Steve Larkin’s retelling of Tess of the D’Ubervilles – George Square Underbelly

tesYou get a bit nervous when there are only a dozen or so people queuing for your chosen show. Great flows of festival folk are streaming past to go to something much more popular at a much bigger venue just round the corner, and you wonder, have I made a mistake here?
But what happened inside the small dark theatre at the George Square Underbelly was so powerful that any doubts were quickly set aside as you become completely absorbed in Steve Larkin’s brilliant prose and powerful poems as he re-imagines Hardy’s Tess of the D’Ubervilles, taking it away from the West country to the North East of England, to Newcastle and to Leeds, in a dark contemporary recreation of the Hardy tragedy.
He catches you by your emotional nerve ends and doesn’t let go for the hour or so of astonishingly good story telling. It may have gone on for slightly too long, but a small price to pay for a proper good festival theatrical experience. I shall seek out more of this bloke.

Sam Simmons – Spaghetti for Breakfast – Underbelly at Potterrow

1381-Sam_Simmons_Spaghetti_for_Breakfast_511_274_60_c1Sam Simmons is billed as being weird, surreal, absurdist and producing comedy that feels like it was created while drunk on absinthe. It’s a billing that is pulling in the festival audiences up at the Potterrow Uunderbelly but I suspect quite a lot of them, like me, leave thinking that was basically a load of over billed Australian crap.
He uses one of those head mounted microphones favoured by the likes of Madonna, really trendy. How weird is that? He shouts a lot and swears a lot. How surreal is that? He doesn’t tell too many jokes, now that is weird and he insults and exploits members of the audience sitting in the first two rows. How absinthian is that?
Shouting and swearing a lot is, I am told, a trait common amongst Australians. Not unknown amongst Brits. Even been heard of in Ireland. To make it on the fringe you have to work on your shouting and swearing. As we all know if you say “fuck” a lot then that’s very very funny. If you shout “fuck”, well, the louder you shout it the funnier it sounds. That’s the core value, the central structure around which he builds his act. Oh yeah, the other word he shouts a lot is “shit” Another key element of the shows structure.
The show was dire. There are a probably a couple of swear words that could be used to properly describe it but I wouldn’t want infringe his copyright.
We have had weird surreal absurdest comedians before. The best of them was in fact Anglo-Irish being none other than Spike Milligan. He really merited such a billing.

Titus Andronicus: An all female cast at the Edinburgh Fringe

titus andronicusTitus and Andronicus by an all-female cast looked intriguing. All that assassination, murder, ravishing of virgins, maternal betrayal, slicing off of hands and the tearing out of tongues, feasting a father on the flesh of his children, lots of revenge and corruption – all performed by a female cast. Could be fun.
But this was awful. Firstly they killed, cut, sliced and stabbed each other not with daggers or swords, perhaps they are too phallic, but with paint brushes. I am sure there is some deep symbolism about this which has escaped me, but it was very odd, perhaps it was decorative, possibly reinforced in a later scene when ferocious spear carriers appeared armed with long handled paint rollers.
The lighting was terrible. i checked twice that my glasses were clean. At time it was as if we were viewing the production through a slight mist, not at all helped by the set, comprising as it does of great white translucent plastic boards.
I am afraid the acting was very sixth formish. Women’s voices, or at least these women’s voices, do not have the range and scale required for such terrible drama and there was a drone like similarity in the sound of these daughters of the middle classes.
In the end I didn’t see the point of an all-female production It lacked the visceral power of the performance last year by Hirath Artistic Productions and in truth it’s a bit of an indulgence. They are welcome to it.

At the Pleasance Dome

August 2015