Elin Williams takes in more Welsh shows in her third week up at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
I finally reached the end of my longest Fringe experience to date: 17 whole days of walking, reviewing and eating carbohydrates. In my final week I saw 4 shows, all from Welsh companies slightly more under the radar than the shows seen previously. These companies were: 81K Theatre Company, Clock Tower Theatre Company, No Boundaries Theatre and White Room Theatre Ed.
To begin. I saw Fred and Rose by 81k Theatre Company. A group of students from USW had originally performed this as an end of year project before being approached by Venue 13 and asked whether they’d take the production to the Fringe. I know what you’re thinking: a piece about two of our most prolific serial killers performed by students? But honestly, they did a fantastic job. Their poster was simple yet effective; a recreation of the infamous mug shots of the couple. These mug shots also adorned the walls of their set at Venue 13. Walking into the space, the audience was faced with those mug shots, the actors already on age in character and Carly Simon’s ‘You’re so Vain’ blasting over the speakers. The whole production is mostly based on the actual interview tapes from Fred and Rose, delivered with measured performances from the ensemble cast. There are, of course, certain pieces of conjecture weaved in, such as a scene where Rose manipulates her husband into taking the blame for the murder of their daughter Heather. These scenes are, however, completely believable and seem to be drawn expertly from the information available. The piece doesn’t shy away from anything making some scenes utterly shocking and challenging to watch. This is a brave production with some kinks in the writing and performances. It is, however, a harrowing one detailing the bleak history of 25 Midland Road, Gloucester.
In No Boundaries Theatre’s production of Golf Course War Machine, we meet Pippa, a young woman from Tredegar staging a one woman protest against the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor in 2014. As the one woman show unravels, it becomes apparent that Pippa doesn’t really know all the details she should; she relies heavily on Wikipedia for her facts, but she does feel very strongly indeed about protesting. The script itself is well constructed and touching in parts. We feel Pippa’s frustration with the modern world, her bottled up energy almost fizzing over the top as she searches frantically for more protests to get involved in, for more opportunities to get her voice heard. Melanie Stevens gives a fantastic performance as Pippa, perfectly encapsulating her vexation at her seemingly pointless existence as a young girl from the valleys. There are some sound effects that felt a little pointless and jarred the production a bit, such as the sounds of a voice harking back to the Rebecca Riots. This one woman show is definitely absorbing as Pippa is such a compelling character. The script has a distinctly Welsh flavour and succeeds in creating a strong, female character, annoyed with her lot and desperate for change and recognition.
Another day, another one woman show. This time we follow a woman called Izzy who takes us on a journey through her life and her need to write mini ‘manifestos’ for herself. Very much in the same vein as Pippa, Izzy is a young woman frustrated with the banality of real life, desperate to change things up. Kevin Jones’ script is funny and touching in equal measure. We follow Izzy as she gets a job in the Tax office, hiring fancy dress costumes on her lunch break to liven things up a bit. She blags her way into Art College with a peers’ stolen sketch pad. She has a mental breakdown in a shopping centre, smashing up a brand new iPad on the side of a bin. All the while, writing little manifestos for her own life. These manifestos are hung up on a line behind her, a nice touch signalling her life’s journey for the audience. Izzy’s Manifestos is a well-constructed script with the perfect balance between humour and poignancy. Definitely worth an hour of your lunch time.
Finally, I saw another lunch time show by Clock Tower Theatre Company. This was something a little different; a live sitcom called ‘Service!’ The company offer episodes 1 and 2 one day then 3 and 4 the next day, but the episodes are mostly stand-alone so you won’t need to see them all if you can’t make two days in a row. It’s a fun idea to have the live sitcom set-up and makes for a refreshing change whilst at the Fringe; it offers something which is easy to watch and makes you feel more like you’re a television audience. ‘Service!’ As the exclamation mark implies, is a sort of modern day Fawlty Towers: quick gags and a pull back and reveal type structure. The ensemble cast are all naturally comedic actors, but it’s Grant Cawley who stands out especially. Written as if for television, the script works well as a theatre piece, with episodes seamlessly running into each other keeping the energy levels up. It may not be a comedy masterpiece, but it is certainly fun and easy to watch.
So there you have it, ten shows, ten great Welsh Companies up in Edinburgh representing Wales and our output. There are a few more Welsh companies up at the Fringe for later runs, such as Eddie Ladd’s Caitlin and National Dance Company Wales. There’s one thing for certain though; the shows display great writing, exciting companies and fantastic actors from Wales.