Posts Tagged ‘il pixel rosso’

 Shakespeare For Breakfast

 Shakespeare for Breakfast

Shakespeare For Breakfast has become a staple of my Fringe experience; putting aside the free coffee and croissant you get with your ticket, the show is really just a great way to wake yourself up if you’re feeling a bit show-fatigued. This year’s production is Macbeth, but filtered through some High School movie clichés, and, as always, it’s fast-paced, funny and rather well written.

At Castle High School, Duncan is head boy and favourite of the overbearing and glory-hunting PE teacher, Mr Macduff. Meanwhile Macbeth (Joseph Morpurgo) is visited by three Goths, one of whom is hilariously portrayed a glove puppet, who predict his rise to be head of Cawdor House and ultimately head boy. When his ambitious cheerleader girlfriend, Beth, (Felicity Russell) hears of this, she schemes to embarrass Duncan and install Macbeth as head boy.

This year’s production is much better than it has been in previous years, and i really enjoyed previous years!  The writing is slick and treads that line between traditional and more topical jokes really well – the acting is also well above the normal standard. Tomas Wolstenholme is just outstanding as Mr Macduff, and his comic timing worthy of a much much larger audience. The rest of the cast are great too, though perhaps outshone slightly by Wolstenholme’s performance.

This is essentially a Fringe panto. There is audience participation, jokes about the tiny cast, a musical number, and a few blue jokes thrown in for good measure. It’s probably not going to win awards, it may not be innovative and life changing, but it’s incredibly good fun, and will set you in good stead for a day of Fringe fun. Highly recommended. 

Little Matter

 The River People: Little Matter

I feel this review needs some explanation. When I stepped into the tiny theatre set around a beautiful wagon, I first registered the delightful folk music filling the space, then I inhaled and my heart sank. The River People had, I suppose in an attempt to engage all senses, filled the air with inscense. Unfortunately for me, I am violently allergic to inscence and air fresheners, so was immediately dreading the following hour. I understand that not everyone had this problem, but I was immediately put off. I noticed quite a lot of other people coughing too – and spotted one mother subtly trying to give her son his inhaler in the middle of the show. Perhaps a sign or something similar outside the tent would help to warn people?

Anyway, I was understandably a little distracted during the performance as my arms broke out in hives and my eyes started streaming, but I struggled on as, despite my whinging, I really am a big fan of The River People.

Tucked away in a car park off Chambers Street, The River People present their usual blend of puppetry, music and storytelling, telling the story of a young man who feels he has not reached his full potential, wrapping this tale in magic and myth.

There are echoes of their previous production Lilly Through The Dark here as The River People once again examine the light and dark in all of us. However, where Lilly was driven by a fantastic story, Little Matter lacks this. The music, atmosphere and tehcnical skill are all there, but the story is not. The narrative is muddled and often appeared incomplete. What started as a tale of a man who did not live up to his potential became a confusing and convoluted trip into the subconscious; encountering potential children and dark characters along the way. And then, seemingly from nowhere, the whole thing was blamed upon an absent parent. I really wanted to like this, The River People are one of my favourite companies at the moment and they have bags of potential, but this one just doesn’t match up to the very high bar they have previously set.

Saying that there were some lovely moments of storytelling and puppetry, most notable the ogre of a boss with glowing green eyes. The music was also beautifully executed, and the design was great (though the lighting a little low for intricate puppetry). All four actors were brilliant actor/musicians, and there is something incredibly endearing about seeing such talented people appear so humble.

I am confident that with some polishing this show could be just as great as their previous productions. I wonder if the wagon signals a swing towards rural touring, because The River People would no doubt bring a lot of joy to smaller communities. 

Street Dreams

 Street Dreams

It appears I am on something of a puppetry binge this Festival. Street Dreams was the only time flyering actually worked on me, as it was handed to me while I was queueing for Swamp Juice, and as I had a gap I thought I’d give it a go. This is puppetry at its simple and glorious best.

The story is a simple one. A little hobo tries desperately to read his book in peace, but is distracted by his rubbish dump companions. Because of this, he decides to emigrate to the grassy land he spotted just a short umbrella ride away. When there, he realises that home really is where the heart is, and travels back to be with his old friends.

