FESTIVAL THEATRE | Reviews
PARTIAL NUDITY Thoughtful comedy about stripping ●●●●●
Darren (Joe Layton) is a Magic Mike wannabe from Bolton with his pitiful posing pouch and bravado. When he accidentally encounters hard-bitten professional American stripper Nina (Kate Franz), his attitude towards women and the industry he wants to be part of are tested. Emily Layton’s writing is harsh and hilarious, and
the script neatly exposes the double standards around public nudity for men and women. By contrasting two genders, Layton can be more even-handed and there is plenty of hypocrisy on both sides. Nina is supposed to be fearless, yet cannot pluck up the courage to tell her mother how she is funding her way through university; Darren is both aroused and repulsed by Nina’s sexual confidence. Even the complexities of sex industry
nomenclature are handled in grand style. Darren speaks disparagingly of the women who his male stripper friends have had in toilets. Nina’s speech about how she isn’t a sex worker is chilling; yet she is acutely aware of how she facilitates and manufactures lust in these men with her act. Partial Nudity avoids rehashing the predictable
stories for something more personal and idiosyncratic. With the recent controversy about strip club licences in Edinburgh and London, this play is timely, tense and poignant, with two excellent performances which are both soulful and smart. Unexpectedly lovely. (Lorna Irvine) ■ ZOO, 662 6892, until 27 Aug, 7.55pm, £9 (£7).
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I USED TO HEAR FOOTSTEPS Evocative late-night ghost stories might just get under your skin ●●●●●
In many ways, Jack Britton’s one-man ghost story / family drama is just as fragile and elusive as the events he’s trying to describe. It’s a thoughtful investigation into a house in Beeston where he once lived, and the strange noises and inexplicable activities he just about remembers. The more he investigates, the more evidence he turns up – and the more logical he attempts to be about his facts, organising them into nice, neat columns on Summerhall’s anatomy lecture theatre blackboard until the bizarre goings-on defy his systems and chaos threatens to take over.
Although it ultimately feels like quite a slight show, Britton has come up with a quietly powerful format for his spooky tales. He almost distracts us with the processes of information sifting and scientific theories explaining coincidence, while still managing to conjure up some truly chilling moments – which are all the more potent for being unexpected.
For a late-night chiller, it probably won’t have you leaving the light on when you go to bed, but its uncanny, understated creepiness might just get under your skin. (David Kettle) ■ Summerhall, 560 1581, until 27 Aug (not 18, 20, 22, 24, 26), 10pm, £8 (£6).
86 THE LIST FESTIVAL 18–29 Aug 2016
UBU ON THE TABLE Anarchic classic with puppets ●●●●● FABRIC Powerful performance but weak script ●●●●●
Having performed Ubu on the Table in French and Spanish over 800 times around the world, theatre company La Pire Espèce made an English adaptation their next challenge. The play is a twist on Alfred Jarry’s Ubu roi, an outrageous parody of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The play arguably gave birth to modernism, and
its zany aesthetic acted as a precursor to surrealist theatre. La Pire Espèce reimagine Ubu by performing the show with puppets around a small table – and kitchen utensils are the leading actors.
Confused? Ubu on the Table is a deft and high-octane puppet show. The props – or cast – are well chosen: an upturned teapot proves particularly effective as the murdered king. It’s full of Fringe frivolity, descending into the spectacle of two men flinging lumps of baguette around, conveying warfare with childlike zeal.
Unfortunately, the work put in by the two
puppeteers often feels unequal to the laughs returned. It’s an energetic show with clever puppeteering, but the tray of foodie ammunition stage left is a foreshadowing too far and the food fight finale becomes overlong. (Adam Bloodworth) ■ Summerhall, 560 1581, until 28 Aug (not 22), 2.35pm, £12 (£10).
Gauche, gushy shop worker Leah (Nancy Sullivan) isn’t terribly clever, but well-meaning and cheeky, the kind of ‘girl’ found twirling her hair and drinking Cherry Lambrini with her bessie mates in karaoke bars in any given city centre on a Saturday night.
Into this young woman’s life smarms rich, attractive
Ben, seducing her with his charm and money, then abusing her through his sexual demands. Sullivan’s emotive performance is undeniably superb, as she endures horrific trauma after marrying the controlling Ben, but playwright Abi Zakarian’s characterisation is baffling. Leah moves unsteadily from ridiculously awkward and submissive (strange, a 30-year-old modern woman being so naive, and expecting a Prince Charming), to articulate and strong-willed. It doesn’t quite ring true and feels inconsistent. The threads of sexual violence being pulled apart
are effective and this is obviously an important issue which needs to be raised in a dramatic context. But the end result is a queasy, heavy-handed play which rather paints working-class Leah as a victim rather than survivor, with very little agency in her life, though the wonderful Nancy Sullivan is clearly a major talent. (Lorna Irvine) ■ Underbelly Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, until 28 Aug, 11.55am £9–£10 (£8–£9).