Steampunk inspiration and resources

Performing Arts

Review: Victorian Vices at Ed Fringe 2014

The Durham-based company, Another Soup, has two back-to-back shows this year at the Space on Niddry St. Both are promenade musicals, meaning that the actors move in and out of the audience to give them an immersive experience. I have never seen a show like these before and I thought the approach was interesting, though better suited to Sweeny Todd and the String of Pearls than to a Picture of Dorian Gray. In Sweeny Todd, the ‘ladies of the night’ and other patrons of Mrs. Lovett’s shop wend their way through the audience going through purses and trading hats with members of the crowd, which was engaging and silly fun during a tale of gruesome murders. But the side characters in Dorian Gray were aristocrats (though similarly gin-soaked by the end) which didn’t lend itself to the same treatment, and the larger crowd made it difficult for a short person stuck in the middle of the pack (ie, me) to see most of the action.

The lighting situation was also more favorable to Sweeny Todd, and faces were never lost behind the shadows of the audience, where Dorian Gray could have benefited from even one light in Dorian’s chambers when tall patrons between the single bank of lights and the small but lovely set sometimes totally obliterated the well-executed efforts of the cast. The audience is expected to stand and move about during the shows, as well as occasionally dancing with the actors, something I wish I had known before spending the whole day at the National Museum of Scotland and then seeing the shows one after the other. By the time I got home my feet were killing me! So be prepared if you are planning to see them both. (People with health issues are welcome to sit during the performances but they will definitely miss some of the action.)

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

So let’s take them one at a time.

Sweeny Todd and the String of Pearls is adapted from a serialized tale called The String of Pearls: A Romance, which took place in 1785 and was first published as a serial in 1846-47. The story has been adapted for stage and screen many times over, but in case you aren’t familiar with it, here’s the short version. Sweeny Todd is a barber on Fleet Street in London. He kills his victims (sometimes through breaking their necks and sometimes giving them too close a shave with his straight-edge razor) and then disposes of the bodies by giving them to his neighbor, Mrs. Lovett, to bake into meat pies at a time when meat is very scarce in the darker corners of the city. In Another Soup’s version, the story takes place in the 1850s during the Great Stink and the Cholera epidemic of 1858 but the main plot is still the same. Depending on the adaptation, Todd and Lovett are business partners, friends or lovers, and in this version they are most decidedly the latter, sometimes carrying on their affair while the main action of the show takes place elsewhere. It is Todd’s affection for Mrs. Lovett, who commits the first two murders, that leads him to help her with the cover up and makes him her “supplier” for her meat pies. Business is booming so Lovett needs an assistant, which eventually leads to their discovery and downfall.

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

The music was played by a live band including an accordian that sometimes was in the thick of it with the actors. The enthusiasm of the cast was infectious and the singing was well blended and balanced. I enjoyed having the sound come from all around me when the actors were sprinkled throughout the crowd. Todd and Lovett were very well cast and did a splendid job, as did the playful smaller parts. Unfortunately, if you are right next to the band you lose a lot of the lyrics, which were in general much stronger writing than the dialog. The music is clearly the focus of the show, but when the actors don’t have mics it can be hard to follow.

For the best experience, I would suggest that you stand near the corner of the room where the two sets come together so you can get the most out the singing but still hear the music clearly. Be prepared to move during the show and come back together in a different configuration. I loved this aspect because it allowed people who had not had as good of a vantage point in the beginning to see more of the show later. So even if you start out at the back, be patient and you will get a chance to see, plus more of a chance to interact with the side characters. The crowd for this show was smaller than for Dorian Gray, and I think the group of 30 or so in the audience is the right size for the venue.

_2014VICTORK_AJXAfter about a 30 minute break where we rested our feet by sitting on the stone steps outside, we went back in for round 2. The Picture of Dorian Gray was the first show I found on the Ed Fringe docket to write about for Victorian and Steampunk inspiration and I was the most excited to see it. Sweeny Todd I had seen as a musical before, but never Dorian Gray and I was intrigued. The story centers on Dorian, a lovely youth seduced by the delectable debaucheries of the Victorian age, his mentor, Lord Henry Wotton, and the painter of his portrait, Basil Hallward. Upon seeing his portrait, he wishes that he could always stay as young and beautiful as it is, and in wishing makes a pact with the devil. Dorian falls in love with an actress, but later rejects her when she wants to quit the stage, which leads to her suicide. When he later looks at the portrait, it has changed and started to become ugly to reflect the decay of his soul while he remains the same.

The three main male roles were perfectly cast, though I think the strain of so many performances was starting show in their voices (and who can blame them!). The music and especially the female chorus voices were lovely (and the “sisters” steal the show), though they sometimes overpowered the male soloists who were singing very low in their ranges, which makes it harder to project in a room without very good acoustics. They were all very true to their roles and stayed in character, even when I saw one audience member start to giggle in Henry’s face during a dramatic moment in the closing number. So, well done to the cast for making the most of a less than ideal situation.

