CriticalDance Forum

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007
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Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jul 20, 2007 3:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007

It's the largest collection of theatre, dance, comedy, music and performances that elude classification in the world. Come here to discuss, ponder, debate, review and post links relating to the completely unique event.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe - 5 - 27 August, 2007

Edinburgh Calvacade - 5 August 2007

Author:  leam8 [ Tue Aug 07, 2007 4:41 am ]
Post subject:  Sadari Movement Laboratory: Woyzeck

Sadari Movement Laboratory: Woyzeck
Assembly Aurora Nova, St. Stephen’s Church
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
6 August 2007

In Woyzeck, Sadari Movement Laboratory (Korea) assembles all the elements required for a compelling, movement-based study of Georg Buchner’s play: strong and capable movers, well-constructed set pieces, atmospheric music (by Astor Piazzolla) and lighting (by Tae-Han Gu). But taken all together, this performance never generates enough electricity to prod the audience with the sharp loathing, compassion, or despair that the soldier’s tragic story should elicit. Instead, clever tricks with chairs, or moments of comic byplay elicit appreciative applause or chuckles, but no gasps, no tears, no outrage.

Woyzeck (performed by Jae-Won Kwon) is a soldier who by turns endures bullying, nightmares, medical experimentation, mockery, his wife’s infidelity, and finally resorts to murder to exert some control over his surroundings. The cast uses small wooden chairs on an otherwise bare stage to help tell Woyzeck’s story. With the chairs they evoke a prison cell, a hospital cot, a bed, even giant mugs of beer. At one point, as Woyzeck succumbs to terrible visions, the 10 dancers surround him and spin their chairs on one leg, evoking a strange, pulsating forest.

Although the use of the chairs appears to have been thoroughly investigated during the rehearsal process, the same cannot be said of the movement itself. A sequence described as “humans as animals, animals as humans” was rich with possibility but yielded only a few brief imitations, such as three dancers mimicking a horse by whinnying and jokingly pawing the air with their hands.

Watching the story progress, the performance felt transparent; with each pose, with each interesting image, I kept thinking about the rehearsal process and how each image was discovered, rather than how they fit together to tell a story. As Woyzeck lay stretched rigidly across the backs of two chairs, helplessly awaiting medical examination, we wondered how long it would be before dancer Kwon tired and began to show strain, rather than how character Woyzeck would cope with the deranged doctor’s attentions. Throughout the performance this inability to suspend our reality and enter that of the play recurred; thus when Woyzeck at last spun out of control and murdered his adulterous wife, we could not empathize with either of them.

Author:  leam8 [ Thu Aug 09, 2007 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  DanceForms Productions: 37th Annual Choreographers' Showcase

Dance-Forms Productions: The 37th International Choreographers’ Showcase
Roxy Art House (Main Hall)
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
8 August 2007 (through Aug 11)

Every year at the Fringe, Dance Forms Director Susana Williams assembles a program of contemporary dance work by a range of choreographers from around the world, many from the U.S., Canada and Europe. It’s a noble endeavor, although it falls prey to two problems that often plague showcases: uneven work, and an overly long program. This year’s production did offer several works of interest.

German choreographer Nejla Yatkin, who currently teaches at the University of Maryland—College Park, performed a stunning solo, For People With Wings—stunning not least because of her physical beauty, which intensified the work’s impact. Resting on the floor, face up, head pointed towards the audience, Yatkin’s long black hair fanned around her head, and the froth of a black tulle skirt shrouded her lower body. Her back arched, tilting her face towards us, and her sinewy arms rippled to either side. As the work progressed through whirling turns and luscious fan kicks, Yatkin’s gaze remained downcast, as if she danced in a room alone. Dropping into a backbend, knees folded, pulling the tulle over her head, she seemed part Black Swan, part sacrificial lamb, until at last she left her skirt behind and danced unadorned into the dark.

Washington, DC-based choreographer Helanius Wilkins offered Melting the Edges, a trio for three men, the energy and exuberance of which burst open the space after many solos and duets. To music by Sven Avow, dancers Wilkins, Reginald Cole, and Anthony Rollins-Mullens rolled and spun, moving together into a circle with palms raised and pressed together. Within the circle they supported each other in turn, or broke out into kicks or lay-outs, always coming back together whether in the same circle, or an interlocked line, or a cluster where each found his own way into the music’s beat.

Out of the nine other works on this program, Fred Darsow’s Animo y Adelante! performed by Pamela Geber and Satu Hummasti presented a grounded, sweeping movement duet enlivened by the flickering arms and hands and percussive pauses of Flamenco. London-based choreographer Hagit Yakira created an uneasy, combative duet for herself and dancer Yarit Dor titled Somewhere between a self and an other, where both women appeared wracked with conflict, both within and without.

A shorter program, or two alternating programs, allowing Ms. Williams to present the same number of choreographers, would also allow the works to be better seen and the audience to remain alert and engaged.

