+3 Review: Dad’s Army Radio Hour (Pleasance Dome: 4-28 Aug: 2.40: 60 mins)

“Like a couple of thoroughbreds taking the jumps with ease”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

This joyful show teased smiles from even the flintiest faces in the Queendome audience. The theatrical concept of ‘watching a live radio recording’ is not one I will ever be a fan of, but here the simplicity of the staging is entirely justified. With words this good, and performances this sharp, little more is needed.

The public appetite for Dad’s Army is seemingly limitless. Like Only Fools and Horses, it is one of those rare TV programmes that people are willing to watch infinite times. This does not mean that a stage version of Dad’s Army is a guaranteed hit: in fact the stakes are raised to get it right and do justice to something held so dear in so many souls (consider the fate of the recent film version). But from the moment David Benson and Jack Lane speak, we know we’re in hugely talented hands. They cover the entire cast of dearly-loved characters effortlessly, like a couple of thoroughbreds taking the jumps with ease. More than ease: there is a grace and good-spiritedness about both performances which makes them a genuine pleasure to watch, and which reminds one of why we fell in love with the originals. There are many treasurable moments, but particularly striking is Benson’s bullseye John Le Mesurier, whilst Lane’s effortless switching from a repressed, frustrated Captain Mainwaring to a good-time floozy, with barely pause for breath, is a delight.

Four scripts are performed, two at each performance. When the production tours, it would be great to see this cast perform the episode Mum’s Army somewhere in the mix. It’s the one where Mainwaring falls in love with another woman, and comes within a razor’s width of leaving his eternally-unseen harridan of a wife. It was one of Dad’s Army‘s rare excursions into genuinely moving pathos, and in amongst all the laughs it would be the icing on an already sumptuous (upside down) cake.

outstanding

StarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Mark Farrelly (Seen 5 August)

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

+3 Review: Meeting At 33 (Pleasance Courtyard: 7-18 Aug: times vary: 45 mins)

“A hugely hopeful experience”

Editorial Rating:  5 Stars

Theatre-making terms like “verbatim” and “immersive” are all too frequently euphemisms for “lazy” and “misjudged”. Not in this case. Second Circle have created a beautiful piece of work that handsomely rewards forty-five minutes of your time. The concept is deceptively simple. In a Salvation Army meeting hall nestled opposite the Pleasance Courtyard, we take a seat in a circle of chairs arranged for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There is no special lighting, sound effects or set. We are simply there, experiencing in the raw the self-confrontation that is the AA hallmark. It is thrillingly unclear who is an audience member and who is an actor, and this creative tension gives the experience much of its zing and engagement. Throughout the meeting, different actors (giving superbly naturalistic performances) share their experiences of alcohol addiction. This allows the production to explore some powerfully emotive themes, from humanity’s self-destructive impulse, to the distinction between religious faith and ‘mere’ spirituality, and even the way that recovering addicts, despite having something so deep-rooted in common, are sometimes painfully at odds with each other. If all this sounds highly intellectual, it’s not. The issues are conveyed through feeling, not thought, and our attention is held throughout.

In a piece so resolutely about the need to overcome ego, it would be inappropriate to single out particular performances among the cast of eight. Irrelevant too, since they are uniformly fine. It is however worth saying that Hannah Samuels, who created, directed and performs in the show, announces herself here as a theatre-maker to watch. Also worth saying that, if the concept of the show sounds too ‘heavy’ for some, it’s actually a hugely hopeful experience. And this is for the simple reason that the show offers true hope: that which has been earned by a courageous, coruscating and necessary trip to the interior. All that’s left standing is truth.

StarStarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Mark Farrelly (Seen 7th August)

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

CASTING CALL! EU Footlights Sister Act: Auditions: 30 March – 1 April

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***** CASTING CALL *****

Following a 20-year break, Edinburgh University Footlights returns to the Fringe in 2017 with a production of Sister Act and has issued an open call for auditions.

We’re incredibly excited to welcome faces both old and new over the course of audition weekend! We are seeking a diverse and enthusiastic cast to work on this exciting new project.

Based on the 1992 smash-hit film of the same name, Sister Act is written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane, with original lyrics by Glenn Slater and original music by Alan Menken.

Show Information

The story follows showgirl Deloris Van Cartier, who witnesses a brutal murder and finds herself having to be put in protective custody in the most unexpected place – a convent! Disguised as a nun, Deloris clashes with both the highly-strung Mother Superior and the newfound holy lifestyle imposed upon her until she finds her calling.

