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So, people, we've made it to Week 3 of the Edinburgh Fringe 2010, let's all take a moment to congratulate ourselves. It's easy to think, as Week Three kicks in, that the festival is basically over, but there is so much more still to come.

And if you don't believe me, tune in to tomorrow's ThreeWeeks iDaily where I'll say just that, all over again, but with speaking like. I'll also tell you about some very fine shows and events yet to happen, so do tune in and/or sign up.

Meanwhile, we have a load more reviews for you here in the eDaily, most of shows still with plenty of performances to go. But First this...
Jim Higo has been working hard to drum up an audience for his show...
They say there is no such thing as bad publicity but try telling that to John Leslie! Bringing my first ever show to Edinburgh I have been determined to explore every opportunity for exposure.

Following one of my more disappointing audience turn outs, I decided to flyer every house near the venue early the next morning. Barely awake, I wandered through the streets before it dawned on me that I was actually flyering the local funeral parlour. Flyering can feel a bit like raising the dead sometimes but at last I'd found that captive audience I'd been looking for!

My venue is The Argyle which is just beyond the Meadows in a residential area. While flyering around the local shops and houses and I chanced upon a rather attractive young lady who, for some reason, captured my full attention. She was carrying two heavy bags so I took them from her as we walked and talked. She listened intently as we clambered uphill for about 400 metres before she stopped abruptly, took both bags and my flyer, dumped them in a skip and walked off. Worryingly I think this scenario may have been a metaphor for all my relationships with women!

My biggest, but purely unintentional, faux pas was on a sunny day last week. I took the chance to charm the youngsters in The Meadows with some chat, some sweets and a few bits from the show. All was going well as I moved from group to group leaving flyers and lemon bon bons, and I felt happy that my advancing years had not stopped me bonding with the kids.

After about twenty minutes I realised that I was being followed by two mounted policemen (on horseback not framed and on a wall) who were filming me. Like most performers, I'm drawn to a camera, like Kerry Katona is to chips and cigs, so I couldn't resist checking that they weren't from the 'Culture Show' before deciding to make a hasty departure while singing "Everyone's gone to the Moon".

My show is getting a fantastic response from audiences so please come and see it in the final week while I still have my freedom.


Jim Higo 'I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down', Laughing Horse @ The Argyle, 1 - 2Aug, 1.15pm (2.15pm), free.



The Red Bus Children's Show
The Red Bus
Children and public transport may fail under most circumstances to conjure up images of fun, but the arrival of a certain bus to the meadows goes some way to disputing that. Shiny and red and charmingly decorated with bunting, this restored London bus must surely be a contender for the award for most novel Fringe venue! Inside, children ascend the stairs to the top deck and are treated to a delightful half-hour of storytelling, puppetry and song. Performances run throughout the day with different time slots featuring different storytellers and a different target age group. Whichever time of day you do choose to attend, however, the friendly team at The Red Bus endeavour to entertain all concerned. Festival fun for everyone, indeed!
The Red Bus, The Meadows, 6 - 30 Aug (not 27), times vary, £5.00, fpp 17.
tw rating 4/5

Bouncy Castle Productions
'Sparkleshark' is a series of disappointments. Firstly, there are no sharks in sight and only a smidgen of sparkle, let alone a sparkly shark. Secondly, it isn't suitable for ages 0+ like the blurb states (8+ minimum), meaning families walk out. Thirdly, crew members and company friends distractingly laugh and stamp like hyenas at apparent in-jokes that aren't funny to anyone else, and the ensuing sense of un-professionalism puts a downer on an already sub-standard experience. The tale of teen friendships, fallouts and the power of storytelling are tedious, although Alex Harding as gawky Jake is reasonably watchable. It's almost like patronising, moralising educational theatre and the ending is a huge pile of unoriginal cheese. It's well meaning, but misses the mark entirely.
theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall, 14 - 28 Aug, 1.10pm (2.10pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp 18.
tw rating 1/5

