There is nothing in the world like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with the 39th edition having completed its twenty-four days of several thousand offerings each day at 554 venues (each with one to a dozen or more stages) where over 55,000 performers from all over the world performed stand-up comedy, plays, musicals, operas, musical performances of all types, dance, circus, cabaret, spoken word, magic, and more. With over 1200 plays and about 130 musicals/operas from which to choose, TheatreEddys selected 42 offerings after two weeks of perusing the 400+ pages of the catalogue that arrived in the mail in late June. Our shows varied in length from one hour to two-and-half hours. As in my past four trips to the Fringe, this fifth time astounded me as to the overall quality and variety.
|Will Howard & Kimberly Jarvis
|David William Bryan
|Robyn Grant & Cast Members
|The Cast of Henry Box Brown
Helen Milne, Producer
|Kirsty Findley & Bethany Tennick
Five, fifteen-minute segments of the same melodramatic story (i.e., ingénue and heroine without rent money, villainous and lecherous landlord, shy and hunky hero) are told and sung in parody style of five, famous, musical composers: Rogers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Herman, Webber, Kander & Ebb. A cast of four outstanding voices and abilities to act in serious corn make this a winner at the 2019 Fringe. Minimal set, excellent keyboardist, and inspired direction all work together highlight the individual and combined talents of this fine cast.
Shakespeare’s Richard II has surely never quite seen the treatment it receives in the puppet-commanding hands of Royal Shakespeare Company actor Gregory Grudgeon and his musical accompanist and fellow actor, Lucas Augustus. The Bard’s characters take the shape of stick puppets, puppets made of gloves, and full-size puppets of papier-mâché. In a venue so tiny it barely fits twenty people, the full play transpires in its glorious iambic pentameter in dramatic effects surprising and impressive. Anger-filled challenges, sword-filled battles, and beheadings all take place among silly, little forms who realistically enact the likes of Richard, Henry, and all the others populating one of Shakespeare’s best. A tour de force is made even better by a generous smattering of ad-lib between the two principals as they sometimes venture from Shakespeare’s verse in ways delightful and laughter-producing.
Photo Credit: Kaja Curtis
Based on her extensive interviews with Missouri residents after the 2014 shooting of African American teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson, Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith gives voice and persona to both blacks and whites as they share with her and with us their reactions in the aftermath. We meet people like a late seventy-year-old African American woman who has spent a life time fighting for equal rights. We hear from a young, African American teenage boy who has grown up in the same project complex as did Michael and who fears he may not survive one more year to go back East to a top-rated, Ivy-League university. A white woman who is on the fence for whom she has the most sympathy – the family of Michael or the family of Wilson – and a white, retired cop who longs for the days Ferguson was all white like him are just two more of the several powerful personifications the actor/creator becomes. Standing in front of a re-created sidewalk memorial of flowers, candles, pictures, messages, and teddy bears and supported by actual videos and pictures, Dael Orlandersmith leaves her audience in total silence as we exit, stunned again by the horrific event and by the realization how little has changed for the better since this 2014 tragedy.
Photo Credit: Alex Brenn
The creators and cast of another 2019 Fringe favorite, Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch (and reviewed above as one of TheatreEddys’ “Best Five of the Fringe) team up for a second show that seems also to have found its own packed-house following as well. Like its sister show, Vulvarine: A New Musical decries with bawdy wit and four-letter-filled frivolity the sexist, everyday world that the modern woman must endure – from her home to the office and everywhere in between.
Excellent casting choices, insightful directing and masterful directing make this new work by this Cambridge group of students worthwhile and memorable.