Friday, 18 August 2017

Asylum. Immigration and Women - Edinburgh reviews 1

Yesterday, the Morning Star published my reviews of four shows I've seen at this year's festivals. It is available here and covers Henry Naylor's new play - Borders (*****), and a new play by a Lebanese writer - Ghalia's Miles (***). Both these plays deal with the asylum crisis in the Middle East. The reviews also cover PJ Harvey's concert - the Hope Six Demolition Project (*****) and Sajeela Kershi's guest show Immigrant Diaries (****).

Of these reviews, only one (Borders) continues on a run (till the 28 Aug). There will be another couple of compilation reviews in the Star to come, but I thought it might be of use if I put other continuing shows here so you can decide if you'd like to see them (or not)!

Cathy Owen as Cathy. pic Pamela Raith photography
One I would clearly recommend is Cathy (*****) Pleasance Dome until the 26. Updating a classic performance often loses something but Cathy, a reimagining of Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home, does no such thing. Written by Ali Taylor and staged by Cardboard Citizens who work with homeless and other marginalised people, this updating places the full horror of homelessness in front of us.  Cathy and her daughter – now 15 and taking GCSEs – experience the trauma - zero-hours work, low wages, eviction, uprooting, family breakup. The performances by all the cast are spot on, believable and affecting in equal measure. The audience were angry – the best result that could be achieved. See it if you can.

On the other hand, there is - The Girl who loved Stalin (*) The Space @ Jury's Inn until the 26. Sometimes it seems that some fringe shows are there only to get the cast a free pass to the festival social life. This would be one of them. The play seems to have no point, the performers have neither ability nor timing, but worst of all – they seem aware of this and don’t care. Occasional asides are the only signs of life in this unfunny and amateurish production. 50 minutes of my life I won’t get back.

Kate Donnelly and Keira Lucchesi

At times poignant, angry, joyous and an unusual way to approach the Caterpillar Occupation of 30 years ago, Out of the Bad (****) New Town Theatre until the 25, is a short two-hander between a mother (who was part of the occupation) and her daughter. Kate Donnelly and Keira Lucchesi deliver the characters with humour and life. Produced by FairPley, and directed by Sarah McCardie it is a short play (50 mins) and leaves us wanting more – which in fact there is in Butterfly (not playing here). A great taster about the impact of major industrial events on the workers. 

Finally, The Remains of Tom Lehrer (****) Gilded Balloon Teviot until 28.  Adam Kay, writer, comedian and performer takes a trip around the history and songs of Tom Lehrer. A child prodigy and maths lecturer, Lehrer started writing blackly comic (and often political) songs to entertain colleagues. While they were never played on the radio, they spread by word of mouth after he issued a self-produced album in 1953. How he got away with songs like We will all go together when we go about nuclear annihilation, or I wanna go back to Dixie  - “where the laws are mediaeval” during the period of McCarthy is unknown, but Kay does them justice. Interwoven with stories about Lehrer’s life (he is still alive) and careers the show is a worthy – if short – tribute.

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