A silent and simple puppet show, Little Cauliflower use bits of scrap and things from the rubbish bin to create a rich and engaging world. The birds are made from carrier bags, his rubbish dump friends a rubber glove and old banana skins. It’s lovely to see the young company breathe life into these ordinary objects.

The main puppet, that of the hobo, could perhaps be a little more expressive – his movements weren’t immediately clear, and took some guesswork to figure out his intent, but you were willing to make that effort, as the company had instilled in this little puppet a warm and child-like personality.

I am unaware of Little Cauliflower’s work until now, but this show shows some promise. The music and puppetry is delicate, if not totally accomplished, and the story is really quite touching.  It’s a very sweet play, and I’m sure this would be particularly great for children, though may not have the universal appeal I have seen in other puppet shows.

And The Birds Fell From the Sky

 

Sitting in a darkened and dirty waiting room, watching a broken TV relaying newsreels of a freak occurrence in America, I wondered what I had let myself in for. I had no idea what Birds Fell was when I bough the ticket, but, like most things at the Fringe, a friend had recommended it, so I had to give it a go.

Performed every 15 minutes for only 2 people, its worth seeing this piece if only for the technological innovation involved. The show takes place on some video goggles, while you and your companion are drawn, both physically and mentally into this world taking place before your eyes.

The smells and sensations around you completely match up with what you are experiencing visually – a clown spits alcohol over you and you feel it hit your skin, smelling the pungent alcohol smell in your nostrils. Objects are placed in your hands, and you are seated in a car and taken on a wild ride.

The difficulty with this show is the story itself. If there was a story, I was so disoriented by the style that I found it impossible to follow, and even if I were completely nonplussed by the goggles, it would still have been incredibly difficult to understand. As a piece of art it was certainly interesting. The car full of clowns was a powerful image, but they overcomplicated the story for the audience who are new to this style.

Those niggles aside, this is a nicely innovative show that stays with you for some time. I particularly enjoyed all the small touches that made the show that bit more special: a phone number you can call afterwards, a keepsake that unravels to become a tarot reading, and a parish newsletter in the waiting room. This appears to be the start of something new. It covers ground that Alma Mater tackles a little more delicately, but the intent is the same. This is the next level of immersive theatre – first person theatre, if you will.

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My only previous experience of Edinburgh Fringe Festival was when I happened to come for a visit with my family a number of years ago. This year nothing has changed, sat in the car with my parents and instead of my siblings, a friend of mine who I work with on the bar in the Oxford Playhouse. The difference being this year is that although I was still a super fan of performance during my last visit, this trip is cushioned by a new wealth of knowledge and experience gained from the past few years.

 Sadly, we are only hitting the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for two fleeting visits, one of sixteen hours and the other a week later, of 24 hours. This raises the issue of priority viewing, and with friends performing, reviews, recommendations and favourite companies, the lists have been long and constantly changeable. So it was with great excitement, and a meagre understanding of how best to construct our day, that the two of us reached the Royal Mile to begin our day of theatrical adventure.

 The first show we attended was Il Pixel Rosso’s And The Birds Fell From the Sky. Recommended to us by a variety of different sources, this was top of the to-do list, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. An intense and totally immersive piece of theatre, where the viewers go in two at a time and are fully kitted out with blindfolds, goggles, and a headset; the smells, the sounds and the touches create an entirely different world.

As you leave the performance you can’t help but wonder whether everything around you is real. It was wonderful to go accompanied as it gave us the chance to discuss what we had experienced, something I never usually do, preferring to make sense of my own experience before I share with those with me.

 A clever reference to the irrelevance of time made at the start bears relevance to the rest of the show; when walking away from such a clever experience, you wonder whether what just happened really was only over a duration of 17 minutes?

            Later on, after having wandered up the Mile again and seen a highly entertaining street performance of Charlie Chaplin, we headed for Zoo Roxy to watch Idle Motion’s The Seagull Effect. This was the only show we had planned and ensured would fit into our day, desperate to show my parents what magical things the young people of Oxford get up to.

