EDINBURGH FESTIVAL 2010

Celebrity Autobiography
10
by David Marren added on 08 August 2010

Celebrity autobiographies are generally little more than delusional ego boosts by
famous people determined to share their innermost publicity driven thoughts and
musings with us mere mortals. Often the results are unintentionally hilarious and this
show containing excerpts, featuring some of the more deluded and inflated ego driven
inanities ever unleashed on a reading public, narrated by such luminaries as Michael
Urie, Geoge Wendt, James Lance and others is brilliant in its execution.

Opening with Michael Urie- Mark from Ugly Betty- reading a passage from ‘Come
on get Happy’ by David Cassidy in a scene in which he attempts a sexual encounter with his co-star in
the Partridge Family, Susan Dey, and finds himself unable to extract himself from the
queasiness that she is his on screen sister arouses in him. The fact that he is unable
to separate reality from fiction is worrying especially as it makes you wonder what
emotions he must have had for Shirley Jones who was his on screen mother as well
as his real life step mother. Next up is that cultural behemoth MrT. whose ramblings
must surely be an inspiration to any other monosyllabic in possession of an inflated
ego. This sets us up for what must surely be the highlight of the show a passage from
Diana Ross’s autobiography ‘Secrets of a Sparrow’.

Focussing on the chapter wherein she describes her Central Park open air concert
and it dared to rain. In this instance it was more than rain the way Ross describes it
rather it was more akin to an apocalyptic moment when the darkness gathers ‘Where
did the darkness come from?’ and the heavens opened and poured down on
her ‘dream’ and declares with no irony whatsoever ‘I was in my own wet dream’.
Not that the nightmare is over however as she still has to get out of the park in the
rain and ‘Ain’t no Mountain High Enough’ takes on biblical connotations and one
can sense her disappointment that Noah was not on hand to build her an ark. This is
hilariously delivered and the audience was in raptures at this retelling.

David Hasslehoff also takes a lot of ribbing in the excerpt in his cultural
landmark ‘Don’t Hassle the Hoff’ before a two hander between Katie Price (from
one of her 25 autobiographies or whatever) and Peter Andre. Katie entreats us to the
knowledge that what she requires in a man is a ‘back, sack and crack wax’ as after
all ‘no one wants a mouth full of hair’. The unnecessary information keeps on flowing
however as she details every nook and cranny- including the shaving of the rhyming
slang equivalent of the latter- of her body requirements. Pete, instead concentrates
on the domesticity of life involving pots of tea and sitting around the radiator playing
Trivial Pursuits –not the Genius Edition for some unexplained reason- and divulging
that what he really loves about Katie are the moments when she thinks that an eclipse
is an ice cream. Next up Tiger Woods’ musings take on a whole new meaning in the
light of recent events especially in revelations that he likes ‘banging the ball hard’ and
to ‘examine the area around the hole’.

Many more revelations follow these not least a three way version of events from the
three protagonists in the Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher debacle
and the show never loses momentum throughout. This is a brilliant show that had me
and the rest of the audience in fits of laughter throughout. It is already selling out so it
would be wise to catch it while you can as it is totally unmissable.

Bo Burnham
by David Marren added on 07 Aug 2010
8

If you are going to call your debut show ‘Words,Words,Words’ then you better have something intelligent to say alongside the vocabulary to back it up. Fortunately Bo Burnham possesses both in gargantuan quantities. This young man –or self proclaimed prodigy as he prefers or should I say deserves to be referred to- certainly has a talent and maturity that belies his years. I will not mention his age again however as this is not something he wants to be judged on although he did feel the need to inform the audience that he was only 19 but I feel this is more his adept use of irony proving conclusively that this is a form of humour in which the Americans are generally light years ahead of us Brits in.

Taking to the stage shyly nodding his head in time to a hip hop track and peering out from beneath his fringe with a self-satisfied all knowing sneer that asserts his authority. Pausing only long enough to unleash a short sharp witticism without missing a beat he launches into the first of several highly amusing musical numbers that allow his act to fashion a shape very much its own. Very little escapes his wrath with all forms of taboos and bigotry hung out to dry in his extremely challenging and well realised material. Disney myths are debunked with ‘Sleeping Beauty’ transmogrified into a 21st century date rape victim and white supremacists given short shrift. He is almost obnoxious in his self confidence and this is what carries the show as successfully as his confidence allows him to take risks and not rely on or worry about the amount of laughs he is generating per minute. Occasionally mumbling about peaks and troughs he has already realised that this is the best way to approach an hour long comedy act. Some of his lines are delivered like short sharp bursts that seem unfinished but with only a nano-seconds reflection emerge as perfectly formed and concise.

