Thursday, 18 September 2008

FEATURE: The Comedy Offensive

The Comedy Offensive
Louise Ridley talks to Nick Doody about his satirical yet silly show

With his funny surname, and equally funny shows, Nick Doody’s brand of contentious humour wins praise from many corners. He made his comedic name years ago supporting the late and great Bill Hicks, who he still greatly admires. “He did really good theatrical stand up - big pieces with good versus evil - with this underlying smart political humour. I don’t agree with everything he thought, though, he was very religious, certainly.” It’s fair to say that having a bash at religion dominates Nick’s show. “I’ve covered it before but this time I’ve got sillier. Though, come to think of it, I was pretty silly last year. I have this reputation as a political ranty comic but I also like to have a giggle at things, I don’t see why you can’t have both.” He understands the importance of keeping his fiercely topical material fresh; “If lots of people hit the same things in the same way it’s best to leave it.”So why is religion such a staple trigger for comedy? “It’s so often ludicrous! Like the Sudan thing, I think ‘But it’s a bear! A teddy bear!’ We live in a changing age, fundamentalism is on the rise but there’s also a lot of rationalism. Islam has the same power in some parts of the world that Christianity used to have here. It’s a good thing to be able to criticise that power.”Rather than being on a mission to offend, it is the nature of offence itself that gets Nick’s attention, “If someone’s laughing a lot they probably aren’t actually offended. People often get offended on other people’s behalf; it’s always the guy sitting next to the guy in the wheelchair who will be most upset about a joke involving disability.”Has he ever gone too far? “I have on one occasion. I had the belief that you should be able to say anything on stage as long as you can defend it at the bar afterwards. But I told a joke about 9/11 - about the mechanics of it, coming at it from a weird angle or something, and in that case it just seems to trivialise the loss of lives there.”It’s his seventh year at the Fringe, and his third solo show here. “It’s an incredible opportunity to see people in very small performance spaces, it’s really intimate. I’ve mainly seen other acts on late night variety shows, but I’ve really liked Jamie Kielstein this year.”Over his career he’s seen the big names move on and change, “People who were the best when I was here doing sketch shows as a student have moved on a bit. It’s hard to put into words really. When you see a 50-year-old stand-up there is a distinct stylistic difference from a 25-year-old stand-up. The people who were at the top of the bill at the Comedy Store in London seven years ago are still on there, but the ranking order has changed.”So what does the future hold for Nick? “I had an idea the other day for my show next year actually, just as I was thinking, ‘Never again, I lose so much money every year at the Fringe!’ I reckon it will be about how I can’t help seeing both sides to every argument and how annoying that is in comedy; I can say something and then think ‘Well, the other side has a point too!’” Divided he may be, but Nick retains the ability to draw thought-provoking laughs from both sides of a crowd.

--Nick Doody – Tour Of Doody, Pleasance Courtyard, 30 Jul – 25 Aug (not 6, 13), 7.30pm (8.30pm), prices vary, fpp 81.

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

FEATURE: The Healing Power Of Laughter

The Healing Power of Laughter
Louise Ridley talks to Glen Wool about his honest and imaginative stand-up show

In his stand-up Fringe show, ‘Goodbye Scars,’ Glenn Wool is getting personal. Really personal. In it, the charismatic Canadian (described as a cross between Jack Black and Meat Loaf) talks frankly about the aftermath of his nasty real-life divorce. “It’s about forgiving yourself for things,” says Glenn, “Sometimes it’s good to play things through, and to have regrets. It’s a theme I keep in all of my shows; where you end up is about where you’ve been. I think it’s a sign that you’re totally over something if you can talk about it on stage.”If this is the case, Glenn is certainly over it, and his honesty is effortlessly funny. “I think it makes it more accessible to everyone. I’ve said to myself this is the last really personal show I’ll do though. I’ll go on to more political stuff, drug humour, that kind of thing.” I had read somewhere that Glenn had given up drinking, but am assured that he has done no such thing, “I tried for three months, but then I had to give up sobriety.”As we appreciate non-sobriety together after his show, the edgy and buzzing Glenn that I saw on stage gives way to an equally affable, but exhausted, one. And it’s no wonder; directly before his gig he performs nightly in the Fringe hit ‘Office Party.’ “It’s a spectacular show,” he tells me, “I’m not just saying that. We did it in the Barbican in London in September as well.” He can’t stick around for the party which happens after the show finishes though, “I have to leave before it ends to get to my gig!”Like many, Glenn enjoys the collective aspect of the Fringe, “It’s like a convention of all of my friends. It stretches you as a performer too. I like that.” He feels that some are being stretched in the wrong direction, though, “What you tend to get with trends in comedy is that people at the forefront are really good but others just switch for the sake of it, when they should really do their own thing and find their own voice. Some people are just good-looking or something, or someone says to them ‘be like him!’ so they do.” This approach is definitely not for Glenn, whose constant semi-stoned air is punctuated by brilliantly extreme expressions of fear and surprise and sharp observations that reveal a shrewd talent for selecting material. He entrances the audience with detailed stories that build up to a single, triumphant punch line, which he says is all to do with know-how; “The stories I’m telling now I couldn’t have done as a less experienced comic. You learn how to hold attention. Before that you just know that something funny has happened but you don’t know how to put it on stage. I’ve still got stories in the bag!”After pursuing a particularly sensitive theme this evening, he explains that you can’t always please everyone. “I knew some people wouldn’t like it, as they didn’t like the original joke, but tonight I wanted to reward the core group who were enjoying it. As I always say, those are the kinds of things that lose you awards but win you an audience that you’ll want to stay friends with for life.” Glenn has undoubtedly not achieved the fame that his ability merits, which could be to do with his lack of interest in awards, but choosing to push the boundaries rather than play it safe is just another quality that recommends him as one of the most refreshing comics on the circuit at the moment.

