Festival Theatre LITTLE GEM Tale of three generations of Irish women leads to theatrical Groundhog Day ●●●●●
Here’s a tale of three much put-upon Dublin working folk, each with parallel monologues about a series of bawdy, tragic and sometimes comic events they all share in. Again. The problem with Eileen Murphy’s
account of three generations of women in a Dublin family is that the ground has been covered so often that you no longer feel much effect. Murphy’s script, in fairness, features some nice comic moments, and there’s a certain warmth amidst the general Conor McPherson-lite genre play feel, but at about 105 minutes it’s long enough to bring contemplation of how you’ll spend your retirement when you leave. The story of a mother, daughter and granddaughter and their scrapes with mortality, birth and abandonment is very nicely performed by all three hands, with a genuine comic highlight being Anita Reeves’ grandmother’s description of her first encounter with a vibrator. But, unlike the device in question, a quicker climax might have been more satisfactory. (Steve Cramer) ■ Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 30 Aug (not 17, 24), times vary, £14–£16 (£10–£11).
KILLING ALAN Sir Gawain gets a modern makeover ●●●●●
Anyone unfamiliar with the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight may be a little lost when watching Killing Alan, in which theatre group Rough Fiction transposes the Arthurian story to modern times. Indeed, the first third of the play is baffling, its hastiness to set the scene meaning there’s little clarification of events until around 20 minutes in. But once its performers are settled into their multitudinous roles, the tale begins to take mesmerising shape. After a heated argument, super-rich Dale lets his brother Alan stab him on the condition that he can return the gesture in a year’s time. Through a combination of physical theatre and
puppetry, Alan’s outlook on life and his desire to keep his word is tested in the run-up to that day. Its modern setting doesn’t quite ring true and the action is overburdened by set changes. Yet, as the plot progresses, Killing Alan reveals itself to be an intriguing meditation on the value of honour in society and a production that has the potential to be very fulfilling, if a tad indulgent. (Yasmin Sulaiman) ■ Underbelly, 0844 545 8252, until 30 Aug (not 18), 4.40pm, £6.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50).
PARTY Thrusting politicos, talented comics ●●●●● Seemingly unlike the vast majority of politicians in this country, Tom Basden
is a truly honourable man. Having written this tight and hilarious comic play about a gaggle of diverse characters fumbling their way around the formation of a new political party, he has somewhat kindly given all the
THE TARTUFFE Belt Up makes the impossible possible ●●●●●
Belt Up’s immersive Red Room programme was among the most exciting events at last year’s Fringe. Even sharing a line-up with six other highly praised productions, The Tartuffe managed to stand out. The 2009 version is even better. The great (and immodest) French actor Orgon Poquelin and his company
have left behind the plush decadence of the Red Room for a squat in a dilapidated wing of C Soco. The audience joins them, seated on a motley assortment of mattresses, bedsteads and sofas. Here the players – actors playing actors playing characters, like meta-theatrical Russian dolls – perform the story of Orgon’s humiliation at the hands of the conman Tartuffe. Or rather, they skip, stutter and scrape through the story, interrupted at every turn by missed cues, prima donna mime artists and Orgon’s titanic ego.
The production – and the production within the production – runs on glorious, unfettered anarchy. Orgon’s company are as much at war with one another as the family they’re meant to be playing, indulging in playground one-upmanship that climaxes in the most elaborate postmodern mime battle royale ever seen on stage. Gratuitous violence, foul language and near-pornographic filth abound. Mime, straight acting, kabuki and street performance are brought out, dusted off, tried on, sent up and discarded again. Crimes against the fourth wall include offstage players commentating from the audience and constant pop culture references to everything from the Fringe to American Beauty via The Lion King and The Matrix.
But most impressive of all, the audience at The Tartuffe appears willing – even eager – to take part, practically leaping off their sofas to join the cast, beaming all over their faces. Crossing the fourth wall into the audience is one thing. Getting the audience to volunteer to cross back? Now that’s unprecedented. (Matt Boothman) ■ C Soco, 0845 260 1234, until 31 Aug, 8.55pm, £9.50–£11.50 (£8.50–£10.50).
68 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 13–20 Aug 2009
best lines and sharpest moves to his fellow performers. But little wonder when he has the expansive talents of Tim Key, Anna Crilly, Jonny Sweet and Katy Wix to call on; and they take up the offer with relish and gusto. Believing that he has been invited to
an actual party, Duncan (Key) erroneously drops in on a debating chamber of young thrusting politicos who are trying in their own argumentative and gently corrupting way to change the world. What could have been a hectoring state-of-the- nation-hour thankfully loosens up and lets the quintet shift into full-on comic mode. There, they greedily swallow the deft language and spit out the many pay-offs as they vote on leader, a party name and whether China is a good thing. (Brian Donaldson) ■ Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 31 Aug (not 17), 2.25pm, £11–£12 (£10–£11).
THE INTERMINABLE SUICIDE OF GREGORY CHURCH Epistolary tale is an exhilarating experience ●●●●●
Old, forgotten, secret and hidden stuff all push Daniel Kitson’s buttons. It’s one of the reasons why he’s ‘an inveterate emotional hoarder’ and won’t throw away mementoes and decades-old love letters. The comedian and playwright also loves glimpsed lives; fleeting snapshots of someone’s routine, as it allows for projection of whatever heroic, romantic or tragic back-story he wants. So when Kitson finds an attic full of boxes of letters while househunting, his mind starts racing. This 90-minute monologue pieces together the rewound life of Gregory Church, who began typing suicide letters 24 years before he died. Key Kitson themes recur: cherished friendships, unrequited affection, razor-sharp rants against the media, and these are acted out through ‘the derogatory bombasts’, officious complaints and tender confessions that Church types.
Just as Kitson finds sifting through
over 30,000 letters an ‘exciting, nourishing and comforting’ process, his breathless, detailed, verbose delivery, which gathers pace towards its soaring finale, is an exhilarating experience for the audience. As details emerge, stories intertwine and revelations unfold, Kitson’s genius emerges, once again. Interminably talented, and staggeringly good. (Claire Sawers) ■ Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 30 Aug (not 17, 24, 29), 10.15pm, £14–£16 (£10–£11).