Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh’

Edinburgh Preview Review – Passengers – Omnibus Theater (then to Summerhall)

August 3, 2019

Two years in to having a transwoman be my top partner in crime, I found myself highly intrigued by Kit Redstone’s new work, which was billed as a “darkly funny and sexy” take on Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). I was really intrigued how an artist could take this and put it onto the stage. I mean, mental illness has certainly been handled before, even with panache (I think of 4:48 Psychosis when I say this), but this is a bit more complex in some ways. Or in lots of ways. As an artist, I was also interested in seeing how something personal was transformed into a shared experience. Hey, I’m putting my dissociative episodes on stage in Space Age Love Songs, maybe Redstone would have some coping strategies or even a new way of dealing with my own brain?

“Passengers” is performed by three people (Neil Chinneck, Jess Clark and Kit Redstone), who initially appear to be three people thrown in prison together. But we’re given some context, and it’s clear that it’s actually three elements of one person warring inside of that person’s head. The aggressive one that appears to be sometimes truthful – at least when discussing having temper tantrums – is the focal point for the other two, who try to control him and make sense of how he’s responding – and also call him on the lies he tells us (and perhaps believes) about himself.

As the onion starts to unpeel, it becomes clear that the narrator doesn’t particularly understand himself, or even want to believe that he’s done what he’s done, much less why … but the other two voices push and pull and tease the truth out about several things … none of which are very pretty. It could be seen as just about how psychotherapy works or as the actual rise and fall of the dominant elements of a dissociative personality … the second being how I think it was intended, but I liked that it was working on various levels.

While I would never think my head works the same as somebody else’s, I enjoyed having the opportunity to take a ride in someone else’s head. It is a bit claustrophobic and No Exit like – this head is not a nice place to be in (and my goodness the theater was an oven) – but I think in the end it probably made my own head a slightly less scary place to be.

(This review is of a preview performance that took place at the Omnibus Theater, Clapham, on 27 Saturday 2019. It shows 14.30 daily at Summerhall in Edinburgh 31 July – 25 August.)

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Review – Dandy Darkly’s “Trigger Happy” – CC Blooms, Edinburgh

August 12, 2015

My preparation for Dandy Darkly consisted of seeing a really cool photograph – like a disco juggalo version of Annie Oakley (the original Webcowgirl) – and the promise of an “all-American selection of satiric, horrific, homoerotic, patriotic tales of sex and death!” As an expat, I thought Dandy – whoever he was – sounded damned likely to be able to provide an entertaining evening, especially with a good dose of “good ole American sodomy” (his quote, my belief) sprinkled on top. I really had so little idea that if he had ridden in on an animatronic T-rex with a pack of pastel poodles doing circus tricks at his command, it might have all seemed quite commonplace, but instead I got a much rarer bird: the unexpectedly entertaining one person show which did not leave me with the desire to slap the performer until their brains rattled inside their head and their sense of self-importance deflated to merely the size of the solar system. No, Dandy Darkly would only get a smack from me in a fully consensual atmosphere in which safe words had been prenegotiated. Instead, it was drinks from the bar and luvvie promises to catch him the next time he was in town. Couldn’t you just get sick at the thought? I’d lost hope for the genre. He even alliterated.

But, really, there was something about the charming style of our glitterized celebutante with his gentle drawl and feeling of near iconic outsiderism that pulled me in right from the start. He knew as well as I do what a charming pile of lies hold up American culture and the American people, and he was going to aim his pop gun right between the eyes – BANG BANG! – and there goes another fine myth. The evening was, in fact, a series of short stories, told near-campfire style (“draw on up, kiddies, something wicked this way comes …”), each one creating its own dark world – world of reality and absurdity, clear fiction and near misses, drag queen rats mixing with broken celebrities and closet-case werewolf army assassins – a tossed salad of so many reconfigured metaphors that only the narrative provided the reality. I was absolutely locked in place as our fearsome conductor drove us out of the station into parts unknown, barely conscious of the extremely potent drink in my hands – and only when he stopped between stories to take a sip of water and have the merest of chats did I briefly come back down to earth, impatiently waiting for the voyage to recommence. I was hooked. And apparently he’s going to be doing this for the entirety of the Edinburgh fringe festival for free. You people don’t even know how lucky you are. Get on your brontosauri and get your asses over to CC Blooms – it’s time to let words blossom like corpse flowers in your fringe addled heads.

