Fringe Theatre Reviews: Made in Scotland

Feature by Emma Ainley-Walker | 14 Aug 2015

Returning to the Fringe with the Made in Scotland Showcase, The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven [★★★☆☆] is a perfect fit for Summerhall’s Anatomy Lecture Theatre, opening with a sermon. Truly a play for a modern and hopefully enlightened, or to-be-enlightened society, re-working well-trodden Bible stories with female, queer and trans heroes and heroines. Not just promoting uniting and equality within religion, it spreads to the audience too, with a mouthful of wine provided upon entry, to keep for a ritual at the end. As the play closes the audience are all hand in hand with friends and strangers alike. 

The lighting in simple but clever throughout, using candles to evoke the church atmosphere, although like many sermons and lectures it can be hard to keep up and stay fully engaged throughout the hour.

The Letter J’s Grandad and Me [★★★☆☆] is for audiences of five and up, though it is engaging to adults just as much as it is to their young counterparts. The show suffers on this occasion from a late start, which with many children in attendance makes for an unsettled audience, but once it finally begins the combination of animation, puppetry, movement and music leaves any unsettled child mesmerised. 

While young minds might be engrossed in the journey of the wee mouse, for adults it’s a soothing moment of respite amidst a hectic Fringe and for both it is emotional: the tale of a young girl whose grandad has passed away. The live soundtrack moves between emotion and humour easily, as does the movement although sometimes it’s tricky to keep track of narrative shifts. Are we in dream, reality or the imagination of a child? Perhaps all three are the same. 

Butterfly [★★★★☆] by Ramesh Mayyappan is another wordless piece, though a much darker tale. With hauntingly beautiful images throughout, this piece starts as a saccharine-sweet love story and turns dark with a violence that causes the audience to flinch. 

Although the movement is choreographed to a tee, never letting up and always in perfect time to the music, it is the introduction of the young puppet in the final third that really makes this play. Controlled by all three of the cast at points, the movement never falters, even in the changeover process. Although the puppet itself retains the air of the uncanny, it is still entirely believable and lifelike, until the heartbreaking finale which will stay with you long after the show’s end. 

Vanishing Point’s Tomorrow [★★★★☆] is the most visually stunning piece in this offering, with one moment in particular that is all at once mesmerising, horrifying and spectacular, that must be seen on stage. The lighting focuses on just what it wants you to see and leaves the rest in darkness. Searchlights are turned on the audience at points and stumble, as if by accident, upon beautiful movement and images on stage. 

The whole production is heartrending but there is humour amongst it, provided particularly by the care workers who show that life must continue; that these situations are everyday but they are also matters of life and death. Sadly, sometimes these contrasts are pushed too far, with an odd moment of Katy Perry that goes on too long, or an opening sequence which can only be understood through later context and therefore dilutes a powerful scene. With minor adjustments, Vanishing Point could very well have a perfect play.

The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven, Summerhall, 'til 30 Aug (not Mondays/Tuesdays) 10:45am, £12/£10

Granddad & Me, Summerhall, 'til 23 Aug (not 17) 12:05pm £9/£7.50/£7

Butterfly, Greenside Infirmary Street, 'til 29 Aug (not Sundays) 8:45pm, £12/£10

Tomorrow, Traverse Theatre, 'til 30 Aug (not Mondays), Various Times, £20/£15/£8