Thursday, 30 August 2012


Royal Lyceum Theatre
4 stars
On a movie screen, a terrified young woman is pleading for her life in 
what could be a scene from a lo-fi horror flick. The next time we see 
the woman we find out is called Alice, she’s in front of a camera 
again, just as scared as she auditions for a hard-core porn film. Is 
Alice for real here, or is she faking it, to death if necessary?

These are some of the questions being asked by director Matthew Lenton 
in Vanishing Point’s look at the dark side of pornography, co-produced 
with two Italian companies and Trmway, Glasgow. Here, as Alice’s tale 
is paralleled by an internet porn addict’s own descent, performers, 
directors and consumers become complicit in some psycho-sexual rabbit 
hole where love, erotica and even cheap thrills are forsaken in favour 
of what looks like extreme forms of mutual abuse.

The third in Vanishing Point’s loose-knit trilogy of impressionistic 
works seen largely behind glass, where Interiors and Saturday Night 
looked at the public and private tics of human behaviour, Wonderland is 
the dirty little secret lurking behind both. While there is much more 
heard dialogue here than in the other two pieces, the images played out 
on Kai Fischer’s set and pulsed along by Mark Melville’s brooding score 
are snapshots from the grimmest of fantasias.

As Alice, Jenny Hulse is unflinching as she leads a Scots-Italian cast 
of seven through some of the play’s starker, more naturalistic moments. 
The “normal, healthy individual” played by  Paul Thomas Hickey’ is even 
more troubling. It’s the matter-of-factness that scares the most in a 
brave and deeply serious theatrical meditation on the uglier aspects of 
the sex industry today.

The Herald, August 30th 2012


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Dream Plays (Scenes From a Play I'll Never Write) - From Page to Stage

It's just before 10am in the Traverse Theatre, and artistic director 
Orla O'Loughlin has an awards ceremony to get to. It may be the last 
week of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but O'Loughlin has already been 
at work for two hours, as she has been for pretty much every day of 
August. The reason for such un-artistic early starts is Dream Plays 
(Scenes From a Play I'll Never Write), the series of twelve performed 
readings of newly commissioned works curated and directed by O'Loughlin 
with playwright David Greig, and which ran each day over two weeks.

As the mini season's name suggests, each reading took place at 9am, a 
time when most Fringe carousers are just settling into some rapid eye 
movement after a night propping up their favoured watering hole. With a 
final hour's rehearsal for each play beginning at 8am, for O'Loughlin 
and Greig, at least, sleep has become something of a luxury in the 
rapid turnover required for each play.

The first week of Dream Plays featured works by established writers 
David Ireland, Sue Glover, Nicola McCartney, Alan Wilkins and Janice 
Galloway, plus one from Traverse newbie, Sabrina Mahfouz, who was 
commissioned after O'Loughlin saw her play, One Hour Only, at the 

The entire Dream Plays experience, according to O'Loughlin, has been “a 
labour of love. It's been a pretty schizophrenic experience holding 
twelve different plays in my head for the last couple of months, and 
then two on a daily basis.”

Dream Plays came about following a conversation between O'Loughlin and 
Greig, who were both aware of the precedents set in previous Traverse 
breakfast seasons, Ravenhill For Breakfast and Impossible Plays For 

“It was very early on in my tenure, and I was keen to work with as many 
writers as possible,” O'Loughlin says. “It was an open invitation, and 
every play has turned out completely different.”

The second week of Dream Plays began with Room 7, Johnny McKnight's 
scurrilous science fiction play about one woman's entry into what turns 
out to be a glorified baby factory, watched over by a multitude of 
cameras. It's quite a departure for McKnight, who nevertheless manages 
to bring some of his trademark camp to an otherwise dark tale.

For National Health, playwright Lynda Radley sits at a table at the 
back of the stage, blowing bubbles while the three young women in the 
psychiatric unit where her play is set push their situation as far as 
they can.

For Skeleton Wumman, Gerda Stevenson puts a guitarist and cellist 
onstage to accompany actress Pauline Knowles delivering an already 
lyrical monologue written in a rich Scots idiom. Also present onstage 
is a signer, providing access for the deaf in a way which also goes 
some way to illustrate and Stevenson's narrative.

In his introduction to A Respectable Widow Takes To Vulgarity, Douglas 
Maxwell describes his play as “Pygmalion in reverse, which is pretty 
much the case in a yarn in which a merry widow takes to one of her dead 
husband's potty-mouthed employees. As she learns how to "vulgarise her 
inner monologue,” this liberation of her own vocabulary becomes a last 
gasp connection to her self-made husband.

It Ended. Or the body of an unknownman on Somerton Beach was the second 
play by a writer picked up on the Fringe. Australian playwright Tobias 
Manderson-Galvin's play The Economist, was spotted by Greig, and within 
forty-eight hours, Manderson-Galvin's flight of fancy based in part on 
a real life mystery of a man washed up on a beach in 1948, was onstage.

Using elements of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam fused with a 
self-reflexive detective story, Manderson-Galvin's play proved to be a 
fascinating exercise in form that revealed a tantalisingly playful 

Out of the twelve plays, it is the newest voices that have proved the 
most revelatory. When Mahfouz was first approached by O'Loughlin to 
write what turned out to be a play about three female computer game 
avatars written in streetwise rhyme, “I thought about it for about five 
seconds, and then said yes. It was quite fateful, really, because I 
hadn't been up to Edinburgh yet, so when I got here it made it all the 
more exciting.”

For Manderson-Galvin too, being thrown in the deep end left little time 
for thought.

“It was an idea I'd been playing with,” he says, “so this forced my 
hand somewhat, and now I'll probably write hundreds of pages more and 
see where it goes.”

All parties are keen to continue the relationship begun with Dream 
Plays. If all goes well, new plays by Mahfouz and Manderson-Galvin 
should hopefully be seen in Edinburgh before too long.

As Greig points out, though, “Dream Plays was never about putting on 
complete works. That's been the best part about it, that sense of 
roughness and unfinishedness to everything, and the fact that they 
could go anywhere.”

If Dream Plays has been O'Loughlin's coming out ball, as she gets to 
develop relationships with Scotland's writers and actors, it also 
suggests a new sense of urgency in terms of putting work on in 
increasingly cash-strapped times.

“Our job is to get work onto the stage,” she says, “and not to do 
development for development's sake. It's also been a way for me to get 
to know the writers quickly, and discovering the range of work that's 
out there. It's also about saying that we have the will to get this 
work on. If this year has been about ant anything, it’s about putting 
the writer at the centre of the programme.”

All of which comes through in last week's announcement of the 
Traverse's autumn season, in which O'Loughlin will direct both in-house 
productions. The first of these will be the Artist Man and the Mother 
Woman, a new piece from the fantastical mind of Morna Pearson, whose 
debut play, Distracted, scooped the Meyer-Whitworth Award in 2006. This 
will be followed by The Arthur Conan Doyle Story, a riotous Christmas 
show in association with the physical-based Peepolykus company.

As well as a visit from Grid Iron and a new dance festival, the new 
season will also begin Traverse 50, which, in the spirit of Dream 
Plays, will see the Traverse work with fifty writers in the run up to 
the theatre's half century anniversary in 2013.

In the meantime, it's 10am again, in  the Traverse bar. It's Sunday 
morning, and the final Dream Play, Found at Sea, by poet Andrew Greig 
has just been performed. A dramatisation of a long poem about a sailing 
trip undertaken by Greig, in some ways its the most complete of all the 
Dream Plays.

With actors Tam Dean Burn and Lewis Howden gathered around a pub table 
topped with half-finished drinks, the pair map out a very personal 
voyage awash with little epiphanies en route. A set of sails sits 
behind the actors, who chalk out tents and camp-fires on the floor 
while Greig himself sits to one side, sound-tracking the whole thing 
with his live banjo playing. Greig's writing exudes warmth in 
abundance, and, in David Greig's mini-production, again points to a 
more inventive future.

