Category Archives: EDINBURGH FRINGE

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/

 

REVIEW: Partial Nudity – Zoo Monkey House, Edinburgh

Emily Layton follows up last year’s Fringe debut Two Thirds with another sure-footed slice of contemporary life, Partial Nudity.

Under a bare bulb in the grotty backroom of a Bolton pub, Darren and Nina, two strippers with very different reasons to be there, are forced to share a make-shift dressing room. Jack-the-lad Darren (Joe Layton), all bluster and macho bravado, meets Nina (Kate Franz) an American student forced to take a practical (and lucrative) approach to paying her way out of her financial woes. Her actions are motivated by necessity, his are a choice. She holds a mirror up to his preconceived ideas about women: “I’m a stripper, not a hooker”, an attitude where every woman who shows strength has to be brought into line, every woman who rejects him is a “mad bitch”.

While this may seem like a diatribe against the young British male, Layton cleverly explores the motivations behind his actions – peer pressure, ingrained prejudice, and expectations.

Layton resists the urge to cram the 50-minute piece, giving the lines, action and ideas room to breathe and for all the seriousness of its subject matter, the piece is lightened by moments of comedy (involving pubes and penis pumps to name a few).

Playwright Layton’s TV star brother, Joe, lends a gloss to the production, and perfectly encapsulates Darren’s cock-sure swagger, but it is Kate Franz’s Nina that impresses, her controlled, contained performance is a tour de force.

Layton shines a light on attitudes that are all too depressingly familiar and manages to take a subject matter and situation that could all too easily have been trivialised and manages to make a point and entertain at the same time. No doubt Layton’s work will have a life beyond the Fringe and based on this, a successful career ahead of her.

Runs until 27 August 2016

This review was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Dusty Horne’s Sound and Fury, Pleasance Queen Dome, Edinburgh

Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Roger Corman you undoubtedly know, but Dusty Horne? It’s 1963 and Dusty Horne is the behind-the-scenes Hollywood diva you’ve never heard of. A queen in her own mind, a queen in her world, the queen of the cinematic art of “augmented sound technique” or sound effects to you and me.

Dusty has worked with all the greats, Hitchcock on The Lady Vanishes, Basil Rathbone, Lon Cheney and Bela Lugosi, but since a small “accident” on the back lot at Universal she has “shunned the artistic constraints of the big studios” to work with, well, some less highly regarded artists: “equal opportunities exploiter” Roger Corman on Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent and Arthur Hilton on his career ruining Cat Women of the Moon, these are now Dusty’s domain.

Dusty wants to be our muse and mentor and is here at the London Film School to treat us to a live masterclass. She takes us through her “life in sound” from Borehamwood to Hollywood.
It would be churlish to spill Dusty’s secrets on how she achieves her effects but suffice it to say there’s a veritable greengrocer’s worth of produce on show and someone inventive uses for ordinary household objects.

Natasha Pring is a delightfully demented Dusty and Edmund Digby-Jones delivers a nicely-judged turn as hapless sidekick Nicholas. This is an incautious, indiscreet, imprudent but highly entertaining, portrait of a woman desperately clinging onto her sanity and her dignity.

Runs until 29 August 2016

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change – Greenside at Nicolson Square, Edinburgh

In an Edinburgh Festival Fringe of increasing size and, in some cases, questionable quality, a small but perfectly formed jewel of a production shines bright above its contemporaries, Accidentally on Purpose Productions staging of Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.

Presented as a series of vignettes on the themes of love and relationships, this witty, if ubiquitous presence at The Fringe, stands the test of time (save a few dated references) despite nearing its twentieth birthday.

With a cast of six, Accidentally on Purpose has managed to pack a bucketload load of interest and a shed-load of quality, into a work of only fifty minutes. The direction from Adam Broad ensures maximum visual interest from a minimal staging and the transitions are smooth, slick and quick despite many scene and copious costume changes.

There is a maturity and sure-footedness from the entire ensemble despite their youth, and a perfect match of acting skill and powerhouse vocals, the harmonies throughout are glorious too. It seems churlish to single out any performer, but Bethany Marvin has finely tuned comedy and vocal skills and seems set to be one to watch out for in the future. That said there are quality performances from all throughout.

