Tag Archives: Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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

 

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: Gad Elmaleh – Pleasance King Dome, Edinburgh

French film and comedy superstar, Gad Elmaleh landed in Edinburgh for one night only to present his first ever English language stand-up show.

Brave? – Yes. Madness – Probably. Worth it? – Definitely. Funny? – Absolutely.

The truly international audience (French, Morrocan, Canadian, Ecuadorean, Scottish, Eddy Izzard!) warmed to France’s premier comedian instantly. A fine storyteller with an utterly engaging personality, it’s hard not to love him, and his hugely relatable jokes about modern life hit the spot perfectly (the sequences about his fellow countrymen being particularly hysterical).

A rare opportunity to see a man who sells out arenas the size of Wembley Stadium in his home country, this was an utter privilege to be in a 100 seat auditorium up close and personal with such a comedy giant. Simply brilliant.

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: 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/

REVIEW: Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies – Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

Jessica Sherr’s 60 minute glimpse into the psyche of Bette Davis is clearly a passion project. However, having done the rounds both off-Broadway and here at the Fringe for the past few years, it is beginning to show some wear and tear.

It’s 1939, and a golden year in movie history, making for one of the most hotly contested Academy Award ceremonies of all time, Bette Davis is riding high after her previous year’s win for Jezebel thinking the golden statue is well and truly in the bag, but the Los Angeles Times has leaked the winners and an English Rose playing a Southern Belle has pipped her at the post. Enraged, she storms out of the ceremony and returns to her hotel room to vent her frustrations. But this loss is just the catalyst for every perceived wrong to come pouring out.

Whilst the premise is a great one, the histrionic delivery, clichéd dialogue, lack of staging detail (hessian eco-shopper and modern coat-hangers) and uneven narrative render it more curiosity piece than in-depth examination of one of the Hollywood greats.

Sherr is undoubtedly talented and fully committed to this project but there’s the over-riding feeling that it could have been oh, so, much more.

Runs until 30th August 2015

Image: Scott Singer

Originally published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/bette-davis-aint-for-sissies-assembly-rooms-edinburgh/

REVIEW: Under The Ground – Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s new musical Under The Ground wears its influences well and truly on its sleeve. This tale of loneliness, life, love and loss on the Glasgow Subway, whilst entertaining, offers little in the way of originality.

Presented as a series of vignettes, all forms of life are here: a young widow mourning the loss of her husband, a love rat, a man forced by a slip of the hand to propose to a girl he can barely stand, to name a few.

It is, as it always was with RCS productions, meticulously put together: slick staging, an on-form band and professional delivery and there are sufficient changes of pace, tone, texture and emotion to keep interest levels high, but the derivative songs are quite frankly, instantly forgettable the moment you cross the exit. The are issues with the setting too, which could have been more clearly stated and the idiosyncrasies of Glasgow’s infamous Clockwork Orange, that anyone who has ever travelled on could instantly recognise, are not utilised to add much-needed atmosphere.

There are though some nicely nuanced performances and some fine voices however, there are a few whose energy levels tipped their characterisations into over the top territory and quite a few had projection issues rendering their voices inaudible beyond the first rows.

An admirable attempt at a new musical but more work needs to be done on the music and setting before it’s the finished article.

Runs until 31 August 2015 (alternative days)

This review was originally published at:

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/under-the-ground-assembly-checkpoint-edinburgh/

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