Posts Tagged ‘ Fringe 2016 ’


Horse McDonald in Careful
This extremely affecting autobiographical piece of theatre is at various times heartfelt, touching and very emotionally raw. Only occasionally does it stray into over sentimentality-I am thinking particularly of the inclusion of the concrete slab of bombast that is Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’ over-killed by Leona Lewis which accompanies her wife’s wedding proposal- but most of the time steers a course in comprehension into her loneliness and isolation.
Describing growing up in the rather reticent town of Lanark in the nineteen seventies where glam rock, as portrayed by Bowie and Marc Bolan and the experimentation it encouraged, probably died as the end credits to the weekly dose of Top of the Pops fade from the screen raised her hopes briefly but eventually helped to perpetuate her loneliness.
Gender fluidity was not such a hot topic for discussion in those days and any thoughts of re-assignment was met with horror, dismay and questions about her sanity. Psychologist followed psychiatrist and talking about dreams led to filling in questionnaires before ECT was offered up as a ‘cure’.
Even her relationship with her parents which had always been good until this point suffered although it is clear that the deep love between all parties was ultimately unbreakable.
Basically a spoken word piece incorporated into theatrical prose aided by musical interludes- the Snow Patrol moment aside these are usually well chosen and fitting to the dialogue it surrounds- Careful is an extremely worthy production.
Horse herself gives a great performance never losing her stride even when describing situations, times and emotions which have obviously been harrowing and upsetting. Definitely a form of catharsis it often feels like the audience are the psychiatrists and psychologists who permeated her youth only now they are listening to what she has to say rather than languishing in their own preconceived ideas and notions.
Horse McDonald in Careful is showing at The Giled Balloon Museum until August 29th at 19.30 daily.


Attrape Moi
Attrape Moi is essentially Flip Fabrique, a six piece dance and physical theatre group from Quebec, whose show is never anything short of impressive.
Whether it be hula hoops, juggling balls, trampolines and yoyos all combined to create a thoroughly entertaining show.
The loose narrative revolves around six friends re-uniting an playing tricks on each other whilst involving themselves in escapades.
If I have a criticism of this show it is that the venue-Assembly on the Mound- lacks intimacy preventing involvement or engagement with the audience; particularly if you are up in the balcony as I was. At times it felt I was watching something on an exceptionally small television screen.
For these shows to be successful the audience has to sense some kind of tension- I saw Closer by Circa last week at the Udderbelly and you could almost bathe in the perspiration, concentration and intensity of the performance whilst getting caught up in the total palpable atmosphere- but this was non-existent for me at this show.
Yes, I was impressed by the skill and ability of the performers and of course the trust they must place and have in each other is beyond words but ultimately I felt quite disconnected from it all.
Despite this it is still a worthwhile show although I would recommend getting there as early as possible so you on’t feel you are watching the action from a distance.
Attrape Moi is at Assembly Mound at 18.00 until August 29th (not 22nd)


Growing Pains
This is truly an excellent show!
Not only has Tom Gill-surely a major talent in the making- written and produced the work but he also uses it as the platform, to give what is possibly the stand out solo performance of this year’s Fringe.
By avoiding settling into any singular genre –at one point he declares how musical theatre ruins any authenticity before bursting into song himself- and deconstructing the elements of traditional theatre then assembling them in his own unique and singular way, he creates a wholly original and thoroughly cohesive work which is compelling throughout.
The narrative hinges on his own personal bildungsroman and the characters and situations which help shape the person. Slipping out of characters and accents seamlessly- although his Jamaican accent often veers towards Irish but Gill uses this to comic effect by drawing attention to it and conversely somehow manages to add to rather than distract from the work- it is a total tour de force which sees sweat dripping off Gill as he inhabits each moment of this production with intense conviction.
The musical interludes are not anything like traditional musical theatre- thank Go- as Gill puts a totally contemporary spin on them and uses these sequences as another form of transmitting the dialogue driving the tale. They are easy to follow and not once during the show does either his or the audience’s attention waver.
I could go on and on about how impressed I was with this show- it is compelling, funny, intense, involving and so much more- but in the end the best advice I can give is go see it for yourself. Yes, go see this show!
Growing Pains is on at The Underbelly Cowgate at 16.30 until August 29th


The Elephant Man
The tragic tale of John Merrick, born with extreme physical deformities, has become a familiar one thanks to David Lynch’s classic 1980 version and David Bowie’s performance in the lead role on the Broadway stage from around the same time. Whilst obviously a more low-key offering this production from Fringe Management and Canny Creatures is no less affecting with strong, touching performances which capture the essence of the tale.
It is a beautifully paced adaptation which is perfect if you are looking for a late lunchtime/early afternoon show to see. It captures in an extremely concise manner how Merrick went from being a prize exhibit in a travelling freak show to being the toast of Victorian London society-itself something of freak show in itself- even winning admiration from royalty due to the patronage of a star of London stage and theatres, Mrs. Kendal.
Great performances all round especially from Michael Roy Andrew as Merrick who uses his body to capture the sinuous awkwardness and deformities of Merrick rather than relying on the grotesquery of make up or prosthetics. My one concern is that all five female roles were played by Kirsty Eila McIntyre when each male character had a different actor assigned. Not that McIntyre was less than capable in each of her roles-she actually excelled- but in some ways it spoke to me of women being interchangeable and indistinguishable from each other. Of course I could be wrong and it was all down to a matter of economics and practicality.
Definitely a show worth seeing and even if it doesn’t add anything to its more famous interpretation be glad at least that it certainly doesn’t detract from them either.
The Elephant Man is on at the Gilded Balloon until August 28th at 13.15 daily