For now, though, the Dream Plays are over. In the bar, David Greig 
chats with former Traverse artistic director Philip Howard. O'Loughlin 
sits in the corner with her family, relaxing at last at the end of her 
first Fringe in charge of the Traverse. It's an all too rare pause for 
breath before the dreaming begins once more.

Details of the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh's autumn season can be found 
The Herald, August 28th 2012


Educating Ronnie

Assembly George Square
3 stars
When Joe Douglas visited his Auntie Marie in Uganda on his gap year a 
decade ago, it opened up the then eighteen year old's eyes to a world 
of possibilities. One of these came in the form of Ronnie, a boy of his 
own age he instantly hit it off with. When Douglas returned to the UK, 
Ronnie sent him an email, asking him for a small amount of money to 
help get him through school. Another email followed, asking for more, 
and so it went, with assorted university fees, hospital bills and 
emergency payments, which combined almost hit the twenty grand mark. 
Bearing in mind that while Douglas was forking out all this, he was 
going through his own penny-pinching student years, and could have done 
with the extra cash himself.

By transferring his real-life experience into a very candid monologue, 
Douglas has laid what is either a divine faith in people or spectacular 
naivete bare in an honest and self-deprecatory fashion. Where the 
subject might sound like grim piece of emotional off-loading, there's a 
levity at the heart of Douglas's show that's aided by Lisa Sangster's 
bright design and Michael John McCarthy and Kim Moore's score. Douglas 
himself appears to be without guile in a very real rites of passage 
that one suspects Douglas is still going through today.

The Herald, August 28th 2012


Saturday, 25 August 2012

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It)

King’s Theatre
4 stars 
When a rowdy bunch burst noisily through the auditorium wielding a 
felled, full-size tree-trunk at the opening of Dmitry Krymov’s Russian 
language  reimagining of Shakespeare’s frothiest rom-com, only the 
little dog padding about astride the tree truly knows what we’re in 
for. Krymov’s production, commissioned by the Chekhov International 
Theatre Festival for his School of Dramatic Art Theatre, after all, is 
billed as something ‘after Shakespeare’ rather than of it.

So it goes in a wildly irreverent work that puts the Rude Mechanicals 
at the centre of the action rather than cast as the usual comic fall 
guys, even if there are prat-falls aplenty. Once the tree-trunk, then a 
leaky fountain, is disposed of on a stage covered with plastic 
sheeting, the troupe of players change into formal attire as they await 
their audience. This comes in the shape of a bunch of disgruntled 
toffs, whose mobile phones interrupt the action in a makeshift VIP area 
even as the sternest of their number complains throughout.

There is no forest and no Bottom’s dream, only Pyramus and Thisbe, who 
come in the form of giant junk-shop puppets operated by the 
Mechanicals. There are acrobatics and operatics, while the dog does 
back-flips in-between fending off a rubbish lion, able to take anything 
in his four-legged stride.

On one level, this is a glorious entertainment, right down to a finale 
involving a part Scat, part Kurt Schwitters style chorus and a 
tippy-toed take on Swan Lake. On another, it’s a fantastical 
theatrical in-joke performed with vaudevillian largesse. As the little 
old lady who’s been growling through proceedings onstage herself says, 
Shakespeare would have loved it.

The Herald, August 25th 2012


Friday, 24 August 2012

Les Naufrages du Fol Espoir (Aurores)

Lowland Hall, Royal Highland Centre
5 stars
Before Theatre du Soleil’s four hour epic on life, death, revolution 
and the creative impulse itself has even begun, you’ve already entered 
into another world via a foyer transformed into an illusory idyll. With 
the company’s vast ensemble cast visible through a gauze curtain 
preparing themselves in makeshift dressing rooms, such an occupation 
sets the tone for an astonishing spectacle on a huge purpose-built 
wooden stage that recreates that contained in the company’s Paris home.

What translates as Castaways of the Fol Espoir (Sunrises) is ostensibly 
based on a posthumously published Jules Verne novel, in which a pair of 
Socialist idealists attempt to make a film on no money as the First 
World War’s early rumblings begin to stir. Director  Ariane Mnouchkine, 
writer Helene Cixous and an army of collaborators have created 
something so exquisitely self-reflexive that it goes some way to 
capturing the spirit and wisdom of Theatre du Soleil’s own utopian 

With the would-be auteurs equally ambitious movie told in nine 
increasingly urgent episodes watched over by primitive hand-held 
cameras that distance us from the action, the voyage the Fol Espoir 
becomes a microcosm of doomed humanity. There is a sensational fluidity 
to the stream of stage pictures, conjured up with little more than a 
few blankets and a few painted stage-flats that show off the full 
artifice of such a fictional folly.

After early bursts of on-set knockabout antics, by the second half the 
film-set has become a little republic, and the piece’s full-blown 
profundity has become clear in a vivid and unmissable portrait of 
humanity’s capacity for invention against all the odds.

The Herald, August 24th 2012


An Evening With David Hasselhoff Live – Pleasance Grand

3 stars
The mock-up of the Berlin Wall painted with a German flag over-laden 
with peace symbols onstage is the perfect embodiment of East-West 
unification, especially when two dancing girls and a man in a sparkly 
1980s jacket kick their way through the bricks that are holding it all 
together. By this time the beach-balls bouncing around the auditorium 
and the mass onstage Conga has already ensnared a room packed with 
willing worshippers.

But this isn't some iconoclastic melding of east European avant-gardism 
and pop culture appropriating post-modernism. This is TV's best known 
former lifeguard's bombastic solo show, and we are all culpable. 
Opening with a big-screen montage of his greatest hits, Hasselhoff 
enters from the back of the auditorium singing a rat pack style 
rendition of Nina Simone's Feeling Good, before strutting his way to 
the stage for a tea-time diversion of taking stock, Hoff-style.

What this means is a loose-knit narrative from Knight Rider to Baywatch 
to saving the western world. Somehow fed into this are lounge-bar 
versions of Copacabana, You Can Keep Your Hat On, complete with shower 
scene with a couple of blondes in shadow, some out-takes from his shows 
and the real reason behind Baywatch's much imitated slow-motion 
sequences revealed.

There's nothing subtle in the Hoff's self-deprecatory show-man schtick, 
which starts at fever pitch and just keeps on building. Just when you 
think things can't get any more absurd, he comes on sporting a kilt to 
finish the show with a jaw-dropping version of The Proclaimers 500 
Miles. That was the Hoff. He came, he sang, he conquered. Showbiz will 
never be the same again. Until Aug 27th.

The Herald, August 24th 2012


Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Rape of Lucrece

Royal Lyceum Theatre
5 stars
It’s a glorious sleight of hand, putting Brechtian style cabaret 
performed by a genuine Fringe phenomonan into the Edinburgh 
International Festival theatre programme. In Irish chanteuse Camille 
O’Sullivan’s vivid rendering of Shakespeare’s epic poem of one woman’s 
bloody violation and the self-destruction it inspires, EIF, along with 
the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose banner Elizabeth Freestone’s 
production falls under, have struck gold.

The intensity of what ensues is difficult to gauge from O’Sullivan’s 
chattily casual entrance with pianist and co-composer Feargal Murray. 
Dressed in a floor-length death-black dress and wearing her hair tied 
up on a sumptuous-looking stage piled high with stacks of paper and 
descending wall-hangings that veer from stained to distressed, 
O’Sullivan segues her introduction into Shakespeare’s verse with a 
seamless charm her Irish accent lures you in with.

