Reviews – New Wolsey Theatre Pulse Festival

The New Wolsey’s 19th Pulse Festival is about half way through now – and there’s been a range of performances from scratch shows to fully formed productions previewing before an Edinburgh Fringe run.

On Wednesday night saw two shows which have already done well at the Fringe and have been doing touring the circuit for a while before heading back to the Festival this summer.

How To Make a Killing in Bollywood by Umar Butt and Manjoy Sumal – Bijli Productions

This production comes with quite a pedigree. The Company was founded by writer Mariem Omari and director Umar Ahmed, who in turn have had their own individual measure of success both abroad and in the UK.  Their collaboration has been nationally recognised for its ground-breaking approach to the creation of Physical Verbatim Theatre, and their authentic representation of the diversity of the Scottish community. And they are Company in Residence at the National Theatre for Scotland.

For all that How to Make a Killing did not start off very promisingly, with a rather skittish one man opening introduction to the audience by Adam Buksh. However once he was joined by the other three actors, ( co writers Butt and Sumar plus Jessica Lucie Andrade),  who took to the stage with an opening Bollywood dance piece, the production came alive and we were transported to a Asian family takeaway where out of work Scottish/Asian actor Raza persuades his best friend Gurjit to travel to Mumbai with him in a last ditch attempt to follow his dream to become a Bollywood actor.

Combining dance, physical theatre and storytelling this was an interesting, well directed, well executed piece that began as quite humorous but became darker as the story unfolded. Exploring the themes of being caught between two cultures, and at what price should you follow your dreams, this was a piece that drew you in and made you think as well as entertaining with some great dance sequences and with Adam Buksh entertainingly playing a range of quirky characters .

As the drama unfolded it was obvious that Raza was too white for Mumbai as he had been too Asian for the Scottish theatre industry, but when his friend gets the call back he was hoping for, and Raza gets involved with a street girl looking for a ticket out of the slums, it is hard to see how this story can end happily.  Even so the rather tragic twist at the end came as a surprise.

A very entertaining and thought provoking production.

A Hundred Different Words for Love by James Rowland – Tangram Theatre

This is part of a trilogy by James Rowland – the first of which, Team Viking , he brought to the Pulse Festival last year about the early death of his childhood friend Tom and how he and best friend Sarah decided to give him a Viking burial.  That first piece was quite emotional –  A Hundred Different Words is a bit more light-hearted but features some of the same characters.

It’s just one man on stage telling us a story – occasionally interspersed with a bit music created on a keyboard and played as background on a loop – but James is a consummate performer who knows how to draw and audience in  and then keep them hooked.

He reminds me very much of the early days of Hoipollois’ Hugh Hughes creation from Shon Dale- Jones.

The piece starts with a story about winning and then losing a girlfriend and moves on to the wedding of his best friend Sarah to her partner Emma and his role as Best Man of Honour, for which he dons a red dress to deliver.  It’s clever, poignant and funny – and has a lot to say about different types of love and loss we can experience.

He’ll be taking the third piece in the trilogy Revelations – about helping Sarah and Emma have a baby as a sperm donor –  to Edinburgh this year – and I for one can’t wait to see it.

Suzanne Hawkes



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