Edinburgh Festival

Heather Neill

The Edinburgh Festival draws to a close this weekend after breaking attendance records,nbsp;despite the weather.

The main festival had its highlights, in particular Berlioz's Les Troyens at the Usher Hall and Mikhail Baryshnikov in PastForward: The Influence of the Postmoderns , an innovative dance presentation by White Oak Dance Project. These, like the theatre pieces, Too Late for Logic and Novecento , were on show for very few performances. The late-night scorcher, Office , is however now in London briefly at the Soho Theatre, W1.

Too Late for Logic is Tom Murphy's analysis of a life falling apart as a philosophy lecturer attempts to ignore the needs of his devastated family (death, depression, fragmentation) and concentrate on his work. Patrick Mason's production at the King's Theatre is as intelligent as the play, but there is an uninvolving coolness about both.

Novecento (Royal Lyceum), by Alessandro Baricco, from Theatre de Quat'sous, Montreal, is performed by a solo actor, Tom McCamus with mesmerising conviction as he tells the story of a brilliant jazz pianist, Novecento, born on a luxury liner and destined to stay there all his life. This is theatre as poetry, unequivocally demonstrating the power of storytelling. McCamus sits in what appears to be the bowels of a ship, its atmosphere provided by brilliant sound (rumbling machines) and lighting (changing shafts in the gloom).

Office is an attention-grabbing play by new writer Shan Khan, winner of the Verity Bargate Award. Drug-pushers, prostitutes and smack-heads people a stretch of street near King's Cross. There is an admirable energy and gusto about the writing - although the word "shit" as most-favoured adjective does begin to lose its charm. The plotnbsp;- about street loyalty versus family trust - just about hangs together, but the play's strength lies in the dialogue and makes Shan Khan a playwright to watch.

The variety of shows for children or by young people is as astonishing as ever. Five-year-olds can be broken in to the joys of packingnbsp;four or five uplifting theatrical experiences into a day - good training for joining performers in years to come. For reviews of two of the best offerings for teenagers, Hannah and Hanna by John Retallack and Fairytaleheart by Philip Ridley, see Artbeat in the current TES . Londoners have the chance to catch Hannah and Hanna , a gripping and funny play about asylum seekers, at the Arcola Theatre in north London until the end of September.

  • Picture: Hannah and Hanna

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    Heather Neill

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