Archive for the ‘ FRINGE 2013 ’ Category


This impressive piece of dance and physical theatre from Czech company Cirk La Putyka examines the link between our childhood toys-dolls, teddy bears and wooden soldiers- and how they shape our fantasies.
Beginning with a gentle freeform, fluid dance routine which insidiously insinuates its way into something more vibrant before shifting into some extremely beautiful, and languorous trapeze work which becomes more and more frenzied before slowing down into something more languorous again.
The five performers all take a turn showing off different skills and the interaction between them is always spot on and obviously requires a lot of trust as some of the stunts are very dangerous although totally enthralling to watch.
Directed by Rostislav Novak and choreographed by Josef Frucek and Linda Kapatanea and accompanied by an original soundtrack Dolls is a welcome return to the Fringe for this company who made such a great impression when they last performed here in 2011. Of course physical theatre has become a stronger force since those days but Cirk La Putyka still ranks amongst the best of this highly skilled and exciting genre.
Dolls is showing at Underbelly Circus Hub on the Meadows until August 31st(not 12th, 18th or 24th) at 3.25pm


This fast paced and introspective comedy is perfectly pitched for its lunchtime time slot. Essentially a two hander between the writer of the work Andrew Hollingworth and Oriana Charles who break the fourth wall to inform the audience of their characters inner thoughts whilst saying something completely different to each other. This is an effective tool which not only highlights the comedic aspects but also draws attention to the more serious issues at hand.
Focussing on a series of events which Ian (Holligworth) thinks are fate but the more reluctant and introspective Eliana (Charles) considers a series of unfortunate accidents the tale revolves around a car crash-the bump of the title- which leads to a hilariously scripted and choreographed sexual encounter. Although Eliana considers this to be a one off Ian has more serious intents and against her better judgment the couple start dating on a more regular basis. However matters take a completely different turn when she finds out after only a few weeks that she has fallen pregnant and the dichotomy between the pair widens even further.
It is at this point that the pace slows down slightly and the couple have to look into themselves and at each other to what it is they actually want. These sequences are as well handled as the quick paced comedy of the drama’s early sequences with no loss of energy.
Part of this work’s success is that it doesn’t overstay its welcome and try and overplay any of its intentions. There is very obvious rapport and chemistry between the two players who handle their roles more than capably and make them both sympathetic and believable. The direction by Michael Woodwood is tight with not a movement wasted nor word surplus to requirements. Bump is an extremely taut, convincing and enjoyable show which manages to deliver on all levels.
Bump is at the Gilded Balloon at 12.15 until the 15th August and at 11.00 thereafter until the 31st.



