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Fringe 2008 Reviews (59)

Simon Callow - A Festival Dickens
Assembly Rooms.
****

Simon Callow has succeeded in the West End with a Dickens Greatest Hits show before but this afternoon presentation is a little different.

Patrick Garland has adapted two of the master's obscure Christmas Stories for Callow to present in his inimitable fashion. The actor knows how to work an audience, with his resonant voice and relaxed style and swiftly draws in a large audience.

Mr Chops - The Dwarf is a parable that tells the story of a freak show exhibit who wins a lottery. He is immediately accepted by a society that is interested in his money but not the person spending it.

In a heart-rending final passage, Mr Chops has to face up to the reality of life and accept his lot, which he does, albeit reluctantly, a wiser and a poorer man.

Dr. Marigold is a real tearjerker that deserves this opportunity to charm a modern audience who may know the novels but not Dickens' shorter works.

Doctor Marigold obtained his Christian name from the expert who delivered him rather than at a university. He is a cheap-jack, a travelling market trader of a kind still familiar to us, selling rubbish through the strength of his patter, well demonstrated by Callow.

Unusually for someone in his business, Marigold has a heart. He marries a woman after falling in love at first sight and in quick succession loses wife, daughter and dog.

He then saves a deaf and dumb girl, whom he adopts. Her rescue and development are heartening and lead to a really beautiful dénouement.

Philip Fisher

More Lives Than One - Oscar Wilde and the Black Douglas
Dear Conjunction Theatre Company
Augustine's
***(*)

No Oscar Wilde show would be truly complete with out a chaise lounge. I was suitably gratified to find one, notably flowery, as soon as we entered the auditorium. With the vase of flowers spotlighted, the show started and the writer Leslie Clark introduces you to the death of that 'open handed, generous dandy', Oscar Wilde. Recounting the life and times of the infamous author, Clark displays both Wilde's genius and his arrogance - giving examples such as Oscar's self awarded title of 'Professor of Aesthetics'. Oscar wanted fame and he began by getting himself talked about. However this was to be his downfall in the end, as, by the end of his trial for homosexuality, the crowds danced in the street at his demise.

With a smooth and mellifluous voice Clark gives Wilde lovers an informative and well researched show, peppered with excerpts from the great writer's plays. As the actor says, 'Today, Oscar would be tickled pink by his current respectability' and Clark matches this with his vibrant socks. An enjoyable and revealing evening for any Oscar Wilde fan.

Cecil Boys

Pericles Redux
Not Man Apart
Pleasance Courtyard
***

Not Man Apart seem to have developed quite a following for their brief, physical re-working of one of Shakespeare’s lesser celebrated plays. Barely had the final chord struck when they were whoopingly ovated by an eager pack of fans. Full marks to them for going out on a limb to choose a leftfield Shakespeare and for having the foresight to put a synopsis in their programme. However it’s a text which they handle with varying success.

For the first ten minutes or so, the production looks like it is heading towards something irritatingly earnest. There are storm sequences, and meaty handshakes. John Farmanesh-Bocca’s Pericles swashbuckles like the fourth musketeer, resplendent in plastic knee-pads. Antiochus and his incestuous daughter are sexily demonic. It’s Shakespeare with a whiff of Hollywood.

As the comedy rears its head, things begin to look up. Dash Pepin is a great physical clown and he works his various dresses resisting the temptation to mince it up. Alexander Roger’s Simonides is hammy but has moments of bonkers wit. Pericles’s suit to Thaisa is presented as farcially shallow and it seems that the team want to milk the off-text comedic potential for all it’s worth. It comes across as pantomime but they pull it off.

Why they decided to do the whole thing in reverse as an encore, why they added ‘Redux’ to the play’s title, and why they received a standing ovation for it, are all still, however, a mystery to me

Lucy Ribchester

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©Peter Lathan 2008