Monthly Archives: July 2015

Countdown to Edinburgh Fringe

I’ve never been to Edinburgh Fringe before. (I know, right?) I haven’t been deliberately avoiding it, it’s just been a lack of the fates aligning for me to have enough annual leave to go away for a week in August.

So I have my accommodation and trains booked. I have spent weeks drowning in spreadsheets and maps, meticulously planning how best to pack in everything I want to see, both cost effectively and efficiently so that I’m sticking to venues in the same locale rather than madly criss-crossing the city. This is all good in principle, but I do have a talent for cutting it fine and being easily distracted, so my military precision may all count for nothing.

Last night I begrudgingly accepted that with 8 shows all starting around 2 o’clock, and only 6 days in which to see them, I’d have to let a few things slip. It’s heartbreaking, because so much sounds so promising. The more you look, the more you find. So unless Professor McGonagall can lend me a Time-Turner for the week, I’m going to have to deal with a lot of FOMO (Speaking of which, I should probably find time to go and have a cup of tea in the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter).

But I’ve found some real gems which I’m hoping will be good. Most of my picks seem to fall into the following categories:

  • Comedy
  • Circus
  • Friends’ shows
  • Shakespeare-based
  • Confined spaces/darkness
  • “Please wear sensible shoes”

Some shows fit into more than one category – although I’m yet to find a comedy Macbeth performed to one audience member at a time in a series of dark cupboards in Edinburgh Castle and told through the medium of circus – if someone wants to make that, I promise I will come and see it. Admittedly I dreamt a week ago that I went to see Thunderbirds on Ice which also had audience participation.

So I have a hugely diverse bunch of shows to see: improvised lost Jane Austen titles, 1940’s Hitchock-inspired circus, a Shakespeare where the audience play the other characters, a series of conversations in the back of 3 cars, a choose-your-own-adventure where the audience determine the order of the scenes, frank explorations of mental health, my friend’s older brother trying to transmute base metals into gold, Game of Thrones spin-offs, and a steampunk scavenger hunt. It will be nothing if not eventful. I am quite concerned that I will be torn between the need for sleep and the need to see more shows.

So here are my picks, all beautifully listed for you with links (some of these I’ve managed to see in London previews):

Comedy

Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel
Fake It ’til You Make It
John Robertson – The Dark Room: Symphony of a Floating Head
Sooz Kempner – Character Activist
Thrones! The Musical
Will Seaward Has a Really Good Go at Alchemy
Will Seaward’s Spooky Midnight Ghost Stories II
Winter is Coming. Again.

Circus/Physical Theatre

Blind Man’s Song
Bromance
Close Up
Hitch!
Ockham’s Razor: Arc and Every Action…

Shakespeareish

Hell Hath No Fury
Mrs Shakespeare
Richard III
Titus Andronicus: An All-Female Production
To She or Not to She

Immersive/Confined Spaces/Darkness/Sensible Shoes

Awakening, Sweet and Sour Sensory Composition
Comfort Slaves
Father Time
Fiction
Helpless Doorknobs
Jethro Compton presents Sirenia
Phantasmagoria
Tate Postmodern
This Time Tomorrow
We This Way

Other

Citydash
Down & Out in Paris and London
I, Elizabeth
Much Further Out Than You Thought
My Beautiful Black Dog
The Eulogy of Toby Peach
We Can Make You Happy
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Advertisements

Lesere – Jermyn Street Theatre

1921: John and Jane Lesere have put the war behind them and settled into a gentle-paced life of tending a vineyard in France. Their quiet existence is shattered by the arrival of George, an injured stranger who preys on their good nature and seems unnervingly curious about their respective pasts. With a little bit of cold-reading and the theft of a notebook, he skilfully extracts all the ghosts they thought they had laid to rest and forces them into an evening of confessions about their wartime experiences. As innumerable skeletons come tumbling out of cupboards, the masquerade of their idyllic marriage slips.

Although billed as being “Hitchcockian”, its formula is more reminiscent of An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley, and while this play certainly matches it for dramatic bombshells, it somehow falls short overall. In the intimacy of the Jermyn Street Theatre (converted into the round for this play), a small room with white painted floorboards is surrounded by an ominous earthy wilderness – complete with gloomy lighting and the sound of howling wind, it requires a leviathan effort to cross this no-man’s-land to the safe haven of the drawing room. What may only be a few small steps might as well be a journey of miles. The shuddering physicality of the actors during these interludes is harrowing to watch, but this device is overused and quickly starts to feel like a bit of a gimmick (a few choice moments would’ve had far greater impact).