Author:  leam8 [ Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:27 pm ]
Post subject:  blackSKYwhite: [i]Astronomy for Insects[/i]

blackSKYwhite: Astronomy For Insects
Assembly Aurora Nova, St. Stephen’s Church
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
8 August 2007

EEEEEEEEEEEEE ggggggggggggggggg ww%%%%%%%%ww NNNNNNNNNNN oooo yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy lllllllllllllll 777777777777777777 qqqqqqqqqqq. ********^^^^^^???
There’s a bit of what it felt like to watch blackSKYwhite’s Astronomy For Insects. You may ask, what the f***? And that, my friends, is exactly right. You will ask the same thing when you see this show. You may not enjoy it, you may in fact find it distinctly unpleasant or unnerving, but that is precisely why you must see it. These artists do not simply discard narrative—that fundamental structure underpinning so much of our understanding of the world—they beat it back with a stick.

Tall, vertical tubes of light frame the stage. Two large metal doors, closed, dominate the center. Throughout the piece, the doors slide apart to reveal bizarre creatures, sometimes insect-like, sometimes vaguely human, sometimes alien. They shuffle forward and dance in strange, tightly-wound sequences of chattering, twitching movement. In this cold, foreign world, creatures interact with each other in ways variously teasing, caring, cruel, or comic. From my notes: “face pushing through empty coat collar, like cocoon, head jiggling. Hands shimmer out of sleeves to grasp canes. Is it really a human in there?” Or, “little white man pulls clown’s mask off with his teeth to reveal grey, deathly mask/man, who then strangles him.”

In frustration, we find these movements and interactions reveal nothing and, seemingly, mean nothing. Thus brilliantly, maddeningly, do the performers echo the incessant noise and frantic, often empty rhythms of many humans’ daily lives. Not that this would occur to you as you watch another white clad, hunched, sharp-elbowed figure totter towards you, silently mumbling as lights flicker and a noise-filled sound score crashes over your head.

But upon leaving this show and then processing it (most likely over a pint from the closest pub), trying to shake some of the grotesque images in your mind into any kind of order, you begin to understand. blackSKYwhite refuse to indulge our nagging human need for narrative and emotional immediacy; they assault us with imagery we can’t easily relate to, with figures who elicit vague dread more than empathy. And if we quiet our inner clamor for order, if we just sit there and take it, their painstaking work succeds. Because we will think and talk about it for days afterwards, and we will never forget it.

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Aug 10, 2007 5:34 pm ]
Post subject: 

10 August, 2007
Dance Base
Edinburgh, Scotland

For the 2007 Fringe, Edinburgh's Dance Base is hosting a series of modern-dance triple bills. In three duets that comprise 'Timeless', six talented dancers trace human connection from maturity back through to youthful innocence. It's an evening of up-close, intense dance that provokes, intrigues and enthralls.

When Matthew Hawkins and Diana Payne-Myers step into the light for their duet "Muscular Memory Lane", one is struck by the opposing physicalities. Hawkins, a former Royal Ballet dancer who choreographed the piece, is tall and lithely muscular. Barely reaching to Hawkins' shoulder, the petite Payne-Myers is youthful slim, her graying hair tucked up in a wide black band. Her black leggings and top contrast with the informality of the shorts and button down shirt Hawkins wears. Both, however, bear themselves in that erect, alert manner which belies a life in professional dance. Dance has also left its mark – the bare feet of the dancers bear the twists and bunions from decades of pounding, Payne-Myers fingers gently gnarled.

The dance itself is set to a combination of silence, spoken word and excerpts from Maurice Ravel scores. An introspective piece, the dancing is strongest in the silence, the spoken word (a list of CDs? Books?) more distracting than complimentary. In the absence of accompaniment, the eye can focus on the bodies, and listen to the footsteps, the occasional pop of an aging joint, the slap of hand against hand. The more active of the couple, Hawkins is a shadow protecting, lifting, respecting his older partner. Payne-Myers moves with an ease beyond her years, but her dancing is a little less emphatic, more delicate. At times the two dance in harmony, the joining of hands in peak above the head, a frequent motif. "Muscular Memory Lane" provides a touching opportunity to see that dance can only get better with age. The piece could however, probably be strengthened by a bit of editing to cut the time down a bit.

