A Hero of Our Time

5 stars *****

I’ve read the book from which this play is adapted, in the original and in translation. In lists of great Russian literature, Lermontov’s novel, perhaps not so well known in the West as those of Tolstoy or Pushkin, is up there in the top ten. Acclaimed both for its literary merits as well as its poignant comment on the state of Russia and the younger generation, the novel has much to recommend it. This play is better.

While this adaptation (necessarily) omits a few of the episodes from the novel, it brings to vivid life the story of Pechorin, a disaffected young officer re-assigned for transgressions unknown to a spa town in the Caucuses, where he proceeds to cause havoc among his friends in order, it seems, to amuse himself .

Do note, this story is not a happy one, but in this production, it is a powerful one. Each and every character – from the Armenian maid to Pechorin himself – is complete and convincing, and the short slow motion elements used to accentuate various points were brilliantly placed. The soundtrack is an un-intrusive but incredibly effective adjunct to the high emotions, and all is complemented by the beautifully painted silver birches which form the backdrop.

An utterly electric piece of theatre.

Reviewed by Laura

Zoo (venue 124), 17:30 (1hr 15mins – but it felt so much quicker! – Laura)

Until 29th August 2011

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Craig Hill : Blown by a Fan

4 Stars ****

There are some things that are constant in each year’s Fringe and one of these is that Scotland’s own Craig Hill will be turning out his unique blend of comedy and mayhem. He will be dressed in a stylish kilt and that his show title will have a double entendre involved in it.

Situation normal then, Hill sweeps into the strangely entitled Cow Barn and the next hour is packed to the gunwales with hilarity as only he can.

I’m sure he does have a show in there, but his forte is riffing with the audience, especially those down front and of course theKingdomofFifegets its usual blasting from the all in white clad comedian.

Hill is an institution here inScotlandand his following is diverse, he obviously has a big gay following but there is a fair cross section of people who he appeals to.

Generous and gregarious in his limelight, sharing birthday girl Liz was invited to sing a duet with him and together with her friend was also involved in the finale.

I think it impossible to see him perform and not enjoy the man, his comedy and the experience so as he is so popular and days are running out you better be quick for your ticket.

Reviewed by Geoff

Udderbelly Cow Barn V 300

4 to 29 August

19:30 to 20:30

Fringe Brochure P 62

Mary Bourke: Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

4 Stars ****

Mary Bourke tried to get into the Pleasance, but it didn’t work out, so here she plays in a basement next to the toilets. The glamour of show biz huh?

At the top of the show this quietly spoken Irish comic explains that there is no message in the show, no hidden meanings, no pathos, just jokes, jokes and more jokes. How novel. And contrary as in the title.

There are some anecdotes in the set, a bit of audience participation but as previously stated, predominately jokes galore.

It was a testament to her quality, and that of the material, that she was finishing long before I expected. The time had been fully filled and had just evaporated.

The show I attended was fairly full, but there is always room for you. It is a show that is a refreshing change from a lot of others.

As part of The Laughing Horse Free Festival entry is free but everyone is encouraged to put a donation in her bucket at the end, well she does have to eat, so don’t forget to fold yours on the way out.

Reviewed by Geoff

Laughing Horse @ The Street V 239

Until 29 August

16:00 to 17:00

Those Two -Free

4 Stars ****

Those Two are Masud Milas and Emily ‘Elf’ Lyons, well they were when I saw them, on another day it might be the other way round as the simple coin toss decides the running order. In truth it doesn’t matter. These young comedians entertain extremely well for their hour, and even in a non-comedy friendly slot were packed to the gunnels.

Masud, slightly the older, a mass of hair and leather jacket opened up with a very assured performance. His material was wide and varied, his delivery and timing spot on with stage presence a plenty. Milas was in command through out and looked totally at home on stage. I’m sure this will not be the last we have heard of this emerging talent, I know I’d be very happy to see more.

A swift change brought Elf Lyons to the stage. And she is even younger damn it!! Before I get accused of being ageist, I am not. Just jealous. And not so much of her youth. She is just too talented for someone barely 20.

