Inkle and Yarico, Festival Revue

Marianne Gunn

Holders Season presented the world premier of Inkle and Yarico in remembrance of the abolition of the slave trade on August 23, 1807. Reworked from the original (and true) story and the eighteenth-century opera, the musical was performed spectacularly. The score, composed by Paul Leigh and James McConnel, was compelling and entertaining - many of the songs were reminiscent of Les Miserables itself - and seemed to fuse many styles of music (such as gospel and soul).

Described as a tale of love, betrayal, and redemption it tells how a white man, Inkle, shipwrecked on the coast of South America, is taught by the high priestess, Yarico, how to love and live. When she returns to Barbados with him, however, their love fails to survive and in a harrowing scene he sells her to the white slave-traders. The somewhat long narrative ultimately winds its way to general rejoicing as the slave-trade is abolished.

The staging is effective: a simple set lit with bright (often purple or orange) light and period costumes that do not detract focus from the singing. Michael McCarthy's emotive voice expressed Inkle's turmoil well and Natalie Tinn's Yarico was wilful and strong with more than a subtle hint of raunch. The musical was also screened by satellite in Covent Garden and available on the Internet at


Body Talk, The Garage

Mary Brennan

EACH year, when the Fringe brochure arrives, Ritual Number One, find if certain names are back. Kumiko Yamaguchi is now a name I look for - and her performance is one I look forward to seeing. For year by year, Yamaguchi just gets better and better. She consistently hones her already strong technique, and she puts real thought into what she wants to present and how to achieve it. This year in Body Talk she explores fine detail in gender difference - dancing the first part as a dapper, androgynous figure in male clothing before switching to the feminine in a little black ensemble.

You could, if you want, construct a story to go with the dance - the lighting changes do suggest shifts into conflict and confrontation - but it's possible, and a pleasure, simply to appreciate the poise and control that Yamaguchi brings to her movement, the blend of power and delicacy within the phrasing, and the sheer focus of her performance. She is a dancer of great sophistication, expressive without being florid or histrionic - and I hope to see her name in next year's brochure.


Speedrun, Cafe Graffiti

Robert Thomson

NEW plays rarely get such a swift second production, but Isobel Wright's Speedrun follows last October's success at Glasgow's Tron with a new version from Open Window Theatre Company, formed by former students of the RSAMD. The Graffiti bar is an appropriate venue for this performance poem with its club setting (think Liz Lochhead after too many vodka and red bulls!) It's a fast-paced, big-beat, 90s kind of commentary, though having the action around, above, and behind does lead to problems in places with sight-lines and audibility.

And Wright's rich, precise language is worth hearing, with strong narratives emerging through the lyrical and the evocative: there are the relationships just beginning, the ones destructively enduring, club culture, work ethic, dole politics. Using words as a means of both expression and rhythm, Wright shows that there is much that is universal in those dilemmas in the dark recesses of the discotheque.


Movers, The Garage

Mary Brennan

SOMETIMES - as a particularly ill-advised display writhes before you - the thought occurs: ''have these people no friends that could tell them it's a bad idea to take this God-awful squirming heap of rubbish to the Fringe?'' And then you realise: those friends are in the front row, doing the drumming.

Think - if you have the brain cells to waste - of the worst cliches of self-indulgent dance. The Movers have got there before you, and are doing them - lumpenly, contentedly - before your very eyes. You might think three girls would choose flattering costumes - but no. You might hope they knew more of dance than a few gallumping leaps - but no. Though two of them think they know enough to attempt simulated sex . . . an act that is as inappropriate as their youth, at one point, of Allegri's undeserving Miserere but perhaps not nearly as awful as their take on Dietricht. Their blurb says you leave ''with a cheeky chilled smile''. Not quite the case. More like ''open-mouthed with frosty disbelief at their cheek''.


