Acting Coach Scotland, Angela Jeanne, Cecile Durel, Cecile Durel's Leopold Vindictive, Daniel Haas, Derek Mac Liam, Edinburgh Fringe, History, Jozef Raskin, Kal Walker, Olivia Millar-Ross, Spaces on North Bridge, Theatre Review, World War Two
Acting Coach Scotland are a kind of factory that assembles actors and they also ship these wares to be exhibited at the Fringe. “Leopold Vindictive” is written by Cecile Durel and it is currently running at the Space on North Bridge. The play takes a look at the Belgian resistance movement in WW2 and, in particular, at their use of homing pigeons to ferry information back to British intelligence. Jozef Raskin (Daniel Haas), the bravest Belgian operative, had been designated by the codename Leopold Vindictive 200.
Homing pigeons had hardly made for a foolproof plan. It will occur to us that the spies who had showed their faces to retrieve the airdropped pigeons would have been perilously exposed to monitoring and detection. When these spies are rumbled, though, it is because one of their own has turned coat.
Unfortunately, no live pigeons are ever unleashed during this performance, which might have resulted in some enjoyably anarchic and unpredictable theatre. Yet the setup on stage is still nicely effective. Half of the stage is the British HQ; the other half is Belgium. The characters naturally cannot see each other over the single invisible line that denotes the two hundred or so miles that separate them. Instead, pigeons are despatched invisibly through the air like heaven’s angels.
The play ends by commemorating the bravery of Raskin and his comrades. Whilst this is pleasant enough as hagiography, it never really gets anywhere as theatre. We delve some way into the motivations of the British officers (Kal Walker and Derek Mac Liam), but on the Belgian side, there are merely picturesque scenes of the resistance’s parlours and cellars. Raskin’s defiance comes as a readymade fact – the play makes no attempt to explain how he had got into this mental place, or what exact circumstances had forged such a superman. Meanwhile, Flore Dings (Angela Jeanne), the snitch, is even more inaccessible and inexplicable to us. The play simply tries to account for her motivations by visually modelling her on Abigail Williams from The Crucible.
“Leopold Vindictive” here suffers from being an Acting Coach Scotland production. There are lots of young actors who need parts and this puts a stress on the quantity rather than the quality of the characters. Three handsome uniformed Nazis who pointlessly storm the stage from time to time are so surplus that they are not even credited. A less cluttered production that was more focused on Raskin and Dings might have told more of a story.