MARK BUNYAN - BACK FROM BALHAM
Mark Bunyan, absent from the Fringe for three years, came Back from Balham all too brieﬂy. A male Victoria Wood, or as he describes himself, a gay Cliff Richard, he is an extremely witty singer-songwriter, with a tendency to write more musicals than ever get put on, but which enabled him to tell us their plots and sing us their songs in cabaret appearances such as this.
In between, he has a good line in patter; even if there‘s too much in-chat (‘It‘s darker in here than the Laughing Duck!) A pity ifyou missed his return. (Mark Shenton) Mark Bunyan — Back from Balham, Gilded Balloon, Gilded Balloon Theatre, run ended. Now transferred to Old St Paul '3 Church Hall. Jeffrey Street, 556 2687 (venue 45), 25—29 Aug, 11.30pm. £2.50 (£1.50).
PLAYING FOR TIME
This grim but gripping Holocaust drama, written for television (where it has already been seen) but here receiving its British stage premiere, is patently the work of a good craftsman, but not recognisably that of a great playwright.
Unlike Arthur Miller‘s other, most celebrated plays (The Crucible, Death ofa Salesman) this is a straight narrative work of no wider reference than the subject it is dealing with. But ofits kind— the telly drama with a conscience — it is a highly accomplished piece of work.
The trouble of course is translating it to the stage, when it is conceived for the sort of multiple locations and very quick changes of scene that are best accommodated by television budgets and the sheer practicalities of mounting it. This the excellent American company (Studio Theatre Productions) have overcome by performing the play on a virtually bare, black stage and instead filling it with fully realised, totally convincing
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performances. And at the centre of it, there’s a luminously brilliant one from Deborah Jean Templin as Fania, the famous singer who finds herselfin a concentration camp orchestra. An extremely committed and moving performance, the people around me in the audience were sobbing loudly at the end. (Mark Shenton) Playing for Time, Studio Theatre Productions Inc, Netherbow Arts Centre (venue 30), 43 High Street, 556 95 79. Until 30Aug (except Sun 24), 2.30—4pm. £3 (£2).
DREAMING OF BABYLON
Kerry Shale, returning to the Fringe after his hit last year with A Confederacy of Dunces, gives another virtuso solo performance, but this time the vehicle does not match his talents. He plays a Marlowe-esque private detective character in this affectionate and atmospheric play, but it is too long and too serious as a tribute to the genre. The set, though, is perfect: straight out ofa Bogart movie. (Mark Shenton) Dreaming of Babylon, Kerry Shale, Theatre Workshop (venue 20), Hamilton Place. Until30Aug (not Sun 24), 5pm. £2. 75 (£2.25).
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This. the only new production of Hull Truck’s three at this year’s Festival, is still not brand new, having already won a Fringe First when originally produced here by the National Student Dramal Festival in 1981. So the Fringe’s leading company are playing it dead safe with three tried and tested shows (and they are not the only ones: Borderline are also reprising their hit of last year Trumpets and Raspberries, instead of doing new work), which isn’t a trend to be encouraged.
Still, they might say that each Festival brings a brand new audience, proofofwhich is that I hadn‘t seen Cramp before either. And though it is not house-playwright and director John Godber‘s most entertaining show, it is easily his best. His most serious too, it tells the simple story of a 19 year-old‘s stiﬂing Northern life, from which he desperately seeks relief.
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He can‘t quite make it with the girls, either, despite being the hunkiest bloke around, probably because he prefers the boys. Though there’s the by now usual Hull Truck sporting motif (weightlifting this time — that's how he gets to be so hunky - and athletic actor Chris Walker must manage a complete work-out in the course of the play), it’s a progression indicated more subtly, and much less flippantly, than I’ve described it here. Indeed, by the end it moves us to tears with its stark picture of the result of these teenage anxieties.
Finally, a special mention for the brittle and brilliant musical score by E Tom Robinson and Hereward K (the latter comprising the band), which though newly introduced for this production, fully integrates with the action instead of being intrusive upon it. (Mark Shenton) Cramp, Hull Truck Theatre Company, Assembly Rooms, Music Hall, 54 George Street (venue 3) 226 2427/8. Until30Aug (not Suns), 1pm. £4.50 (£3).
ONE WAS NUDE AND ONE WORE TAILS/BODIES READY FOR DESPATCH
What with Borderline Reprising Trumpets and Raspberries and Park Bench Theatre Company revisiting Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and even Franca Rame returning to the Assembly Rooms next week (complete with subtitles for the hard of Italian) with a show she has already performed here in 1984, it‘s a relief to ﬁnd a new F0 on the Fringe.
Unfortunately, though, these two short plays must have come out of Fo’s bottom drawer. Neither has that frenzied energy or political edge that characterise his full-length works. Instead, these have underdeveloped plots, sloppily executed. Not that this production affords them much help. In name a professional company, it felt like the efforts of students trying too hard, the sort of sorry spectacle you see everywhere in Edinburgh at this time of year but don’t expect to ﬁnd in the Lyceum Studio. (Mark Shenton) One was nude and one wore tails/Bodies ready for despatch, Fo/Rame Theatre Project and C roydon Warehouse Theatre, Lyceum Studio, Cambridge Street, 229 9699 (venue 35). Until 30 Aug, 9.15—10. 45pm. £4 (£3).
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1 Los ANGELES STAND UP
Los Angeles stand up comedy is compered by a Glaswegian, Robin Seager. who has lived in Los Angeles for long enough to lose his accent and if not his sense of humour perhaps a sense of what our audiences are finding funny at the the moment. He has picked up that bad habit of telling us quite sincerely that the next person we are going to meet is quite the funniest person he has met since etc. Bob Worley, Fred Wolf and Peter Gaulke are all more than capable of amusing an audience, but whereas New York Stand Up comedy (a past visitor to tha Assembly Roooms) was a collection of sharp satirical attacking comedians, these Californians are too laid back to make much of an impression in the short time they individually have on stage, though Wolf is pretty funny on supposedly shared experiences — picking out bits of dog/cat/cow from the bumper of the car while assuring yourself that ‘He’ll be all right’. Peter Gaulke, however, could I suspect be a genius of reckless physical humour. Twitching and fidgiting more or less obscenely with his baggy trousers and T-shirt from the moment he walks on stage he ends the performance as Torso Man — trousers round his knees and shirt ! pulled down. This was nearer the disturbingly funny LA I had hoped to see. (Nigel Billen) Los Angeles Stand Up Comedy, Assembly Rooms (venue3), 54 George Street. Tickets
midnight. £4.25 (£3.50).
THE LASS Wl’ THE MUOKLE MOU
Puffs of smoke and elfin musicians whose green body-suits and drapery stir memories of the Green Goddess plunge the audience into the world of the ‘wee folk’ in which Theatre Alba‘sTho Lass WI’ The Muckla Mou - written in Braid Scots by Alexander Reid, and with Chalres Nowosielski and Richard Chems as directors - begins.
Thomas the Rhymer returns to Elibank after seven years in Elfland. His aim is to write his ﬁnal and greatest ballad. There he ﬁnds Sir Gideon Murray bemoaning the
The List 22 Aug — 4 Sept 9