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    Reviews 2017

    Three Wee Kings: Grandad’s Cut Primary Times Children’s Choice Award Review

    This production is staged in Duddingston Kirk, it has a charming and intimate feel as a venue and the show is also very charming and intimate too.  

    The story is essentially the traditional nativity story with a pantomime flavour.  It is entertaining both from a comedic point of view but also from watching good acting within beautiful surroundings – perfect venue for this production.

    Throughout the show there is organ music and beautiful singing from Maria and also some very amusing songs such as “Ye cannae shove wee Danny off the bus”, one about what you can buy with a diamond, the anti-Christmas song and Harold’s Lullaby.

    Harold, a grumpy ghoul-like caretaker (an excellent villain/Scooby Doo baddie), who wants to get the diamond (star), so he can become the richest man in the world.  He has a boofer, and uses it in a three stooges style.  In the end, he learns that by giving something to someone else for the first time will make him the richest man in the world.

    Danny, Rory and Joe, men who are childlike in nature, spot a star in the sky.  They decide to act like three wise kings by following the star and buying the baby presents.

    John and Maria are essentially Mary and Joseph, and Ralph (bodyguard/angel) add a more straight, grown up type of character, making the balance just right between a well acted play and good fun.

    Highlights were the three kings’ gifts, watching them on their camels and Harold’s boofer. Oh and watch out for the spider.

    Duddingston Kirk is a beautiful venue with the added bonus of being able to wander round the manse gardens afterwards, making a great way to spend an afternoon. 
     

    Child’s Quote

    Ben (6) said, “There were lots of funny parts and I liked Harold the best”

    Read the review on Primary Times

     

    Cinders: A Folk Tale

    Primary Times: 

    Cinders the Folk Tale Children’s Choice Review

    ‘Cinders’ – A Folk Tale is a delightful promenade show that takes place in Duddingston Kirk Gardens.

    The show is based on various versions of Cinderella from around the world, so while there is a familiarity to the story there is also a freshness as different elements are added, as well as lots of gentle humour. The play has been cleverly adapted to incorporate the surroundings: Dudders, the monster of Duddingston Loch was a particular highlight!

    The cast is skilled at telling the story, in particular the storyteller/ narrator is excellent, entertaining the audience while we waited for the show to begin, and encouraging everyone to join in with the travelling song as we made our way around the Gardens. The show is recommended for ages 4-10 and I would say this is accurate, my daughter is 9 and really enjoyed it, and the younger audience members were equally engaged.

    As the show is all outdoors it is advisable to dress for the weather and the Theatre Alba website also advises sturdy shoes, again, good advice as the ground is bumpy and can be slippery. I asked my 9 year old daughter for her comments: “It was very enjoyable. I liked how they mixed the different stories instead of just a plain Cinderella to make it more interesting. I liked the music and the singing and I think other children would like to see it.

    The gardens were very beautiful and really added to the show, it was more interesting. We walked around afterwards too.” The venue is not as central as many Fringe venues but well worth the trip: the Gardens are beautiful and really add to the whole experience. If you have time before or after there is a lovely cafe on site, and there is plenty of free parking in the car park. Recommended if you have children in this age range!

     

    Child’s quote

    I asked my 9 year old daughter for her comments: “It was very enjoyable. I liked how they mixed the different stories instead of just a plain Cinderella to make it more interesting. I liked the music and the singing and I think other children would like to see it. The gardens were very beautiful and really added to the show, it was more interesting than a stage. We walked around afterwards too.”

     

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    Reviews 2016

    The Shepherd Beguiled

    From Facebook

    “went to see the Shepherd Beguiled last night and I left in complete awe. The cast were absolutely amazing. The venue accompanied with the stunning music and singing made for an evening of atmospheric perfection. Such a stunning show. Beautiful direction and beautiful performances from all.”

    Rachel Graham

    “Went to see The Shepherd Beguiled on Sunday night. The setting is perfect for this stunning play, especially after the sun goes down. The acting, singing and music were all enchanting. Would highly recommend this as a must see.”

