Showing posts from August, 2019

Takin' It Easy, 1916 - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Smirk Theatre)

Photo credit: Smirk Theatre

"Takin' It Easy, 1916", is at it's core, a decent way to spend an hour. All 6 actors are convincing in their roles, and mostly play well off each other. The accents were all really really good. There was one issue, which is a common curse of the Fringe play - the characters didn't particularly have enough time to build up relationships so we were truly thrown in at the deep end, but after 20 minutes or so, it was easy enough to interpret the relationships.

The writing was excellent at some points, and poor at others. The overall result was a relatively inoffensive script with some very funny jokes that invoke belly laughs, and some other cheap ones, like penis related jokes. One of the best running jokes was that the people in this small village had no idea that the war was going on. In the end, it turned out to be the point of the play in a very jarring tone shift, but I liked it as it happened as a throwaway joke of the man from Swin…

Milan's Game - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (AllouAqui Dance Theatre)

Photo credit: AllouAqui Dance Theatre
"Milan's Game" is a very modern and sometimes weird piece of theatre. It made me laugh out loud, a number of times, but I could never tell if I was laughing for the right reason. 
Physical theatre isn't something I usually get, and this was only partially an exception to that rule - luckily, I enjoyed it based on the merit and talent of the performers alone. They were both great. 
There were around 10 scenes in the show and each of them had a different gimmick that showed itself through their movements, and occasional dialogue. My personal favourite was a David Attenborough style voiceover talking about birds, whilst the 2 performers physicalised it. It was the most immersive and visually interesting part of the show. With that said, the rest of the scenes all ranged from mildly to extremely entertaining - even if I didn't understand what a particular point being made was, I was never bored whilst watching "Milan's G…

Two of a Kind - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Me & Mi Theatre Company)

Photo credit: Me & Mi Theatre Company
Picture this - a play with a cast of 2. One of them is a man, one of them is a woman. And they don't fall in love. They don't even kiss, or have sex, they just share a stage building a genuine friendship. With the impact of sex and romance in all media, it was refreshing to see two compatible protagonists treat each other like real people treat each other, that is, not everyone is constantly falling in love with each other.

"Two of a Kind" would have been a 4 star show, based purely on the merit of the actors. Holly Ashman and Gwithian Evans perfectly complement each other, under the directoral guidance of Henry Prenn, and the performances are just so incredible.

However, the fact that this brand new script is so very excellent makes this show an easy 5 star. I was captivated from start to finish. The character development and plot points are perfectly timed to the second, I just didn't want it to end.

The show is mostly …

The Try-Hards - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Fragments Theatre)

Photo credit: Fragment Theatre
Fragment Theatre invited me to review both this, and "PAMALA" (which I gave 5 stars to) as a pair. I went to both, and after seeing "PAMALA", I was very excited for this. I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't exactly blown away either. 
The premise for "The Try-Hards" seemed very childish at first - it was a British Primary-School-Style 'Sports Day', and I must say it took me a few minutes too long to realise it was a metaphor.
The tech used was noteworthy, they seamlessly integrated prerecorded projections and live acting which worked really well. Another standout feature was the multi-rolling, which was achieved via minor costume changes, and A4 name signs around their necks. I know the latter sounds really odd, or even stupid, but somehow, it worked, and not only that, but it worked VERY well.
So, it was a metaphor, and the list of sporting events was as follows: Overcoming dyspraxia to play a musical instrumentO…

The Yellow Wallpaper - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Dram Viver)

Photo credit: Dram Viver
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is an intriguing concept - a woman, with mental health issues, trapped in a room and driven to the insanity of believing her disgustingly patterned wallpaper is alive.
I'll give this to Dram Viver - they made the wallpaper very ugly and borderline disturbing- I believed that the lead actor was driven mad by it.
But the successful execution of the project seems to stop there - the problem with "The Yellow Wallpaper" is that it has an identity crisis: it can't decide what it wants to be: it has elements of comedy, drama, physical theatre, music, spoken word, and poetry, and very unfortunately, it does not achieve any of these very well.
This is not a comment on the quality of the performers - they were mostly great, it was just as if they didn't really know what they were doing because they were doing far too much. They were, however, far better singers than actors. I wonder why they didn't just opt to do a …

