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Another late night bumper helping of reviews

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When someone chooses the moniker Kunt And The Gang – even with the 'k' – I think it's fair to say they're going just a little bit out of their way to court controversy.

So, it seems, job done for the comedy music outfit from Basildon, because – albeit according to their own press release – they've put a few Fringe noses out of joint by encouraging their audiences to stick promotional cock stickers on other comedian's posters.

Anyone wandering around the Fringe's George Square/Bristo Square hub last weekend can't have failed to see the cock shaped stickers, complete with a QR code that took smartphone users to a webpage containing the single word 'Kunt'. The aim was to promote the free KATG show appearing as part of the Free Festival this year.

As KATG fans placed cock stickers on the posters of other Fringe comics, the comedy music man behind the promotion claims he received complaints from various Fringe promoters, legal threats from Underbelly, a telling off from the Fringe Society and a visit from Edinburgh Council officials. Though, he says, they did struggle to keep a straight face as they told Free Festival staff that they'd been forced to spend the day "pulling off over 100 cocks around Edinburgh".

And some comedians do see the funny side of having large white cock stickers placed on their posters, while one key Edinburgh comedy promoter – The Stand's Tommy Sheppard – reportedly said he'd be happy to see the cock stickers on his venue's publicity. With chatter about what KATG themselves are trying to dub Cock-gate spilling over onto the net and into the media, some are speculating that the act is now favourite to win the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. Certainly award organiser John Fleming has noted the stunt on his blog.

So, while Cock-gate is earning KATG as many enemies as friends, it could all still result in a happy climax for the Kunt. By which I mean he could get an award to take back to Basildon.

What's that, you want more Edinburgh Festival awards? Well you are in luck people, because The Stage has announced the shortlists for this year's Stage Awards For Acting Excellence. These are awarded to what The Stage's panel believe to be the best performances from professional actors at the Fringe each year, with gongs for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Ensemble and Best Solo Performance. Coming up, the shortlists in full. But there's always time for a quote from the Editor of The Stage first.

Editor of The Stage Brian Attwood told ThreeWeeks: "Once again The Stage Awards have been richly served by the wide array of talent participating on the Edinburgh Fringe. It's our hope that, as ever, the industry publication can serve them too, by providing the premier platform for highlighting theatrical talent at the Festival".

And the nominees are:

Best Actor
Billy Mack for The Overcoat (Pleasance)
Art Malik for Rose (Pleasance)
Simon Merrells for Oedipus (Pleasance)
Michael Peng for Bashir Lazhar (Assembly)
Nikolaus Szentmiklosi for Danny And The Deep Blue Sea (Remarkable Arts At St George's West)

Best Actress
Lucinda Curtis for Dust (Universal Arts At New Town Theatre)
Shian Denovan for Snap Catch Slam (Pleasance)
Alessija Lause for Danny And The Deep Blue Sea (Remarkable Arts At St George's West)
Catherine Walsh for The Wheel (Traverse)
Madeleine Worrall for The Strange Undoing Of Prudencia Hart (Traverse At Ghillie Dhu)

Best Ensemble
Banana Bag & Bodice for Beowulf: A Thousand Years Of Baggage (Assembly)
Made From Scratch for Body Of Water (Pleasance)
Citizens Theatre for The Monster In The Hall (Traverse)
Wardrobe Ensemble for Riot (Zoo)
National Theatre Of Scotland for The Strange Undoing Of Prudencia Hart (Traverse At Ghillie Dhu)
Theatre Ad Infinitum for Translunar Paradise (Pleasance)

Best Solo Performer
Jake Addley for One Fine Day (Zoo)
Joe Doherty for Bones (Zoo)
Nicola Gunn for At The Sans Hotel (Assembly)
Gerard Logan for The Rape Of Lucrece (Zoo)
Sabrina Mahfouz for Dry Ice (Underbelly)
Guy Masterson for Shylock (Assembly)

The winners will be announced on 28 Aug at Dance Base at 7pm.


REVIEW FEATURE: About Comedy - Stand-Up Comedy Course (Laughing Horse Comedy)
A Mancunian having a mid-life crisis, a Grangemouth sales rep, a fourteen year old with an innocent face and devilish sense of humour, and a ThreeWeeks reviewer walk into a bar. Not the set up to the world's worst joke, but the start of my initiation into the world of stand-up comedy. This two day course promises to teach us the basics of stand-up – joke writing, performance and not dying on stage – in a little over nine hours, before making us perform our material for real punters at a real show.

Oh god, why did I volunteer for this?

The course is run by the disarmingly-like-your-mum-only-filthy Jojo Sutherland, and she eases our nerves with a practised confidence. "You'll be great", she tells us, "and if not, well, fuck it, comedy's not for you!" A professional comedian of eight years, Jojo knows the trade inside out and is happy to answer our many questions as she goes about the business of knocking us into shape.

The first day consists of exercises to put us at ease and draw out our comedic influences. We have a broad mix in our group, from fans of shock jocks to mainstream stand-up to golden oldies like Stanley Baxter, and a range of presentational styles. Jojo, who has a remarkable knack for material, helps us find an arc for our five minute sets to follow. Her real skill, though, is making each arc feel personal and fitting, despite our varied tastes and styles. It helps that the atmosphere in the room is a constant bubble of humour and supportiveness with a refreshing lack of egos or prima-donnas, which is subtly encouraged by Jojo throughout.

With each of us having been sent home to write five minutes' worth of material, the second day is when the real work starts. Our stuff isn't funny, but, at this point, that's to be expected. Working with each of us individually, Jojo tweaks and tightens our material, teaching as she goes. The "Rule Of Three" – set-up, reinforce, twist – is drummed into our heads, along with comedy being about taking ideas to their illogical extremes. Jojo works her magic on the material we've brought with us and, by the end of the session, we're all armed with five minutes of actual stand-up comedy. That said, the second day of the course is a touch less successful than the first. Whilst the group was still very generous and giving, the fact that JoJo's attention needed to be focussed on one person at a time meant that the day dragged when you weren't in the spotlight. A second tutor working with those not getting one-to-one attention would have helped at this point.

Then, all too soon, the course was over and we were clutching the mic and staring out at a joke hungry audience. Our sauve compare, Jem Brookes, made sure to look after us and ensured we got a warm round of applause after we'd survived our terrifying sets. Once it's over, it's easy to see why so many people want to be stand-ups. Even in a first time set, the thrill of a gag hitting the mark is a powerful drug.

Obviously, no two day course is going to make you into the next Frankie Boyle on its own, but for those thinking about a career in stand-up – or those who just want to learn a few of the skills – this is an excellent place to start.

Don't think I'll be giving up the day job, though.

Laughing Horse @ Edinburgh City Football Club, 6 – 7, 9 -10, 13 – 14, 16 – 17, 20 – 21, 23 – 24, 27 – 28 Aug (2 day courses), 12.15pm (4.45pm), £79.00 - £99.00, fpp32. tw rating 4/5 [ab]
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Delving Beneath The Surface
Dermot Healy and Johanna Skibsrud
With Dermot Healy having cancelled, the onus was on Johanna Skibsrud to single-handedly keep her audience entertained with readings from her Giller prize winning debut novel 'The Sentimentalists'. This she more than managed, her tender prose style combining remarkable flavours of wit, describing the purchase of a boat as being 'paid for by a month of celery', with a seeping colloquial sadness that builds into a powerful description of Alzheimer's. Her whole novel is about the way memory is stored – submerged, but still living in an oxygenated half-life, visibly crumbling into decay. A daughter searches for her father's memories of Vietnam, a process of reconciliation that explores the ways in which the past serves as a foundation for the present.
RBS Corner Theatre, 16 Aug, 8.30pm (9.30pm), £7.00, eibfpp17.

Ilan Pappé: Sparking Life Into Ancient Histories 
"I'm glad you asked that", Ilan Pappé offers, in response to an audience question on the role of religion in Palestine. "I get to use one of my most famous quotes". He laughs. It's a fairly accurate snapshot of the whole hour: Pappé is surprisingly good-humoured, enlivening his discussion of the Middle East with the wit and vibrancy which makes his writing so easy to read. In person, he is even more interesting and well-informed than he appears on paper, dropping anecdotal stories about his mother-in-law alongside tales of historical revolution and political upheaval. Of course, an hour can barely scratch the surface of the problems facing Israel and Palestine; but it is an educational and engrossing sixty minutes nonetheless. 
RBS Main Theatre, 16 Aug, 3.00pm (4.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, eibfpp16. 

