The Horne Section

Review by Ginger Wig

Any other show interrupted half-way through by a fire alarm would have seriously weakened its chances of getting a good review.  However, being the likeable and talented band they were, they led the audience out of the Pleasance Grande and started performing in the dark.

A couple of fire related numbers and their Olympic melody were all that were needed to hold our attention through the unplanned interval. A good show with music, comedy, special guests and beards.

3/5 WIGS

Review by Looby Loo

The Horne Section were an enjoyable and friendly band but they did not have the jokes or the material to sustain a really amusing evening. They had their own music and they had four special guests with their own acts all introduced by Alex Horne. Des Bishop and Piff the Magic Dragon were good. Incidently, I had tried to see Piff at a Brunch organised by the Circus restaurant in London but it was cancelled, so I was really delighted to see him.  Piff brought Piffles, a chihuahua, on stage. I struggle with any kind of animal cruelty and so dressing up a dog for comedy and “breaking his leg” I found difficult.  The Horne Section is like being on holiday with some very old friends that are musical and are having a good evening. So I’d rather just go on holiday with my friends and have a good evening.

Audience wriggling: problems after the fire alarm with audience members complaining about their new seats

Bows: a few

General spot: too much tacky pink from the Horne Section

Venue: (heart) Pleasance Courtyard

WIGS 2/5

Dr. Brown: Befrdfgth

Review by Looby Loo & Ginger Wig

Where to begin with this guy?  This is like no other comedy show I have ever seen.

Dr. Brown is enigmatic from the word go.  He uses mime, physical jokes and repetition to create an unbelievably funny one-hour show in which he plays a cast of fictional and animal characters…  An encounter between two soldiers turns into a bull fight.  The bull is killed. Dr. Brown gets inside and finds a female bull.  They have a calf… and thus it goes on with one scene morphing into something entirely different. It was like watching someone else’s dream.  The power of mime is not be trifled with, and Dr. Brown brilliantly uses audience participation to realise the full potential of his act. His jokes are incredibly simple but because of the force of his personality they are real crowd pleasers.  On one level, audience participation is always a cheap gag because everyone finds awkward audience members doing things funny. It is, after all, what pantomime thrives on. Dr. Brown is really talented and his show has been nominated for the Foster’s Best Comedy Show 2012. For sheer originality and humour his show probably merited the prize.

Audience wriggling: when he clambered through the audience

Bows: 1 and hugged every audience member

General spot: Dr Brown’s outfit

Venue:  Underbelly is very dank

WIGS 4/5

Cambridge Footlights

Review by Looby Loo & Ginger Wig

This was a very good sketch show.  Five young comedians showcased great comedy talent from a university that constantly seems to deliver:  from the sketch about a liberal couple with a son who informs them he is a homophobe to another where the performers act out a game of Monopoly.  One of the Ginger Wig team was unhappy about one female comedienne amongst four males.  The set was simple and the performance was polished.

Audience wriggling: uncomfy seats at the front, I don’t like stools

Bows: 1

General spot:  magic telephone

Venue: Good venue for this show, just the right size

WIGS 3/5

Mies Julie

Review by Linny

Strindberg’s Miss Julie is here transferred by Baxter Theatre Centre, (South African State Theatre and Assembly) from its origins (Sweden, 1888) to South Africa under apartheid.

Julie, an unloved child of a mother who committed suicide, is the daughter of a wealthy Afrikaans farmer.  John is a house-servant and favoured by the farmer whom we never see. The job of John’s mother, a house servant, (whose role replaces that of Christine, the cook) has been to look after Julie from childhood and John has had to take second place.   John is, therefore, introduced early on to the unnatural and unjust conditions of apartheid.

At the opening of the play Julie’s engagement has been broken off by her fiancé and, separately, there are festivities going on for the black farmhands outside.  Julie, when little, played with John and they have grown up together.  As young adults, when the play opens, their relationship is much more problematic.  They are both aware that they are separated and allocated unequal roles informed by the economic realities of the master-servant relationship, the overt values of the state and the cultural prejudices informing both sides. Julie’s rejection has produced in her a febrile state of mind which looks to exert some little autonomy in a known sphere of influence given to her by the acquired authority of race.  She alternately taunts John and flirts with him playing with the, as yet, uncalculated force of his final response.  Hilda Cronje’s characterisation is the taut pacing female determined to exercise her powers of attraction whilst afraid of the power it might unleash.  We learn quickly from Julie that if there is a physical relationship, her father will kill John first and then Julie.  Bringing all these forces together never mind just the tragic circumstances of her young life in the original play is a tall order for a young actor and I have yet to see a truly convincing production whatever its setting. The apartheid context makes the issues very obvious and the underlying issues of parental neglect are swamped by the violent interpretation.  This is an extremely physical production, both violent and bloody, which actually lets the actors, both Hilde Cronje and Bongile Mantsai, off the hook in terms of the emotional range they need.  Julie has to be manipulative and malicious and not just flirtatious; she has to wield a power that she did not know she had until her pride as a woman is galvanised by the failure of her engagement into the predatory white, disenfranchised and vulnerable, girl she becomes.

