Crocodile Fever – Traverse Theatre

Written by Meghan Tyler

Directed by Gareth Nicholls

To be blunt, Crocodile Fever is a smack in the face in all of the best ways possible. Dark, hilarious, violent, gruesome, wholesome and a clusterfuck of religious iconography and blasphemy – and you have to get behind every second. It’s a story of sisterhood; a portrayal of a timeless bond that has stood tremendously difficult trials. It has themes of female and Irish oppression and also addresses sexual abuse.  

Sisters Fianna and Alannah (Lisa Dwyer Hogg and Lucianne McEvoy) are entirely relatable. Rebellious Fianna returns home after hearing of her father’s passing; meanwhile Alannah, a mousey cleanliness freak, is tending to the house. The paralyzing anxiety McEvoy conveys, contrasting Dwyer Hogg’s fiery outbursts, is exquisite.

Tyler wanted to write something that would excite 17-year olds. Well – she has (as assuredly as a man in his twenties can say). They’ll also find it touching, disturbing, and hopefully, beyond the laughs, they see a well-crafted narrative of sisterhood, patriarchy and the ill effects of giving up on someone ‘troubled’.

Rife with imagery, Grace Smart’s set design and Rachael Canning’s puppet creation are exceptional. They perfectly capture the slow, reptilian weight of archaic patriarchy from simple physical movements to the show’s finale.

Holding no punches, Crocodile Fever takes every left-turn imaginable. It doesn’t so much throw you down the rabbit hole as toss you into the gaping maw of a hungry beast. Crocodile Fever will put people off, and it bloody well should. If it didn’t have that streak of rebellious, finger-flipping attitude, it wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.

Photos by Lara Cappelli

Arrivals – The Space on The Mile

Written by Douglas Thomson

Directed by Sarah Mason

We’ve all done it, right, wake up with a raging hangover, not entirely sure of where we are and how we got there? Not sure how many of us have awoken in a Budapest airport, but I’m confident at least two of us have. For Tony, this nightmare doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Separated from his friends, no phone, no food and to top it all off, a ludicrously cheerful, chatty Mel won’t leave him alone.

A play of two-parts, Douglas Thomsom’s Arrivals is in part, an exceptionally subtle and well-written production which strays into a wholly different piece, revealing all which it had kept secret. As Mel persists in bugging Tony, he begins to question the events of the evening, and just why the airport seems empty. As this comedy twists, concerns grow as darkness creeps in.

It’s remarkable what an inventive director can do with two-suitcases and versatile performers. You don’t need bells & whistles when you can gain all the humour you require from delivery and prop usage. Sarah Masson allows Bradley & Cameron to run with their roles, which drives a tremendous amount of characterisation as the production progresses. The pair reach peaks, banging on suitcases, frantically attempting to open them or simply karting around.

Counterbalancing one another, Hannah Bradley and Johnny Cameron accentuate each other’s performance. As Bradley’s mischievous Mel grows in irritability, it grinds Tony’s (Cameron) nerves every-more. As aggressive as Cameron becomes, we understand his frustrations as they are built over-time and not sudden. Bradley’s Mel is as adorably investing as she is utterly unbarring, a tremendous compliment to her performance capabilities. There isn’t a delivery which falls flat, each joke hits the mark, even if some are less successful than others.

Thomson’s script shifts itself from all-out comedy, into an area of poignancy. Not inherently a weak move, it’s the neck-breaking turn into this which sits poorly. So far, Arrivals has been a keen, crafty text which contains hints of the lurking sub-text, which audiences will puzzle over, drawing their conclusions. There seems to either be a fear they won’t reach the correct one, or a need to drive in metaphorical clout.

A true testament to direction and performance, this simply doesn’t impact the overall quality a great deal. Bradley and Cameron sell, with conviction, the descent into an obvious ending with mirth. Its once, simple, well-written wit is muddied with an about-face. It’s a bold move, and the ending has a final knife twist, though overall Arrivals is a finely directed, performance-driven piece with solid humour.

Einstein – Pleasance Courtyard

Written by Pip Utton

Runs at Pleasance Courtyard until August 25th, 14.00pm

This year, notable solo-performer Pip Utton has already undertaken two roles from previous shows: A timely return of Adolf Hitler. Along with his well-received And Before I Forget I Love You, I Love You, in which Utton plays the role of a man developing, and living with Alzheimer’s. This year, Utton’s remarkable ability in discourses brings histories most preeminent theoretical physicist Albert Einstein to the Pleasance Courtyard.

Turning from his desk, we never recognise Utton, we see Einstein. The metamorphosis Utton achieves, with his library of performances, is astonishing. From minor aesthetical changes to a considerable vocal and physical execution, the reluctantly named ‘Father of the Bomb’ Albert Einstein gives us a brief glimpse into his life as a theoretical physicist, a husband, a Jew and traditionally for Utton, a human.

Simple set dressing, Utton doesn’t rely on accoutrements, intensely focusing on capturing enough of the person for us to fill in the remainder. We paint Einstein’s office around us as Utton engages with the audience, drawing them into a warm presence. It’s made clear to us, that with so little time, we will investigate four areas of Einstein’s life – his infamous equation, the theory of relativity, his marriages and personal life, and final, a series of questions from the audience.

Far more approachable, Einstein has a quicker connection with the audience than some of Utton’s other performances. Where it hasn’t the raw emotion, nor the steadfast impact of Adolf, it turns inclusivity to its advantage. Drawing us in, whetting our appetite for research – what more could Einstein ask for?

It is far from entirely jolly, moments of hard-hitting history still leave a mark. Einstein’s history as a Jewish scientist, and the obliteration of his field, work and texts destroyed before him as friends and colleagues watched on, is painful to hear. There are few like Utton who, even when describing histories grimmest moments, keep you transfixed.

Peaking in moments, there is evidence that this Utton’s newest piece. It fails to have the flow notable with previous productions, which work with timing, tone and emotion. Einstein, only held to such a high calibre because of this, never moves from a solid production, it just stretches out sequences of information for a minute or two longer than we can take-in.

Imagination – the greatest, but also the deadliest tool humanity has. This imagination gifts us performers such as Utton, with charming writing unafraid to delve into the darker aspects of the physicist’s life. Utton, once more, refuses to shy from all of the angles of a persona, shadows and skeletons included. Einstein, with work, will no doubt find itself among the pantheon of tremendous roles he has brought to audiences.

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