Archive for August 13th, 2010

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Hamlet! The Musical

Friday, 13 August, 2010

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

A cast of six brings Shakespeare’s Hamlet up to date in Hamlet! The Musical, playing in a balmy venue in Edinburgh’s Pleasance Courtyard.  As the five supporting actors move skilfully and seamlessly between multiple characters, the result is a fast paced and funny show.

This is not so much ‘Hamlet’, as ‘what Hamlet is about’, so it is not necessary to know the play in advance.  Rather, an introduction of sorts is on offer for children or adults alike.  Sharp and witty, the light-hearted humour and teen speak help to move the focus from the old English usually associated with Hamlet.  Along with catchy pop and rock tunes, and over-the-top camp characters, the way is paved for some feel-good fun of the musical variety.

Is this a picture of the cast I see before me?

However, fast, funny and farcical does not equate to hasty here, as the cast is clearly well rehearsed, with all lines perfectly learnt and scene transition smooth.  Throughout, every actor gives it his all, from vocal projection to body language and facial expression, resulting in some energy fuelled performances to raise spirits.  Jack Shalloo as Hamlet and Jess Robinson as Ophelia are exceptional in their convincing portrayal of today’s troubled teens facing timeless parental problems.  On top of the usual hang-ups and dating dramas any teenager might encounter, this pair finds it really annoying that their parents keep betraying one other, leaving the teenagers with difficult dilemmas.  But Jack Shalloo’s Hamlet is less the tortured existentialist and more the Harry Enfield teenager, sulking and huffing at his parents, and indulging in fantasies of being cooler, leading to some enjoyably obscure songs and hairdos.  His character appears in dress, stance and attitude, as a likeable rogue, who might have stepped straight off a council estate, complete with a regional cockney accent.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern provide slapstick humour which will appeal to children, with their falsetto voices and oversized human heads perched on puppet bodies.  An atmosphere of pantomime prevails.

With catchy, original tunes, belted out to the accompaniment of a live orchestra, the musical talent heard here will rival any else to be seen at the fringe.  Hamlet’s rich singing voice is a sweet surprise, incongruous to his rough and ready appearance, and Ophelia’s voice is impressively powerful with an extraordinary range.  The remaining cast support with a variety of strong solos, tuneful harmonies and rousing chorus numbers.

While puppetry, pop songs and limitless laughter abound, the result may be a little too slapstick and slapdash for anyone expecting a serious piece of musical theatre. However, with its musical and acting talent, and pantomime style signed with a singalong ending, Hamlet! The Musical should prove to be a great show for the family to enjoy together.

Cast credits:  Phile Cole – Polonius / Gravedigger.  Virge Gilchrist – Gertrude / Gravedigger.       Mark Inscoe – The Ghost / Claudius.  Jess Robinson – Horatio / Ophelia / Rosencrantz.  Jack Shalloo – Hamlet.  Stephen Web – Laertes / Guildenstern.

Company credits:  Writers – Ed Jaspers, Timothy Knapman and Alex Silverman.  Director – Ryan McBride.  Musical Director – Leo Nicholson.  Choreographer – Abigail Rosser.  Set Designer – Simon Scullion.  Costume Designer – Mia Flodquist.  Lighting Designer – Ben Cracknell.  Sound Designer – Richard Ryan/Mike Walker.  Puppet Designer – Simon Buckley.  Stage Manager – Molly Campbell.  Sound Operator – Robin Conway and Tom Pickering.  Production Manager – William Hill.  Publicity Designer – Pete Le May.  Photographer – Steve Ullathorne.  Producer – Eleanor Lloyd.

Reviewed Wednesday 11 August 2010, / Pleasance Courtyard Edinburgh UK

(c) Claire Higgins

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Free Fringe Music – Flutes en Route

Friday, 13 August, 2010

Edinburgh – National Museum of Scotland – 9–29 Aug 10 – 12:45 (0:40)

Flutes en Route

Free Fringe Music is a free showcase of young Scottish musicians which takes place daily at The National Museum of Scotland. The event was co-created by Live Music Now, a company which sets out to ‘promote standards of excellence in young musicians’.  Every year a running theme is picked for the showcase.  This year it focused on the Lewis Chessmen.  The theme originated from ‘The Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked’ exhibition which is currently on display at The National Museum of Scotland.  Performers were asked to prepare a set inspired by the tales and travels of these famous chess pieces.

The guest artists of the day were Flutes en Route. Four Scottish performers make up the  notably attractive all female flute quartet.  Their performance began with a selection of lyric pieces by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.  The collection of five rather bright and chirpy pieces was just the thing to lift ones mood on a wet and dreary Edinburgh afternoon.

