Frantic Assembly's Sell Out doesn't live down to its title. Bursting with bruising energy, this latest show from Britain's hottest young theatre company follows hard on the heels of their hugely successful Generation Trilogy (Klub, Flesh and Zero). The latter proved that vital, uncompromising theatrical entertainment can lure new audiences, and youth in particular, away from the club or cinema and into the auditorium. For their efforts Frantic not only got fresh bums on seats, but critical kudos as well.
The company's ultimate reward, however, was a five-week London run of Sell Out in the West End last spring. 'It was pretty groundbreaking,’ admits company co- founder Scott Graham, 'especially because we're considered a fringe company - whatever that means.’
Sell Out, he says, is about 'the darker side of a group of friends. Something irreversible - an argument - happens from which the
Cash dance: Frantic Assembly
group dynamics can't recover.’ Using a shrewdly- observed text by Royal Court writer Michael Wynne as their springboard, Frantic furiously physicalise the sexual power politics and mind-fucking games of today’s under 30s.
Apart from movement, another of the show's key elements is its revved-up soundtrack. 'We use club music and b.p.m.,' says Graham, ’but not one-dimensionally. It’s more like film music, to create mood and atmosphere and to control the audience's feelings like a DJ does.’
Along with Cait Davis, Steven Hoggett and Anstey Thomas, Graham formed Frantic in 1994. They met at the University of Swansea, studying subjects like English and Geography rather than Theatre. But they hooked up with Swansea-based innovators Volcano Theatre Company whose members mentored and inspired the Frantic foursome into existence. The company came out of the gate running via an adaptation of the classic Look
Back In Anger but it was the Trilogy that turned them into a cult item.
‘lt's all just mushroomed,’ Graham notes. ‘We often get asked, “are you dancers who act or actors who dance?" It's easy to answer because we don't have qualifications in either category. It's freed up our whole approach. We just want to do the kind of work we wanted to see.’
The company has wisely made a policy of working with experienced choreographer-directors. Frantic productions have been piloted by artists who associated with established yet rule-breaking companies like 0V8, V-Tol, David Glass Ensemble and The Featherstonehaughs.
'We want to be as accessible as possible,’ Graham avows. ’The work's not really about technique, but it creates an energy. We want people to know that just about anybody can learn to do this, with the right enthusiasm.’ (Donald Hutera)
- For details, see Hit list, right.
Cinema Ievity: The Blue Grassy Knoll
Buster Keaton With The Blue Grassy Knoll *****
The music of this superb Australian bluegrass band would be enough to guarantee a great night out, as would Buster Keaton’s seminal 1924 feature, Sherlock Junior and the supporting short, Cops. But together, with the band providing live musical accompaniment to the film, the show is nothing less than pure magic. Mixing bluegrass, zydeco, gypsy and cabaret (plus sound effects), the five-piece’s score reminds us how astonishing Keaton’s films were.
in Sherlock Junior, Keaton plays a cinema projectionist framed for theft. Daydreaming, he clambers through the screen and joins the actors there to solve the crime — this is nothing short of postmodernism in 1924, and some 60
years before Woody Allen copied the trick in The Purple Rose Of Cairo. Looking afresh at the film, it also becomes clear what a clown Keaton was - there's a priceless joke in Cops involving a horse being treated with something akin to Viagra.
Of course, what continues to amaze are the stunts, all performed by Keaton himself. He rides the handlebars of a runaway motorcycle through heavy traffic, leaps aboard speeding motor cars and scurries along the top of a moving train before disembarking via a handy water tower. That last stunt, as the Knoll's band leader helpfully points out, fractured Keaton's neck.
Sitting in a darkened theatre watching the films, with the band assembled below the screen which illuminates them, is the way Keaton would have wanted his ‘silent' comedy classics to be seen. (Miles Fielder)
I For details see Hit list, right
I I h Itl I 9t \
The cream of your late night cultural shopping. Sell Out See preview, left. Sell Out (Fringe) Frantic Assembly, Observer Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, 24—30 Aug, 70.75pm, £ 70/£9 (£9/E8). Boris Charmatz Dance's bright young star is wowing the International crowd with his sensuality, eccentricity and fresh take on form and structure. See review on following pages. Boris Charmatz (International) Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 4 73 2000, until 25 Aug (not 22-23) 10.30pm, £72. Box The Pony By turns funny and harrowing, this is something of a tour de force by the remarkable Leah Purcell. See review on following pages. Box The Pony (Fringe) Performing Lines, Observer Assembly (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 30 Aug (not 23) times vary, £ 70/E9 (£9/E8). Phil Kay The long-haired loon is hitting more than he is missing this year and his own take on the city's tourist trail should be a blast. See review on following pages. Phil Kay (Fringe) Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 275 7, until 28 Aug, 70pm, £9 (£8); the alternative bus tour of Edinburgh, 26 Aug, 3.30pm, Waverley Bridge, £8. Buster Keaton With The Blue Grassy Knoll See review, left. Buster Keaton With The Blue Grassy Knoll (Fringe) Observer Assembly (Venue 3) 226 2428. until 27 Aug, 70pm, £9/£8 (£8/£ 7).
Bill Bailey The world's funniest hippy materialist shambles north for one night only. Bet he does stuff on the eclipse. Bill Bailey (Fringe) Edinburgh
Playhouse ( Venue 59) 226
2157, 24 Aug, 77pm, £70.50 (£8.50).
19—26 Aug 1999 THE LIST 57