Archive for August 23rd, 2011

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Kev Orkian – The Guilty Pianist, The Closed Venues Tour.

Tuesday, 23 August, 2011

Impeccable timing

SpaceCabaret @ 54 – Edinburgh – August 5-27th – 19:05 (0:45)

Kev Orkian is a thoroughly likeable man with an intentionally paper-thin persona that is at once charming and brilliantly funny.  ‘The Guilty Pianist,’  an illegal immigrant, snaps between witty banter, intelligent and original comic piano playing and an elaborate reenactment of the history of dance with e slick confidence of a seasoned but passionate performer.

The show starts with a brief introduction to the Armenian superstar who will be our host for the next hour. The character, Kev, is a repetiteur pianist playing for cash, dressed in a waistcoat and suit trousers with a corny white satin, piano-keys tie.  He belittles the venue, his accommodation and the Eurostar train that brought him to the ‘euak aay’ –yes, he was clinging to the roof as it crossed the border.  Some of the material is Hackneyed but the delivery and timing are delightful.  It is also a relief that what could become unsettlingly right wing (a mockery of an immigrant) is kept buoyant and jovial and even the most BNP audience member could not fail to fall for Kev.

He picks an audience member to sign a piece of sheet music.  The joke is somewhat lost but the act is entertaining and good natured.  He then plays through the numerous requests he has been given –his ‘shit [sheet] music.’  He begins with an odd sounding piece of inverted arpeggios and unrecognisable chords, before flipping the sheet round and revealing he’s been playing the Blue Danube with the music upside-down before casting the music aside with a well timed derogatory “crap.”  He proceeds to fall asleep in Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and to churn his way through Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C. Only he is missing the final page –why?  Because he gave it to Anne in the audience of course.  This is a great payoff.

Kev Orkian has a talent for improvising off audience reactions as well as a strong script.  His multiple reincorporations and asides are at once hilarious and smart.  They never interrupt his flow and keep the room overwhelmingly on his side.  He is extraordinarily engaging.  Even his exclamation of “I’m knackered now!” followed by “I’ve forgotten me accent!” goes down a storm, and makes his subsequent flurry of poor English all the more enjoyable.

While some of the material falls a little flat; Kev’s musical ‘The Foreigner’ a hash of show-tunes with new lyrics is passably humorous but rather obvious and drags a little, for the most part the set sails along. The show reaches an undeniable high as Kev gives us a comparison of English and Armenian music and dance. Dancing like a man possessed to Elvis, MC Hammer and Eminem (among many), intercut with traditional Armenian numbers, Kev has the audience helpless with laughter.  His energy and his conviction, combined with his impeccable timing make this an hysterical tour-de-force.

Kev Orkian is well worth seeing.  He is cheeky and loveable, funny and ‘real’ and his musical comedy is exceptional for it’s difference and it’s variety.

Cast: Kev Orkian

Writer: Kev Orkian

Company: Producer – David Hill, Technical Operator – Wayne Garnett

Review August 11th

(c) Rebecca Gibson 2011

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Peter Buckley Hill and some Comedians XV

Tuesday, 23 August, 2011

Recommended anarchy

Edinburgh 11 – The Cannon’s Gait – 01 – 28 August 21.30

Peter Buckley Hill

Peter Buckley Hill comperes this evening of comedy on the free fringe. Upon taking to the stage he cuts out the introduction track before it has finished and the audience are fully seated.  Thankfully he acknowledges the mistake calling it ‘the first act of consummate unprofessionalism tonight’. At first it is unclear whether acknowledging mistakes is a good idea in front of the rowdy predominately Scottish crowd at The Cannon’s Gait. However, it quickly becomes clear that the majority of the room are already (as he puts Peter Buckley Hill puts it) ‘part of the freemasonry of the the show’.

Peter Buckley Hill is as accomplished as one could expect from a compere.  He is an entirely shambolic performer but years of experience cover for this.  Not afraid to digress (by the end of the evening he is making jokes about Bertrand Russell’s Paradox) and with a back catalogue of very funny songs (Adolf Hitler’s sexual preferences are the subject matter of one) he has enough control over the room by the end of his introduction to encourage the crowd to make noises and sing his songs (many know the words already).  By the time the first act (Gordon Brunton) takes to the stage the audience is very warmed up – perhaps a bit of a liability too.

This does not phase Gordon Brunton who (as he tells one heckler) ‘has played pubs in Glasgow’.  This experience shows and he addresses the crowd early, partly reading out horoscopes but mostly dishing out abuse.  This improvised audience interaction forms fifty percent of his act the rest being solid material that deals with his family life and work as a bus driver.  It quickly becomes clear that he is an experienced and talented performer – taking on a crowd this rowdy and coming out best is not a easy thing to achieve (within five minutes of starting his act he has been loudly called a ‘c*nt’) and yet he does so with relative ease.

Danny Bevins follows – he tells us that he is: ‘an average American, … very poorly educated’.  His style is less confrontational than Gordon Brunton and there is a immediate worry that he may lose the room with his laid-back delivery.  Thankfully his material is very funny and he trusts in it with good results.  His set is dark and based upon his life in America touching upon his religion and family.  It’s also accomplished and well observed  and effortlessly impresses.

