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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. My feature writing covers celebrity interviews, human interest stories, restaurant reviews, travel articles and opinion pieces, as well as theatre, music and art reviews. Publications I write for include The Guardian, Scotland on Sunday, the Sunday Times, The Herald and The Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Monday, May 26, 2014

Commonwealth Games inspire sport and theatre link-up

Published in the Scotsman
Preview of sports-themed shows

THE COMMONWEALTH Games are still a couple of months away but the spirit of athleticism is already galvanising the world of theatre. Not only in the official Commonwealth Culture 2014 programme but also in outbursts of activity beyond, theatre makers are taking the idea of competitive sport and running with it. Some are also pedalling with it.

Among them is actor Tam Dean Burn who is currently in training for The Marathon Storytelling Cycle Challenge (14 June to 3 August), in which he will get on his bike to follow the Queen’s Baton Relay across Scotland, stopping off to read from all 184 of Julia Donaldson’s books and plays as he goes.
By the time he finishes, the English company HandleBards will be cycling from venue to venue on the Scottish leg of its three-month UK tour of Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors (19 July to 10 August).

The four actors are carrying their eco-friendly set with them on their 2,000 mile trek, which will produce 45.6 tonnes fewer CO2 emissions than the same journey by car.

“Getting to see the amazing British countryside is also a huge benefit to cycling and performing in outdoor venues,” says tour manager Paul Moss. “I’m particularly excited about performing Macbeth on Dunsinane Hill, which might very well be one of this year’s highlights.”

But why stop with the actors being on bikes? Glasgow children’s theatre company Visible Fictions is taking to the parks of Scotland to stage The Spokesmen, a mobile comedy that a small audience of over-eights will follow on two wheels.

The company has got hold of 40 bikes and helmets of various sizes from Raleigh and will be showing up in popular spots such as Almondell Country Park in Livingston and the Cammo Estate in Edinburgh to perform the two-man comedy.
“All these wonderful memories of being on your bike as a kid come hurtling back,” says writer and director Douglas Irvine, who is loving the excuse to get on his own bike again. “That sense of freedom and the possibility that you can go on any adventure anywhere. It’s a freeing way to travel. Hopefully this show will get some other people back on their bikes again.”

In the promenade production, Alan McHugh and Simon Donaldson play two clown-like characters leading the audience on a guided tour of their local park. What starts out as a legitimate cycling tour takes an unexpected – and funny – turn as their relationship with their home turf turns out not to be all it seems.
Because no two parks are the same, Irvine has had to give the play a flexible structure, allowing the order of scenes to change even as the overarching narrative remains the same.

“We’ve had to create different endings for each scene depending on the order,” he says. “You want it to feel it belongs to this park – it’s important to be celebrating the place. If there’s something in the park that the company can refer to or respond to, that must and should happen. Every day it will be different and the two actors are just brilliant improvisers.”

There’ll be a pleasure, meanwhile, simply in following the show around. “We were concerned about how you maintain a narrative tension when you’re going from location to location,” he says. “But when we tried it, everyone said, ‘But Dougie, we just want to enjoy the cycle. You’ve taken us to a beautiful park, so let’s enjoy it.’”

Among the summer’s other shows on a sports theme are Tell Me What Giving Up Looks Like (Arches, Glasgow, 25 June), in which actor Robert Softley and athlete Joe Brown contemplate disability and sport; Endurance (Arches, Glasgow, 24–27 July), in which Catrin Evans looks at the changing role of women in competitive sport; and News Just In, a theatrical soap opera by Random Accomplice that will take place every night of the Games.

But first, after a marathon-level of co-ordination, Glasgow’s Citizens’ Theatre has commissioned more than a dozen writers to share their memories of school competitions for a theatrical anthology called Sports Day.

Leading lights including Davey Anderson, Peter Arnott, Lynda Radley, Alan McHugh, Linda McLean, Ian Pattison, Gary McNair, Johnny McKnight, Julia Taudevin, Liam Harkins, Nalini Chetty, John Kielty and Douglas Maxwell have provided mini plays to be performed by a 60-strong community cast. They’ll be led by professional actor Joyce Falconer as a school janitor on her leaving day after 25 years in the job.

