Fragile Man (theSpace on the Mile: 10-26th Aug: 11.50: 50mins)

“The structure and story are a stroke of genius”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

Suicide is a topic that’s difficult to talk about on all fronts. It is the biggest killer of men in the UK under the age of 50, and this alarming trend doesn’t appear to be fading away any time soon. It’s refreshing, then, that some shows at the Fringe this year approach the issue in a sensitive, accessible way, and Fragile Man is one of them.

Set on a remote hilltop at dusk we meet two men, one apparently on the verge of committing suicide and one who steps in just in time to save him. It seems like a fairly predictable set-up, yet what unfolds is an attempt at reconciling a frank discussion into the hard-hitting issue of male suicide with a thrilling dramatic play. The two sound like they shouldn’t work together, but they almost do. Almost.

While several elements of David Martin’s script are quite clunky and cliched, the overall structure and story Fragile Man follows are a stroke of genius, cleverly peeling away at the layers of the two characters to reveal a gripping and thought-provoking heart. Only in the last few minutes does it all “click” into place, and with some polishing in the sticky areas, the writing could be the basis of a really intelligent piece of theatre.

As an emotive and challenging two-man show, with a hefty amount of multi-roling, it’s a big ask from actors David Martin and Richard Miltiadis to sustain the tension for a whole hour. They make a commendable effort and absolutely give it their all, but at times both seem a bit out of their depth with the magnitude of the piece, often resorting to overly emotional responses and exchanges, when at times a more withdrawn and subtle approach would help create more contrast and power. Though for new company performing a debut piece, I should perhaps cut a little slack.

When it comes to Jacqs Graham’s direction, the physical nature and more stylised elements of the performance, while creative, sometimes feel disingenuous, not aided by the quite choppy scenes and dominating set the actors variously crawl in and out of during the transitions. For me, a simpler approach to both the direction and design would be more effective to maintain a consistent and honest feel throughout. In saying that, some of the cutaways from the main story – including the confession scene and direct address in the lecture – do work very well, flowing seamlessly and maintaining the integrity of the set-up, and it’s a shame the whole piece isn’t performed at this level.

This is an important and interesting play, which, if not quite worth shouting about, should, like the subject it addresses, at least be talked about far and wide.

nae bad_blue

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

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 22 August)

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

Woke (Gilded Balloon Teviot: 4-28 Aug: 14.00: 60mins)

“Quite possibly the best presentation of the nuances of race relations from the unjustly-treated point of view one can experience today.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars: Outstanding

Given the many difficulties faced by millions of people around the world in our current climate, every civil rights-focused spotlight is worthy of attention. Apphia Campbell’s Woke, however, is not just another “worthy” civil rights-focused show decrying injustice for being injustice — it cuts deeply into the structures, limits, hypocrisies, and evils that allow racism, injustice, disorder, and oppression to continue and continue and continue. If you have ever claimed or had the urge to claim that the current racial climate is “not that bad,” please let Woke wake you up.

These issues are never simple. Many pop culture statements have garnered great praise, and some rightful ire, for presenting race relations too simply. From Zootopia/Zootropolis to Crash, mainstream outlets seem to eat up stories that are easy to swallow, that present problems as apparently easy to fix. Campbell’s play soars above simplicity by presenting the sometimes charming, sometimes harrowing stories of two black women, one speaking from 2014 onwards, the other speaking from the Black Panther Party of the seventies. She masters not only the nuances of storytelling but of stagecraft as well, as lighting, sound effects, props, and choreography are all of the highest creative quality.

The audio introduction repaints the mental pictures of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, and from there Campbell segues into an absorbing rendition of Bessie Smith’s “St. Louis Blues.” The transition, spanning decades yet recalling the same geographical location, Missouri, offers foreshadowing for the overarching structure and central observation of the show — just how far have we come since the ‘Civil Rights Era?’ According to Campbell, certainly not far enough.

What is most striking about the plotting of Woke, is that both characters Campbell breathes life into are not only vividly characterised, with engrossing nuances (credit to director Caitlin Skinner) but also experience a noticeably, tragically similar hardening. Ambrosia, who speaks of 2014, initially believes in the righteousness of the police and questions the legitimacy of the Black Lives Matter movement in her Washington University classes. Yet over time, she experiences so many abusive, prejudiced cruelties at the hands of police officers and the law writ large that she, and the audience, have no choice but to accept that society still fails to treat people like her as equal citizens. The pacing of these developments is gradual, yet her hellish experiences continue and worsen with a palpable, sickening sense of inevitability. Campbell’s writing does well to put the audience in the shoes of Black citizens’ everyday anxieties, from questioning one’s trust in the police to fearing for one’s safety where other citizens would never.

