Category Archives: EDINBURGH FRINGE

REVIEW: Auditions – Sweet Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Inspired by creator Michael Sharmon’s personal experience and seemingly hugely influenced by A Chorus Line, Auditions is a somewhat clichéd take on the much-dreaded audition process.

The hugely experienced cast of four, play out a series of vignettes on ageism, sexism, racism and nepotism to name a few -isms, each accompanied by a tune or two. Those tunes, though competently delivered (to a taped backing track) and mostly pleasing to the ear, lack the necessary oomph to elevate this above being just a pleasant way to pass an hour. The lyrics suffer particularly from their reliance on hackneyed rhymes and the lack of electronic amplification means that the singers feel as if they are constantly holding back.

There’s no particular narrative thread, each scene playing as an individual vignette, the dialogue is short, acts as a build up to a song, then it’s a case of cut, paste, repeat. At no time does it scratch much below the surface.

While delivered by an undeniably talented cast, it needs more grit, more original staging and direction, and greater dramatic variety to make it the musical it could be, rather than the cabaret it is at the moment.

Runs until 13 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

Originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Aaron Calvert: Awaken – La Belle Angele, Edinburgh

The lure of the stage rather than the stethoscope has led trained doctor Aaron Calvert to Edinburgh for his second stint at the Fringe. Inspired as a child by feats of human strength and the US Intelligence services’ selection process, Calvert presents a combination of psychology, hypnosis and ‘telepathy’ in Awaken.

Calvert’s show isn’t exactly treading new ground. With king of mind-control Derren Brown touring the country and new star on the block, Edinburgh’s own ‘forensic mind-reader’ Colin Cloud (who is also appearing at the Fringe, and currently a finalist in this year’s America’s Got Talent), the public are used to a lot more pizzazz and showmanship than the clinical Calvert. Brown’s Svengali-like persona and Cloud’s Steam Punk persona and psychological mischief, lead the audience to believe that their shows are going to be magical, mysterious events. There are undoubtedly impressive psychological skills here, but Calvert’s act seems terribly out-dated, like an end of the pier variety show from another era. He’s a handsome, suited and booted young man, but there’s a coldness to his delivery that’s hard to like.

The set up for the hypnosis section of the hour-long show takes an interminably long time, especially for the non-participants and the pay-off, while faintly interesting, doesn’t reflect the time taken to get there. You can tell that a lot of time and thought has gone into the technical aspects of the show, but this needs a huge injection of personality to take it from the cabaret circuit to the big time.

Runs until 27 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

Originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Alexander Fox: Ringo – Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

It’s the moments of pure storytelling that resonate most in Alexander Fox’s debut solo hour of original comedy: Ringo.

In 2006, a then teenaged Fox, met and began a pen-pal correspondence with the world’s most famous drummer, The Beatles’ Ringo Starr. What follows is an at times surreal, biographical tale, with appearances from the Cadbury’s gorilla drumming to Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight and Pingu; references to drumming movie Whiplash, as well as a whole lot of audience participation and good-natured banter.

For all the mad-cap antics it’s the moments of stillness and genuine emotion that are the most successful. Fox is a natural storyteller and easily grips the audience. He should be confident enough to rely on his considerable skills without resorting to some of the nonsense that litters the tale and takes it off on unnecessary tangents. There’s real potential here: the subject matter alone is enough to draw an audience, keeping the path of the narrative a little closer to the key material (or if the silliness were a bit more on-theme) could make this a universal winner.

Fox is genuinely charming and it’s easy to warm to him and he provides plenty of laughs throughout. He is naturally ebullient, but this is as much a negative as it is a positive, his youth and exuberance playing to the time-wasting interruptions from the audience rather than keeping it tight and on-point.

With a little bit of work, Alexander Fox: Ringo, could have a long life beyond an igloo on the green at The Pleasance for the Edinburgh Fringe.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Soft Subject (A Love Story) – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

Chris Woodley takes us back to the classroom to tell his poignant, playful and practically perfect tale of love, loss and survival – The Soft Subject (A Love Story).

As an ex-drama teacher, Woodley frames his autobiographical work as a lesson plan: Aim; Introduction; Starter Activity; Main Task; Evaluation, and for any teacher or pupil it’s a familiar and effective device. There are also incidental lessons on theatrical devices: subtext, narration, montage, hot-seating and visualisation, thrown in for no extra charge.

Woodley is irresistibly warm and only the hardest of hearts would fail to be both engaged and moved by this heart-on-your-sleeve story. He challenges societal assumptions about the tale that he, a gay man, is telling. He reminds us: “this is not a coming out story”, “it’s not a tale of homophobia” what it is, is a universal tale of love and loss: “just a love story”, and it’s all the more touching because of that. It tells of falling in love for the first time, the joy of a stable loving relationship, it’s devastating breakdown and the psychological path back to ‘normal’ and the effect a loving and caring family can have on that.