“We’ve put the plays very broadly into a chronology,” says co-director Guy Hollands. “So there’s stuff about preparing for a sports day, about the staff who are in the midst of organising it very close to the day itself and then at the end are the actual races. There are also leftfield contributions: Daniel Jackson, for example, sent a beautiful two-pager about a man watching the school sports day from a distance and running a book on it, which is a brilliant idea.”

Unlike several of the playwrights he has commissioned, Hollands is a keen sportsman and a fierce advocate for the role of sport in education. “I have nothing but positive memories about sport, which was a big part of my upbringing,” he says. “I’ve always been a believer in the value of sport. It’s a hugely important thing for a lot of young people who may not be excelling in other areas. Sadly, it still doesn’t feel like sport has its proper place within the school system.”

Adding a few more layers to the production, he has commissioned five songs from a prestigious line-up of composers including Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines, Alun Woodward, formerly of The Delgados, and Jill O’Sullivan of Sparrow and the Workshop.

“Those songs have a wry, looking-back sense of not being able to do it very well,” laughs Hollands. “But the tone is light. We wanted this to be a celebratory event about what is an upbeat, positive happening in the lives of schools.”
Our prediction? This show will run and run.

© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Theatre review: Woman in Mind

Published in the Guardian
Dundee Rep
Four stars

I RECENTLY spent a week in a hotel in Eastbourne. At the end of my stay, I felt that I had a better understanding of Alan Ayckbourn. Previously, I'd encountered his class of characters only on the stage. I'd half suspected that his particular breed of privileged home-counties ladies and blimpish retired colonels didn't actually exist for real. However, in Eastbourne, they certainly did.
So it's all the more fascinating to be back in Scotland watching Marilyn Imrie's tremendous production of the playwright's 1985 comic drama and find her putting Ayckbourn's middle-class Englishness at one remove.
Susan, the woman we find concussed on the back lawn at the start of the play, has all the attributes that Ayckbourn gave her – she's witty, self-deprecating and under extreme psychological pressure – but she's also Scottish.
And when she comes round, hemmed in by the silver birches of Ti Green's set, looming like a sinister extension of her troubled mental state, something significant has changed. She has acquired a pristine English accent.
As Ayckbourn wrote it, her mental breakdown is expressed in terms of a retreat into an idyll of champagne breakfasts and jolly tennis matches. Here, there's an extra level of dislocation because her hallucination takes place in a semi-mythical England. It makes Ayckbourn's strange Englishness seem stranger still.
Coming across like a companion piece to Anthony Neilson's The Wonderful World of Dissocia, Woman in Mind is a funny and unsettling vision of mental ill health, its cosy rituals of family life acting as a thin veneer to cover Susan's awful inner torment.
In the lead role, Meg Fraser switches gracefully between deadpan putdown, breezy charm and emotional terror. It's a superb performance, given excellent support from Neil McKinven, bringing a Chekhovian level of ineptness to the doctor, and Richard Conlon as a husband who is alone in finding his own jokes funny.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Theatre review: Pressure

Published in the Guardian
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh (and Chichester Festival Theatre)
Three stars

WE'RE watching an action-adventure yarn. At stake is the very foundation of western civilisation. Time is running out and only one man can save the world. Except the hero is not Jack Bauer, running through the streets of London in 24: Live Another Day, but a portly blue-collar worker scribbling down numbers at a desk. More unlikely still, he is a weatherman.
His name is Group Captain Dr James Stagg, a studious meteorologist from Midlothian, and he has been given the weekend to come up with a forecast for Monday 5 June 1944, the intended date of the D-Daylandings. Getting it wrong will imperil the lives of 156,000 troops and secure Hitler's victory in Europe. Getting it right will change the course of history.
It sounds as improbable as Met Office: The Musical, or The Tragedy of Michael Fish, but the playwright David Haig, who also plays Stagg with an air of brusque preoccupation, manages to make the stuff of westerly flows, barographs and geostrophic currents into a highly watchable single-set drama.
He finds an antagonist in the form of Irving P Crick (Tim Beckmann), a US weatherman with a feeble grasp of the jet stream, and works in that staple of disaster movies, a heavily pregnant wife with, yes, high blood pressure. He even ratchets up the tension with the analogue equivalent of Chloe O'Brian patching the schematics to Bauer's PDA, when Stagg's team receive a welter of bewildering scientific data over the phone.
It's a straight bio-drama with no metaphor, moral or message beyond the facts of the true-life story, but thanks to the director John Dove's lucid production (en route to Chichester), it has a crowd-pleasing pace. And it's the only time you'll hear an audience suppress a cheer at a change in the onstage weather.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Theatre review: The Libertine

