FRINGE REVIEW – Berkoff’s Graft – Tales of an Actor

*****

Berkoff’s Graft fantastically tells Tales of an Actor, from the incredible joy of being accepted for training (and funding!), through the exhilaration and torment that is the life of one forever putting themselves up for rejection, the sacrifices made with deliberation and with less self-knowledge, and the struggle to actually make a living, through to ‘the final curtain’. The latter is a little abrupt, but this is quite possibly apt, given what occurs, and still contains dark humour.

There is a lot of comedy in fact, but most of all there is a consummate actor ‘showing how it’s done’. George Dillon attacks the words, emotions and ideas with a controlled and often ferocious energy that sweeps the audience up into a world of sheer physicality, entertaining, pushing and in some ways probing us. Any actors watching – and there are bound to be many in the Fringe – have both the joy of recognition and the squirming of private rants made public. And there is the opportunity to learn from a master player quite possibly at his peak.

Dillon’s performance actually has a circus feel to it – throughout you cannot help but be aware of, and amazed by, his skill – the fitness, detail and energy given to presenting his script. If you are also aware of technique you will spend the time in awe of how he plays his character and the audience. This style, with its use of vocal tone changes, slow motion pieces, muscular physicality, portrayed self-awareness points – very much part of Berkoff’s tradition – along with beautifully engineered introspective moments, holds a quality of obvious performance that, while it might make Brecht cheer in his grave for this very effect, can alienate audience empathy with this very striking character. The seconds in which a real person emerges and connects in heartbreaking simplicity are a little too rare and in this reviewer begged the question: if this were not a Berkoff piece, what would Dillon do with it?

But this is clearly a Berkoff piece and it has huge appeal for being such. Dillon, closely connected to Berkoff’s work, delivers a powerhouse of vocal and physical performance, showing much of an actor’s world in both the bringing to life of an exposing script and in the sheer entertainment value of his clear, energetic, explosive and comic embodiment of these Tales of an Actor.

Berkoff’s Graft is just one of Dillon’s shows in Fringe 2011, so while there are only a few showings of each piece, there are a number of opportunities (at different venues) to watch this brilliant actor in his 21st Anniversary Solo Season. The Man Who Was Hamlet is also reviewed (from last year’s production) here at Edinburgh Spotlight, with more to come – so it is with confidence that this reviewer says: grab whatever Dillon show(s) you can!

By Danielle Farrow

23 + 25 August, 17:45 (19:20) @ Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall

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