--Glenn Wool – Goodbye Scars, Underbelly, 31 Jul – 24 Aug (not 12), 10.15pm (11.15pm), prices vary, fpp 54.Office Party, Udderbelly’s Pasture, 2 – 25 Aug, 8.00pm (11.00pm), prices vary, fpp 83.

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

FEATURE: Lord of the dance...with bells on

Lord of the dance...with bells on

Louise Ridley talks to Tim FitzHigham about his latest madcap adventure.

"It’s funny how you can be in considerable physical pain but people think you’re happy because you’re wearing bells.” Fringe veteran Tim FitzHigham, the man who rowed the Thames in a paper boat and the channel in a bath, returns this year with his latest tale of epic morris dancing. His adventure paid homage to Will Kemp, Shakespeare’s clown. “Kemp suggested a part for Hamlet, a comedy dog on wheels. Shakespeare refused and explained that Hamlet was not a barrel of laughs; it was going to depress A-level students, possibly for 400 years. Enraged, Kemp decided to show Shakespeare the true nature of comedy by morris dancing from London to Norwich.”Always keen to tackle the bizarre, Tim felt he should give it a go. Hopeless at dancing, he underwent a month and a half of intensive morris training. “I like to go into things with no expertise, to prove that anyone could do it. It’s a very English thing – people saying ‘Don’t do that, you can’t do that.’ I’ve never lost the belief that if you stick at something hard enough it will become possible – within the laws of gravity, of course. Morris dancing is an inefficient way of travelling. You hop every four steps and two out of every four are backwards.” Tim’s expedition – in full Jacobean attire – received mixed response: “People would drive past me and then come back again and again to see how far I’d got, or pull over and give me cash for the charities I was supporting, which was great! Some people said I was dressed like a wanker but I explained to them that it was the height of fashion in Kemp’s day.” He even got detained by police. “It could be that Morris dancing is the last form of anarchy left to us,” he says.Tim is the first to admit that his is a painful, if unique, brand of comedy: “I lost a toenail – not the most glamorous thing ever – and all the skin on my right foot.” So why does he do it? “I love it in cartoons when Jerry hits Tom over the head with a saucepan. Cartoon pain is funny; it’s extreme comedy. I laugh at myself when I see the things I do.”Like Kemp, Tim hopped into Norwich after nine days. His Fringe show, ‘The Bard’s Fool’, takes his audience through his arduous journey. “I only have an hour to tell the story. The flag ceremony is always an integral part of my show. Through my maritime connections [Tim is an honorary Waterman] I take the venue into my command so that if I say anything vaguely slanderous nothing will come of it.”Tim is an old hand at the Fringe: “I love going. It’s a solitary life as a clown; you go back to a hotel after a gig and potter around. At the Fringe you see all your mates, it’s great!” Comedy has changed since he won the Perrier Best Newcomer award in 1999: “Back then I wrote my show the night before, now people do things that they’ve polished since March. The creative process is hidden from the audience, which is a great shame. It used to be an ad hoc circus but it’s like an industry trade fair now. Comedy is very supportive at the moment, though. There are times when everyone’s niggling each other but right now it’s like an extended dysfunctional family.” As his show will demonstrate, Tim is this family’s outlandish son for whom no tree in the garden is too high to climb.

--Tim FitzHigham, Pleasance Courtyard, 30 Jul - 25 Aug, 6.00pm (7.00pm), prices vary, fpp 104.

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

FEATURE: A musical feast with veg on the side

A Musical Feast With Veg On The Side
Louise Ridley talks to Adam page about his original solo show

Fancy some beat boxing mixed with Indian rhythms on the nose flute? Or a salsa track with a hint of African thumb piano? Then Adam Page is your man. The multi-talented music maestro from Adelaide turns his hand to almost any instrument, and showcases them all in his appropriately named one-man show, ‘Adam Page Solo’.“It all starts from scratch”, says Adam, who uses live looping and sampling to create a unique composition during every show, “nothing is pre-prepared. I ask the audience what style they want to hear and take a bit of a vote, then I might beat box a bit and lay down a rhythm. Every single show is different, which is great because it means I am getting something out of it creatively, as well as entertaining people!” The audience also become music makers themselves: “I get people up on stage to record stuff into the loop pedal or the whole audience to sing some notes together. Then I build on what they are singing and they are incorporated into the piece.”A saxophonist by trade, a defining moment in Adam’s youth was watching fellow sax player Jamie Oehlers. “I saw him play when I was in year 10 at school and he just blew me away. I realised that this was what I wanted to do. Around that time I started getting bad marks in every other subject except music. So, it was a good thing really!” Since then he has toured Australia nine times with funk band The Jive Express, but his solo show allows him to indulge his inner frontman: “The freedom is amazing. I’ve always been a side man and I like the limelight! It’s great to be out there exposing my music to people, that’s what it’s all about. I love life on the road; it’s my number one passion”.When he puts down the sax, Adam dabbles with flute, clarinet, bass, guitar, percussion and beat boxing as well as some more unsual instruments: “I do Tuvan throat singing” [Here Adam breaks into an impressive noise which can only be described as the sound of a didgeridoo - without the didgeridoo] “There is the mbira which is an African thumb piano, and the madal, which is a Nepalese hand drum.” He turns “anything the audience throws at me” into an instrument, which has included a whoopie cushion and asthma inhaler. However, he won’t spill the beans about the intriguing tagline to his show – ‘One man. 15 instruments. One vegetable.’ “There is a vegetable but I won’t reveal what it is or how I play it – I’m pretty happy with it though!” Squeezing his instrumental collection onto the plane might prove tricky, then? “Obviously I can’t bring them all to Edinburgh! I need to buy a didgeridoo when I get to London actually...”Despite winning the Best Music By An Emerging Artist award at the 2007 Adelaide Fringe Festival, this will be Adam’s first Edinburgh Fringe. “Edinburgh seemed like the next step! I can’t wait. I’m doing 24 back-to-back shows and it will be great for my development to really focus in that way.” He’s looking forward to sampling what the Festival has to offer: “Michael Franti, John Cleary, and Spearhead; I’ve already got my tickets for that! I’m into classical music, as well. I’ll definitely go to the Bach cello suites because I play them on the saxophone. But I’m most looking forward to seeing really unknown shows like myself; there are so many people out there!”