Meanwhile his reference points are extremely intelligent revealing an artist who has already spent a lot of time honing his craft and exploring new ways to exploit and translate the information he has assimilated. What Burnham also possesses is a fearlessness that does not shy away from courting controversy. What is most impressive about this is the way he insinuates these moments with a maturity and subtlety that lend his act gravitas as opposed to youthful histrionics.

Bo Burnham is an artist who has a huge future ahead of him. Able to manipulate an audience so successfully on this the second night of his Fringe debut show shows great skill and consummate professionalism. The fact that it was a sell out shows that his reputation can only keep growing and is indeed one that we will not have to look out for inthe future as he will be hard to avoid.

Frisky and Mannish
by David Marren added on 08 Aug 2010
10

Opening in a haze of dry ice to the pulsing disco rhythms of Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ albeit with updated lyrics from Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’ Frisky and Mannish have the crowd at the Underbelly eating out of their hands from the word go. Following on from last years hit show ‘School of Pop’ which had an A plus result they are back to delight our senses with a myriad of classic-and some not so classic- musical treats. Outrageously camp and constantly enthralling this show is set to be one of the huge hits of this years Fringe and deservedly so.

The energy level never lets up and a delightful, frothy, cacophonous soundtrack emerges like some malfunctioning, detuning radio emanating from the darkest recesses of your subconscious. Trying to keep up with the limitless repertoire this duo have at their disposal is pointless and the best ploy is simply to abandon yourself to the pleasure principle at the heart of this act. During the course of the proceedings we were encouraged to ‘Swing it to the left, swing it to the right and shimmy to the front’ and I am sure I am not the only person in the audience who had not done those moves from ‘Spice up your Life’ out with the confines of my bedroom since at least 1997. This is what probably makes this show such a hit is that it reminds you how to enjoy yourself. The night that I attended was a Saturday night-incidentally the song of the same name by Whigfield was entreated to a slow balladeering treatment to afford it more gravitas whilst Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ was refashioned as a hi-nrg anthem- and I can state without any doubt it beat hands down any other Saturday night out I have had within recent memory.

Frisky certainly has a powerful pair of lungs on her. The section that she performed as Florence Welch was outstanding bringing Kate Bush, Shirley Bassey and Lily Allen along for the ride whilst Mannish backs her up accordingly adding his own soundbites. When they performed the Ting Ting’s ‘That’s not my Name’ they managed to include a few barbed retorts to the bigoted and sexist remarks they received from one of last years critics. True to form revenge was not merely a dish served cold but they managed to ladle on a dollop of cool also.

This show is certainly excellent fun and the barrage of songs that they drag kicking and screaming out of your subconscious is almost worrying. I would love to hear them daub their sticky fingerprints all over The Carpenters ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’ as it is tailor made for their warped musical vision. If these are indeed the college years then they have graduated with first class honours. Try to catch this show while you can and if you do who knows it may even make you feel either frisky or mannish or perhaps both simultaneously- that is the sensations by the way not the duo!

Loretta Maine

by David Marren added on 11 Aug 2010
10

Waiting for Pippa Evans’s alter ego to make her entrance on stage the two lead in tracks are the Beach Boys lachrymose paean to positivity ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice’ followed by Hole’s ‘Violet’ an angry woman’s anthem of the highest calibre. It is a perfect introduction to the deliciously darkly twisted universe of Loretta Maine the world’s first trailer trash diva and the only women who can, smile, grimace and scowl all at the same time. From the opening song backed by her aggressive but still feminine named band-Dog Vagina- her gauntlet is very much thrown down like a spear.

No-one escapes her vitriolic jibes which come fast and, very, furious housed in a series of initially unassuming country and western driven vignettes. Resembling an even more schizoid version of Bride of Chuckie the killer doll- a maladjusted version of ‘Here comes the Bride’ punctuates one number- she runs the gamut of many subjects including Cosmopolitan Magazine which she wryly observes boosts its readership by fixating on creating more problems for them to obsess over. Not that Loretta is above discussing her own problems there is ‘insecurity, infidelity and fanny flashing’ just for starters.
Like many others disappointed in love she has learnt to replace it with ‘Come Dine with Me’ which is fortunate if only because resentments are still harboured towards Sarah Perkins who stole her first boyfriend. When she sings on ‘Life Sucks’ ‘A vacuum sucks up dirt like a woman sucks up dirt’ it is a moment of poignant, humorous perfection. Salvation is on hand however and it comes in the form of white wine and thank God for screw tops on bottles as well but unfortunately they only rank second on her list of great inventions ‘Next to the wine inside, of course!’.