The crowd was larger, and I think on the whole taller, which meant I could not see nearly as well as during the first show. At least half of the action takes place right in front of the band, and so directly in front of a bank of stage lights which also made it harder to see. I would love to see this show again staged as a traditional musical where I could get all the action from start to finish. (I think the best place to stand for this one is near the free-standing gas lights on the near wall as you enter the space.) Because I knew the basic story already (though I haven’t read the original yet) I wasn’t surprised by the turns of events, but I didn’t feel that the dialogue did enough to move Dorian from one stage of his thinking to another. I would have liked to see him first fall in love with his painting and then become jealous rather than his first reaction to be disdainful. I also liked that the homosexual undertones were brought to the forefront, but I found the scene where Dorian and Basil kiss to feel strange and I expected to see Basil more swept up and given hope rather than saddened. But on the whole the acting was very good even if the actors made different choices than I would have.

If you only choose one Victorian Vices show to see, I would say go with Sweeny Todd for the dynamic staging and charismatic Todd and Lovett. Dorian Gray was very well done, it just didn’t work as well in the space. If you have comfy shoes, they are great to see back-to-back for a great night of entertainment. The soundtracks for both shows will be available soon, and I highly recommend them!

Both shows are running from now until the 23rd, so don’t miss your chance to taste a little vice.

Get tickets here: tickets.edfringe.com

Learn more about Another Soup at their website: www.anothersoup.co.uk


Review: Jekyll and Hyde at Ed Fringe 2014

Jekyll and Hyde is in the “Dance, Physical Theater and Circus” section of the Ed Fringe catalog and I think that is an apt descriptor. When I think of a dance performance, I think of lots of movement, lots of music and little to no speaking. This show, on the other hand, is a fully scripted hour-long play that uses dancerly movements to punctuate the emotions, relationships and of course, the transformation of Henry Jekyll’s world. There is only a little bit of dub-step music when Jekyll is on his benders, and the rest of the dancing is done in line with the dialog.

The story is set in the present and deals not with the original Jekyll character’s desire to extricate his other half, but centers around his desire to treat mental illness. He has anxiety attacks himself, but it is his sister’s crippling agoraphobia and memories of his mother’s condition that drives his research and eventual self-testing of a drug. In my review of the book The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde I said that one thing that remained constant through all of the adaptations I had see was that Jekyll transforms into another person, Hyde. In this show, however, Hyde is a person only Jekyll can see who wields power over Jekyll’s movements and can send him crawling across the floor or paralyzes, leaving him watching helplessly as he murders.

I thought this show was absolutely great. I highly recommend it! The whole Headlock Theatre company did a wonderful job, and both Jekyll (Nathan Spencer) but especially Hyde (Tom Boxall) were totally brilliant. You can learn more about them here: headlocktheatre.co.uk/.

Get tickets: tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/jekyll-and-hyde

But here’s a tip: make sure you sit in the first few rows of the theater. The stage is not raised, so even at 4 rows from the front we lost a lot of the floor work behind the heads of those in front of us. Sitting close to the stage and off to the side is better than being in the center and farther back. Also, don’t forget to look up! The ceiling of the theater in Merchant’s Hall is a magnificent piece of 19th century architecture.

And if you’re lucky, you might run into the friendly cast at the Jekyll and Hyde bar down the street like I did. The atmosphere was dark, but the people were all having a great time so it was really a fun place to stop by. I especially loved the bathrooms hidden behind a false wall of books, and the variety of chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. (Click on any photo to see larger pics)


Gearing up for Steam Tour: My Steampunk Edinburgh Fringe Fest Itinerary!

Profile pics 056-001I admit it, I am actually wiggling in anticipation of how awesome Steam Tour is going to be. I booked all my shows for Ed Fringe, ordered my Britrail pass and I am dreaming of all the delicious pub grub in my future.

So here’s the plan for week 1:

 

 

 

_2014JEKYLLH_T7_thumb۞ Jekyll and Hyde
Main Theatre @ Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall
Headlock Theatre

  • Sat 9 August, 21:30

And after the performance, let’s meet up for a cocktail at the Jekyll and Hyde Pub nearby! I’ll wear my goggles so you can find me, and I’ll bring some “My Other Beep Beep is a Whoosh” airship stickers along for purchase, just one pound per awesome bumper sticker to show off your steamy side 🙂

Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls۞ Victorian Vices – Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls
Niddry – theSpace Above @ theSpace on Niddry St
Another Soup

  • Mon 11 August, 18:00

_2014VICTORK_AJX۞ Victorian Vices – The Picture of Dorian Gray
Niddry – theSpace Above @ theSpace on Niddry St
Another Soup

  • Mon 11 August, 20:00

 

۞ Whisky Tasting
Bennet’s Bar @ Bennets Bar
Bennets Bar

  • Tue 12 August, 14:00

Dolls of New Albion۞ Dolls of New Albion: A Steampunk Opera
Venue 45 @ theSpace @ Venue45
Clockwork Hart Productions

  • Tue 12 August, 22:45

 

 

 