While "Muscular Memory Lane" was as much about two people as one couple, the two men in James Kudelka's "Soudain, l'hiver dernier" were nearly inseparable. Kudelka was for many years the choreographer in residence for the National Ballet of Canada, and this legacy is reflected recently retired NBoC's principal dancer Ryan Boorne's appearance in the duet. It's a rare opportunity to see a dancer of this level up close, and together with Andre Giday, Boorne gave a performance of remarkable power and tenderness. Dressed in button down shirts, khakis and soft street shoes, these are ordinary men, drawn together. Gavin Bryars's score is melancholy, plaintive, the choreography clinging and full of contact. It as if the men are holding on to each other for dear life – they are one being that cannot survive alone. But you get the feeling that they are fighting against a parting force. Giday and Boorne are just in their thirties, but the costumes together with the paced movements give the piece a distinct maturity. The two move together with a natural ease, twisting around each other, lifting, curling. It's as intensely physical as duets come, and a performance of a professional quality rarely seen on the Fringe.
Cassanidance's two young dancers Tom and Jacob Cassini, bring the triple bill to a close with their charming interpretation of their mothers piece "13". There is fine line when it comes to choreographing for such young dancers, and Beth Cassani mostly succeeds in creating a piece that brings to life her sons' stories without being exploitative. The siblings, both with mops of curly hair, are natural movers with a refreshing unaffectedness. At 14, the elder brother is beginning to show the enigmatic aloofness of teenager hood, the younger a bundle of mischievous youth in a remarkable calm exterior.

The piece explores the relationship between the brothers, from their commonalities to the differences growing between the teenage 14 year old and the still pre-pubescent 12 year old. The entire piece takes place within two large chalk squares, as if the young dancers are recreating their childhood memories in two segments of a giant hopscotch game. One of the most ingenuous sections is the opening 'pas de deux'. Facing the rear wall wearing fox masks, which look out at the audience, the brothers bring to life the cavorting foxes. The younger brother nearly steals the show in his vivid demonstrations of his favorite 'deaths scenes' – being the littlest; he of course has to lose in all their play battles. The flowered finale is touching, but perhaps a bit too 'touchy-feely' for such young performers.

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Aug 10, 2007 5:39 pm ]
Post subject: 

Burklyn Youth Ballet
"Alice in Wonderland"
August 10, 2007
Zoo Southside, Edinburgh

In 2007, the Burklyn Youth Ballet has returned to the Edinburgh Fringe with the same winning combination of fresh dance-storytelling and colorful costumes. However, after many years at the Gilded Balloon, the company has moved down to Zoo Southside for this summer's glittering production of "Alice in Wonderland".

Choreographed by Robert Royce and Joanne Whitehill, this "Alice" captures the zany adventure of Lewis Carroll's original story in a package that appeals to even the youngest of audience members. If it has less of a clear story than other Burklyn productions, "Alice" more than makes up in pure dance. Leading the parade of characters who range from the ordinary to the extraordinary, is Kim Schroeder's buoyant Alice. Schroeder has solid technique, which allows here to focus on the character and the story. She particularly impressed in turns and her unforced extension.

Equally as impressive was Lindsay Parker as the frenetic White Rabbit. Outfitted in one of Burklyn's trademark detailed costumes –a confection of white fur and long, luscious ears – Parker bounced around the stage in flurry of quick steps interspersed with powerful grand jetes. It was just her dancing that stood out, however, but the humor and personality that she imbued in her racing rabbit.

To flesh out the story in terms of both dance and magic, the choreographers have inserted a series of joyous divertissements for the butterflies and flowers in Alice's enchanted garden. The butterflies were stunning, attired in vivid colors sprinkled within sequins, though the white one seemed more elegant moth than fluttering butterfly to me. The choreography provided each butterfly with a chance to shine, which they mostly did, especially in their rousing, turn filled finale. As with many young dancers, there are rough edges, with many of the dancers needing to pay more attention to the position and point of their non-working legs. This is something that will come with practice, practice, practice.

In the past, Burklyn choreography has focused primarily on pointe work, but the duet for Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum demonstrated that it doesn't have to be pointe to be pleasing. Christine Cairns and Catherine David were a crowd-pleasing double act, with many kudos deserved for the slow grand plies. The other characters in the zany world of the Queen of Hearts were delightful, with a particular mention for Carrie Sunde's adorable Dormouse. The grand finale, with King (Arthur Leech in another of his memorable cameos), Queen, cards and even a flock of can-can flamingos had the profusion of color, action and joy that one expects from Burklyn.

Eschewing the normal sets, the company scored a huge success with a series of innovative projections on a plain white backdrop. Especially effective were the transitions from the real world to the imaginary world, in which the garden image wavered and rippled. The program gives thanks to Wendall Harrington, an award winning projection designer who has, among other things, designed the projections for the Royal Danish Ballets' 2004 production of 'Anna Karenina'. Burklyn's backdrops seem to bear Harrington's distinct style, and one hopes that she might be tempted into further collaborations.

If there was one weakness in "Alice", it was in the complete lack of male dancing. The one male role, that of Alice's brother, was but a cameo. Given the lower numbers of young male ballet dancers, Burklyn has generally had to rely on paid semi-professional or professional dancers for male roles. Yet, this expenditure is worth every penny, because the pas de deux – if sometimes a bit wobbly – bring a nice contrast to the rest of the dancing, and the presence of men on the stage brings a little added appeal to the young boys in the audience.