--Adam Page Solo, Underbelly, 31 Jul - 24 Aug, 5.20pm (6.20pm), prices vary, fpp 138.

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Climate Change: Young People’s Perspectives

Climate Change: Young People’s Perspectives
Festival of Politics

Young people had a say in world concerns as children aged nine to fourteen from all over Scotland took part in a Climate Change Camp and presented their findings to adults. Emphasis was on shared responsibility and the impressive and detailed mural which they had painted, featuring slogans such as “Which world do you want? It’s your choice” and a ‘promises and pledges’ box for contributions. They recited their own poetry, mainly concerned with the disappearance of wildlife due to global warming, and made suggestions to the ministers in attendance. Some interesting ideas came up which the politicians took on board, with discussions following. This was an inspiring event, tackling a wider picture of Climate Change than the upcoming bill it anticipates.

The Scottish Parliament, 23 Aug, 12.30pm (1.30pm), free

published: Sep-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Beethoven For Breakfast

Beethoven For Breakfast

A fellow reviewer begged me not to do the obvious and mention the croissant in my review of my first ‘For Breakfast’ experience. He was right - complimentary foodstuffs were utterly unnecessary as an enticement to this wonderful performance. The standard was the very highest as we heard two Beethoven works and a sprinkling of Schubert in the undeniably civilised Royal Over-Seas House. Michael Lerace played as though the piano is an extension of his body; gracefully teasing out the beauty in each strain. The trio that followed were also outstanding, giving a sophisticated and sensitive performance. This was relentlessly absorbing music - I left feeling like I had been submerged in it and didn’t want to come up for air.

Royal Over-Seas League, 12, 14, 19, 21 Aug, 9.30am (10.30am), £10.00 (£8.00), fpp 141
tw rating: 4/5

published: Sep-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Dancebase Presents … Inbetween

Dancebase Presents … Inbetween
Cie. Willi Dorner

Austrian choreographer Willi Dorner offers a playfully puzzling trip into the postmodern, as fragmented and frenetic as you might expect this ironic comment on the future visions of films ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Alphaville’ to be. Using music, videos, their bodies, words that were at times funny and piles of headshots of celebrities which they held up against their faces and discarded to change expression, three charismatic performers explored a future where expression is stifled. At times this verged on the absurd, at others it was pretty incomprehensible, but there was always something engaging to look at and consider as the performance space became a workshop for exploring the image, especially of the face, and its relationship to language.

Dance Base – National Centre for Dance, 20 – 23 Aug, 2.00pm (3.00pm), £11.00 (£7.00), fpp 113
tw rating: 3/5

published: Sep-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Kenny Young And The Eggplants

Kenny Young And The Eggplants

How many instruments can you name that resemble an aubergine? Kenny Young and his affable band have a whole bag of them, which they bring out for their hilarious finale, ‘The Savage Eggplant’. In between songs, this Brooklyn trio seem a bit bemused, and humble to the point of bashfulness, but when they start singing their laid-back acoustic pop and bizarre but witty lyrics, they take the audience into a world of talking alligators, aliens and pirates. It’s liberating, silly stuff, toe-tappingly cheerful, and I found myself joining in the several spontaneous sing-alongs that occurred. They evidently enjoy themselves on stage and have a great rapport with their audience, and Kenny’s soft but edgy voice is great for their kooky tunes.

Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides, 18 – 24 Aug, 8.00pm (9.00pm), £10.00 (£8.00), fpp 155
tw rating: 3/5

published: Sep-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: St Michael And All Saints Festival Concerts

St Michael And All Saints Festival Concerts
St Michael and All Saints Church, Tollcross

I find the organ a difficult instrument to give my full attention to as you often can’t see the organist and the physical source of the music is hidden. This concert of Messiaen’s ‘La Nativité du Seigneur’ (the Birth of our Lord) - which was skilfully performed by Phillip Sawyer - was given a visual focal point in the display of lithographs of an artist’s interpretation of the music which complimented each movement in bold colours and abstract patterns. The music was mainly sombre in tone with slow changing chords beneath a meandering, dissonant melody, rising to increasing depth and grandeur as the movements progressed. Especially evocative of its theme was Les Anges (the angels) where rising trills evoked flight.

