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And those who can’t teach become critics

Last year I was at the Edinburgh festival.

While I was there I saw about 65 shows and wrote reviews of most in my notebook. I went around the smaller venues, trying to find little gems that hadn’t been picked up on by the press, trying to find the diamonds in the poo. And overwhelmingly, I failed to do so.

Most of the things I saw weren’t very good. But I was pretty pleased with some of the reviews I wrote.
At this point I began to realise that I had the makings of a great critic. When you realise that your reviews are the best thing about anything you go and see, it’s time to light the touchpaper on your ego and watch as your career as critic soars toward the stars.

I have decided to upload some of my reviews to this site. I would like to point out that any criticism of the performers is probably, by now, invalid, as they all showed a great deal of promise, and have undoubtably improved enormously in the last twelve months.

Anyway, I just wanted to have these on the site, somewhere, so I knew where they were. Read them, don’t read them, but don’t say I never post anything. This is a big monster. PLease bear in mind, these are last year’s reviews. DO NOT attempt to go and see any of these plays. This is an ENTIRELY USELESS EXERCISE.

Please do enjoy. I shall do them some at a time.

Here we go.

The shows are rated on the Vodka Tonic scale, representing how many Vodka Tonics the company would have to buy me before I was prepared to recommend their show to a paying punter. The more Vodkas, the worse the show…


Southern Discomfort

Metro Gilded Balloon Teviot, 13.00 (1hr)
Seats; 110, Audience; 2

Dear Mr Actor,

You may remember me, I was one of two people in the audience for your show.

I’ve been trying to work out how that must feel for you. Is it as inexorably embarrassing as it is for us?
You’ve worked your arse off writing a show, an hour long show.
You’ve written it, and rehearsed and rehearsed for, well – months maybe – and it’s just you in it, no one else on stage to support you, and it’s not a bad show, it’s open, funny, touching, direct.
And you’ve flown across an ocean. And oceans are big.

And here you are. Performing in front of two f***ing people (not to be confused with ‘two people f***ing’, which would be a different thing altogether)

There’s me, in the second row, right in the middle, and the silent Japanese girl second row from the back, tucked over to the side.
Christ – for the first ten minutes you probably thought it was just me.
I have to say, sitting wih my back to the rest of the audience, I was terrified that you would say something desperately offensive, and she would leave.

If I could be seen to bristle during the section on sheep-shagging, that’ll be why.
And also you were talking about shagging sheep.

But she didn’t leave, thank God. And he lights came up and we tried desperately to clap like more than two people, although we might have sounded more sincere just speaking our thanks.

And you, you apologised, bless your socks.
The show itself, you say? I enjoyed it. One man – one man’s story – 15 characters.
Well executed.
I mean, I’ve seen the same structure in 27,000 other festival….

I can’t. I can’t be rotten.
I mean, I could, but… Anyway
Hope you’re ok.

Love and kisses…

Vodka Tonic rating; 4. ish. Sorry.


Gjakova – Another War

Augustines, 16.50, (1hr)

It was 20 minutes before we could get into the auditorium, apparently the subtitling machine was broken, and rather than using the time to equip us with basic Albanian
(‘Fus yt me ere te keq goot djatre ngre bumhool, swetheirt’ – “You can stick your stinking goats cheese up your bumhole, darling”)
They battled hard, and eventually announced that the subtitling machine was completely fixed.

They were wrong.

The story was likely a very powerful one
(although admittedly not powerful enough to stop one leading Scottish Critic from falling asleep – and still managing to review the whole thing in the next day’s paper…)
An Albanian doctor kidnapped by a Serbian police chief in order to care for his pregnant wife.
The relationship between the two men, the tension and suspense as to what was going to happen to the doctor after the birth of the child, were stirring matter indeed.
However, unless you spoke fluent Albanian/Serbian/Shouty, the finer points of the story were bound to be lost on you.

And the other points of the story.

The main actors, who both had beards, were fluent in Albanian/Serbian/Shouty, and I cannot help but think that it was this fact that impeded my understanding of the story.

The publicised ‘subtitles’ were projected in moody grey onto a wibbly black curtain above the action – which, quite apart from making them ‘surtitles’, also made them almost completely illegible. Added to this, though, was the fact that either the computer programme kept jamming, or the controller of the ‘-titles’ had no more knowkledge of Albanian/Serbian/Shouty than the rest of us.

This left us in a somewhat comical situation, where the two men would fight almost to blows, the only hint of the conflict root being the words ‘would you like to go to the toilet?’ hanging in the air over their heads, and then, playing catch-up, 30 lines would flash before our eyes while the they stared at each other in silence.

Because of this, it was difficult to discover the twists in the tale, if there were any, and who they might belong to.
I was also left unsure as to the rightful owner of my sympathy by the end, although I’m guess it was the man with the bullet in his forehead. Maybe.

I felt sorry for the one with the beard, anyway.

And all this because they hadn’t thought to perform it in English.
When will people stop this dogged and frustrating whim of ‘being from somewhere else’?
Why can’t Everyone Be English? Things would be so much simpler…
Perhaps that’s what this play was about.

Perhaps not.

Vodka Tonic Rating - 2, perhaps, very worthy after all, if a little one sided, and if they got the language/title thing sorted out, we might be in business. As it stands, however… maybe 3, actually. Beards.

  1. Oh that first one!!!!! had me in stitches. I WANT to go see it now just because of that write up.
    Brill!

    Comment by Fluffy — 12 August, 2004 10:37 pm

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