Archive for August 25th, 2010

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10th Prague Fringe Festival Announced

Wednesday, 25 August, 2010

10th Fringe Festival Praha, Friday 27th May – Saturday 4th June 2011

Prague should be a little warmer next summer

Fringe Festival Praha, Budecska 16, Vinohrady, 120 00 Prague 2, Czech Republic

Steve Gove – Founder and Director of the Fringe Festival Praha – writes:

Greetings from Edinburgh and the Mother Fringe. We are very excited to announce dates for our 10th Birthday Prague Fringe.  Our application section is now live too so if you are interested in applying to perform take a look – the closing date is the 8th of October 2010.

Spread the word on facebook, twitter and the like and let’s make this the biggest and best yet.

Check out all the details here: http://www.fringe.cz

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Pedestrian

Wednesday, 25 August, 2010

Edinburgh 2010 – Underbelly – 5-29 August 2010 – 19.00 (1.10)

Bells and Whistles!

Telling the nightmare tale of giant monocled goldfish, shopping precincts and the end of history through a unique multimedia experience via the conduit of one of the rising stars of Bristol attending Pedestrian carries with it an aura of excited anticipation.

Pedestrian was touted as some sort of multimedia extravaganza, with a performance that interacted with projections and imaginative use of music. This was true, for the first 5 minutes. Then the rest  of the show is performed in front of a image like the screen from guitar hero that moves disconcertingly; achieving nothing more than distracting from the performance. It’s frustrating, it’s like saying here’s what you could have seen.

Tom Wainwrights performance is excellent, it takes a great solo performer to fill a running time of over an hour with a single continuous monologue forged out of a series of interconnected poems. His writing is also fair to middling, with a decent turn of phrase and a pay off at the end which deserves more recognition than it will get through this production:

‘I’m not the worlds only apocalyptic poet’ Tom announces after 90 percent of the shows running time has passed. Then as all good poets apocalyptic poets should, he hits the audience with his unique view of the world, turns the entire performance into a cyclical nightmare referencing Fukuyama’s ‘End of history’ and exits with assured aplomb.

There’s a problem though, by this stage the show has dragged on for an hour and all Tom’s energetic antics can’t hide a lack of the truly original insight which would carries the audiences attention. This show shouldn’t have lasted the hour and ten minutes billed in the fringe programme, it should only have been 45 minutes long and it certainly shouldn’t have been its actual running time of an hour and twenty minutes.

If you are going to ask an audience to watch one man stand in one place for over an hour, then you’d better have more than just bells and whistles to entertain them. A particular example of this is Tom Wainwright’s investigation of coffee shop culture.

In what is a well written and presented section the audience are asked to invest their attention through several stanza’s of increasingly heightened material by the end of which nothing new or interesting has been discovered. The image of monocled  goldfish drinking a latte though interesting in itself does not add to the public consciousness about what is already well covered ground.

What happens then, is that engaging the audience so well on this topic (of no substance and no end-product) serves only to betray the trust of the audience.

Other well cited examples include – the friend who taps you on the opposite shoulder all day – the boy who cried wolf – and – the child who says ‘look over there’ while stealing your last polo mint – eventually you are going to wise up and not take your attention off your sweeties. And with theatre  and adults, particularly at the fringe, you had better be sure that all your material is worthy of attention otherwise by the time you get to the heart of what you want to say no one will be listening.

So, by the time the grand theme of the show (which is not trailed at any point leaving the show feeling one dimensional for the first hour) has been revealed – sections of the audience are jaded and unreceptive – experiencing a sense of disillusionment and unfulfilled self entitlement.  All of the hard work by Tom Wainwright, all his mugging for the audience, all his flailing limbs and carefully crafted facial expressions are for naught.

Cast Credits: (alpha order): Tom Wainwright – Himself.

Company Credits: Writer – Tom Wainwright. Director – Amelia Sears. Design – Simon Kenny. Music – Simon Wainwright. Company – Theatre Bristol and SEArED in association with Bristol Old Vic

(c) Stephen Redman

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Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Wednesday, 25 August, 2010

Edinburgh  2010 –   Gilded Balloon   –  4 – 30 Aug 10  –  22:50 (1.00)

Andrew Lloyd-Webber Never Dies

Every night, a different musical

If nothing else, ‘Showstopper! the improvised musical’ is a great night out, going by the grins on departing audiences’ faces.  But there is a lot more to this musical than simple fun and laughter. This is the kind of one-off show that gets people talking.

The process begins with suggestions from the audience.  Some are discounted, the best voted on democratically.  The cast then have no time at all to start acting and singing, directed by a mediator on the side of the stage who interrupts every so often, with ever increasing demands such as ‘I said more references to West End shows’ on the night of ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber Never Dies’.  Led by a keyboard player, the cast cleverly integrate humour, showstopping solos and even tuneful harmonies.  Utilising the well worn Lloyd Webber formula of wistful looks, slow steps towards and away from one another, peppered with regular smatterings of jazz hands, the result is a kind of cliché, as this is surely the only way that providing a new musical every night could work.  A funny farce of a musical follows.

The most impressive aspect of the show is the ability of the cast to think on its feet, coming up with endless rhyming couplets to tell a story that has not yet been written.  Quick thinking, talented comedians as well as accomplished musicians, this cast is at the top of their game.  Many of its members perform daily in other shows at the Fringe.  Despite the demands of improvising storyline, music and humour, awkward pauses are kept to an absolute minimum, and nearly all songs and sketches are to the standard expected in any musical.  Ruth Bratt, in particular, has a strong, versatile voice which is a pleasure to hear, and each of the remaining cast members is able to harmonise with whoever has begun singing, a peculiar skill considering that these songs have never before been sung.  Although a strategy for success which can be applied to each show must be in place, it is rather the experience and expertise of the cast, allowing imperceptible communication between its members, which paves the way for such delightful entertainment in demanding circumstances.  A word with returning audience members (and there are many) confirms that each show is, indeed, improvised and unique.

In ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber Never Dies’, the audience was treated to a story of betrayal and ultimate devotion between two sisters, hopeful to follow in their father’s footsteps and sing on stage at Lloyd Webber’s memorial gig.  With X factor style hopefuls, a sob story, baddies in the shape of directors looking for cash (singing a catchy background rift of ‘and the money keeps rolling in’), and the final realisation that neither money nor fame brings happiness, perhaps this generic sequence of characters and ideas is standard, but it is brought together by quick, commendable, stand-up style humour.

The musical talent and comic expertise of this cast is unquestionable, and the idea for the show, innovative.  However, as control comes largely from the on stage director, more audience input may be appreciated.  Cast members laughing aloud at their ludicrous of-the-cuff ideas (‘no I’m not doing that, that’s too weird’) is endearing, and authenticates the improvisation aspect, but could make an audience feel isolated if they miss the in-joke.  Occasionally these jokes become a little naughty.  Then again, this is a late night show, and political slights aside, there is nothing to offend here.

Watching ‘Showtopper! the improvised musical’ is like watching stand-up, enjoying West End wonders, and being treated to something unique all at the same time.   A great show.

Cast and company credits:  Chris Ash.  Ruth Bratt.  Julie Clare.  Dylan Emery.  Pippa Evans.  Sean McCann.  Adam Meggido.  Phillip Pellow.  Nigel Pilkington.  Andrew Puglsey.  Oliver Senton.  Lucy Trodd.  Duncan Walsh-Atkins.  Sarah-Louise Young.

(c) Claire Higgins 2010

Reviewed Saturday 21st August 2010.

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