Theatre Reviews

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN SIX AND SEVEN - Too Vague Players and Blue Dragonfly Productions

Sarah Weston as "Sofia"

Saturday July 24th 6pm to 7pm in the United reformed Church on Hardwick Square East


That's the main point. No amount of glowing review will make up for the fact that you only have one chance to see this and you don't want to miss it.

The three young actors devised this piece and then, intelligently, gave it to one of them, Sarah Weston, to write the script. As a result rather than the formlessness and difficulty of reaching a conclusion that can bedevil devised work we have a coherent, intelligent, witty and entertaining play. And we retain the advantage of the commitment and understanding of the three actors who created it. A near perfect system I'd say if you have a writer as good as Sarah on hand.

The set consists of 8 or 10 beer crates, one small plank, a cardboard steering wheel and two large numbers; 6 & 7. This together with some simple suggestive items of clothing is able tell us all we need to know. Another lesson here for other theatre companies.

The story is by turns dramatic and comic, poetic, pathetic and bathetic. It has a message for the world about success and happiness, ambition and possessions. In the end we discover that there is no point 7. Beyond point 6 in a life plan comes UNPREDICTABLE. If you're lucky!

The acting by all three is perfect. Lucy Bromilow (Best Young Actor for "Yesterday" in 2006) is frigid as the retentive Joanne, Steph Green (George from "5 Go Mad in Buxton") as the unambitious Katie has the genius of comedy and Sarah Weston as the troubled Sofia can add top notch acting to her writing credits.

Aficionados will have picked up the connection with Ian Moore's Black Box Theatre Company. He was clearly very lucky to have such talent on hand in the past and can be justifiably proud of these who have moved on.

John Wilson


At the height of the popularity of Terry Pratchett's fantasy novels, an amateur theatre group in Abingdon, Oxfordshire decided that Pratchett's Discworld novels would be ripe for putting on the stage. One of the group's number, Stephen Briggs, adapted Wyrd Sisters, the novel which introduces the running characters of the Lancre witches, and also in the process launched a career of his own as an adaptor of Pratchett's work for the stage.

There is no doubt that, as a stepping-on point for the Discworld universe, Wyrd Sisters is a good one, since it is one of the most theatrical, providing, as it does, a genuinely funny pastiche of Shakespearean tragedy. Duke Felmet (Robert Hamilton) and his scheming wife (Toni Saxton) have murdered King Verence and usurped his throne, but his baby son has been spirited away and falls into the hands of three witches.

Rob Hamilton here plays his second guilt-ridden role of the Fringe, making his Macbeth-like Felmet a mass of neurotic twitches and self-loathing. Alongside him is Daniel Large as the Fool, a tricky role to carry off since he has to be both a pointy-hatted buffoon and a dashing leading man. Anyone who has endured the unfunny punning of Shakespeare's fools will find Dan's portrayal of this aspect of the character very funny (particularly when Velmet bans him from using the words 'i'faith', 'prithee' or 'nuncle'), but he is perhaps less obviously cast in the latter aspect. He also looks absolutely nothing like Marcus Crabb's Tom-John, a similarity that the end of the play is supposed to rest on, but hey, how many times have we seen Shakespearean twins who fool everyone on stage but no one in the audience?

At the centre of the play, as of the novel, lie the Witches. Sophia Leggett is a pleasing Magrat, and Natalie Bell, not obvious casting as the little old matron Nanny Ogg, brings an effective physicality to the role. And at their centre is Granny Weatherwax, played by Lucy Jones. Lucy has been at the forefront of Imagine for years and here again brings a beady intelligence and a majesterial leadership to the role, as well brilliant comic timing and a voice that is reminiscent of Maggie Smith.

As always in Briggs' adaptations, the author's enthusiasm for Pratchett's novels sometimes leads to material being kept in the plays that might confuse the uninitiated, and also leads to uneven pacing at times. The end is also a bit under-developed. But this is a fun show that would appeal to the whole family, and whether or not you know the ins and outs of the Discworld, you'll find much to enjoy.

One small thing, though - get Tom-John a pair of braces for the last two performances! The frequent descending of the actor's trousers became somewhat distracting by the end of the show.

Robbie Carnegie


Insanity ...the logic of an accurate mind overtaxed - Oliver Wendell Holmes (pic: Lauren Simonutti)

Writer/director Ian Moore says in his programme notes that he writes "to challenge and make the audience work." With The Inconsistent Whisper of Insanity he has achieved that aim, it's a play that is never less than fascinating but, by god, you do have to concentrate.

It's 1921, Milena is 15 and has been sent to the train station by her Bolshevik guardian to meet a relative, but on the tram there is caught up in a failed White Menshevik rebellion. 60 years later, suffering from amnesia and dementia she returns by train from exile in Spain to her home town. Milena's recollections of childhood and her friendship with someone from a lower social class are also revisited. Through fragments of memories, a picture is built up of what happened on the day of the rebellion, and how Milena, her friend and her guardian are involved.

The story evolves in disjointed fashion, scenes are revisited but as we learn more and their juxtaposition with other scenes changes, so our perspectives are different. Each time that we visit some more of the memory returns, or the view on it is slightly different - is it 15 year old Milena's experience or the elderly lady's confused memory?

The eight strong cast work very well together to bring every scene to life in this ensemble piece; they act as a chorus to the action, create dramatic tableau to highlight moments in time, and use movement to sharpen and diffuse the focus as memories distil and then disappear. The use of voice, both recorded and in chorus, is excellent as the repeated fragments of speech echo both the memories grasped at and the rhythm of a train, which serves as a metaphor for the journey through life, is it predetermined or can it be derailed?

Within this ensemble performance there are fine individual performances, Iona Thonger is captivating and eminently watchable as the young Milena and Marie Westcott as the Chicken Woman though perhaps a little too strident at times is the moral heart of the story.

Although the self-confessed aim of the production is to make us think, I wonder if some more clarity is needed. I'm not sure that the story of the older Milena's return would have been readily understandable without the useful notes in the programme. Also the vignettes involving the engine driver and the ticket collector, while providing welcome light relief, are also a slightly repetitive and ham-fisted attempt at explaining the journey metaphor. And one very simple thing - should the Bolshevik soldiers have red epaulettes? The white accessories had me pegging them as Mensheviks for far too long!

This is a very well worked and intriguing piece that is moving on to the Manchester 24/7 festival, and if you like your theatre to make you think, this will give you a good work-out.

Steve Walker

HOTEL EUROPA - inprocess collective

Andre Amalio and Tereza Havlickova

The Marquee - Poole's Cavern, remaining performances Jul 22, 23, 24, 5.45pm

'This is a place - a place like any other place. This place is a hotel, the Hotel Europa'. With these words we are invited to check into an extraordinary Fringe happening in which any ideas that Europe is somehow boring or homogenised are in fact swiftly dispelled.

In a sense, by becoming members of the European Union, we all checked into the Hotel Europa some time ago, hoping for the same sort of reassurance offered by the rousing European national anthem that greets us at the start of this show. Yet the three performers here, Andre Amalio from Portugal, Tereza Havlickova from the Czech Republic and Daniel Somerville from the UK, are not into reassurances.

Instead they want to tell us about their countries' troubled political histories and about their own life stories and those of their parents. There is no director and they have devised the show together using their own experiences and family stories. We are told that each comes from a different background whether, acting, dancing or singing, so I use the word 'performer' advisedly as 'actor' doesn't quite seem to do justice to their multi-faceted theatrical technique and autobiographical candour.

Experimental theatre can feel intimidating but despite the seriousness of the subject matter, Hotel Europa is more, well, playful. Near the start we are split up and invited to choose one of three guided tours, Portuguese, English or Czech. The tiny audience meant that I was alone with the charismatic Amalio as he took me outside the Marquee, pointed to the miraculously blue sky and told me with utmost sincerity that we were in Lisbon. I suspect that the tour you take affects how you relate to the rest of the show. For me, being told about Portugal's Carnation Revolution meant that I was somehow more tuned in to the Portuguese tales than those from the other countries. At times I wished I was able to absorb more of their intriguing narratives, but the deliberately fragmented nature of their delivery and on one occasion the fact that they decided to talk at the same time, meant that this was quite tricky.

