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.

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

She Can’t Half Talk – Bedlam Theatre

Presented by The Edinburgh University Theatre Company

Written & Directed by Sally MacAlister

Runs at Bedlam Theatre until August 25th

Fostering recent accomplishments with female writers, as part of the Edinburgh University Theatre Company, writer Sally MacAlister’s term-time hit She Can’t Half Talk makes a Fringe debut. A series of six femme-lead monologues which focus on unusual or untold perspectives. Stitching together tales of gender and sexuality pervading all aspects of life, She Can’t Half Talk is a delightful collection of stories drawing comfort in their neighbours. Humorous, honest, raw and at times difficult to stomach, this is a superb production with a touching manner.

Trimming for a Fringe run-time, the six monologues are set on rotation, and after witnessing half of the show – you’ll likely crave the rest. Never has such a tantalising opener delivered like this, with six individuals, each with a staggering, relatable story to share. So, stop me if you’ve heard this one – A Cougar, A Foetus, A Camgirl, A Drag Queen, An Actor and A Victim walk onto a stage…

This evening we were in for a treat, an odd term to use with the powerful subject matter, but with largely diverse performances, it’s a delight to watch them and be moved all the same. First, The Actor – Michael Zwiauer, a young gentleman whose Hamlet is up there with the greats, the only issue? He wants to try something new; he wants to be known as someone different. He doesn’t want to be the camp, effeminate Hamlet. An advance in coverage, it helps bring She Can’t Half Talk into the realm of sexuality and gender roles. A voice not many will hear, whipping the rug from beneath us in a powerful performance from Zwiauer.

Here we notice the only drawback to a smaller scale production; transitions can be messy – drawn out with the minimal stagehand. They do a valiant job, a single-member re-arranging props and blocks, but it slows momentum.

Moving from here, we have easily the most effective performance from Áine Higgins, a young Irish woman who refuses to be seen as the victim, even when she has been suffering horrendous abuse. It’s schizophrenic how wildly we swing from an independent, stoic woman and yet, a young girl who refuses to be seen as anything but capable. Higgins delivers such presence in the tougher moments, that even when disgusted by what you hear, she tells the story in such a visceral way, you feel the crunches, the pops and the slaps. It’s a testament to EUTC’s high standards of talent.

And while Higgins may claim the more intense piece, it is Hannah Churchill’s Cougar who receives the juiciest role for laughs, insight and memorable moments. Speaking with her therapist, Zwiauer in a marvellous ‘silent protagonist’ role, this Cougar worries about being forgotten. It’s a comedic piece with wonderful witty writing, concealing a distressing examination of double standards women face as they grow older. Churchill not only balances these laughs with poignancy, but her presence is remarkable.

With only a taster of some of the tales, The Edinburgh University Theatre Company and Sally MacAlister’s writing pushes open the door for femme-lead stories. Saucy, intense and on occasion insightful, this is a production with clout, with gravity and an obvious future in theatre.

Tickets Available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/she-can-t-half-talk