Living a Little @ King’s Head Theatre

Produced by Riot House Theatre, and In Your Face Theatre – the same guys who staged the ridiculously enjoyable Trainspotting Living a Little is a show about zombies, friendship and love. Full of brilliant comedy, as well as some heartbreaking scenes, writer Finlay Bain (who also performs) and director Jordan Murphy have created an entertaining piece of work.

Paul (Paul Thirkel) and Rob (Bain) are two flatmates stuck amidst a zombie apocalypse. It’s not clear how long they have lived under these conditions or how the human population even started turning into zombies, but the two have a comfortable arrangement in the flat. That’s until Penelope (Pearl Appleby) bursts in through their door – the duo’s first ever contact with another person. She’s clearly been through some tough stuff, and Rob’s “live a little” attitude isn’t helping. But when the three let loose in a drug fuelled evening, true emotions are revealed, and they’re forced to deal with the consequences.

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The cast is absolutely terrific. Thirkel is instantly likeable as Paul. His physical comedy is on point, and each of his movements is calculated to hit a punchline perfectly. Opposite him, Bain’s Rob is obnoxious with his misogynistic and laddish behaviour. But the character’s brashness is balanced well by the writer’s ability to still make him sympathetic with the love he shows for his friend. Appleby’s performance is strong, and a particular highlight is Penelope’s hilariously extreme and completely valid opinion of the X Factor, which understandably received a round of approving applause from the audience.

The show is very fast-paced, and the back and forths between the actors are almost constant, but never tiring to watch. This tempo emphasises the emotions present in the more touching and intimate scenes, which are neatly and rhythmically placed into the piece. There is a lot of information to digest in 60 minutes, but Bain has successfully managed to create a story that’s easy to follow. The ambiguity surrounding the conditions in which the zombies have appeared is intriguing, and allows for some grotesque speculation by the characters (which is great), but also doesn’t fully remove the fictitious aspect of the situation – by that I mean there could very well be a zombie apocalypse one day, you just can’t ever know.

This is an energetic and funny show from beginning to end. With its pop-culture quips, impressive set, and a cast who genuinely look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage, Living a Little is a zombie apocalypse you’re definitely going to want to be a part of.

Living a Little is at the King’s Head Theatre until 14th May.

The South Afreakins @ VAULT Festival

The South Afreakins is a comic and heartfelt story of an elderly couples’ emigration from South Africa to New Zealand, inspired by writer and performer Robyn Paterson’s own family. In this one-woman show Paterson plays both roles – Gordon and Helene – and her energy feeds the imagination, making it feel as though both are genuinely present on stage.

When Gordon’s retirement finally sets in, Helene is determined to convince him to move to New Zealand from their home in a South Africa – to leave behind her fears and the memories of her murdered son. Reluctantly, Gordon joins her on this journey, and as Helene becomes comfortable and confident with her surroundings, he becomes more and more isolated in his new home.

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It’s takes a bit of time to get used to Paterson switching between the two characters, as well as trying to understand Gordon’s especially thick South African accent – this isn’t helped by the fact that our initial introduction is in the dark and behind the curtain making Paterson’s voice quite muffled. But once she gets into her stride, it’s a delight to see her as the old couple. Her characterisation is brilliantly thought-out and her mannerisms as each person are hysterically on point. By the end you’re heartbreakingly invested in both characters.

Paterson is a strong performer. She fills the stage with life and her familial ties to the story add warmth to her performance. The show is hilarious from beginning to end, but does have some intense sobering moments highlighting themes of displacement, immigration and race. The South Afreakins is a great piece of work expertly put together and performed by Paterson.

The South Afreakins is at the VAULT Festival until 19th February.

2 Become 1 @ King’s Head Theatre

Kerri Thomason and Natasha Granger’s 2 Become 1 is an upbeat musical exploring female friendship and the evolution of dating, set to a 90s soundtrack. Bursting with nostalgia and girl power, the play perfectly captures the pop-culture of the era, and the talented cast present some truly hilarious renditions of these classic songs.

Jess (Granger) has just been dumped by her boyfriend, and to stop her from wallowing in self-pity, her friends decide to take her on a night out. From speed dating, to using Cosmo tips to impress men, to singing in the ladies loos, the girls do their best to cheer up Jess’ broken heart. But in the end, after a quick stop at the chippy, Jess realises she doesn’t need a man when she is surrounded by girl power.

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Photo: Liam Prior

The chemistry of the cast is exquisite on stage and it genuinely feels like these women have been friends for a long time. Granger captures the distressed dumpee’s character perfectly, and her physical comedy is brilliant. The stand-out performer of the piece is Jessica Brady, who plays the obsessive and fickle-hearted Amanda. Her powerful voice is the perfect fit for Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You,’ and along with the audience participation, this is the highlight of the piece.

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Photo: Liam Prior

While presenting a female-centric view through their characters, Thomason and Granger split the action with real-life recordings of men and their opinions on dating. Contrasting the 90s action with the contemporary recordings highlights just how much dating has changed in such a short period of time, especially with the internet. We see the character Molly (played by Thomason) muse about this at the end of their girls night out, commenting on just how ridiculous it would be to form opinions of people based just on the way they look.

Thomason and Granger have created a short and energetic piece, full of laughs and great throwbacks. Though their is an overarching theme about modern-day dating practices and how unorthodox they are when compared to 20 years ago, this is a very light-hearted show. With just the right amount of cheesiness, 2 Become 1 is a delight, and a great alternative Christmas treat.

2 Become 1 is at the King’s Head Theatre until 7th January.

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.