Tall Storrie and Wee Godley

4 stars

****

I’ve seen a number of children’s shows in my time reviewing for the site.  Most of them know how to cater to their audience through a mixture of storytelling, song and general silliness.  All of which are evident in this show by the mother and daughter team of Ashley Storrie and Janey Godley.  The only difference is that they’re making it up as they go along.

As most parents will know, it’s hard to maintain a rigid structure when you have children, and it is this idea which Storrie and Godley seize upon and use to great effect.  Your children are encouraged to bring along instruments, sit on the stage, crawl about the stairs and generally contribute in whatever way they see fit.  Although some of the younger members might initially feel a bit reluctant to join in, it takes little time at all before they are swarming the stage.  Storrie interacts with the children beautifully, drawing them into the fun, whilst Godley manages to keep both the children and adults entertained.  It might be seen as a risk letting an adult orientated performer like Godley participate in a children’s show, especially if you’re familiar with her one-woman standup routines, but it works surprisingly well, ensuring that the parents are kept on side during the sillier moments.

Attending this show as an adult you might feel as if the lunatics have taken over the playground, but it certainly entertained the audience on the afternoon I went along.  So take your kids along and let them wear themselves out running riot, it’s positively encouraged.

Reviewed by Di

Venue – Pleasance Dome, Queen Dome

12.45 – 13.45

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When in Rome

4 Stars

****

Cambridge Fools’ very entertaining musical comedy is something of a Roman style ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’. The plot follows a typical format: bashful boy meets pretty girl; they sense mutual attraction; they fall out but will they come together again?

The action is set in the home of Caecilius (Stef Porter), a Roman Senator, and his wife Metella (Georgia Sams). They are a middle aged couple who bicker but deep down they love each other. In the slave’s quarter, the young, awkward yet ambitious Clemens (Tom Pye) and the older, more worldly Grumio (Tom England) provide the mirthful comedy routines. The love interest is between the painfully shy Quintus (Jonothan Cordin), and the attractive Melissa (Lucie Shorthouse). Their feelings for each other can never be revealed for Quintus is of noble rank in the guardianship of Caecilius and Melissa is a low born slave girl.

Flitting into the action is a rather camp Augustus (Adam McInally), his sensuous and promiscuous daughter Julia (Kirsten-Ellen Lett) and the poet Ovid (Brian Mifsud), portrayed as a cool rapper.

With a live band providing accompaniment, the songs which are worked into the show are pop classics. You can see them coming from the dialogue but this just adds to the fun. Queen’s ‘I Want to Break Free’ is pretty obvious coming from Clemens and is a real hoot. When the whole company perform dance routines to such songs as Steps ‘Tragedy’ and the Spice Girls ‘Wannabe’, it is spectacular – so together and athletic. The Pussycat  Dolls ‘Don’t Cha’ is given a decidedly raunchy interpretation by the dancing girls in a feast scene.

Within the highly talented cast, special praise must go to Lucie Shorthouse as Melissa for her display of all round talent – acting, singing and dancing. She holds the whole piece together as the central character. It is a real joy to see a company of young players perform with much verve and skill.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number – theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall; V53

Dates – 6 to 28 August 2010 (not 8, 15, 22)

Times – 6-7; 9-14; 16-21: 19.10 to 20.20

23-28: 18.10 to 19.20

Fringe Programme Page Number: 221

The Cage

5 Stars

*****

Thrillers, of course, are designed to be tense and compelling. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s new play, directed by Richard Baron, has these qualities in abundance. In the final moments (no details obviously), I was so caught up in the suspense I sensed the palms of my hands sweating.

The opening scene sees Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, who takes the lead role as Jack, entering an unoccupied flat. He addresses the audience to explain his presence there. It is Christmas Eve and he is in the flat of Jenna, who suddenly left him just before they were to be married. What makes matters worse is his discovery that she is in a relationship with Richard who was Jack’s best friend.

He engages the audience with a bit of mild banter but, when he produces a gun, it is clear the charm is superficial. Really, he is driven crazy with jealousy and he is determined to exact cold blooded revenge. Jenna (Penelope Rawlins) returns and wants him to leave immediately on the pretext she is hosting a dinner party. However, his questioning is relentless. A short time later, Richard (John Sackville) calls round with a Christmas tree. With the three characters now together for the first time since Jenna split form Jack, the tension builds and builds in stages as deep truths are revealed.

The acting and directing is of the highest quality. The raw emotions displayed by each character are completely convincing. This is contemporary drama at its very best.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number – Pleasance Dome; V23

Dates – 4 to 30 August 2010 (not 16, 23)

Times – 15.50 to 17.05

Fringe Programme Page Number: 236

Matthew Hardy – Willy Wonka Explained: The Veruca Salt Sessions.

4 stars

****

Julie Dawn Cole is in the psychiatrist’s chair.  Her complaint?  Being endlessly associated with the character she played in a cult film 40 years ago – the brilliantly spoilt Veruca Salt.  On the other side of the world an Australian man also attends weekly sessions with his shrink, sessions which revolve around his enduring obsession with that same character.

