Brush (4.5*)

Ruth’s 4.5* review:

Brush is a performance art theatre piece for children, from a Korean theatre company.  It combines a story about a young boy and his friendly pig going on an adventure with live music and an amazing set that is created during the performance through the actors painting on great big boards and interacting with them.  There was lots of costumes and weird noises and silliness, but amongst this the piece had an underlying artistic integrity to it as well.

Honestly I just don’t even know how to describe it to do it justice.  It was bizarre, but wonderful.  Here’s a link with a photo in it to give you a flavour.

It was visual, musical and a little bit slapstick.  BabyStevenson was mesmerised and watched for nearly an hour with very little fidgeting.

We grown ups enjoyed it too.  It was fanciful and very odd, and we thought it was just the sort of thing that we would have enjoyed drunk too…

The event was advertised as being aimed at age 2+ but BabyStevenson enjoyed it at 15 months.  I think it would be good for any family that was prepared to sit in fixed tiered seating for an hour.

Dark Road (4.5*)

2013-09-26Ruth’s review:

Dark Road is an original new play, set in Edinburgh, from Ian Rankin and Mark Thomson.

The plot focuses on Isobel, Scotland’s first Chief Superintendent, as she revisits the case of a serial killer that she worked on as a young police officer 25 years earlier.

The husband and I like to watch police dramas on the TV, but it is so unusual to see a police drama on stage – so that was a nice change.  As always at the Lyceum this play was buoyed by great acting, and as always it was so well staged.  The set was magnificent and was occasionally supplemented with projections which worked really well.  The use of music was subtle but generated a lot of tension, in fact I think rarely have I been to such a tense play.  People in the audience screamed.  Which, actually, was scarier than the play itself.

I enjoyed the story a lot, there was a good deal of character development and the plot was twisty and interesting.  If anything I think the plot was overly complicated for the production, as the other elements came together to make it sufficiently exciting and captivating without the need for excessive detail.  If anything, the slightly superfluous detail led me to overthinking as I watched which detracted from the tension, but the plot could have progressed without some of it.

I’d say overall this play was brilliant and with a bit of tweaking it could be exceptional.

Ian’s 4.5* Review

I absolutely loved this.  Tense.  Exciting.  Dark.  Funny.  Captivating.  It’s wonderful to see the “police drama” genre on stage, and the plot is classic Rankin, delighting in the gruesome and twisted mind of the criminal and in blurring the lines between good and bad, right and wrong.  The staging is brilliant too, I love the concept and the execution.  It gives the piece a feel of being bigger than it actually is – somehow more cinematic.

This is very close to being a 5* review, but falls just short as it didn’t feel completely coherent.  It started off feeling quite character-centric, but that then got a little lost in the middle which was totally plot-driven with just a few moments of character focus which were slightly disconcerting.  Then the ending (surprising, dark, twisted and brilliant as it is) went back to being more character based.  I liked the twisty nature of the experience, but for me it felt slightly like a longer work that had been cut down based on “favourite scenes” rather than “coherent audience experience”.  That would be easily fixed I suspect.

A brilliant first play from Ian Rankin – get your tickets now before they sell out!

Eh Joe (4*)

Ruth’s 4* review:

We went to see Michael Gambon in Eh Joe, a staging of Samuel Beckett’s play as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.  In this play we see Joe’s reaction to a voice – presumably in his head – speaking to him about his life.

I loved the staging of the play, very visually interesting as Michael Gambon’s face was projected onto a large transparent screen across the front of the set.  It reminded me of Alan Cumming’s Macbeth where Alan Cumming was also displayed on CCTV.  I really liked it.  Gambon never said a word, but his face was hugely expressive.  This was a short play – only half an hour – but it absolutely flew.  It felt like ten minutes.

2013-08-29Ian’s 4* Review

Tonight we saw the Samuel Beckett piece “Eh Joe” at the Lyceum as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. It was really very good, and a very clever adaptation of a television piece for stage making use of a huge projection from a camera focussed on the face of the sole performer, Michael Gambon.  Intense.  Compelling.  The time flew by,

Executed for Sodomy: the Life Story of Caterina Linck (4*)

2013-08-25 Fringe 0010Ian’s 4* review:

I saw this get a 5* review in ThreeWeeks and was curious to see how such a complex story could be presented so quickly.  Caterina Linck is a woman who chooses to live as a man in an unforgiving society, and who is ultimately executed for the crime of sodomy.  This three-woman production is extremely intense and presented with great energy and passion.  The audience gets a pencil sketch of Caterina’s life from the courtroom dialog at her trial interspersed with flashbacks to key scenes from her life.  I found this both enjoyable and interesting, but it felt just slightly incomplete – like there was a lot more to explore.  I’m not sure if this has been cut down to 1-hour format for the fringe and lost something in the process?

