The story of the four Romanov sisters is one of the most tragic but also most fascinating of the twentieth century. Rebecca Vines’ play tells the story of their last few days incarcerated in Ekaterinburg and is a beautifully written account of four very different characters; the frustrated Olga, the kindly Tatiana, the romantic Maria and the playful Anastasia. The hopes and dreams of the younger sisters are movingly contrasted with the dread reality of the older, and the whole production is intense, emotional and grips your attention. Excellent performances all round, especially from Ella Bladon-Wing as Anastasia and Oonagh Cubberley-Lobb as Maria. Simple but very effective.
Pressure Cooker, The Space on the Mile.
As a kid I grew up laughing at the antics of the students at St Swithins’ in TV’s Doctor in the House. Oh what innocent days they were, in comparison with the antics of this bunch of medical students. Jessie Millson’s shocking but insightful play opens the lid on what could happen when a celebratory night out goes severely wrong – and the errors are compounded by the attempts to cover up each individual’s contribution to the personal disaster that befalls one of the party – rather like a 21st century An Inspector Calls, only with Ket and stethoscopes. Highlighting a dangerous problem in society today, where people are under enormous pressure to achieve and succeed, this is an upsetting and alarming play – although not without its humour. Hard to “enjoy”, but I’m very glad to have seen it.
Being Sophie Scholl, The Space @ Symposium Hall.
This is the story of Sophie Scholl, who with her brother and a friend, was found guilty of treason and executed by guillotine in 1943. Of good German stock, they nevertheless rebelled against the orders of the Third Reich and were members of the White Rose resistance group, which Hans Scholl had started a couple of years earlier. This strongly written play tells the story of her family life, alongside an account of her questioning and the investigation against her, seen through the eyes of a ruthless special police officer. In Acting Coach Scotland’s production, Sophie is played by three actors – a very effective device, although I’m not sure why that decision was made – and the whole play is a chilling and important account of a heroic attempt to undermine Nazism.
ADULTS, Traverse Theatre.
Iain has made an assignation via Zara to meet up with a “young boy” for an hour’s “adult company” at her flat (brothel) in Edinburgh. He’s a nervous wreck as it’s the first time he’s done anything like this – and the meeting doesn’t start well when he surprises Zara before she’s ready to greet him – and he gets covered in Strawberry Yazoo. It also doesn’t help that Iain used to teach Zara at school. Fortunately, he doesn’t recognise her… at first. Kieran Hurley’s comedy offers you plenty to laugh at, but there are also some cringey moments and a few rather obvious jokes – laughing at dildos for example – which are funny but unoriginal. Conleth Hill plays Iain with a nice balance of pomposity and vulnerability, while Dani Heron’s Zara has the best lines with an unexpected intellectual take-down of Thomas the Tank Engine, and Anders Hayward is Jay, the twink who’s really not 22 anymore. The play loses its way a little towards the end when everything gets very personal and rather serious, and you’re left with a mixture of laughter and sadness as no one’s life will ever be the same again.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Festival Theatre.
Programme 1 on Wednesday started with Roy’s Joy’s, nine interconnected dances choreographed by Twyla Tharp to the music of Roy Eldridge (hence the name). Immaculately danced by the company, it’s a mellifluous melange of flowing movements against a stunning blue background, with exciting hand and arm gestures combined with never-ending leaps; it’s a really exciting dance to witness. The dancers are solo and in groups; in partnerships and in rivalries too, and it’s all put together with bags of humour and more than a touch of bravado. The second dance was Kyle Abraham’s 2022 work Are You in Your Feelings? set to a variety of well- and lesser-known tunes, giving us a real feelgood factor on stage, with effortless elegance and gorgeous grace. It’s the kind of dance you stop analysing after a while and just let it flow over you. Interesting to note that both these dances, although having different choreographers, conclude quietly in an intimate duet rather than ending with a big ensemble finish. The final dance in the programme, Revelations, also closes Programme Two.
Thursday evening’s Programme 2 started with Memoria, a 1979 dance created by Ailey to commemorate the death of his friend and colleague, Joyce Trisler. Although it has a few sombre moments, it’s much more celebratory than mournful. This production includes 22 young dancers aged 18-25 gathered from all around Scotland; and when they’re added to the 15 regular dancers, it makes for a busy, lively stage packed with movement – the finale has everyone returning in multicolour costumes and looks like a really fun ballet rave! Next came The River, originally choreographed by Ailey in 1970, with eight separate dance pieces composed by Duke Ellington, but in a much more showbiz style than jazz. I particularly enjoyed Giggling Rapids performed by Alisha Rena Peek and Patrick Coker, and Falls with Christopher Taylor, Kanji Segawa, James Gilmer and Xavier Mack. It’s fun, but I found myself slightly frustrated at the way so many of the Ailey short dances end with something of a fizzle rather than a strong resolution. The show ends with Revelations, Ailey’s 1960 showstopper, which brings joy to your heart with its stunning combination of delightful choreography, stunning costumes and lighting, and evocative, powerful music. Whilst the finale Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham has everyone on their feet (and rightly so) my personal favourite from this sequence was the riveting Sinner Man, danced by Solomon Dumas, James Gilmer and Kanji Segawa. But the whole piece creates true magic on the stage and sends everyone out into the night with a happy spring in their step. Magnificent!