Tag Archives: REVIEWS

REVIEW: Whistle Down The Wind – Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow

There are amateur theatre companies and there are amateur theatre companies, and Runway Theatre Company are no ordinary amateur theatre company, this production, the Scottish amateur premier of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s Whistle Down The Wind must be the closest to professional perfection that I’ve seen.

In an evening of delights it is hard to know where to start heaping praise: From the richness of the sound of the accomplished orchestra; to the stunningly versatile set; the soaring multi-layered voices of the ensemble; the scene-stealing junior players to the astonishing quality of the principals, this was in a class apart.

Special praise must go to Elle MacKenzie as Swallow whose crystal-clear soprano was a joy; to Kate McVey and Ethan Kerr whose performances belie their ages, both performing with a focus and strength that many adults could only aspire to – all the while never faltering in maintaining convincing American accents; but the most praise must go to the phenomenal power-house that is J Campbell Kerr. It is rare to see a performance of this quality on any stage let alone an amateur one. Kerr’s acting is pitch-perfect but his voice is simply sublime – good enough to challenge any of our celebrity tenors or baritones out there – indeed much of the interval chat was praising Kerr as a rival to Alfie Boe.

This simply shines with sheer quality from curtain up to curtain down. I urge you to beat a path to the Mitchell Theatre door before this ends on Saturday.

Ticket info from: Susan Russell 07801 048527 or sbrussell@ntlworld.com

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Ellis and Rose: Failing To Pay Off Their Student Loans, The Southsider

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Writers: Gareth Ellis and Richard Rose

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

The British comedy scene is always on the lookout for something new and unique, something that sets itself apart from what’s already out there and Ellis and Rose deliver a tantalising glimpse of future stardom. This fledgling act only formed in 2012 and bring a touch of surrealism, chaotic energy and appealing absurdity to this inventively written and hard to categorise comedy show.

Where else could you see a pork-based meat product turned into a universal symbol of hate (go along to one of their shows to see for yourself what a swausage is), witness a quite frankly ground-breaking reworking of a dance routine from Cats or have nipple tassels mooted as possible after-show merchandise? It’s unique.

Gareth Ellis in particular has an irresistibly appealing devilish glint that draws you to him from the start and his physical comedy is the highlight of the show. If his partner Richard Rose could hone his character into a more cohesive foil they really could be on to a winner.

The pair deserve major credit for managing to sustain the laughs throughout this one hour show despite it being the middle of the afternoon, in a fully neon-lit space behind a violent green curtain in a noisy city-centre pub. For an act to be at such an early stage and show such promise can only mean a bright future. It’s time a bit of good old anarchy returned to British comedy and Ellis and Rose’s unique slant on the world might be just the thing to fit the bill.

This is thrillingly dark and different and deserves to be seen.

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – The Alleycats Contemporary a Cappella, C Venue C

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★☆☆

Veterans of Last Choir Standing and finalists in the UK Voice Festival competition The Alleycats, return to the Fringe with a show of varied content and quality. The group’s 2012 performance doesn’t bring anything new to the a cappella field, comprising as it does the ubiquitous mash-ups and a safe set list of cover versions from Fleetwood Mac to Britney Spears but what elevates it above the norm is the enthusiasm and appealing personalities of the performers.

The group also has to be given credit for trying to vary the choreography and staging for each of their numbers, however it would have made more impact if a few of them could actually dance: despite the exuberance, there are more than a few looks of self-consciousness when trying to pull off the moves. A nice inclusion in the act though, is a section which gives the audience an insight into the creative process of making an a cappella version of a song, and shows how the disparate and often seemingly unharmonious parts come together to make the whole.

One serious quibble about the whole performance is the serious lack of power from the group, sitting three rows from the front rendered the soloists almost inaudible and the moment the rest of the group joined in they were inevitably drowned out by the voices around them.

This 50 minute show doesn’t break any new ground in either musical choice or staging but the winning personalities and the conviction and vivacity with which it’s performed more than make up for its shortcomings. A pleasant enough way to pass the early evening at the Fringe.

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Stafford Gatehouse Youth Theatre present 13 by Jason Robert Brown, C Venue C

This post was originally written for and published  by The Public Reviews

Book: Dan Elish and Robert Horn

Music and Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown

Director: Richard Poynton

Musical Director: David Easto

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★½

12 year old Evan Goldman is having a difficult time – his parents are in the midst of a divorce and his all-important Bar Mitzvah is looming. To make matters worse his mother announces they are leaving their life in New York for the quiet town of Appleton, Indiana.

