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Last year’s big contemporary ballet première at the International Festival was Mathew Bourne’s fun adaptation of Dorian Gray. This year Scotland’s own Michael Clark presents New Work.
I think it’s fair to say that Clark doesn’t have the same narrative flare as Bourne. Rather than follow one single story, New Work‘s unrelated pieces take inspiration from glam rock, the 1970s and Clark’s personal history.
I haven’t seen much contemporary dance, and to my inexperienced eyes the first piece ‘SWAMP’ seemed a little slow and occasionally bumpy. Several dancers broke long poses to plant a foot and start again. It was the first night, so this may have just been jitters, but the disjointed choreography can’t have helped. I suspect that perhaps as an uncommonly talented dancer Clark placed too high expectations on his company.
The second piece ‘come, been and gone’ contained both the best and worst moments of the evening. Sequences put to David Bowie were explosively rhythmic and exciting to watch, particularly towards the end from when ‘Aladdin Sane’ began. The solo set to The Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’ was embarrassingly literal. I don’t see a problem with Clark exploring his history of addiction through dance, but trussing up a ballerina in a nude body-suit punctured all over with hypodermic needles and getting her to roll about on the floor is another thing all together. Cringe worthy. I suppose at a stretch you could see her as a skewered Saint Sebastian, but the flopping about of the foam needles set my teeth on edge.
Aside from the heroin body-suit the costumes were quite nice; most had a Pam Hogg feel, although there were a few too many silly arm and leg-warmers tacked on in the first piece.
From where I was sitting the performance didn’t seem to go down too well the audience. I started a conversation at intermission with a nice couple next to me who wanted to know if they were missing something. They too had seen Dorian Gray last year and were a bit confused by the wobbles and the slowness of the first half.
Celebrity excitement on Friday was bumping into Amanda Palmer, (formerly of The Dresden Dolls, now touring solo) outside the Bowery. A friend and I were in line waiting for Die Roten Punkte, and she was picking up her guest pass for the show. We’ve got tickets to see her in concert next Saturday, so we were quite excited and a bit flustered. We were even more flustered when she sat directly in front of us in the audience. We didn’t say hello (after much deliberation) because we didn’t want to disturb her, but my friend did take very blurry picture of the back of Amanda’s head with her phone (which is possibly more disturbing and stalker-ish now I come to think about it):
That shadow is a rock star.
I also managed to continue my largely unintentional spree of violence against the famous by whacking her in the shoulder with my bag. I’m sorry Ms Palmer.
Die Roten Punkte sounds like a really good name for a punk rock band if you don’t know what it means in German – “The Red Dots” – the translation gives the game away. They’re essentially a White Stripes parody band in clown make-up, but save some comedic energy to send up Nick Cave, The Cure and Kraftwerk as well.
More a comedy performance than a concert, the duo mix slapstick with dance, stand-up, improv and audience participation. Songs like “Straight edge girl” and”Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roberter (I am a Lion)” are hilarious, but also pleasantly poppy.
The Robot Lion Tour
Die Roten Punkte
Pleasance OVER THE ROAD
Until the 31st of August (not the 17th)
I must admit this is the sort of show I would never have picked to see on my own, and while I probably wont try to make a habit out of going to see a cappella covers of pop-songs (A mashup of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ and Justin Timberlake’s ‘Sexy Back’? It happened), Out of the Blue was a fun hour of exuberant geekery.
Out of the Blue
C1 @ Chambers Street
Until the 31st of August
Sources tell me this one is selling out fast and all profits from the show go to an Oxford area hospice, so book now if you plan to go.
Performance poet Luke Wright prides himself on being the first person to show up on a google image search for “Foppish Buffoon”. His new fringe show, The Petty Concerns of Luke Wright, is an hour of poetical reflections on ambition, tight trousers, famelessness and the tricks creative people play on themselves to keep motivated when success is taking its time coming.
For me the highlight of the performance was Wright’s stanza by stanza knock-down of a poem he wrote about a road accident when he was fifteen. From the waves of laughter triggered in the audience, I don’t think I was not alone in recognising the mix of mortification and affection inspired by looking back at ones self-indulgent adolescent attempts at poetry.
Some the poems Wright performed can be read on his site here – I don’t recommend reading too much of the blog if you are planning to go to the show, as some of the material seems to be directly lifted from old posts.
Luke Wright is an energetic performer, and while occasionally his audio-visuals look a bit too much like a school power-point presentation for comfort, Petty Concerns is a fun show.
The Petty Concerns of Luke Wright
Underbelly @ George IV Bridge
Until the 30th of August.
Now this is what I was ranting about the other day. Quirky, slap-dash, brutally abbreviated Goethe and a bunch of lip-synched pop songs.
Written and performed by German actor/dancer/singer/author Bridge Markland, Faust in the Box is the sort of thing you’d be pressed to find outside of festival season. Classic German literature performed in a cardboard box.
