FESTIVAL THEATRE | Reviews
R E N N E R B X E L A
BALLAD OF THE BURNING STAR A fusion of dance and cabaret tells the story of Israel ●●●●●
Telling the story of the modern Israeli state through a semi- autobiographical story, Ballad of the Burning Star is far from light entertainment cabaret. (That is despite its hero being in full drag and surrounded by an accompaniment of chorus girls.) Nir Paldi connects contemporary Israeli paranoia with both Jewish history and its modern culture. Although he has sympathy with the Palestinian victims of Israel’s occupation, he demonstrates how a society can be equally oppressive to its dominant people.
Theatre Ad Infinitum made their name in previous Fringes with stories of mourning and love (Translunar Paradise, The Big Smoke); Ballad of the Burning Star is more abrasive. Using the signifiers of cabaret – the main character is a drag queen called Star – Paldi employs Lecoq-style physical theatre alongside tight choreography and a commanding stage presence.
His blend of dance and kitsch drag is jarring when set against
the seriousness of his subject. At first, he hides the violence of the state beneath this facade of ironic jollity, but his hero’s lack of emotional control increasingly manifests itself in the bullying of his chorus line. Occasional racial slurs, played for uncomfortable laughs, give way to a more poignant finale, in which Paldi’s Star is consumed by guilt and hate. The persistent internal tensions between the Israeli state’s
conflict with the Palestinians and the desire of its people to live a peaceful, normal life is never resolved. Ballad of the Burning Star emphasises that there are no simple answers, although Paldi’s sense of humour and seriousness might suggest that a dialogue is possible. (Gareth K Vile) ■ Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, until 26 Aug (n ot 20), 5.15pm, £11–£13 (£8.50–£12).
N L T A C Y D N A
KILLERS An insight into murders’ minds ●●●●● FERAL When Animation Attacks! ●●●●●
Bathed in harsh white spotlights, three of Britain’s most notorious killers – Dennis Nilsen, Ian Brady and Peter Sutcliffe – sit in front of the audience, reading letters they’ve written to admirers from their prisons or secure hospitals. But if you’re hoping for fresh insights into the minds of these men from Glenn Chandler’s play, there are few to be found – it’s perhaps not surprising, in fact, how banal much of their correspondence is.
More interesting is the mirror that the show
holds up to our own fascination with these horribly charismatic figures – that of both the unseen letter writers, with their strange need for connection with mass murderers, and of the Assembly Rooms audience itself, with its own voyeuristic interest. Director Liam Rudden’s tight production is slick
and polished, pitch-perfect in its cold, clinical tone. Arron Usher is a perhaps overly camp, flouncing Nilsen; Gareth Morrison is both soppy and sinister as Sutcliffe; and Edward Cory’s Brady is convincingly chilling. The show drags in places, and could have done with a more dramatic sense of structure, but it’s still solid, thought-provoking work. (David Kettle) ■ Assembly Rooms, 0844 693 3008, until 25 Aug, £15 (£12).
78 THE LIST FESTIVAL 15–26 Aug 2013
T R O P N E V A D D R A H C R
HOPE LIGHT AND NOWHERE Three men discuss alienation after an apocalypse ●●●●●
Hope Light and Nowhere is a perfectly executed hour of despair, consisting of a series of conversations between three men in a dystopian future. Jean Chan’s sparse design evokes a ruined room in a derelict house within a decaying world and Andrew Sheridan’s well structured script, shows he has an ear for the telling, brutal phrase. The three actors are professional, convincing and appropriately disturbing. Yet the show’s influences are too clear: Beckett
and Pinter bring absurdity and discomfort, and the 1990s British neo-brutalist playwrights (such as Mark Ravenhill) offer violence. Life’s ugliness, the characters’ naive cruelty, a planet destroyed by an unknown catastrophe, leaving individuals to struggle and inflict pain on each other: is all so familiar that it’s becoming cosy.
Tortoise In A Nutshell are a multimedia company who build puppets from scratch and project them onto large screens. In Feral the company takes a serious look at social problems: a controversial new ‘supercade’ has opened up in an Anywhere town, creating an anti-consumer backlash. It has failed to provide as many jobs as promised. Cue anarchy in the streets. What can be done? This little study in small town dysfunction has much going for it – an endearing DIY spirit, cute set-pieces and figures, and a nod to children’s TV. There are wonderful moments, involving lead characters Dawn and Joe’s forays into the fairground and a photo booth, and witty little shops with names like The Pre- Victorian Light Emporium. But the show struggles when depicting bigger themes of poverty, crime, unemployment and capitalism. It is simply too polite: too childish for adults and too grown-up for kids.
The sound is tinny and the music a little grating, Sheridan is clearly a master of words and staging,
but the lovely puppetry, inventiveness and enthusiasm of the puppeteers more than make up for such shortcomings. While a little uneven, it’s not without its charm, and there’s a big-hearted message at its centre. (Lorna Irvine) ■ Summerhall, 0845 874 3001, until Aug 25 (not 20), 8pm, £9 (£7). and the whole cast fully inhabits their characters’ misery and anxiety – but to rehash these tropes is unimaginative, however fully they are realised. (Gareth K Vile) ■ Underbelly, Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, until 25 Aug, 5.20pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).