The material offers nothing particularly original, it largely relies on stereotypes to drive home the point, but it’s good-natured and relatable and delivers the laughs, albeit superficially. The tunes also reside firmly in the amiable category, there’s nothing new, nothing knockout, but it all sounds perfectly pleasant and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better quality production on The Fringe.

This is a theatre group to watch and with such promise, it will be interesting to see what’s next.

100 WORD REVIEWS: The Tour – The Space at Surgeon’s Hall, Edinburgh

I’m not entirely sure that I’ll need 100 words to cover this.

A new musical about life on the road with a touring musical. It chronicles the petty jealousies and major annoyances of nine people thrown together on a tour bus.

Utterly lacking in any depth, drive or drama, the characters fail to realise even two-dimensions and the book is hugely underdeveloped. A complete and utter bore from start to finish with poor projection, only one song that remains in the memory as you leave the venue and a single sequence of choreography to enliven the one-hour running time. Woeful.

REVIEW: Spring Awakening – The Famous Spiegeltent, Edinburgh

Eight-time Tony Award-winner, Spring Awakening made its debut off-Broadway in 2006, finally arriving in the West End in 2009 after a sold-out run at the Lyric Hammersmith. An adaptation of Franz Wedekind’s seminal, 1906 work Frühlings Erwachen, it chronicles the rocky path from adolescence to adulthood in a hugely oppressed, 19th Century Germany, dealing with themes of puberty, sexuality, rape, child abuse, homosexuality, suicide and abortion.

In direct contrast to its setting is its modern pop/rock score from Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater, a score replete with knock-out tunes that both elevate and save the relentlessly dark book.

Edinburgh-based Captivate Theatre’s age-appropriate cast delivers a huge dose of raw enthusiasm and teenage angst throughout and ably cope with the demands of this emotionally draining show. However, their fervor at times spills over into imprecise diction, lack of projection and tuning issues. The cast whilst competent individually is at their strongest when singing as one, and the harmonies are glorious throughout.

This is a gripping work with much to say, but the weakness of the book and its relentless intensity fails to sustain interest for the two-hour running time. Were it not for the first-rate score and the commitment of the young cast it would be a hard watch. A brave choice, which should be applauded.

REVIEW: Pippin – C, Edinburgh

The tale of a fictitious medieval prince and his search for the meaning of life is unlikely source material for a musical. A favourite of US amateur and school theatre groups, Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson’sPippin had its last professional outing in the UK in 1973 and on Broadway in 2014, where it’s big-top staging was highly lauded by both audience and critic alike.

Often overlooked for its 70s pop/rock score and lacklustre book, the music has the same hippy-dippy, student production origins as Schwartz’s earlier work, Godspell. Here, in the hands of Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society, it returns firmly to its roots. No big top, no acrobatics, with just three lidded, wooden boxes and a few drapes, this hugely talented ensemble manage to deliver a cohesive and entirely absorbing production of this seldom-seen work.

The direction at the hands of John King is tight and fluid, transitions are smoothly achieved and there are some nice touches peppered throughout to enliven the staging: shadow puppetry, inventive movement sequences and pseudo-Edwardian costumes that are easy on the eye.

Central to the production’s success is its cast. Universally fine-voiced, it seems churlish to single any out; however, mention must be made of Megan Henson (Charlemagne) who is stunningly gifted as both actress and singer and Oli MacFarlane whose Pippin is beautifully judged. Strong support comes too from Caroline Sautter (a brunette Kerry Ellis look-alike) as the charismatic narrator.

Given a bigger budget and a professional venue, this would give many touring musicals a run for their money. A triumph of strong direction, clear artistic vision and a stand-out cast has produced one of the must-see shows of the Fringe.

Runs until August 31, 2015

Image: Johannes Hjorth

This review was originally published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/pippin-c-edinburgh/

REVIEW: Love Birds – Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

This pin-sharp, production perfectly demonstrates that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the songwriting talent tree in the Sherman family. Writer, composer and lyricist Robert J. Sherman, grandson of Tin Pan Alley alumni Al Sherman, son of Robert B. and nephew of Richard M. – the world-renowned Sherman Brothers composing duo who wrote the music for Mary Poppins; Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats, has created a one-of-a-kind gem of a new musical.