The Wind In The Willows
Not Cricket Productions
Kenneth Grahame's classic literary tale of the mischievous and conceited Toad and his well-meaning chums Badger, Ratty and Mole is brought to life in this energetic stage production, and the cast perform extremely well to humorously convey the charming characters of the book. Despite this, however, it is clear that the anthropomorphic theme causes confusion with some younger audience members. Nevertheless, the inclusion of song, dance, fantastic costumes and the fact that the characters make excellent use of the stage - meandering in and out of the audience and incorporating light-hearted asides - ensures even the youngest audience members do not leave disappointed. Overall, a very professional and promising production, but probably best appreciated by an audience of slightly older children.
C too, 5 - 30 Aug, 3.45pm (4.45pm), £5.50 - £9.50, fpp 19.
tw rating 3/5


Meet Chloe and Dave
Couch Productions
Three pensioners smuggling wine to Blackpool delivered the funniest moment in this multimedia show - it's just a pity that they only appeared on film. On stage, this comedy duo does have an interesting relationship: Dave is an arrogant, lazy 'lad' who moved in with geeky, proactive and squeaky-clean Chloe in an attempt to get himself back on track. Sadly, the banter between the two seems forced and both performers try too hard to salvage laughs, leading to some painfully awkward scenes. However, they work very effectively on screen and the filmed trip to Blackpool is a highlight: There are some very funny moments, but overall, this is a disappointing show.
The Space on the Mile@ Jury's Inn, 6 - 14 Aug (not 8), 9.10pm (9.55pm), £5.00 - £6.00, ffp 96.
tw rating 2/5

Russell Kane: Smokescreens and Castles
Avalon Promotions Ltd
Whereas I previously followed the doctrines of Christianity, I now only follow Russell Kane. Kane's boundless energy, obsessive duck-step pacing and fascination with linguistics add to his comic charm and make for a fantastic retelling of his early years, which centres around both a physical and metaphorical castle pasted with endearing photos from his childhood. This educated Essex boy is like Russell Brand, minus the mane and sexual promiscuity, but with lashings of likeability and truth. Kane treats his audience like long-lost friends and his show is not only hilariously funny, but also captivating, intelligent and touching. This comedian is already a rapidly rising star, so catch him while you can.
Pleasance Courtyard, 4 - 29 Aug (not 11, 18) 9.10pm (10.10pm), £9.00 - £12.50, ffp 118.
tw rating 5/5

Working Class Zeroes: Mab Jones and Kevin Coleman - Free
Mab Jones and Kevin Coleman/ PBH's Free Fringe
This show is divided into two sections between the poet Mab Jones and comedian Kevin Coleman. The poetry was good, and had an edge - as Jones recited her verses about politics, the church and her personal life, she described the show as 'rude and bitter' (which I had to agree with). However, even though most of her verses were about failure, be it her own or her parents', they were still funny and surprising. Comedian Coleman, on the other hand, added 'aggressive' to rude and bitter, and took the opportunity of being on stage to simply rant about the establishment, being fat and having no money, so the show ended up being quite serious. Let's remember people, this is supposed to be comedy.
The Banshee Labyrinth, 7 - 17 Aug (not 12), 5.10 pm (6.10pm), free, fpp 140.
tw rating 2/5

Andrew Lawrence: The Too Ugly For Television Tour 2010
Chambers Management
Andrew Lawrence. Gets. Angry. But if everyone could turn their gripes into such comic outpourings, the world would be a much more enjoyable place to live in. Lawrence zips through his hour-long set with understated energy, pouring scorn on the stupidity, arrogance and rudeness that we all experience on a daily basis. Lawrence's stories invariably focus on a prolonged conversation between two people and his impressions are magnificent; a particularly comic gem is the parody of his Brummie housemate and the lengths Lawrence goes to in order to hear the words 'monster munch'. His diatribes are fast-paced, always elaborately worded and never dull. There's a huge range of comedians to choose from at the Fringe, but Andrew Lawrence is unmissable.
Pleasance Courtyard, 7 - 29 Aug (not 16), 9.20pm, £7.00 - £10.00, fpp 26.
tw rating 5/5

The Antics - Fringing on the Ridiculous
It always seems churlish to whale on young burgeoning talent. Fortunately, the gentleman improv troupe 'The Antics' didn't seem to have any. Their hour-long show felt sloppy and self-indulgent - the actors all seemed too concerned with standing out to feed off each other's energy or assist each other. There was also a notable dearth of creativity in their gags, and it seemed unlikely the company had ever really practised thinking on their feet. Charm can get you a long way in an improv show, but The Antics all seemed so self-satisfied it was difficult to forgive them their lack of expertise. If Edinburgh is a proving ground for young talent, this show proved The Antics are in need of much more practice.
Sweet Grassmarket, 16 - 22 Aug, 5.00pm (6.00pm), £8.00, fpp 28.
tw rating 1/5

