Archive for the ‘ FRINGE 2013 ’ Category




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



Way Back


It is hard during the Fringe for lesser known companies and plays to receive the attention of critics and getting a reviewer in can sometimes be hard. This play is one of those plays as it hasn’t really received any notable attention thus far and as such it is not attracting the audience turn out it deserves even though it is an extremely worthwhile piece of theatre with very accomplished performances from its young cast. The script by Daniel Henry Kaes is also original and approaches a subject like suicide with a fresh approach and somehow manages to create a dark comedy which shows both pathos and hope.

 Set in the world’s third most popular suicide spot, Beachy Head in Sussex, as the audience enters they are met with a skulking sullen youth smoking surreptitiously in the half light of the stage. This turns out to be Miles (Matt Lim) a disillusioned chef fwho believes his girlfriend recently killed herself in a car accident and now feels he has little left to live for. Being a former worker at the chaplaincy centre to prevent suicides he is at first immune to Carol’s intervention- sweetly played by Aynsleigh Turner- as she steps in to try and force him to change his mind.

 Carol is having a busy shift this particular day because almost simultaneously Randy/Rodney (Stephen Bermingham) a former one hit wonder pop star mired in controversy is also contemplating taking his own life. In a desperate bid to stop Miles from jumping and so she can concentrate equally on Randy/Rodney she impetuously kisses him misleading him into thinking they could become romantically involved.

 Meanwhile Rodney who has recently come out as gay, as a means of detracting attention from an underage sex scandal,  finds himself asking Carol out for dinner and it comes to pass that all three are now going out on an unconventional date.

 This encounter does not exactly go as planned and at some point there is an extremely convincing outburst between Miles and Rodney. It also transpires that the trio have had their lives inextricably linked through moments in the past that they were previously all unaware of.

 ‘Way Back’ is a well constructed and perfectly executed piece of drama and Will Seaward’s direction allows little to detract from the performances. Perhaps too much emphasis is placed on clarifying certain issues and relationships when ambiguity may have served the conclusion better but this is still a work which deserves a lot more attention from the public than it is getting.


 Way Back is on at 12.50 at Underbelly until August 26th


Eric and Little Ern


This lovingly crafted homage to one of the all time most loved British comedy duos, Morecambe and Wise, is brought to realisation by great characterisation by the two actors –Jonty Stephens as Eric and Ian Ashpitel as Ernie- who also devised the whole project and brought it to successful fruition. It is a hard task to set yourself in trying to recreate such lovable and easily identifiable characters ,to several generations, but Stephens and Ashpitel manage to not only recreate the characterisations and nuances of the duo but also something of the internal dynamic and chemistry that made them so special.

 The scene is set in a hospital ward and it is clear that Ernie Wise is seriously ill when a doctor ambles in and picks up a clipboard and starts checking his stats before pulling out his glasses immediately affecting a transformation into Eric Morecambe. It really is that simple for Stephens to turn himself into the great comic and it must be the only occasion I have ever attended a show where the simple act of putting on a pair of glasses has registered recognition and elicited such a loud cheer from the audience.

 The pair are then off on their own brand of reminiscences and it becomes obvious that this is Ernie more or less on his death bed and one last show between the two legendary performers is what is required. The stage then becomes an even more familiar stage with a backdrop of a red curtain-it is amazing how such innocuous details as a pair of spectacles or a red curtain are so identifiable as trademarks of this pair- and we are off into some of their best loved moments borrowing heavily from Eddie Braben’s  classic material alongside the on point delivery.

 This is a gem of a show and for anyone of several generations it will transport you back to a more innocent entertainment era when families actually all communed around the home’s solitary television to share in something special. In many ways it is a light relief from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh in August and a hell of a lot funnier than ninety per cent of what is passing for comedy at various other venues in the city right now.


