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Fringe 2007 Reviews (25)

Stoopud Fucken Animals
By Joel Horwood
Loose Collective/Escalator East to Edinburgh
Traverse 3
****

Joel Horwood's new play could hardly be more different from Food, last year's Traverse Fringe First Winner that he co-wrote with Christopher Heimann.

Where that was a sophisticated comedy set in the heart of the London high life, his new work is located amongst backward Suffolk farming folk and the comedy is of so black a variety that it verges on tragedy.

This is a slow burner that rewards a little patience as the drama is set up. To start with, one has to endure/enjoy a series of meetings between twins on the eve of their 22nd birthday, Arthur Darvill's twanging Country and Western songs and the efforts of older twin, Carl Prekopp's Charlie Redhead, to sell bulls' semen.

Charlie and his unkindly named brother Dim, well played by recent graduate Joseph Arkley, live with Karen (Wendy Nottingham), their mother. Life for them is poor and dull but it goes on.

The boys' birthday marks a watershed after which nothing will ever be the same again. Charlie has discovered that there is a large skeleton in the family wardrobe.

Their parents are actually their grandparents and so he sets off on a quest to find their real mother in London. At the same time, Dim falls over their father, the man who twangs the guitar and sings the high-pitched dirges.

What ensues is a moving story of what happens when a 13 year old girl Belle, played in adulthood by Nicola Harrison, falls in love with a lonely loser twice her age, Robert Goodale's Lefty.

The consequences for all five characters, not to mention granddad who ran off to escape the issue, are devastating even two decades on.

Kate Budgen's minimalist staging doesn't entirely work but after the slow start, Stoopud Fucken Animals is a touching tale that shows real feeling and affection for those caught up in a drama that all wish never have happened but which they will have to live with forever.

Philip Fisher

Miracle in Rwanda
Leslie Lewis Sword
Guilded Balloon Teviot
****

Could you forgive your entire family's killers? Twenty-four year old Immaculée Ilibagiza, who escaped the Rwandan genocide of 1994 in which her brothers and parents died, did. Miracle in Rwanda is the true story of Immaculeé's flight to the local pastor's home, where she spent 91 days in a tiny bathroom with seven other women facing the fear of either capture by the gangs of men who regularly raided the house or starvation, before fleeing to the safety of a French refugee camp to learn that none of her family had survived.

Before he sent her away, Immaculée's father told her to pray whenever she felt afraid. Couped up in the tiny bathroom, Immaculée prays the rosary and finds in the sorrowful and glorious mysteries a faith in the purpose of her life to come. One of the play's most moving moments is when Immaculée asks for a French-English dictionary so that after the war she will be able to speak English. How many of us, in a situation so utterly hopeless, would sustain hope so long?

Leslie Lewis Sword plays every character in this captivating piece of theatre and tells the audience at the end that our coming to see the play is "a blessing", because it is through people listening to what has happened that the world will educate itself about how to help those affected by genocide. A truly compelling story and a reminder of the power and purpose of theatre.

Louise Hill

Into the Hoods
Zoonation
Pleasance Grand
****

Zoonation's hip-hop fairy tale of two children lost in the 'hood is a good-natured, pacy crowd-pleaser. The choreography and performances may not wow the experts (although Li'l Red and Basement Jaxx are outstanding, head and shoulders above the rest), but the combination of hip-hop, familiar tunes, a reasonably slick narrative and the sheer energy and good humour of the dancers - notably Wolf, Spinderella and the brilliant child stars - make this a sure-fire family hit. The packed to the rafters Pleasance Grand loved it.

Louise Hill

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©Peter Lathan 2007