(This review is for the opening night performance on August 8th. Dandy Darkly’s Trigger Happy continues through August 30th.)

Mini-review – Purge – Brian Lobel at the Forest Fringe, Edinburgh

August 25, 2013

I’m doing something different this weekend: I’m at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time since I moved to England. “What?” you may ask. “How have you not been before?” Well, to be honest, it was a cost thing. Hotel rooms seemed four times the normal cost and they’re not that cheap in the UK under the best of circumstances. And many places that were a little less unaffordable seemed to expect you were going to rent for an entire week. So: really, really expensive prices to watch shows of questionable quality? And it looked to me like the best came down to London anyway. So I sat it out.

But it happened that thanks to Air B&B I’d found a tip on a really cheap place to stay, and thanks to Lyn Gardner I’d heard about the Forest Fringe which is entirely free and had a really interesting slate of shows, many of them hitting a particular area of interest of mine: how new forms of communication (cellphones, social media) are affecting how we live our lives. Thus, it was obvious that one of the shows I had to see was Brian Lobel’s Purge, “a live performance that recounts Brian’s emotionally-disastrous installation in which he, over 25 hours, deleted his Facebook friends via public vote.” I arranged my arrival time in Edinburgh carefully, and VOILA, I was there!

I wasn’t expecting him to be American. And I wasn’t expecting him to be a monologuist (I was reminded of Mike Daisey a bit). But what did meet my expectations is that I got to hear of lots and lots of drama, in a way that allowed for substantial audience participation (which was both simultaneously gratifying and emotional). Lobel has been doing performances for quite a while – this one is part of a series on his experience of dealing with the death of his first boyfriend – and you’d expect his friends to have been somewhat immune to the trauma of having their relationships with him be potential fodder for his work. But no: from the very beginning, alerting people to his upcoming experiment caused people to IMMEDIATELY cut their Facebook ties with him. Waiting for a public judgment on the quality of their relationship with him wasn’t good enough; they wanted to avoid the whole circus.

I can sympathize with people who didn’t like the thought of having their relationship details revealed to a roomful of strangers (a situation made more intense by the fact the presentation, vote, and possible defriending was all taking place via a live video feed); but I expected a bit more sportsmanship, a desire to play, knowing that the reconnection could easily happen after the event was over. But no: in addition to the pre-removers, other people wrote so hostilely of their expectations that it was inevitable that they would be voted “out” – and, sadly, the things they revealed in their angry responses had the effect of permanently severing their ties with him.

Lobel’s experiment touched both on the Big Brother/Apprentice “who’s in/who’s out” gameshow trend but, more tellingly, on the construct of “friends” and “friending” created by using Facebook, and on the passive aggressive culture social media seems to have fostered. What makes a friend? Is it meaningful to have a thousand of them? (We were invited to live un-friend someone during the show; the degree of hostility manifested by the man who volunteered for this was quite surprising to me.) Is someone who is on your Facebook “friends” list or Twitter followed feed someone you’re actually close to? How does it affect you to see so much trivial information about people on a daily basis? How is it that this can seem like community but also be confused with community? As he discussed the complex stories of the people who became a part of this project, I found myself emotionally swept up into it, both the Roman Coliseum drama of thumbs up/thumbs down but also the horrible hurting sadness at how petty people can be when they’re not dealing with each other face to face, with voices and expressions to help soften their messages. And I thought about what it means to construct a community deliberately, and what kind of people you really want to have as part of your life, and the illusions you build up based upon a silly naming convention some Harvard kids thought up years ago that doesn’t really capture relationships.

At an hour in length, this show was a perfect afternoon snack, and the one I engaged with the most out of the eight shows I caught over the weekend. It also gave me a lot to think about afterwards – both about the people he’d made come to life, and about how “social media” has changed how we deal with each other. It also inspired me to do some writing. All that and it was free? Now, there was a BIG win! Thank you Forest Fringe!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, August 24th, 2013. It closed August 25th but may be revived again.)