Writing Without Boundaries: Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Realism
Kelly Link With Audrey Niffenegger 
A disappointingly listless discussion, given that Kelly Link practically invented her own brand of fantasy writing. The brief excerpt she read from her acclaimed short story "The Specialist's Hat" hardly provided a taster of the dynamic prose which Niffenegger praised as containing "surprises like tiny fireworks". The talk and the response to audience questions bordered on the banal (you can't make a living at writing and will likely need to teach? Hardly a shocker). The most interesting revelation was Link's quirky habit of reading crime novels by starting at the beginning, skipping to the end, and then enjoying the satisfying layers of the middle. 
ScottishPower Studio Theatre, 16 Aug, 8.30 (9.25), £8.00 - £10.00, eibfpp17. 
Nothing But The Poem: Discovering Poetry
We were very cramped in the Writers' Retreat. This was not a bad thing, however, as the risk of elbowing my neighbour served as a heartwarming reminder that many people are not only interested in poetry, but are willing to pay to discuss it. Any discomfort was quickly forgotten as we began reading the chosen poems, which, on this occasion, were sonnets by John Clare and Don Paterson. The discussions were thoughtful and the diversity of the group made for well-rounded (sometimes conflicting) readings of the poems. Fraser's wish to have members of the group read out the poems, instantly created an atmosphere of familiarity conducive to good literary discussion. Altogether, a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon. 
Writers' Retreat, Aug 16, 1.30pm (2.30pm), £8.00 - £10.00, eibfpp15. 

Glimpse Into A Future Of Unnatural Existence 
Philip Ball
The atmosphere was intimate - with the rain outside and jovial Alistair Moffat welcoming the audience to the festival of 'books and boating' - as Philip Ball took to the stage. Ball, looking every bit the university lecturer, but with the added bonus of the ability to work the projector, spent the hour talking the audience through cultural myths ranging from Prometheus to Brave New World (via Faust and Frankenstein) to show how, frankly, ridiculous it is that society's arguments against IVF and human cloning come from them. At no point excessively technical, his lecture was fascinating. Bell artfully demonstrated that anthropoesis (the creation of artificial people) is not unnatural, as attested by the four million children born through IVF to date.
ScottishPower Studio Theatre, 16 Aug, 12.00pm (1.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, eibfpp15
War And Peace Over Tolstoy's Legacy
Rosamund Bartlett
Tolstoy's legacy is not the uncomplicated one that many would assume. While his place as the grandmaster of narrative is assured around the world, as celebrations for the centenary of his death last year proved, his legacy in Russia is rather more complicated. This was the focus of Rosamund Bartlett's talk, eschewing the opportunity to read a non-contextualised extract from her book 'Tolstoy: A Russian Life', she instead took a look at responses to Tolstoy from the Russian media. She emphasised Lenin's role in shaping the Soviet critical tradition, which was especially concerned with discrediting Tolstoy's religious writings, and thoroughly explored the ambivalence that this has produced in Russia with regard to his fully body of work.
Peppers Theatre, 16 Aug, 4.00pm (5.00pm), £10.00, eibfpp16.
Edwin Morgan International Poetry Prize
The late Glasgow poet Edwin Morgan appeared to the audience in a clip from a 1990 documentary; "poetry can be made out of anything" quoted the event chair, Davie Kinloch. Now in its fourth year, the Poetry Prize presents awards to a handful of poets picked (this year by established poets Vicki Feaver and Kona MacPhee) from hundreds of entries worldwide. The winning poet, Jane McKie, was awarded £5000 for her evocative poem 'Leper Window, St Mary the Virgin'. The runners-up read their entries and, while all present mentally decided who their winner was, the level of competition was striking. A mention should go to Helen Mort, who would have won 'Best Recital,' had such a category existed.
ScottishPower Studio Theatre, Aug 17, 7.00pm (8.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, bfpp20.
Ian Thompson: Jules Verne, Lover Of Scotland 
How much did Scotland influence the second-most translated author in the world? The answer is an awful lot. Professor Ian Thompson related, in a slightly disjointed manner, the details of two trips Jules Verne made to Scotland at opposing ends of his career. Interestingly, or embarrassingly from our modern-day point of view, Verne was able to travel easily from Glasgow to Edinburgh, stopping in Oban, Mull, Iona and Staffa, using only public transport, in just two days. While perhaps most suited to audience members with a vast knowledge of the Scottish land and cityscapes, this was nevertheless an interesting and informative talk by a renowned academic, who shares more than a few traits with the great Jules Verne. 
RBS Corner Theatre, Aug 17, 10.30am (11.30am), £5 - £7, bfpp18. 

Joanne Limburg 
What is it like to live with obsessive-compulsive disorder? More interestingly, what does OCD mean when there are no obvious signs such as hand-washing? Joanne Limburg spoke engagingly and honestly about a condition in which she suffers from perfectionism and never-ending thoughts about disasters she might cause. Limburg's battle began when she was at school and spent entire assemblies worrying that she might retrieve the wrong pair of shoes afterwards, and somehow injure or annoy her classmates and teachers. The most crippling aspects of OCD are that the entire world seems unsafe, and loved ones become responsible for one's own safety. Thankfully, Limburg offered hope that OCD doesn't have to restrict anyone to a life of terror and shame. 
ScottishPower Studio Theatre, 17 Aug, 5.00pm (6.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00. 

John Harding And Michelle Paver –  Ghosts: Are You Being Watched? 
It's a rare hot morning in Charlotte Square. The sun beats down on the roof of the ScottishPower Studio Theatre; inside, the audience are sitting very close to each other in the narrow rows. Yet most of them are shivering. It can only be because, at the front of the tent, Michelle Paver is reading from her deliciously creepy Arctic ghost story, 'Dark Matter'. Atmospheric and chilling, the tale makes the spine tingle. John Harding follows her with an excerpt from his modern take on 'The Turn of the Screw', 'Florence and Giles'; his playful language is an absolute treat. They both answer questions with vivacity and flair; Paver, in particular, endearingly double-checks her answers with Harding throughout. Wonderful stuff. 
ScottishPower Studio Theatre, 17 Aug, 12.00pm (1.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, bfpp18.

Julian Petley And Robin Richardson: How The Press Fuels Myths About Islam 
Julian Petley and Robin Richardson's illuminating hour-long talk is, admittedly, less a discussion of Islam – though as you'd expect, this features quite heavily – than it is a diatribe against the right-wing press. I lost count, about half-way through, of how many times they'd mentioned the phone-hacking scandal. Still, it's an enthralling hour, shot through with sobering statistics - according to one survey, over half of the population associate the words 'extremist' and 'terrorist' with 'Muslim' – and littered with anecdotal evidence for their points. In many ways, it's more a lecture than a discussion, with both men choosing to address the audience separately, from the podium, with prepared notes – but it's an excellent one, about a topic all too relevant today. 
Peppers Theatre, 17 Aug, 4.00pm (5.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, bfpp19 

Neil Gaiman with Audrey Niffenegger: Writing Without Boundaries 
A vampiric Snow White and her necrophiliac Prince are what Gaiman gets when he thinks about the fairytale too much. Not surprising, then, that his brief retelling of 'Hansel and Gretel' was hilarious. Throughout his talk I was reminded of why, for the first time this festival, I was in an audience peopled by those close to my age; Gaiman is charismatic and wise and his imagination is infectious. Audrey Niffenegger's questions guided him through a range of subjects before he regaled the audience with his experience of writing, and realising, an episode of Doctor Who. Those who'd hoped to hear from Niffenegger were somewhat disappointed, but the extra time this gave to Gaiman more than certainly made up for it. 
RBS Main Theatre, Aug 17, 3.00pm (4.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, bfpp19. 
The Rise Of Ebooks: How Will The Rise Of Ebooks Affect Writers And Their Work? 
Peter Burns / Maggie McKernan / Nicola Solomon 
Everybody has an opinion on ebooks these days: there's the passionately print-loving naysayers, the reluctant converts, and the equally-fervent subscribers to digitisation. So it's slightly dissatisfying to find that among the three debaters selected for 'The Rise of Ebooks', there appears to be a consensus that ebooks are, in general, a good thing. Still, this is an interesting enough hour, though hardly conclusive – the phrase "a new era" is somewhat overused, and Peter Burns, self-proclaimed "ebook supremo" from Birlinn Publishing, comes in for some flak from Nicola Solomon,representing the Society of Authors, and literary agent Maggie McKernan. It's an engaging set of questions, but 'The Rise of Ebooks' was disappointingly short on answers. 
Peppers Theatre, 17 Aug, 6.45pm (7.45pm), £8.00 - £10.00, bfpp20 


Cabaret Whore: More! More! More!
Sarah-Louise Young – Festival Highlights
I am warmly greeted with "Well hellloooo beautiful lady" by a glamorous American woman in a costume that, I have to admit, I am very jealous of; it's a dress that would put Liza Minnelli to shame! We are introduced to four very different cabaret divas in this one woman show, each character with their own hilarious idiosyncrasies, each engaging with the audience in their own special way – there's an Eastern European neo-cabaret star and a furious French woman to name two. The costume changes are impressive as they are fast, and the singing is faultless. If you're looking for fun at the Fringe as well as some top quality entertainment, go check out this show.
Underbelly Cowgate, 4 - 28 Aug (not 17), 4:55pm (5:55pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp9.
tw rating 4/5

