Posts Tagged ‘ PLEASANCE ’



An imagined re-fashioning of Ken Loach’s social commentary film of 1966 Cathy Come Home, this production by Cardboard Citizens written by Ali Taylor and directed by Adrian Jackson called simply Cathy is a powerful and thought-provoking work which looks at how although we are supposed to be a civilised society it is still possible for someone to be failed by the system, through no discernible fault of their own. It captures perfectly one person’s spiralling descent into a nightmare situation from which it seems there is little chance of resolution, escape or halting.
The drama revolves around a Cathy, a single parent, and her daughter Danielle who have lived in private accommodation for years but recently she has got behind with her rent. Her landlord, spotting an opportunity of new tenants at increased prices due to the recent gentrification of the area, hands her an eviction notice unless she can meet his demands.
Unable to meet this ultimatum Cathy gathers Danielle, who is close to sitting her GSCSE’s and could really do without such upheavals at an already stressful time, and moves into emergency housing for supposedly 33 days when a more permanent solution will apparently be offered. Of course 33 days becomes 97 days and when an offer is made it is for another part of the country and if it is refused then social services will become involved and mother and child could be separated.
Suffice to say that the situation becomes progressively worse and Cathy’s predicament worsens and worsens until she hits rock bottom.
This production is a very powerful work and Cathy Owen in the title role is quite outstanding and she is ably supported by a small but effective and flexible cast: Hayley Wareham, Amy Loughton and Alex Jones. It certainly gives you something to consider in that on the surface there have been huge changes in social care but not so many that situations, such as Cathy’s, can still occur. It feels unnecessary and the system which is supposedly in place to prevent things such as this occurring can, if abused or not thought out properly, sometimes do more harm than good.
A powerful, thought-provoking work !
Cathy is on at Pleasance Dome Aug 5th-26th (not 14th) at 3,30pm


Just an Observation
So the last weekend of the Fringe/Festival is upon us already!
Somehow it feels like it is already over and for me personally I don’t feel that this year it ever really got started.
No doubt at sometime over the next few weeks some ‘official’ will use the media to report that it has been the busiest and most successful one yet when in fact this is so far from the truth. Granted more money may have changed hands- have you noticed the price of tickets for most shows? – But in most other ways this year’s Fringe has been far from successful.
The streets are as annoyingly busy as ever-perhaps even more so- and the traffic is so slow it is hard to differentiate between driving and being parked but there has still been nowhere as near as many people around the venues or even in them as there usually are. Mind you when shows are £10 upwards on average, a pint of lager is over a fiver and six pound is the going rate for a bacon roll-re-named pulled pork and served by a bearded hipster in denim tights (that’s just the girls by the way) so that makes it a bargain obviously- or even more for a burger then it is an expensive night out even if you are doing it on the cheap.
Of course the weather has not helped matters either. The Fringe in sunshine is a totally different beast to the Fringe in perpetual grey, drizzle, rain and wind and unfortunately this year these are what we have had for the most part. Getting wet queuing for shows then drinking warm beer in cold outdoor venues is not my idea of a good night out. Obviously the weather cannot be helped but it really does alter the whole experience.
What about the shows then?
The Fringe is supposed to be at the cutting edge of new talent with innovation and experimental ideas offering an insight into the next big happening thing. Or so we are led to believe.
However I have not seen much evidence of anything groundbreaking or innovative this year and several shows were ones I missed last year due to a busy schedule so were returning productions, admittedly with a tweak here and there, so hardly cutting edge.
Perhaps the fact that 2016 has been such a pivotal year in cultural change –the deaths of Bowie, Prince and Muhammad Ali amongst others then there is the little matter of Brexit here and the rise of Trump across the Atlantic- means that real life has afforded us more incredible drama than anything the theatre could produce and as such has been rendered almost redundant. Life no longer simply imitates art it would seem it now dictates it.
Also things have moved at such a swift pace this last eight months that capturing anything topical has proved harder than usual. Who needs to go to the Fringe for thought-provoking drama when the news requires you to suspend your belief almost on a daily basis?
As for the shows which have stood out for me and worth catching over this last weekend, well there is Trainspotting at Assembly, The Club at The Gilded Balloon, Boris:World King at The Pleasance Growing Pains and Cut at Underbelly all on until Monday whilst Anohni’s one off live performance of one of the year’s best albums, Hopelessness, at the Playhouse ranks as one of the best and most modern live music shows I have seen in years and possibly the most memorable show of the last month.
So this time next week the streets will be clear, the traffic returned to normal and as habit dictates the sun will probably have returned. There will of course still be plenty to complain about though as Parliament returns soon with our new unelected Prime Minister and whatever schemes she has cooked up for us over her summer vacation. I imagine soon we will be wishing the Fringe back to at least distract us from how bad things are likely to get!