The Two (not so) Gentlemen of Comedy Present: Comede Varite Totale - Free
The Two (not so) Gentlemen/ PBH's Free Fringe
There's usually a chance with a free show that it's going to be variable, and this is no exception, especially in light of the format: the relevance of this review is questionable, as the line-up of this show changes every day, but one thing's for certain, headliner Kev Orkian is a star in the making. A cross between Borat and Bill Bailey, virtuoso pianist Orkian treated the audience to his faux-Armenian musings, a hilarious rendition of Elton John's 'I'm Still Standing' and a mesmerising blues piece to finish. While many comedians discuss little more than their middle class foibles - and the forgettable pair who preceded him did this exclusively - Orkian offers something exceptional.
The Banshee Labyrinth, 7 - 28 Aug (not 8, 15, 22), 4.45pm (5.40pm), free, fpp 137.
tw rating 3/5

Best Of Irish Comedy
Stand Comedy Club
If all Irish people are this funny, then the Republic is definitely the place to visit. From the MC to the three acts - all four possessed superb comic timing and spontaneity with the audience, and whether the crowd was intoxicated by alcohol, comic material or both - the fun never seemed to stop. Some of the topics were well rehearsed - there were some great anecdotes about the life of an unknown comedian, but most of the comedy gold came from improvisation. The only female comedian (named Mary of course), was the opening act and what an opening act she was; taking the audience on a non-stop rollercoaster ride of stereotypes, Sudoku pauses and hilarious quotations - a definite thigh slapper of a show.
Stand Comedy Club III & IV, 6 - 29Aug, 6.05pm (7.20pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp 34.
tw rating 5/5

Lee Goodall: Gelomancy - Free
As everyone who fancies themselves as a bit of a wit knows; if you have to explain a joke, it ceases to be funny. So if say, a person spent an entire hour analysing the derivation of comedy, imagine how unfunny that would be: Unfortunately, that's exactly what Lee Goodall did, in a desultory show that extracted few laughs from a bawdy audience (a large scale under-achievement). Using a booklet to theorise on comedy, a history of comedy, and a higher purpose for comedy, the show's format quickly became tiresome as Goodall veered from guiltily telling Bernard Manning jokes to offering right-on sermons on various subjects. As he spends most of his time teaching secondary school kids in his native Walsall; on this showing, Goodall should stick to the day job.
Laughing Horse @ The Hive, 14 - 15 Aug, 12.30pm (1.30pm), free, fpp 87.
tw rating 2/5

Confessions of a Smart Wrestling Fan
Apath Productions
I certainly don't know my WWF from my WCW and I definitely didn't think I cared before Liam Mullan showed me the light. This Fringe virgin's free one hour show was heavy on the type of fan based minutia one only finds in the dark spaces of internet chat rooms, but his infectious enthusiasm carried the show. Judging from the audience reactions, those who know the Graveripper is a wrestler rather than a nightmare get more out of it and his occasional dalliances into observational comedy were less convincing and several jokes fell flat, but for a free show with complimentary biscuits, 'Confessions of a Smart Wrestling' fan is not a bad option for an afternoon's entertainment.
Laughing Horse @ Edinburgh City Football Club, 5 - 29 Aug (not 16), 7.15pm (8.15pm), free, fpp 49.
tw rating 3/5

The Dog That Ate Your Birthday Cake
PBH Free Fringe
Comedy is a subjective thing. What elicits crazy rolling belly laughs from me may barely curl your upper lip. There is, however, one desperately bad sign when watching stand-up comedy: if you are in a room of a hundred people, all drinking, most drunk, and there's not so much as a titter, it's a bit of a no-brainer: the show must be rubbish. So it is with 'The Dog That Ate Your Birthday Cake,' a free stand-up show featuring a rota of comedians who flounder and fret upon the stage in turn. Nothing even distinguishes this from the myriad other bad comedy shows on offer at the moment: it's just witless and dull. Not worth your time.
Base Nightclub, 7 - 28 Aug, 5.00pm (5.55pm), free, fpp 56.
tw rating 1/5