After a short interval, Peter Buckley Hill takes to the stage again.  He plays a selection of songs and does some more improvised stand-up for about twenty minutes.  The reason for this impromptu set he explains at the end of the evening: ‘if you’re wondering what happened to the third comedian…well, so am I’.

The evening is finished off by Yianni (he doesn’t use a second name).  He is Australian and moved to the UK following advice that: British people ‘drink a lot and may find you funny’.  By this stage in the evening the crowd are certainly demonstrating the former but seem initially reserved about the latter, a situation that is not helped by some benign but persistent heckling that spoils his early material and a faulty microphone that cuts out at crucial points.

Initially Yanni is in a tight spot, however, he works through it well by acknowledging the problems and finding the humour in them.  The crowd is ultimately benign and he keeps them laughing throughout both the digressions and with what remains of his material.

Initially it seems that he will rescue the evening  but little more. However, after ten minutes of hard work his sharp wit and good nature has got the crowd onside, and shortly after this his set has become a triumph.  By the end of the evening he is describing it as one of the best gigs of his life.  It doesn’t seem like an exaggeration, having been put under unrelenting pressure he has a great success, all from the strength of his talent.

Like the compere, Peter Buckley Hill’s and some Comedians XV is shambolic but excellent and very highly recommended.

Cast Credits: (alpha order): Danny Bevins – Performer  Peter Buckley Hill – Performer.  Gordon Brunton – Performer.   Yanni – Performer.

Company Credits: Writer – uncredited. Director – uncredited. Technical Operator – (none). Producer – Peter Buckley Hill . Company – (none). Website – http://www.buckers.co.uk/

reviewed 18 August 21.30

(c) George Maddocks

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New Diorama: Autumn/Winter season

Tuesday, 23 August, 2011

Irish comedy at the New Diorama in September

Irish comedy, Anglo-Chinese experience and Schiller all feature

New Diorama launches its Autumn season with the English premiere of the hit Irish play Waiting For IKEA, which sold out before evening opening at the Dublin Festival a few years ago and has been seen by over 11,000 people over Ireland since.

Following this is Rick Bland’s play, Thick, which won awards Off-Broadway. It begins a three week run at New Diorama in September.

The Flying Solo Season also sees the welcome return of Footprints Under The Pavement, a theatrical guided walk around our local area. Tickets are only £6 or free if you live locally to NDT.

Other season highlights include Trestle Unmasked’s The Man With The Luggage, and three one-woman shows exploring the Anglo-Chinese experience with True Heart Theatre’s In The Mirror. Marking the anniversary of the Munich Olympic tragedy, Julia Pascal’s new play Honeypot looks at this international event through one woman’s eyes.

New Diorama bring multi-award winning Iranian company Yas-e-Tamam with their radical version of House of Bernarda Alba in November. Queen Pokou marks StoneCrabs’ first visit to NDT while, just before Christmas, well-respected actress Judith Paris appears in a new production of her play Madame Tussaud: Waxing Lyrical.

After Christmas, the faction theatre co, return to New Diorama with a seven week repertory season presenting Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Schiller’s Mary Stuart and Strindberg’s Miss Julie.

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The Little Mermaid

Tuesday, 23 August, 2011

Family Drama

Edinburgh 11 – The Aviary @ Zoo Venue No 124 – 05–20 August

From the Hans Christian Andersen story

The Little Mermaid is a physical retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s story by Jackinabox productions.  In which a mermaid (Ariel played by Olivia Fisher) becomes a woman in order to win the heart of a prince.  It is designed for families.

From the start Jackinabox’s approach is predominately physical and inspired by contemporary theatrical practice.  Ariels sisters (Andrina played by Georgia Brown, Attina played by Lily Marriage and Aquatta played by Pippa Pearce) perform as the audience enters, moving in and amongst the seating.  After the auditorium is dark the Prince (played by Alastair Philips) emerges from the seats.  None of this is original but it is done simply and softly, and avoids cliché. Children will find these simple devices enthralling.

Haley Thompson and John Askew’s (who also direct) script is largely composed of narrative embellished with small sections of dialogue.  There is more narrative than dialogue which allows the company to enact the story with vivid and dynamic movement.  These movement sections are the pieces strongest feature.  The young ensemble are strong movers slickly directed and not afraid to take risks.  Closer to dance than physical theatre the movement keeps young and old rapt the only criticism being that on occasion the narrative comes close to being lost amongst the energetic activity.

The production’s dialogue is less assured.  Thankfully it is aware of this and keeps scenes with dialogue short and simple and incorporates movement into them.  The result is always engaging and some occasions quite beautiful, a standout scene  being the rejection of Ariel by the Prince which is as moving as anything I have seen on the Fringe this year.  Not every scene is as assured, and protracted dialogue does expose weakness in the performers but whenever this occurs canny direction keeps things engaging.

