Hidden Door

May 27 2018 | By More

★★★★☆   Doors Open

Leith Theatre and State Cinema: Fri 5 May – Sun 3 June 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin

Hidden Door has returned to Leith for a second year, expanding in several directions – to put on more shows and more different kinds of shows in more spaces for longer hours.

And if the opening evening is anything to go by, this is going to be another successful take-over from the pop-up festival, at least in terms of content, as it gives the old State Cinema its swan-song before being converted into flats.

Old State Cinema. Pic: Chris Scott, Literary Paparazzo

A two minute walk (at the most) round the corner from Leith Theatre, it’s at the old cinema that all twelve of the programmed theatre pieces are taking place, in three new rooms – the main auditorium, a well equipped small stage under the raked seating and the basement.

Opening the theatre programme, Hidden Door regular Annie Lord brings another piece of her trademark site-specific, storytelling theatre – work created to be formed at a specific time and/or place.

In Celluloid, Lord’s tale sinks into the darkness of the auditorium, finding the world of those who might have been watching in Leith in 1938, the year the State Cinema opened. It’s framed through the volatile material used to create film at the time.

Lord remains a compelling performer. He story of a woman sitting the darkness of the cinema, built over the water of Leith, winds around fragments about the projectionist, a camphor tree from which celluloid is made, and the creation of Celluloid itself.

opening up hidden spaces

Its a technique which perfectly complements Hidden Door’s own aim of opening up hidden spaces; the theatrical equivalent of an exploratory archeological dig, carried out on land about to be built upon.

Annie Lord. Pic: Chris Scott, Literary Paparazzo

Her expansion into different uses for celluloid is an interesting facet to her performance but introduction of a separate story about the three children who claimed to have been visited by angels in Fatima, Portugal, doesn’t quite work, distracting from the main thrust of the piece rather than filling it out with hints at the impermanence of life.

However, it remains a must see for anyone interested in the history of the cinema and the philosophy behind Hidden Door as a festival.

By way of contrast, Voices from the Moon from Manchester company Public Burning Theatre is one of those infuriating, fascinating but flawed pieces which strive so hard for authenticity that they end up appearing false and contrived.

Steph Reynolds plays an agoraphobic young woman, traumatised by a teenage incident with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, who uses the ideas of separation and lonely spaces to come to terms with her fears. Partly in thinking of the most remote place on earth and partly by considering the most remote place to which humankind has ever been.

Ripe for great theatre

That element of the show seems to exist to hang the story of the 1969 moon landings on; the team of three who went off in an Apollo space shot to the moon, the two who landed on it and the one who didn’t, but flew round to the far side of the moon, instead.

Steph Reynolds. Pic: Chris Scott, Literary Paparazzo

All of which is ripe for great theatre. And James Harker’s script certainly gets to some very interesting places, particularly with Michael Collins who sat alone in Apollo 11 as it sped off round the dark side of the moon where the earth was to become eclipsed from all forms of contact.

Sound designer Karen Lauke has done a great job in bringing NASA recordings in to play and helping create an atmosphere for the piece. But director Kayleigh Hawkins doesn’t do Reynolds any favours with her pacing, and for all her creation of great moments, it is hard to find any empathy with the character she creates.

There’s a lot more empathy on display down in the basement of the cinema, past Silas Parry’s strangely bulbous and alien artworks and Charlie Cook’s somewhat onanistic kinetic sculpture, Round of Applause.

pub quiz

Here, Rob Jones is staging a work in progress of Plutus, or The Comedy of Wealth after Aristophanes, a two handed piece of interactive, immersive theatre in which the audience are participants in Chris and Charlie’s bizarre pub quiz.

Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Claire Willoughby. Pic Jamie Wardrop

It’s early doors for the piece yet, with Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Claire Willoughby as Chris and Charlie, working out how the quiz itself is going to work. Their characters, however, are right in there, enigmatic throwbacks to the time of rayon and space-age pop, whose quiz questions bite deep down into the value of the things in the real world.

Its certainly one to catch, even at this early stage in its creation, just for the sheer fun of it. And it will be fascinating to see how Charlie’s clandestinely-told, real-life fairy story will develop, as it relates what happened to them in their caravan that day, if Plutus returns (as planned) to next year’s fringe.

Back in Leith theatre, set about with flamingos and peacocks, the dance programme has been hugely enhanced and the music element is as strong as ever ahead of Leith Theatre’s tie-in with the EIF for Light on the Shore in August.

On opening night that meant joyous, bouncing pop from Dream Wife and hard-edged and funked out rock with equally hard-edged lyrics from Nadine Shah and her band, making their Edinburgh debut. To fill it all out, and provide dancing until 3am, Dr Alex Paterson of the Orb and DJ Food redefined trainspotting in Leith as they dropped all sorts of unexpected and wonderfully groovy tunes.


Hidden Door
State Cinema, Great Junction Street, Leith EH6 5LW.
Website: http://hiddendoorblog.org/

Celluloid (45 mins)
Four performances only:
Fri 2: 6.15pm; Sat 26: 1.30pm, Sun 27: 7.15pm; & Mon 28 May 6.30pm.
Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.
Further details: Celluloid

Voices From The Moon (1 hour)
Four performances only:
Fri 2: 7.30pm; Sat 26 & Sun 27: 9.45pm; Mon 28 May: 9.30pm.
Company facebook page: PublicBurningTheatre.
Further details: Voices From The Moon.

Plutus, or The Comedy of Wealth after Aristophanes (1 hour)
Three performances only:
Fri 25: 9.30pm; Sat 26: 5pm and 10.15pm.
Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.
Further details: Plutus

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  1. Jim C Glass says:

    Totally agree about Annie Lord’s Celluloid- started really well but the Link with Fatima in Portugal was baffling, unnecessary and ultimately really destructive. Bizarre.