Girls Night Out @ theSpace@Jury’s Inn, Edinburgh Fringe

A twenty-something young woman is preparing for a Saturday night out with the girls. However as she tries to get ready, she is constantly interrupted by her friends and members of her family. Eme Essien’s hour of brilliant comedy is full of hilariously relatable things women face when getting ready for nights out. By combining sound recordings with her performance, Essien brings to life different characters superbly, like Darnell – the guy you give your number to but instantly regret when he actually calls. Girls Night Out is a cleverly written and well performed one-woman show that demonstrates the realities that women face in their day-to-day lives.

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The sound recordings are masterfully weaved into the performance which allows Essien to skillfully speak to each character in an organic way. In particular her aunt from Nigeria is the one who stands out the most. Their conversation over Skype is an amusingly accurate sequence full of perfectly timed comedic miscommunication. While the show is funny and energetic, it also includes some home truths that affect woman. Essien looks at how independence is construed by different people and how aspirations are sometimes altered because of circumstance. She successfully introduces these ideas into the show in a way that makes them feel natural and familiar, which is instantly engaging. The show authentically presents the battles women are faced with and the expectations society has of them. Essien’s attitude is inspiring, and her hilarious performance makes Girls Night Out an impressive piece that is well worth a watch.

Girls Night Out is at theSpace@Jury’s Inn until 27th August. 

The Taming of the Shrew @ C South, Edinburgh Fringe

Performed  by Soon Chun Hyang University’ English Drama Club, The Taming of the Shrew is an up-beat and funky adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy. The company fuse traditional Korean performance with modern-day hip hop to produce a hilariously bawdy play that explores the theme of harmony between old and new.

Katharina loves hip hop, but her father Baptista wants her to be more like her younger sister Bianca, who loves traditional Korean music and dance. Because of her amiable qualities, many of the village’s young men are fond of Bianca, but Baptista is only willing to let his daughter marry after her older sister has done so. The men hatch a plan to find a suitor for Kate, and Petruchio is seen to be a perfect match for her. Petruchio attempts to tame Kate’s non-traditional characteristics, and hilarity ensues, culminating into a happy ending for both of the sisters.

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The play is condensed into 60 minutes of energetic comedy. In particular Won Chui Choi is brilliant as Lucentio, who endearingly falls in love with various members of the audience before finally choosing Bianca. The lewd imagery is heightened by the performers’ amusing physical comedy, especially during the scene changes. While the clownish performances are humorous, there are some beautiful moments in the play too. The opening traditional dance is one of them, and the elegance of the performers skillfully moving around the sage is stunning. The best thing about the adaptation is Director Kim Han Baek’s focus on female empowerment. In the end of the play, Kate defies her “taming” by continuing her love for hip hop. The other performers join in with her dancing too, and the play marvellously ends with a strong female character challenging the norm, which makes this adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew superb.

 

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore @ Paradise at Augustines, Edinburgh Fringe

John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore is a challenging play for a modern audience. The exploration of incest is dark and difficult to stomach, but the complexities it exhibits are fascinating. Wanton Theatre’s adaptation however does not utilise the drama and complicated themes of Ford’s play, and the shock it creates in the beginning loses its power after the second Act.

Giovanni (Louis Catliff), back from his studies at University, is speaking to the Friar (Noah Liebmiller) about his desire for his sister Annabella (Ellie Burke). The Friar warns him about his emotions, but Giovanni disregards him, professing his love to her. To his surprise, she reciprocates, and the two consummate their love. But Annabella falls pregnant and is forced to marry Soranzo (Joss Gillespie) who soon finds out about the siblings’ incestuous love, leading to a tragic ending.

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The show has some promising performances. Burke portrays Annabella with passion and there is real emotion in her repentance. However, some of the action was hard to watch due to the yelling as a means of projecting intensity by the actors. Ryan Hay’s direction also doesn’t focus enough on Philotis’ characterisation. Philotis is a young girl who is used by the men around her but is “saved” in the end of the play after she is sent to a convent. Her appearance seems to serve no  function in this adaptation, apart from to boost the number of female actors on stage. While ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore attracts attentions during the incestuous sex scene, it loses this impact when it doesn’t follow through during the more violently gory scenes. Consequently the gouging of tutoress Putana’s eyes is flat and doesn’t evoke much emotion. Even when Annabella’s heart is brought out onto the stage, it isn’t bloody enough. Overall, Wanton Theatre’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore falls short of a memorable adaptation.

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore is at Paradise at Augustines until 20th August.

Just Let the Wind Untie My Perfumed Hair… or Who Is Tahirih? @ Assembly George Square Studios, Edinburgh Fringe

 Written and performed by Delia Olam, Just Let the Wind Untie My Perfumed Hair (or Who is Tahirih) details the story of the 19th Century Persian poet Tahirih who defied societal expectations and took the firsts step in challenging inequality. Performed with eloquence and beautiful poetry, Olam’s one-woman show powerfully showcases the life of this poetess.

In 19th Century Iran, women are forced to be obedient to the men around them, and are expected to be good wives and mothers. But Tahirih has had enough of this powerlessness. She writes poetry, defying the men around her, fighting for true equality. When she takes off her veil to reveal her face, which is an illegal act, her execution is demanded. Throughout the show we hear from Tahirih’s father, friend, servant and executioner, who paint a rebellious picture of her, until finally she is martyred.