Part of the Fringe experience is searching for a star of the future, but this reviewer didn’t think it would come in the form of a kid playing a 12 year old on the eve of his Bar Mitzvah. The maturity and surety of touch that Tom Slade brings to the role of Evan in Jason Robert Brown’s 13, is a jaw-dropping joy to watch. His subtly nuanced performance would put many adult actors to shame. This combined with a clear as a bell tenor voice makes him a sure fire star. The rest of Stafford Gatehouse Youth Theatre don’t disappoint either, bringing this Tony Award-winning show to Edinburgh with a professionalism that belies their years. In particular, Holly Musgrave delivers a performance of such sensitivity and strength as girl next door Patrice, that she elicits roars from the crowd after every song.

This rites of passage musical follows the usual themes: new kid in town; the life or death struggle to be cool; falling in love with the right/wrong girl; true friendship; oh, and some degenerative illness used for comic effect. What sets this apart from the run of the mill fare is the quality and wit of Brown’s songwriting and the choreography which is both inventive and varied, utilising perfectly the small space whilst never compromising on quality.

This show is about finding out who you are and what’s really important and it delivers with a punch – a real gem.

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – George Ryegolds God in a Bag, Underbelly, Dairy Room

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

Toby Williams’ dark creation, the highly distasteful George Ryegold, returns to the Fringe in God in a Bag, this time with an expanded cast including: Red Dwarf’s Hattie Hayridge, Fresh Meat’s Dan Mersh and fellow comedians Lindsay Sharman and Milo McCabe. The self-obsessed, penny-pinching, fabulously under-achieving doctor has been suspended yet again and has to deal with a fractious love life, time on his hands, a potentially earth-shattering new theory and competition from a smarmy but successful colleague who has nicked his research.

Billed as a comedy play, it’s more like an extended TV sitcom episode or over-long radio show. There are some moments of comedy gold here, especially when Ryegold delivers a highly inappropriate sex-education lecture to a room full of school kids, but over the hour the laughs aren’t sustained.

The supporting characters do the best with the material they have, and all are accomplished actors, but none are as well conceived as the charmless doctor. This is illustrated in the under-use of fine character comedy performer McCabe, he has limited material here and to his credit still manages to shine, but he’s a talent that could have been exploited. T.V. veteran Hayridge plays a torpid cafe owner but basically regurgitates her usual laconic on-screen persona.

God in a Bag proves there’s good reason why sitcom episodes are under 30 minutes. The writing is at times highly intelligent and cleverly witty but there’s not enough material to hold the attention for an hour and the central character is just too unpleasant for us to root for him. A skilled cast and material that has glimmers of potential – just not in this format.

Runs until 27th August

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Be Fruitful and Multiply, C Venue C

This post was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews.

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★☆☆

Be Fruitful and Multiply is billed as a light-hearted take on the story of creation and suggests that God and the Devil might not be the universe’s opposing forces but merely highly incompatible business partners. It substitutes a powerful multi-national company for God and tells the story of the “Company” as they embark on their latest business project – creating the earth.

The show claims to tackle fundamental issues such as choice and determinism whilst maintaining a comedic atmosphere. Mmm… not exactly the most obvious basis for a musical and treading the fine line between satirising religious belief and being just plain offensive requires a deft touch indeed. The writing is at times sharply witty, however the story lacks overall cohesion and the relationships between the characters isn’t always clearly defined.

The female characters are the standout performers. Of the male cast only Jamie Budgett (Addy) has the voice to fill the space, the others are seriously underpowered especially in the lower range. The baby-faced Adam Farrell (Sam) also lacks the requisite devilishness required of his role and the full effect of his words is often lost in a somewhat hesitant delivery.

The music is nothing new and has more than a hint of the familiar about it. That said there are some excellent songs here, in particular the standout One Call. The problem is that by and large they don’t fit the script into which they’ve been inserted, and in some cases the whole momentum of the storytelling is lost.

The fact this is a piece by multiple writers may be to blame for many of its shortcomings. The concept has huge potential and there are glimmers of some truly excellent songs but it’s definitely a work in progress needing to find a cohesive voice.

Runs until 27th August

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Rhys Darby, This Way To Spaceship, Pleasance Grand

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

Based on his “autobiographical space novel” This Way to Spaceship is Rhys Darby’s return to the Fringe after a three year sabbatical.

Waking up in the belly of a spaceship surrounded by robots, Darby endeavours to find out how he got here and in the process of this hour long show we are treated to: rubber bodied contortions; insane vocal effects; a lot of autobiography; some off the wall standup; a memorable dance routine to Rhythm is a Dancer; and, of course, dinosaur impressions.

The space theme becomes more and more tenuous as the show goes on, but quite frankly who cares? The audience certainly don’t – the warmth just radiates from Darby and the crowd respond in kind. He is at his absolute best in the high octane sketches where he gets to showcase his physical and vocal skills and in the moments of self-depreciation, which only make the crowd root for him more.

