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  THREEWEEKS EDINBURGH EDAILY: WEDNESDAY 25TH AUGUST
So, were you wondering where your ThreeWeeks eDaily got to last night?

Perhaps you thought we'd got distracted pulling to pieces the Edinburgh Comedy Award shortlists. Or were so engrossed with the latest edition of ThreeWeeks we just couldn't put it down to do some work. Or had fled the ThreeWeeks HQ on the promise of a party. Or had spontaneously combusted as a result of just too much reviewing.

Actually, our internet connection went down, which we took as a message from God to call it a night. But the tech men stayed awake to ensure we had a direct connection to the world (wide web) by breakfast time.

We did, however, dissect the Comedy Award shortlists on last night's ThreeWeeks iDaily. And the latest edition of ThreeWeeks, guest edited by Janey Godley, is pretty damn engrossing. But do try not to get so distracted by them that you forget to read the rest of this eDaily, with all its lovely reviews inside. But first this...

   
Five things Team M&M have learned about food and drink this Fringe
This year we created a comedy play called 'The Pantry Shelf' where all the characters are food products. It's basically a love story between a bag of porridge, a block of chocolate and a muesli bar.

To ensure our actors accurately depict the psychological journey a food product takes on its way to your plate, we have extensively researched the lifestyles of snacks, breakfasts and those weird things that get left at the back of the pantry. This research has also made us constantly hungry so we've spent a lot of time eating around Edinburgh. These are some of our findings.

1. Coffee is given up in 'The Pantry Shelf' leading to "Rich Coffee" having a nervous breakdown. We'd never make it through the Fringe without coffee and think the best cup in Edinburgh is brewed at the Pavillion Cafe in the Meadows.

2. Indulging in rich dark chocolate is integral to both our play and our sanity. The richest chocolate in Edinburgh can be found at Chocolate Tree on Bruntsfield Place. They have a hot chocolate drink so thick you almost have to drink it with a knife and fork.

3. Foam is a Godsend when it comes to making food-shaped costumes. I don't know how we'd have made a giant tub of wasabi peas without it. But the fumes from foam-glue do interesting things to your head at 2am after 17 hours of costume making. Thankfully wine from Peter Green's wine shop on Marchmont Rd seemed to help.

4. Though cheese doesn't feature heavily in 'The Pantry Shelf' because it's a fridge food, cheese does feature heavily in our tummies. The best cheese in Edinburgh comes from Cedric's French Cheese Vans parked on Meadow Place (opposite The Meadows) every Saturday. This looks like an ice-cream van and he also sells the best croissantes, pain ou chocolat and insanely delicious hand-made French macaroons.

5. Festival beer prices are so high it constantly amazes us that performers can afford to get drunk. Next time you're filling your wallet for a trip to a beer garden, consider what delectable food treats you could get for the price of two pints. After that makes your mouth water come watch a play about how that food feels as it fights for your cravings.

--

The Pantry Shelf, Sweet Grassmarket, 5 - 30 Aug, 12.45pm (1.45pm), £6.50 - £8.00.


     
     

   
IT'S ADDY'S FRINGE DICTIONARY #17

CAFFIN - eating in the same cafe near your venue so often that the people who work there want to come to your show.

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 #16

Jim recommends Fringe drinking haunts. Today Holyrood 9A (formerly the Holyrood Tavern) for the "massive selection of beers and good burgers...for Scotland!"

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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Our Share Of Tomorrow Alcatraz Laura David Leddys Sub Rosa Jay Foreman
 
Listen to the latest ThreeWeeks iDaily podcast right now! Featuring interviews with 'Our Share Of Tomorrow' writer, 'Alcatraz' director, the cast of 'Laura' plus a recommend for 'Sub Rosa' and a song from Jay Foreman. Presented by Chris Cooke. Click here to listen, download and subscribe.
 
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CABARET

The S & M Show - Free
The Uplifters/Laughing Horse Free Fringe
The title is a tease. There is nothing sexy about this show, especially not the sex scene. The two-man piece follows Sheila and Monty through their 50 year relationship and all the obstacles that had stood in their way until fate eventually brought them together in the tea shop they first met in. Billed as an original cabaret, the show was a mixture of slow quick change, bad singing and dubious acting with no discernible comedy. Sheila and Monty had a strong connection; unfortunately their harmonies did not. The songs were simple, corny and at times painfully out of tune. There are some real gems in the Free Fringe. This show is not one of them.
Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom, 5 - 15 Aug, 8.45pm (9.45pm), free, fpp 119.
tw rating 1/5
[ka]

