Sunday, 16 August 2015

Edinburgh Festivals - 1 - Countrybile, Communist Spies and Joan littlewood too!

Well, the extravaganza that is Edinburgh during the festivals is now in full swing, and trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff is (mostly) what I'm here to do.

I have posted (below) a couple of reviews compiled for the Morning Star (the first one appeared in yesterday's edition, here.). One performance works, one doesn't (quite) yet. I have also seen a number of other shows, and I would recommend Mark Steel's show Who do I think I am? (Assembly, George Square) about his investigations into his birth parents (he was adopted at birth). A review is pending, but suffice it to say, you'll hardly believe his findings!

Another great show (if you have kids of a pre-teen age) is FairPley's The Periodic Fable (Assembly Rooms) It is a panto-style romp through some child-friendly science, and seems to grab the interest and enjoyment of small boys, and (more importantly) girls.

Looking forward next week to Elvis McGonagall's arrival at the Stand on the Square, with his new show Countrybile. More later!

An Englishman Abroad meets Harry Lime

The Communist Threat.  ZOO Southside until Aug 31.  4/5
That this doesn't slide into the John Le Carre/Cold War cliche is down to two things. The quality of the acting by the two protagonists, Kip (David Holmes) and Albert (Kieran O’Rourke, who make up the company, Rusted Dust, and the sheer number of layers on which the plot idea works.

A play set in a post war Vienna basement, and involving spies almost automatically invokes the spirit

Class, as always, is key. Are all communist defectors upper class, cricket loving, Cambridge graduates?  Mr Nightingale's working class Northern rooted character says no (a first class performance by Kieran O'Rourke). Who is the interrogator, and who the interrogated? The layers keep swapping our view. In fact, they all appear to be communists, albeit for a variety of reasons.

The ending comes rather too soon, and provides us with the only unchallenged cliche - the loaded gun in the locked room. But overall the play provides us with an entertaining and impressive exercise in the personal and the political. No more separated here than in real life.
of The Third Man, and the suits, trilbies and accents do nothing to disabuse us. But gradually our perspective shifts. Yes, it's about betrayal, yes it's about politics, yes it's about sexuality but do all these things point in the one direction?

Joan Littlewood
A difficult show, about a difficult woman.

Joan, Babs and Shelagh too.  ZOO Southside until Aug 31. 3/5

Attempting to do justice to one of British political theatre's most important creators in a one-woman show of around 50 minutes was always going to be an enormous task. That it happens at all is thanks to the prodigious performance of gemskii - the one-woman!

What she tries to do is to tell the life of Joan Littlewood, founder of Theatre Workshop and Theatre Union along with Ewan McColl, producer of Oh, What a Lovely War! and mother of British political theatre. And she tries it in Joan's own, improvised, physical, musical style. It doesn't quite succeed, but it has good fun trying!

Minus points include the overuse of documentary comments that tend to intrude instead of enlighten, and the music which tends to overpower the actor's voice. The introduction of individuals who were important to Joan's life works well, and might be more used - Shelagh Delaney in particular, has a very short cameo.

However, this is a difficult piece to bring off - especially in the time allowed for a standard fringe performance - but the larger than life portrait of Joan that shines from the performance means it succeeds in its main aim. Time to continue the 'constantly changing form'?

Box Office for both performances - (0131) 662-6892 or here

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