Ruth’s 4* review:

An extremely interesting play about the life of Caterina Linck  who was born a woman and lived as a man in eighteenth century Prussia, and was tried and executed for various ‘crimes’ relating to this.  A very passionate and intense performance all round.  I think if anything the play would have benefited from being a bit longer as I would have liked to see more depth and I think the story had more to it so it could have stood that.

Munch (4.5*)

Ruth’s 4.5* review:

This is how poetry should be done.  Wow.  I would find it hard to fault this except that the venue was a bit cramped and noisy.  This performance was extremely well thought through and performed.  Detailed, pacey, hilarious, varied.  The content was rhythmic and witty and onomatopoeic and it was so well delivered by two charming and talented guys that it was quite mesmerising.  Very good, loved it, but the subject matter is probably not for everyone.

Ian’s Review 4.5*

Absolutely brilliant!

A likeable duo with content varying from prose to poetry and occasionally bursting into song.  Modern, fresh, enjoyable and at times downright hilarious.  I wish I could remember the words of the song they did to the tune of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins, but I was too busy laughing.  Having said all that, the subject matter will not be for everyone – this is about a gay couple’s first foray into the BDSM community!

The Vacuum Cleaner (2* / 3*)

2013-08-13 Fringe 0003Ian’s 2* Review:

Ruth won free tickets to see this show billed as “No set. No costumes. No celebrities… especially NO Keira Knightley. Not even endorsed by Dyson. The worst show you will see at the fringe…probably!”.  My experience of the show was that it felt surreal, abstract, and at times just plain revolting (don’t ask).

The cast get credit for delivering an intense experience, and it is certainly bold and different.  Acknowledging that this is a different type of theatre they say “You’d trust this if it was at The National Theatre”.  I don’t know if that’s true, as I trust my own judgement to know what I like and what I don’t, and I didn’t like this.  I am totally unqualified to judge surrealist theatre, and it is entirely possible this will be hailed as a work of genius and put on at The National Theatre one day.    I will not be buying tickets if that happens.

Ruth’s 3* Review:

The vacuum cleaner is ‘absurdist’ theatre from a young theatre group called Ferodo Bridges.  I’m afraid I have very little experience of absurdist theatre so I find it hard to know how to judge this.  It was interesting, it was awkward, it was weird and sometimes uncomfortable.  It felt quite exposing at times, both for the audience and the performers.  There was a clever bit about the National Theatre, and I loved the Liverpool FC song. Overall I quite enjoyed it.


If these spasms could speak (4*)

Ruth’s 4* Review:

I’ve met Robert Softley through work and I loved his previous production Girl X so I thought I’d give his Fringe show a look.  The subject was disability, including performed monologues from people that Robert had interviewed, and chat from Robert himself.  How people are the same and different and what their lives are like.  Funny, saucy, mundane, frustrated, touching.  The hour flew by, one of the fastest this year.  Robert is so likeable and engaging, and the show was very interesting in its content.  I imagine some people directly identified with it, whereas others were introduced to some ideas that they may have never thought of before.  Either way it worked very comfortably.  An undercurrent of being informative, without detracting from Robert’s performance.  Actually I’d like to see a whole hour of Robert-on-Robert (ok that sound weird) as he is a very intelligent and impressive performer and I can imagine something a la Richard Herring working very well.

2013-08-10 Fringe 0023Ian’s 4* Review:

Robert Softley has Cerebral Palsy, and talks about how this feels to him, and how others react to him (especially medical professionals).  To this he adds quotations from disabled people on how they feel about their own bodies.  I guess if I had to categorise this it’s “spoken word” as it isn’t comedy (although it is amusing) or theatre (although it is quite theatrical at times).

The power of this piece for me lies in the unexpected.  Unexpected frankness from Robert, and the unexpected ways in which he and others react to their bodies.  Unexpected simply because I’ve not spent a lot of time thinking about the subject, which perhaps says more about me than the work…

A very powerful hour – well thought through and beautifully presented.