This very relevant piece of theatre by Charlotte Josephine- who also acts out a variety of different roles- in collaboration with Snuff Box Theatre looks at the controversial topic of revenge porn and the shame an guilt it engenders and what actually motivates such hideous acts.
Alongside Josephine on the stage is the sole other actor Daniel Foxsmith – who also performs various roles- and the tension the two manage to produce is impressively palpable never letting up for a second. The speed perfectly captures how such situations can escalate especially after the clicking of a solitary button on a computer, phone or device can radically alter a person’s life and affect how others see them from then on.
Whilst Foxsmith is impressive in his roles it is Josephine who really seems to get inside her characters with a sinuous intensity and insight. You sense her frustration, her shame and her confusion as to why all this is happening and you feel her strength for coping with it at all.
Definitely a thoughtfully conceive and well paced piece of theatre it never fails to impress and in particular the scene where the two actors run round in circles captures the lightning speed in which it takes to change a life and a life is changed.
The dialogue is crisp, well conceived and perpetually captivating. The director Edward Stambollouian manages to coax outstanding performances and the simple but effective set and well-timed lighting contribute to the action but never distracts from it. An impressive piece of modern theatre!
Blush is on at Underbelly until August 28th at 18.00 daily (not 16th)


Back Of The Bus
Whilst a dance show on a moving bus may seem like a novel idea for the Edinburgh Fringe, for many attempting to get around town at this time of year a bus that moves at all is an experience in itself. In fact a bus that moves could actually be Fringe show in the making.
However The Java dance Theatre decided to combine the bus and dance theme and came up with their show ‘Back of the Bus’. I must admit I was curious as to how this would work and just how successful it could be; traffic is notoriously tricky at this time of year and the 4.30 show coincides with rush hour so disaster is always a likelihood, especially for anyone with time constraints.
On the day I went everything went smoothly so obviously the route- along the Meadows and through Tollcross then heading back to George Square- has been well conceived.
The show itself consists of a bus route that is interrupted by a late-comer who makes her way to the top deck in a flurry of panic, scattering crisps, popcorn and other delicacies in a frantic search for her ticket. It is amusing in a mildly charming way but verges a little too close for slapstick for my own personal tastes.
Next up another dancer appears and offers up another zany routine before the bus stops an we are all asked to disembark- luckily it wasn’t raining for a change- and regroup on the Meadows where we are encouraged to form a circle and hold hands. Unfortunately this was all a little too Daisy-Age for me; at times like these I know I should embrace my inner hippy but then I remember I don’t actually have one!
Not being able to get back on the bus quickly enough we make another stop at a treatment centre where we are entreated to some actual serious dance which is far more impressive and what I was really hoping to see all along.
It is then time to board for the last leg of the journey where another skit is performed and again some others found it more hilarious than I did. Some didn’t though!
Whilst I acknowledge that this is a very entertaining show I could not quite fathom out why it was performed on a bus other than to try to be different. The dance routines when they were performed were good enough on their own to not have to resort to such gimmickry. It all felt a little too forced and try hard for my liking and the sequence holding hands in the Meadows was not to my taste at all and felt contrived and a little pointless.
Back of the Bus is on at Assembly at 16.30 and 18.15 daily until August 28th (not 15th).


Closer By Circa
After returning to last year’s Fringe with a stripped back show ‘Close Up’ following huge success with more extravagant outings in previous years Circa return this year with an even more stripped back show than their stripped back one. The sense is that they have taken it all back to basics and simplicity but they have lost none of their verve or capacity to enthrall by doing so.
For those previously impressed by the sheer chutzpah and hyper-tense nature of their performances will not be disappointed whilst for those who are seeing this formidable troupe for the first time will be suitably impressed.
There is such fluidity in this show that it is hard to believe that the main point of reference is the human body and just what it is capable of at its physical peak. Ropes, trapezes and even what seems like a tower constructed of Ikea chairs are the minimal props which heighten the audience’s senses and create a palpable tension.
It is all brilliantly soundtracked with the likes of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’ The Velvet Underground’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ and a chilled out, eerie version of ‘Killing Moon’ the Echo and the Bunnymen classic all providing an undercurrent of tranquility.
Beautiful sequence follows beautiful sequence and each one is as impressive as its predecessor and in its own way. There are none of the usual physical pyrotechnics usually associated with shows such as these and instead the performances hinge on skill and the amazing amount of trust the performers must enlist in each other.
A most impressive show which will quietly blow your mind!
Closer is at Underbelly George Square at 18.55 daily (not 15th or 23rd)