Published in the Guardian
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

WHEN Jacob Huysmans painted John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester, he pictured Wilmot in the company of a monkey. The 17th-century courtier and satirist looked suitably grand standing in his periwig, while the animal clutched a book and proffered a scrap of paper like a simian poet laureate. It was a challenge to everything a noble portrait was supposed to be, and even now it seems slyly subversive.
This is the Wilmot portrayed by Stephen Jeffreys in The Libertine, now given an intelligent, fluid and gutsy staging by Dominic Hill 20 years after its Out of Joint premiere. But instead of the light-hearted transgressor, bending the rules for our entertainment, this man has turned the decadence of the court of Charles II into something self-destructive, narcissistic and cruel. He tells us as much in a direct audience address – "You will not like me" – and spends the rest of a long play resisting our urge to paint him as a maverick hero.
It's a task Martin Hutson takes on with single-minded authority, sharing with the large ensemble a clear command of Jeffreys's fruity faux-Restoration language and, after sundry acts of sex and violence, descending into a miserable vision of alcoholic decrepitude. Like Doctor Faustus – staged last year by Hill – he is drawn to hedonistic excess only to find the pleasure is as ephemeral as a stage illusion.
Pulled between the mirror images of Lucianne McEvoy as his wife and Gillian Saker as his mistress – two elegant red-headed doppelgangers – he wrestles with the binary attractions of town and country, truth and illusion, head and heart, before his own self-serving cynicism eats him up.
It is staged in the stripped-back, rehearsal-room style that Hill has made his own, with Tom Piper's illustrative backcloths dropping in and out; actors lurk upstage when it's not their scene. In this case, a technique designed to focus our attention on the make-believe work of the actor has the twin effect of drawing out the playwright's theme about the allure of theatrical artifice. Rochester finds greater truth among the playhouse creatures than he does in real life – at least until his associate George Etherege (Tony Cownie on top form) has an unexpected hit with The Man of Mode, a play that caricatured and neutered him.
In our own age of austerity, Rochester's battle with decadence is not the most pressing of dilemmas, but the swagger and pace of this richly acted production give it life and urgency.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Theatre review: Uncle Varick

Published in the Guardian
Rapture Theatre on tour
Three stars

ANTON Chekhov's plays are populated with characters burdened by a sense of missed opportunity, but they are not mere exercises in self-pity. He has too great an awareness of the world beyond for that. For all their farcical failures and thwarted ambitions, his characters are products of their society – one that is changing in ways they cannot control.
That's why John Byrne alights on the 1960s for the setting of this transposition of Uncle Vanya, first seen 10 years ago. The estate of pompous cultural pundit Sandy Sheridan may seem cut off from the tides of time as it sits in isolated grandeur in the north-east of Scotland, but this is the swinging era of Rubber Soul, pop art and two-tone mini-skirts, as postwar education reforms are breaking down the old hierarchies. Like it or not, something's got to give.
In this context, Jimmy Chisholm's Varick is a man who has downplayed his intelligence in deference to John Stahl's vainglorious Sutherland, a superficial fraud who has sustained a media career on borrowed ideas. Where the towering Stahl is bad tempered, arrogant and relentlessly successful, the light-footed Chisholm is funny, cynical and defeated. The legacy of the aristocratic order means the best man does not win.
Working counter to the spirit of this update is a rather Victorian staging by Michael Emans that seems restrained by the shallowness of Jessica Brettle's attractively dilapidated set. Confined to the wooden floorboards, the actors can't quite let you forget they're on a stage. I've seen it funnier, sadder and more purposeful, but the performances are very good, with George Anton repressing his animal passions as a patrician doctor, Maureen Carr relishing Byrne's baroque phrasings as the old nurse, Ashley Smith touchingly stoical as the lovelorn Shona, and Selina Boyack suggesting the loneliness behind an ice-cold exterior as Sheridan's wife.

© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Theatre review: Dear Scotland

Published in the Guardian
NTS at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
Four stars

ROBERT Burns says you should vote yes to Scottish independence. Chic Murray reckons we're better together. Muriel Spark urges you to "act without timidity or fear" – a sentiment echoed by Mary Queen of Scots, who recommends you "be whole, be strong, be merciful". Robert Cunninghame Graham, a founder of the Scottish National party, cautions you to "raise the flag of your humanity beside the flag of your nationhood".
At least, that's what they say in this invigorating collaboration between the National Theatre of Scotland and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in which 20 writers have each given voice to a painting, sculpture or photograph in the collection.
The effect on the two after-hours tours can be dizzying. It's a leap just to get your head around the idea that the actor Maureen Beattie is speaking the words of AL Kennedy in the guise of Robert Louis Stevenson in front of a bust by David Watson Stevenson. That the poet Jackie Kay appears both as a writer (imagining union leader Mick McGahey in a democratic heaven) and as a bronze bust (words by Rona Munro) adds further levels of complexity.
The national question looms large, with strong satirical contributions from Peter Arnott, whose Sir Walter Scott claims credit for inventing Scottish identity inside the union, and Iain Heggie, whose James VI agonises over the designs for the union flag. But several times it's the more oblique responses that make the biggest impression: Nicola McCartney focusing on a bystander at a scene of royal pomp; Jo Clifford noticing the faceless woman in a pub dominated by male poets; Zinnie Harris demanding we take seriously a display of forgotten 19th-century women.
This excellently acted production by Catrin Evans and Joe Douglas turns a gallery full of establishment stuffed shirts into a place of radical provocation.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Theatre review: The Forbidden Experiment

Published in the Guardian
Enormous Yes at the Arches, Glasgow
Three stars

INCHKEITH is an island in the Firth of Forth, a short distance north of Edinburgh. For a small place, it's had a colourful history. According to the 16th-century historian Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, Scotland's King James IV used it to conduct an experiment into the origins of language by sending a mute woman and two infants to live there in isolation, hoping they would develop a pre-Tower of Babel speech. It was subsequently turned into a colony for sufferers of plague and syphilis, and in later years it was the site of undercover military operations.
All this, in the hands of young Glasgow company Enormous Yes, winners of this year's Arches Platform 18 award, makes Inchkeith a repository of society's neuroses, hang-ups and embarrassing secrets. It's a latter-day Pandora's box, housing all the world's ills and going further by purging them, too. Here, writer/performer Michael John O'Neill cleanses his guilty conscience after behaving appallingly at a party and, here, a couple of US marines seem to absorb the moral horror of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.
The production is directed by Rob Jones (who also appears on stage), with expressive dance by Zosia Jo and live music by Matt Regan, who melds end-of-the-pier organ with BBC Radiophonic Workshop blips and bleeps and occasional Americana guitar. What starts as a jokey Peepolykus-style mixture of incompetence and inter-company spats builds through a collage of monologue, video projection and animation into a more serious study of transgression and redemption.
The material, by their own tongue-in-cheek admission, is "qualitative not quantitative", but its real problem is that it's not fully integrated into a coherent whole. It's less than the sum of its interesting parts. An enormous yes for a bright and imaginative company and a cautious yes for the show.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Theatre review: Cars and Boys

Published in the Guardian
Dundee Rep
Four stars

IMAGINE a bedbound Peer Gynt. That's what Ann Louise Ross brings to mind playing Catherine Miller in Stuart Paterson's free-form poem of a play. It's about a woman stopped in her tracks by a stroke and cast on an epic journey that, due to the disorientation of her condition, blurs the boundaries of past and present, fact and fantasy.
Plays about people at the end of their life often run into the problem of inertia. When all the conflict is in the past, it's hard for the playwright to build momentum. Here, the boss of a road-haulage business may be in a hospital, half paralysed and frequently unable to speak, but like the road that divides the audience in Lisa Sangster's purpose-built set, she still has places to go before she relinquishes control.
Equally, although Cars and Boys appears to be going somewhere, it's not always certain where. Miller is on a quest for resolution, and her head is full of loose ends: lost loves from the 1950s, her grandson's sex life, theScottish independence debate, the future of her business. The confusion is part of the point, but it's hard to know if these disconnected stories have some greater significance.
Paterson's lyricism, playfulness and vigour ward off the impulse to be maudlin or nostalgic. Accompanied by Greg Sinclair's live cello in Philip Howard's good-looking production, it is a dreamlike piece of theatre, more evocation than drama, that never ceases to grip.
No small credit for this must go to Ross, whose hard-as-nails performance reveals a woman who won't easily be dragged down by the ghostly visitations from the past, nor by the attempts of family and staff to stop her being so wilfully herself. As her character ails, Ross remains a dynamic theatrical force.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Theatre review: The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler

