Juston enteringthc Gilded Balloon. 1 met up with a group of fellow hacks from the Evening News. Lo and behold. not more than five minutes into his act and Mark Steel is ridiculing the particularly parochial nature of the capital‘s much-loved daily rag. Targetting your audience. or what?
For the majority ofthe set. however. Steel turns his eye to the socialand political decay of Britain. or more particularly England. llisisthe genuine voice ofleft-wing criticism that is not afraid totackle Kinnock‘s ineffectiveness in the same breath as Thatcher‘s over-effectiveness. By the end of an hour and a quarter. he has shown a greater versatility than many would give him credit for— masterof accents and impersonations. comedy songwriter. expert at reversing out ofthe comedy cul-de-sac. It's nice to know that at least one stand-up has brought politically-tinged humour into the 90s with some degree ofcredibility. (Alan Morrison)
I Mark Steel (Fringe) Gilded Balloon (Venue 38).22t" 2151.until31 Aug. 9pm. £5 (£4).
Bunmi Popoola wrote, directed and stars in You Know, the story ofa hapless African medical student and his inability to communicate within the confines ofwhite bureaucracy. The play is set in Brixton. where Tunji is arrested by the police under section 136 for being demonstrative in a public place.
f VCABARET VTHEATRE I
one-man piece begins with .
the frustrated Tunji being interviewed by a doctor who cannot. or will not pronounce his name correctly. Popoola‘s reactions are natural and immaculately timed, and continue to be as he reﬂects on the incidents which lead to his imprisonment. The show is smoothly interspersed with original music. sung by Popoola with the same richness characteristic of his acting. (Roberta Mock)
I You Know (Fringe) Elerc Yoruba. Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425. until 31 Aug. 1pm. £3.50 (£2.50).
At an international theatre conference last
Mark Steel: political. credible andlunny
e__.. ,- ...__.-2- _ - IB'I‘he List 31) August — l2 September
year. the inevitable preliminary question ‘What is theatre?‘ was raised. Europeans answered on the basis of art and aesthetics; an African delegate said that ‘Theatre is how you teach people to boil their water.‘ Zimbabwe‘s Amakhosi Theatre takes this approach. only the aim is the reconciliation of blacks and whites after the struggle for independence in order to restructure their country‘s economy. As such. it is often too wordy and didactic. Still. Workshop Negative is articulate. hard-hitting social theatre with the added bonus of the most convincing physical fight scenes on the Fringe. (Roberta Mock) l Workshop Negative (Fringe) Amakhosi Theatre. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 220 4349. until 30 Aug. 2pm. £6 (£5).
Improvised drama games have not changed much since my school drama classes when we used them to yvarm up before the serious stuff. Performers regularly ‘corpse'. have to incorporate outside distractions into their skit
(in this case the disco music from Sexual Perversity in Chicago) and put up with their fellow improvisors misinterpreting their actions.
Spontaneous Combustion run through the now familiar pattern of games. and manage very well. Ifthey are not as snappy as the Who '5 Line Is It A nywuy team. they excel at the long improvisation which takes up the second half ofthe show. This is not theatre. it is live TV: spontaneous it certainly is. but it failed to light my fire. (Thom Dibdin)
I Spontaneous Combustion (Fringe) The (iilded Balloon (Venue 38) 22b 2151.until3l Aug. 3.15pm. £5(£-1).
Soap ()pera is hardly the toughest of comic targets. but in Soap (‘razyu playwright Julie Balloo manages to combine a gentle spoof of the form with an altogether more serious analysis of a society which produces actors willing to work in third-rate. mass-market drama. and viewers willing to watch it.
Mixing scenes from a fictional series. The Glamour aml (he (ilory. with the off-screen lives of its star and her greatest fan. the play is amusingly acted by Balloo and Matilda Ziegler who switch from monologue to monologue until their final. harrowing confrontation.
The ending is not properly reson ed and some ofthe jokcsare weak. but the production is slick. absorbing and entertaining. (Mark Fisher)
I Soap Crazy ( I‘ringe) Gilded Balloon Theatre (Venue 38) 2262151 . until 31 Aug. 7pm. £5(£~t).
Dance Bag is a company of serious dancer- choreographers. some of whose members are still at college.
Etude Pour ’l‘ete de Femme No I l isa solo with film. (‘arefully performed movement invoking images from sleep and nightmare are rather spoilt by patchy lighting. Doppelganger is the miniscule highlight in which Andrew I lolden moves with an unusual
quality through choreography that has depth as well as immediacy.
'I‘he third piece is what the company like tocall ‘theatreot‘theimage‘ a SL‘TICStil-\L‘CllllllgI} unrelated scenes and a bit of a w aste of cornflakes. It is ambitious. needing more work. btlt it's good to see a new company cuttingits teeth on the Fringe. ('l'amsin (irainger)
I LOCO ( I’ringe) Dance Bag’l‘heatre. (ireytriars Kirk llouse (Venue 28) 225 3(i2o. until 31 .-\ug. Ill.3llam. £3.5IItL3).
l)ay id Kilby‘s new play takes a comedian. Billy Bolton — with an
impressive line in crude
jokes at the pinnacleol his career. and traces his demise. through alcohol. irresponsibility and. eventually. illness. The downfall should be moying and is not.mostly because. although the script tells us the contrary. Bolton‘s humour never really convinces iis that he is ‘Britain's tunniest comedian‘.
.‘yloreoy cr. you can lceI no sy mpathy for a character who bribes women to give him blow -jobs and the alcoholism traumatic childhood search tor a mother themes feel a mute hackneyed. As it" that were not enough. Billy Bolton sometimes viy idly recallslim I);t\idsoti. .\'ot a nice character. (Miranda l‘rance)
IThe Untorgiven ( fringe) Annexe 'l‘heatre. 'l‘heatre Workshop ( \‘enue 21))22o 5425. until 31 Augtnot Suns) 5.3Hpm. H t 13)
V THEATRE THE SOLDIER’S
l’remiere production by RSAMI)over-achievers 'l‘heatre 'l‘heatrical. this l'austian Riissian folktale is told with a gustoyerging on the tlaiigei'ously cyclonic. Not that you are entirely swept away : occasional outbreaksot aggressive joy iality and ’\\'e Arc :‘sctot‘s This Is ‘l'heatre' type antics are unnecessary and wcarisomc. bttt this is quickly redeemed by the lrenetic pace of the rest of the production. Overcoming the dilliculties imposed by a cramped stage. narrator. dancers. actors and musicians integrate their variouscontributions to create a show which does justice to their tag line ‘a musical theatre masterpiece“. Invigorating and inspiring stull. cyen lor tone deal myopics. (Stephen('hester) lThe Soldier'sTale tI‘ringe)’I'heatre 'I‘heatrical. Bedlam 'l'heatre ( Venue W) 225 9393. until 3l Aug. l2.35pm. L3."5t£2.51l).
THE STRANGE VOYAGE
If your artistic integrity tor your budget ) dictates that you put on aone—man show . what better than a play about a solo round-the-world yacht racc'.’ 'l'he ( 'astle l’lay ers choose the tale of Donald ('royy hurst. a decidedly unbalanced entrant in the Mob contest. Basically . in Izdmtiiid Blackaddcr style-.(‘iowhurst cheated; sailing to'l he Azores. looping round and heading home w hilc sending radio reports giving his location as anywhere trom :\tlslttlItit to India.
l'nlortunately. (‘rowhurst wasn't lust a cheat. he was alsogoing rapidly insane as he