Tag 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: 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: 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: 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: 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.

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 *****

 

 

 

« Older Entries