The Addams Family – Festival Fringe 2019 Preview

Running from August 3rd – August 10th at Paradise in Augustines. Tickets available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/addams-family-1

Following on from their sell-out production of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown“, Bare Productions return to the Festival Fringe with The Addams Family. The macabre family who make our own seem downright dull.

Proven to have a respectful place within Edinburgh’s amateur theatre circle, Bare Productions has only been around for two years, yet already they’ve made an impression. With their previous show receiving rave reviews, things are only looking positive for this year’s production.

The multi-award-winning team of authors Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and composing lyricist Andrew Lippa brought the kooky, bleak and melancholy family of musical theatre into a fresh new narrative. The usual Mistress of Darkness, Wednesday Addams, made infamous with Christina Ricci’s cinematic portrayal finds herself in love. Yup, you read that correctly, and with a normal, chipper young man from middle-class suburbia no less.

A production which promises dance, song and humour, Bare Productions have a pleasing show for us all. Directed by Dominic Lewis, featuring the choreography of Felicity Thomas, The Addams Family will be that dark corner of the Fringe you’ll be dying to join.

Featuring a cast of local talent, Bare Productions are eager to make a second impression at this year’s Festival. Sticking within the realms of musical comedies, they’re hoping The Addams Family will provide this. With one look at the costume design, and musical director Finlay Turnball proving himself last year, we look forward to seeing how The Addams Family will turn out.

With a limited run towards the beginning of the Fringe, it is highly advisable to *dah-nah-nah-nah* snap up a ticket.

Images provided by Gavin Smart

Darien – The Byre Theatre

Script and Lyrics by Richard Robb

Composition by Craig McNichol

New Edinburgh. It was meant to be a crowning achievement, cementing the Kingdom of Scotland as a power of trade and influence. It would instead prove to be a colossal failure. The Darien Scheme was an attempt in colonising the Gulf of Darien between Panama and Columbia in the 1690s. Comprised of two expeditions, the first is told here through the eyes of one (fictional) man – Murdo McFarlane. His desire to remain on the island, fascinated by its beauty despite the discomfort and constant threats of the natives, becomes the focal point for this production. For all which survives of the failed colony is his writings, which have allowed his stories to survive years later.

Darien – The Commonplace Book of Murdo MacFarlane, presented by Bell Baxter High School, is a loose biography surrounding the events of the new Caledonia settlement. As is tradition with high school productions, it’s also a musical. Richard Robbs’ script leans on the musical aspect; thankfully, the vocals of the cast are perhaps the production’s best asset. The content of the script is intriguing, with detailed visuals offering a clear sense of the world-building Scotland attempted, though we get bogged down in some of the lengthier political or historical features.

The heavy, almost lecturing aspect of Darien is lifted in Act Two, as we move away from the first settlers and instead have a welcome dose of stronger female characters arriving on the shores. The dialogue and the performances have a tighter feel, with humour taking a more central stance. Megan Callaghan as Macfarlane’s wife, along with fellow traveller, Daytona Brereton, have the standout vocals. Brereton’s earthy tones in particular are a voice to listen out for in the future. Another musical highlight that appears earlier in Act One is “Wigs”, where soloist Shane Franks proves himself to be exceptionally talented. This playful number allows a break for levity, lampooning bourgeoisie obsessions and Franks to impress the audience with his choreography and slapstick skill. In spite of Franks’ clear showmanship, the solo highlights the lyrical density of Robbs’ songs. It’s a wonder how Franks manages to get out a torrent of unnecessary words in stanzas.

Nevertheless, the tunes are certainly catchy, with Craig McNicol’s compositions adding pathos to the production. Daniel Staal’s lighting complements the atmosphere set by the score rather well, with a great deal of imagination going into the construction of some scenes. From the pure white mist rolling down the mountains to the crimson flash of the Spanish soldiers on their trail, Staal does a superb job in bringing Darien to life in vivid detail.

