Fringe round-up

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The Independent Culture
If brevity is the soul of wit, what does that make the Clod Ensemble's Metamorphoses (BAC)? Ovid's original runs to 8,000 hexameters (that's 330 pages in Penguin); the Clod's version comes in at under two hours. But anyone who thinks this is the easy way to strike Ovid's poem from the list of classics they always meant to read will be disappointed.

This show does do something to explain The Clod's growing fan club. Musically, they are very strong. Paul Clark's score is a delight: not so much an accompaniment to the action as a character in it, sliding effortlessly between Schnittke-esque minimalism and smoochy jazz, pointing up the piece's humour with the pluck of a cello or a sly sax riff. The design has a certain minimalist chic also, with its sandpit stage and uniform pastel gowns. All that's missing is the narrative. To be blunt: the Clod have got to decide whether they're interested in telling stories or whether making pretty patterns to music is enough. That they haven't abandoned words altogether suggests they value meaning as well as mood. So why did I need a bookshop before I understood "How the Sun Fell in Love"?

This week's Fringe Hell award goes to Groove (Oval House), a mirthless comedy about two Sixties single mothers, which pivots upon a lesbian plot to kill President Nixon. It was given a run for its money, though, by James Martin Charlton's New Age Everyman, Groping in the Dark (Croydon Warehouse). Lord Stone, a dictator, hires a painter named Saint to tutor his son, Keen. Intrigued by his pupil, Saint follows the boy to a nightclub run by Stone's louche brother, Sate. There he meets a woman with a snake called Fuck, has sex with Keen and - the fool - believes he has found the path to happiness. The moral? Suffice to say, Stone and Sate both end badly, only to be later united in the character of Man.

Srebrenica (Tricycle) finished its brief run on Saturday. Earlier this year, Richard Norton-Taylor and Nicolas Kent put together an edited account of the Nuremberg war-crimes trial. Now Kent has added a companion piece that re-creates July's UN hearing at the Hague that put the case against the Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. What sticks in the memory is the damning evidence of the UN prosecutor, marking on a map the sites of mass graves visited by Mladic; the account of how Dutch troops stood by as the Serbs went about the nitty-gritty of "ethnic cleansing"; and the heart-breaking testimony of a convicted war criminal who had, incredibly, served in the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian armies. As in Nuremberg, the acting was flawless. This is a piece that demands to be seen again soon.

`Groping in the Dark' continues at the Mermaid Theatre Studio (0171-236 2211); `Groove' runs to 10 Nov (0171-582 7680); `Metamorphoses' runs to 3 Nov (0171-223 2223)

Hooked on Classics? The Clod Ensemble perform Ovid's 15-book epic poem in a little under two hours

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