It would be a mistake to reduce this to an evening of stories however as there is much more going on here - physical theatre, dance, even opera singing - with plenty of room for audiences to create their own narratives. 'This performance is about rising and falling' we are told at one point and there is plenty of that with the performers collapsing again and again on stage, their almost routine deaths for me saying something about our casual acceptance of the victims of foreign wars and revolutions. The three performers have their work cut out being fully-fledged personalities one minute and symbolic representatives of their countries the next.

I can honestly say that I felt completely invigorated after the show and mindful of how we Europeans can relate to each other so easily and yet sometimes with little understanding of the immense differences in our political pasts. Somerville of course is our representative and there is a fascinating moment when he talks about Aids as if it were a political purge: 'In the Eighties people would disappear for a bit then come back a bit thinner or sometimes they wouldn't come back'. His fellow performers are scornful of his British sufferings and there is a hint of that bitterness in the moment when Amalio opens the Marquee door and invites us to 'feel the air of civilisation' - the freedom we so often take for granted. No wonder I felt excited as I cycled away - I think I was actually feeling that freedom.

Stephanie Billen

THE RING OF STONES - T-Chi Productions

"Nobody In, Nobody Out!"  The cast of the 2010 Production

Buxton Community School 21st July 2010

The Ring of Stones was originally written as a fully staged opera by Eddie Brierley and Peter Robinson in 1999. In 2009, a new company T-Chi Productions formed to tour a narrated concert version in the North West as part of the Help for Heroes campaign. The show celebrates the actions of a group of 17th century heroes - the villagers of Eyam.

The basic story will be familiar to many: the people of Eyam faced with a outbreak of bubonic plague - brought accidently to the village in a shipment of cloth from London - voluntarily quarantined themselves and allowed no one in or out of the village till the plague had run its course. By the end, the local population had been reduced to a quarter of its size, but the people's actions prevented such devastation from spreading to the rest of northern England.

The narration in this new production of The Ring of Stones helps a 21st century audience understand the historical context and more fully experience what Eyam went through. That's not to say that it's a dry, academic account. No, it's told with humour and feeling through the character of gravedigger Marshall Howe, one of the villagers 'lucky' enough to be immune to the plague through a 'small' dose of the plague as a child. Though the production is not fully staged, the rest of cast go well beyond merely singing their numbers to give the story great emotional impact as it unfolds, and to give the whole dramatic integrity.

The orchestral backing to the singing is very powerful; perhaps it was a little too much so in the relatively small space of the school's drama studio. I preferred it at the times when the backing was simple and the beautiful voices of the singers soared. There were some wonderful numbers ranging from the touching duet 'The Waterfall' expressing the heartache of the lovers separated by the plague, to the compelling ensemble piece 'Something Terrible' presenting the village's moment of truth.

All in all, a very moving re-telling of an old story, and a tribute to Man's capacity for heroic action.

Barbara Wilson

The Ring of Stones comes to the Art Theatre New Mills on 10th September 2010.

BEGINNINGS by Nick Brelsford - Buxton Drama League

I object!

Performed by Buxton Drama League Wed 21st July 2010, Buxton Methodist Church.

This very original play, intelligently written by locally-based Nick Brelsford and winner of Buxton Drama League's first 'Act One' playwriting competition, was also performed by the very same local stalwarts. And fortunately for all concerned, it had an ending!

The setting seems to be in a legal chambers and then a court of law. At first, two lawyers, the erudite Cottle and slightly overbearing Lister are playfully sparring, getting even with one another, when the defendant, in the shape of the initially aggressive Fielding, is brought in. He is accused of the heinous crime of writing a short story without an ending and Judge Nash will sternly, at times indignantly adjudicate. This is contrary to the country's cultural statute, and as such, highly illegal.

If this sounds surreal, it is not the only Kafkaesque element of this intriguing plot - the situation is so absurd that at first the accused assumes it is a clever hoax. He is informed that his situation is not part of a trial, yet integral to the case. The nature of innocence and guilt are incidental to the matter in hand. Where in the world could such a trial be possible, with legal semantics clouding the meaning of words and interference at the highest level? Where?

Christopher Lowdon is impressively pompous and blustering as a prosecutor, but is frequently cut down to size by Sally Shaw's exasperated and at times, very impatient judge. It is nevertheless Tim Warburton's sometimes finicky but well-meaning defending lawyer and Robbie Carnegie's initially outraged but later more compliant defendant, who carry most of this show. There are one or two first night blips concerning cues and delivery and the playing is a little static at times, with only Warbuton's Cottle getting really passionate towards the end. With enough time, these actors will fully do justice to a very interesting idea.

A country is described as having no elections, yet is not a dictatorship nor a democracy. 'Do not compare my country to yours', implores Cottle. But are there really such differences? Could this happen here? No. But is this the end...or how it begins?

Ian Hamilton


Are You Lonesome Tonight

The King is clearly still a big draw; 33 years after his death, the Pauper's Pit was full in the mid-afternoon for this play about Elvis-fanatic Dwight's attempts to rescue his faltering marriage. Dwight, who has been reading too many of his wife's glossy magazines, has decided to reinvigorate their relationship by doing the things they did when they were courting. In this case, by following Elvis on every night of his upcoming tour as a 20th Wedding Anniversary present. Unfortunately Leanne is less than impressed, and Elvis doesn't help by inconveniently dying as the tour is due to start.

This is a warm-hearted and thoughtful play about what happens to our dreams and how to reconnect to them, how sometimes we lose touch with what brought us together, and what it takes to make a relationship work.

There are some nice touches as the perspective switches from the events of August 16th 1977, to Leanne and Dwight as talking heads looking back on that day and giving their own, often conflicting perspectives. Leanne and Dwight are likeable characters, though I'd like to know more about Leanne's story in the years after 1977.

However, the production is very static, the tension around a faltering marriage and the emotions that engenders should produce more drama than is on display here. Also, the southern US accents in use prove a strain over the course of an hour. And in a play based on a love for Elvis, surely we should hear a bit more from the man himself? More music please!

Steve Walker

BANE 2 - Whitebone Productions

Bruce Bane

Underground Venues 20th July 2010

I'm tempted just to say 'go see this show'. It comes highly recommended and doesn't disappoint. But just in case you didn't see Bane (1) last year or this, or didn't see last year's review, here goes:

Bane is a hired hand, a nasty piece of work who deals with even nastier villains. This time he almost blows it by taking pity on Jones, a snivelling character who should have paid Bane off but instead pulls a gun on him. Bane maims rather than kills him and unwittingly un-leashes a monster out for revenge. By the end of the play the stage is figuratively strewn with the dead, some despatched by Bane and some more gorily by the monster, and Bane triumphs again. Or does he?

Some find Bane darkly funny. I didn't laugh much but I did sit there open-mouthed with astonishment as Joe Bone single-handedly played a human cast of a couple of dozen, from petrified children to grotesque perverts. Throw in the portrayal of a number of animal characters, an amazing range of vocal sound effects and gestures that fully evoked the scene changes, and you have some idea of Joe Bone's skill as an actor. Again for some, Bane is full of references to Film Noir. But for me it evoked more those marvellously dense violent comic strips; there's a sense of moving swiftly from frame to action-packed frame.

I think perhaps the piece is a little over long. Maybe one or two innocents could have been spared their terrible deaths. But as I said earlier 'go see this show'. It's an experience not to be missed.

Barbara Wilson

BANE - Whitebone Productions

Bruce Bane

Tuesday 20th July 2010

Not, as billed, a one-man show, this production from Isle of Wight based Whitebone productions featured Joe Bone as everyone and Ben Roe as a very welcome addition on acoustic-electric guitar. What a pity there was such a small audience.