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

Trans Scripts

Trans Scripts
Gender issues are both relevant and prevalent at Fringe 2015 with many shows focussing on its issues and themes. For the mainstream masses who like to dip their toe in the lukewarm water of the subject and feel they are pushing their own boundaries there is always the Ladyboys to gawp at but for those who want something which focuses on the real life problems and concerns then this excellent play by Paul Lucas which uses the words of real life transgender women to great and challenging effect is far more worthwhile and in its own way just as glamorous.
With a stark stage with only five boxes strewn casually around, the show begins with childhood reflections and the first stirrings of gender difference. Different eras from the late fifties to the present day are referred to showing the generational span of the women being represented here. One thing that each era seems to recognise is that people tend to talk about them rather than to them and that the sense of difference is there from pretty early on in life.
With the five actresses on stage weaving their stories in and out of each other a great cohesion is achieved even though each of their own individual experiences is very different.
Agreeing on the fact that the Stonewall riots of 1969 were the major factor on the gay revolution of the seventies were originally started by the transgender population of New York at this time. However frustration set in when the whole movement got co-opted by white gay males, who claimed it as their own and in the process ostracised the transgender revolutionaries who actually set the ball rolling, setting their cause back years as an outcome. Therefore whilst gay men became more and more socially acceptable and absorbed into culture transgender women felt themselves more and more exiled into some sort of social Siberia. Despite this setback empowerment from being transgender is one of the things this play celebrates and recognises and there is recognition also that women have been fighting for basic rights for even longer than they have so one step forward usually always means several steps back.
At one point an argument erupts amongst the women on stage when it is revealed that many transgender women do not go for full genital reconstruction surgery. Accusations and recriminations ensue and it becomes clear that the reason why so many don’t go the full way is because their outward appearance is more important than genital surgery as this allows them to blend in and disappear.
Trans Scripts is an extremely powerful, interesting and intelligent piece of work which leaves its audience feeling enlightened, exhilarated and enthralled. A standing ovation greeted the performers at its dénouement as the performances, script and setting all melded together to create a show which is totally worthwhile.
Trans Scripts is at the Pleasance Courtyard at 3pm daily until August 31st



I had high hopes for this show advertising itself as the traditional meets the modern. The thought of the likes of Daft Punk, Sam Smith, Afrojack and Paloma Faith songs-not to mention a little Chopin- accompanying ballet appealed to me and I was curious as to how this juxtaposition was going to work. However I must admit to being a little disappointed in the overall conservative approach of this production.
Starting with a slow evocative piece before moving into Giorgio Moroder territory the show starts off well enough. However after this interesting start things lapse into mainstream territory pretty quickly and whilst it might work in a normal environment it doesn’t quite cut it during the Edinburgh Fringe when there is such a high standard of interesting, bold and innovative works such as ‘Idiot Syncrasy’ at Summerhall which really does push boundaries and raise expectations.
There is nothing ostensibly wrong with this show as the dancing is exquisite and the music more than competent it is just that it never really goes anywhere and the narrative-if there is one- not clearly defined thus making it hard to follow.Definitely a show that has not realised its potential and it is unfortunate as the premise promised so much more!
Balletronic is on at The Pleasance Grand until August 31st(not the 18th) at 9.30pm


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!


