The Glass Menagerie.

It’s amazing the difference between studying a piece of theatre and watching it being performed. I understand why people hate theatre when they’ve studied it at school. I disliked The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams ever since I studied. I found it boring and pointless, and I hated the characters. I completely disregarded seeing it, and how different it would be performed.

I saw The Glass Menagerie today as part of The Edinburgh International Festival. The first thing to mention about the production is the set. The set has to be one of the best sets I have ever seen. It reminded me of a concept of a set that was too ambitious to pull off. It consisted of two octagons, creating a parlour and dining room with a balcony. This was surrounded in water, creating a reflective night sky, suspending the set in water. In time like a menagerie, creating a closed capsule. Suspending the set and all the action in it. This was all aided by the lighting, a light haziness flooding the set, making the play feel like a memory. Along with the score. The Score was gorgeous. The Score was beautiful, absolutely made the show. It gave an aura of serendipity, and framed the whole action.

The Acting, and direction was fabulous. Michael Esper, Tom, was brilliant, his narration was a needed element, with his movements and body language, slipping in and out of time, was amazing. His chemistry with Cherry Jones, The Mother, was perfect, humanising this character that I once hated. Seth Numrich, Jim, and Kate O’Flynn, Laura, had really good chemistry as well, the scene with them alone in the parlour was lovely. The characters developed really well together, and frankly it was just cute. I remembered why I disliked The Glass Menagerie, when I was watching that scene. I dislike Laura and Jim’s characters. I thought Laura was too weak, and Jim was full of himself, but I realised throughout that scene they developed, and they developed each other. They way they were portrayed, it changed my mind about them. I like to think Laura developed for the better after her interaction with Jim, the ending is slightly ambiguous about that, if not more pessimistic. I think this is shown with the unicorn breaking. Laura threw the horn into the water, and created a ripple effect. A beautiful metaphor. The moments of dance and physical theatre, isolated with the use of the lighting showed so much underneath the narrative. It showed the true beauty of the characters and the fragility of the Laura.

The most beautiful scenes had to be with the moon and the lights in the water. Shining, with the reflection of the characters. It was gorgeous, the stars and the moon, creating an image of hope, shining in reflection. Coupled with the music, it had this amazing feel to it. Using the menagerie and the moon as symbols and metaphors, with the Tennessee Williams usual imagery of the American Dream, just out of reach. The suspension of time in the production, having it all in about real time, and was wonderfully aided by Toms extraction from the story.

The whole production was very cleverly done, and I am so glad I had the chance to see it. Seeing it performed truly brought the show to life, bringing comedy to the mundane, meaning to the meaningless. It changed my opinion on The Glass Menagerie. It’s still not my favourite show, but it was very beautifully portrayed. There was something so poignant, about these seemingly mundane characters, portrayed so poetically, showing that they were so damaged.

XX – Ed Fringe

XX is an interesting production, where the cast and crew use an algorithm to randomise a show each night, creating a story about love, and loss and everything in between, each night. This was a genius idea, and I applaud the writer and director and everyone involved. I won’t talk about the plot, because that wouldn’t make sense because it changes each night.
It was a very creative and meaningful idea. It was well directed and the acting was brilliant. Very heartfelt, sweet and hard hitting. It was simple staging and had some audience participation, but it was used sparingly, and only when needed, meaning it was very effective. There isn’t much more to say, without the use of plot, apart from it was a very good production, very creative and clever. The symbolism in it was beautiful, very effective, and all the stories seemed to link up, even though they were all very different and would be each night. The use of climbing ropes to create the set was effective, and they used physical theatre very beautifully. One thing I loved, was how the cast constantly changed and the others would watch the action and react. This was aided, by the fact it was all written in gender neutral terms, meaning anyone could play those parts.  And I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to produce.  Definitely a must see for the Fringe.

Foxtrot- Ed Fringe

I saw Foxtrot today at Paradise in the Vaults. This venue was actually one of the first places where I saw an actual piece of Theatre that wasn’t commercial or mainstream. About 5 years ago, I saw Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde there, and it was really lovely to return to that space, after all that has changed over the past 5 years. It is such an amazing space, I would love to perform in there at some point, the stage is naturally framed from the arches of the cellar.
The story was interesting. It was very arty, and I have to say, I did get slightly confused at who was who etc. But otherwise I liked how it was presented. I think it was arty, and political. It looked at the story of three children who have gone missing, but in a mismatched, sort of collage style.  It looked at Identity and the idea of knowing someone. It was topical, cleverly written and political.
The acting was A+. The whole cast created several different characters each with such enthusiasm and passion, making it an entertaining, funny, but also political, and meaningful. It was very poignant. I loved the costumes, very simple, all in black and white, or black and white stripes. I’m not sure why, but I just liked that. Anyway, it is a really interesting show, and definitely worth seeing to anyone who is interested in political theatre and wants to see a well acted, Fringe show.

Techies: The Musical – Ed Fringe

Not to worry, much shorter review this time. Techies: The Musical, is a play about the underdogs of Theatre, the people no-one applauses. The Techies, the lighting, sound, stage managers etc. The ‘Dark Knights’ of Theatre. ‘ The heroes Theatre need, but not the ones they deserve.’ I went to see this because as someone who is often backstage I thought it would be entertaining. And it was. It was relatable, and I managed to feel like all of the characters on stage, which I’m not sure how. The Director trying to do the impossible, the stage manager asked of the impossible, about half a millisecond away from a breakdown, the hopeless techie backstage hand, and the backstage techie who was really ‘secretly stagey’. 

