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Somewhere Under the Rainbow – The Liza Minnelli Story
MUSICALS AND OPERA
theSpace @ Symposium Hall
My obsession with Liza Minnelli at one point grew so intense that it culminated in me and a friend blagging our way in to the Loose Women studio where Liza was making a guest appearance. As the only young male in the audience it did mean I was asked to perform some strange mating dance for Denise Welch, but I’d go to fourth base if it meant a second chance of such an intimate experience with Ms Minnelli.
In hopes of such a ticket to Somewhere Under the Rainbow was bought, and it must be said that despite its clichés and simplicity the show provides an innocent and moving appreciation. Sharon Sexton’s (pictured) impersonation is impressive, Liza’s famously crazed vocal intonations down to a tee (or should that be ‘zee’?). Covering classics such as Maybe This Time and Losing My Mind, Sexton’s vocals – despite perhaps even being a little too good for a Liza impression – fuel the songs with their demanded drama.
An enjoyable hour for any Liza fan…and how beautifully postmodern that a Judy Garland tribute was flyering the exit.
Confessions of a Grindr Addict
Judging by the audience around me this is clearly the hot ticket in the eyes of Edinburgh’s gay scene. Humiliating then that was served up was an extra large helping of boredom that had some leaving their seats and myself more interested in the state of my cuticles.
Grindr and its previous equivalents have been the inspiration for a number of productions since the development of their popular status. Tim Fountain’s 2004 show Sex Addict, in which an audience vote over a live stream of Gaydar decided Fountain’s sex partner for the evening, is a famous example and is a suitable point of comparison against Gavin Roach’s Confessions of a Grindr Addict. Whereas Fountain harnassed the interactive and multi-media potential of such online platforms, writer and performer Roach’s assembly is a straightforward and banal retelling of a character’s experiences with the app. There is no invitation as to why the audience should care who this guy has slept with and how, and the comment on social media with regards to human interaction was far too obviously stated and apparent.
If anecdotes this trivial are all an addiction to Grindr can yield, this show surely supplies an incentive to those of you with the app to delete it.
Mae Martin: Mae Day
Just the Tonic @ The Caves
Cute, confident, Canadian, Mae Martin is a complete gem. Her appearance at last year’s festival a memorable highlight, she’s back with 'Mae Day', a show promising to fortify her brilliance in getting right what so many others attempt and overwork.
Martin’s brand of gawky anecdotes and surreal musings are perfectly refined and contained, set alongside guitar accompanied ditties about Facebook stalking, zombie apocalypses, and Don Cheadle. What I can’t get over is how charismatic and engaging Martin’s stage presence is – she completely draws you in, successfully pulling off a brand of self deprecating humour that remains attractive and light-hearted. One could argue a stronger structuring of Martin’s set would be welcome, although perhaps the erratic nature of the covered subjects suits her more conversational tone and format. A certain Julia Roberts impression deserves its own hall of fame, a personal favourite amongst a string of signals that this young comedian has exciting prospects.
There is no doubt Martin’s star quality has the ability to go supernova. I can’t wait to see what lies in store.
Punch & Judy
I am fed up of theatre productions claiming to be adult interpretations of children’s stories. An arena usually reserved for the students in ghoulish face paint that pollute the Royal Mile, it is even more distressing when it is the work of burgeoning theatre companies. Punch & Judy exists as such, warning its audience against bringing small children and yet offering something that is tame and lacking.
Live actors replace the puppets of the popular seaside show, and as far as interpretation goes this is all we get. Although treated to some amateur fight choreography and fake blood, I couldn’t help shake the feeling any under ten year old would rather be in my place. Any possibility of theatrical adaptation in the form of movement or sound is thwarted, a literal and complete relaying of the story appearing to be all we as the audience are trusted with. When looking at the programme it beggars belief that more than the number on stage were involved in the decision making and direction behind this piece, the set a lazy acrylic painted mess and the performances mediocre. After the first ten minutes the glinting green exit sign of the cramped portacabin quickly becomes a mesmerising glimmer of salvation.
If you do decided to take the risk and purchase a ticket, please remember, this show is not suitable for small children. Neither is it suitable for medium sized children, large children, adults, the elderly or animals.
Boy in a Dress
An autobiographical musing crafting spoken word and song, this retropectacle from the transdrogynous performer La JohnJoseph is an engaging vision that hits the mark that so many before have missed. Although the theme of gender sits at the center of the piece the subtler questions that radiate provide the show with a fresher take on a familiar format, posed eloquently by the magnetic La JohnJospeh and his self-penned script.
What hits you first about La JohnJoseph is his bewitching beauty, a heeled and bejeweled rendering of Henry Wallis’ Chatterton. This is soon eclipsed by the quality of the script, a humourous and touching reflection that towards its conclusion harbours excerpts as potent as a curse. It is this that sets the show apart, it being so vitalizing to witness a show that promises to explore the realm of gender not being stuffed to the brim with clichés, or relying too heavily on visuals. Sure there are moments of drama and romanticism, and despite a closing scene involving the smudging of paint on a paper dress and the productions’ choice of title, the balance is refined.
Interluding La JohnJoseph’s monologues are a selection of covered songs performed with the similar style of cracked yet entrancing vocals as the original recording artists. Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat and Tori Amos’ Playboy Mommy are memorable highlights, examples of the less obvious song choices that are a welcome collection.
Overall a moving and witty display that excites me as to La JohnJospeh’s future projects, most particularly as a writer. The forerunner of its kind at this year’s Fringe.
A Real Man’s Guide to Sainthood
Unable to turn the corner this summer without being attacked by a swarm of dickheads in Union Jack leggings, A Real Man's Guide to Sainthood by Milk Presents provides an apt and entertaining reflection on such displays of national identity that are polluting these summer months.
Slowly building an exciting repertoire, the company’s innovation propels their theatrical examination of the myth of Saint George. The production design continues in the inspired manner of the company's contribution to last year’s Fringe, a pedal powered lighting rig and overhead projector effectively generating the location of the saga. Original live music is fused with an amusing yet thought provoking script, the invitation to question the identity of the modern English male met with charm. I’m intrigued to see how the company would handle a departure from their signature style, but if it included cast members Saskia Solomans’ powerful vocals and Adam Robertson’s glorious moustache I’m sure nobody would be complaining.
Book tickets from edfringe.com
Words: Henry Petrides