How To Be A Complete And Utter Loser On Stage, In Life And Everywhere
Alan B/PBH's Free Fringe
Alan B's material is weak, traditional fare, based around his lack of success with women and his ethnicity, as well as some song lyrics he has re-written to be less funny than the originals. He seemed to take for granted a certain amount of low-level racism in the audience (which, upsettingly, was confirmed by a persistent heckler, who found high comedy in the similarities between the words 'Sikh' and 'sick'). With numerous pointless diversions, such as the five minutes he spent behind a curtain getting changed into a slightly different t-shirt, it seemed to take a very long time for the show to get started; once started, it seemed to take an even longer time for it to be over.
The Royal Mile Tavern, 7 - 28 Aug, 5.00pm (6.00pm), free.
tw rating 1/5

Jim Jefferies: Alcoholocaust
Brett Vincent For
One angry guy and sixty minutes to vent. Although the whole 'moody man stands on stage and slags people off' thing has been done before, no-one does it better than Jim Jefferies. All races, religions and people are fair game; the only way to be truly prejudiced would be to leave them off the list in case they are offended. However, the material seems to have any real intelligence behind it, seeming a little like a conversation you would have down at the pub with your alcoholic best friend, only funnier. This is by no means intended to belittle the show, though: it's intended for the masses, laughter is guaranteed, and his moving story leaves me thinking that he has a heart after all.
Udderbelly's Pasture, 4 - 30 Aug, times vary, £10.00 - £17.50, fpp 78.
tw rating 4/5

The Beta Males' Picnic Presents
Beta Males' Picnic
Here is the cream: a free fringe show that is absolutely hilarious and charming. And free. Free! 'The Beta Males' Picnic Presents' comprised of a selection of manic, supremely silly sketches smacking of lashings of Blackaddery/Spike Milligany lunacy. Gleefully mad lines flew thick and fast: "Have you ever seen a naked man do star jumps in zero gravity? They call me the nightmare angel!", plus the group exhibited ease and charisma on stage. The show also featured a special guest appearance by Jay Foreman, whose witty songs on myriad topics from 'The Sooty Show' to the joys of stealing food (he's a veritable gastronomic kleptomaniac!) almost threatened to upstage this already sterling show. Oh-so-heartily recommended.
Laughing Horse @ City Café, 15 - 29 Aug, 12.00pm (1.00pm) free, fpp 34.
tw rating 5/5

Rogues Handbook: Bumper Book Of Horror - Free
Rogues Handbook
Rogues Handbook return to this year's Fringe armed with the interesting concept of horror sketch comedy. Combining ridiculous costumes with well grafted story lines, the group creates an enjoyable hour's worth of entertainment which, although not particularly scary, is highly likely to make you chuckle. Tackling most of the notable horror personalities, they manage deft portrayals of characters such as an over emotional Dracula and a disabled poltergeist that requires the aid of home help in the form of 'Nigel'. Although this is far from perfect, it is definitely one of the better free shows available at the festival, and worth giving the time for.
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, 7 - 22 Aug, 5.00pm (6.00pm), free, fpp 116.
tw rating 3/5


All Or Nothing At All
Studio 5 - Winstanley College
This show promises a lot more than it actually delivers - in fact it could be described as false advertising. Although implying that the musicians, dancers and singers in this miss-matched jazz performance can switch disciplines at will - due to such high levels of all round talent - this is simply not the case. When two dancers tried to sing, they were flat; the musicians hardly moved at all and the two female singers did little but sing badly. Surely the cast realises that dancing with a musical instrument is not the same as playing it? Overall this is a tired and old-fashioned performance within which a very few talented young dancers and musicians are trapped.
Spotlites @ The Merchants' Hall, 9 - 14 Aug, 4.00pm (4.45pm), £3.00 - £5.00, fpp 142.
tw rating 2/5

A million expertly crafted images are stitched together seamlessly in this sublime composition of captivating physical poetry. Behind the heavy curtain of the puppeteer's stage, a heart-rending tale of unrequited love, cruelty and suffering unfolds. Derevo transcend this dark matter to reveal pools of shimmering light in the tenacity of the human soul, matching sinister dances of death with exquisite physical manifestations of the beating heart. Each moment is pregnant with possibility, mesmerising its audience who are united in sighing and smiling. Derevo's unique concoction of theatrical influences, which include mime, butoh and commedia dell'arte, is at once disturbing and uplifting, playful and poignant. 'Harlekin' dances the dotted line between heaven and hell, our dearest hopes and deepest fears.
Pleasance Courtyard, 4 - 30 Aug (not 9, 16, 23), 1.00pm, fpp 148.
tw rating 4/5


