Edinburgh Review: An Audience With John Smeaton

This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but with ‘An Audience With John Smeaton’. The sweaty, shit-stained hands of The Sun newspaper are behind this one, with Arnold Brown (a now doddering comedian looking perilously ready for the glue farm) interviewing John Smeaton, the baggage handler who earned his fifteen minutes of fame by kicking a terrorist at Glasgow Airport. Smeaton is honest and likeable, but this was an excruciating experience, like watching pop culture trying to sodomise and eat itself at the same time. This is the abyss of our civilisation: Z-list celebrities dancing to a tabloid tune whilst the idle crowd looks on, their empty lives rotting away even as they sit and stare indifferently.

1/5

This review was originally published here.

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Edinburgh Review: Weepie

Sometimes men kill, not for money or love or belief, but simply because they want to. ‘Weepie’, based on a real life murder, follows two youths as they train their bodies and their minds in preparation for a cathartic, random act of violence against a stranger. It is powerfully acted, and there were moments of real intensity, but the script is a mess, and the productions mistakes wild rantings for profound explorations of the psychotic and assumes that constant shouting equals high drama. It has interesting things to say about the homoerotic element of male violence, but these ideas are buried deep within an incoherent and rambling script. A play filled with sound and fury that ultimately signified nothing.

2/5

This review was originally published here.

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Edinburgh Review: Utter! Spoken Word

Unfortunately, performance poetry sometimes attracts people who aren’t good enough to be either comedians or poets and thus try to be both at once instead. This spoken word event wasn’t terrible by any means (although the less said about Ernesto the Naked Poet the better), with the amiable and amusing Simon Munnery on good form and Claire Askew providing a few strong poems, but most of it was too weakly written to satisfy as poetry and considerably less funny than standup comedy. There is a different line-up each day, so anyone interested in poetry should give it a try at least once, but there wasn’t much worth listening to when I was there.

2/5

This review was originally published here.

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Edinburgh Review: Power Plant

If you think the Fringe can offer you no more surprises, then wait until nightfall and head over to ‘Power Plant’. Using the verdant landscape of The Royal Botanical Gardens as a blank canvas to be worked upon, this multimedia installation almost defies description. Wandering from greenhouse to greenhouse like a visitor to some strange alien pod world, you are greeted by chirruping mechanical insects rustling in the bushes, electric sparks dancing amidst the branches of a tree, haunting voices emanating from torn dresses that are hung above a pond, and numerous other strange, playful and often downright spooky sound and light installations. This fusion of nature and technology is weird and wonderful, though a touch overpriced.

4/5

This review was originally published here.

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Edinburgh Festival: Searching For Eden

Do yourself a favour; give this a miss and read ‘Paradise Lost’ instead. Set in the garden of Eden (with an appropriately naked cast), this weak play offers only bland characters, a script devoid of invention and a ludicrously abrupt ending to its audience. It’s anything but a glimpse of Paradise, with a troubling, shallow portrayal of male / female relationships and lack of any kind of humour, drama or meaningful insight. The cast and crew need to chew on the fruit of knowledge for a while longer before they have another crack at theatre: Adam and Eve leave the garden of Eden at the end of the story, but plenty of audience members managed to escape long before they did.

1/5

This review was originally published here.

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Edinburgh Review: The Skin Of Our Teeth

Some plays, even Pulitzer winning plays by great authors, should be left to gather dust on the shelves. Thornton Wilder’s ‘The Skin Of Our Teeth’ is one such play. The time hopping script follows the Antrobus family as they try and stay together throughout ice ages, Biblical floods and seven years wars, and with its allegory, symbolism and direct addresses to the audience, doubtless it was daringly inventive in 1942; now it seems mannered and incoherent. The cast stage it competently, but they fail to make the Antrobus family likeable or believable, giving the audience no human story to engage with. This play needs a radical vision and superb ensemble acting to work, neither of those are present here.

2/5

This review was originally published here.

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Edinburgh Review: Third Breast

How far would you go to create a paradise on earth? Utopia becoming dystopia is a wonderful basis for a story, and so it’s a shame that this play goes so badly awry from the very beginning. It may have been terribly written in its original Polish or just badly translated, but the script was filled entirely with clumsy lines and painfully obvious allegories. The actors had this dud of a script to wrestle with, but their wooden and mannered acting ensured that nothing on stage ever seemed believable, and the live music, consisting entirely of cheesy dramatic chords at obvious moments, was the final kiss of death to a performance that was flawed on every level.

1/5

This review was originally published here.

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