This already is streets ahead of old-school readings of the poem, but 
when O’Sullivan moves into song, it becomes something else again, with 
Murray’s stark, down-tempo arrangements off-setting O’Sullivan’s 
mixture of torch-balladeering and laments with exquisitely nuanced 
richness. Together, all these elements conspire to construct something 
that is part contemporary spoken-word, part late-night songspiel, with 
the bluesy rasp that seeps out from around the edges of O’Sullivan’s 
voice lending a frightening and emotive weight to the story.

This isn’t just a concert, however. When O’Sullivan removes her coat to 
reveal a plain white slip, she lunges out of narrator-mode to take on 
the role of Tarquin with a brutal venom that works her discarded 
garment into the fatal act that follows. The final song, delivered 
partly without accompaniment, may be laden with tragedy, but such a 
gorgeous piece of work can feed into O’Sullivan’s repertoire for 

The Herald, August 23rd 2012


Theatre Uncut 3 – Traverse 4 stars

The final compendium of short new plays with a conscience done in a 
lo-fi script-in-hand manner in the Traverse bar cafe first thing in the 
morning was a part greatest hits, part world exclusive show that fully 
justified the initiative's Bank of Scotland Herald Angel win at the 
weekend. Two plays, Anders Lustgarten's The Break Out and Clara 
Brennan's heartfelt and life-affirming monologue, Spine, had been 
deemed good enough to merit speedy revivals.

Lustgarten's piece about two female jailbirds who find they're able to 
break out with ease after prison budget cuts mean less bricks in the 
walls even had the added bonus of two different actresses playing the 
cell-mates to add a different energy to proceedings. It is Spine, 
however, that should be downloaded and distributed (free of charge, as 
with all Theatre Uncut contributions) post-haste. Rosie Wyatt's 
rendering of Brennan's beautiful play about a pan-generational alliance 
in care of a horde of stolen library books has twice now proved to be 
one of the finest and most touching moments of this year's Fringe.

Of the new works, The Birth of My Violence, translated from its 
original Spanish by Roberto Cavazos, is a monologue in which one man 
wrestles with the contradictions between art, action and artistic 
action, while Blondie, by twenty-two year old Hayley Squires, finds a 
drop-dead gorgeous demagogue interrogated by police before going to the 
gallows in a dystopian Britain on the verge of collapse.

After a brief if slightly chaotic ad hoc nod to the incarceration of 
female Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, the main event of the morning 
came in The Naked Rambler, a new piece by David Greig so fresh that the 
entire event was delayed slightly so the cast of Tam Dean Burn and 
Ashley Smith could read the script through to the end – for the first 
time. Burn and Smith play two bored Fife PCs whose time watching the 
Olympics on TV is interrupted by the arrival of Stephen Gough, aka the 
real-life Naked Rambler, who was recently re-arrested in Fife after 
spending six years in Perth and Saughton prisons for consistently 
appearing nude in public.

While highlighting the absurdities of Gough's sentencing, Greig moves 
into the realms of magical-realist farce, as the landscape visibly 
changes around them. While one blames Olympic opening ceremony director 
Danny Boyle for the spectacle, the other gets back to nature and joins 
the increasingly naked throng.
Things may be rough round the edges, but all of the plays are 
thrillingly of the moment. Presuming that the cuts will go on getting 
deeper, Theatre uncut will return in November with a set of even newer 
works. Run ended.

The Herald, August 23rd 2012

Dream Plays (Scenes From a Play I'll Never Write) – Traverse 4 stars

While Theatre Uncut occupied a 10am slot each Monday morning of the 
Fringe, the other six days of the week were equally occupied with 
immediacy. Taking place at what in Edinburgh terms is a bleary-eyed 
9am, this series of compendium of brand new works by largely 
established writers allows them to run away with their imaginations in 
a series of script in hand presentations, with half coming under the 
directorship of Traverse artistic director Orla O'Loughlin, and half 
with playwright David Greig.

The first week opened with Most Favoured, a look by David Ireland at 
how the second coming might work out if it involved a KFC obsessed 
angel and a far from virgin Mary in a cheap hotel room where a one 
night stand suddenly becomes bigger than both of them. With Gabriel 
Quigley's desperate singleton a priceless foil to Jordan McCurrach's 
junk-food  obsessed angel, Ireland has penned a scurrilously 
sacrilegious bite-size sketch that one could imagine being developed 
further into a fully-fledged sit-com.

Catterline was Bondagers writer Sue Glover's meditation on the very 
singular artistic life led by painter Joan Eardley while living on the 
east coast of Scotland in the early 1960s. With lover Lil Neilson and 
kindred spirit Angus Neil rewinding the years, a languid and somewhat 
ethereal portrait emerges of a free spirit getting by with her visions 
as best she can. Anne Lacey has the perfect blend of fire and toughness 
as Joan in an impressionistic piece of imagined history that might also 
benefit from further development.

If  Glover provided the voices of experience, Clean, by Sabrina 
Mahfouz, was a genuine Fringe find. O'Loughlan saw Mahfouz's play, One 
Hour Only, still playing at the Underbelly as part of the Old Vic New 
Voices strand, and was smitten, immediately commissioning Mahfouz to 
pen a Dream Play. Some-time performance poet Mahfouz rose to the 
challenge, not with a piece of TV style naturalism, but by putting a 
trio of gaming avatars onstage in an adventure that finds the feisty 
trio speaking in rhyme before embarking on an adventure that will see 
them become action heroes in a way that's normally left to little boys. 
With Mahfouz herself topping and tailing the play, Clean is a 
tremendously energetic diversion exposing a rich new voice steeped in 
pop culture mores as much as theatrical ones.

While Rachel's House is an equally upfront work by Nicola McCartney, 
who sees life through the troubled eyes of three women ex cons, all 
with a story to tell before they embark on the path of freedom, things 
only take a truly fantastical turn in Alan Wilkins' My Loneliness is 
Killing Me. This at times hilarious litany of daily grumbles riffs on 
its theme via a trio of voices, a ukulele, some tins of ravioli and a 
title lifted from a Britney Spears song. In form, Wilkins has created a 
kind of comic tone poem knee-deep in existential ennui even as it 
becomes aware of its own ridiculousness.

The week ended, as it should, with sex and drugs and rock and roll, 
Janice Galloway's look at a trio of would-be suicides in a psychiatric 
ward. Like Wilkins, Galloway, whose stage adaptation of  her novel, The 
Trick is to Keep Breathing, might well have formed the template for 
Dream Plays, fully embraces the opportunity to run riot on page and 
stage. As a body of work, all this adds up to a refreshingly audacious 
exploration of theatrical language. While some are works in progress, 
others exist solely for the moment.

Such quick-fire immediacy is a very telling calling card too  for 
O'Loughlin, who, in her first Fringe season since her appointment, is 
here putting her artistic cards on the table, as well as exploring her 
own relationships with actors and writers she may not have worked with 
before. With the ever inventive, ever curious Greig at her side, 
O'Loughlin is effectively mid-way through a crash-course in Traverse 
Theatre culture, past, present and future which she is also reinventing 
as she goes. With a cup of tea and a bacon roll to help you along, 
Dream Plays thus far has been a delicious concoction to wake up to.

The Herald, August 23rd 2012


Dmitry Krymov - A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It)

The Russians, it has often been noted, approach Chekhov in a vastly 
different manner than how English theatre-makers do. Where a home-grown 
production of The Cherry Orchard might be full of laughs, a British 
take on Chekhov is likely to make heavy classicist weather of the 
playwright's pre-absurdist ennui. Whether the same reverence applies to 
Russian directors when taking on Shakespeare's canon remains to be seen 
as Russian wunderkind Dmitry Krymov arrives at the Edinburgh 
International Festival this week with his version of ultimate seasonal 
rom-com, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In an EIF theatre season that is awash with reinvented classics, 
Krymov's Dream has been brought to Edinburgh via the Moscow-based 
Chekhov International Theatre Festival and Krymov's own Laboratory 
School of Art Theatre Production. The production was commissioned, 
however, by the Royal Shakespeare Company, who have just previewed it 
over nine days as part of the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival.