CineFringe Film Festival 2010
After the Edinburgh International Film Festival moved its programme back to June, a gap formed in the market for film screenings during the August festival. CineFringe have tried, with considerable success it seems, to fill that space with this programme of shorts, screened at Symposium Hall. The films - I saw Programme A - varied in subject, from quirky animation to experimental thriller, and in quality too, but that was part of the fun and excitement of the show. Perhaps in future this series will, like the Fringe Festival itself, showcase a huge amount of both the good and bad in up-and-coming artists. So, while the quality of the films varies, go to support a wonderful new addition to the Fringe programme.
thespace @ Symposium Hall, 11 - 28 Aug (not 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24), times vary, £4.50 - £5.50, fpp 156.
tw rating 3/5

Being a Physical Actor/Clown at Cirque du Soleil
Cirque Du Soleil
Cirque Du Soleil offer a dream gig for performers and an incredible night out for those of us who are less flexible; it's little wonder this one-off lecture led by company talent scout Marc Andre Roy from was so well attended. Sadly, it proved disappointing. The hour-long talk promised to expose the inner workings, from the auditioning process to the performance; instead the whole event seemed like one big publicity stunt. Those hoping to receive industry tips about how to make it would have been sorely let down, as the most useful information he gave was how to find the "apply" section of the website. Fortunately, Marc Andre Roy was charismatic and entertaining, but behind all that show biz there was nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Fringe Central, 14 Aug, 11.00am (12.00pm), free, fpp 156.
tw rating 2/5

MicePace Sonic Maze
MicePace Sonic Maze is an interactive game where the participant dons an attractive mouse headpiece to find his way around an invisible maze, aided by music, and the caterwauling of cats. Aside from the fact that I was sure I looked ridiculous wearing giant mouse ears, the set up is simple, the concept not self-important, and the end result a show that is fun, light hearted and would certainly provide the kids with an entertaining half an hour. Perhaps due to the technology involved, the maze is really quite small and doesn't take long to finish. I imagine it would do incredibly well if it was on a larger more impressive scale. It remains, despite this, a quirky and fun way to spend some free time.
Venue 13, 7 - 21 Aug (not 16), times vary, fpp 162.
tw rating 4/5


Gutted. A Revenger's Musical
Assembly & Marshall Cordell by Arrangement With Ward & White
Marketed as 'the comedian's musical', there is one quite unfortunate problem with Danielle Ward and Martin White's composition: it isn't very funny. Centred around the aptly named Sorrow, who marries her parents' murderer and subsequently embarks on a slapstick killing spree for revenge, this new musical is jam-packed with silliness, but not enough jokes, severed limbs or deaths to keep you entertained. A star turn from The Penny Dreadfuls - as Sorrow's evil but loveable assistants - just about manages to pep up a distinctly average show full of cheap gags and over-wrought jokes, with a chainsaw, killer M&M's and a yapping dog thrown in. Yet whilst the vocals and dancing are strong, they're utterly forgettable - a disappointment for a £15 ticket.
Assembly @ George Street, 6 - 29 Aug, 11.15pm (12.40am), £5.00 - £15.00, fpp 257.
tw rating 2/5


Tadeusz Wyzgowski
Taj Wyzgowski, accompanied by a double bass and a couple of acoustic guitars, provided an eclectic mix of jazz, blues and folk that was perfect for an easy Sunday evening's listening. His set, consisting of a selection of his own material as well as renditions of classics from Jimi Hendrix to the Bee Gees, proved his indisputable talent as a guitarist. Effortlessly switching from the noticeable dexterity required for 'The Bishop' to his closing blues played on electric guitar with a slide, he never failed to impress his audience. With the added extra of a more than satisfactory singing voice this made for a worthwhile gig that should be seen.
Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides, 15, 22 Aug, times vary, £6.00, fpp198.
tw rating 4/5

