the cost of their sanities. At first I’m amused by the lyrical cadence of the piece; A and B talk with an almost spoken-word quality, and are certainly enjoyable to watch. Aspen’s manic energy is well-balanced by Houston’s well-worn cynicism. Their work day banter is peppered with analogies, jokes, and a bat-shit story about why one of the bucket men was late. It’s a strange piece sure, but one that feels more whimsical than menacing…

….that is until a sheet is removed from a bathtub I hadn’t noticed in the far left corner.

In the play’s own words ‘A kettle is hottest when it is silent’ and indeed, Bucket Men felt blisteringly engaging in the long, silent wake of its horrific bathtub reveal. All whimsy is swiftly shattered, and an oppressive chill takes its place. The characters simply sit eating sandwiches, while I’m forced to make sense of this unsettling scene. It’s a glittering moment of tension and morbid delight that successfully grips the entire audience. From there, Bucket Men doesn’t hold back, becoming an exercise in anxiety as A and B attempt to recreate their work day, word for word, over and over again. What keeps this repetition from becoming boring is that the characters seem to know that changing the pattern has violent consequences, and react fearfully at any misstep. Thus, the circular scenes feel woven into the plot of the piece itself, becoming less a poetic gimmick and more an interesting necessity. This is best utilized in the latter half of the piece when one of the actors must recreate the work day all by himself. What results is an impressive display of acting prowess from Max Aspen, and a gorgeous way to ramp up the boiling tension Bucket Menproduces. However, while Bucket Men effectively builds tension and uncertainty for the majority of its run, I can’t help but feel a little cheated when the production ends and I’m left with little to no answers. While I understand an absurdist and surrealist piece typically lends itself more to interpretation, the ritualistic tasks the men go through feel too specifically tailored to the world of the piece to simply be metaphorical, or without a specific reading in mind.

Nonetheless, this work of new writing from Samuel Skoog manages to win me over, despite my bias against ‘art-for-art’s-sake’. Ultimately, In a festival over-saturated by shows featuring ‘relatable content’, I’m glad I instead got to spend an evening outside of the confines of my own reality. Bucket Men is on at 5:45  everyday in C Royale till the 18th of August.  

Tonight, With Donny Stixx

donny.jpg

Tonight, With Donny Stixx is a show ostensibly about a magician. Rather than relying on the traditional “smoke n’ mirrors” approach, however, FNC’s one-man show relies on a bare room in Jury’s Inn, minimal lighting, and the singular, irrefutable talent of actor Chris Duffy. Commanding a
room of people who are intently watching you is daunting enough, never mind doing it alone. Duffy’s charisma is a stark antithesis to the eponymous character, Donny — it’s a struggle looking at
my notebook to write. Tonight, With Donny Stixx charts the tortured developmental years of a deluded would-be magician, as he fumbles blindly through life with his dead mother’s praise for motivation. He’s neurotic, a touch narcissistic, and deeply, deeply angry. Ridley’s erudite dialogue prevents Donny from being a cross-examination of a criminally insane teenager though; any joke at Wordsworth’s expense is going to get a laugh out of this embittered English graduate. As do the
darkly comic asides that Duffy so naturally delivers. He’s believably venomous. These believable performative elements form the basis of my qualms with Tonight, with Donny Stixx, too. Duffy’s more intense outbursts, while deeply chilling, interfere directly with his lines and diction, breaking immersion when it’s arguably most important. I would also question the lack of any discernible costume choice— a character so consistently fussing over their image would likely turn up to their own one-man show in something more than a plain t-shirt. Maybe I’m looking for spectacle though, and Tonight, With Donny Stixx isn’t really about spectacle. It’s packaged as though it should be a glitzy, gory tragedy with all the pomp and circumstance demanded by old-school magician cheesiness. Don’t go if you’re looking for a magic show, though. Tonight, With Donny Stixx isn’t for the dreamers and believers of the Edinburgh Fringe; its steeped in grim reality, offset only slightly by the occasional joke (and I have a pretty grim sense of humour.) The thematic incorporation of contemporary net-narcissism is also strikingly relevant. All around us, especially
here at the Fringe, we are branding and re-branding ourselves in the hope of eliciting some praise from strangers (and in some cases our mums.) “Why is nobody filming me?!” cries Duffy, echoing the generational subtext that permeates this fledgling century. Tonight, With Donny Stixx is a reality check for all of us. For performers, it should be even more impactful— the bar is set very high indeed. 

