Jul 31 – Aug 25 (14.45)
I absolutely love The Assembly Roxy Upstairs Venue on Drummond Street, there’s such an air of expectation about it, with the sloping seats going right up to the stage ceiling. I chose a seat right up level with the lighting, somehow exciting in itself. The two protagonists, male and female, were dressed in thick woolly jumpers as they started proceedings by sharing a quiet conversation about their relationship with each other, the domestic ins and outs. They began to dance, shedding a layer of clothing and we watched as they wound themselves around each other. She climbed onto his head and as they stood tall and strong, their muscles sinewing athletically as they used their bodies to represent the great tussles of life and love, their give and take, their total support for each other. He would frequently catch her just before it seemed she would slam into the floor. It was passionate and enthralling, intimate and dangerous. We gasped.
The theme was the quest for love between man and woman, whether it can be total and uncompromising. But as they talked, the plot seemed to turn on its head as they revealed that their relationship as lovers wasn’t what it seemed; that it was in fact a lie. He announced he was gay and she that she hadn’t taken a lover for over two years. There came a shift after these admissions, when she became the support for him to climb around. We empathised with the honesty, the struggle to be true to yourself as well as to your commitment. I found this performance utterly enthralling. An hour of total engagement with amazing choreography and the grace of art, making you forget time and your own worries as it weaves its spell on you. Beautiful and uplifting, like a gift. I feel grateful for having seen this show.
Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Edinburgh International Festival
21 August 2019 to 24 August 2019
Let’s face it, the bastion of baffling pretention known as ‘Interpretative Dance’ is at the very pinnacle of the pyramid of thespian charlatanary that are the Edinburgh Festivals. Interpretative Dance tackling the, ahem, laugh-a-minute Norn Irish ‘Troubles’ sounds like a ‘Legitimate Target’ or at least a fleg up for a spot of recreational rioting. However, and I can’t believe I’m writing this (I’m as surprised as you), Oona Doherty’s ‘Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer’ is one of the best fifty minutes I have ever spent in a theatre outside of the bar.
Full disclosure. I’m from Belfast (and Hard as Fuck). I arrived with a mouth full of sarcasm and a hipflask full of whiskey. I left in a daze, genuinely and deeply impressed by what I was sure was going to be a load a ballax. Gobsmacked by a piece of work which at one level is just punters prancing about on a stage but on another is an eloquent understated yet (gulp) powerful physical drama.
That David Holmes, top-end Soul Techno Gay House DJ producer, soundtracker to Hollywood proper Belfast Boyo and all round good egg himself provides what is termed the ‘soundscape’ doesn’t hurt. The whine of paranoia and chopper,s the unmistakable whirr of the tyres of the armoured cars on the streets, samples of various Spides and Millbags (ask somebody from Belfast), sweeping electronica, the music (soundscape my arse) sets light to some great dancing and a genuinely poetic portrayal of the daftness of the last forty years telescoping from the personal to the political.
A Belfast Prayer doesn’t just avoid cliché , it dingies it altogether.(Love that word)
No body gets done, nobody sings about Colleen’s or dogs or some Boyo on a horse that fucked off years ago because he clocked you were a psycho and fifty texts a day at least. No-one glosses over the barbarity. And praise be to St Michael Alec Joey Van Barry and the lord Georgie Himself nobody bores anyone to death about the alleged politics. Amazing. Just one gripe ‘Soundscape? Really Davy…. Soundscape?, aye dead on mate… yer from East Belfast for fucks sake. Have a wee word eh? Plus it was a bit smoky in there, alright? Up The Hoods!
At the excellent Grand space at the Surgeon’s Hall, I have just witnessed some of the most comprehensively entertaining, eyeball-tickling physical theatre of the Fringe, if not my life. Milan’s Game is the name, & while the structure is simple, the content is fabulous. Like a garden trellis full of mid-summer blooms. It is has been brought to Edinburgh by AllouAqui company, a classy duet directed by Samuel De La Torre, starring Delicia Sefiha & Xavier De Santos. They play a couple – Lucas & Zoe are their names – who are losing romantic passion & cruising thro’ routine.