Tasked with inspiring the choir, Deloris revitalises both the church and community but, in doing so, blows her cover and before long, her murderous ex-boyfriend and his gang are in pursuit. Intent on hunting her down, the mob find themselves up against Deloris and her formidable new Sisterhood.

Featuring a wide variety of strong characters, from the shy and timid Mary Robert, through prim but caring Mother Superior, to flamboyant and fabulous Tina and Michelle, this musical has a part for everyone! The show’s leading men are equally diverse, including sweet, hopeless-romantic Eddie, a closet soul-diva Monsignor O’Hara and a gang of comedy mobsters intent on seducing the nuns.

In the habit of producing fantastic annual term-time shows, which include the recent Urinetown, Guys and Dolls, and Rent, Footlights cannot wait to hit the Fringe this year bringing a show filled with soulful music, comedy genius and heartwarming friendship.

Audition Info

Auditions for this production will be held Thursday 30th March – Saturday 1st April, with callbacks on Sunday 2nd April. Weekly rehearsals will begin shortly after up until May, and will recommence with an intensive period from 3rd July up until the show, which runs from 14th – 20th August.

Anyone who would like to request an audition slot should sign up (here).

For more information about the show, auditions and the roles available, visit (here).

Auditions will consist of a 10-minute vocal session, (warm-ups; range test; a song of your choosing suitable to the show) and a 1-hour movement workshop.

Sister Act Auditions

WHEN?

  • Thursday 30th March (5.30pm – 11pm)
  • Friday 31st March (5.30pm – 11pm)
  • Saturday 1st April (11am-11pm)

WHERE?

Venue – Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ

Auditions Facebook event page.

Download audition materials and casting information (here).

Sister Act @EdFringe’17

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, Grand Theatre, Nicolson Street, EH8 9DW (Venue 53)

Monday 14th – Sunday 20th August 2017

Evenings: 4pm (6pm)

+3 Review: The Marked (Pleasance Dome: 3rd-29th Aug: 13.30: 1hr)

“Remarkable theatre worthy of standing ovation”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

With an intricate set and haunting musical score, it’s clear from the off that this is a show that pays close attention to detail and creativity. And while, on the whole, this focus creates some remarkable theatre worthy of the standing ovation it received in this performance, for me at times it does border on being a little too artistic for its own good.

The story is fairly simple: homeless Jack (Bradley Thompson) is unable to sleep, as dreams of his aggressive, alcoholic mother haunt him. But he is able to overcome his demons by helping Sophie (Dorie Kinnear) – another homeless person he meets on the streets – from winding up in the same situation thanks to boyfriend Pete (Tom Stacy).

Told in a very visual way, we get to see into the darkest depths of Jack’s mind: the buried secret he’s been living with for so long, and the struggle he has to go through just to be able to help someone else. In terrifying flashback sequences, Jack becomes a child puppet and his mother a domineering masked figure whose eyes bleed while she brandishes a wine bottle, and in the most gut-wrenching of these she actually smashes the bottle on his head. The music, lighting and other effects come together in these moments to create a gripping dramatic intensity, made all the more stark by the slick changes back to the “real” world and its emptiness.

Through clever use of a repeated street scene (demonstrating the relentlessness and drudgery of homelessness), we see Jack’s journey – from tripping over faceless individuals he’s too scared to look at to start with, to their smiles and humanity at the end when he finally wins through. It’s a really powerful story, and Thompson more than delivers with raw emotion in this physically demanding role. Credit also to Kinnear and Stacy for every other character they play between them, as well as their handling of masks, puppets and various props.

While the visual and technical aspects of this show are absolutely outstanding, one of my main niggles is the appearance of the life-size talking pigeons towards the end (no, I’m not making this up). At this point in the show a bit of light relief is exactly what is needed to break up the emotional intensity of the previous scene, but this device cheapens the production and wholly detracts from what otherwise is a complex and well-thought through piece. To me this is one example of where Theatre Temoin try a bit too hard to be too creative, and at times I would have preferred a little less focus on all the “stuff”, and more on the basics of the acting and narrative.

The Marked is a stunning and unique performance, but perhaps just a little overreached creatively.

outstanding

StarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 12 August)

Visit the Pleasance, Potterrow & Teviot  archive.

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

+3 Review: Early Doors (Pleasance pop-up @ The Jinglin’ Geordie: 5-29 Aug: 12.00: 1hr)

“A stunning piece of site-specific theatre”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

After the general bustle of buying drinks, finding seats and, of course, choosing your pub quiz team name, Early Doors opens with an introduction to each character, performed almost like an African tribal chant, which makes it feel like we (the bijou, but sell-out crowd) are being truly welcomed into their community. It’s rhythmic and theatrical but never over the top, and sets the tone for the lyrical, poetic styling of the piece as one long fable.

