Edinburgh 2017

Peer Gynt

28/08/17

Zoo Sanctuary, Pleasance, Edinburgh

Gruffdog Theatre’s Peer Gynt is a theatrical triumph: a joyous romp through Henrik Ibsen’s script, with a sprightly physicality that has us utterly enthralled.

Look, it’s the last day of the Fringe, and it’s all winding down. Everywhere we turn, we can see vans being loaded, posters being removed. Venues that just yesterday were pulsing with life now have their doors shut, their windows dark. We’re not sure we even want to see another show (we’ve seen a lot; we’re pretty sated). But a friend has recommended this play and it’s a now or never thing. So we pick up a pair of tickets and set off across town.

And we’ve definitely made the right decision; this is a glorious Fringe finale, chronicling the tale of the feckless Peer Gynt as he swaggers his way through life, leaving a trail of heartbroken women and abandoned children in his wake. The ensemble work is wonderful: a well-oiled machine with all the parts working in harmony. Literal harmony at times, as the whole piece is soundtracked a capella by the cast. It’s eerie and unearthly, and a little bit unsettling – just like the strange green eye make-up they all wear, and the funny little outfits, all identical.

The physical theatre is precise and well-crafted, performed with ease and poise. I especially like the shipwreck, which is beautifully done. The puppetry is excellent too – that troll! – and the multi-roling works a treat.

Sadly, you can’t see this in Edinburgh now, and Gruffdog Theatre’s website seems to indicate this is the end of their UK tour. But, if they revive it, I recommend this play whole-heartedly, and I for one will be checking carefully to see what they do next.

5 stars

Susan Singfield

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Dark Side of the Moon: The Full Dome Experience

27/08/17

Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh

Of all the shows we have attended at this year’s Fringe, (and there have been many) this is perhaps the hardest to review – but for me at least, it’s one of the most irresistible. Under the museum’s gigantic dome, usually reserved for films about space exploration and wild-life documentaries, some genius has decided to project a series of eye-popping visuals while Pink Floyd’s classic 1973 album, Dark Side of the Moon plays in its entirety.

This record formed the soundtrack of my life through many of my formative years and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to listen to it again, played loud with no interruptions, while spectacular images swirl and swoop above and around me. These range from pulsing abstract patterns to CGI animated landscapes. Planes soar in crystal clear skies, bricks tumble in all directions and endless constructions stretch to infinity in all directions. Occasional feelings of motion sickness soon pass, and mostly the results are simply jaw-dropping.

It’s clear that I’m not the only one attracted to this. All of the twice-nightly showings quickly sold out and extra dates had to be added to cope with the demand. Sitting spell bound in my comfortable seat, I am transported back to my youth – and listening to David Gilmour’s thrilling guitar work on Money actually gives me chills.

Okay, I appreciate this isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but for me at least, it’s an absolute joy from start to finish. I hope Dynamic Earth will take the hint and put on a few more shows like this.

5 stars (for Pink Floyd Fans)

4 stars (for the uninitiated)

Philip Caveney

Kyloe

27/08/17

Rutland Street, Edinburgh

The Fringe is approaching its final days and we have family staying with us, seeing shows and generally hanging out. A Sunday roast seems like a capital idea and we’ve heard very good things indeed about Kyloe, where the gimmick is a whole joint serving groups of four or six, so we book a table and turn up, secure in the knowledge that there won’t be any indecision about ordering, because we’ve already done all that in advance. The interior is the right mixture of traditional and quirky – there are a lot of portraits of cows and I love the light fittings made out of barrels and the cowhide-lined booths. The staff are friendly and attentive and the atmosphere convivial.

We’re offered the chance to have a starter, but decide to save our appetites for the main course (wisely, as it turns out, as the portions here are positively gargantuan). Very soon, a sizzling joint is brought out from the kitchen and is carved in front of us as we sit there salivating. It’s apparent at a glance that it’s perfectly cooked, succulently rare inside, but not too bloody. It’s accompanied by four light, fluffy Yorkshire puddings, a huge bowl of roast potatoes, diced root vegetables, creamed spinach and two jugs, one containing a rich dark gravy and the other horseradish sauce. Oh yes, and there’s some nice peppery rocket on the side. There are few meals that cannot be enhanced by a liberal sprinkling of rocket.

There is absolutely nothing to fault here – the food is hot, impeccably prepared and absolutely delicious. I’d like to say that we restrain ourselves, but it’s hard when presented with such a feast. We fall upon it like ravenous wolves and, I’m sure, eat more than is strictly good for us, but who can resist such temptation? Not us, for sure.

Nor can we resist the equally scrumptious and generously proportioned pudding, a sharing slab of warm chocolate brownie, crispy on top and fabulously gooey within. This is accompanied by an intensely flavoured vanilla ice cream. Of course, we tell each other as it is placed in front of us, we’ll never be able to finish all of this. And, naturally, we do, every last crumb.

The Sunday dinner here costs £100 for four diners, which is costlier than some other places around Edinburgh, but you cannot argue with the quality of the food or the absolute delight you’ll experience in its consumption. I’ve eaten Sunday dinners all over the city but I can honestly say I haven’t had a better one than this.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Scribble

 

25/08/17

Assembly Roxy

We were attracted to this particular show because the premise sounded so intriguing. This play by Andy Gilmartin features a different performer every day, who reads through the script alongside mainstay, Ross (Alan MacKenzie). The guest performer has never seen the script before and is required to read all the sections highlighted in a certain colour. This, we are told, is an attempt to reflect the ever-changing nature of the nation’s mental health. On the day we attend, the guest actor is Kim Allan, who handles the situation with aplomb. She’s clearly been hand-picked, because she never puts a foot wrong.

