Archive for the ‘ FOUR STAR REVIEWS ’ Category



Die Roten Punkte


‘Make some noise, Danke Edinburgh’ and we’re off into 2013’s Die Roten Punkte show.

 I loved them the last time they were here and it is safe to say I loved them this time around. Still incorporating elements of Spinal Tap and the White Stripes-their brother and sister routine is twisted in a way Jack and Meg only ever pretended to be-  Australians Clare Bartholomew and Daniel Tobias adopt the personas of Otto and Astrid Rot as well as dubious German accents. What is interesting however is that the musical segments are actually really good and could blow several current rock acts out the water with their sheer verve and chutzpah. Cut through with salacious humour only makes this into two shows in one with both of them being extremely worthwhile.

 After preliminary introductions are out the way the duo launch into ‘Burger Store Dinosaur’ and are really rocking out until Otto  hits a bum note and Astrid calls proceedings to a halt forcing him to apologise for his mistake. After this we are informed that they are currently making ‘Kunst Rock’-art rock- and seeking inspiration from Brian Eno before launching into a Pixies influenced number ‘Bananenhaus’ then, in the true spirit of 1977 punk rock, a quick sprint through ‘The Situation’ followed by ‘Second Best Friend’ and the curse of the late sixties early seventies a mini rock opera before concluding with an improvised loop driven experimental piece then back to short, sharp delirious rock and roll

The musical numbers were interspersed with amusing banter alongside quick witted and racy audience participation which meant that this show never lost momentum and managed to keep the audience entertained and fixated throughout. The humour was as well constructed as the music so the talent on display was quite extraordinary. This is definitely a show to see if you want a fun night out with dark humour and good music. Once again, Danke Berlin!


Die Roten Punkte is on at 8.55pm at Assembly George Square, Bosco until August 25th.


Nola- Underbelly 3.15pm


This docu-drama about the BP oil spill in 2010 is brought to the stage by Look Left Look Right productions –who produced my favourite show, the daring and site specific You Once Said Yes, last year- and attempts to show, through conversations with those directly affected in New Orleans, what the immediate and long lasting effects were on the community. It is a highly affecting work and even with the small cast of four dipping out of characters and various accents it is never hard to work out what is being said by whom.

The drama unfolds via various accounts and it is almost harrowing to hear those on the rig reliving their moments of escape followed by details of a selfless rescue on a fellow worker by one of the riggers merely following his natural humane instincts whilst articulating the fact he would want to be saved if he were in the others predicament. Tales of smoke filled water ablaze with heat searing flames-underwater was the only refuge-clearly help the audience understand the desperate nature of the situation.

This was only the beginning however as the after effects were just as destructive on a community which had not yet had time to recover from the devastation of the fairly recent Hurricane Katrina. It certainly sounds like a community blighted by disaster whether natural or man made. It was not only humans however which suffered as the constant oil spill into the sea affected marine life as well as the bird population. Disturbing images of pelicans encrusted in oil are shown alongside tales of how trying to remove oil necessitated stripping them of their feathers whilst simultaneously sending them into a state of extreme distress.

How the media responded was also explored and the nature of litigation prevalent in the United States was exposed as billboards immediately shot up all over the place encouraging people to sue and make extortionate claims. All of this paints the events as being worthy of note and not just some news item to be replaced by the next big thing.

This production is definitely drama with a conscience and whilst it certainly never falls into light entertainment it does provoke thought and emotion more than eloquently. The four very young performers swap accents –and on occasion genders- and give almost flawless performances despite a few excusable faltering moments. The quality of drama on this years Fringe is exceptional-in contrast to comedy which is a struggling genre and perhaps needs a re-think- and Nola is up there with some of the better offerings this year.



Female Gothic-Assembly 11.45am

This one woman performance piece by Dyad Productions directed by Guy Masterton and starring Rebecca Vaughan- the two former names also had a hand in writing the piece- is as impressive and moody a tale as you are likely to encounter in a midday lunchtime slot. Vaughan carries the three separate tales more than adequately and uses nuance and skill as a major part of her storytelling style whilst capturing the right amount of melancholia without ever dipping into the overly theatrical many would associate with Gothic writing.

Taking the form of three short stories Vaughan begins by taking to the sparse but effective set with a leather wingback chair, subtle yet dramatic lighting which creates the right level of shadow and then lighting three candles –one is snuffed out every time she concludes an episode and this indicates another tale is about to unfold- begins the first of her Victorian themed pieces.