Unlike what one might suspect from a pukkah-voiced RSC show, however, 
Krymov's emphasis will be on a visual reimagining of the play. This 
looks set to incorporate life-size puppets made from a Frankenstein's 
monster style jumble of sources that lend a collage-like feel to the 

“The idea came from the RSC,” Krymov says via a translator of his new 
production's genesis. “I was very happy to receive the invitation, and 
it was one I couldn't refuse. The main thing for me was, as the play 
was written so long ago, how do I deal with it now and appreciate it 
for today. With the play I had very little to do. I don't know anything 
about love with donkeys, but Shakespeare is a genius. He writes about 
the same things in different plays, but in opposite ways, so a 
phenomenon can be seen both as tragedy and comedy. This gives you 
plenty of opportunities to play with these ideas.”

Which, to all intents and purposes, is what Krymov's Laboratory was set 
up to do. Even its existence in its current form came about more by 
accident than design.

“The Laboratory was made by chance,” says Krymov. “It was initially a 
course for set design at the Moscow Academy, but then first year 
students started making their own productions. Many students became set 
designers, nut now there are graduates who become actors and form 
companies as well.”

In spirit, then, Krymov's work sounds more akin to performance and live 
art interventions that grew out of art schools in the 1960s and 1970s. 
Now, as then, developing such a form of total theatre that is rooted in 
design faced considerable resistance from more dyed in the wool 
institutions more used to individual art-forms being compartmentalised.

As the son of director Anatoly Efros and critic Natalia Krymova, Krymov 
has been steeped in theatre his entire life. It was to design he turned 
to first, however, and, after graduating from the Moscow Art theatre 
Studio school in 1976, he worked with his father for nine years at the 
Taganka Theatre in Moscow, where Efros was artistic director between 
1985 and 1987. For the next thirteen years following his father's 
death, Krymov designed more than a hundred productions, both in  Russia 
and further afield in France and Japan.

As the collapse of the Berlin wall presaged the collapse of Communism 
in 1990, Krymov turned his back on the theatre to become a full time 
artist, exhibiting worldwide. He only returned to theatre in 2002 when 
he joined the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts, working in the design 
department. Only then did he try his hand at directing via a production 
of Hamlet.

Two years later, Krymov began his bold new curriculum, which resulted 
in the sorts of self-generated productions that led to the formation of 
his Laboratory. The acclaim that resulted from Krymov's more holistic 
approach to making theatre via cross-artform methodology raised 
eyebrows in some quarters, although Krymov continues to work with his 
students in this way to this day. This year alone, the laboratory have 
produced four shows which have utilised a mixed media approach 
alongside the work of young Russian composers.

Of all of Shakespeare's plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream  has lent 
itself to wild interpretations more than any other. Both Peter Brook's 
seminal post-hippy 1970 production and Peter Hall's take on the play 
two years before were produced by the RSC. In a way, Krymov's take on 
things is getting back to the free-form radicalism of the arts-labs 
that influenced both his predecessors. Yet Krymov hoes even further, 
his influences ranging from Polish guru Tadeusz Kantor to icons of the 
Russian avant-garde who so influenced post-modern theatre today.

Krymov's Dream, then, looks set to be an irreverent and audacious set 
of actions influenced as much by art history as a theatrical one as it 
bursts into life. One thing it most certainly won't be, is faithful to 
received ideas of Shakespeare.

“We don't aim to become Englishmen or behave like English people,” 
Krymov says. “We remain ourselves in order to make it the most exciting 
theatre production that we can. When Americans do Chekhov, they don't 
pretend to be Russians, and so we too keep our own identity.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It), King's Theatre, August 
24th-25th, 7.30pm, August 26th, 2.30pm
The Herald, August 23rd 2012


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Edinbugh Festival Fringe 2012 - Theatre Reviews 10

The Shit – Summerhall
4 stars
A naked woman squats astride a platform holding in to a microphone and 
precious little else in Cristian Ceresoli's solo play, performed in an 
unflinching, no-holds-barred howl of rage by Silvia Gallerano. Whether 
live art prop or practical aids to counteract the room’s boomy 
acoustics isn’t clear, but it certainly helps Gallerano spew out 
Ceresoli's litany of self-loathing to pin you to your seat.

As Gallerano's mouth moves in rapid-fire shapes akin to some blood and 
lipstick smeared form of origami, nothing is hidden, not the narrator's 
bulimia, nor her messed-up relationships with her father, nor her chase 
after fame. Subtitled The Disgust Decalogue Number 1, this is a 
relentlessly confrontational piece of work that tumbles from 
Gallerano's gut as if ripping the skin from her very being. By turns 
shrill, even as she laughs at herself, Gallerano delivers an exhausting 
but utterly compelling verbal symphony that never flinches from the 
perceived ugliness of her character's lot. Somewhat perversely, the 
compelling honesty of what follows is irresistible. Until August 26th.

Juana in a Million – Pleasance Dome
3 stars
Illegal immigrants in the UK feed a black economy that leaves them 
vulnerable to exploitation  at every level. So it goes with the 
wide-eyed heroine of Vicky Araico Casas and Nir Paldi's play about a 
young Mexican woman who makes her way to London, where the streets are 
most definitely not paved with gold. Juana ends up working in a 
restaurant, is mercilessly ripped off by people she thought she could 
trust, and is left vulnerable to abuse or worse.
Performed by Araico Casas herself with an unabashed verve, Paldi's 
production highlights a hidden landscape where money talks, which we're 
all to prepared to turn a blind eye to in the hotels and restaurants 
that make a killing on the backs of those on the run. Despite the 
ill-advised jokiness of the title, this is a thoroughly serious work, 
which, punctuated by Adam Pleeth's live score, gives a rare insight 
into one of the less sung ills of broken Britain. Until August 26th.

Conversations With Love – Whitespace
3 stars
Five young women in dance studio vests throw some very gentle shapes to 
some mainstream R n B. As each begins to talk in rhyming couplets, an 
everyday narrative of lover's first flush to its eventual loss is told 
in a simple out-front manner. Written, directed and choreographed by 
Ann Akins, who also performs, there's guileless street-smart honesty to 
Akins' concoction of  estuarised spoken-word punctuated by pop video 

If there are times during the show's bite-size forty minutes when it 
feels like an end of term exercise, that's okay in what is essentially 
a mainstream showcase that taps into love's young dream with an 
engagingly unpretentious charm. There are times too when Akins and her 
troupe look not unlike a girl-band in waiting. Which, on this showing, 
might not be a bad thing for a quintet who show considerable flair and 
promise. Until Aug 23rd.

The Herald, August 22nd 2012


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Theatre du Soleil - Les Naufrages du Fol Espoir (Aurores) / The Castaways of the Fol Espoir (Sunrises)

In the Bois de Vincennes, an old munitions factory on the outskirts of 
Paris, the day is just beginning for Theatre du Soleil, the radical 
theatre company founded on radical ideals of collectivism in 1964. The 
company are preparing to bring their epic production of Les Naufrages 
du Fol Espoir (Aurores), or The Castaways of the Fol Espoir (Sunrises) 
in English, to Edinburgh in an all too rare appearance on British soil. 
The production, loosely adapted from a posthumously published novel by 
Jules Verne, tells the story of a 1914 voyage of the Fol Espoir to Cape 
Horn, where the ship's passengers want to set up an idealistic 
community while the rest of the world  drives relentlessly to what 
became the First World War. Meanwhile, a film crew attempt to tell this 
tale of doomed utopianism by using restaurant staff as actors.

On one level, the tale reflects the existence, philosophy, working 
methods and ideals of Theatre du Soleil itself. When they were founded, 
the Cold War was dividing Europe, nuclear warfare was presumed to be 
imminent, and social, political and cultural revolution were in the air 
enough to point the way towards the seismic events of 1968. then, Paris 
would be the focus of mass strikes and demonstrations.