It was quickly evident however, as to be expected with a group restricted by a limited variety of instruments, that there was a significant lack of variety in tone.  When the women hopped over to Ireland with Hamilton Harty’s ‘In Ireland Fantasy’ it became hard to imagine that the song would not have been best left in its original format as a duet for piano and flute.  Hats off nonetheless, to performer Jo Ashcroft who proved she was not just a pretty face with her skillful arrangement of both this, as well as their next piece of work ‘Fingal’s Cave (The Hebrides Overture)’ originally by Felix Mendelssohn.

Sarah Hayes soon stepped into the spotlight to establish that this was in no way a one woman  band with her arrangement of the final piece entitled ‘The Lewis Chessmen Suite’.  The song displayed the groups’ wonderful array of talent and easily left you wanting more.  Further mention must go to Lee Holland and Yvonne Paterson who held their own and where by no means overshadowed by the others.

One might question the appeal of a quartet made up entirely out of flautists.  Flutes en Route however have effectively and skillfully added a fresh feel to a traditionally classic instrument.  Their extensive understanding and expert command of the flute is evident throughout.  It is no wonder the girls have gone so far in the short three years they have been together. Overall, it was an enchanting addition to the music scene at this years Edinburgh fringe.

Cast Credits: (alpha order): Musicians – Jo Ashcroft. Sarah Hayes. Lee Holland. Yvonne Paterson.

Company Credits: Company – Flutes en Route

(c) Carl Livesay

Reviewed Tuesday 10 August 2009 / National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh UK

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Poignant

Friday, 13 August, 2010

The full edited report is now on the main Fringe Report site and can be accessed here:

http://www.fringereport.com/1008poignant.php

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Megan Hunter – In praise of New York

Friday, 13 August, 2010

Honoré de Balzac, the 19th century French novelist and playwright, once wrote that art was ‘nature concentrated.’  Van Gogh promised that a love of nature was the only ‘true way to understand art.’  And Rembrandt famously recommended that nature should be our only master.

I spent seven wonderful years living in New York, the foremost altar to humankind’s ability to create.  The city’s sharp lines and hard edges speak to something in stark contrast to Rembrandt’s ‘master’; it is the ultimate example of the civilized industrial spirit.  My time there was also some of my most defining, at once inspiring and overwhelming, and each moment spent surrounded by concrete was a reminder of how incredibly lucky I was to be living in the place of my childhood fantasies.  It is also impossible to escape the infectious buzz of Manhattan once you have been immersed in it.  Even now, after a year spent away, I can sometimes feel its energy coursing through me, and there are nights when I wake up with a gasp after a particularly vivid dream and sit awake in the cool darkness of our bedroom, longing for home.

In Horniman Gardens

In the final days before my departure, I ran frantically through the streets taking hurried pictures of my city.  After my time at work had wrapped up and there was nothing remaining in our apartment except for a few bulging suitcases, the only thing left for me to do was say my goodbyes.  With my camera in one hand and a scribbled piece of notebook paper in the other, I retraced my steps: from my first tentative days spent in student accommodation (a grand old hotel in the heart of midtown), to the site of my wedding (a grand old penthouse in the heart of Wall Street), I rushed to capture each memory feeling that if I did not preserve it for myself, it may disappear.  By making a project out of something that should have been cathartic, I was distancing myself from the overwhelming sense of loss that was settling in.  And looking back at these photographs now, I realise that they capture my mood upon leaving, but little else.  New York looks cold, angular, and grey.  These are architectural shots, a documentary of my movements through time, but they feel impersonal and distant.  In my memory, it was nothing like this; there it was, and always will be, in Technicolor.

As I begin to settle into my new life in London, a fascination has gripped me and for the first time in my adult life I am able to fully appreciate de Balzac’s sentiment.  There is individuality to Greenwich Village, but the rush of the city pales in comparison to the perfect solitude of a well manicured garden.  London, to its credit, is an undeniably green city, placing an extraordinary amount of importance on the seamless blend of urban and nature.  Within walking distance of our central London flat are no fewer than 3 parks, 2 public gardens, and a forest.  Streets here are leafy in a way that makes ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ seem like a delightful afterthought.

Rembrandt and Van Gogh were obviously masters of the canvas.  And with one look at their subject matter, it’s easy to see why they were so fascinated by it.  These glimpses of nature are, perhaps, more subtle and fragile in their power than a towering art-deco facade but their appeal is also, arguably, more timeless and universal.

If the time ever comes when I leave London, I hope that it will be just as bitter sweet for me as it was leaving New York.  This is our home now, at least for the moment, and while it may not yet have the memories, it certainly has the Technicolor.

(c) Megan Hunter