Tonight, With Donny Stixx is on from the 13th -25th of August at 13:40 in The Space at Jury’s Inn. I encourage everyone to go along and see Chris Duffy’s masterful iteration of this show; his bouts of believable mania and sudden wrathful outbursts bring a largely empty stage to life, and Donny’s life is not fair.

To Have Done With the Judgement of God

The beer garden at C Too is adorable. There are hanging light fixtures, exposed wood furniture and abundant foliage. It’s a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Fringe madness, characterised perfectly by the queue for the Tattoo swarming outside. To Have Done With The Judgement of God plunges you into an entirely new kind of madness, substituting the placidity of C Too’s garden for droning electronic beats, haze and atmospheric lighting. FNC love to shock, so a stark juxtaposition to the tranquillity outside was to be expected.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.57.37 PM.png

Such conceptual theatre is hard to review. Our interpretation might not be the same as the intention of the piece, or even the opinion of other audience members. While our experience would suggest that FNC intended an environmentalist reading for THDWTJOG, to allow for subjectivity we’ll try and keep our critique focused chiefly around realization, delivery, and the production’s technical elements. THDWTJOG is based on a radio play by Antonin Artaud, the text of which is left completely open to theatrical interpretation. In FNC’s iteration, they have chosen to complement Artaud’s words with physical theatre, utilising an array of rich choreography. This was most effective during the piece’s opening sequence, we felt—the steady pacing and minimal light sources lent the prior scenes a ritualistic, eerie quality. Moreover, the highlight of THDWTJOG follows shortly afterward; naked cast members spill out of a plastic “womb”, and writhe on the floor in an infantile stupor (the symbolic implications of which were not lost on the audience.) Artaud might have been proud of the play’s use of sonic elements too; the score is wrought with metallic whining, crashing and other similarly terrifying noises. Admittedly, one soundscape in particular felt slightly played out by the conclusion of the piece, but this is a personal gripe. As for the performative aspects, some sequences felt more disorienting than effective. The physical theatre and Artaud’s manic rambling can feel, at times, to be working in opposition. Words are lost, attentions are split and what starts off as a captivating, weighty piece of theatre begins to lose its edge. FNC expects the audience to simultaneously engage with the postulations of a madman and interpret the high octane physical sequences we’ve come to expect from them. It’s overwhelming, which could perhaps be intentional, but ultimately serves to confuse the spectator. Our feeling is that THDWTJOG would have benefited from focusing more on the physical interpretation, trading the total integration of Artaud’s radio play for a few select lines in between the sequences. This at least would have remedied the sensory overload.

That being said, the physical theatre on display was of iridescent quality. We suspect the cast to include at least one trained ballet dancer—the timing and precision of each sequence was impeccable. We’d recommend anyone unsure of the expressive limitations of the human body to check out THDWTJOG, as its cast consistently seek to challenge them. To Have Done With the Judgement of God is on at the C Too Venue everyday till the 27th of August at 20:15. 

Outside

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 3.39.31 PM.png

I’ve always been a sucker for speculative fiction; it’s one of the best ways to reflect on the world around you, while also engaging with an interesting narrative. It creates pathways for us to consider our own anxieties. With this in mind, It’s clear that newcomers Clay Party, share my belief in the power of speculative fiction, and their debut production Outside stands tall as an impressive poster child for it . The premise ofOutside is as follows; Charlie, Rosie, and Ed (played by Charlie Suff, Rosie Gray, and writer/actor Edward Stone) are three twenty-somethings living in a UK where a nationwide curfew has been enforced. Outside’s plot takes place on the night this year-long curfew is finally set to be lifted, and our characters are gearing up for the festivities. The piece is set in motion as we learn that the fall of the curfew also marks the night that concierge, Charlie, is planning on proposing to long-time girlfriend, Rosie, catalyzed by his discovery of a discarded positive pregnancy test.

