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  THREEWEEKS EDINBURGH EDAILY: MONDAY 23RD AUGUST
Oh, hello there, how are you doing this Monday night? What's that, it's going OK, but really you'd like some funny bits, some reviews and a podcast to download? Well you're in luck. All of that to come, but first this...

   
Yianni Agisilaou (or Y*****) answers the all important question, "How's your Edinburgh going?" three times over...
1. "It's a week too long"
Doing 23 shows in 24 days, plus extra spots, promotion, and, of course, some letting your hair down, is more than enough. So why I decided to do two shows, pushing the number of hours of performance up to 46 in 24 days, I have no idea. Actually I lie, I do enjoy the performances, but it would be nice to have one day off a week rather than a month.

2. "The letter was stupid but I still like the guy"

I have been inches away from two of the larger scandals of this year's Fringe. Having just done a set, I walked out of the room minutes before another comedian headbutted a heckler. This is so very typically me: I'm the type of person who bends down to tie their shoelaces and misses the moon landing!

I was also implicated ("anonymously", according to the author, as I was named as "Y*****") in an open letter from comedian P*** J**** to a reviewer who gave him 0 stars (Can you work out who it is? I've actually given you less information than he did. What better way to test whether it actually was "anonymous" than by repeating the experiment!). In this letter said comedian suggested that my four star review last year was only down to my friendship with said reviewer.

I've had MANY people come up and ask me what I think of P*** J**** since then, and I refer them all to point one above. Edinburgh's a tough month. I can't condone what he wrote, as a lot of the stuff he said about the reviewer was very nasty, ill-considered and unnecessary. But people don't do bad things because they're bad, we do them because we're struggling. P*** J**** didn't need to write a letter, P*** J**** needed a hug.

3. "I killed my dreams a couple of days ago"

"It's a whore" one comedian told me of Edinburgh. "If you're here for any reason other than to improve as a comedian, go home".  Truer words were never spoken, yet we all have dreams of glory when we get here, which are flushed down the toilet as the third three star review rolls in and we realise that this isn't going to be "our year".

My dreams started coughing when my printer didn't deliver my posters until the end of the first week, then took a downward dive when The List gave a great performance three stars, and I finally put them in the blender when only four people turned up to a Wednesday night show.

Now I perform with the freedom that comes of having no expectations. I appreciate small victories. When a Just The Tonic staff member tells me that she hasn't laughed more all Fringe than she did at a routine that two reviews have labelled "unnecessary" I realise that reviews aren't what's important, it's what the audience think. Then I wish that she was a reviewer. 

I won't lie and say I don't wish that. But only briefly.

--

Yianni Agisilaou in 'The Universe: A User's Guide', Cabaret Voltaire, 7 - 28 Aug (not 16), 7.15pm (8.15pm), free, fpp 140.

Yianni Agisilaou in 'They @#$% You Up: Greek Parents', Just The Tonic at The Caves, 5 - 29 Aug (not 17), £7.00 - £10.00, fpp 140.


     
     

   
IT'S ADDY'S FRINGE DICTIONARY #15

DENAPOLISE – the realisation that if you eat one more late night pizza you are likely to go on a rampage of destruction against every clay oven you can get your hands on.

Expand your Fringe vocabulary with Addy each day in the eDaily. Addy's show Advanced Mumbo Jumbo' plays daily at 5.25pm at The Stand.

   
IT'S JIM'S FESTIVAL DRINKING TIP #14

Jim recommends Fringe drinking haunts. Today The Wash Bar on The Mound, partly because of the "great views of the city".

More drinking tips from Jim every day in the eDaily. Jim's show Alcoholocaust plays daily at 10.30pm at the Udderbelly Pasture.

 
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Bare Sara Pascoe Blue Lady Sings Noise Next Door Tom Williams
 
Listen to the latest ThreeWeeks iDaily podcast right now! Featuring interviews with 'Bare' writer Renny Krupinski, Sara Pascoe and Tricity Vogue, a recommend for 'Noise Next Door' and a song from Tom Williams. Presented by Chris Cooke. Click here to listen, download and subscribe.
 