Lili La Scala: Songs To Make You Smile
Lee Martin For Gag Reflex Management
"Straight-edge all the way" is how Lili La Scala describes herself, when jokingly accused by her pianist Stewart of sipping gin onstage. Dressed like a retro Barbie princess, she exudes doll-like glamour as she coos to the audience – so ladylike that when she remarks about the cold, an audience member automatically offers his jacket. The overpoweringly sweet rapport between Lili and Stewart is infectious, and she clearly loves the songs she's performing, which include well-known classics by Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, plus some more obscure numbers. Though the show would benefit from more direct engagement with the audience, it's exquisitely sung, and full of squeaky-clean fun, delivered with a knowingly raised eyebrow, a sly smile, and a suggestive wink.
Assembly George Square, 3 - 28 Aug (not 8, 15, 22), 5.00pm (6.00pm), £7.50 - £10.50, fpp12.
tw rating 4/5

Tricity Vogue's Ukulele Cabaret – Free
Tricity Vogue / Laughing Horse Free Festival
Kazoos, ukuleles and a drunken guest comic - who substitutes the obligatory instrument for a dart board which he then proceeds to hang over his torso and encourages people to aim at - make this evening of cabaret a surreal experience. However, with the 'Uke of Edinburgh' challenge which sees ukulele players from across the fringe pitted against each other and judged by the audience, this showcase of talent is what the free festival is all about. From the absurd songs on these instruments that lend themselves so well to comedy, performed by the likes of Elliot Mason and Helen Arney, to the sing-along songs that see audience members join in with ukuleles, kazoos or their voice, this show is straightforward fun.
Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters, 4 - 28 Aug (not 5, 12, 13, 19, 26) 9.00pm (9.50pm), free, fpp15.
tw rating 4/5


Act II Theatre Company
"Yes," announced the woman in the goggles. "I am a frog." It's a pity she had to explain. Despite having worse sets and costumes than a primary school's Christmas play, this production of 'Charming!' - a backwards fairy-tale - was not without its good points. These were primarily to be found in the writing; there were several very good jokes hidden in the somewhat formulaic storyline: Prince, frog... you get the idea. Unfortunately, the songs were dreadful, with much of the singing flat, the lyrics unimaginative and the tunes irritating. The acting was entertaining, however, and there were attempts to get the young audience involved, which, with a little development could be very effective. 'Charming!' was charming only at times.
theSpaces @ Surgeon's Hall, dates vary, times vary, £6.00 - £7.00, fpp20.
tw rating 2/5

Cloud Man
Ailie Cohen Puppet Maker
'Cloud Man' is a cute show: the puppets are cute, the set is cute, the twinkly ethereal music composed by Niroshini Tambar is cute. The children sit on cute cloud cushions in front of the stage. Jen Edgar's acting is quirky and engaging, despite the clumsiness of the script and its bizarre changes of tense which confuse the cute children. The story is a little thin and doesn't make all that much sense; at one point a child was heard to cutely shout, "But what is she doing?!" generating nervous adult laughter and shushing from parents. However, it feels magical, it doesn't patronise, and I grew up on the Clangers – so I'm all for it.
Hill Street Theatre, 5 - 24 Aug (not 8, 15), 11.00 am (11.45 am), £5.00 - £7.50, fpp20.
tw rating 3/5

Lapin Wants Breakfast
Le Petit Monde
A wander down the historic Royal Mile, Edinburgh's charming old street, brings us to the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Tania Czajka's Le Petit Monde puppet show is on here through the Festival, telling the tale of Lapin the hungry rabbit. This interactive puppet show is a mix of French and English dialogue, and therefore also a 40 minute lesson in language - unbeknown to the children, who participate throughout. Keywords and phrases are spoken in French and then English, along with illustration of said word, music and sounds. There is also a distinct Scottishness in Tania's show: her French is intermittently touched by Scots. Smaller children and babies may become a little impatient, but this is a wonderful show for pre-school children.
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 5 - 23 Aug (not 6, 7, 17, 18), 11.00am – 11.40pm, £5.00 - £7.00, fpp24.
tw rating 3/5

The Dream Of The Travelling Actor
Georgi Spassov of Theater Atelie 313
Have you ever seen a bicycle tyre converted into a parachute? No? I hadn't either until today. With the help of several multi-coloured tyres and a bicycle wheel Georgi Spassov, a quaint and eccentric narrator, tells the tale of 'The Princess And The Pea'. On occasion the tyre-puppets (for want of a better description) worked very well – it was certainly an inventive idea. However, try as Spassov might, not everything in the world looks like a bicycle tyre and sometimes the story lost focus as the narrator grappled with the tyres, trying to use them in new and interesting ways that sometimes didn't work. The humour was aimed at children and was gentle, if occasionally a little puerile.
Zoo, 5 – 29 Aug (not 7, 14, 21, 28), 11.15 (12.10), £8.00, fpp21.
tw rating 2/5

Tales From The Shed
As the audience take their seats, the performers are already on stage with a selection of puppets that the children are encouraged to go and play with.This kind of interaction plays a big part in the show, which comprises of songs with actions, games and stories: it's a lot like watching a stage show of CBeebies, and although the songs are fairly forgettable, the children have a lot of fun joining in with the dances. The show's at its best when being silly - a puppet called 'Bleeeehhh' is the definite highlight - but unfortunately the silliness doesn't happen too often. Young children will be entertained, but mums and dads should be warned that they'll probably be quite bored.
Zoo Roxy, 6 - 28 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 10.30am (11.15am), £6.00, fpp29.
tw rating 2/5

The Rainbow's End
Ofegus Theatre Company
The Leprechauns are worried about the rainbows; the princess has been kidnapped; there's a girl dressed as a boy and a boy dressed as a girl; a prince with a lost identity; some swash-buckling seamstresses; and an evil witch and wizard with a dastardly plan that has something to do with a diamond, some royal blood, the "zavaljanite disk" and a football covered in silver paint. Confused? Trust me, you won't be further enlightened if you go and watch 'The Rainbow's End'. It's possible you will be entertained, however, if you enjoy fantastically hammy acting and a good old-fashioned adventure story. But perhaps bring a map of Enchantasia with you, if you have one.
Zoo Southside, 5 – 29 Aug (not 17), 11.00am (11.55am), £5.00 - £20.00, fpp30
tw rating 2/5


The Comedy Zone
Avalon Promotions
It was undoubtedly the compère for the evening, Iain Stirling, who held this comic-medley together. His performance alone warrants a 5/5: his charm and natural banter with the audience is only elevated by his admirable ability to deal with hecklers. This is more than can be said for the first act of the evening, Hari Kondabolu, who was thrown off course by a stray heckler. The awkward atmosphere created by Kondabolu's inability to recover marred what could have been a good performance. However, the following two comedians, Paul Currie and Phil Wang, offered good sets, meaning that we were guaranteed an evening of laughs from four comedians who could be on the scene for a long time.
Pleasance Courtyard, 6 – 28 Aug, 10.45pm (12.15am), £8.00 - £10.50, fpp60
tw rating 3/5

Luke McQueen – Your Love Is Mine
Luke McQueen
"If you're funny, you're funny" said McQueen, as he stood questioning his rather serious financial decision to be a comic through the power of rap. His brand of absurdist comedy was received with mixed response, and overall, McQueen's set was somewhat hit and miss; when mining for diamonds, you're going to come across a lot of coal along the way. McQueen exhibited moments of brilliance which made me wish he were faced with a slightly bigger audience: with ambitious and promising material, he entertained in a series of guises - some more successful than others - which, though bizarre, had great comic foundation. His strongest material was often his shortest. His edges were rough, but I sensed potential.
Cabaret Voltaire, 5 – 28 Aug (not 15, 22), 5.00pm (6.00pm), £6.00 – £7.00, fpp110.
tw rating 2/5

Damion Larkin: Cuddly Dreamer
Damion Larkin
Reeling out long lists of health complaints, one might mistake this for Larkin's group therapy rather than stand-up. The theme of the show seems to be 'regrets from the past' rather than 'dreams for the future'; it involves projections of a younger, fitter Damion, and numerous photos of an ex-girlfriend from years ago who is blamed for his current misery. Self-pitying rather than self-effacing, this stockbroker-turned-comedian simply lacks the comic skill to make this sort of material funny. He offers a few humorous moments, but often gives too much information about depressing personal stories with no discernible punchline. When he brought a rope on stage as his big finish, I had to stop myself from calling the Samaritans.
Just the Tonic at the Caves, 6 – 28 Aug (not 17), 4.00pm (5.00pm), £6.00 - £9.00, fpp62
tw rating 2/5