This Island's Mine - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Italia Conti)

Photo credit: Italia Conti

The ensemble Italia Conti’s 2nd year actors brought nothing short of genuine theatrical magic to the Fringe this year. Highlighting themes of sexuality, racism, love, regret and acceptance, Italia Conti’s production of Philip Osment’s 1988 classic (performed only months after his passing) sensitively addresses the socio-political issues of Thatcherite Britain in a style that feels both fresh and true to the original source material.
A masterpiece of ensemble storytelling, Italia Conti brings a brilliantly talented and diverse cast to the Fringe to portray Osment’s characters in a way that makes them feel completely genuine, never once letting their performances stray into the territory of caricature. The cast appear on stage at all times, even when there is only one character in the scene, and yet never does the stage feel overcrowded or distracting from what the audience is supposed to be focussed on. Background characters either stand perfectly still in m…

An Evening with Bosom Buddies - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Bosom Buddies)

Photo credit: Bosom Buddies
Okay - I'm mostly a theatre reviewer. But this was great.

Britain's Got Talent finalists "Bosom Buddies" are two Drag Queens with the most incredible voices. Female sounding, convincing voices.

They did an hour's set of a combination of comedy and music, themed around "Divas".

Going through the divas they chose, who were Karen Carpenter, Bonnie Tyler, Celine Dion, Barbara Streisand, Adele, ABBA, Eva Cassidy and Judy Garland, along with Freddie Mercury, they personified and dressed as every single one of these flawlessly. It was funny - it's always funny when a man dresses up as a woman for comedy purposes and does comedy, but I didn't really have time to laugh as my jaw was on the floor because of their drop-dead-incredible voices.

The particular highlights for me were Bonnie Tyler and ABBA. You could go, close your eyes, listen to the music, and genuinely not know that they are men. I'm still in shock.

I don'…

PAMALA - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Fragments Theatre)

Photo credit: Fragment Theatre
I thought this would be about an old woman called Pamala. It isn't.
PAMALA is an acronym which stands for Protection Against Men And their Lies Act. Needless to say, this is certainly a feminist play. In fact, it's beyond feminist. It's feminazi. It's set in a dystopian future, mentioned to be some time after 2083, where women have finally had enough of male dominance, and have completely taken over. All bosses are women, all leaders are women. There is, in fact, an app to go with PAMALA. This app has a public record for every male on the planet, sexually in particular.
I love this concept, all that needed to happen for it to succeed was for it to be executed well.
And Fragments Theatre along with Michelle Barnette blew it out of the park with this one. Despite having a definite plot, every scene brought in another joke or metaphor that made a very important commentary on the way that men used to be so dominant in our society, and still are at…

The Room - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Cromus)

Photo credit: Ian Kelsey
Perhaps one of the hardest shows to pitch at the Fringe is the one-man (or, in this case, one-woman) musical. Upon receiving a flyer for “The Room” and doing a bit of research, however, I realised that I was in safe hands with regards to this intimate, minimalist production. Musical director, writer and accompanist Alexander Abbott’s years of experience and impressive credentials had me quietly optimistic whilst I was stood queuing for “The Room” and, I am pleased to say, by the end I was glad that I took a chance on such a unique piece of theatre.  

“The Room” tells the story of a young girl (Louise Thomas) alone in a room where, throughout its 50 minute run-time, the audience is drip-fed more and more pieces of information through Thomas’s spectacular singing and stunning characterisation that begin to make sense of her tragic circumstances. To go into any further information would be treading into spoiler territory, but needless to say that this is a show not…

Never None (But She) - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Asterglow Theatre)

Photo credit: Dyan Rizzo-Busack

Into an hour long package, Asterglow Theatre pours love, passion, humour and music.

I think the key term with this production is "integration". Integration of folklore and modern(ish) society; integration of actors and live performance with pre-recorded audio, and integration of genres. The tech was particularly well integrated, with entire conversations seamlessly occurring between cast members and pre-recorded audio clips. The lighting followed a similar pattern of seamlessness and naturalism.

