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LAST CALL Live graphic novel struggles to engage ●●●●● ZERO DOWN Tense drama about care home workers ●●●●●
Sultry, sophisticated and unutterably cool, Flemish theatre group Het nieuwstedelijk’s graphic novel- cum-gig Last Call also takes a bit of getting your head around. Based on Belgian graphic novelist Philip Parquet’s book Dansen Drinken Betalen, it imagines a brooding spoken monologue for teenage misfit Sara, the novel’s leading character, and adds to it a moody, trippy live score for electronics and jazz piano. With its big-screen projections and throbbing
beats, it’s hard not to compare the show with last year’s quite similar The Great Downhill Journey of Little Tommy. But whereas that show was all unbridled energy, raw and unrestrained, Last Call works hard at its determinedly unimpressed coolness – from Sara Vertongen’s wonderfully sarcastic narration to its storyline of casual crime and a waif abandoned in the big city.
It’s a seductive show, carried off brilliantly by Vertongen with Joris Caluwaerts on propulsive piano. But ultimately the story doesn’t amount to much, simply a succession of bizarre episodes. Last Call is a superb imaginative and musical achievement, but one that struggles to fully engage. (David Kettle ) ■ Summerhall, 560 1581, until 28 Aug (not 19, 22), 10.40pm, £10 (£8).
Student Erin has recently joined Layla and Benni as a zero hours worker in a care home. Intermittently, a voiceover calls ‘a worker to room x’ and one of the women clocks in before leaving to help the residents. In between they wait, unpaid, folding bedding to pass the time. Nasty Benni opens the play with expletives and
bigotry, Layla is a shade too simple for comfort and Erin is a naive student with war correspondent ambitions. It is a deftly written and incredibly well-paced script. In a style akin to genuine conversation, we learn more about the women as their shift progresses in one unbroken scene, their hopes for the future and glimmers of their past.
The actors bring depth and subtlety to their roles, emerging as complex women, flawed and human. As events in the care home spiral out of control and emotions flare, the tension in the room is palpable. The script mentions that stories of poor conditions in care homes are old news and people don’t take notice. Zero Down looks behind the soundbites of ‘cruel staff’ to examine a corrupt system pushing people to their limits in a play that forces you to take notice. (Rowena McIntosh) ■ Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 29 Aug (not 18), 1pm, £8.50–£9.50 (£7.50–£8.50).
SHAKESPEARE FOR BREAKFAST Pastries, pop culture and A Midsummer Night’s Dream ●●●●●
Now in its 25th year, Shakespeare for Breakfast is a modern retelling of a Shakespeare play – this year A Midsummer Night’s Dream – with complimentary coffee and croissants. Five actors leap between a range of selfie-obsessed characters, who mix prose with iambic pentameter in an intricate storyline which leans heavily on pop culture references. The script is updated to incorporate quick jokes,
Jedi fights and Taylor Swift lyrics, and audience participation is skilfully encouraged. The precise choreography – the cast use four exit points and occasionally deliver lines in the middle of the audience – successfully builds a boisterous and immersive atmosphere, though the storylines become increasingly confusing. Social media references become a bit too repetitive, but the writing remains clever and engaging throughout. Ultimately the strength of Shakespeare for Breakfast lies in the actors’ energetic delivery and the writing’s comedic tone. It succeeds in being an irreverent and consistently entertaining show. (Adeline Amar) ■ C, 0845 260 1234, until 29 Aug, 10am, £7.50–£9.50 (£5.50–£7.50).
LIFE ACCORDING TO SAKI Debut play infuses unbridled joy with a hint of melancholy ●●●●●
Born Hector Hugh Munro on 18 September 1870, the writer better known as Saki plays both storyteller and subject in Life According to Saki. Speaking from a trench on the Western Front, where he was stationed in 1916, David Paisley’s warmly charismatic Saki takes the audience on a grand tour of the human condition via his witty, surreal, and emphatically human stories.
Saki’s work infuses farcical social situations with a macabre twist: a haughty socialite tangles with an infirm tiger in an attempt to impress her neighbour, an unfortunate incident with a hyena leads to an opportunity for extortion, and that classic Edwardian antagonist, the fearsome aunt, meets a grisly end at the claws of a sacred ferret.
But the production never fails to qualify this dizzying absurdity with a sobering dose of reality. For Saki, his stories kept him from dwelling on the enormity of life on the front, and after each venture into his whimsical world, the action always returns to the trench. In these scenes, there is an encroaching feeling of discomfort, a sense that, despite his warmth and stoic humour, the horrors of trench warfare are not far away.
Through his tales of the everyday absurdities of Edwardian
society, Saki constructs a refuge from the horror of life on the front. Deftly blending joyful surrealism with existential pause, this is a sunny yet poignant celebration of a man who made a fine art of taking the light seriously and the serious lightly.
On top of a sharp script, pacy narrative, and a slew of impressively dynamic performances, the production gives the feeling that Hector Hugh Munro, on top of being a keen social commentator, a brave soldier, and a dab hand with a pen, was an all-round lovely chap. (Jordan Shaw) ■ C, 0845 260 1234, until 29 Aug, 2.15pm, £8.50–£10.50 (£6.50–£8.50).
18–29 Aug 2016 THE LIST FESTIVAL 81
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