Edinburgh Quartet,

Valvona and Crolla

Kenny Mathieson

The second of the Quartet's four recitals drew a full house after last year's disappointing turnouts, perhaps due to a less ambiguous programme listing this time.

The current line-up of the group made their debut here last year, and for the most part they have settled down in encouraging fashion. If the close-quarters acoustic of this tiny venue mercilessly exposed every defect in intonation and fingering, the gain lay in immediacy and clarity of detail. Their reading of Mozart's Quartet in D, K575, was a little deliberate, and might have benefited from crisper execution, but Dvorak's ''American'' Quartet, Op96, was strongly played, with its lavish melodies and surging rhythms convincingly expressed.

Physical Theatre

Something to Remember Me By, St Bride's

Mary Brennan

HERE is a piece - devised and presented by Diakonos Physical Theatre - which makes ill-considered, and ultimately distasteful, use of the suffering, and the remarkable, artistic creativity, of the children of Terezin.

For those who might not know, Terezin was a Second World War ghetto-cum-death camp, a part of Nazi Germany's systematic onslaught on the Jews. Countless thousands died because of Terezin, many of them children. But those children left behind a poignant legacy of drawings and writings about what they witnessed, and felt - simple, direct expressions of childhood hopes and fears that survived when they did not.

Diakonos, however, have neither the skills - nor, I suspect, artistic sensitivity - to make of this anything but a trivial, cliched, glib, and utterly crass display. The students may not know any better, but Danny Scott - the male lead whose concept etc this is - should: however, a misplaced conceit encourages him to exploit their trust - and the Terezin legacy - as a springboard for his own performance ambitions. They call the tune - and never more inappropriately than when he swaggers a dead child across stage to Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man. Gross, badly done, and smug: avoid this.

Physical Theatre

Reunion, Bongo Club

Mary Brennan

THE answers come before the question. Esther, Michael, and Dave - the onstage members of metro-boulet-dodo - tell the unseen, unheard inquisitor just where they were that night. What happened. And what their relationship was with Sam . . . So we gather pretty quickly that something untoward has happened to Sam. But the how, what, and why don't actually join up until the closing moments of this clever, funny show. And when the twist in the tale is revealed it is so splendidly ridiculous and off-the-wall that it throws a new - and sadder, serious light - on some of what has gone before.

Visually significantly different from Tupperware Tea Party - also at the Bongo Club - this newer piece none the less continues the company's sharp-eyed exploration of what lurks under the nine-to-five carapace of conventional suburbia (and that of the people who break out and away - like itinerant thespians).

The birthday reunion scenes are a treat: manic, messy, drunkenly intense, and complete with party bore (his subject is the arts). And even as the zany, running gags are all jostling to fit on the tiny stage, and the threesome are apparently going haywire, there are sudden slippages into darker waters. Loss and uncertainty, dead dreams and death itself, all creep into the hectic jollity, because that's how life is - and metro-boulet-dodo has the wit to see it and the talent to reflect it. One of the best shows I've seen so far.


Malediction, Rocket Venue @ South Bridge Resource Centre

Rob Adams

malediction mal-i-dik'shun, n. cursing: a calling down of evil: also a Fringe production by Bare & Ragged Theatre in which, to the sound of fairly uncompromising guitar riffage (some of it rather good) and the rattling of various pots, pans, and other implements, five young women and a young man throw physical shapes portraying, at a guess, peer pressure, playground bullying, ostracism, punishment, sobbing, collective remorse, and togetherness - in a series of ''family shots'' which are two parts Beverly Hillbillies to one part The Woodentops. A brave effort enacted and soundtracked by the youthful cast with commendable belief and team spirit, but which may leave critics and audiences alike baffled - or not.