One comment on the new venue...the Southside theater doesn't have an elevated stage like the performance hall at the Gilded Balloon. The lack of a raised stage means that the first row of seats is right at the feet of the dancers, and even with a large rake, heads in the way of the rest of the audience. Fine for adults, but it might really be a problem for the little kids who aren't so tall. Viewing a performance from those seats also probably requires an uncomfortable amount of head turning. It might be wise to remove that first row, or rope it off and only open the seats up if all the other seats in the theatre are occupied.

Also, the sound quality appeared to need a bit of fine tuning after this performance - it was a tad too loud and distorted at the beginning, though I didn't notice the problem after the first few minutes.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Aug 11, 2007 5:32 am ]
Post subject: 

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
A 72-hour Taster - Part 1
5th and 6th August, 2007

“As the mother of a brown boy...” by Chickenshed
“Morceaux Choisis”, “Ragnarök” by X Factor Dance Company
“Druthers” by Precarious
All the above at Zoo Southside
“Binari” by Dulsori, Old College Quad

Belinda McQuirk and Loren Jacobs in "As the mother of a brown boy..."

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is upon us, with thousands of events in 300 venues – phew!. The word “Fringe” conjures up an image of something on the periphery - marginal, second division. But I can understand the sentiments of a number of people who told me that the Fringe is now the primary festival in Edinburgh, with a breadth of high quality work that the Edinburgh Festival (the posh bit) will find hard to rival, especially in the field of innovation. Certainly my three day taster supported that view.

Before reviewing “As the mother of a brown boy...”, by integrated company, Chickenshed, I must declare that I am a Friend of the company and recently chaired a panel discussion inspired by this production in their home theatre in London. Nevertheless, I am not writing as a Friend when I say that this is an excellent example of dance/music theatre that combines strong theatrical craft with heartfelt emotion. Two years ago, many were impressed by “Globaleyes”, their take on a range of world issues, but in addressing another serious, topical theme, the sharper focus of the new work makes for an even more intense theatrical presentation.

The story tells of the tragic death of Nisha Niering, a 19-year old mixed race youth, once a member of Chickenshed, who was accidentally killed by police as he sped away from a robbery. The dance, created by the cast and pulled together by Director, Christine Nearing, contrasts high octane street moves with beautiful, sad sections and a deeply-felt duet for the boy reunited with his Father, in the year before his death. Hollow, white blocks are stacked, thrown, danced around and through to help ensure that our attention never wavers. Together with strong tunes by David Carey and imaginative designs with innovative video projection by Gordon Hollick, the show is a roller coaster ride for the senses.

Above all the sincerity of the cast shines out and joint Director, Joseph Morton, has nurtured fine performances from all the company, climaxing in an emotionally charged ending with a power we rarely see on the UK stage. Some have criticised the perspective as one-sided, but for me it is valid to give the Mother's account, as the title suggests, and accept or question aspects of her view. In this role, Belinda McQuirk is on stage for most of the 1-hour length, and is the glue holding the production together, ranging from loving elation at her beautiful boy, to despair and finally determination to treasure her 19 years of memories of her son. As Nisha, Loren Jacobs, moves with panther-like grace, ably supported by Gavin May and Robin Shillinglaw as fellow crew members and Natsai Gurupira extracts much sensuality from her big number, “Brown skin”. It won't be easy to follow the success of this show, but I look forward eagerly to Chickenshed's future offerings.

X Factor Dance company provided a first time treat for me with two, twenty-five minute works of polished, elegant contemporary dance with few frills to distract from the pure movement on display. Philip Decouflé has a high reputation for his witty choreography and his “Morceaux Choisis” didn't disappoint with a series of delectable vignettes with intriguing steps admirably performed. One of my favourite male dancers, David Hughes, was particularly adept at creating sensuous shapes and Alan Lambie's power and precision showed why he is one of the leading young dancers in the UK. The final vignette introduced a screen with back projection, with dancers in front and behind, and while this has been tried before, Decouflé managed to find new ways to weave magic from the ingredients, deceiving us with shadow images that weren't what they seem and towering figures dwarfing their colleagues.

The second work, “Ragnarök”, by Artistic Director, Alan Greig, took inspiration from Viking legends, creating a very different atmosphere from the first half. In dark orange shorts and t-shirts we see stylised conflicts and unions, although love always seemed to lead to disappointment. At the end, two figures try again to find a way forward, while their companions stand isolated around the stage. With choreography and performances of this standard, X Factor deserved a larger audience on the day I saw them. Nevertheless, those that did come were clearly delighted with the offering.

Promising, “An exquisite concoction of stunning visuals, vibrant movement, poetic text, spectacular digital effects and a pulsing sound scape...”, “Druthers” performed by Precarious, seemed an ideal way to kick off the Fringe on my first evening. Sadly, this production just didn't work for me, although the rest of the audience gave it an enthusiastic response at the close.

In this story of a recluse, eventually persuaded to break his bonds and venture out into the world, the biggest problem was the “poetic text”, declaimed for a significant part of the 70 minutes running time. Taking gobbets of Shakespeare out of context, made for an indigestible stew of archaic English, which left me looking at my watch at increasingly frequent intervals.