  The major difference, of course, is that, after almost half a century 
of creating theatre in their own unique way, Theatre du Soleil are 
still sailing towards their idyll. Much of this spirit is defined by 
legendary director Ariane Mnouchkine, who, despite the company's 
collectivism, is seen as the figurehead of the company she co-founder 
with Philippe Leotard and other graduates of L'Ecole Internationale de 
Theatre Jacques Lecoq.

Mnouchkine devises the company's work over long periods of group 
improvisations based around a particular starting point. Les Naufrages 
du Fol Espoir (Aurores) ended up being written in part by long-term 
company collaborator, writer, feminist and intellectual, Helene Cixous, 
with music composed by Jean-Jacques Lemetre, another Theatre du Soleil 
stalwart. Despite such defined rolls, however, Theatre du Soleil work 
co-operatively. All company members, including Mnouchkine, are on an 
equal wage, while the actors make their own props, run the Bois de 
Vincennes bar during the interval, and effectively live and breathe 
Theatre du Soleil every minute of the day.

As with all such communal endeavours, the commitment required by 
company members can be exhausting at both a personal and professional 
level. Days are long and work is hard. Yet those in tune with the 
Theatre du Soleil aesthetic stay with it for years, finding both family 
and home with the company. Two such actors are Juliana Carneiro and 
Duccio Bellugio.  By the time she arrives in Edinburgh this week, 
Carneiro will have been with the company for a staggering twenty-three 
years. Bellugio can boast an even longer tenure. At twenty-five years 
and counting, he is the longest serving member of Theatre du Soleil 
aside from Mnouchkine herself.

“There is another one who was here before,” says Bellugio, “but he left 
for ten years and then came back.”

It is this sort of loyalty that Mnouchkine inspires.

“Every three or four years, Ariane runs a workshop,” Bellugio explains, 
“and gets to meet young actors. That is when the relationship begins. 
Ariane is very demanding of herself, so of course she is demanding of 
others, but the work is always about going forward. There is an 
exchange there, I believe, and even after rehearsing this play for one 
whole year, I still have the sensation of going forward.”

Bellugio was training to be a dancer under Pina Bausch when he joined 
Theatre du Soleil, so he already had something of a track record. As 
did Carneiro, who had long held ambitions to join the company.

“I was working in Brussels at a school for dancers,” the Brazilian born 
performer explains, “then in 1973 I saw Theatre du Soleil do L'Age 
d'Or, and was so taken with it that I said to myself that one day I 
would belong to this troupe. I kept that in my mind for many years, 
then in 1990 I was a mother of two, living in Paris and working with a 
dance company. We toured to Japan, then the day I came back I had a 
phone call to say that Theatre du Soleil were looking for an actress to 
play Clytemnestra. After three days working with them, I was accepted, 
and it was marvellous.”

But what was it about the production of L'Age d'Or, actually produced 
in 1975, that kept Carneiro so inspired for almost two decades?

“It was the Sun,” she remembers, still sounding awe-struck. “The play 
was done in sand dunes, and the audience was moving up and down the 
dunes with the performance. At the end, the Sun rose, and it was 
perfect. We suddenly had this enormous energy and joy in our hearts, 
and we started running through the dunes like mad, like everything was 

Making the impossible possible has been Mnouchkine and Theatre du 
Soleil's raison d'etre from the start, with the company's debut 
production of Les Petit Bourgeois, followed by a version of Arnold 
Wesker's The Kitchen in 1967. The company really arrived with the 
French revolution-set 1789, produced in 1970 and 1971, the same year 
Mnouchkine and co moved into the Bois de Vincennes. Over the next forty 
years, Mnouchkine has become a theatrical guru to the extent that even 
her comrades can't help but put the 73-year old on a pedestal.

“She's someone who is in the present every second, and aware of 
everything around her,” Carneiro beams. “She has a gift of giving she 
was born with, and will never ask you to do something that she's not 
able to do herself. She's always bringing us through a path of light, 
and bringing out things even we didn't see. Even the way we rehearse is 
so creative, because we don't know what we're going to be, so you can 
do anything. We worked on this piece for eleven months, and our only 
luxury is time, so we can really play, and grow as actors in our 
performance. But if you ever have a doubt – and the way we work, you do 
– when you see the end result, you totally understand it.”

Despite their status, Theatre du Soleil have stayed firmly out of the 
mainstream. Even so, the company arrive in Edinburgh at a time when 
artistic collectivism and something infinitely more significant than 
commercial forces are very much back on the agenda

“We are navigating our way against the system,” Bellugio explains. 
“That's the only way we can work. Ariane says if she didn't work this 
way then she couldn't make theatre. It's a way of life.”

Les Naufrages du Fol Espoir (Aurores) / The Castaways of the Fol Espoir 
(Sunrises), Lowland Hall, Royal Highland Centre, Ingleston, August 
23rd-28th, 6pm
The Herald, August 21st 2012


Villa + Discurso

The Hub
4 stars
When writer and director of this Chilean double bill Guillermo Calderon 
introduces his work at the front of the Hub’s intimate purpose-built 
stage, it sums up his entire aesthetic, if not the anger that follows 
in his dialogue. Because at no point is anything hidden by the three 
women who appear in both works that dissect Chile’s post-Pinochet 
legacy, linked by a song as they move the set around in-between the two.

Villa finds the three gathered around a table holding a miniature of 
Villa Grimaldi, the former dictator’s notorious torture house. The trio 
have been co-opted to decide what should happen to the site in a 
democratic Chile. Should Grimaldi be flattened and the land 
re-developed? Or should it be converted into a museum as a reminder of 
the atrocities carried out there? An initial vote is split three ways, 
with one ballot paper spoilt. The fierce debate that ensues reveals far 
more than just the fact that they’re all called Alejandra.

As the three then don the sash of office, they adopt the stance of 
Chile’s real-life post-Pinochet president Michelle Bachelet to give an 
imaginary resignation speech. Spoken both separately and in unison, 
only love and sex are off the agenda in what might well be the most 
honest political speech you’ll never hear.

Both plays demand attention via a dense melange of symbols, grand 
gestures and state of the nation addresses that aren’t without wit 
beyond Calderon’s impassioned exchanges and stark staging. When an 
older woman joins her comrades onstage, the play itself becomes a 
monument, not just to the brutality and hypocrisy of the past, but to 
reconstructing a future that’s only just begun.

The Herald, August 21st 2012


The List - Stellar Quines Go Solo

Stellar Quines are full of surprises. The female-focused theatre 
company who have slowly but surely become a fantastical force in 
Scottish theatre may appear to be shrinking if the size of their new 
show is anything to go by, but in actual fact, the company's artistic 
imagination is more expansive than ever. The last two Stellar Quines 
productions, Age of Arousal and ANA, were big, main-stage affairs that 
looked at sex and sensuality through a woman's eyes via a form of 
magical-realism that defined both plays' Quebecois roots.

The company's new show, The List, which has an Edinburgh Festival 
Fringe run at Summerhall before going out on a brief Scottish tour, is 
also written by a Quebecois playwright. In sharp contrast to the other 
plays, however, Jennifer Tremblay's piece is an intimate work written 
for one actor, who must look the audience full in the face as she 
confesses her role in a neighbour's death. Where ANA took five years to 
reach the stage in a bi-lingual production that opened in Montreal 
before opening in Scotland, Stellar Quines director Muriel Romanes has 
taken a mere six months to get Tremblay's play an English-language 

“It's a beautiful piece of work,” Romanes says as she prepares for 
previews of The List in Peebles. “I picked up on Jennifer's play when 
we were in Montreal with ANA. I kept hearing about it and reading great 
reviews of it, and as soon as I read it I knew I wanted to do it. I 
just love Quebecois work. It's so theatrical and so passionate, and 
there's a real affinity with Scottish work in that way.”

