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Tonight Matthew I'm going to see...

GT's closing selection of Edinburgh Fringe reviews


Educating Rita
 
THEATRE
Assembly George
 
***
 
Yeh. It doesn’t matter who’s doin’ it, does it? It’s the same play isn’t it?
 
I think we can be pretty certain that when Willy Russell included the above line in his popular classic Educating Rita, he never in his wildest dreams though that international Brookside superstar and occasional Loose Women panelist Claire Sweeney would be cast in the title role, let alone play opposite Stars In Their Eyes’ very own bestower of dreams Matthew Kelly.
 
I knew it was going to be hard to shake memories of Sweeney and Kelly’s former lives, and combining this conflict with my undying adoration of the movie adaptation starring Julie Walters, Michael Caine and one gloriously questionable synthesized soundtrack, my outlook on this touring adaptation of Educating Rita was always to be affected. However one must try to ignore this, to ignore the fact that the set’s central window bore a frightening resemblance to those famous sparkling doors and comment without prejudice, however hard this may be...
 
A charming contemporary classic, Educating Rita follows Liverpudlian hairdresser Rita in her decision to enroll on an Open University course in English Literature, her studies lead by alcoholic academic Frank. Borrowing from Shaw’s Pygmalion, the relationship between the pair is a comic and touching journey, although in this Fringe 2012 rendering Kelly and Sweeney fail to fully recreate this chemistry. A weak grasp of comic timing slows the piece in areas, as do the clumsy scene changes, and its hard to connect with Sweeney’s rather uncharismatic portrayal of Rita. It’s not to say the production isn’t enjoyable, or that I don’t realise the limitations of Russell’s dulogue, it’s just that this all too safe adaptation is unsuccessful in justifying its costly ticket price, especially when contrasted with the abundance of exciting new writing on display at the festival. 

An agreeable production that requires a theatrical 60 Minute Makeover to take it that necessary step further... 

...I told you it would be hard.


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Vinegar Knickers: On The Edge
 
COMEDY
Just the Tonic
 
**
 
 
Vinegar Knickers: On The Edge is a pedestrian hour that fails to completely engage or maintain amusement. Some may find a flicker of enjoyment, but then again some people unironically listen to Lemar.
 
One of the core reasons this show failed to humour me was its proud riding of the zeitgeist, painfully obvious references never a second away; Europe’s The Final Countdown and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata boast inclusion on the soundtrack, and yet another rewriting of Adele’s Someone Like You is deemed an appropriate climax to the hour. It doesn’t exactly scream originality; it’s more of a whisper in the vacuum of outer space.
 
A painfully confusing component of Vinegar Knicker’s set is the insecure attempt at some sort of meta narrative structure that only serves to fully destroy any comedic potential. Intermittently throughout the show the performers play themselves and provide comment on the ‘edgy’ quality of their material, hence the title. It perplexes that at no point in the set does the material even boarder on such, and if this is some attempt at irony it only confirms a lack of consideration for the show as an entity. If you think a series of Hitler impressions, Facebook puns or sketches about The Apprentice can be deemed as ‘edgy’, I pity you. If anything, they are firmly rooted in the mainland of mediocrity.
 
Vinegar Knickers may brand themselves as ‘surreal and thought provoking’ however the trio’s contribution to this year’s festival is an easily forgettable experience that doesn’t quite know what it is. 

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Through the Looking Screen
 
MUSICALS AND OPERA
Underbelly
 
***
 
Over the course of the month I have lost count the number of shows placing social networking sites as the focus of their writing, be it comedy or theatre. This overexposure has caused me to approach shows advertised as such with extreme trepidation and so I’ll admit that I surprised myself upon finding myself in the audience of Through The Looking Screen, a comedy opera ‘about a single girl’s pursuit for love on social networks’. However here is where any sense of surprise ended, as what followed was a predictable hour that may have impressed with its musicality, but failed to stir more than a feeble titter from most of the audience.
 
Musical comedy rarely achieves what it sets out to do, as successfully crafting jokes in to the confined space of a vocal score is a rare talent that is harbored by few. Despite the undeniable talent Anne Chemelewsky has as a composer, her writing falls short in sustaining interest beyond this. A clichéd comment on the effect of social networking sites on human interaction, the anecdotes and musings of Chemelewsky’s protagonist have their moments of charm yet are ineffective in supplying a fresh outlook on the appropriate surrounding debates or rousing sufficient laughter.
 
The obvious choice of topic falls short in matching the impressive quality of the musical components of this production. Although enjoyable in parts, Chemelewsky needs to take greater risks in her narrative writing to secure a sustained interest in her musical output. 




Words: Henry Petrides

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