Tag Archives: Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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: 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/

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