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An Actor's Lament (Edinburgh Fringe)

Steven Berkoff aims a broadside at the contemporary theatre landscape in his new show at Assembly Hall

By • Scotland
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Steven Berkoff (pictured), always a favourite in Edinburgh – queues are snaking round the Mound for his latest offering in the Assembly Hall's main space – is in no mood for mellow compromise; with critics, directors, producers, the West End, or anyone else.

Just turned 76, slightly portlier than of yore, but sleek in black cotton casuals and crocodile skin shoes, he despatches this bilious compendium of familiar complaints with the expert assistance of a lissom actress, Aimée Bernard, and a dry, slightly taller Barry Cryer lookalike, Jay Benedict.

Berkoff still proves that Hamlet's advice to the Players was not always appropriate: he scythes the air like a human wind machine, projects his own rhyming, scatological doggerel with a puffed out chest and grandiloquent flourish and silently orchestrates his colleagues in a series of attitudes and tableaux as if they were the Three Disgraces.

He invokes the "great" days of Tynan's reviews, Olivier's scream (the sound of a seal whose tongue has frozen to the ice) in Oedipus, the anger of John Osborne, the unpredictability of Nicol Williamson. And he sneers at "conceptual," university-educated directors, clapped-out, unambitious playwrights and the affection we have, apparently, for "character bags."

No names, no pack drill, more's the pity, but he's a bit out of date on the West End – currently on the brink of complete overhaul and rejuvenation – as a "stinking morgue" awash with television soap stars and necrophilia. With a drastic re-write to extend and concentrate the seeds of an exhilarating Molièresque satire of theatrical life, An Actor's Lament could be part of the revival.

An Actor's Lament continues at Assembly Hall until 20 August

Tags: EdFringeEdinburgh FestivalSteven Berkoff

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