The subtle commentary the piece makes is very rewarding to uncover: that is, the discrimination against the women with magical powers, or, "witches", that goes to the point of those in political power framing them for crimes, perfectly represents views of old society on particular social groups, that unfortunately still prevail in some parts of the world.

There was a lot of singing in the play - mostly pertaining to scene transitions. It star…

Dark Play or Stories for Boys - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (NeonBox Theatre Company)

Photo credit: NeonBox Theatre Company/theSpace

Swooping in at the last minute, "Dark Play or Stories for Boys" suddenly became the best show I've seen and reviewed at the Fringe.

We follow a story of 2 people, one a boy, falling in love with a girl, online. The second, a boy, pretending to be that girl, online. The plot gets a touch more complex than that, but I'll leave it to you to go and find out the intricacies of the show.

One particularly interesting creative choice is the decision to have the made up girl, Rachel, played by an actor. The integration of her acting like a real person, and also as if her words were being typed as she spoke them was just wonderful. It's so seamless.

The visual design was equally stunning. The use of bright LEDs to symbolise the transfer of technology and messages, including being integrated into the costume of the fictional girl. It was very impactful.

The complexities of the plot emerge when Nick, the 'catfish', starts be…

Mental - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Dead Man's Hand Productions)

Photo credit: Dead Man's Hand Productions
Having read the description of "Mental" I was looking forward to seeing it, but not extremely excited. There's a lot of mental health related theatre at the Fringe this year, which is obviously excellent, but there's only so many deep and meaningful points about it that one can make.

I was pleasantly surprised, on viewing, to see that Dead Man's Hand clearly also understand this saturation - so they didn't particularly make any point at all. It was just an accurate, sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking depiction of life as a youth with mental health issues, specifically in a youth facility.

Despite not being the main characters, two that really stood out to me were Milo and Rosie. The actors playing these characters were beyond convincing with their conditions that I started to believe they really had these issues. With that said, the entire cast was great.

Mags and Sam's teenage rivalry and lust for eac…

Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Tale - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Permafrost Theatre Collective)

Photo credit: Jody Christopherson
'Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Tale’ is an astounding show. It looks at how Alice questions her sense of womanhood, identity, and self-acceptance when she enters Wonderland. It ‘repurposes’ passages to suggest new situations where these themes come into play.

The cast brilliantly evoke Wonderland’s confusing atmosphere. There are several Alice’s on stage at once. Each are simultaneously different and similar. They ask each other ‘Are you Alice?’ The cast play a variety of different characters throughout. This invokes an uncertainty of whether it is the responsibility of the worrying creatures of Wonderland or on Alice to provide a sense of certainty about anything.

They produce a dynamic soundscape throughout, using their voices, bodies and props. Soon, they meld together to form the Jabberwocky, a terrifying and enigmatic being. They create its clicking, hissing and whispering sounds. They provide rhythms for the scenes, stamping and swirling and …

Schr*ding*r’s Cock - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Stray Productions)

Photo credit: Stray Productions

"Schr*ding*r’s Cock" is only half an hour long. Initially, this seemed to be a bad thing because there wouldn't be time to develop characters and a plot, but it actually made me realise that a lot of Fringe shows fill up an hour slot for the sake of it. This was concise, hilarious, and the only bad thing about it is that it was empty - it's a free show, it's half an hour of your time and they should be full every night.

The humour is brilliant, and clever. The basic plot is that TJ, our lead (male character) is a proud straight man, but he got very drunk last night. He knows there's someone in his room, fast asleep, but he has an inkling suspicion that the person might be male. Or female. He isn't really sure. The entire play is set in real time, and it's a conversation about the situation with his 2 female flatmates, and yes, we do find out who it is at the end.

