Archive for September, 2010

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End of the line: Tales on the Tube

Thursday, 9 September, 2010

Didn’t want it to end!

London – The Roadtrip Bar 23rd – 25th Aug 2010 – 19:30 1 hour (no interval)

new short drama

Tales of the Tube, in less time than it takes to get from Hainault to almost anywhere

The downstairs room at Roadtrip Bar was converted into a makeshift tube carriage by Rumi Begum so the audience sat cosily facing each other on benches watching the action unfold all around and amongst them.

The action kicked off with ‘Inconvenient Revelations’ by Rumi Begum. A short, sassy piece that showed secrets between girls never really stay secret. The ‘Tube’s a Racist’ by Triska Hamid was a short piece loaded with colour–coded comedy. ‘Closure’ by Mediah Ahmed was a touchingly awkward piece about bumping into your ex on the tube with a perfectly restrained portrayal of heartbreak from Gabriella Schmidt.

‘Going Under’ by Fenar Mohammed-Ali was a quirky tale about tube suicides featuring a sweet portrayal by Fenar Mohammed-Ali himself as the caring mouse who can tell a man is about to jump but is powerless to stop him. ‘A Revealing Man’ by Rumi Begum was a delightfully frank piece of physical comedy about the invasion of personal space on the tube and ‘On Your Feet’ also by Rumi Begum exposed the nightmare of travelling on the tube for a man with an overwhelming fear of feet.

‘What Goes Around’ by Amber Mun was an intriguing piece about justice stalking the law whilst on a very enclosed tube carriage and ‘A Bit of a Mouthful’ by Rumi Begum delved into the weird rules of bulimic socialising.

‘Identity’ by Zainab Hasan was a futuristic piece about the confusions of controlling the public through ID cards with an incredibly gentle performance from Lelo Majozi in the face of blatant prejudice.

‘That Boy’ by Sabrina Mahfouz was a delicate, honest piece about how easy it is to reveal too much about your self on a long tube journey. David Ajao had a cheeky charisma and Rhoda Ofori-Attah had enigmatic innocence that made it very easy to care about the characters in this tube tale.

‘Sloane Square’ by Triska Hamid was a hilarious piece about the type of girl everyone wants to live like but no one wants to be like with Lydia Rose Bewley almost stealing the entire show with her portrayal of the well meaning, but incredibly politically incorrect, Sloane girl.

And finally ‘Neil’ by Zia Ahmed was a light, comic piece about two friends who decide to create a tribute to Art Attack’s Neil Buchannan after mistakenly hearing that he’s dead.

All in all this was an impressive fringe debut by knocked for six which had some genuinely brilliant theatrical moments. Based on this experience I can say with confidence that when I see any of their future projects I won’t think twice about jumping on board.

Cast Credits: Performers – Alexander Aplerku, David Ajao, Fenar Mohammed-Ali, Gabriella Schmidt, Lelo Majozi, Lydia Rose Bewley, Jim Tanner, Rhoda Ofori-Attah, Zainab Hasan, Zia Ahmed

Company Credits: Writers – Amber Mun, Fenar Mohammed-Ali, Mediah Ahmed, Rumi Begum, Sabrina Mahfouz, Triska Hamid, Zainab Hasan, Zia Ahmed. Directing Adviser – Natalie Ibu. Graphic & Audio Design – Zia Ahmed. Stage Hand / Announcer – Jack Dormer. Executive Producer – Sabrina Mahfouz. Website – www.knockedforsix.co.uk
(c) Hannah Rodger 2010

reviewed Tuesday 24 August 10

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Nathan Cassidy: The Frog That Says Sausages

Thursday, 9 September, 2010

Edinburgh 2010– Just The Tonic at the Caves – 5-29 2010 – 17.20 (1.00)

Nathan Cassidy: The Frog That Says Sausages is a jaw dropping, eye brow raising, unforgettable evening.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the good kind of unforgettable.  Not in the least.  Instead, the image of a man frantically, aggressively and obsessively trying to make a silent audience laugh as he slowly dies inside will forever be burnt into the memories of the brave men and women who sat their patiently and stood their ground as they waited until the bitter end.  Faces full of confusion and fear, praying that there was a point to it all, that their time, tolerance and strife was not in vain.

