Titus Andronicus at the Edinburhg Fringe

The greatest power struggle ever staged.  Shakespeare. 

titus Assassination, murder, the ravishing of virgins, betrayal by mother, slicing off of hands and the tearing out of lounges, feasting a father on the flesh of his sons, revenge, honour corruption and  barbecuing your enemies face.   What authoritarian monsters what power hungry goths are called before us.  Why skinheads, who else. Tattooed, doc martined, imperial the red of their braces with flags of St. George, stamping and stomping their unbridled unchecked inclination to death and chaos and absolute power.

It works so well, this improbable idea brings a raw power to the sometimes difficult text of the play.   The skinheads are perfect.  They may well be the most articulate skinheads you are ever likely to meet but as storm troopers of the power struggle that unfolds they are astonishing.

If this performance, this interpretation of Titus and Andronicus, by Hirath Artistic Productions does not end up on the West End Stage or in a Television studio then a lot of talent scouts in Edinburgh have been wasting their time up here.

August 2013

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A day at the Edinburgh Festival

Up early for breakfast in the gardens of St. Augustine’s church, on the hill just beneath the castle; best egg and bacon roll in the festival. Then to the underbelly to watch a one act play by the Beeston Rifles, an intense affair of class revenge by a harassed single girl, on benefits, looking after a mentally retarded adult, given to gibberish and wanking.Beeston rifles 2  Her revenge is directed towards  the privileged rich teenagers who had killed her father in a road traffic accident. Excellent stuff with powerful performances by the young Yorkshire cast. That Beeston must a dark dark place.
Then to the University to catch a comedy routine about political parties by Matt Forde. Claims he cut his political teeth in the Nottingham Labour party. Happens that I know the Nottingham Labour party rather well and they were not particularly known for their sense of humour, or for that matter, their political principles. Both aspects are admirably reflected in this piece which might well have sounded hilarious over a glass of claret at the dinner table but does not transfer well to the stand-up routine.matt forde He even made a joke about George Galloway calling him an apologist for Blair and a supporter of the Iraq war. Both of which he is. And is happy to acknowledge. Such people should shudder whenever a bomb goes off in Baghdad. It’s their fault. As Galloway rightly says the blood of those bombs is on their hands ITS THEIR FUCKING FAULT. It’s not the fault of the millions who marched to oppose Blair’s war. Having said that he did make one or two good jokes about Ed Miliband. They were jokes rather than satire, but good nonetheless, although some labour activists might well feel that given Miliband’s catastrophic performance that it’s time to stop the jokes and get serious about getting rid of him. Main impression of Forde was that of a mediocre DJ trying to make it as a serious comedian. Well that was my impression anyway.
A long couple of hours after Forde, sitting in the Grassmarket drinking Scottish beer (Deuchars) reading my book and watching the world go by beneath the rocky cliffs of the castle. Then in the evening to Ushers Hall for a performance by The sixteen, a choral group singing religious works from the 16th to the 21st century,sixteen astonishing soaring and uplifting stuff. Surely the triumph of the Festival. Afterwards to a cosy Edinburgh pub to plan the programme for tomorrow. A fairly typical day and one of the reasons I come back to the Festival year after year after year.


Kierkegaard – the comedy for philosophers

kierkegaard-comedy-show-with-claus-damgaard_31549A comedy about the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard?   Got some balls those Danish!  First they invade us with their Vikings, then their detective/crime novels and now their comedians.

Claus Damgaard is the Danish funnyman, appearing at C aquilla, up by the castle, in a deadly serious, deadly funny interpretation of Kierkegaard’s existentialist approach to love, relationships and the meaning of life.

Attracting the more cerebral of festival goers, I mean who the hell has heard of Kierkegaard outside of the university philosophy departments, it is none the less a very clever very witty and very rewarding hour of the kind of comedy that will challenge you when you stop laughing and maybe make you look something up about Kierkegaard.  Damgaard may well be the advance guard of a new wave of invasions form Denmark, this time by their comedians..

Edinburgh International Festival production of Hamlet.

Scott Shepherd in HamletI have not seen a more disappointing Hamlet.  Not in a mainstream theatre production, not even on the Fringe.  For a contribution to the Edinburgh International Festival this is dire stuff.   Actors making jerky movements in sympathy with a giant screening of the 1964 black and white film of Richard Burton playing Hamlet on Broadway.   Its an American production by the influential New York based Wooster Group.   They should have kept it in America.. Distracting.  Irritating.  It was performed like a cheap re-mastered DVD with a dodgy soundtrack, bought from an Edinburgh charity shop.   In fact if you did buy such a DVD you could at least return it to the charity shop and demand your money back.  Ugh!