Scottish Folk Roots and Offshoots
David Ferrard
The informal intimacy of The Royal Oak presents the perfect setting for this one-man folk show. Shaping an hour long performance around the musical consequences of his heritage, David Ferrard combines Scottish folk music with traditional song from the Appalachian region of North America. The transatlantic musical tale that unfolds is engaging and intimate, to say the least. Although the poignant ballads that open the show seem to stifle Ferrard's initial requests for audience participation, hesitance is quickly and dutifully overcome as the tempo increases and an affable on stage presence shines through. With a healthy dose of history accompanying each and every song, 'Scottish Folk Roots and Offshoots' offers an intelligent, stripped-back and note perfect journey. Soothing and beguiling - go see.
The Royal Oak, 7 - 30 Aug, 6.30pm (7.30pm), £5.00 - £7.00, fpp 201.
tw rating 4/5

Vanessa Knight: Hidden Song
Vanessa Knight
"I used to sing Abba songs" Vanessa Knight tells us, between two of her heart-wrenching numbers, This is surprising, as her beautifully written lyrics and gorgeously complex melodies are about as far from Abba as you could imagine. This is the first time she has showcased her own work, mixing it up with pieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Radiohead. Classical in style, she is also quirky and fascinating in her ideas about music. Her song 'circles' is based upon a mathematical concept, and she tells us that one day she hopes to write a piece based on quadratic equations. Reminiscent of Camille O'Sullivan in her appearance, she is beautiful to look at as well as to listen to.
The Rat Pack, Aug 13-14, 7.00pm (8.00pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp 206.
tw rating 5/5


A Brief History of Scotland - We Done Loads!
DBS Productions
Who knew everything worth inventing in the world originated from Scotland...? Well, according to this lot, those things include the television, cubism and even the world famous arse satchel, so if you're looking for a completely accurate portrayal of Scottish history you may have come to the wrong place. I now know that we can blame Adam and Eve for the awful weather the festival gets every August, and that 'Colombo' was to blame for the downfall of Scottish morality. The six actors jump neatly from sketches about Braveheart, Andy Murray and Mary Queen of Scots through to the modern day 'Ned'. This excellent re-working of Scottish history is cleverly written, well acted and ferociously entertaining and I know now for sure, Scotland truly is brilliant.
Sweet Grassmarket, 5 - 29 August, 6.25pm (7.15pm), £7.50 - £9.50, fpp 234.
tw rating 4/5

Busting Out
Meet Condaleeza, Hilary, Starsky and Hutch: the four stars of this breasty showcase. Their bearers, Emma and Bev, lead us in an over-stretched hour of booby capers in a show something akin to an imitation of 'Puppetry of the Penis' meets the 'Sheila's Wheels' ads. The act is comprised largely of breast contortions (including the booby incarnations of Abba) as well as stand up titbits relating to the relevant topic and some songs - such as 'Get on board the titty train'- material which sometimes amuses, but often disgusts the audience. Although funny in concept, the puns felt tired, and the pure physical comedy crass. Instead of 'busting out', I left with my arms crossed firmly over my embarrassed chest.
Assembly @ George Street, 5 - 29 Aug (not 16) , 6.50pm (8.00pm), £12.00 - £16.00, fpp 235.
tw rating 2/5

The Crying Cherry
Hartshorn-Hook Productions in Association With South Hill Park
Physical and vocal genius matched with masterful comedy timing and highly developed, perfectly polished cultural satire. Delivered in outrageous yet authentic Asian gibberish that never fails to elicit a roar from the audience, the incredibly talented Ian Bok and Maarten Hejimes make high art of slapstick as they cleverly parody Western stereotypes of Geisha, Samurai, beasts and birds with their high octane storytelling style, which draws on commedia dell'arte, martial arts, clowning and mime. The agile, tracksuit clad prodigies transform into characters, from the sublime to the ridiculous, with astounding physicality and elegance, provoking eruptions of laughter at every turn. Like nothing you will have seen before; words cannot do justice to these Gods of physical comedy.
C, 5 - 21 August, 11.30pm (12.35pm), £6.50 - £9.50, fpp 240.
tw rating 4/5