Just an Observation
Although the Fringe doesn’t start officially until next week it would seem the weather most traditionally associated with this event is already with us. In fact it seems to have been with us since the winter. Cool temperatures, drizzle, daily rain and cloudy skies are weather traits more usually associated with winter-my heating has actually been on and I NEVER put my heating on unless it is freezing- and they seem to have been with us since, well, the winter if I am honest. Some might say this is consistent but I consider it more to be ongoing…and ongoing a little more. At least it can’t get any worse although those snow predictions for up north seem to dampen even that glimmer of hope.
Discounting the weather it already feels as if the Fringe has already begun: the Royal Mile is crowded, street performers are every where and the city is changing its shape to accommodate this festival which draws tourists from all over the world. If disruption and busy streets only serve to annoy and irritate then I suggest avoiding the city centre as much as possible until the first weeks of September- this is possibly the most idyllic and refreshing time in Edinburgh in my opinion- as much as is possible. Not that the Fringe is confined to the city centre any longer as it has migrated north into Leith which used to provide a safe haven and south onto the Meadows, where Underbelly are setting up camp.
As far as shows are concerned I have at last managed to navigate through some of the density of the bland and unfriendly programme and picked out some shows to start me off on my reviewing schedule. Top tips and must sees- based on my prior knowledge of contributors- are Rhuraid Murray’s ‘Allie’ at the Gilded Balloon(5pm), Fiona Soe Paing’s ‘Alien Lullabies’ at Summerhall (10.35 from August 12th), ‘Trainspotting’ at Assembly (8.30), ‘Balletronic’ at The Pleasance (9.30) and former Warhol acolyte Penny Arcade at the Underbelly(8.50).
Other shows also on my agenda include the musical ‘Lennon’, comedy with Tina C and ‘Her Story’, Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Divas’, ‘Raz’, ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’, ‘Bette Midler and Me’, physical theatre in ‘Dolls’ and a musical offering based on the music of Annie Lennox called ‘Sweet Dreams’. The latter is a bitter-sweet pill as much as I love early Eurythmics I loathe and despise their later work and much of her solo repertoire.
Mind you the good thing about the Fringe is discovering new things and every year there has been someone or someone who has made a huge impression so I am hoping to be similarly captivated this year. It could be by some newcomer or it could be someone who has been struggling around the fringes and finally hit their stride. This is the beauty of the Fringe and not the burger vans on every corner or the busy streets or the never ending queues.
If nothing else it beats yet another night in staring vacantly at the television. Not that there has been much of note on recently and certainly not much that could be called entertainment. However I did catch’ Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia: Gay and Under Extreme Pressure’ last night and it did make me think that although we complain how bad things are here- a prime minister who refers to migrants desperate for asylum as swarms only scratches the surface- they are always worse elsewhere.
It would seem that under the auspices of Putin being out and proud is something that is no longer possible in what is supposed to be modern day Russia. A particularly interesting moment arose when the amiable Yates desperate to understand the motivation behind such rampant and aggressive homophobia hooked up with a knife carrying young man called Victor who insisted that if a homosexual approached him he wouldn’t necessarily use the knife but wouldn’t hesitate to ‘smash his face in’.
Taken aback by this level of anger and aggression Yates asked him to take him on traditional heterosexual Russian male pursuits. The first of these involved going to a sauna, getting naked then engaging in some light flagellation with some sort of floral whisk akin to the bunch of gladioli Morrissey used to swing around his head in such a heterosexual manner back in the eighties. Next up, dressed in traditional dress resembling a smock Boy George would slim down to fit into, they went off to a traditional folk dancing club. Yes all very straight and no underlying gay oppression, repression or anything else for that matter. None at all!
Taking advantage of the miserable weather I am heading off to see the modern day western ‘Slow West’ starring Michael Fassbender today. A bit late to the party on this one but it came out around the time of the Film Festival and I was a bit filmed out so gave it a miss. After that it is the Fringe all the way so see you on the other side!


Brian Eno- Movements


Brian Eno is a pivotal figure-also a surprisingly physically diminutive one- in modern music with his DNA coursing through its veins whilst his sticky fingerprints are all over it and the fact that, since the mid-seventies, he has assumed more and more of an invisible peripheral role only serves to make him all the more enigmatic. Entering the fray playing synthesizer and tapes with Roxy Music-who can forget that TOTP performance of ‘Virginia Plain’ with Eno, at the opposite end of the stage from Bryan Ferry, hunched over his synthesiser in fantasy fur and lurex gloves twiddling knobs like some crazy rock and roll professor beamed in from Planet Xenon? – before collaborating with David Bowie during his most fruitful and experimental phase of his career and rounding the decade off by producing Talking Heads , taking them into unchartered waters.

 In the interim he had a solo career and invented –or at least lent a name to- ‘ambient’ music which had previously not been considered an art form or entity in its own right. Subsequent decades have seen him work with other artists most notably U2 and James although the least said about Coldplay the better.

 This hour long talk about ‘Music’ was as varied and off the wall as his career however and his occasional diversions from the topic in hand provided both highlights and insights whilst the smooth luxury of his voice ensured he held our attention throughout.  At the denouement of his talk I felt he was only getting started and could have listened to him for another hour at least.

