The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Week One
During August, Edinburgh hosts the largest arts festival in the world. Throughout the month, we'll be reviewing shows that we think might be of interest to our readers; here are our impressions of the first shows we saw
Love Child – Until 27 August, 13:15, Gilded Balloon Teviot
Reviewed by Rowena McIntosh
Love Child has not been blessed with one of the finer of the Fringe Festival venues. Any seasoned Edinburgh-goer will be familiar with the tradition of shows being held in every available nook and cranny but on top of this, the production was unfortunately right next to what felt like two of the noisiest shows in the Fringe. However, whilst the hip-hop and loud show tunes made it a little difficult to focus at times, Love Child was a great piece of two person theatre.
Billie (Anna Cheney) is a somewhat vacuous soap actor who is meeting her very bourgeois birth mother Anna (Chrissie Page) for the first time. What begins as Billie’s fanciful, gushing daydream of how the encounter will play out turns into a fairly fraught exchange. What ensues is a clash of minds, ideologies and emotions as Billie struggles to understand Anna’s apparent indifference to the nurturing ‘duties’ of women and Anna tries to reconcile her feminist principles with those that she perceives as lacking in her daughter. Brilliantly acted with a real chemistry between both women and cleverly subtle wit, Love Child looks pointedly at the continuums created, and interrupted, between generations of women.
More Light – Until 27 August, 19:15, C Eca
Reviewed by Hazel Robertson
Instead of ‘more light’, this beautifully scripted play begins with a dim spotlight, darkness and a blood-curdling scream in the late Japanese emperor’s tomb. Its inhabitants, his servile, near-identical concubines, begin the play wailing and terrified only to emerge as courageous and bright women who rule their own entombed empire. The seven strong group shed their robes and make up alongside their personal inhibitions and cultural bindings to survive in their new surroundings.
Reflecting on the sexual ‘art’ they were previously called on for, they now freely explore their talents as artists, creators, inventers, entertainers and bold survivors
More Light shows us the destruction of a male world, including the men within it, and the subsequent re-creation of an idyllic and, in parts, imaginary female domain. Reflecting on the sexual ‘art’ they were previously called on for, they now freely explore their talents as artists, creators, inventers, entertainers and bold survivors.
Ultimately, the darkness of the central figures in More Light grows murkier as their eyes adjust to their unravelling shadowy tomb and the casual brutality that is necessary for their survival.
Brilliantly written and well-performed by the young cast; overlooking a few first night technical jitters and a barren set, this is an interesting portrayal of women creating their own space.
25: 13 Red, 12 Blue – Until 27 August, 16:20, C Aquila
Reviewed by Alyson Macdonald
Featuring six 25-year-old characters who aren’t quite sure where they’re going in life, 25: 13 Red, 12 Blue comes across as a bit confused. There’s a compelling story about early-adulthood angst, but the party political angle played up in their advertising (the “13 Red, 12 Blue” in the title refers to years of Labour and Tory government) is mainly absent and some of the few political references feel tacked-on. Attempts to capture late-1990s/early-2000s nostalgia by covering the set with pictures of dated pop culture references and playing Britpop at the scene changes also seem forced, because there’s no link between these and the rest of the play.
There’s genuine humour in the portrayal of an internet troll, but I would have appreciated a clearer decision over whether Tim is a played-for-laughs Daily Mail reader, or actually mentally ill, because if the two are combined then it risks being offensive. The writers may also want to check how submariners’ families communicate with them, because they definitely can’t send letters.
This is a confident, well-performed and cleverly staged play, but I thought the script would benefit from more development. Middle Child Theatre has some good ideas, but they’re not quite there yet.
Words and Women – Until 25 August, 17:15, The Street
Reviewed by Hazel Robertson
Words and Women is a superb showcase of London’s young literary and acting talent. This free show by Skyers Productions consists of six monologues reflecting a broad spectrum of society: the schizophrenic 16-year-old, played impressively by Ambreen Azam; the proud owner of a hair salon devastated by the recession; the game-playing socialite; and the waitress on the eve of her wedding lamenting over her unfulfilled life plans.
Women and Words exemplifies what the Fringe is all about: fresh, young talent showcasing their work for free
There is an astounding diversity of women from different class backgrounds and representing diverse ages and races. The commonality between the characters is gender but this is not dwelled on. Instead, this is an hour-long montage of intricately drawn, beautifully played, fresh and truthful portraits of women in Britain.
People are drawn to the Fringe for its range and ethos: anyone can put on a show. Women and Words exemplifies what the Fringe is all about: fresh, young talent showcasing their work for free.
Still Life – Until 27 August, 17:15, Whitespace
Reviewed by Liz Ely
Still Life is a one-woman performance of the life of Henrietta Moraes, whose occupation, according to her obituary in the Observer, was as a ‘bohemian’. The show takes place in The White Space, a stark white art gallery, evocatively reeking of paint and wood. White performers have the privilege of not being forced to consider their ethnicity; however there was something about this staging which highlighted the white bourgeois nature of the art world.
The show itself was engrossing and innovative; the audience are given paper and pencils and invited to “draw as much or as little as they wish”. Henrietta’s life is superbly performed by Sue MacLaine through a series of expertly-held poses. The audience become artists, and the interplay between the audience as both audience and artist draws you into Henrietta’s world in a particularly active way. The audience are invited to take the male gaze and re-draw her body, but this time the usually silent model speaks. As a non-artist, there were elements of this show which I found alienating; despite this I found Still Life highly engaging and enjoyable.
Henrietta’s story brought to life the sad reality of occupying the ultimately passive role of artist’s muse. I would recommend Still Life, particularly to artists and anyone who enjoys life drawing.
Presidential Suite – Until 18 August, 19:25, C Eca
Reviewed by Hazel Robertson
Presidential Suite portrays the aftermath of sexual assault, borrowing from the real life event of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French former Director of the International Monetary Fund. In this version of events, the Socialist politician and his wife attempt to bribe the impoverished Haitian maid’s family and fabricate a different version of events.
This is a story that highlights the fragility of the justice system and the silencing inequality that intersects along race, gender and class lines
Presidential Suite is a straightforward, fast-flowing, heavily (and sometimes unsubtly) dialogued display of overlapping worlds: Hermione and her inexperienced but passionate and principled young lawyer versus Strauss, his long-suffering wife and his pompous attorney.
Early on, Hermione assumes that if she testifies, the truth will be undeniably established. Her naivety is befallen with depressing predictability: contrasting ‘his word against hers’ viewpoints; false alibis; character defamation; powerlessness and injustice.
This is a story that highlights the fragility of the justice system and the silencing inequality that intersects along race, gender and class lines. In the end, justice is still bought by the highest bidder but it just it so happens that the bidder is on the side of women who rarely get to see justice served.
The F-Word will be reviewing theatre in Edinburgh throughout August; look out for the next round-ups! Click on the name of any production to be taken to the official EdFringe site, with information about the show.
We also reviewed Dickens’ Women a little while ago, which is now showing in at Edinburgh Fringe. Click here to read it.
Photos are used with permission. The first photo is from Love Child. The second photo is taken a rehearsal photo from 25: 13 Red, 12 Blue. The third photo is Sue Maclain in Still Life, photo by Matthew Andrews.