The other character Campbell focuses on is a well-known figure, Assata Shakur, who was convicted of the murder of a state trooper in 1973, and fled to Cuba after escaping prison. The legitimacy of this conviction is dismantled with brilliant progression, as she establishes Shakur’s positivity, righteousness, and honour, before displaying her growing terror as establishment forces seek to slander and imprison her.

The genius of Woke is in its building unease, the sure feeling that something terrible is at play. The steps of injustice are on full display, so the audience can understand it is never just one slight or careless comment that perpetuates racism, but a seemingly impenetrable societal structure. This approach encapsulates the fear at the heart of being “woke” — defined, in my opinion, as learning about, following and speaking out on the injustices faced by disenfranchised members of society. The fear is that one might uncover too much to comfortably continue as a member of society anymore; that understanding the truth of the horrors that white-dominated civilization has inflicted on non-white individuals, it will be too hard to ignore their lasting effects.

In my opinion, Campbell’s production is quite possibly the best presentation of the nuances of race relations from the unjustly-treated point of view one can experience today. Theatrically, it is worth a run of standing ovations. Thematically, it is a revelation. Societally, it is required viewing. Ultimately, Woke is a statement that deserves to be lauded in every way.

outstanding

StarStarStarStarStar

 

Reviewer: Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

+3 Interview: Cursed

“The festival is buzzing with energy and I can’t wait to meet some of you in the street while flyering, come say hello if you see me!”

WHO: Mila G. Lawlor, Stage Manager

WHAT: “Divine punishment. Guilt. Bloodshed. The story of the House of Atreus is the most haunting of Greek mythology. Meet a family descended from the Gods, where the borders between cruelty and desire, loyalty and betrayal are painfully blurred. In this newly written and bold adaptation, their story is revived. It is now your turn to take action. From Agamemnon to Orestes, the family’s fate is in your hands. Coming fresh from London and making their Fringe debut, The Samurai! Company promises you a disquieting journey through the depths of human nature.”

WHERE:  Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236)

WHEN: 20:45 (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

Yes, it is my first time! And the first time of the company as well! Most of us have dreamt of coming to the Fringe for a while and we’re really excited about being here together and performing! The festival is buzzing with energy and I can’t wait to meet some of you in the street while flyering, come say hello if you see me!

Tell us about your show.

‘Cursed’ is a modern adaptation of Aeschylus’s Oresteia -a greek family tragedy- re-written by our director and other friends. It is immersive and the storyline changes depending on the audience’s decision. To me the play is especially relevant in terms of how subjective justice is and how people make different choices depending on a large number of factors: mood, ethic, education, etc.

We are producing the show with The Samurai! Company. Once the director had her idea, she invited all those who wanted to come join her to create the show. Meaning: no audition process, a large group of enthusiastic people, coming from all walks of life, and from very international backgrounds! With the director’s hardwork and patience, we created an amazing show out of this challenging experiment, and she made all the actors improve incredibly in no time!

The production premiered in May at Goldsmiths University and received a warm welcome from our audience! With exciting and unexpected reactions as well!
As for whether we’re taking it further, we’re hoping to the moon and back! No, seriously, we won’t take this show further but we hope to take another one to the Fringe again next year!

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Oh well, a comedy for a change! You might need it!

And, definitely come and see our fellow Greensiders! Otherwise, maybe go and see another more modern family drama to see how relevant our play is!…… Or, just come see the show again, perhaps to check out an alternative ending!


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+3 Interview: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

“Right now my brain is fizzing with ideas for next year.”

WHO: Stuart Walker, actor – Judas Iscariot & Butch Honeywell

WHAT: “Brought to you by Parallax Theatre, Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a riotous look at life beyond. 2000 years after that deed, Judas is finally put on trial for ‘that business’ in Judea. With a dash of prejudice, a sprinkling of rude words and a lot of surprises, it is inventive, full on and very funny.”

WHERE: Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

WHEN: 13:30 (90 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

I have been to the Ed Fringe before as a theatre lover but this is my debut as a theatre performer! The atmosphere remains electric and highly addictive. Right now my brain is fizzing with ideas for next year. I feel truly inspired by the performances I’ve seen and the people I’ve met this year. My only complaint is the need to rest cuts into my theatre binge time.

Tell us about your show.

