Archive for August 25th, 2011

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Nutshell Theatre at Inverleith Allotments

Thursday, 25 August, 2011

Sisters in nature

In the open air: Allotment

Step through the gates at Inverleith Allotments and a warm scone spread with homemade rhubarb jam is offered to you, along with a mug of tea just how you might want it.

To step through these gates is to allow Nutshell theatre company to usher you into the intimate world of the allotment. As Maddy and Dora lead their audience through the functioning allotment, you are inside a special area of society, removed from Edinburgh and surrounded by nature, the outcome of hard work, years of love, devotion and weeding. It may be a space familiar to some, but it could also stand for those on the outside looking in, offering a rare opportunity for escape.

The script tells the story of two sisters and their world within the allotment. The narrative spans their childhood into their adult lives, all contained within the site-specific setting. This narrative is a bit of a whirlwind, jumping from childhood to adulthood in a matter of seconds, but the pacing from Kate Nelson’s direction matched this demand and she skilfully blends small vignettes of the sisters’ lives together, as opposed to creating a logically consistent flowing line of action.

This worked well in the setting, as the sun dipped in and out of the clouds and the smells of earth and flowers came and went, so did these fleeting moments that contribute to their relationships. Darkly comic moments emerged through the sisters’ relationship, at once complex and loving. Nicola Jo Cully and Pauline Goldsmith gave intimate performances – not an easy task in an outdoor setting next to a busy road. Their performances were at times joyful and poignant whilst exhibiting flawless comic timing. At times though, both actors struggled vocally against the noise pollution and resorted to shouting, which was at times exhausting to watch.

Kate Nelson’s character took inspiration from T.S Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton, specifically the two lines;

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is”

Eliot’s poem is about children playing in the rose garden of a manor house.

Jules Horne has produced a script that evokes so perfectly the sentiment of these lines. When together in their allotment Maddy and Dora are ‘at the still point of the turning world’. Their dance demonstrates their freedom within the confines of this vegetable patch; they argue, play, drink and have sex there.

An enchanting and unique setting matched the characters which provided an all-round sensory experience. Together, the script, the characters, the sight of the allotment and the others surrounding it, work to create an unforgettable experience.  Maddy and Dora encourage their audience to smell mint and lavender as they rub their hands and ‘throw’ the scent into the audience, it actually works. Combine that with the mug of warm tea and the scone and you have an atmosphere that is relaxed and intimate, but as is so common when one is outside and allowed to frolic in mud, mischief is bubbling under the surface dampened with a little nostalgia.

Performed by: Nicola Jo Cully (Maddy), Pauline Goldsmith (Dora)
Company: Director – Kate Nelson, Desinger – Sarah Paulley, Stage Managers – Michael Dixon and Ruth West, Production Manager – Peter Searle, Assistant Director – Alice Kornitzer, Producer – Ed Littlewood, Venue Manager- Rachel McEwen
Written by Jules Horne

(c) Alexandra Kavanagh 2011

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Gags, songs and bombs: Chuckle Sandwich

Thursday, 25 August, 2011

An hour of free, late night comedy

First up for this hour of free, late-night comedy is comedic songstress Kate Lucas with a few taboo-shattering songs about her sexual relationship with an elderly woman and how she brutally murdered a cashier at Santander. The Ballad of Janine which was pinnacle of her performance, encouraging the audience to join in a resounding chorus of “Give me back my money Santander”. Kate Lucas’ saccharine delivery is run up against her dark humour but provides her audience with nothing unfamiliar in contemporary comedy. Particularly the prickly, deliberately awkward delivery of some punch lines which was been growing ever frequent on the stand-up comedy set since the emergence of Slough’s infamous export David Brent. Indeed, all three performers seem to tackle a particularly difficult audience with such an approach to their delivery, Lucas seems most guilty of it; she seemed to lack her own comedic persona, even when performing her songs which  on the whole were well-written and funny.

Next was stand-up comic Tez Ilyas, who provided the most impressive performance of the hour with a set centred around his religious beliefs as a Muslim and braving the topic of the London riots. Presumably no mean feat at this year’s Festival as the news is so current, although most likely already well-trodden on the stand-up circuit. Tez Ilyas takes to it with gusto, assuming a similar haltingly awkward style as Kate Lucas but pulling it off with a more direct sense of humour, outwardly critical to hecklers and displaying moments of great wit when discussing his home in Brixton. The lack of enthusiasm from his audience seemed to throw him a little, as it did with all three performers, which made for occasionally uncomfortable viewing, as it seemed many of their punch lines and wise cracks needed a stronger reaction.