CHILDREN'S SHOWS

The Hamwehads - Free
The Kat's Whiskers
Delightfully silly in places, 'The Hamwehads' is a wacky, if somewhat slapdash hour of puppetry, storytelling, and catchy jingles. The three performers are versatile and charismatic; the young crowd warm to them quickly, and are whole-heartedly willing to participate and shout encouragement, including the rousing pantomime favourite "he's behind you!" on numerous occasions. Noisy, pacey, and a bit chaotic, the story of Asa and Lola's quest to get home rattles along swiftly, meaning children don't get bored and restless; it's pleasing to see such an effortless connection being made with kids. Lovely furry puppets, a wickedly funny moment involving silly string, and some old-fashioned toilet humour make this a wonderfully daft performance.
Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters, 6 - 19 Aug (not 16), 12.00am (1.00pm), free, fpp 13.
tw rating 4/5
[gjs]

COMEDY

The Big Comedy Breakfast
Marc Burrows, Barry Ferns and Sarah Pearce
I hate it at breakfast when my sautéed mushrooms make the toast slightly soggy, and I found this show to be similarly disappointing. The fare was dependable, competent and relatively pleasant, but not ground-breaking or original in any sense. However, it was appropriate for the time of day, being a nice, heart warming look at life's little intricacies and one's obvious inadequacies, although it was prompted in parts by a little too much dependence on the ubiquitous trashy gossip magazine. The show will have you leaving with a smile, as despite some of the humour being a little on the predictable side, it's a solid and steady example of sketch comedy, but I think I'll be trying something else for breakfast tomorrow.
The GRV, 15 - 29 Aug, 12.00pm (12.50pm) £5.00, fpp 35.
tw rating 3/5
[mb]

Eleanor Bennet Is... Stuck in Kansas
When the costume changes comprise little more than wig-on or wig-off, and you're still made to sit through cumbersome scene changes, you know there's a problem. Not only was Eleanor Bennet's set shambolic (although a recent flooding of the venue could perhaps excuse this), the material seemed terribly dated - quaint, even. Carry On voice-overs, jokes about Poirot - this is comedy for an audience with tastes wedged firmly in the past. An audience of only four didn't help proceedings, but songs about drinking tea just seem banal. To Bennet's credit, she made light of the fact things weren't going to plan, but this doesn't excuse bland material and lazy jokes about Polish workers. With so much comedy on at this year's Fringe, look elsewhere.
The Vault, 9-15, 17-22, 24-29 Aug, 17:15, £7.50, fpp 58.
tw rating 1/5
[amb]

How To Make A Million Before Lunch
Rachel Bridges
Rachel Bridges has hit on a niche market - those who want to become instant millionaires, and don't have any common sense. At least this is what one must assume from the lecture that follows. The beauty of this talk is that it is useful advice; it's just all blindingly obvious. The success stories she uses to illustrate are all suitably vague, along the lines of 'she kept trying and now she's successful', but due to her connections the names involved are big ones, and they are pleasingly accompanied by a few free samples. She is a likeable speaker, and it's vaguely inspirational; but you feel that if these ideas are new to you, you're never going to make your million.
Pleasance Courtyard, 17 - 29 August, 12.30pm (1.20pm), £7.50 - £10.00, fpp 70.
tw rating 2/5
[tc]

Harpur's Bizarre - Life, Death, Pets
Sarah Harpur/ PBH's Free Fringe
There is no gentle way to say it; but this is the worst stand up comedy show that I have ever seen: The jokes are unoriginal and unstructured, but above all, they are offensive. You wouldn't expect such distasteful material from this pretty, blonde girl who has apparently won awards in New Zealand, but this show actually makes you question popular humour in New Zealand: do they really find this funny? In one part of the set Sarah sings a ditty entitled 'The Dead Dads Club' - a song that purports to be about her dad committing suicide. It's hard to imagine that this could get any worse, but it does; Harpur's material goes on to include teenage pregnancy and racist rabbits. Lots of people walked out, and the few that stayed were left were squirming in their seats. Don't put yourself through this.
Cabaret Voltaire, 7 - 28 Aug (not 9, 16, 23), 2.30pm (3.30pm), free, fpp 69.
tw rating 1/5
[cc]

Mandy Muden Sleight Of Tongue
PBH's Free Fringe
Mandy Muden's mix of magic, moodiness and acerbic wit was at times predictable, but for the main, intriguing to watch, as she deftly blended a catalogue of familiar magic tricks with a few unexpected shenanigans that left me scratching my head. But what makes her show different from many others is her unique brand of mischievous bitchiness as she playfully picks on the crowd to keep them on their toes. This resulted in quite a funny routine - definitely different - but there were times when it seemed to lag, and incidents when the magic tricks went astray - in Tommy Cooperesque proportions. But most of the time, for a free show, it's about as good as it gets.
The Voodoo Rooms, 9 - 15, 17 - 22, 24 - 27 Aug, 6.05pm (7.05pm), free, fpp 92.
tw rating 3/5
[dc]