Spring Day: Sushi Souffle – Free
Spring Day / Laughing Horse Free Festival
"I'm fucked up but I'm not retarded", exclaims happy-go-lucky comic Spring Day who is quick to address the fact that she suffers from a mild case of cerebral palsy. Almost immediately, she wins the audience over with her infectious smile, adorable personality and genuine humour. Sharing anecdotes from her time spent in Tokyo and Paris (hence the show name), Day discusses a range of topics from language barriers to sex - and sometimes a mixture of the two! - whilst using her own disability as comic fuel. The 30 minutes fly by, much to the audience's dismay, as Day leaves them wanting more. A definite must-see, if only just to hear her say the word "clitoris" in Japanese.
Laughing Horse @ The Hive, 4 – 28 Aug, 7.25pm (7.55pm), free, fpp153.
tw rating 4/5

The 90's In Half An Hour - Free
Marc Burrows / Laughing Horse Free Festival
Limiting his show to 30 minutes is a canny move by Marc Burrows, as it ensures that there are no slow moments. Confident and well prepared, Burrows is a genial host who encourages us to recall the heady days of the 1990s. His style of humour is cosy and unchallenging – anyone looking for a satire of 1990s politics will be disappointed. Instead we get gentle anecdotes about Britpop and Tamagochi that amuse but never have us rolling in the aisles. Despite Burrows finding his own material funnier than we do, he's a competent comic, particularly when telling tales from his own life. A Peter Kaye for the 1090s generation, and that's meant as both a compliment and a criticism.
Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters, 6 - 28 Aug (not 15), 3.00pm (3.30pm), free, fpp126.
tw rating 3/5

Quiz In My Pants
Nicola Bolsover, Laura Lexx, Miles Lloyd / PBH's Free Fringe
'Quiz In My Pants' offers promising moments of energy and improvisation but ultimately fails to hit the mark. Ramshackle formatting and an audience immune to banter means that this show falls a little flat. Question rounds are followed by entertaining stand-up from the two quiz teams. However, there are far too many questions about pointlessly random subjects, and the teams spend too long just guessing the answers. Thus, by the time they've figured out that Sean Bean appears nude in episode three of 'Lady Chatterly's Lover', we no longer care. The stony-faced audience don't help matters, either. Perhaps this show is better suited to a later time-slot, when the audience is lubricated with alcohol rather than rainwater.
Opium, 6 - 27 Aug (not 16), 6.30pm (7.30pm), free, fpp138
tw rating 2/5

The Puppetry Of The Penis: 3D
Brett Vincent For Get Comedy
Behold the penis in all its glory! Never in my wildest imaginations did I believe that I would be attending a show in which two seemingly ordinary men play with their naughty bits on stage and project it onto a screen in 3D. But the most disturbing aspect of this entire show was not the stretched scrotums or pliable penises, but rather the fact that I enjoyed it so much. This show takes potty humour to an entirely new level with puns galore, and its sheer ridiculousness - along with the fact that the two creators acknowledge that - makes this show incredibly entertaining. This show brings out the 13 year-old boy in us all, and we couldn't be more grateful.
Assembly George Square, 3 - 29 Aug (not 15), 10.30pm (11.30pm), £14.00 - £17.50, fpp137.
tw rating 4/5

Everything But An Astronaut
Carrot Napper Productions
This atmosphere-lacking comedy about space-travel is almost as disastrous as the infamously aborted Apollo 13 mission. It features dozens of toe-curling innuendos that would make Sid James and Kenneth Williams groan with embarrassment, lowest-common-denominator pop-culture references more tired than a marathon-running narcoleptic,and grossly offensive swearwords that wouldn't even be heard around Edinburgh's backstreet gutters. I felt as though I'd been teleported into a local school to watch a sexually frustrated teenager's D-grade Standard Grade drama performance; my dejected sighs could barely be suppressed during this intolerably long hour. The one star awarded to 'Everything But An Astronaut' is not only this reviewer's individual rating but may as well be the entire audience's combined score. Unspeakably poor.
theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall, 5 – 13 Aug (not 7), 2.10pm (3.10pm), £5.00 - £7.00.
tw rating 1/5

Fresh Bread Presents Johnny's Favourite Show
Fresh Bread / PBH's Free Fringe
Fresh Bread are a young group of comedians, which makes me admire their confidence in coming to Edinburgh and putting themselves out there. Unfortunately, a lot of the 'quirky' sketches they perform fall flat and simply aren't funny. Anna Cory stands out from the rest as being quite witty; however, the writing of the show and under-confidence from her co-stars let them down. The whole 'Johnny' element also seems a little redundant; apparently without this key member, the show won't be the same --but this just seems a feeble excuse for how terrible it already is. When he finally appears wearing an elephant mask and utensils for arms, the audience still don't really get it.
The Banshee Labyrinth, 6 – 27 Aug (not 9, 16, 23), 14.20pm, free, fpp79
tw rating 2/5

Ronnie Golden – First A Fender
Tony De Meur
Anyone remember The Fabulous Poodles? New Wave also-rans from the late Seventies, they toured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and even played with Chuck Berry. Now guitarist-turned-comedian Ronnie Golden is here to explain, in his first solo show, exactly how his love affair with the guitar began. Which he does. At length. 'First A Fender' isn't a bad show exactly - the rock'n'roll anecdotes are worth a giggle, and his routine about country song titles is inspired - but the energy begins to sag noticeably about halfway through, and Golden never really recovers: there are only so many ways you can explain a minor chord before it starts to get tedious. One for the enthusiasts only.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3 – 29 Aug (not 16), 4.30pm (5.30pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp144
tw rating 3/5

The Hamiltons: High Jinks With The Hamiltons!
Corrie McGuire For Objective Talent
Christine Hamilton arrives on-stage, a feather boa draped around her shoulders, followed by husband Neil who is already opening a bottle of fizz. It is easy to mistake the whole affair for 'Carry On Chat Show'. Every day, the Hamiltons invite a selection of fellow Fringe participants to discuss their shows. In fact, it's a good job the guests are there, as with every glass of bubbly, the Hamiltons become increasingly clueless. The result is chaotic and deliciously camp, cumulating in a rousing chorus of 'Land of Hope of Glory' for which the audience are invited to join in. You may leave after an hour feeling slightly bewildered. You will also definitely leave feeling tickled by the entertainment.
Udderbelly's Pasture, 3 - 28 Aug (not 15), 12.45pm (1.45pm), £9.50 - £11.50, fpp 85
tw rating 4/5

Music Box
A number of different improv acts at the Fringe coming together to produce a musical is a promising premise. Our musical was set on the moon, with two female astronauts desperate for some intergalactic love, a robot with no job satisfaction and two disco loving aliens; it was joyfully silly with little touches that showed just how clever these improv types are. The acting was solid, and although the plot was confusing at times, I found myself engrossed, and enjoying the hastily drawn, but endearing characters. The songs, however, could have been slicker and more imaginative. Improvised comedy works best when the cast seem to be connected by an almost psychic link – sadly, this was the fundamental missing ingredient.
C soco, 4 – 29 Aug (not 15), 2.45pm (3.40pm), £7.50 - £9.50, fpp123.
tw rating 3/5

Paul Daniels: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Norwell Lapley Productions Ltd
Paul Daniels is the consummate showman, blending magic and comedy together in a highly polished performance that has the audience clapping with delight consistently throughout. While his magic tricks may seem like they are anchored in the 1980s, they still have the power to surprise and entertain and his jokes and crowd patter are second to none – and he does this thing with a rubber band that will blow your mind. Well, okay, not literally. What is particularly charming about the show is the reciprocal affection between Daniels and his audience, most of whom are there on a nostalgia trip to relive their childhoods. That being said, his comedy routine is fresh enough to keep even the most cynical observer entertained.
Assembly George Square, Aug 3 - 28, 5.00pm (6.00pm), £13.00 - £15.00, fpp131.
tw rating 4/5

Roisin Conaty: Destiny's Dickhead
Avalon Promotions
Big, blonde and brash Roisin Conaty bounds onstage to tell us all about 'Destiny's Dickhead' – she has, like a lot of other comedians, based her show on self-reflection. An unrelenting tendency to self-deprecation can get a little tedious, particularly at the Fringe where stand-up in the vein of "look how hilarious my pathetic life is," is in abundance, but Roisin manages an incredibly unique show and anyone who has fallen victim to the charm of an internet-based lifestyle can relate to its themes. There's nothing showy to the comedy, and audience banter keeps it all flowing as there are no boundaries with Roisin – it's a bit like meeting someone likeable in the pub and hitting it off. Game for a laugh in any case.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 - 28 Aug (not 15), 5.45pm (6.45pm), £7.00 - £9.50, fpp143.
tw rating 4/5