The intriguing set, comprising suitcases, an isolated door and other items of eccentric furniture, created a surreal platform for the video projection sections, but the deliberately awkward dance movement never caught fire, despite the best efforts of the cast. One performer played virtually all the production in a gas mask and I was concerned for the artist. While one cast member told me that it was to help describe a woman, frightened to reveal herself and eventually throwing off her inhibitions, another admitted how hot it was under the mask and that a copious supply of water had to be on hand backstage: in my view the artist deserves more consideration. No information about those involved was available on the press handout.

Although included in the dance and physical theatre section of the programme, “Binari” by South Korean drumming group, Delsori, featured little dance. The skill of the musicians was never in doubt and attempts were made to vary the basic drumming fare in an audience friendly format. However, the amplified sound bouncing around an open air quadrangle of stone buildings made for a muddy sound and the popular songs suffered in particular. If you've never experienced an Asian drumming spectacular, it's perhaps worth trying, but Japanese groups such as, Kodo, impressed me far more.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Aug 11, 2007 1:53 pm ]
Post subject: 

Kate, interesting that you comment on the sound quality in Zoo Southside. Chickenshed had real problems in the same venue and the worst day was when the Scotsman and The Guardian came!! One of the problems of having 6 or 8 performances each day in a theatre like Zoo Southside, is there is literally no time to correct faults in a systematic way until you have rest day and can use your slot for further technical fine tuning.

Combined with little initial technical set-up time and the problems caused by other companies changing the set-up away from your requirements, the Fringe can be a nightmare for more complex productions.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Aug 11, 2007 6:18 pm ]
Post subject: 

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
A 72-hour Taster - Part 2
7th and 8th August, 2007

“Woyzeck” by Sadari Movement Laboratory, Assembly Aurora Nova
“Traces” by Les 7 Doigts de la main, Assembly @ George St
“The Battle of Stalingrad” by The Tbilisi Marionette Theatre, Assembly Aurora Nova
“Closing Time” by Conflict Zone, Assembly Universal Arts

Many of the dance shows in the Fringe start between 6pm and 8pm, in line with standard theatre practice, but with venues hosting as many as six different productions each day, there has to be variation. When I saw that Sadari Movement Laboratory’s performance of “Woyzeck” started at 10.30am, my heart went out to them. However, the converted church of Assembly Aurora Nova was full for their innovative version of the Bluthner play concerning an outsider driven to despair and murder by the society around him.

This physical theatre company from South Korea has an extraordinary talent for creating images, with dynamic movement from Director, Do-Wan Im, and dramatic lighting by Tae-Han Gu. Scenery and props are provided solely by straight backed chairs that are sometimes spun like tops, sometimes combined into a mix of awkward shapes or symmetrical patterns, a series of cages and sometimes even as objects to sit on.

The company solves the problem of a text primarily in Korean by providing written and surtitled notes for each of the scenes and occasional snatches of spoken English. We certainly miss something from not understanding the dialogue, but with so many other theatrical components to savour, I never felt short-changed.

The drama is presented with almost comic book simplicity: Woyzeck is the victim, put upon by his fellow soldiers and doctors and cheated by his love, Marie, all performed in a stylised, larger than life acting style. It works, partly because of the extraordinary visuals and also, perhaps, because we accept the links to classical Asian drama forms.

The characters are differentiated and as Marie, Eun-Young Joung plays the role as a child of nature, rather than a heartless hussy. In her love scenes with the Sergeant Major, fully clothed, she generates as much sexual energy as I have seen on-stage for a long time. Jae-Won Kwon is convincing as the put upon Woyzeck: in one scene he is tormented by voices emanating from sinister upturned heads highlighted behind the backs of a row of chairs and in a medical examination, he is suspended with only chairs at his neck and ankles, emphasising his vulnerability, as well as the actor’s physical mastery. The humorous sections, including a march past with one soldier perpetually getting it wrong and a drinking hall scene, made me laugh out loud.

In the final tableau, as Marie and Woyzeck enter a forest, the rest of the cast face backstage creating an image of trees, but when Woyzeck stabs Marie, they resume their characters and several also stab her, illustrating the point that the anti-hero has been driven to this tragic act by the actions of his comrades.

While the use of Piazzola’s tangos to accompany the drama raised a question mark in my mind beforehand, in practice they work a treat, providing sensual rhythms for the love scenes and passionate discords for the conflicts.

While the production has been criticised in more than one review for not sending us home in tears, I felt that the message regarding the devastating effect of inhuman treatment was put over effectively and with its stunning visual quality, I anticipate that “Woyzeck” will be on the short list for the Fringe Total Theatre Award.

