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Festival Review: Summerhall Round-up 3

Michael Cox reviews The Ballad of the Apathetic Son and his Narcissistic Mother, Extinguished Things, Egg, The Myth of the Singular Moment and Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff).

One last round-up of Summerhall productions.

Up in the Main Hall is The Ballad of the Apathetic Son and his Narcissistic Mother (****). Lucy and Raedie are mother and son. They are struggling to connect, and yet they are willing to share a stage to tell their story, mostly through the inspiration that comes from a shared love for the music and performances of Sia.

Ballad is an eclectic piece of theatre. It uses monolouging, movement, music and video to illustrate their actual mother-son relationship. Many moments work brilliantly; some moments don’t quite achieve its point.

But what the production does succeed in doing is to create a moving portrait of the mother/child bond and the awkwardness that comes with being a teenager. And even if some of its moments don’t click, the overall impression is still a potent, moving one.

Over in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre is Molly Taylor’s Extinguished Things (****), a theatrical tribute to a couple she grew up near. Over her life she got to know Al and Evie, not only spending time in their home but also earning their trust to housesit when they’ve left on holiday.

The news has hit: Evie and Al have been killed in a coach accident, and Taylor takes one last look at their home and possessions before surrendering the house keys. Memories flood—she not only has memories tied to the couple but to the home and their objects within.

And it’s very touching. Sometimes funny and sometimes beautiful, Taylor’s monologue is as delicate as glass: gorgeous and fragile with a shattering conclusion. It’s very moving stuff that leaves a smile on the face.

Over in the Demonstration Room is Egg (****). Carol and her partner want children. Unfortunately, Carol hasn’t gotten pregnant. She’s been friends with Sarah for nearly ten years—might she donate Carol some of her eggs?

Stories of fertility tend to follow similar trajectories, but to Egg’s credit the experience is original. Sarah Bebe Holmes plays most of the roles, with musical and occasional performance support from Balazs Hermann.

It’s the staging of Egg that really stands out. Moments of performance art, music and projections are all used to dramaturgical effect, but it’s the aerial work that shines—even if it is sparingly used, these moments punctuate many of the major dramatic moments.

All of which makes the production not a wild extravaganza of theatrics but a delicate, humane story.

Also in the Demonstration Room is The Myth of the Singular Moment (****), a gem of a production that uses music to tell stories of a collection of individuals bonded by one specific moment in time.

Jim Harbourne has written a collection of songs that are terrific: funny, insightful and touching. Performed with Kirsty Eila McIntyre, the production is a rousing hour-long celebration of humanity and those fleeting moments and chance encounters that end up carrying far more significance in our lives than we image. Brilliant stuff.

Also using music to great effect in the Red Lecture Theatre is Carys Eleri’s Lovecraft—Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff (****). Eleri takes familiar territory—the messiness of relationships—but goes about examining past loves through science, looking at how the brain might make the heart do things we should—and shouldn’t.

Dramaturgically the show might be a bit confused, not quite connecting its dots. But the individual moments are great, and Eleri is a terrific performer. The songs are cheeky and the relationship confessionals have a breath of honesty, but it’s Eleri’s earnestness that makes the show stand out.

All productions were at Summerhall and have closed.

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