Agent of Influence: The Secret Life of Pamela More, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Lady Pamela More covers fashion and socialites for The Times and she has no interest in any other topic. As Britain’s involvement in the war becomes certain, her disinterest in politics and international affairs wanes, and her social circles are split into those who support Germany and those who believe the whispered stories coming across the channel. With newfound purpose and contacts, the use of her journalistic skills changes direction to a more practical use – she is recruited to spy on Britain’s elite.

Sarah Sigal reinvents Pamela from her 2014 Park Theatre play World Enough and Time, now making the character the primary subject of a solo performance. Reprised by Rebecca Dunn, Pamela recounts her wartime adventures through past-tense narration and dialogue between herself and impersonated peers. She meets and watches real people from British history, moulding a clear perspective of their wartime activities – this is the most interesting aspect of the narrative. Who the audience is, or why she is telling us her story is never made clear, though. Her tale is interesting enough, but what is it’s point?

The scenes Dunn enacts are more dynamic than the stretches of narration that span the years surrounding the war. She employs accents and an impressive vocal range to differentiate between herself and those she converses with, often with charm and humour. Her storytelling is good enough to maintain attention, but as no moral or message emerges from the text, the ambiguity of the script dwarfs Dunn’s ability.

Agent of Influence: The Secret Life of Pamela More suits a written format much more so than a staged one – it would make a lovely novella what with its detailed description of the setting and characters involved. Though its well performed and a good story in and of itself, theatricality gets in the way, making this solo performance piece fall flat.

Agent of Influence: The Secret Life of Pamela More runs through 28th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Foiled, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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It’s a big day at Bleach for the Stars. The Welsh salon has been nominated salon of the year by Clip Advisor, and dim-but-enthusiastic manageress Sabrina has a lot to do to prepare, like fill out the form to nominate the salon for the award and find money to pay the administration fee. Fed up junior stylist Tanisha does her best to pander to Sabrina’s whims and half-truths, but as the end-of-day deadline for the application looms and a last minute “celebrity” client arrives, Sabrina struggles to keep the business running to the standard that her dad, the owner, expects.

Foiled takes place after hours in a working hair salon, adding a genuine site-specific element to a script that draws on several styles of text-based comedy to entertain its audience. Puns, slapstick, one-liners and Sabrina’s regular misspeaking keep the laughs coming, and two scenarios that raise the stakes drive the action forward. There’s a token sprinkling of musical theatre numbers that feel a bit out of place, but help break up the action nicely.

The intertwining sitcom-esque scenarios hover on the verge of messiness, but writers Beth Granville (who also plays Sabrina) and David Charles keep just enough order in the story for it to not get lost. Staging is a challenge here with the actors racing up and down the narrow salon and sightlines oaccasionally blocked, but the salon is small enough that it’s always easy to hear the dialogue.

Though insubstantial and silly on the surface, Foiled makes pretty powerful comments on social mobility, class and privilege. Tanisha and Sabrina come from very different backgrounds and financial situations which, combined with the two primary plot threads manage to to not feel crowbarred. Foiled is a good laugh, well performed and has a lot to say.

Foiled runs through 29th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Lines, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Every Londoner has strong feelings about the tube. They love it, hate it, love to hate it, depend on it, avoid it, sometimes all at once. In Lines, Rose Bruford students pay homage to the underground by extracting individuals from the millions of faces that blur through stations each day. A collage of movement, narration and dialogue captures the diversity of the city with a lovely affection, but the tangled, underdeveloped plot threads that emerge aren’t followed through.

Writer Ian Horgan has numerous lovely ideas but none of them, even the fictional disaster that has the power to unite passengers, is chosen as the narrative spine. Whilst this adds to the montage effect of individual moments, it’s a format that only works for short periods of time. There are certainly some great stories of individual characters and any of them could be short plays in and of themselves, but here they are unsatisfying. The sections of spoken word vary in the quality of delivery, but this is a style that Horgan uses inconsistently. The use of live music is much more regular, and a great contribution to the piece.

There are some great performances, as should be expected from drama school students. No one stands out as a weak link and their time training together has formed a seamless ensemble. Lines also has the distinction of one of the more ethnically diverse productions of the fringe, which in and of itself is hugely commendable.

Though this affectionate tribute to London transport has plenty of potential, it falls short of true excitement or innovation in its current form.

Lines runs through 15th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Blush, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 makes sharing explicit images without consent of the person or persons in the images illegal. Though this legislation is progress in fighting revenge porn and posting sexual photos and images online by criminalising it, the problem hasn’t gone away. Charlotte Josephine’s BLUSH tells the stories of five unrelated individuals effected by revenge porn, trolling and the proliferation of easily accessible online pornography. Some of the stories more tenuously link to the theme, but the montage format and frantic, physical interludes provide a wider view of the problem and how people, usually young women, can have their lives ruined by the click of mouse.

Daniel Foxsmith plays a suburban dad with a penchant for teen porn, and a successful app developer invited to speak to young entrepreneurs in New York who makes some bad decisions on a night out. These characters have similar demeanours; Foxsmith could differentiate them further on order make them more distinct. Though they both get themselves into difficult situations, Josephine plays three different women more directly effected by explicit images online. Though two of these characters have anticipated narratives, the third, a ghosted woman with a strong Estuary accent, is a surprise but a great alternative perspective on the issue. All five characters have elements of stereotype, but their responses to their own conflicts reads as genuinely personal through the text and the actors’ interpretations.

Not just interweaving monologues, director Ed Stambollouian incorporates physical sequences that become more frequent and increasingly violent, bleeding into the text. As online and real life blur, emotions intensify, and a photo studio set reminds us that everything we do is on show and ripe for consumption by an anonymous audience of thousands. Josephine has created a good set of characters, though stronger links to the topic would demonstrate the universal risk surrounding revenge porn.

Even though the script is has merit, the use of physical theatre in relation to the issue and the characters’ experiences makes this a much stronger, more evocative production. Without a doubt, this is still an important issue that deserves stage time.

BLUSH runs through 28th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.