The mix on the Fringe is exceptional, even if you stick to the dance and physical theatre category and in complete contrast, I enjoyed the modern circus production, “Traces”, by Les 7 Doigts de la main, from the central hub of this genre, Quebec. The format for the show is a group of friends knocking about together and joking. The young performers, all 25 or under, are very appealing - they all have strong circus skills, several are great movers and others talented musicians.

As well as fairly common tumbling, we see tricks on two parallel poles that go further than I have seen before. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my two favourite bits were the most dance-like: the only girl in the group, Heloise Bourgeois, initially sits reading a book in an armchair, which then flops over, with her continuing her reading from underneath. We then see a veritable Kama Sutra of positions for reading, as chair and reader spin before our eyes. Second, was a large metal ring with a life of its own in the hands of its keeper: spinning inside it in the style of the De Vinci drawing, jumping through or just letting it spin. With full houses, pages of feedback comments on the Fringe website and a standing ovation on the night I attended, this is already one of the hits of 2007.

My Fringe ended with two productions concerned with the effects of war and conflict on individuals. The first was the result of an important part of the Fringe effect: sharing a table with strangers and discussing favourites. The Tbilisi Marionette Theatre has brought “the Battle of Stalingrad”, written, directed and designed by Rezo Gabriadze, as part of a Georgian season. The great strengths of the play are the beautiful puppets and scenery, managed on the tiny stage by five animators, and the focus on individual stories, rather than the detail of the Stalingrad story where over 1 million people died. Given the strength of feeling even to the present day regarding the Great Patriotic War, it is a notable achievement that the German characters are also part of the tragedy: a painter, seen first in a Berlin club and then dying in the Battle and a noble German general, preparing for a final attempted break-out. The most notable effects are the opening train journey with objects placed and removed from spinning circles and the marching German troops: neat rows of little helmets on trays being walked across the stage by the animators. Perhaps the story of the two horses seeking love is a little sentimental, but somehow this is more forgivable with puppets.

Finally, a brief word about a theatre work, “Closing Time” by Conflict Zone, set in a London restaurant where staff members and a customer from around the world tell their stories one by one, while they wait for the all clear for a bomb scare. The unifying theme is separation from loved ones due to conflict or war and several of the stories work very well, particularly a Nigerian Father, working in London and learning, just when his right to remain is refused, that he has lost his family back home to his best friend, and also that of a UK born Muslim, rejected by his family and community for talking to the police. Both this work and Chickenshed’s “As the mother of a brown boy…” are nominated for the Freedom of Expression Award, established by Amnesty International in 2001, for the performance making the most significant contribution to the public's awareness of human rights issues. I wish both these thoughtful productions good fortune in the competition’s final stages.

And then there was just time for me to dash to the station, up and down Edinburgh’s steep hills, but this time with a suitcase. Three days was only enough to get a taster of the Fringe Festival, sampling a few of the dance events on offer and leaving no time for any comedy or music. As someone who attends several festivals around Europe each year, it’s clear that Edinburgh has a special atmosphere and attracts skilled, innovatory artists from all over the world. Next year I must diarise for a week, at least.

Author:  djb [ Sat Aug 11, 2007 11:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

Stuart wrote:
The mix on the Fringe is exceptional, even if you stick to the dance and physical theatre category and in complete contrast, I enjoyed the modern circus production, “Traces”, by Les 7 Doigts de la main, from the central hub of this genre, Quebec. The format for the show is a group of friends knocking about together and joking. The young performers, all 25 or under, are very appealing - they all have strong circus skills, several are great movers and others talented musicians.

As well as fairly common tumbling, we see tricks on two parallel poles that go further than I have seen before. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my two favourite bits were the most dance-like: the only girl in the group, Heloise Bourgeois, initially sits reading a book in an armchair, which then flops over, with her continuing her reading from underneath. We then see a veritable Kama Sutra of positions for reading, as chair and reader spin before our eyes. Second, was a large metal ring with a life of its own in the hands of its keeper: spinning inside it in the style of the De Vinci drawing, jumping through or just letting it spin. With full houses, pages of feedback comments on the Fringe website and a standing ovation on the night I attended, this is already one of the hits of 2007.

I saw Traces in San Francisco (with the exception of the aforementioned Heloise, the perfomers -- at least, when I saw them -- are all from the San Francisco Bay Area) and loved it. The wheel was my favorite act, but I also thought the reading-in-the-chair act was very innovative and funny. The tricks in the pole climbing act were exceptional, but I liked the way the performers initially used the poles rather casually and gradually worked their way into the acrobatic feats.

The other aspect of the show that impressed me was the ensemble work in the dancier sections.

Author:  leam8 [ Sun Aug 12, 2007 8:27 am ]
Post subject:  Song of the Goat Theatre: Lacrimosa

Teatr Piesn Kozla (Song of the Goat Theatre): Lacrimosa
Assembly Aurora Nova, St. Stephen’s Church
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
9 August 2007

During Fringe 2004, Song of the Goat seared the stage at St. Stephen’s Church with Chronicles—A Lamentation, a riveting re-telling of the Epic of Gilgamesh. This year their most recent work, Lacrimosa, investigates the story of the medieval French town Arras, attacked by the plague in 1485, and then by recrimination and violence three years later, as the surviving townsfolk struggled to come to grips with the barbarity to which they succumbed in the face of the ravaging disease. Although Lacrimosa does not burn with the same white heat felt in Chronicles, it nonetheless weaves a potent spell.