Late in the play one of the many characters challenged the audience thus: "Do not try to guess my accent, as you'll have no joy". There was truly an array of accents to be sampled - the frantic looking Bruce's New-York (ish) Film Noir detective, that of the tough Bronson, the nervous Neil, the Latinate Mendoza (he of the maniacal laughter), the Teutonic Vitaly and evil British Skelby. I could go on, but suffice to say that all of these were expertly delivered by main man Joe Bone, along with some astonishing sound effects, amongst others the radio being tuned, doors creaking and cracking and an answer phone. The muffled shotguns and saws were also impressive.

I have been to other so-called one-man shows before and found my interest wane after a while, but not in this one. Without revealing too much, the interaction between Joe's various personae, for example Al, Viktor and others, is absolutely superb, as is the actor's versatility and athleticism. He changes from upright gangster-bully to snivelling hunchback in a flash. The script is racy and lively and laced with quick, witty and ironic interludes. The only occasions on which I found my attention wander from the action were to admire the plaintive tones of Ben Roe's interesting style of guitar playing, which always enhanced the atmosphere.

In a twist worthy of Anouilh we were assured that there was no moral. And the sequel was heralded not once, twice, thrice, but er... anyway, go and see it! More of you!

Ian Hamilton.


The Morning After

Remaining performances: 21-22 Jul 5pm to 5:45pm, 23 Jul 2:15pm to 3pm at Underground Venues - Pauper's Pit

This fast paced tale starts with a theme familiar to us all. Peer pressure. The cast hide away at the back during the scenes but soon enough their true characters can be seen. The pretty one, the clever one, the punk, the gang leader; all can be seen as the young 13 actors portray the stereotypical teenagers to a tee, so much so, that I can match their personalities to friends of mine. They're portrayal of teenage nightlife is very accurate, and can be compared to scenes seen in Channel 4's 'Skins'.

Although the show brought life and energy to the small venue, not all of the scenes were about partying. The show covered important topics to teens such as peer pressure, alcohol and romance, as well as providing heart-stopping moments of drama. The story had an overlying soundtrack, all of popular tracks to fit in with the show, and used to help re-enforce the stereotypes depicted by the actors.

The minimal stage of black allowed the story to flow fully for an enjoyable 30 minutes. In which their mix of stylised scenes, dance routines and realistic action helped create a vivid show, which kept me enthralled the whole time.

Overall, a very riveting show definitely worth watching, with the cast full of potential for the future.

Tom Larken

NOT JUST A SUITCASE - RoguePlay Theatre

RoguePlay Theatre.

This is an innovative show in which the action starts behind the audience and is almost wordless. Vocalisations give meaning and on the few occasions when words are used, those words are without meaning in themselves while lending meaning to the action.

Using a mix of physical theatre, circus skills and mime the two characters tell the story of a young girl's dreams of travel. We meet the characters she meets and join her in the incidents of her journey.

I think, with more action and a little more "lift", this could be a show attractive to young children. Innovative though its technique is I don't think it offers much to the adult audience. RoguePlay Theatre have a history in Theatre in Education and I feel they might have fared better if they had been clearer about their target audience and entered in the "For Families" section of the programme.

But they still need to up the excitement.

John Wilson

DON JUAN by Martin Beard - The REC Theatre Company

Don Juan

The Marquee - Poole's Cavern, remaining performances Jul 20, 21, 7.30pm

Regular Fringe goers can get a little blasé about Martin Beard's Don Juan. The show won a Fringe Drama Award in 1999 and has been popping up in Fringe schedules ever since although not always with Beard in the central role.

It would be a great mistake to overlook this show however for with Beard at the helm, it boasts one of the best acting performances you will see at this year's Fringe, or any Fringe for that matter.

As writer and performer, Beard has taken the legendary tale of the famous Spanish libertine and womaniser and created an engaging one-man show which actually does not feel like a solo performance thanks to its range of incidental characters, all superbly played by Beard who seems to have an infinite variety of accents at his command. None are Spanish incidentally but I think this is a wise decision that precludes any Manuel-ish caricatures.

The story of Don Juan's comically adventurous life is told in flashback as the ageing Lothario takes us right back to his childhood and young adulthood when as an assistant to a stone mason he feels up (and inadvertently mutilates) a marble Venus - and never looks back.

Born in 1470, he lives in interesting times. Aside from the witty evocation of Venus de Milo, there is an oblique reference to Christopher Columbus at one point when Don Juan's drawling friend Chris speculates, wildly it seems to Juan, that one might head straight over the horizon rather than hugging the coastline on every voyage.

Mostly though, this is a highly personal account of Don Juan's conquests in battle and love. When you sleep with as many people as Don Juan, sex and violence become inextricably linked with angry fathers and husbands appearing behind every corner with swords drawn.

What saves this tale from becoming actually rather sordid, despite the comedy, is the fact that Don Juan receives his comeuppance, disastrously falling in love with the one woman he can never possess. It is a testament to Beard's sensitivity as an actor that we actually start to feel sorry for this rogue. As the play draws to a close he tells us bleakly how is 'condemned to bachelorhood, every ounce of love drained from his soul'.

Stephanie Billen

TALES FROM THE BLACK JACK - Bordello Theatre Co.

Tales From The Black Jack

8,19,July 9:30pm, 20,July 5pm and 21 July 11pm in Underground Venues - Pauper's Pit

Alex Moran is a very physical actor and he lets you know it from the moment of his entrance.

The show is visceral in its portrayal of the sleaze, dishonesty and violence of the Casino world. So powerfully does Alex present the cynicism and cruelty of gambling and its servants the audience is left wondering whether this is pure theatre or polemical diatribe against the evils of gambling by one of its victims.

As a croupier Alex describes for us the chic but seedy red plush world of the "upmarket" gambling den. He personifies the slick and cynical manipulation of the sad punters. "There are no clocks in here. We don't want you keeping track of time do we?"

Our croupier tells us three tales from his world. The stories of the pathetic gambling junkie housewife Mary and the insecure thug Big Bazz frame the enigmatic Mr Chan. The casino destroys Mary and her life reducing her to the "casino car park cock-sucking machine". It unmasks Bazz and subsumes him into the corrupt world he blustered to dominate.

But Mr Chan is inscrutable and has his own manipulation to perform. The fact that Mr Chan beats the system with dignity intact so enrages the machine that its manager is driven to mindless violence.

Mr Chan may have won and quit while he was ahead but the unequivocal message from the croupier is this never happens. Gambling is evil, it will destroy you.

And the 'phone rings again and we are left wondering what has its hold on him.

John Wilson


The Grove Hotel

This is a new writing by the very talented Alan Charnley and Deirdre Costello. Whilst not purporting to be an impersonation of Karen Carpenter, Alan's portrayal was spookily close - well done keeping the singing voice going throughout. It was great hearing the great songs again and being reminded of Karen's tragically short life.

We are taken through the rough patch that Alan and Chazza are going through to its conclusion which is both funny and sad and very well played.

The audience was singing along and really appreciative of the trip down memory lane. We even had a cameo appearance from a beatle and Elvis!

Thank you this was a good fun show with great songs well performed.

Linda McAlinden

CHATROOM by Enda Walsh - Shadow Syndicate


Chatroom by acclaimed Irish playwright Enda Walsh is a brave choice for the teenage actors of Shadow Syndicate, and it comes off very well. It is set in the world of internet forums where six fifteen year olds meet to gossip, confide and brag. The play is a fascinating exploration of how new technologies can allow the isolated to find companionship in the apparent safety of anonymity, but also how that can't prevent the vulnerable being exploited.

The characters are established as poised between childhood and adulthood, cynical William describing them as "sub-persons, a hormonal mess." Eva is similarly jaded, feeling betrayed by adults as the promise of childhood confronts a more complex world. Their scepticism is contrasted in the superficially naive but more optimistic Jack and Emily.

The story revolves round Jim, who opens up to the others about his tragic abandonment by his father and his isolation from the rest of his family. At first apathetic about his suffering, William and Eva decide to "mess with his head" and try to manipulate him into drastic actions. As they pressure him, can the others, including Laura, who will listen but won't give advice, prevent a tragedy?

The acting is uniformly good, Jim is played with a nice vulnerability by Chris Williams, and the excellent Laura Stafford as Laura, suggests an immensity of experience and pain in an understated performance.