This show by The Paper Birds-namely Jemma McDonnell, Kylie Walsh and Shane Durrant- focuses on an issue which affects most of us in our pursuit of keeping up with modern life as well as contemporaries, namely borrowing money via various means and the debt that this automatically incurs. Canvassed from real life members of the public, the facts and stories related throughout this show may be random but they relate to a vast majority of the public as each tale is laced with a sense of familiarity and whilst waking up in the middle of the night in a sweaty panic is far removed from simply putting it out of your mind and ignoring the problem at the same point both have a remarkably similar outcome in that they don’t actually deal with the problem in any active way.
Well presented the show is basic but effective-it would be churlish if it was a big budget production- and one feels that a lack of funds available to the participants has provided an active muse. Each of the trio on stage inhabits their various roles with consummate ease and the whirring sounds and motions which represent the being caught up in more debt, financial misunderstanding and encroaching cash chaos is extremely effective and summarises the feelings many of us have inside our heads when presented with our own financial situation; confusion blurred with even more confusion all operating at a seemingly breakneck speed.
The production offers up the neat summary that constant spending will only lead most of us into more debt but, at the same time, only constant spending can rescue the economy so it is a vicious circle our society and culture can’t get out of. More importantly it is a circle those in overall charge of our finances cannot afford to let us out of. Not exactly an appetising thought is it?
‘Broke’ looks at contemporary issues in an intelligent and entertaining way with minimal fuss. It certainly provides food for thought; even if the food for thought comes not from that least trusted of financial institutions, the bank, but instead from one of those current saviours of society, a food-bank.


Fringe Mania 2014

And so it begins!
Whilst the Fringe used to confine itself to August, over the last few years it has made tentative steps into July and this year continues this new tradition. Likewise the previews for shows generally took place on the Thursday and Friday before the opening weekend but this year sees many previews today –Wednesday- with the shows proper starting rather tomorrow or Friday.
First things first though and the inevitable round of press launches must be got out of the way although this evening these will be cut short as I have a date with the legendary Burt Bacharach who at eighty six may be in the winter of his years but his music continues to spread the eternal youthful optimism of summer; what the world does definitely need now is love! And plenty of it too!
Back to the fringe however and my first show proper tomorrow comes from yet another great contributor to music and youthful optimism- maybe not so much optimism as intent but at the time it offered hope so this is optimism as far as I am concerned- Glen Matlock formerly of the Sex Pistols. Ousted from the band at their breakthrough point in favour of an untalented but more obvious poster boy, Sid Vicious, Matlock was temporarily displaced from his place in history despite having contributed many of the band’s best musical numbers. This show allows him to reassert his input and will include readings from his autobiography: ‘Glen Matlock: I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol’ is at Assembly George Square until August 5th at 7.30 pm.
Next on my agenda is another legend thrown up by the punk movement, Julie Burchill. Definitely a divisive figure-loathe or despise her is perhaps the best way to describe her- Burchill is probably one of our better known journalists although controversy rather than news is what she courts.
I plan on following this show up with another figure form the 20th century who was as important and influential in his own way to a certain section of our culture, Quentin Crisp.
To finish off my first day of shows I plan on taking in Ruaraidh Murray’s new show ‘Boxman’. Murray has established himself as a force to be reckoned with over the last two Fringes and as an Edinburgh native who returns home during this time of year to perform his own work- based in London he has a successful career in the industry- and his shows are always very corporeal and high octane. All of these shows are on at the Gilded Balloon and start at 1.45, 3.00 and 4.15 respectively.
The rest of the weekend includes a show about Richard Burton, an adaptation of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and Mark Ravenhill’s ‘Product’ amongst others but reviews will be posted several times during the day to keep you updated and in the know.
Another show for your diaries however is a chat show/ discussion type event taking place over two nights- 11th and 12th August- with writer and cultural commentator John Robb hosting the chair and engaging in discussions about everything musical and anarchic. Guests are being split into tow gender specific- or not so in some cases- nights with the first seeing Faye Fife from the Rezillos guest with The Twinsets a Teen Canteener and the troublesome one from The Trama Dolls. The second night includes The Merrylees, Roy Moller a Neu Reekie representative and writer Neil Cooper. Starting at 11pm in Bob and Miss Behave’s Bookshop in Holyrood Road this is likely to be a busy and in demand event so best get there early.
Off now to prepare for the press launches which usually find me cornered like a victim of flesh eating zombies in ’28 Days Later’ once performers find out I am a reviewer. It takes more than a baying crowd however to get me into their shows. I usually find bribery, corruption and the offer of a free meal work better!




