Friday, August 28, 2015

Last night, a dance show. Ballet Zurich, to to precise. Part of the EIF programme.  

The first piece was nice. Very nice. Although they should have put a warning up at the entrance to the theatre on account of lighting of significant duration which could easily have inspired an epileptic fit. If you made it through that, the costumes covered modesty, the movement was wonderful and the music was wonderful Max's Four Seasons

The next piece.Oh ho.

A lady of restricted growth stood on a low raised platform in knickerbockers and spoke in French. Spoke excellently, to be fair. With wit, wry observation, irony and scorn in spadeloads. But as she just seemed to be going on - and on - (before I knew!) about relationships and ladies scorning her, I was left unmoved. Captions projected onto the back cloth provided a translation of what I subsequently understood to be Shakespeare's sonnets.

A woman in a long burgundy dress wriggled around at the other side of the stage, taunting the poet. 

It was all moodily lit. A sorrowful looking young man gazed at us from a loads of shades of grey backcloth. There was distant ominous discordant music that sometimes almost sounded like something you recognised. Sometimes a dog barked.

Some dancers hurried on. The men in pants and short jewel coloured jackets. The women had lovely structured jewel coloured leotards. I wished I could have the jade green one - though I don't suppose I'd get much use out of it on a daily basis. 

A series of low platforms were lying around and the dancers picked these up and dragged them about the stage with them. The knickerbocker lady and the burgundy dress (which seemed to get longer and longer as the show went on) lady ran about inbetween them. 

Everyone ran about.

The girls came back on in beautiful black tutus. I coveted them. 

They ran around some more. All of them. The dancers. The burgundy dress. The knickerbockers. The sonnet pronouncer continued to pronounce. The dancers continued to run.

It stopped.

Everyone clapped a lot.

The lights relit the auditorium. "My goodness, I thought that was wonderful," said BS. "It really moved me."

The heathen savage with cotton wool for a brain and a heart that beat courtesy of electricity rather than deeply felt surging human emotion and BS left the theatre and went home. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The final week is upon us. And I've seen some pretty excellent stuff.

I expected great things from Grid Iron's Light Boxes but, whilst incredibly beautiful and incredibly well "dressed", the story was - well, perhaps just a story that didn't benefit from told in a linear form. Or not in an hour and (blessedly) ten (rather than the billed twenty by the time I got to see it) minutes. Or maybe just a bit of a weird jumbly story. I wouldn't be rushing back to see that again.

In a heartbeat, I would rush back to see Max Richter's Four Seasons played exquisitely by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and a wonderful floppy haired violinist. They played another piece too with which I was not familiar and to my great chagrin, took some small naps during. (Yes, Michael, the leopard does not change, not even in the Fringe. But I did stay wide awake and alert for both of your plays!) All the more reason to go and see it again but unfortunately, it was on for one night only at the Playhouse. So that'll be me. I shall go hunt a recording.

I would also rush back to see a chap called Jamie Wood performing a truly marvellous parody of Yoko Ono's art and approach to life. O No! is on at Assembly Roxy until the weekend. It's a little eccentric, a lot funny and full of heart. It contained one of the most beautiful (and let's not be pretentious but I feel compelled to say "truthful") moments I've seen on stage all Fringe. Just incredible. That / he and his torch-lit giant gym ball is well worth a look. 

Jon Cozart came about entirely thanks to Miriam as I wouldn't have known such a man existed otherwise. And - as you'll be able to tell from this vaguely teenage rapture, I thought he was wonderful. Very witty and smart and perspicacious.

I loved A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing too, though it's hard-going. But it's one of the best - and probably the hardest won - performances I've seen this Fringe.  


Friday, August 21, 2015

Two nights. Two excellent shows.

Antigone at the King's Theatre. An International Festival production. Very expensive looking. A strange, slightly mannered adaptation. (Why not use Owen McCafferty's very human script??) A brilliant cast. (I found myself puzzling over where Juliette Binoche could be staying - and what her hotel bill must be. Always a sign of a good show.) A spectacular set. Great lights. Brooding sound. All in all, a stunning production. I had a hundred small niggles - which may have been intended to have this effect. As some have yet to see it, I'll keep these in my heart. But overwhelmingly, I was left unmoved. Too much polish and gloss, perhaps? Bring back the (inhospitable) Quaker Meeting House and the stalker and our last minute save the day hero Antigone (thank you, Karen!) and our story that meant something. To me, anyway.