    Sandra Cassidy

    Reviews 2015

    The Good Doctor

    Edfringereview

    at 11:52 on 21st Aug 2015

    Chekhov, in both his plays and short stories, celebrates the mundane in all its peculiar beauty. Against the backdrop of Duddingston Kirk Gardens, these eight short stories arranged into a play by Neil Simon seem both at odds with their surroundings and yet extraordinarily appropriate.

    Each short story has its own charm, comedy is repeatedly offset by tragedy and suffering, the audience will find itself laughing at death, stifling a giggle at a drowning man, and sneering at injustice and pain. A play ingeniously arranged into a coherent narrative by Neil Simon, The Good Doctor has entertainment at its heart.

    The themes of each story are manifestly Chekhovian in their simultaneously contrasting sense of delight and despair, with Simon’s play doing its upmost to explore the manipulative powers of a writer by including him as a character on the stage alongside his stories.

    The Writer’s constant presence on stage in Corinne Harris’s adaption gives the impression that we are seeing the action as it is written. At points The Writer playfully offering up alternative endings to the original tragic ones. On more than one occasion, a death is interrupted with the decision to give the character 5 million rubles as an alternative conclusion. It is the audience that is left to decide what really happens.

    The directorial decision to split The Writer into two parts is at times a little confusing, with players acting a number of parts already it seems to add more confusion than its worth. It is perhaps a purposeful decision by Harris, who writes in the program about her desire to explore this power struggle between writer and character by blurring the distinguishing lines.

    For the most part, my experience with the concept of open air theatre has been limited to a few unfortunate battles with weather, and I must admit I expected no better from the usual inclemency of Edinburgh skies, yet miraculously no rain was seen. My initial cynicism immediately disappeared as the sun went down over Duddingston Kirk Gardens, beautifully appropriate surroundings for an evening full of humanity and humour.

    These talented actors projected with skill and clear diction, each bringing something new to the performance. Although at points the drama lulled in this lengthy two hour performance, it was the actors’ chemistry with each other that really worked to keep the play alive. Amongst the heavy themes of tragedy, death and suffering, there was something very charming about the varied characterisation of each protagonist that maintained the audience’s attention for the entirety of the performance. An evening at Duddingston was nothing like anything else I’ve experienced at the fringe this year: a must for anyone yearning for an escape from the heaving city.

    The Good Doctor

    at 11:32 on 21st Aug 2015

    The Fringe is known for many things, but gentleness is not generally one of them. Stifling subterranean venues, shockingly bold stand-up and even bolder fashion choices yes, but it is safe to say that the charm of Theatre Alba’s idyllic production of Neil Simon’s play is wonderfully refreshing.

    The production’s beautiful setting, overlooking Duddingston Loch, was ample reward for a somewhat tedious commute, and complemented well the spirit of the play: as bright, diverse Chekhovian stories danced in procession before the (somewhat mature) audience, swallows dived, branches swayed and the indubitable Scottish midge hovered on the night air. The large organic space was used with great creativity, and its natural liveliness facilitated the withdrawal of momentarily minor figures (notably the Writer, who remained onstage throughout).

    Director Corinne Harris’ decision to split this narrating presence into two people was, at least initially, slightly confusing, especially because Marcus Macleod seemed to be very much the principal character with Robert Williamson as a gleeful voice occasionally chipping in. However, the skilful chemistry between the two did a great deal to smooth this potential discord out, and it was an interesting reflection that the Writer would often literally cast part of himself in his tale. Williamson was also responsible for various folkish musical contributions, which enriched the performance.

    The stories themselves were an enchanting blend of social parody, physical comedy and rich, human drama. They gave rise to an intriguing balance between the comically absurd (a man offers his own drowning as entertainment) and the perfectly-observed motions of human interaction (his listener proceeds ultimately to haggle down his price).

    These gems were brought to life by an incredibly talented cast, who all seemed to possess an extremely sensitive understanding of Simon’s script and the varying moods each story required. Especially memorable were Marcus Macleod’s effortless shapeshift from likeable writer to predatory seducer extraordinaire, Alan Ireby and Michael Cook as a green young dentist and his blustering client, and Kirsten Maguire’s heartfelt monologue.

