Category Archives: Theatre

Review: Shakespeare for Breakfast

Kicking off this year’s Fringe reviews, we start with a trip out for breakfast on Shakespeare Island.

Shakespeare for Breakfast

Image from edfringe.com

FRINGE RUN: 31/7-25/8, not 12/8 @ 10:00; C; [£8.50/£6.50]

Who, Where and When: C Theatre; C, Chambers Street; Saturday 2 August 2014, 10:00

The Show

Shakespeare for Breakfast is a Fringe regular, and this is my third visit. Each year, the group present a different show complete with plenty of comic Shakesperian and pop-culture references.

This year’s show deviates from previous years as the cast have not decided to go for a straight adaptation of a single play. Instead, many of the tropes and characters from some of the most famous plays are woven together into a new story about the evil characters trying to change the plays to become the heroes. I won’t say much more for fear of giving the plot away.

Overall, the story was straightforward, and funny, but it didn’t quite have the charm of the play adaptations in previous years. Amongst those I went to the show with, this was a controversial opinion with some suggesting it was better! However, the writing was still sharp as a tack with plenty of laughs on all levels.

The Cast

I don’t really have a bad word to say about this year’s cast. The play was performed with enthusiasm, which meant even the most weak of jokes still found giggles. There was quite a bit of dual casting, which was part of the comedy, and this only strengthend the performances.

Overall

As always, you can’t go far wrong booking this show, especially as there is a free cup of coffee or tea and a croissant thrown in. If you’ve seen it in years before, you may feel it’s not up to usual standards, but I wouldn’t let that put you off a thoroughly enjoyable morning.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: Dark Road

The Royal Lyceum’s 2013-14 season gets off to a World Premiere start with Ian Rankin’s debut play, Dark Road.

Dark Road

Where & When: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh; Friday 27th September 2013; 7.45pm (Preview show)

The Show:

It will come as no surprise that Ian Rankin’s theatre debt is a tense crime thriller set in Edinburgh. However, this is the only predictable part of this show. Isobel McArthur, the first female police chief constable of Edinburgh, is considering retirement after 30 years service, and this brings her to recall the case which made her career. Alfred Chalmers was convicted of murdering four young women in 1988, but as the play progresses, it seems she is not as comfortable with the outcome of the case as it might have seemed. Through reviewing the case files, Isobel becomes increasingly convinced something is not right, and this is compounded by the actions of her daughter and colleagues.

I don’t wish to give away too much of the plot, but it has some great twists and some startling moments (it’s been a long time since I’ve heard shrieks in the theatre from the audience!). The action is well paced, and the dramatic conclusion resolves the story very well.

There were weaknesses in the script, as is to be expected from a writer who is new to this genre. However, I think Rankin could go on to write excellent theatre, and possibly even better television and film scripts. He certainly has a flair for the kind of edge-of-your-seat drama needed, but has not had to compromise on the complexity of his characters to achieve it. Perhaps some roles were more incidental, but then this was really a play about the strange and co-dependent relationship between the cop and the criminal.

The set had some teething problems, but given that this was a preview, it was forgivable. However, the set was complex compared to the Lyceum’s usual style, and perhaps this was overambitious.

The Cast:

Taking the lead role of Isobel, Maureen Beattie captured her character’s depth, complexity and human fragility well. There was a high level of subtlety in her acting that was clearly communicated to the audience, drawing out a sympathy with her that made the shocking moments all the more hair-raising.

Sara Vickers as Alexandra and Robert Gwilyn as Frank provided excellent supporting characters, although neither were as well-developed in the script as Isobel, and consequently had less to work with. I did enjoy Phil Whitchurch as a deeply insane Alfred Chalmers. The other characters were all more cameos than anything else, but all were well acted – especially the lighter moments provided by Nicola Roy and Jonathan Holt in their roles as Janice and Brian, the young police officers.

Overall:

If you don’t take this too seriously, and enjoy it for what it is, Dark Road is a great night out at the theatre. The story is engaging, the staging provides some real jump-out-of-your-skin moments and the two central characters of Chalmers and McArthur keep you gripped to the end. Shakespeare, it is not, but it is definitely more enjoyable than many other new works at the Lyceum in recent years which have tried to be intelligent, but fail to captivate the audience. I look forward to the TV adaptation in the future that this script is crying out for.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

Review: Histoire d’Amour

This is the first of two shows I’ll be reviewing from the Edinburgh International Festival.

histoiredamour

EIF RUN: 15/8-18/8; King’s Theatre; 19:30 [£12-£30]

Where and When: King’s Theatre; Thursday 15th August 2013; 7.30pm

The Show

This show is literally like nothing I have seen before. The stage is set up with a large screen, on which a projection is shown, as though the audience is going to watch a film. However, once the titles have rolled, a live actor appears on stage, surrounded by a projected animated set drawn in the style of a graphic novel. The story proceeds to unfurl with only two actors interacting and moving within their film surroundings. I think the closest things I have seen prior to this are films like Mary Poppins and Bednobs and Broomsticks which have portions of film with live actors in animated sections. This was, however, a far cry from Disney.

