The Edinburgh Fringe
Fringe 2011 Reviews (10)
Something has gone badly wrong with this version of Euripides play about a vengeful woman, played by Nadira Janikova.
After learning that her husband is to marry a newer, richer model, Medea wreaks the kind of terrible revenge that can only happen in mythology.
The acting leaves much to be desired and it can be difficult to understand what several of the performers are saying, either due to thick accents or problems with vocal projection.
Economies do not help, as Richard Fry plays not only a rather ignoble and unheroic Jason but also his future father-in-law Creon and Aegeus - i.e. all of the male parts. Worse, in the first two, he is indistinguishable.
The movement also all too often looks learned and unnatural, though song and dance seem to come more easily to this cast than straight acting..
The powerful story with Stella Duffy's modernised language does its best to overcome these problems but only does so to a degree.
Ever since its first major production Black Watch, the imprimatur of The National Theatre of Scotland has been an effective guarantee of unmissable theatre.
The company's work is characterised by thoughtful, imaginative plays utilising ensemble acting and the best backstage creative teams to maximise the impact of the text.
The Wheel lives up to that billing and shows every sign of becoming at least a minor classic.
The work's protagonist Beatriz shares the best facets of those two legendary Mothers, Courage and Teresa. Catherine Walsh, immaculately demonstrates all of her character's pain and optimism as she embarks on a picaresque journey through multiple war zones.
The play opens calmly and happily enough as she prepares to help her sister, Olga Wehrly's Rosa to enjoy the latter's wedding day, as war rages between their native Spain and France.
The day is ruined when a group of volunteer soldiers arrives and, after a kangaroo court, threatens to execute a neighbour.
The fearless heroine saves his life but, in return, gets saddled with the man's seemingly mute daughter, played by Rebecca Benson. The pair then embark on a chase to catch the father, who has been exiled.
For most of the remainder of the 1¾ hours, the girl does or does not perform minor miracles, becoming a figure of wonder and fear.
Along the route, Beatriz inherits a younger, orphaned boy and a baby, to add to a burden that she bears with innate goodness, if occasional understandable impatience.
With The Wheel, Zinnie Harris brings back memories of perhaps her best play, Further than the Furthest Thing, which started life on the same stage.
Once again, she keeps viewers on their toes as knowledge slowly seeps through that the wars we are witnessing change from scene to scene. Spaniards facing French eventually morph into emigrants fleeing the Nazis and then Cambodians enduring similar terrors with American napalm.
NTS Artistic Director, Vicki Featherstone does her playwright proud with a typically adventurous staging.
Merle Hensel's set features a bombed-out every-town, while the action is enhanced by this Company's trademark complementary movement and music respectively designed by Christine Devaney and Nick Powell.
By the end of the evening, the patience of even the saintly Beatriz has been tested to the limit and there is a terrible implication that the cycle of perpetual wars will be repeated forever.
As such, The Wheel is a humane and moving play about the way in which innocents suffer during conflicts that should be seen as much for its vital message as the way in which it is packaged and delivered.
The Royal Lyceum has moved just around the corner to present a studio-sized production at the Traverse.
Wondrous Flitting gets off to a hilarious start, as tubby, unemployed Sam played by Grant O'Rourke, waits for some dry ice to float past the audience before launching into a stream of expletives.
This seems absolutely justified when we realize that his untidy living room has been riven in two by a flying wall and, even better, this has apparently come from the Holy House of Loretto, reputedly the home of the Virgin Mary.
Unfortunately, the play does not then seem to have any direction. For the next 90 minutes, we follow dull Sam through a series of situations that are presumably meant to reflect Scottish city living and generate some laughs along the way.
The novelty of the opening fails to return during a stream of meetings with, inter alia, Sam's wheelchair-bound Granddad, a couple of 11-year-old hooligans, junkies, a businesswoman and a church cleaner, as well as various offstage voices, some of which might just be heavenly.
Every other part is played by either Molly Innes or Liam Brennan, who each reveal themselves to be talented character actors.