Alas, this story does not end happily.  It ends with heavy casualties to both sides. For the performer – he leaves with his dignity on the floor, torn and bloodied.  For the spectators – an hour apiece, never to be reclaimed again.

The setting for the show appeared appropriate.  For it takes place deep within the damp musty stone chambers which lie beneath South Bridge.  A sepulchre in its own right.  On stage sat nothing more than a white dry erase board on which was written ‘Things you must not joke about at the Royal Variety Performance.  1:  Josef Fritzl.’  Bad taste?  Perhaps.  But an appropriate beginning for a show which uses the tag line ‘Warning: Contains most offensive joke ever.’

It is an intriguing set up.  A show about preparing for an even bigger show of the Royal Variety kind.  Seeing as the Royal Variety is a ‘clean’ show, Nathan Cassidy uses this time to get all the filth and obscenities out of his system whilst attempting to find a style of comedy which will entertain everyone.  An impossible feat he concludes, but something he will still try and achieve ‘in his own way’.  A task and a belief which is hard not to have respect for – even if he appears to be failing miserably at it.

He began the show on a promising foot.  Jogging up to the stage from the back of the chamber wearing a comical Josef Fritzl beard as he sings a unique version of ‘Close Every Door To Me’ from the musical ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat’ which was received quite well.  Sadly the show hit its peaked with the first joke and only went down hill from there.  The rest of the show continued with a variety of ‘offensive’ stories about pedophiles, Thai lady boys, and Simon Weston.  All of which received nothing more than apologetic chuckles from the otherwise silent audience.  There was a particularly low point when Nathan tried to recreate a chase sequence with Benny Hill music.  He ran around the cave struggling to get people to join in as they all sat their motionless and painfully watched.

It all seemed relatively juvenile and poorly thought-out.  Even the joke everyone came to see, the gag which claimed to be the most offensive joke ever, was an absolute tragedy.  Not because it was so unbearably offensive, but because it was so childish and overtly un-clever that every year eight school bully could have thought of it.  A simple, straightforward joke which did nothing but combined racism with pedophilia.

Nathan Cassidy set out to make a point.  What that point is no one knows or even really cares. It’s just unfortunate that he had to go about it in an extremely unentertaining way.  One can only assume however that he will continue his quest, as the rest of us go on to better things.  You can only go up from here.

Cast Credits: Nathan Cassidy

Company Credits: Writer – Nathan Cassidy. Director – uncredited. Lighting Designer – uncredited. Sound Designer – uncredited. Technical Operator – uncredited. Producer – uncredited. Company – Rat Pack Productions

(c) Carl Livesay 2010

reviewed Saturday 28 August 2010

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Dr.Ettrick Hogg presents Manly Specimens

Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

Free Festival fun

Edinburgh 2010 – Laughing Horse @ Meadow Bar –  5 – 29 Aug. (15.15)

Dr Hogg

This show, in the upstairs room of The Meadows Bar made good use of the venue’s fire escape as an ‘on view’ dressing room. The promised biscuits were handed round as the audience came in and the show was set up in full view of the audience. This was all done with an endearing warmth by Wudwud, assisted by banter from Rich Fortune, as Margaret Wudwud busied herself about the technical aspects of the set-up, wearing a very short skirt, spectacles and a pair of extremly high heels. Controlled creative chaos ensued.

Learning the art of manliness with Dr Joseph Ettrick-Hogg and his enigmatic assistant, the female comedian, Margaret Wudwud, was lighthearted fun. Her stage sharing friends were a series of Northern comediens. The first, Wudwud, held the stage skillfully while Margaret Wudwud became her alter ego, Dr.Joseph Ettrick Hogg. He created a friendly atmosphere upon which the success of the rest of the show was built.

