238 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

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: 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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Edinburgh Fringe Review: Su Pollard is a sharp-tongued hoarder in Harpy, Underbelly Cowgate

Birdie, like the play, isn't the persona she presents, the wit and humour gives way to something that feels like an emotional punch in the gut.

Su Pollard Harpy
Su Pollard in Harpy

Birdie (Su Pollard) is a hoarder and the bane of her neighbours and social services.

She likes to belt out 80s pop music - Bananarama, Eurythmics - late at night and her house is a health hazard.

Harridan and harpy to most, locals tell children that she’ll take their soul if she catches them looking in the window.

Her comments are sharp and insensitive - and often witty - and she sees the ‘mishaps’ that envelop her as not quite how they appear to everyone else.

However, for all her bluster she has a keen observation and there is an organisation to the chaos of her home, a rationale that unfolds slowly in her life story.

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: The Approach, Assembly - subtle, nuanced and utterly compelling

You feel like you are eavesdropping on a conversation at the table next to you - it is utterly compelling and its resonance lingers long after you've left the theatre.

Three women, only ever in pairs, meet in a Dublin cafe for a coffee and a catch-up - not the most magnetic sounding set up on paper but Mark O'Rowe's play, The Approach, is slowly gripping.

The_Approach.jpg
Cora (Cathy Belton), Anna (Aisling O’Sullivan) and her sister Denise (Derbhle Crotty) are all friends or least they were really close once.
The years pass all too quickly, things happen - life happens - and now they don’t see as much of each other.

When each pair meets their conversations start with everyday anodyne chit-chat but soon turn to more deeper personal topics such as relationships.

You have to listen carefully for clues as to how much time has passed between meetings - usually marked by relationship statuses.

A particular romantic gesture is a recurring motif and a signifier that something isn't quite straight in what the women are saying.

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Edinburgh Fringe: Ladykiller or how to use gender stereotypes to get away with murder, Pleasance

'Her' is a perverse figurehead for female empowerment and it is that contradiction and the darkness that I loved.

Pleasance_4A hotel room, a dead body, a maid covered in blood with a knife in her hand. This isn’t what it looks like, it definitely isn’t.

Writer Madeline Gould’s pitch black play perverts stereotypes to explore female criminality but more than that.

Her (Hannah McClean) uses female stereotypes to her murderous advantage.

Gould has done her research. She knows the psychological profiles of different types of killers, knows the assumptions and the boxes into which criminals are placed.

When Her describes blood it is sensuous and she revels in it as you would a more innocent substance.

Gould has created a deliciously complex character: duplicitous, despicable, clever, brutal and admirable. And McClean superbly captures the contradictions at times vulnerable, fun, charming and terrifying.

Her is a perverse figurehead for female empowerment and it is that darkness and contradiction that I loved.

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Edinburgh Fringe interview: Writer Kat Woods on frustration with theatre elitism and breaking working class stereotypes

Award-winning writer/director Kat Woods returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with Killymuck, here she talks about breaking working-class stereotypes - and why you should always perform like its press night. 

What inspired you to write Killymuck?

Kat woods photo
Kat Woods

Killymuck is a piece of theatre inspired by my own council estate, benefit upbringing. I have become increasingly frustrated with the elitism that exists within the realm of theatre and the constant portrayal of the benefit class stereotype which is perpetuated in the media. This constant negative ideology that becomes almost biblical rhetoric needs to be rewritten. 

Why is it important this story is told?

If we don't start to tell stories from all classes and all minorities then we are not representing society as a whole. How do we open up the doors of the theatre to the underclasses or the working classes if they are not reflected in the narratives that are being told?

You won an award for a previous fringe piece - Belfast Boy - does that make it easier or harder coming back?

I've actually had two pieces on since Belfast Boy - Wasted and Mule. I found it incredibly difficult coming back after having a success.

My follow-up play was Wasted, a piece about consent. That was in 2015 and I think we may have been a year or two too early with it. It has had more success now and is returning to America this year. 

I wasn't really mentally prepared for how tough I would find it. The scrutiny can be so overwhelming and it’s very easy to slip mentally when reading reviews and comments on the piece of work that you have worked so hard on. 

 

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3 short theatre reviews: The 'meh', the bored and the interval exit

Regular theatre-going is a bit like surfing, sometimes you catch the wave and it carries you exhilarated into shore, sometimes you wipe out only to surface bedraggled and nonplussed. The past week or so has definitely been the latter.

The Lehman Trilogy, National Theatre - the 'meh'

Lehman trilogy sign national theatreSimon Russell Beale, Adam Godfrey and the lovely Ben Miles play all the roles - male and female - in the story of the Lehman Brothers.