So far my run of Fringe shows for 2013 has been pretty outstanding but I was aware that my run of excellent shows had to end at some point. Unfortunately that moment happened pretty much within the first few minutes of this David Byrne written and directed production of Kubrick3 as  I found  four people playing different facets of the same character-Alan Conway-an irritation rather than innovation. The high standards I have thus far encountered this year may have spoilt me but I felt that this show fell short of what outstanding drama could be. It was all not bad however as some of the observations were quite wry.

 The drama revolved around a non-entity of dubious background who in order to spice up his otherwise mundane existence decided to start telling people he met that he was Academy Award winning director Stanley Kubrick. Despite knowing nothing about him, not resembling him in the slightest or even being American it was a ruse which seemed to work for him over  three year period with few questioning his identity. Eventually his masquerading as the director was discovered and the media , public  and even Kubrick himself was fascinated by the impersonator and his outladish chutzpah and thus we have this play.

 This production fell short on several levels for me. I do believe there is a good play about Conway’s impersonation of Kubrick in this story unfortunately Kubrick3 is not it.


Kubrick3 is on at The Pleasance  Courtyard at 7.10pm  until August 26th


The Confessions of Gordon Brown


 This one man show focusses on the political backstabbing and sub plots which surrounded the least charismatic Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in living memory although as it has since turned out perhaps he will not remain not the least loved. It is a bold statement by writer and director Kevin Toolis and a features a strong performance by Ian Grieve despite interruptions from latecomers and an irritating mobile phone which rang periodically throughout the hour long duration. Fortunately Grieve was confident in his role as the belligerent curmudgeon and dealt with the unscripted interruptions in much the fashion you would have imagined Brown would have.

 Running the gamut of what makes a politician successful-height, hair and teeth it would seem- Brown went onto berate many of those who stood in his way on his route to becoming Prime Minister.  He draws attention to the dichotomy of combining showbusiness with politics and  remains resolutely politician first and showman as an occasional afterthought – often not at all- attacking others for falling prey to media friendly temptation and embracing the limelight a litltle too readily.

Naturally Tony Blair receives the bulk of his bile but Alistair Darling and Ed Milliband, don’t escape unscathed either. The unfortunate incident where he dealt with a constituent on what was to be his defeated campaign trail and was recorded calling her a ‘Bigot’ is dealt with hilariously but also with a certain amount of compassion. Obviously not a people person he was probably the least likely candidate for a Prime Minister there has been in decades. Whilst the war in Iraq will be remembered as the policy which destroyed his predecessor one can only imagine that was a minor scuffle compared to the war between these two polar opposites supposedly of the same party.

 This show is a worthwhile addition to the Fringe this year and Grieve manges to remain consistent throughout. At the end you may still not love Gordon Brown but with hindsight as to what came next it may actually force you to reassess  his efforts and hold him in higher regard during his short term in office.


The Confessions of Gordon Brown is showing at The Pleasance Courtyard at 1.45pm until August 26th.