Wearing a bowler hat,a large false moustache and a ‘manly’ suit Margaret Wudwud reappears, playing the informative Dr.Ettrick Hogg with gruff ‘manly’voice and a large pinch of salt. She uses this hirsuit sex-change to poke fun at men in an affectionate manner, sending up all obvious stereotypes of manlines with wicked bravado. Her illustrations of men and women are very funny, as is her semi-Victorian character invention’s ‘caring’ attitude and patronisingly masculine style of delivery, which he/she uses to address the foibles of men and women alike.

The talented young woman was joined by the promised ‘ manliest specimens of Fringe stand-up enticed to perform that day’. Between them they created a dolly mixture of fun and a fair ladle of manly mayhem. Four brave men shared the stage.  The first on was Wudwud in ordinary clothing followed by Dr. Joseph Ettrick Hogg who entertained us to a definition of and  expose of manly attributes before introducing Rich Fortune.

Rich was gently humourous, self depricating and chatty. His light touch was appreciated by the mainly manly Northern English audience who laughed happily as the jokes flowed through. The next, again, was Wudwud who this time performed his act in a White Rabbit suit, being charmingly witty and downright silly. He coped beautifully with the stream of toilet visiting women who appeared almost exclusively during his section of the programme, as did the waiter carrying food to a member of the audience. He kept our attention with his finely timed facial expressions, never embarrasing anyone, yet getting the most from each ludicrous moment. his sense of the absurd is very strong and the absurdity of his situation tremendously well played.

He was followed by another visit to the stage by Dr.Joseph Ettrick Hogg, engagingly expanding on his views about who or what best demonstrated manliness and the last was Dan Maxim whose overtly sexually based set was well observed, occasionally rude and more humourous than offensive, well judged to his afternoon audience of Festival visitors. He made use of notes, quite unabashedly, which gave him a slightly professorial appeareance, which contrasted well with the white Rabbit and synchronistically created a modern form of the erudite Dr.Ettrick-Hogg which complimented the central character well.

Dr.Ettrick-Hogg finished the show, which was well worth any donation people chose to give. The energy of the performances of Wudwud and Dr.Joseph Ettrick-Hogg was inclusive, making generous space for the others and engaging the audience in a warm-hearted banter. The guests were intelligent, talented, funny and willing to be incorporated in being sent up by Dr.Ettrick -Hogg, who was full of helpful advice for manly men and the ‘wise’ women with whom manly men inter-act. It was a very enjoyable fifty minutes of free fun.

Cast: Rich Fortune – stand-up comedian,  Dan Maxim - stand-up comedian, Wudwud - White Rabbit, Margaret Wudwud  - Dr.Joseph Ettrick-Hogg,

Co- producers and Creators, Jo Ettrichk – Hogg & Wudwud

(c) Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2010

reviewed Saturday 28th August

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Tales from a Cabaret

Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

Existential Cabaret

Edinburgh 10 – Fingers Piano Bar – 7-28 August­­ 2010 – 21.00 (0:50)

The Creative Martyrs, a white-faced duo intent on reliving the glory days of cabaret, are in fine sinister form throughout this rollercoaster ride through the world of mime, music, storytelling and high-concept japery.  The Tales from the Cabaret that they tell are a direct riposte to the X-Factor generation intent on getting their kicks from the latest heavily marketed shiny bauble in the television listings.

An introductory song establishes their style as “existential cabaret” and is swiftly followed by a song about the private life of hats “running about at night”.  Making anthropomorphic head-gear sound threatening with a whispered lyric, the entertainers paint a picture of the seedy underbelly of society accompanied by cello, ukulele and kazoo.

The pair then introduce a few of the stars of the cabaret of their shadowy past, dancers, acrobats, mimes and “Esmerelda, the bearded lady – six foot ten and a little bit shady”. They proceed to narrow their gaze onto two of these singular characters –  namely the Glittering Raven, a fantasical, almost supernatural dancer, and Darievo, an unparalleled escape artist – telling vignettes from their lives throughout their time on stage.  Their tales are told with increasing sadness as the world moves on and tastes change, opening the way for more commercialised acts and spurning the fascinating freaks for mere physical beauty.  As the Raven and Darievo slip ever further down the bill they are faced with a stark choice – change or be forgotten.  The homogenation of entertainment is completed by the end of the show where to garner success all one must be is a “comedian telling jokes about a certain type”.