Alex Horne: Odds
Avalon Promotions Ltd
Is the universe infinite? Do we control our own destinies, or is everything random? And can a comedy routine ever feature too many PowerPoint slides? If you're serious about such philosophical questions, the odds are you're not going to turn to a comedian for the answers. Alex Horne, however, is a man determined to beat the odds, and has accordingly devised a show that is accessible and entertaining but also packs an intellectual punch, as he earnestly explores the subjects of betting and probability. Comfortably slipping between personal anecdote and casual explanations of quantum mechanics, Horne's routine isn't about big laughs, but is always humorous and engaging: going to see this absorbing show really isn't much of a gamble.
Pleasance Courtyard, 4 - 30 Aug (not 16), 8.30pm (9.30pm), £8.00 - £10.50, fpp 23.
tw rating 4/5
[ac]

Susan Morrison's 'F' is for . . .
Susan Morrison/The Stand Comedy Club
Susan Morrison didn't make me laugh. I found her observations on myriad topics, from relationships to the dangers of Glasgow and the inane nature of Lidl, facile and obvious. Nary a joke she made was one I hadn't heard before, or indeed made myself. I expect greater innovation and wit from somebody who is funny professionally. However, Susan Morrison made an audience full of strangers cluck, giggle, and nod their heads approvingly. If - and many people seem to - you like your stand-up comics to reinforce notions you already believe and retell jokes you've already heard down the pub - than Morrison should be right in your wheelhouse. Fast-paced comedy for people who are terrified of anything original.
The Stand Comedy Club 2, 6 - 29 Aug, 1.45pm (2.45pm), £8, fpp 128.
tw rating 2/5
[kc]

Eric's Laws Of The Land
Eric
Departing from his previously sea-themed tales, 'Laws Of The Land' is the result of things which niggle away at Eric's patience. The premise of the show is this: 'What isn't a law but should be?' He invites you to sign the petition for his solutions, which include passing laws - on obesity, stone-cladding, toilet seat angles and radio DJ vocabulary - to make the world better. Eric uses multimedia to illustrate his arguments, making this feel a bit more like a presentation than a routine, yet it is unrehearsed and natural enough to be absorbing. The rough-round-the-edges approach puts you at ease; his slapdash style makes for refreshingly honest chat that is inoffensive, witty and will have you nodding your head in agreement.
Just The Tonic at The Caves, 5 - 29 Aug (not 17), 6.00pm (7.00pm), £4.00 - £5.00, fpp 59.
tw rating 3/5
[cnm]

Tom Allen Toughens Up!
Tom Allen
Sporting bright pink trousers and a blue cravat, one can instantly see why Tom Allen may have a tip or two to share on toughening up. Being flamboyantly gay, very posh, yet living in a nasty area with a drug dealer for a neighbour has thrown up some rich material and his set on how to survive as a slender shouldered man is heart wrenchingly funny. Allen has no need to toughen up as it is impossible not to fall in love with him and his brilliantly entertaining life. Truly one of the best anecdotalists around. This clever, thought out comedy on life is an absolute must see.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 4 - 29 Aug, (not 16), 7.30pm (8.30pm), £7.00 - £10.00, fpp 133.
tw rating 4/5
[ka]

Charity Shop Cabaret
Trifle Gathering Productions/PBH's Free Fringe
Vintage. A set of tables, chairs and boxes instantly set this understated comedy back in the 80s. Following the tale of a middle-aged woman from her strict upbringing, through her decision to give up on romance and open a charity shop, the show was thoroughly enjoyable and strangely heartfelt. Detailed characters and well-portrayed relationships were key to this piece, told with energetic movement and passionate voice, and although it was not directly to my taste, the restrained humour appealed to the audience as a whole. With great supporting actors in the form of our heroine's two friends - who embody shyness and eccentricity - this story was well told by performers whose singing voices were as strong as their movement. If you do have a spare hour, go and see this.
The Voodoo Rooms, 9 - 27 Aug, 1.45pm (2.45pm), free, fpp 42.
tw rating 4/5
[ajb]

The Chelsea Grin
Smith and Tuck's Chelsea Grin
The great shame with the 'Chelsea Grin' is that their material has potential. In the hands of a more assured duo, you could imagine their sketches being hilarious - what happens when a man mistakes comic books for medical textbooks? What would a health and safety inspector make of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? With refinement, these scenes could be surreal and sardonic. Alas, the men of the Chelsea Grin suffer from a complete lack of comic timing or stage presence. You sense that, when devising the show, they had a funny thought and then put no work into developing it. A dire hour of awkward pauses and audience walk-outs - and the twosome's confidence waned terribly as the show progressed. Tremendously poor.
Laughing Horse @ Espionage, 5 - 29 Aug (not 23), 2.15pm (3.15pm), free, fpp 42.
tw rating 1/5
[kc]