The stories themselves twist and turn with dramatic flourish as is needed. With very little assistance apart from a few sound effects –dogs howling in the distance, the swell of music as her character approaches the Paris Opera House- Vaughan carries the tales with aplomb creating the necessary ambience with her storytelling abilities alone. The subtle shifts in the lighting are the only other assistance she requires and these are so subtle as to be hardly noticeable.

The script itself is involved without being complicated. Likewise Vaughan’s performance could hardly be more fully realised or capable. Never faltering or showing any signs of hesitation she manages to make it through the one hour and fifteen minutes making it seem quite effortless indeed.



Peter Straker’s Jacques Brel-Assembly 6pm


 Beginning with film footage of Belgian chansonnier realiste  Jacques Brel giving an interview wherein he makes controversial statements claiming-amongst other things- there is no such thing as talent and that whilst he has no desire to sing, his need to speak his dreams and thoughts is inescapable.

The darkness of the worlds his songs inhabit still resonate profoundly today and he is probably best known-in this country at least- through Scott Walker’s renditions, more than ably assisted by his mannered baritone croonings.,  David Bowie’s championing of his songs in his Ziggy phase, most especially his decision to sing a stunning prescient version of ‘My Death’ shortly before he killed off his glam doppelganger live onstage, also raised the profile of Brel considerably to several generations.  The stage and mood is therefore set for Peter Straker to take the stage, accompanied by his extremely capable and tight three piece band, with his own interpretations of several of Brel’s greatest songs.

And what songs there are to choose from. ‘Amsterdam’, ‘Jackie’, ‘Carousel’, ‘Next’, ‘My Death’, ‘Mathilda’ and a paean to his Belgian origins ‘The Flatland’ all make a more than welcome appearance. The demi-monde the songs inhabit are not only apparent in the lyrics but in the narrative thread of the spoken interludes wherein Straker-as Brel- tells us of his love for cigarettes, alcohol and sex.

The simplicity of the musical arrangements and Straker’s onstage charisma and evident belief in what he is singing raise this to being a very worthwhile show indeed. If it has one fault it is that Straker brings nothing new to the material- and Scott Walker’s versions will always remain the definitive ones in my opinion- but by the same token why should he want to when the songs continue to speak for themselves



Frisky and Mannish- Extra Curricular Activities- Assembly Hall 7.30


You know you have made it on the Fringe when the queue to your show is mistaken for that of the Tattoo. This happened several times last night as I was waiting outside Assembly on the Mound and I, myself, wondered if I was in the right queue as it felt as if I was stuck inside some sort of George Street nightmare . Having first reviewed this act three years ago I have watched them rise from a sweatbox in the Cowgate with unidentified fluids dripping onto the audience’s heads to the Udderbelly last year and along the way they have adapted and updated their show accordingly.

This though was their biggest Fringe venue yet and also their largest audience and much as their success is deserved there was something inevitable about the mainstream audience they are now attracting somehow creeping its way into their act. It was still an amazingly good show but at times it felt like a greatest hits package and the feeling of seeing your favourite band which has previously been your private property becoming a huge stadium attraction with singalong value.

The 2012 Frisky and Mannish  still produce a show guaranteed to put a smile on your face however and I must admit the duo still have the capability to do this whilst extending the feelgood factor to a large audience. Thus we are treated to Kate Bush, Guns and Roses, and Minnie Ripperton’s impossible falsetto from ‘Loving You’ attempted by nearly everyone in the audience to hysterical effect. And yes even I couldn’t stop myself swinging it to the left, shimmying to the right and slamming to the front in an orgiastic ’Spice up your Life’. The grime section was identical to last year’s segment and felt a little tired and overplayed because of this but the ‘Made in Chelsea’ pastiche was spot on. Kelly Clarkson got a ribbing-though not dripping in barbecue sauce the way she would have preferred it- and the Lana Del Rey sequence was pretty amusing if slightly over extended.

All in all this is still a very good show even if this year’s version of Frisky and Mannish seems to be treading water  and giving their public very much what they want as opposed to anything new. Certainly Matthew Jones-the Mannish half of the duo- is seeing the two alternate sides to the Fringe as only a few hours before I had seen him in one of the aforementioned dripping sweatboxes with an audience barely making it into double figures and then within two hours finds himself selling out the prestigious Assembly Hall. Both of the duo have extreme talent at their fingertips so in many ways their success is justified whilst the show is a frothy camp confection with substance and Extra Curricular activities still manages to deliver but the question I kept asking myself-during the over familiar routines- was ‘Where do they go from here?’.