Last night, a show with a fraction of the budget. Arkle's production of a cracking new script called Bakersfield Mist. The tale of a lady who lives in a trailer park in small town California and seeks expert authentication of her (is it isn't it?) Jackson Pollock. Stories like this are loved by theatre audiences. We get to do our two favourite things. Watch people prank around telling a story. And reflect on how great we are to also appreciate other art forms. What fine, well-rounded, culturally-sensitive people we are.

But (as with Yasmina Reza's Art) this script bursts the bubble a little bit and questions which is more sensible, the lady who knows a little ("more than you think") about art or the man who's spent his life enslaved to art. Lots of questions and the sort of play that left us rooted to our seats at the close, wishing that the ending had been different (but couldn't?? shouldn't??). Really great stuff.

The script shone but so did these actors.  Cards on the table, I know them both. But I don't believe that biased me too much. Hazel Eadie as trailer / Pollock owner Maud is wonderful, with that rare quality in an actor which makes an audience root for her from very early on. So although she's foul-mouthed and swilling JD with abandon and dressed to expose her sunburn and - yes, you might almost say she is just an ordinary lady - you really want to dart up on stage and give her a hug for the unfairnesses that life has thrown her way.

And then there's Ian Aldred as Lionel Percy, the art expert despatched to the back end of beyond to authenticate the painting. You feel he's possibly never set foot in a temporary (for 32 years) home. You know he's willing the painting to be a fake from the outset. Dripping with scorn and disdain and what am I doing he, he prowls about Maud's home like a man who hasn't spent more than a day worrying about anything that isn't worth millions of dollars in his life.  

They're brilliant. Totally at ease with their gigantic amount of words, with their characters, with the twisty turny story. The set is spot on. A fraction of the cost of Antigone's set but entirely does what it's meant to. (The Disney print is wonderful.) The lights as they should be. The sound, including snarling dogs, just right. It was a delight.

So there was that. An exceptionally reasonable £12 for the ticket. Versus the millions of pounds budget lavished on my £18 restricted view ticket to Antigone in the EIF. I love it when so-called amateurs get it right. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pleased this one got printed. It's a fantastically put together monologue and a gripping story. 

And this is a trimmed version of this review. I possibly spent rather too much time talking about how amazing her voice is. But it is - oh my, it is. I'm impressed enough to seek out her evening show.
I'm not missing the show.

I didn't listen to the soundtrack on repeat on Monday night as I tried to return my flat to some semblance of order. (Still haven't managed it.)

I didn't smile warmly at Paulina's unworn (too big!) pants as I took them out of the washing machine and hung them up to dry. 

(That's right. I didn't - repeat did not - smile at a pair of pants.) 

I didn't feel a flicker and flash of rage when someone told me they were taking an afternoon off work to go fringe-ing. (Why isn't that me??)

I didn't eagerly try and involve any passing (last week's) audience member in all the detailed debate about who dunnit (if anyone did anything bad) in Death and the Maiden. Of course they're not locked in a timewarp so if I had done that, maybe they didn't have much to say.

I didn't hear Roberto Miranda speaking to me in the shower. "I dream with her. I dream with all these women." (That's a misquote but you get the sense of it.) and holler in my head "but what does that mean??" And why won't I ever hear it in that eery black spotlit dark again.

I don't think wistfully of Gerardo shaking Paulina like a rag doll (I don't advocate this kind of behaviour for the record) asking if she wanted him to leave her - is that what she wanted? And her little broken "no". 

Luckily, I don't miss any of these things and am plodding on with normal life, having taken off the pause button.  Isn't it just great???

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Friday night. Show time. Actors are doing their thing extra brilliantly. Scene changes all slick and perfect. Lighting perfect. Sound perfect. I sit at the sound desk at the back of the auditorium smugly congratulating myself for hitting all the right buttons at all the right times. I'm so great. What a breeze this is. Why do I ever fear doing sound? And then suddenly I hear - 


And I think:
"Shit! It's me! Isn't it?!"

