Posts Tagged ‘ UNDERBELLY ’



Originally at the Fringe in 2013 Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag in the interim has become a successful and quite brilliant BBC production. Although she does not appear in this updated outing the baton has been handed onto Maddie Rice who although she doesn’t quite sprint ahead with it certainly holds onto it firmly.
Differing from the TV show, this is a one woman show wherein Rice sits alone on stage with only a chair as a prop and only the briefest of recorded interjections from peripheral characters, I can’t help but feel that something is lost as the protagonist’s interactions with and reactions to others is what made that show so very special. It is still an outstanding show though and Rice’s adaptation of the spiky, confrontational and acerbic Fleabag loses none of her mettle.
Focusing on the lot of what it is to be a woman in the modern world Fleabag feels as if she has little to recommend her other than sex. In fact sex is the currency she uses on a daily basis in every situation she encounters other than with her family and even then it is still bubbling close to the surface. Raunchy, explicit and direct are the mediums she uses to get across her message and although she is obsessed with pursuing her desires there is a hint of melancholy about it all; as if she is going through the motions of what is expected of her and hasn’t really considered what it is she truly desires herself as she is so busy feeding the fantasy of others and what modern culture expects of a liberated free thinking woman. She has removed herself from one stereotype and simply created a new prototype.
Defiantly confrontational Fleabag often makes for awkward listening and to anyone familiar with the production the scenarios adapted here will already be familiar. In some ways it is the greatest hits compilation of the TV series. This is no bad thing as they were such wonderful hits in the first place!
Fleabag is on at Udderbelly George Square until August 27th.



Now this is what you call a show!
Gripping from its slow erotic beginnings, as sinuous bodies twist and meld into almost inhuman forms to the beautiful strains of a soothing violin which becomes more intense then frantic as the bodies become even more mellifluous, right through until its exhausting conclusion when all ten bodies roll around in choreographed unison.
Focusing on how much the human body can take and how far it can push itself the ten acrobats onstage push themselves to extremes creating human towers, throwing themselves across the stage, contorting and twisting into fantastical shapes, gliding and hanging from ropes and relying on each other and their own primal instincts continually whilst making it all look so effortless.
To say that I was spellbound by this performance would be an understatement. There was not one moment where I felt I could take my eyes away from the many things that were happening on the stage; often simultaneously. Obviously in peak condition the ten performers seemed to not even break sweat as they shifted gracefully from one routine to another until the whole show seemed seamless.The dynamism and obvious silent rapport the performers have with each other never fails to impress and the trust between them is obvious to any spectator.
Certainly a Fringe Highlight Circa have become a regular fixture and every year not only do they deliver but every year they seem to take things a step further. Definitely a show I would recommend to anyone and probably the best thing I have seen yet this year. And this has been a good year!
Circa: Humans is on at Underbelly Circus Hub on The Meadows until August 28th at 8pm

Fag/ Stag

Fag/ Stag

Sometimes the simplest execution with an inventive, witty and thought provoking script is all that is needed to make a Fringe show a success. In the case of Fag/ Stag two guys, Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs, sit on two stools discussing the pros and cons of their slightly askew bromance and the result is a sharp, provocative insight into the different male worlds of straight and gay types and where the differences and similarities lie and in what way this affects such relationships.
Both Jimmy (Fowler) and Corgan (Isaacs) hve at some point dated a girl Tamara and although Jimmy is now gay and in a relationship with Tim he is closer to Corgan who is still heartbroken over the ending of his relationship with Tamara. Tamara herself is now about to be married and the premise of this production is the month long lead up to her nuptials and resides in a habitat of Grindr, Tinder, drunken nights out, ambiguous sexuality and computer games.
The show is shot through with dry, sarky humour, wanton putdowns and misguided differing perspectives on the very same situations but is also enlightening as it shows how the gay and straight worlds can collide and collude but raises the question that the differing sexualities raises a whole set of other issues. Although there is never any explicit sexual tension between Jimmy and Corgan there is an implicit sense that there relationship is built on affection and an understanding that is someway beyond sexuality. This is an area that is rarely discussed or even addressed in such matters.
The script is fast paced and captures both the isolation and pressure that both types are expected to conform to and where this leads them in the wrong decisions they often make. It impressively takes its time to unfold never feeling forced or rushed, allowing the audience to absorb what is being said.
Definitely an impressive show with lots to recommend it, Fag/ Stag takes the simplest of premises and runs with them.
Fag/ Stag is on at Underbelly Belly Button until August 28th at 4pm.


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!


Almost from the outset of this intriguing show we are plunged into darkness and my guess is that most of the audience were still in the dark as to what had just happened to them throughout this seventy minute experience long after the lights had gone up at its conclusion. This is a good thing by the way, a very good thing!
On entering we are told that we need a safety word, ‘Cut’, if we want to leave the proceedings at any time during the show, or journey as it would transpire; on the night I attended this introduction proved so unsettling that one attendee immediately raised her hand and left before any action even took place. Their loss.
Settling into our seats we are almost immediately plunged into darkness and when they go up we find ourselves on a plane. The lone performer, Hannah Norris, then leads us through the motions of an in-flight attendant but there is something especially creepy about this particular role and performance.
At later junctures we are on a train or trapped behind Clingfilm screens with light reflecting and refracting as a well scored original soundtrack adds further tension to an already intense experience.
At several points Norris moves around so swiftly and silently in the dark I am almost convinced that she is one of two twins, as often not only has her character changed but her appearance seems to have altered slightly. It is this sense of mystique and the loss of one of our senses-in the dark nothing can be seen or observed- that adds another dimension to what is already becoming a guessing game.
Norris uses only minimal props to change from controlling predator to victim- something as subtle as letting her hair out of its pony-tail changes the feel of her character totally- and holds us in her thrall throughout the whole performance.
There is something David Lynchian about this whole show and anyone who is a fan of his work-I am very much in that camp- will find this totally arresting and completely irresistible. It is definitely the most intriguing and original work I have seen in this year’s Fringe where these particular attributes have been very thin on the ground. Definitely recommended for those who want a theatrical experience to remember and think about!
Cut is at Underbelly Med Quad at 19.00 until August 29th