Venturing into the audience, the pair cajol and hector while blaming the world at large for the dumbing down of culture and the paucity of ambition in the modern age.

The performance is bookended by a ritualistic secret knock segment which is as ambitious as it is simple, drawing all into their secret world and making the whole show seem like a secret club to which only the luckiest few have been invited.  This feeling of exclusivity is maintained for much of the first half, before being quickly whipped away as a character simply known as the ‘administrative photocopier’ starts picking at onlookers’ personal privacy to devastating effect.  The fourth wall is destroyed as the performers forsake their beloved entertainers and shine a critical light into the characters in the audience.

Both entertainers, resplendent in dark suits, bowler hats and pansticked faces, are multi-talented individuals, equally comfortable on a number of instruments and experts at using mime and body-language to communicate their frustration at the new and elation at the old.  The two work together like a Hammer Horror version of Laurel and Hardy, Gustav Martyr’s clipped Eastern European accent and  Jacob Martyr’s eloquent English tones combining to capture their chosen bygone era perfectly.

It’s a perfectly structured performance which communicates the Creative Martyr’s tales in a complex style, but never sinks into solipsism or sacrifices entertainment for the sake of their grand ambition.

Cast Credits: Gustav MartyrJacob Martyr.

Company Credits: Writers – Gustav Maryr and Jacob Martyr.  Company – The Creative Martyrs.  Promotor – PBH Free Fringe.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Friday 26 August

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Mathemagician: A Monodrama in Five Acts

Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

Edinburgh 10 – Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides – 21-22 August­­ 2010 – 22.45 (1:15)

Mathemagician: A Monodrama in Five Acts is an occasionally baffling mix of poetry, prose, music and dance used to illustrate a journey through a dream-like world of war and political machinations.  Written by journalist, translator, playwrite and children’s author Dr Gowri Ramnarayan it is a full-on assault on the senses, filled with the intrigue of long-dead nations and, at its heart, a great romance left unfulfilled.

The Mathemagician of the title is Nikor, a numerical master who lived in around 500BC and ultimately became the Persian Empire’s chief economist.  As he waits for a visit from the Persian Emperor he tells the story of how he achieved such a lofty rank.

Born to a Babylonian noble man, Nikor started life as weak child hated by his domineering siblings.  His only friend and confidant is a shy girl called Salla who lived in the neighbouring mansion and their fledgling love affair is shattered when Nikor’s family collude to have him castrated and sold into slavery.  But the slave’s talent with numbers is soon uncovered and the young eunuch quickly becomes apprentice to Plautus, the Babylonian chief economist.  Swiftly rising through the ranks he achieves huge wealth and fame as the country’s chief mathematician, account general and keeper of the state seals.  A chance meeting with the now-married Salla rekindles old passions but, once again, the pair’s happiness is thwarted, this time when the Persian Army invades and lays siege to Babylon.  When Plautus vanishes, Nikor takes on his role and tells his Queen about the severity of likely food shortages.  With this minor calculation he becomes an accomplice to a brutal suicide cult designed to keep the rich and powerful alive at the expense of the poor and weak – including, he fears, his beloved Salla.  Unable to live with his part in the massacre Nikor switches sides and is welcomed into the bosom of a Persian society keen to take advantage of his talents.  His betrayal leads to Babylon being destroyed, with many of his countrymen and family slaughtered.  As he watches his city burn he thinks of nothing but the further power and riches which are to be showered upon him by his new Persian overlords.  Settled into his new, near-regal, position a message from his forgotten former master Plautus ultimately forces him to look back on his life and see the man he has become.