Jon Richardson: Don't Happy, Be Worry
Off The Kerb Productions
There can be some incredibly obscure show titles littered through the Fringe programme, but Jon Richards decides to keep it literal as he riffs on how not leading a stressful life is, well, stressful. After some failed audience banter he cracks on with his routine consisting of obviously rehearsed improv and he dutifully lets the audience know when to laugh by doing a silly voice, a little dance or inserting a swear word into the punch line, to which the crowd politely chortle. There is a nice cohesiveness running through his set but while each anecdote amuses there is always a noticeable pause between the laughter, but don't worry (that's right) be happy.
Pleasance Courtyard, 4 - 30 Aug (not 16), 7.40pm (8.40pm), £9.50 - £12.00, fpp 81.
tw rating 3/5
[ta]

Pros from Dover II
Pros from Dover
In the beginning, I wasn't convinced by these guys. Signposting the beginning and end of each sketch and not giving the show full rein to just flow on seemed clunky and heavy. As soon as the Pros settled into their set, however, this approach became amenable and personable, and they soon blossomed into the innovative and fresh sketch comics that they have been widely, and rightly, billed as. It is on a rare occasion that you come across a bunch whose comedy makes you actually struggle to find a comparison; their material is genuinely and utterly original. The Pros from Dover are an exciting riot that just should not be missed.
The GRV, 15.20pm, 5 - 29 Aug, £5.00, fpp 111.
tw rating 4/5
[mb]

Al Murray: The Pub Landlord's Compete for the Meat
Avalon Promotions Ltd
Everyone who's seen Al Murray perform knows he's at the top of his game. The question remaining, though, is whether his game - being the comic spokesman for jingoistic, chauvinist Britain - is one worth being top of. This show, a laddish, lunchtime pub quiz, showcases his undeniable skills in spontaneous rapport and derision, and the informal set-up reveals him to be an expert compere, directing the quiz with boisterous authority and playing his participants against one another with macho jibes. He's also clever, but has an alienating lack of charm and variety, so when, for example, an audience member admitted to working in health-and-safety, Murray's response was like an achingly predictable Daily Mail headline. A well-loved but wearying comedian.
Pleasance Dome, 16 - 28 Aug, 12.30pm (2pm), £5.00, fpp 23.
tw rating 3/5
[kb]

Shakespeare's Shorts
Shae Kuehlmann/ PBH's Free Fringe
This delightful afternoon was filled with lovely sketches based on the works of Shakespeare, each intelligently adapted and highly satirical, including one in which Richard III gives his famous soliloquy speech, whilst the cleaner is voices her own humorous opinions. This light-hearted take on possibly the greatest written work the world has ever seen is a great way to start the afternoon on a high. The rapport between the two actresses is excellent and this helps create an informal atmosphere, which is surely vital to any comedy piece. It only lasted 35 minutes, shorter than it was meant to be, but it truly is Shakespeare like you have never seen it. Well written and performed with expert timing.
Beehive Inn, 7 - 28 Aug (not 11, 18, 25), 5.00pm (6.00pm), free, fpp122.
tw rating 3/5
[tv]

DANCE AND PHYSICAL THEATRE

Power Of Compassion
Tibetan Monks From Tashi Lhunpo Monastery
The sacred dances and prayers of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery are presented in a typically relaxed style by a group of exiled monks. Though intolerably loud at first, the atonal horns and chanting become surprisingly soporific - I noticed more than one audience member nodding off - and the dances are clunky, and formless. Without a native knowledge of the signs associated with the colourful costumes or hand gestures, the dances and chants mean very little. Consequently, it's all quite dull, although there is one fascinating demonstration of the Tibetan art of debating, which injects some much-needed humour and drama into the proceedings. As a performance, this is rather difficult to recommend, but it is an interesting cultural experience.
Quaker Meeting House, 9 - 28 Aug (not 15, 22), 4.30pm (5.30pm), £6.50 - £7.50, fpp 152.
tw rating 2/5
[tm]

Cape Dance Company
Forget insipid, minimalist modern dance and see instead this big and ballsy set of dances from some bracingly uninhibited young people. The first piece sees three sets of dancers weave in and out of one another's narratives, clashing and blurring ballet and jazz and paving a steep gradient of excitement for the show to climb. The dancers are hugely nimble and commanding, steering the show ably through its occasional juvenile or obvious moments. Highlights include a mock-audition in which half-shod hopefuls jostle neurotically for the limelight, some itchingly sexy duets ranging from the balletic to the gothic, and a vibrant African finale which is about as celebratory an experience as you're likely to see this year.
Zoo Roxy, 15 - 29 Aug, 2.30pm (3.30pm), £10.00 - £12.00, fpp 144.
tw rating 4/5
[kb]