St Michael and All Saints Church, dates vary, times vary, free non-ticketed, fpp 162
tw rating: 3/5

published: Sep-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: A Night At The Operas

A Night At The Operas
Edinburgh Grand Opera Chorus

Opera isn't everyone's cup of tea, but this evening would convert some to what they are missing out on. St Andrew's & St George's Church with its unusual elliptical shape and elegant architecture is a magnificent space for ensemble singing. The Edinburgh Grand Opera Chorus was lively and attentive to their conductor as they presented a selection of classics in Italian and French, by composers such as Verdi and Bizet, with two exquisite soprano soloists. Occasionally they needed clearer diction but their voices made a great sound together. Short introductions from the conductor giving the dramatic meaning and performance history of each piece were informative. True, the audience was definitely mature, but as a younger member I enjoyed myself too.

St Andrew's & St George's Church, 16 Aug, 7.30pm (9.15pm), £10.00 (£8.00)
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Alice, Mindy And Friends

Alice, Mindy And Friends
LIPA Graduates 08

The message repeated in this all-female revue was that joining "An All-Girl Band" is the solution to all the problems of the modern woman. The tune was catchy, but, like much of the material, its lyrics lacked the depth to make a real impact. Every stereotypical female experience you might expect was covered - first dates, friendships and that of the secretary who fantasises about trashy novels. There were some great comic scenes which stuck out amongst the more clichéd numbers, especially the teacher at a parent's evening who is annoyed by an overachieving child and the over-dramatic poetry readings from the 'For Women Only' collection. Ultimately the show was saved by the strong vocal performances which made the best of restrictive material.

Augustine's, 19 - 25 Aug, 9.50pm (10.40pm), £5.00 (£3.50), fpp 168
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Yours Anne

Yours Anne
Bassetlaw Youth Theatre, Nottinghamshire County Council Youth Service

Anne Frank's diary is obviously poignant theatrical material, but this short youth production deftly and elegantly highlighted elements of the text without being repetitive or over-sentimental. Nine girls played nine Annes, reminding us that her words represent the many silenced voices of the Holocaust. Using extracts from her diary along with ensemble work, the production set the horror of the world outside against the frustration of Anne's confinement and her yearning to be free. Beautiful images were constructed with strips of plain white material and repeated gestures of closing and opening doors, whilst the young cast performed with great sincerity and used the stage space well, the inclusion of gentle contemporary music giving the production a timeless feel.

The Space @ Venue 45, 18 - 23 Aug, 3.15pm (3.50pm), £6.00 (£4.00), fpp 243
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Beating Of The Russian Heart

Beating Of The Russian Heart

Russian folk music is strong and spirited, and these seven young women did credit to it with their hearty voices and cheeky smiles. In bright traditional costumes they exuded great energy through through the use of powerful dissonant harmonies and dances with scarves and handkerchiefs. The programme was well-ordered, taking us through various moods and styles; the a cappella sections were the most atmospheric, and it was a pity that when backing music was used it was mostly pre-recorded, which detracted from the authenticity a little, putting them in danger of slipping towards a Eurovision-style pop track. Fortunately, they didn't, and after receiving some dance lessons on stage the audience went away in no doubt that Russia's heartbeat is a passionate one.

C Soco Urban Garden, 13 - 25 Aug, 2.00pm (3.00pm), , prices vary, fpp 141
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Musical Of Musicals - The Musical

Musical Of Musicals - The Musical

As the title not-so-subtly suggests, musical theatre is both subject matter and style for this creative and deftly executed production. The same basic plot was filtered through five musical styles, with four performers showing great versatility and consciousness of the show's purpose throughout. The writing is astute satire packed with specific references, but its niche is also its flaw - although it allowed the cast to demonstrate their ability, the material would only be consistently relevant and funny to the most knowledgeable musical theatre buff. The Andrew Lloyd Webber parody was predictably the most well received, while Jerry Herman seemed lost on most of the audience, and I'm not sure many appreciated the brilliance of the Sondheim send-up.

C too, 17 - 25 Aug, 6.10pm (7.30pm), prices vary, fpp 175
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Elizabeth And Raleigh: Late But Live

Elizabeth And Raleigh: Late But Live
Blue Box, Eleanor Lloyd, Festival Highlights, Anthony Field Associates, Underbelly and Skullduggery

With their britches bursting with gags, Sir Walter Raleigh (Miles Jupp) and Queen Elizabeth (Simon Munnery) pull off this glorious display of costumed silliness, following the story of the Queen's relationship with her favourite courtier. Jupp's dashing Raleigh and Munnery's pernickety queen do credit to that quintessentially British obsession with dressing up as our ancestors and ridiculing them, and both actors were on top form. Seeing the pair break character as their own laughter on stage got too much for them was hilarious, especially as Elizabeth force fed Raleigh his beloved mashed potatoes while they sang 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers' to each other, and he knelt at the block in England boxer shorts. Pure showmanship and brilliant entertainment.

Udderbelly's Pasture, 31 Jul - 25 Aug, 10.35pm (11.35pm), prices vary, fpp 48
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Faeries

SL Productions

This rarely-adapted tale of two little girls from Yorkshire who caused a stir with photographs of faeries taken in their back garden is an ideal vehicle for musical theatre, so much so that I couldn't believe it hadn't been done before. This was a full-scale production with good orchestration and costuming, and the well-choreographed faeries in their shimmering rags gave some enchanting tinkling moments which defined the production. The storyline had everything going for it but was let down a little by intonation difficulties and the libretto which was a bit hit and miss. This should be a success with younger audiences though, as it accesses a realm of childhood wonder which we all wish we could return to.

