The Edinburgh Fringe
Fringe 2004 Reviews (35)
This rather vacuous and thin production turned out to be somewhat engaging; I liked it in spite of myself. And the cast was, in no small part, the reason.
Three young men with sex, not relationships, drugs and rock & roll on their mind all have hidden weaknesses and agendas. With a pending performance call time being announced which adds a sense of frantic urgency, we get a look at what these "men" are made of under pressure.
Guy (Jonathon Dutton) is celebrating his birthday and suffering from unrequited love and a pharmaceutical meltdown. Jules (Ryan Johnson) is involved with said love who seems to be into the kinkier stuff. He is ambivalent about his contribution, does not like the violence but admits to getting off on it. This speaks volumes for the character. Bob (James Schlesinger,) being the lucky rock star with legions of women throwing themselves at him, is also Guy's druggist. His story is the most interesting.
So these three men who take care of each other have little but their sexual appetites and exploits to talk about. Vacuous and thin.
Thrown into the mixture is Hazel, the stage manager, who calls the time over the intercom. She wants their donations for her turkey basted pregnancy and is not above a lot (except sex) to get it.
Mr. Dutton and Mr. Schlesinger seem to give themselves to building and sustaining their characters. Mr. Johnson seems, at time, uncomfortable with the direction the character is evolving. "Love like you've never been hurt. You fuck with Ernie, you fuck with Bert," he repeats. Ms. Phillips energy is wasted on a very thinly drawn character, but plays it for all the comedic moments she can squeeze out of it.
On Bob Bailey's set, among other things, is a top loading freezer where Guy chills out and a treadmill which seems to serve only as an unusual blocking aid for the director.
But we learn their secrets and are all the more forgiving of Brendan Cowell's script. We want far more realist/believable characters. He may well be "one of Australia's most exciting multi-award winning young writers" finding dialogue like, "I don't know whether I can trust women. Is it nice?" "No, it's cold." If only director Gillian King or producer Andrew Bain had asked more of him.
Two Man Rumble
In Two Man Rumble Le Coq trained actor Alasdair Satchel teams us with the stunningly talented Michael Blyth to present us with the most definitive and revealing exposé of that most enigmatic of creatures in its natural habitat: the Scottish male on his nocturnal migration from the pub to the kebab shop.
Satchel gives us a witty piece of writing, ironically framed by a lecture on the male of the species homo erectus sapiens sapiens complete with demonstrations by Warren, the academic's cerebrally-challenged assistant. This hilarious lecture blends seamlessly with the action as Satchel and Blyth act out the hierarchical rituals that define the Alpha male as he marks out his territory with his testosterone.
Satchel claims he was inspired by some words from Steven Berkhoff to the effect that male actors find it easy to 'parody the foibles of women' but cannot parody themselves. So, Satchel aims to 'pour some scorn on the male and make him an object of humour and ridicule'. In this he succeeds admirably in a show cram-packed with fun that makes us hoot and cringe in equal measure as the male of our species makes a 50-minute evolution-revolution from monkey to man and back to monkey again.
Blythe and Satchel are performers of consummate physical skill who make a multitude of rapid transformations effortlessly and much to our delight. CO2 is a good space for this show as the performers exploit the potential for intimacy with a delicious mixture of engagement and, literally, in-yer-face humour. While we might have many moments of recognition, I gained some considerable insights into the more secretive domains of male experience, such as urinal etiquette. And if you imagine that these are well-worn clichés, you will be surprised to find that Satchel has some inventive approaches that take us far beyond the trite.
Satchel and Blyth are a new generation of theatremakers and it gives me heart to see such skill, professionalism and intelligence manifest itself in a small venue at the Edinburgh Festival. I will watch their careers closely. In the meantime, give yourself a break and see this show.
Fat Yellow Bellies
Publicity material for Fat Yellow Bellies is strikingly enigmatic, and going into the theatre it's hard to know what audience members should be prepared for.
This is writer Maryam Hamidi's first play script, and it's easy to tell that she has worked to pack a lot of ideas into this almost mythic tale about a woman leading a settlement of women, preparing them to defend against incursion from foes in a religious war. At times the density of the ideas is a detriment to their clarity, but in terms of evoking a visceral reaction the piece is a raging success.
In her writer's note, Hamidi discussess the desire to look at the relationship between women who create and those who destroy. This conflict is effectively portrayed by Patricia Kavanagh as she plays Shira, the founding member of a community, dedicated to blotting out their enemies - though the specific conflict is never entirely elaborated. One scene, in which Shira protects her child Toma (Hazel Darwin-Edwards) as they lie alone in the wilderness, is especially chilling.
Fat Yellow Bellies proves the strength of using a cohesive design. Out of only their movements, multicolored scarves and limited props, the company creates a series of settings that range from tiny villages to mountaintops to deserts to dreamscapes, each more vividly portrayed than the last. The only drawback to the incredibly simple set and costumes and the technique of having several actors play more than one part is that at times the changes between these become confusing.
That said, when the house lights came up on Fat Yellow Bellies, it took the audience several seconds to recover enough from the power of the images just shown to them to be able to get up and leave the theatre. Not bad for a company, and a writer's, first effort.
Rachel Lynn Brody