SG2015 Review: Scottee: Camp (As Christmas)

Venue (): Spiegeltent, St Andrews Square

Category: Cabaret
Times: 9.30pm
Dates: Dec 16,17
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Zander Bruce

Brace yourself. This is Christmas down the k-hole, darling.

It’s a festive variety show for the freaks, the femmes, the fatties, the queers, the misfits and undesirables. This is that Christmas you just had friends round, necked the peach schnapps and set fire to that girl’s party hat while she was wearing it at the dinner table (in my defence, she was quite annoying).

This is in your face, messy, slapdash camp old nonsense. Conversely it’s also a celebration of different body shapes, gender and effeminacy as well as a jab at the pretention of the arts. The lines blur delightfully between comedy, drag, performance, art and cabaret.

Scottee as performer and compere is both caustic and demanding (ok, hes a playful cunt) but he always manages to bring the audience in on the joke. He’s engaging and bold, we’re very much in his world and he’s willing to share, so long as we all know who’s in charge.

He’s brought along some great talent for the ride. Ginger Johnson, the Geordie Trixie Mattel, is filthy and fun with a holefelt ode to a mahoganific national treasure. Dickie Beau has razor-sharp timing with his lip-synched monologue from the most erudite of our tragic stately homos.

Rounding off the troupe of weirdos are our star turns in the making – Jayde Adams, whose droll delivery and “rapport” with Scottee make her a joy to watch (she’s not bad to listen to either), as well as Jess Love, who with her pained effervescent expression, contorts her physique and extorts much applause as she works her ropes and hoops.

Our ringmaster for this camp circus weaves it all together and stuffs over an hour of class(less) cabaret tighter than his Primark spanx. The fact that he does so unapologetically in his socks just adds to the unpolished charm.

You can go and enjoy this solely as frivolity and escapism, or admire and appreciate the levels of counter-normativity inherent within the framework. If the latter appeals, search online for Scottee’s Lost Lecture “I’ve been radicalised!”. Hes also a major contributor to the documentary Dressed As A Girl, about the East London drag scene, released this month on DVD.

Cabaret the way I like it. Challenging, immersive and deranged.

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SG2015 Review: Nijinsky’s Last Jump

Venue (): Dance Base

Category: Theatre
Times: 2:00pm
Dates: -Aug 23rd
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Nijinsky was the greatest dancer of the early 20th century, celebrated for his virtuosity and the depth and intensity of his characterisations. His choreography changed the way people thought of, and saw, dance: LAprès-Midi dun Faun [1912] shocked audiences and in 1913 fights broke out at the première of Le Sacre du Printemps. In 1919 he was diagnosed with schizophrenia: for the next thirty years he was in and out of mental institutions and never danced again.

An old man sits in a circle of light, listening to music: he remembers, and his arms begin to move in the exquisite movements of the ballet. A young dancer, costumed as the Rose, leaps into the wings from a stage, and collapses, panting, on the floor: for some minutes he is unable to rise and take his bow. Old Nijinsky and Young Nijinsky, bound together and yet divided, two halves of the same person, explore their remembered past, and wonder whether having to understand everything drives you mad? An artist has to understand to be able to portray: when is it madness, when is it seeing things clearly? We hear of the horrific and seemingly never-ending remedies to which he was subjected: we see some of the physical and mental effort that went into creating a language of movement for our time no sentiment, just ideas in pure movement and are left wondering does feeling too little make you sane?

This is yet another superb production from Company Chordelia, who specialise in creating thought-provoking shows which move outside traditional dance boundaries and blend live music, speech, story-telling and visual images to shatter our concept of what a dance show should be and always provoke deep thought as well as creating intense enjoyment. The dancing was beautiful, the acting superb the show simply has to be seen!

SG2015 Review: Garden

Venue (33): Pleasance Courtyard

Category: Theatre
Times: 3:30pm
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: ***
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

At Insignia Asset Management Lucy is in charge of the photocopier, printer, scanner, shredder and binder. She has no friends, nor any life outside work, and escapes to landscapes and soundworlds inside her head. She is put in charge of Green Management [i.e. looking after the plants]: one day she takes home a Dracaena – a plant that is sacred in Tanzania, whose leaves should never be cut to rescue it from the office managers scissors. Gradually she transforms her monotonous life into something alive and satisfying, if somewhat unconventional

Lucy Graces lively performance kept the audience engaged, entertained and amused, and the final applause was warm. No doubt the lighting glitches will be swiftly ironed out, though I fear the intrusive music from next doors show will continue to distract.