 Opening by informing us that certain cultures –including some parts of Africa- don’t have a word for music but do have a word for dance we are taken on a Enoesque take on the form through the ages. Interesting stop offs were the first ‘Synthesiser’, a Telharmonium, which required thirty seven train carriages alone to transport it from town to town. Upon reaching its destination it then had to plug into a major power source such as a telephone exchange so the towns inhabitants just had to lift their receiver off its cradle to hear the strange sounds coming from the musician playing from the train.

 The role of the producer-perhaps what Eno himself is best known and established as- was looked at closely with pioneering names such as George Martin and Phil Spector recognised for their legendary and groundbreaking achievements in this field and raising the role to an art in itself; giving an artist’s recorded artefacts a life of their own, vacuum packing them into a form which does not exist outside its own manifestation. Audiences and their crucial role were also brought into the discussion-a great photo of Iggy Pop crowd surfing illustrated the difference between the reverence of a classical concert and the irreverent and spontaneous nature of a rock and roll one- as well as a look at Elvis and his legendary and, for its time shocking, pelvis which introduced a new form of audience participation concentrating on the corporeal rather than the cerebral.

 Along the way an amusing tale about his one and only time as a hired session hand when the New Seekers-of all people- enlisted his services. If ever there was an incongruous pairing then this was it and it is hardly surprising the fruits of this collaboration never made it past the studio. This is probably for the best but it would make for interesting listening.

 Eno managed to make all this sound effortless-his honeyed tones provided some assist here- and was thoroughly charming and engaging throughout. An hour was no way long enough for him to cover his subject as thoroughly as he wanted to but he still managed to cram so much into this time and in no way did anyone feel cheated.  Definitely a Festival 2013 highlight for me.





 This show by the Vincent Dance Theatre is a visual feast set with monochromatic black and white working with and against each other under a harsh spotlight which palces the audience in the performers view as well as vice versa. It also contains many flashes of brilliance, intensity and wonder but at over two hours long there are some moments which could have been edited to make it a far punchier effort; it could easily lose fifteen minutes with little disruption to the flow and possibly half an hour would give it more edge. These are minor gripes however and all in all it was a stunning and involving piece of work.

  Opening innocuously enough with each of the ten performers strolling onto the stage and visually identifying themselves in the manner of a M&S ad campaign there was no clue as to what was to follow over the next two and a bit hours. It started off with a sense of distilled ethereal calm and metamorphosed in an organic fashion into at various points chilled out ambience, frantic rock outbursts, a celebration of life and nature, raucous sexual abandon, a slow motion fighting sequence with every simple movement and sound having the profoundest effect whilst always remaining visually arresting. Hell even Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’  and Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’ video  got this troupe’s original take on them.

 The bits which didn’t really work for me were the rolling around in the dirt –a bit too hippy for my tastes- and the recurring scene involving throwing red wine at the wall to signify dripping blood. These two were both used as linking themes but after the third-or was it the fourth- time I simply found myself thinking ‘Oh, not again please’.

Despite this ‘Motherland’ is a totally original, brave, uncompromising, unapologetic and worthwhile theatre experience for those who like the experimental side of things. Others may find it overblown and pretentious but I personally loved it. At the denouement the bright white set was in a total state of disarray as were the performers and this is always the sign of a good night out!


Motherland is on at 12pm at Summerhall until August 31st


The Inventor and the Escort


Opening to the strains of Frank Sinatra this ‘adult Romcom’- God the feelings of dread that phrase arouses in me- this lunchtime show  manages to incorporate some of the clichés associated with the genre but somehow also rises head and shoulders above it by having its own charms including a raunchy but not too obvious script. It even has the audacity to mention as well as parody elements of what could be seen as its companion piece, ‘Pretty Woman’. What really holds it together here though are the two performances by Jessica Moreno as Julia nee Maggie and Jaret Sacrey as Jeffrey.

