Keith McKenna

Edinburgh Fringe

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Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is often at its most impressive when giving a voice to those suffering injustice.

Michael Milligan has been touring the US with Mercy Killers, a dramatisation of the medical debt catastrophe confronting many Americans. In a police interrogation room the character Joe furiously tries to explain the suspicious death of his wife.

She had become ill with a treatable condition, refused help by their insurance company and forced into heavy debt. They even divorce in an attempt to qualify for Medicaid.

Edinburgh Festival 2012 round up

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The Edinburgh Festival responded to last summer's riots with musicals and documentary dramas, but the most interesting show on this theme set about organising its audience into noisy protesters who won their demands.

The play Kemble's Riot takes the audience back to the Old Price Riots of 1809 when, for 66 days, performances at Covent Garden were disrupted by audiences protesting at an increase in ticket prices. We became that audience: stamping our feet, shouting and chanting "Old prices!" as we re-enacted phases in a struggle that forced actor-manager Kemble to apologise and reduce prices.

Edinburgh Fringe 2011 round-up

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Opposition to the cuts is so widespread that it was bound to find its way into the Edinburgh Fringe.

On 26 March around half a million marched in London against the cuts. What happened that day to a classical bassoon player and hundreds of protesters in a store in Oxford Street is the subject of the extremely funny show, Ben Brailsford: My Fortnum & Mason Hell.

Edinburgh Festival 2010

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It was difficult to miss the Guantanamo installation when arriving at Edinburgh's West End during the festival. Orange-suited figures, hooded and cuffed, were squeezed into various points of St John's Church on Princes Street.

These replicas are regularly joined by orange-suited volunteers. One of the organisers explained that "it was to remind people of Obama's unfulfilled promise to close Guantanamo".

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2009

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This year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe included shows about those involved in political struggle along with a powerful new play from a theatre company campaigning against rendition.

Brian Haw has now camped outside Parliament for over 3,000 days, a constant irritant to a government that knows his protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reflects the views of most people in the country. Zia Trench dramatises his story in her play, The State We're In. It centres on the character of Tommy Price - a passionate, witty and fearless critic of the government who refuses to end his protest despite changes in the law, repeated arrest, beatings by the police and even the occasional offer of a government bribe.

Edinburgh Festival Round Up

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The dramatisation of interviews with people caught up in political events played an increasing part in shows at this year's Edinburgh Festival.

The most prominent of these focus on the military. The play Deep Cut, from Cardiff's Sherman Cymru, centres on interviews with the parents of Cheryl James. James was one of a number of soldiers the military claimed had committed suicide at the barracks. In response to her death other soldiers at Deepcut "were hysterical. A few of them refused to wear the uniform again." They were quickly dispersed and the evidence was ignored. But the families campaigned to expose the military cover-up.

Edinburgh Fringe

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Round-up

Nearly half of the politically themed theatre at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe was about war. Performers dressed as US soldiers handed out leaflets urging people to come to Melancholia, an anti-war play from the Los Angeles Latino Theatre Company.

Aaron Garcia, its assistant director, explained, "A large proportion of troops fighting in Iraq are the Latino or African American poor who are little more than mercenaries misled into the forces on the promise of an education or a job."

Radicals Storm the Stage

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Opposition to war was the overarching theme at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Keith McKenna takes a look back at some of the best productions.

When Edinburgh's Theatre Workshop began planning their programme for this year's Edinburgh Festival, the war in Iraq came top of the agenda. Robert Rae, the artistic director, explained, "We had been working with the local community on the show Babylon Burning (Another Lovely War) and we decided to open up the research involved to everyone." As a result the venue's entire programme was crammed with war related exhibitions, plays, speakers from the Stop the War Coalition, and debates.

Playing the Changes

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Review of Banner Theatre 30th Anniversary, Birmingham

Over 30 years ago a group of politically active performers in Birmingham set up Banner Theatre to produce shows about working class communities. In April this year they celebrated their achievements with the publication of a songbook, Singing the Changes, and a two-day event in Birmingham which included a preview of their latest show, Wild Geese. Banner has survived some difficult years for radical theatre and maintained strong links with the communities which inspired its work.

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