Stuart Goldsmith: Another Lovely Crisis
CKP By Arrangement With Red Comedy And Debi Allen Associates
Rarely is a surname so appropriate – an hour in Stuart Goldsmith's glistening company is precious and to be treasured. Nominated for the 'Best Newcomer' award last August, and by far the most talented contestant on ITV's 'Show Me The Funny' comedy competition, Goldsmith is packed to the brim with razor-sharp observations and endearing anecdotes. His tremendously incisive quip about tattoos with ornate calligraphy being owned by men with the least noticeable interest in writing had me reaching for my 'Memorable One-liners' notebook, while his tale about almost crying in a high-street camping shop was simultaneously side-splitting and heart-breaking. Goldsmith's debut Fringe show was called 'A Reasonable Man'; its follow-up proved beyond doubt that he is reasonably brilliant.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 – 28 Aug (not 17), 7.00pm (7.55pm), £7.50 - £10.00, fpp156.
tw rating 4/5

The Unexpected Items Are On It, In The Zone, Off The Hook And Down With The Kids
Unexpected Items
Returning to Fringe for the second time since their YouTube hit, 'The Unexpected Items' continue to deliver fresh and topical material. From hipsters with broad-rimmed glasses to grandfathers reading bedtime stories, no audience member is safe from feeling slightly targeted by these sketches. But the charming troupe make the audience comfortable laughing at themselves by keeping up an extremely fast pace, where the ratio of set-up to payoff is more than generous. A few predictable ejaculation jokes held the show back, but the group's musical talent more than compensated. The show is an accurate and contemporary social commentary, and more importantly, defs a show for peeps who like abbrevs.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3 - 29 Aug, 4.30pm (5.30pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp162.
tw rating 4/5

Yorkshire Comedy Cabaret
James Christopher / PBH's Free Fringe
I don't expect much from comedy and cabaret – just a good time and some laughs. After seeing 'Yorkshire Comedy Cabaret', I felt like crawling out of the gig and putting a gun to my temple – or better yet, pointing it at the cast. The one genuine laugh given by the – rapidly thinning – crowd was when the CD skipped during the closing burlesque show. James Christopher's repertoire consisted of tired gags delivered completely charmlessly. The acts following him just dug the show a deeper hole. The only glimmer of talent was from the sibling duo 'Jolly Boat' who briefly made me smile. On the way out I considered taking money out of the bucket for time wasted.
Base Nightclub, 6 – 27 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 3.45pm (4.45pm), free, fpp166.
tw rating 1/5

Worbey And Farrell: Well Strung!
Corrie McGuire For Objective Talent By Arrangement With Michael Vine Associates
Four hands playing on one piano turned out to create a massively impressive hour's entertainment. These smart showmen exhibited their abundant skill as piano acrobats and masters of the keys, combined with clever music trivia, a quiz and a touch of audience participation. Steven Worbey and Kevin Farrell's rapport was endearing, but the comedy verged on being dated and a little obvious, and it didn't quite compete amidst the throngs of innovative Fringe comedians. That being said, they had impeccable comic timing on the piano and achieved something quite unique. Whilst not pulling off that highly sought after "cool" status, the show was wonderful entertainment – and made me wish I'd never given up on those piano lessons.
Udderbelly's Pasture, 3 - 28 Aug (not 15), 3.00pm (4.00pm), £8.50 - £12.00, fpp166.
tw rating 4/5

The Fudge Shop
Fudge Shop
A play about fudge, performed in a fudge shop, with free fudge? – a winning concept in my book. It's a simple story: new boy Patch helps his new Fudge Kitchen colleagues take on the evil Fudge Cottage empire. The cast of four enjoy themselves as much as the audience, as they gleefully shatter the fourth wall and adlib their way around an already very funny script. They frequently make each other laugh as well the punters, which in other shows might be irritating, but with the audience firmly on their side, here it just adds to their charm. It's tremendous fun, enhanced further by the setting. It's stuff like this that makes the Fringe great. Plus, free fudge!
The Fudge Kitchen, 5 - 28 Aug (not 15), 8.45pm (9.45pm), £5.00 - £7.00, fpp80.
tw rating 5/5

Card Ninja
This is one of the stupidest shows I've seen – to its credit. It starts with some pretty humdrum card manipulation before moving onto 'The Ninja Trials': the tasks you need to complete to become a card ninja. I won't go into detail as they all boil down to the same thing: throwing playing cards at things. That said, the Card Ninja is a capable and funny performer with some very good patter and keeps everything moving along at a tremendous pace. It's no small feat to keep the audience in the palm of your hand for an hour whilst flinging cards at them. The show is stupid and pointless, but it's also lots of fun and good, clean family entertainment.
Assembly George Square, 3 – 28 Aug (not 15, 22), 1.00pm (1.50pm), £8.00, fpp53.
tw rating 3/5

Tiernan Douieb Vs The World
Brett Vincent For Get Comedy
This month I'll likely see over 30 hours of stand-up. But few, so very few, of them will speak as Tiernan Douieb does. Quickly abandoning the conventional - and frankly, stale - routine about holidays and getting older, he begins to speak about politics. Not like the out-of-date "Fuck Thatcher" political comedians, or the throwaway one-liner 'Mock The Week' style; Douieb jokes extensively in a developed manner, on the previous day's riots, the referendum, and the student movement. His set is at times touching, and he is able to see past the anger of the moment and articulate an emotional response humorously. With this fresh style and material he blows so many other Fringe comedians out of the water.
Assembly Hall, 4 – 28 Aug (not 15), 1.45pm (2.45pm), £7.00 – £10.00, fpp158.
tw rating 4/5

Chris Coxen's Space Clone Audition
Chris Coxen
Fringe stand-up comedy can be hit and miss at the best of times, so when attending a character comedy show, you have to be all the more sceptical. Chris Coxen's tidy showcase routine is, however, a dynamic and riotous series of American stereotypes and eccentric outcasts, deconstructed and rebuilt for our amusement. Though the gags occasionally overlap, the failed romantic, the power bar motivational speaker, and the inept weatherman all drift in and out of peculiarity to illuminate the space – a bunker in the basement of Cabaret Voltaire. Hosted by the masterful Tom Webb, and prompted by a series of songs and sound effects, this crackerjack routine is an exquisite example of character comedy at its finest.
Cabaret Voltaire, 4 – 25 (not 8, 15, 22), 2.30pm (3.20pm), £5.00 - £7.00, fpp57.
tw rating 4/5

Dave Callan Presents O+
Gilded Balloon / Dave Callan
PowerPoint presentations can be tricky. If everyone can read a joke on screen, it might not get the laughs it deserves. 'Dave Callan Presents O+' falls into this trap. The show is meant to be the result of 100 questions Callan asked 100 women. Instead, it is a lazy series of pie charts and Google stock images. Callan seems afraid to tackle any "serious" ideas: the sexual revolution is mentioned once before quickly moving along to another question – "do women prefer cats or dogs?" His observations, meanwhile, are painfully clichéd. There is nothing clever, new, or even funny here. The best jokes in the show are answers he got to his survey; it seems Callan should have outsourced all his punch lines.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3 - 29 Aug (not 15), 6.30pm (7.30pm), £7.50 - £9.50, fpp63.
tw rating 2/5

The Noise Next Door – Their Finest Hour
Bound And Gagged Comedy By Arrangement With Comic Voice Management
The Noise Next Door is a high-energy improv troupe whose talents are impressively varied; 'Their Finest Hour' combines comic songs, sketch and even ballet, along with a healthy dose of cheesy puns. Even the methods by which they glean audience suggestions are assorted and ingenious; in addition to the usual calling-out of words, the audience is asked to draw pictures and, at one point, donate a text message as inspiration for the next routine. The collective is witty and sharp throughout, and a delight to watch. Its members clearly enjoy being on stage and their marvellously self-conscious style, which consists largely in taking the piss out of each other, has the audience in stitches. A very fine hour indeed.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 - 29 Aug (not 10, 17), 4.30pm (5.30pm), £9.50 - £12.00, fpp127.
tw rating 5/5

Dave Gibson And Charlie Talbot – Battle Of Britain: North Vs South
Corrie McGuire For Objective Talent
EastEnders or Corrie? The Beatles or The Stones? Dave Gibson and Charlie Talbot return to Edinburgh to sort out the age-old question – which is better, the north of England or the south? Low budget and self-consciously shambolic, in this performance, audience participation is mandatory. Warning: don't wear a loud shirt to participatory comedy! Moustachioed Dave representing the North, and black tie clad Charlie representing the South, play up to geographical stereotypes and are fun, full of energy and masters of the so-bad-they're-good regional puns. At times a little too formulaic and cheesy, 'Battle of Britain' is nonetheless entertaining and will have you laughing along, praying not to be picked.
Underbelly Cowgate, 4 – 29 Aug (not 6, 16), 5.00pm (6.00pm), £8.50 - £10.50, fpp64.
tw rating 3/5

