Richard III, King’sTheatre, Edinburgh: Review


Edward Hall’s all-male Shakespeare company, Propeller, have created an engaging production of Richard III, that whilst not conventional, provides a certain alternative spin on the historical classic. Performed in conjunction with The Comedy of Errors, the two plays, although irrevocably contrasted, contain unquestionable similarities. Shakespeare’s histories, often revered as Tudor propaganda, present a means for the bard to explore the British monarchy, although he was somewhat biased due to the restraints placed by his position under the reign of Elizabeth I.

The culmination of his account of the War of the Roses, which he began in Henry VIRichard III illustrates the outcome of the war. It also portrays Richard’s character from his rise to power and subsequent demise and acts as a document examining the collapse of the medieval world.

A difficult play to bring alive on stage due to its constant transition between various settings, Michael Pavelka creates a dystopic vision of a hospital-come-abbatoire that uses medical screens and thick plastic curtains as partitions to transform and effortlessly piece together one scene to the next. Written in a blank verse that comes across as both formal, yet patterned, Richard III portrays its dark subject material with such unequivocal wit that it allows Hall to explore the truisms of its comedy.

Hall does away with Shakespeare’s avoidance of physical violence by accentuating the deaths within the play to the extent that it appears almost reminiscent of a Tarantino film. Whilst the lavishly drawn out scenes of murders involving chainsaws and splattered innards are undeniably entertaining,they cause a detraction in the portend of those moments that require sincerity.

A masked chorus separating the scenes by satirical close harmony pieces arranged by Jon Trenchard creates a chilling juxtaposition of frivolous singing against scenes of a disturbing and sinister nature. A rather slow first half, it comes together in the latter stages where Clothier’s portrayal is truly realised as a compelling exposition of the cruel violence of Richard and the lengths he will go to achieve his goal. As he reaches his summit, the rapid unfurling of his power that culminates in his defeat by Richmond (Richard Hand) clothed from head to toe in white is truly compelling.

Hall’s production is an endearing representation, however, its crass style make it come across as more of an excessive romp than a faithful representation of a Shakespearian history.

Taken from The Journal, published online Sat Apr 23rd 2011.

Kefar Nahum, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh: Review


Mossoux-Bonté’s production of Kefar Nahum is a sensual exploration of the turbulent and bizarre nature of creation. In a striking piece of visual theatre, sole performer Nicole Mossoux creates a stunning blend of theatre and dance which leaves the viewer astonished and reflective.

There is no exact plot in this piece, rather there is a seamless flow of one creation to the next conjured out of everyday objects as commonplace as clothes or watering cans. Mossoux breathes life into these items of seeming unimportance by giving them ‘being’ and a soul. Born out of nothing, a chaotic incarnation sees each creature arrive inquisitively before being devoured by a subsequent creature.

As each monstrosity changes, becoming the next, questions arise regarding the random fortuitousness of existence in what is everchanging and cyclical in nature. As each being evolves, similarities can be drawn to our own curious subsistence and how it doesn’t differ entirely from this absurd state of affairs.

Mussoux becomes part of the narrative, transforming herself into parts of the characters in a way that is disturbing yet strangely erotic. Changing costume as she goes along, she too embodies seperate identities; each as much a stranger as those she creates.

The UK rarely sees puppetry outside of childrens’ performances and it is a delight to see it used here expressing themes that come across as dark and adult, in scenes ranging from the distressing to the comedic. Accompanied by exquisite live music from Thomas Turine, an eerie and macabre element is added through a combination of various synthetic sounds which allows the viewer to be transported into this extraordinary world.

Although a relatively short piece at only 50 minutes, any longer may have felt overbearing. The style of the performance made for a sensual onslaught that really tested the extent of the viewer’s imagination and thus made its short length appropriate. For those who find visual theatre cumbersome, Mossoux-Bonté’s production offers a potential rejolting of one’s preconceptions provided you are able to engage your creativity. For anyone else, it offers a stimulating insight into the preternatural method of creation in a performance that is both innovative and gripping.

Taking from The Journal, published Wed Feb 23rd 2011.

Tom Stade Live Review


The Canadian born “maple licking seal killer” is a comedian whose cheekiness and laid-back delivery make him a likeable man, but one whose comedy ultimately falls short of the mark.