Parallax Theatre are reviving Stephen Adly Guirgis’s show with a cast of 10 for the 70th Anniversary of the Ed Fringe. Take a seat in the jury as we put Judas on trial for betraying the son of God. Was it a moment of greed, madness or even bravery? Under the direction of Alexander Knight we’re bursting onto the scene with this “outstanding” (Young Perspective) take on an already edgy script, refreshing topical references and breaking up the all American dialogue (originally meant for a New York audience) – e.g I perform my character Judas as a fella from East London. We want the words to hit our audience harder than ever!

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

I highly recommend ‘Flesh and Bone’ by Unpolished Theatre – it’s like a modern day Shakespeare play set in East London but forget Kings and Queens, this is about the gritty life of a family on a council estate. Powerful and punchy with verse, physical theatre, comedy and more. Eloquent yet raw. Let’s face it, more interesting than the Queen.


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A Girl and a Gun (Summerhall: 2-27 Aug: 18.00: 60mins)

“A greatly rewarding hour of insight and grace for cinephiles, feminists, and iconoclasts everywhere.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars: Outstanding

Louise Orwin is one savvy film buff and her one-woman show, A Girl and a Gun (the title of which is derived from Jean-Luc Godard’s notorious quote “All you need to make a film is a girl and a gun”) is sixty minutes of finely crafted satire/tribute/criticism/fun on that very notion. For cinephiles and non-cinephiles alike, A Girl and a Gun offers laughs, thrills, and intimate insights into some of popular culture’s most beloved genres and setups within film, while asserting a masterfully subversive message.

Orwin is an electric performer, constantly keeping the audience guessing and engaged as she flits from scenario to scenario as “Her,” representing the interchangeable, lazily written female in so many Hollywood films. She is accompanied onstage by an unspecific male counterpart, as “Him,” a random actor who had responded to the show’s online call for male performers, and who is a different person every night. “Him” reads his lines from a teleprompter, and is, charmingly, just as surprised, shocked, amused, and impressed at the show’s content as the audience is at every turn. For Orwin has created an amalgam of sorts, of every misogynistic and abusive male-female dynamic presented in male-ego-centered films, to prove how toxic and destructive masculinity in popular culture can be.

“Him” is scripted to seduce, kiss, betray, bully, abuse, physically hit, and generally mistreat “Her” in carefully structured ways, so that sometimes he has free reign to strut around and take advantage of the audience and damsel in front of him, and other times he has no real choice but to act like a heel. Her commentary is strikingly simple, as she uncovers the terrible unfairness and cruelties beneath many a male/female action hero/damsel dynamics.

What is most impressive and reassuring about the show’s approach is the level of research evident behind the faithful recreations of the films it satirises. It is presented in a format all Tarantino fans will recognise; divided into chapters with pseudo-poetic titles like “Cherry Picker” or “Why You Don’t Have to be American to have an American Dream,” which is a particularly impactful one. Taglines, catchphrases and devices from lots of Tarantino’s writing are featured, including dances reminiscent of Pulp Fiction and Death Proof, and the opening theme from Kill Bill – indeed the piece is chock-full of cinematic observations and criticisms that are spot-on if you are a fan of the retro-worshipping, Western-esque American odysseys Orwin comes after. There is a particularly impressive and hilarious sequence in which Orwin and the male actor recite all the typical names of “Him” and “Her” in these films, like Charlie, Bobby, Big Charlie, Big Bobby, Tommy, Tony, Big Tommy, Big Tony; Suzie, Jenny, Little Suzie, Little Jenny, et cetera.

Points like these are also, in a larger sense, what makes Orwin’s show so clever and incisive; there are no individual films or even individual scenes that are criticised on their own. Rather, A Girl and a Gun takes aim at the sheer repetitiveness and laziness of re-used, tired tropes, with great success. One of the most memorable sequences comes near the ‘end’ of the experience, when “Him” has forsaken “Her” and she must, as she does in so many films, die. Orwin’s “Her” dies at least ten times in a row, in various gruesome fashions, from being shot with numerous types of firearms to being tied to a train track and run over. Her point lands with a surprising amount of grace, as we recall so many female characters who have been extinguished simply to prove the male protagonist’s point, and it is the sheer quantity of such deaths that packs the greatest punch.

The attention to detail in this show is also commendable, from the use of projection and subtitling to recall a movie being written and filmed, and on-screen directions for “Him” to don various costumes, play with numerous prop firearms and “act like he is in an action movie”. This device in particular leaves a meaningful impression, presenting both “Him” and “Her” as pawns of the written scripts, and suggesting it is not necessarily inherent to a man’s composition that he acts so cruelly — he is written that way, much as many men may have learned their behaviour from movies where that very same behaviour got the girl and saved the day.

