Belt Up: Outland

Written for Total Theatre

One of three shows Belt Up are presenting at this year’s Fringe, for Outland the company jumped headfirst down a rabbit hole into the wonderful world of Lewis Carroll. They surfaced, a little crumpled, to create a frantic three-hander vignette that feels a bit concertinaed but is never dull. In a cosy room encased with a wardrobe, dressing-up box, sofas and a number of cramped audience members perched on cushions, writer Dominic Allen takes us on a flight of fancy into Carroll’s brain, bleeding a number of stories into one new tale.

Led by Sylvia and Bruno, the brother and sister at the heart of one of Carroll’s lesser-known works, we are presented with a perspective on Carroll’s genius that posits that his flights of fancy stemmed from a form of epilepsy. The cast rush around literally flinging themselves from character to character being one moment the evil uncle, passionate tutor, lovelorn suitor or even jabberwocky. They move lightning fast, throwing on and off outfits like maniacs on speed. It’s impressive but also in this intimate space slightly bemusing.

Out of the steam it seems it’s all about growing up and the scary idea that dreaming may sometimes be OK. It takes itself too seriously at the end and some of the philosophising is trite but Outland is a sweet and inventive hour from this confident company.

Outland plays at C Soco, Edinburgh 03/8/2011 – 29/8/2011 as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe


Oedipus: A Love Story

Written for FEST

Oedipus: A Love Story is not your usual Greek tragedy. Narrated by a flock of Welsh sheep and with a sphinx that’s a sexual maneater in leopard print and heels, Dumbshow’s take on this twisted love story is jolly good fun. Using puppetry, physical theatre and good old fashioned storytelling, four energetic performers take us through Oedipus’ tragic tale with a fruity wink. From the off, they engage with us directly, learning people’s names and calling back to them throughout the show. It’s a clever trick and gets the audience on side immediately.

Reminiscent of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, this is a strange, imaginative world. Here, Kings and Queens sit around in dressing gowns doing crosswords whilst the Oracle gets his prophecies in the form of snatches of pop music from Britney Spears to The Beatles. The whole thing is immensely humanising, which is just what this melodramatic story needs – although all the silliness does take away from the tragedy somewhat, with no real feeling of disaster at the end.

But if that’s the price Dumbshow’s imaginative and light-hearted take has to pay, it’s one well worth it in a show which will open up this tale to a whole new audience. They’ve also done a fantastic job of making this a genuine love story. At one point you find yourself rooting for Oedipus and Jocasta to get together, which is a disconcerting experience to say the least.

Dumbshow deliver an hour of pure entertainment that’s guaranteed to leave you grinning.

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