Tag Archives: Ed Fringe

REVIEW: Phoenix – Pleasance 10 Dome, Edinburgh

If you’re looking for a creative team of infinite quality and a performer of prodigious talent (sometimes rare at The Fringe), then look no further than Richard Marsh and Jessica Sharman’s musical play, Phoenix.

Marsh and Sharman’s enviable track records include Marsh winning a Fringe First Award, a BBC Audio Drama Award, and a run in the West End with previous show Dirty Great Love Story, and in Sharman’s case, co-writing Ward Thomas’ record-breaking No.1. Country album Cartwheels.

This play is so much more than its simplistic blurb. It’s a big story in a small-sized show. On the face of it, it’s a tale of a wannabe rock star for whom fatherhood subsumes his hopes and dreams of stardom, but its themes are much greater than these few words, instead delivering a highly-relatable story of love and sacrifice.

There’s an elegant fluency to the writing, the beautifully constructed script has a completely developed story arc, fully rounded characters, all interwoven with some expertly crafted songs, and all packed into a 70-minute running time. The combination makes for an irresistible, gripping, funny, life-affirming show.

In a piece of master casting, multi-instrumentalist (guitar – electric and acoustic, keys, drums, looping) singer and actor Andy Gallo  plays Ash, and proves to be a rare find. He manages to perfectly pitch the gamut of emotions required of this marvellously layered tale, all the while banging out tunes on a plethora of instruments and singing. He has the audience transfixed from the start.

This is an astute piece of theatre. Well thought out, cleverly crafted and refreshingly surprising. This is the perfect five-star start to this year’s Fringe.

Runs at The Pleasance 10 Dome Edinburgh

Aug 3-12, 14-26

 

 

 

 

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: 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

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: 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/

100 WORD REVIEWS: Impossible – Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh

The true story of the feud between Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle proves to be rich fodder in this interesting new play at the Fringe.

Just as Doyle will not be dissuaded in his belief in Spiritualism, Houdini refuses to countenance its existence. The pair embark on a trans-Atlantic pas de deux each to convince the other. Reality bounces straight off Doyle as Houdini continues to debunk psychic after psychic but Houdini’s premature death prevents the pair’s reconciliation.

Alex Cox delivers a charismatic turn as Houdini and Phill Jupitus is a competent, if horribly accented Doyle. A compelling piece, well worth a watch.

 

100 WORD REVIEWS: The Missing Hancocks (Shows A&B) – Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

There’s little to say about this recreation of four of the legendary ‘missing’ Hancock scripts save that you will be hard pressed to find anything of better quality on the Fringe this year.

Faithfully re-staged with an infinite eye for detail and starring the absolutely wonderful Kevin McNally as the man himself, and the hysterical Robin Sebastian as a scene-stealing Kenneth Williams, the accuracy brings goosebumps. This is a class act from start to end and it won’t come as any surprise that the laughs still come by the shed-load 60 years after they were written. An evocative walk down memory lane.

5 *****

 

 

 

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