Archive for August 19th, 2010

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Drags Aloud

Thursday, 19 August, 2010

Supremely professional entertainment of the highest calibre

Edinburgh 2010, Udderbelly, Cowgate – 5th-29th August ( 22.50 )

Drags Aloud's Linda Lamont

Jessica James,  Amanda Monroe, Kris Del Vayze and Linda Lamont are quite definitely stars. They are supreme movement artists and dancers who entertained the late night Festival audience  with masterful playing of glorious women in splendid dresses. Jessica James’s beautiful costume designs are one key to the shining beauty of the show, more than matched by the wry humour and extra-ordinarily shapely legs of these delightful men in high heels dancing divinely. The sound track is a clever vehicle for their send up/homage to great movies, played with panache and precision.

The tiny theatre space is filled with their vibrant, over-the-top characters. Their comic timing is always perfect, down to the last eyelash, as they play off one another beautifully to create scenes filled with good humoured rivalry and Hollywood glamour. When they are not on stage they are on screen playing a medley of other characters discussing what films they wish to work upon. These ‘movie’ fillers are necessary to allow for complete costume changes and are splendidly funny. They are put together as rough “rushes”, keeping the audience entertained while setting up each scene.

Jessica James writes and directs the shows as well as performing. The deadpan humour of her movement and her famed “ belligerent dancing “ are on display from the top of the show and never fail to raise a belly laugh while the feather-light Linda Lamont leaps and pirouettes elegantly in truly balletic prima donna style, wearing high heels in which it would challenge most women to simply walk elegantly. Linda’s “Dorothy” is a delight, full of mischief and youthful charm. Her face is a mobile picture book and her dancing is wonderful throughout. Kris Del Vayze has a dry wit which permeates her performance, whether as a woman in lovely dresses or as a man in trousers and high heels. His eyes are poetically powerful and her high kicks display legs which would be the envy of many a model. As the Big Cat she is splendidly mean and very funny. Her command of the movement from the pinky to the instep is laced with experience and stunning accuracy. She also assists with the costuming and the very tight, professional choreography of Drags Aloud shows. Amanda Monroe is a curvy sensuous character with  a soft wicked sense of humour. She is the one most likely to convince the unsuspecting she is a woman since her décolletage looks great in a low cut gown. Her mobile face and elegant arms bring great charm to the stage. She plays many lovely “ dumb “characters, including a glamorous foil to Jessica’s Titanic granny, with consummate grace. Each of the performers is glorious and all together they create breathtakingly astonishing brilliance.

This  Australian Company struck a chord with everyone in the mixed age, mixed race, Edinburgh Festival audience and I suspect they could hold their own in any homophobic working men’s club . It is wonderful to see truly beautiful costumes of such creativity worn by people who possess all the skills to display them well, entertain with gusto and create laughter with each step. Do go and see Drags Aloud at the Movies. You will have treated yourself to one of the gems of the festival.

CAST Jessica James, Linda Lamont, Amanda Monroe, Kris Del Vayze – Drag Artistes

Company – Drags Aloud; Director –Jessica James, Costume Designer – Jessica James, Assistant Costume Designer –  Kris Del Vayze, Choreographers — Kris Del Vayze, Jessica James and Linda Lamont, Writers –Jessica James and Amanda Munroe, Music – Amanda Munroe, Producer – Amanda Munroe, Lighting design, —Armen Demirtchian, Sound Production–Armen Demirtchian, Film Director — Jessica James, Film Scripts – Improvised by The Company and written by Jessica James, Camera – Andre Switzer, Venue Stage Manager—Ange and The Company

http://dragsaloud.com

( c ) Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2010

reviewed Monday 16th August 10

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Sweet Talk

Thursday, 19 August, 2010

Can you survive in Cell Block Five?

Edinburgh 2010 – C aquila – 9-30 August­­ 2010 – 15.45 (1:00)

Sweet Talk is a fairly limp musical set in the fictional cell block five of Marsville Prison.

The soap-opera-style plot centres around four inmates and their sleazy warden.  Daisy (Beth Burrows) is the newest arrival who, despite swearing her innocence, was caught carrying drugs on her way to a party.  After a tough start, she is cautiously befriended by a group of three prisoners; Carla (Grace Wessels) is the leader of the group and is joined by her two loyal followers Jay (Marty McDowall) and Tee (Lydia Harris).  The fact that men and women seem to be sharing the same prison is just the first of many absurdities apparently overlooked by the writers.

Any hope of the prison scenario imbibing the production with grit or social commentary quickly vanishes as the haphazard story begins to take shape.

Carla is having an affair with the warder Ferguson (Olly Giani) and is jealous when he pays any of the other prisoners any attention.  When Daisy spurns boyfriend Daniel (Travis Quinn) for failing to get her released she believes she needs to sleep her way to freedom, starting with Ferguson.  This earns the ire of Carla whose somewhat strange reaction is to refuse to join Daisy in the end-of-year prison cabaret.  Daisy hits back threatening to expose Carla’s romps with Ferguson.  The climax of the show is the prison cabaret and Daisy’s enforced solo performance.  The sparse plot eventually resolves itself in a spectacularly ludicrous manner.

This being a musical, the story is told with a mixture of dialogue and song.   Unfortunately, with the honourable exception of Travis Quinn, none of the cast are particularly talented singers.  The three actresses’ vocal skills range from average to weak, while Marty McDowall constantly sings flat and Olly Giani barely has a singing voice of any description.  The best that can be said is that each cast member seems to be giving it their all – desperately trying to hit the high notes while trying to give some believability to underwritten characters.  But no amount of enthusiasm can make up for the production’s complete lack of wit.

Travis Quinn, whose voice is the only one that soars above the mediocrity, is woefully underused and his duets with Beth Burrows, the best of the female singers, are the only points where the production even approaches a professional standard.

The songs themselves are largely forgettable affairs, with musical accompaniment coming from solidly-played piano and drums backstage.  The tunes are generally insipid, while the lyrics are very much from the ‘cat, mat, bat’ school of rhyming and add little to the story – leaving heavy-handed dialogue to further the paper-thin plot.

A decent set, made up of three suitably heavy-looking cells, and well-made costumes are the only bright spots in what is a disappointingly weak theatrical experience.

Cast Credits (alpha order): Beth Burrows – Daisy.  Olly Giani – Ferguson.  Lydia Harris – Tee.  Marty McDowall – Jay.  Travis Quinn – Daniel.  Grace Wessels – Carla.

Company Credits: Writers/Composers – Harriet Hardy and Rosie Paveley.  Band – Sam Edwards, Kayleigh Fellows and Harriet Hardy.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Friday 12 August / C aquila, Edinburgh, UK