The characters have no physical interaction with each other, which is reflected in the complete lack of eye contact between the cast, making the sharpness of the performance all the more impressive - though perhaps the scene changes could be crisper. There is no pretence at using computers, which allows character to be developed through gesture as well as through the words. Occasionally this can distract as the basic conceit that they are in contact through keyboards is hard to maintain when nails are being filed and magazines read. The use of film near the end is excellent, though the simultaneous acting out on stage does divert attention.

Perhaps more stillness is required to allow the words to have their full impact, as Laura says "words are power" in this world, but this is a very impressive performance by a company of young actors, and one of the best things I've seen at the Fringe this year.

Chatroom continues at Underground Venues on 18th July at 10:45pm and 19th July at 2pm.

Steve Walker

THREADS - Sketch

Threads (credit: Natalie Bell)

Buxton Community School

16th July 2010

Last year, Sketch Theatre Company won the Best Young Theatre Production Award with their performance of Jim Cartwrght's Road. They return to this year's Fringe with an original devised piece.

Threads has been inspired by the myth of the three Fates who between them, spin, measure out and cut off the thread of each person's life. Played here by Katherine Sustard, Toni Saxton and Anna-Rita Boydell, the Fates aren't entirely happy with the jobs they have to do and frequently squabble amongst themselves. Furthermore, they don't always have their eye on the thread and let things slip a bit. They have to employ a kind of stage manager (depicted as a suave, worldly-wise character by Alistair Brown) to make sure the script is correctly played out on life's stage. He has a couple of near misses and the matches made in heaven almost don't happen.

There is plenty of other humour here: Patrick Crook as Ash Parker is truly a no-hoper as a musician. But there is also much that is sad and thoughtful. Robyn Leigh (playing Lucy who is Ash's true destiny) and Natalie Bell (playing Grace mourning her brother's death) give touching performances. And Robert Hamilton as Liam, Grace's eventual lover, fully presents the pathos of the human situation: destined to behave in a certain way but feeling guilty for it nonetheless.

The pacing of the performance was a little slow, especially the getting on and off stage (the Fates might have cranked it up a little!), but this is a small criticism. Don't miss the opportunity to see the second performance on 17th July.

Barbara Wilson

THE ZOO STORY by Edward Albee - Shadow Syndicate

The Zoo Story

17th and 20th July at 3:30pm and 19th at 8pm in Underground Venues, Pauper's Pit

It is remarkable that two young actors can play this so fluently and with such accuracy and at such a pace.

"Was I patronizing? I believe I was; I'm sorry."

At such a pace in fact that the show finished 20 minutes ahead of time. And here is a bit of a problem. The furious pace meant that the menace of Jerry's zoo story wasn't developed as much as it might have been and Jerry becomes frenetic and vulnerable rather more than unsettling and menacing. That said all the audience I talked to were full of praise for the actors and the production.

Ben Palmer (Peter)and Aaron Price (Jerry) are perfectly cast as preppy middle class Peter from Lexington and 3rd and troubled Jerry from a decrepit brownstone rooming house on the wrong side of the park. They inhabit their characters with a completeness unpunctured even in the close confines of the Pauper's Pit. Peter, smart still and self-satisfied reading on a park bench and Jerry, jumpy, untidy, represent the class divide and discuss it but the play is not a polemic on class. It is more subtle than that and operates on many levels. It is about communication, the differences between worlds that language cannot bridge, Jerry's deep unhappiness verging on insanity, the ugliness of life, its disappointments on both sides of the class divide.

The play builds toward an ending of high drama and leaves the audience with questions. Was it intended? What was intended? Was this the zoo story?

Shadow Syndicate are a fine drama company from Manor School, Mansfield and are also performing Chatroom by Enda Walsh on this Fringe. Any of their shows is going to be worth watching.

John Wilson


The End of the Pier Show

Haddon Room, Palace Hotel.

This production had an air of 'work in progress'. Some bits were excellent and some could do with a bit of tweaking. I'm not sure that the room wasn't working against them too.

The action is set in the mid 1950's ; the end of the pier show has been bought out by a new production company with a manager who is a stickler for the rules - which she just happens to have a copy of and who wants to bring the show into the relevancy of now - whether they want it or not.

All of the players portrayed their characters brilliantly and throughout the piece. As I looked around the ensemble at all times each one was in character and acting. We are introduced to a motley crew who have obviously been together some time. Each knows the other's character, they finish off each other's sentences, look after each other and especially look out for 'Edie' - a particularly good portrayal by Angela Warren.

As the tension mounts before 'curtain up' each worries if they will have a job when its 'curtain down,' we learn more of the people who are inhabiting this dressing room. At this point I must say - the set was exceptional. This was just like all the back stage dressing rooms that I have ever been in, costumes and shoes everywhere, mirrors, make up, bits of props, tea making facilities, even down to the numerous conversations that were going on. The cast carry on several conversations at once - which I found a bit of a distraction and was a bit confusing as to which was the main conversation you should be listening to. Lighting might have helped with this - or perhaps having the subsidiary conversations softer. That being said, of course, in a real life situation there would be several conversations being held.

I particularly liked the idea of them doing their show with their backs to the audience in the room giving the illusion that we were still in the dressing room - that worked really well.

The audience are warned that there is bad language, racism and violent themes. To some extent this is true, but does reflect the attitudes of the time and demonstrates how far we have come, especially in terms of how shocking the casual racist remarks sound.

The audience are invited to encounter bizarre and disturbing characters we certainly do. It is not a laugh out loud barrel of laughs, but there are some lovely moments, pathos, comic touches and downright bizarre bits.

All in all very well played out congratulations to all.

Linda McAlinden

SATANIC MILL by Martin Beard - The Young REC Theatre Company

Satanic Mill

Nice Venues Marquee, Poole's Cavern

This is a new script from Martin Beard based on research into the abuse and slavery of children in the cotton mills during the 19th century.

Several individual documented incidents are woven together, in this play, to form a plot through which the effects of this outrageous period of our history are expressed.

The plot is presented simply on a minimal stage. The players dressed in black without props and the occasional drumming background sound of the mill and its machinery. The setting is the Litton mill and its proprietors, the Needhams, renowned to be the worst of these 'satanic' mill owners who took children, from six years of age, from the workhouses (with local parish approval) and used them to achieve their profits with no regard for their health and for some their lives.

The 13 young actors played their roles with empathy and reverence for these real children and their stories. We are reminded in the program that although we can take refuge in the fact that these crimes are well into our past, child slavery still exists in many communities around the world.

Martin Wood


Purgatory Passengers

Thurs 15th July - Underground venues.

This show came recommended, directed by Chris Browning and with one-man show actor Sam Gibbs (having trained with internationally renowned 'Theatre de Complicité') and guaranteeing his latest imaginative extravaganza. On the way in I was promised laughs.

Apparently this follows the story of an airport of unwitting clowns, each one making a choice that changes one person's life forever, but I found the action a little hard to follow. Main (and only) man Sam Gibbs is undoubtedly talented and versatile and his noises are diverse and entertaining, as are the expressions on his elastic face.

Immediately there was audience interaction with, for example, this reviewer being designated toilet attendant. The first scene featured Sam playing a gormless Burger dispenser, complete with amusing sound effects - although after a while the chicken joke wore a bit thin. The Russian in the second scene opined 'this show is not so good', but I ignored him and persevered, to be rewarded by throat and fart noises and a very rubbery face. The third chaplaincy scene lasted a bit too long for me, but I was rewarded by easily the best scene in the next one about a coke snorting dealer- cum -love-machine. This was followed, unfortunately by more tiresome noises and the chicken being revisited.

I liked the asides to the audience and the interaction with them, but left feeling slightly short-changed on the humour front, funny noises and chickens notwithstanding.

Ian Hamilton

SHADOWPLAY - The Actas Company

Shadowplay... The Mind Unlocks

5, 18-21st July at 6:30pm in the Grove Hotel

The Actas Company is an award-winning youth theatre from Sevenoaks. The young people have devised Shadowplay in the last year. They comprise Freddie Nevison, Emma Smith, Marco Hacon, Tom Powell, Francesca Cooper, Yasmin Mian and Natasha Reade and are directed by Toni Hassan.