We are all guilty of applying labels to people, things and even relationships whether we realise it or not. It is way of making distinctions and labels define who we are and what we do. Not all labels have positive effects though and this thoroughly astute and engaging show by Joe Sellman-Leava questions why we and how we label and the effects our way of looking at the world.
Early on in the performance Joe runs us through his early personal history, his family background, his upbringing and explains how he never really thought about where he came from until he attended University and a friend asked him where he came from. After explaining his background it became clear that this sis not what she meant and that what she was really enquiring about was the colour of his skin.
Explaining that his father’s family originated from India he found it strange that he had to explain himself in this way but realised that it was probably nothing compared to what his father probably had to go through. It transpires that originally the family name was Patel but his father changed it when he realised it was a hindrance when trying to attain work.
Aside from this obvious racism which has been a long-standing feature in his life Sellman-Leava shows us through a humorous Tinder exchange and extremely persuasive rhetoric how these attitudes still persist.
Despite the fact it deals with serious topics and issues which affect some more than others Labels is a thoroughly entertaining show captivating its audience from the outset. Sellman-Leava is a totally charismatic and engaging performer who has no problems gaining the audience’s attention-his smooth tones go some way to making what he says even more listenable than it already is and giving his argument a persuasive edge- and keeping it throughout the one hour duration.
Definitely thought provoking and intriguing, Labels is a show up there with the best of this year’s Fringe; definitely one worth making an effort for.
Labels is on at Pleasance Courtyard until 29th August (not 16th) at 2.15 daily


My Leonard Cohen

My Leonard Cohen is exactly what it says in its title; a collection of Cohen favourites delivered in interesting new musical settings. Much as I love the stripped back simplicity of Cohen’s original versions it would be pointless to try to replicate the hushed intimacy of his recordings as much as it would have been pointless for Jimi Hendrix to cover Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ with acoustic guitars and harmonicas.
Different interpretations are necessary otherwise the whole project could descend very quickly into cheap karaoke or more correctly, considering the price of a Fringe ticket these days, expensive karaoke.
To this end Stewart D’Arrietta and his band provide drastically different re-imaginings of some of the great man’s greatest songs. Gruffer and more impassioned than Cohen’s languid deep tones D’Arrietta’s vocals , at times reminiscent of Joe Cocker, are well suited to the more expansive arrangements.
Starting with an upbeat Everybody Knows followed in swift succession by Famous Blue Raincoat, Tower of Song, Bird on a Wire- prefaced with a touching acknowledgment to the song’s subject matter and muse of several Cohen songs Marianne Ihlen who passed away only last week- Suzanne, Dance me to the End of Love, Chelsea Hotel No.2 which regurgitated the old tale of the infamous blowjob as performed by Janis Joplin before an up beat and sing-along to one of Cohen’s greatest songs- probably my personal favourite- and yet another inspired by Ilhen , So Long Marianne which actually made me want to ‘Laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again’.
For me this was the highlight and anything after was never going to live up to this but Ain’t No Cure for Love made a valiant attempt as did everything else that followed.
One thing that became clear to anyone who hadn’t already realised was that Cohen was and remains one of the greatest lyricists in modern music but also that his songs which seem to be quite simple actually are big enough to take on bigger arrangements with added parts for emphasis without losing any of their simplicity.
Although this show is in no way groundbreaking it is still thoroughly impressive. Great performances and great songs and of course that version of So Long Marianne!
My Leonard Cohen is on at Assembly Hall at 18.15 until August 28th (not 16th)


Teatro Delusio
Teatro Delusio is essentially a theatre within a theatre and the experiences of technicians and backstage operatives performed by the extremely talented Familie Floz. It is a show with no words –although musical accompaniments by the likes of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov amongst others provide an intelligent and atmospheric dialogue of their own- and twenty nine characters portrayed by three actors with only the use of exquisitely crafted, occasionally spooky, masks and lightning quick costume changes.
The narrative hinges around backstage life in the theatre where technicians play practical jokes on each other and dangers the audience are blissfully unaware of lurk in every situation; props, lighting rigs, construction and electricity all conspire to create hidden dangers.
Moving along at its own pace this is a very confident production which is aware that skill and craft are important tools in creating an ambience and are just as effective as big bang effects.
The three actors certainly have their work cut out for them and it often seems unbelievable that there only three of them as they manage to inhabit and portray different characters at lightning speed. The masks adorning their heads are exquisite and expressive but also, as mentioned before, at times a little spooky.
However the show does drag a little towards the end – it is one hour and fifteen minutes long- and I sensed restlessness within the audience around the fifty minute mark thus making the last fifteen minutes superfluous. It is also a show which might not appeal to everyone –although it was a sell out on the day I attended- as its slow pace might not be what everyone is looking for at this early hour of the day and the promise of so much hustle and bustle on the streets. Personally I found it to be an oasis of calm and a welcome relief from the manic activity out there on the streets.
Teatro Delusio is at The Pleasance Grand until August 29th at 13.45 daily