Wielding a bewildering array of theatrical weaponry, Vasudev Menon powers through the performance with confidence and obvious emotion.  Whether pining after his beloved, fearing the wrath of his political superiors or succumbing to treachory, he communicates the characters’ feelings with great depth, often using just a single well-chosen glance from wide kohl-rimmed eyes.  His balletic movements throughout add an extra layer of characterisation and make every line or rhyme seem pregnant with meaning.  A basic set of a chaise longue, table and basket is ingeniously used, along with a smattering of props, to convey a sense of place and time.  Traditional Indian music adds to the Eastern promise and is utilised to effectively demonstrate new scenes, chapters and characters.

The plot, however, is so confusing that the storyline is often forced to take a back-seat to the sheer spectacle of what is happening on stage.  This means that the eventual unravelling of Nikors’ entire belief-system does not feel as dramatic as it could, with too much in the way of extraneous material and superfluous artistic flotsam getting in the way of what is undoubtedly a riveting yarn.

Cast Credits: Vasudev Menon – Nikor. 

Company Credits:  Story and monologue – Doctor Gowri Ramnarayan. Music design – Doctor Gowri Ramnarayan.  Lighting design – Gordon Hughes.  Sound – Chandra Mouli.  Music and Vocals – Kannan and Renju.  Dramatization – Vasudev Menon and Rosie Paveley.  Co-ordination and Stage Management – Sajeev Pillai and Vaishnavi Sundararajan.  Produced By – The Holy Cow Performing Arts Group.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Saturday 21 August

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Ladies of the Sacred Heart

Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

Sisters

Edinburgh 10 – theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall – 6-28 August­­ 2010 – 19.00 (0:45)

Ladies of the Sacred Heart is a comic play which takes an initially light-hearted look at the travails of an order or nuns before unleashing a wicked twist in the tale.

Set in a convent, the plot follows Mother Superior Sister Mary (Natasha Nightingale) as she welcomes new arrival Sister Catherine (Stephanie Glide) into the order.  She is hindered in her holy duty by the foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking, party animal Sister Maud (Roisin Kelly) who is more intent on getting a ticket to see a pop concert and drinking Guinness than she is in worshipping the almighty.  Sister Mary is also disrupted in her mission by a swiftly-established sexual attraction to Sister Catherine, lapsing into embarrassing Freudian slips at every turn.

Taking equal time to introduce the new nun to her duties and remonstrating with Sister Maud for her antics (including a memorable scene featuring a large vibrator), the Superior has her work cut out.  As the sexual tension between Sister Catherine and Sister Mary increases the Superior increasingly gets involved in ever-more-suggestive positions as she engages in the daily chores, often with her habit tucked into her pants.  It is only when she threatens to expel Sister Maud that her true relationship to the errant Sister begins to surface – leading Sister Catherine to worry about her Superior’s very sanity.

The tone of the piece is set early on with a set comprising a desk, crucifix and alter seemingly dedicated to Boyzone singer Ronan Keating.  Thus begins a number of sly digs at the dogma of the Catholic Church, most evident when shortly after bemoaning the convent’s precarious financial state Sister Mary blows her nose on a ten pound note.

Roisin Kelly is the undoubted star of the show, with her garrulous Irish accent investing the oft-truculent Sister Maud with a delightful naughtiness.  Whether mispronouncing the word ‘Bible’, scoffing the alter wine or exhibiting shock at a nun’s requirement to pray, she is a wonderfully drawn comic character.

Natasha Nightingale portrays Sister Mary as the stereotypical buttoned-up nun with frustrations boiling up inside of her but never let loose.  Her obvious chemistry with her fellow cast members keeps the play rolling-on and ties together the entire performance effortlessly.

Stephanie Glide has little to do as Sister Catherine other than to provide a foil to the comic antics of the other two actresses. She does, however, make a fine ‘straightwoman’ and her increasing incredulity at the actions of Sister Mary provides plenty to laugh at.

The writing, by Roisin Kelly, is sparky although it occasionally lapses a little too much into smuttiness reminiscent of the Carry On films.  The joke involving St Mary’s habit being tucked into her knickers goes on a shade too long and serves no final purpose.  It sometimes seems that the writer is unsure about whether to aim for full-on satire or knock-about physical comedy and the play is left accomplishing neither form satisfactorily.

