THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS Adaptation of Edwardian novel that’s more urgent than ever

‘It seems, unfortunately, to get more relevant everyday,’ says playwright Stephen Lowe of his adaptation of Robert Tressell’s classic Edwardian novel about working men’s lives. ‘What he was describing was a world where for the poor there was no safety net to keep them from falling into abject poverty. Well, we’re returning to the Edwardian world with alarming speed: the rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer.’

Since it was first staged in 1979, Lowe’s play has had many revivals, including three directed by Stephen Daldry, an Apartheid-era reworking in Johannesburg two years ago and now a two- hander at the Fringe. Why is Tressell’s book so suited to the stage? ‘I put work at the centre of it,’ says Lowe

(who also has a new play, Just a Gigolo, about Tressell’s contemporary DH Lawrence at the Fringe this year), ‘and there’s nothing audiences like more than seeing people working. I wanted it to portray the difficulties of working life as well as the banter between the labourers. It’s about resistance, struggle, comradeship. I don’t feel it’s negative in any way, though the world around it might be.’ (Miles Fielder) Assembly George Square, 623 3030, 4–27 Aug (not 13), noon, £11–12 (£9–10). Previews until 3 Aug, £8 (£6.50).

PLANET LEM Polish sci-fi writer inspires Fringe spectacular

In 1995, Teatr Biuro Podrozy won critical acclaim for Carmen Funebre, a harrowing account of the war in Yugoslavia. In 2007, they won more plaudits for Macbeth: Who is that Bloodied Man?, which brought us the three witches on stilts and motorbikes.

Now, the Polish theatre giants return with Planet Lem, a spectacular open-air show inspired by the writings of Polish science fiction writer, Stanislaw Lem. Marta Strzalko, who’s been with the group since 1989, says of the piece: ‘The longing for the sacred and dreams of a better world make science fiction today one of the reservoirs for romantic thinking in the general sense. Planet Lem is a future land which has become a false paradise; a kind of dystopia.’

The huge set takes two-days to set up, and features robots, aliens, astronauts and more other-

worldly figures. But while Lem is best known for his 1961 novel Solaris, his importance can sometimes go ignored outside of sci-fi circles. ‘What I like in his writings is his power of intellectual prophesy,’ Strzalko says. ‘Living in today’s world we realise how many phenomena and inventions were already described by Lem long ago. Some science fiction authors think that Stanislaw Lem is a nickname for a group of writers because one person wouldn’t be able to think up all of that.’ Alongside Planet Lem, Teatr Biuro Podrozy will reprise Macbeth and will put on a one-night-only performance of Carmen Funebre for Amnesty International. And although it’s been 18 years since their first appearance, the Fringe hasn’t lost its sheen for Strzalko. The Fringe is my strongest theatre experience. I don’t know another festival that would be so challenging and so exciting. It is a month long theatre feast. It’s also very demanding but you end with a feeling that you are a part of an enormous theatre diversity like a plant in the Amazon jungle.’ (Yasmin Sulaiman) Old College Quad, 226 0000, 17-26 Aug, 9pm, £13-£15 (£10-£13). Preview 16 Aug, £7.


MESS Anorexia tale, told with humour and song

Caroline Horton (acclaimed performer of 2010 Fringe solo show You’re Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy) returns to Edinburgh with Mess, a piece she describes as ‘a play with songs’ inspired by her own experience of anorexia. ‘I didn’t want it to be po-faced,’ she insists. ‘I didn’t want to make a piece that was educational or navel gazing.

‘It felt important to me to tell a story about the relationships around the illness,’ she continues. ‘The central relationship is between Josephine and her friend Boris and a lot of the story is about what happens to that relationship.’

Horton wanted to create a ‘light vehicle’ for her exploration of this difficult subject. Hence the device of Josephine and her friends staging a drama about anorexia. The result, she hopes, is a piece which switches between comedy and moments of real poignancy. (Mark Brown) Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, 3–26 Aug (not 6, 13, 20), times vary, £17–£19 (£12–£14). Preview 2 Aug, 3.15pm, £12 (£6).

MOTHER TONGUE A life less ordinary

It’s what primetime TV movies are made of. Aged just 18, writer and performer Lauren Jillian packed her bags and fled New York for the opulent world of Brunei. Summoned by playboy Prince Jefri she would live as part of his harem for almost two years. Confusion would follow, then recovery, before her best-selling memoir, the poignant page-turner Some Girls: My Life in a Harem. Almost two decades on, her Fringe debut, Mother Tongue, paves the way for the latest chapter in her life, her struggle to conceive and her decision to adopt her son from Ethopia with her husband, Weezer bassist Scott Shriner. ‘I’ve lived a life where out-of-the-ordinary things happen,’ smiles Lauren, fully aware of the understatement. ‘I take my experiences and I try to pick out universal truths people can relate to. This feels different to the stories I’ve told before, it’s more relevant. This is who I am and where I am now: there are issues about motherhood there, but the story I have to tell goes beyond that.’ (Anna Millar) Summerhall, 0845 874 3001, 5 –15 Aug, 4pm, £9 (£7). Preview 4 Aug, £9 (£7).

2–9 Aug 2012 THE LIST 77