To Have And To Hold,

Theatre Workshop

Robert Thomson

PAUL Harris obviously knew his play was going nowhere and saying nothing knew about relationships or living with HIV. Why else add euthanasia and hustling to his characters' already crowded make-up? Michael is a drag queen by night, Jim a stand-up comic. Neither all that successful, though at least working nights gets them out of the sickly, sentimental molasses that fills their apartment. Fewer corny one liners from Jim (or Harris for that matter) and more numbers from Michael would also give better insight to both characters. Even cliches need given life. Theatre 28 make bolder choices elsewhere on the Fringe and a good deal of charm from Cory English and Terry Wynne can't prevent this from being painting by numbers. It's great obviously that nobody dies and that, through Michael, Jim is able finally to move on, but surely so has the drama?


Lifesaving, Roman Eagle Lodge

Marianne Gunn

Gloucestershire's Everyman Youth Theatre's original production explores their youth culture: a culture that they believe to be ''permanently stuck on fast forward''. The 13 cast members perform in the ensemble piece with an emphasis on ''togetherness''. Their uniformity of movement, at times, is very effective and contrasts greatly with the disjointed, channel-surfing narrative. It claims to offer you the chance to stand still for a moment, and as an alternative to the High Street hubbub that certainly seems true. Memories are probed, crucial incidents revealed, and its original music adds some variety to the hopes and dreams exposed by the dramatic monologues. Some innovative special effects create a touching cloud-watching scene with a distinctly dreamy feel. Their investigation of, and emphasis on, ''time'' reveals their youthful pre-occupation with the ageing process and their attempt

to distinguish between materialistic moments and character-building events shows a maturity of thought in this experimental and imaginative performance.


Paul Tonkinson, Pleasance

Rab Christie

MARRIAGE and fatherhood have brought a fresh perspective to Paul's existence. As well as leading a lad's life he now lives in the man's world. This means that routines about being stoned and purchasing ice cream Snickers at all-night garages sit alongside equally hilarious observations on attending the birth of his child. He still contorts his face like he's showing off in the playground, though, especially when doing an impression of Mrs Tonkinson. She might put their clock 20 minutes forward then set the alarm 20 minutes early every morning but it hasn't affected his timing. In fact, the comic slips into a feminine persona so elegantly that you start to wonder what he'd be like in drag. Hey Paul, when we getting Paula?


The Hunting of the Snark, Bedlam Theatre

Marianne Gunn

An improbable crew, an impossible voyage, an inconceivable creature. Edinburgh University's Theatre Company have produced an impressive performance in their adaptation of Lewis Carroll's nonsense ballad, A Bellman, a Barrister, a Banker, a Butcher, a Beaver and a Baker seek out a snark. But will they merely find a Boojum? An original score by Daffyd James incorporates the poetry with light comical touches and the eclectic choice of instruments (from cello to the spoons) has a bizarre yet desired effect. Their simple staging is also very effective, utilising the whole space to create the strange images with extreme visual impact. The humorous ''shadow'' sequences highly amuse the audience and the talented ensemble cast charmed me with both smiles and soap.

Run Ended.


The Nation's Favourite, Pleasance

David Belcher

A dramatisation of Simon Garfield's anecdotal oral history of Radio 1 in the nineties, this one-man show will convince you of many self-evident truths - the principal one being that most Radio 1 day-time joss-dickeys are insufferable megalomaniacs with a Machiavellian streak wider than the gap between Chris Moyles' ears. In addition, every music-lover will be delighted to have it finally confirmed that Radio 1's former chief dispenser of breakfast brain-rot, Simon Bates, is Satan. Alex Lowe gets under the skin of such monsters of the airwaves with great skill, also capturing the horror that was/is DLT, Steve Wright, Zoe Ball, Peter Powell, and Chris Evans with compelling exactitude. Tune into this lot and you're hearing less-than-wonderful Radio Onan. Of the good guys, Lowe's John Peel is a joy, but can reforming BBC exec Matthew Bannister really have been as noble and naive as he's painted

here? Straight from the horses' mouths, this is nevertheless a gripping snapshot of a bunch of hideous horses' arses.