30 Years of Pleasance


by Gillian Wood

This is meant to be a review of the Pleasance Theatre’s Festival Fringe opening gala which I made my way to through a downpour of Edinburgh’s finest precipitation. However, great though most of the acts were, they were all upstaged by a gluttonous dog. Christopher Richardson – founder of the Pleasance – was invited on stage to cut the theatre’s 30th birthday cake with current director Anthony Alderson. As the knife was raised, a black labrador arrived centre stage. He was gently coaxed off stage right only to return stage left. Several more attempts to remove him were thwarted before finally Richardson’s beloved companion joined the cake cutting to rapturous applause.

Anyway, cute dog aside, the best thing about the show was gorging on a labrador sized slice of the Fringe in one sitting (without having to wade through the obligatory Bible of improvised theatre flyers). The show opened with the mind reading, beat boxing, harmonizing, alien, Voca People. Comedy came via stand up David Trent who lead the audience through a detailed analysis (complete with power point slides) of the ‘hype man’ in hip hop. He won’t be getting guest list for Rudimental any time soon…..

There was a slightly odd theatre group (I can’t remember their name) who spent most of their set looking for someone called Whitechapel with a piece of rope. I think it was meant to be clever (a la 39 Steps) except it was a lot less slick. It felt like they’d read 38 Steps To Doing A Show, then applied all 38 steps in the manner of a one year old learning to walk.

‘This Is Brasil’, were an all dancing / singing / percussion playing / samba(ing) / football spinning homage to Brazil. I think after a few Caipirinhas their show would be a brilliant night out. Sober at 11 in the morning, it was less so.

However, entertaining though the more comedic and high octane acts were, the only truly compelling piece was ‘Forgotten Voices’. Taken from aural recollections of WW1 soldiers, archived by the Imperial War Museum, the show is a series of monologues performed by 5 different actors. There were no sound effects, no soundtrack, no clever staging or gags, just the words of the soldiers. It made for a beautiful and powerful elegy.


The Pleasance Theatre is hosting an array of Edinburgh Festival Fringe acts throughout the festival.
Full details are available at www.pleasance.co.uk.


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