Gary Tro polishes off our evening with some more stand-up comedy. Warm and giggly, he goes through the motions of identifying the two Dutch men in the first row as the other two performers had done before. There was the feeling throughout each set that the audience were not playing their part, and it was a little uncomfortable to watch. Gary Tro seems taken aback by the tentative audience breaction but launched headlong into his cynical slightly absurd brand of comedy. He performs with enthusiasm, he enjoys every situation or idea he is describing which makes for an enjoyable set, with a handful of laugh out loud moments.

Performers: Tez Ilyas, Kate Lucas, Gary Tro

reviewed 18 August 2011

(c) Alexandra Kavanagh 2011

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Scott Agnew’s Scottish Breakfast Chat Show

Thursday, 25 August, 2011

Edinburgh 11 – Cabaret Voltaire – 01 – 28 August 21.30

Scott Agnew opens the show by addressing the eleven or so people who are watching.  Upon not getting the reaction he wants from a couple in the front he brands them; ‘a bundle of joy’.  At 13.00 (‘Fringe breakfast time’ as he describes it) such criticism runs the risk of being alienating but he is a fairly warm performer and broadly keeps people onside.  He then serves “Scottish breakfast”.  This is advertised as being Irn Bru and a sausage roll.  What is actually served is just Irn Bru (allegedly the council wouldn’t let him serve food).  To make matters worse he doesn’t have enough Irn Bru to go round a half empty house and what he does hand round is flat.  Its a poor start thats sloppy and unprofessional.

The first act is Rachel Juhasz – a singer performing in ‘My Judy Journals’ – a show that mixes the music of Judy Garland and excerpts from Juhasz’s diaries (it is at The Jazz Bar Venue 57 at 19.00), she has a rich and soulful voice and captivates the room for the short time she is performing.  Following this she has a interview with Scott Agnew.  The interview reveals little and Agnew clearly doesn’t know much about her act.

Following Rachel Juhasz is Tiffany Stephenson who is performing her standup show ‘Cavewoman’ at The Stand Comedy Club (Venue 12 14.25).  She is invited onto the stage and Agnew retreats to leave her alone with the microphone.  A painful moment then ensues when she asks Agnew if she’s ‘doing standup then?’.  Agnew indicates that she is not obliged to and so instead conducts a interview with her.  Without Stephenson’s having been bothered to do any of her act its hard to know why we should be interested in the interview and she keeps talking about how hungover she is which is a further irritation.

Following Stephenson is The Silky Pair, they have the decency to perform a song from their act.  Clad in fluffy leopardskin coats over silk slips they sing a song about their landlady that brings to mind Kate Bush.  Its well performed with Kathryn Bond singing and Lorna Shaw singing and playing guitar but the lyrics are not very amusing and the parody alone is not enough to carry the song.

Finally, Nazeem Hussain takes to the stage – he is a Australian comedian.  He starts his set by observing that ‘there are a lot of white folks in here today’ its not entirely clear what else he was expecting and like the rest of his short set it doesn’t get a laugh.  His material is without exception to do with both race and religion, very weak and in some places questionable – one section in particular where he is impersonates a Indian in a call centre is uncomfortably close to racism.  His set is a embarrassing failure but perversely his interview shows Scott Angew at his best, ‘welcome to my sofa’ he says ‘you just died on your arse’.  By being frank and chatting briefly with Hussein about what its like to fail onstage he goes someway towards bringing a good feeling back to the room. It is his best moment.

I feel obliged to disclose that early in Scott Agnew’s set I was singled out for some of Agnew’s material because I was reviewing the show.  I didn’t much appreciate it but I’ve tried not to let it affect my judgement of this lazy and amateurish show which should be avoided.

Cast Credits: (alpha order): Scott Agnew – Host. Rachel Juhasz – Performer. Tiffany Stephenson – Performer. Kathryn Bond – The Silky Pair.  Lorna Shaw – The Silky Pair.  Nazeem Hussain – Performer

(c) George Maddocks 2011

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The Return of O’Farahan and Keith

Thursday, 25 August, 2011

It is hard to know what to expect when walking into The Hive for The Return of O’Farahan and Keith. The flyer asks; ”Can two Yorkshire cops clean up New York’s crimewave?” while the description on the Edinburgh Fringe website promises multimedia and film, but it is certainly sold as a comedy show.

To confuse matters still further, a screen presents the audience with a few mischievous disclaimers; “If you need jokes about clothes or your job this show may not be for you” and “This show contains ideas”. There is still no way of knowing what is going to happen as Jon Reed hands out popcorn to the audience before throwing his audience headlong into the world of O’Farahan and Keith without introduction or hesitation.

