+3 Review: Criminology 303 (Venue 13: 6-27 August: 21.30: 35 mins)

“An intriguing drama”

Editorial Rating: 2 Stars

Criminology 303 is an interesting concept – flipping between alternate scenes 40 years apart. Initially we meet retired detective Norma Bates (Jilly Bond) in 2016 reflecting on an unsuccessful investigation from her past, before the action reverts to 1976 where she is in the thick of it. We learn early on how this (the only unsolved case of her career) clearly still haunts her, so an intriguing drama is set up as to whether she might finally solve it on our presence.

Bond does a great job in switching between the two ages of her character – the crabby older version is a distinct progression from her greener and more confident younger self. And although prone to some overacting (I think her initial terror at the power point presentation misbehaving is a bit extreme), she shows great skill and stamina to drive the action in both scenarios.

This production’s main downfall, however, is its length. At barely half an hour, it feels like it only just gets going before very abruptly ending. There is no satisfactory resolution, no real sense of progression in either story beyond some scene-setting, and consequently the whole thing feels a bit pointless.

I would have liked to see the 2016 scenario develop into a discursive and positive look back at the case with a view to at long last solving it, rather than being a very rushed ghost story that scares Bates away from her own lecture. The pace of Bates’ descent into terror in this part feels very disingenuous, subverting the strength her character should have had (after 40 years in the force), so to me a more subtle and drawn-out approach here would have been more powerful.

In the flashback scenes Julian Gartside is commandingly creepy as Mr McLeod, yet Tommo Fowler’s direction has him physically touch and overpower Bates as detective on more than one occasion, which again feels forced and comes across as a cheap way to demonstrate status quickly, when other techniques would have had greater impact. The scene-setting and background to the background of the case in this scene is very well developed and delivered by Gartside, if seemingly a little irrelevant from the main story, but again I can’t help but feel this all would have been so much more effective if we got to see more about how the action panned out in the end – it is a frustrating beginning to a chapter that ends mid-sentence.

Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 24 August)


Edith in the Dark (Momentum Venues @ St Stephens, 5 – 30 Aug : 16.25 : 1hr 20 mins)

“A truly superb performance from Blue Merrick as the title character”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

Edith in the Dark is perhaps one of the most curious adaptations at the Fringe this year, combining a selection of Edith Nesbit’s earlier, and much darker, works, with elements of her real life. From the pen of award-winning and respected playwright Philip Meeks I was expecting a well conceived piece, but could it bring the threads together to be a work of art in its own right?

The concept is very simple: Nesbit escapes to her attic (and study) during one of her husband’s parties. In the adjoining room lies an invalid girl, rescued by Nesbit from the street. A guest (Mr Guasto) joins her, proclaiming to be a fan of her work and to have snuck in having spied her earlier. They have a brief flirtation and Nesbit agrees to read aloud for him. They are interrupted by Nesbit’s maid, Biddy Thricefold, but the reading goes ahead, and soon we are sucked into the world of the ghostly stories.

The script is very natural, and flows well, capturing the mood and period very sympathetically. The twist at the end was certainly effective and well concealed, even if it did leave me a bit confused. The direction is subtle, although there were a couple of moments when Nesbit walked down stage to deliver lines straight forward that did jar from the otherwise very realistic style.

The actors are excellent throughout, playing multiple characters in the reading of the stories, but of special note is the truly superb performance from Blue Merrick as the title character. She enthralls with a commanding stage presence, and performs with enough light and shade to make Nesbit believable but without ever being overly theatrical.

The set and effects were also very impressive, with smoke and lighting used to give atmosphere, and the exposed and expansive wooden set giving a real sense of the bare attic room. Overall, it’s a very solid production, that’s been pulled off well.

However, despite the fact that this performance is an abridged version of the script, it does still feel quite lengthy, and there’s not quite enough drama to keep it completely engaging throughout. Perhaps with more characters, narrative development or interruptions it could have been something really quite spectacular. Still, definitely worth watching.


Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 23 August)

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