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BOOKS

Are Friend Electric?
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Jason Bradbury and Mariann Hardey's discussion on the benefits of Facebook and Twitter never really took off due to an unfortunate set up that they must have thought would be terribly cool. Against a backdrop of projected tweets, the debate in 'real time' also took place online. How ironic then that the medium of communication being championed would be the thing that would prove so distracting, thus rendering the audience incapable of engaging with the panel effectively. This was a shame, because there were young people there who ought to have been given the opportunity to share their thoughts on the technology that is second nature to them, rather than being fobbed off with "Twitter's great if you're a celebrity!"
RBS Corner Theatre, 15 Aug, 6.00pm, bfpp 11.
[rj]

Ian Blair: The Inside Story Of The Former Met Police Chief
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Ian Blair, the former metropolitan police chief, posited at the beginning of this autobiographical and historical interview that there was a need for the British police as an institution to be discussed in similar intellectual terms to other public services such as education. Despite the obvious interest in the Met Police and the circumstances surrounding the London terrorist attacks of 2005 and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, Blair somewhat managed to do this. Interesting points were raised about the culture of 24 hour media coverage and its involvement in portraying the police force in a negative light. Indeed one will rest easier knowing that Blair suggests that Britain has a similarly low crime rate to sleepy Nova Scotia.
RBS Main Theatre, 16 Aug, 6.30pm, bfpp 15.
[rj]

COMEDY

Richard Herring - Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming
Avalon Promotions Ltd
From Hitler to the son of God, Richard Herring has never been afraid of tackling controversial issues. However, this impeccable routine is never gratuitously provocative, but is instead a playful, intelligent and very funny exploration of the seasoned comedian's knotty personal relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ. Despite describing himself as an "evangelical atheist," Herring is definitely here to entertain rather than vent opinions, and tone of the show is always delightfully light, as he provides grammatical critiques of the Ten Commandments, or recounts one of his imaginative but blasphemous dream sequences. The words 'comedy legend' tend to be somewhat overused by reviewers at this time of year, but, in the case of Herring, the appellation is entirely deserved.
Assembly @ George Street, 5 - 30 Aug, 9.45pm (10.45pm), £8.00 - £11.00, fpp 114.
tw rating 5/5
[ac]

Absolute Best Of Absolute Beginners
Alan Sharpe/PBH's Free Fringe
The culmination of a year's worth of stand up, 'Absolute Best of Absolute Beginners' sees the finest talent that emerged from a weekly night held at the Beehive Inn, Edinburgh. Despite being labelled as beginners, the overall quality of entertainment was of a relatively high standard as the audience were swept through five comedians, who provided lots of laughs and occasional bad language. The show provides something of an insight into the emerging talent on the Scottish circuit and who knows, these could be tomorrow's big names... one of the acts, Matthew Winning, is among the finalists of the Chortle Student Comedy Award this year. Definitely worth the watch if you are interested in up and coming comedians.
Bar 50, 7 - 28 Aug, 6.00pm (7.00pm), free, fpp 21.
tw rating 3/5
[aq]

The very best of Stevenson, Brice and Larter
Adam Larter, Ali Brice and Mark Stephenson
There are new boys in town. Mark Stevenson, Ali Brice and Adam Larter are just embarking on the comedy circuit, but they already present quite a formidable set, each act exhibiting a very different style. Stevenson's high energy act included a brilliantly silly one-man play that went down a storm with the audience. Brice was completely bizarre: deadpan, yet totally off the wall; his act was a real highlight. Larter seemed the black sheep of the group, as his morose act was a bit too filthy for three o'clock, and his closing statement on ejaculations was a real let down. It's difficult not to imitate others when starting up, but these guys have managed to forge three very unique acts. Watch this space.
Laughing Horse @ Espionage, 6 - 30 Aug, 3.20pm (4.20pm), free, fpp 139.
tw rating 4/5
[ka]

It's Not Father Stone - It's... Michael Redmond!
Gilded Balloon
A stand-up show that revolves around audience interaction relies heavily on the audience itself to find the funny: here lies the problem with Michael Redmond. You might recognise Redmond as Father Stone from 'Father Ted' (hence the title) and if this is the case you may be more inclined to laugh at his stand-up. For this non-follower, however, his soft Irish tones had a sleep-inducing quality. The majority of the set revolves around the irrelevant part of a joke, and requires huge improvisational skill from the comedian, who, at one point, spends far too much time asking the audience to vote on the colour of his hair. Unfortunately, the endearing Redmond suffers the curse of the awkward pause.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 4 - 30 Aug (not 16), 5.00pm (6.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp 74.
tw rating 2/5
[ge]