They are the fictional stars of a 1970s cop television series, and as their archives of ‘footage’ appear on the screen it looks strikingly similar to the 1970s cop television series Starsky and Hutch for those that might recognise it. Jon Reed and Kevin Dawson, O’Farahan and Keith respectively also look nothing like their on-screen counterparts as they stand in darkness. They ad-lib and speak rehearsed lines over film of the hapless policemen, using broad Yorkshire accents with no concern for colouring within the lines or lip-synching.

It is impossible to look away in these moments, one line matched with a brilliantly cheesy gesture from their on-screen personas and this unique approach to comedy hits the nail on the head. Jon Reed and Kevin Dawson relish in the little mistakes they commit, poor-timing and occasionally poor vocal work tickles them both to the point of corpsing which makes for an even more enthralling performance, as their skills for quick witted improvisation become apparent.

These scenes are punctuated with the present-day O’Farahan sitting on a stool taking part in a radio interview, with Bek Edwards as the reporter who wishes to delve into the past of O’Farahan and Keith. Bek Edwards’s sparse, wry comic timing makes these scenes convincing and sadly comic, giving a narrative structure to the story of O’Farahan and Keith’s partnership. The occasionally improvised and devised script worked well and the old television clips were astutely edited and revealing, showing how truly ridiculous Starsky and Hutch and television programmes of that ilk really were.

At times Jon Reed and Kevin Dawson merely have to state what is happening on screen for gales of laughter to ensue. The material occasionally speaks so eloquently for itself.

However, it is not necessarily apparent that a show of this style necessarily benefits from being performed live. If more improvisation was incorporated, it may have seemed more like an unmissable performance but it felt that it could have been equally enjoyed as a recorded dubbed video. If Jon Reed and Kevin Dawson appealed to what their audience was reacting to more it could have been a more inclusive performance that could have pushed it towards being essential viewing.

Performed, written and devised by John Reed and Kevin Dawson

Featuring vocal performances from Bek Edwards, Tom Parry, Andrew Bird, Jo Caulfield, Martin Mor, Ro Campbell, Pete Firman, Gavin Webster, Patrick Monahan, Jon Clark, Johnny Vegas.

(c) Alexandra Kavanagh 2011

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The Edinburgh Revue Show, Opium

Thursday, 25 August, 2011

Plenty of potential

The Edinburgh Revue Show is a product of Edinburgh University’s sketch troupe which performs throughout the year.

The sketches exhibited an interesting array of topics and scenarios and show the broad appeal this group could have, as they ranged from the surreal and macabre to a more realistic, base brand of humour.

Some scenes were devised more expertly than others; one moment each performer assumes the role of a character from The Sims computer game, in an original, punchy little sketch that humanises these computer creations and is delivered with excitement and some great comic timing from Sarah Flocken and Katia Kvinge. Although initially very funny, the sketch got a little out of control as they deviate from what initially made their subject matter funny.

With many of their sketches, consideration for the comic material gets lost mid-scene, although still laugh out loud funny, it begins to lean towards the wrong side of shambolic.

Some scenes had some great ideas as their starting point but lacked the control to carry across the punch line as they lurched a little towards the predictable. One sketch starts out with the group humanising social networking sites and ends with one performer ranting earnestly at ‘another sketch about social networking sites.’ This was an interesting premise to bring to the forefront of contemporary comedy but it might have benefited from a more subtle attack on such notions as opposed to a full on attack. In this instance it might have been more beneficial to show the frustration at such humour as opposed to explicitly explaining it.

Clearly the Edinburgh Revue are a group of performers that enjoy working together and gain a lot of enjoyment from performing which is very comfortable to watch, if they maintain this group ethic they can develop some really great comedy. The direction was slick and the pace was enthusiastic and playful. They performed on a tiny stage and they took to the space very naturally. Katia Kvinge gives a performance worthy of note, with brilliant facial reactions and a humble comic  that persona that exhibits an acceptance when it comes to others taking centre stage which makes for a generous performance. Likewise with Rory Tefler whose wry understated comic persona does not appear as overbearing as some of the others do, incorporating a slow-paced sarcasm which contrasts with the quick changeover time and bouncing enthusiasm of many of the scenes. It seems a shame that well-timed, modest performances such as these were swallowed to serve the needs of some of the Revue’s larger personalities, particularly Will Naamen and Richard Duffy. It would have been great to see Rory Tefler and Katia Kvinge taking on more protagonist roles.

Performed by: Sarah Flocken, Will Naamen, Richard Duffy, Katia Kvinge and Rory Telfer. Written by:  Sarah Flocken, Will Naamen, Richard Duffy, Katia Kvinge and Rory Telfer and Dale Cooper

Directed by: Sarah Flocken, Will Naamen, Richard Duffy, Katia Kvinge and Dale Cooper
Direction overseen by: Rory Telfer

(c) Alexandra Kavanagh 2011

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