In Lacrimosa, as in Chronicles, the company’s vocal work charged the atmosphere with emotion, whether dread, defiance, mourning or (usually momentary) jubilation; this production’s music was sourced from Mozart’s Requiem. As the dim lights grew in the opening section, six figures draped in gauzy, ragged white appeared, seated on benches and singing the “Agnus Dei”. One woman (Anna Zubrzycki) interrupted them with shrill, keening cries until they abruptly broke off singing and leapt to their feet.

Because most of the dialogue or declamations are spoken in Polish, much of the audience must depend on imagery and tone to tell the story. The group merged principals and chorus, blurring distinctions between them so that as a whole, it amplified the shifting dynamics between victims and perpetrators. Two figures, a Jew (Matthieu Leloup) and a Girl (Anna Krotoska) soon emerged as scapegoats for the town’s wrath, sharpened into a dangerous tool by the Bishop (Marcin Rudy).

The company’s movement, deeply grounded in the broad base of second position plie, channeled power and weight into the performance. A program note revealed that the primary movement language was inspired by Anestenaria, an ancient possession cult of “firewalkers”. This yielded compelling sequences, such as a debate among the men through leaps, gestures, and sharp, hissing breaths, or an orgy scene during which the Girl (whose white costume had cleverly shifted inside out from white to red) was tossed (or tossed herself?) among the men until all appeared exhausted and horrified by what they had done.

Although drawn in by Lacrimosa’s spiraling energy and intensity of performance, I missed the greater breadth of visual and kinetic imagery that powered Chronicles. Still, stage pictures such as a large book (The Bible) held open at a gathering with pages suddenly on fire, casting the only light, or two men, their faces shrouded by fabric, processing slowly forward with two women, heads veiled, gave the eye and heart a great deal to contemplate about the nature of good, evil, choice and responsibility.

Author:  leam8 [ Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:07 am ]
Post subject:  DO Theatre: Hangman

DO Theatre: Hangman
Assembly Aurora Nova, St. Stephen’s Church
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
9 August 2007

DO Theatre, originally from Russia and now based in Germany, excel at making dance-theatre works centered on a theme—creating a stage world with sets, lights, props and their own bodies—and then spinning out interpretations of and variations on that theme for a rich theatrical experience. At Fringe 2003 they studied flying in Bird’s Eye View; in 2005 they danced insomnia in Sleep…Less…Ness. This year’s offering, Hangman, winds its tortuous way through the more complex theme of perpetration and victimhood.

Even before the piece begins, we come upon a stage covered in newspaper, with newspapered panels draped overhead and the amplified sound of typing from a bowler-hatted performer/technician (Tanya Williams) working at an old typewriter in the far downstage-left corner. Another figure (Julia Tokareva) straddles a chair, facing back, beneath letters hung on a line spelling HANGMAN. Three sit at a table, apparently asleep (Alexander Bondarev, Evgeny Kozlov, Irina Kozlova).

When the typist finishes and pulls her paper from the machine, the piece begins. The three at the table see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil, and they busily confer and debate in effortless clowning sequences—at one point, the table levitates suddenly. But when three hold down one and seemingly nail her hand to a board, they launch the entire work on a strange journey through a series of scenes—some transcendently beautiful—but some more relevant than others.

Three dancers with suitcases walk through the newspaper and it sticks to their shoes, creating a mess and an edge to their movement that comes from uncertain footing. Two gang up and shoot the third, swiping her suitcase which turns out to be filled with money. But greed overtakes again, until only one remains to carry off the booty. In a later scene, two lunching ladies, after ceaselessly harassing their waiter, are served spaghetti out of the back of a gentleman’s head; it turns out to be poisoned, and they drop dead, to the delight of the waiter and his gentleman-conspirator.

One of the work’s loveliest scenes also makes the least sense in the larger context of the piece. Three small lights suspended from long cords, each shaded by a tattered book, serve as a visual accompaniment to three dancers who swing them in unison and then move through a floor sequence—slow shoulder rolls, spins and inversions—in the book-lights’ shifting shadows, to the sound of the sea.

Another oddity, though not lovely—midway through the work, Williams comes front and center and attempts to auction off shreds of newspaper, which appears to be solely a play for time while the other two female performers change clothes. We also see a couple of the company’s tricks reprised from earlier works, namely two coats on hangers, with the women hanging inside them, dancing a drunken duet.

Taken as a whole, however, Hangman delivers DO Theatre’s committed intensity of performance and investigation of ideas in a satisfying, expansive visual experience.