Our landlord and landlady are a young brother and sister who inherited the place when their mum died. They start by sharing memories of her, and set the scene for a potentially fractious relationship between them. We also meet various other characters in the community: the pub quiz master, who can’t help but share some details of his ongoing custody battle with his ex-wife; the bouncer, who recalls the end of his relationship with one of the local punters; and the “village idiot” who brings the comedy to proceedings. The characters are flawed but lovable, and the ensemble cast do a great job of sharing their world with us.

As the show progresses we get hints of the tensions and relationships between different characters, which help bring interest and drive the story. I did feel slightly robbed in some characters having comparatively little action, while others seemed quite unconnected to the main narrative, so for me, a little further development to see clearer links between each would really make this show spectacular – but this is only a small niggle considering the quality of action and overall performance value.

The piece is performed with wonderful energy, and the writing – in particular the language – of every aspect is exquisite, giving just enough detail to hook the audience without verging on rambling. Yet while some of the transitions between each section are smooth and logical, it is a shame that in other instances the show progresses by simply having one character leave and another mysteriously appear for no apparent reason.

There are so many wonderful aspects to this performance – the characterisation, storytelling, and sense of really being “in it” really are top notch and encapsulate everything I love about the Fringe. I would have just preferred some clearer links between sections and less disjointedness between some of the characters to give the piece a bit more cohesion.

Overall, I raise a glass to Not Too Tame and this stunning piece of site-specific theatre and urge you to go and join them at the Jinglin’ Geordie for a pint, a pub quiz and an engrossing performance.

outstanding

StarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 6 August)

Visit the Pleasance, Potterrow & Teviot archive.

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

Preview of The Pirates of Penzance (Pleasance: 15 – 19 March ’16)

Pirates 1

The Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group are back on the Pleasance stage doing what they do best this week, with a swashbuckling performance of that most loved of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, The Pirates of Penzance. And unlike the society’s past few forays into the genre, which have steered clear of good old G & S traditions, it looks as though this one will be harking back to the original setting that Gilbert intended.

At the helm of the ship is newcomer to the society, Charlie Ralph. Having never directed a musical before, let alone tackled the intricate works of Gilbert and Sullivan, Ralph appears cooly confident ahead of opening night as he excitedly shares a glimpse of what audiences can expect when the show opens on Tuesday.

“We are aiming for a very classic vibe. Performance-wise we’re steering away from interpretations that lean towards the pantomime, and there won’t be any modern references. It’s been important to us to keep the show true to the original universe of the story.”

Pirates 2

An exciting prospect, which hints that this production team aim to swiftly quash any opinions that the works of Gilbert and Sullivan are an art form of the past. The plot itself oozes that nonsensical comic melodrama that is so much a part of the G&S institution, and Ralph has taken no prisoners when it has come to teasing this comedy out of his cast members. The operetta centers around Frederic, played by Tom Whiston, who wishes to be released from his apprenticeship with a band of pirates, all while pursuing the love of the beautiful Mabel, played by EUSOG favourite Caoilainn Mcgarry. Chaos ensues, with more than a hint of comedy and heart, something that Ralph is certain will ring true in the performances of his cast.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s all about getting them to enjoy what they’re doing and embrace the fact that G&S is ridiculous, silly and doesn’t really make sense.

Once the actors understand that and get to know their characters and how stupid they are, they can then feel free to have fun within those roles. It doesn’t actually take much direction. It’s all about them having the confidence to act up and make each other laugh and then they can bring that energy to the stage.”

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But Ralph is only too keen to emphasise the fact that he certainly has not been alone in leading this project for the past three months. After her stint as Gianetta last year’s EUSOG production of The Gondoliers, familiar face on the student theatre circuit Eleanor Crowe has moved behind the scenes this time as producer, while choreography is created by Meera Pandya.

Straight out of his stint as the piano rep for EUSOG’s November success that was The Addams Family Musical, first year university student Will Briant has stepped up to the position of Musical Director for Pirates and by the sounds of things, the cast are in safe hands.

“I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve done shows before, but conducting a large cast and full orchestra has been an amazing experience. I’ve especially enjoyed aspects such as the Sitzprobe, putting it all together for the first time and hearing how it sounds. And I’m so excited by how it sounds.”

And we’re certainly excited to hear it, Will. If the mounting success of the society over the past few years is anything to go by, Pirates of Penzance is sure to be no exception. 

Go to EUSOG at the Pleasance.

