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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Stars shine bright in 9/11 play
Susan Sarandon
Sarandon has played at Edinburgh Fringe before
It's easy to sneer about Hollywood stars treading the boards in Edinburgh or London's West End and getting an easy ride because of their celebrity status.

But Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins did more than enough at the British première of The Guys to have a house full of seasoned theatre fans eating out of their hands.

Robbins is revelatory as a fire captain who has lost eight men in the Twin Towers. For an actor who has sometimes been accused of acting with his head rather than his heart, he hits all the right emotional notes.

His blue collar, straight-down-the-line, Irish Catholic firefighter finds himself in unfamiliar territory when he has to compose eulogies for four of his men.

Finding the men he worked with have become heroes instead of people, he groans: "How do you write a eulogy for an ordinary schmo."


As an editor with a long history of covering violence in South America, Sarandon plays a woman badly affected by the attacks, but unsure of her role in the aftermath.

Her performance is strong although some of her dialogue occasionally becomes cloying when it touches on her character's reaction to the attacks as a New Yorker.

The simple staging heightens the impact of the reading and the humour in the play is carried off nicely by both actors, particularly when it is revealed the burly fire captain is a dancer at heart and the pair start to tango.

And running under the work is the sadness that it is only in death that we can share the secrets, hidden talents and unplumbed depths of the firefighters.

The Guys is at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre until Friday

Berkoff's Requiem still needs work

A handful of images from 11 September seem to have been preying on Steven Berkoff's mind.

His Requiem for Ground Zero is full of "silver birds" flying into the Twin Towers and it's hard to suppress a yawn when he refers to the buildings as "steel phalluses".

This poetic monologue is a work of two threads. When describing the more oblique side of 11 September, Berkoff can be brilliant.

And his hammed-up Dubya and Tony Blair, as well as his sketch of New York's immigrants, raise ripples of laughter.

But when he starts talking about "flying bodies" and trudging through all the gory detail, the work becomes not tasteless, but unnecessary and overblown.

All of the most appalling images of the attacks and their horrible aftermath are seared in the mind of everyone who owns a television.

The news coverage of 11 September was probably more intense and comprehensive than any single other event in history.

Art can illuminate great tragedies - like World War I - which have been shrouded in confusion and misinformation, but it must be more selective in the modern era.

Many of Berkoff's images are powerful and his frenetic, almost manic, delivery will earn him more standing ovations, but this "work-in-progress" should shed some of its excesses.

Steven Berkoff's Requiem for Ground Zero is at the Assembly Rooms until 26 August

Keillor entrances audience

Garrison Keillor starts his talk like a stand-up comic. His powerfully witty turn of phrase carries well from page to stage, and it is occasionally hard to tell whether this is book festival or Fringe.

He was born nine months to the day after Pearl Harbour in Anoka, Minnesota. "Some people react to national crises in different ways," he quips.

And his takes, both fictional and factual, of the eccentric rural communities where he grew up, in books like Lake Wobegon Days and Radio Romance, have entranced fans.

An accomplished broadcaster, he peppers his stream of observations and nostalgic reminiscences with sudden bursts of song as he remembers a classic blues song or a favourite from his childhood.

Garrison Keillor
Keillor: Rails against cosmetic surgery
Keillor is an eloquent enemy of the "pasteurised lifestyle" lived by many in America and even Europe, where smoking, drinking, and meat are frowned upon from a great height. As he puts it: "The blues was not built on tofu."

Having recently turned 60, he rails against the American obsession with "good abs" and cosmetic surgery which leaves the recipients with "faces resembling feral groundhogs".

The audience of nearly 600 seems to lean closer when he talks about his childhood in a Plymouth Brethren family and delivers wry anecdotes about his schooldays, perhaps his strongest suit.

Keillor ends by revealing his belief in storytelling as the moral bedrock of his rural community, and the audience's rapt faces show few disagree.

Garrison Keillor is at the Consignia Theatre in Edinburgh for two nights, ending Wednesday.

Intense Russians shock and amuse

You either have it in you to be entertained by dance and physical theatre - or you don't.

St Petersburg's Derevo may not quite win you over, but they will push themselves to their limits and have won a prestigious Fringe First award trying.

Their wildly energetic, supremely physical take on the Divine Comedy managed to make up for the absence of dialogue with a healthy dose of the comic and the zany.

Some people cannot stomach the sight of a troupe of semi-naked Russians frolicking, and one small boy was led out of this performance in tears within minutes of the start.

Derevo: Extraordinary spectacle
Buzz-phrases for performers are "involving the audience" another "breaking down the barriers between audience and performers".

At times, those in the front row were showered with flakes of tissue, fragments of paper and foil, and unseen drops of water from above.

They were made to sing Happy Birthday, pour drinks for their fellow audience members, and dodge thrown lumps of fresh bread.

By the end, previously sceptical faces were laughing and much of the audience was on its feet.

The physical style and avant-garde music in the round are not for the faint-hearted, but this extraordinary spectacle succeeded because of its sense of fun.

Derevo - La Divina Commedia is on at the Assembly Big Top until 26 August.

Dan hopes to be Perrier man

The time is soon coming for comedy fans to start getting excited about the Perrier Awards and acts are starting to sharpen noticeably.

Dan Antopolski is a master technician of humour, a comic craftsman who can make audience members laugh and love him even as he gently humiliates them.

He fills the stage with frightening ease, often falling back on his ability to chummily brazen his way out of seemingly carefully contrived but wafer-thin stream-of-consciousness material.

Dan Antopolski
Antopolski could be a Perrier award contender
Perspiring profusely under a mop of dark curls, Antopolski sails close to the wind with a sequence about a dying child in hospital and another segment introduced with "I just want to boast about someone I pulled recently".

But it is his dedication to his own self-indulgence and his ability to win an audience over despite itself that allows him to triumph, while not showcasing anything wildly innovative.

One of his highpoints comes when he dons a bleeping, flashing, mind-reading helmet, and sings a love song from his foot to his training shoe.

Antopolski missed out on the Perrier last year, but on this form could still one day claim Edinburgh's ticket to big venue tours, a BBC Two show and a nice country pile.

Dan Antopolski is at the Pleasance Courtyard and Over the Road.

Coverage of the 2002 Edinburgh Festival from BBC News Online

The buzz

In focus

Fringe diarists




Fireworks at the Palace

Edinburgh festival

See also:

01 Aug 02 | Entertainment
01 Aug 02 | Entertainment
01 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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