Bell Baxter High has produced an impressive piece in Darien; while many high school productions fall back on a pre-existing formula, they instead have gone for something truly original. With a series of solid vocals, some creative design work and a story which, despite its slow pacing, has an investing level of intrigue, mystery and heart, Darien is a piece to be proud of. It certainly has set the bar for future productions.

Review originally published for Wee Review: https://theweereview.com/review/darien/

The Lark – Bellfield, Portobello

The Lark
Performances 4th – 8th June, 7:30pm Bellfield, Portobello
Tickets £12 advance, £15 on the door www.theegtg.com

Written by Jean Anouilh

Translation by Gill Taylor

Directed by Claire Wood

Cast to the flames, Joan of Arc, heroine of France, was a peasant girl who on the instruction of God was to lead a siege against the English, paving the way for the coronation of King Charles VII of France. Whether reality or legend, she is captured and condemned to burn. A politically motivated crime of heresy was attributed. Partially for conversing with angels, but really, her only crime was what lacked between her legs.

The Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group are renowned for their dedication to texts other companies shy from. They find virtue in challenging their performers and crews. Their latest production brings Jean Anouilh’s play The Lark into the 21st century, translated by Gill Taylor.

Surrounding us are the rose-tinted windows of canonised saints, the cushioned soft wood of a pew replacing the raised levels of a theatre. EGTG are staging The Lark in a previous house of worship, Bellfield, Portobello an old Parish church. It’s setting does nothing but heighten the effect of the production. We are not solely reliving the memories of Joan as she is on trial – we ARE the memories. We sit in the centre of her life, the action surrounding us.

Claire Moland & Cara Doherty – Photography, Jon Davey

The fire commanded by Clara Doherty is remarkable, knowing precisely how to scorch the stage in glory of passion, malice and retribution for all women scorned by men in power. Yet, she has a softness to Joan, a relatability. She tempers her flames into a smoulder to empathise spiritually, forging a connection with the audience. Any performance alongside Doherty is immediately uplifted with such talent to play off of, Gregor McElvogue and Richard Godden at their best when kept on their toes by Doherty.

You can judge the merit of someone by the quality of their enemies. For McElvogue, Wendy Brindle and High Inquisitor Alan Patterson, wickedness never looked so appealing. Not even the church though, with its outright infection of patriarchal structure, is painted as a grand antagonist. Instead, there’s a deep, unearthed respect for Joan. None more so than McElvogue, perhaps the standout performance outside of Doherty.

Gregor McElvogue – Photography, Jon Davey

What Gill Taylor’s update achieves is levity, director Claire Wood’s spot-on ability to draw from each character capturing the text tremendously. With an American King of France, the accent at first raises an eyebrow, but no one could have carried this role better. Channelling his inner Gene Wilder, Keegan Siebken brings such a jovial nature to the performance, his otherwise lengthy conversations with Joan are transformed into scenes we crave. Her passion, brilliance and mirth counteract his gloriously pathetic cowardice sublimely.

A terrific live band set to provide a backing score which works wonderfully. Again, our setting was designed for this sort of acoustics and when paired alongside a choir upon high, even the heretics amongst us find beauty.

Kate Stephenson & Hannah Bradley – Photography, Jon Davey

In an attempt to bring Joan to the 21st century, the inclusion of popular songs adds a double-edged effect. On occasion, they are placed well, particular as a soldier’s song – an update on a tradition shanty. Or Hannah Bradley’s vocals, delicious addition to the role as the King’s mistress. It otherwise hinders the finale, Anouilh’s ending is peculiar, toying with preconceptions of Joan’s fate. The odd twist is given an EGTG spin which, while commendable push a little too much on abstract.

Smashing expectations of women six-hundred years ago, it’s certainly time for a reminder of Joan’s capabilities wouldn’t you say? The expectation of women in have altered, but the demands met by toxic masculinity are still prevalent. EGTG’s The Lark is a production to be proud of, in a location which reminds us profoundly that theatre can exist in any setting.

The Lark
Performances 4th – 8th June, 7:30pm Bellfield, Portobello
Tickets £12 advance, £15 on the door www.theegtg.com