They admit to the piece being a work in progress which is not unusual for devised work. It is sometimes difficult to know when a devised piece is finished.

From a normal beginning the characters find themselves strangely trapped but provided for in a dungeon/cellar. From this central setting we see each character's previous traumas in turn without resolution of the mystery of their being there.

The final resolution contains a satisfying twist but we are left in doubt as to the fate of our characters.

All this is developed without scenery, costume or lighting and achieved remarkably well without the dramatic emphasis that these, particularly lighting might add to the piece.

As this is a work in progress I feel emboldened to suggest that what ends well could start better. Perhaps a very quick glimpse of each character before a more developed transition into the dungeon where they meet for the first time?

A Fringe is the ideal place for work like this by young people developing their skills and bringing new writing. Thank you, Actas Company, for bringing it.

John Wilson

SCHOOL TIES by The Brothers Kaufman - The REC Theatre Company

Cast Photo

The Marquee - Poole's Cavern Ground

14,15,17,18 July

Wow! What can I say about tonight's performance of the very funny and entertaining show School Ties?

The venue, a marquee, is great. Raked seating and very congenial doorman with some banter for all - although, after a while, the seats are not the most comfortable you have ever sat on!

The performance? Terrific! Four young women portraying 8 people on the brink of adulthood with all the trauma and angst that that entails - 'it is the best of times, it is the worst of times' which at some point, they hope, they will all look back on with smiles. They also portray a variety of teachers, all totally recognisable from anyone's school days, trying to live their lives and keep the youngsters on track. I recognised the 4 young women - the bully, the bullied, the popular one and the eager one; the 4 young men - trying to fathom out what is going on and the teachers - all hilariously played by, Ella Brown, Alice de Cent, Gabrielle Monaghan and Bethany Simpson.

Beautiful harmony singing, brilliant voices and characterisations of each of the characters taking us from the first day at school and culminating at the obligatory end of year disco.

All was going so well - and then the rain came! I write rain, but for anyone in the High Peak area tonight you will know that this was one of the more spectacular and lengthy thunder storms experienced in many years. A marquee is not the best place to be! At first the patter of rain on canvas was a little distracting, but the longer the storm went on (and it did go on) the noisier it became. The girls soldiered on without missing a beat. On and on and on went the storm - eventually they had to stop - you couldn't even hear yourself think! The storm abated somewhat so they started again - but back it came. Louder than ever! They stopped again. It abated - they started again. Then a make shift cover back stage had so filled with water it decided to empty itself in a deluge making back stage treacherous.

Not once did these young women falter. Not once did they lose their place. Not once did they even acknowledge that there might be a problem - until it became impossible not to. Laura Monaghan, the artistic director and musical arranger did a sterling job at the keyboard - and really there was no need to ask permission or apologise for stopping, what else was there to do?

What a talented group. Excellently directed, wonderfully accompanied, the audience loved it, and were loving it, long before the total professionalism of all concerned was brought in to play by the storm (even the lighting technician managed to lip read his cues!). I loved it. Remember their names, we will hear of them again. Well done and thank you for a terrific night - hopefully the rest of the week will not be so eventful!

Linda McAlinden

NO VIEW FROM THE WINDOW - Tangled Web Productions

No View From The Window

Underground Venues

13th July 2010

Louise's mother has just died and, as chief mourner, she should be downstairs at the wake. Instead she has retreated to 'her room', the bathroom in her mother's house. Quite why this grubby, untidy space should be so special to her is difficult to see. But as the story unfolds, the audience understands why the room is central to Louise's life.

Rebecca Mahon as Louise shows her by turn as a resentful adult still harbouring the anger towards her self-centred and uncaring mother, as a rebellious sometimes silly but imaginative teenager, and as a mother herself grieving but maybe finally at peace. She made me laugh and think and cry.

For Louise, there was no way of seeing out of the bathroom into the grim reality of her life. And she could lock herself in against intrusion. Once there, she could let her imagination fly. The set enhanced our perception of Louise's experience. The squalid bathroom suite was surrounded by blackness. With Louise, we could imagine the world beyond disintegrating into infinite space, a place to set her soul free.

No View from the Window premiers on the Buxton Fringe this year. Be among the first to see this thoughtful, touching play.

Barbara Wilson


Actor Stuart Horobin gets his own back on TV actress Genevieve Cleghorn and  writer Keith Large

The Marquee, Poole's Cavern, 13th July

Keith Large is the writer and the main energy behind this production which sold-out at the Marquee. Keith has worked tirelessly and creatively to promote the Fringe, the Wild Carrot (Buxton's only organic wholefood shop) as well as his own venture. He has covered hundreds of miles going back and forth between Leicester and Buxton in recent weeks. I ought also to admit that he is kind about the Fringe Blog in his programme notes.

He and the Carrot Napper Productions team have also assembled a talented and experienced cast for the show - and it ought to be admitted, since this part of the show's production values, some of the cast are young and beautiful (some of these being men). Something of a coup has been the recruitment of Jeff Stewart - Reg Hollis from TV's 'The Bill' for many years - to the cast.

Presented for our entertainment were three new one act plays making up a comedy bill - though the show is entered in the Fringe as theatre rather than comedy. The first of the three plays, 'Whine Fever', is set in an office and explores some aspects of office politics in particular and life in general. Being happy in work - where work itself is unrewarding - can be a challenge; some wallow in despair, others try to find diversions to make life tolerable. Gossip is an important part of human life - it binds us together - and office gossip and flirting can make it bearable at times. 'Whine Fever' explores these themes in a light-hearted way - with a slightly bizarre Intro and Outro utilising Serge Gainsbourg's 'Je'taime'.

Second up was 'The Ticket Collector' which took as its starting point the craziness behind railway ticket pricing, as well as the corruption that oils the wheels of industry and contract-fixing. Oh, and there was a polar bear too. I'm not sure how peculiarly English these themes and fascinations are - the polar bear aside. Beneath Keith's work there seems to be an exploration of human insecurity and how some of us try to overcome that - but this exploration takes place in small worlds that are clearly English.

After the interval we had 'Prima Donna Island' which used the 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here' format to explore a failing marriage and the self-centredness of some people. Oh, and there was a polar bear.

This was an ambitious programme that worked as comedy some of the time - there are some good 'one liners' - and as drama at other times. I wonder if Keith Large is stretching himself a bit too far in trying to bring the material together as plays - maybe the sketch-show format would work better. Our experience of the world is often fragmented and doesn't necessarily join-up in a way that makes sense - the need to try and unify the absurd might, at times, be better resisted.

Carrot Napper Productions will be taking these plays to Cambridge, London and Edinburgh over the next month - see

Keith Savage

IF I WERE ME - fiction

Buxton Community School, remaining performance 14 Jul, 7.30pm.

It is powerful performances like this that make the Fringe so invigorating. If I Were Me is a late entry to the programme so it is horribly possible that people may miss it. Still, the audience on the first night was quite respectable for a rainy night - respectable but not the sell-out it should have been if quality alone drew crowds.

Written and directed by Lizi Ashcroft, the sister of one of the performers, the play takes us into the tortured mind of David (Jack Ashcroft), although it takes us a little while to realise this. David at first seems like an everyman mystified as to why he is in a closed room with two easy chairs facing outwards towards the audience and, it is indicated, a big screen above our heads. Is this a tiny cinema where the film is so rubbish that they only anticipate an audience of two? Or is this the Big Brother house? Has he 'got wasted' the night before and perhaps even pulled, or has he been kidnapped by a sex trafficker. 'I want to be used and abused until I can't take it any more!', he jokes, except there are no jokes...

The arrival of Eddie (Dan D'Henin), a swaggering character in a dinner suit ought to help David work out what is going on, but in fact this is where things become complicated. Eddie wants him to watch a warped kind of 'home movie' in which David sees how he has upset his parents, punched his boss, possibly set his own car on fire, and, following his girlfriend's betrayal, slashed his own arm. 'You haven't made any sense for the last few months', says Eddie, and he is enjoying David's agony, but then Eddie slips up - says 'I' when he means 'you' and the audience and David start to wonder if the unpleasant Eddie is in fact part of David's own personality.