You know those irritating junk mail cheques which tell you that you are entitled to a vast sum of money? Well have you ever wondered what would happen if you actually tried to cash them. Well, Patrick Combs in San Francisco did exactly that as a prank with a cheque valued at $93,093.35 ($4OO,000 In today’s monetary values) –the exact value is very important to the tale- and was shocked and elated when the bank actually cashed the cheque and had not a legal leg to stand on when it came to reclaiming it. It is a fascinating tale and one which Combs relates enthusiastically and coherently to an audience made up of people who just love to see someone getting one over on the banks; as if there is any other type of person in the current financial climate.

The bulk of this one man monologue centres on Combs’s disbelief at the situation he found himself in. His mother fears for his safety and his brother tells him that there is no way the banks will let him away with it. Seeking legal advice he manages to contact an expert who tells him that as sufficient time has lapsed he ‘has the bank by the balls’ and the money is now legally his.

The bank have other ideas however and rather than acquiescing by writing a letter claiming the fault lies with them engage Combs in a protracted legal argument which would be solved if they merely admitted blame, apologised and paid him the five dollar reward they automatically pay out to any customer who proves them wrong. As banks seldom-if ever- admit they are wrong this results in some highly amusing tactics on Combs’s part including fooling them into writing a cheque for the exact amount- very important fact- and shifting this to a safety deposit box.

At this juncture the bank really turned the heat up and to draw attention to the situation Combs contacted the media who jumped on the story and it immediately became world wide headlines. The story doesn’t end there but it would be wrong to divulge anymore as this would spoil it for anyone going to see it.

Man 1, Bank 0– just one of the headlines attributed to this tale- is an entertaining seventy five minute show. Combs obviously loves performing and narrating his taleall the while throwing himself around the stage gesticulating with gusto whilst using t-shirts as a means of indicating his rapidly changing status and moods. It is definitely one up on the banking system which ultimately is there to protect itself whilst doing us over at every opportunity. It is a heartening tale of a prankster who took on the system as a bit of as jape and subsequently found himself being taken very seriously indeed.



Slice by Mel Giedroyc –Gilded Balloon 1pm


 This production of Mel Giedroyc’s dark comedy Slice is a oud, brash show which has moments of humour, moments of melancholy and moments of confrontation. Basically the tale of three sisters reunited for the first time after several years have elapsed, the drama unfolds as their comatose mother lies in the next room close to death. Revelations and putdowns are the order of the day with at least two superiority complexes engaged in battle with each other.

The three sisters in question-Victoria the spinster, Charlotte the maternal one with five children and wayward elder sister Madeleine- each harbour resentments toward each other. Gradually tales including their mothers adultery at Victoria’s tenth birthday party, varying opinions on parenting skills and resentments over stolen boyfriends all emerge with the repercussions that each of the sisters is in some way damaged through their convoluted  familial relationships.

The performances in this production however are not always convincing. I spelt some time trying to decipher why Madeleine spoke with a bad American accent occasionally lapsing into a Scottish brogue for no apparent reason. It became clear about halfway through that this was part of her character make up but unfortunately up until that point it had just served as an irritant. Likewise Charlotte’s insipid earth mother was a bit overplayed and Victoria’s hysterically baking spinster role was rarely believable. It is a drama of the old fashioned kind however so, in many ways, this is how it has to be played as it is what the material demands.

Slice is a bit like the sponge which is being baked at the beginning of the show. It is light, airy, and pleasant enough but half an hour later you have forgotten all about it.



Heath Franklin’s Chopper: A Hard Bastard’s Guide to Life


This hard hitting show from Australian Heath Franklin would definitely be aided by a couple of swift drinks beforehand but this is not an absolute necessity-unlike a lot of comedy of this genre- as Franklin’s act is genuinely funny. He even avoided haranguing any latecomers and this is definitely a bonus in my book as I feel it is a lazy and irritating tactic far too many stand ups draw on unnecessarily.

As for the act, Franklin is quite prepared to pander to the beer swilling foul mouthed Australian stereotype with every second word a profanity, although the strong contender for his favourite derogatory term would have to be ‘fucktard’ which featured heavily throughout the show. Franklin’s casual couldn’t care less attitude is also a clever ruse as his act is very well structured whilst his improvisations with hecklers and audience members show that he is also very quick and adept at thinking on his feet.

