EFR - Reviews of Last Call

Last Call

Thu 31st July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Claire Murgatroyd

at 02:05 on 7th Aug 2014

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The premise of ‘Last Call’, a monologue reflecting on the societal benefits and drawbacks of alcohol consumption, was never one that was going to excite or particularly stimulate a prime-time, excited Edinburgh audience. With that in mind, Juha Hippi, (Finland’s monologue champion this year), actually should be proud that he was capable of making a stale topic fairly watchable.

Throughout the course of the performance, which discussed the topic of alcohol in the fictional setting of the ‘2014 Boozing Championships’, Hippi took on many roles, from a sports coach to a charismatic compere. While the audience may have been distracted by another production’s loud banging upstairs, Hippi maintained his concentration, creating a performance full of intensity, if not full of original ideas. The idea that not drinking might positively impact on one’s health, but that alcohol remains a crucial social device nonetheless, is hardly a revolutionary one, but the enthusiasm with which he performed his semi-autobiographical tales of dependence and excess made it seem to the audience that this performer was a true pioneer.

The changes in lighting, including the repeated use of spotlights and circus music may have been atmospheric, but they certainly weren’t necessary, as Hippi’s versatility apparently knew no bounds. While his intent was often unclear, his prowess at commanding the stage, and taking on many personalities became more obvious as the performance went on. While his overall conclusion became quite preachy and irksome, I would have happily stayed longer than the 60min duration just to see what the talented Finn was capable of.

However, if his point was to encourage the audience to remain tee-total it sadly missed the mark, as the language he used to describe his former drunken days, as days where “anything was possible” and when he could dream of “reaching out and grabbing the stars from the sky” was a lot more enticing than his deadpan didactics on the virtue of sobriety. That being said, Hippi did manage to stage a watchable and unexpectedly exciting reworking of a recycled message, which undoubtedly deserves some recognition.

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Fay Watson

at 09:25 on 7th Aug 2014

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Performed as a monologue, that Fringe favourite style show, this performance, written and directed by Mikko Räty and Juha Hippi discusses the revered and integral part played by alcohol in today's society. Juha Hippi in the main role does this through a number of characters at the fictional '2014 World Boozing Championships' on the main stage at the C Cubed venue.

A one man show needs a strong lead and, in Hippi, it has found this. This comes across most effectively in the role of the presenter. With his wide creepy smile and twirling dance he captures the the balance between dark and comedic that the performance aims at in all aspects, but rarely grasps. However, his transitions between characters were too rapid and not distinct enough. Technical aspects could have been used more effectively here, instead of simply a pause and change of facial expression. Furthermore, whilst effectively portrayed, the restrictions of a one-man show became annoying when the characters have prolonged conversations with thin air.

The piece is full of important topics, focusing quite heavily on the impact of drinking on workers and the "normal" (a word used frequently in the show) people as an escape from reality. For instance, how much money the government earns off tax on alcohol was highlighted. These are important things to talk about, but perhaps the Fringe is not the most obvious platform for them - a fact made evident by the man in the front row, who slowly lowered his beer as the piece headed towards condemnation of drinking.

Yet, because of this location, it does make powerful points - namely that the line between alcoholism and excessive daily drinking is narrow and easy to blur and deny. This is delivered most effectively in the concluding section where, without pretense, we get to know the genuine struggle of a man reliant on alcohol.

The piece as a whole appears confused as it does not know whether to stick to a comedic circus tone or adopt a dark serious one. It combines emotional father and son moments with what appears to be a bizarre electrical storm. For this reason, the show never quite capitalises on its potential.

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