Steve Davis & David Kurk
The Fringe is ridiculous, isn't it? Forty-one thousand people - mostly old enough to know better - dressed in stupid costumes and acting like idiots for not enough pay – it's primed for parody, surely? Sadly, 'Flyerman' tries and completely fails to exploit this potential. Supposedly about the strange people and stranger situations that make up Edinburgh's August, it's just an excuse for dull character sketches, interspersed with semi-salubrious anecdotes. The jokes - such as they are - are cheap shots, delivered like bad pantomime. Steve Davis and David Kurk exude a self-congratulatory smugness that, rather than poking fun at the weirdest of the Fringe, exemplifies the worst of it. If you like subtle, intelligent humour and classy comedy, pick up a flyer for something else instead.
theSpaces @ Surgeon's Hall, dates vary, times vary, £6.00 - £7.00, fpp77.
tw rating 1/5

Dave Gorman's Power Point Presentation
Avalon Promotions
Everyone wants to be friends with Dave Gorman. With an infectious energy, he barely stops to breathe in this hilarious PowerPoint-assisted quest to decipher the everyday, from 48-hour deodorant to food that makes your wee smell funny. Gorman has a flair for finding humour in places you would never look, and even though there's seemingly no real point to the PowerPoint beyond his self-confessed love for technology, the format provides a visual punch to his relentless stream of thought. Gorman reacts naturally to his audience, genuinely relishes their enthusiasm and delivers with such vitality and presence, that it's as if he's sharing light-bulb moments for the first time. If you don't already, you may well leave thinking Gorman's a genius.
Assembly George Square, 3 - 28 Aug, 7.40pm (8.40pm), £13.50 - £15.00, fpp64.
tw rating 5/5

Run, Deaf Boy, Run!
Steve Day / The Stand Comedy Club
As his title would suggest, Steve Day doesn't shy away from his disability, and neither does it impair his comedy. Sporting a pair of hearing-aids, he is the first to make self-deprecating jokes about being "deaf with a little D". The show's focus is the journey of a man in training for the London Marathon. With no hint of a sob-story, Day is warm and inspiring, but honest enough to discourage people from running the 26 miles for themselves, and still prone to tripping over words every now and then. A mixture of storytelling and stand-up, the show is pleasant without being belly-laugh funny, but at least Day is comfortable enough to find humour in the size of his audience.
The Stand Comedy Club, 3 - 28 Aug (not 4, 15), 1:10pm (2:10pm), £7.00 - £8.00, fpp145.
tw rating 3/5

Seymour Mace: Happypotamus
Seymour Mace / The Stand Comedy Club
Mental illness and diarrhoea are not obvious topics for a show called 'Happypotamus', but Seymour Mace takes these difficult subjects and makes us laugh. Charting Mace's struggles with depression, 'Happypotamous' covers some dark ground, but it is in these pitch-black moments that the show is at its funniest. Mace's fight with the kitchen bin and the expression of his desire not to become one of the "local characters" are razor-sharp comic moments. However, when Mace is "being silly", the set loses focus and pace, with sections of wacky drawings and humorous poems feeling like weak padding. On topic, Mace is darkly funny, but when he tries to be zany, he falls short of the mark, resulting in a distinctly mixed set.
The Stand Comedy Club II, 3 - 28 Aug (not 4, 15), times vary, £6.00 - £7.00, fpp149.
tw rating 3/5

The Antics: Premature Ejokeulation
The Antics
"Much better than the title suggested". This was the consensus as we left the theatre after watching this, er, interestingly named show. Title aside, this is a very funny group of men who seem to enjoy their improv games - standard fare a la 'Whose Line...?' and 'Mock The Week' - as much as their audience did. The funniest moment of the show came when hapless Gav was unable to guess what his team-mates were miming to him; the audience howled with laughter as his team-mates grew more and more breathless and frustrated. They're not the slickest, or the wittiest at the improv game, but this show still offers unadulterated fun from a group of fairly skilled performers.
C, 3 - 13 Aug, 4.45pm (5.35pm), £6.50 - £9.50, fpp40.
tw rating 3/5

The Hollycopter
Holly Walsh
Some stand-ups rely on vulgarity and the shock factor to coax laughter out of their audience. Not Holly Walsh. Instead, she combines original humour, personal anecdotes, and Venn diagrams to string together a hilarious narrative anyone can relate to. Detailing the true story of one epic broken elbow, complete with x-rays, she manages to comment on what it means to be a scared British woman. She jumps off a high dive, fights a Nazi, flirts with Rambo, and has the pictures to prove it. By the end of the show, I felt like I was sitting in her living-room watching her home movies. Not to miss for anyone looking for a light-hearted laugh and stories of rogue flashers.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 - 29 Aug (not 15), 6.00pm (7.00pm), £7.00 - £9.50, fpp88.
tw rating 4/5

Tim Clare: How To Be A Leader
Show + Tell / Escalator East to Edinburgh / Tilt
'How to Be a Leader' is a show with an intelligent premise, performed by an even more intelligent comedian. This seminar on leadership is multidimensional and worryingly, despite Tim explicitly highlighting the simple tools leaders employ to gain power, by the end of the show, the audience are hanging on to his every word. It's like submitting to a true leader and competing for a reward for laughing the hardest. Giving everything from tyrannical rule and assassination attempts a skewed and comedic twist, Tim's show is entertaining, fast-paced and clever, forcing the audience to remain on their toes and engaged. In addition, hilarious raps on historical female figures demonstrate Tim's skills as a wordsmith and his extensive potential.
Underbelly Cowgate, 4 - 28 Aug (not 15), 8.55pm (9.55pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp158.
tw rating 4/5

With their surrealist approach to sketch comedy that seeks to move away from cheap laughs and lurid gags, 'Transformer' have produced fifty minutes of comedy that is refreshingly different. Minimally offensive, they focus on producing quick scenes with memorable personae that are genuinely funny. The return of earlier characters at just the right moments throughout the show is testament to its structural success, while their disregard for the fourth wall provides an innovative approach to the genre. It is just a shame that they lack this intensity in all their scenes. Arguably, it's forgiveable as sketches move at a decent pace, allowing the audience to be quickly introduced to something different, but sadly it prevents them from being truly brilliant.
Bedlam Theatre, 5 - 27 Aug, 18:00 (18.50), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp162.
tw rating 3/5

Joel Sanders - Jokes That Got Me Kicked Out Of Tennessee
Joel Sanders / PBH's Free Fringe
Joel Sanders is almost apologetically sincere; he humbly thanks his audience about five times for coming along. Anecdotes from twenty years in the US are reeled out one by one, and, while the show has a nice flow, it contains no real structure. His best material includes thoughts on feeling a disconnect with gay men in the public eye and a humorous letter-exchange with a solicitor. Unfortunately, for all Joel's charm, the jokes are sparse, so this show feels more like that of a fairly accomplished storyteller rather than a comedian. He also has a habit of announcing his punchlines with, "Wait for it," and finishing them with, "I thought that was good." This doesn't serve him well, either.
Dragonfly, 5 - 29 Aug (not 15), 6.40pm (7.40pm), free, fpp100.
tw rating 2/5

John Robins: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
John Robins
The immensely likeable John Robins possesses the remarkable ability of making the awkward and outdated charming and stylish. He utters the quaint adjective "smashing" eleven times during this performance without the slightest hint of irony; it makes him exactly the sort of polite, articulate man that you'd be delighted to introduce to your grandparents. Conversely, he's so exuberant and idiosyncratic that he'd be a tremendous late-night drinking partner. After hanging onto his every antiquated turn of phrase and laughing at his heart-warming anecdotes, I left the show wishing he were my best friend. Go and see him now before he's headlining at the biggest venues. You will have an absolutely smashing time, I promise.
Just The Tonic at The Caves, 4 - 28 Aug (not 17), 7.00pm (8.00pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp101.
tw rating 5/5

Sharron Matthews Superstar: Jesus Thinks I'm Funny
Sharron Matthews
Not only is Sharron Matthews a superstar, she is a force of nature. Far from her homeland of Ontario, Canada, she has squeezed herself into something black and shiny with feathers on the shoulders, bringing some sparkle to our drizzly Edinburgh evenings. She talks to us about pop-culture, a little of her real life and a bit about the visitation she had which inspired her quest to become an international rock star. Bursting into song with a gorgeous cabaret voice, this comedy character is passionate and strong, if a little rambling, and doesn't shy away from sexuality or age. By the end, we're all convinced that we, too, are superstars -- through the medium of song, of course.
SpaceCabaret @ 54, 5 - 28 Aug (not 21), 8:05pm (9:10pm), £10.50 - £12.50, fpp150.
tw rating 4/5