Musical Theatre @ George Square, 31 Jul - 10 Aug, 11.45am (1.00pm), prices vary, fpp 170
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Theatre Of Sex

Theatre of Sex
Cabaret Direct

This show professed to "undress sexual phobias", but left me wishing that the clothes had stayed on. Well-meaning but unfunny 'sex therapist' couple Franny Winters and Harm Groespecker trawled through a clumsy piece that barely scratched the surface of taboo, Harm looking like he'd prefer a cup of tea from the pot they sat around, chat show style, than his DIY gimp suit (one of several money-saving erotica ideas). Minimal audience and an absent singer-songwriter may, admittedly, have damaged a show that possibly relies heavily on audience suggestion, but that wasn't the only thing lacking. Certainly don't go expecting anything raunchy; this isn't a show about real sex.

C soco, 30 Jul - 25 Aug (not 11), 8.45pm (9.30pm), prices vary, fpp 236
tw rating: 1/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Another Kind Of Silence

Another Kind Of Silence
FullCircle Productions

One of the richest kinds of theatrical experience is leaving a performance feeling inspired and changed; not just artistically, but politically and socially too. In this striking piece of theatre, Liz Rothschild plays environmentalist and author Rachel Carson, who took on the chemical industry in the 1950s and 60s in order to make the risks of insecticides such as DDT known. As its writer and sole performer, Rothschild gives a highly accomplished performance; intelligent, subtle and moving. It isn't necessary to know a huge amount about biology and ecology, as Carson's passion is the driving force behind this piece. With beautiful evocations of nature and issues that are undoubtedly no less crucial today, this is resonant and awareness raising, and delivered excellently.

Hill Street Theatre, 1 - 24 Aug (not 11, 18), 3.40pm (4.45pm), prices vary, fpp 183
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Grab Your Coat Love - It's Helm And Taylor! - Free

Grab Your Coat Love - It's Helm And Taylor! - Free
Laughing Horse Free Festival

With Taylor's trademark headband and Helm's trademark hip-thrusts, this pair is out to tickle funny bones with the help of flashing electronic drumsticks and a dose of surreal madness at lunchtime. It's not exactly intellectual or complex, but their gleeful and insistent silliness should get anyone smiling. They have a talent for repeating anything until it becomes funny, as well as being perfectly willing to return their heckles. Their partnership is based more on the concept that two hairy men are funnier than one hairy man than that opposites attract, but with low budget slideshows, games such as 'happy tag' and a peculiar interest in animals, you couldn't ask for much more from free comedy in the afternoons.

Laughing Horse @ The Argyle, 2 - 23 Aug (not 11), 1.30pm (2.30pm), free (non-ticketed), fpp 55
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Playback Theatre

Playback Theatre
Random Acts Theatre Company

This interactive theatre experience could have gone either way, but I found it unique and intriguing. The premise is that the audience provide the material; they are encouraged to tell everyday stories which the actors then use for improvisations in various styles, using no props but coloured scarves and musical instruments. It's a prime exposition of how the ordinary can become art and how no experience is unworthy of dramatic exploration, and seeing my narrative come to life through the bodies of others was an unexpectedly cathartic experience. Director Tig Land created a warm and relaxed environment in which the audience willingly shared and actors sensitively drew out the essence of each story. Simple but different, and perfect for the Fringe.

Diverse Attractions, 4 - 9 Aug, 3.30pm (4.30pm), £6.00 (£5.00), fpp 224
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Growing Up Linda

Growing Up Linda
Cal Arts Festival Theatre

Linda Carvel, heiress to the Carvel Cake empire, has a few problems with her father and an eating disorder. This unusual and visually stimulating production took us into the bizarre wonderland of her mind where puppets, oversized candies and screaming hot dogs tell the story of her demise. Kitsch, camp and often grotesque, this was childhood fantasy with a cult Rocky Horror edge; kooky voiceovers and a debt to celebrity-obsessed daytime television brought the fusion of trashy and glam to its peak. The puppetry along with innovative filming of moving flip books which were projected onto a huge screen made this a really memorable production that mixed visual art and theatre. Not for kids but first-class escapism for adults.

Venue 13, 8 - 17 Aug (not 11), 5.00pm (6.00pm), £8.00 (£5.00), fpp 202
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Luke Toulson: There Are So Many Things I Can't Do

Luke Toulson: There Are So Many Things I Can't Do
Luke Toulson

One way to judge a comedian is by how they handle their hecklers. Luke Toulson had the joy of the drunken Donald who shouted "pussy!" at random. Toulson mastered him with grace and humour (mainly humour) and his relaxed and conversational show continued to flow easily from theme to theme. He's someone you'd like to go to the pub with; frank yet charming despite, or perhaps because of, the self-deprecation which laces many of his gags. This was pretty standard observational humour, but he came up with some witty solutions to the world's major problems, and is an insightful and adaptable personality. As he joked, about his run in the Pleasance cellar, maybe one day the Fringe will let him perform above ground.

