FESTIVAL THEATRE | Reviews
BLAM! Glorious movie-based mayhem ●●●●●
In the world of Blam! the underdog is king. And this right royal ruckus has more than a few loyal servants, as a pumped-up crowd leap to their feet – after a high-octane hour – to show their appreciation. Set in a bland office space, three men, and their sleazy boss,
kill time ‘blamming’ – recreating scenes from movies, using whichever tables, filing cabinets, staple guns, pencils and Post It notes are at their disposal.
Any notions of a niche physical theatre show are swiftly
shattered with the help of a hat stand-turned-Uzi, as Neander Theatre Company blast their purpose with a nifty set, crazy strobe lighting and slick moves. With barely a word spoken, this dexterous crew have created a show on a gallus scale, with a hefty dose of creative substance. A hot mess of movie mash-ups, you could easily quibble that
some of the earlier film references aren’t immediately clear but, really, as this talented troupe back-flip, catapult, swirl and swagger their way through the more recognisable snippets from Rambo, Apocalypse Now and Die Hard, that’s easily forgiven. Every action, even in the most frenetic of moments, is so tightly studied that its sheer bombastic energy can make you miss the incredible talents on display, whether it’s a cheeky nod to Charlie Chaplin or a more obvious ‘hi-ya’ to Jackie Chan.
And happily, beyond the simple ‘boys with toys’ premise, there’s something we can all relate to: the desire to escape the shackles of work and a deep-seated need to be part of the gang. Whether it’s a modern day comment on masculinity in the workplace or just good old-fashioned fun matters little: this is a class act all the way. (Anna Millar) ■ Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 26 Aug (not 20), 5.55pm, £10–£15 (£8.50–£13.50).
S M A H A R B A Y M E R E J
HELA Provocative play about medical ethics and racism ●●●●● AN ACTOR’S LAMENT Performance maverick Steven Berkoff on the problems of theatre ●●●●●
I’M WITH THE BAND A heavy-handed political analogy ●●●●●
In 1951, young black mother Henrietta Lacks was refused proper cancer treatment in a segregated hospital in Maryland. At the time doctors took stem cell samples without her permission. Two months later, she died. Iron Oxid e’s one-woman play examines this unscrupulous episode and the legacy Lacks left. Her cells were cultured into the HeLa cell line, an essential raw material for numerous recent medical discoveries.
The show is part lecture, part theatre and
brimming with insight. Adura Onashile’s performance is as spirited as it is heartbreaking. At the core of the piece is an ordinary woman who loved to dance, and who would sneak off to blues halls when she was a teenager. As she sways, or spasms in pain, a timeline plays out on the screen behind her, showing the development of stem cell research from the 1950s to the present day, revealing how her own cells are still saving lives. There are two diseases here – the more openly
discussed cancer, and the more insidious disease of racism. This is a provocative, chilling piece that cuts to the bone. (Lorna Irvine) ■ Summerhall, 0845 874 3001, until 25 Aug (not 20), 6.45pm, £9 (£7).
72 THE LIST FESTIVAL 15–22 Aug 2013
An Actor’s Lament holds no real surprises: Steven Berkoff lambastes the egos of theatre in a three- handed conversation that is delivered in high flown language and with cheeky irony. His voice is powerful and his complaints are precise, if over familiar. Unfortunately, the anguish never escapes being about theatre, and this lament remains an inward cry of pain at the state of the art. The pleasure is in watching three skilled
performers work Berkoff’s script: the attacks on actor-managers and directors are gradually undermined by counter-arguments and a dry humour emerges from each character’s self-interest. While the opening rant against critics is predictable, there is a good humour in the roasting: Berkoff plays with his own image mercilessly, and takes joy in delivering exaggerated insults.
The production coasts on the reputation of the artist and the confidence of the performances but nevertheless An Actor’s Lament is entertaining and playful. It’s an hour spent in the company of curmudgeonly raconteurs who deserve to be indulged for their wit and panache. (Gareth K Vile) ■ Assembly Hall, 623 3030, until 20 Aug, 2.30pm, £18–£20 (£16–£18)
The premise of Welsh playwright Tim Price’s latest piece – in which the travails of a once-successful indie rock group called The Union (comprised of an Englishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman and a Northern Irishman) represent the current constitutional politics of the United Kingdom – always seemed unprepossessing. In reality, this co-production between the Traverse and the Wales Millennium Centre is even worse than one might have feared.
Price has, with apparent alacrity, written an
attempted political allegory that consists of the most heavy-handed parallels. From the moment Scottish guitarist Barry quits the band in the midst of a financial crisis, the painfully direct comparisons come thick and fast. Perhaps the most grating analogy centres upon the turbulent, love-hate relationship between (presumably Protestant) Northern Irishman Aaron and his (presumably Catholic) partner Sinead. Devoid not only of subtlety, but also of anything
approximating real drama, this play (which, incredibly, is set to tour the UK) should never have made it to the Traverse stage. (Mark Brown) ■ Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 25 Aug (not 19), times vary, £18–20 (£13–£15).