The decision to begin this year's Fringe a week before its International big sister has resulted in a gradual, stuttering, slightly bewildered start.
There has however, already been one minor scandal. After the first performance of Northern Theatre Company's Myra And Me at the Gilded Balloon last week, venue sponsors Calder's Brewery reneged on their earlier support. It can now be seen, slightly truncated for reasons of scheduling only, at the Observer Assembly (venue 3). This is deplorable not simply on principle, but also because the play is only tangentially "about" Myra Hindley – the words "And Me" are the important part.
Playwright Diane Dubois has taken the situation of a post-student household in which one woman is commissioned to script a TV documentary about Hindley and intelligently and sensitively used it to ask questions about life, art, sensationalism and supply-and-demand media "infotainment". The play does not for a moment pretend to have any answers, but as one character says: "Not to look [at what we fear] – now that is disrespectful." It is grimly ironic that events depicted on stage have foretold the work's own knee-jerk reception.
Another show with a similarly gloomy point of departure, Moira Buffini and Anna Reynolds' Jordan, makes its Edinburgh debut at the Pleasance (venue 33) several years after its first outing in London. I am glad to have had this opportunity to say how richly deserved its reputation is. Buffini (directed by her twin sister Fiona) plays Shirley Jones, who escapes from a bleak northern childhood into an even bleaker, violent relationship. Buffini's writing and performance alike are sympathetic, agonising, and at times even find shafts of humour amid the tragedy.
Rodney Bewes's return performance of Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog) is... well, exactly as you would expect Three Men In A Boat to be when performed by Rodney Bewes: affable, diverting and well enough performed, but never demanding.
The greatest delight of my Fringe so far has been Ben Moor's solo comic narrative My Last Week With Modolia (Pleasance). This year he succeeds admirably. As his twentysomething character recounts the history of his love affair with an octogenarian cosmetic surgeon, Moor's trademark oblique observations blend beautifully with a child-like, though never cloying, wonder. Last Week... is as sweet as the nut that Moor undeniably is.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
Return to index of reviews for the year 1998
Return to master reviews index
Return to main theatre page
Return to Shutters homepage