When Loretta engages with her audience she does so brilliantly. Poor Darren sitting in the second row who she dedicated one of her twisted love songs to whilst adapting the lyrics accordingly, his fear was palpable. The rustling of papers for a restraining order could almost be heard alongside the applause whilst Loretta simply looked more demented than ever.
With Loretta Maine, Pippa Evans has unleashed a brilliant creation upon a-should be- very, very scared world. Her comic timing alone makes her an outstanding performer and her confidence oozes from the stage. On the night I went to this show they were turning people away and word of mouth alongside reviews can only increase this demand. It is certainly a night out that I –and indeed Loretta herself- simply dare you not to enjoy.

Beautiful Burnout

10

by David Marren added on 18 Aug 2010

‘Beautiful Burnout’ is a heavyweight production that manages to stay light on its feet. Staged by the National Theatre of Scotland it may be lavishly staged but this never detracts from the realism and grit at its core. Alongside this the throbbing soundtrack by Techno meisters Underworld provides gravitas that packs a visceral musical punch that works in perfect synchronicity with the drama as it uncoils in the boxing ring representing the stage. Each scene is handled with skill and riveting performances that hit their mark with astounding accuracy whilst emotional depth is attained throughout. It is an elaborate piece of theatre that is aesthetically beautiful with the balletic feel of some of the choreographed moments providing a contrast with the more barbaric nature of the boxing world.

The drama centres on a gym run by trainer Bobby Burgess and his chosen protégés who he feels possess the criteria to turn professional. Amongst these chosen few is Cameron Burns-a star turn from Ryan Fletcher- who is something of a mummy’s boy. Still living at home he treats his mother as a servant and she increasingly feels that she is losing him to the world of boxing. Rivalries in the gym, however, escalate and star pupil Ajay Chopra is dismissed from the club and replaced by Cameron. A brief attempt at romance is made with the clubs female boxer Dina- also fetchingly known as the ‘tits of terror’- but this is put on hold as he has to sacrifice several things if he wants a career in boxing. A fight with the exiled Ajay is then set up and has a tragic outcome with Carlotta regaining the son she had lost, to the world of boxing, because of the world of boxing but not in the way she would have wanted.

Each of the performances in this production is executed with supreme confidence and resonates with a forceful power that never relents. The music which features throughout is excellent. Underworld provide the perfect blend of dark throbbing rhythms, polyrhythmic beats and emotional punch to articulate scenes with no dialogue. The section when the young trainers do a gym workout to the ever intensifying crescendos of ‘Kittens’ is a moment of perfect spellbinding synchronicity blending the corporeal with the cerebral. Likewise the climactic boxing match to ‘Beautiful Burnout’ features highly adept and imaginative choreography that cannot fail to impress.

That is the case throughout this excellent work there is no way you can fail to be impressed. From the bravura performances, multi-functional stage set, music, choreography and even the lighting, every nuance is painstakingly cared for to provide a more than aesthetically pleasing show that will leave you floored.

Firing Blanks
10
by David Marren added on 24 Aug 2010

Performed by the Fine Chisel Theatre Company and written and directed by Tom Spencer ‘Firing Blanks ‘is a new play that treats the serious subject of donor conception from different perspectives. It is a poignant, affecting work that is shot through with moments of humour and sensitivity in equal measure allowing the actors to use their skills in affording the script moments of genuine warmth and compassion that take it to a superior level. It is a simple production but one that strikes a genuine chord of human emotion throughout. Spencer handles his directing duties with strength and an obvious understanding of the actors in how to transfer the heartfelt emotions lying within his script.

The action centres on an accidental encounter between Richard and Kate-Robin McLoughlin and Holly Beasley-Garrigan respectively- at a park bench after Richard has just been informed he is unable to father a child. Kate lends a sympathetic ear and a more realistic perspective. Richard at this juncture seems more concerned about his genealogy and the social minefield he will have to navigate through being infertile. Their meetings remain haphazard but continue over a period of months with personal pasts and future dreams being locked into through flash backs and glimpses of an alternative future.

With her mother dead and never having known her father Kate extols the virtues of the alternatives claiming that the actual DNA is not as important as the love that a child is shown. Richard comes round to this way of thinking and by the end of the play we discover that his wife is indeed pregnant through a sperm donor and he is excited at the prospect of impending fatherhood.

