Having lived in Prague for four months, the idea of a Czech pub/circus had a great deal of nostalgic attraction for me. I was not disappointed, as the laid back atmosphere and casual attitude to the consumption of alcohol, along with a very Czech sense of quietly absurd humour pervaded even the most spectacular sequences. We begin with the barman staring lovingly into the bubbles of his beer for the full length of the audience’s extended (the house is nearly full) entrance before downing it and noticing us as the other patrons gradually wake up. He then tries to convince the audience to go home as he’s finished serving, but ends up serving beer regardless, to audience and performers alike.
The barman/clown works brilliantly to tie routines together without falling into stereotypes of drunkenness or relying on the spectacular nature of their execution. The live band perform well, and are incorporated well into the atmosphere and general absurdity - the singer deserves a special mention, using a couple of mics with different effects, seemingly improvising and burbling along like a saxophone when necessary, or breaking into rhythmicall trills to support more high energy scenes.
While almost all of the routines are theatrically well constructed, the trampoline that takes up the entire back of the stage can seem too much like a simple set of circus tricks, done for the spectacle only. A couple of brief wushu-style sequences don’t come off so well, and the puppetry is hilarious rather than particularly skillful, but these are all saved by the antics and reactions of the ensemble. This is a very witty and theatrical circus, and while they could afford to lose the trampoline act in favour of more acts grounded in the pub’s atmosphere, the whole thing comes off brilliantly. My favourite piece of the fringe so far.
La Putyka is on from 19-27th August, 20.35, at Zoo Southside.
Within Range is supposedly ‘political theatre meets explosive physicality’, based on the events of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin wall. I was initially concerned that I would not be able to offer an incicive review on the piece, as this is a period of history which I haven’t studied in any great detail. Fortunately for my analysis, it seems neither have they.
The piece begins with a slideshow cylcing through images of various famous historical dictators, from Julius Caesar to Stalin, accompanied by “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”. A funny idea, and indeed the couple sat behind me find it hysterical for the full three or four minutes. When this is over, the audience space is briefly used well, with some translation to and fro in passable German, and a gag with a faux-cyrillic vending machine to create a dictator works nicely.
Inexplicably we are then treated to an extended sequence of secret agent stereotype waddling in macs, along with some obnoxious music. While this is obviously closely choreographed, working with repetition and patterns of gestures between the characters and their actions and crossings, it seems devoid of any purpose beyond the choreography. I would say the same of some of the other choreographed sequences - that they are strong as pieces of dance for its own sake, though some performers and sections are noticably less polished than others, and the music is consistently irritating.
The one or two moments of humour are dragged out and killed almost immediately after their appearance (the couple behind me laugh dutifully all the way through - perhaps friends of the cast?). The multimedia projection is patronising and superfluous throughout, as well as being inexplicably small, such that I can only just read it in the front row. The set is mobile, which is occasionally put to good use, but at other times seems to be moved only to justify its mobility. The occasional decorations of faux-cyrillic text (by which I mean English with some letters reversed) which appear randomly in German contexts are a slightly baffling oddity. While the advertised ‘political’ aspect of the performance gives the impression of having been devised by a confused teenager, the elements of physical theatre have the potential to be powerful if given the right context. Perhaps the piece would benefit from having a director as well as a choreographer.
Within Range, 6-20 August @ 6.10pm (70mins) ZOO Southside 117 Nicholson Street.
Emergence is a new show created and performed by The Pachamamas; their first at Edinburgh Fringe. The director is one of my former tutors at Rose Bruford, Lorraine Sutherland. This makes it quite difficult to write about while avoiding bias, as well a trying not to worry about what impression it might make were she to read it. However, I’ve decided to try and review the shows I see, so here goes regardless. These are my own personal views - they don’t represent the views of any theatre company I may direct or perform for. I am not a professional or even a very good reviewer, but it seems any idiot with a computer can do it these days, so here goes.
The performance opens with the narrator figure’s charmingly awkward attempts to get the audience on side. However, the delivery is a little too performed, with no space given for any genuine audience response to gain more than sympathy for the performer. She recovers well after about the ten minute mark with some beautifully delivered little stories and comments, but could have made a much stronger first impression by taking her time.
On reading about the show afterwards I find that it boasts ‘a capella singing’ (along with physical theatre, story telling and cabaret). This presumably describes the two or three moments in which the narrator sings without the backing track. Misguided marketing rather than a fault with the production, but perhaps there is something in the frail and genuine a capella singing that fits a Kantorian construction of memory much better than a recording of ABBA or Ievan Polkka.
The cluttered set, while it may be replete with symbolic references/memories, seems only to restrict the potential for the space to exist in more than one reality - something the performers clearly have the potential to portray physically without the need for so many props - an unused telephone gets only a brief reference in the dialogue, for example.
The relationship between the mother and daughter of the piece was set up well, and stayed true to the company’s intention to avoid presenting a ‘perfected narrative’, prefering a presentation after the disjointed nature of memory. While each section evoked something that seemed genuine and well-observed or remembered, some were more theatrically successful than others (the young girl playing nurse with her right hand taking the role of “asistente” is brilliantly exectued, but less so when repeated for the roles mother/hypothetical son), and the lack of conventional pacing to this (re)telling is what other reviewers seem to have picked on as the main flaw in the piece. While it is clearly not the company’s aim to create a dramatically paced narrative, I do think that the narrator figure could have been used more successfully to shape the performance into something with a theatrical arc, or even give more of a cabaret structure. I would have enjoyed seeing much more of her mask work with the penguin head.
Emergence remains a touching and intelligent presentation of a relationship between mother and daughter, containing some moments of brilliance. It defies any expectations of narrative theatre in exploring such a theme, and while it may not always work, it is certainly worth it when it does.
Emergence is on at Underbelly’s Belly Button, 56 Cowgate Edinburgh EH1 1EG. 4th-28th August at 11.20am.
I’ve just started a project on sponsume, for the theatre stuff: http://www.sponsume.com/project/men-avoid-jars - I would be very grateful if you could pass the link on to anyone you think might be interested.
I’ve created a separate blog for We Are a Real Theatre Company now, in which I’ll post all that kind of stuff - you can find it over at avoidjars.tumblr.com
So, I’ve attempted to add Google +1, Twitter follow and Facebook like buttons to http://www.avoidjars.com/ - would anyone like to test them out for me? (Not just shameless self-promotion, I genuinely wonder if they work)
After two solid days of computer nonsense, I finally have a stable version of XP x64 running on my desktop, with Photoshop and Premiere. It even has stereo sound, which is a great improvement over the previous install. Sadly, any attempt at reinstating the drivers for sound and video cards, or updating windows, results in BSoD, 0x00000050… I’ve taken out half the memory in the process, and am quite hesitant to put it back. I’ve also ended up booting from a 16gb FAT32 partition. It’s been a few years since I built the thing and I’m not quite the geek I once was, so I’ve no idea what to do about it really. Any ideas?
Yurie’s eating this today:
I have been neglecting the whole conceit of this blog’s title by failing to post about what I eat. To remedy this, I just ate some porridge.
Using a small pan, I poured in roughly a cup and a half of oats, and covered with full milk until all oats were afloat. I then put the heat on, and stirred occasionally until achieving the desired texture, finally covering with a small aquantity of honey (small only because I’ve just run out.