Tag Archives: EDINBURGH FRINGE

REVIEW: Confetti and Chaos – Imagination Workshop, Edinburgh

Interactive Theatre International’s Confetti and Chaos is back at its spiritual home, smack bang in the middle of the madness of the Edinburgh Festival.

The world’s worst wedding reception still has the ability to surprise and delight and it’s all down to the pin-sharp script and the enviable comedy acting and improvisation skills of its talented cast.

The whole idea is a winner, because we’ve all been there: the excruciating speeches, the wild cannon relatives, secrets tumbling out of the closet, lips getting looser as the alcohol flows freely, drunken dancing and worse, much, much worse. Just when you think it couldn’t get any crazier, it does. Did I mention that while all the madness unfolds we, the wedding guests, are all enjoying a three course meal?

While there’s a face-achingly funny script at its backbone, it’s the ability of the cast to interact and react with the ever-changing nightly audience that makes this more than just a performance but an event for the ‘guests’. No matter how effortless this looks, it takes phenomenally talented actors to pull it off. Nerine Skinner, Otis Waby, Helen Colby and Hayden Wood, double and triple-up on roles and manage to give each their own individual characterisation, and each is funnier than the last. The energy required is astonishing and the effort the actors put in is laudable.

Confetti and Chaos (formerly The Wedding Reception) remains as hysterical as it ever was, and stands up to multiple viewings. A show where quality is assured night after night.

Runs until 26 August 2019 | Image: Contributed

REVIEW: West End Producer: Free Willy, Assembly Studio Two, Edinburgh

The infamous and anonymous mystery man of London theatre, West End Producer has finally taken the plunge and headed north of the border to Edinburgh for the summer season with his rubber Willy under one arm and baby grand under the other.

WEP is in town to audition hopefuls for his proposed West End mega hit-to-be Free Willy: The Musical. In the process we are let in on a few theatrical secrets, partake in a lesson on the perfect jazz hands and are led in a theme appropriate dolphin vocal warm up, there are even some genuine soiled West End show pants on offer to one lucky auditionee.

The fun starts before the show does with our idol interacting with his public in the queue, we are assigned our audition numbers and given a mini task to perform. Audience participation-phobes don’t despair though, it’s all very non-threatening – what else would you expect, we know WEP is an absolute #dear.

As befitting WEP’s status among the stagey folks, the place is packed on this sunny afternoon and the large crowd really helps the atmosphere. This is a show that knows its audience – everyone is in on the West End gossip and the jokes and digs land, and the addition of a different guest each day, a fellow Fringe performer (today’s was comedian Patrick Monaghan) is a nice touch that delivers variety and a sense of what on earth is going to happen next? to the proceedings.

WEP is a man of many talents, as well as this being a well-conceived and executed show, he’s a gifted pianist and singer, and the comic songs are actually, in some cases, better than some of the drivel I’ve had to endure in real West End shows. WEP’s entrance on a blow up whale is also a sight once-seen – hard to forget.

If you are of a stagey disposition – this is a chance to get up close and personal with the enigma that is WEP. Go along and help West End Producer find his Willy – you won’t regret it.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

REVIEW: Keith Moon: The Real Me – Gilded Balloon Teviot Wine Bar, Edinburgh

Mick Berry endeavours to delve deep into the psyche of the world’s greatest rock drummer – The Who’s Keith Moon, but succeeds only in proving how decent a drummer he is himself  (he’s the author of The Drummer’s Bible), in this odd mish-mash of a show. 

There’s material a-plenty to plunder in Moon’s life, both actual and mythical, but this one-man version misses the mark in so many ways. Berry has apparently been working on this show since 2013, when a version appeared at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco, that time with the support of some fellow musicians playing his band-mates in The Who. This one-man version is neither straight biography, though there are many dis-jointed biographical moments, nor musical tribute to the great musician.

As the famous chords of Baba O’Reilly ring out and Berry batters out the ear-splitting, accompanying beat, there’s a sense of optimism that this might be a rollicking rock ‘n’ roll tale, but that quickly subsides the moment Berry opens his mouth and the worst British accent since Dick Van Dyke’s Bert in Mary Poppins comes out. During the course of the show it travels from Cornwall to Cockney to Canberra. There’s also the issue of Berry’s insistence in shouting out disjointed sequences of dialogue that are drowned out by the backing track and Berry’s own drumming. Other minor issues are Berry’s insistence on replicating Moon’s famous two-handed drumstick twirling that looks laboured, something he continues to try to do throughout. Despite his evident drumming skills, to a Who fan’s ears there are moments when he quite evidently fails to keep on these famous beats. Berry also looks uncomfortably nervous, whether with the material itself or the muted reaction of the small audience, it’s hard to tell. Moon managed only 32 years on this earth, and Mr. Berry is a man of advanced age that’s hard to hide in a small venue.

There’s little attempt to “pierce Moon’s insane exterior to get inside of this rock legend” or provide a “deeper, more personal, volatile and intimate exploration” as promised in the advertising material. It merely grazes the surface in the most superficial and confusing way. It smacks of self-indulgence and is badly in need of a pair or two of outside eyes to take what could be a dynamite story to the place where it should be to be a fitting tribute to one of the rock and roll greats. On a more positive note, the drumming’s good and there are snippets of some of the biggest hits of the greatest rock band Britain ever produced.

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: 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

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