It’s rare that a production comes to the Fringe, so perfectly formed: this is well though through, there’s space for the words to breathe, there’s no filler and each element of the story lands on its mark. The fact that Woodley is so utterly lovable, so assured in his storytelling skills, makes this an absolute winner.

This is an absolute shining little jewel of a production and I defy anyone not to leave with a little tear of joy in their eye.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Ongals: Babbling Comedy – Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

Following on the heels of the K-Pop phenomenon, Korean comedy troupe Ongals, bring their old-school with a new twist slapstick to the Fringe after successful runs in South East Asia, New Zealand and Australia.

Clad in eye-popping toddler outfits, the rosy-cheeked, Three Stooges-haircut foursome combine magic, circus, mime, physical comedy, juggling, bell-ringing, breaking wind and beatboxing.

Intending to transcend the language barrier, the dialogue, as the show title suggests is ‘babbling’ and the child’s-eye view of the world with which it’s presented, appeals to the very youngest members of the audience. While this is an entirely laudable effort on the part of the Korean man-babies, sustaining interest in this level of full-on, fart and bum joke mayhem, throughout an hour-long performance is problematic, the kiddies are enthralled, many adults are reaching for the headache pills.

Family-friendly, Ongals put an updated slant on familiar material. Being stylistically different than much that’s on offer at the Fringe is a plus point, it provides something out of the norm, and there’s no doubt that the level of physical skill here is remarkable, but you need a high level of tolerance for silliness and stupidity, and the gibberish wears thin after a while. It harks back to another era, (despite the highly skilled beatboxing) and I’m not sure there’s an appetite in the British public for a type of performance left behind on seaside piers decades ago.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Quarter Life Crisis – Underbelly Delhi Belly, Edinburgh

The last few years have seen an upsurge in shows from Millennials pondering the meaning of life, and this year’s Fringe is positively awash with 20-somethings decrying their lack of a future and the problems of ‘adulting’.

Yolanda Mercy, through her semi-autobiographical character Alicia in Quarter Life Crisis, brings, in her own words; “some South London to the Edinburgh Fringe”, adding in her experiences as a young woman surrounded by her getting-their-shit-together friends and always aware of the influence of her Nigerian heritage.

It is Mercy’s warm, all-embracing, irresistible personality that is the biggest star here. The instant she walks on stage, the first smile, and you can’t help but like this girl. Her spoken word tale of a life spent swiping right, swiping left, thinking how you can fiddle your Young Persons Railcard and watching her friends and relatives get married off and have babies, is hugely relatable to the youthful audience she attracts. The stories of her extended family, their customs and quirks, are as enlightening as they are funny, and the perils of finding a job when you are over-qualified for almost everything and dating in 2017 are depressingly familiar.

The writing has potential, but is far from the polished, finished product. It needs judicious editing to pick out the gems and run with those and weed out the superfluous bits. The use of projections of texts, Instagram posts and Tinder profiles, help to punctuate the story, the emoji equations are less successful in eliciting the laughs.

If this were fleshed out, with other characters, there’s sit-com potential here. With a performer as endearing as Mercy, a young woman with a bright future, this could develop into so much more.

Runs until 27 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: When We Ran – Pleasance Beneath, Edinburgh

Much-lauded Patch of Blue’s latest work When We Ran, is big on ideas and ambition, but is crying out for the time and space it deserves to fully develop its potential.

Sisters Ela Rose (Lizzie Grace) and Ela Iris (Alexandra Simonet), have spent their entire lives in a commune. Their intensely-held beliefs, resistant to the ways of the modern world, prevent them from seeking medical help when Ela Iris falls seriously ill. With the help of one of the more forward-thinking commune members, Ela Frederick (Tom Coliandris), they effect an escape to the ‘Out’.

The potential just shines from the piece, this is a big story, with big themes and begs for an expansive production design, and much of the issues with the work can be firmly blamed on the restrictions of Fringe production. In the tight confines of the playing space, the work, billed as ‘playful, visual storytelling’ is rendered neither particularly playful nor visual, instead, registering as an intense, visually muddled insight into cult life.  That said, there are issues with some time consuming, self-indulgent scenes which add little to the narrative and some less than subtle acting.

Simonet, Coliandris and an intense George Damms as Ela John, turn in finely detailed performances, pitched perfectly to the material, however, Lizzie Grace takes the role of wide-eyed innocent Rose to literal extremes, rendering the role as a poor caricature and Alex Brain’s attempts to wring laughs from her role as Cyla, are less than subtle and all too knowing.