A Girl and a Gun presents an ingenious deconstruction of male ego, cinematic influence, and the truth beneath the beauty of so many of society’s favourite films. It is a greatly rewarding hour of insight and grace, plus a goldmine for cinephiles, feminists, and iconoclasts everywhere.

outstanding

StarStarStarStarStar

 

Reviewer: Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

+3 Interview: Rory O’Keeffe: Rorytelling

“…next year’s show will be called Rory O’Keeffe: Just The Bucket Speech.”

WHO: Rory O’Keeffe, Writer/Director/Performer/Narcissist

WHAT: “Affable young funnyman Rory O’Keeffe returns with a show about losing his faith and his bag (but mainly his bag). Join the ‘intelligent youngster’ (Time Out) for his second hour of jokes and stories. Or, as he narcissistically calls them, ‘rories’. ‘Thoughtful and self-aware, some of the better stand-up you’ll see at this year’s Fringe’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘You’ll be laughing – every time!’ **** (MumbleComedy.net). ‘Make no mistake: this is a downright clever show’ **** (Edinburgh49.org). ‘Utterly hilarious’ ***** (ThreeWeeks). ‘Comedy for a post-recession graduate generation’ **** (Fest). ‘A tightly composed and expertly delivered romp’ **** (EdFringeReview.com).”

WHERE:  Southsider (Venue 148)

WHEN: 15:15 (55 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

I am a deceptively young veteran and this will be my 9th year in Edinburgh. Here are my top 8 previous Edinburghs, in order of how much fun they were:

1. 2009
2. 2010
3. 2011
4. 2012
5. 2013
6. 2014
7. 2015
8. 2016

With age comes responsibility. This year’s been fun, though.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’16?

I moved back in with my parents and then back out again. It’s called ‘Boomerang Kid’ for a reason, guys. I have committed. You can’t just move back in once.

Tell us about your show.

I have finally given in to the Edinburgh Pun Title and called my show ‘Rorytelling’. I tell two Rories. One about losing my bag and one about losing my faith (#deep). It’s funny, and it’s in a delightfully charming back room of a pub. #humblebrag here: sometimes it’s so full that someone has to sit on the stage behind me like a bring-your-child-to-work day situation. It’s free and I give a good bucket speech. In fact, next year’s show will be called Rory O’Keeffe: Just The Bucket Speech. And I will just ask the audience for money for 50 minutes.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Matt Winning: Filibuster – funny show about climate change.Clever yet stupid. Silly yet serious. Cheap yet valuable.

Princes of Main – great sketch show in a great venue (Bedlam Theatre)

Macblair – restaging of Macbeth with Tony Blair as the ambitious lead. It totally works. I laughed really hard to show I understood all the clever references. I am that guy.


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+3 Interview: Blurred Justice

“The aim is to raise public awareness of Yemen’s current situation; civilwar, humanitarian crisis and cholera outbreak. “

WHO: Dhvel Patel, Actor, ‘Sharif Fathi’

WHAT: “Amnesty International Award winning Blurred Justice is a thrilling and humorous play where the fate of one man lies in the hands of the audience. Sharif is a member of the Yemeni Houthi militia and is being tried in an eccentric court for taking part in an attack on Saudi Arabia. As he is being questioned, the play explores the meaning of the word terrorist and the complications of the Yemeni civil war with flashbacks of Sharif’s life, unravelling his personal motivations and important information on the involvement of the UK within the arms trade.”

WHERE: New Town Theatre (Venue 7) ​

WHEN: 23:15 (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

Yes. I’m a science graduate performing at the New Town Theatre for the first time.

Tell us about your show.

Kingston graduates and Directors of Performing Change; Yasemin Gava and Clarissa Kim produced the show, with Clarissa writing the script. This won the Amnesty International Marsh Award 2016. The production premiered at the Rose Theatre (Feb 17), International Youth Arts Festival (Jul 17) and will show at the Edinburgh Fringe and Camden Fringe (Aug 17).

In this piece, I play Sharif Fathi, a Houthi rebel on trial in a UK courtroom. I take the audience (members of the jury) through my Yemeni story (a series of flashbacks across a split-stage). The audience then vote whether I am innocent or guilty. Blurred Justice is powerful, though-provoking while being light-hearted at the same time.

The aim is to raise public awareness of Yemen’s current situation; civilwar, humanitarian crisis and cholera outbreak. The show adapts the script to reflect the most current facts e.g. UK ruling Saudi arms deal legit, cholera outbreak (recently covered by BBC news). It will be taken further as much as it can.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

I’d recommend: The Missing Girl of Grigglewood, Edison as I have seen these.


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