The best of shows, the worst of shows

I will remember summer 2009 as the year I ‘did the Fringe’.

As work-experience-person at The List magazine, it was my job to plunge the murky depths of Edinburgh amateur dramatics in the hope of unearthing that rare gem.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Here are two shows I will remember.

Maddeningly unfunny verbatim play

An Evening with Psychosis is a tiresome and ill-conceived multi-media play about losing touch with reality. Dramatised extracts from verbatim interviews conducted with people affected by psychosis (the mother of a psychotic teenage boy; a social worker) are interspersed with scenes set in a claustrophobic ‘Space Command Vessel’.

Intended ‘irreverently’ to explore the emergent themes of madness and reality, the spaceship scenes seem unable to decide whether to be comically absurd or serious and moving. Achieving neither humour nor profundity, these long sequences include videos of the action on stage filmed live and projected onto the back wall and equally gratuitous musical numbers.

The production lacks coherence and momentum, leaving it unable to engage its audience. Fortunately, the cast appear to take great pleasure in their own performances, whizzing across the stage on wheelie stools and shouting loudly at each other.

Other reviews of An Evening with Psychosis: Time out ****; The Skinny **; What’s On Stage ***; **


Heroin(e) For Breakfast (****)

Glamorous, gritty drug drama

It’s 11.40 am real time, perhaps slightly later dramatic time, and before even the stage lights go up we are treated to explicit, morning-gloom sex. But this is not ‘shock tactic’ Fringe theatre. This sex is cartoonish, speeded-up and half-ironic. So too, this tale of young lives lost to drugs, of three flatmates awaiting and attaining Heroin(e), is not what it first seems.

Heroin(e) is heroin personified but not humanised; her iconic Marilyn Monroe dress and silky Hollywood accent tell of a superhuman perfection. She can be everything to everyone (sisterly to washed-up Chloe; supportive of Tommy’s gross delusions) but is also heartless. ‘You all give a fuck about something,’ she tells the audience with a confidence so total it’s disarming, ‘But I don’t give a fuck, not one.’

Like its obvious precursor, Trainspotting, the play combines hallucinatory surrealism with gutter realism, but its use of personification – for me, at least – goes further to portray heroin’s fatal attraction. And fourth wall violation simply highlights the play’s wider relevance: because it’s not just about drugs, but about striving for a perfect, unachievable completeness.

Other reviews of Heroin(e) for Breakfast: The Observer; The Times ***; The Scotsman ****; The Skinny *****; Time Out **; What’ s On Stage *****; British Theatre Guide *****

(This is the complete list of my Edinburgh Festival reviews for The List.)

~ by Griselda Murray Brown on September 13, 2009.

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