THEATRE / The London Fringe: Lonely parts

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The Independent Culture
One day George Dillon will surprise us all and appear as the romantic lead in a light boulevard comedy. Until then, it's Berkoff. The actor, who has made himself a specialist exponent of the playwright's work, brings his latest Berkoffs to the Gate in Hell and Other Tales, a triple-bill of stories on the theme of loneliness. And it can't be denied that he's a superb peformer, controlling his physical expression expertly to match the mood of each monologue.

In The Secret of Capitalism, a paranoid actor tots up his sphere of influence, winding up to a ludicrous crescendo at which he reckons on affecting 3,600 people a week. Dillon performs this piece with a dry humour and restraint that contrasts strongly with his next monologue, Say A Prayer For Me, the sad story of a loner called Harry who tries to form a relationship with the cleaner at his digs. Here Dillon bobs, weaves and explodes about the stage, in keeping with the baroque, adjective-laden style of the story. It's a dazzling performance, but every now and then the uncomfortable feeling strikes you that Dillon is simply using the story to illustrate his virtuosity.

I preferred the slow, mesmerising style of his performance of Hell, the final study in loneliness.

We're back on the theme of loneliness and fantasy in the National Youth Theatre's Heart of Ice at BAC - but this time there are 18 performers on stage. David Gale's play looks at the power of the imagination, telling the story of a has- been movie actress and the efforts of the fairy-tale characters from her dreams to stimulate her subconscious. It's impressively choreographed and designed, and Jeremy Peyton Jones's score lends it the eerie, dreamy atmosphere of a Greenaway film. But its nobly egalitarian approach, allowing every actor to have a slot, sadly weighs it down.

At Theatre Royal, Stratford East, Dog Eat Dog - the third revue by the all- black, all-male group The Posse - is funny and sophisticated, dealing with political issues with a deceptively light touch. It's also excitingly risky: at the climax of the show, a quivering chat show host (Victor Romero Evans) lets the audience quiz his 'guests', leading to a surreal, nerve- racking bout of improvisation. Clever, confident comedy with a dangerous edge.