The Kingsley and I (Free Stand Up Compilation Show)
Various Special Guests and MCs Daily / Laughing Horse Free Festival
There's an element of luck involved in this show as each day a comedian and MC gets the chance to showcase their talent and pull in punters for their performances. Damian Kingsley occupies a regular spot, and though his routine is polished, it was somewhat outshone by the compère who flaunted his razor-sharp wit to hilarious effect against a heckler, leaving the audience bent over double and craving him to take over the hour-long slot. Kingsley is followed by a comedienne who, despite being incredibly ill, amused with her nonchalant style. You're unlikely to know what you're going to get as you step into the venue, but take a gamble and you might just get lucky.
Laughing Horse @ Espionage, 4 - 28 Aug, 10.00pm (11.00pm), free, fpp107.
tw rating 3/5

Toby - Lucky
The Invisible Dot Ltd.
One is a spoilt, vindictive Haribo-addict desperate for fame. The other is the long-suffering prop for her sister's ego. Real-life siblings Sarah and Lizzie Daykin take the old premise of performers breaking down mid-act and squander all its comic potential, pushing the boundaries of comedy by not actually being funny. Relying instead on deadpan discomfort and passive-aggressive needling, their awkward, infantile sketches are drawn out interminably as this doomed vanity project unravels into long silences and tantrums. Their admirable attempt to create believable, damaged characters misfires precisely because they never let the audience in on the joke. It's meant to be excruciating, it's meant to be amateurish; the problem is that it succeeds.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 - 29 Aug (not 15), 4.30pm (5.25pm), £8.50 - £9.50, fpp159.
tw rating 1/5

Rosie's Pop Diary
Rosie Wilby
With an audience soaked to the skin cramped into a stuffy basement, Rosie really had to deliver to please her audience. And she did: her warm and bubbly personality erased all memory of the gloomy weather, engrossed as we were in this well-told story of how she came to be doing this show. A truly beautiful, though unrefined, singing voice complements her humorous tale, recounting her feelings along the way with very well-written lyrics. This show is an altogether generally lovely experience: it's a cosy acoustic concert as well as an interesting and funny account of the road to sort-of fame. As I re-entered the pouring rain, Rosie's mellow tones ran through my thoroughly dampened head.
Just The Tonic At The Tron, 4 - 28 Aug (not 15, 16), 6.20pm (7.20pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp144.
tw rating 4/5

Naz Osmanoglu: 1000% Awesome Avalon Promotions
The prominently bearded Naz Osmanoglu bristles with confidence. Not only is he a long-standing Fringe favourite as a member of sketch trio WitTank, but he is also the nineteenth person in line to the Ottoman throne. In his brilliant debut solo hour, Naz, half repressed Englishman and half passionate Turk, ruminates on masculine idealism and bipolar identity - the confusing juxtaposition of being as likely to open the door courteously for a woman as spear the infidel in bloodthirsty conflict. The rapturous audience frequently erupt into applause during this masterfully structured performance, and I'd be disappointed if Osmanoglu wasn't nominated for "Best Newcomer" in a fortnight's time. Forget Suleiman - it's Naz who is truly magnificent.
Udderbelly's Pasture, 3 - 29 Aug, 9.15pm (10.15pm), £7.00 - £9.50, fpp124.
tw rating 5/5

Nathan Penlington: Uri And Me
Nathan Penlington's po-faced performance mixes comedy with occasional magic. More of a lecture on Uri Geller than a stand-up gig, his deeply researched project is a bizarrely riveting hour -- I never thought I'd get myself so caught up in the story of Uri's life, but Penlington draws his audience in with quick cutting humour and an endearingly open persona that's enhanced by the intimacy of the venue. His tricks, though fairly standard, aren't the dull hyperbolic performances many of his peers employ, and one still has me scratching my head as to how it was done. Quickly building a great rapport with his audience, this hour with Penlington is a good way to spend a rainy afternoon.
Udderbelly's Pasture, 3 - 29 Aug (not 15), 4.10pm (5.10pm), £8.50 - £10.50, fpp124.
tw rating 3/5

Alfie Brown - The Love You Take
Alfie Brown
Few stand-ups leave me uplifted, and even fewer can do this whilst listing gruesome euphemisms for genitals. Crackling with wit, Brown's set walks the fine line between sounding offensive and being offensive. Never calculated solely to provoke groaning, his vile images instead illustrate an attack on an intellectually stagnant culture. Despite the content, he keeps a tight hold of his challenging material: in a deft reversal, he moves from addressing the cultural mire to a wonder-filled look at love and life, all the while never losing sight of his duty to entertain. His viscerally poetic language is snapped in a masterful application of bathos. The 5/5 is deserved for such a brilliant rebuttal of heckling.
Just the Tonic At The Caves, 4 - 28 Aug (not 17), 8.50pm (9.50pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp36.
tw rating 5/5

Brown And Corley: Born In The 80s
Brown and Corley
Ever wanted to hear Abe Lincoln tell the story of the time he impregnated a sea-monster? Felt it was a scandal that the history books ignored the tale of his Manhattan-based biscuit factory? If so, you will completely love this show. 'Born in the 80s' is an association of bizarre sketches, with subjects ranging from abusing Alexa Chung to a man terrifying a woman in the woods by shouting at her. While perhaps a bit too much of a pattern emerges, their material is funny; although, as they are carried along by their enthusiastic stage-presence, many sketches are reprised several times: it would be fine over the course of a television series, but to do so during a 50-minute show hints at a lack of material.
Just the Tonic at the Caves, 4 - 28 Aug, 7.25pm (8.15pm), £7.50, fpp52.
tw rating 3/5

Ray Time In The Daytime: An Audience With Ray Green And Friends
Vivienne Smith Management
Enter the hilarious world of 'Ray Green and Friends' and expect perfectly timed and executed awkward silences, stinging wisecracks at fellow audience members, and a sore set of ribs from laughing too hard. Reminiscent of Simon Bird or Chris O'Dowd, Ray Green's humour appeals to nearly every audience member, provoking a series of chuckles with every delightfully awkward line or facial expression. In his own unique way, Green utilises comical audio-visuals to aid in his joke telling. Infusing his act with twists and turns, costume changes and unexpected guests, Green creates a magnificent comedic act that will leave a lasting smile on your face.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3 - 28 Aug (not 15), 14.30pm (15.30pm), £7.50 - £9.50, fpp139.
tw rating 4/5

Sally-Anne Hayward: Don't Judge Me
Sally-Anne Hayward / The Stand Comedy Club
'Don't Judge Me' is the title of Sally-Anne Hayward's show this year, but her audience barely need the instruction; her well-observed - if not inoffensive - brand of humour makes it difficult to do anything of the sort. The set consists of clever observations and sharp punch lines, mostly on Hayward's own experiences: her jobs, her weight, her relationships. It's a road that's been trod many times before, but Hayward does it better than most; clearly enjoying herself, she quickly builds a rapport with the audience, chatting about memories and endearingly laughing at her own gags. It's not going to win over any fans of alternative comedy, but Hayward is first and foremost a crowd-pleaser, and it's a job she does very well indeed.
The Stand Comedy Club III & IV, 3 - 28 Aug (not 4, 15), 12.05pm (1.05pm), £7.00 - £8.00, fpp146.
tw rating 4/5

Mission Suggestible
'Mission Suggestible' was an improvised comedy based on espionage and spy films; to be blunt, that is where my understanding - of whatever it was the performance was trying to achieve - stops. I had hoped for a band of witty actors, clever plot twists and punchy one-liners, not a group of awkward twenty-somethings fake brawling with each other and making no sense for 50 long minutes. Although I found it disappointing, as an improvised show 'Mission Suggestible' will probably differ with every performance and perhaps I caught it on a bad day. But somehow, I just can't see this juvenile team of actors cum special agents growing up in time to produce some decent comedy.
Paradise In The Vault, 6 - 21 Aug (not 15), 3.15pm (4.05pm), £6.50 - £7.50, fpp120.
tw rating 2/5

The Real MacGuffins: Skitsophrenic
Real MacGuffins
What do Hitler, Dickens, and Oedipus have in common? The Real MacGuffins. Changing characters, eating lard, playing with dildos, and forcing laughter are their specialities. With insanely witty writing, these three explore the links between comedy and madness, calling on the likes of artistic greats to do their bidding. If you don't think it's possible to put a fresh twist on cock jokes and straight jackets, after their performance you'll stand corrected. Any good performer can have a conversation with the audience, but these guys were stomping around their sell out house, handing out bits of script to students and putting tape on old men's faces. I'm just glad they didn't spot my press pass, I would have been crucified.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 - 28 Aug (not 16), 4.30pm (5.30pm), £8.00 - £11.00, fpp139.
tw rating 5/5

