thoughts and frustrations on Melbourne theatre through bright young eyes

Edinburgh Festival Bites: Part 1

The Edinburgh Festival is amazing and it is intense. The first thing that struck me was its enormity; serving as an umbrella term for a smattering of smaller festivals, the Edinburgh Festival devours both towns, old and new, giving them a glow and vibrancy unlike anywhere else in the world. For just four weeks. I’ve been seeing as many shows as possible given my time and budget constraints, but am averaging around two a day. And while many of these shows deserve longer reviews (and a fair few shorter reviews, too), these bites will hopefully cover as much ground as my tatty Converse sneakers.

On the Waterfront – directed by Steven Berkoff, written by Budd Schulberg. Pleasace Courtyard until August 25th, shows at 2pm.

Berkoff’s plays are some of my favourites and yet I have read very little about him as a director. I jumped at the chance to see his Nottingham Theatre production of On the Waterfront, an adaptation of the film of the same name, and found myself deeply engaged with his directorial style. What could have been narrowly interpreted as a straight mobster story is given new life with smooth, slick choreography and fantastic ensemble work to the backdrop of a hook-wielding Statue of Liberty. It’s all very, and refreshingly, theatrical – while I can’t confess to have seen the film, I am quite certain that this piece does not feel like a screenplay thrust under stage lights. The story is compelling, if a little dated, but Berkoff’s biggest mistake is the casting of Edie. Already a weak character (and the only woman) in the text, her hysterics and wavering proclamations of love relegate her to the territory of melodrama.

Krapp’s Last Tape – directed by Richard James, written by Samuel Beckett. Assembly @ George until August 25th, shows at 3:55pm.

Peter Dineen is better known to Australians as Father Jack from Father Ted. Here, he takes on the character of Krapp in a very faithful (as most Beckett productions tend to be due to the way in which the estate handles performance rights) and surprisingly, at times, comic production. It’s one of two versions of Krapp’s Last Tape being performed concurrently at the Edinburgh Festival, suggesting that Beckett, along with Sarah Kane, is a festival staple. Krapp’s Last Tape epitomises Beckett’s continued experimentation with form and, more specifically, language. It is a deeply moving, somewhat harrowing play which feels very different performed than on the page; the autobiographical elements in this production seemed to become more apparent to me, although I can’t think why. Dineen is fantastic but I only wish that James could have slowed him and the action down further – for such a dense text, grappling at the core of human longing, it seemed to pass all too briefly.

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