Edinburgh Festivals Review – Part 1

I had intended to keep a regular diary during my week in Edinburgh, but that didn’t happen. I also intended to scale Arthur’s Seat and maybe visit Portobello, but that didn’t happen either. I did see a few things, though. Here are a few impressions of the film and drama that I saw.

Film

As well as Anton Corbijn’s Control, I saw the Austro-German co-production Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters), Stefan Ruzowitsky’s movie about the Jewish inmates at Sachsenhausen concentration camp who were forced to work on projects aimed at counterfeiting British and American banknotes. Led by Salomon Sorowitsch (played by Karl Markovics), the prisoners face a dichotomy where non-cooperation means certain death, but the success of the project could prolong the war and therefore their own internment, and also cost the lives of millions. Sorowitsch himself is a habitual fraudster who has always cared only for himself, but who now finds countless lives dependent upon his actions. The film is gripping and fairly bleak, although there are some moments of levity and humour. The complicated relationship between Sorowitsch and the SS officer in charge of the project, Herzog (Devid Striesow), the man responsible for his original arrest in 1936 whilst still a civilian police detective, is convincingly portrayed. It’s a solid and thought-provoking piece of cinema, and well worth seeing when it hits UK screens in October.

I also had a ticket to see Tekkonkinkreet, a Japanese manga film, but got confused about the starting time and missed it. Good news, though, that Control won the Michael Powell award at the Festival.

Drama

Of the four productions I saw, far and away the best was Teenage Kicks, Paul Hodson’s play exploring the 25 year professional relationship between DJ John Peel (played by Kieron Forsyth) and his long-suffering producer John Walters (James Doherty). With the right mix of humour and pathos, the play had an episodic structure linked by monologues from fans all played by Daniel Curtis (who probably had the toughest role). Peel comes across as a bit of a space cadet, but a guy absolutely passionate about music, and extremely likeable. Walters was a curmudgeon with a dark sense of humour who was happy to be the buffer between Peel and the BBC bureaucrats who had little interest or faith in their maverick DJ. The relationship between the two – one they had famously described as that between a man and his dog where both were convinced the other was the dog – was portrayed brilliantly . The death of Peel was dealt with superbly using the device of a reminiscence by an AA man in East Anglia who had rescued a stranded Peel once and had become an acquaintance of the DJ. His description of the funeral was deeply moving, and caught the mood of the day perfectly. There was a comic coda set in heaven where Peel and Walters are reunited which avoided ending the play on a massive downer. It was a well written and brilliantly played piece. I think the play will be touring so it’s definitely worth looking out for whether you were a Peel fan or not.

Play On Words, written by Tom Crawshaw and performed by the group Three’s Company was a clever, surreal piece looking at amateur theatre and insanity, with wordplay, punning and a circular construction. It was well played, but could have been a little tighter in the writing. It was a little difficult to follow at times, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Charlie Brafman’s Dearly Deported was a slick update of Kafka’s The Trial, set in a modern day distopia not unlike modern Britain. It was enjoyable, although it did reek a bit of ‘student production’, and the acting and staging were a little lacking.

This Lime Tree Bower was part play, part storytelling. The three actors play two brothers, Frank and Joe and Philosophy lecturer Ray and recounts the events of a couple of weeks in a small seaside town just outside Dublin which transform the lives of all three. There is no ‘acting’ as such, but three first person narratives that are intertwined. It takes a while to get into it, but eventually it becomes gripping. The piece is written to be performed in pubs and other non-traditional theatre spaces. There are no props – the story and the characters carry it all. I’ve not encountered theatre of this kind before, but I was very impressed.

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