Pleasance Courtyard, 30 Jul - 25 Aug, 9.45pm (10.40pm), prices vary, fpp 74
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Geraldine Hickey - One Week In Paradise

Geraldine Hickey - One Week In Paradise
PBH's Free Fringe

This Aussie lady's short show is not so much comedy as a frank, true story told by someone who just happens to be funny. There's a great attraction in true stories, and it is a bonus that Hickey's is more truth than exaggerated comedy yarn. Not everyone could turn their week in a psychiatric ward as a teenager into a show that entertains and moves, but she does it, and whilst oozing a genuine friendliness and exhibiting a desire to be liked beneath her sarcastic and blunt exterior. Warning that she is going to go 'a little dark on your arses', she doesn't spare us the details of bodily functions, self-harm and difficult personal moments, and holds a room's attention with her raw and refreshing material.

Nichol Edwards, 2 - 23 Aug (not 4,11,18), 4.45pm (5.35pm), free, fpp 54
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Molière's 'Tartuffe'

Molière's 'Tartuffe'
Greene Shoots Theatre

The direction of this highly physical production of Molière's Tartuffe captures and ignites the frenetic energy of the original seventeenth-century French comedy. The story of the foolish patriarch Orgon, duped into giving all he owns to the slimy priest Tartuffe, was relocated very effectively into a modern executive world of suits and swivel chairs, where paparazzi constantly hounded and Tartuffe promised not only salvation but UN diplomacy. Inspired prop usage and a minimal but well-designed set meant that the cast's movement was focused on and the farcical elements of the original work were highlighted. The rhyming script was funny and punchy, and the acting lively and expressive, creating all-in-all a very impressive youth production.

C, 10 - 16 Aug, 11.15am (12.15am), prices vary, fpp 217
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical
The Sticking Place

Knowing that they had completed a record-breaking 50 hour improvisation, I expected a lot from these guys. I wasn't disappointed, in fact I was blown away by the sheer skill and ingenuity with which they turned out a complete musical based on the audience's suggestions. We ended up with a musical about apartheid set in a Norfolk village with an upcoming bell-ringing contest, containing numbers in styles as diverse as vaudeville, Sondheim and even reggae. The real joy is not the cast's fabulous spontaneity, but that what they performed was actually good - superb vocals and dialogue that had the audience roaring with laughter. Go and see it - I can't predict what show you'll see, but it will be excellent.

Musical Theatre @ George Square, 8 - 24 Aug, times vary, prices vary, fpp 178
tw rating: 5/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Simon Munnery's AGM

Simon Munnery's AGM 2008
Stand Comedy Club

This gig baffled me at first. Renowned comic Munnery is a great guy, affable and intelligent, but not really laugh-out-loud funny. He performed stories, sketches and a song, tapped everyone in the audience on the head with a spoon and recorded it with his camera phone, and talked to an inflatable parodic statue of Richard Dawkins. I got the feeling that he is a naturally funny guy, but that this particular material didn't fully do him justice. Yet I found myself having a good time; his show was still entertaining as it was interesting, thoughtful and varied. I wasn't roaring with laughter and neither was the audience - this is the sort of comedy that produces continuous waves of tittering rather than one big-bellied laugh.

The Stand Comedy Club, 31 Jul - 25 Aug (not 11), 4.10pm (5.20pm), prices vary, fpp 96
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

Friday, 12 September 2008

REVIEW: Car Hiaasen's 'Lucky You'

Carl Hiaasen's 'Lucky You'
By Carl Hiaasen

Author Carl Hiaasen apparently approves of this adaptation of his bestselling novel 'Lucky You', and it isn't hard to see why. The play brings out all the depth and complexity of the world of the book and notes of colour, aggression, and humour are struck in a sardonic portrait of greed, white supremacists and crackpot Christians in Florida. The sassy JoLayne, played by Nicola Alexis, wins $14 million in the lottery but when gun-toting rednecks steal her ticket to fund their White Rebel Brotherhood she is determined to get it back. A whole mix of characters are drawn into the fray, part acting and part narrating their own stories making a lively and unrestrained production that does credit to Hiaasen's sharp satirical imagination.

Assembly @ Assembly Hall, 31 Jul - 25 Aug (not 4, 11), 2.15pm (3.45pm), prices vary, fpp 213
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Sister Cities

Sister Cities
Sidewalk Studio Theatre Productions

While their mother lies dead in the bath tub, four sisters with four different fathers are brought together in her living room to consider her loss and their own lives over vodka and scrabble. Secrets are revealed and accusations flung as these very different characters - an uptight lawyer, a free-spirited Harvard student, a best selling author and a conformist teacher - let their hair down and clash over what family, duty and taking control means. The all-female cast were superb all round, with slick and dynamic performances of a script that was packed with unexpected twists and turns. Absorbing from start to finish, this was funny, touching and ultimately a warm affirmation of family despite dysfunction.

Gilded Balloon Teviot,, 1 - 25 Aug (not 11, 18), 6.45pm (7.45pm), prices vary, fpp 231
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Departure Lounge by Dougal Irvine

Departure Lounge by Dougal Irvine
West End International, Newpalm Productions and Andy Barnes Productions Present

This musical comedy has balls. Awaiting their A level results, four cheeky lads are stuck in the airport after their not-so-cultured holiday in Spain (Ryanair is awaiting a crucial delivery of single serving milk containers). Reminiscing over birds, booze and mingers, they consider more important issues such as why they use the word gay as an insult, and whatever happened on Thursday night. The whole package is there - love, laughs, awkward arm-punches and the token gay and geeky ones. Hilarious cockiness and banter aside, these boys really can sing, and with gorgeous harmonies, this dose of testosterone is musical theatre at its best and possibly most accessible - not camp, not flouncy, just good old fashioned Brits on tour.
Musical Theatre @ George Square, 4 - 25 Aug, 9.00pm (10.15pm), prices vary, fpp 169
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

