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August 2018

Review: Who fixes the fixer in thriller The Peregrine, Stockwell Playhouse

AX The Peregrine Paul (Christopher Sherwood) and Sofia (Katie Buchholtz) dance the tango
Christopher Sherwood and Katie Buchholtz in The Peregrine, Stockwell Playhouse

New York playwright Philip Holt's new play The Peregrine is a thriller set in Argentina where protagonist Paul (Christopher Sherwood) is a fixer of the gun-toting kind.

He wears sharp suits and stays in nice hotels and has come a long way from his childhood in the slums from where he was plucked, educated and trained by svengali Memo (Sprague Theobald).

Past catching up?

But as he searches for his past will his past catch up with him? Can the fixer be fixed and who fixes the fixer?

The play is a game of chess as the chess boards randomly stuck on the piled, packing-crate set pointedly remind us.

Paul tries to stay one step ahead of his own mission and one step ahead of that of others - he isn't the only street-urchin Memo has raised up and trained for less than legal activities.

Metaphor heavy

Holt's script is at times baggy with metaphor - particularly references to hunting and prey - which does have a tendency to draw out tension rather than add to it. 

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Interview: Former child actor Hatty Jones talks about her first play That Girl, Old Red Lion

Hatty Jones draws on her own experience as a child actor, plucked from obscurity to star in a big budget film, for her debut play That Girl which explores growing up and female friendships.

Hatty JonesYou’ve made short films before, what made you choose theatre as a medium for this particular story?

I had wanted to write a play for a while, and this story felt like the best fit.

I wanted the audience to be in the room with the characters, to understand their motives and watch the action play out in real time. It felt necessary to this particular narrative.

And I love that the audience might feel differently about it every night.

That Girl is based on your own personal experiences, did that make it hard to write or was it a cathartic exercise?

It felt like a natural step to write about something that was such a big part of my childhood, especially as it was such an unusual situation. 

The story centres on two periods of big life changes, one of which most will be familiar, the other very few will have experienced - what are you hoping audiences take away?

I hope the audience can relate to all the characters - including Hatty. Not everyone will have experienced being a child actor, but they may have similar feelings about growing up.

The play is about the reality of adult life, the loss of innocence which everyone goes through. 

What's the process from stage to page been like? 

I play Hatty, in the play so I'm very involved and we are currently in the middle of the rehearsal process.

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Final thoughts on my first trip to the Edinburgh Fringe or lessons in diverse programming

Theatre is supposed to reflect society, challenge and change but how can it do that when its programming doesn't fully embrace the full gamut of ethnicity, sexual orientation and balance of gender?

Queens_of_Sheba_750x490The Edinburgh Fringe: It was a blast, bonkers, a baptism, friendly, sometimes frantic and lots of fun. But all good things come to an end and since getting home I've had time to reflect on everything I've seen and experienced.

Fringe theatre has always felt like the true stomping ground for more varied and diverse programming and so it is with the Edinburgh Fringe - definitely less white and middle-class-centric.

Audiences were more diverse in age-range too, no sitting in a predominantly middle-aged audience.

Dearth of BAME theatre

But where Edinburgh has a reasonably good offering of female-centric and LGBT theatre it has a dearth of BAME - something that was also reflected in those watching.

One of my Edinburgh housemates and a Fringe regular, @ShakespeareanLK, commented on how white the Fringe still is and she's right.

Two of my favourite plays were Queens of Sheba and The Fishermen (both won much-deserved Fringe awards).

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Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Review: Josh Glanc, Underbelly - good character comedy fun

Good fun with enough laughs to carry it through.

2018JOSHGLA_BLNAt the beginning of Australian comedian Josh Glanc's show Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chamedian I was reminded a little bit of a Green Day gig I went to at the Brixton Academy when the band invited members of the audience up on stage to play.

Here it's only miming to a backing track and the audience members are plucked with that embarrassed awkwardness from the front row but they did throw themselves into it much to everyone's delight, giving Glanc the TV game show host style entrance he was presumably aiming for. 

The audience plays quite a big part throughout the 60 minutes which is a series of sketches rather than stand up.

It is a lively show with music and Glanc plays different characters from different countries - an American football player, René from Europop band Aqua, an Australian cyclist and a Marcel Marceau-style mime artist.

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: Revelations, Summerhall - laughter, tears and pin-drop moments

It's a story that sweeps you up in a mixture of warmth, humour and tragedy.

Revelations-700x455Revelations is the final part of a trilogy following the lives of James, Emma, Sarah and Tom - although it works as a standalone as I hadn't seen the first two.

Told as a monologue through the eyes of James (James Rowlands) who has been friends with Sarah since they were kids, Sarah is now married to Emma who is a human rights lawyer.

This is the story of what happens when Sarah and Emma ask James to be their sperm donor so they can have a child.

There are plenty of flashbacks and references to earlier incidents for context but what follows is a story that bubbles with laughter one minute and tension the next.

