Obu The King
One of the wildest things at the Fringe this year is bound to be Barnard Theatre’s production of Alfred Jerry’s anarchic and obscene masterpiece, libu Boi. First performed a century ago, it caused a riot and lasted only two performances. Yet its inﬂuence was enormous. It was the kick that started the modernist ball rolling.
Based at Columbia University in flew York, Barnard Theatre is directed by Denny Partridge in collaboration with designer Amy Trompetter and translator Steve Friedman, who takes the lead role. Veterans of the San Francisco Mime and Puppet Theatre scenes, they will be bringing a commedla dell'arte approach to the play, using giant puppets and masks in what promises to be a vivid spectacle.
‘For all its wildness,’ explains Partridge, ‘we want people to sit and listen to the story in an old-fashioned way. The further we experiment theatrically the keener we are to have the real, pure story told as one would tell a fairy-tale.’
‘We think it’s the Oedipus of our time,’ announces Friedman with a
Ubu The King: the classic play done in a commedla delt’arte style
chuckle, ‘but what’s also great is that as an avant-garde piece it still drives people crazy. The part of Ilbu is infinite, so the encounter between audience and performer can go anywhere.’
‘It removes politeness from the value system of art,’ adds Partridge, ‘and it’s still relevant today because llbu continues to rear his ugly head in our society. What we’re saying is that Ilbu is coming to your house next.’
‘Yeah,’ agrees Friedman enthusiastically. ‘Like Dracula, he’s sailing the Iligh Seas looking for a place to land . . .’ (Marc Lambert)
Ubu The King (Fringe) Barnard Theatre, Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425, 26-31 Aug, 2.30pm, £5 (£3).
Big White Pants
Tucked sweetly away from view, in the Cilded Balloon’s oh-so aptly-named Wee Boom, Logan Murray (dark, hairy), Cathy Dunning (blonde, big bones), and Sheila llyde (powerful, girl) are three comics in big white pants. Or so they insist on continually telling us. But they’re also in Big White Pants, an up- ’n’-at-it sketch show featuring space travel, pile-ons, bullets, and two of the scariest lady wrestlers on the Fringe.
‘I think,’ says Cathy, ‘that we can get away with the things we do because we’re not afraid to make ourselves look unattractive. For a bit.’ Making themselves look unattractive does, though, add no end to the comic content of the show. All three are extremely versatile, professional performers who seem all too able to adopt new personalities and add quirky twists to an otherwise amply catered-for genre. So where does it all come from? ‘From the diseased brains of sick, tortured individuals, without a doubt,’ says Logan. And the running pants theme? ‘I’d have to say it was one of the least offensive names we came up with. And then there were names that just didn’t give the right kind ot image: “.liggerypoltery”, for example. But I was most disturbed to
hear that “pants” is slang for “rubbish” . . .’
Apart from the obvious successes of programmes like The Fast Show, the sketch show format has begun to peter out. But how far do the stars of this refreshing and well hidden addition to the Fringe see Big White Pants going? Logan? ‘0h . . . We’re going allthe way . . .’ (Danny Wallace) Big White Pants (Fringe) Gilded Balloon (Venue 33) 2.26 2151, until 31 Aug, 2.30pm, £6 (£5).
THE SECRETS OF THE THEATRE EXPLAINEO
Taking a cue from Johnny Ball. this show looks at the elements that inject life and colour into even the dreariest theatrical forays.
‘We wanted to do this as a way of bridging the gap between science and the arts.‘ explains Adam Selinger. the show's creator. But a serious piece it ain’t. ‘lt's a bit like pantomime. really. It starts off like a show as one of the characters comes on stage and starts messing about with the lights. sound. pyrotechnics and so on. inadvertently setting things off.’
In the second part. the audience become props as aspiring luvvies try their hands at many jobs. including acting. make- up. costume and set- building. put through their paces by a demanding director. There are surprises in store. but Selinger warns: ‘lt's not for people who want to believe in the magic and mystery of the theatre.‘ (Claire Prentice)
I Edinburgh International Science Festival - The Secrets (If The Theatre Explained (Fringe) The Famous Grouse House (Venue 3-1) 220 5606. 26—3l Aug. I.45pm. £2.50.
Secrets Of The Theatre Explained: play misty for me
Slash. cut. back. slice. Never mind the sword- Iighting. that's Spencer Hinton‘s judicious editing of Shakespeare’s tale of treachery and honour. When a modest soldier‘s inability to court ﬂattery is mistaken for pride. he gives full vent to his naive belief that actions speak louder than words. Self-assuredly
overcoming a plague of script changes. the cast powerfully ride the wave of the story. and innovative director Hinton makes creative use of a potentially unsympathetic space. But Bob Cryer's tender and brutal Coriolanus. all burning eyes and marbled body. is the icing. The man is a sword.
Lighting. sound and costume designers all warrant praise. and the production overall deserves better audiences than it will receive. This Coriolanus is for those whose eyes glaze over at the mere mention of Shakespeare. Allow this cracking company to rouse and move you. and you won‘t regret it. (Gabe Stewart)
I Coriolanus (Fringe) Brave New World Theatre Company. Moray House Studios (Venue I69) 556 ()I02. until 31 Aug. Ipm. £6 (£4).
SHEEP THRILLS PRESENTS ON THE BOX
Bizarre scenario. here: These are the opening two episodes of a pilot TV sitcom series adapted for the stage. It's a kind of dmvnmarket Absolutely Fabulous. or the office atmosphere of ”rap T/lt’ Dead Donkey transported to a prosthetics factory in Scuuthorpe. It ‘VUIKS well on stage because of excellent theatrical performances (especially Jane Guemier‘s repressed office manager). energetic
Sheep Thrills: pilot error
Coriolanus: a production that deserves better audiences
than It will receive
teamwork and tight. salacious scripts which follow the lives and loves of these sad thirty- somethiugs. The second episode — a classic French farce — works particularly well. At times. it all borders on class and regional stereotyping. btit it‘s an enjoyable. light show with the funniest set change in Iidinburgh. (Grant Gordon)
I Sheep Thrills Presents On The Box (Fringe) Sheep Thrills. (iilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2I5l. until 3| Aug. I.-l5pm. £6.50 (£5.50).
THE EARLY AFTERNOON SHOW WITH EAMON SMARM
()ur hearts go out to him. they really do. Steve Brody is one hell of a likeable bloke. In fact. we can think of nothing we‘d rather do than split our sides at hisjokes. And. truthfully. when Brody is playing his main character. liamon Smarm. a parody of nauseating daytime TV presenters. the funny bone is definitely engaged. It's his other characterisations — brought on as 'guests' during the show — that are the problem. raising only impatience for the return of the host. Perhaps Brody's humour isjust too gentle and subtle for a Fringe audience ravenous for ‘edge' and punchiness. But Brody himself has raw talent. and a knack for getting the audience on his side. A ruthless brainstorming session over his scripts might work wonders. (Alastair Mabbott)
I The Early Afternoon Show With Eamon Smann (Fringe) Steve Brody. Moray House Kabaret (Venue I68) 556 0I02. 23/24 Aug. 12.I5pm. £5 (£4); 25-3l Aug. l.45pm. £5 (£4).
22 The List 23 Aug-5 Sept I996