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Fringe 2005 Reviews (43)

Close Encounters
Three plays, including Gentlemen's Bairns by C.S. Lincoln, The Rise and Fall of Deacon Brodie, by Catherine A McLachlan, and The Riddle of Riddle's Court by John McGovern.
Citadel Arts Group
Diverse Attractions, Riddle's Court
***

Close Encounters is actually a series of three short plays, performed by an almost uniformly excellent cast and highlighting historical events that took place in and around Riddle's Court - the location of Diverse Attractions' theatres.

All three plays are done in Scots, which would be more of a problem for foreigners if the cast didn't go to such pains to make sure their gestures and mannerisms illuminated the meanings of the words. Gentlemen's Bairns tells the story of unruly students who take over the high school in protest over losing their eight days' vacations. It is the longest of the three plays, and utilizes the full cast.

The Rise and Fall of Deacon Brodie is the next play. Quite talky, it is the tale of how Edinburgh's infamous Deacon's had a brush with life-after-supposed-death, only to take a plunge and wind up dead after all.

The Riddle of Riddle's Court, the shortest of the three, is a rhyme about a haunted sporran found by modern-day construction workers. The tale itself is sandwiched between quick glimpses of the modern-day workers.

Playing to a packed house, it certainly seems that the Citadel Arts Group has cracked the secret of getting audiences at the fringe with Close Encounters.

Rachel Lynn Brody

The Threepenny Opera
By Bertolt Brecht, with music by Kurt Weill
Cambridge University Broadway Savoyards
C Too
***

Brecht and Weill's take on Gay's The Beggar's Opera needs no introduction and indeedone of its songs, Mac the Knife, has become a jazz classic. This Cambridge group gives a creditable account of the piece which is at its best in the set-piece musical numbers.

They sing well and the musical numbers are well staged. The costumes, too, are good - with influences including The Rocky Horror Show and Chicago - and the lighting suitably atmospheric, but in thsoe scenes where dialogue is supreme, the company is less successful. The tension lapses from time to time and occasionally the diction leaves something to be desired.

On the whole, though, this is production which is worth seeing, which may even win some converts to Brecht and Weill.

Peter Lathan

Babooshka
By Kiki Kendrick and Julie Balloo
Pleasance Courtyard
**

This is a women's show written and performed by them for them. That means that having a male reviewer is less than ideal.

Babooshka is a clothing store, which apparently gives its customers a kind of licence to talk about the problems of life as a woman in the image-driven early 21st Century. The shop is presumably Sloaney designer but budgets being limited, it has so many different brands and labels that the only true progenitor is Oxfam.

The concept is clever. Take five women of different ages, put them in the changing rooms of a store, call them all Anna and then get them to talk about a series of issues while cracking as many jokes as possible.

Catherine Steadman plays the teenage sales assistant whose only interest in life is how the stars of Heat and Hello live. Charlotte Pyke is the mid-20s Anna with boyfriend problems, Claire McKenna takes her to 32 with a body and mind that haven't yet recovered from motherhood and Maggie Saunders is the more dignified 50 who injects the pathos talking about a daughter who died of anorexia.

The play has been written by Jenny Eclair's writing partner Julie Balloo and Kiki Kendrick who was a creative in advertising for 20 years. Miss Kendrick plays the 40-year-old, a woman whose main interest is getting the most out of her newly-acquired breasts. There is a suspicion that this version of Anna is closely autobiographical.

Director Catriona McLoughlin keeps the pace up throughout and the laughs flow.

Babooshka has lots of girly in-jokes and looks in great detail at female vanity. It tries to make some serious points but ultimately these are buried beneath the light situation comedy.

Philip Fisher

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©Peter Lathan 2005