Voyeurs, a stitch in time, desperate footballers and a rejuvenating island
By Thom Dibdin
It was Sunny Saturday in Edinburgh – super too, but definitely sunny. Very sunny. Much to the consternation of the producers of Peep – a peepshow experience with three short plays.
Consternation because they had planned for every weather eventuality – apart from hot, balmy sun. And their black plastic box sitting outside the Pleasance Grand was soaking up the heat like a solar-powered oven, leaving performers and voyeurs roasting inside.
Peep is a bit of a roasting whatever the weather, to be honest. Experiencing it is done alone, looking through a one-way mirror into a central box of a playing area while listening in on headphones.
What is seen by you is also seen from the other one-way mirrors, spread around the box. Each with a slightly different view of the actors. Each hiding another voyeur.
Sex, unsurprisingly, is what all three plays are about. In Sex Life, Kefi Chadwick has a couple trying to reinvigorate their love life three months after the birth of their first child. 69 Contains 69 inter-cutting scenes about sex of varying profundity or throwaway jocularity. Meat has a couple making surprising discoveries about pornography and their use of it.
Chadwick’s piece is the most dramatic and visually arresting. Ifan Meredith spends the whole play in drag – much to Mella Heesom as his partner Mia’s shame - and ends up performing Sweet Transvestite from Rocky Horror. They haven’t made love for a long time and this is his attempt to jump-start their sex life.
With two watchable and believable performances it works right up until the moment that Mia undresses. At which point the whole framing of the play works against it. Surely, given all that Mia has said about being tired, about three months breast-feeding and sleepless nights, she would not have such a pronounced and perfectly delineated bikini line. The thought knocks her character right out of the picture. The woman on the other side of the glass ceases to be Mia, a tired mother coming to terms with her own changing sexual identity, and becomes a naked actress on the other side of a one-way mirror.
The second play, 69, works least well, although it has some interesting moments. It is just too bitty and fails to find a coherence. Unlike Pamela Carter’s Meat, which has Brett Fancy as Dave and Karen French as his partner Sarah, who has recently discovered him watching porno movies. Now, they are just about to have a big, embarrassing chat about it all.
The resulting dialogue is fascinating for the way it examines power-relationships, objectification and how lovers look at each other.
“…laughable, both in content and presentation.”
Over at Assembly 3 on George Square, The Sewing Machine is a rather more coherent, and slow-building piece, part of Assembly’s South African season. Magdaleen is an octogenarian white Afrikaans farmer now living in an old people’s home. She is giving her beloved sewing machine one last check-up before a charity worker comes to collect it as a donation to a community charity.
The slow-burn of the writing is meticulous as Magdaleen’s relationship with her husband and her children is teased out. Performer Sandra Prinsloo allows long pausea to build up as she recreates – mostly by insinuation but occasionally quite explicitly – the life and death of her son. Fascinating for its portrayal of an old Afrikaans woman whose language for articulating race might be anathema to modern ears.
It being Saturday afternoon and the opening day of the SPL it seemed only right to witness Hi-Kick at the Assembly Hall on the Mound. This is the latest dance-orientated, family-friendly spectacle, of a kind which often takes up this spot. There have been shows based on all kinds of gimmick. And this year’s is football.
Oh dear. The warning signs are there when the performers tried to get the audience to start applauding before they had actually done anything. It lacks the structure of a football game and while the ball skills of the performers are reasonably good, they are nothing hugely spectacular. It is telling that the best bits, visually, are when the balls are not on the stage. And when they are, much of it is laughable, both in content and presentation.
Thanks goodness, then, for Once on This island from Forth Children’s Theatre. I’ve reviewed it on the annals already: here and, despite the encroaching haar on Saturday evening, it was a welcome relief after such insipid and half-baked nonsense.