    However, some stories definitely dragged: ‘The Governess’ and ‘A Defenceless Creature’, each certainly risked losing the audience’s interest, with their dislikeable, unrealistic antagonist and plenty of repetition. The other potentially uninspiring aspect of the play was the writer’s brief and occasional musings on his craft, suffering, comedy, and other such weighty subjects; these comments did not seem sufficiently established to really hold the play together in some sort of mental progression on the narrator’s part.

    Perched as it is on the fringe of the Fringe, this unrushed, charming play will not suit all festival-goers. However, those willing to slow down and take it on its own terms may just encounter an enchanting and memorable experience under a slowly darkening sky, down by Duddingston Loch.

    Review link http://edfringereview.com/r/VbqvdW1cTgC87WPFXDx6yg

    Buy Tickets

    The Good Doctor

    Audience Reviews on Edfringe Website
    Link to Reviews

    Rosemary Cochrane

    Agree with Laura- absolutely brilliant. acting was amazing, and stories funny and poignant
    Midge repellant, blanket and wooly socks a must though, even on a beautiful evening as finishes quite late.

    Laura Dunlop

    First rate evening; great value for money. Loved the setting, and the individual stories were beautifully realised. Strong performances from all the actors – also from the midges, so remember your repellent as well as the essential rug.

    Click To Buy Tickets

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    Double Bill starsstarsstarsstars

    EXTRACT: … The fact is that Tennessee Williams’ Something Unspoken is joined, not by Edward Albee as listed, but by Chekhov’s Smoking is Bad For You. Luckily, this latter play is actually quite good. The Russian playwright’s one-man confession of a beleaguered husband is as innovative as anything regularly seen in second-tier sitcoms, but his writing does continue to entertain. The writing is funny and sad all at the same time, as the poor lecturer gets increasing sidetracked from his intended topic by a deeply repressed desire to complain.

    Alan Ireby’s performance is what really brings it to life.

    Alan Ireby’s performance is what really brings it to life. He absolutely looks the part, sunken and beaten in decidedly outdated fashion, and he twitches and jerks his body in an absolutely believable expression of chronic nerves. His voice twitches in much the same way, shooting up to accent his most nervous moment. Even his moments of revolt are but twitches to be quickly beaten down.

    In comparison, Something Unspoken is tense and muted. The story of a widowed socialite and her English secretary struggling with the knowledge of their latent sexual tension couldn’t be more different from the first half of the show. But it, too, is a treat. The writing is brilliantly true, typical of Williams, and multi-faceted, complicated by a subplot involving the socialite running in absentia to leadership of a social club, which runs in parallel to the romantic scene. This makes every phone call a critical decision, with two lives hanging on each ring.

    Kirsten Maguire handles the widow Cornelia with scene-stealing aplomb. Her distinguished air, false kindness and authoritarian steel blend into a perfect representation of an entire class, which makes the hints of her unorthodox (for the time) sexuality even more interesting. I just wish her wig looked more real. Suzanne Dance (the secretary), though a competent actress, seems like a shadow in the light of her mistress. Her moments of real emotional intensity barely drew my eyes from Maguire.


    Double Bill

    Audience Review on Edfringe Website
    Link to review

    Tony Barnes

    At a festival where it is not uncommon to see young performers grappling with roles meant for much older actors, it is a genuine pleasure to see the older actors in these two one act plays bring understanding and nuance to several complex roles. The Double Bill features works by Anton Chekhov and Tennessee Williams. In this adaptation of Chekhov’s Smoking Is Bad For You, Alan Ireby embodies the pathos and dark comedy of a brow beaten Welshman who has been instructed by his disapproving wife to provide a lecture about the harmful effects of smoking. Instead of delivering the lecture the character continually disrupt himself as he ruminates on his miserable existence. Ireby toys with the audience’s expectations until we despair about whether we’ll ever receive the lecture. Ireby allows the audience to feel some of his thwarted expectations.

