24 August 2010 Scotland on Sunday
IF THE opening theatre production of the Edinburgh International Festival did nothing else, it challenged you to consider how you tell a story. To say the answer provided by New York's Elevator Repair Service was unconventional is an understatement. Having no interest in staging a regular adaptation of The Sun Also Rises, director John Collins challenged himself to use every last word of Ernest Hemingway's breakthrough novel, plus selected passages of first-person narration from Jake Barnes, a war-wounded US foreign correspondent in Paris.
WAS ever a penny dreadful as lurid as David Leddy's Sub Rosa? A site-specific journey into the bowels of a theatre built in 1878, it is as if a rococo Victorian melodrama has been laced with the ugly authenticity of the in-your-face playwrights of the 1990s. By offsetting a story laden with murder, sexual exploitation and back-street abortions with a romantic promenade through wardrobes and scenery stores, Leddy creates a show that is as ravishing as it is unpleasant.
IN the face of mass-media uniformity, theatre-makers are turning to intimate venues to offer us something unique. In Homemade, Chris Goode brought the show into his audience's living rooms, and in Spend a Penny, Andy Arnold's actors staged one-to-one sessions in the Arches' toilet cubicles. Here, we find ourselves on the top floor of a Glasgow towerblock, sharing a bathroom with actor Louise Ludgate as she strips off and nips into the shower. Theatre doesn't come more up close and personal than this.
PRODUCTIONS of A Midsummer Night's Dream are ten a penny. This month alone, there have been outdoor performances in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Such cheery familiarity makes it too easy to glide over Shakespeare's troubling themes of desire, sexuality and death in favour of a funny Bottom.
AS a writer, David Leddy has something to say. As a performer, he has the means to say it. Yet somewhere between conception and execution his purpose has become obscured. Watching his latest one-man show is a draining experience: you see the effort that's gone into it, but get little in return. Sitting round cabaret-style tables, it initially seems we're in for another night of cross-dressing campery. Leddy appears in drag, garishly attired in clashing zebra stripes and leopard spots, and bolstered to emulate the shape of the beautiful black women he adores. As LaToya Levine, he presents himself as the world's only "psychic soul sister", able to channel the voices of the great divas, alive and dead, at will.
This is a sample caption