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Olam’s writing is tender and her characterisation is effective. Tahiri’s father is the most touching character, with his conflicting views drawing mixed emotions from the audience. While he is proud of his daughter’s thirst for knowledge, he can’t help but interpret her intelligence as rebellion. His thoughts are also shared by the other members of the community, creating a heartbreaking story. The most evocative elements of the piece are the musical points in-between each scene. Tahirih’s poetry is fused with the sounds of a cello and Appalachian dulcimer, performed beautifully by Olam. The play is haunting and Tahirih’s suffrage is powerful. Her words “you can kill me as soon as you like but you cannot stop the emancipation  of women” will stay with you even after you have left.

Just Let the Wind Untie My Perfumed Hair (or Who is Tahirih) is at Assembly George Square Studios until 29th August.

Lifted @ theSpace@Surgeons Hall, Edinburgh Fringe

Written by Sara Shaarawi and Henry Bell, Lifted is a one-man show performed by Ikram Gilani that explores racism and Islamophobia. By focusing on two Asian Muslim men who seem very different from each other, the play looks at how the inability to fit in automatically makes you a target to authorities. The themes of racism, alienation, familial expectation, and sexuality are present which provides space for a weighty discussion, however the writing loses its course on the way.

A young Scottish Pakistani man (Gilani) is being interrogated by the police about his friend Moody, a Kuwaiti Student from St Andrews Uni. He doesn’t know what he has to do with Moody’s arrest, they’re just acquaintances. As the story continues, we find out more about the two characters and their lives, as well as the religion they both share but practice differently.

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Gilani successfully brings to life the character’s humour and naivety, and his comedic timing makes him brilliantly engaging. The topics discussed are rich and relevant in the current debates about immigration, and while the text manages to draw interest in the beginning, around the middle mark it starts to drag. In the first half of the play we find out how the two characters met, what the two boys did together for fun, both their religious backgrounds, and Moody’s relationship with his family back home. As the play moves into the second half,  we are supplied with anecdotes about the two and the things they got up to before their arrest. This would be fine if the story culminated to a dynamic ending, but it doesn’t and the stories of the boys’ shenanigans just elongates the narrative without getting to anything. Lifted lacks a satisfying conclusion which is disappointing, but it is redeemed by Gilani’s lovable nature and honest performance.

Lifted is at theSpace@Surgeons Hall until 27th August.

Macbeth @ ZOO, Edinburgh Fringe

Fortitude Dance Theatre are a Nottingham-based company made up of students currently studying at various drama schools around the UK. Their debut show Macbeth is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s place set in the Acid House scene of 1989 Manchester. While the idea of this setting is a welcome approach to the text, especially by a young group of performers, the execution isn’t solid enough for a strong performance.

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After encountering three witches, Macbeth and his friend Banquo are spooked by their prophecy. When their first prediction comes true, Macbeth calls his wife to let her know what he has witnessed. In order to make sure what the witches foretold comes true, that Macbeth shall “be King hereafter,” the couple concoct a plan to kill their leader Duncan and fulfil the prophecy. Blood begets blood, until Macbeth meets a deadly end.

The company are skilled with their movements and the dancing in the performance is the most promising element of it, but there isn’t enough of it in the show. This “physical theatre” adaptation doesn’t get physical until Duncan’s murder scene a third of the way in, which is a disappointment. The performers also need to work on the delivery of their lines, as most couldn’t fully grasp which words to emphasise, often spitting the speeches out quickly. While the Acid House elements are present in the costume design and music of the show, more could have been done to incorporate the psychedelic nature of the genre. This would have worked especially well with the witches, and would have emphasised their supernatural nature. Overall, Fortitude Dance Theatre’s Macbeth lacks the understanding and energy to be an effective adaptation.

The Empire Builders @ Institut français d’Ecosse, Edinburgh Fringe

Boris Vian’s 1959 absurdist play The Empire Builders examines the downfall of a bourgeois family, who become increasingly alienated from their surroundings and each other. Turkish theatre company Hayal Perdesi’s staging is a darkly comic and delightfully sinister approach to this play, that captures Vian’s sense of uncertainty perfectly.

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The Dupont family have just moved into their new home, but daughter Zenobia thinks this house is too small. She wants to go back to their old one with 6 bedrooms and the colourful window box in her room. Her parents on the other hand can’t remember ever living in a house so big. As the play goes on, the horrible sound they are trying to escape from appears to be following them, forcing them to continually move lodgings. In the end, the father of the family Leon is the only one left, and the noise catches up with him forcing him to acknowledge it to the bitter end.

The most striking aspect of the play is the set design by Selin İşcan, who has used white tape to indicate the structural shape of the family’s home. As they move from space to space in each scene, this structure gets smaller, continuously shutting each of the characters out, and therefore the set becomes a visual representation of the play’s alienating claustrophobia. The sharp lighting emphasises to the clinical atmosphere created by the white props, adding to this theme. The energetic performers make the small space feel dynamic which makes the climax more effective in depicting Leon’s isolation. The Empire Builders is a very impressive piece that Hayal Perdesi have masterfully staged.

The Empire Builders is at the Institut français d’Ecosse until 21st August.