The best performance was given by Thokozile Ntshinga who takes the role of John’s mother.  She has to care for Julie when required and any feeling behind the care may be genuine, but there is no disguising the subtle disgust and disappointment she feels for her son having discovered the two of them lying together in an all too obvious state of undress.  In her we witness another kind of derangement and one caused not by the absence of childhood love but by an opposite scenario:  the power of ancestral spirits emanating from burial places beneath the floor occasionally overwhelms her rationality.  It is apparent that there are two kinds of ownership in this setting; one is the possession of land and workers by the white landowner and the other that very different kind of ownership:  the belonging to the land of the indigenous peoples.  Both exert powerful forces which prevent any of the protagonists escaping.

The last word has to go to the absent patriarch.  His boots remain on stage the whole time – an ever-present reminder of unjust power legitimising personal violence.  When John puts them on at the end of the play he literally steps out of the confines of his world and towards the power that will surely bring about his end.

3/5 WIGS

Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act by Athol Fugard

Review by Linny

1966 South Africa.  A white woman is having an affair with a black man in contravention of The Immorality Act of 1957.

The couple can only meet in a dark room under darkness.  They live with fear.  She lives with a generalised fear that permeates her experience of life.  He lives with immediate fear: the fear generated by his secret walk every night to the back of the library where their relationship is carried out in her office.  Their conversations and their covert love are subtly and overtly conditioned by the more deep-rooted unconscious adjustments they have made to the political framework in which they live.  This is a relationship which cannot last.  Emotionally it is too vulnerable to the larger factors that rule their lives.  The man is also committing adultery and his work ambitions have foundered and he is all too aware, that as a black man, his life is profoundly proscribed.

The couple are reported by an informer.  In court, a third character who stands for the South African state requires that the woman describes in detail, until told to stop, the start of their physical relationship.  For the whole piece the couple are in the nude and during the court hearings the man and woman attempt to cover themselves with their discarded garments.  Nudity was never so effective when partially covered up and when each has to give a testimony about their first act of intimacy.

Fugard’s writing is extraordinary for translating the effects of political repression into the language of the individual.  But more, it is poetic and rhetorical as in the famous speech by the man at the end in which he considers the rhetorical and grotesque possibility of each limb being removed whilst he, the man, is denied the fundamental instinct to love.

Bo Petersen, in particular and Malefane Mosuhli give wonderful performances.

4/5 WIGS

Devvo Dole Queue Hero is Free

Review by Goubba

What a scallywag Devvo is!  Devvo is doing a free show for which, quite frankly, I had higher expectations.  It was full of much of what I expected, childish crude humour and advice on the appropriate footwear for aspiring burglars. This was also interspersed with tips on how to become a millionaire. He performed three of his songs, ‘Crystal Meffin’, ‘The Boys on the Beach…’ and ‘Donny Soldier’. In general, the audience participation was weak with one audience member being completely drunk.  This turned out to be an average show with just a couple of big laughs, my favourite being his account of some BBC bigwigs asking him find a place in London for filming that looked like Doncaster… Could have had better from Devvo, or maybe this Donny Soldier has been riding on the success of one good Internet song for too long.

2/5 WIGS

Mayday Mayday

Review by Looby Loo

This was a one-man show telling the true story of the actor and his recovery from his fall from a wall, which broke his neck, on 1st May 2004 in Padstowe, Cornwall.  It was an ode to the NHS and all the people who had brought him back to full recovery.  It was told in a delicate manner using limited stage and props that were laid out in front for all the audience to see.

Tristan Sturrock gave an excellent performance. I couldn’t help but feel annoyed for the first 15 minutes that he had fallen as a result of alcohol.  Not that mistakes can’t happen, not that I condemn people that drink or am taking some ridiculous moral high ground but just because I know the statistics around the number of alcohol related accidents and diseases.  In about the 16th minute I realised that his show would probably be a horror story for many people and was such a kind tribute to the NHS that I couldn’t feel unsympathetic anymore.  It certainly made me want to put every drunk friend to bed properly.  I would have liked to hear more about the emotions he felt whilst in hospital, because anyone can read about the procedure and operation of his kind of fall but to cover the range of emotions he felt would have been more unusual and added more depth to his piece.  The script definitely let the show down, there was too much repetition,  “expectancy” was used rather than “expectation” and there were other words used I didn’t feel were in the right tense.  I expected a much more slick and imaginative production from someone who was from Kneehigh, perhaps if he had been a regular Joe I would not have had such high standards.