Author:  leam8 [ Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:48 pm ]
Post subject:  On Danse (International Festival); Leitmotif, Score (Fringe)

Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu: On Danse
Edinburgh Playhouse
Edinburgh International Festival

In the sense that On Danse sets out to emulate a lush piece of 18th century entertainment through fantastical imagery and lovely dancing, it succeeds. Using a seamless combination of live dancing and video imagery enhanced by computer animation, Cie Montalvo-Hervieu give us goats, horses, frogs, giant bunnies, living statuary, rearing lions, and groups of floating naked people soaring through the sky, among many other virtual creatures with whom the real dancers interact, on two levels of stage.

The dancing, set to the sprightly music of 18th century composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, encompasses breakdance, modern, African, pointe work—something for everyone. Most of it is a pleasure to watch on skilled, enthusiastic performers. A series of solos in which dancers discuss their attraction to dancing seems alternately pensive or silly, with lines such as “I try to get out of my body,” or “Dance is cosmic.” The piece works best when it does not attempt profundity, but gallops along with the elephants, peacocks and frolicking nudes on screen. Forty-five minutes of this, however, would have worked just as well as ninety, and would perhaps have left us wanting more.

Andrew Dawson: Leitmotif
Au Cul du Loup: Score
Assembly Aurora Nova, St. Stephen’s Church
Edinburgh Festival Fringe

In Leitmotif, performer Andrew Dawson has woven disparate elements into an intimate personal narrative. Monologue, movement, film and shadow-puppets all play their parts as he describes scenes from his very early adulthood in England. Dawson’s performance is delicate and low-key in a way that makes you lean in to catch all his words. Despite his engaging sweetness, however, Dawson’s slow, contained movement sequences, his quiet voice, and the film of a train journey which he uses as a through-line for the piece combine to create an overly subdued atmosphere which dulls the impact of the work.

The members of Au Cul du Loup must have worked day in and day out for months to concoct so many strange and ingenious instruments, both of sport and sound. Score depicts a series of surrealist sporting events, where the movement and attitudes of the players are instantly recognizable from a wide range of games, but the tools they work with have never been seen on any court or field: widely-strung racquets that whistle through the air, wooden frames on long handles pushed, squeaking, across the floor. Most of them defy description, and all of them are fascinating, especially when handled so matter-of-factly by the performers. Fine comedic scenes, such as two wrestlers entirely outfitted in tape who keep getting stuck together, alternate with sequences of strange beauty, such as a forest of slim metal poles which resonate as butterfly bolts spin slowly down each one. In Score, Au Cul du Loup have fused brilliant feats of physical engineering into a refreshingly original whole.

Author:  kurinuku [ Tue Aug 28, 2007 2:19 am ]
Post subject: 

Lady Boys toppled by brute force as Fringe ticket sales smash record
by TIM CORNWELL for the Scotsman
published: August 28, 2007

THE Edinburgh Festival Fringe sold a record 1,697,293 tickets this year, it announced yesterday, a rise of 10.8 per cent on last year's figure.

Fuerzabruta, a spectacle housed in the Black Tent in Leith, with performers who burst through walls and stage dramatic aerial stunts, was the biggest-selling show. It toppled the Lady Boys of Bangkok, who held the top spot for five years.

Author:  Karl Cronin [ Thu Aug 30, 2007 1:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Six Women Standing in Front of a White Wall

Six Women Standing in Front of a White Wall.
Little Dove Theatre Art (Australia)

As we squeezed into the small performance space that could very well have doubled as a janitor's breakroom, we were flanked by the six performers filing past us in a slow, deliberate procession - chins lowered to their chests, hands hanging motionless by their sides, each wearing a white dress with pink sash. The austerity of their slow, deliberate pace quieted our voices and made room for the plaintive cry of Lucinda Williams, which swirled about, suggesting some personal sorrow that each of these women bore.

Once aligned in front of a large white wall, the women simultaneously struck unique positions that expressed various degrees of yearning. It was made clear immediately that there was something that these women needed. It was also clear that we were somehow involved in the potential fulfillment of that need, as two medium-sized signs hung from the gallery rope in front of them told us to "Please touch". In time, the crowd caught on and began interacting physically with the women.

For the most part it was simply moving hands and stroking fingers. A few were moved to hug the women, who responded throughout all the touch with various signs of excitement and encouragement, yet underscored throughout by a deep, irresolvable longing. A man grabbed one of the women from behind and was sharply reprimanded by the director. "She's not a toy", she snapped. These were women with needs, but with boundaries. The task of the audience was to make sense of the needs and explore the boundaries, which became an enrapturing enterprise for the 20-minutes of pulsating yearning calling out from the six bodies.

In the end, this piece gave me a glimpse of the hopelessness one can feel when interacting with someone in a desperate state. The women longed for connection, yet failed to be healed by it. This was movement, it was dance, it was installation, and it was true - a reminder that despite our best intentions, there are some wrongs we cannot fix.

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