Ross talks about cosmology and bran flakes and his partner, Fi,  who is working away in China. He asks the audience questions and gets them to applaud when the answer is ‘yes.’ But the questions are not particularly challenging. ‘Have you ever made a decision? Have you ever eaten bran flakes?’ Umm… okay, but… where is this going exactly?

McKenzie is a confident performer and he plays his character nicely… but… the play itself ultimately promises so much more than it actually delivers.

For all that it presents itself as an audacious, risk-taking project, the format is far too controlled to offer the guest performer anything interesting to do. There’s no room for improv here, they can only read the lines exactly as written. We’re told that the script continually develops, that this is actually the forty-ninth draught of it, but of course, as reviewers, we can only respond to what we witness and, for me at least, this is somewhat underwhelming. Potentially interesting subjects are mentioned in passing – mental health, compulsive obsessive disorder, the fear of experiencing unwanted desires, but these themes are never really developed and, at the play’s conclusion, I left feeling that I’ve seen two decent performances, but not much more than that.

A shame, because there’s probably a satisfying play in here somewhere – but this isn’t it.

2.3 stars

Philip Caveney

My Pet, My Love

24/08/17

C Royale, George Street, Edinburgh

Rob Gaetano’s My Pet, My Love is a little gem. It occupies that awkward space between performance and conversation, but with such ease that it feels natural and compelling. To be clear: there are actorly skills at work here; Gaetano employs physical theatre, mime and monologue to convey his story, and he does so with great precision and control. But he also creates an intimate atmosphere, and speaks to us as if there is no boundary between stalls and stage. It’s a winning approach, successfully drawing us into his world.

This is a piece about fear, and more specifically about the fear of ageing and forgetting. We learn about Gaetano’s first pet, a fish called Bluey, and about his Nonna and her dementia. We learn about his wish to make his family proud, and his concern that he can’t achieve this as a single, not-all-that-successful gay actor. (Not all that unsuccessful, though; he’s won plaudits from critics, as well as an award.) Mostly, we work with him to unlock a series of memories, key moments that – held on to – help to define just who he is.

I only have one criticism of this piece, and it’s minor. But when he plays Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon at full volume, it saturates the room and becomes unbearably evocative. If the aim here is to take me away from the play in front of me and lose me for a while in my own memories of being thirteen, then it works. But I’m definitely not focusing on Gaetano at that point, although, as soon as the music ends, I’m right back with him.

There are only a few days left of this year’s Fringe, but it’s definitely worth seeking out this piece for a satisfying denouement.

4 stars

Susan Singfield

Elephant in the Room

 

23/08/17

Assembly Rooms, George Street

This delightful tale from Hindu mythology tells the story of Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, who, after causing friction between his parents, is decapitated by his father and then has his head replaced with that of an elephant. Understandably miffed at this rough treatment, he sets off into the forest in search of his real head, accompanied by a spider called Makdee and a scheming huntsman called Moorkh, but the pair are secretly planning to hold the boy-God to ransom…

This is essentially a monologue, brilliantly told by Yuki Ellias, who acts out all the roles, snapping effortlessly from one character to the next, portraying them as much by her physicality as with her voice. It’s an assured performance and I love the simplicity of the staging, which uses nothing more than a loose grey and red robe to identify the different roles. Plaudits should also go to the creator of the wonderful score and to the lighting designer, who help transform an unprepossessing portacabin on George Street into a magical location.

This is delightful stuff and all concerned should take a well-earned bow. There’s only a few days left to catch this before the festival ends, so don’t miss the opportunity.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Loyiso Gola: Unlearning

23/08/17

Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh

Loyiso Gola was one of our favourite acts last year. Although Dude, Where’s My Lion? (https://bouquetsbrickbatsreviews.com/2016/08/21/loyiso-gola-dude-wheres-my-lion/) was his first Fringe show, it was by no means the work of a newcomer: Gola is an experienced comedian, famous in his home country, South Africa, where he is best known as the host and co-creator of the TV show, Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola. So we are excited to see his new show, and looking forward to an evening that will both challenge and entertain.

Unfortunately, I think we get Gola on a bad night this time. It’s bound to happen sometimes. The Fringe is long, and this last stretch can be tough, especially midweek when audience numbers are down. It can be hard to keep your head up, and yet, somehow, the show has to go on. I don’t know if I’m right, of course, but I do know that Gola seems to be lacking energy tonight, and that his performance appears a little lacklustre.

Unlearning is primarily about confronting stereotypes, and about changing the behaviour patterns that seem ingrained by what you’ve learned. There are tantalising hints as to what this show could be (and may well have been on other nights), as Gola deals with issues of masculinity, race, white privilege and our ignorance of human history. I’d like to see these elements explored further: a bit less low-level grumbling about the service in Edinburgh shops, and more of this incisive stuff. There’s a lot of fascinating material hovering beneath the surface of this show, and I know this gifted comic is more than capable of bringing it to light.

Just not tonight, I guess. Ah well.

3 stars

Susan SIngfield