Too often I find that a piece relies on an interesting premise, but does little to develop it narratively. However, I am delighted to find that this is not the case with Outside. The narrow focus on the characters’ personal lives makes the larger reality they live in feel detailed, rich, and overwhelmingly naturalistic; I have to keep reminding myself that I am not, in fact, the fourth member of this flat party. When Outside does need to deliver exposition/backstory on its incel infested world, it’s done in subtle and varied ways (namely, Alexa and radio broadcasts) that don’t feel at all forced. Most of this uncanny naturalism can be credited to the acting talents of the cast, who all stand out as masters of realistic delivery and timing. Though praise must also be afforded to writer Edward Stone’s incredible knack for dialogue, and clear understanding of how to pen authentic personalities. If I haven’t sold you yet, you’re lying. But, if you insist on being stubborn, then rest assured that the real, thematic meat of this piece is just as up to snuff as the rest of its successes.

Each character interacts with masculine violence in different ways, from the mundane (such as being forced to sleep in your office if you work late) to the tragic (one of the characters is sibling to a crippled bombing victim). This makes the danger of unchecked male anger feel omnipresent and  looming. Thus, the end of the curfew ushers in a sense of hope; the possibility that things have finally calmed down makes going outside seem more a relief than a threat. To this end, the curfew itself functions as a clever analogy for the stifling (and crumbling) relationship we see play out between Rosie and Charlie, which begins to feel less and less like a partnership and more like a game of capture-the-flag (or in this case fianceé). This is what makes Outside such a complex, satisfying production. Outside made me more afraid of the men inside Rosie’s life than the ones beyond the walls of Charlie’s flat, and the significance of that is extraordinarily telling as to the play’s power. 
Outside is performed in the Pleasance Courtyard Cellar venue everyday at 3:30 (except the 13th)  until the 27th .

 

I'll Have What She's Having

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 3.39.29 PM.png

I felt a little bad walking into I’ll Have What She’s Having— I got there early and was thus let into the house at the front of the line. This left me sitting in the front row with an open notebook, which I have experienced myself at the Fringe, and find to be one of the most daunting things in the world. But the ladies of I’ll Have What She’s Having are unphased, launching into an autobiographical adaptation that is both endearing and close to the bone. Jess’ line “I have an English degree, which is basically a degree in SparkNotes” hits home for me. I’m pretty sure I winced a little. But there’s more to this show than millennial flippancy; we are also offered an insight into the world of Victoria, a mother in her mid-twenties who is also married and a PHD student. Her reserved energy provides a nice foil for Jess’ care-free vibe, creating a dual perspective and a sense that we are universally facing the issues the play discusses. Though there are uniquely feminine topics raised, concerning enforced beauty norms and “the right time” to become a mother, the universality of concerns such as how we appear to other people and the stability of our romantic lives are also brought to the fore, to the palpable unease of the audience.

Adding to this nervousness are Jess and Victoria’s open flirtations with an audience member named Phillip, a sombre moment wherein Victoria hangs her silent doubts on a washing line at the back of the stage, and some creative use of bananas that left me amused, nauseated and blushing. It’s a lot. Most people’s life stories are though, and that’s what I’ll Have What She’s Having feels like. Jess reads from a childhood diary at certain points in the play, and it feels like more than just a gimmick—seeing Jess and Victoria perform feels a lot like reading the diary of someone young, unsure and inexperienced. The sensitivity of the piece is no fault of incompetence, however. I’ll Have What She’s Having is clearly the work of dynamic young writer-performers who effectively generate an energy that is both humorous and uplifting, while maintaining the poignancy inherent in the show’s autobiographical source material.

