Touching the Blue

3 Stars

***

Clive Russell gives a powerful and poignant performance as Derek Rogers a fictional, veteran snooker player who, as a teenager many decades earlier, had been the youngest ever world champion. The play is an autobiographical account of a sports personality who has experienced fame and wealth at a young age followed by his descent into the doldrums.

Rogers as a young man was a charismatic character with a precocious snooker ability. His nickname was ‘The Thunderbolt Kid’. Born in a Glasgow tenement, he has the west of Scotland gallus humour.  He looks back over his life; his possessive mother, the failed marriages, and nervous breakdown. He is living on borrowed time due to alcoholism.

Miraculously, he has qualified for the World Championship Finals at the Crucible Theatre. He tells his story from a dingy dressing at this venue which didn’t quite ring true for me. However, giving authenticity, there is a TV monitor with clips of film showing famous commentators such as Dennis Taylor giving recollections of Rogers in his prime.

As the play draws to a climax, he reveals an outlandish secret which only he and his losing opponent in his winning of the world championship know about. As a story, it does have comparisons with real sporting legends that have experienced spectacular success at an early age only to squander their talent when they should have been at their prime.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number                  Assembly @ George Street; V3

Dates                                                  5 to 29 August 2010 (not 16)

Times                                                 15.30 to 16.30

Fringe Programme Page Number: 297

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Memory Cells

4 Stars

****

Louise Welch in her new psychological drama, directed by Hannah Eidenow, deals with a sensitive and difficult subject which is the entrapment, imprisonment and abuse of a woman by a man. As a piece of theatre, it grips totally from first entering the auditorium to the final seconds of the action. Straightaway, an eerie mood is created with a long opening scene without words.

When the dialogue begins, the early impression is that the woman is deranged. She doesn’t want food, then she does. It is clear the couple know each other. He is Barry and she is Cora. It becomes chilling when it is apparent she is imprisoned in a cellar by Barry who reveals by degrees, a violent schizophrenia. He expresses his love for Cora but will twist her words and abuse her mentally, physically and sexually.

Cora is an enigma. She expresses both love and intense loathing for Barry. However, Barry has chosen his victim well because nobody will question Cora’s sudden disappearance. Barry is her only human contact. What would happen to her if something were to happen to him?

The play does contain harrowing and shocking scenes. Nevertheless, the supreme quality of writing and the intense acting of John Stahl and Emily Taafe, backed up by the effective use of sound and lighting give credible insight into the nature of the worst kind of relationship between a man and a woman.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number                  Pleasance Dome; V23

Dates                                                  4 to 30 August 2010 (not 17, 24)

Times                                                 17.20 to 18.40

Fringe Programme Page Number: 271

Bound

Five Stars

*****

Although a contemporary play reflecting the current economic uncertainties in the fishing industry, the use of snippets of folk songs and shanties at the beginning and during the course of the play give Bound a timeless quality. The interaction between the members of the crew and the dangers they face could have taken place at any time since men went to sea on fishing boats.

The play is the work of Jesse Briton who also appears as the captain of the trawler, Violet. The script has outstanding clarity and realism. There is humour, poignancy and a building of tension in the final climactic scene. The six men who make up the crew vary in ages and personality. As the action unfolds, the cast skilfully develop the characters of the men portrayed, revealing their individual strengths and weaknesses. Their conversations are so lifelike in the way they feud, wind each other up, but, in extreme circumstances, they come together.

The limited size of the Studio room has both disadvantages and advantages. It is a small area in which to convey all the physical action but we the audience are so close we could well be on board the boat. This proximity completely compels your attention.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number                  Zoo Southside; V82

Dates                                                  6 to 30 August 2010

Times                                                 15.45 to 16.45

Fringe Programme Page Number: 233

Mushy Ate My Credit Card

2 Stars

**

Mark Brailsford’s solo performance play portraying Sam, a Sussex County Cricket Club fanatic is heavy on facts but light on humour. The story follows Sam during the summer of 2003. Sussex, for over a century have been county cricket minnows but in this year they are making a strong challenge to win the County Championship. His wife’s pregnancy is the other event in his life at this time.

Leading the way towards success is Mushy, Mushtaq Ahmed, a highly successful Pakistani leg spin bowler. As the summer proceeds, Sam is prepared to spend hugely following his heroes all around the country using his credit card. Mixed in with the progress of Sussex during the 2003 season, there are made up clips of film projected on to screen to highlight the great players of old.

