Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): The Capone Trilogy: Loki, Lucifer and Vindici, all at C Nova (venue 145). Reviewed by Sally Stott
Seeing the work of any members of the company formerly known as Belt Up is something I always look forward to at the Fringe, but I do miss the days when they didn’t have a cult fanbase who, correctly pre-empting an intimate space and close-knit seating, are prepared to stamp on your head with vintage Adidas trainers in order to get a “good” seat. In truth, there are no good seats, but being squashed between two people on a bench is a sacrifice worth making, if you can, for the experience of having some great performances take place a few feet away from your face.
But the fact I’ve (almost) forgotten all of this by the end of these three shows proves what a treat they are. Through immersing themselves, and us, in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s ganglands of Chicago, writer James Wilkes has found a thrilling new world to explore – one that is filled with references to classic Hollywood films, whether they’re noir thrillers or technicolour comedies, and links them together with the unseen but ever-present figure of infamous mob leader, Al Capone.
Directed and designed by Jethro Compton and taking place in a bedroom in the Lexington Hotel – here walls are the colour of dried blood and an ornate (but very necessary) fan slashes shadows across the ceiling – the tone shifts from light to dark over the course of the three shows as, outside, day turns to night.
Loki (****) is a classic farce, inspired by Norse mythology, that highlights women’s limited options at a time when being a wife or a glamourpuss were two of the few available. Played with a heady mix of power, grace and humour by Suzie Preece, Lola Keen is a star – a singer about to be married off to an older man but determined to continue her affairs with younger ones. And good for her.
Accompanied by Oliver Tilney and David Calvitto as her clown-like wannabe lovers, the escalating story of mixed-up identities and ensuing mayhem is reminiscent of a Marilyn Monroe comedy – the kind where men’s brains turn to mush if they see a woman in her nightie. But as Lola drinks herself into a stupor, we are asked to consider that this heightened, bright reality in which she is queen is a fantasy – and ask if, like Monroe, her reality is more tragic.
Lucifer (***) takes a contrastingly naturalistic tone but tells another classic tale, based upon the biblical story mashed together with a fall from grace reminiscent of a Scorsese film.
Here, a gangster’s star is fading and his wife, Marlene, is caught between staying with him or, as he becomes increasingly violent, fleeing with his persecutors. Played by the same cast (who perform all three plays), it’s with her that our sympathies lie – but it’s difficult to care too much when extended members of her family or her dislikeable spouse are the ones facing the most threat.
But there are some thrilling fights, where it feels like you may get a leg or fist in your face – or at least the adrenaline rush of coming close.
Vindici (****), inspired by The Revenger’s Tragedy, is the darkest of the three. Here women are used in a more direct, uncomfortable way. In a story that sees a man seek revenge following his wife’s death, there is no attempt to disguise the fact that in this place they exist purely for sex. But through an unlikely relationship between the avenging Vindici (Tilney) and plotting Lucy (Preece), played out through some cracking dialogue, something more hopeful emerges.
It’s a skilfully structured piece and one that, like a Tarantino film, has moments that are brutal but also intriguing. Here, the elaborate plot twists don’t lead to amusing mix-ups of Loki’s farce but something more sinister and – through a breathtaking twist – tragic.
For a company that often explores the perspectives of men it’s great to see three plays that focus on women in a genre that is traditionally male-driven. While all of the cast are great, it’s Preece who stands out, able to show the real women behind the iconic images of sex goddesses shining from the silver screen that once were, and in some ways still are, so prevalent.
The Capone Trilogy is at C Nova, more info here
Originally published in The Scotsman
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