EDINBURGH FRINGE 2014 WRAP #3
12/08/2014 - 25/08/2014
The final wrap-up of non-NZ shows in the Edinburgh Fringe 2014.
Fundamentalists is a documentary-style drama involving an ex-serviceman from the Afghanistan war who is at a recovery hospital in Wiltshire. His nurse is from Somalia, a country hounded by war, now under constant attack from Al Shabaab.
This play is touching, funny and revealing about the truth behind Islamaphobia, and how such brave civilians and service personal have witnessed and survived.
A strange friendship is forged of mutual respect and equal loss. Performed in International Sign by the hugely talented David Bower and with dance and the poetry of the Somalian language.
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53)
Country: United Kingdom – England
Group: My Lucky Mojo
DIFFERENT IS DANGEROUS
Different is Dangerous gives a unique insight into the lives of the Asian community in Leeds. From unprovoked attacks, hijabs and segregation to Coronation Street, boyfriends and Tupac.
Different is Dangerous explores multicultural life and the challenges of ethnicity, using a combination of headphone verbatim technique, and fictional monologues. This is a devised piece performed by its creators.
theSpace @ Jury’s Inn (Venue 260)
Suitability: 12+ (Guideline)
Country: United Kingdom – England
Group: Two’s Company
21st CENTURY POE: MOYAMENSING
2013’s sell-out show reinvented Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. Now Poe tells his own tale, imprisoned for drunkenness in Moyamensing Prison and facing his worst nightmares. A true but little-known incident from the last few weeks of Poe’s life provides a poignant, disturbing, darkly comic metaphor for all he loved, suffered and feared.
2013 show reviews:
‘Insanely good storytelling… Trainspotting meets Gothic horror’ ***** (BroadwayBaby.com).
‘Ross has a great aptitude for suspense and terror… Chilling’ (Scotsman).
‘Visceral … a compelling onstage presence … theatre that kept you on edge … a 21st century fairground ghost ride’ (FringeReview.co.uk).
Paradise in The Vault (Venue 29)
17:50 | 1 hour
Group: Marty Ross
ACCORDING TO HIS NEED
Meticulously crafted dialogue, bizarre characters, and a twisting, ironic plotline are the key constituents in this brand new production.
According To His Need follows Nick, a lifelong bachelor who attempts to pick up girls by joining the Socialist Party, where he masquerades as a tree-hugging, injustice-hating ally of the working class. All goes well until he becomes intimately involved with his polar opposite, Cass, who uses her seductiveness as a recruiting tool – luring young men deeper into the organisation.
The duo spiral into a gridlocked and dysfunctional relationship as romance and politics intertwine.
C venues – C nova (Venue 145)
20:10 | 50 minutes
Group:Reds Theatre Company
Antiquithon is a unique theatrical experience inspired by side shows and carnivals. Two mysterious characters are welcoming spectators in their cabinet of curiosities. But genuine haunted antiques, freaks, and weird stories may not be the most surprising experience… Welcome to Antiquithon! Written by Gwen Aduh. Directed by Martin Petitguyot. Performed by Gwen Aduh and Aurélie de Cazanove.
Institut français d’Ecosse (Venue 134)
13:30, 14:05, 14:40, 15:30, 16:05
Suitability: 12+ (Restriction)
Group: Cie des Femmes à Barbe
CASTING THE RUNES
You’re invited to the edge of your seat, into the darkest corners of the night. Award-winning Box Tale Soup present their chilling new show. Our advice? Don’t come alone… ‘All my senses are undone, I shudder at the awful truth and the hot breath of the demon at my back.’
A new adaptation of M.R. James’ classic supernatural thriller.
‘They are wonderful’ (Libby Purves, Times).
theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39)
18:05 | 55 minutes
Suitability: 12+ (Guideline)
Group: Box Tale Soup
1942. Held in prison without trial for six weeks, three women await interrogation. This isn’t Germany. This isn’t Russia. This is England.
Exploring the little known wartime defence regulation that arguably undermined the democracy of Churchill’s Britain, 18b exposes moral questions over a period of history honoured in the text books. A charming fascist, eccentric outsider and a German infiltrator force their interrogators to question the measures we should resort to in the protection of state and nation.