Problem is, there are some attractive aspects to Eddie - he is strong where David is weak. He is confident where David is full of self-loathing. He says he could be a hero. It becomes clear that the two are both locked in the room and locked in battle. Only one can survive...

This is very exciting writing by Lizi Ashcroft, who told me afterwards that she has used some of her own personal experience in the play, albeit transmogrifying it. Bringing the material to life are the two actors, both sixth formers at the school and showing maturity beyond their years. The casting is excellent with Jack Ashcroft bringing out David's vulnerability and Dan D'Henin becoming positively demonic at times as Eddie. Both act in a very physical way using their whole bodies and their actual fighting was quite electrifying.

Somewhere down the line when I was thinking 'God, this is good', the play suddenly ended, albeit with one visual clue that the situation had changed. It is quite possible I missed something but if I did, so did the audience as the director had to assure us that this was indeed the end. Or perhaps it was simply that we could all have lapped up more of these subtle mind games. There is just one performance left, on Wednesday July 14 at 7.30pm at the Community School. Go see and maybe we can all debrief on the Fringe website's Discussion Board.

Stephanie Billen

THE LAST LAUGH - High Peak Writers

The Last Laugh Rehearsals - Suzanne photo by Claire Glasscoe

Eagle Hotel - Dutch's Bar 13 July 7pm

This play, co-written by members of the High Peak Writers group and adapted by Caroline Small is powerful and deeply thought provoking. Peppered with black humour and moments of insight the company of local performers convincingly evoke a complex story and set of characters including; Jackie the stressed single mum who reaches her breaking point and slowly fights her way back to health, Jimmy her gay friend, Luke and Laura her teenage children, Paulo her loyal young partner, Susan her supportive friend, the over stretched but not uncaring nurses and Doctor, and her fellow patients (or are they inmates?).

The role of Jackie's 'other self' who encourages her to give in to weakness and self loathing is an excellent portrayal of a part of all of us. As Jackie gradually learns to embrace and use all of herself, her friends and family also go through a personal process of discovery. The psychiatric health care system is illustrated in a critical light from which Jackie emerges stronger and wiser thanks largely to her own resources, perhaps even despite the 'help' offered by a system over keen on labels and medication.

This is not light entertainment. It is however, evocative of truths we need to know and recognise. Originally written as a radio play, the 3D version, as it were, is powerful and an important piece of work delivered movingly by a group ranging from teens to retired local people who deserve both congratulations and our thanks for bringing this to Buxton Fringe.

There is another performance on 14 July, 7pm.

Jean Ball

AFTERNOON TEA by Lindsay Kernahan - Organised Chaos Productions

Afternoon Tea

Pauper's Pit 12 July (2.30Pm) - Remaining Shows 13 July (2.30pm) & 16 (6.30pm) - 45 mins


Rattigan this is not, despite Lindsay Kernahan's new play featuring two occupied tables in a village cream tea eatery.

Jean and Poppy are a pair of fifty something friends who snobbily swap tales of infuriating spouses and wayward acquaintances with shock and relish. Couple Abigail and William's relationship is showing the strains of a father-daughter age gap and tensions freely spill over in a definite non PDA.

The sentiments of the script were clearly appreciated, recognised even, by a good chunk of the opening afternoon (naturally) sell-out audience, though the words themselves often stretched reality to breaking point. Surely even in Redneck Tunbridge Wells, vegetarians are an accepted minority; naturally lesbians never stood a dyke in a monsoon's chance of escaping mention, though the transsexual was a unexpected snake in the bush.

Bearing this in mind, perhaps the director (Emma France) should have taken a tighter rein over proceedings which allow the four actors to run riot in terms of tone and physicality, jettisoning characters for caricatures in the process, who on occasion lack the requisite subtlety to raise this to meaningful satire.

The recoiling lovers trade some amusing barbs and moments of droll irony do surface as Poppy quizzes Jean over her 'cyberspace' dating. If you're excited by the mention of whipped cream on scones, like a running joke about crumble and wouldn't dream of visiting Brighton on political, or other, grounds this could be just your cup of Darjeeling, but hurry, it's a popular brew.



Shakespeare's Guide To Women

My knowledge of Shakespeare is a bit sketchy. I know most of the stories and loads of the characters, but if quizzed I would be hard pressed to know who belongs where and with which story. I write this to illustrate that an in depth knowledge of Shakespeare and his female characters is not necessary to enjoy this brilliant production. All the usual plot lines are here - treachery, double dealing, murder, love, cross dressing, confusion, but most of all comedy!

A great concept, poor old 'Will' is trying to write Twelfth Night and give Viola a decent story - however Viola is a strong willed and intelligent woman who is impatient to get on with her life. Unfortunately she overhears a confession of murder by 'Mrs McDoogle' and confusion in the manner of a Ray Cooney farce ensues. A petulant Juliet, changing her mind and not wanting to be dead, sets out to look for Romeo and becomes embroiled; as does the mad Ophelia who falls, of course, for Viola, who by now has donned the persona of Cessario.

This was an excellently crafted piece, brilliantly acted and characterised. The interaction between the women and William is hilarious - Juliet, Ophelia and Mrs McDoogle have obviously encountered him before and are alternately angry and contemptuous but ultimately dependant on him. Ophelia is particularly put out that she does not have a more exciting 'bloody' ending.

The production is terrific and my admiration and enjoyment was enhanced following the discovery that Katie Fry (Viola / Cessario) and Rachel Cahill (Juliet) had learned their parts in less than 2 weeks - amazing!

Sam Rowlands as Will trying to keep these women in control was terrific but he excelled himself as Frank! Hannah Lambert's portrayal of the dotty Mrs McDoogle trying to build up her part was inspired and her sex mad Ophelia hilarious. Congratulations to Hannah also for the script.

There was prolonged applause at the end and listening to the comments on the way out, I am not the only one who will be whole heartedly recommending this production. Well done all concerned.

Linda McAlinden

454 GRAMS - Milk Theatre

credit: Matthew Weinreb

This is a very different production of the Merchant of Venice. Clever use of overhead projector, mime and sound track make this an interesting piece with a very powerful ending.

Full marks to the OHP operator - working upside down and back to front. The acting and characterisations are very well done. I particularly enjoyed the names of the characters appearing over the cast. With minimal costume and some clever props the story of Shylock, Jessica and Lorenzo et al is played out. Heavy with symbolism - again I particularly liked the 'balloons' representing the caskets - this is a well thought out concept.

I'm not sure about the bicycle, but full marks to the young woman who pedalled the whole way through the production and the sound and lighting technician who added considerably to the imagery.

The end is very powerful and, I felt, possibly went on for a bit too long. I think you probably would appreciate the production better with a more in depth knowledge of the original. That being said well done to all for a thought provoking and well executed production.

Linda McAlinden

3 MEN - 2engage performing arts company

Love song

The Barrel Room, Underground Venues

2:30pm, Sunday 11 July 2010, 1hr 10 min

As the name suggests this whirlwind tour of male experience is created and performed by three talented young men. The three, from 2engage Performing Arts Company based in Chester work well together, each in turn enthusiastically taking on a range of characters, caricatures and roles. With humour and irony they give us a fun view of life as a young man in our high speed complex 21st century society.

The fast paced energetic show is broken into 12 titled sections; Love Song. Unrequited Love, Competitive Edge 1 (sport), 4 - 4 - 2, Dancing Queens, The Clinic, Match Maker, Love at First Sight, Down and Out, Competitive Edge 2 (business), Unhappy Hour, and Competitive Edge 3 (old age). These involve, DIY skills, mime, singing, sexually transmitted diseases, female and gay impersonations, mobile phone technology, and drinking to excess amongst other things.

Described as a work in progress, this entertaining show has both depth and froth. There are two more performances on 12 and 13 July 5:30pm.

