Gordon Parsons goes on a voyage of discovery at the Edinburgh Festival fringe
BEETHOVEN in Stalingrad (Greenside) is one of a number of anti-war shows in a massive fringe programme, with actor Jesper Arinand and violinist Ian Peaston taking the audience into the living and dying hell of the Stalingrad campaign in WWII.
Using authentic final letters home from German soldiers facing disaster, never delivered and hidden from the public by nazi censors owing to the lack of patriotic enthusiasm, the reality of the human suffering registers powerfully throughout.
“No-one here will cry again. It is the others that very soon will cry over us,” is a refrain and throughout, underscored by distant strains of Beethoven’s Appassionata conveying the pity and the pointlessness of war.
Little Boy (C Royal) from Japan's My Complex theatre company marks the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of the grotesquely named Hiroshima atomic bomb.
“As a citizen of Japan, there is a story we must share with the world. Have we learned from history?” asks the director, acknowledging that the play cannot at present be shown in Japan.
J Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the weapon, claimed that he had “become death, the destroyer of worlds” and writer and performer,Yuuya Ishizone, as the a voice of the bomb itself, plays out the relationship between the weapon and its creator, stressing that innocence and indifference are more criminal than the science that has produced the weapons.
The Fall (Assembly Hall), from a South African company comprised of former students and participants in the successful 2015 campaign to have the statue of the imperial colonialist Cecil Rhodes removed from Cape Town University, is as delightfully entertaining as it is educative. A production devised by the original eight-strong cast, it bursts with the vitality of its dancing and singing. There's a real commitment to a narrative presenting a South Africa still engaging with the legacy of apartheid, along with the present challenges of feminism, gender, institutionalised racism and the whole issue of “blackness.”
Your Love Is Fire, part of a 10-show Arab arts festival at Summerhall, has had to be performed minus a main actor owing to visa difficulties and refugee Syrian playwright Mudar Allaggi’s play has to function with the words of the missing actor screen-projected.
Strangely, this adds to the poignancy of the distress of individuals amid the chaotic mayhem. Like its setting, the play is a broken structure in which the main story — that of of a regime soldier urged to desert by the women in his life — is interwoven with other narrative threads and the interjections of the fictional despairing playwright.
Allaggi has said of life inside the furnace of Syria that: “We start eating each other because we don’t have any solution or any hope.”
Appropriately, with Grenfell Tower disappearing over the media horizon, Flesh and Bone (Pleasance Dome) depicts life in the world of an east London tower block.
Elliot Warren’s play, written in pastiche Shakespearean-cockney lingo, graphically depicts the earthy energy and resilience of life on the edge. He also plays Terence, the tough guy on the block, while his sister Kelly (Olivia Brady) finds a cushy job as a phone sex-hotline worker, not realising that she is talking to her recently widowed granddad.
Behind the laughs, however, there is a gritty determination to survive and a barely hidden mutual affection.
Gunshot Medley (Venue 13) takes us to another scene of social tension, that of American slavery. Inspired by a Charleston church massacre, playwright Dionna Michelle Daniel’s play is in the form of a dramatic elegy for lost generations set in a graveyard.
There Betty, Alvis and George, slaves known to have died before emancipation, symbolically relive their lost lives, which are still being lost through racism and police brutality.
Daniel’s poetic text is complemented by haunting Appalachian folk song, punctuated by single gun shots.
In Trumpus Interruptus: The Impeachment of Donald Trump (Greenside) US comedians Tomasovic and Nat McLead take satirical aim at a target beyond subtle satire.
It is all great fun, with the president unable to distinguish between the two buttons on his desk, one the nuclear button and the other to order another diet coke.
Even Trump might enjoy the fun — although perhaps not.