Drowning – Pleasance Courtyard

Directed by Stephen Ross

Written by Jessica Ross

By 2008, all four of the Lainz Angels of Death have been released from prison. These four Austrian women, nurse’s aides at the Geriatriezentrum am Wienerwald in Vienna took the lives of 49 (officially), men and women. Labelling them as mercy killings, the women would gain a new method of life-taking, switching from morphine overdoses to Drowning their patients.

There is an attempt to inject dark humour. The best laughs are often the ones which are followed by an inhalation of self-censorship. At the rotten core of Drowning, is an inspection of the unimaginable – an examination of evil. Or at least, it attempts to do so. Its humour is one-note, tasteless but not in the grotesque fashion, more just in the dead-flat department.

The golden rule is show, don’t tell. This wobbles in Ross’ script. The characterisation of the four women is unbalanced, perhaps we’re merely craving more but the depth isn’t as profound as it could be. When delivering monologues, all the performers try to give their character justice. It’s incredibly ham-fisted, however, with all the caricatures present: A drunken nurse, A pill-popper and the seductive, alluring temptress.

Marrying colour with death is quite an inventive stance to take, especially given the pale nature of the condition. Drowning, with it’s smothering blues is a visual production. It’s intense though, bathing us rather than finding a balance in hue.

What little props are available, get put to canny effect. In particular, four bathtubs – solemn reminders of the nurses’ methods of ‘mercy’. There are minds behind Drowning which should enable it to work, but this cannot save poor writing. The two-dimensional characters feel like they’re only the cover art for a far more interesting story.

Drowning never attempts to vilify these women. They are not martyrs, nor does it paint them as monsters. They are human, but insultingly they are stereotypes. Drowning is a Fringe production which had promise but severely lacks direction. In a Festival littering itself with the hot-commodity that is death and serial killers, this one has little life to offer.

Tickets are available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/drowning

Fishbowl – Pleasance Courtyard

Written by Pierre Guillois, Agathe L’Huillier and Olivier Martin-Salvan

Directed by Pierre Guillois

Runs at Pleasance Courtyard from July 31st to August 26th (not 14th), 13:00pm

You ever have those days where nothing goes right? Ever have one of those lives where everything just goes to hell? That’s the lives of these accident-prone, chaos attracting neighbours. They have my life; they have your lives, but with added rabbits. With an air of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin, Fishbowl shapes up to be a timeless piece of physical comedy.

We all have our personal spaces, our very own little fishbowls. If you’ve ever lived alone – you’ll recognise yourself. Any familiar with Mischief Theatre’s “…Which goes Wrong” series of productions will see familiar aspects in the design of Fishbowl. It does, however, have a unique angle with each trick or chaotic collapse. Nothing is safe, certainly not the kitchen sink as every nook and cranny could turn foul at any given moment.

Writers Pierre Guillois, Agathe L’Huillier and Olivier Martin Salvan create pure mayhem without a word of dialogue. Their performers, expressive to the extent of cartoonish, do an incredible job with the highly technical production, never missing a cue and covering any slip-ups rather meticulously.

Fishbowl owes itself to those beyond their onstage cast. Its construction, when you examine, is as beautiful as it is ingenious. Each box, smoking-pan, seagull and window have a place, both for mise en scène but vitally, it might just be the source of a gag. Laura Leonard’s set design separates the three with striking colour palettes, achieving a sense of magic within the confines of these realistic sets.

There’s an odd mix of playing safe before hammering down the full throttle. When pushing their limits, Fishbowl will fill the Pleasance with roaring laughter. Where its strength lies is uncertainty, its surprise and punchline – not in its build-up.

Rarely is your finale punchline the strongest, but Fishbowl pulls it off spectacularly. It ticks every box in the humour catalogue, and without giving the game away, if it puts you off, you most likely haven’t found your sense of humour yet.

Tickets available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/fishbowl

The Addams Family – Paradise in Augustine’s

Directed by Dominic Lewis

Choreography by Felicity Thomas

Musical Director – Finlay Turnball

Instinctively, the audience clicks their fingers. For over eighty years, the grotesquely charming family of gloom has found constant ways to re-invent themselves. From an early appearance in the late ’30s as a satirical punch at idealistic American family values, they’ve gone from film to television and of course, onto the stage. Charles Addams’ The Addams Family are here in Edinburgh until August 10th, and you deserve whatever cruel fate is instore if you miss out…

So, what could the family be up to this time? Well, horror has befallen them. Something so disturbing, so stomach-churningly vile that it comes with a warning. Wednesday Addams is wearing yellow. Oh, and she’s in love with someone normal. Hard to fathom, especially for her parents Gomez and Morticia, but it’s true. A young man from Ohio, a blue-collared boy who might have a little sliver of darkness hidden beneath his smile. With their families meeting, Gomez makes the fatal error of lying to Morticia at his daughter’s bequest. As one might image, it doesn’t go well.

With such an iconic cast of grim characters, it’s a bit of a bugger to compete with their image. Bare Productions, however, not only match our expectations but excel in putting their stamp onto individuals. The iconic Morticia is a stoic, room commanding woman by Jo Heinemeier, capable of allure, yet knowing there’s a sharpness to her wit. Sharing this is Rebecca Drever who, without favour, has the tightest vocals of the evening, only rivalled by Andrew Chernouski’s Fester or Cameron Kirby.

Notable numbers to mention are the opening, which, within the first thirty seconds confirms this to be a stellar production and ‘Just Around the Corner’. A number which richly showcases the live band’s talents, who thankfully are given credit by Bare Productions having them on full view for the production.

It isn’t all about the voices, The Addams Family is just as much a comedy, as it is a musical, which director Lewis and choreographer Felicity Thomas are keen to remember. Their ensemble pieces with ancestors offer movement pieces which are lively (for the dead no less) and highlight the physical talents of Laura Emily and Steph Knowles.

Robbing the scenes is the lothario himself Michael Davies as Gomez, as charming as one might expect. Yet, when called upon, his father-daughter scenes with Drever are touching. A talent he shares with Chernouski’s Fester, who can bundle through the Manor doors one second yet well our eyes at his proclamations of love to the moon.

The only issue, and it’s an odd one, is that some of the vocal performances are too perfect. This highlights members of the cast who are performers first, singers second. No one delivers weak vocals though, even the least proficient could still outperform the audience.

Achieving a sublime balance in humour with emotional drama, Bare Productions earns its reputation as a high-class amateur production company. Their previous stint at the Fringe began this trend, and The Addams Family proves it. An exceptional evening of meticulous choreography, vocals which challenge those of the Broadway stars and a few grisly moments just to keep you on your toes. A must-see for any Fringe goer.

Tickets are still available in venue at Paradise in Augustine’s. Be sure to get in quick for a mostly sold-out run! https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/addams-family-1