Chris Cross Is Escaping From Reality
Chris Cross / PBH's Free Fringe
Chris Cross is like Russell Brand on steroids, and I know what you're thinking: Brand already is. The show had no structure, and the act was lost amongst crazy ramblings and endless repetition, and though I am a big fan of relaxed, colloquial performances, it's just not interesting when the performer is too out of it to... perform. The majority of audience banter he got away with, but some of the more taboo jokes were not well received. The crux of the show lay in contortionism and escapology, an element of the show which was oddly entertaining, and with that material Cross managed to generate a good buzz from the crowd. When he is in the zone, the performance is faultless. When he isn't, it all falls apart.
The Voodoo Rooms, 12 - 27 Aug, 9.35pm (10.35pm), free, fpp 44.
tw rating 2/5
[ajb]

Felix Dexter - Multiple Personalities In Order
Bound & Gagged Comedy
Felix's personalities are certainly 'in order,' as his different personas can only be described as unremarkable: we are introduced to the British 'toff' and the street-wise 'rude boi' whose jokes only seem to revolve around class and racial discrimination. Unfortunately, these caricatures - that were possibly considered risqué a few years ago - are also interspersed with audience interaction, a technique used so often that it appears more like laziness, as opposed to friendliness, on the part of the comedian. Felix Dexter is certainly a likeable and charming comic, but this fails to make up for his lack of edgy material. This is a show that goes down like a lukewarm beer: familiar, unsatisfying and flat.
Pleasance Courtyard, 4 - 29 Aug, 9.00pm (10.00pm), £11.50 - £14.00, fpp 61.
tw rating 2/5
[gm]

Mervyn Stutter's Pick Of The Fringe
Mervyn Stutter
I want to thank Mervyn Stutter for saving my precious time, as every day he presents six of the best acts from the Fringe, ranging from speciality acts and stand-ups to musicals and sketch shows. My personal pick of the bunch was Chris McCausland whose stand up material is truly brilliant observational humour. He has a natural gift and is one of the funniest stand ups that I have seen in recent years. Stutter was a brilliant compere, who capably eased each act into the next. All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and I would gladly go again. A bargain for a lovely tray of hors d'oeuvres, leaving me better informed about what to get for my main course.
Pleasance Courtyard, 7 - 29 Aug (not 10, 18, 19, 24), 12.55pm (2.25pm), £7.50 - £10.00, fpp 96.
tw rating 4/5
[tv]

Jason Chong - Minority Retort
Jason Chong
Sometimes traditional formulas work the best. After all, there is a reason they are traditional. Jason Chong's set was nothing extraordinary; it was just plain funny. He began by explaining his national identity - Australasian - and what his heritage meant to him. Race jokes ran close to the line, but the skilful wording kept Chong on the audience's good side. He told tales of his parents, his girlfriend and moved onto random bits about ethnicity and the film 'Transformers', where some clever props and a guitar were used. By merging anecdotes of humorous circumstances and jovial reflection, Chong has crafted a near-perfect piece.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 4 - 30 Aug, 11.30pm (12.20am), £5.00 - £10.00, fpp 99.
tw rating 4/5
[ajb]

Sex, Lies and the KKK
Abie Philbin Bowman
Some comedians pepper their sets with morsels of their political beliefs; in Abie Philbin Bowman's case it's the political beliefs that are the set. Always keen to remind us that he is a forward-thinking liberal (he calls himself a 'comedian without borders') he delivers what is an unashamed and successful hour of activist debate that lampoons and lambasts, with admirable quantities of temperance and understanding of evils such as sexism, racism and monogamy. He's funny here and there, mostly because what he's saying is sharp and true; the monogamy-argument in particular, rooted in Darwin and Emma Goldman, is well argued and astute. He's good at self-satire as well, notably in a pseudo-liberal debate about the rights of homophobics to marry. Not side-splitting, but intelligent and amusing nonetheless.
Just The Tonic at the Caves, 5 - 29 Aug (not 7, 17), 1.00pm, £7.50 - £9.50, fpp 121.
tw rating 3/5
[kb]

Strong and Wrong
Hopeless Productions
'Not boring' is about as complimentary as I can get about this show, which is an hour of very short, highly enthused sketches with the occasional song thrown in for good measure. The two comedians are chirpy and amicable - and I'm sure they're terrific people off stage - but these attributes are outweighed by dearth of subtlety, innovation and timing. A recurring sketch about an interpretive soliloquist mouthing off in inappropriate situations went down well, but nothing else of much merit springs to mind, and the bulk of the hour was built up of thin and ill-delivered ephemera. Dan Carter-Hope is clearly a talented musician and Anna-Maria Nabirye has a kind of brisk gusto: serviceable abilities that are perhaps better directed elsewhere.
Just The Tonic at the Caves, 5 - 29 Aug (not 17), 2.15pm (3.15pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp 127.
tw rating 2/5
[kb]