You might not find it as fun if you’re not familiar with Faust, or don’t like hearing a devil hand-puppet singing snippets of Placebo songs.
You don’t like Faust, singing devil hand-puppets or Placebo?
Are you dead inside?
Faust in the Box
Underbelly @ George IV Bridge
Until the 29th of August
If you’re looking for more festival reviews, head to I love Edinburgh. Miss Edinburgh and her co-bloggers seem to be a bit quicker to write up shows than I’ve been so far.
I was back down at Assembly on George Street last night to see another Australian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby. Adam Hills is producing Gadsby’s run at the fringe this year and gave her a shout-out in his show on Thursday night.
Gadsby is fairly new to the stand-up circuit, and it wasn’t hard to tell – the pacing was a bit bumpy and she mumbled through a few lines that might have been hard to decipher for audience members not familiar with Australian colloquialisms.
Beyond the jitters she put together a good show, focusing on her experiences growing up in an insular Tasmanian town and dealing with an unusually doctor-phobic mother while constantly getting into bizarre accidents involving bicycles, sheet glass and cricket stumps.
Kiss Me Quick I’m Full of Jubes
Assembly @ George Street
Until the 30th of August
Private Peaceful is another adaptation of a novel by the brilliant children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo (of War Horse fame).
Similarly to how War Horse relates sophisticated ideas about war to young audiences by focusing on the relationship between soldiers and animals, Private Peaceful focuses on the childhood recollections of a sixteen-year old boy who lied about his age to be able to fight alongside his brother in the First World War.
Finn Hanlon gave an amazing performance as Tommo Peaceful, controlling the pace of the piece while not just developing Tommo’s character but also bringing a great deal of life to the characters within his recollections. This is no small achievement – the play is a 60 minute reflective monologue performed on a stage empty of all but a dilapidated folding bed.
The strength of the play is in how beautifully it captures how Tommo’s favourite memories are poisoned by his time on the front; his first glimpse of a aeroplane in a country field, running along the mud tracks of a stream with his best friend, and getting piggyback rides from his big brother.
A fantastic piece of children’s theatre.
Michael Morpurgo an Simon Reade
Udderbelly, Bristo Square
Until the 31st of August
Morgurgo is also going to be speaking at three events the Edinburgh Book Festival: some tickets still available.
I heard an interview with Nigella Lawson where she talked about her experiences as a restaurant reviewer. She said that she was always reluctant to write really negative reviews, saying that she thought on some occasions it was more charitable to just say nothing.
That is my inclination about Horse. I always think I’m going to love physical theatre, then about ten minutes in I’m itching to leave and cursing myself for thinking an hour of dramatic movement and half-arsed dancing will be entertaining.
Rather than write a full review I’ll just briefly summarise what audiences can expect:
Woman dances like a horse with a mop for a tail. Falls into a stack of hay bales. Is heckled. Gets into jodhpurs and a riding jacket (slowly) and reads from a riding manual. Changes into pastor’s outfit (slowly) and holds a equine religious service. Strokes members of the audience. Changes back into original outfit (slowly) and pretends to ride a hobby horse. Stands topless on said hobby horse. Jumps into a water trough, emerges dripping wet and dressed in formal attire. Sings.
Actually the last costume change was quite impressive. It was a fairly small trough.
I don’t think my disappointment after seeing Horse was just the inevitable realisation that I don’t really like physical theatre. For one thing the somewhat misleading positive reviews on the promotional poster are actually for one of Company FZ’s previous fringe productions. For another: half the audience walked out. Seemingly from boredom rather than shock or excessive hay inhalation.
It’s the Edinburgh Fringe! I don’t care if you’re provocative, silly or poorly rehearsed. Just don’t be boring.
The Bosco at Hullabaloo
until the 31st of August
Thousands of tourists are shuffling up and down the Royal Mile in shorts and rain ponchos. It’s fringe time.
I started off my fringe by heading down to the Assembly venue on George Street to see the first night of Adam Hills’ new show Inflatable. I’ve mentioned Hills here before. He’s a fantastic comedian who manages to be both consistently amusing and non-offensive. I must admit I’ve never actually seen stand-up live before, but I’ve seen enough on television to know that a huge amount of it tends to be rather crap.
The only thing more depressing than bad stand-up comedy is watching an audience chortle away (out of a sense of obligation, one can hope) while some poorly groomed gentleman in his late thirties rants about why he dislikes his uptight partner, can’t operate a parking meter or thinks Welsh people sound stupid.
Adam Hills isn’t like that. The first night of Inflatable started with an impromptu re-enactment of Flashdance with a bottle of IRN BRU and a jolly IT consultant from the front row. I won’t say too much about it – I imagine in-depth reviews don’t add much to stand-up – but the show is definitely worth seeing.
Assembly @ George Street Assembly Rooms.
Until the 31st of August.