Royal & Derngate, Northampton
Stepping into a cosy corner of Milnes Bar, Dave shuffles in, sits down and sizes us up. This is like sitting next to a stranger who insists on telling you his life story and won't let you get a word in edgeways; Dave is addicted to telling the truth and delivers a curious monologue on the trouble it causes. Highlighting the sheer volume of lies we tell ourselves and others so frequently, Trystan Gravelle performs with sincerity, precision, good timing and incisively dark humour. Minimalistic yet compelling, this play doesn't need any gimmicks other than the site-specific pub setting; the script is good enough on its own to suck you in for the full forty five minutes. Grab a pint and enjoy.
Assembly @ George Street, 4 - 30 Aug (not 16, 23), times vary, 6.30pm (7.15pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp 259.
tw rating 4/5

Icarus' Mother & Red Cross
Tufts University's Pen Paint and Pretzels
Sam Shepard's plays are not known for being easy and accessible, and those featured in this double bill are no exception. This vivacious company makes a good job of 'Icarus' Mother', in which a group of somewhat strange, morbid young people wait to watch a firework display and end up watching something more gruesome instead. The group fare less well with 'Red Cross', which would have benefited from older actors or a more convincing depiction of age. There is no doubting the cast's energy, but the performances need more polish and greater subtlety to do justice to the heavy subtext of Shepard's work. However, while the lengthy monologues show up these weaknesses, the cast show their strength in some nice moments of ensemble acting.
Spotlites@The Merchant's Hall, 15 - 30 Aug, 9.00pm (10.15pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp 260
tw rating 3/5

Baba Brinkman/PBH's Free Fringe
Baba Brinkman is some kind of lyrical wizard, retelling the ancient stories of the world through his spell-binding rhymes. As he breathed 'Gilgamesh' into the microphone, it sounded like an incantation with the power to transport us back to a time of kings and conquerors, and the poets who immortalised them. 'The Canterbury Tales', 'Beowulf' and the Finnish 'Kalevala' are similarly re-imagined and set to beautiful, original music. Brinkman is witty and well-read, and his passion for his subject matter is infectious; I left simultaneously wanting to learn Sumerian and find out about 80s rapper Slick Rick. This is storytelling at its best, epic in the true sense of the word. His show feels like a gift -with impressive rapping.
Cabaret Voltaire, 7 - 28 Aug (not 9, 16, 23), 8.45pm (9.35pm), free, fpp 282.
tw rating 5/5

Shams/Escalator East to Edinburgh/Time Won't Wait
'Reykjavik' is a journey through a man's memories of a place, a time and a relationship. The audience is dressed in goggles and white overalls (don't wear a skirt or anything warmer than a t-shirt) and taken into a clinical white space where Y, the protagonist, sifts through his memories of his affair with an Icelandic woman. Much use is made of sound and projection and the audience is awkwardly shifted around the room to allow moments of physical theatre and interaction to unfold. It's clever and often lovely to look at, but we never get to know Y well enough to care deeply about his existential angst; the piece remains less than the sum of its parts.
The Bongo Club, 12 - 29 Aug (not 16), times vary, £8.00 - £10.00, fpp 283.
tw rating 3/5

That Moment
Reclaim Productions Ltd/SPL
Everyone knows it's hard to make it in the theatre; that's why there're so many shows about struggling actors. Writer Dougie Blaxland has built this one around a solid handful of industry anecdotes, but while the observations ring true, they unfortunately aren't original. Solo performer Jenny Harrold attacks the sketchy script, intent on getting every laugh she can. Ultimately she struggles to handle the dozen or so characters, substituting an atlas of obvious regional accents for any depth and ending up hopping around the space, dropping and swapping personalities at high speed as the threadbare plot-lines come together. Lacking real insight or a greater theme, this is likely only to appeal to unsuccessful thespians who can't afford the ticket price.
Underbelly, 5 - 29, 12.50pm (1.50pm), £6.00 - £10.00, fpp 295.
tw rating 2/5

Tony Tanner's Charlatan
SST Productions
Tony Tanner, back in the UK after a long period acting in America, returns with this one-man show chronicling the life of Sergei Diaghilev, the Russian impresario who founded the 'Ballet Russes'. Exploring his relationships with such greats of early 20th Century culture as Stravinsky and Cocteau as well as his famous love affair with the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, Tanner paints Diaghilev as a fascinating character, a man who witnessed the early artistic developments of the modern age. However, even though Tanner is engaging enough, there's little bite to his story, and on occasion the script is particularly wandering and dull. The middle section of the performance seems to ramble too, and unfortunately Tanner doesn't do nearly enough to retain our attention.
Assembly @ Assembly Hall, 4 - 30 Aug, 5.30pm (6.30pm), £9.00 - £12.00, fpp 297.
tw rating 2/5

