FEED – Pleasance – 4K

By Peter Maddern

The increasing understanding of the evils of social media has been a common and necessary theme in this year’s Fringe and one that will surely persist for some years to come. The flyer for this show did not fill me with high hopes as it seemed I was headed for another hour of anti-Trump rhetoric – been there, done that.

Perhaps that explains the muted audience response to this production in situ at least. The Theatre Temoin team set about a devastating rebuttal of the social media industry and those who seek to profit from it – from ‘influencers’ to writers of the algorithms that make it tick.

A ‘right thinking’ journalist craving cyber world attention misuses her partner’s image of a dying Palestinian boy to juice up her opinion piece about the plight of the kid’s people. Her brother, who knows a thing or two about the mechanics of the social media system, enjoins an innocent young blogger in spreading the word. From there everyone’s circumstances spiral out of control with never much thought for the dead kid or his family – they are just fodder for the feeding of those seeking values to justify their relatively privileged lifestyles.

As mentioned the farce fails to attract the response it all deserves; seeing all manner of folk reach immediately for their phones once the bows had concluded perhaps is indicative that they didn’t see this as about them. Hopefully the cause is not lost.

This is a terrific production, inventive and controversial in its own way with all players doing a good job. More of it, so tweet madly now.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

I, SNIPER – Space / North Bridge – 3K

By Peter Maddern

Sniper stories have been getting a good run in recent years on the stage as well as the screen. Their unique personalities, lonely occupations and fame (when successful) make for good story telling and Lyudmila Pavlichenko, ‘Lady Death’, a Russian female conscript, confronting Hitler’s invading forces is as good a basis for a yarn as any.

Acting Coach Scotland’s approach has been to take Mark Westbrook’s script and develop and present it for nine players, eight women and one man. While the rotation of roles is not confusing (even if the accents of the players differ widely) the result is the character becomes somewhat of a cardboard cut out, lifted in and taken out every 20 seconds or so or so it seems.

The chronological story telling also leads to a dilution of the impact of this woman on those who came across her – maybe a focus on her contest of wills with the single German sniper of renown would have been a better place to to bring this story together.

Kryztoff Rating   3K

 

THE ARTIST – Assembly – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

The Artist is one of a package of shows from Finland, showcased together is a stylish black covered booklet. Thom Monckton has creative block as he arrives in his painter’s studio to get on with his day. With skillful timing and no end of joyful trickery, we see his day fill; an obsession with dealing with the leaking roof, fiddling, poking and stapling his canvas to its frame, the unhealthy attention to arranging his still life, the almost eternal struggle to take possession of his brushes.

This artist is a craftsman and Monckton keeps his audience thrilled and attentive, wordlessly telling all his tales and somewhat incredibly bringing it all together with an exhibition of works at the conclusion.

No language barriers here. This is terrific theatre.

Kryztoff Rating  4.5K

SEDIMENT – Assembly – 4K

By Peter Maddern

Company 2 is a Brisbane, Australia based circus company with more than a few credits before it. This production is perhaps its best. Based on Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground (but without the unpleasant parts) two dancers, the well proportioned, almost beefy director David Carberry and the frizzy blonde Alice Muntz (also his co-creator) take to telling above love.

Sediment explores attraction and distraction, reciprocation and rejection, in all their forms. Seemingly set in Dostoyevsky’s time (though there is a grainy TV set that crackles into action every so often in the front corner of the stage), the simple joys of seeking and finding love are explored in music, in letters, on the trapeze and most mesmerisingly atop bottles. Perhaps surprisingly the production finishes as it began with solo by Carberry.

Some four years in the making, Sediment is a credit to its creators and testament to the lessons learned over the years of their practise. For their audiences, it is an enchanting hour of dance and, if you must, circus that will leave you longing for simpler days and enrapt by the joy of the message and these beautiful dancers and the precision of their craft.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

NARCISSIST IN THE MIRROR – Pleasance – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

Social media mixed with the ego of actors has provided perhaps history’s most impossibly unpleasant personality potential and those affected seem to be everywhere. Rosie Fleeshman’s take on these people is simply superb, taking her audience through from the first time the affliction gripped her character as a child through the days of self indulgent anticipation of inevitable greatness on the stage and her swag of boyfriends who were nothing more than cannon fodder for her trickery.

Her play is too nuanced not to believe she too was not caught up in all this yet her years perhaps deceive this writer as to her maturity, not to mention her intelligence to analyse the foibles of, no doubt, many associates. Whatever, this is the most complete, comprehensive and devastating portrayal of these people’s betrayals delivered at a pace, lyrically, poetically, humorously (the conclusion around her grammar fetish is simply sublime,)

Brilliant theatre? This show should a mandatory school class, a part of every high school and undergrad curricula!

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

WHEN THE FRIENDSHIP HAS SAILED – C-21 – 2.5K

By Peter Maddern

The Weird Sisters have turned their attention this Fringe to the fate that social media is meant to have solved – loneliness. Carrie (Natalie Ann Jamieson) is 29 and with all her friends getting married and having babies and sans a steady finds her confidantes are limited to the two Christinas in her life – her goldfish and her gran (both played Elizabeth Edmonds).

The whole problem is laid bare when she needs to find someone to look after the fish while she heads for some swimming championships. Solutions are sought in the gym, friendship groups and the pub, all without success.

