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

A War of Two Halves – Tynecastle Stadium

Written by Paul Beeson & Tim Barrow

Directed by Bruce Strachan

Musical Direction by Matthew Brown

Runs at Tynecaslte Stadium from August 11th – 26th, Various Times

Marking the centenary of the 1918 Armistice, drawing influence from the 1914 Hearts Team (The Bravest Team), A War of Two Halves is promenade theatre from writers Paul Beeson & Tim Barrow. Taking us through the journey these players would make, from locker-room to trenches of the Somme. If at any point you took at glance at this production, do not wait a moment longer to book a ticket. You will never regret it.

In the confines of the Hearts home locker room, you’ll find yourself transporting back through time, breathing in the sweat, glory and hardships of the team. The directness in Beeson & Barrow production is not a glorification of war. It is a tribute, a reminder of these valiant men who would surrender their chance at a League title, their careers and regrettably their lives.

You’ll find an itchy finger searching for a phone to take pictures at first, and, how couldn’t you? The production allows a venture through the unseen belly of Tynecastle. As the gravity weighs down, this will stop. The performances are so strikingly mortal that all technology, chatter and outside influences cease. It’s a remarkable testament to power on display here.

There are three types of people who aren’t meant to show their emotions or distresses: Men, Footballers and Soldiers. These lads were all three. After all this time, all this suffering, Alfie Briggs can re-live the events, and hopefully, find some sense of closure.

Alternating performances with Paul Beeson, Bryan Lowe performs the role of Briggs this evening. Encouraging us to follow there are no worries entrusting everything with our narrator. Lowe elevates this production into realms of immense story-telling talent. The entire space around him shifts back a century at a word.

The manner of introducing a full cast of McCrae’s battalion can lead to unbalance in depiction. Every performer though treats his or her role with respect. No doubt a combination of stellar acting with Strachan’s direction, this is a conclusive manner in which to introduce a cast, enthralling us, wrapping ourselves into each of them.

Michael Wallace, Charlie Wake, Mark Rannoch, Scott Kyle, Paul Beeson, Tim Barrow and Fraser Bryson do not portray characters. They are those men. The comradery, aggression, fear and levity are wholly human. In particular, the dedication of Kyle and Rannoch, to such complex roles is commendable.

At multiple occasions, a visceral lump will take up residence in your throat. Don’t be afraid to let it out, you can sense that the audience is waiting for someone to cry, so they can follow suit. We are in good company, as Hannah Howie guide us to our destination. Underscoring the event chiefly through violin, Matthew Brown’s musical direction is as harrowing as it is elegant.

Strachan concentrates on drawing humanity. They are heroes of Scottish football, heroes of war, but they’re mortal. Tynecastle isn’t being utilised for the image alone, Strachan knows precisely why each segment takes place where it does. From the howls of match-time frustrations on the new main stand to the heart-breaking moment as the team, donning their maroon and khaki, frog march down the long corridors. As they fade away, the weight of this production sinks harder than you can imagine.

During the Fringe, people won’t look past the city centre. What they’re missing is a wealth of earthy, red-blooded theatre without a trace of superficial motive. The thought that has gone into this piece of theatre, beyond performance and venue, deserves every ounce of respect we can muster. A War of Two Halves is a stunning piece of writing, with a sentimental heart of reverence.

Tickets available from: www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/war-of-two-halves

Photography by Tony McGeever

The Duchess (of Malfi) @ Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Image Contribution:
Mihaela Bodlovic

Original writer: John Webster

Writer & Director Zinnie Harris

Unyielding cruelty is at the rotten heart of what is perhaps the most notorious tragedy of English Renaissance drama, The Duchess (of Malfi).Widowed, yet defiant to remarry despite her brothers’ judgements, the Duchess takes on a husband. At first John Webster’s tragedy is a (twisted) love story. Devolving into vicious revenge sees Zinnie Harris’ writing drag the narrative up to change the progression of characters. Heightening misogyny and showcasing past redeemers as crimson coated cowards.

In depictions of violence, particularly sexual, an incomprehensibly narrow line is tread. To offer dignity to the subject matter, avoiding trivialisation. It is by no stretch simple, quite often causing productions to falter in their attempts. Where the entire team of The Duchess (of Malfi) thoroughly succeed is delivering brutality which engages an audience, but doesn’t turn away the masses. This said, the sadists out there may find there was another notch they could have dialled up.

A production bathing in vice, it’s opening Act is guilty of one sin in particular – Sloth, perhaps theatre’s most deadly. While Wrath, Envy and Lust may sit atop the thrones of thematic, the first half of The Duchess (of Malfi) suffers from bloated pacing. In a rare plea, it is worth the build-up. Its world building is a masterpiece which requires patience, this virtue is rewarded. What may this reward be? Theatre with gloves off.

Perhaps it’s bloodlust, but while Harris’ production embraces streaks of scarlet, we’re still hungering for exuding depravity. If boundaries are to be pushed – push until they shatter.

Kirsty Stuart, the Duchess herself refuses to break or at least outlasts her male companions. Her performance takes off in the latter half, something noticeable for the majority of the production. The Duchess will have none of her brothers judgements nor advances, Stuart holds herself steadfast upon the stage to echo the character beautifully.

She feels human, crafted exquisitely for the Citizen’s Women season. Stuart doesn’t conduct the Duchess as a powerhouse of hollow writing, she isn’t a strong character for the sake of female leads; she’s fallible, emotional and follows her heart where her head cries no. With the tortuous depictions in the second act, Stuart’s conveyance of defiance, but acceptance of pain and eventual cracking is hallowing.

Maintaining the poetic language of Webster, Harris harnesses the text whilst infusing it with Scots tone, which has the added benefit of bringing heightened comedic aspects in its required scenes – curdling blood when it’s aggression is called upon. Jamie Macdonald’s video projections add a Tarantino styled introduction, helping to break up the first act.

Rejuvenating the text comes with change, and while the core elements of misogynistic crassness remain – Harris’ text has incorporated a far more appealing angle, the frank insipidness of proud men. Angus Miller’s incestuous Ferdinand, driven to insanity by his own lust for, well everything, is a delightful crumble from ‘power’.

What Harris does beautifully is robbing these men of their final ‘heroic’ actions from the original text. They are no longer seekers of revenge or fighters, but husks of their formers selves crawling amidst the rot and blood; cowards. This is what we need, what we wanted and a damning improvement on adapted scripts.

The Duchess (of Malfi) is rife with vim and vigour, drenching itself in the flesh of the text while Harris offers her own aspects. To describe the first act as a slow-burning is incorrect, it’s a pile of embers. Embers which smoulder, fearful they may die out. What erupts from these is an inferno of cruelty, pain but gut-wrenching emotion. A triumph for Citizen’s Theatre and Royal Lyceum.

Review originally published for Reviewshub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/the-duchess-of-malfi-roya-lyceum-theatre-edinburgh/

Tickets available from Royal Lyceum Theatre: https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/the-duchess-of-malfi