A punchy, provocative, challenging new perspective on our nation’s history from a fresh and exciting award-winning company.
ZOO (Venue 124)
15:45 | 1 hour
Group: Nottingham New Theatre
BLACK IS THE COLOR OF MY VOICE
Inspired by the life of Nina Simone, Apphia Campbell’s hit one-woman show follows jazz musician and civil rights activist Mena Bordeaux as she undergoes a three-day period of spiritual cleansing following the untimely death of her father.
Hitting Edinburgh after multiple sold out performances in Shanghai and NYC, ‘Black is the Color of My Voice shines’ (Time Out, Shanghai).
‘It needs no more than (Campbell) to keep the audience completely hooked’ (Shanghaiist.com).
‘Campbell transfixed, she charmed, she entertained and ultimately moved a packed theatre with her touching portrayal’ (SmartShanghai.com).
Gilded Balloon (Venue 14)
14:20 | 1 hour
Suitability: 12+ (Guideline)
Group: Play The Spotlight Theatre
Important questions | Much to offer | Beautiful writing vs frenetic acting | Clever and confident | Largely unimaginative | Much to like | Polished but lacks substance | Inspiring
Review by Dione Joseph 28th Aug 2014
At a time when war once more is leering at her victims in Gaza it isn’t surprising that a number of works address the issues of responsibility, corruption and – yes – fundamentalism across both camps.
The story isn’t necessarily new but it does shine a light, if somewhat tepid, on the relationship between Somalia and Britain. From the perspectives of Fawsia (Jade Tettey), a Somalian refugee and now UK resident, and former soldier Crispy (Fergus McGovern), the main narratives question the motives of war and its unrelenting acceleration by George Bush and Tony Blair.
Accompanying this central narrative are blurry narratives that provide some insight to the various relationships between the different members of society including Professor Abukar (Isolte Avila), who does give some beautiful renditions of Somalian poetry, and of course the expected Taliban representative played by David Bower.
There are some clever aspects to this play – the use of chalkboards, directors chairs orchestrating the stage for war, good combat fighting scenes – but the work is still in its embryonic stage and needs further development.
It raises important questions as to the notion of fundamentalism and the misconceptions of Islam, the difficult and ugly choices that war forces people in power to make often at the expense of thousands of unjustified deaths – and yet it does little more than scratch the surface.
Works like these need support and have valuable stories to share with a much larger audience – but simultaneously they need extensive restructuring to be more than just visual extracts from conversational performance.
DIFFERENT IS DANGEROUS
The Leeds community are ready to talk. In fact, they’re ready to talk a lot. But we’re going to hear their thoughts through the voices and visceral impressions of two young university women who went to this community to collect interviews with the locals on the very topical subject of the Asian community in Leeds.
The verbatim form isn’t new. The interviews play through their ipods and they repeat their interviewees’ responses mere seconds after they hear the words themselves.
As a collection of insights and responses by a variety of different members from the Leeds community commenting on the racism in Leeds, the work has much to offer. These are the words of individuals who share personal information on their migration to England, growing up as a first generation British with Asian heritage, and of course the conversation does not exclude the voices of ‘opinionated’ Anglo voices who aren’t hesitant to say, indeed in 2014, that it is largely ‘black’ people who cause a lot of the problems. Not really folks “like the Polish”, but the rest.
There are some fascinating, undisguisedly revealing narratives that are shared in this 50 minute production but where the work stumbles is in its actual curation and delivery. Sitting down for the majority of the show, both female performers are limited in their visceral connection to the words of their interviewees. While both are skilled performers, the stories are somewhat bound by the constant musical chairs scenario.
It is also interesting that only for the portrayal of Muslim women do the actors don a scarf – an interesting choice because, if no other story and it’s narrator requires an accessory, does the deliberate inclusion of a headscarf – already such a politically charged statement – actually benefit the conversation?
Some of the material might be familiar, some thoughts might be new, but essentially this production is in its entirety a collection of interviews. To its credit, it allows for voices to be heard in their own words and on their own terms – but then what?
There is much to be done with such a rich assortment of varying views and opinions and their responses – ranging from resigned, frustrated, disgusted, reactive and proactive – have a much larger role to play in shaping future work.