 Set in New York during a particularly bad blizzard the dram unfolds around an encounter between the lonely and insecure inventor of contraptions, which could only be described as enhancing certain sexual practices, with an escort he has hired to perform a highly specific sexual encounter with him. Arriving in a flurry of snow and wearing a cloak of hostility Julia is initially wary of Jeffrey’s intentions and remains unconvinced by his assertions that he doesn’t want anything too ‘outlandish ‘ from her. As the scenario progresses her iciness melts somewhat and eventually they both drop their guard and start opening up to each other thus a professional relationship starts to take a far more personal turn.

 ‘The Inventor and the Escort’ is almost a perfect lunchtime show as it is raunchy enough to titillate and amuse but not unnecessarily so as many others try to be. The performers have a definite chemistry and you can empathise with Jessica’s initial frostiness as well as Jeffrey’s shyness and insecurities even if their back stories sometimes straddle the borders of cliché. It is full of witty, sharp repartee whilst the pace of the whole scenario grows organically rather than being too forced.


‘The Inventor and the Escort’ is on at the Gilded Balloon at 12.00pm until August 26th


Epicene Butcher and Other Stories for Consenting Adults


This show is the sort which polarises audiences as to the actual credibility and worth of the Fringe. Some will see it as totally worthwhile and refreshing whilst others will simply find it tiresome and more than a little wanky. Therefore it is very much a love it or loathe it show although I am still struggling to make up my mind as to what camp I feel more settled in.

On paper it is exactly the sort of thing I love and the performance was pretty much pitch perfect but unfortunately after the first ten to fifteen minutes I just kept wishing it were over and I could go and do something else.

 Basing itself on Kamishibai which is an ancient Japanese form of story telling-or street theatre- which uses illustrated pieces of paper to accompany the words of the narrator the show is performed exquisitely by Jemma Khan assisted by a scowling sidekick known only as Chalk Girl and played with a scowl, sneer and a veil of attitude by Klara Van Wyk. It is an eclectic collection of tales with the title one perhaps being the most intricate and involving and takes in subject matter of several cultures  and languages- Nelson Mandela and Super Mario are merely two reference points – thus affording it a universal and pan generational appeal.

 Despite all this the whole thing just felt a little too ‘try hard’ in its objectives and it is the kind of effort which would give Fringe detractors a field day in their condemnation of the whole event. I tried really hard to love this show but ultimately the most I could ever manage was to admire it.





Included as part of a South African season this production-written and performed by Wessel Pretorius- is raw, corporeal and deeply involving. Starting off with Pretorius naked, excepting a string of pearls, bathing in a tin bath as the audience filters in then as soon as the house lights dim he starts splashing the bathwater around  absolving and cleansing himself in an act of catharsis and explanation whilst his carefully constructed words rain down in a simultaneous torrent of explanation.

 Drying himself with a towel and pulling on a pair of white briefs he is now fully dressed for the best part of the rest of the performance.

The tale he tells is difficult to penetrate at the beginning with talk of Dionysus and feathers clouding the fact that his main subject matter is a dysfunctional family-his own perhaps?- with Pretorius assuming various roles in an array of voices and different set of nuanced inflections. Thus a pair of high heeled shoes in his hand assumes the role of a telephone mouthpiece but when slinkily put on his feet they transform him into becoming a representative of his Mother. A battered leather jacket triggers memories of his father and tales of drunken debauchery and charged eroticism.

 All through Pretorius remains firmly in the spotlight giving a strongly visceral performance which uses his sinuous body in all its fluidity-mime and ballet aspects are touched upon- to give life to various aspects of his characters whilst his mellifluous voice gives body to the intricate and well thought out wordplay. It is quite an unfathomable tale for less seasoned theatregoers and suspicions linger that this may deter some from commending it too highly. Personally I thought any shortcomings outweighed these drawbacks as the strength  of the performance could sway any doubters as it is such a powerful intense work with a deep cathartic feel to it.


‘ Undone’ is on at Assembly George Square at 4.10pm until August 26th


Superbard: The Flood


This charmingly constructed show of apocalyptic scenarios narrated by Superbard- aka George Lewcowicz- in various guises including nerdy Graham, Graham’s housemate’s boss plus a soft core indie electro musician called Adam all involve their personal tales of impending doom via computer games in the upcoming flood of the title. Drawing in random factors such as computer games, misjudged presents social ineptitude and a Brixton afloat on a rising sea , it is a barnstorming effort which never lets up during its hour long duration.