EXHIBITIONS

Phoebe Anna Traquair Song School Murals
St. Mary's Cathedral
Completed in 1892, Traquair's Song School houses a number of murals commissioned to educate and inspire the assembled choristers. The unpaid assignment was a labour of love for Traquair and allowed her to explore a fusion of 19th century styles. Though the overall effect is Pre-Raphaelite, she draws on Blake, Botticelli and the forms and patterns of the arts and crafts movement to create something unique and personal. The school's walls are also a monument to her influences with many key figures of the era making an appearance alongside representations of the divine. The result is a curious window into the 19th Century, as well as an interesting example of Scottish Pre-Raphaelite art.
St. Mary's Cathedral, 2 - 31 Aug, times vary, free, fpp 169.
tw rating 3/5
[cmc]

Impressionist Gardens
National Galleries of Scotland
Having decked the gallery with massive daisies, it's clear curators Michael Clarke and Claire Willsdon are going wild with this potted biography of the Impressionist movement. Not confined to the central work of Manet, Monet and Renoir, the exhibition tracks the style's development from the informal studies of Delacroix to the Pointillism of Henri Martin and the raw brushstrokes of Van Gogh, whose painting of the overgrown garden of his sanatorium is jaggedly emotive. The collection shows an obsession with nature and a fascination with dappled light; additional notes by Dr. David Mitchell of the Botanic Gardens highlight tiny details hidden in the artists' work. Pick a rainy day and take a walk around these vibrant painted gardens.
National Gallery Complex, 2 Aug - 5 Sep, 10.00am (6.00pm), £7.00 - £10.00, fpp 169.
tw rating 4/5
[df]

DANCE AND PHYSICAL THEATRE

{Extinguish}
Ezra LeBank/ Lynx Co.
Love, loss, politics, philosophy, '{Extinguish}' glances over almost every subject in equal depth. However, its failure to commit to any topic results in a rambling, disconnected mix of poetry and prose tenuously linked by the theme of death's approach. The show is embellished with a little modest movement, but Ezra LeBank's writing is so aimless that he gives himself little to work with as a performer. The result is inoffensive, but also inconsequential, and offers at best a vague sprinkling of eastern wisdom. Special mention must go to the polysyllabic excess of the poetry with its ceaseless streams of synonyms; every second word is as irritating and unnecessary as the brackets around the show's title.
theSpace on theMile @ Jury's Inn, 6 - 28 Aug, 4.00pm (5.00pm), £7.00, fpp 146.
tw rating 2/5
[cmc]

The Sum of it All...
Anomic Multimedia Theatre
In that sleep of death, what dreams may come? This technology-heavy, beautifully poetic story of a reclusive, depressive man crossed in love becomes one such dream. Stuck in the perpetual torment of the afterlife, day after day Stanley is left to retrace the memories that led up to his suicide. An incredibly clever use of projections and animations brought the piece on to a new theatrical plane, the action reading like a dynamic, melancholic cartoon. But the use of multimedia was so ambitious that the actors could rarely keep up with it; inventive combinations of live and recorded action became comically out of time. If performed in a familiar space, the piece would have undoubtedly been more of a success.
Zoo Roxy, 6 - 30 Aug (not 14), 8.35pm (9.40pm), £5.00 - £10.00, fpp 154.
tw rating 3/5
[eg]

MUSICALS AND OPERA

An Audience With Madame Schumann Heink
Anna Hillis/ PBH's Free Fringe
Three Husbands, seven children and a career that stretched from opera performances in New York to baby food advertising, there is no denying that Ernestine Schumann Heink lived a fascinating life. Anna Hillis' homage to this interesting personage is captivating and amusing, as she jumps from comic storytelling to operatic extracts, reflecting that Heink's life story has been meticulously researched. The result is a passionate and exciting performance, the highlight of which is undoubtedly Hillis' notable vocal talent; she demonstrates an impressive range and beautiful intonation. The character does slip occasionally and the comedy sometimes simply titillates, rather than entertains, but this is nevertheless a gutsy performance and a fun, unique show.
Fingers Piano Bar, 7 - 28 Aug, 6.40pm (7.30pm), free, fpp 208.
tw rating 3/5
[lvs]

