The very idea of a play that explores fantasy. memory. ego and imagination is enough to make even the most hardy Fringe buff reach for a revolver. But Mario Vargas Llosa‘s Kathie and the Hippopatamus manages to avoid all the pitfalls of self-indulgence and pretentiousness. and turns out to be a play ofstriking originality. wit and charm.

As in his novel A untlu/ia and the .S‘r‘riptwriter. Vargas Llosa uses the process of writing in this case. a hack writing up the memoirs of a bourgeois housewife to develop a vivid east ofcharacters. Each one relies upon dreams be it surfing. sex or socialism to give their humdrum lot colour and purpose. Each one pursues a ‘palace of dreams‘. and in so doing relates past to present. success to failure. (Simon Scott) Kathie and the I Iippopotamus. The Traverse Theatre ( ‘ompany. Traverse Theatre, (irass‘market ( venue I5) 22. 24. 27. 29 Aug. 7pm; 23 Aug. 2pm; 26, 28. 30 Aug. 1 Iarn. [4.85 ( discount for members).


Michael Fry‘s adaptation of Hardy’s Tess oft/1e [)‘Urbert‘illes in no way detracts from the original masterpiece. The story of simple Tess Durbeyfield. seduced and


I V ; .r undue; . ruined by her dastardly rich cousin Alec D‘Urberville remains poignant. powerful and disturbing in Floorboards‘ production.

As the tragedy unfolds. Tess matures through her suffering. She is thwarted in her attempts to start a new life as the wife of Angel Clare when he discovers her ‘past‘. The skill ofTamara Steele’s performance in the title role is that at no point are we conscious of abrupt change, only ofa subtle ripening. John Vernon’s performance as Alec avoids the stereotyped. moustache-twirling Victorian villain, and is chillingly


Critical points. such as the

. seduction. and the Durbeyfields‘

discovery of their illustrious ancestry. are highlighted with a commentary in the form of a chorus ofsong. This link with Greek tragedy is but one example of director Michael Fry‘s attention to detail and clear-sighted vision. The show is a must for lovers of Hardy, and inspiring entertainment for all. (Helen Davidson) Tess ofthe D’Urbervilles, Floorboards Theatre Co. Assembly Rooms (Edinburgh Suite) 54 George Street (venue 3) 226 2427/8. Until30Aug, 10.45am. £3. 75 (£3).


The Great Hunger is a play from the Abbey Theatre Dublin about the bleak starvation of the spirit. unnutured and unexpressed.

A selection of this year’s best Fringe offerings.


me List 22 Aug 4 Sept.

Kai’hie and the Hippopatamus

w '1‘

abandoned to neglect by a life spent

working a meagre sustenance from

the fields.

The play is based on a poem by Patrick Kavanagh and the strength of the production comes from the use of gesture and silence to say more than the words which come only in garbled or repeated snatches. It integrates perfectly ideas with character using mannerism and beautifully observed detail to represent and reveal all the passion of the spirit held under the surface by repression and ignorance. When a girl comes running through the fields selling raffle tickets. Maguire. the central character. tempts and taunts her over buying a ticket until in a scene which is anguishingly convincing. he is tempted and taunted into a frenzy of sexuality himself.

Against a sparse set. where the bleak corrugated iron backdrop suggests the barreness of the furrowed fields. it is a superbly acted and deeply moving piece of theatre. (Sally Kinnes) The Great Hunger. Abbey Theatre Dublin. Run finished.


‘The best possible play is one in which there are no actors. only text.‘ Samuel Beckett once said. adding. ‘l'm trying to find a way to write one.‘

Despite the disclaimer. Beckett consented to the creation of I'll Go On. a presentation of his writing by actor Barry McGovern. Using extracts from Beckett‘s famous trilogy Molloy. Malone Dies and The Unnameable. McGovern passes that ultimate test ofan actor‘s abilities— the solo show with flying colours.

McGovern functions as his own warm-up act for what is nearly two hours ofexistential stand-up comedy. A tall. somewhat scurrilous-looking man in a long coat and beat-up hat. he addresses the audience in a grumbling. rumbling voice. with malicious glee he asks if we‘re waiting for the show.

The curtains part on Robert Ballagh’s beautiful. stark set. a recessive half-box ofscored. revolving panels that serves as both womb and tomb. McGovern launches into a digressive and bitterly comic soliloquy about his search for his mother. He‘s a walking. talking piece of human picaresque. relating with spittle-flecked lips and extreme

relish his encounters with stupid interrogating cops and boring wealthy ladies: his mathematical calculations about the amount of farts he lets loose; the uselessness of his scrotum: the tale of his mistress‘ foul French-speaking parrot: and the logistics ofstone-sucking. He also shares the stage with a hobbyhorse that doubles as bench. bicycle and dead dog.

In the second half the long coat and hobbyhorse are replaced by nightshirt and sarcophagus. Now it‘s not his mother who‘s being sought. it‘s himself. In a carefully controlled ballet of words the man charts his own distillation and disintegration. The monologue becomes fierce. concentrated. and naked (both literally and spiritually) as it rattles and howls along to its bravely compromising finish.

Under Colm O’Briain‘s astute direction. McGovern is just about perfection. His timing is impeccable. his resonant vocal and emtional modulations little short of stupendous. Soured and scornful. the Beckett alter ego McGovern portrays is nevertheless charged with a coarse vitality and feverishly articulate despair that asks for no pity. but earns our deep admiration. You‘ll seldom experience such a