Edinburgh Festival Day 16: Reviews

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The Independent Culture

Karl MacDermott's dramatic monologue-cum-stand-up routine concerns Roddy Ryan, 'Ireland's only ex-home-based anti-Irish stand-up', who links up with Terry Waite and other hostages upon their release to tour Eastern Europe in the Hostage Impro package. Ryan's descriptions of growing up with an implausible band of Italians, Jews and Poles in Western Ireland are rich in comic potential, but rarely realised. Many of his gags were lost on an audience who recognised Hollywood references to Mickey Rourke but who struggled with those to Meg Ryan and the Robert De Niro character in Cape Fear. MacDermott's affability, too, seems to work against him, blunting his comic edge to the point where the many grins his show supplies rarely break out into real laughs. Ian Shuttleworth

The Gilded Balloon (venue 38), 233 Cowgate, 031-226 2151. 3pm. To 5 Sept.


Students from Britain and France present warm, direct and nave mime sketches, directed by Claude Chagrin, whose ex-pupils include furious Steven Berkoff. But this is workshopped theatre for the softer- hearted fringe-goer. It's a homey mixture of cloying gags and delicate ensemble playing. Most impressive are two sketches in which a man and a woman get out of their beds. As the man gets up, three women play his trousers, his sheets, his bedroom door and his toothbrush. The combined acting is proficient and highly inventive, even when it is sickly sweet. Take some Rennies and a pinch of salt and you'll come out smiling. Tom Morris

Richard Demarco Gallery, 17-21 Blackfriars Street (venue 22), 031-557 0707. 3pm. To 5 Sept.


Brian Friel's chronicle of a death foretold gives the audience a ghoulish insight into the fate of two blissfully unaware young victims. You watch with morbid fascination as they chatter together on a sunny, sheltered hillside revising for exams and planning their forthcoming marriage. Director Cathie Boyd heightens the paradoxes of Friel's script: two grey, stony-faced adults remain to tell the tale in stark contrast to the exuberance of the doomed lovers. A haunting score for harp and clarinet adds to the sinister atmosphere of a fine production.

Clare Bayley

Theatre Workshop, 34 Hamilton Place (venue 20), 031-226 5425. 3pm. To 5 Sept.


Tragic Carpet theatre company tells the story of the island of St Kilda from the Jurassic period to 1930. It's a subject unlikely to cause a box- office stampede, but the company manages transformations between the craggy coastline and the simple puffin-eating folk with winning grace. There's some nimble storytelling too (as there would have to be), spiced with moments of sharp humour. But the story's darker sides are inevitably limited by the company's happy-smiley-people performance style. Tom Morris

St Columba's by the Castle, Johnston Terrace (venue 4), 031-225 7993. 8.30pm. To 5 Sept.


Seventeen-year-old Lisa, who has always refused to have sex with her boyfriend, becomes pregnant. Not surprisingly, he doesn't believe her story of being visited by an angel, but her mother reveals that Lisa herself was conceived in the same way. The Poor Fools company is determined not to slip into a mire of portentous symbolism. Richard Hollis, in particular, amuses as a batty naturalist who believes males are becoming evolutionally obsolete and chills as a violent sexual hustler. As Lisa declines into anorexia the play lurches off on a tangent, but the company still manages to make its audience think and smile at the same time.

Ian Shuttleworth

Theatre Workshop (venue 20) 34 Hamilton Place, 031-226 5425. 1pm. To 5 Sept.