My only criticism would be that despite its short run-tim…

The Last Bubble - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Black Light Theatre Company)

Photo credit: Black Light Theatre Company

'The Last Bubble’ fosters a frustrating atmosphere from the start. It considers the ways a group of people affect each other when faced with a difficult situation. In this case, it is Rhys’ battle with cancer.
Rhys becomes withdrawn and overwhelmed. At the same time, he is surrounded with a bunch of extremely exhausting and irritating people. They get annoyed with him, and confront him about his behaviour. His friends, loud football supporters, take few steps to comfort him. They are quick to fight and shout, and wonder what Rhys has got to worry about. At this stage, Rhys hasn’t shown them the doctor’s letter confirming bad news. The extent to which people’s  behaviour is based on very little understanding is effectively considered.
When they discover the reasons for Rhys’ demeanour, the play assesses their value in Rhys’ life.
They stop blaming Rhys for the most part. However, I did not find this to be as hopeful a change as the play wa…

The Djinns of Eidgah - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Bread Theatre and Film Company, University of Cambridge)

Photo credit: Bread Theatre and Film Company
The first thing that "The Djinns of Eidgah" gives you is a printed programme, and then it only continues to give. This, however, is not a standard theatre programme. Sure, it has a cast list, but most crucially it has a list of translations, and historical background information from the setting of the play. This is when it was evident that Bread Theatre were taking this extremely seriously, without having entered the auditorium yet. Being briefed on what you're about to see is a refreshing change of pace for the Fringe, as opposed to running around the city from show to show and having to adjust to the subject matter and genre after the show has started.
The script is great, the tech is really great, but what really shines through here is the acting. Every single one of the performers are some of the best I've seen at the Fringe this year. I was so convinced by every word, every line, every movement that the climax of the…

Anti-Depressed? - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Pop Heart Productions and Happenings Theatre Company)

Photo credit: Pop Heart Productions

"Anti-Depressed?" is an immersive piece of theatre, that is a blend of sketch based and long form stories. There are 2 main elements to the play: the first, and foremost, is a "drug trial" that the whole audience are said to be a part of. They give you a tic tac on the way in to "take". It's very cool. The second part is the counselling sessions of the 3 actors, and whilst the drug trial bits are (intentionally) over the top and funny, these really bring the tone down (in a good way) and discuss some important points.

A particular highlight was the "lab's" new Headspace equivalent of audio meditation. It was just so funny, and really highlights the awful copies of Headspace and other good services, for when people fancy themselves as a bit of a life coach with no qualifications. If you don't go and see the show, just meditate to this track. It's really funny:…

Surveillance - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Anomaly Theatre Company)

Photo credit: Edinburgh Fringe Programme
"Surveillance" was almost exactly what I expected it to be. A commentary on our escalating culture of privacy being "dead". What was quite a nice surprise, is that the 45 minute slot was split up into 3 short plays.
The first of which was a surveillance centre in the USA, with the ability to spy on anyone. This was my least favourite of the three - it was very slow, and also very expected.
The second was a personification of signing up for Facebook - it was great - I wrote a similar play a few years ago and it was nice to see the same concept, but a little more polished.
The final play was much longer than the other 2, and made some interesting comments - unlike the first and second plays, stopping in reality, this play continued into a dystopian future of civil war between supporters and haters of technology implants.
I just don't have much to say about this show - it was largely inoffensive. There was definitely more p…

Trump the Musical - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Blowfish Theatre)

Photo Credit: Blowfish Theatre
With "Trump the Musical", I was expecting to be reviewing a comedic, risque retelling of the last few years of American politics. Whilst I'm sure that would have been nearly as good as what the actual product is, I'm very glad they went down this route instead.
Instead of the expected politics retelling, I ended up experiencing Putin confessing to burning down Notre-Dame, and Kim Jong-un flossing.
"Trump" is set in the year 2020 - Trump (Polly Bycroft-Brown) is running for re-election, but the story quickly develops past that when Putin and Kim Jong-un (both played brilliantly by Natasha Lanceley) start playing silly buggers with missiles - I'll leave it at that. Also, Nigel Farage is King of England (Kyle Williams).
Unlike "Brexit", this show does not feel rushed at all - an hour is the perfect length. It has the same cast - and it was great hearing their voices doing different accents, and most of the impressio…

Pink House - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Paradigm Lab)

