..so it is that time of year again where the City of Edinburgh is taken over by literally thousands of people who all want a bit of the festival action. This year we travelled up as punters which was a joy in itself and as the rain descended, it seemed even sweeter to be free of any promotional duties!
We went to the festival in the hope of seeing some excellent and inspiring theatre and we weren’t disappointed. There is a real art to festival going in itself and we literally had to run from one venue to the next forgoing food for art! As we were only there for two full days we had to pack it in. It was only a week into the festival which meant that reviews were only just seeping out (making it more of a challenge to know what to see) There are so many more shows we would have wanted to see and as the festival gathers momentum I’m sure a few more little gems will come to the surface.
I have listed below a rundown of some of the shows that we saw and a little about them…;
The highlight of the weekend for us was Dennis Kelly’s new play ‘Orphans’ presented by Traverse Theatre/Birmingham Repertory Theatre in Association With Paines Plough (I have written about this show in more detail)
Please let us know if you have or are planning a trip to the festival this year… We’d like to know which shows you rate and which shows you hate! Feel free to leave comments, thoughts or reviews.
From the Badac Theatre Company, comes this one-man show that aims to highlight the pain and suffering endured by a normal Jewish family during the Holocaust. Steve Lambert’s play pulls no punches in its telling of this family’s story. From the moment their city is invaded to their destruction at the hands of the S.S. at Auschwitz. This is an intense and moving piece which is executed brilliantly by Lambert.
This monologue drenched in grief, told by a man who has lost everything, is not easy viewing: The story told by Alex in this beautifully realised 30-minute show from London’s Bush Theatre is an everyday story of young love, fatherhood and family bonding – the rug is then pulled from under our feet by a shockingly meaningless tragedy. This show is receiving great reviews at the festival aided by Andrew Scott’s portrayal of Alex.
The Shape of things
The Shape of Things is a gripping watch, whether you are looking at it from an emotional or intellectual perspective; it works as an engaging indie romcom, but also shows the inherent conservatism of the genre. Neil LaBute’s play explores the depths we reach and the price we pay for love, for art. This is a show to go and see if you would like to lose yourself for an hour amid a fast paced and witty story. It resembles watching an American TV show where the characters, in their early twenties, analyse art, love and politics in the usual self indulgent psychobabble! – so…;like Dawson’s Creek with an indie twist! (After a few intense shows- this was a real light hearted joy!)
Analogue’s Beachy Head is as much about the way the story is told as it is about the story itself. No scene goes by without a screen being wheeled on, a video camera being focused or an actor tottering in front of a pre-recorded back projection. Analogue present this show which tells the story of a woman suffering the shock of her husband’s unexpected suicide and of the camera crew who have inadvertently filmed the event. This seems like an interesting premise for a show but it did not work on all levels. The use of multi- media was at times interesting; however this was not enough to compensate for the performances or the balance of the story itself.
A seemingly ordinary middle class dining room sets the opening scene for this perfectly structured new work by Dennis Kelly; Married couple Helen and Danny are enjoying a celebratory evening when they are interrupted by Helens brother Liam, his top soaked with blood.
Liam’s account of finding a young man who has been stabbed on the street invokes early questions of the lengths we will go to protect our own, after all ‘we don’t know him’? Danny’s instinct is to call the police but Helen persuades him otherwise to protect her only brother, because ‘Liam’s unlucky.. that’s why he’s got a record’
Kelly’s is a keen portrayal of society’s battle between law and anarchy on the streets and how one bad decision can shake even the firmest foundations of morality.
As Liam’s story unravels so does and Danny and Helens relationship and the cosy dining room makes Liam’s revelations too close for comfort. Liam brings in to our houses fear, prejudice, racist attacks, military style executions and torture. Liam’s inarticulacy makes him vulnerable and we recognise that familiar portrait of a child growing up in care dragged into the violence of the streets. Joe Armstrong as Liam gives a superbly chilling and subtle performance portraying Liam’s vulnerability whilst simultaneously laying bear the horror of his actions.
Kelly’s dialogue seems naturalistic yet there is something drawingly intangible about it. The staccato rhetoric creates a unique and electric poetry where the sentences are often unfinished and the repetition and syntax find us in a heightened sense of reality. The moments of shock and consternation are many in this depiction of social order; but so are the genuine moments of humour which seem absurdly plausible.
Initially Helen’s sense of family loyalty is so engrained that she coerces Danny into becoming an accessory to his crime. In the need to preserve their safe existence Danny and Helen become complicit in what turns out to be a decision that will change the core of who they are. Claire- Louise Cordwell’s performance enthrals as she is pushed to reveal the affects that her brothers toxicity has had on her.
Roxana Silbert’s harsh production is about a festering class divide, about the way damage gets handed down the generations, and what happens when lawlessness arrives in our front room making seemingly reasonable people act in ways they could never imagine.