 Eric and Little Ern is on at 3.15pm at Gilded Balloon until August 26th



Liz Lochead :Apple says Aaah and Other Poems


Taking to the stage in typically unassuming but commanding manner Liz Lochead needs no introduction before launching into Edmund Morgan’s ‘The Apple Song’. It is a fitting opener and manages to get the audience onside from the get go with its insouciant charm mixed with her unique delivery and nuance.

 Following on from this is an anecdotal tale concerning her school days which conjure up memories and happy times and provide the next poem her own-and show title- ‘Apple says Aaah’. The schooldays theme continues with further tales which make her memories as vivid to the audience as they clearly are to her and his segues nicely into Adrian Mitchell’s ‘Back in the Playground Blues’. Or at least it would have if an audience member hadn’t taken ill and the room had to be evacuated whilst the situation was dealt with.

 Disaster averted –and hopefully the patient taken care of and road to recovery- Lochead continued as a trouper should and charmed us all further with a reading of Robert Burns’s universally famous ‘To a Mouse’. She then delivered a Burns styled 1979 poem in the voice of a self created character-Nettie Abernethy- ‘The Life of Mrs. Riley’ before moving onto a totally waywardly amusing catalogue poem about Aunty’s followed by one about a range of wall paints named after famous artists;Vymura.

 Introducing saxophonist Steve Kettley onstage she added a little light background music to her next few poems. One about Ira and George Gershwin called –fittingly- ‘The Gershwins’ led into another called ‘Like Another Rolling Stone’ before her closing verse the humorous but evocative ‘In Praise of Old Vinyl’ which avowedly paid tribute to vinyl albums –or LP’s as she reminded us a previous generation referred to them- which was brilliantly delivered whilst Kettley’s riffing of the likes of ‘Heart of Glass’ and ‘Superstition’ only consolidated.

 This is an excellent lunchtime show and Lochead is consistently engaging, funny and charismatic whilst remaining totally down to earth. There is another play on at the Assembly Rooms called ‘God Bless Liz Lochead’ and you really can’t say fairer than that!


Liz Lochead:Apple Says Aaah is at the Aseembly Rooms at 12.15 until August 26th




This play based on real life prison letters written to and from a  trio of serial killer protagonists-Ian Brady, Dennis Nilsen and Peter Sutcliffe-  came with high expectations simply due to its subject matter and coming from the pen of Glenn Chandler the creator of ‘Taggart’.

 Despite this there was something slightly flat about the whole performance which only came to life in a few great flickering moments most notably when Nilsen (Aaron Ushe) wound himself up into an  frenzy which made it clear underneath the eerily creepy, effete exterior just how capable of murder he was. Likewise when Sutcliffe (Gareth Morrison) dropped his amiable persona and allowed himself to be overwhelmed by his demonic possessed stare, he too came to life as a cold blooded killer. Brady (Edward Cory) meanwhile remained as inscrutable as ever giving nothing away and refusing even after all these years to discuss his horrific crimes.

 Each character focussed initially on one correspondent each- Janet for Sutcliffe, a fifteen year old boy named John for Brady and William, a gay supermarket worker for Nilsen- but there seemed to be little concern for the recipients of the letters as each killer revealed a sense of concern only for themselves and how they felt they had been mistreated by the media. Brady complained about being force fed due to being on hunger strike and bemoaned the fact he was not allowed to die a dignified death; not a luxury he afforded his victims. Nilsen complained about having his prison love affairs misrepresented in the press whilst Sutcliffe hated how the media portrayed him as a womaniser by keeping a regular correspondence with several women at one time and also denied that he ever tried to escape in the way the media insisted he did.

 The script here has a lot of possibilities but apart from Nilsen’s uncontrolled frenzies, which brought the piece to a peak, the whole thing felt slightly underplayed. On top of this Morrison’s accent as Sutcliffe often felt a bit out to sea although he did manage to sum up a sense of menace when required. It was Brady who came across as the most chilling though as the sense of no remorse he  maintains to this day came across due to the detachment Cory brought to the role. An admirable production but unfortunately not the great one it could have been.


Killers is on at 6.10pm at Assembly Rooms until August 25th