David Faulds: 'Mario Lanza'
Cast Theatre Company
The short life of Mario Lanza, arguably the world's most popular crossover artist, forms the basis for David Faulds' one-man show. Even if you're not familiar with MGM's 'singing Clark Gable,' his rags-to-riches story is an interesting one and his rise and fall are recounted thoroughly and clearly, interspersed with a hit parade of classical, traditional Italian and Hollywood songs. Faulds captures moments of Lanza's swagger, but also goes a lot further in depicting this larger than life figure's struggle to control his ego and appetite. He lacks Lanza's overflowing charisma and full throttle, 'can belto' high notes. Underpowered singing and lack of comfort in the upper register are unfortunate drawbacks in an otherwise enjoyable show.
Sweet Grassmarket, 16 - 30 Aug, 2.30pm (3.20pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp 210.
tw rating 3/5
[jm]

Fame - the Musical!
Hartshorn - Hook Productions
If the exclamation mark hasn't already stirred your enthusiasm for the recreation of this classic, let me have another try. David De Silva's rather overdone musical, containing desperate adolescent drama, smiling acrobatic dance and legendary show-tunes, seemed to glimmer with a new light in the hands of this talented group. The interwoven story lines of aspiring performers were universally well-executed, skilfully balancing the comedic and deeply tragic elements of the play. The choreography was truly electrifying and certain vocals, particular Serena's "Let's Play a Love Scene", were so stunningly powerful that they made me shiver. Hartshorn - Hook Productions' claim that this show is "raising the standard for musicals at the Fringe" is certainly one I would support. An awe inspiring, must-see performance.
C plaza, 5 - 26 Aug, 5.30pm (6.40pm), £6.50 - £11.50, fpp 210.
tw rating 5/5
[eg]

THEATRE

Hitler Alone
Paul Webster
The faint rumble of the Edinburgh Tattoo's closing fireworks sounds like distant artillery in the claustrophobic room where Hitler paces and rants. This is Paul Webster's gripping study of a monster unravelling, but it's much more than a biography. Resisting simple caricature, the writer-performer makes a real attempt to understand the subject in all his daunting complexity. Lines from Shakespeare echo throughout, evoking the doomed villains of his tragedies, and though the script struggles under the weight of historical facts, it remains compelling thanks to Webster's convincing characterisation, which mixes charm and flashing intelligence with the familiar, psychotic persona. Though Webster's compelling and provocative play never excuses, it successfully humanises Hitler, which somehow makes it all the more chilling.
Inlingua Edinburgh, 12 - 26 Aug, 9.30pm (10.45pm), £6.00, fpp 258.
tw rating 4/5
[df]

The Degenerates
Ribcaged Productions
It's always a pleasure to encounter a piece of new writing which manages to both entertain and stimulate the audience to reflect on social issues. Addressing the theme of homosexuality in terms of guilt and redemption, crime and rehabilitation, Jonathan Shipman's script creates a dark and disturbing reality, in which absurdities are inspired by actual crimes committed against homosexuals during the holocaust. Creating a purely theatrical setting, an intriguing plot, and two well constructed characters, the author succeeds in conveying his message provocatively (without being pretentious), offering the audience a universally necessary and compelling play. The direction is perfectly in line with the author's aim, and the actors' performances, which add a slight touch of comedy, are certainly effective.
C, 15 - 30 Aug, 1.10 pm (2.05 pm), £6.50 - £9.50, fpp 243.
tw rating 4/5
[ga]

The Enlightenment: Morning of the Modern World
Fencible Productions
In this extremely atmospheric lecture hall, adorned with sugar bowls, candles, and a mandolin, we witness an artistic retrospective of eighteenth-century Scotland. With comparisons to the enlightenment periods of Athens and Florence, David Purdie and Cameron Goodall give a summarised history of Edinburgh, and Scottish intellectual developments in society, arts, and sciences. Although interspersed with traditional folk ballads, and illustrated with hitherto unpublicised images and lithographs from the national archives, the listing may be misplaced in the 'Theatre' section of the guide. However, it remains accessible to all levels of familiarity with its focus on anecdotal references and its condensing structure. A wonderful chance for revellers to learn more about Edinburgh without the aid of the 'Horrible History' bus.
Henderson's Vegetarian Restaurant and Arts Venue, 16 - 27 Aug (not 21, 22), 10.30pm (11.30pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp 248.
tw rating 4/5
[np]