21st Century Poe: Moyamensing
Any Edgar Allan Poe fan would be instantly drawn to an opportunity to experience a glimpse from Poe’s last few weeks spent in Moyamensing prison in Philadelphia.
In a very Canterbury Tales-style fashion we are invited to wander through the back lanes of Poe’s memory as Scottish playwright and performer Marty Ross presents highly physical excerpts from those last chilling days in prison.
The writing, while constantly delivered in a babbling stream-of-consciousness, is quite beautiful; though it is easy to fall in and out of the various twists and turns, a few key metaphors do anchor the audience and certain sections are taken verbatim from Poe’s own memoirs.
Unfortunately, the acting is rather one-note: a constant state of frenetic activity with Ross leaping, yelling, pleading and yet missing subtle beats of pace and silence in this increasingly dizzy world where paranoia is blurred with hysteria. And more’s the pity.
The lighting states are also a tad frustrating: either clinical fluorescent white or scarlet, giving a reductive good-bad effect that does nothing for the performance.
Ross comes into his own in the final 20 minutes of the production with the gruesome dissection scenes and the complex narrative does finally reach a semi-satisfactory state.
A shorter, less melodramatic production would have sufficed.
According to his Need
The politics of love. Indeed. Many a manifesto has been entrenched in notions of supposed egalitarianism between the sexes but as nerdy but likeable Nick (Michael-David McKiernan) and unrelenting Marxist Cass (Hannah Tucker Mamalis) prove through their short-lived dalliance, life in the debating chamber isn’t easy.
Desperate for girls, Nick first made his foray into politics by joining the local branch of his communist party with the hope that girls with ‘brains’ might find his newly acquired knowledge about Marxist theory and his Che Guevara t-shirt attractive. Eventually, iron lady Cass melts under his puppy advances and volunteers to educate him.
This however, leads not to a cheesy Disney ending but a befitting finale showcasing the collision of two, where our lovers are successfully thrown off course. Nick is out of his depth and fails to find equilibrium amongst the party and its politics; and Cass, having put love before work, is forced to relinquish her student. No happily-ever-after. Or is there?
It’s clever and well-written. Emerging playwright Oliver Eagleton traces the adventures of these two unlikely lovers, their sacrifices and efforts to adapt, even their recourse to philosophical interrogation whilst having sex. Intellectual shags, as the play celebrates, can be incredibly satisfying, yet socialism comes at a price that demands more than just casual participation.
However, while both McKiernan and Mamalis have good chemistry and an impressive ability to be present whilst engaging with long tracts of socialist rhetoric, the actual staging is unimaginative (in the round, inhibited admittedly by a small room) and the awkward lighting state creates a sense of watching an experiment take place – albeit, one that suggests that success is likely for socialist intervention productions, especially when coupled with great writing and confident performances.
I’ve never been tasered in a show. Yes, that’s right TASERED. But it’s quite likely that I’ll remember the particular production quite distinctly – although ‘memorable’ may not be the right term.
But let’s start at the beginning. Hidden away in the basement of Edinburgh’s French institute, Antiquithon is inspired by the notion of side-show freaks and carnivalesque exoticisation.
Here in this dark cavernous space we are introduced to the remains and the relics of a Romanian collection. Curiosities pique the human interest, and certainly for the grandfather of Ourelia (Aurélie de Cazanove) and Vodek (Gwen Aduh), this collection is reflective of an obsession with the mysterious and the foreign.
From the hairy hand of the Tibetan Yeti to the spider-rabbit and a tiny dancing skeleton, anomalies of the human condition and also the natural world seem to have been his chief occupation. Forced to flee from Romania, this brother-sister combo is intriguing: Ourelia a ring mistress in this freak show and her brother, silent and watchful, unable to speak it seems.
But what could have been a clever interrogation, a dismantling of the exoticised frames in which such curiosities are located, lapses into cheap tricks, swerving towards the taboo and ultimately an ending that only just touches upon the notions of voyeurism that is thrust upon the audience.
The lack of a strong clear narrative and any semblance of plot ensure that the grand finale is rendered somewhat lazy and largely unimaginative, a quick exit from a work that could have had promise.