Set design is kept uncomplicated – nets, crab cages and other nautical debris being strewn round the corners of the stage.  Its not very impressive but it is very effectively lit by Katie Lambert who has a brave approach to colour and lamp positioning.  Whilst the sound design is also effective – Stephen Matthew’s music is well composed and a evocative and Jack Davies. Lyrics fit the story well – there needs to be more music to cover the sounds of the casts moving, and the music needs to mix in and out of the action more smoothly to maintain the organic feel that rest of the production generates.

All the performers acquit themselves well and in a production with such a strong ensemble values it would seem unfair to single anybody out.  Joining those already mentioned are David Brennan as King Triton and Emma Cooke as the Princess.  Like all their  colleagues they are young, have a great deal of potential and are to be congratulated for their enthusiasm and commitment.

The Little Mermaid is advertised as for an ‘audience of all ages’.  It is certainly not guilty of patronising its younger viewers, however, it is not clear wether or not it will be truly suitable the very youngest so vivid are some of the scenes.  Jackinabox should be hugely congratulated for this piece which is accomplished, vivid and impressively theatrical.

Cast CreditsDavid BrennanKing Triton.  Georgia BrownAndrinaEmma Cooke – Princess.  Olivia Fisher – Ariel.  Lily Marriage – Attina.  Alastair Philips – The Prince.        Pippa PearceAquatta.

Company Credits: Writers – John Askew / Hayley Thompson. Directors – John Askew / Hayley Thompson . Technical Operator – Rachel Bredbury. Producer – Francesca Isherwood. Company – Jackinabox Productions. Website – http://www.john.eborlex.co.uk/website/.

(c) George Maddocks 2011

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Charming!

Tuesday, 23 August, 2011

Edinburgh 11 – The Space @ The Surgeons Hall Venue 53 – 6, 9, 11, 13,16,18,20 August 10.30

Designed for children of all ages Charming! is a comedy that tells the story of how Prince Charming came to get married. During the story we meet Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and many other famous fairy tale characters.

Charming! is designed as a fast moving ensemble piece, and Steve Underwood’s set design reflects this. There is a single piece of set dressing – a small wooden tree centre stage that masks the entrance/exit.  The tree has a series of hatches that are used by the company to denote windows, doors and hiding places.  Other than this the stage is bare.  Its a practical and clever design but given that it is the sole piece of set the tree feels like it should have been far better dressed and painted.

Lighting design is minimal but perfectly reasonable save for a small dark area near centre stage.  Samantha Caroline Graper’s music sounds organic and nicely constructed but either the sound system or the recordings are muffled and bass heavy which means that we struggle to hear the detail of the music.  All told technically, Charming! Is well thought out but scrappily executed.

Charlotte P. Graper directs and writes with Karl Gernert who also  plays Prince Charming.  The script is good, cleverly twisting the  fairy tale characters into characters children will be more likely to recognise; Sleeping Beauty becomes a sulky teenager who doesn’t want to get out of bed.  The direction is reasonable as well, mixing knockabout humour and audience interaction with big bold characters.

Karl Gernert plays Prince Charming throughout as a narcissistic indecisive adventurer.  He is usefully skilled and creates a character that all ages can empathise with.  Chloe Jaynes plays Fleur (his frog sidekick)and gives a good performance in much the same vein.

The rest of the cast alternate roles, Georgia Lazell plays Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s mother.  She is occasionally guilty of not engaging enough with the audience but handles the multiple roles adequately.  Elizabeth Palmer plays Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, The Seven Dwarves and The Fairy Godmother.  Too much is asked of her and she struggles to adopt a playing style exaggerated enough to truly differentiate between all the roles, however, in difficult circumstances she acquits herself well.

Sadly, despite all the good character work Charming! is thoroughly spoilt by performances that are without exception under-energised and uncommitted.  Everything is in place for an enthralling experience but too often great opportunities are missed and spoilt.    At the beginning of the show Prince Charming!’s big entrance is staged so that he enters from the back of the auditorium – it should be thrilling for the young children  but Karl Gernert fails to engage them and the moment is lost.  ‘It’s moments like these that make me want to sing’ declares the Fairy Godmother at the end of the show.  Unforgivably, this is very obviously not the case.

Charming! does a great many things right, and with more energy and engagement there is potential for it to be a very good piece of simple and entertaining children’s theatre.  Currently, though, it is a missed opportunity that lets down its young audience.

Cast Credits: (alpha order): Karl Gernert – Prince Charming!.  Chloe Jaynes – Fleur.  Elizabeth Palmer – Sleeping Beauty/Rapunzel/Seven Dwarves/Fairy Godmother.  Georgia Lazell – Snow White/ Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty’s Mother.

Company Credits: Writers – Charlotte P. Graper and Karl Gernert.   Director – Charlotte P. Graper. Lx Designer – Uncredited  Fx Designer – Samantha Caroline Graper’s   Technical Operator – Charlotte P Graper.  Set Design and Construction – Steve Underwood.  Set Painting – Nik Gernert. Producer – uncredited. Company – . Website – www.act2online.co.uk/

(c) George Maddocks 2011