Festival Theatre LUCK Flashing, pinging, breathless Las Vegas confessional ●●●●●
Megan Riordan is Lady Luck. Her act is based on her experiences as the daughter of a professional Vegas gambler, and it’s a flashing, pinging, breathless whirlwind of a ride as Megan leaps around the stage (and the venue), driven from one game to the next by the relentless bing! of the sound-system. To determine which anecdote, which
dance, which bite-sized gambler’s philosophy comes next, the audience (some of us seated at baize-covered tables in the front row) toss coins and spin roulette wheels, the results corresponding to options projected onto a screen. In a way, the course of this alternative confessional is unpredictable, but the overwhelming numbers of options are probably deceptive. Our coin, for example, fell on ‘complex’ rather than ‘basic’ vocabulary, but one suspects that the two are similar. That’s not necessarily a weakness,
though. Riordan is a compelling performer, and with the constant bombardment of media, the frantic rush from one flashing, dashing game to the next, the obsessive compulsive drive to get somewhere, only to end up nowhere, Luck is pretty much on the money as an introduction to Vegas culture. (Lizzie Mitchell) ■ Underbelly’s Hullabaloo, 0844 545 8252, until 31 Aug (not 17), 8.10pm, £9.50–£10.50.
LOSING SUSAN Unpolished but moving Alzheimer’s drama ●●●●●
Susan is losing it. There are four sprites dressed in punk exercise wear behind the sofa, and every five minutes or so (dramatic time) they emerge to remind her, in wicked, hissing voices and with malevolent experimental dance moves, that her memory and her sanity are on the way out. As the play progresses and Alzheimer’s tightens its grip, her family too begin to encounter the sprites, whose voices are now those of psychiatrists and health-workers. This is disease drama at its most
The Renaissance style of this production marries iambic pentameter form with contemporary language and issues in an engaging fusion of tradition and modernity. Competent performances carry the challenging material, but occasionally rapid delivery can make the plot difficult to follow. If you can keep up, however, the debates raised by this bold piece of theatre will linger with you long after the show has ended. (Amy Russell) ■ New Town Theatre, 0844 477 1000, until 30 Aug (not 17, 24), 2.45pm, £10–£12 (£8–£10).
BEACHY HEAD Suicide brings on many changes ●●●●●
basic. It’s an unsophisticated tear- jerker of a script, unhampered by nuance or deviation. There’s also much to be skeptical about in the production, which it would be misleading to describe as anything much above school-play level. But, and here’s the thing, 40 minutes in and the tears were streaming down my face. The play worked. Where a slick professional production would only have brought out the crudeness of the script, you really believed that these tender, supportive daughters were there because they cared. There’s emotional investment in this show, and you come out sincerely hoping that if you ever have to face the pixies it’ll be with one of this bunch by your side. (Lizzie Mitchell) ■ The Spaces @ Royal College of Surgeons, 0845 508 8515, until 20 Aug (not 16), 1pm, £5.50 (£4).
KING ARTHUR Politcal reworking of the traditional legend ●●●●● Don’t expect any magic swords or epic heroics in this ambitious
production by Scottish company Siege Perilous. Here an innovative script by Lucy Nordberg strips the Arthurian tale of its supernatural trappings and instead uses the power play between characters to give insight into modern day political debate.
Arthur, who has ruled over a people whose culture is heavily based in tradition and ritual, announces his intention to give every person ‘a voice’ and instigate a democracy to be watched over by his young and naïve son Mordred. These idealistic plans are not warmly received by all at Arthur’s court as fear and greed propel the action and Mordred becomes a pawn for the ambition of others.
Like its predecessor, Mile End, Analogue’s Beachy Head is as much about the way the story is told as it is about the story itself. No scene goes by without a screen being wheeled on, a video camera being focused or an actor tottering in front of a pre- recorded back projection. It doesn’t work at every point –
there’s the odd moment when you wonder if you’d be better watching a TV at home – but more typically, the company uses the technology to add a haunting dimension to the story of a woman suffering the shock of her husband’s unexpected suicide and of the camera crew who have inadvertently filmed the event. On other occasions the company resorts to more simple – though just as effective – means, such as the flapping of boards to produce the gusts of wind above the chalk cliffs of Beachy Head, the notorious suicide spot.
All this would count for little if the material didn’t merit it and the company does an honourable job in treating a sensitive subject in a way that is suitably sombre without being morose. The story of the living is, however, less interesting than that of the dead man, depending on a relatively low-stakes ethical dilemma involving the filmmakers’ failure to tell the bereaved Amy (Emma Jowett) of their footage. It’s a problem exacerbated by Amy’s surprisingly small emotional range and it’s resolved only partially by the filmic use of flashbacks to the dead man’s final hours. (Mark Fisher). ■ Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, until 30 Aug (not 17, 24), 5.25pm, £8–£9 (£6.50–£7.50).
GAGARIN WAY Comics successfully revive Fringe hit ●●●●●
At first glance, the decision to revive Gregory Burke’s heavy-hitting play about labour unrest and kidnapping might appear to be an act of folly on the part of the Comedians Theatre Company. Burke’s debut was first staged to great acclaim at the Traverse in 2001, so the cohorts of CTC, the company formed by stand-up Phil Nichol to put comedians to work in the theatre, have got their work cut out for them. However, Nichol and his fellow cast members, Bruce Morton, Will Andrews and Jim Muir, rise to the challenge, delivering a show that’s as good as anything the company has produced since its impressive 2006 Fringe debut, Talk Radio. Set in a factory somewhere in Fife, the play revolves around the
kidnapping of management consultant Frank (Morton) by two disgruntled workers. Wannabe communist ideologist Gary (Muir) wants the boss to justify his position, while thuggish Eddie (Nichol) simply wants to indulge his penchant for GBH. Meanwhile, Tom (Andrews), a security guard and university graduate, tries to defuse the volatile situation. Talky and violent (in a way that recalls the testosterone-fuelled banter in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs), Burke’s characters spit verbal bullets at one another, bemoaning their miserable lot in life and bickering about who’s to blame and whether there’s anything to be done about it. It’s this quick-fire dialogue that the cast really latch onto, ratchetting up the intensity of the verbal sparring in a way that stand-ups do when they’re on a roll with hecklers. If on occasion they trip over one another, it makes little difference to taut proceedings, which, in this claustrophobic new production benefit greatly from being performed in the round.
Finally, Burke’s play has become very timely since the recession hit and ‘bossnapping’ has emerged as a new crime. Interestingly, though, despite the looming shadow of fat-cats such as Fred Goodwin, the play’s sympathies are not necessarily where you’d expect to find them. (Miles Fielder) ■ The Stand, 558 7272, until 30 Aug (not 17), 1pm, £7–£9 (£6–£8).
72 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 13–20 Aug 2009