The plot, titled “A Love Story”, is really the story of an obsession, more than romance. The monochrome graphic novel projections, and the virtually monologue script create a Film Noir effect that only darkens an already deeply disturbing and twisted story that does not have a happy ending. I found myself spell-bound (or should that be curse-bound?) by the dark but uncomplicated plot, though I know for others it was really too depressing, or did not give enough background to the characters.

The Cast

There is nothing I can criticise about the cast. The chorography of this show is demanding and challenging, with sets flying around the characters. Neither Julián Marras nor Bernardita Montero put a foot out of place, using projected props with absolute precision. Julián Marras is virtually the only character to speak, as he narrates the story in a way which leaves you feeling that we are not so very far away from evil as we would hope. Although his character’s acts are horrific, his inner monologue shared with the audience gives a disturbing insight into how easy it is to justify such behaviour. Bernardita Montero plays the virtually silent victim, and the play raises some important challenges about the nature of consent, and the implications of silence.

Overall

This was a dark and disturbing play, which would not be suitable for all audiences (there is a substantial amount of strong and explicit language and depictions of sexual violence) – it is harrowing to watch even as it is gripping. I adored Teatrocinema’s innovative form of blended theatre, and this alone is worth seeing. Definitely one of the best things I’ve seen all festival season.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: A Concrete Jungle Full of Wild Cars

Thanks to Trinity College London, the sponsoring organisation for this show, I was offered two free tickets in exchange for a review. The show wasn’t on my original “must see” list, but the Fringe is all about the unexpected!

concrete-jungle-full-of-wild-cars_31197

FRINGE RUN: 3/8 – 10/8 @ 19:10; The Space on the Mile (39); [£8.50/£6.50]

Who, Where and When: Trinity College London/Wac Arts; The Space on the Mile; Wednesday 7th August 2013

The Show

A Concrete Jungle Full of Wild Cars won the 2012 Trinity International Playwriting Competition in the category “a play for teenage audiences”. Written by an author of Sierra Leonian origins, the play follows the arrival of three teenagers who have been sent from Sierra Leone to London in the mid 1990s to keep them safe from the civil war.

The most outstanding aspect of this play was the use of language. Characters spoke in both Sierra Leonian creole and in English with a wide range of accents. This rich linguistic variety helped to transport the audience right into the cultural melting pot of London and highlighted key information about the characters quickly, which is vital in a short play (this one runs to 50 minutes). Music was also used to great effect, with a simple folk tune used throughout the story to bring the two worlds of Britain and Sierra Leone together.

In terms of plot, this show is clearly aimed at a teenage audience. The supernatural element of the charm bracelet which Zina is given lifts a story that might otherwise be very dark, and makes it more accessible for teenage audiences. Although the play touches on issues around immigration, child soldiers, and even peer pressure and teenage drinking, it never feels like an “issues” play – it’s just a good story about characters you care about, told really well.

The Cast

Although the cast were largely young, I was exceedingly impressed with the standard of acting. I absolutely loved Elizabeth Alabi as the creole-speaking Gran – a vibrant performance. Sophia Thomas also performed wonderfully as Zina, capturing the conflicted emotions of a young migrant with sensitivity. There,were some weaker performances, Simone Thomas’ Aunty was a little too tentative, and Lula Mebrahtu as Kosey lacked some of the subtlety of the actors playing his sisters.

Overall, however, the cast certainly lived up to the excellent script. The accapella singing was excellent, and there was some brilliant West African dancing too. All in all, impressive performances, and much better than many others I’ve seen at the Fringe over the years.

Overall

The script was excellent, and the cast lived up to its demands without difficulty. I enjoyed the simple but effective plot, and went away humming the catchy African melodies sung by the cast. I do, however, wonder if this show did not attract large audiences (and better reviews) because it is, ultimately, a play for 12 to 16s. There isn’t the depth and complexity in the script that the subject matter demands for this to really challenge and engage what is, at the Fringe, a largely adult audience. However, I hope that the cast continues to enjoy performing and that this play is picked up by schools and youth theatres in the future, as it certainly deserves to have a long life.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5)