The direction, again by the multi-talented Roisin Kelly, is brisk with very little to distract from the main story.

Cast Credits: Stephanie Glide – Sister Catherine.  Roisin Kelly – Sister Maud.  Natasha Nightingale – Sister Mary.

Company Credits: Writer – Roisin Kelly.  Manager – Roisin Kelly.  Technical Manager – Louise Thomas.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Friday 28 August

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Reel-to-Real: The Movies Musical

Monday, 6 September, 2010

Brash musical theatre

Edinburgh – Pleasance Courtyard – 4 – 30 Aug 10 – 17:00 (1.00)

Reel-to-real is a bright, brash piece of musical theatre with a simple message, and a rather complicated way of purveying it. The unique selling point of Reel-to-real is the clever incorporation of classic black and white film footage into a new story told through the medium of musical theatre.  Therefore, the experience would be enhanced for those with some knowledge of classic films.  For those lacking in such knowledge, the merging of the two media is still a clever and amusing trick, although a little confusing for the plot at times.  Characters interact with former film stars, and objects are apparently magically exchanged between the film set and the stage, making a transition from 2D film to 3D stage.  This may not be the most exciting, tear-jerking or showstopping musical on offer, but Reel-to-real remains an entertaining show.

A set of twins, one boy, one girl, come of age, and by a set of contrived circumstances, find themselves on a race around the world in opposite directions, apparently in order to impress their father and gain access to his fortune.  While this makes for a very neatly packaged collection of characters and situations, it is actually a bizarre storyline, ending with the inevitable conclusion that competing against your twin is not advisable, and sticking together would be a much better idea.  Various settings are recognisable by stereotypical monuments and locals, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall and street sellers of China.  Visiting a carefully chosen collection of countries to correspond with movie clips, along the way the twins meet friends and love interests of the generic happy ending variety.

Supporting this insipid storyline are some extraordinary special effects and exceptionally swift scene changes.  One of the most inventive scenes involves clever rhythmic gymnastic trickery using coloured fabric alongside lighting effects to represent a storm.  While the effects might, at times, be truly mind-blowing, the songs and the singing are much less often, and the storyline is ultimate American cheese.  The shining star of the show is its choreography.  Tap routines rival the old greats, and are performed alongside movie clips, sometimes complementing, sometimes synchronising with them.  The dancing and choreography is something to behold, and seems in a separate league to the other elements of this uplifting but superficial piece of theatre.

For a show incorporating so many effects whilst combining film and theatre, the result is surprisingly one dimensional. A strange mixture of top quality dance, slick stage management and standard singing and storyline, this show could be fantastic fun for fans of Mamma Mia!  A great time will be had by audiences who enjoy a sing-along style, a bubblegum colour scheme and a predictable ending, but are not too critical of the quality of the plot or the depth of characterisation.   Reel-to-real is fabulous in theory, pretty good in practice.

Cast credits:  Jeremy Benton – Jack.  Craig Blake – Swing.  Joe Grandy – Chorus.  Danielle Jordan  – Chorus.  Jose Luaces  – Benson.  Kelly Lynn Cosme  – Swing. Shaun Parry – Joe.  Rebecca Palmer – Chorus.  Kiira Schmist – Chorus.  Vanessa Sonon – Bombshell.  Joe Sparks – Chorus. Doug Stender – Cheever. Ellen Zolezzi – Jill.

Company credits:  Writers – Kincaid Jones.  Director – Lynne Taylor-Corbett.  Musical Director – Doug Oberhamer.  Choreographers – Lynne Taylor- Corbett/ Jeremy Benton.  Set Designer – Beowolf Boritt.  Costume Designer – Fabio Toblini.  Lighting Designer – Vivien Leone.  Projection Designer – Jeff Sugg.  Sound Designer – Christopher Cronin.  Props Designer – Matthew Hodges.  Wig and Hair Designer  – Robert-Charles Vallence.  Conductor – Tom Nazzioli.

(c) Claire Higgins 2010

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