thoughts and frustrations on Melbourne theatre through bright young eyes

Edinburgh Festival Bites: Part 3

I arrived into dreary Tullamarine airport late last Tuesday evening to a crippling wind and lots and lots of rain. It wasn’t exactly the welcome home I had looked forward to from Melbourne. So it’s with a tinge of nostalgia that I conclude my writings on the Edinburgh Festival, although happily, with some of the best works that I was to experience.

The New Electric Ballroom – written and directed by Enda Walsh, Traverse 1, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Ran August 1st – August 25th.

A muted grey backdrop and a set littered with hot pink, bright orange and lime green perfectly compliment the eclectic, imaginative and beautifully poetic words of Walsh in this, his latest play. This fable of love and broken hearts, set in the cellar of the home of three sisters, is an intense, slow-burning dazzle of a dream; a text-heavy theatrical experience that traverses time, space, form and style in a way more akin to Beckett and the Absurdists than any of Walsh’s contemporaries (it possesses much of Beckett’s dark sense of humour, too). But what grounds The New Electric Ballroom as a significant piece of theatre is its refreshing lack of pretension and its roaring soul; text-based theatre at its most passionate, captivating and completely mesmerising. Walsh has received just about every accolade and award possible for this work and deservedly so. Theatre like this just doesn’t happen all that often, and never often enough. Here’s looking forward to an Australian company bringing this play to our shores.

Pornography – directed by Sean Holmes, written by Simon Stephens, Traverse 1, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Ran August 1st – August 25th.

Hailed as one of the first to deal with the 7/7 London bombings, this play, or rather collection of monologues and dialogues, is more accurately an exploration of London life in the lead up to the atrocity, coinciding with G8, Live 8 and in the wake of the announcement of the 2012 Olympics. It’s a fantastic pastiche of interconnected lives and ideas on the page, with no designated characters and few stage directions. Stephens indeed states that the text can be manipulated and cut up in whichever way the director sees fit; like a pared back Crimp or Kane, the success is all on the shoulders of the director. Holmes plays it relatively straight, creating a variety of archetypal characters (with one or two eccentric exceptions), lines of cables stretching over a junk-littered stage and into the audience. But he isn’t quite sure what to do with his  actors once he brings them on stage; they seem to spend much of the time standing around doing nothing. Thankfully, there is no attempt made to justify the attacks, with Smith ensuring that the perspective of one of the bombers is centred on detail rather than inclination. Holmes’ decision to intercut between the fragments keeps a consistent, exciting pace which serves the tension well. But I couldn’t help feeling that the production was a little too safe; that perhaps the more interesting realisation of this text, both in its dramaturgy and staging, is yet to come (or may well have been at its debut in Hamburg last year).

And so concludes the series of Edinburgh Bites. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to review and write about as many shows as I would have liked – there were numerous cabaret / burlesque oddities, comedies and theatre pieces that I loved, loathed and couldn’t find the time to upload – but it was an amazing experience to be on the other side of the world and experience the theatre there. I feel more equipped than ever to start taking on the Melbourne scene again.

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