Thus we are treated to tales of beer swilling Scottish children with mohawks and a surplus of phlegm, names of cocktails as outrageous sexual euphemisms, the intricacies and necessity of anal bleaching, and a rant about loud music in shops.

There is also a play featuring his first attempts at writing a script towards the end. This requires audience participation so be prepared for perhaps being pulled out your seat then thrown centre stage and into the action. This section was particularly impressive for the fact that one of the girls he dragged onto the stage proceeded to show a feisty side by pulling him up on his spelling. His other victim turned out to be a reviewer so this provided further comedy value.

This was very much a laugh out loud show and I must admit that although it is occasionally what is nowadays termed politically incorrect- soon that will cover everything remotely amusing- it is nevertheless highly funny because of this. Franklin managed the full hour and in amongst his rantings were some serious moral issues we should all consider. In the meantime just carry on laughing along with him.



Murder , Marple and Me- Gilded Balloon 3.15pm


 Anyone who knows me well will also know that I have a penchant for a Miss Marple murder mystery and especially on a Sunday afternoon. It is a throwback from the days when I went out on a Saturday night and used these leisurely paced dramas as some sort of hangover or recovery cure. There is also my fetish for tweeds and sensible shoes to be taken into consideration. Actually the latter is a lie but the rest is true.

So it was with a sense of familiarity- and secret guilty pleasure- that I made my way along to the Gilded Balloon this Sunday afternoon to see the one woman show starring Janet Prince alternating between three roles- Agatha Christie, Margaret Rutherford and a narrator who acts as a go-between and possibly Marple herself- and I am pleased to report I was not in any way disappointed. Prince gives a commanding performance and manages to use her well seasoned skills in shifting between character through nuance and expression never leaving you in any doubt as to which character she is playing at any time.

The story unfolds around the fact that Christie had serious reservations about Rutherford playing her amateur spinster sleuth on the big screen when the news first broke that the role had been cast. Rutherford, on the other hand, was equally reticent considering acting in films beneath an actress of her standing but unfortunately an extravagant lifestyle and avoidance of taxes had made taking the role a financial necessity.

What followed next was a summit meeting between the two very different women at very different stages in their careers. Against the odds the two became friends and Christie was able to penetrate the outward bluster of Rutherford to discover what made her tick as well as a deeply buried family secret which piqued her interest and, no doubt, made its way into one of her subsequent novels.

This production sympathetically directed by Stella Duffy is a perfect mid-afternoon show which is proving extremely popular with Fringe audiences- it was a sell out on the day I attended- and Prince’s performance (s) are alert and extremely convincing. There are moments of great wit combined with more serious observations. My Marple addiction on a Sunday afternoon was therefore thoroughly satisfied and will probably continue.



Asher Treleaver-:Troubador- Gilded Balloon 4.30pm


I must admit I enjoyed this show a lot more than I expected to. It got off to quite a slow start but  picked up and when it finished I actually thought it could quite easily have gone on another five to ten minutes without being overly drawn out. It is not often I can say that about stand up as usually I wish it went on for half the time it actually does.

After a recent brush with testicular cancer Treleaver reappraised certain aspects of his life and this forms the basis of the show as he refers to Edward De Bono’s method of using six thinking hats as mind tools to represent different moods and attitudes. Thus we have control, information, creativity, positive thinking and intuition. It is an interesting concept but Treleaver does not bludgeon his audience with rhetoric. Instead he utilises his admittedly humorous, lanky frame to great comedy effect even if he did stray- and he commented on this himself- into Russell Brand territory on occasion. It is this use of his physicality which is perhaps his strongest point. The two sequences involving ’Diablo’ –one for the women and a butched up one for the men- were particularly funny.

The tale relating to his testicular cancer was a taboo subject not many comedians could handle with such great pathos whilst simultaneously still being extremely funny. His physical enactment of the various stages required to achieve erection- and the methods deployed to prevent these stages occurring- were well handled (no pun intended) and very funny.

As said before the beginning of the show was rather slow to take off and for the first fifteen minutes I thought this was going to be just more of the same old stand up routines. Treleaver should perhaps think about tightening this segment up and therefore it may not feel so unfinished and hurried at its conclusion. All in all though it was superior to a lot of stand up I have seen in the past – I have kept it to a minimum this year for the reason it generally starts to bore me after a while- and is definitely worthy of your attention.