Edinburgh review: Beats

Written for The Stage

On the face of it, Kieran Hurley’s Beats is a coming of age story set at the end of the rave scene. But listen through the trance and techno, and you’ll hear timeless political questions about our right to meet communally and protest.

Hurley sits in front of a shabby table while around him swirl the psychedelic visuals and rave beats of the 1990s. He tells the story of 15 year-old Johno going to his first rave, his anxious mother and Robert, a policeman and unwitting member of the establishment.

In this post-industrial town, these are ideologically broken times and dancing together is a means of escape. But the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act has made it illegal for people to gather to hear “a succession of repetitive beats”. As Hurley jumps forward to the 2010 student protests, an overarching question hangs in the air – if we don’t have the freedom to gather together, what have we got?

Jamie Wardrop’s acidic projections and Johnny Whoop’s techno soundscape and circling lights place us right in the action. At the table, Hurley is the white-hot centre. With searing focus, he passionately invokes these intricately drawn characters, whose small story asks huge questions about community and democracy.

To follow Kieran Hurley go here.

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David Greig: The Monster in the Hall

Written for Total Theatre

There’s a monster in the hall and it bites, but it’s not what you think – or is it? David Greig’s delightful modern fairytale blends fantasy with reality in a piece of pure, joyous poor theatre. Using only four actors and four microphones kingdoms are created and battles fought and won.

The daughter of a biker King and Queen, Duck Macatarsney is a princess looking after her widowed father who suffers from MS. When he goes blind from the disease the waves of calamity (provided by an Evil Fairy Godmother of the same name) that have been threatening to engulf Castle Macatarsney almost drown Duck as she hears that The Lady from social services is coming to take her away. Duck begins to weave an increasingly complex web of lies to try to stem the flood in a musical narrated by a 60s girl-group pop band who act like a deliciously camp Greek chorus.

The childish imagination that powers this energetic piece of storytelling is complimented perfectly by Nigel Dunn’s peppy score and a soundtrack so sophisticated it melts into the background. The versatility of this ensemble of actor-musicians smacks of the impressive ease of virtuoso performers. David Carlyle, Beth Marshall, Keith Macpherson and Gemma McElhinney slip from the sound of growling motorbikes one minute to melting harmonies and potent emotional encounters the next. McElhinney shines as Duck and, perhaps most impressively, Greig’s writing avoids being sentimental whilst providing everyone with a fairytale ending. Pitch perfect.

The Monster in the Hall plays at Traverse, Edinburgh 04/8/2011 – 28/8/2011 as part ofEdinburgh Festival Fringe

News from The Burgh: Solid but not exceptional

So I’ve been here for 5 days now and the general trend seems to be for good solid but unexceptional shows.

Whilst everyone likes to see well constructed work they also want to be able to rave about something on a deeper level.  Apart from The Author at The Traverse, which frustrated the hell out of me but was at least deeply thought provoking, nothing is being whispered about in the breathless almost religious fervor which surrounded OG’s Internal last year.

Another standout in 2009 was Midsummer at The Traverse which garnered rave reviews. This year David Leddy’s Sub Rosa is being spoken of highly (going to see that tonight – review on What’s On Stage tomorrow) and I loved Bunny by Jack Thorne but the breakout beastie is still to be found (saying this, this year I have a feeling the Forest Fringe is going to be the most talked about part of Edinburgh; the place is practically bursting at the seams with wacky creativity – highlight William Shatner karaoke.)

If you’re up here and have seen something exceptional please let me know, with Beautiful Burnout and Teenage Riot still to come for me I’m not giving up the chase just yet.