Seagulls

Theatre Bouquets 2017

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Once again we have been wowed by some fantastic theatre this year. Here, in order of viewing (and with the benefit of hindsight), are our favourite productions of 2017.

The Winter’s Tale – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

The Winter's Tale

This thrilling, modern-day version of Shakespeare’s play was dynamic and audacious – with the whole fourth act recast in Scots. We loved every minute of it, especially Maureen Beattie’s performance as Paulina.

Chess: The Musical  – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Chess

The students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland thrilled the audience with a skilful display of all things theatrical. We loved the sophisticated choreography (often incorporating the real time use of video cameras) and choral singing that sent chills down our spines.

Nell Gwyn – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Nell Gwyn\

This superb production of Jessica Swales’ Olivier Award-winning comedy was a delight in just about every respect. From the superbly realised set, through to the opulent costumes and the lively period music, this was fabulous to behold.

Death of a Salesman – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Death of a Salesman

It was the direction that made this production so good: Abigail Graham did a wonderful job of clarifying everybody’s pain. And Nicholas Woodeson was perfect for the lead role, conveying Willy’s struggle with warmth and vitality.

The Toxic Avenger – Pleasance One, Edinburgh

The Toxic Avenger

A musical in the same vein that made Little Shop of Horrors such a pleasure, The Toxic Avenger was an unqualified delight, romping happily along powered by its own exuberance and the efforts of a stellar cast, who gave this everything they had – and then some.

The Power Behind the Crone – Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

The Power Behind the Crone

This was a wonderful piece of theatre, an exemplar of a Fringe show: beautifully scripted, and acted with precision and panache. Alison Skilbeck had absolute control of the material and created an impressive range of distinct, believable characters.

Seagulls – The Leith Volcano, Edinburgh

Volcano Theatre SEagulls at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This was the most ambitious, exhilarating piece of theatre we saw this year. Site-specific productions – when the site is as spectacular and relevant as this (we were in an abandoned church, which had been flooded with forty-five tons of water) – can be truly exciting, and this one had a lot to offer.

Safe Place – Rose Street Theatre, Edinburgh

Safe Place

Safe Place provided a sensitive, insightful examination of the uneasy relationship between trans-activism and feminism. It asked (and answered) many questions, all within the framework of a nuanced and intelligent play.

Angels in America: NT Live – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Angels In America

Clocking in at just under eight hours, Tony Kushner’s play offered us a “gay fantasia on national themes” – a sprawling, painful and searingly funny depiction of New York in the 1980s, fractured and ill-prepared to deal with the AIDS epidemic. A truly iconic piece of theatre.

Twelfth Night/Romeo & Juliet – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Twelfth Night

Romeo & Juliet

Merely Theatre gave us some ‘stripped-back’ Shakespeare, performing Twelfth Night and Romeo & Juliet in rep. The plays featured only five actors and the casting was gender-blind. It all made for an interesting dynamic and prompted us to re-examine familiar scenes.

Cockpit – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Cockpit

Cockpit was a witty, clever play, which saw the Lyceum transformed into a truly immersive space.  Director Wils Wilson served up a fascinating piece of theatre: arresting, thought-provoking, provocative and demanding – and it kept us talking for hours afterwards.

Cinderella – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Cinderella

We never thought a pantomime would feature in any ‘best of’ list of ours but, for the second year running, the King’s Theatre’s stalwarts managed to wow us. Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott knew exactly how to work their audience, and the special effects were truly spectacular.

Susan Singfield & Philip Caveney

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Edfest Bouquets 2017

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It was another fantastic three weeks at the Fringe for us. We crammed in as many shows as we possibly could – and still barely managed to scratch the surface. Here’s our pick of the best we saw this year. Congratulations to everyone mentioned.

Theatre

Seagulls – Volcano Theatre

Peer Gynt – Gruffdog Theatre

The Power Behind the Crone – Alison Skilbeck

Safe Place – Clara Glynn

Pike Street – Nilaja Sun

 

Comedy

The Darkness of Robins – John Robins

Kinabalu – Phil Wang

Dominant – John Robertson

Mistress & Misfit – Shappi Khorsandi

Oh Frig, I’m 50! – Richard Herring

 

Story Telling

One Seventeen – Sarah Kendall

These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone – Will Greenway

The Man on the Moor – Max Dickins

Eggsistentialism – Joanne Ryan

Blank Tiles – Dylan Cole

 

Special Mentions

The Toxic Avenger: The Musical – Aria Entertainment & Flying Music

Up Close – Chris Dugdale

The Cat Man Curse – Pelican Theatre

Cathy – Cardboard Citizen Theatre

Well Meaning, but Right Leaning – Geoff Norcott

Seagulls

15/08/17

The Leith Volcano, Constitution Street, Leith, Edinburgh

Wow. Seriously: wow. This is the most ambitious, exhilarating piece of theatre I have seen in a long time. It’s truly exciting: challenging, uncompromising and very, very good.

It’s The Seagull, kind of, although Chekhov probably wouldn’t recognise it, and goodness knows what Stanislavski the naturalist would make of it all. And that’s the point, I think: just as Treplev and Trigorin represent the experimental versus the establishment, so the two theatre greats, who were in their time avant-garde, now represent the traditional –  new performance styles are emerging all the time. And South Wales based ‘responsive arts group’ Volcano Theatre are surely at the forefront of this.

I love a bit of site-specific theatre, especially when the site is as spectacular and relevant as this: we’re in an abandoned church, the rear of which has been flooded with forty-five tons of water – certainly a unique way to portray Sorin’s lake. It’s breath-taking: all scaffolding and wooden boards; we’re on the makeshift stage that’s been built for Treplev’s play. As we enter, the actors are hanging above us on wires; as the show begins, they descend, one by one, and the riotous, irreverent production is soon in full swing. There are acrobatics and there’s nudity; there’s a dance routine and a suitcase fight. There’s expressive movement juxtaposed with bawdy belly-laughs; this is a wild, tumultuous production, twisting and tumbling in so many directions that it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on. It doesn’t matter; I can’t pretend to understand it all, but I’m utterly entranced, and I can’t stop thinking about it for hours afterwards.

It’s not perfect. We find ourselves sitting at the back for the second half of the play, and can’t see over the heads of the people in front of us. By this point, the actors are in the lake, further away than they were before, so the acoustics aren’t so good and we can’t hear everything. But when a play is this electrifying, such details seem like mere quibbles. This is an absolute must-see.

4.8 stars

Susan Singfield