Daily Archives: August 21, 2012

Script In Hand

THEATRE
Script In Hand
3 stars ***
Summerhall (Venue 26)

IT BEGINS SO well, this new two-hander from the Piece Of Work company of Manchester. In a suitably old-fashioned Summerhall lecture theatre, a man in a mid 20th century tweed suit is preparing to face the day; behind him sits an old-style wooden radio, crackling out news of the 1930’s.

The story, it seems, is to be about the fascinating figure of Paul Renner, artist, typographer, and creator of the great futura typeface, who was forced into internal exile by the Nazis after they decided that only traditional Gothic type was sufficiently patriotic and German; there are some gorgeous animations by Andy Cooper, reflecting this aspect of the story.

Within ten minutes, though, Sean Gregory’s show – beautifully performed by Paul Warriner and Stewart Lockwood – starts to tail off into a ridiculous whinge about the experiences of an actor called Toby Williams, playing Renner in a London production, who is cruelly robbed of all his lines and silenced, rather – he thinks – like his hero. It’s a silly, self-absorbed analogy at best; and the fact that no-one involved realised just how tasteless it is undermines every other aspect of this potentially interesting show, despite some fine design and acting.

Joyce McMillan
Until 18 August
p. 317

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The Silencer

THEATRE
The Silencer – David Calvitto
3 stars ***
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

DAVID CALVITTO of New York is one of the most admired and acclaimed solo actors on the Edinburgh Fringe; and he certainy sets himself a tough challenge in this new monologue by Rachel Neuburger, set out there in the badlands where those who are still single over 30 – or 40, or even 50 – try to find love through online dating sites. Lurking behind the play is the near-universal fear that anyone who is still single in middle life must be weird, impossible, or seriously disturbed; and the character Calvitto develops through this one-hour soliloquy gradually morphs before our eyes from a decent fortysomething guy just looking for a partner – and encountering some very strange women along the way – into something much more sinister.

It’s a fine and chilling performance, brilliantly directed by Michael Sexton of NY Public Theater. In the end, though, it’s surprisingly hard to feel that it carries any real meaning, beyond a fashionable fascination with the ultimate act of violence. Because people looking for love in their forties are not all nuts; and the purpose of art is to do something more radical than reinforce the kinds of fears nurtured by the junk media, every day of our lives.

Joyce McMillan
Until 26 August
p. 319

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Villa + Discurso

EIF THEATRE
Villa and Discurso
4 stars ****
The Hub

IT’S ALMOST four decades since the coup d’etat that removed the elected left-wing government of Chile from office, and condemned many of its supporters to torture, imprisonment and “disappearance” at the hands of the Chilean military. Yet in the fabric of Chilean society, the divisions between left and right remain almost as bitter as ever; and the young Chilean writer and theatre director Guillermo Calderon has now emerged as one of the leading creative forces in exposing that wound to the light, and seeking to understand it.

In this impassioned diptych of plays for three female actors, Calderon first imagines a conversation among three children of the tortured, thirty years on, who have been asked to decide what to do with the Villa, the notorious building where dissidents were tortured during the Pinochet regime. It’s a simple question, reconstruction or museum; but over 75 intense minutes, the actors Francisca Lewin, Carla Romero and Macarena Zamudio use it explore every dimension of the legacy of torture.

The second and shorter piece, Discurso, imagines a searingly honest farewell speech that might have been given by Chile’s first left-wing President in a generation, Michelle Bachelet, on the day in 2010 when she stepped down from office. Speaking through the voices of three and eventually four different actors, Calderon’s imagined Bachelet abandons the language of diplomacy to make clear her horror of the political right, their attitudes and ideology.

She is, though, also a nice woman, who does not seek vengeance, and wants to stand as a symbol of love, and of the possibility of a better way. In a sense, Calderon seems to find her efforts comic, as well as tragic; but his superb poem for three voices captures something of the profound contradictions facing a good person in politics, in an age when the ideal of socialism once embraced by Bachelet and her generation is all but dead.

Joyce McMillan
Until 21 August
EIF p. 17

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Theatre Tasters

THEATRE
Theatre Tasters
3 stars ***
Laughing Horse@ThePhoenix (Venue 146)

FIST, LET’S get a few things clear. Flavia D’Avila of the Fronteiras Theatre Lab is a young Edinburgh-based theatre director of great character and talent. She has been living in the city for more than half a decade. She not only has a strong moral right to be here, as a free woman in a free world, but makes a contribution to Scottish society that should have us begging her to stay. Thanks to the mean-minded idiocy of Britain’s immigration rules, though, she has actually been told that she may be required to leave the country if she cannot demonstrate a capacity to win five-star reviews for her show on the Fringe.

Well, Flavia’s show is not worth five stars. Staged in a tiny basement room at the Phoenix, it consists of three potentially interesting plays bursting out of the space available. The first is an Australian monologue about a prisoner offering a guided tour of his jail, delivered in a barely-audible whisper. The second is a strong Scottish play by Heather Irvine about attitudes to care for the elderly, slightly spoiled by some strange and distracting staging decisions. The third is a witty Norwegian number about the culture of staff training in a global coffee franchise, performed with pzazz and without subtlety.

Here’s something else that should be clear, though. Flavia D’Avila is a young artist who has a right to fail, or to succeed only in part, without having her life smashed up as punishment. And if the UK Borders Agency tries to deport Flavia because of the three stars at the top of this review, it will have me to deal with first.

Joyce McMillan
Until 19 August
p. 327

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