Edinburgh Festival: Fringe round-up: Endangered Species, The Review

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The Independent Culture
A large piano bound in canvas straps staggers from the back of the stage, weaving drunkenly before coming to an exhausted halt to reveal the uneven frames of Sian Williams and Mark Hopkins. She is tall and muscular, he small, with an Errol Flynn moustache. Impeccably clad in the dinner dress of the 1930s, the pair look as if they have just landed their instrument from the deck of some gin-soaked cruise ship, a mismatched Fred and Ginger ready to start the show right here. What transpires is less a show in a trunk, than a Pandora's Box of period ephemera: vaudeville, ballroom dance and recital are performed with a mannered expressionism that moves from the precious to the grotesque.

Working their way through these quick-change, self-referential dance pieces, Williams and Hopkins's carefully lumpen choreography and minimal script brilliantly capture the mounting desperation of an untalented double- act whose fixed smiles and backstage dejection signal their awareness that they are indeed an endangered species, destined to move "Off Broadway" into oblivion.

n The Gilded Balloon Theatre (venue 38). To 31 Aug (not 25) 7.30pm

"I don't make no shows for no one," a scowling red-head sneers at the newly arrived audience, while a traumatised-looking blonde, speaking in halting English, wanders round proffering mugs of coffee and baring bandaged parts of her body to all and sundry. It sounds like a direct challenge from the Tmu-Na Holon Theatre's artistic director, Nava Zukerman, who has founded the Israeli company's considerable reputation on a raw, movement-based acting style rather than crowd-pleasingly wrought texts. And yet the attempt to turn onlookers into participants in this bare-bones piece about two women (one Irish, one Israeli) who share a prison cell initially feels showy.

Between Nicole Rourke's feisty Catherine - caught smuggling weapons to Israel for her Palestinian lover - and Sivan Horesh's Liat, driven by abuse to kill her husband, there is little room for empathetic manoeuvre. Gradually, though, this story of betrayal and endurance does take hold, principally through the wordless sequences that transform monotonous routines into powerful rituals. The pair arrive at the perfect image of incarceration: up-ended bedsprings, evoking zoo cage, prison door, ghost coffin and one-way confession grille.

n Theatre Workshop (venue 20). To 31 AugDOMINIC CAVENDISH