Monday, 1 September 2014

Old Stuff what I did (2007)

I'm digging in my crates. Here are some reviews what I did for Fest magazine in 2007, during the Fringe.

What If? 
Predictable and tensionless, there are few insights about MySpace to be found here

The absence of a ‘script-writer’ in the programme suggests that either no-one wished to take responsibility for the weakest part of this production, or that the dialogue was cobbled together in collaboration by the cast and creative team. Either way, the competent score, the attention grabbing set and the enthusiastic performances cannot compensate for the less than rudimentary appreciation of the possibilities of theatre.

All three characters – internet stalker Neil, unscrupulous journalist Josh and fantasy projection She – are unsympathetic. Basing a play on the growth of sites like MySpace and Facebook is predictable and – in this case – deeply facile. The deepest insight offered is that there can be a disparity between online and offline identities. The narrator intrudes far too much, turning the play into a storytelling session, and the lack of tension is so palpable that What If? barely registers as a narrative.

About as exciting as watching an internet café, it sets its sights low and fails to achieve them. Narrator Naveed Khan has a soothing voice and measured tone, Alexis Terry is appropriately lovelorn while Jonah Dill-D’Ascoli and James Cooper make the best of their one-dimensional characters: but sympathy for the performers is a poor substitute for engagement.

An anti-Iraq War message that bravely avoids sentimentality or simplistic slogans

A fast-paced study of a soldier’s post-war breakdown, Melancholia incorporates Shakespeare, dance and bleak fatalism into an anti-Iraq War message that bravely avoids sentimentality or simplistic slogans. While the subject has been covered by The Deer Hunter, the contemporary setting and Latino perspective makes the play more than a predictable retread.

The large and lively cast careers through the life of Mario, who enlists out of vague patriotism and a need for meaning, but returns from Iraq nursing serious mental illness. Through hallucinatory flashbacks and symbolic dance routines, Mario and his two daemonic companions unravel his despair.

The suggestive set, surreal costumes and energy of the performers allow the events to inhabit a space on the boundaries of realism and imagination, using enough theatrical tricks to articulate ideas without loosing any emotional impact. Perceived through his own eyes and those of his family, Mario’s conduct is brutal, but he retains the audience’s sympathy. The political context is mentioned, but not over-played, and the cost of the war on the home front is emphasised. The LTC are a gifted young company: they engage, entertain and educate in an uplifting way, despite the brave refusal to compromise their intentions.

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