Exactly Like You
Written and performed by Lotte Rice ‘Exactly Like You’ is driven by its creators love of poetry and the inspiring voice and music of one of the 20th century’s great talents Nina Simone. It is an ambitious project and one which often reaches the heights it so obviously aspires to but as a whole fails to cohere effectively enough due to the nebulous nature of its ambitions; on occasion it feels as if it is trying just a little too hard.
Told through the experiences of Abbie, who is still grieving the recent loss of the grandmother she obviously adored. A shared love of music and especially Nina Simone function as a form of catharsis as she deals with the mundanities of her life; heavy drinking sessions, difficult work colleagues and sexual exploits.
The story shifts from scene to scene fluently enough and Rice manages to inhabit several different characters with consummate ease whilst proving along the way that she is no slouch in the singing department herself.
Where the production falls short however is that there is just too much going on and this fails to disguise the weakness of the plot strands which are just a little too thin. It is a courageous show however and certainly not without merit, the scene where Rice drags herself along whilst drunk is a mastery of elastic limbs and quite hilarious but it would be interesting to see Rice’s obvious talents used in a more cohesive show or preferably even an ensemble production. There are just too many of these one actor shows at the Fringe these days but unfortunately this one doesn’t stand out enough to quite make it as a must see!
Exactly Like You is at Underbelly Cowgate at 15.10 daily until August 28th


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


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)


Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer
Penny Arcade’s background is legendary: Warhol Superstar and acolyte, Friend of Quentin Crisp and Queen of the New York Avant Garde. However all of these pale into insignificance when left to stand alone without these reference points and only her witty, satirical, dissecting and very quotable observations on society –focussing heavily on New York- where she becomes a force on her own to be reckoned with, listened to and taken note of. Definitely a Fringe highlight this year Arcade’s verve and chutzpah reduces the nightly fireworks taking place up at the Castle to mere fizzle. Here at the Underbelly is where the real fireworks are!
There is little pretence about Arcade as, unlike many other acts. she actually wanders around the venue greeting and chatting to the audience as they enter thus removing the barrier that usually exists between artist and observer. At once we empathise as she connects on a down to earth level that relaxes and makes us warm to her instantaneously.
Not having appeared at the Fringe for several years she begins with a wry comment about it now being all about selling alcohol and how the financial success of shows generally relies on big advertising budgets. The analogy is then applied to New York’s arty and creative scenes which have also been appropriated by big business and gentrified.
Gentrification is a big theme in Arcade’s spiel and one which lies at the core of what she thinks is amiss in the world today.
Although most of her show focuses on New York and how it has changed she does also have very real concerns about all the crime in Midsomer, especially the murders. Certainly if the ITV programme is to be believed she has a point as the crime rate per head and the chances of being murdered are extremely high.
Mediocrity is the new black, the Big Apple has become the Big Cupcake, ageing is failing and Internet life support are just some of the more memorable phrases which are tossed out like confetti over a crowd more than eager to be smothered in them. A run through of the decades from the sixties onwards and what each has meant to her especially is riveting especially when revealing she hated each one at the time, has no truck with nostalgia and believes in living in the present.
Soundtracked by her longstanding musical director who played such diverse tracks as the Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’, ‘I’ll Take You There’ by The Staple Singers, ‘The End’ and Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ at appropriate moments which gave the show extra shape and colour. Not that Arcade lacks shape, colour or anything else.
Do yourself a favour and go and see this show as although it focuses on how seeking validation from others is pointless until you can validate yourself it is one step forward towards attaining that validation. Oh, and it is also fun!
Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer is at The Underbelly until August 31st (not the 17th and 24th)


Tina C- Her Story
Returning to the Fringe after several years sabbatical Christopher Green returns with his alter ego the exquisitely attired and supremely talented country and western star, Tina C.
A great creation Tina C makes it clear from the outset that this is not a normal show and it is in fact a book launch for her life story, ‘Total and Utter Country’ but as she is such a kind-hearted, altruistic soul she will do a few numbers for her expectant public anyway.
Thus we are entreated to such musical delights as ‘I Made Your Bed’, ‘I Am America’, ‘Tick My Box’ and the universally prophetic ‘I’d Rather be Thin and Unhappy than Fat and in Love’. There was also a false start with another number ‘Shock and Awe’ after a technical hitch which will probably mean that particular technical team will never work in Eh 14 ever again. Meanwhile along the way there was just enough o Yee Ha’s and Hell Yeah’s to remind us that Tina C is the Post Feminist Queen of Nashville. Whatever that means!
‘ Tina C- Her Story’ is only here for a limited run at this years Fringe and if you want to catch it –And I very much suggest you do- then best get in there this weekend. If nothing else it is worth it for the line dancing alone!
Tina C –Her Story is at The Underbelly Topside at 7,30pm until August 17th