February 17, 2020

From torture to maximum torque – Adelaide Fringe 2020

Filed under: 2020,Archive,Fringe

The Nights
by Henry Naylor
Gilded Balloon and Redbeard Theatre
In Association with Holden Street Theatres.
The Arch, Holden Street.
February 15. Bookings
Tickets: $ 18- $ 28. Until March 15. Duration 60 minutes.

by Moliere. Adapted by Liz Lochhead.
Ed Littlewood Productions in association with Holden
Street Theatre, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and
the Stephen Dunn Theatre Fund.
The Arch, Holden Street.
February 15. Bookings
Tickets: $ 18- $ 28. Until March 15. Duration 60 minutes.

Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster
Battersea Arts Centre and BAC Beatbox Academy.
The Attic, University of Adelaide Union Building.
February 14. Bookings : the
Tickets : $ 24.50 RCC members – $25-$35. Until March 15.
Duration 60 minutes.

Now in its eleventh year, Holden Street Theatres director Martha Lott’s excellent Fringe program includes the best and most recent work from Edinburgh, including companies she sponsors to attend.

The works of Henry Naylor are a prime example. Lott has already programmed four of his plays – three, Echoes, Angel and Borders, all from the bleakly-named Arabian Nightmares series. His newest, The Nights, is another triumph.

In Naylor’s terse style, The Nights is a vivid mash-up of fact and fiction, ethical and geopolitical contradictions. Journalist Jane FitzCarter (Aoife Lennon) traumatised by the death of a colleague in a grisly ISIS beheading, visits Iraqi war hero Captain Kane (Nicholas Boulton) secluded in Leeds, for a reaction to a story she is writing on an ISIS war bride.

Crisply directed by Louise Skaaning, the outstanding performances are a descent into the lower depths of repressed memory and inescapable guilt. Kane relives war atrocities triggered by blind vengeance, describing torture crimes replicating those of Saddam himself. In less than sixty minutes Naylor’s play take us to the theatrical edge but never over the cliff. The Nights is lucid, complex and disturbingly current.

At first glance, restaging Tartuffe, Moliere’s 17th century satire on religious hypocrisy, in a Scottish parlour in the 1940s, seems a stretch. Instead, this canny version, sharply directed by Tony Cownie, and propelled by a brilliant rhyming adaptation (illuminated with English surtitles) by Glaswegian Poet Laureate, Liz Lochhead, is proof that vicious mischief can infiltrate any unwary household.

With a cut-down cast of four, the sub-plots are reduced to noises off but the farcical pace, so cleverly plotted in the original, gets maximum torque. As Orgon, the father, smitten with the false piety of the bogus priest Tartuffe, Henry Ward is a comic delight. Joyce Falconer brings a salty wit to Dorine, the enterprising maid, Nicola Roy’s Elmire expertly manages the seduction scene while Andy Clarke’s moustachioed imposter, Tartuffe is revealed in his long johns, and his infamy. Like single malt, the Scots dialect is delicious to hear. This Tartuffe is a wee treasure.

Another outstanding transfer from Edinburgh is London’s BAC Beatbox Academy’s Frankenstein: The Making of a Monster performing as part of David Sefton’s RCC Fringe programme at Adelaide Uni. This high-voltage interpretation of the Mary Shelley fable – of the hubristic doctor whose misplaced creation is both monster and victim – is a non-stop spectacle.

Seated on huge speaker boxes the six versatile performers -Aminita, Glitch, WIZ-RD, Native, ABH and Grove – mix virtuosic hip hop solos with exhilarating group chants, harmony singing and hyper-skilful beatbox rhythms. Directed by Conrad Murray, and bathed in Sherry Coenen’s soft Gothic lighting, this vibrant ensemble explores the everyday monstrosity of social media, body image and the surveillance state. Frankenstein has all the makings of a Fringe hit.

“From torture to maximum torque”, The Australian, February 20, 2020, p.15.

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