This is an interesting and thought-provoking look at the soullessness of many peoples working lives – a mistake that no-one knows how to fix and offers an ingenious and attractive alternative.

SG2015 Review: Dragon

Venue (): Royal Lyceum Theatre

Category: Theatre
Times: times vary
Dates: -Aug 16th
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Tommys mother has died, and his family have recently moved to a Glasgow tenement. His father is grief-stricken, his sister selfish and self-absorbed, and Tommy is numb, wrapped in a silent world, unable to hear or communicate with those around him. One day a dragon enters his life, and things start to change

Its a complex world of emotions told very simply no words, until the very end of the show, no mime just actions and gestures which can be open to more than one interpretation. The stage is initially bare: furniture, doors, windows, and props are flown in and removed by cast members in a complex ballet which requires split-second timing and meticulous rehearsal to produce the seemingly spontaneous, effortless transition from scene to scene. The dragon is gorgeous, terrifying, playful, threatening: moving sinuously and breathing audibly, beautiful when it first appears, growing larger as the play progresses until it is terrifying in its power and majesty.

Scott Millers Tommy is the centre around whom all the action whirls: the rest of the cast play everyone else and the dragon and fly all the props and scenery around the stage. There is a magical scene when Tommy escapes to the roof of his tenement and the chimney on which hes sitting transforms into the dragon on which he goes flying and gives him a blessed respite from the misery hes experiencing at school and at home. The inventiveness of the production design is astounding, not just in the big moments but in the simple moments that are part of Tommys daily routine getting up, cleaning his teeth, cycling to school: it would be a delight to watch again simply to concentrate on the complicated choreography and subtle transformations.

Vox Motus, the National Theatre of Scotland, and the Tianjin Childrens Art Theatre have collaborated to produce a stunning show which communicates across cultural and language barriers and enthrals and moves people of all ages. Dragon is incredible: catch it if you can!

SG2015 Review: Cautionary Tales

Venue (): Quaker Meeting House

Category: Theatre
Times: 2:30pm
Dates: -Aug 15th
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Hilaire Bellocs Cautionary Tales for Children, Designed for the Admonition of Children Between the Ages of Eight and Fourteen Years were published in 1908, delighted me when I first discovered them several decades ago, and have now been brought to sparkling life by the multi-talented members of the Newbury Youth Theatre, who have once again brought a must see show to the Fringe.

The multi-talented cast took an exuberant delight in the many manifestations of naughtiness which had brought each of them in front of the three venerable members of the Ministry of Child Correction. They were admonished to listen to the woeful histories of a number of Bad Children, who suffered appropriate and gruesome fates: among them the tales of Jim, who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion, Matilda who told lies and was burned to death, and Sandra Fair, who refused to have her hair cut and encountered a very near relation of Sweeney Todd

We did not simply hear the tale: it was acted out with great gusto and much additional graphic detail (and comment) by a young cast who created riot and mayhem in an extraordinarily well-disciplined and well-rehearsed performance which had the audience in stitches and earned them loud and prolonged applause.

If you are suffering from Fringe overload and terminal boredom, come and let your hair down and release your inner Struwwelpeter!

SG2015 Review: Manalive!

Venue (): Greenside@Infirmary Street

Category: Theatre
Times: 2:55pm
Dates: -Aug 29th
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Noel and Antonia, aka Box Tale Soup, have a genius for bringing literature to life in imaginative and inventive ways, and this years grown ups story is no exception. G K Chestertons book was unknown to me, but I will be getting a copy as soon as I can: the tale, written a century ago, is very relevant to todays joyless, bored, and unhappy world.

A group of people living in a boarding house, Beacon House, suddenly have a most unusual visitor Innocent Smith who turns their lives upside down, challenges their perceptions and ways of living, and is accused of being a criminal lunatic, a murderer, a thief, and a bigamist. The residents decide to investigate these accusations for themselves; the High Court of Beacon House holds session; nothing is quite what it seems

The performance is wondrously intriguing, fantastical, witty, and subtle: it demands concentration as we tune into Chestertons language and get to know his characters, and is immensely satisfying as we are drawn into the mystery with which we are presented. Two extremely talented artists take the simplest of ingredients and effortlessly weave storytelling, puppetry, music, and movement into a beautiful and memorable multi-layered tapestry that delights and entertains and challenges us to reconsider the way we live our lives.

The audience were delighted and appreciative: its a brilliant show!