            Beginning somewhat surprisingly, a woman stands and engages the audience, going on to tell us about her experience of the great storm of 1987, and suddenly the audience are whisked up into the tale.  The opening sequence (which, as I write this, is giving me goosebumps) is spectacular, and had me welling up in the front seats from the pure beauty and ingenuity of it all.

             Idle Motion are renowned for their use of props, projection and voice over, which is second to none, and used to wonderful effect as they create two stories around each other, intertwining beautifully.

            The parallel storyline running through the show this year seemed somewhat weaker than previous productions, which was a shame. However the ability to whip up an entire backdrop for a scene from what appears to be nothing, I have yet to see from any other physical theatre company. None of their actions are done simply to impress. Everything fits with what’s happening and only enhances the show, rather than detracting attention away from what’s being said. This is a strong skill to hold, ensuring the audience doesn’t get lost in the whirlwind of the story. If anyone is interested in physical theatre, this is a must-see performance from an outstandingly creative and incredibly tight knit company of young artists.

            At entirely the other end of the physical theatre spectrum,  the next performance I pottered through the rain to see was not so impressive. Selling itself as an “emotionally charged physical theatre adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, Headlock Theatre’s The Tragedy of Titus was badly directed, poorly performed and a majority of physical theatre they did employ made absolutely no sense in keeping with the piece.

The opening fight scene was well choreographed, and Matthew Stevensas Titus did his best to carry the piece, assisted part of the way by Emma Belam as Tamora, but the rest of the characters lacked conviction.

            A shame, as this piece had the potential to be an exciting piece of performance; the lack of external direction (it would seem that this piece had been entirely devised, choreographed and directed by the actors themselves) was clear. With a cast of nine, it is difficult to construct an outside view of what the play is looking like from the audience perspective.

            The stresses of Shakespeare’s text were placed on strange syllables, which meant the words didn’t sit quite right on the ear, and the manner of speech during one or two of the scenes seemed entirely backwards. Most notably, when Titus was informed of the finding of his daughter Lavinia, who had been ravaged and her hands and tongue removed, and comforted his son Lucius despite Lavinia herself being stood (I certainly wouldn’t be able to stand after such an ordeal) in the corner making unnecessary noises.

 A couple of lines were delivered as though for a film, meaning words were lost, and people at the back had to struggle to hear what was going on. There is a lesson here about the difference between stage and screen acting.

            Not the most impressive production I’ve seen, however I’m glad I went. Though, as my mother said five minutes into the show; “I’m glad we didn’t have to pay for this”.

After food time where we swapped a tired father with a much younger friend, and took a brief trip to the fabulous Ukelele Cabaret tent, we headed off to see Dead Cat Bounce, at the Pleasance. Once again, it was on recommendation that we went to watch them, with some idea of what was in store; “it’s a little Flight of the Concords-y”.

 What a fantastic night! The perfect mix of highly entertaining lyrics, fantastic musical ability and wonderous banter in between songs. Each band member has taken on the role of the member of a highly successful rock band member and play the parts brilliantly.

 An incredibly entertaining way to spend an hour, the audience were rolling about in their seats and singing along to their intelligent lyrics.

Last but not least, was a production of The One Man Show.  As it says on the tin, this is a solo performance by Nigel Barrett, one of the creatives of Shunt, which looks at the role of “The Actor”.Though not entirely sure what exactly this piece sets out to accomplish, it was an interesting look into the purpose of the actor, his versatility and intentions.

            A particularly entertaining moment was when Barrett donned a surgical mask and through the use of mouth projections and voiceovers, spoke of what it is these people who call themselves “actors” are like. Slightly stereotypical and perhaps a little harsh, it amused me to think of many actors I have met during my time in the theatre (one in particular) and listen to how relevant parts of the description were; “I will ask you about you, but am waiting to steer the conversation back to myself”.

            Despite the entertainment value, and although I was pleased to have attended, this performance is not necessarily one that will sit in the forefront of my mind over time, unlike one or two shows from earlier on in the day.

 All in all, a tremendously entertaining day, and I have finally learned how to go about making the most of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For the most part of this coming week, I’ll be re-writing the schedules over and over again in preparation for my next 24 hour stint amidst of the hub of creativity and story-telling.