 Lewcowicz has obviously put a lot of thought into this show and seems to direct the technological back up which highlights his words. He is amazingly easy to listen to and his Radio 2 voice is well suited to this kind of spoken word event. It is strange then that he chooses to read constantly from a scripted pad rather than memorise some of the lengthier sections as some of their potency is lost as he seems to be trying to multi-task on many occasions.  The show would be better served if he engaged with the audience more rather than trying to manoeuvre himself into several different roles all at once.

 On the occasions he does lend the audience more of his one on one attention the results are extremely favourable. There is a rousing version of ‘The Animals Went in Two by Two’, a healthy amount of self deprecation  and my personal favourite-not- a singalong chorus for us all to join in with. Somehow Lewcowicz manages to make the latter less excruciating than usual  so top marks to him for that alone.

 This is a great lunchtime show and it is good to see the Underbelly including a spoken word event as they are proving more and more popular with audiences than they have done for years. ‘Superbard: The Flood’ merely confirms this upswing and deservedly holds its head high above water in the esteemed sea of company it keeps.


Suoerbard:The Flood is on at 1.10pm at the Underbelly until August 26th




Trying to make a point of seeing one show each Fringe which could be termed ‘physical theatre’ this year I avoided the temptation of NoFit State’s latest offering ‘Bianco’ and Knee Deep in favour of  Australia’s ‘Circa: Wunderkammer’ and feel the show more than justified my decision as it was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen. Concentrating on a more Hi-Tec futuristic approach which still retained its basic humanistic core it also managed to incorporate a sensuous eroticism which I have never found in either of the previous shows mentioned. This could be in part due to its cabaret/burlesque leanings, gender role reversal or it could be simply down to the fact it was  downright sexy!

 Opening with a lone Hula Hooper in a scene which evolved at its own languorous pace, rather than the freneticism usually associated with these kinds of displays, this led into other members of the troupe joining her onstage in a linking segment involving a piece of elasticised string. This was a cleverly constructed piece showing a lot of fluidity and it set us up nicely for the next scene which involved a material which has long been a national source of eroticism; bubble wrap. A dance sequence which involved lot of that familiar popping sound certainly had me itching to get home and try it out for myself and I am sure I was not the audience member who felt such stirrings.

 Next up were two exquisitely formed guys who astounded with a headstand unlike any you have ever seen before. They were then joined on stage by several others of the troupe who performed in the role of mannequins before structuring themselves into a human totem pole. Next up was a male duo pole dancing in a dazzling display which at times appeared their bodies were floating in air as no limbs or body parts seemed to be in physical contact with the pole supporting them. This was simply breathtaking.

 A lone singer then sang ‘Hey! Big Spender’ as the two pole dancers performed a strip which from the heat generated in the venue by this time must have been as much a necessity as it was erotic. More Hula Hooping followed and this time it was beyond frenetic. A trapeze artist then performed a strip in mid-air getting into positions to remove clothing that I swear I have even managed myself when drunk, although in my case admittedly maybe not quite so elegantly.

 The next scene involved lots of throwing each other round in a frenetic free for all with bodies being utilised as skipping ropes before the pace slowed right down with a slow, languorous refashioning of Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ wherein  the troupe did a slow communal strip.

 What a finale!

 ‘Circa:Wunderkammer’ certainly have raised the bar, the trapeze and the levels of flesh with this show. It is fast paced-never letting up for a second- but not afraid to slow itself down at crucial junctures and there is not a moment when there is not something impressive happening. It is dark, sexy and downright erotic in both its ambition and realisation. This is what a circus style burlesque/cabaret can and should be. Beautiful!


Circa:Wundrkammer is on at 5pm at UndrbellyMc Ewan Hall until August 26th