Milton Jones at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival

mjones250Milton Jones? Surely an unlikely name.  Welsh I think.  Jones the poet perhaps.  If he writes poetry then you would have to buy it, for what he does with words, the associations between words, and the pauses between words, already makes him the laureate of comedy.  You would just have to read his poems.

His show at the Assembly Hall on the Mound is a delight of one liners and delayed action jokes that sneak up on you a few seconds after the punch line.  I could not recommend it more; he was sharing his wit with us rather than shouting it at us.  There was a great moment of heckling when a Scot called him an English Blaggard,   the audience took a collective intake of breath… “calm down” he said,” let me handle this”  He looked the heckler straight in the eye and said “shut up”

Only an affectionate wit could get away with it.  Oh yes, one other thing.   For the whole hour there was not a single use of expletives, not an F*** or a C*** or a W***** to be heard; and no sexually explicit gags or even overtly sexual innuendos.   Contrast it with Carr, reviewed here.   Milton was back to Brit humour at its finest.

You all Know Me – I’m Jack Ruby Fringe review

you-all-know-me-i-m-jack-ruby_30097Jack Ruby was a streetwise confident tough guy, knew his way, in the world of nightclubs and burlesque. He was a patriot, loved America, loved the buzz of it, the embrace of it. He was a charmer, could have been, should have been a politician, he would engage you with his smile, you would find him interesting and affable, but you would know, because he ran nightclubs, not to mess with him.

Clifford Barry brings him to life. He starts tough, friendly, confident. And he crumbles before our eyes. We meet him in Dallas County Jail, arrested for the shooting of Harvey Oswald. He is lost, losing it, his tough guy streetwise veneer is fragile, begins to peel. He does not understand the enormity of his crime, he becomes deferential, his voice now more plaintiff, his charm and smile cracking into despair.

He protests at being labelled a mobster, about the alleged links to organised crime, He’s just a guy, an American, a patriot. The pressure is wrecking his thought process he is becoming manifestly ill and he falls further and further apart.

This is a tour de force by Barry. He tells the story to his prison guard Mr. Stevenson. You are convinced Mr. Stevenson is standing right behind you; you are witnessing the conversation, part of the conversation, utterly locked into the performance.

You want to write? You want to Act? This is a master class.

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NIRBHAYA means in the Hindu language, Fearless one. It is the pseudonym used by the article-2385308-1B2C17EF000005DC-529_634x498Indian Press to identify the victim of an outrageous gang rape and murder carried out on a Delhi Bus as it traversed across the city.

Now it is the name of a play, a theatrical production, dramatising the story of the Rape.

Consciousness raising theatre, social commentary theatre, political theatre is commonly about some neglected injustice needing a voice; some unexplored corner of a controversy that demands investigation; some hidden hypocrisy that needs to be de-hypocritised. But frankly, if you need this graphic dramatic theatrical recreation of the gang rape, to become disgusted, outraged and angry at what occurred in Delhi, then you need to get out a bit more.

Most women in Delhi, in India, did not need a simulated theatrical re-creation of the horrors of the rape to be outraged. They came on to the streets in millions. They fought battles with riot police, they demanded political change. They forced onto the statute books of Indian, new laws, new rules of evidence and the death penalty for rape.

This then is exploitative theatre. There was no story out of India, or indeed anywhere else, as horrific, as outrageous or as offensive to women as that of the Fearless one. She was made the International Woman of Courage by the U.S. State Department.

Why then do we need a graphic theatrical re-creation of the rape? To raise up the voice of women? To condemn rapists\? All of that, and more, was achieved, is being achieved by the horror of her ordeal, which touched and outraged the world.

So if the theatrical production is not raising consciousness, as did Nirbhaya’s Ordeal, if it is not highlighting the macho culture of India, as did Nirbhaya’s ordeal, if it not condemning the violence of men towards women or the low status of Indian women or the inequality of Indian women, as did Nirbhaya’s ordeal, then why recreate it, even if it be done superbly well as it is so here, then why recreate it, in all its internal horrors, on an Edinburgh stage

Check out the CONTENTS page for more bits and pieces