Unbothered about his self-confessed love of alcohol and haggard voice as a result of a supposed 20-year pot addiction, the everlasting teen warms to the audience by interacting with a sort of colloquialism that gives the impression he is everyone’s best friend.

Stade bases his routine on what he’s fed by the crowd and a fabricated history he shares with a person in the front row he names ‘Jimmy’. He also recounts stories of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, struggling with a massive drug addiction and buying meat out of a van in Wolverhampton.

Whilst Stade is very easy to listen to and offers moments of very funny comedy, his lack of structure combined with an overwhelming feeling of trying to get laughs only through shocking material makes him difficult to truly enjoy.

Perhaps it is due to his co-writing of Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights that his comedy has taken on a very harsh nature. Nevertheless, it seems little favour can be found in a man who claims charity can be achieved through the exploitation of others’ misfortunes as it creates “awareness” of their adversities.

The self-assuredness at which he delivers his anecdotes, at times even waiting for applause, creates an awkwardness which detracts from his moments that do shine.

While it would be unfair to claim that Stade’s performance offered nothing, it seems reasonable to say that his closing sentiment aptly iterates the general consensus of the show: “I did the best I could, seeing what I was given”.

Taken from The Journal, published Wed Feb 23rd 2011.

The Beckett Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies & The Unnamable, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – Review


Directed by Judy Hegarty-Lovett, the Gare St Lazare Players Ireland bring to the stage an adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s seminal trilogy in a marathon performance that reaches almost three-and-a-half hours. The sole performer Conor Lovett enacts a brilliantly lucid performance of Beckett’s writing that captures his humour and absurdist style, whilst making accessible the recondite nature of his material. Devoid of props, Lovett is aided only by a single spotlight; appropriate for Beckett’s minimalist approach, yet sufficient enough for storytelling. Through Lovett’s facial expressions clarity is given to the piece, as distinctions between the characters portrayed in each story are made more obvious.

As the play lacks an ongoing narrative and prolonged character development, it is difficult to define any semblance of a plot to someone unfamiliar with Beckett’s work. However, whilst Malloy and Malone Dies do feature characterisable protagonists and a determinable story – the former following a vagrant man who visits his mother for charity, despite not knowing where she lives, and the latter a bedridden man who recounts stories whilst waiting for death – The Unnamable has no coherent storyline. Instead, it favours a philosophical exposition of one character’s questioning of the metaphysical. This final act is the most dark, questioning the point of existence and attempting to comprehend the ‘nothing’ prevalent in death. Beautifully capturing the torment of a being that can no longer exist and yet who fears the transition to death, Lovett exquisitely delivers the closing lines: “I can’t go on, I’ll go on”.

The confusion of the protagonist, combined with the ontological incomprehensibility of this tragic character, is incredibly powerful. The climax of this impenetrable position is shown by the character’s fear of silence and the loss of his voice, which leads him to question whether they exist as a person or merely in the language used to describe a person. Overall, it is very well acted, with Lovett doing an excellent job of capturing the essence of Beckett’s writing. While a difficult trilogy, Lovett transforms Beckett’s works into an accessible watch. However, due to the nature of the play, it is arguably too intense to be viewed in a single sitting, as its lack of a narrative structure and deep existentialist questions make it a lot to take in.

Taken from The Journal, published Wed Feb 9th 2011.

Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh: Review


Dominic Hill’s production of The Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain shows a startling contrast to the sentimentality that is generally seen at Christmas shows. Whilst retaining a fairytale charm, its dark nature and occasional profanities make it a divergence from traditional family entertainment. This, however, does not detract from the excellent performances and originality with which Hill redefines the fairytale genre.

Set in a Paris on the cusp of being overthrown, it is up to hero D’Artagnan (Oliver Gomm) to safely unite the Princess of Spain (Beatriz Romilly) with the King of France (Alexander Campbell) and bring peace between warring countries and order within France. Written by Chris Hannan and inspired by the French writer Alexandre Dumas, this is not a recreation of his book but instead a completely new work that sees Dumas’ valiant protagonists reduced from their former glory to an alcoholic, a philogynist and an overweight narcissist who have been forced underground as exiles by an autocratic cardinal.