Inbetween snippets of domestic domiciles, from the follies & the dust we are given daydreaming scenes straight out of Baron Munchausen. These are danced with vigor, flair & high artistry. I especially enjoyed Delicia’s tall & golden visitor from another world, brought suddenly crashing to earth with Xavier’s entrance with shopping bags & a cry of, ‘what the fuck are you doing!?’
Also danced with perfect passion & unflinching theatre are several real-life interchanges between our couple. It seems even in the spleen-churning realms of domestic unbliss, it is still possible to find heavenly art, including an astonishing, primevally stag-antlered ‘battle’ scene to Mozart’s Requiem. An eclectic & entertaining music selection for each scene, I must add, was an important accompaniment to this bold show.
There is more to Milan’s Game than meets the eye – I could sense an assault on the patriarchy in there somewhere. The variety of the dream-dances is also a lively concept which ensures our constant attentions. As the pommels of clear marble that are our two talented dancers translated idiosyncracies with ease, I totally adored the jagged thrusts & rippling fire-field arms which penetrated the spaces between them – a cosmic & entrancing mix. Milan’s Game, yeah, you’ve just got to see it really, its a beautiful soap-opera for the soul.
Damian Beeson Bullen
the Space @ Surgeons Hall
19th – 24th August (10.00)
Paradise in Augustines
Aug 19-20 (19:20)
The amazing Kooch graced the stage at Paradise in Augustine’s in the form of a four piece band (guitar, drums, bass and saxophone) with the wonderfully dressed vocalist, Shirin Majd, at the centre. They played as they took their places, drawing us in to what felt like an exotic world of beauty, unfamiliar yet so natural. The genres seemed to range from western opera to Italian tragedy, mixed with a kind of fusion jazz, mixed with folk and they played new and old songs in Farsi, Turkish, Spanish and English. The folklore spoke of a love so endearing as to climb to the angels and announce it.
Shirin would touch the air gently, swaying her hips as she sang, a voice I have never heard the like of before. The music would stop mid song and start again seemingly out of beat, in constant free motion, creating a stunning vision of love and passion. Accompanying the melodies they played videos on a large screen, depicting images of hardship, war, displacement, suffering, so that the music took on the meaning of all the things that displaced people’s hope for – peace, love, belonging. Until the pictures eventually became more light-hearted and echoed the great emotions that the lyrics spoke of.
The ensemble’s final embellishment was the appearance of a belly dancer in full jingling garb of beautiful, original design, expressively telling the stories through dance and making several costume changes where each new garment was even more spectacular than the last. You could feel that this plush space had found the perfect show to live up to the surroundings – a truly magical masterpiece which raised beauty to such a height as to make it hard to believe that it came from the simple act of singing and playing and dancing. Ancient, modern, brilliant, passionate, honest, beautiful, amazing in every nuance. In fact a master class.
Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly
Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows
Aug 20-24 (17:00)
When me & my sister were growing up in the 80s, we dearly loved all the cool American films like Teenwolf & Dirty Dancing. So, when I discovered that two comets were on a collision course; my sister’s visit to Edinburgh with the niblings, & Los Angeless Short Round Productions arrival at the Fringe with Filament, it was a no-brainer, I had to take her. The chief reason is that the thread seguing some extremely sophisticated, & fast-paced acrobatics is an American high school menage a trois.
The Dirty Dancing bit
This is acrobatic theatre that although is driven by a retro theme, is enacted instead on the cutting edge of its art – the routines were breathholdingly breathtaking at times. Everything is there to wow & please the traditionalist; an ever-moving montage of body shapes brought on by hula-hoop, trapeze, juggling, dangleropes & bendy-wendys – all done to the beat of an amazing soundtrack. I’ve had a soft-spot for the American TV show Big Little Lies over the past fourteen months or so, mainly for its supercool soundtrack each episode. I felt the same sensations of appreciation within me while tapping my feet along to the lithe talent pirouetting with pure professionalism across & above the circus floor. One cannot help but be happily hypnotised by the unexhausting energy of the Short Round Gang as they sail their story-arc-boats along those streams of sexual attraction found in every US student soup.