I’d recommend I’ll Have What She’s Having to anyone really, but it’s my compulsion to encourage people like me, who are in their twenties and haven’t a bloody clue where their life is going yet to see I’ll Have What She’s Having—it turns what is usually the subject of crippling anxiety and confusion into something fun, hopeful and warm. It felt like a catch up with an old friend, which is aptly how the piece is framed. I’ll Have What She’s Having is on at Studio 4 in Assembly George Square, every day from the 3rd to the 26th of August at 12:15pm. Jess would be happy, Victoria would be happy, it’s just such a happy time to go see it.

Robbie Heath   
Senior Actor

Ah Dinnae Ken

ADK.jpg

Walking into The Space @Niddry Street, you are met with a love letter to Scottish pride; the stage is drenched in a blue and yellow wash. Bagpipes make for a powerful start to this production, the aesthetic immersion forming a cohesive identity for Student Theatre at Glasgow’s 2018 Fringe show Ah Dinnae KenAh Dinnae Ken revolves around the issue of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, and in this production a second referendum has been proposed with two opposing families poised against each other, vying for control of the country’s fate. As someone who isn’t Scottish, I’m excited to see what both sides have to say. I know there are pros and cons to each choice and it’s a conflict that could lend itself to some sharp political satire. The trouble for this production however, is that it never seems to master a fair argument. The families (Yellow being pro-indy and Blue being against) are curiously not depicted equally. It’s troubling in that only one has the idea to murder their Blue neighbours and secure the vote; you’d expect this to be a balanced conflict. It’s true there was a vote in favour of unity in 2014 and this majority catalyses the plot, but the ignorant and impulsive image the Yellow family are lent is not charitable. Both families being fed up with the opposing voters and as a result, stooping to violent extremes is ostensibly the plot put forward in Ah Dinnae Ken’s marketing. However, by making only the Blue family seem rational, Ah Dinnae Ken takes on an appearance of bias towards certain voters. While taking a stance isn’t inherently a bad idea, it’s distressing when the other side isn’t given fair consideration; it undercuts the darkly comic, satirical edge that this premise could easily have supplied and supplants a watered down, 'good vs. evil' showdown that feels politically deaf.

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 3.12.35 PM.png

The comedy of Ah Dinnae Ken mostly comes from its character acting (with notable double-performances from Sam Fraser and Ryan Rutherford,) slapstick elements and relatable family bickering. While this is entertaining, and laughs were certainly had, the political element became sorely underplayed, which was a little disappointing given the potential of the premise. Despite a cohesive aesthetic, the plot never manages to echo that same sense of identity. In addition to presenting a dark political comedy, Ah Dinnae Ken is also a Romeo and Juliet adaptation, and at times the production isn’t sure where to strike the balance between these two, transplanting whole lines of iambic dialogue and pushing its 'lets kill the neighbors' premise to the sideline about half way through in order to focus on the R&J parallel. While it is certainly possible to be both satire and Shakespeare adaptation, a real political commentary, in this production's case, is further obscured by this clunky incorporation of Shakespeare.The immersion is interrupted further by the somewhat jarring musical transitions, though this could easily be a tech issue.

However, what Ah Dinnae Ken might lack in execution it more than makes up for in ambition. It’s staging uses the space to great advantage, boasting some complex transitions and believable double-performances all round. The meticulous costume design is a strong visual reference and Ah Dinnae Ken is at its core a very enjoyable watch. With some revision to the script, (and perhaps axing the single family gimmick for a doubled cast) STaG could be sitting on a mischievous satire, with real bite as well as humour. Ah Dinnae Ken is in The Space @ Niddry street from the 3rd-26th of August at 16:15. Grab a ticket, before they tell you you can’t.