First Person Productions
A play about a professor of 17th century literature who is dying of cancer might seem like a potentially dry subject for a play, but W;t is anything but. Often bleak and sometimes poignant, this production resists the temptation to make it sentimental. The central performance is very strong and it is impressive to see a vibrant young actress bringing such depth and intelligence to her portrayal of a middle-aged academic, not to mention her skilful handling of Donne's poetry, the character's specialist subject. She is ably supported by the rest of the cast, although their unfamiliarity with some props is clear and they are obviously struggling to manoeuvre around cluttered areas of the stage.
C aquila, 15 - 30 Aug, 4.50pm (6.00pm), £7.50 - £9.50, fpp 305.
tw rating 4/5

Miss Hamford Beauty Pageant And Battle Of The Bands
Rio Hondo College
I found 'Miss Hamford Beauty Pageant And Battle Of The Bands' perplexing in that it elicited no emotional response from me. It was a pleasant enough high school-type performance (though there were adults in it) that exhibited nothing memorable - neither particularly bad acting and direction, nor particularly good. I believe the script was meant to be satirical, and there were times when the characters spoke their thoughts out loud to reveal their shallow, opportunistic natures, but that aspect was almost entirely unexploited. The script was undermined by the indifferent acting, which in turn was undermined by the complete lack of audience engagement; the energy all round felt very low and I found myself wondering if the actors themselves were actually enjoying the performance or just labouring through it, but in the end I couldn't tell.
Venue 13, 6 - 13 Aug, 6.30pm (7.20pm), £5.00 - £8.00, fpp 272.
tw rating 2/5

The Edge
Evolve Theatre
Unexpectedly enjoyable, 'The Edge' is an exploration of teenage depression and suicide. The script is interesting, humorous (I was dreading an excess of melodrama and pain) and flows very well. However, at times the plot seems patently just a device for the show's ultimate message, namely if you have problems, seek help and get advice instead of resorting to extremes. The direction was good and gave credibility to the spontaneous bond that springs up between the two main characters when they first meet. But it is the performance of Emily-Grace Hyland as the young girl that is the best thing about this show; she has a captivating on stage presence, and the sudden mood-swings demonstrated make her back-story believable. In essence, this production is an insightful yet unpretentious window on a difficult subject.
theSpace on the Mile @ Jury's Inn, 6 - 14 Aug (not 8), 7.10pm (7.50pm), £2.50 - £3.50, fpp 248.
tw rating 3/5

The Man Who Was Hamlet
George Dillon
Several people have been proposed as the 'real' author of Shakespeare's works (a lowly glover's son couldn't have written such works of genius, surely?) So who was William Shakespeare? George Dillon's masterful one-man show puts forth a strong case that 'Shakespeare' was actually Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Resurrected for an hour's stage time, Oxford's Elizabethan ghost recounts his life story in a biography similar to Shakespeare's own, and Dillon's voice is deliciously versatile, though sometimes his characters need more differentiation. My advice is, make a bingo card with Shakespeare's plays on it, and tick them off as you spot references to them; should you get a full house, after the play has finished, you can run out into the street and shout "I'm Shakespeare!"
Hill Street Theatre, 5 - 30 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 7.10pm (8.40pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp 269.
tw rating 4/5

Dark Of The Moon
Green Stag Youth Theatre
This lovely gothic tale about a witch falling in love with a human, set in America's Deep South in the 1940s, makes its Scottish premiere here at the Edinburgh Festival. Centring on the wrongful persecution of a minority, the morality of casting out others due to their differences is put under the spotlight. In a dramatic piece, youth theatre can tend toward over acting, but this was not the case here; in fact, quite the contrary, as the performers' lack of confidence in delivering lines sometimes failed to convey power and emotion of the words. Nevertheless, though not totally bewitched, I found myself wrapped up in this well constructed story of love, prejudice and freedom, and came away having enjoyed it.
Quaker Meeting House, 16-20 Aug, 11.15am (12.35pm), £2.00 - £4.00, fpp 241
tw rating 2/5

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