The red shoes, pleasance one
The red shoes, pleasance one
The story of the Red Shoes once made a prissy picture in which Moira Shearer's ballerina became overly attached to her ballet shoes. But Emma Rice's production goes back to the source, a bloody fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen about an orphan girl who falls in love with a pair of shoes and refuses to take them off. When she wears them to church she is condemned to dance in them for the rest of her days.
There are five travelling performers, one of whom appears in drag and the others, sallow and sad, in grubby vests and Y-fronts. They come equipped with all manner of instruments – an accordion, a washboard, a trombone – together with suitcases of clothes, and vie with one another for the lead role.
This is a conventional staging for Kneehigh, the company known for performing in abandoned tin mines and on Cornish cliff-edges. But that's not to suggest that it isn't exotic, not to say grimly moving. At first red signals freedom and joy, though latterly, as our heroine is jiggled about against her will, temptation and empty pride. Anna Maria Murphy's verses simply and caustically convey the danger of obsession and ring with impending doom. A thrilling and truly unnerving piece of theatre.
Venue 33 (0131-556 6550), 15.30 (17.00), to 27 Aug
Dom irrera gilded balloon 2 nightclub
It starts off well enough. When the New York stand-up Dom Irrera says near the beginning of his show: "I don't go for laughs, I go for the silent smirk," he has the audience on his side. But then he launches into a bizarre rap made up of sexual euphemisms. I suppose you can admire his dexterity, but it's nothing that legions of real-life rappers haven't bored us with already.
This is followed by some drivel about his girlfriend (a stand-in for the mother-in-law, perhaps?). We hear how he recently punched her in the face, but not out of malice – it was just to see if he could knock someone out while they were asleep. Then there's her shopping sprees, her eating habits and her sexual peccadilloes. "She's only 14," he confides perversely. "I tell her 'Shut up with calling me Daddy, except when we're having sex.'"
Occasionally, a more humane side breaks through. He shares the guilt of hiring a rickshaw the day before the show – "I used another human being as a beast of burden" – but it's sadly short-lived. Irrera plays more for shocks than laughs, but in the end he's just plain obnoxious. Don't go there.
Venue 38 (0131-226 2151), 22.30 (23.30), to 27 Aug
Entangled lives pleasance dome
Using snippets of Jean Tardieu's poem "Monsieur Monsieur", Theatre de l'Ange Fou attempts to explore a TS Eliot-esque existential wasteland. The big questions – the who and the why of human identity and relationships – are pretty ambitious subjects in themselves; they are illustrated here with nothing but near-abstract snatches of poetry and physical theatre that is closer to mime than dance, leaving you with an hour and 10 minutes of what looks like a group exercise in the containment of stage rage.
The choreography is complex and over-energetic, which ensures a far from seamless presentation. There is no doubt that the cast works hard, but to be breathless, bruised and sweating is not, I am sure, part of the artifice. The physical phrases themselves range from the earnest clichés of a half-ballet to the standard "ugly" angular moves that characterised physical theatre some 10 years back.
Formed in 1984 in Paris, Theatre de l'Ange Fou does, however, appear to have grown with the times into a uniquely European kind of company. The cast of seven swap languages – French, German, Italian, Spanish and (for what it's worth) English – with all the enthusiasm of a newly-elected MEP. Sadly the confused end result is just about as interesting.
Venue 3 (0131-226 2428), 19.00 (20.00), to 27 Aug
Casanova, george square theatre
Soldier, writer and insatiable rake, Giacomo Casanova was many things but never a scruffy conceptual artist. David Greig's ambitious play, presented by Suspect Culture, hauls the 18th-century ladies' man out of the past and into the world of contemporary art, putting monogamy, morality and desire into a glass cabinet.
Like All the People I've Ever Slept With by Tracey Emin, Casanova catalogues the carnal. Instead of embroidering tents, our man takes a Lewinsky-esque souvenir from the scene itself – a fingerprint-smeared coffee table top – as the basis for the eeriest forensic look at what the act of love has left behind. But this is no misogynistic romp; here is a man who loves women. To quote the curator (who, of course, has slept with him): "He sees something infinitely valuable in you that he wants to extract and give back." In fact this Casanova is often needy and lost; as loose of jowl as he is of trouser.
David Greig's nods to the contemporary tend to obscure the issues. Refuting the notion of monogamy as integral to moral health, the narrative also appears to pity the promiscuous artist. Over-concerned with all the clever foreplay, we struggle to reach a satisfying conclusion.