Photo Credit: Paradigm Lab Facebook
Paradigm Lab are a group from Edinburgh University, where I study. This was one of those shows that I felt almost obliged to see, without knowing much about it. I am so glad I saw it because it's up there with Paradok's Twice Over as one of the best plays I've seen at the Fringe.
"Pink House" is a piece of fantastic theatre with no real genre to ascribe to it. It made me feel everything, from pure happiness, to actual tears.
The show started off a little slow, as is the curse of short Fringe shows. I don't know if it was a bad day for the cast, but at the very beginning, the diction and projection was just not quite there, but 5 minutes in, it was as clear as day.
Alice Jackson is outstanding in the lead role of Shira, a Jewish woman who moved from the UK to the USA. Despite not being Jewish, her spoken Hebrew is brilliant, and the shifts between playing young and old Shira were absolutely seamless and I was overwhelmed by …

Sweet Charity - Edinburgh Fringe Review (Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group)

Photo credit: EUSOG Facebook page Despite a welcome abundance of plays from the University of Edinburgh (over 30 per year), there are only a handful of musicals, in fact, there's only 4 regular gigs, 2 of which being at the Fringe, so I jump at the opportunity to see the performances of these musicals - Sweet Charity was no exception, I was there on second night.

The standout performance, was, of course, Charity, played by Tilly Botsford. She's one of those performers you just know that you'll be seeing in the West End in the next few years, and if you don't see her there, it's because she's gone straight to Broadway. I think that summarises her performance, absolutely stunning on every level. Enough said.

There were many other great performances, notably Rupert Waley as "Vittorio", who so brilliantly captured the essence of the character, combined with an unexpectedly incredible voice.

Ewan Bruce was also excellent as "Oscar"; who's level o…

MARVELus-Awww Snap! - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (The Just Us League)

Photo credit: @JULComedy on Twitter

I am a huge Marvel fan. There are 4 walls in my room, and 3 of them are covered in Marvel merchandise, be it posters, art, or even LEGO. And the 4th wall is all windows, and I was told natural light is more important than more merch. I disagree. I was sad, so I left the flat and went to see this show, instead.

And it was good, it was funny, but it was just a bit too cringey for my tastes. The two performers were really excellent, it just slightly missed the mark. The best jokes, were the borderline ones. The ones that made you go "ooh, this isn't that family friendly". But there were only a few, and so I think this show would easily be a 4 or 5 star if they turned up the age rating and put some more risque jokes in there. With that said, I can see, from a business perspective, why you'd want it to be family friendly. A lot of kids love superheroes, and I bet they would have given the show 5 stars. There were kids in the front row w…

Improverts - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Edinburgh University Theatre Company)

Photo credit: The Improverts Facebook Page

Being a student at Edinburgh University, I've seen The Improverts a number of times, but I did promise to review EVERYTHING I see at the Fringe this year.
The Improverts have a self proclaimed tagline: "Always different, always funny," and this is generally very accurate. The hour flashes by in what feels like 5 minutes, and the experience is made even better at the Fringe by the cheap Bedlam pints.
It's very difficult to review ONE Improverts show. There's over 10 players, with 4 or 5 performing on any given night. They all have particular performance styles, and play really well off each other. 
Are you going to laugh as much as you would watching a carefully planned stand up comedy show from a comedian you really love? Probably not, but you will definitely laugh, and for the price, it is well worth it. Lots of shows do the same performance 30 times at the fringe, but the Imps do 30 shows, one time each, and no matter …

Twice Over - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Theatre Paradok)

Photo credit: Theatre Paradok

As a student of the University of Edinburgh,  there are naturally a large number of shows at the Fringe that originate from my University. Before seeing it, I thought that Twice Over would be just another one of those, but it was, instead, an inspired, moving and emotional original piece of writing.

I need to talk about Eve Simpson. Simpson performs as one of two actors in the play opposite Francesca Sellors, but she also wrote it. Incredible acting is very common, incredible writing is very common - but both, out of one person? That's a talent reserved for the very best, and Simpson is the very best. With that said, both Sellors and Simpson shine equally on stage.
The play itself is just wonderful. It's a perfect blend of music, traditional duologue, multirolling, with elements of experimental theatre. The intimate space at Greenside made for a very personal viewing experience, enhanced even further by being on the front row. 
The set, whilst min…