As performed by Maureen Beattie, the new translation of The List itself 
certainly promises much in the passion stakes, however ordinary the 
story may sound.

“I suppose I kind of recognised myself in it, as I think everybody 
will,” Romanes explains. “We spend our whole life making lists of 
things, and up not doing things. This woman is an inveterate list 
maker, and is asked by her neighbour to do something for her, which she 
puts at the top of her list. Then it slips down the list as other 
things come up, and because of this, her neighbour dies, and the play 
is this woman explaining this to us, eye-balling the audience as she 
does so, so she's really in the dock.

“That in itself doesn't sound that theatrical, but it's the text that's 
theatrical. It's called The List, and on the page that's what it looks 
like, and that's how we're doing it as well.”

The story itself came out of Tremblay's experience after she 
effectively exiled herself in an isolated village in Quebec. A 
real-life death rocked the small community she lived among, and 
inspired Tremblay to question how people can cut themselves off from 
each other so easily.

Romanes may downplay The List's theatricality  beyond Tremblay's words, 
but she has nevertheless brought in a crack squad to accentuate Shelley 
Tepperman's translation. As one of the most  fearless and eminently 
watchable performers in the UK, Maureen Beattie's presence in the play 
should be worth the ticket price alone. The play's mood should be 
further heightened by Jeanine Davis' lighting design, as well as a new 
sound score by Philip Pinsky. Stellar Quines have managed something of 
a coup, however, by getting no less a personage than celebrated artist 
and playwright John Byrne to design both set and costumes.

“I first worked with John as an actress when he designed the set for 
The Fantastical Feats of Finn MacCool in 1974,” Romanes remembers of 
one of the lesser sung home-grown epics of its era. A young Romanes 
appeared alongside the likes of Bill Paterson in Kenny (then Ian) 
Ireland's production of Sean McCarthy's play produced by the Young 
Lyceum company at Haymarket Ice Rink in Edinburgh.

Since that very crucial period in Scotland's theatrical history, 
Romanes has been at the forefront of new developments, including 
appearing in the Tron's now legendary Scots translation of Michel 
Tremblay's play, The Guid Sisters, which arguably kicked off the 
Scots/Quebec theatrical alliance. A new production of the play, 
produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, and directed by Serge 
Dennencourt, who directed ANA for Stellar Quines, will open in the 

Since co-founding Stellar Quines in 1993, she has provided a crucial 
platform for female artists that has gone beyond any notions of 
box-ticking tokenism to produce major international collaborations. 
While recent funding changes has left the company in an insecure and 
vulnerable position, Stellar Quines plough on regardless. For such an 
established company to be putting on work in such a young venue as 
Summerhall is significant in itself in terms of how willing Romanes is 
to embrace new ways of working. As for the work itself, Stellar Quines 
have ambitious plans to work with brand new 3D technology as well as 
continuing their Rehearsal Room series of readings of new plays, many 
of which have gone on to full production.

“If you work in different spaces,” Romanes observes, “writers are going 
to be influenced by that, and out of that will perhaps come a new way 
of writing plays.

The List, Summerhall, August 3-25, 2pm
The Herald, August 21st 2012


Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012 - Theatre Reviews 9

Monkey Bars – Traverse – 4 stars
With the pan-generational mix of teenage angst and impending death 
onstage at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Chris Goode's new 
verbatim piece taken from conversations initiated by Karl James looks 
to an even younger generation for guidance. Goode's own co-production 
with the Unicorn Theatre then has adult actors suited and booted in 
grown-up office and dinner-party wear. The juxtaposition between 
half-formed voices possibly learned from parents by rote and a 
presentation and delivery that givers the performers the air of 
politicians or bureaucrats is a fascinating one.

Talk of favourite sweets and playtime is subsequently given the weight 
by Goode's six performers of life-changing events that they actually do 
when you're eight years old. This avoids any Kids Say the Funniest 
Things style cutesiness, and is more akin to the very first series of 
Michael Apted's seminal and ongoing TV documentary, Seven Up. That 
crucial social document interviewed a group of seven year olds in 1964, 
and has filmed them every seven years since. While Goode and James' 
play is unlikely to have that luxury, it is nevertheless a telling 
insight into a generation who have been given voice for the first time. 
More importantly, perhaps, they've been listened to in a way that  
allows their un-studied wisdom to flourish. Until August 26

Just A Gigolo – Assembly George Square – 3 stars
The first rule of life, according to Angelo Ravagli in Stephen Lowe's 
solo vehicle for actor Maurice Roeves, is to never disappoint a woman. 
As the model for 'energetic' game-keeper Mellors in DH Lawrence's 
taboo-busting novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Ravagli was clearly 
talking from experience. Ravagli, after all, moved from being the 
couple's gardener to hitch up as Frieda Lawrence's third and final 
husband after the novelist's death.

As Lowe and Roeves' portrait of a penniless but still raffish widower 
Ravagli attempts to flog off nine of Lawrence's paintings to his 
hotel-owing chum, Saki Karavas, he gradually unveils his colourful past 
as only someone written into literary legend can dine out on. With the 
images projected behind Roeves as he sits at a cafe table relating his 
yarn as if rehearsing for a late night chat show, pearls of wisdom such 
as that above are reeled off like well-polished diamonds.

It's a fascinating if at time somewhat dense elongated anecdote, 
brought to life by Roeves with a dashingly charismatic sense of 
mischief that's worthy of an old-time matinee idol. It's fitting too 
that Lowe's play is being performed in what is usually one of Edinburgh 
University's modern lecture theatres. Before the bull-dozers moved in, 
Traverse co-founder Jim Haynes' original Paperback Bookshop was housed 
a mere stone's throw away. One of the few places that sold Lawrence's 
works, it was outside the premises where two disgusted ladies from the 
Salvation Army were captured on film setting a copy of Lady 
Chatterley's Lover alight, reducing it to the ashes of immorality. 
What, one wonders, would they think if they knew that a reincarnated 
Ravagli had been in the neighbourhood? Until August 27th.

Strong Arm – Underbelly – 3 stars
Explorations of machismo have been all the rage in the Underbelly’s Old 
Vic New Voices strand of new work. Finlay Robertson's new solo play, 
which he performs himself in Kate Budgens' production takes such 
notions to muscle-bound extremes in the cautionary tale of Roland 
Poland, the picked-on fat kid who starts pumping iron, but who gets so 
obsessed with his own image of being a hunk that he falls for his own 

If Robertson himself doesn't physically cut it as Roland, his 
examination of the shy little boy that hides behind the chemically 
enhanced but increasingly tetchy Adonis the world sees is a telling 
one. Men, it seems, are under just as much pressure body-image-wise, as 
women. While Robertson has contrived to make an energetic study of the 
male psyche, for all his verve as a performer, the text needs more 
crafting to give it the weight, no pun intended – required. At the 
moment, Strong Arm has plenty of beef, but not enough muscle to pack 
the punch required. Until August 26th.

The Herald, August 21st 2012


Saturday, 18 August 2012

Phenotype Genotype (PhG)

Summerhall until September 27th 2012
4 stars
There is no more perfect show to illustrate where Summerhall has come 
 from than this vast display of avant-garde detritus culled from the 
even vaster archive of the Edinburgh-based Heart Fine Art set-up. From 
John and Yoko to Gilbert and George to Jake and Dinos Chapman, 
everybody's here in an eminently tactile but tantalisingly untouchable 
display of all the abstract art-stars that made the twentieth century. 
Books, badges, manifestos, pamphlets, calling cards, provocations, an 
inevitable first edition of Guy Debord's 'La Societe du Spectacle', a 
Warhol print and a Fluxus game by George Brecht are all in the frame in 
this gloriously jumbled-up  and refreshingly non-digital display of 
parallel universe memorabilia.

