The Edinburgh Fringe
Fringe 2004 Reviews (43)
Story Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale
This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen but is in fact a revelation. It is a reworking of Shakespeare with songs by a company of twenty-one using modern language and constantly swapping roles throughout.
By the end, Year Out Drama have done such a good job of catching the spirit, that one almost wonders why Shakespeare needed four times as long to relate the same tale.
The cast of 21 are of variable talent but work together really well, which must be a compliment to director, Matthew Warburton.
They tell the story of jealous Leontes and innocent Hermione in a mixture of prose and poetry (including some dreadful rhyming couplets) with a few songs. These can be gratuitous or appropriate and in the case of The Teddy Bears Picnic as Antigonus is consumed, witty. It helps that many of the singing voices are very good.
There are a few irritations but a remarkable amount of the plotting from the original is included and despite the swapping of roles, clarity is paramount and rarely lost.
This show has the advantage of little competition with its 10am slot and therefore drew a very healthy and enthusiastic audience. Anybody that can drag themselves from bed in time should make the effort. They will have fun with this modern equivalent to Lamb's Tales.
Damaged by Miracles
This is a pleasing and intriguing piece of work on the borderline between contemporary dance and physical theatre. Inspired by Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, its fragmentary structure is apposite and evocative. Two performers are concerned primarily with the body as the fundament of human experience when the mind is malfunctioning. But is our body a miracle created by God, and, if it is, are we somehow or another embarrassed and ashamed at the imperfections of this divine, double-edged gift? Equally, there are two people here merging and diverging in a relationship of uncertainty. "I didn't know how lost I was until I found you" is a simple but profound sentence that refuses to budge from my memory and made me realise how engaged I had been by these two. Or are these two perhaps the duality of a single being and the loss in question that of the mind? Damaged by Miracles is the choreography of embodied enigma and somehow or another I had a rather clammy sense of the compulsion of mangled and tortured thoughts accompanying mental disorder.
This is a modest production that utilizes simplicity for effect. A ghetto-blaster records and replays their voices, shadows cast on the backdrop magnify their presence and the music is atmospheric but unobtrusive. An angle-poise lamp lighting the naked torso of the male performer in movement and manipulated by the female is quite a rivetting image and begs some interesting questions concerning nudity as well as providing an satisfying aesthetic counterpoint to the stark surroundings of the Pleasance Upstairs.
I would like to see this work again, in a larger space, where it can breathe and gain in clarity and definition. But here on the Fringe it is well worth watching for the first time.
The world premiere of a play by Tom Stoppard: no wonder the audiences are flocking in.
In fact, it's a script for a film that was never produced, and the reason is obvious: it simply isn't very good. It contains some very typical Stoppard characteristics - an intellectual delight in playing with ideas, some real wit - but it is far too wordy (even for Stoppard, who delights in words), and too fragmented, to the extent that I doubt it would work even as a film.
This may not have mattered, had the performances been good, but the acting rarely rises above the just-about-competent. There is some considerable doubling, but absolutely nothing distinguishes one character from another, apart from a few bits of costume.