I hit play.
Chris speaks instantly from the tape recorder. 
The actors stutter a bit and then continue with their lines.

I look at the script.
I look at the stage.
I realise - too late - that Roberto hasn't signed the confession. Paulina hasn't gathered up the pages in her hands, shuffled them, nodded her satisfaction to Gerardo. The tape hasn't been stopped, taken out of the cassette player, a new tape inserted, play is pressed and THEN Roberto speaks. 

I feel a little like you would surely feel if you could actually rewrite history. A sinister time-leaping puppet master. 


I shall try for a perfect final night's performance tonight. Though then again, why tarnish my track record?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

We're three nights in and have three to go.

I'll admit to feeling some small anxieties before we started about the quantity of prompts flying across the fourth wall. But it seems that the actors were just tricking me and they're actually coping with a masterful aplomb with being live and promptness. There's some fluffery for sure but no catastrophe. (As yet.) And they're all acting astonishingly beautifully. I shouldn't say they get better each night as tonight, then, the bubble will burst. But to date, this holds true. The miracle of having an audience. 

The technical side of things on the other hand could do better. I say this comfortable in the knowledge that I have only myself to blame. I'm on the sound desk and also responsible for cueing the lights.

On the first night, I started the show way too soon. No actor was ready to come on stage. So three cars arrived, two car doors banged, three car headlights roved over the stage and a shot was (accidentally) fired before anyone set foot on stage. I'm sure it added to the overall sense of menace - or totally disorientated the audience. So the reviewer was being kind when she spoke about first night hitches. Unless we were producing a play about gang warfare. Also, the actors choked on my noodle-ridden chicken soup. Lesson learnt. 

Tuesday night, I started the show way too soon AGAIN (with fewer SFX but the same absentee actor problem) and the projector / camera sequence failed. 

Last night, we had to make an emergency change to the set when an audience member turned out to be allergic to a peace lily, I was trigger happy with my SFX and played "tape recorded" things several times before the appropriate character had "pressed play" and we had a bit of a strange botched curtain call.

But people don't come and see SFX. They come to see people and (from what I can see) the cast are getting a lot of love and debate and discussion only over the director's poor decision making. Which is well deserved as they continue to work and work on the lines. Hats off to them. 

Three nights to go, one of which features the reviewers for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for which we've been long listed. Wish us continuing luck. 

Friday, August 07, 2015

Wow. Liam. Thank you very much.

It helps, of course, that Judith has taken such excellent photos that people want to run them. 

Richard is a lovely man. He has a day job. I think he's very smart. He has a wife, children and grandchildren. He seems to be one of these people that loves spending time with his family. Or he does a good job of acting like it. And he does sound design.

He very kindly consented to being drafted in for this one. He came along to a rehearsal on Wednesday and recorded some wee bits and pieces as suggested / demanded by the script. And he told a tale of having been on holiday in Canada and hearing Jerusalem played over some sound system. At Bard on the Beach in - can't remember the place name but somewhere with a beach that does Shakespeare in the summer in two tents by the sea.

And despite the fact that he was there to watch King Lear and Richard 3, he was catapulted back to our Jerusalem (Ross and Emma's Jerusalem) and his fancy dancy mixing of some house track with a choir singing the title song. And he was clearly chuffed to bits remembering it. And I can still remember waiting in the wings in the heady dark to go on for the curtain call and the hairs on the back of your neck would creep up at the sound of it all mashed up together. A magic moment.

I'm at that most waking moments when I'm not working are devoted to the show stage. And opening night approaches and the to do list doesn't seem to be getting smaller.

But I suspect (come on now, I know, or else I wouldn't do it) that come next week (still in denial - it's not three days away - it's a whole week away!), I'll sit in the dark of the auditorium, hands shaking over my laptop praying I hit the right button at the right time, and the thing that Richard mixed together for me to which I have just listened and it made me (over tired) want to weep, will play out into the auditorium in the dark and I wouldn't be anywhere else in the world.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

So the Fringe has - sort of - unobtrusively - started. How ever did that happen?

My to do list is sure to start shrinking any minute now.