EXHIBITIONS

Joan Mitchell
Inverleith House
Tucked away in one of Edinburgh's most beautiful exhibition spaces, this retrospective focuses on Mitchell's fascination with nature. Her abstract works are divided between pastels and large canvases which make you want to get up close to the thickly- layered oils and the fierce, flowing brushstrokes, but you have to stand back to get the full effect. She's at her best when using a smaller palette, as in 'First Cyprus' with its sombre shadows, or the 'Tilleul' sketches, which glow with a garden-after-rain energy, entirely appropriate for summer in Edinburgh. The exhibition concludes with an eighty minute film which gives a psychologically intimate portrait of this important artist.
It's a refreshing break from the bustle of the Fringe.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh - Inverleith House, 2 Aug - 4 Sep, 10.00am (5.30pm), free, fpp 169.
tw rating 4/5
[df]

Down Over Up
Martin Creed
At the heart of Martin Creed's new exhibition is the Fruitmarket staircase. Transformed into a keyboard which ascends a scale as you move up through the gallery, its notes ring out in varying combinations as you survey Creed's pyramids of chairs, tables and cacti. The work plays with repetition, with objects and forms arranged, at times imperfectly, by colour, tone or size. The work is effective within the context of the white box gallery although little would stand out as an isolated work of art. However, as a minimalist exploration of the relationship between spontaneity and order, pattern and discord, there's a charm in it's simplicity.
The Fruitmarket Gallery, 6-30 Aug, 10.00am - 7.00pm, free, fpp 167.
tw rating 3/5
[cmc]

MUSICALS AND OPERA

Ashes
Play Mouse Productions
"My story is worth hearing" urged protagonist Evelyn several times during this performance. Unfortunately, I had to disagree with her; this newly written musical concerning an adulterous husband and his duped wife managed to be both laughably over-dramatic and incredibly uneventful. The tolerable acting was entirely eclipsed by the cast's nasal, off-key and increasingly hysterical singing. Promising poignant moments and potential climaxes were soon ruined by the interference of another unimaginative number. On rereading the programme synopsis I also noticed that some crucial plot details were lost in this noisy barrage. Although this isn't a comedy, you may find yourself laughing at just how much this story isn't worth hearing.
Spotlites @ The Merchants' Hall, 15 - 30 Aug, 7.30pm (8.30pm), £5.00-£7.00, fpp 208.
tw rating 1/5
[eg]

Persephone: The Musical
Pomegranate Productions
This is that rarest of things, a new musical with a really good score. Fabio D'Andrea has written some excellent music, although despite his exquisite piano accompaniments there are moments that cry out for a full chorus and orchestra. However, the book and production need work. Characters rarely interact with each other and don't participate in dialogue or action between songs, with events swiftly narrated rather than portrayed. There are some beautiful singing voices but very
little acting in evidence, and the staging is nothing more than a few perfunctory positionings. The music has the potential to capture the epic myth and personal struggle of Persephone, but as a fully-fledged musical this piece has a way to go yet.
St Mark's artSpace, 15 - 28 Aug (not 16, 23), times vary, £7.00 - £9.00, fpp 215.
tw rating 3/5
[jm]

MUSIC

Barbara Morrison - Behind The Green Door
Outhouse Productions
When the band begins to play, someone's conspicuously absent. Barbara makes a movie-star entrance fashionably late, glowing and vivacious. After twelve years at the Fringe and seven touring with Ray Charles before that, she's a confident pro, and she's here to have fun. With a powerful voice that fills the intimate loft space, she delivers soulful numbers tinged with blues and funk, ably backed by the Tom Finley Trio, who play it hot and fast, punctuating the songs with accomplished solo flurries. Taking care to involve the audience, Morrison has you laughing when you're not caught up in the groove, clapping and toe-tapping when you're not dancing. It's a playful, passionate performance from a real class act.
The Outhouse, 8 - 12, 14, 16 - 21, 27 - 29 Aug, 7.00pm (8.15pm) £13.00, fpp 175.
tw rating 4/5
[df]

THEATRE

The Servant to Two Masters
Grand Youth Theatre Company
Have you ever heard the words "piss off" and "bollocks" in an 18th century play? Carlo Goldoni's text - reminiscent of a slightly less compact, though more simply worded 'Twelfth Night', complete with cross-dressing and frustrating misunderstandings - takes on a surprisingly modern tone through Lee Hall's radical adaptation. This peculiar combination of old and new was performed gallantly by the Grand Youth Theatre Company, who nicely balanced comedy with agony - particularly in the hapless servant Truffaldino, who caused an amusing chaos with his mischievous duplicity. Some weak performances did mean that the full potential of this friendly comedy remained unfulfilled, but in the end, I left the theatre in a state of contentment that only the familiarly inevitable 'resolution act' can deliver.
theSpaces @ The Radisson, 9 - 14 Aug, 12.20pm (1.50pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp 286.
tw rating 3/5

