FringeReview UK

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FringeReview UK 2017

A Lie of the Mind

Sam Shepard declared that the wrong play got the Pulitzer. Buried Child was he felt crude by comparison with the later 1985 A Lie of the Mind. It joins the other meta-myths of America in the chopped sentences of demented individuals we see too much of. The extraordinary convergence of the ending seems not quaint and outdated but prescient again.


Angels in America: Millennium Approaches

Marianne Elliott with her superb cast and ramped-up effects towards the end ensure this episodic freewheeling fantasia hooks you compulsively, beating you over the head with angels’ wings as Part One shuts them hypnotically and we’re suspended.


B

We need more Calderon and more of the Court’s excellent International Playwrights programme. ‘Those who are still laughing’, Brecht claimed grimly, ‘have not heard the terrible news.’ Yet he always laughed and Calderon, in William Gregory’s idiomatic translation ensures this piece is memorable because we laugh, scratch our heads, perhaps look furtively at our bags.


Bad Roads

Leading Ukraine dramatist Natal’ya Vorozhbit won’t indulge the luxury of exploring just one outstanding tableau in isolation in these six harrowing vignettes. Infinitely more than postcards from the edge of the redacted west, they nudge then kick us back out of our own barbaric comforts.


Barber Shop Chronicles

Barber Shop Chronicles is a breath-taking revelation for those of us who had small inkling of a world in miniature. The act of barbering is more than an exchange of service with fringe benefits: it’s a profound act of human adjustment, including that vital glance in the mirror.


Goats

It’s an essential drama, and an even more essential document for navigating the Syria we don’t know, that of ordinary non-opposition Syrians making the best of it and thus the worst. Perhaps a pared-down version might one day follow. It’s too good to miss for the sake of a few shaggy scenes.


Grimly Handsome

If you want theatre to change your life a little and wonder where our DNA and urges trek to, you could do infinitely worse than shiver here.


New Nigerians

As a snapshot of political compromise and impossibly contrary pressures African politicians encounter, it’s of the keenest interest. Agboluaje’s characters are vivid, and in one great scene they breathe fire.


Out of Blixen

Everything in Out of Blixen is realized with a magical economy. Kathryn Hunter’s s in her fluid element here, morphing into twelve-year-old girls and seasoned dowagers to her own directed paces The Europhilic Print Room has transformed the Coronet’s circular space into a consistent vision of theatre.


Poison

This play’s so clear on the failure of closure and reconciling loss that it’s an index of how Poison in fact addresses, even helps us confront them.


The Cherry Orchard

A joyful sadness more nearly than most strikes the balance Chekhov mockingly prescribes in The Cherry Orchard: a comedy, grasping a clutch of infernos. Jade Wlliams’ grief-clenched crumpling as Varya perhaps steals the show but Simon Scardfield’s misery-infused Epikhodov, Abhin Galeya’s weedily gauche Trofimov and Sian Thomas’s giddy Ranevsky round out a memorable whirligig of a production.


The Crucible

This masterpiece of courageous refusal gets one of its finest performances in recent memory. Proctor’s decision and Slattery’s delivery of his great lines: ‘Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!’ rings down this supreme testament to honesty – to bear false witness and incriminate others to save oneself - in the face of tyranny. Slattery defines this role in a way very few have; his energy radiates through a superbly lucid, passionately argued production.


The Glass Menagerie

Led by Cherry Jones and Michael Esper, Williams’ fresh map of hopeless chances freshly realized, in a revival whose pitch is as perfect as the flowers picked off Amanda’s mouldy dress.


The Kid Stays in the Picture

In the best sense this production’s stupefying, a spectacle shot through with theatrical tropes suggests that, if Evan’s revelations could be more frequent, Kid would be dramatically breathtaking too. And it is thrillingly itself.


The Kite Runner

David Ahmad’s anchoring central performance is enhanced by Jo Ben Ayed’s physical one. Theirs is a remarkable chemistry, radially informed by Doorgasingh and Faroque Khan’s reactions. It’s a potent, heartwarming and heartrending story, spellbindingly translated to the stage and here with more power even than before. Don’t miss it.


The Miser

The famous adage of farce as tragedy played at breakneck speed begs questions of how much pathos Moliere wished to inject, how fast he wanted to go in The Miser. All teeters towards the tragedy of the absurd. This may not be 1668 very exactly, but it’s the nearest to one side of Moliere we’ve seen for years, and conveys something of the shock of his new.


The Plague

Neil Bartlett’s adaptation of The Plague plays on the mind as it’s meant to. Ferocious simplicity and pared choices make for an absorbing evening. Shorn of props, video projections or naturalist distractions, we let the piece seep in. Bartlett knows such brutal relevance never needs underlining, as we look at homeless Syrians and those of every ethnicity shivering in an unsuspecting city.


The World of Yesterday

Stefan Zweig lends himself peculiarly to a theatrical dimension. It’s over in a blink. If you’re at all near, you won’t regret the Print Room’s opalescent sliver of magic conjuring the best out of this production.


Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice, Schimmelpfennig’s apparently naturalistic fable is more than timely. As a dead-of-winter warning, it urges us to recalibrate, rewind our imaginations to the point where we might stop the tide of reasonable boundaries tightening into a noose.