Archive for August 24th, 2011

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Debbie Does My Dad, at Edinburgh

Wednesday, 24 August, 2011

Living up to expectations

Edinburgh – Bedlam Theatre – 5-27 August 2011 – 2300 (1hr)

Son of a Porn Star

Beginning this solo piece about his experience growing up as the son of a porn star, Bobby Gordon takes to the stage initially as a lecturer or teacher, but he quickly becomes the awkward child he claims he was as an eight year old.

Bobby Gordon says his spent his childhood ‘in the shadow of his dad’s erection”, but then the advice he got from the man himself was that his genitals are a rudder for a man to steer himself and as such he should just grab his dick – whether to regain confidence, to cure headaches or anything else. Frankly, it was a cure for anything.

This is a theatrically staged piece with effective and distinct changes of light in particular. The delivery is also quite theatrical – even though it is Bobby Gordon’s personal story, there are times when he doesn’t quite seem to be delivering it personally.  The protective barriers sometimes spring up when performers are revealing aspects of themselves and maybe that was what was happening here.

His delivery is filled with variety and is engaging, whether as the small child, the awkward teenager and even to an extent as his own mother. The decision to wrap her in a blanket like an elderly woman seems strange though.

Bobby Gordon’s story details the difficulties he faced with growing up as the son of a porn star, particularly with friends who had seen his father’s work – which Bobby Gordon claims to be fictional.

The show also touches upon the decision for Howie Gordon (whose performing name was Richard Pacheco) to leave the professional when AIDS was beginning to emerge.

Most of Bobby Gordon’s material shows him grappling with a way to establish relationships with the opposite sex as well shake off concerns about whether he can live up to his dad’s reputation.

As aspects of his childhood are examined the added use of sound on top of the dramatic lighting changes adding colour. The theme tunes to Superman and Mission Impossible don’t just add a sense of the time but also have messages within themselves – the former relates to how he will be seen because of how people see his dad, and the latter is used during a daring raid on a stash of pornographic magazines.

This is a warmly presented piece which poses some interesting questions. The main focus is what can you learn from a porn star parent and also, how can you rebel against them as you grow up. It’s a touching show about the difficulty of living up to high expectations, but its overall message is that we are, after all, human and should be aware of our sensitivities and desire for tenderness.

Writer/performer – Bobby Gordon. Director – D’Lo.  Producer – Lyzz Schwegler

© Chandrika Chevli 2011

Reviewed 22 August 2011

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Jawbone of an Ass

Wednesday, 24 August, 2011

Knockabout religious satire

Edinburgh – Hill Street Theatre – 5-29 August 2011 –  2000 (1hr)

Jawbone of an Ass begins in gentle, suburban America as playwright Nan Schmid takes to the stage in a pink quilted and embroidered housecoat and slippers, playing Paige Marie Hollister. The darker nature of the world she inhabits becomes clearer immediately as the radio is turned on to reveal fervent religious broadcasts and the fact that some form of respected religious figure. Dr Peter Admore is coming to town to offer his assistance after the disappearance of Paige Marie’s husband Roy.

The atmosphere is built further by the arrival of Paige-Marie’s untrustworthy friend Cora Ann – portrayed with aplomb and a spooky fervour by Liza Coyle –  who repeatedly subjects herself to electric shocks my licking her hand then sticking it into the socket.

When the suited preacher, played by Jim Anzide (who also directs), arrives, he weeps as he sheds tears of love, not for his followers or even his deity, but out of appreciation for the words he himself has just said. Dr Admore doesn’t even seem to be a figure who deserves to have followers, as in his office he will dress up any manner of slacking by claiming that he’s praying.

The mystery surrounding Roy’s disappearance is heightened by the constant references to his ‘condition’. It is then explained that Roy has a tendency to get to know himself personally, in the Biblical sense, in public. Moments like the ensuing array of great euphemisms for masturbation are those which demonstrate the strength in Nan Schmid’s writing.

The piece as a whole runs at a screwball pace with surreal elements including cross dressing, Pillsbury bake-offs  and murder thrown in. The cast carry off the swift changes in location and costume well and while the set is very simple with different scenes displayed on a roller blind, there are several costume changes and the selection on offer is well chosen. Particularly the use of a black tutu.