The Author
News From Nowhere Presents A Royal Court Production
This show is controversial: its first performance in Edinburgh was notorious - members of the audience made paper aeroplanes before walking out in droves - but it's meant to provoke a reaction, because ultimately - surely - that's what art is for. This is a play for the theatre, about the theatre, and it deconstructs its very heart by questioning the relationships between characters, actors, author and audience. Brilliantly clever, with multiple layers and challenging theatrical conventions; I strongly recommend you see this show as it is an important and urgent work. But be prepared: It is not easy viewing, it will move you emotionally, and the experience will leave a lingering touch, as if the author himself had reached out and placed his hand upon you.
Traverse Theatre, 6 - 29 Aug, (not 9, 16, 23), times vary, £6.00 - £17.00, fpp 229.
tw rating 5/5
[cc]

Love Is Darkness, Baby! (Get Used To It)
The Glass Trebuchet
Set in the midst of the El Salvadorian civil war, 'Love is Darkness' follows the fortunes of a film crew through the bizarre events that transpire after the suspicious death of lead actress Fleur De Villeneuve. Via a surreal, but very entertaining script, the film crew desperately tries to cover up the death - with unforeseen consequences. Most of the characters are deranged and more than a little outlandish but they work well together: The chauvinist producer and mentally challenged Preston are especially amusing. This show manages to be dark and mysterious but light hearted and amusing at the same time, and I would highly recommend taking an hour of your time to watch this very enjoyable black comedy.
Sin Club & Lounge, 7 - 26 Aug (not 16), 4.30pm (5.25pm), free, fpp 268.
tw rating 3/5
[sr]

Quarantine
Tictek
At several points in this monotonous play, the lead character hysterically tells the audience that they are 'quarantined' in the room for the foreseeable future. This was certainly an accurate reflection of how one felt as an audience member - bored and unable to escape. The jokes were cliched and hackneyed, with repetitive references to 'Dino AIDS' and 'Dino 'flu' which tired pretty much instantly. The premise of a comedy satire about a deadly disease sounds interesting, but unfortunately this play failed to entertain in the least. It was a shame that the concept was irredeemable as the cast seemed like nice people and said "thank you for coming" as we left, as though apologising for the play's utter dreadfulness.
The Spaces @ The Surgeons Hall, 9 - 27 Aug (not 15, 22), £7.00 - £8.00, fpp 281.
tw rating 2/5
[hw]

Penelope by Enda Walsh
Druid
From a scene of four men living in a drained swimming pool springs a retelling of the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus, and her resolute suitors. The play inverts the original myth, as the power shifts to the imperiously silent Penelope, who decides the fate of her underling suitors. Combined with blood-stained walls and security cameras, an atmosphere of a beachside penitentiary is created. The performances magnificently harness the waxy lyricism of the writing, yet I did find myself questioning whether Penelope is empowered or marred by her silence, and why the suitors never consider fleeing from their pool as an alternative to death. However, this piece is a wonderfully original rendition of a theatrically neglected chapter in Greek mythology; rich in themes, and precise in execution.
Traverse Theatre, 5 - 29 Aug (not 6, 9, 11, 16, 23), times vary, £6.00 - £19.00, fpp 278.
tw rating 4/5
[np]

The Head of the Fork
MiddleMan
If you're a twenty-something teetering on the precipice of real life, this tale of apathy and stagnation is sure to speak to you. "Are we there yet?" reads the irrepressible Dom's t-shirt and this question hangs darkly over the play along with others about mortality, independence and loneliness. Fred has lost all motivation and spends his days watching cats stalk and milk ferment. His eccentric housemate's attempts to fire Fred into action result in a bleak comedy reminiscent of 'Peep Show'. The production was easy to relate to, touching and remarkably naturalistic. In fact, it felt so real that afterwards I was left to stew in a philosophical ennui which took hours to shake off. Superb but grimly depressing.
Zoo Roxy, 6 - 29 Aug, 1.40pm (2.30pm), £5.00 - £8.00, fpp 258.
tw rating 4/5
[eg]

Up'N'Under
Hull Truck Theatre Company
My brother maintains that to understand rugby is to understand life. I think rugby's a load of bollocks. Your take on the play 'Up'N'Under' is likely contingent on where you fall between those two opinions. A standard 'scrappy underdogs rally together to beat the big team' tale, much of the rugby-based banter was lost on me, but less so on the rest of the audience. Actors worked hard to garner chortles but most of the humour felt painfully dated and centered on the revelation that it's 'grim oop north', while plot machinations are predictable and dull. To its credit, 'Up'N'Under' has a rousing finale, the staging of the ultimate match ingenious and energetic. But still, it's one for the rugby fans.
Assembly @ George Street, 5 - 30 Aug (not 16), 5.25pm (6.55pm), £17.50 - £19.50, fpp 301.
tw rating 2/5
[kc]

