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Fringe 2003 Reviews (4)

Pickle
By Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis
Indian Ink
Assembly Rooms
*****

Those who remember the last Edinburgh production by Indian Ink, Krishnan's Dairy at the Traverse, will have had high hopes for Pickle. These are entirely justified, as this gentle comedy provides what will probably prove to be one of this year's highlights.

Indian Ink come from New Zealand and they provide boundless imagination, a willingness to experiment with form and a touching fairy tale that together hold the interest.

The plot, set in a hotel, is deceptively simple - a burgeoning love between two shy but rather loveable people.

The play takes on a mythical quality as the Empire plays host to a series of silent guests rather like the Stoneheads that recently appeared at the National Theatre.

The cast all wear masks though these vary from full face through half, down to false noses on the hero and heroine.

Within the love story, there is room for global issues to impinge. An accident at a chemical factory in India has almost blinded the unhappy, widowed Sasha (Ansuya Nathan) and killed her parents. She now lives with her overbearing Aunt Ammachy (Jacob Rajan) who wishes to play the matchmaker. Unfortunately her choices do not please her niece.

She falls for the porter, Jojo (Jacob Rajan) an example of the cruelty of immigration, as he is fully trained as a heart specialist. In fact, the heart in all of its senses is a major motivator of this plot.

The acting from Jacob Rajan, the star of Krishnan's Dairy and Ansuya Nathan is of high quality, as is the beautifully painted and versatile set designed by John Verryt. As if all of this were not enough, there is a delightful dance piece and a handful of songs crooned by Ben Wilcock.

Once you include a visitor called G.Reaper and a diabolical pact that he forces; and the whole makes for a very satisfying way to spend a lunchtime.

Philip Fisher

The Water Engine
By David Mamet
78th Street Lab
Assembly Rooms
**

Charles Lang, played by Francisco Solarzamo, is a young man who invents the eponymous machine, in David Mamet's exposé of American greed.

Chicago in 1934 is home to both gangsters and the World's Fair. This very slick, well-lit production catches the time well as it uses the form of a radio drama to mirror life. It is less good on characterisation which may, in part be the fate of radio presentations.

The play juxtaposes Lang's attempts to patent his machine, corporate America's attempts to stop him and a chain letter that can apparently bring wealth or death.

It is inevitable that Lang will come to a sticky end and Mamet's message, oft-used is that life is never fair and that the best that you can hope for is to avoid a sticky end.

78th Street Lab under artistic director Eric Nightengale have been successful visitors to Edinburgh in recent years but The Water Engine does not see them quite at their best.

Philip Fisher

Hilt
By Jane Bodie
Pleasance Dome
*

Adam (Jamie Lee) and his Australian wife Kate (Susie Porter) have an open marriage. They happily agree to one night stands with others in their tiny city apartment with the great views.

Most of the fun for them is discussing the sex afterwards. Unfortunately, the dialogue that forms so much of this play is rarely convincing.

It does not help that none of the characters is either fully-developed or particularly interesting. Whether it is the home couple or their conquests, the only real subject for conversation is their single-minded interest in the sex. Careers and interests are just not subjects for discussion.

By the end, it becomes clear that the couple's relationship is as claustrophobic as their symbolic apartment where the views of life around are far more exciting. The only thing available is escape.

Philip Fisher

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©Peter Lathan 2003