The Addams Family (Pleasance: 17 – 21 Nov ’15)

Photos: Oliver Buchanan

Photos: Oliver Buchanan

“Funny to the point of tears…”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars Nae Bad

I hate The Addams Family theme song. It’s not that I think it’s bad, I think it’s too good. It’s every bit as iconic as it is catchy. No matter who you are or what you do, as soon as you hear that da da dadum *click click*, you’ll be reduced to a finger-snapping, grinning mess. Driving a car? Doesn’t matter. Operating heavy machinery? Tough luck nerd. You’re on a one way bus trip to Addams-town and there’s only one song playing on the radio.

And just as epochal is the tune’s creepy, kooky subject matter. The cemetery-dirt stained shoes of the Addams family are impossibly large ones to fill, and although EUSOG’s ambitious production fell an inch or two short of six feet under, it’s a performance so bouncy and entertaining that you’d hardly even notice.

It’s crisis in the Addams household: Wednesday (Ashleigh More) is growing up fast, and even worse, she’s fallen in love with a guy so normal he makes white bread look like a Harley Davidson. Now, his parents are coming to town, and the family needs to be on their best behaviour. It goes just about as well as it sounds like it might. It’s hardly a daring new direction in terms of plot cliché, but there are fine seeds growing in this well-trod ground.

From the outset, it’s very clear that this is a talented cast. Scott Meenan’s Gomez is an utter joy to watch, and an even greater one to listen to. His comic timing and twitchy crispness of movement enhanced an already impressively funny repertoire of gags. But even more impressive was his emotional range: it’s easy to tickle a funnybone, but less so to pull a heartstring.

And whilst Melani Carrie’s Morticia often lacked the steely, sultry smugness which forms the character’s backbone, it’s hard not to be blown away by her voice – not to mention her knack for latin footwork. She was very much the smoky family matriarch, but when next to Meenan, she seemed oddly muted. However, this never affected the performance to the point of becoming a significant problem, and all feelings of flatness were limited to the spoken portions of the show. When Carrie opens her mouth, it’s like being hit by a verbal sledgehammer.

Though perhaps more nuanced than the footwork was More’s Wednesday Addams. Although usually presented as a monotone proto-goth, I was pleasantly surprised by More’s characterization. She perfectly embodies the sense of being pulled in two directions, and manages to do so in such an entertaining and genuine way that it never falls into the usual trap of feeling hackneyed or trope-ish. This was an excellent performance in every sense – especially the oddly sweet chemistry between her and masochistic brother Pugsley (Holly Marsden).

Championing the side of “normalcy” is the impressive Nitai Levi; having traded his moody rocker persona a-la Rent for  wonderfully dorky fianceé Lucas, he provided a great foil for More’s Wednesday, delicately dancing the line between nerdily sincere and annoying. And it seems like the talent runs in the family: Mother Alice (Esmee Cook) and Father Mal (Patrick Wilmott) inject ever more laughter into what is already a show bursting at the seams.

Addams Family 2

But if stealing a show was a jailable offence, Campbell Keith would be going away for a very long time. Acting as the show’s narrator, Keith’s Uncle Fester dominated the stage every time his weirdly pale head popped out of the wings. It’s hard to make a man who looks like Humpty Dumpty’s goth cousin charismatic, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t succeed.

But all the talent in the world, unfortunately, can’t control a tech setup. Whilst the swell of voices (especially thanks to the ghostly chorus of Ancestors) managed to rise above the band, the microphones were simply too quiet. I lost most of the lyrics in the first half, and the problem still persisted through some numbers in the second act.  And the lights, whilst vibrant and interesting, sometimes felt oddly out of sync with the action on stage. In isolation, either of these issues may not matter. But eventually, grains of sand do become a heap.

And although the chorus should be applauded for their brilliance in terms of both movement and vocal work, the choreography sometimes felt cluttered. There were times I was genuinely afraid an overenthusiastic kick might KO the cellist. Having fewer objects and people on stage may have helped this production breathe easy.

However, I’m loathe to admit the above for a number of reasons. The first being that it would be a crying shame to lose any of the strong chorus, and the masterful musical section – the former never faltering even in the show’s faster and more energetic sections. And secondly, changing the stage would mean altering the breathtakingly Burton-esque set dreamed up by Lu Kocaurek. I’d feel more comfortable pushing over a henge.

Although blighted by a few blips, this was a show more than worthy of its pedigree. Funny to the point of tears and touching to very much the same end, EUSOG’s Addams Family is just as creepy and kooky as that damned theme song promises. Check this one out while you can: Kate Pasola and Rebecca Simmonds have conjured up a brilliant show indeed.

nae bad_blue

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 17 November).

Go to EUSOG for The Addams Family & cast list.

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