list.co.uk/festival Reviews | FESTIVAL THEATRE
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DIARY OF A MADMAN Inventive yet flawed take on Gogol’s story ●●●●● TANK Audacious and expertly conceived ●●●●●
Pop Sheeran, a South Queensferry native, is a likeable, dedicated worker whose family has painted the Forth Rail Bridge for generations. When a visiting student from an English university shows up with a new and highly durable brand of paint, Pop begins questioning his value, his heritage and, ultimately, his own sanity. If you’ve ever wondered what happens when you inject a dolphin with LSD, this is the show for you. But however sensationalist that might sound, the audacious, expertly conceived and often very funny Tank from Breach is about far more: inter-species communication, the unavoidable need for love and, most importantly, the theatrical process itself.
Driven by a series of short, energetic scenes It’s based on the story of Margaret (human) and
and musical interludes, Al Smith’s script paints a picture of the community’s history, before following Pop’s descent into insanity, in this Gate production directed by Christopher Haydon.
Liam Brennan’s performance as Pop is
impressively nuanced, capturing his doubt and, memorably, a final outburst of physical anger. Yet the attempt to present Pop as a symbol of Scotland’s loss of identity falls flat. However, the strong cast and the attention to
geographical detail bring out the script’s tragedy of a man finding himself undermined by modern technology. Perhaps over-ambitious in its scope, Diary of a Madman is nevertheless an intriguing transfer of a Russian classic into a recognisable Scottish milieu. (Graeme McNee) ■ Traverse, 228 1404, until 28 Aug (not 22), times vary, £18.50 (£13.50).
Peter (dolphin), who lived together in a flooded office for ten weeks as part of a NASA-funded project to teach cetaceans to speak English. Just a few tape fragments from the project remain so they’ve had to fill in the gaps with their own ideas. And alongside tortuous, endless language lessons – delivered with actor Joe Boylan squawking dolphin- like noises into a microphone – those ideas include a growing affection between dolphin and human, leading to an icky but inevitable conclusion. The cast can never quite agree on their interpretation, leading to very funny contradictions and corrections about the tale flying across the space between them – and to the big question of how much of any of this we can believe. It’s a highly intelligent, provocative show that also manages to be wildly entertaining. (David Kettle) ■ Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, until 20 Aug, 10.30am, £9–£10 (£8–£9).
JUST LET THE WIND UNTIE MY PERFUMED HAIR . . . OR WHO IS TÁHIRIH? Portrayal of Persian suffragette martyr ●●●●●
An Edinburgh University lecture theatre seems an especially pertinent place to set this play about a 19th-century Persian poet and later female suffrage martyr. Decades before western suffragettes, the unusually highly educated Táhirih died for equality. A devout practitioner of the Bábí faith, she believed in equality and unity despite religion and gender.
Writer and performer Delia Olam plays Táhirih, Táhirih’s mother, and even her executioner in this powerful and dramatic ode to the suffragette. Olam also composed the captivating live music. She plays the cello and Appalachian dulcimer while she reads Táhirih’s poetry, which lifts the weight of the words and further dramatises this storytelling as live theatre. Táhirih’s nearest and dearest frame her liberal thoughts in a sobering wash of reality. Her own mother offers no pardon. She wonders if her daughter is dead yet, and wishes she’d remembered her true role as a woman. Olam interracts with the audience in lighter moments, and ultimately offers up a set of convincing performances through her precise verbal delivery and beautiful singing. (Adam Bloodworth) ■ Assembly George Square Studios, 623 3030, until 29 Aug, 12.35pm, £11–£13 (£9–£11).
OUT OF OUR FATHER’S HOUSE The history of America through the story of its women ●●●●●
Red Compass Productions have made an active commitment to supporting women in all aspects of the theatre-making process. It naturally follows that their production of Out of Our Father’s House has a clear focus on excluded female voices. Taking the stories of seven women from the past 300 years,
the four-strong ensemble summon up lost episodes and heroines from American history. Directed by Marya Mazor, and adapted from Eve Merriam’s book Growing Up Female in America by the author, Paula Wagner, and Jack Hofsiss, it draws on diaries, letters, and historical documents. At times, the rapid barrage of characters and exposition
can confuse, with only prop and costume motifs identifying changes of character, as each cast member takes on multiple roles. Fortunately, however, they all excel and shift nimbly from ensemble to leading roles.
The intelligent structure – which provides a context for each character, and introduces them with a wash of folk music – combines with interludes of singing, bringing history to vivid life. Short vignettes, like when Maria Mitchell, America’s first professional female astronomer, watches a glowing firmament of fairy light stars and spies the comet that will come to bear her name, are illuminated by arresting imagery.
But the more expansive scenes are profound and resonant:
from a mop-and-bucket-wielding army of women jeering off the defectors from the labour movement, to a spine- chilling moment of pure theatricality conjuring an overnight stagecoach journey. As a piece of historical and political theatre, Out of Our
Father’s House triumphs in preserving the significance of its inspirational figures. (Elliot Roberts) ■ Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, until 28 Aug, 12.15pm, £10–£12.
18–29 Aug 2016 THE LIST FESTIVAL 85