Rowlands has a (very) small keyboard set up on stage and periodically will record and loop music and sung dialogue which plays along in the background - sometimes a little obtrusively as he yells to be heard over the top.

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: Blackout, Summerhall - a difficult watch at times but darkly funny

Blackout is a dark and difficult play to watch, darkly funny at times, horrifying at others

BLACKOUT by Mark Jeary(photo by Mihaela Bodlovic)
Blackout by Mark Jeary, photo by Mihaela Bodlovic

A blackout, we are told at the start, is when part of the brain shuts down in order to let the organs work and what follows is the story of six alcoholics - created from interviews with recovering alcoholics.

Their journey on the path towards alcohol abuse starts with feelings such as loneliness, escapism, being shy and drink provides the seductive magic ingredient to lift them.

'It unlocked part of my soul' says one and it's similar for the others making them gregarious and confidence - you can understand the lure.

But what follows is like falling down a dark and destructive rabbit hole, the six stories told simultaneously, with similar themes but different details.

From minor accidents to 'going off like a bomb', the blackouts, the health toll; laughter about amusing drunken mishaps, like their friends and family, drift away as the devilish effects of alcoholism release demon personalities, behaviour and paranoia.

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: The Fishermen, Assembly George Square - richly-drawn, gripping narrative

It is fast-paced, the narrative rich with detail, the characters beautifully drawn

The-fishermen-edinburgh-fringeFour brothers go fishing where they aren’t supposed to and have their lives irrevocably changed.

The Fishermen is based on the novel by Chigozie Obioma which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015 and adapted by Gbolahan Obisesan.

It's is an expansive story - and chunky book - populated by many characters in the lives of the brothers but here it is condensed to a 70-minute play with just two actors.

The play tells the story through the eyes of younger brothers Obembe (Valentine Olukoga) and Ben (Michael Ajao) who meet years later and look back at that fateful night which led to a series of events that tore the family apart.

It is fast-paced, the narrative rich with detail, the characters beautifully drawn in the performances of Olukoga and Ajao who play at least eight different people between them.

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: Angry Alan, Underbelly Cowgate - powerful irony at play

You'll laugh, scoff and roll your eyes at the irony of what Roger says but the final blow is a tragic irony.

Angry Alan  Edinburgh Fringe 2018 - courtesy of The Other Richard (6)Donald Sage Mackay in Angry Alan Edinburgh Fringe 2018. Photo: The Other Richard

Booked my ticket for Penelope Skinner's new play, Angry Alan, before the Fringe started and it's subsequently won a Fringe First Award which raised expectations - and it didn't disappoint.

Skinner presents the reasonable Roger (Donald Sage Mackay) who stumbles upon men's rights campaigner Angry Alan on YouTube, someone who seems to have the answers for all his ills (and he thought he had bowel cancer).

His divorce, redundancy, high alimony payments can be explained away by what Alan describes as a 'gyno-centric society' which has suppressed men's feelings and emotions and their place in society.

What Skinner and Donald Sage Mackay do so well is to present a man that isn't dangerous with his new found views but rather misguided and lost.

 

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: You Only Live Forever, Assembly George Square - stuffed with witty one-liners

Stuffed full of great one-liners, clever silliness and an amazing array of accents

Image 6 - Alys and RoxyLiving forever - would it be as good as it seems? What if you wrote a play about it and your writing 'partner' kept coming up with the most ridiculous ideas?

Part exploration of love and relationships in extraordinary circumstances, part tutorial in creative ego clashes (or how not to write a play) You Only Live Forever is a new comedy by Visceral Theatre, following their previous sell-out Fringe show In Tents and Purposes.

The story is simple. Olga (Roxy Dunn) and Immy (Alys Metcalf) meet at a wedding in Las Vegas fall in love and marry but while there, Immy drinks what she is told is the elixir of life.

However, being forever 25 has its challenges.

How do you explain your youthful looks to the other mums at the school gate? What happens when you are asked for ID and your date of birth looks like a lie?

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: Queens of Sheba, Underbelly Cowgate - the most emotional I've felt at the Fringe

If there had been a call to march right then I would have gladly followed and from the rapturous response of the audience, I wasn't the only one.

Queens_of_Sheba_750x490I walked out of Queens of Sheba feeling a bit teary in a kind of happy/sad/exhilarated way. It's the first Fringe play I've seen that has evoked such a strong emotional response.

The reason is partly the subject matter, partly the delivery and partly the collective response of the audience.

Queens of Sheba by theatre company Nouveau Riché is an examination of the twin prejudices facing black women - racism and sexism - but also a celebration of sisterhood, determination and defiance.

Rachel Clarke, Jacoba Williams, Koko Kwaku and Veronica Beatrice Lewis burst onto the stage dancing and singing in a way that denotes total comfort and an air of freedom.

They return to their dancing in between stories of misogynoir (race and gender bias) - the white boyfriend who wants an 'exotic' girlfriend, the boss who won't attempt to pronounce a name and the sexist black boyfriend. 

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