FringeReview Scotland 2023
Well off the beaten track but just close to the Spiers Wharf studio for the RCS, there lurks a venue in which there was a Festival, designed to showcase the work of prominent students. In there I came, I saw, and they provided Unfeathered, a 20-minute film where Connie is consumed by sorrow after losing his brother, Tommy. As he gets into his flat, he is visited by Tommy as a bird who stays for more than a day but tries to keep him in his flat. Eventually the escape is part of embracing the reality of life and the future without his brother. Trompe L’oeil was the imagined coming together of the Girl with the Pearl Earring, the Mona Lisa and Liberte from La Liberte Guidant Le Peuple, in the Salle des Etats, in the Louvre. We begin with a voiceover and a radio debate about why the Girl with the Pearl Earring has been at the Louvre for two weeks but not displayed before we transfer to the drama between each of our characters. As Mona moans at the La Liberte looking for Liberte to come off her painting, Parel arrives, to indulge in an awkward conversation with the principal painted woman of the room. From there Liberte enters, once Mona has left, combines with Parel to escape the confines of the room before returning the following morning with a Parisian night showing her lightness of feet; Parel had been out too and like many before her, lost her shoes. We end returning to the debate on the radio which finishes off our musings. Exes: A Horrific Cabaret was a half hour run through of a woman scorned, cheated on, gaining her revenge with Lady Gaga’s ideals in her head – the empowerment of women. With pop standards sung with gusto, we were taken from killing men for good reason to killing all men as her partner in crime seems to see a logical extension in taking out the male form. We end by returning to the safety of ice cream and watching a movie to recover instead.
Next time I book a show at the RCS, I shall donate some cash. They are seriously strapped for cash – the venue was freezing, and I mean freezing. So much so that the student who introduced his film, Unfeathered cracked the obvious joke when thanking us for coming to be kept in the underground freezing dungeon in which we collected to watch. In order to get past the cold, this was going to have to be good. And it was. There is an absurdity within the concept of the film, which sees two grown men dance like birds, a clearly upset Connie behave more like a small child at times than a grieving adult and the appearance of Tommy in full bird costume. And it does work, but at times the script can be a tad stilted. The direction was sound, camera angles were good, and we were well directed through it, however the sound was an issue. It varies and at times there are such dips that I struggled to hear Tommy. It suggests a creative spark that augurs well, though a little underdeveloped here.
Trompe L’oeil was a play with real debate and some great moments within it. I found that it had a little unevenness and at times the script fell to cliché with – you had one job and can’t take that away form me as examples – but nonetheless did manage to address the issues of fame and the modern world with women of a certain vintage. The performances were good and in particular the approach taken by Amber Frances as Liberte gave pace to the piece. At times they were a little static, meaning that the stillness of Mona became less of a choice and more of a set of circumstances, losing the effect of standing still. What was an absolute joy was both the staging and the costumes. We were in little doubt about the characters, and this was made full be paying attention to theatre arts.
Exes: A Horrific Cabaret took as its subject matter something out of which Ben and Jerry’s must have made a fortune. Here we get what is probably a unique solution as it was enacted but not unique as in it harbours the emotions of the moment. It worked really well. The cardboard car hopefully managed to survive, the body of her ex-boyfriend should also have got through it OK, and the audience member brought up to be killed did manage to revive by the curtain call, so no damage done here. It was a bright and breezy horror and there was nothing particularly profound being attempted or pretended. The vocals were great, the stage presence of our two protagonists was good, their singing when harmonized superb, but solo spots were less successful. At time breath control appeared to be an issue. But the pace kept us going and in the harsh bright light of the studio, I felt I really had witnessed a group with plenty more to plumb as the deaths (or depths) were barely scrapped.
Overall, the night was one in which, the cold aside, was more than worthy visiting. There are shoots here of what is likely to come but to leave it there would be being overly patronising. All three have great merit in and of themselves as artistry. And like Marc Silberschatz advises, they need no preface, as he comments in his preface…