FringeReview UK

Years: 2021  2020  2019  2018  2017  2016  2015  

Genre Filter:


FringeReview UK 2017

‘Art’

Tim Key, Paul Ritter and Rufus Sewell dazzle in this Old Vic revival of ‘Art’ directed by Matthew Warchus. Reza joked of her Olivier Comedy award: ‘I’m surprised, I thought I’d written a tragedy’ and this visceral but almost (dare one say, given the subject) cubist probing of the hairline crack between the two both affirms and denies Reza’s claim she’s not a cerebral writer. She asks dangerous questions of just what the ‘art’ of friendship consists of, and why.


All or Nothing

Carol Harrison’s written the band proud and plangent; her split hero strategies work to make this one of the best possible storylines of a British band, given hell-bent Marriott burning his talent at both ends, just like the decade.


An Octoroon

Of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ brilliance there’s no doubt whatsoever. With such a wonderful cast led by the stunning Nwosu this makes the most persuasive and certainly comical case for a re-fashioning that’s now (almost) the only way we can look at the Boucicault original of this play.


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.


Cranford

A good evening out and if you’re in the area, more than recommendable. The overall production and costumes, abetted with strong pace, a good use of Coleman’s narratives and finally finally top-flight amateur performances by Jennifer Annetts, Aisling and Thomas Edie, and Charlotte Eastes, makes this a recommendable production, the most ambitious I’ve seen from these players.


Don Juan in Soho

Don David Tennant’s priapic thrusts might rise above the title but of course he’s in the classic armour (aka condoms) of two guvnors, Moliere and updater Patrick Marber; it’s exhilarating. This is one play you must see, so transcendent in its theme it asks you the same questions.


Dreamboats and Petticoats

It’s back again. Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran’s nine-year dream Dreamboats and Petticoats returns to Theatre Royal, Brighton with a cast and creatives deserving high praise for creating the lightest touch out of slight narrative. Those who’ve seen it should start marvelling at the musicianship, and those who haven’t will increasingly join in.


Escaped Alone

Escaped Alone frames four women chatting in deckchairs in this everyday talk of tea and catastrophe - just as one of them steps into the void to prophesy a smorgasbord of Armageddons. The protean Churchill touches yet another dimension too. Do we have to wait to her eightieth in 2018 to proclaim her our greatest living playwright?


Ink

James Graham’s Ink persuades us of the combustion following a challenge to a cornered editor with everything to lose; and the irony of the most ruthless media operator in living memory given a desperate, humbling masterclass. In their friction it’s not only the Sun that bonfires every liberal vanity, but our naked selves.


Insignificance

This masterly ensemble piece affirms relativity as a human agency, for which physics provides analogues but no solutions. Insignificance will be signifying for a long half-life, and this pacey production ensures its probing at fragility won’t be lost in brilliant collisions.


Invincible

What’s so distinctive in Torben Betts is his misleading us into an almost farcical comedy that turns darker. Just as stereotypes settle, plots unravel them. The climax is devastating, not explosively but in revelatory shudders. A fine unexpectedness marks both this superb play and outstandingly-acted revival.


Large Trash Print

This very fine 2007 work by Jonathan Brown strikes a blow for tolerance and inclusivity now as it did a decade ago. Brown’s superlative writing and acting is ridiculously confined to this city.


Low Level Panic

Claire McIntyre’s Low Level Panic might seem a slight play at seventy-five minutes of apparently low-key plotting and vestigial images, but after thirty years it loses nothing in impact. Time’s conferred both an indictment and uneasy classic status to this masterly first sliver of a much-missed dramatist.


Man in a Room & The Ruffian on the Stair

One brave attempt on a recent play cast as it were in the dark; and one really fine stab at another darkness, in Orton’s debut one-act play.


Nell Gwynn

Swale’s unique: she writes a play of feline-scratching wit that’s a feelgood hommage, where intellectual pyrotechnics never feel out of place. We’ve recently enjoyed The Libertine’s brilliantly-lit darkness revived too, and revived Nell Gwynn is the antipode to Jeffreys’ profound masterpiece. Just as clever, as fiendishly witty, Swale’s orange-girl raillery refuses the other’s command to dislike. It ends too, in a startling reality, and tenders a shock.


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.