The performances in this play are both simply outstanding. They touch on humour, heartbreak, frustration and anger lending each in turn credibility. There are many occasions of disarming charm and the idea of park bench therapy with only the ducks to bear witness is lachrymose in ideology but beautifully nuanced to garner the work a life of its own. The acoustic guitar soundtrack by James Hill-drifting in and out of the action on stage like a spectral presence- further articulates and directs scenes of its own accord and the closing scene which he features in is a spectacularly warming one. All in all this newborn is handled with tenderness whilst its future looks rosy.

4 STAR REVIEWS
Honest
8
by David Marren added on 12 Aug 2010

Like Samuel Beckett meets Brett Easton Ellis ‘Honest’- featuring a riveting performance by Trystan Gravelle in the role of Dave- is an exceptionally rare and intriguing piece of drama. Situated in a Cubby Hole in Milnes Bar the audience is seated comfortably sipping at their drinks when Dave sits down and launches into his monologue with a startling introductory line. Dave, you see, is that person that we all know from the pub. The one who has an opinion on everything and it always seems to be a negative one although he prefers to think of it as honest whilst everyone else just concludes that he is miserable rather than face up to the points he is making.

No-one is safe from the knots of resentment that are tearing Dave up on the inside. His family, work colleagues and flat mates are all subjected to a stream of invective and one senses that the bile within is harbouring a more malevolent set of characteristics and an agenda that has yet to rise to the surface. Subjects that really get his gander up include the need to celebrate every birthday, anniversary, promotion and bowel movement at work with some kind of half hearted celebration that inevitably begins and ends with the same unsatisfactory results. Much like every working day as it turns out. No-one apart from Dave can do his or her job properly. Sound familiar?

Gravelle turns in an arresting performance in this short drama. Able to adopt the characteristics and accents of every subject of his disdain it adds a malingering, nagging doubt that something malicious is lurking in his psyche. Though the dialogue in the script- the work of writer D C Moore- has fantastic attention to detail that allows the actor to envelop himself in the part Gravelle actually inhabits his character throughout the performance. The scene wherein he describes the office nerd Ben bodypopping to Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’ at one of the many staff nights out whilst the others engage in a Mexican wave is well observed and pays meticulous attention to detail in its delivery.

By hosting the show in a bar another level of authenticity is achieved. The incessant chatter of the other bar punters provides a soundtrack that could not be achieved in a conventional stage setting. At one point a dog wandered in and I am still unaware if this was scripted or not. ‘Honest ‘ is an original and intriguing work that never outstays its welcome’ At only roughly forty minutes long you recognize that you really would not want to spend much longer in the company of Dave.

Get Laid or Die Trying
8
by David Marren added on 16 Aug 2010

This laugh- a-minute lunchtime show with sex as its central topic is a little gem. Gemma Goggin is a young lady with a new form of women’s lib(ido) to discuss and doesn’t hesitate before hitting on a young man in the front row in the opening moments of her act. It is an act that is highly amusing and consistent throughout and Goggin is in total mastery of her craft able to engage the audience as she runs the gamut of sexual and dating etiquette. The audience laughed knowingly- and in some cases too knowingly- to the scenarios that Goggin describes in this fifty minute show.

Opening with a dialogue taking in the awkward social etiquette that arises after putting out on the first date we learn that in Goggin’s world following up their movements on Facebook is not, in her estimation, tantamount to stalking. Putting out on the first date also does not mean that she is the female version of Alton Towers where having bought a ticket at the beginning you can hop on for a repeat ride whenever it suits. Oh no Miss Goggin wants wined and dined and depending on the level of wining and dining provided comes a list of what she has on offer. A date at the Tattoo would only get you an angry hand job whilst a more upscale outing might induce her to give a soapy tit wank.

We then have sexual myths debunked including the nugget that to come in someone’s eye is not good, especially outside the bedroom. Goggin next runs through a list of sexual positions and the level of satisfaction that can be elicited from each one. A particularly amusing anecdote of the night she tried to get herself into a pair of Spanx-body shaping knickers- for a date conjures up images of someone trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube. We are also entreated to the mental image of her out running trying to attain sexual arousal but merely achieving erect nipples as she runs past Greggs the bakers. Another unsuccessful date involving a man with a Jeremy Beadle arm-referred to as resembling a Tyrannosaurus Rex impersonator- is also recounted and hilariously delivered to much laughter.

Goggin runs through all these tales with amazing confidence and pacing. She never falters throughout and never feels forced. She is naturally gifted as a comedian with a strong stage presence and her show is well structured with amusing insights that will make you laugh hours later when you recollect what she has said. I suggest that this lunchtime show will inspire you to switch off your TV when ‘Loose Women’ comes on and rush to the Gilded Balloon to catch this loose and very available woman instead.

2 Man No Show
Comedy
8

by David Marren added on 26 Aug 2010