This utterly charming tale is set at the height of the vaudeville era but sparkles with bang-up-to-date originality throughout. An avian revue featuring a quartet of penguins (who bear an uncanny resemblance to those in Mary Poppins – but we can’t say that because that would be copyright infringement), a trio of singing macaw sisters and starring Baalthazar – a rainbow-hued, thoroughly temperamental, savoury cracker addict feathered Caruso, is thrown into disarray when Baalthazar goes missing and their dinosaur (literally, he’s a plesiosaur) boss refuses to change with the times.

This is an absolute shining jewel of a show, which oozes quality from start to end: from the outstanding costumes, to the catchy tunes, to the charming book, to the highly inventive choreography (in an extremely confined space) and the perfectly judged performances of its highly talented cast – it shines bright above its peers at this year’s Fringe. Packed with meticulous detail throughout, the only fault is that you leave wishing there was more. With appeal for both adults and children alike, I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of the thoroughly loveable Love Birds.

Runs until 31st August 2015

Image: Steve Ullathorn

Originally published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/love-birds-pleasance-courtyard-edinburgh/

REVIEW: The Man Called Monkhouse – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

A comedian equally revered and reviled, Bob Monkhouse is a difficult subject to tackle: the unique cadence to the voice, the perma-tan, the very individual delivery. Alex Lowe’s play The Man Called Monkhouse attempts to address some of the misunderstandings and un-truths that dogged the much-maligned man throughout his life.

The show begins in 1995 at a point when Monkhouse was taking advantage of a career resurgence after years in the wilderness. A notorious collector and documenter of jokes, TV shows and movies, two of his beloved joke books have been stolen (an event documented in the TV news of the day) and Monkhouse frustratedly tries to get the help of the police to ensure their return. Meanwhile he is called upon to write a eulogy for his former comedy writing partner Denis Goodwin and it is here that we are given a glimpse into Monkhouse’s path to fame, his notorious womanising and his treatment at the hands of the media.

It is impossible not to sympathise, especially at the tabloid’s exploitation of his son Gary’s wedding (Gary had cerebral palsy) and in his revelations about his mother who showed up to his wedding in head to toe black. There’s also reflection about the constant accusations of insincerity levelled at him throughout his career – where he confides that he often felt detached from others and pretended to have feelings just to fit in. The play never explicitly says that Monkhouse had a personality disorder but the hints are dropped pretty heavily.

Actor Simon Cartwright’s unsettlingly accurate portrayal of Monkhouse raises goosebumps the moment he opens his mouth and is deserving of the highest praise. A fascinating insight into the man behind the mask and a stellar performance from the leading man.

Runs until 31 August 2015

Originally published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-man-called-monkhouse-assembly-hall-edinburgh/

REVIEW: Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Divas – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

You would be hard-pressed to find more bang for your buck anywhere else on the Fringe this year. Frances Thorburn, Gail Watson and Clare Waugh, (under the musical direction of the award-winning Hilary Brooks) deliver not only the Doris and Dolly of the title but Judy and Liza and just a spoonfull of a potty-mouthed Julie Andrews in Morag Fullerton’s hysterical backstage exposé of the biggest divas of the 20th Century.

Under the considerable laughs there are some fascinating glimpses into these incredible women’s lives: the tales of Garland and Minnelli show stunning similarities – gay fathers and husbands as do their’s with Doris Day, with her “enthusiastically encouraging” German mother and there’s the hugely disgruntled Julie Andrews too – thoroughly hacked-off by her goody-goody image. The only diva who has no skeletons in her closet is the irrepressible Dolly Parton – the shrewdest operator of them all.

The laughs and stories here are more than enough but what sets this show into the stratosphere are the knock-out vocals of the trio of actresses: Thorburn, Watson and Waugh are fabulously talented, but it is Watson who gets the prize for most impressive vocals with her spot on takes on Parton, Andrews and Garland.

This is a stunner of a show and you’d be a fool to miss it.

Runs until 30th August 2015

Originally published at:

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/doris-dolly-and-the-dressing-room-divas-assembly-hall-edinburgh/

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