Seen together, it's as obsessive a collection as the artists it gathers 
for a fantasy salon that the Swiss cheese of the original Cabaret 
Voltaire Dadaist boys club in Zurich could only wet-dream of. If seeing 
the words 'KILL THE POP ART!' is contrary given the context, the legend 
'Fuck Joseph Beuys' is just asking for trouble in a cabinet of 
curiosities that presents a crucial alternative art history treasure 

The List, August 2012



North West Northumberland Street Lane Aug 18-19, 25-26, or by 
4 stars
In a residential dribe-in, a portable TV sits on a rug on the floor, a 
bouquet of flowers laid down before it. On-screen, a collage of scenes 
 from a 1980s TV compendium of schlocky horror play out in Rebecca Key 
with Melodien's 'Sevant! Sevant! Vol 1: Hammer House of Mystery and 
Suspense.'. On the walls around it and in two other lock-ups either 
side, pages of text-book guides to motherhood are pinned up and 
subverted by Ailie Rutherford's overlaid drawings of suckling pigs and 
jets of milk shooting from nipples, or else cotton reels criss-cross 
each other as they run from a clump of coloured straws plugged into the 
wall by Jo Arksey.

With a dozen or so artists' works crammed into the three spaces 
alongside some back garden and front cellar installations, GARAGE is an 
ingeniously busy temporary occupation of places used for private 
hoarding or else plain old car parking. It's also a wonderfully 
off-piste example of a thriving grass-roots scene that exists on our 
own doorstep to potter about in.

The List, August 2012


Wonderland - Vanishing Point Jump In

When Vanishing Point artistic director Matthew Lenton spoke out 
regarding arts funding body Creative Scotland's ill-thought out plans 
that put the future of some forty-nine major organisations in jeopardy, 
he was echoing the thoughts of everyone in the arts community who the 
bureaucrats in Waverleygate are accountable to. The fact that Lenton 
had the vocal support of National Theatre of Scotland head Vicky 
Featherstone should make those same bureaucrats take serious notice. As 
Lenton prepares for Wonderland, his contribution to Edinburgh 
International Festival's theatre programme, it is clear that Vanishing 
Point are a major international force, and their loss to Scotland would 
be unforgivable.

Back in June, however, long before Lenton broke cover, he was getting 
lost in an even darker mire than even the lower depths of Creative 
Scotland could muster. On a big screen in a large Glasgow rehearsal 
room, a live feed of a young woman's face can be seen in close-up to a 
mood music soundtrack. In front of the screen, the real woman, in the 
flesh and in living colour, is dwarfed by the black and white image 
behind her.

On-screen, without any context, the woman's facial expression is blank, 
and hard to read. As she removes her cardigan, her eyes widen with 
fear. It's only because we see two men moving towards her off-screen 
that it becomes clear what's causing the woman's anxiety. One man is 
carrying a knife, the other, a video camera, which, as we can see 
on-screen, zooms in even more on the woman's face. The woman is on her 
knees now, pleading for her life, before stabbing herself repeatedly, 
although only her face is seen on-screen.

All the while the scene above is played out, a man's voice is telling 
the woman what to do, controlling her every action on stage and screen 
while a camera and some carefully chosen music mediate how it's 
interpreted. Another man, dressed in a rabbit suit, watches the scene 
through a wall of glass, weeping into his hands at its denouement, 
adding yet another layer of voyeurism to what looks like some kind of 
snuff movie set-up. In actual fact, the woman and the men are all 
actors, while the voice telling them what to do belongs to Lenton who 
is directing what is ostensibly a reimagining of Lewis Carroll's Alice 
in Wonderland, but is actually a look at how far you can go in the 
twenty-first century porn industry.

“This has been the hardest thing I've ever done,” the director of 
international collaborations Interiors and Saturday Night admits of 
Vanishing Point's new show. “The subject matter's so difficult in every 
way, because it's so massive.. I was thinking that maybe the only way 
to tell a story about pornography from either side, either as a voyeur 
or user, or as someone who's involved in it is to do something 
verbatim, and have different people talking about it, but that's not 
something I'm interested in doing.

“Everyone's got such different views of pornography. First of all, it 
divides the sexes in a very general sense, whether it's good or bad or 
healthy or not, or sinister or not. One person might find something 
really disturbing, then someone else might just think there's nothing 
wrong with it, and see it as just a fantasy. So it's very hard to find 
a centre-point for a story that elicits a mutual vocabulary for an 
audience. We're trying to look at the two different experiences 
essentially, with a woman who gets into the porn industry, and a man 
who gets more and more drawn into what is I suppose the more extreme 
stuff online.

“One of the themes that interested me most in the whole thing isn't the 
porn industry itself. It's the idea of somehow taking enjoyment in the 
pain and suffering of other people, and at what point something that is 
complicit becomes not complicit. At what point, as a voyeur of 
something, do you have to say that this person doesn't look like 
they're enjoying themselves, so you're going to stop watching it? The 
responsibility of you as the viewer has really interested me. There's 
also the thing about why someone who works in porn wants to continue 
doing it, at cost, arguably, to themselves. Those are the things that I 
find really fascinating, rich and complex, and to try and distil those 
things into a story is really difficult.

“Just the other day we had a stagger through of what we've done, and 
Kai [Fischer, Vanishing Point's regular designer] said he didn't 
understand why anyone does anything in the story, but, while the 
obvious answer is money and supply and demand, that's kind of the 
point. If you look at some of the things people do in the porn 
industry, beyond money, it isn't clear why people do them. There's a 
really interesting relationship between porn and supply and demand. 
We've obviously had to have some pretty frank conversations doing this 
show, and one of the things we've discovered is how surprised people 
have been by some of the things they've watched. Whether it's for 
sexual gratification or out of sheer amazement, there's been a feeling 
of, well, how did I get here? The internet is a portal that's in 
everybody's lives, and you have to decide how you use it.”

Wonderland has been a long time coming. Some two years in development, 
the production's international collaborators have proved crucial to it 
getting onstage. As well as EIF,  from Scotland, Tramway, Glasgow and 
Eden Court Theatre in Inverness are on board, while from Italy, the 
company is supported by both Fondazione Campania dei Festival and 
Napoli Teatro Festival Italia.

One of the starting points for Lenton's dramatic inquiry was Hardcore, 
a TV documentary made in 2000 by Stephen Walker. Hardcore followed a 
young British woman named Felicity's travails in attempting to break 
into the American porn industry. During Felicity's quest, she is taken 
to the home of a man named Max Hardcore. As his name suggests, 
Hardcore, nee Paul F Little, was a producer and director of porn films, 
who frequently appeared in his own work. What set Hardcore/Little apart 
 from many other purveyors of his oeuvre is his penchant for working 
with very young women, who gave the impression of being under-age, both 
in the way they dressed and behaves. Hardcore would then appear with 
the women on camera, where extreme acts, including urinating and 
vomiting, would take place.

In the documentary, while Felicity initially goes into things 
willingly, the situation turns ugly, with Hardcore resorting to what 
looks like psychological abuse in his attempts to get Felicity to do 
things she doesn't want to. Significantly, it is the documentary crew, 
rather than Felicity herself, who take responsibility for closing down 
filming and removing her from Hardcore's care, if that is in any way an 
appropriate word here. In 2007, after being raided by the FBI in 
incidents un-connected with Walker's film, Little was imprisoned on 
obscenity charges. The porn industry, meanwhile, is both more 
accessible and acceptable than it ever was.

“Pornography has seriously influenced popular culture,” observes 
Lenton. “Before there was reality TV, there was reality porn. Before 
there were films like The Blair Witch Project and all these things with 
hand-held cameras, there was gonzo porn. So in one way pornography is a 
pioneer. Porno films used to have story-lines, albeit clich├ęd ones 
about the plumber who used to come and fix your pipes or whatever. Now 
the emphasis is on reality, and that's fascinating as well, asking at 
what point does fiction become reality.

