Fading away at the Fringe

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Edinburgh Festival Review Very few other cities outside London can claim, as Oxford can, to have had eleven shows at Edinburgh this year. But more impressive than the actual number was the incredible diversity and novelty of the shows – only three of the productions worked from a bought script. The remainder included a literary adaptation, a devised fairy tale for children, a comedy sketch show and three completely new plays. The standard of production and acting was as varied as the pieces themselves. Lolita at C venues, featuring Katherine Flaherty in a poignant portrayal of the title role, was undoubtedly the most commercial offering. Flaherty managed to look no older than twelve and successfully captured the gentleness that is Lolita. The production’s fatal flaw was that the protagonist paedophile Humbert (Thom Glover) was no longer the monstrously middle-aged corrupter, with whom we unwillingly empathise, but a boy whose talent for acting could not negate the fact that he is merely nineteen, and looked it. By omitting huge chunks of the book we were relunctantly subjected to The Reduced Lolita, which collapsed spectacularly under the last few scenes of intense emotional crisis. Suddenly the audience was left watching a bunch of students performing a cheap copy of a masterpiece. In contrast James Copp, Hannah Madsen and their cast produced a very sweet version of the fairytale, The White Slipper. A hugely fun and imaginative show, it clearly appealed as much to kids as to their parents. Unfortunately such generosity cannot be extended to The Fine Art of Falling to Pieces, a thoroughly affected and formless piece of theatre. The semi-autobiographical script about dull student selfobsession totally shot itself in the foot by committing the very crime it set out to examine. And yet there remains some hope for student new writing. The Problem with the Seventh Year at the Underbelly was by far the best of the 30-odd shows I saw at this year’s Fringe. The writer, Nicholas Pierpan, tells the story of a boxer also training to be a medical student. Themes of sensitive but violent masculinity prevail, mixed with a raw edge reminiscent of Scorcese. Watch out for Pierpan, he promises great things. Suffering from serious obscurity is the Oxford Revue, who have spent the last year in the hands of the bizarre James Harris. The Edinburgh show was no funnier than the Oxford Playhouse production in May, where members of the audience were seen sneaking out every time the lights dimmed. Difficult ideas were poorly executed by a troupe of unfunny performers. This year’s Revue have now failed at four different venues, and nobody is laughing. We are in dire need of a new bunch to stop the damage being done to the Revue’s long-earned reputation. Broadway tastes were also catered for. A Chorus Line had to contend with some inferior acting and dodgy ensemble singing, but did succeed in producing an enjoyable show. Both Sarah Rajaswaran and Kari Moffatt are two to follow – their voices both divine. Frankly, Kept, was a test of endurance. A ridiculous set and shaky cast prevented this strange production from being anything but a disaster. Bouncers, which did well in Oxford earlier this year was funny, but by no means outstanding. And finally, Attempts on Her Life at the Underbelly was a superb piece by a group consisting mainly of recent Oxford graduates. It was an extraordinarily fresh, talented and visceral performance tackling issues of psychosis that represented a pinnacle to which all student drama should aspire.ARCHIVE: 0th Week MT2003 

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