Morgan Noll    
Creative Director

Edited by Robbie Heath

Come to Daddy

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 3.01.43 PM.png

Come to Daddy is a little bit more than a play, in that I’m not entirely sure I can call it one. Visual Opera maybe? Brechtian Seminar? A yearbook for the coming century, in the form of a living art installation? All of these seem to capture some of the energy of Come to Daddy, but all fall equally short of the mark. The work opens with one actor talking directly to the audience in an ominously curt delivery, before other cast members take to the stage to reveal that, beneath the large sheet raised in the middle of the stage, another set of cast members are hidden in a foreboding tableau. It’s gripping. Really gripping.

The opening few minutes also include a spoken/sung round, with rich contrapuntal texture and harmonies. There’s also a choreographed dance number, a sequence using iPhone footage (that somehow wracks me with emotion despite my being a Samsung user) and a “mid-show discussion” in the style of a surreal panel show. It’s during this scene that I am witness to my favourite part of the piece — a man eating a Crunchie bar as a fellow cast member holds a sign reading Saturn Devouring his Son behind his head. The art history buffs among you will have some notion of how unnerving that was.

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 2.53.52 PM.png

This well-read quality is perhaps the only way Come to Daddy might lose your attention. The trouble with theatre of such modernity is that not everyone knows Goya’s Frescos from memory, or indeed who Tadeusz Kantor is. Come to Daddy does stop to inform you though, in a scene that moves from lecturing to a kind of theatrical cult-worship that would be out of place if I didn’t know that I was watching students of a Theatre College. It can seem a little high-brow at times,  butCome to Daddy holds your hand all the way through, guiding you through its labyrinthian intricacy every step of the way. It somehow feels like a very intimate piece despite the impressive size of the venue and sheer magnitude of its spectacle. Perhaps this complex relationship is befitting of a play ostensibly concerned with fatherhood though. There is a fourth wall, but it’s transparent and has holes in it so you can breathe. One or two cast members seemed a touch overwhelmed by the sensory madness of the piece, but their line fumbles were minimal and paled in comparison to the complexity of the work.

“This is not magic”— it makes for a memorable line. It’s a concise summation of what Come to Daddy is, too. The visual prowess is astounding, the incorporated technical elements are bold and carried off successfully. There’s a guy in a gorilla costume for God’s sake. But it’s not magic that makes Come to Daddy so strong. It’s a kind of theatre-science. Precise, well-executed science.

Rose Bruford are putting on Come to Daddy from the 7th-12th of August at 13:35 in Bruford at Summerhall, Fringe Venue 26. For fans of disorientating visuals, art history and surrealism, I recommend you go ahead and Come to Daddy.

Robbie Heath   
Senior Actor

.

The Fetch Wilson

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 2.10.47 PM.png

The Fetch Wilson takes place in a room with a black floor, red lighting and giant playing cards hanging from the ceiling. Its foreboding and grim, so it perfectly sets the mood for a play set predominantly on the seedier side of the street. It’s ambitious to claim Chuck Palahniuk as a central influence— his grit, wry humour and unique voice are nigh inimitable. I’m initially impressed though; The Fetch Wilson features just one actor, who strides onto stage in boxer shorts and an inner tube, while somehow preserving the atmosphere and crackling tension already festering in the room. He’s funny, intimidating and very Irish, making the play’s setting immediately apparent. The story opens with a little diatribe about the narrator’s parents and their rocky relationship—already very Palahniuk. By the time we arrive at our (anti)hero’s school days, there is an element of Dostoyevsky’s The Double at play. While this does serve to bolster the dark, gritty elements of the story, I can’t help the suspicion that I have some idea where this might be going... more on this later.

The Fetch Wilson does character and setting very well. There’s a host of other people speaking from the mind of the one actor, ranging from scummy to not so scummy. Watching this unfold makes for a gripping spectacle, as does the seedy imagery of Dublin back-alleys, dilapidated houses in bad parts of town and cityscapes beneath grey Czech skies. It’s world-building is solid and honestly makes for a believable story. The acting is also great; consistent micro-gesture and a direct incorporation of the set coupled with florid dialogue and the odd philosophical comment provides us with a complex main character to pick apart as the play unfolds. This term “pick apart,” is operative here, and is where my main gripe with The Fetch Wilson lies...