Thursday, 11 September 2008

REVIEW: Living With Johnny Depp

Living With Johnny Depp
Madcap Theatre Company
Joanne Mitchell is bit of a one woman wonder. Sometimes in a play where one actor plays several characters I find myself just waiting for my favourite one to reappear. Not in this case, as Mitchell portrayed three very different women with equal panache in this refreshing and believable piece. Schoolgirl Shania faces expulsion for, among other things, writing about her obsession with Johhny Depp in her exams, but through the monologues of two of her teachers it is revealed that both characters share her interest and adapt the actor to their own fantasies and problems. Mingling with the giggling audience and never breaking character for a second, Mitchell is a superb comic actress with an incredibly engaging touch.

The Zoo, 1 - 25 Aug (not 11,18), 12.00pm (12.55pm), prices vary, fpp 212
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity
Northumbria University Musical Theatre Society

The well known but rarely well sung 'Big Spender' has to be performed with flawless timing and sex appeal to avoid being embarrassingly tacky. Unfortunately they didn't quite manage that in this production, which had constant tuning issues and backing music that was much too loud. Charity Valentine, pushover and constant loser in love, longs to escape her job as a dancehall hostess and make some big plans. The lead character was charming and comic but didn't have a voice to match, and the dancing standard was hugely varied. That, combined with the poorly constructed plot of the musical itself, which made you feel you'd wasted one and a half hours of your life, meant that this just wasn't a hit.

Bedlam Theatre, 31 Jul - 16 Aug (not 3, 10), 8.00pm (9.30pm), £5.00, fpp 176
tw rating: 1/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

REVIEW: Torn Out Pages

Torn Out Pages
Reduced Circumstances

This play tells of a daughter's realisation of her late mother's terrible secret, which holds the key to her own mental problems, and the journey of both towards self-acceptance. Short scenes kept the energy high as the stories of the mother in the sixties and the daughter in the present day intertwined, producing some knockout scenes of grief and pain, and that concentrated silence that occurs when an audience can hardly bear what they are seeing. Emma Keele, as Rita the mother, gives a stunning performance, and the live music made this a fluent and atmospheric production, along with video projections that fused seamlessly into the storytelling. Devastating yet beautiful, celebrating the joy yet vulnerability of the human body.

Gilded Balloon, 30 Jul - 25 Aug (not 11), 2.00pm (3.00pm), prices vary, fpp 238
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Greyfriars Twisted Tales

Greyfriars Twisted Tales
The Bridewell Theatre Company In Association With City Of The Dead Walking Tours Presents The Martians

The Martians have landed, and we should listen to what they have to say. Or rather sing, as this returning Edinburgh band and some helpers turn their talented hands to the grisly stories of the famous Greyfriars cemetery. It turns out that Bobby the dog had some dirty habits. Consistently funny and with quality song writing, this fast-paced madness was pure entertainment. With minimal props, two guitars and a keyboard, the cast proved themselves to be masters of storytelling in song. This is an anti-musical for the masses; religion and Hitler don't escape mention, and there's some ingenious borrowing from a certain 'Mary Poppins'. I cried with laughter. Twice. It's about time Nessie got her own song.

Musical Theatre @ George Square, 2 - 25 Aug (not 5, 11, 18), 7.30pm (8.30pm), prices vary, fpp 172
tw rating: 5/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: The Riot Showgrrrls Club

The Riot Showgrrrls Club

As I clutched my complementary wine and labia cake, I wondered how this was going to work; showgirls singing songs about feminism? Surely not? But this unusual piece of campaigning by radical feminists Kate Kerrow and Rebecca Mordan (aka Madame Magdalene and Mistress Lilith) pretty much pulled it off. 'Moulin Rouge' met Angela Carter as the pair mixed cheeky cabaret and electropop songs with a serious examination of the abuse and degradation behind the porn and lad mag industries, probing their subject matter with sincerity, and a willingness to consider other perspectives. It was hard to fully relax into enjoying their silky voices with such hard hitting messages behind them, but overall, like the wine, it went down well.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 30 Jul - 25 Aug, 10.15pm (11.15pm), prices vary, fpp 177
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Cousins Rivals Queens

Cousins Rivals Queens - Part 1: Elizabeth
Regina Satires

"It would have been easier had I been a man" said Queen Elizabeth I, and in this case she actually was a man, as performer Robert Inston donned the customary white make up and orange wig. I hadn't seen much performance history before so can't profess to be an expert, but this didn't give a good history lesson. First and foremost, it wasn't a believable acting performance. It just never really took off, possibly because characterisation got lost amid the historical details which made this a confused and hesitant lecture. The rambling monologue didn't flow easily and seemed partly improvised which led to awkward pauses. I had no idea where it was going, and I'm not sure Inston did either.

The Space @ The Thistle (V36), dates vary, 6.05pm (6.55pm), £6.00 (£5.00), fpp 193
tw rating: 1/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

Sunday, 7 September 2008

REVIEW: Jollie: John And Ollie Stuck Together

Jollie: John And Ollie Stuck Together
Birch and Biddle

These instantly likable boys have a bag of tricks to tempt us. They serve up a mixture of Blackadder-style storytelling (including the tale of Doctor Odysseus Mortimer, who has a dubious underground laboratory, and a nephew and a butler, both also called Mortimer) and silly songs such as 'I'm Not Sponsoring You!'. If you don't know the difference between a simile and a metaphor, Jollie will set you straight... eventually. The highlight is the constant competitive banter between the pair, as they exchange jibes and bicker over what to perform, arguing about whether to do a song about Ollie being fat (he isn't) which John eventually realises might be classed as bullying. But don't worry, they're good friends really. A jollie good time had by all.

