marm— Ybung upstarts
Eddie Gibb separates the wheat from the chaff during a night of performance art at the last Artistic Upstarts showcase.
Artistic Upstarts is an occasional event — this was the fourth — which offers new performers a chance to try out work which might not find an audience in its own right. It‘s a worthy attempt to generate an arts fringe scene away from the Edinburgh establishment. but the controlled chaos on the night meant that entertainers who could bark up a crowd fared best. Introspective and difficult pieces tended to get
three floors at the 369. the audience was encouraged to ﬂit from room to room. This was performance art for people with short attention spans. but despite the nagging feeling that you might be missing something better in another room. many of the performers found a surprising level of audience commitment.
Take for instance Jonathan Bumett's one-man show Hemirles XII which camped up the Jason and the Golden Fleece myth. Halfof it was in Latin and the other half was in Scots — neither were intelligible. But a combination of the power of Burnett's high-intensity monologue and sheer disbelief at the
' spectacle of a man in a ﬂesh-coloured
body stocking wrapping himself in gold lame as he transformed himself into a drag Medea kept most people pinned to their seats.
Music for Burnett’s piece was supplied by Nick Rothwell of Cassie]. whose own performance earlier in the evening mixed contemporary dance moves with a live electro-soundtrack. Rothwell was the technocrat controlling the moves of well-drilled dancer Clare Hughes in Sperijir‘ (Inn'in — a ‘metaphysical exploration of weight.
Dominic Waxing lyrical: bizarre folk/rock musos
They Ate Her Theatre Company produced a polished piece of physical theatre which also had an element of the remote-controlled about it. with two taffeta-clad bridesmaids spinning about the stage. guided by an unseen power. Not a particularly accessible piece but plenty ofgood sight-gags and Ali
The evening‘s crowd-pleaser was Dominic Waxing Lyrical. a bunch of musical eccentrics who are already beginning to build up a following. As a nod to the performance art theme of the evening. the four band members wore paper nuclear fall-out suits. but their act was bizarre enough without them. Frontman Dominic Harris has a moumful folk voice. while the excellent band reminded me of American oddballs They Might Be Giants.
Big disappointment of the night was a non-performance by talented Edinburgh actor Tam Dean Burn and his director pal John Paul McGroarty. Apart from a couple of neat put-downs for the evening's compere Craig ‘Swing 'l‘hang‘ Mclylurdo. they had no material. no ideas and no intention of doing anything other than banter with ‘hecklcrs' planted in the audience. Intending. no doubt. to puncture the pretentious of Edinburgh‘s trendy any set. Burn and McGroarty adopted a sneering tone which was out of step with the night‘s cynicism~free atmosphere. Fortunately most of the audience was prepared to give the other artistic upstarts a chance.
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John is an upwardly mobile college professor - self-important, even priggish, but basically decent; Carol a dippy, untalented student who’s struggling with his course. He indulges her, tries to offer encouragement, but she’s stony ground for his patronising seeds of wisdom. The twist comes when Carol goes to the Tenure Committee which employs John, making profoundly damaging allegations about him. Claiming gliny to represent all women, and referring ominously to her ‘Group’, suddenly the tongue-tied shrinking violet is linguistically empowered to accuse him of increasingly heinous behaviour. Ever the liberal white male, he reasons with her, begins to wonder if he might have offended, attempts an apology. Finally, he can bear it no more . . .
David Mamet’s play arrives in Edinburgh bearing a huge burden of expectation. It is - we’ve been told - an articulate yet ambivalent warning about the dangers of political
\ 2‘2. s :1
Fiona Bell and Tom Mannion exchange views frankly in Dleanna
particularly compelling drama. While Tom Mannion captures both the strutting arrogance and the creeping, raddled anxiety of John, Fiona Bell is neither young enough nor, I suspect, American enough to convince as Carol, but then she has a much less convincingly written part. Michael Breakey’s off-kilter set adds dramatic pressure, with windows that wink into view like accusing eyes, but the climax to which it all builds is less cathartic than gratuitous.
Where the play does score is in provoking opinions. It’s not the sex- war classic we’ve been expecting, and it’s absurd to suggest that Carol and John stand for more than a small sector of their genders, but sure enough you’ll find yourself drawn into the after-show discussions. 0n the opening night, a heckler kept trying to complete Mamet’s unfinished sentences, but no one shouted ‘Kill the bitch!’ Maybe we weren’t American enough either. (Andrew Burnet)
Cat A Theatre Company’s latest show is the final part of their Take No Prisoners trilogy, which began with Fringe First winner flo Mean Fighter and continued with Dirt Enters at the Heart. This production focuses on women’s prisons and examines the lives of three inmates - Margaret, who killed her violent husband, Terry, a prostitute, and Angie, a shoplifter.
Sharply directed by Irvine Allan, Doing Bird is a series of quickiire scenes which examine different aspects of the inmates’ lives, but have as much relevance to those outside as to those within the prison system.
Although a bewildering number of issues are raised - the pain of separation from children and family, domestic violence, the injustice of a prison system based on revenge — the play gains coherence from the three women’s personal histories.
Together with these stories, the script (written by John Maley, Willy Maley and ‘lifer’ Billy Elliot in conjunction with the company) is sprinkled with references to Shakespeare, television commercials and game shows, culminating in a grotesque parody of a beauty pageant.
The cast (liz Hanken, Annie George and Molly Innes) are excellent, the characters telling their story in ways that are moving, funny and true. Gerry Clark’s live score is subtly effective and Banken’s choreography gives the piece an intense physicality which is both exhilarating and exhausting to watch.
Doing Bird is unashamedly political but, rather than clubbing its audience over the head, it leaves us entertained and informed, moved, fired-up and even angry. No mean feat. (Cathryn O’Neill)
A middle-aged audience, plastic bum- moulded seats, free interval drinks (of the non-alcoholic, fizzy variety) . . . there’s a lot to be said for community theatre, and if the true spirit of Mayfest is lacking elsewhere, it is surely to be found here.
The action in Breadmakers centres round a bakery run by Melvin Maclfalr (Kevan MacKenzie). Melvin is a flew Man (‘I do what a wumman does, only better,’ he says), who proposes to young Catriona (Mari Binnie). Realising this may be the only offer she’ll get, she accepts. Thus she escapes the clutches of her overbearing mother, only to be victimised by Melvin and his obnoxious son Fergus. Unsurprisingly, she finds herself yearning after poetic, piano-playing idealist Jimmy (Derek Johnston).
Margaret Thomson Davis’s tale (adapted by director John Binnie) begins as an amusing tale of everyday Glesca folk, but is soon overtaken by tragic elements. The main strand of these is the demise of delicate Sarah Fowler, barren despite husband Baldy’s healthy appetite for sex, and eventually hanged fora murder she unwittingly commits.
Clyde Unity Theatre’s production offers ensemble playing at its best. Hope Ross is particularly good as The Mothers: cosseting one minute, tyrannical the next. The set, too, proves impressively adaptable: a wooden table serves as church arch, bed, paddle-steamer, piano and gallows, ultimately returning to its breadmaking function. The baking, after all, must go on - even in the midst of a grisly murder, which is, as Melvin sensitively notes, ‘a great marketing ploy.’ (Siobhan Donnelly)
The List 19 May-l Jun 1995 53