My ticket was courtesy of Bargain Theatre. To read the review in full, please click here.

Lampedusa – Soho Theatre

The migrant boat crisis in the Mediterranean is sad. Very sad. In spite of the dangers, they come in waves of incomprehensible numbers. A week ago, Sir Nicholas Winton passed away – a man credited with saving the lives of 669 Jewish children from the holocaust; contrast this with the fact that often a similar number of lives are lost in a single sinking, fleeing from similar atrocities. It is simply too distressing to think of these people as individuals and the media coverage slowly dulls our horror until we become immune to one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent history.  So it is perhaps a good thing that this timely and emotionally charged two-hander reawakens a sense of compassion and redefines just how far we would go for our own loved ones.

In the intimacy of in-the-round, we switch between Stefano (Ferdy Roberts), a man with the grim task of fishing migrant corpses out of the water, and Denise (Louise Mai Newberry), a payday loan collector in Yorkshire; on the surface, two wildly different jobs with little in common – but the parallels soon become apparent: both are doing the jobs that no one else wants, both are condescending and judgmental of their ‘clients’, both resenting their very existence… and yet both find a very human connection in the unlikeliest of places.

My ticket was courtesy of Bargain Theatre. To read the review in full, please click here.

The Halfway Point

It’s my birthday. Hurrah! It also marks the point exactly halfway through the year, so now seems as good a time as any to look back at the last 6 months of theatre.  Somehow, even having seen 50 shows in 6 months, I am still (relatively) financially solvent. So here are my monthly highlights:

JANUARY
Taken at Midnight – Theatre Royal, Haymarket
Penelope Wilton was exceptional in the lead role as Irmgard, as she fiercely sought justice and the release of her son, Hans Litten. Her final words, delivered with such tenacity, haunted me for days after:

“I started screaming a long time ago. I’m screaming now. I don’t think I’m even half way through, yet.”

Taken at Midnight – Theatre Royal, Haymarket

FEBRUARY
The Wasp – Hampstead Theatre Downstairs
Simply an excellent piece of writing by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm which constantly pulled the rug from under you with clever twists and turns in the plot. You can see my full review here.

MARCH
Radiant Vermin – Soho Theatre
A blistering performance and a really witty satire on greed and the housing market, delivered at breakneck speed. A real tour de force. You can see my full review here.

Deposit – Hampstead Theatre Downstairs
I didn’t get time to write a review of this one, but another housing market play which explores the claustrophobia as two couples move into a one-bedroom flat for a year while they save up for a deposit. What will give first? Their relationships, their friendship or the dream of owning a property? Beautiful writing that really cuts to the bone.

Deposit – Hampstead Theatre Downstairs

APRIL
A Level Playing Field – Jermyn Street Theatre
Wickedly funny with a strong young cast, we see how a bunch of kids cope (and don’t cope) with the pressures of exams and the threat of failure. You can see my full review here.

The Money – Battersea Arts Centre
A really clever and unpredictable piece exploring the value of money – but you have just two hours to reach a unanimous agreement on how best to spend it (or it rolls over to the next group). As a result, I will be spending mine this coming weekend. You can see my full review here.

MAY
World Factory – Young Vic
A fascinating piece of game-theatre which throws audiences into the cut-throat business of running a Chinese garment factory. Every decision you make has a consequence, affecting the lives of your fictional workers. You will never look at your clothes in the same way again. You can see my full review here.

JUNE
buckets – Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
Another one I sadly didn’t get time to review, but a stunning and emotional little one-act play about seizing the day with both hands and living as if your life depended on it. 25 little moments that will make you evaluate your own life and happiness. Definitely didn’t cry at the end. Just something in my eye.

buckets – Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond

Teddy – Southwark Playhouse
Another one I wish I’d had time to review. Stepping into the dingy gloom of Southwark Playhouse, it’s like being hurled back to grubby bomb-scarred streets of South London. Filled with explosive energy and an infectious foot-tapping 1950s-inspired original score, Teddy and Josie capture the birth of the teenager and show us what it is to be young and reckless.