Underbelly, 31 Jul - 24 Aug (not 12), 2.35pm (3.35pm), , prices vary, fpp 66
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: The Search For Sunshine

The Search For Sunshine

This shone out from the run of the mill. In a silky waistcoat and pyjamas, Death accompanies his puppets on an accordion as they grapple with loneliness, fear and thoughts of suicide. Intelligent silences and meticulously observed character detail punctuated this punchy and chilling piece. A showcase of strong acting talent, especially with the performance of the deadpan, softly spoken and curiously tactile reaper played by Ed Caruana, who was almost Tim Burton-esque. Victoria Glass, as the nervously depressed Dawn, touched something beautiful and terrible at the core of desperation. This is a highly original production featuring a confident sprinkling of ingredients, from dance to stand-up style musings on mortality. The cast's hand in devising the play was evident as they effortlessly owned their material.

Underbelly's Baby Belly, 31 Jul - 24 Aug, 12.00pm (1.00pm), prices vary, fpp 229
tw rating: 5/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Cagelings

Gotcha Productions In Association With Off The Wall Theatre

This is compelling new writing from Off The Wall Theatre company, which works with disadvantaged youths. When three boys break out of a care home and play truth or dare on 'sui-slide' cliff edge, it's just a matter of time before one goes too far, as all three realise that freedom means staring out into oblivion. Aching and bitter, the script conveys their adolescent frustration which spills over into intimidation and violence. Hardened Ollie has been out for a while and tasted life, but eager Dazzer is still waiting to break free. Their hostage, posh-boy Stevens, has problems of his own. After a slightly stilted start, the intensity of this piece took over and delivered a bleak vision of adulthood after institutionalisation.

Venue 13, 1 - 9 Aug, 5.30pm (6.30pm), £8.00 (£5.00) , fpp 190
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: The Zawose family

The Zawose Family

Witness a precious piece of cultural history at St George's West. The charismatic Tanzanian Zawose family are descended from the late Hukwe Zawose, who became a musical ambassador for their country and enjoyed huge successes in the 1980s. Since his recent death, the family has struggled both to survive and to keep their music alive. A powerful documentary film tells their story, followed by a live performance. The traditional music, on hand-made instruments, is intensely personal and passionate, ranging from gentle lilting magic to exuberant joy. Intricate rhythms and raw, heartfelt vocals provide a unique and intimate experience, which is testament to the importance of music, not just as a pastime but also as a lifestyle and as part of a national identity. Mesmerising and uplifting.

The World @ St George's West, 1 - 30 Aug, 2.00pm (3.10pm), £10.00 (£8.00) (£5.00C), fpp 123
tw rating: 5/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour

Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour
The Scottish Literary Tour Trust Ltd

There are always two sides to every story - something that is well conveyed by this thoroughly entertaining tour which reveals just how important the grimy drinking establishments of Edinburgh have been to literary inspiration over the centuries. The two actor guides each championed one version of history; the textbook versus the more disreputable (what they didn't want you to know about Burns). With scripted interruptions and witty banter along with poetry extracts, characterisation and even a bit of singing, they created a dialogue between history and hearsay that brought out the richness - and the seediness - of Edinburgh's cultural history. Humour and storytelling are favoured above dreary facts and sampling the tipple along the way is heartily encouraged!

Outside the Beehive Inn, 27 Jul - 30 Aug, 7.30pm (9.30pm), £10.00 (£9.00), fpp 197
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: Rapunzel - May The Force Be With You!

Rapunzel - May The Force Be With You!
Spotlites Theatre Company

Take the long-haired maiden trapped in the tower and throw in Luke Skywalker and you get this inspired piece of children's theatre. You wouldn't think it'd work but it does. The witch watches Rupunzel via downloaded satellite reports in this fusion of epic sci-fi and classic fairy tale which took the best from both to create a mishmash of familiar but freshly presented themes. An exciting environment was created by great lighting and effects including some flashy light sabre battles. The kids got involved in a huge variety of innovative on-stage activities - resurrecting aliens with The Force, becoming Jedis and cutting Rupunzel's hair - under the direction of spirited performers and staff. A delight.

Spotlites @ The Merchant's Hall, 31 Jul - 17 Aug, 11.30am (12.30am), £5.00 (£3.50), fpp 18
tw rating: 4/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival

REVIEW: After Liverpool

After Liverpool
Quick Thrill Productions

What do you talk about when there’s nothing left to say? An ensemble of six versatile actors seamlessly switched partners to depict a series of couples struggling to communicate with words and bodies. They captured the humour of cyclical bickering with flair, as well as the darker note of lingering doubt as to whether we ever truly know someone. There were moments of laugh-out loud comedy and of powerful intensity, especially in the monologues, but as a collection of scenes this play doesn’t allow for a huge amount of development, which led me to share the characters’ frustration that something wasn’t quite getting through. I felt the actors had even more to give, though, and that the show will develop well over its run.

C soco, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, 6.25pm (7.15pm), prices vary, fpp 180
tw rating: 3/5

published: Aug-2008 for Three Weeks newspaper at the Edinburgh Festival