The Edinburgh Fringe
Fringe 2010 Reviews (10)
Imperial Fizz has impeccable credentials. It is written by Americana Absurdum Fringe First winner, Brian Parks and performed by another multi-award winner David Calvitto with Issy van Randwyck.
What they present is a kind of cross between The Marx Brothers and Noël Coward with undertones of Dorothy Parker, if that can be imagined.
They gloriously play a couple fuelled both by cocktails and memories. In shabby evening dress, the pair delight in aphorisms, inducing numerous laughs as they recall the ups and downs of a generally happy life.
Something darker is going on, as we discover that these happy representatives of a long-gone jazz age are no longer alive following some unnamed tragedy.
This therefore becomes not so much a play about the death of the Great American Dream as its very enjoyable wake.
The heady language vomited out at breakneck pace, jokes, songs and atmosphere all mark out Imperial Fizz as a show as sophisticated as the cocktail for which it is ironically named. Cheers.
Teenagers Jennifer and June Gibbons, played by Natasha Gordon and Demi Oyediran, have the kind of fellow feeling that only exists between twins, needing no words to act and move identically.
They are the subject of the biographical bestseller The Silent Twins by Marjorie Wallace. This has now been adapted into an edgy staged drama by Linda Brogan and Polly Teale, directed by the latter in characteristic Shared Experience style.
The Black girls live in Haverfordwest where their father is working for the RAF. The Jamaicans suffer as the only “coloureds” that anyone in town had seen, even as late as the early 1980s.
As a result of racist bullying, the girls withdraw from society, refusing to talk other than to each other.
Despite their intelligence, the school expels them to a unit that replaces strict standards with freedom but, regardless of the efforts of a caring therapist played by Emma Handy, it makes no difference.
This distresses Anita Reynolds playing their mother Gloria, a decent, proud woman who has modest hopes, wanting her daughters to emulate their elder sister by becoming secretaries and mothers.
Behind closed doors, the twins rejoice in emulating royalty but in public, they produce Ghandi-like passive resistance.
The only person that gets through to them is, Alex Waldmann’s wild American Kennedy. He is a youth who likes to cause trouble, seducing the girls, in every sense.
His influence, together with the Brixton riots of 1981, together push a harmless if wilful pair to actions that leave them incarcerated in Broadmoor.
Despite strong acting and the chance to eavesdrop into their interior monologues, the motivations of the Gibbons twins remain somewhat clouded even at the end of a pretty grim 90 minutes.
Set in an impressionistically designed Zimbabwean cemetery, Colours allows us to eavesdrop for 45 minutes as an unnamed Coloured woman talks to her dead husband.
She dresses eccentrically and has a nasty habit of cackling like some African witch, while slowly revealing more details of her mundane life as she does a semi-striptease and readies herself for the only work for which she is capable.
Using language that isn’t always easy for British ears to interpret, she talks of the dreadful experience of mixed race people in a country that when called Rhodesia looked down on them as Blacks and now named Zimbabwe as Whites.
Gradually, the topic of AIDS comes to dominate, since this explains the reason why hubby is in the cemetery, our spokesperson is painfully thin and she wants their daughter to escape to England.
Although the geography is less appropriate, since Sloane Square and the King’s Road are over 300 miles away rather than fewer yards, Tim Crouch’s metatheatrical play about plays still packs a real punch.
Crouch likes baffling and unsettling audiences and on this occasion, he and his cast become part of one. There is no stage, merely wall to wall spectators.
When one, looking rather like Chris Goode in a bad wig, starts to chatter enthusiastically about his love of theatre and the Court in particular, it takes a moment to realise that he is not just the anorak that you (in this case a well-known scion of the National Theatre of Scotland) desperately regret sitting next to. This is in fact an excellent new cast member for Edinburgh.
His appreciation of the gorier highlights of the theatre’s history prefigures something else.
Next at the crease, sitting opposite, is the man himself, playing an author called Tim Crouch who writes plays for the Royal Court. He considers the purpose of writing and talks about an In-Yer-Face play that he has written featuring two brave performers.
Vic Llewellyn plays a Welsh actor named Vic Llewellyn very much out of character portraying an Eastern European sadist, while Esther Smith takes the role of … you guessed it, the teenaged victim on stage each night.
By this point, a somewhat unsettled audience has begun to expect the unexpected, as well as chatting amongst themselves a little self-consciously wary that the person they are speaking to may become part of the story.
Indeed, when someone left in high-ish dudgeon, it took a minute to decide whether Crouch or boredom had scripted the departure.
There is a serious underlying message, since the described play within the play forces us to consider the acceptability or otherwise of the depiction of harrowing scenes on stage and their connection to the underlying violence that they depict. This is highly appropriate during a Festival filled with everything imaginable and a few things that probably are not.