_201421STCEN_P3۞ 21st Century Poe: Moyamensing
The Vault @ Paradise in The Vault
Marty Ross

  • Wed 13 August, 17:50

۞ City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard Tour
Outside St. Giles Cathedral @ Black City of the Dead Signs
Black Hart Entertainment

  • Wed 13 August, 21:00

NPG Ax27656,Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle,by; published by Herbert Rose Barraud; Eglington & Co.۞ Arthur Conan Doyle Experience
The Sanctuary @ Arthur Conan Doyle Centre
Arthur Conan Doyle Centre

  • Thu 14 August, 14:00 (x2)

 

 

 

 

_2014MORGANW_PV۞ Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks
KingDome @ Pleasance Dome
Corrie McGuire for Objective Talent U

  • Thu 14 August, 19:00

 

۞ Dorian
Upstairs @ Greenside @ Nicolson Square
The Egg Theatre Company

  • Fri 15 August, 10:20

_2014DRACULB_PN۞ Dracula
Pleasance Beyond @ Pleasance Courtyard
Action To The Word

  • Fri 15 August, 21:20

And in addition to the various performances and lectures, there are also several art shows that I can’t wait to check out including Urban Twist: Papercut Artwork and Craft Scotland Summer Show.

 


Gearing up for Steam Tour: Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls

London, 1859. Holborn’s shameless streets are awash with unsavoury individuals, wiling away their lives practicing the variously sordid Victorian vices of the times. On Fleet Street, Mr Sweeney Todd runs a reputable barbershop, shearing the whiskers of the gentry and clergy of London town. His sweetheart, Mrs Cornelia Lovett, spends her days managing an ailing pie shop, constantly on the brink of bankruptcy and plagued by belligerent bailiffs. What will they do to survive? Original, immersive promenade musical.

Get more info at the Edfringe website.


Gearing up for Steam Tour: The Arthur Conan Doyle Experience

NPG Ax27656,Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle,by; published by Herbert Rose Barraud; Eglington & Co.Arthur Conan Doyle Experience is a talk about Edinburgh’s famous son, delivered in a magnificent example of an original Victorian town house which commemorates this great man of literature. Author of Sherlock Holmes – but what else is he famous for?

 

Category Spoken Word
Genres True-life, Historical
Group Arthur Conan Doyle Centre
Venue Arthur Conan Doyle Centre ​
Event Website www.arthurconandoylecentre.com
Date Aug 12, 14, 19, 21, 26
Time 14:00
Duration 1 hour
Suitability 16+
Country of Origin United Kingdom – Scotland

Get more info at the Edfringe website.


Gearing up for Steam Tour: Morgan and West Magicians

Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks »

Category Comedy
Genres Magic, Cabaret
Group Corrie McGuire for Objective Talent
Venue Pleasance Dome
Times 19:00
Suitability U
Duration 1 hour

_2014MORGANW_PVTime travelling magic duo Morgan and West present a brand new show chock full of jaw-dropping, brain-bursting, gasp-eliciting feats of magic. The dashing chaps offer up a plateful of illusion and impossibility, all served with wit, charm and no small amount of panache. Be sure to wear a hat – Morgan and West might just blow your mind. ***** (ThreeWeeks). Buxton Fringe Comedy Award Winner 2013.

more »

Here is a taste from their youtube channel.


The Noble Art of Tea Dueling

From mookychick.co.uk

From mookychick.co.uk

Yes, you heard right, I said “tea dueling.” I just found out about this sport because a friend of mine took second place at CONvergence this past weekend in MN (Congrats Michael Sherman!). I am gutted that I had to miss it and MN Comic Con this year because of traveling, but maybe I will get to see some tea dueling at Weekend at the Asylum in September.

Basically, a duel is a game of chicken between two competitors who have dunked cookies into hot tea. Their challenge is to be the last person to get the whole cookie into their mouth before it breaks, so they try to pysch-out the competition before their biscuit ends up in their laps. Sounds like good old civilized fun. Here is a video from DragonCon 2013.

Find out more at the website for the American Society of Tea Dueling at https://www.facebook.com/americanteaduelling

 


Gearing up for Steam Tour: Jekyll and Hyde Dance Performance

I will publish a full itinerary soon, but right now I think I will be seeing this performance on 8/9. Maybe I will see you there?

Jekyll and Hyde »

Category Dance, Physical Theatre and Circus
Genres Adaptation, Contemporary
Group Headlock Theatre
Venue Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall
Times 21:30
Suitability 16+
Duration 1 hour

_2014JEKYLLH_T7_thumbEminent scientist Dr Henry Jekyll believes he has created a new cure for depression. In a bid for his colleagues’ approval, he agrees to self-test the drug, but he soon comes face-to-face with his disturbed alter-ego, Hyde. Pulled into the violent underbelly of London, Jekyll struggles to win a war with his own psyche. Join Headlock Theatre for a physical re-telling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic tale. ‘Cleverly interpreted and brutally realised’ **** (ThreeWeeks) on Tragedy of Titus.