Jean Ball

MY BRILLIANT DIVORCE by Geraldine Aron - Library Theatre Touring Company

will angela find happiness ???

United Reform Church

Deborah Kelly's portrayal of Angela trying to negotiate her way through a life she had never envisaged, was word perfect and displayed grief, anger and black humour in equal measure. Struggling, in some ways, to get to grips with being newly single at an age when life should have been getting easier for her, and discovering her husband is serial womaniser has her angry and jubilant.

She has long since stopped loving the man she has lived with for many years. The impression is that had either of their parents supported the union at the start they might never have married in the first place! However, having married she was prepared to stick with it. Being dumped for a younger model with big hair and hardly a word of English is, to say the least, insulting, a bit scary but also exciting.

We are taken through the very tough adjustments made in the following three years as Angela comes to terms with her imposed 'freedom'. Her continual visits to the doctors with various serious illnesses - bowel cancer, brain tumour, MS, ME, 4 bouts of breast cancer etc etc etc - leads to the final diagnosis of Lambs disease.. LAMB - Laymans Accessibility to Medical Books! Her hilarious trip to the sex shop! Her inability to rebel and to not negotiate her way through the 'Hampton Maze' of the post office queue, even though there is no one there. Her 'odd' conversations with the help line people who are somewhat sympathetic until she assures them that she will not leave the dog on its own, she will ensure it gets tablets too - at which point she becomes the worst person in the world to think of taken the life of a poor wee doggy!

Does she come to terms? Does she sign the divorce papers? Is there a happy ending? It is well worth going to find out.

I thought some of the lines could have been a bit more punchy, and the recorded voices of her mother and the help line people were a little difficult to decipher. That being said, Deborah was on for 75 minutes, without a hesitation or stammer. Some excellent voices and characterisations of her daughter and several friends and the audience are barely 5 feet away. No benefit of extensive footlights to block out expressions, very daunting.

Having gone through a similar divorce some years ago, I recognised a lot of the places Angela visited mentally.

Listening to the comments around me from the audience I will not be the only one who will thoroughly recommend this production, all agreed that it had been time well spent.

Well done Deborah!

Linda McAlinden


On paper some concepts just appeal and the idea of a mash-up between Shakespeare and Dr Seuss certainly appealed to me - Hamlet rendered in the couplets so familiar in books such as The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs & Ham.

But pastiche is a tricky thing to pull off, and it seemed to me that the students of Bath University had two paths they could tread to make this show work - they either had to go completely for Seuss's rhythms, making everything in the show conform to them, and perhaps dressing in a style that was reminiscent of the illustrations, or they had to play the drama totally real so that the rhythms added a humorous underscoring to the piece.

BUST trod a path somewhere between these two, with the result, I felt, that neither Shakespeare nor Seuss were adequately served. What we were given was a potted Hamlet, delivered straight-ish, and at times the Shakespearean dialogue was delivered as written instead of using the de-dum de-dum rhythms and rhymes of the good Doctor. That rhythm should have driven the whole piece, but instead was simply forgotten at times.

There were occasional comedic flourishes such as the use of sock puppets to convey the Players and Yorick's skull, but these seemed out of kilter with the rest of the production. Had more such touches been employed it might have been much more of a playful affair.

So, a good idea in theory, but, for me, one that never quite lived up to its promise.

Robbie Carnegie

THE KINGFISHER by William Douglas Home - Library Theatre Touring Company

Alf Israel plays Hawkins the engagingly amusing butler!

United Reformed Church, Hardwick Square

Saturday 10 July 2010 7:30pm, duration 1hr 20 mins

This plucky three hander was suitably delivered with subtle humour by the reliably ambitious Library Theatre who specialise in taking 'professional accessible theatre to the community'. The well written piece which found success in the west end and a Channel Four film version starring Rex Harrison back in the eighties does evoke something of the PG Wodehouse.

Stripped down to the simplest of sets in a rather unforgiving stark church hall, the William Douglas Home script sets a pace that keeps the attention and sustains the actors, in this light hearted slightly dark romantic comedy. Roger Cook is particularly well cast in the role of the aging writer in search for true love, and Alf Israel clearly enjoys playing his trusted butler and lifetime companion. Debbie Kelly carries off the haughty Lady Evelyn rediscovering her youthful sparkle with confidence. This is good quality small scale theatre well worth the very modest ticket price.

Further performances 17, 24 Jul 7:30pm to 8:50pm no interval £8 (Child n/a, Conc £6)

CUPCAKES - Moving Talent

Nice Venues Marquee

Baking cupcakes is a tricky business. Add the sprinkles, the cherry on the top and it will look lovely. But sometimes, the balance of the basic ingredients needs to be tweaked before it becomes a fully appetising delicacy.

This is just true as much of Cupcakes, the latest play from Buxton's Moving Talent. The decoration is there - a well-staged set, that conveys the inside of a cupcake shop well in the unique setting of Nice Venues' Marquee, a solid cast of local performers. However, the basic ingredients of the script need a bit more juggling before this confection is as delicious as it might be.

The plot concerns Harry, the owner of a cupcake shop in a small town, and a police investigation into corruption and murder between dodgy property developers. The plot itself does require some suspension of disbelief, but its whimsical tone would have allowed the audience to easily accomplish that, turning it into New Tricks as scripted by Alan Bennett, had authors Patrick Gordon and Astrid Ayers really flavoured the characters fully, and given the actors more to get their teeth into. For example, had Di Langley's bag lady been funnier and more eccentric in the earlier scenes, her revelations later would have been that much more poignant; the double-life of Harry (Michael Hall) could have been much more clearly delineated between the bumbling, slightly camp baker and what should have been a more flinty, professional, 'terrier-like' alter ego; the unrequited passion that Janet (Karen Nicholas) has for him should have been given some hints earlier in the play. Likewise the thriller element needs to be much more tightly woven, with perhaps a few more twists and turns to be resolved along the way.

This doesn't take away from the fact that this is an easy, pleasant, traditional way to while away an hour (with the sound of geese and lambs invading and apparently a shrew making an appearance, drawn by the lure of the cakes!). None of these issues is insolvable, and it is to be hoped that the authors might take the basics of what could be a winning recipe and rework them into something just truly scrumptious.

Robbie Carnegie

CLOSURE - Vision Theatre

Buxton Community School - Drama Studio 9 July (7.30pm) - Remaining Show: 10 July


This uncredited piece of new writing borrows heavily from Amicus' 1972 horror classic 'Tales From The Crypt' and dumps seven unconscious strangers in a fortified warehouse and then subjects their souls to a moral compass; if North is heavenly salvation, the needle seems destined to point due South.

The narrative's strong enough to lead us through the Fay Wray/Rabid opening to the endgame yet doesn't always linger sufficiently on critical issues by overestimating characters' rationality nor allow for a measured build up of tension - an indication of elapsed time would help too.

Content wise, there are issues galore for the seven strong (16-18yo) cast to feast upon, no bad thing given the diminishing foodstuffs. The ensemble measure up well to depicting the strains and stresses of their respective baggage, despite some of the self-confessions spilling forth too readily. Granted all play variations upon a cliché, but there's an honest simplicity of intent and expression throughout, only occasionally challenged by the over dramatic. The early introductory scenes and the first taped voiceover are highlights and there are moments when the distrust and animosity between all are tangible - but overall pacing and static staging do reflect the lack of direction (and editing).

Against other Fringe shows armed with infinitely higher production values, the dice would seem to be loaded for this indie classroom produced drama - the fact that it's more watchable than a number of big budget productions I've seen to date is something that the young cast and crew can happily reflect over...the next time they find themselves locked up for a day or two.


REVERIE by Tom Crawshaw - Three's Company

Reverie from Three's Company

Underground Venues, 8th July 2010

The word 'reverie' conjures up a blissful interlude, a break from everyday life, a time to let your mind wander back to fond memories or forward to secret hopes. To be paid to engage in such a pastime sounds like the ultimate dream job.