“Norman Mailer said in the 1970s when he was talking about Deep Throat, 
that when you indulge in extreme sex, and he wasn't saying it's good 
for you, and wasn't saying it's bad for you, he was just saying that 
you enter  the mystery. I think it's a mystery that enters a lot of 
people's lives because of the internet. If you're so inclined, you can 
go to places you wouldn't go to normally.”

As a director too, Lenton recognises the contradictions of telling 
people how far they should go onstage. Keen to avoid self-censorship as 
well as being judgmental, he's also aware that what he's dealing with 
is a long way from the now relatively quaint-looking Deep Throat.

“As a male director, you've got to be careful,” he says, but, actually, 
you've also got to be careful not to be careful about whether you're 
being misogynist or depicting incidents of misogyny.”

As for Max Hardcore, after being released from prison in 2011, the 
fifty-five year old has gone back into the porn industry, and, in a 
filmed interview at the Adult Entertainment Expo 2012,  is unrepentant 
about what he sees as being prosecuted over something that goes on 
between consenting adults.

“What a lot of people don't realise is that a lot of girls like it 
rough....” he says. “...That's what they're begging for...”

The heavily tattooed young lady revelling in the name of Bonnie Rotten 
who drapes herself around him later in the interview concurs.

“Consensual rape,” Bonnie says, beaming up at Hardcore. “That's what I 

Wonderland, Royal Lyceum Theatre, August 29th-September 1st, 7.30pm
The Herald, August 18th 2012


Gulliver’s Travels - EIF 2012

Kings Theatre
4 stars
The women who whinny and canter like horses as the audience enter are a 
striking introduction to Romanian maestro Silviu Purcarete’s 
impressionistic interpretation of Jonathan Swift’s great satirical 
novel. It’s as if they’re higher beings on a catwalk, tantalisingly 
untouchable but irresistible too. The fact that this image of Swift’s 
Houyhnhnms is almost immediately upstaged by something even greater 
speaks volumes about Purcarete’s power to impress, even as the feral 
Yahoos – human beings in their basest form – move in en masse.

Taking the fourth book of Swift’s epic as his starting point, Purcarete 
maps out an absurd nightmare portrait of man’s inhumanity to man 
through two figures bookending the ages. As an old man is carted off to 
an institution, his storybook left behind, a little boy rides in on a 
wooden horse to pick up the pages. With the child onstage throughout, 
it’s as if the series of extravagant tableaux and ensemble-based 
sketches that follow are extracted from his imagination.

Babies are hammered to death and their innards served up as exotic 
delicacies. Giant rats scuttle about like a comic double-act. 
Bowler-hatted men in shadow attempt in vain to be bigger than they are. 
A puppet prostitute meets her match before she and her suitors depart 
with a miniature Can Can. Men in suits march in regimented unison like 
penguins before regressing into a primeval horde.

With barely a word spoken onstage other than a recorded narration, such 
audacious stage-play is pulsed along by Shaun Davey’s vivid minimalist 
score. Awash with and melancholy in equal measure, as the boy and the 
old man’s voyage ends, there’s an acceptance of life’s ugliness, even 
as the possibilities beyond await.

The Herald, August 18th 2012


Friday, 17 August 2012

Villa + Discurso - Chile's Legacy With Guillermo Calderon

There have been a lot of riots in Chile lately. As radical director
Guillermo Calderon prepare to return to Edinburgh International
Festival with Villa and Discurso, a double bill of plays steeped in 
his country's heritage of the fascist dictatorship led for seventeen
years by General Augusto Pinochet, it's a scene he knows well. Last
week, the streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities were awash with
protests by tens of thousands of students demonstrating about how the
country's education system is run.

With word of the demonstrations spread via social media, student
leaders encouraged their supporters to take up pits and pans to indulge
in something called 'cacerolazos', a noisy form of protest used
frequently during the Pinochet regime. As Calderon made clear when last
in Edinburgh with his production of his play, Diciembre, Pinochet's
brutal reign is the main influence on him as an artist. Talking the day
before travelling to Edinburgh with his new production, it is clear too
that   the events described here are crucial influences on his work.

“It's something that's been going on for the last two years,”  Calderon
says of the current wave of student protests. “The problem with
education comes up again and again. I wrote a play about the subject,
called Clase (Class), which refers both to a classroom in a school, and
to social class. I'm going to be putting it on again, because I've been
motivated by what's been going on. It's a very important issue here.”

The problem, according to Calderon, lies with reforms made during the
dictatorship's last gasp in 1989. With these reforms in place ever
since, their legacy is of a dramatically divided society.

“Now, it's horrible,” Calderon says. “People who can afford to go to
private schools get a good education and become part of the elite,
while those who go to state schools end up poor and unemployed. The
current protests aren't just rebelling against the education system,
but against the institutions left by the dictatorship, and against the
new system which has been incapable of changing them for the last
thirty years. Changes in education will only come through major
political changes, which won't happen, so this whole problem will be
inherited by the next generation, and we'll see the same protests
happen again and again. Nothing will change unless Chile has a new

If such a change is only likely to happen in the distant future, Villa
and Discurso both look to Chile's recent past for inspiration. Villa
refers to the Villa Grimaldi, Pinochet's notorious extermination
centre. Thirty years later, three women argue about what the legacy of
the site where the now demolished  building stood should be for modern
Chile. The play was developed and given a reading at the Royal Court
theatre, London, while Calderon undertook an international residency
there. Calderon's second piece, Discurso, is an imaginary farewell
speech by Michelle Bachelet, Chile's (democratically elected) president
from 2006 to 2010.

Both plays are explicit and unrelenting in their political intent. They
also mark a return to an angrier form of theatre after Calderon's play,
Neva, became successful enough to attract some of Pinochet's former
generals to attend performances in Santiago. Now, as his characters
state exactly where they stand in their condemnation of Pinochet,
Calderon's work is even more wilfully provocative than it was before.
In this way, his plays are also making up for lost time in terms of
what Calderon's generation could and couldn't say without fear of

“When I was growing up in my house,” Calderon remembers, “I was told
not to talk about what I heard at home or about anything I thought to
anyone ever. Now I am an adult, in my plays, all my characters say what
they think, and they say it in long monologues that aren't about
psychological truth, but are about political ideas. So my work is a
form of my therapy, but it's a political therapy and not a
psychological one. As well as it being political therapy, we also try
and use theatre to offend, and to get back at the people from the
dictatorship who are still around.”

With such ongoing intensity in his work, one wonders whether it is ever
likely that Calderon will move on from Pinochet's influence?

“I don't think so,” is his answer. “I read that in Spain they began
dealing intelligently with their own civil war, only thirty years after
the end of their dictatorship, so for us it is just beginning. For me,
it's really hard to escape this subject, so I think I will be creating
a lot more plays on this subject before I run out of energy, and when I
run out of energy, maybe it will be over for me. Maybe this is the only
source of real artistic drive I have. My experiences as a young person
were so defining, that maybe I can't escape. It's a very fertile drive,
but it's also a curse, because maybe I can't go to other places with my

Beyond Villa and Discursive, Calderon is planning a play about Syria,
and will direct a new production of Neva in New York. The baggage,
though, remains.

“You can have democracy, and truth,” he says, “but you can never erase
torture, exile, prison and killings. So you are never going to find
redemption or happiness. You can fantasise about reconciliation, and
that life may win over death, but it will never happen. That is only
sentimentalising things. I can live my normal life, but what happened
during the dictatorship, it will never go away. “

Villa + Discurso, The Hub, August 20th-21st, 7.30pm
The Herald, August 17th 2012