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Fringe 2004 Reviews (42)

The Zen Clown
Lazzi! Theatre Company
Diverse Attractions

At forty minutes The Zen Clown must be one of the shortest shows on the Fringe this year. It is certainly the only show that sent me away reunited with a small lump of the universe from which I was divorced during the big bang.

David W. W. Johnstone is a nice man with a funny face who bangs into a door and does a sweet but modest piece of mime around a fish tank, but otherwise there isn't much of the clown about this show, Zen or otherwise. The sound track is soothing, so it is a great pity the show was disturbed rather violently by what seemed to be a Rolling Stones tribute band playing in the Lawnmarket. However, these rude and rough interruptions to our calm are the type of tribulations Zen initiates deal with and our clown smiled gracefully and benignly throughout the cacophony. Obviously, this philosophy works as the disruption seemed to blend in and become part of the show.

Thank you for my stone. It is smooth and pretty gleaming in the light. It quickly grows warm in my hand. I will reunite it with the other stones in my collection.

Jackie Fletcher

By Donal O'Kelly
The James Gang
Rocket@Demarco Roxy Art House

Catalpa flatters to deceive. Its real strength is a fine effort, in every sense, from the gifted Michael Cassady.

The initial premise is that Cassady plays a scriptwriter rejected by every studio. He announces that what he should do is reproduce the pictures in his head and then proceeds to do so on stage.

To start with, he introduces a lot of film directions as breaks between the early stages of the story of the Catalpa. This is great fun and much appreciated by the audience.

In many ways, this demands the talents that have made Stones in his Pockets a success for so many years with actors willing to throw themselves around diving from role to role.

The Catalpa is a ship that apparently really existed. Its history shares much with those featured in films such as Moby Dick and Mutiny on the Bounty.

Cassady is at his best when playing outlandish characters such as the star's mother in law. She is brought to eerie life and death, with no more than a horrible grimace and folded dressing gown. He has also gone to great trouble with his inventive props, creating a ship from nothing.

Unfortunately, the plot is not strong enough to sustain 90 minutes of action. This is a real pity as with something stronger, Cassady would really shine.

We may well hear much more from Michael Cassady as he is a perfect Edinburgh performer. It is to be hoped that next time, he will select a better showcase.

Philip Fisher

The Lifeblood
By Glyn Maxwell
Lifeblood Theatre Company in association with Metro Gilded Balloon
Gilded Balloon Caves

Before the fire destroyed the Gilded Balloon's main venue, I - and others - thought that the venue had lost its way theatrically. Comedy was its main focus and its gestures towards theatre were generally quite inferior to its peers, the Assembly Rooms and the Pleasance. Since the move to Teviot, however, it has made significant efforts to regain lost ground, culminating this year in The Lifeblood, the story of the last days of Mary, Queen of Scots, in the Gilded Balloon Caves in Niddry Street, a GB co-production.

First performed at the Hen and Chickens, Islington, in 2001, the play, by poet Glyn Maxwell and here directed by Guy Retallack, grips with its superb, taut language and, in this production, the outstanding performance by Sue Scott Davison as the the doomed Mary.

The Caves, damp vaults, are the perfect setting for the drama and the spare design in the most sombre of colours adds to the atmosphere.

It's a play of words, tightly written, and the cast (Davison, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Paul Goodwin, Henry Luxemburg and Chris Grilling) clearly relish them, building up the tension from the first moents right through to the bitter (appropriate word!) end.

If your interest is drama and you only have time to see one production, this should be it.

Peter Lathan

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©Peter Lathan 2004