This is the concept that allows Cole and Hardy to relate tales from their past and what it means for their present.  Cole looks back on the legacy of being a child star, in the days when being famous at a young age unfortunately didn’t mean millions of dollars in the bank.  What has playing Veruca brought her?  A face that’s recognisable but not famous, a number of failed relationships and some rather odd fans.  Meanwhile, Hardy looks at what made Veruca Salt so special to him.  She reminded him of his childhood, of a more innocent period that he turns to time and time again, one which grounds him as he makes his way through the minefield of his adult life.  The observations are witty and amusing and underlined with a sweetness that makes this a surprisingly touching show.

I enjoyed eavesdropping on the Veruca Salt sessions and it never feels like the performers have outstayed their welcome.  I was comfortable simply sitting back and listening intently as the stories unfolded and intertwined.  Even though there were a number of technical glitches on the evening I attended there is no doubt that the show is a lovely piece of comedic theatre.

So grab yourself a ticket, this show really is golden.

Reviewed by Di

Venue – Pleasance Beneath

19.00 – 20.00

The Friendship Experiment

Four Stars

****

If there were a scale akin to the earthquake Richter scale for measuring performance intensity, Tim and Matt of Big Wow Theatre would be at the maximum rating. They expend an incredible amount of energy from start to finish whether in their multi character rants or in the more reflective emotional scenes.

The format of the show is to perform, apparently, improvised theatre around the theme of the friendship of two supposed mates, Steve (Tim) and Geoff (Matt). The problem is that they find great difficulty in agreeing how to play each scene whether it is a phone conversation or in a pub or out on a stag night. It starts to become personal and there is a blurring between their characters and their real identities. There are moments of belly laugh hilarity, but moments of tension when their feuding leads to real antagonism.

The action is continuous without any fade outs to catch their breath. Given the physical nature of the performance, the precise timing of the dialogue is simply amazing. I could not detect one missed cue. After their successes in previous years, Tim and Matt are now establishing themselves as Fringe favourites.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number – Underbelly Cowgate; V61

Dates – 5 to 29 August 2010 (not 17)

Times – 15.05 to 16.15

Fringe Programme Page Number: 254

Imperial Fizz

Three Stars

***

From the play’s beginning there is a sense of discord. An elegant middle aged couple appear. He is dressed in a dinner suit but on closer observation it is oddly tarnished as is his shirt. He is mixing cocktails from a well stocked drinks trolley. The woman is in an elegant ball gown, checking her appearance as if to go out or to entertain guests. The main prop is an old fashioned radio which does give a time reference.

From their accents the couple are American. Their conversation is fast paced as they fire words at each other in a game of language jousting and witty word twisting. They are like two fleet-footed flyweight boxers standing toe to toe but instead of delivering physical blows they aim to score with verbal hits. The unreality deepens as the radio, without being touched, plays different forms of music. When it is dance music, they come together and dance with ease. Tension develops when periodically from above, a deep and loud jarring sound can be heard.

As the play unfolds, we are witnessing a couple trying to give meaning to their lives together. Curiously, they don’t reveal their names. Throughout, they consume large quantities of alcohol which is an enthusiasm they both share

The two principals, Issy van Randwyck and David Calvitto, perform brilliantly in what is a very demanding script. However, I am not sure if the play will have universal appeal. It does take a few minutes to adjust to the rapid dialogue and a fair amount of concentration to keep up with the flow of words in a surreal situation. However, it does strike me that crossword addicts could derive pleasure in the playing with language.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number – Assembly @ George Street; V3

Dates – 5 to 30 August 2010 (not 17, 24)

Times – 17.25 to 18.40

Fringe Programme Page Number: 261

Double Booked

Three Stars

***

Ginny Davis’ solo performance play will strike a chord particularly with parents of teenage children.  She takes on the role of Ruth Rich, a fifty something married mother of three teenage children. The oldest is a daughter at university. The remaining two, a daughter and a son, are in the difficult middle teenage years, a period of moods and ingratiation when something is wanted.

Ruth is a full time mum coping with the strains of modern family life, a forgetful mother, an irritating husband but in particular her children. Then there are her female acquaintances and especially Ruth who is estranged from her wealthy husband and has a liking for expensive clothes, breast enlargement and men.

Ruth’s witty account, delivered in a calm manner, follows the events of one week which includes school detention, teenage drinking at parties and being dumped. All these issues, and more, build up to various double bookings on the Friday evening. A quote from Sir Walter Scott comes to mind ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!’.

There is one technical problem with the staging. Since the seating in the Pleasance Courtyard Cellar is not banked, when Ginny Davis is seated on a low sofa, it is virtually impossible to see her from around the third row back.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number – Pleasance Courtyard ; V 33

Dates – 4 to 29 August 2010

Times – 12.55 to13.55

Fringe Programme Page Number: 246