Superbard - Free
Tea Fuelled Art/PBH's Free Fringe
Sometimes it takes adversity to show what a performer is capable of. It's not something anyone wants to go through, but a technical hitch that took out half of this show was not enough to dim the affable charisma of this engaging performer, and one of his two planned stories was enough to leave me wanting more. A pleasingly gothic rom-com, the first tale is perfectly pitched; the script is funny, inventively surreal and suits the knowing, offbeat performance style. The atmospheric surrounds of the cave-like venue serve to enhance the experience. Although today the show lacked music, a quick listen to previous recordings served to assure that, hitch sorted, this will be even better. Don't miss it.
The Banshee Labyrinth, 18 - 28 August, 5.10pm (6.10pm), free non-ticketed fpp 292.
tw rating 4/5
[tc]

The Fever Chart: Three Visions Of The Middle East
Warwick University Drama Society
This play brings home the complex global conflict in the Middle East in a trio of plays portraying three sets of individuals' lives in Rafah, Jerusalem, and Baghdad. As if this is not enough for a festival audience to contend with, the characters are intense and dealing with weighty and sensitive issues outwith the conflict themselves. By contrast, the lines were delivered without flaw, but also without conviction. Sadly, the overall effect is to keep us from reaching any understanding of what these people must suffer on a daily basis rather than giving insight, and in my view, this is an opportunity missed.
TheSpaces on the Mile @ The Radisson, 16 - 29 Aug, 3.10pm (4pm), £5.00 - £7.00, fpp 250.
tw rating 2/5
[cm]

Alcatraz
Aireborne Theatre
There's no escape from Alcatraz: in this case represented by memories. Our protagonist, a hotel cleaner, is trapped by her own personal history, metaphorically imprisoned by her memories, and this piece sees her lounging on the bed in a hotel room, her 'daydream shelter', as she recalls her life and loves. The stories are enacted by former occupants of the room whose experiences resonate with hers, though they appear dreamlike as the lead character does not have any direct communication with them. The transiency of the room's occupants only serves to highlight the fact that the lead character's own perspective has become fixed over time. Engaging if intense, I felt this rich material needed longer than a one-hour slot.
Underbelly, Cowgate, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29 Aug, 12.35pm (1.35pm), £6.50 - £10.00, fpp 223.
tw rating 3/5
[cm]

The Rope In Your Hands
New Salisbury Players
The effects of a tragedy such as hurricane Katrina cannot be classified merely as broken levees; this is a tragedy that alters a place entirely and scars people that have lived through it. In ' The Rope In Your Hands' playwright Siobhan O' Loughlin has collaged extracts from her interviews of thirteen Katrina survivors to draw an image of post-hurricane New Orleans. The multiple facets of the story are successfully brought out in a script that is engaging and ultimately calls for social activism. Unfortunately, O'Loughlin's acting does not do her script justice. Despite her energy and animation, her characters do not fully spring to life and I found myself wishing I could see videos of the interviews instead.
Quaker Meeting House, 16 - 28 Aug, 7.10pm (7.55pm), £8.00, fpp 284.
tw rating 3/5
[ms]

Mary and William
Ines Wurth Presents (USA)
If, as she tells us, her "project was to please", I'm not sure Ms Hamill in 'Mary and William' succeeds: However, she certainly manages to move, inspire, and slightly sadden her audience. 'Mary and William' is a profound piece, which from the very beginning, hits you as hard as the plight of Holden Caulfield and increasingly ripens to keep you rapt until the very end. As categorically American as 'Of Mice and Men,' Mary MacDonald Hamill, with her incredibly powerful stage presence and ability to captivate with the slightest of facial expressions, gives a moving biographical tour of her own life as an actor, via different dramatic roles, stepping seamlessly through the years from petulant young girl to herself as she is now, via nuns, siblings, lovers and rivals to create an astonishing show.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 6 - 29 Aug (not 16), 2.45pm (3.55pm), £7.50 - £9.50, fpp 270.
tw rating 4/5
[mb]

Everything Else You Always Wanted To Know About Life (But Didn't Care To Ask)
Bad Bread
The team behind 'Everything Else...' directs their wry intelligence and rapid wit to produce an excellent collection of sketches that have true pace and an electric charm. An impressive array of characters leaves you eager for more - the Mastermind and Mary and Joseph scenes stand out as possessing particular novelty. There are moments, however, when the otherwise original and keen writing teeters on the edge of heavy handedness and goes a little too far - dodgy Adolf Hitler sketches, for example, can fly perilously close to the bone. But the pace of the show was otherwise ripping, and the ballroom blitz of characters that they present comes together to serve up a treat of a show: I loved it.
Underbelly, 7 - 29 Aug (not 16), 12.15pm, £6.50 - £9.50, fpp 59.
tw rating 4/5
[mb]