Slightly quirky is dress Ms Lyons performed like a veteran. She has stage presence in abundance, material a plenty and a confidence that completely belies her youth. If she progresses at this rate then with in the next few years expect her to be a major star.

As part of PBH Free Fringe entry is currently free, but a donation bucket is available after the gig. Don’t expect these two to be free for long, Hell no. Bigger and better for them I’m sure.

Reviewed By Geoff

The Banshee Labyrinth V 156

Till 27 August

12:50 to 13:50

A Review of Theatre Reviews (2)

On 15th August I posted an article extolling the virtues of good storytelling theatre and gave some examples of the best that I had personally seen. We are now well into the final week and here are few more examples, given in order when I saw the production.

Laundry Boy – A saucy comedy examining one lonely young man’s search to find his identity

Penny Dreadful’s Etherdome – a comedy based on a true version of events to discover a way to relieve pain during surgery

The Games – a comedy set in Ancient Greece at the time of the Olympic Games

The Matchmaker – a comedy set in southern Ireland in the 1950’s

 

In addition, here are a few solo performances worthy of mention

Pip Utton is Charles Dickens – a master raconteur and Fringe stalwart in witty and conversational style

Nicholas Osmond in ‘Phys Ed’ – a sporting theme of aiming to be the best

 

What I have noticed in the past few weeks in terms of audience numbers is that plays which can be classed as avant-garde or experimental are not attracting audiences in big numbers. Perhaps in times of economic uncertainty people want to be entertained and uplifted rather than be taken on journeys of self- indulgent angst. After all, the Fringe is part of a Festival! A family taking in a few shows will not see much change from £100.or so. No wonder they are primarily seeking out enjoyment.

Posted by Ben on 23rd August

 

 

The Games

4 Stars

****

The Games from Spike Theatre is gloriously funny and includes many forms of comedy theatre ranging from satire to song and dance to slapstick. The dialogue is a bit corny at times but the physical action is performed so well by Liam Tobin, Jamie Wood and Lauren Silver who are all magnificent in their versatility.

The action starts with a prologue explaining the background to the play we are about to see. The premise is that a play by Aristophanes has recently been discovered by a group of academics and they are going to give the world premiere performance.

The opening scene sees Zeus, his wife Hera, and their son Hercules discussing the upcoming Olympic Games. They decide on having a bet by giving three unlikely individuals a gift each in order that they can compete against the best. Stanzas is a rhymer of doggerel verse; Darius is a lowly farmhand; and Hermaphrodite an athletic young woman.

The three characters meet up on the way to the Games and their adventures begin. When we come to the scene where they arrive at the undressing room, we wonder how the action will be depicted for we know back in ancient times the competitors were naked. False willies are the answer. Hermaphrodite can explain away the bandage around her upper body as protection for an injured rib.

The events are wildly physical – a chariot race, a boxing match, throwing and running. Do they become heroes by winning? Will Hermaphrodite be able hid her femininity? It is worth going along to find out.

Reviewed by Ben

Zoo Roxy: 115

5 to 29 August 2011 (not 23)

12.30 – 13.40

Fringe Programme Page Number: 265

At the Sans Hotel

1 Star

*

Make no mistake, if you see this production you will think it is either cutting edge avant-garde theatre or pretentious and pointless. There is no structure to what you will see. What you will witness is a collection of jumbled anecdotes, experiences and inaction. The solo performer, Nicola Gunn, could be depicting a nervous breakdown, who knows or indeed cares?

In the Fringe booklet the word ‘hilarious’ is used. Well, there was no sign of hilarity in the audience during the performance I saw and a look of ‘What was that all about?’ from the members of the audience as they left following the most messy ending to a play I have just about ever seen.

Maybe, I am too traditionalist in my thinking of what theatre should be about but this experience did not touch me in any way at all. I will concede she is an accomplished performer and has a stage presence but so have many others in this year’s Fringe.

Reviewed by Ben

Assembly Hall – Mound; 35

4 to 28 August 2011 (not 15)

19.20 – 20.35

Fringe Programme Page Number: 239