Edinburgh Fringe Festival Reviews #2

Edinburgh Fringe Festival Reviews #2
by Brian Merriman


Produced by: Atticist, Ellie Keel Productions, MAST Mayflower Studios and 45North
Venue: Roundabout @ Summerhall
Time, dates: 12.50 until August 28

Duration:  70 minutes

Sap lured us into a cylindrical dome with a starscape of lighting for a 70-minute tour de force of writing and acting. Writer Rafaella Marcus has written a full-length play for the first time. It will be the first of many. Her dialogue flashes from wry humour to poetic description. It is edgy, contemporary and shines a light in places rarely seen onstage. In Jessica Keel, Marcus has a director who masters the challenges of ‘in the round’ in a play that requires the audience to maintain focus on the actor and the story, without blinking.

Jessica Clarke leads the story of a bisexual woman who falls in love with another, only to find that she has also encountered a male known to her lover. He fully exploits his advantage as her lover has no time for bisexuals in relationships. Though the love affair, in reality, is (unnecessarily) started with a lie. The lie grows to dominate and almost obliterate this relationship of equals, which should prosper in our contemporary society.

Jessica Clarke and Rebecca Banatvala are an acting duet. But Clarke’s bisexuality is the focus of the play and as such, her role dominates the action. It is a tour de force performance of light and shade, charm and fear. Clarke is powerful and refreshing in her humorous and riveting communication. Duets don’t shine in harmony without the diverse skillset of a partner and in the lesbian role, Banatvala ensures every moment and movement on stage flows, as she maximises the attraction and tension and eases into the diversity of genders portrayed with total conviction.

Perhaps inspired by the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, this story stands on its own. There is mythology in the description, but the on-stage interaction is very much of today. These are modern women, who work, flirt, socialise and score. The skillset of the actors ensures every moment is interpreted and conveyed in full. It is a wonderful experience of a team of women artists who not only know their craft well but who fearlessly bring us on their journey to push boundaries through insight and placing today. We need to be pushed and this play is well worth that dramatic and relevant journey.

Taiwan Season: The Whisper of the Waves

Produced by: Shinehouse Theatre
Venue: 26 Summerhall
Time, dates: 16.10 until August 28 (not 15/22)

Duration:  60 minutes

The Taiwan season at Edinburgh reminds us of the far reach of this festival and the global impact of the arts. Shinehouse Theatre present ‘The Whisper of the Waves’ in traditional dance style packed with modern issues of loneliness, disaster, animal extinction, surrogacy, and the relationship of humanity with this world.

Soundtracked throughout, including Buddhist bells, rolling waves and translated opinions, the discipline and emotion of the talented ensemble of seven, rolls from the stage switching us off to our daily worries to be embraced by the senses and by what is real today in a post-pandemic society.

Each sequence is very slick and diverse, from disaster and troubled families, to busy Hanoi streets, to plant life, sexual conformity, and the interdependence in the animal kingdom. The warmth of the performances, the flow of the movement, coupled with the precision of the Mandarin monologue (translated on screen) is a testimony to the efforts this theatre company has gone to, to communicate their culture to us.

This is a different experience for our western Theatre and previous visits to Edinburgh ensured that the performance also embraces our more brash presentation styles with surprising language and some nudity showing this play bridges both worlds as do the subjects of their text.

The pandemic awakened awareness of loneliness which permeates the physical performances of the seven cast ensemble who also drew the mystical spirit of Itako infused throughout. And they did it with style, lots of style.

Lizard Boy

Produced by: Creative Endeavor Office and Blair Russell Productions
Written/composed by Justin Huertas
Venue: 24 Gilded Balloon Patter House
Time, dates: 18.30 until August 28 (not 15)

Duration:  60 Minutes

This musical by Justin Huertas, commissioned by Seattle Repertory Theatre lifts the spirits with original songs, a childlike storyline, strong performances and impressive musicianship. It is a story of monsters and superheroes, set against a Grindr hook-up. Unlikely, but of course, it works.

Our trio of onstage performers sing, act and play a range of musical instruments with added percussion which ensure the comic tale of Monsters and dragons rocks smoothly throughout the sixty minutes. The timing and delivery of the comedy and the magic are sophisticated and skilful.

There is a subtext of difference and exclusion and a lovely humorous underscore throughout sustains the adult interest in a plot inspired by the writer’s boyhood fantasy life. Trevor was touched by a monster as a five-year-old and now has Lizard-like skin…he stays indoors every day except on Monster Festival night when everyone dresses up as monsters and lizards. When he ventures out, he finds out the real meaning of his condition and what his isolation has denied him.

By the time the hour of good music and far-fetched fun flies by… aided by Siren and Carey, Trevor is comfortable in his own skin and so are we. This talented onstage trio of Anthony Rickman, Alan Cammish and Sophie Reid are a great team of musicians, singers and musical performers. This boy-to-adult adaptation of monster fantasy is packing them in.

Briefs Factory Sweatshop

Produced by: Briefs Factory and Cluster Arts
Venue: 3 Assembly Georges Square Gardens
Time, dates: 22.05 until August 28 (not 15/22)

Duration:  60 minutes

Ever since Priscilla Queen of the Desert, we expect Australian drag to be good. Briefs Factory are acknowledged masters of their craft in their annual contributions to Edinburgh. We get an hour of drag and acrobatics with live singing, dancing, and comedy in the hands of our Female drag MC Tasha.

The onstage gymnastics impress with agility and athleticism. There are a load of laughs, a drag makeover, live singing and dancing and lots of audience interaction. At one stage the audience is asked for a random selection of words and Tasha puts them all into a song live on stage. It’s a class act with five physically very fit main performers. Sweatshop is an ideal way to let off steam at the end of a long Fringe day. It’s high energy, high camp and high-kicking fun.

Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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