Featuring an incredibly versatile cast, Hill’s production is a two and a half hour romp through witty gags and songs to some impressive swordfights and puppetry skills. Offering easy to watch, light entertainment, this is a pantomime without the irritating audience participation. The conventional battle of good vs. bad is retained with a benevolent humour as the heroes conveniently manage to continuously escape without any fatalities, with Mendus providing the perfect backdrop for a villainous tyrant. An inventive score delivered by each member of the cast adds not only comedy but ingenuity to the piece, whilst the use of the man-eating puppet Lord Mandible, and stilts to create the illusion of the central characters being children, brings creativity and life to the fable. Whilst not your conventional fairytale, Hill offers an enlightening change to Christmas theatre that although perhaps not suitable for young children is well worth the watch for anyone else.

Taken from The Journal, published online Thu Jan 27th 2011.

Andrew O’Neill: Occult Comedian Review


Andrew O’Neill isn’t your average comedian. For a start he is dressed as a woman – albeit an unconvincing one. However we soon learn that this is his intention because apparently,  he is “ridiculously heterosexual”. O’Neill’s contentious and bemusing start sets up an evening of rather different and at times commendable comedy which he admits doesn’t make any sense but should be left to wash over, like jazz.

His material seems to favour the spontaneous use of the non-sequitur with subjects focusing on his lengthy love of metal music and occultism dropped alongside various absurd ditties and poems. Although these are rather obscure topics to base a one hour 30 minute show on, he does well to hold it together without losing his audience with too many abstruse references.

A general misanthropy is conveyed in his attack against organised religion and in particular Christianity, which though funny in parts does come across as overly abusive when not backed by witty jokes or aphorisms. There is a definite feel that O’Neill is a comedian who craves a little too much attention, an attribute which is all too greatly reflected in his style. He appears to make a self-conscious effort to appear outlandish and challenge the audience’s perception of normal whilst invoking curious existential ideas on the nature of the mind which seem bizarrely placed at a comedy gig.

O’Neill’s show is definitely one that will stick in the memory, but perhaps not for the right reasons. The surreality of the subject matter and the method at which it is delivered makes the appeal of the show limited to a select audience whilst the remainder are left only partially satisfied.

Taken from The Journal, published Wed Jan 26th 2011.

A View From The Bridge, Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh: Review


John Dove returns to the Royal Lyceum for what is his fifth and final production of a series of Arthur Miller’s plays. A View From A Bridge remains a quintessential classic of 20th century drama with its strong themes of community and an ongoing search for identity, making it a powerful start to the Lyceum’s Spring season.

Set in an Italian-American neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York in the 1950’s, the story follows longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Stanley Townsend) who lives with his wife Beatrice (Kathryn Howden) and niece Catherine (Kirsty Mackay). As an act of charity, the family give refuge to two of Beatrice’s cousins: Marco (Richard Conlon) and Rodolpho (Gunner Cauthery) who have come to America as illegal immigrants in search of work, aiming to send money back to their starving families in Italy. However, as time progresses, the relationship between Catherine and Rudolpho deepens, causing Eddie to become uncomfortable.

As tension increases, problems of trust and betrayal arise in a tale reminiscent of Greek tragedy. Townsend does well to encapsulate the rising angst of protagonist Eddie, who is visibly seen to fall apart, his jealousy growing as a result of a convoluted love he is unable to comprehend. Mackay is a physical embodiment of a woman coming of age, imbuing beauty swathed in a veil of naivety. In a truly endearing fashion, Howden effortlessly captures the honesty of a caring mother figure who remains strong despite her husband slipping away.

Ultimately, Dove illustrates the closeness of a community brought together by the ties of familial benefaction against overarching governmental laws, a theme which is made all the more compelling due to the strong sense of betrayal between Conlon and Townsend. The closing scene is a testament to this. Brought together by the narration of Liam Brennan, who plays Alfieri (a lawyer who witnesses the deterioration of Eddie first hand), his attempts to help are refused by a man who has become deluded by the love he can never have, resulting in scenes that are both moving and somewhat disturbing.

Though Dove’s production is certainly not flawless, it successfully captures the essence of Miller’s drama through his strong sense of characterisation and portrayal of believable relationships. The verisimilitude with which the cast manages to make even an evening meal appear authentic makes this an impressive play to start the year.

Taken from The Journal, published Wed Jan 26 2011.