    The second play is Tennessee Williams’ seldom performed Something Unspoken. While the Fringe Festival has been a boon for fine performances of little known Williams’ works, this may well be the best of them. Again, strong casting is central to the play’s success. Suzanne Dance gives a fine, natural performance as the secretary of an uptight Southern belle. Dance effortlessly conveys the enormous strain created by her employees unresolved needs. Kirsten Maguire plays Williams’ steely and contradictory Matriarch with considerable empathy as she works towards the something that is unspoken. Whether there’s the possibility of a new dynamic is left unresolved, but the chemistry between the actors makes this a memorably powerful experience.

    One of the joys of this performance is that it’s held at Duddingston Kirk, a small village 2kms outside of the city centre. The play is held in the grounds of a 12th century church overlooking a scenic loch. For those without a vehicle it can be reached either by catching the 42 bus or by a brisk, half hour walk. It’s well worth the effort.

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    Baba Yaga starsstarsstarsstars

    August 5, 2015 | By Thom Dibdin – All Edinburgh Theatre

    ✭✭✭✭✩    Spine tingling

    Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens (Venue 121): Mon 3 – Sun 16 Aug 2015

    Magnificently malevolent when it needs to be, Theatre Alba’s take on the great Russian folk tale Baba Yaga thrills and frightens in equal measure as it promenades round Dr Neil’s Garden in Duddingston.

    Drawing their young audience straight into the play, there’s vibrant enthusiasm to the five-strong company. They are led from the front by bright-eyed and endearing Catriona McFarlane as Anya, the girl with the kind heart.

    McFarlane’s Anya is kind-hearted enough to make her interactions with magically talking animals believable. But a fresh and invigorating performance ensures that she is never cloyingly so – while her audience interaction creates an easy, semi-permeable fourth wall.

    If Robert Williamson doesn’t really get a chance to establish the character of Anya’s doting but misguided Father, he more than makes up for it when moves over to the role of Ivan the Storyteller.

    It’s his gentle guitar music and vocal interjections which accompany the audience on their adventure through the gardens when Anya is sent off by her wicked stepmother to borrow a needle and thread from her new aunt – Baba Yaga.

    Before the bone-grinding, children-eating witch is discovered, however, Anya has to find her friends as she wanders through the forest. Amy Conway has a nicely physical presence as both the mouse Moosikins, who helps her (and the audience) find helpful items on her way, and cat Meeowshka, an enslaved servant to Baba Yaga who is found mourning her lot in song, in a secluded and surprisingly wind-free corner of the garden.

    all the best puns

    Frank Skelly has great time as the self-important, fearty, growling-but-not-quite-meaning-it guard dog Barkovski. It’s in this role that writer and director Clunie Mackenzie has found the most fun for older audience members, giving Skelly a wonderfully complex character and all the best puns.

    But it is in Andrea McKenzie that the company has their standout performance. She gives the stepmother a really vicious undertone of  malevolence from the moment she steps onto the stage, immediately ensuring that any wayward cynics in the audience move straight over to Anya’s side.

    When she returns as the witch herself, it is easy to imagine that she is still picking the sinews of her last toddler from her teeth. Without being over-the-top about it, or indeed going into the realms of real nightmare, she fizzles with dark forces and storm-bringing nastiness.

    Her demise – with plenty of audience help, is perhaps a bit too easily won in the end, but there is more than enough getting there and running through the forest to compensate.

    Andrea McKenzie’s epitomisation of nastiness is vital to make the production work. Clunie Mackenzie’s adherence to the spirit of her original material is strong and the real fear which she draws down is one of hunger, which is present as a threat at every turn of the plot but which doesn’t carry the same weight to a well-fed Edinburgh fringe audience as it might in less affluent societies or times.

    The whole is great fun, though. A spine-chilling production, perfect for three to ten year-olds, which makes knowledgeable use of one of Edinburgh’s most beautiful performance spaces.

    Running time 55 mins
    Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens (Venue 121), Old Church Lane, EH15 3PX
    Monday 3 – Sunday 16 August, 2015
    Daily: 2.30pm
    Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/baba-yaga
    Theatre Alba website: http://www.theatrealba.com/

    See Review Online

     

    All Edinburgh Theatre

    Baba Yaga – junior review

    August 6, 2015 | By Cora Dibdin

    ✭✭✭✭✩    Exciting

    Junior Review by Cora Dibdin

    Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens (Venue 121): Mon 3 – Sun 16 Aug 2015

    Baba Yaga at Duddingston Kirk gardens was magical for everyone.

