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.

REVIEW: Love Birds – Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

This pin-sharp, production perfectly demonstrates that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the songwriting talent tree in the Sherman family. Writer, composer and lyricist Robert J. Sherman, grandson of Tin Pan Alley alumni Al Sherman, son of Robert B. and nephew of Richard M. – the world-renowned Sherman Brothers composing duo who wrote the music for Mary Poppins; Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats, has created a one-of-a-kind gem of a new musical.

This utterly charming tale is set at the height of the vaudeville era but sparkles with bang-up-to-date originality throughout. An avian revue featuring a quartet of penguins (who bear an uncanny resemblance to those in Mary Poppins – but we can’t say that because that would be copyright infringement), a trio of singing macaw sisters and starring Baalthazar – a rainbow-hued, thoroughly temperamental, savoury cracker addict feathered Caruso, is thrown into disarray when Baalthazar goes missing and their dinosaur (literally, he’s a plesiosaur) boss refuses to change with the times.

This is an absolute shining jewel of a show, which oozes quality from start to end: from the outstanding costumes, to the catchy tunes, to the charming book, to the highly inventive choreography (in an extremely confined space) and the perfectly judged performances of its highly talented cast – it shines bright above its peers at this year’s Fringe. Packed with meticulous detail throughout, the only fault is that you leave wishing there was more. With appeal for both adults and children alike, I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of the thoroughly loveable Love Birds.

Runs until 31st August 2015

Image: Steve Ullathorn

Originally published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/love-birds-pleasance-courtyard-edinburgh/

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 *****




100 WORD REVIEWS: Christina Bianco – Spiegeltent Colombino, Edinburgh

There will be few shows you see this year with more content packed into them than Christina Bianco’s Party of One. The diminutive diva packs a great big punch in her latest show here at the Fringe.

Vocally impersonating an alphabet’s worth of female musical superstars, it is her takes on Julie Andrews (singing Lady Gaga) and the most accurate Cheryl (Fernandez-Versini) Cole you will ever hear, that steal the show.

Bianco is a considerable talent and luckily for us she also takes the opportunity to showcase her own, fine, singing voice.

She may have her own impersonators out there, but Bianco is the real deal.

100 WORD REVIEWS: Urinetown – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

There’s a world water shortage and you can only pee if you pay, that is the premise of Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman’s Urinetown.

Presented by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, this is a high quality production with a talented cast of a, quite frankly, meh! musical. In trying to be clever (it parodies the musical theatre form and many hit shows) it just isn’t as clever as it likes to think it is.

Too many pee-related puns which get thin quickly and an instantly forgettable soundtrack save the glorious “Run, Freedom Run” render it a pleasant way to kill a few hours but little more.

3 ***

REVIEW: The Girl From Nowhere – Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Victoria Rigby’s electrifying central performance elevates this tale of shattered dreams far above the normal road to ruin rock star tale.

In an era of innovation and change, where men have walked on the moon, women are still limited by societal expectation. It’s Cripple Creek, Texas, 1969, Jeannie Hogan has returned to her childhood home. As she riffles through the detritus of the life she left behind, a tale unfolds of how she ended up back here in the place she’s spent her life trying to get away from.

Rigby’s tale of teenage dreams of escape from a stifling past through rock stardom, is as cathartic as it is confessional and brings into focus how the issues played out here in this late sixties setting  are still depressingly relevant today: what if you don’t want marriage? what if you don’t have any maternal instincts? what if you want to live your life exactly as you please? Apparently OK if you’re a man, but a woman…

Rigby is an electrifying performer and her star turn as Jeannie is hypnotic and moving in equal measure. A masterclass in the art of storytelling. Simply mesmerising.

Runs until 31 August 2015

Originally published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-girl-from-nowhere-pleasance-courtyard-edinburgh/

REVIEW: There’s a Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis – Momentum Playhouse @ St Stephens, Edinburgh

On paper the subject matter of this “new play with music” couldn’t get any better: set initially against the backdrop of Elvis’ one and only visit to the UK on Thursday March 3rd 1960, when he stepped onto the Tarmac of Prestwick Airport in Scotland, it tells a hugely relatable relationship tale of how teenage dreams can turn into adult nightmares. Add to this a smattering of classic tunes: “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, “The Wonder of You” and the barnstorming title track to name a few, and a (relatively) local setting and you’d think you’d have a sure fire hit on your hands: Jennifer Selway’s There’s a Guy Works Down The Chipshop Swears He’s Elvis is bursting with promise, but it’s not without it’s faults.

The surprise visit from ‘The King’ to Scottish shores has the Kilmarnock branch of the Elvis Presley Fan Club in a tizzy. It’s four members are firm friends but lies and deceit abound and 20 years on, the consequences of those lies, and the truth of that night in 1960, threaten to tear them apart forever.

There’s a fair potion of grit served up in Selway’s play amongst the teenage swooning and crooning but there’s an overwhelming feeling that it could have given so much more. Some of the fault lies in the dialogue which at times feels artificial and at other points has clearly has been used to pad the work out to the nearly one and three quarter hour running time: some judicious editing would have tightened the focus, made the piece harder hitting and left room for more of the thing that the cast truly excel at: singing. The glorious sound they make both individually and collectively is stunningly good – leaving you begging for more.

More a work in progress than the finished article, but the potential is all there for this to be a sure-fire hit.

Runs until 30 August 2015 This review was originally written for and published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/theres-a-guy-works-down-the-chip-shop-swears-hes-elvis-momentum-playhouse-st-stephens-edinburgh/

REVIEW: The Rat Pack Live – C Venues, Edinburgh

The seemingly unwavering appeal of swing music has made the Rat Pack Live an irresistible draw to Fringe audiences year after year and this packed house proves that this year is no exception.

Here in its final ever Fringe appearance, this well-honed show is a lesson in how to give your audience exactly what it wants: their favourite performers and their most beloved hits. The Vegas-style cabaret show comes replete with a 12 piece jazz orchestra, glamorously clad back-up singers the Berelli Sisters and Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr. and Frank Sinatra – well almost.

Read the rest of this review originally written for Broadway Baby here.

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