Dr Faustus
Offshoots (in Association With Lancaster University Theatre Group)
Would you sell your soul to the devil? Ring-master Mephistopheles was ready to grant us this wish as we entered the bustling circus in the transformed 'Iron Belly'. Marlowe's classic took on an eerie twist in the hands of contortionists, clowns and fortune tellers, all sinisterly devilish under blue and red lights. This, combined with burlesque movement sequences and the coincidental mustiness of the auditorium, effectively transported us into Faustus' nightmare. However, it was hard to ignore the dilapidated quality of the set, and a device involving restraining red ribbons comically recalled Rachel Stevens' 'Sweet Dreams My LA Ex'. Nonetheless, the circus premise was incredibly effective and I was thoroughly drawn into this re-imagining of the Elizabethan masterpiece.
Underbelly, Cowgate, 16 - 29 Aug, 11.30am (12.30pm), £6.50 - £10.00, fpp 245.
tw rating 3/5
[eg]

Figs In Wigs
Devised by Queen Mary Theatre Company
Ah, the world of dating... Governed by its own rules, dating is dreaded by some people the world over. This topic is the inspiration for 'Figs In Wigs,' an improvised piece of drama. Parts of the play are somewhat obscure and verge on some sort of attempt at performance art, such as the dance routines and the extended metaphor about the 'dating pool,' and there's also that ongoing joke about the cake (which I thought was hilarious). Despite the bits you don't quite get, the satirical undertones of this piece are very to the point (you might even recognise yourself in some of this), the acting is good and the ensemble appears to work very well together.
theSpace @ Venue 45, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 27 Aug, 7.05pm (7.50pm), £3.00 - £4.00, fpp 250.
tw rating 3/5
[ms]

The Hub
Big Can Productions
This offbeat and quirky comedy, which follows a group of continuity announcers at a television studio, has some genuinely comic moments, but is hampered by one-dimensional characters and a hammy script. Faith, newly returned after following her dream to work in Los Angeles, is back doing the job she left, alongside people who hate their work and an ex-boyfriend who resents her existence. What's interesting is that 'The Hub' boasts a terrific cast (including a great turn by comedian Matt Green), who sail through the comic elements, but struggle during with overly melodramatic romance at the centre of the story. Good in parts, but not nearly as funny as it needs to be.
Pleasance Courtyard, 4 - 30 Aug (not 17), 2.00pm (3.00pm), £7.00 - £9.50, fpp 260
tw rating 2/5
[ef]

Long Live The King
Guy Masterson/TTI and The Fixed & the Free
Elvis lives on in an Indian woman in Australia in this sparkling one-woman show performed by Ansuya Nathan and directed by Guy Masterson. Heavily pregnant Meena arrives to start her new life in Australia on the day that Elvis dies, and so begins a heart-warming tale as she comes to terms with a new life away from home, without the comforting tones of her King. Nathan skilfully morphs between her different characters, from pesky Australian neighbours to a stellar impression of Elvis himself, in a fantastic performance that deserves considerable praise. Equal praise should go to Masterson, who directs the piece with imagination and panache that hits the mark superbly. A show better than any Elvis tribute artist you'll find.
Assembly @ George Street, 5 - 30 Aug (not 16), 2.00pm (3.05pm), £10.00 - £12.50, fpp 268.
tw rating 4/5
[ef]

More Light Please
Teatr Praga
'More Light Please' is the compelling and candid tale of Natalia who leaves Poland for Dublin, her father, and a possible future on the stage, only to find herself in a shoe shop. The endearing opening leads perfectly into a performance that has infinite charm and personality, and concludes with blistering energy and beauty. The Teatr Praga utilise an unsophisticated set, complimented by poignant sound and lighting, to create a piece that is powerful in the remarkable simplicity of its messages - everyone is affected by the recession, everyone has hopes and dreams. From the very beginning, I was astonished by the honesty behind this play, and moved by its bravery right to the very end. A superb piece.
New Town Theatre, 2.45pm (3.45pm), 7 - 29 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), £10.00 - £12.00, fpp 273.
tw rating 4/5
[mb]

101
Oneophone Theatre Company
It was only when the new king turned and addressed me as Laertes that I realised we were in Hamlet. Before that, we'd been led round a courtly scene and witnessed regicide (so maybe I should have guessed), but also stamped our feet and howled ghostly noises in an occult circle. I was both thrilled and slightly unnerved by the proceedings: reassuringly, you can opt out at any moment by removing the sash you are handed on entry. Superbly acted and wonderfully atmospheric, with its dim lighting and actors clad in black, this show has rotating scenarios, and this, coupled with the variable that is audience participation, mean it will be a different experience every time.
C soco, 15-30 Aug, times vary, £6.50 - £9.50, fpp 276.
tw rating: 4/5
[amb]