Rattle of a Simple Man

Sad prostitute meets superannuated virgin in 1962. A fine thoughtful and very welcome revival, with Leah Mooney and Des Potton bravely baring all their vulnerabilities at the least.


Seeing Stars

Here’s Tycho Brahe to lead us by his gold nose. You can never start star-gazing too young; this Rust and Stardust production is a dazzling place to start. Enchanting, informative and exhilarating in equal measure; Conlon and Sommers’ singing sets a magical seal on this star-breaking look at the universe.


Stewart Lee: Content Provider

Providing beautifully scathing content since ... whenever


Summer’s Last Will and Testament

It might be Summer’s Last Will and Testament, but whether Summer’s or Will Summers Henry VIII’s fool, is a riddling not only Nashe but the superb Edward’s Boys from King Edward VI School Stratford determine on our guessing. An extraordinary production. It’s good to know these Edward’s Boys are preserved on DVD.


Tamburlaine

What Yellow Earth manage so well is to forge a contemporary life for Tamburlaine. Stylised, stylish and sassy in the best sense, this touring production make Tamburlaine accessible. With caveats noted, it renders the first early modern English language play the greatest service: a horrible relevance.


The Bashful Lover

What this production enjoys in particular is a fizzing energy: nothing sags in Eastop’s expert cut and parry of Massinger’s final flight. The actors’ cracking pace reflects the martial tang of the play. Finally it’s the mutual understatement and mobile intelligence - etched on their faces – of Wicks and Eyre that make this already crackling reading treasurable.


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 Duke of Milan

A fine curtain-raiser to a year of Massinger, a later Jacobean whose career took a while to fly, was always poor and eleven of whose plays ended as pie-liners. There’s fifteen solo-authored and many collaborations to discover, several in this year’s RND. Frances Marshall ensures a superbly spirited ensemble piece, with apposite small props and a freshness you can smell. Though three hours with a break this never once even falters; it’s as realized a performance as you could ever wish, touched with scenic brilliance.


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 Real Thing

To luxuriate in a witty play with valiant emotional gambits, you’ll have to see The Real Thing for yourself. Fox bestrides this production like a hopeful monster who’s got lucky. He’s irresistible, and especially in the second half, enjoys the support of an energised cast. Do see this.


The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Jim Cartwright’s 1992 play with music The Rise and Fall of Little Voice sings out of damage into heartbreak and redemption. Those who don’t know the play or its outcome should see this, even those who have. Jade Clarke making her second LV might now be the go-to choice in this part of the country for some time to come. LLT’s on its best form, and following the éclat of Mr Foote’s Other Leg the other highlight of the season.


The Tempest

You won’t forget the spectacle. But it’s the lonely spectators of their own powers that’ll beat on your mind. Gregory Doran’s RSC production realizes that more fully than ever before. Simon Russell Beale’s riven letting-go of a man’s potency relinquished along with his moral son sounds deeper plummets still.


The Trials of Harvey Matusow

Informative, infuriatingly endearing it’s also Cohen’s first masterpiece, however small-scaled. For that reason too, it holds a particular freshness, a discovery of a remarkable voice. Or two.


These Trees Are Made Of Blood

A necessary piece of theatre, the band are superb; a couple of numbers will take residence in your ear. Theatrically it’s almost achieved too, and if it feels slightly clunky it’s that the brilliant conceit of political trickery can’t be sustained over the sombre facts the second act introduces us to. The end’s overwhelming. Two audience members sat quietly weeping together and could not move for minutes after. Others sat stunned.


Urinetown

This eco-warning musical can hardly be billed as feel-good but the music is. Mark Hollmann’s music and lyrics are as fresh as they were in 2001, and Greg Kotis’ book and lyrics are sadly prescient. This ambitious professional standard musical is something we almost take for granted with BLT. In festival time, we lose sight of some regular theatre work But this is overall the finest Fringe theatre event I’ve seen so far.


Woman in Mind

Some fine and one excellent performance in this Lewes Little production of Woman in Mind – Ayckbourn being a house speciality. Despite the occasional lack of shadows, there’s much to bask in and it’s more than worth seeing this production if you don’t know the play, or refreshing your memory if you do.


Wonderland

The ingredients are there: it’s a magical idea, and just needs a quieter rationale and – to make it a great show - a few more memorable numbers. But if you care for musicals, see it for an outstanding clutch of performers and a dream of something perennial.