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Fringe 2003 Reviews (10)

Boy Steals Train
Jude Domski with 78th Street Lab
Assembly Rooms

Fringe First winner, Boy Steals Train, tells the true story of Darius McCullom, a New Yorker who is now 35 and will be released from prison next month.

While he may have been arrested nineteen times, this is no ordinary criminal, since all of the offences are identical.

The play starts as young Darius, aged 12, is allowed to pull a few knobs on a subway train in New York. He is hooked at once and his strange addiction starts.

Helped by transport staff who use him to cover when they want a break or feel lazy, he soon becomes a expert in almost every job on the system.

When he is 15 and happily driving a train on a voluntary basis, he is caught by disbelieving police and becomes a cause celebre in the press. The publicity-seeking Mayor Ed Koch even promises him a job when he grows up.

Nothing will stop the irrepressible Darius, played by Ron Simons, from returning to his unpaid work - except the legal authorities who repeatedly arrest and imprison him.

It takes time to get there but we are eventually told that he suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism that causes obsessive behaviour. The point made, it is hard to watch the end of the play as one realises that a sick, harmless man has spent years in jail, apparently for no good reason.

Philip Fisher

The Argument
Theatre O
Assembly Rooms

This is very high quality physical theatre. Theatre O have built a big reputation in recent years and will be transferring to the Barbican as part of BITE:03 immediately after Edinburgh.

The Argument is the story of the rather inaptly named Strong family. As we are repeatedly misinformed, the mother died in a car accident, which takes various forms, in 1965.

That leaves the shaggy father, Edward, his two argumentative children, Eric and Roberta and his sweet daughter-in-law.

In a mix of dance, words, music and sound the company wittily explores this problem family. This goes from the problems of a single father getting his obstreperous children ready for school to a hilarious Christmas dinner when the final guilty secret of mother's disappearance is revealed.

This is a delightful piece from a very talented company and will be of particular interest to those who love physical theatre.

Philip Fisher

The Typographer's Dream
By Adam Bock
Pleasance Courtyard

The Typographer's Dream is a strange piece by American Adam Bock. It has no real narrative thread and requires a great deal of imagination from its audience. This is rewarded by some interesting insights into ordinary lives and a few good laughs.

Three characters sit at a table in front of screens covered in grey geometric shapes and talk about their enthusiasm for their jobs. They are a typographer, a geographer and a stenographer, or, as he is keen to point out, a court reporter.

They vie with each other to enthuse about their seemingly uninteresting jobs, with Nicola Redmond as the typographer usually losing out to her friends in spluttering silence.

For some reason, the bland descriptions of dull jobs and the interplay between the three participants can be extremely funny. This increases as the play moves away from the career lectures to a party held by Dave the court reporter (Kenneth Avery-Clark).

We now see that behind the sweetness and light are human foibles and, as geographer Annalise (Kathryn Akin) makes abundantly clear, lies.

The three actors give great performances with tremendous timing. This is a tribute to them and also to young director, Owen Lewis, who has just finished a year seconded to The Bush.

Philip Fisher

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©Peter Lathan 2003