The Typhoid Marys
City Of London Freemen's School
The story of the 'Typhoid Marys', young women, asymptomatic typhoid carriers, forcibly removed from society and institutionalised until death, is both tragic and riveting. As such, Phil Tong's new play about their plight is naturally powerful - you can't help be moved. Unfortunately, it's so much less than it could be, largely due to Tong's script, which is over-wrought and painfully didactic: at the end, the audience is literally instructed to mourn for the Marys. It's not assisted by a young cast who, though showing theatrical promise, uniformly garble their lines. The one exception is Charlotte Duke, a powerful stage presence. Inadvisable symbolic dance woefully interrupts the action. Nevertheless, a compelling story, ultimately told with heart, if not skill.
Quaker Meeting House, 16 - 21 Aug, 2.15pm (3.45pm), £7.50, fpp 300.
tw rating 3/5
[kc]

The Cage
BBL Productions In Association With Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Jilted Jack Dennison prepares a very original Christmas present for his ex-fiancé and best friend in this highly entertaining psycho-farce. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart's script is by no means a work of art, but it expounds the 'three unities' to a tee and generates a very present, very thrilling narrative. The opening fifteen minutes draw the audience into a guilty sort of complicity with Jack, and the rest of the play strings them along with deliciously indulgent moments of dramatic irony. The cast are fairly first-rate and ensure that the later moments of violence don't seem hammy. 'The Cage' is bloody funny, quite shocking and probably one of the most darkly enjoyable plays you'll see this Fringe.
Pleasance Dome, 4 - 30 Aug (not 16, 23), 3.50pm (5.05pm), £8.50 - £11.50, fpp 236.
tw rating 4/5
[tm]

Homage to Caledonia
Daniel Gray and Jonathan Prag
Daniel Gray's book about the Scottish soldiers fighting in the Spanish Civil War may well have merits, but hearing sections of it read aloud for an hour in a glaringly lit church hall to the strumming of a guitar failed to hold my attention. Possibly I am too nit-picking, but it annoyed me that Gray pretended to read out of an old battered tome when it was clear to see the pieces of recently printed paper badly secreted within the book. The pauses when he turned a page also pointed to a lack of polish. All that said, Jonathan Prag played some beautiful melodies on the guitar and many of the older audience members seemed enchanted by the play.
St Cuthbert's Parish Church, 14, 21, 28 Aug, 2.05pm (3.05pm), £6.00 - £7.00, fpp 258.
tw rating 2/5
[hw]

Salute
Ugly Duckling Theatre In Support Of War Child
As hard as I try, I can't find anything to praise about 'Salute' which shows, in fifty interminable minutes, the brutal impact that the war has on different characters in a military base. The script is poorly written and banal, the characters are badly delineated and the acting is meagre; the only exception is the little boy, though by himself, he can't make the play any more tolerable. As the actors don't project their voices in the noisy venue, it was hard to understanding what they were saying, but it was clear they were struggling to remember their lines, and that the direction, if it existed at all, was very weak. Rarely have I been so tempted to walk out during a performance.
C, 15-30 Aug, 11.00am (11.50am), £5.50 - £8.50, fpp. 285.
tw rating 1/5
[clm]

Nicki Hobday Conquers Space
Nicki Hobday and Neil Mackenzie
Nicki Hobday is clearly intelligent and sincerely funny, but has chosen a perplexing way to demonstrate it. Her show is split between a third person analysis of how she could start her show, and a clownish attempt to create a memorable image to conclude it. There is an interesting satirical undertone as she challenges the pretensions of theatrical and comedic stylings, but having highlighted this, rather than deliver a killer coup-de-grâce, the driving force stagnates and loses all ironic emphasis. The show is simply a vocalised inner monologue undergoing a war of attrition, which would be more provoking or enticing if elaborated upon. It lacks momentum, direction, and fails to raise much mirth in the process.
Just The Tonic At The Caves, 5 - 29 Aug (not 16), 2.30pm (3.30pm), £6.00 - £7.00, fpp 274.
tw rating 2/5
[np]