I will admit, it wasn’t the most perfect fringe show. It wasn’t a show that would end up on the west end. It was a Fringe production. It was genuine. It was full of charm, and reminded me of ‘A Very Potter Musical’ before it became very successful. It was clever and had lots of hidden theatre references that if you are a little obsessed with Theatre like me, then it’s perfect. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout it. 

There isn’t much else to it really, it was charming and genuine. It was a Fringe show. 

RENT – Post It Theatre Company

RENT, the musical, written by Jonathan Larson, is about the homeless, artistic community in New York, looking heavily at the LGBTQ+ community. When it was written, AIDS was a severe issue in the LGBTQ+ community, when treatment wasn’t given to ‘queers’. Jonathan Larson died on the morning of the first preview on Off-Broadway, where they mourned Larson, by singing through the musical, before reaching the energetic La Vie Boheme, where they ended up performing the rest as it was supposed to be performed. 

This version that I saw at the Fringe was simply very good. I hate to say, but I was semi expecting to see a well performed show, but ishly produced. I actually thought it would be to ambitious to stage a full length Broadway musical at the Fringe. But I was very pleasantly surprised. It was very professionally produced, almost west end standard. And the cast were fabulous. A special mention for Kieran Parrott who played Roger who’s acting was so raw and emotional, creating an amazing character who was full of self-lothaing, with an amazing voice. Rebecca Matheson, Maureen, and Nina Rose Naylor, Joanne, both had spectacular voices swallowing up the whole theatre space. The story of Angel and Collins is a very emotional one and was brought to life by Sam Long and Robbie Caprari-Sharpe. Caprari-Sharpe brought this wonderful character to life, and managed to get me in tears in the audience, which is no easy feat whatsoever, especially with his I’ll Cover You (Reprise) .Basically a special mention for the whole cast. They were fabulous. They were also absolutely lovely, which is important, and I commend them on such a professional performance.  

UPDATE: So after realising that when I wrote this, I was very tired and sleep deprived, and I was so excited by the show that I wanted to get it out. I forgot to talk about so much. For one,  Kieran Faulkner, who played Mark, was fabulous, his chemistry with Roger created the backbone of the story, showing a really lovely friendship, that they are both broken and they are helping each other.  What you Own, has quickly become one of my favourite songs, purely because of they way they performed it. Kieran brought this loveable, awkward character to life, and I loved it. I also have to mention the woman who played Mimi, Lizzie, At first, I didn’t like her character , but she quickly grew on me, and towards the end of the show, my heart could not take anymore. They whole cast were very talented, aided by the wonderful band, who brought the whole performance to life. I also have to mention the staging, the two levels were very effective and the design of the set, set the perfect mood for the show. I also found out that they only started rehearsals in January? Which is very impressive. The Chorus numbers made the show, the harmonies were beautiful, and heartfelt.

It was full of spunk, and had an amazing community feel to it. The story was heartwarming and so political and relevant to when it was written. It was such an icon for the LGBTQ+ community and so necessary, the impact  of it, brought with the poignancy of the characters, creating a series of emotional stories.  I wanted to hug all of the characters, and tell them it was okay, but I felt that at least half of them would punch me if I did. The music is heartwarming. I don’t know anyone who can listen to Seasons of Love, without tearing up, or at least ‘awwwing’ in appreciation. The music tells the story perfectly, bringing the community of the audience together.

I loved RENT, and I loved this version of it. It was very professional and they were so talented and they pulled it off with flying colours. Must See Show for the Fringe

The Master & Magarita

So this evening I went to see The Master & Margarita at The Edinburgh Fringe. The Master & Margarita is a Russian novel designed as a satire to reflect the Russian bourgeois. It’s an interesting story which looks at two worlds. One set in Russia at the turn of the great war, and the other set two thousand years ago. It is an extremely complex story, and one very hard to translate to stage.

So it is no mystery that I may have gotten a bit lost in the story and found it a little hard to follow, however even when I wasn’t sure what was going on, I still enjoyed it. Due to the beautiful writing of the piece, and the heartfelt acting from the actors. The main aspect of this piece that I think was very artistic, was the use of space. The venue was a church, and the staging was promenade. I love promenade staging, and I know how hard it is to do. So I commend the company for that. I think it was done really well and I loved the use of levels in the venue. This was also complimented by the lighting. As it was a late night performance, the church was shrouded in darkness, the lighting was provided by the torches that each actor used. This meant that the acting areas were lit up according to what was performed, and it made the actors shadows dance on the walls behind them, adding another visual layer to this piece.

The puppetry and physical theatre aspects of the piece were really effective. There was one particular scene where Margarite was flying through the sky, transforming into as a witch. They used the company to lift the actor over the pews, creating a really beautiful scene, and the puppetress made the cat very realistic and life-like, even though it was just a floating head. A special mention must also be said for the actor who played Satan, creating a sort of sassy and suave satan, who I enjoyed very much, along with the actor who played The Master. The narration added another layer, which helped drive the narrative. The interaction with the audience made a very immersive production, along with caricature characters, combined with some beautiful singing, gave it a rather Brechtian feel.

The overall effect was a piece that was full of life, and passion. Somebody once said to me that passion of theatre always shines through and makes any performance transcendent. It cannot be rewarded by a single part, but by a lifetime of a dramatist. It may not be the best show in the fringe, but it sure is a good one, and not only because the company’s passion exudes throughout the performance.