The brothers arrive in America in the 1850s and we follow them from rags to riches as their family business evolves from cotton retail to investment banking over three generations.

The collapse of Lehmans bank in 2008 - by this stage no longer a family business - is well-trodden ground and as such is virtually a footnote in this play which might be part of the problem because it looms on the horizon throughout.

Grand performances from SRB et al including some amusing gender swaps which are done with a change of demeanour and expression rather than costume, wig and makeup.

The stage revolves with a series of glass-walled offices, a video backdrop adds context and later is used to give the impression of the set rising.

But despite the performances - with live piano accompaniment - and the slick staging I couldn't help asking whether this story genuinely deserved such a grand production - and a lengthy play.

Yes there is an interesting evolution of attitudes towards commerce and making money and contrast between the brothers but is it a unique story, are there others more worthy of telling?

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Review: End of the Pier, Park Theatre - not the sum of all its parts

Danny Robins new play End of the Pier is at times very funny, it touches on some important issues but I'm not sure it fully does them justice and here's why.

Les Dennis & Blake Harrison (l-r) in End of the Pier at Park Theatre. Photo by Simon Annand 0216
Les Dennis & Blake Harrison (l-r) in End of the Pier at Park Theatre. Photo by Simon Annand

First a bit about the play. It's set in Blackpool where former 80s comic and household name Bobby (Les Dennis) gets by on pantomimes and summer seasons having fallen spectacularly from grace.

His son Mike (Blake Harrison) is a successful comedian and about to record a second TV series. His fiancé Jenna (Tala Gouveia) is high up in the BBC and expecting their first child.

Mike turns up on father's doorstep looking for help after an incident at his stag do threatens his career.

The play explores changing attitudes to comedy, what is cruel and discriminatory and what is a joke.

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Edinburgh Fringe interview: Su Pollard on her fringe debut and what she wants to see while she's there

Su Pollard will be making her Edinburgh Fringe debut starring in Harpy, a play written especially for her by Fringe-first winner Philip Meeks.

Su_Pollard-hary-edinburgh-fringeIn this preview interview, she talks about playing Birdie, a woman ostracised by her neighbours because of her hoarding, embarking on her first fringe and what she wants to see when she isn't performing.

How does it feel to have a play specially commissioned for you?
 
When I first met the playwright Philip Meeks about three years ago he said he was going to write something for me.  

I don’t think either of us thought much more about it until Suzanna Rosenthal suggested it because we knew each other.  

I’ve often been asked to go to Edinburgh but I’ve either been busy with other shows or the right play hasn’t been sent my way.  

What’s fantastic about this is I’ve been there from the start and Philip’s told me about every stage of his thinking and the writing process.  I feel as if I’ve really helped to create the role.

What was it about Birdie that made you want to play her?
 
Because she’s a woman of my age with a story to tell and believe me when you hit your sixties the great parts become few and far between.  

As soon as Philip said her story was about her hoarding the whole concept of hoarding seemed to be everywhere. In the papers, on the telly, I had friends admitting to suffering from it.

I realised it’s a phenomenon that people are fascinated by and it’s a dilemma people are facing increasingly because of the times we’re living in.  

So Birdie's story is very real and relevant and touches many people.

Her story also touches on the idea of mental health and how we all probably suffer from it. But what makes society decide who’s mad and who’s not these days when all our values and ideas seem to be getting eroded away on a daily basis.
 

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Fringe theatre review: In The Shadow of The Mountain, Old Red Lion Theatre

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

Ellie (Felicity Huxley-Miners) and Rob's (David Shears) relationship starts on a train platform in dramatic circumstances.

in the shadow of the mountain felicity huxley-miners david shears
In The Shadow of the Mountain: Felicity Huxley-Miners and David Shears

One is depressed, the other is manic but both feel like they don't fit in. Is this mismatch of personality the life-raft relationship it seems?

At first, the chaos of Ellie's mind and behaviour seems charmingly kooky and awkward. In her performance, Felicity reminded me a little of Patsy Ferran in My Mother's A Twat, Royal Court and Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2.

Manipulation

But it soon becomes clear that there are deeper emotional problems, a neediness and manipulation that is calculated to mask other feelings of a lack of self-worth.

Rob is emotionally bruised from an unfaithful relationship and feeling isolated and overwhelmed by the pressures of modern life, none of which equips him to properly help Ellie - or walk away.

What we get from David's performance is feeling of powerlessness against Ellie's manipulation despite his obvious feelings of discomfort and awkwardness. 

Laughter and gasps

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

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