Published in the Guardian
Vanishing Point on tour
Four stars

IF THERE was ever an unlikely candidate for a tribute musical it's Ivor Cutler. An acquired taste even in his lifetime, the self-styled "oblique musical philosopher" existed in a hinterland between late-night John Peel, homespun poetry and post-Goons comedy. Seeing him on stage in the 80s, I was always fascinated by a figure who seemed to have invented himself, a performer with neither precedent nor peer.
One of the best things about this marvellous production by Vanishing Point and the National Theatre of Scotland is how it provides the missing context. It's partly the way Sandy Grierson tells Cutler's life story, breaking off for poems, stories and songs en route. He takes us from bullied Glasgow schoolboy to hapless RAF pilot, unfashionably liberal schoolteacher and, after a move to London, his role as Buster Bloodvessel in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour. In itself, the narrative is unremarkable – certainly less remarkable than the man himself – but it functions as a convenient structure on which to hang his work.
More particularly, the context is fleshed out by James Fortune's live band, which explores the musical pedigree of Cutler's harmonium, drawing out its roots in Scottish lament, Jewish klezmer, calypso and modern jazz. It shows the work to be even richer than you appreciated, even if, like Grierson's performance, the music rises to a level of exuberance that is out of step with the poet's minimalist persona.
This is no Stars in Their Eyes pastiche and yet Grierson captures perfectly Cutler's emphatic cadences, precise enunciation and tone, which was too dry to be droll and too funny to be petulant. Playing opposite a gorgeously contained Elicia Daly as girlfriend Phyllis King, he shows Cutler as an artist straddling the unsettling boundary between the violent and the whimsical, the existential and the surreal. It is the tribute of a true devotee.
Fittingly, director Matthew Lenton prizes the aural as highly as the visual, switching from the radio techniques of the foley artist to Kai Fischer's striking lighting designs as quickly as he moves from spoken word to rock. The production is rich in quirky metatheatrical detail, not least in a series of cameo caricatures by actor-musician Ed Gaughan, which are tempered only a little by the story of Cutler's dementia prior to his death in 2006. Poignancy aside, the result is a big grin of a show, as funny and idiosyncratic as Cutler and every bit as embraceable.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Theatre review: The Secret Life of Suitcases

Published in the Guardian
On tour
Three stars

IN THE standard Kafkaesque nightmare, the hero always finds himself trapped in a hell of red tape with no chance of escape. The difference here, in this sweet-natured puppet fantasy for the over-fives, is that fastidious Larry rather enjoys his dreary desk job.
Recalling one of Don Martin's long-faced cartoons from Mad magazine, this happy office worker taps away at his keyboard as he processes the steady flow of tickets that pop up in front of him. Such is his dedication to the task that his colleagues know to keep their distance. Larry's far too busy to break for coffee or lunch.
That's until his routine is broken. In a shocking and funny intrusion from the natural world, the next thing to pop through the slot in his desk (built from a suitcase like everything in this boxed-in world) is a bright green leaf. This call of the wild symbolises everything – beauty, freedom, imagination – that Larry has repressed. His neat-and-tidy absolutism has been challenged.
It's a fine starting point for puppeteer Ailie Cohen, performing alongside Rick Conte, to exploit the creative possibilities of her artform. Larry finds himself taken on a transformative journey from high seas to deep outer space, relinquishing control to the Quarks, a free-floating species of golden-brown suitcase dwellers, who have taken it upon themselves to bring balance to the lopsided universe.
If you find yourself with a lacklustre star, these are the creatures who will restore its sparkle. Where you encounter conflict, they will send a package of love and hugs. And for a man bereft of creativity, they will provide adventure.
Co-written by Lewis Hetherington and with autumn dates already lined up at London's Unicorn, The Secret Life of Suitcases is a quietly inventive tale of discovery in which the good guy confronts his fears and comes out even better.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Theatre review: Union

Published in the Guardian
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
Two stars