Tom Crawshaw's new play is inspired by the concept of lucid dreaming, the idea that some people can become aware that they are dreaming and then take control of what happens. They can draw on their entire memory bank of personal experiences and perceptions, and use it as an artist would a palette to create visions and sensations of extraordinary vividness. Reverie explores what happens when such dreamers use this ability to the limit, constantly inducing a dream state and losing touch with reality.

James, insightfully played by Yaz Al-Shaater, is an unemployed psychology graduate offered a chance to return to his previous field of experimental research, undertaking the role of dreamer himself and recording his experiences. He doesn't look entirely overjoyed at the prospect: perhaps he knows that for him this is dangerous territory. Nevertheless, he increasingly engages with the project to the point where it takes over his life. In the end he cannot connect with anyone except through dreaming.

This is an intriguing piece, well scripted and well delivered by the actors. Perhaps some thought could be given to effects that might further enhance the dream sequences and give the audience more feel for the heightened sensations that entice James into a permanent dream state. That small caveat apart, however, this is a show well worth seeing.

Barbara Wilson

THE SEXES - The Off-Off-Off-Broadway Company

Jaquée (Jaacq Hugo) and Lars (Laura Louise Baker). Photography by Caroline Miller

13, 14th July 10:45pm and 19th July 6:30pm in Underground Venues - The Pauper's Pit

Jaacq Hugo is gorgeous as Jaquée and with a voice to match. Laura Louise Baker as Lars, her husband, makes a less convincing man than Jaacq makes woman but there's a deal of fun to be had with this gender bending. I cannot be sure whether the actors intend to call each other Laura and Jaacq rather than Lars and Jaquée to add confusion or whether this is an occasional slip.

The scene is simple - the dressing room after a joint performance by the couple who have been married for years. The plot is that they both crave the role of hooker in a new play by an old friend. A "real" part rather than the potboilers that have kept food on the table for so many years.

What this simple conceit generates is a wide-ranging discussion of their marital and acting history and through this the roles and fates of men and women, the nature of acting and the springs that drive the need to perform.

The writing covers these areas intelligently but the performance only occasionally comes to life. Jaquée is too consistently languid and monochrome, the painting needs chiaroscuro. Perhaps it is not too late for writer/director Polis Loizou to step in here. There's more can be done with this.

John Wilson

THE BENEFIT OF TIME by Terri-Ann Brumby - Organised Chaos Productions

credit: Emma McMorrow

Organised Chaos Productions (lovely name!) was set up in 2009 to "help and support undiscovered and emerging talent in Manchester and the North West"

If this play is going to be the standard they achieve in future, the North West is in for some real treats.

Terri-Ann Brumby an actress and playwright from Disley submitted the script to the company in response to a script call in 2009 and when they read it they must have known they had a potential winner.

The writing cleverly catches the change in character and circumstances of "dull" Debbie Green as she undergoes regression hypnosis - a 40th Birthday gift from her work colleagues -and finds out who she was in a former life ..... or was she?

The unexpected twists in the plot wittily portray how a non-person which is how Debbie describes herself can almost overnight become a "celebrity" in her office which leads to some unexpected outcomes.

The lead is taken by Suzanne Roche plays the parts of the several Debbies so convincingly that one can believe how this seemingly irredeemably dull person is transformed into .... well you really should go and see the play to find out. It would give too much away to describe the changes which the hypnosis brings about in Debbie's "lives" but the transformation is wonderfully brought out by Suzanne.

The part of her unscrupulous (and dim?) hypnotist Donald, gives great scope to Hamish Sturgeon who seizes the opportunity with relish though one wonders if he could really have convinced even Debbie that he was genuine.

The design and direction are both excellent.

Mike Monaghan

J AND C - Candid Theatre

J and C

9th July 9:30, 10,11th July 10:45 Underground Venues - Pauper's Pit

You will rarely see so many words in such a small space so flawlessly delivered. In a work of such density, with so many inversions, twists and reversals and so full of meanings the writer is lucky to be served by such accomplished delivery.

Pinter this writing ain't. Becket is there with some of the density of the Molloy trilogy and the sweet cadences of Shakespeare occasionally catch the wind. The words fly by so fast the audience is left gasping in their wake, trailing after them and caught from behind by the next ones.

Two characters Julian and Clown (George Wilson and Timmy Jones) discuss their own existence and nature. Julian is a taxman, voluble and excitable, Clown a gravedigger, strangely stiff and unco-operative. Beyond this they know nothing. They attempt to write their own history, discussing art, vanity, the meaning of meaning, symbols and a thousand other brief ideas along the way. They despise and fear the author who commissions and sentences them.

Sentences? A double meaning? But gone so fast it is only recaptured in memory.

Occasionally a thought from the author interrupts their introspection and the characters become puppets, wooden and unconvincing. And then a prolonged sequence from the author sees the characters come alive but without any plot.

In the beginning there is blank, blank, blank and then there is light. But when the light goes out then interesting things happen, then creatures evolve and learn to exist without their author.

Ben Aitken the author and director has written a play about the writing of plays, the development of character and the growth of a plot in their world. In the end the characters take over, the author is shrunk and the play can begin. Or end?

John Wilson


credit: Kevin Clifford

Underground Venues, 7 Jul, 6.30pm, 8 Jul 9.30pm, 9 Jul, 6.30pm, 10 Jul 9.30pm.

A spot-lit cardboard box is skewered with a multitude of stakes - not the usual start to a love story but then this is a story told most uniquely - full of smoke and smoking, magic and movement.

In the perfect setting of the Paupers Pit, the two actors re-live the arc of their relationship from first sight through frantic texting to first kiss followed by the inevitable domestic arguments and... well, you just have to go and experience it for yourself, I shouldn't spoil it for you. This is a welcome return visit of last year's 'Best Production' Fringe award winner.

Once the skewered cardboard box is packed away, there are many magic flourishes that pepper the plot but though I was often left wondering how they achieved some of these, the magic never got in the way of the story and was well integrated with the excellent, often witty dialogue and sinuous dance of their relationship. Special mention should be made of the beautiful Maya Politaki who moves like an angel throughout - dressed all in white to contrast with John van der Put in his black suit.

And as if all this wasn't enough, then there was the smoking! Cigarettes appeared by magic, were lit with elan and consumed with a passion. Some might find it all a bit, well, smoky and indeed there was an official warning given by front of house staff before things kicked off. However for an ex-smoker (and in some ways the production lets you know that you never really quit), the curl of smoke and the ritual of consumption were beautifully nostalgic.

At bottom this is the age old tale of boy meets girl, told warmly and with wit and best of all we end up liking the couple enough to really care how things turn out.

Dan Osborne

BURTON'S LAST CALL by George Telfer - Dotted Line Productions

George Telfer as Richard Burton

JULY 7th 2010 : Underground Venues - Pauper's Pit

Dotted Line Productions

George Telfer was last at the Buxton Fringe in 2009 in a memorable performance as the ageing John Gielgud. He now returns playing Richard Burton.

One could hardly think of a greater contrast in personality and physical presence than that of the "wild Welshman" and the quintessential Englishman. So it was with considerable interest that I approached George's 2010 contribution to The Fringe. Could Sir John transform himself into our swaggering Welsh hero?

I need not have had any worries. This is a performance to savour.

Richard Burton was a larger than life character - probably best known for his stunning performance in the radio play Under Milk Wood by fellow Welshman & boozer Dylan Thomas & of course his stormy marriage to and acting roles opposite Elizabeth Taylor, of whom he once said "Our love is so furious that we burn each other out"

This comes out brilliantly in this one man show. It is set in his dressing room on Broadway as he is preparing to take his call to go on stage in the play Equus. He is reminiscing about his life and at times raging about the demons that have caused him so much grief; these include drink, cigarettes and girls. We get glimpses of the vulnerable man behind the swagger and the fame, his love for his first wife, his children and his early mentors from Wales. And overshadowing much of his life was the nightmare of his marriage(s) to Elizabeth Taylor.

It is a compelling story and is brilliantly & touchingly brought to life.

No one could reproduce the unique, thrilling sound of Burton's voice but this performance came mighty close to making you feel you were in the presence of one of our great and tragically flawed actors.

A show not to be missed.

Mike Monaghan