The female actors were very obviously wearing wigs, and that didn’t really seem justified unless it was a particular aspect of the characters’ beliefs that they should not expose their own hair, but that wasn’t a detail which was touched upon in anyway.  It’s a knockabout comedy with some messages about the wisdom behind blindly following anything – one repeated sound effect is the bleating of sheep which punctuates the play and appears after the characters’ mantra “We Are Saved To Serve”.

This is not an overtly offensive play as the characters clearly represent extremes and their beliefs aren’t what anyone in the audience would (we hope) completely share. It may not fully serve as a detailed satirical mocking of Christianity, but it creates a fun world for an audience to visit for an hour.

Cast credits:  Jim Anzide – Dr Peter Admore.  Liza Coyle – Cora Ann.  Nan Schmid – Paige Marie Hollister.

Company credits:  Writer – Nan Schmid. Director – Jim Anzide. Company – Mortimer Olive Productions.

© Chandrika Chevli 2011

Reviewed on August 22nd 2011

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The Table: Blind Summit at Edinburgh

Wednesday, 24 August, 2011

Puppetry with surrealism, flair, originality

Edinburgh –Pleasance Dome (King Dome)– 3-28 August—22:00 (1:00)

Blind Summit's incredible puppetry at Edinburgh 2011

Blind Summit Theatre present three very different puppetry shows in the same bill.  They do so with lashings of cheeky surrealism, flair and originality.  Despite a few flat moments, the show is funny and touching in equal measure.

The first puppet we meet, and indeed the only “puppet” is a table-top Japanese Bunrako puppet. A grumpy, but endearing and exceptionally ‘real’ old man.  He explains the mechanics of his existence; focus, fix-point and breathing.  The magic of the puppet is destroyed as his very able puppeteers start making deliberate mistakes.  It is fascinating to observe how the slightest error topples the show’s reality. Things start slowly, but through a combination of obvious freedom and improvisation, the charming comedy and the heart-warming bathos of the puppet’s situation — I’ve never been under the Table’ – leads to the gradual disappearance of the puppeteers and the wonderful suspension of disbelief that allows the puppet to become animate. That is, of course, until he breaks the fourth wall with one of his well timed killer lines — ‘my backstory?  I was a box!’

The puppet is joined by a silent woman.  The piece has an unnerving and well pitched Beckettian sense.  There is strict order, but the order is meaningless.  The piece ends in a slow motion physical theatre sequence which is spectacularly choreographed and exciting to watch.  The puppet is shown from all angles, the skill and control used by the ensemble is terrifyingly impressive. However, these shows of prowess are less engaging in many ways than the down-to-earth humanity of the puppet with a cardboard box head and a stuffed and rag-doll like body.

The second piece is an intriguing piece of light theatre.  Three screens with picture frames cut into them are lined up, and a foot-lighting bar is brought in.   The cast are all dressed entirely in black. They cannot be seen, but the objects they fly in front of the windows can.  This section is, sadly, the weakest part in the show.  The concept is not especially clever and, doesn’t quite work as you can often make out the puppeteers arms.  However, the sequence is short and has some endearing moments, such as a small white face, hands and feet operated by various cast become a single running man.

Finally we are treat to some ‘French Puppetry.’ All the cast become French, with cliched cigarettes and character attitudes, that are at once heighten the theatricality of the piece and are genuinely hilarious.  A series of hand drawn pictures are held up, seamlessly moving from one to another, to tell a flip book style narrative. This is a deliciously silly concept excellently executed.  It’s not always easy to read the smaller print, but this does not detract from the overall effect greatly.  As the brief case that held the pages snaps shut with an air of finality there is well deserved and rapturous applause.

Cast: Mark Down, Nick Barnes, Sarah Calver, Sean Garratt

Company: Devised and Directed—Blind Summit Theatre, Puppets made by—Blind Summit Theatre, Co-devisors—Ivan Thorley/Irena Stratieva, Lighting Consultation—Richard Howell, Administrator—Maeve O’Neill.

Reviewed- August 22nd  -Edinburgh

(c) Rebecca Gibson 2011