Jessica Palfrey’s play is entertaining and varied enough though many of the themes it starts developing (such as the swimming thing) seem to just die off. Carrie’s Australian friend is none too convincing as such with an accent as far away from Bondi Beach as I am here.

Notwithstanding, one shining light does emerge and that is of Ms Jamieson whose performance is of such sustained humour and quality that one can only ponder what much meatier roles she may also shine in; she is a delight to watch and see perform.

Kryztoff Rating   2.5K

FOR THE RECORD – Pleasance – 4K

By Peter Maddern

There is, maybe, a resurgence in ‘the spoken word theatre’ – story telling and in particular poetry reading to volunteer audiences. It seems counter cultural given the attention spans devoted to topics by Millennials and indeed most generations nowadays. Nonetheless young Toby Thompson has sought to find his own fame in that niche and all luck to him for certainly he possesses a touch worth exploiting.

Toby’s topic is Love and his poems are delivered with his broad shoulders thrown back, arms gesticulating in a style that reminds me of Peter Garrett (of Midnight Oil fame), in a living room – his own space for seduction – he adorned in a pale blue t-shirt and jeans bookended vertically (if this is possible) with matching eyes and hooped snappy socks (sans shoes). While coffee is offered to his patrons and the air is occasionally graced with the beauty of song from his vinyl recordings of Peggy Lee and her like, the real intoxication is his good looks.

It all makes for a delightful escape from the bustle of a busy Ed fringe afternoon and if spoken word performance is the growth genre, then Toby Thompson may well be its new prophet.

My only concern, and perhaps this is beyond the purview of a performance review, is that Mr Thompson has not yet fully grasped, at least in his public persona, his potential power as a performer – the seduction of the middle aged is not targeting what our American friends may describe as ‘the sweet spot of his compensation curve.’

Kryztoff Rating   4K

KIDS PLAY – The Space – Niddry St – 4K

By Peter Maddern

As old a profession as prostitution is, at what point does the payment for sexual services leave that slur and just become the price you have to pay to achieve an emotional and not a physical end, especially in the world of apps where (in the words of an economist) ‘transaction costs’ are minimal?

17 year old Theo (Clement Charles) has made contact with ‘Harry’ (Gareth Watkins), an insurance guy at a conference in Brighton. Despite the older man’s reservations, Theo ensures the meeting takes place and so it does where the play is set, in Harry’s hotel room. There the story takes, with much humour, many twists and turns; fetishes and fondness, power and porn, traded off around a disputed fee of 200 pounds.

Both actors do well with Charles, the toi- and business-boi, very much at home in his role that conveys his character’s internal confusion over where money is the end or just the means to it. It is thoughtful, well written and extremely well executed theatre, with perhaps the exception being who does the paying which, at least to the uninitiated, perplexingly unrealsistic.

Kryztoff Rating – 4K

THE SHIFT – Underbelly – 3K

By Peter Maddern

The words ‘physical theatre’ are now used in polite and knowledgeable circles to describe what has hitherto been called circus (and it is to be noted the Underbelly people defer to the use of Circus Hub to describe their Meadows precinct.)

But if ever the term is apt, it is with this four-person team (three guys, one girl) of the Barely Methodical Troupe who grace the square at the centre of Beauty with an array of grace, grunt, some hairy gyrations and the occasional moments of wit. The show’s link, which is somewhat weak (though not perhaps as much as the even more occasional background music), is blue rubber bands.

It’s all engaging and captivating but until the, at times, sublime use of a large hoop that the show finishes with it can be considered a bit ‘been there done that’. Nonetheless, families and adults alone were at the finish fulsome in their praise of the quartet and none can claim that this is the stuff one could just take up as a new hobby at home.

Kryztoff Rating 3K

THE MARILYN CONSPIRACY – Assembly – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

The Kennedy clan left a trail of hope and destruction behind them much of it shrouded in myth, rumour and innuendo. The death of Marilyn Monroe is no small case in point and this new work written by Vicki McKellar and Guy Masterson (who also directs) takes no prisoners and if one is to believe its version of events the truth is very unpleasant indeed.

Monroe dies around 11.30 one evening but it is five hours before the group of seven people who are there in her house soon after report it to the Coroner and the police. What did these people do or discuss during that time while the starlet, ‘the inspiration and hopes to those in foxholes’ (as the radio voiceover at the start describes her) lay dead, turning blue in the adjoining room?

Across the 70 minutes of this slick production, actor Peter Lawford (Oliver Farnworth) clumsily at times, skillfully at others guides a heated conversation all the while challenged by Monroe’s good friend and publicist Pat (Susie Amy). Caught in the crossfire are (inter alia) two doctors, Lawlor’s wife (Bobby Kennedy’s sister) and the housemaid who seems to know more than might be convenient.

The writing is terrific; details teased out delicately, conflicts of interest smoothed over, self-interests hidden behind ‘the good of the country.’ Farnworth as Lawlor is equally good as is Amy as the main combatants and Gavin Robertson is also great as Monroe’s psychiatrist. There is a tendency for too much shouting, especially from Amy’s character – more intellectual sparring and mind games between her and others may work just as well – and it is not all that clear exactly what her relationship is to Marilyn and all these people.

But all in all this production has a great future, better certainly than the starlet did and the clan that took her down.

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K