The Divine Tales
New Sense Productions
Two twenty-something actresses angst about their non-existent careers then go off in search of themselves and their dreams. It would be nice to think that along the way they might find some interesting or amusing material, but unfortunately they don't. This is a self-indulgent show which tries to save itself by being ironic, but it is too shallow and unoriginal to be redeemed that way. Despite a promising start, the performances aren't strong enough to transcend the terrible script. Each actor plays multiple characters, but it's difficult to differentiate these by anything other than their props - they don't even work as caricatures as they are not sufficiently well-drawn. An overlong gag with a weak punchline.
theSpace on the Mile @ Jury's Inn, 16 - 28 Aug (not 22), times vary, £5.00 - £7.00, fpp 245.
tw rating 1/5
[jm]

Impossible Things Before Breakfast: T5 by Simon Stephens
Traverse Theatre Company And Hibrow Productions
The curtains part to reveal a woman hanging high in the air on a chair; this short and sparkling play - in a series commissioned by the Traverse from five playwrights - gradually reveals the details of how she got up there. Meg Fraser is entrancing, wryly funny in her observations on her fellow Tube passengers, heartbreaking as she imagines her young daughter growing older. The only false note was struck by her tuneless singing of half-remembered songs, but this is a minor irritation in this impressively suspenseful (and suspending) half hour. Simon Stephens has constructed an exciting narrative that writhes and buckles like a garden hose; Fraser expertly maintains her grip on it as it builds to its vertiginous conclusion.
Traverse Theatre, 18 and 28 Aug, 9.00am (9.30am), £12.00, fpp 261.
tw rating 4/5
[gg]

Mary Queen of Scots: The Last Letter
Anna Hepburn
This dramatised historical monologue charts the numerous tribulations of Mary Stewart, and her struggle for survival during the Renaissance religious reformations. Sadly, such speculative testimonial can become tedious, and to distinguish itself from the offerings of a textbook, it needs to bring humanity to history. Whilst Stewart endured many hardships, there is little sense of her courage and fortitude in this breathy and whimpering portrayal, as the production latches onto her misfortunes like a depressed limpet. This means the entire miserable tale is told with a monotonous mundanity, and although the production offers education and interaction, it fails to bring enough insight or vitality to outweigh the factual reliability of a book.
Scottish Storytelling Centre, dates vary, 17.00pm (17.50pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp 270.
tw rating 2/5
[np]

Connection Failed
Frapetsus Productions
According to this play, Facebook and other similar sites have given us whole new ways to vet prospective partners, catch them cheating and exact our revenge upon them. However, these sites are only passingly mentioned and 90% of the action takes place down the pub, emphasising that it's still face to face contact that really matters. Although the jokes could have been snappier, and you may be hard pressed to find a meaningful message, this is a satisfying evening of light entertainment. The play, which follows the progress of three young Welsh couples at different stages of commitment, benefits from skilful dialogue, and the subtly constructed range of characters makes for fascinating watching. A well-written sitcom with plenty of character depth.
Venue 13, 18 - 29 Aug, times vary, £5.00 - £8.00, fpp 239.
tw rating 3/5
[mg]

Wolf
Authentic Artist Collective/Kath Burlinson/Escalator East To Edinburgh
Theatre for the senses, indeed. Have yourself literally surrounded in this magnetically charged piece and be introduced to the stinking, gritty and authentic world of the modern wolf. The collective behind this show have everything polished, and then delightfully roughed up again with tooth and claw: a blend of physical theatre, music and song, to produce a howling success that explores today's wolf/human relationships. This production is brave, compelling and undeniably entertaining in a way you will have undoubtedly never seen before. Go to be knocked off your feet (almost literally) and have the hairs on the back of your neck quivering with quiet foreboding after a seamlessly synchronised and beautifully assembled show.
Just The Tonic @ The Caves, 12.15pm (1.15pm), 7 - 29 Aug (Not 17), £7.50 - £9.50, fpp 305.
tw rating 4/5
[mb]

The Not So Fatal Death of Grandpa Fredo
Vox Motus, in co-production with Arts and Theatres Trust Fife
Welcome to Reliance Falls; a desolate American town where Mayor Marilyn Conquest rules in high-heeled wellies, and Norwegian immigrant (Mr Fredo) freezes his grandpa in a home-made cryogenic chamber (a shed with dry ice). The somewhat ridiculous but enjoyable storyline is intersected rather disjointedly by musical numbers, during which the actors sing wittily and play their own instruments well. Amusing and touching moments come and go but the set, lighting and sound by far outshine the narrative and performances: innovative multimedia elements, a fantastically versatile stage construction and a brilliant reoccurring sound and mime pairing create a memorable backdrop. Unfortunately, the action doesn't stand up to the technical splendour.
Traverse, 2 - 29 (not 3-6, 9, 16, 23), times vary, £6.00 - £19.00, ffp 275
tw rating 3/5
[sk]

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