Audience wriggling:  someone fainted, poor thing

Bows:  2

General Spot:  clearly loads of his actor mates were there to support him and the second best title of the Fringe so far

Tears: 2

Venue:  I don’t like Pleasance Dome, it feels like a place where there should be experiments on plants.

WIGS: 3/5

The Price of Everything

Review by Ginger Wig

This was a performance lecture on how we value things. It was interesting and amusing performed by someone with very good performance skills. He told his stories in an interesting way, illustrating his points with fabricated stories, to prove to us that it was more plausible to believe a story about humans being idiots than it was them being kind and generous. Plus we got a free 1/3 of a cup of milk.

3/5 WIGS

Review by Looby Loo

I always enjoy a good story.  Daniel Bye is a good storyteller.  He discussed how we value the random acts of kindness of others.  I found the first half amusing but it appeared directionless and I always like the feeling of being in the capable hands of the actor(s) otherwise it makes me anxious.  The second half focused on Daniel’s experience of performing three acts of kindness and the results.  There was nothing that he said that surprised me, but the message of this piece is an important one.

Audience Wriggling:  this category has become difficult because of my obsession with the front row

Bows: 1

General Spot: Milk

Venue: I can’t help but think there is something depressing about watching a show in the wing of an empty church

2/5 WIGS

Villa & Discurso

Review by Linny

These are two plays by Guillermo Calderón brought by Teatro Playa.  They are performed in Spanish with English sub-titles.

Villa is a forensic and often highly fraught discussion between the three-member sub-committee convened to determine how best to present the notorious Villa Grimaldi – a death camp used under the Pinochet regime – as a memorial for the nation.  The opening revolves around a simple voting process to decide whether to build a bran-new art gallery/museum or to preserve the original building and site.  This rapidly disintegrates into a highly charged debate, as it has so many times before apparently,

It is perfectly clear that the issues involved are immense and that the committee are burdened not only by their own personal trauma but by the responsibility they carry in relation to the history of their country.  In addition there is the financial responsibility:  they have €25M to spend on the project.  Can they carry the project forward to ensure that people engage with this violent period of history without being repulsed by its brutality?  Or, do they dare allow future generations to reconstruct the events through their own imagination in a way that would be more effective?  The fundamental question here is about how to convey authenticity through a cultural artefact.

It takes a long time to emerge that the three women are indirect victims of the acts perpetrated at Villa.  They are all the products of rape and in one case the relationship between mother and daughter is profoundly compromised as the daughter resembles her father not her mother.  The long discourses throws up the many contradictory emotions they feel.  They long to be released from the pain of the past and yet at the same time they want to be avenged by making sure that the memorial tells the whole awful story complete with every reconstructed detail.  What is the alternative?  The alternative is the gleaming white art gallery/museum that sits at the bottom of a mountain somewhere.  Rows of MACs will store the details of every victim together with the details of what they might have become had they lived.  On the top floor there is a pen for a guard dog of the breed used at the camps for raping the victims.  There is subtle massaging of the story going on here.   How could this friendly dog be arapist?  At the end we are still not sure what decision has been made.  We can see why, however, it took so many years for the Ground Zero memorial to be completed.

Discurso is the imaginary exit speech of President Michelle Bachalet – the first female president of Chile in office from 2006 – 2010.  It is an off-the-cuff stream of consciousness about her background, its contradictory elements, its violence (her father, a General, was murdered) and her achievements and her failures in office.  It is an effective monologue about the intensely competing demands of public life and the entrenched interests and complex history of Chile.

4/5 WIGS

A Little Perspective With Imaan

Review by Ginger Wig & Looby Loo

This was a very interesting piece of stand-up from Imaan, a “migga” Lebanese-Aussie. Titled “A Little perspective with Imaan”, that is exactly what he gave us, relying on a couple of self-shot videos filmed on the streets of Melbourne, he showed us exactly how ignorant, stupid and insensitive some people can be towards someone who is the same height as a 6-year old.  Highlights included his description of his utter hatred of being described as “cute” by girls, that “oooh” and “awww” him, preferring to counter it with some of the crudest humour he knows.  He also decided to dress up as Jesus and walk around Melbourne forgiving people for their sins.  Imaan is only 22-years old and he has a lot further to go.

Audience wriggling:  only to get more beer

Best Joke:  “Would I be considered taller if I was Chinese?”

Bows:  1 but shook all the audience members’ hands as they left

General spot:  best title of a show so far

Venue:  other comedians make jokes about the Gilded Balloon but I haven’t figured out why that is

3/5 WIGS