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Fringe 2007 Reviews (33)

Not in My Name! The Trial of Niccolo Machiavelli
Written and performed by Michael McEvoy
Portrait Productions
The Green Room
***(*)

Michael McEvoy returns to the Fringe with his fourth biographical one-man show. In this case he has chosen to take a sobering look into the life of the much maligned Florentine writer and philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. Woken from his death bed, Machiavelli is confronted with the audience and after reasoning that he is there to defend himself, he proceeds to tell the long and strange story of his life in finely crafted detail; aware that in some way this telling is important to his salvation.

McEvoy plays the piece with comfortable ease, as he is evidently well versed in the material and his portrayal of the man who wrote The Prince is that of an everyman and a scholar upon hard times. Recounting everything from the rise and fall of the Republic and the return of the Medici to making war plans with Leonardo Da Vinci, the play fits an enormous amount of detail and information into its short running time, such that it remains always fresh and fascinating without feeling like a history lesson.

This fascinating story is interspaced with moments of introspection and asides to the audience as the reality of his situation hits home. It is here that the work falters; as beyond the conceit that somehow Machiavelli has been resurrected to give his side of events, it serves little other than to break the narrative flow, and to provide a heated finale and a harsh critique of modern superpowers. This moment feels clumsy and out of keeping with the character we have been shown up until this point and his reactions to the world. The final moments do regain their previous charm, and the play ends on a good note, but the anti-globalising sentiment leaves a sour taste that could so easily have been avoided.

Graeme Strachan

Almost Haunted
Big Village Theatre
Augustine's
*

I've tried to avoid reality TV in my daily routine, but sadly some of it has still crept in. One of the more offensive programmes is the subject of ridicule in Big Village Theatre's Fringe show Almost Haunted. Should you be lucky enough not to have spotted the titular gag, I envy you.

I didn't expect much from such a premise, but I was amazed to see that even I could be surprised by how rotten an experience I had gotten myself into.

The plot was cumbersome, with too many characters, subplots that went nowhere and a general sense that the story had been thought-out as far as the beginning and the close and the rest was just a way of filling time.

Graeme Strachan

Beowulf and Beer
KSU Tellers
C Cubed
****

The Vikings certainly believed that there was nothing so good as a fine tale taken with a drink. Taking this idea literally, KSU Tellers have chosen to perform an adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, and have thrown in a free beer to add to the experience. Amidst this atmosphere of cavorting, quaffing and laughter there is actually a fine play being performed, with an enthusiastic and energetic young cast literally flinging themselves into the story.

Using masks and helms the cast breathe hot life into the story of Beowulf's heroisms against Grendel and his mother, with gleeful scenes of drinking and orations in between; which draw the audience into the thick of the action, and make them feel as welcomed guests.

The play stands as a brilliant piece of physical theatre, if not the most accurate re-telling of the myth, but lubricated by the freely given ale, and hearty for more songs of great renown and adventure, I can say there's no show where I've felt more at home and welcome. It was a great pity to me when it all had to end, as I could happily have stayed and watched, and drank, all night. Praise enough I feel, considering the show began before midday.

Graeme Strachan

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©Peter Lathan 2007