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Fringe 2011 Reviews (12)

What Remains
By Ben Harrison and David Paul Jones
Traverse Medical School

Grid Iron are Scotland's most significant exponents of site-specific theatrical productions. While What Remains is site specific making the most of the Edinburgh University Medical School, it is closer to a piece of conceptual art than a play.

For those that have not been there, one of the attractions is to look around this august building and go through doors that normally deny public access. This builds to a climax in a room that mixes and utilises animal skeletons, paintings and busts of the great and good.

At the start, the audience is divided into three groups after their leading instructor, Gilbert K. Prendergast has played a new composition on the piano.

His prowess impresses, as it should since this solo part is played by the show's composer and sound designer, David Paul Jones.

The A Minor Group then started in fine style, lying in makeshift beds while completing application forms.

Thereafter, the group progressed through various rooms filled with exhibits that either illuminate the world of music, medical education or both together.

The story is pretty lightweight as we observe our leader slowly cracking up and turning into a murderous monster but the main pleasure of What Remains lies in the holistic experience of following a story round a found space that is so rich in history and atmosphere.

Philip Fisher

The Man of Mode
By George Etherege
Braindead Theatre
C eca

Braindead Theatre have created a heavily conceptual version of Etherege's Restoration comedy, The Man of Mode.

Despite cutting the play to ribbons and the running time to only an hour, they still manage to entertain, though the plot can be tricky to follow so great is the pace.

Director Gemma Wright has decided that this era is mirrored by the equally self-indulgent New Romantics of the early 1980s. She and the cast have then taken this idea to its limits, presumably mortgaging all of their assets to pay for the performance rights to 15 or 20 hit songs which create the period atmosphere.

The main characters are all there and look great, in their retro (fancy dress these days) clothing. The pick is inevitably William Atkins playing Sir Fopling Flutter as Adam Ant. He is the unhappy poseur who is used as a catalyst to bring together other couples.

The sexually charged shenanigans fit perfectly into the clubbing generation who while nights away on the dance floor looking for sex and possibly even marriage.

There, we see Bellair and Dorimant (Pete Watts and Freddie Noble) toying with affections before eventually landing up with their Mrs Rights, Emilia and Harriet (Jess Carrivick and Zara Malik),

This young cast are not all stars in the making but there is a lot of talent on show to add to the novelty of the staging.

Philip Fisher

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart
By David Greig
National Theatre of Scotland
Traverse Ghillie Dhu

This play might start and end in Kelso last year but in between, the heroine spends time to infinity in the company of the Devil, AKA a mild-mannered B&B owner called Nick.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart gets off to a good start thanks to its location at the Ghillie Dhu upstairs bar, which boasts fine architecture and its own pipe organ.

Here, a quintet of actor-musicians entertain their audience for 2¾ hours with a combination of music and poetry, expertly pastiching the Border Ballads, according to one of my companions, a Scottish folklorist with rare expertise in the subject.

Not only does David Greig get the rhyming right but the metre too, demonstrating the dedicated research that he brings to all of his work. The play also has the mythic quality that this form demands.

Prudencia Hart, played by Madeleine Worrall, is a spinsterish Professor who specialises in Scottish folklore.

She travels to the Borders to deliver a paper at a tedious conference and, on the Midwinter Solstice, gets lost in a snowy car park, while escaping the unwanted attentions of Andy Clark's Colin.

There, she somehow falls upon Old Nick (David McKay). He holds her in a Hell furnished with a heavenly library for a few millennia before a final tug of love leads to a happy ending.

The traditional music is jaunty and lively, performed by this trio plus Annie Grace and composer Alasdair Macrae. They also modernise successfully, as Miss Worrall becomes a wannabe Karaoke Kylie.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart tells a modern story in an ancient style. The show wears its research lightly and is great fun, with the cast weaving their way through the audience under the expert guidance of director Wils Wilson.

This strange tale functions simultaneously as mystery and love stories, warming the heart as much as the whisky that is given away by sponsors at the close does the stomach.

Philip Fisher

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©Peter Lathan 2010