...to claim Chuck Palahniuk as an influence is ambitious, as I pointed out earlier. His singular presence on the literary scene is unquestionable and testaments to his influence on your work are always made risky by the threat of imitation. The Fetch Wilson had me a little nervous as soon as its main character remarked “I wanted to feel like I had something important to say.” The crisis of autonomy that this line highlights is a staple of Palahniuk’s Fight Club, as is quasi-homoerotic fascination with one’s more beautiful peers, dark charisma and a lust for danger. These are all elements of The Fetch Wilson that served to gradually worry me more and more.

I won’t spoil any major plot details, but readers of The Double and Palahniuk’s work might have an inkling of why I feel the culmination of The Fetch Wilson’s plot detracts slightly from the solid aesthetic presentation of the piece. This aside, the dialogue is well formed and the characterisation is incredibly lucid, and this clarity of vision is done real justice by the work of its solitary actor. For an engaging character study and a dive into a very dingy, very dark rabbit hole, I’d recommend catching The Fetch Wilson at 11:30 from the 5th-13th and then again from 15th-27th in the Pleasance Attic, Fringe venue 33.

Robbie Heath   
Senior Actor

No-one is Coming to Save You

nooneis.png

You could almost be forgiven for feeling comfortable, going into No-one is Coming to Save You. Bunker Two is an intimate, dimly-lit venue, and you’re greeted by a smiling steward, who hands you a piece of paper and requests that you write down “something that makes you feel okay” (I sing in the shower, so I inscribed accordingly.) The house music is original also— peppy, bright synthesizers weave in and out of one-another. There’s a pretty adorable little TV also, one you could probably visualise in a living room from the 1970’s; it’s an atmosphere of belonging...

...an atmosphere that becomes steadily permeated with tension and anxiety, as each of the two performers (Rudolphe Mdlongwa and Agatha Elwes, respectively) begins to speak, outlining a pair of separate, imaginary scenes that are at once domestic and unnerving. The normality of each piece of dialogue is undercut by foreboding delivery, bloody imagery, nausea and existential dread. With its speculation, nervousness and grotesque whimsy, I’m reminded a bit of Stanley Donwood. No one is Coming to Save You splices together a dance segment, Hawaiian shirts and a homely mundanity with allusions to climate change, harrowing imagery and the nagging fear of growing older that every young person I’ve ever met is afflicted by. Everyone in the audience seemed very emotionally involved, not least the actors. Mdlongwa’s somewhat clipped, formal delivery made him feel like a truly dominant presence in the tight claustrophobia of Bunker 2. Elwes’ expressive facial acting and deft vocal control embodied something quite opposite; there was a manic energy to her performance. Her stage presence, combined with the goriness of some of the subject matter (and indeed, the fake blood all over her face) left me feeling a little unsure for my safety...in an apposite way.

There is a moment where both actors stand, in silence, for about half a minute. It’s as impactful as the score is, and for me I think a show is well-weighted if it can juxtapose silence and music, using each to the same degree of efficacy. It’s the subtleties of No One is Coming to Save You that make it the cohesive experience that it is. The self-referential prop use, audience involvement and sensory variation leaves you deeply unnerved. By the time I’d left, however, I felt somewhat sure “everything was going to be okay.”

No One is Coming to Save You is a play by Nathan Ellis and directed by Charlotte Fraser, with design input and choreography from the rest of This Noise, an emergent English Theatre Company. Their Fringe run lasts from the 2 to the 27 of August, and you can catch them in Bunker Two, at the Pleasance Courtyard at 12:30pm. I think I’ll go back— no amount of shower-karaoke has quite cured my existential dread yet.

Robbie Heath   
Senior Actor