3D Hamlet: A Lost Generation
theSpaces on the Mile (Venue 39b)
3 stars ***
IF ATTENTION-GRABBING gimmicks were stars and awards, then this ambitious New York show, crammed into a tiny space at the Radisson Hotel, would be one of the most celebrated shows in Edinburgh this year. Ruthlessly cut to just sixty minutes, this brisk version of Hamlet for our time features video footage of politicians and power-brokers in full flow, a rotating cast of actors which this week includes the legendary Linda Marlowe, filmed sequences featuring actors as famous as Alex Baldwin, who plays the Ghost, and a selective use of 3D goggles, which give the audience a special perspective on the filmed version of the Mousetrap play, in which Hamlet tries to catch the conscience of his murderous uncle.
In the end, though, Shakespeare is all about the actor and the poetry; and although this Fundamental Theater Project company make a decent job of presenting the highlights of Shakespeare’s drama, and emphasising the alienation of a younger generation from the corruption and power-hunger of their elders, it’s difficult to perceive it as much more than a drastically cut rep theatre production of a very familiar play, dressed up with layers of trickery that, in the end, add surprisingly little to the story.
Until 27 August
C soco (Venue 348)
4 stars ****
ITS FORM is strange, and only partly theatrical; its subject is one of the most difficult on earth. For those seeking to understand the forces that drive suicide bombers to commit their terrible acts of destruction, though, this new monologue from the Open Theater of Israel – written and performed by leading actress Anat Barzilay, and intercut with documentary-style filmed interviews with other characters in the story – offers a powerful speculation on the pressure experienced by one fictional suicide bomber, a 50-year-old woman called Samira.
Caught and interrogated by Israeli police after the partial failure of her suicide bombing, Samira seems like a rabbit caught in the headlights of their harsh and often obscene questioning, gradually forced to reveal the truth of a life in which she has been mistreated, excluded and despised by almost everyone she has encountered. Unable to give her husband any sons, treated with contempt by her all-powerful mother-in-law, denied the chance to study for which she yearned, confused by increasingly extreme religious teaching, and finally caught exchanging a shy kiss with a young academic who brings her books to read, Samira comes to regard herself a some kind of human trash, who can only be redeemed or forgiven through a spectacular act of martyrdom.
The play’s point – beautifully conveyed in both monologues and filmed interviews – is to suggest how extreme patriarchal family structures on one hand, and fundamentalist religious beliefs on the other, essentially destroy the possibility of moral behaviour, by constantly pressurising people to behave inhumanely as a matter of “honour”, and inviting them to seek glory in the next world, rather than to do good here on earth. At the end of the show, in a cinematic coup-de-theatre, the women on film simply remove their veils, as does Samira on stage; and the sense of transformation and liberation, seen in close up, is both startling, and deeply moving.
Until 29 August
Udderbelly’s Pasture (Venue 300)
3 stars ***
LIKE A POWERFUL, atmospheric footnote to TEAM of New York’s huge Fringe hit Mission Drift, this latest show from the Newbury-based but internationally-connected You Need Me company is set in a trailer park on the edge of Las Vegas, where illegal migrants from Mexico compete with poor white people for scarce, badly-paid work, and the rule of law hardly applies. Seen from the perspective of a girl on the verge of puberty whose father is an illegal migrant – and using every dramatic square inch of a small, conventional studio theatre space, including the aisles and the back rows beside the lighting box – the story involves a love-affair between the father and an American girl which ends in furious violence, when he realises that while he has been distracted by his new love, his daughter has begun a relationship behind his back.
In the end, Death Song never achieves a clear enough focus to full justice to the steamy, threatening atmosphere it creates. It touches on themes of migration, child abuse, teenage alienation, violent crime and the death penalty, without fully committing itself to any one of them. At its best, though, it features some memorably powerful acting; and brings to the Fringe a strong and angry Latino voice, the voice of an emerging America that is rarely heard at all in British theatre, least of all in Edinburgh in August.
Until 28 August
Hill Street Theatre (Venue 41)
3 stars ***
IF YOU’RE looking for a well-turned-out, laugh-a-minute late-evening sitcom to send you home happy after a day on the Fringe, then you could do much worse than show up at Hill Street for this latest show from Edinburgh’s startlingly gifted young company, Strangetown. Written by Tim Primrose (who also directs) with Sam Suggs, Hex is a deft 50-minute joke of a play that makes no claim to great substance or deeper meaning. Toby and Siobhan are a slightly creepy young married couple whose perfectly-furnished home harbours a Shop-Of-Horrors-type secret; Gwen is a new-age therapist who arrives to try and deal with the problem, along with her hilariously tact-free sidekick and lover, a peculiar girl known as Six.
What’s striking about the show, though, is its rare combination of near-perfect dramatic structure and pitch-perfect performance, with all four young actors achieving some superb, deadpan comic timing, and just the right note of slightly desperate hyper-realism, shading into black farce. There are plenty of good one-line jokes, and an all-round demonstration of theatrical skill that promises great things for this company’s future; and if I tell you that after this show, you’ll never feel quite the same again about the ubiquitous “sofa play” set in someone’s living room, I’m not betraying enough of the plot to spoil the fun.
Until 29 August