    A young girl called Anya was sent into the forest to get some needle and thread from her stepmother’s sister… BABA YAGA!!

    Baba Yaga is a woman who eats children. You can read stories about her in Russian fairytales. She has iron teeth and she flies in a pestle and mortar.

    It was different to normal shows because it was outside. We sat down and then the cast came on stage which was grass under a tree. They talked about the story and then we followed Anya and the storyteller through the garden.

    In the garden we found Moosiekins which was a mouse. She told Anya about collecting things to help her get to Baba Yaga. We helped Anya find things which was fun.

    We also met a guard dog called Barkovski who wasn’t friendly and then Anya gave him a bone and he decided to help. I liked the actor who played Barkovski because he was good at being the guard dog.

    And then we met a cat called Meeowshka who was singing a sad song because she had to work for Baba Yaga. It was peaceful listening to her.

    It was funny when Baba Yaga told Anya to go into the shed but Anya didn’t because she knew what would happen. Baba Yaga would eat her.

    Baba Yaga looked friendly but she wasn’t at all. She didn’t feed the cat or the dog and she ran around screaming!

    I liked Baba Yaga because it was well presented. It had good storytelling and the singing was good. It was exciting because we had to help Anya.

    Running time 55 mins
    Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens (Venue 121), Old Church Lane, EH15 3PX
    Monday 3 – Sunday 16 August, 2015
    Daily: 2.30pm
    Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/baba-yaga
    Theatre Alba website: http://www.theatrealba.com/

    See Review Online http://alledinburghtheatre.com/baba-yaga-junior-review/

     

     

     

    http://alledinburghtheatre.com/baba-yaga-junior-review/

    Reviews 2014

    Scots Double Bill:
    Edfringereview.com

    By  Zack Wellin, 6th Aug 2014   

    Scots Double Bill comprises two loose modernisations of Shakespeare, written by Joan Ure in the 1970s. Both plays are characterised by shifting age and gender relations, and an underlying awareness of what it is to be Scottish. They are beautifully set in a garden marquee, and the natural light and space are a refreshing respite from a stream of poky Edinburgh basement theatres.

    The first, Something in it for Cordelia, imagines Lear and his daughter waiting for the last train out of Edinburgh Waverley. She plans to install him in a comfortable abode in the highlands, where they will be able to quietly live out the rest of their days. Together they envision a gentle rural idyll, though Lear is pathetically unable to escape from, or reconcile with, his past. Amy Conway portrays a practical though tender Cordelia in a balanced and understated performance, while Charles Donnelly presents us with a fittingly ridiculous and unsympathetic Lear teetering on the delicate boundary between farce and pathos.

    The script doesn’t hesitate to juxtapose mundane modern realities with the Shakespearean context, often to comic effect, and the plain language is often moving, such as when Lear admits that he doesn’t “know how to” give his daughter a “cuddle”. The actors cycle believably through various emotional states, and the main criticism that could be made of this play is that it occasionally rambles too much and veers into irrelevance. It may have benefited from a little pruning.

    The second of the two, Something in it for Ophelia, is delightfully captivating from the off. A young woman on the train home from a performance of Hamlet is eager to engage in a conversation about it with an older man who is rather more interested in reading his book. Eventually she wins his attention, and an unexpectedly intimate conversation develops. The script fizzes with intelligence and humour, and the formality of the wording is enlarged upon by the two actors to hugely endearing and humorous effect.

    Angela Cassidy, as the precocious Hannah McNair, is sharp and restrained, and John McColl is convincingly agitated as Martin Armstrong. Their relationship freely morphs and develops, and some credit must go to the director Helen Cuinn for the dynamic physical interactions that are created with the aid of just a bench. Unfortunately the actors aren’t always able to fulfill the ambitions of the script, which requires the expression of some extreme emotions within the incongruous context of a random encounter; this might be more a problem of writing rather than acting. This does little to mar a thoroughly enjoyable pseudo-philosophical investigation into themes of gender, age and death.