His Name Is Tim
Experiment86
Tim is a fourteen-year-old hormonal romantic, strumming his guitar wistfully through songs about love and hope for the future. But Tim is also a twenty-four-year-old office worker making coffees for a living in a dead-end job. In Thomas J Millington's engaging fringe debut, we see Tim at two episodes in his life, an endearingly innocent younger version, and a Tim having lost all his youthful energy as he settles into adulthood. Somewhere here there's an interesting meditation on growing up, but Millington's problem is that he hasn't anything truly original to say, and while his performance - incorporating some neat musical numbers - is genuinely admirable, it lacks any emotional punch in a somewhat anticlimactic finish.
Zoo Roxy, 6 - 30 Aug (not 16, 23), 4.00pm (5.00pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp 258.
tw rating 3/5
[ef]

Maxie
Vanguard Productions
Before going to this play I knew nothing about the comedian Max Miller. It was therefore interesting, as an outsider, in this roomful of old Miller fans, to learn his life story. The set up was very music-hall-y, in a reflection of the performance venues historically used by the entertainer, and although I knew few of the songs, they seemed familiar to other audience members who joined in and sang along. The jokes were endearingly old fashioned, and not in the least risque by modern standards, but they raised a laugh from some people. The lead actor did a good job, presenting Miller as a likeable and flawed character, and ad libbing well while interacting with the audience.
Greenside, Aug 18-28, 5.15pm (6.30pm), £8.50 - £10.00.
tw rating 3/5
[hw]

The Ladder And The Moon
Loose Thread Productions
A pink light is lit and starts bouncing in the darkness, and is soon joined by two companion lights: the playful, dreamy mood of 'The Ladder And The Moon' has been set. This devised piece of physical theatre and shadow puppetry is a display of childhood antics and games. The talented cast of three successfully recreate the carefree joy typical of children who use their imagination to play with anything they find. A note of merit goes to the beautiful soundtrack and the lighting design, both adding to the magic of the play. A 50-minute long endearing reminder of childhood, 'The Ladder And The Moon' is lyrical without being self-indulgent or pretentious, and is guaranteed to warm the audience's hearts.
C, 4-30 Aug (not 16), 11:05 am (12:00), £5.50 - £8.50, fpp 264.
tw rating 4/5
[clm]

Death Of The Unicorn
Wet Concrete Theatre Company
A turgid mess of bad philosophy and worse stagecraft, 'Death Of A Unicorn' demonstrates a blinkered approach to theatre that hardly takes the audience into consideration. Stephanie Roberts' profoundly inaccessible script follows a girl who refuses to be rational (whatever the cost!). The characters spout endlessly bizarre metaphors, and seem to be excusing the sloppy action with solipsistic arguments for 'individual creativity' - this becomes even more irritating once you realise it's not a joke. It probably seemed a clever idea to devise twenty minutes of childish associative thought, but the choreography is nowhere near precise enough to stimulate the investment required for such a journey. As a discussion of society it barely has merit, and as theatre it's totally dire.
theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall, 16 - 28 Aug (not 22), 12.30pm (1.30pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp 242.
tw rating 1/5
[tm]

Samson Agonistes
Wayward Theatre
Samson, blinded and enslaved by the Philistines, despairs vociferously. His inclement wife, Delilah, fights her corner in the name of selfless patriotism. Big Johnny Milton flexes his theological muscles in this fascinating play, finding the man in the superman, the woman in the temptress and crafting in the process some scholarly pathos for this pre-Christian messiah/betrayer duet. Whoever cut the play to size deserves applause and a good night's sleep but otherwise there's little to be said for the production. The actor playing Samson seems to have interpreted 'eyeless' as 'spineless', and is the least convincing superhero since Catwoman. The design is lame and sparse and although the supporting cast are capable, the play's potential is effectively ridiculed.
theSpaces @ Surgeon's Hall, 18 - 28 Aug, 4.40pm (5.40pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp 285.
tw rating 2/5
[kb]

Dinner for One
Dinnerforone - Onstage
One of this Fringe's shortest offerings, 'Dinner for One' is more of a sketch than a play. Elderly Miss Sophie celebrates her birthday over dinner with four imaginary or deceased gentlemen and her manservant James must impersonate each of them in between serving each course, assuming their voices and drinking their toasts. The piece is a master class in physical comedy, and the audience begins to laugh in anticipation as well as at the execution of the jokes. Chris Cresswell
as James could afford to play up the slapstick even further as he is clearly adept at it. Nevertheless, it's a lovely performance and well matched by Miriam King's delightfully clipped, sparkling Miss Sophie in this comic classic.
Hill Street Theatre, 5 - 30 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), times vary, £4.00 - £5.00, fpp 245.
tw rating 4/5
[jm]

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