As far as cricket is concerned, people can be easily divided into two – cricket lovers and cricket loathers. Being a former cricketer, I am in the former category. There is one characteristic about cricket lovers. They are fascinated by statistics. Therefore, I did find the factual content of the show interesting on a personal level but it will have little meaning or appeal to those who have no interest in the game. Some of the characterisations do become repetitive and the humour will not be widely intelligible.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number                  Hill Street Theatre; V41

Dates  remaining                              22, 26 – 29 August 2010

Times                                                 21.00 to 21.50

Fringe Programme Page Number: 273

The Leonardo Question

3 Stars

***

Caroline Wiseman’s play is an entertaining, satirical romp through the world of modern art over the past century. The major artists are represented in short sketches from Picasso and Duchamp, through to Pollack and Warhol and finally, Hirst and Emin. The script uses their actual words as one ‘ism’ was rejected and a new ‘ism’ came into fashion.

The linking figure in the sketches is Peggy Guggenheim, the wealthy art patron. She is played by Clemmie Reynolds who gives a shining performance as the flirtatious and promiscuous Peggy. She is ably supported by Kyle Ross and Patrick Rogers who share out the male artists between them.

The theme of the play is the question. What makes good art? Is it the skill of the artist or is it just a question of money and the economics of supply and demand or is it catching the mood of the times? The final sketch, featuring Hurst and Emin, is the most extended. This focuses on contemporary society’s obsession with the cult of celebrity. For example, Emin is now a media personality. Is her art now driven by a need to be the centre of attention?

At the end, the question is posed who will be the next big name in art and how will their recognition be decided?

The quick fire nature of the sketches can only show the artists as caricatures. Perhaps the key theme is laboured. Nevertheless, the piece has wit and charm.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number                  Zoo Roxy; V115

Dates                                                  22 to 30 August 2010

Times                                                 14.45 to15.35

Fringe Programme Page Number: 266

At Home with Mrs Moneypenny

4 Stars

****

This is one of the most unusual and distinctive shows on the Fringe. On first arriving at the AGA Showroom venue, a glass of champagne is on offer. We then make our way down a staircase to the showroom kitchen. Without doubt, this is the most expensive set of props on the Fringe.

Mrs Moneypenny welcomes us in to her packed out kitchen. She is the ideal hostess promising us food which will be cooked and served with the help of Richard who was the man from AGA, an audience volunteer and two of her three sons. She is as good as her word with everybody receiving several delightful morsels of food.

Her show consists of sharing her thoughts with us. She is a naturally witty raconteur with a stream of humorous anecdotes which reveal a very clear, pragmatic outlook on life. Families, for example, should be run on business lines but without a grievance procedure.

She is certainly a driven woman having a wide range of achievements, including being an entrepreneur, writer and most recently the holder of a private pilot licence. The most difficult part of this last accomplishment was fitting her 48 year old, body mass index 37 frame into the cockpit. There was one hilarious moment when it became apparent that a young man in the front row thought that HRT stood for High Resolution Television when she was talking about advancing middle age.

She admitted at the beginning that her purpose in doing a Fringe show was to pay for a holiday to Scotland. Sounds arrogant, but this is a woman with very can do attitude. However, she does make the concession. To achieve, you need the assistance of good people around you. Team Moneypenny have crafted a successful show for she is a genuine sell out and thus no financial loss on the holiday.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number                  Assembly @ AGA Showroom; V223

Dates  & Times vary

Fringe Programme Page Number: 228

Lady C: A Beauvale Production

****

Four Stars

I don’t suppose that there is a more different play on the Fringe this year. Less than two weeks ago it wasn’t a show, didn’t have a cast and obviously was in no listings or programmes. Hence the show is only doing business on word of mouth and flyers.

This new play by David Garcia is tagged as Lady Chatterley’s Lover for 2010 and was obviously inspired by the D H Lawrence novel. A little of the checkered history of the book is expounded by the three dressing gowned cast of Brendan Riding, Jen Healy and Rebekah Roe and some scenes are performed in an attempt to illustrate the piece.

There is an element of audience interaction, almost stand-up as director Graham Frost puts his spin on the show.

But basically the show is about sex, The sexual revolution of the sixties through to the girly mags and even internet porn seem to trace their roots back to this book.

The three actors bare their souls in respect to their own sexual past and their bodies as well with copious quantities of naked flesh are on display at various times through out the show. Is it there as it is necessary to the play? Often. Is it there as art? Probably. Is it akin to pornography? I suppose that depends on your outlook I suppose, to me nearly every scene was sensual rather than sensational, However on a odd occasion I am not quite so sure.

Do not go to this play if strong language, nudity, both man and female, or the portrayal of sexual acts offends. However, this is a humorous tongue in cheek production that just occasionally will make you think.

****

Reviewed by Geoff

GRV V 274

Till 29 August

21-10 to 22-05