WAS THERE a secret clause in the 1707 Act of Union? Did it state that every Scottish historical drama had to be set in a pub off Edinburgh's Royal Mile, populated by ne'er-do-wells, undercover nobles and a poet who would declaim Roman verse whenever the conversation flagged? Was there a further stipulation that no woman could appear unless she were a prostitute or a royal?
If so, then playwright Tim Barrow follows the decree to the letter. But it's not over-familiarity that lets Union down so much as its lack of narrative interest.
Given the urgency of the subject matter, this is odd. Six months before Scotland votes on independence, the play highlights the shaky foundation of the union. With Daniel Defoe acting as a go-between for the English establishment, it shows how Scotland's parliamentarians, financially crippled by the colonial misadventure of the Darien scheme, were bribed to vote in favour of a united kingdom.
Barrow establishes this early on and returns to it at the end. In between, there is little conflict and much extraneous material. You could imagine it adapting well to a House of Cards-style study of realpolitik as nobles are nobbled and favours called in. Instead, Barrow gets distracted by the inconsequential relationship between the poet Allan Ramsay and a prostitute, and by the ravings of a potty-mouthed Queen Anne. Perhaps we're supposed to see the prostitute's abortion as a symbol of Scotland's thwarted ambitions and the queen's miscarriages as a metaphor for England's emotional dead-end, but the ideas are not developed and the scenes hard to justify.
Mark Thomson's cast show flashes of inspiration, but tonally it's all over the place, swerving between serious costume drama and pantomimic satire. And although the fate of two nations is in the balance, it's surprisingly easy to forget what's at stake.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Launch of Edinburgh International Festival 2014

James McArdle, Andrew Rothney and Jamie Sives in the James Plays
Published in Variety

A HISTORICAL trilogy from two of Britain’s national theaters and a new stage adaptation of “All Quiet on the Western Front” are among the higher profile offerings on tap for the 2014 Edinburgh Intl. Festival, the three-week program of theater and music to which the simultaneous Edinburgh Festival Fringe was founded in response.

This year’s edition, kicking off four days and one century after Britain declared war on Germany, focuses on the theme of military conflict, representing the eighth and final line-up of a.d. Jonathan Mills before he hands over the reins to his incoming replacement Fergus Linehan.

The anniversary is addressed most directly in “Front”, an adaptation of the Erich Maria Remarque novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” presented from the point of view of both sides of the trenches. Belgian helmer Luk Perceval is reworking the wartime classic to create a multilingual production featuring German, Flemish, French and English speakers for the Thalia Theater, Hamburg.

In a flagship collaboration between the National Theater of Scotland and the National Theater of Great Britain, “The James Plays” is a historical trilogy by Rona Munro about James I, James II and James III of Scotland. The 15th-century epic stars James McArdle, Andrew Rothney and Jamie Sives (“Game of Thrones”), as well as Sofie Grabol, star of the original Danish version of “The Killing.”

Among other international collaborations is Russian helmer Vladimir Pankov’s “The War”, a “sound drama” in which a group of Parisians discuss art and beauty in the face of a mounting international conflict. The Russian-language perf. is presented by the Chekhov Intl. Theater Festival and Pankov’s SounDrama Studio from Moscow.

Seen last year in Los Angeles, Chicago and at Gotham’s Under the Radar festival, “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich,” by Australia’s Back to Back Theater, centers on the elephant-headed god Ganesh trying to reclaim the Hindu swastika from the Nazis. Other perf  on the war theme include Benjamin Britten’s opera “Owen Wingrave” directed by UK helmer Neil Bartlett, and “Patria!” by flamenco guitarist Paco Peña who commemorates the execution of playwright Federico Garcia Lorca in the Spanish Civil War.

Away from the war theme in the £10.5million ($17.4 million) festival, students from Gotham’s Juilliard School will join their counterparts from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London for Tom Cairns’ staging of  Thomas Bernhard’s little seen “Minetti,” which stars Gotham-born Peter Eyre as an actor preparing for a comeback in “King Lear.”

One of the more left-of-center offerings, “Delusion of the Fury,” is already poised for a stint in New York: The music/theatre/dance work by Californian composer Harry Partch, staged by helmer Heiner Goebbels with Ensemble musikFabrik, is a co-production with Lincoln Center, where the title is also in for US dates.

Also on the docket are offerings from Handspring Puppet Company, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch (pictured, above).

The Edinburgh Intl. Festival runs Aug. 8-31. The city’s other fest, the Fringe, will announce its own slate later this spring.

© Mark Fisher 2014 
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