Casting the Runes
M.R James’ short story by the same title is a suspense-laden page-turner. But does this quite translate into an equally chilling stage production by Box Tale Soup?
Professor Edward Dunning (Noel Byrne) is a no-nonsense implacable disbeliever and refuses to publish a manuscript on alchemy by the mysterious Karswell. This is despite the fact that the last person who refused to entertain the requests of this silent and stealthy author was found dead three days after being handed a piece of paper with runic letters.
Enter the young and winsome Joanna Harrington (Antonia Christophers) who, despite several failed attempts at convincing Dunning of the serious implications of ignoring Karswell, finally succeeds in convincing the sceptic that there is more to this than an ingenious magician’s box of tricks.
Christophers also plays a number of other characters, including the nervous librarian, Dunning’s pragmatic assistant and of course the shadowy Karswell: a larger-than-life, leering puppet.
There is much to like in this show but it fails to grasp the sense of looming death, the metaphors are undermined by Coleridge’s beautiful poem being repetitively used as a mere transition state, and the singing would not have been missed.
While Byrne succeeds in playing cool and calm, his transition to believing in his imminent departure from the world of the living lacks the heightened development of tension and ends up being rather one-note. Christophers, while commendable in her various character roles, seems rather wobbly on the day and a slight hesitancy detracts from her pivotal role as a lead.
A recommended production that could go much further than it presently does.
The Second World War takes centre stage in this slick vintage-style drama by Nottingham New Theatre. Three women have been detained under the stipulations of Regulation 18b for being suspected Nazi sympathisers – consequently, they can be imprisoned without trial. This is their interrogation.
At a time when suspicion is rife and alliances are questionable, 18b provides an opportunity to look back while moving forward. These women form the centre of an unfurling narrative about who chooses sides during war. There is the high-society lady with an admiration for Hitler’s tastes in the arts, an actress who sees no reason to hide her fascist beliefs and a German woman who now lives in England and calls it home.
And of course, there are the two interrogators pulling at straws to decide who will use what manipulative tactics to cajole or if necessary, coerce confessions. All five actors are excellent, offering well-paced nuanced performances that lift what is essentially a sequence of interrogation vignettes to a critical examination of war-time espionage.
But where this polished production fails is in its content. Allusions are made to a number of moral dilemmas, issues of nationalism and democracy are skimmed over. Inevitably, despite the sophisticated visual aesthetic complemented well with a thoughtful sound design, the production lacks substance, spiralling towards an ambiguous ending where all the effort made seems to be for nought.
A somewhat disappointing conclusion to what could have been more than just a nonchalant nod at Regulation 18b.
BLACK IS THE COLOUR OF MY VOICE
Inspired by the life and loves of civil rights activist and songstress Nina Simone this is a one-woman show that is packed with charm, tenderness and a whole lot of soul.
Black is the Colour of my Voice brings the very talented Apphia Campbell to the fore of the Fringe’s best shows. Channelling the fictional Mena Bordeaux, Campbell showcases the tumultuous journey of one of American’s greatest musical icons – from child prodigy to human rights champion for black rights and all the various personal highs and lows that accompanied this life.
Accomplished through a range of conversations with her deceased father as she prepares for a spiritual release, this is an invitation into the personal world of Bordeaux with no distractions, no outside phone calls and certainly no cigarettes.
Campbell has a powerful voice and although the narrative seems to be at times awkwardly punctuated with bursts of song, she has her audience mesmerised. There’s no piano but before you can lament its absence Campbell has already started crooning her way into the heart of her audience.
Armed with basic props, and performing on a tiny stage at the Gilded Ballroom the she packs a punch chiefly because the narrative and the music are beautifully entwined in an engaging performance that refuses to be self-indulgent.
It’s not easy to be young, talented and black in 1960s America and yet the victory is not about crowing over others less fortunate. Instead the show celebrates the unrelenting passion of a people who refuse to abide by the dictates of society.
Set against the racial riots, the death of Dr Martin Luther King and her own personal heartaches, the story of Bordeaux – and as a result, Nina Simone herself – inspires hope, not just then but especially today.
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