Flight of the Conchords is never mentioned by name but we are treated to some tantalising references to his famous alter ego Murray Hewitt, and the spaceship’s talking computer sounds remarkably like Jemaine Clement, something which doesn’t go unnoticed.

What this performance shows is that Darby has easily moved on from his Conchords days. There wasn’t an empty seat in this huge venue and with all the publicity about falling ticket sales this year, that says a whole lot. With good old fashioned charm, an explosion of energy and a ton of wit, this is a winner.

Runs until 27th August at The Pleasance Grand details here.

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, C Venue C

“Dust off your dictionary and prepare yourselves for the spelling challenge of a lifetime as six plucky adolescents compete at the Putnam County Bee. A different show every night as audience members compete with the characters to win the title. With music by renowned composer William Finn and an award winning book by Rachel Sheinkin.”

In the space of an hour we are treated to laughter, tears, singing, dancing, a bit of audience participation, oh and spelling, in this absolute gem of a musical from Patch of Blue Theatre.

It is rare to find an ensemble whose every member is, well…there’s no other word for it – perfect. It seems unfair to single out anyone in particular but Ellie Mason as Olive Ostrovsky genuinely moved with one of the most touching and beautifully played performances you’ll  see at the Fringe. That said there isn’t a weak link anywhere in this production. Beg, borrow or steal, just make sure you get a ticket.

Runs at C Venue C until 27th August details here.

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Rachel Stubbings is Stubbing Out Problems, Underbelly


Writer: Rachel Stubbings

Director: Brett Goldstein

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

With advice like: “Feel the fear and do it anyway”, to a man contemplating suicide and the unwitting recommendation of the use of Rohypnol to a guy who can’t get a girlfriend you can see exactly the calibre of advice that self-professed “gifted healer” Rachel Stubbings is doling out in her new show Rachel Stubbings is Stubbing Out Problems.

In Rachel’s own opinion she’s a world-class agony aunt, hell-bent on helping people less fortunate than herself (that’s everyone). Having prevented her parents’ divorce and loads of other “stuff” she’s sure she has a gift, and buoyed by this success she’s come to Edinburgh to “heal live” and share how “awesome and selfless” she is.

The queue is handed a flyer while waiting and those brave enough gamely write down any problems they want “stubbed out” and put them in the “Stub-bin” at the start of the show. The delivery is the same arrogant dead-pan that anyone who liked The Office will enjoy but in some ways there could be more bite to her perils of wisdom. Stubbings utilises Skype, video material and audience interaction throughout the show but there were some problems keeping the whole thing flowing. There were some uncomfortable silences and the audience was on the whole, pretty unresponsive. The time slot could be partially to blame, mid-afternoon whereas the material is more late night.

This would be an ideal half-hour radio or TV show, at an hour it’s a tad too long for the content. That said Stubbings is quirky and quick witted and succeeds in never making the audience feel uncomfortable, turning the harshest focus back onto herself. She starts out confident she can heal the world but instead ends up healing herself. A promising Fringe debut.

Runs until 27th August

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – The Miller’s Tale, Wahala Dey Oh! C Venue C

This post was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Author: Geoffrey Chaucer

Adaptation: Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

The cast explode onto the stage in a glorious burst of energy and colour and maintain their focus and physicality throughout this re-telling of Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale relocated to modern day Nigeria. All the familiar elements are here: the cuckolded husband and the unfaithful young wife but thrown into the mix are superstition, witchcraft and the class divide.

Writer Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo cleverly employs the Nigerian folk tradition of storytelling through music, dance, drums and most of all gossip. The small cast of six are commanding, their use of movement and voice keep the audience engaged throughout, but the biggest delight here is hearing the richness and lyricism of the Pidgin English, spoken by the supposedly uneducated, juxtaposed with the Queen’s English spoken by the elite. This is best heard from the characters Rabiu and Julie, two loyal servants thrown together by a mutual hatred of their jobs, whose incessant gossip, provides a clever device through which we are able to find out background information and off-stage events as well as providing moments of linguistic comedy.

The central narrative is a little over-long but that said, the piece could have expanded some interesting details it only touches on: how are a population expected to prosper in a country that doesn’t have constant electricity; the still great influences of the church and superstition in daily life and the parallels between Chaucer’s use of language, contentious in his time, and the current controversy between Pidgin and Queen’s English in Nigeria.

The sheer warmth and exuberance and the naturalism of this slice of African drama is a joy, and it provides a rare opportunity to see a performance style in direct contrast to the British theatre tradition of which there’s so much at the Fringe.

Runs until 27th August

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