    The Magic Quest

    Audience Review – on the Edfringe Site

    “Harriet Busby

    Congratulations on blasting us away with another braw show for bairns in ‘The Magic Quest’. Beautiful Duddingston Kirk gardens are breath of fresh air, away from the fusty broom cupboards in town. The story, songs and setting keep us all, young and old, totally enthralled. I wish every child visiting the festival could see your show for a slice of guid Scots drama that they’d surely remember forever.”

    Edfringereview.com

    “It’s worth making the trip to the small village of Duddingston just for the scenery: expect beautiful gardens, stark hillsides, and a stunning view of the loch. This, coupled with The Magic Quest, would make a fine family afternoon outside the city centre.”

    “The performers are appropriately enthusiastic and engage the children with laughs and smiles that are infectious. The costumes are vibrant and mystical. And the quest is as exciting and silly as a children’s show should be.”

    Read More on Edfringereview.com website

     

    A selection of past reviews and review quotes.

    2012 Theatre Alba’s Irish Season 

    Edinburgh Fringe 2012 poster

    2012 Poster



    Dancing at Lughnasa

    Review – Three Weeks ****

    ED2012 Theatre Review: Dancing At Lughnasa (Theatre Alba) – See more at: http://www.threeweeks.co.uk/article/ed2012-theatre-review-dancing-at-lughnasa-theatre-alba/ – sthash.18JMIR8F.dpuf

    dancing at lughnasa edfringe 2012Charming, poignant, and intriguing, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ is about five Donegal sisters making ends meet before the start of World War II. Told through the eyes of 7-year-old Michael, the family struggles with religion, honour, and what it means to be a woman in a changing world.

    The story, touching and honest in emotions and character portrayal, explores the complex nature of relationships and survival.

    In this particular production Kate’s (Suzanne Dance) and Rose’s (Annabel Logan) convincing performances especially steal the show. Set in a beautiful garden, the show is hard to hear at times and is subject to weather conditions, so make note to bring a blanket and umbrella. Though a bit too long, this story will nonetheless dance its way into your heart.

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    *****
    ” The company manage to convey this tight family unit with great aplomb and the relationships and performances are utterly believable. This is ensemble playing at its best as they switch easily between tragedy and comedy, from nostalgia to high zest. Even the elements – a light shower, a gust of wind and copious midges – fail to put them off.  This is well worth a look (but don’t forget to pack the waterproofs and insect repellant!)”  
    5/5  Sam Laydon   HAIRLINE.ORG.UK

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    ” follow the storyteller as he takes you around the scenes of the wonderful Irish fairy tale that will be familiar from the story of Cinderella. “

    Fair Brown and Trembling Musicians

    Fair, Brown, and Trembling

    Children’s show with Music and Storytelling in the famous Alba style.
    **** Four Star Review Three Weeks

    ED2012 Children’s Show Review: Fair, Brown And Trembling (Theatre Alba Of Scotland)

    ED2012 4/5 Reviews ED2012 Children’s Shows Reviews

    Worth it for the short trip out to the beautiful setting of ChristopherBrooksPhotographyFairBrownandTremblingweb-36Duddingston Kirk Gardens.
    If audience participation isn’t your thing, then give this a miss; otherwise, follow the storyteller as he takes you around the scenes of the wonderful Irish fairy tale that will be familiar from the story of Cinderella. With short-sighted princes, daring sword fights, musical accompaniment, true love and a spell-casting whale, this interactive story speaks straight to the audience.

    The big kids will appreciate some of the finer humour, and the littler ones will get captured by the story and expressive eyes of the excellent narrator. With teas, coffees, juices and biscuits all available, everyone leaves with their own happy ending.

    Duddingston Kirk Gardens, 30 Jul-11 Aug (not 5), 11.00am, also 5 and 12 Aug, 2.30pm.
    tw rating 4/5 | [Charlotte Mortimer-Talman]

    – See more at: http://www.threeweeks.co.uk/article/ed2012-childrens-show-review-fair-brown-and-trembling-theatre-alba-of-scotland/#sthash.b09sdHFG.dpuf