The most impressive aspect of the production is the music, created by members of the company and The Mason Brothers, each piece is beautifully crafted and executed and perfectly enhances the claustrophobic, other-worldly atmosphere.

This work has the potential to have a life beyond The Fringe and with room to grow, some judicious trimming of the more self-indulgent aspects, this could be a real show-stopper.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Bare Skin on Briny Waters – Pleasance Bunker One, Edinburgh

This reflective story from Maureen Lennon and Tabitha Mortiboy, is both personal and universal to the generation of Millennials, promised so much, yet largely failing to forge their own path in the world.

On a spare playing space, furnished only with a wooden bench and a floor scattered with shards of mirrored glass, Annie and Sophie tell their intertwining tales. Annie (Charlie Sellers), a Media Studies graduate is five years out from Leeds University, living with her boyfriend Joe and working in fish processing. Sophie (Maureen Lennon), married to a controlling husband, comforts herself by telling the tales of Scheherazade ,and reflecting on her previously happy life with her mum, dad and little sister.

Annie’s tale is all-too familiar: starting with high hopes on leaving university, to taking that job you didn’t really want but you’ll use as a temporary stepping stone until your dream job comes along, only to find five years on you’re still there. The money is good, and while it’s not what you want, it’s undemanding and it’s paying the bills. It’s the same with your boyfriend, he’s nice, it’s easy but it’s unremittingly boring and while society is pushing you towards the inevitable commitments, you feel your dreams being squashed and the noose tightening around your neck.

Sophie’s tale of quiet control and abuse, loss of self, inability to escape and descent into pure misery, is depressingly just as familiar.

Both Sellers and Lennon turn in beautifully judged performances that stay firmly on the side of believability, restrained and perfectly controlled.

Where the production falls down is in its perfectly controlled, restrained, calmly told, and at times lullaby-like presentation. It’s quiet, it’s delicate, it’s gently paced, it conveys its message well, but this all renders the piece very one-note. With a one hour running time, and little to stimulate visually, the interest wanes. There is value in what the writers are trying to say, but it’s largely predictable and needs greater contrast between the characters and a variation in pace and tone, to really hit home. With some minor tweaks it will be one to watch out for in the future.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Giant Killers – Rose Street Theatre, Edinburgh

Long Lane Theatre Company’s The Giant Killers is a David and Goliath tale from the birth of ‘the beautiful game’. A true story of how football was taken from a rich man’s pastime to the game of the people.

The mill workers that make up Darwen F.C. are as talented as they are passionate about football, but they are working men, playing a game invented by and for the upper classes. Largely forgotten by the history books, these underdogs fight their way to become the first working class men to compete in the FA Cup, but there are many injustices along the way as the men fight against social prejudice and down-right dirty tricks.

It’s clear from the opening moments that this is a work of quality, both in terms of writing and acting, and it’s clear that this play was originally written as a screenplay, it is easy to envision it on either the big or small screen. What is certain, is that it deserves a long life beyond the Fringe. What makes it stand apart is that there is depth to the storyline, this isn’t just a tale of the poor working man, there’s a story here of community and family that underpins the whole thing. There’s also a wonderfully three-dimensional female lead, foul-mouthed, spirited, independent and the match of any of the men.

Everybody loves an underdog, but that’s not the only reason to love this. The four-strong cast is impeccable and the writing and delivery builds excitement, creates pathos and enthrals from start to finish.

A real belter – and not just for footie fans.

Originally published at The Reviews Hub | Image: Jack Judd

 

Boris: World King – Pleasance Queen Dome, Edinburgh

Oh, what a fertile field of material there is to plough for a show about the man we’ve come to know as BoJo. From his juvenile declaration that he intended to become ‘world king’ through the quite frankly unbelievable rise to become Foreign Secretary, we are presented with the Herculean twelve labours of Boris, interspersed with some game show antics, good-natured audience participation, many mea culpas and a manic game of wiff waff.

For all the slapstick and surface gags, Boris: World King has bite, suggesting that the life-long Bertie Wooster act and bumbling buffoonery is a clever conceit to mask a fierce ambition and an even fiercer intellect. Tom Crawshaw’s writing manages to convey an anger bubbling under the surface at the sheer magnitude of what Johnson has managed to get away with throughout his life.

David Benson, well-known for his pin-sharp portrayals of Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howerd, nails every Johnson idiosyncrasy and manages to keep the upper-class oafery within the bounds of believability.

On the surface a highly amusing parody of arguably our most recognisable public figure, underneath, a thought-provoking commentary on a life of privilege and entitlement.

Runs until 29 August 2016

This review was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/boris-world-king-pleasance-queen-dome-edinburgh/

 

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