The Oxford Imps
Oxford Imps
Delivering their slick improvised comedy, the Oxford Imps create scenes from audience suggestions; unfortunately, this format seems almost too easy. Beginning with an audience member's suggestion, they spin out a scene, but rarely do they ask for further suggestions mid-scene. The Imps' talent is such that they are evidently capable of being challenged further by the audience to create more outlandish and hysterical scenes, but they fail to fulfil this potential. Indeed, on the rare occasion when they do use mid-scene changes, they really shine. One scene, in which they create a story on the spot, each Imp continues their partner's previous line, whilst speaking in rhyme; the result is excellent. While impressive, they lack the daring of their competitors.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3 - 29 Aug, 3.45pm (4.35pm), £6.00 - £10.00, fpp129.
tw rating 3/5

Holden And Revill: The North South Divide - Free
Holden and Revill
Holden is northern lad and Revill a southern softie; this information given in the title is oddly redundant, as the north/south divide is pretty much ignored in both their sets. Revill, on first, is amusing enough with some good material on the perils of sex education as a teacher and a routine about condoms that - unusually for the free fringe - manages to be both risqué and funny, although he is less good when doing "gags". Holden, the second act, lets the team down with some poorly judged and not-very-funny Scotland jokes. A double act is only as good as its weakest link, and here Holden is holding his friend back.
Laughing Horse @ Jekyll & Hyde, 7 - 28 Aug, 4.30pm (5.30pm), free, fpp88.
tw rating 2/5

Give Me The Funnies!
Ben Jay, Sarah Callaghan and Nico Yearwood
The trio of comedians play to a tiny room upstairs in the Three Sisters and seem completely disconnected from one another. Though Ben Jay - the first act - has some promise, Sarah Callaghan garbles her jokes and alienates half her audience, while Nico Yearwood's 'Mr Susan' character is under-developed. Although this last act is the highlight - mixing linguistic jokes and suggestions with insights from an outside observer who claims to be from another planet - it fails to really charm us. A number of missed opportunities and elongated stories leave jokes lost inside their own structure, and the sheer lack of cohesion between the acts leaves us wondering why they're put together at all.
Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters, 5 - 19 Aug, 1.05pm (2.05pm), free, fpp83.
tw rating 2/5

Mark Thomas: Extreme Rambling (Walking The Wall)
Phil McIntyre Entertainments
It's a rainy evening but the Bongo's main room is filled to capacity and it becomes quickly apparent why. Mark Thomas explodes on stage with so much enthusiasm and energy the audience is instantly enthralled. His two-hour performance charts his walk from one end of the Israeli-Palestinian separation wall to the other, detailing the characters he meets and trouble he brews for himself along the way. Thomas mixes the intensely interesting educational aspect of his show with excellent impressions and showmanship which always hits the mark. It's incredibly refreshing to watch something crafted with an obvious purpose and fronted by someone with the confidence and charisma to make for a very enjoyable evening.
The Bongo Club, 8 - 20 Aug, 7.30pm (9.30pm), £10.00 (£14.50), fpp115.
tw rating 5/5

Morningside Malcolm Meets The Weegies
Robin Cairns / PBH's Free Fringe
In an Edinburgh accent full to the brim with poetry, our host introduces Morningside Malcolm to us and tells us the uptown-downtown story of Malcolm's failed attempt at an art exhibition. Malcolm wants to surround himself with arty upper-class folk but doesn't quite fit the bill himself. In a one-man show full of colourful local characters, visitors to the city might feel out of their depth amongst references to Peebles and Pilton alongside the ever-accelerating voices of the Weegies (Glaswegians). Comedy catchphrases abound as this vivacious story springs to life. Though the delivery is animated, there are so many voices that they tend to blur at times. Even the host gets confused once or twice while battling quality with quantity.
The Royal Oak, 8 - 18 Aug (not 12, 13, 14), 4.30pm (5.30pm), free, fpp122.
tw rating 3/5

Cab Fare For The Common Man
CoLab Productions
A show that opens with all four members of the cast getting off with each other in turn certainly has potential; a gentle strum of a guitar accompanies this opening that wouldn't look out of place in an indie film. It soon becomes apparent that this is intelligent comedy. A giant rubik's cube is the key idea in one of the running sketches of the show; a social situation is interpreted differently according to the colour of a cube. The ten-minute shorts that make up this performance are clever, heavily ironic and utterly adorable. After a witty final tune, the cast announce that they're holding a flash-mob kiss-a-thon on the Royal Mile. They're completely infatuating in every way.
theSpace @ Jury's Inn, 5 -27 Aug (not 7, 14, 21), 2.00pm (2.50pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp55.
tw rating 4/5

Cheese-Badger Presents...The Epic Of Hairy Dave - Free
Cheese-Badger / Laughing Horse Free Festival
With the voice of an old Yorkshireman, the wild-eyed, bow-tied Sir Henry Cheese-Badger recounts the tale of Hairy Dave, a saviour of sorts who comes to a world of fast-food and tries to make a difference. Cheese-Badger darts about the stage, a white shirt billowing from a scrawny waist, absolutely captivating in his poetic story-telling style. The hour-long poem is complex and made of many parts, so it's understandable that every now and then our frantic storyteller needs a prompt or two from his waxen butler Rover -- perhaps later in the run these will disappear altogether. One to take your auntie to, as long as she likes storms of sprouts and government legislation against beards.
Laughing Horse @ The Beehive Inn, 11 - 28 Aug (not 17, 24), 12:10pm (1:05pm), free, fpp58.
tw rating 4/5

Chris Mayo's Panic Attack
Chris Mayo
Waving his limbs about frantically, Chris Mayo is instantly recognisable as a bit of a hypochondriac. The very thin comedian experiences life in a sea of anxiety and uses this energetic routine therapeutically, to liberate himself from constant worry. He helpfully suggests things to avoid doing; these include socialising, clubbing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Mayo then supplies his own unique methods of stress-relief, such as singing Avril Lavigne's 'Complicated' to a cat. This is a hilarious, animated spectacle, and his marvellous interaction with the audience is, in parts, more entertaining than the actual show. Don't go to a shrink -- head down to Chris Mayo's gig instead for some side-splitting treatment.
Just The Tonic at the Caves, 4 - 28 Aug (not 17), 6.00pm (7.00pm), £7.00 - £8.00, fpp57.
tw rating 4/5

The World Of Shrimpology
Dive into the world of the Shrimps, an improvisational comedy troupe from Sheffield University, as they lead you on a journey to establish a new religion. Audience suggestions are used as fuel for a number of different humorous games, the results of which produce the founding blocks of the nascent faith - patron saints and holy relics - and there's even a song thrown in to aid the spreading of the gospel. These guys are quick and incredibly witty, easily engaging with the audience, and though there are a few who seemed slightly awkward and not entirely comfortable being on stage, the group's energy and originality easily makes up for this. For lively entertainment, this show is easily a catch of the day.
Just the Tonic at the Store, 4 - 19 Aug (not 16), 2.40pm (3.40pm), £5.50 - £6.50, fpp166.
tw rating 4/5


Flawless: Intergalactic Dream
Underbelly Productions In Association With World Dance Management
Rather than entering a theatre, you board a space ship (pretty cool) and get some white "gauntlets" (hello! UV lights). Ten athletic men skulk coolly on stage and things kick off from there. Four of the 'Flawless' troops are selected to journey through their dreams and as they select their "talisman", the dream is lived out around them. The music, choreography and story are fantastic entertainment, and these men are undoubtedly talented creatures. Their outfits get increasingly more 'fly' as they dance break and hip-hop. This is the definition of popular entertainment; screw the highbrow stuff - the sheer pleasure and delight both on-stage and from the crowd was evident. Maybe we should all live by their motto: "chase the dream, not the competition".
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 - 28 Aug (not 15), 6.00pm (7.00pm), £13.50 - £18.50, fpp170.
tw rating 4/5

Makoto Inoue Ind
If you're looking for the creepiest mime artist in the country, this is a good place to start. 'Richard' certainly needs its 12+ rating; being of a more sensitive disposition I was left seriously affected by the opening, transfixed in my seat as a white-faced turbaned human puppet moved disturbingly in the gloom. The idea of a solo non-verbal retelling of Richard III is fascinating, and the best aspect of this show was the carefully orchestrated uncomfortable malevolence. However, beyond this, monotony took over as we watched the crippled king repeatedly limp across the stage. Moreover, the plot is near impossible to follow, even given the printed outline provided – one to avoid if you value understanding what's going on.
Greenside, 5 – 13 Aug, 9.15pm (10.00pm), £5.00 - £7.00 fpp n/a.
tw rating 2/5

Cycle One (60°)
In-Transit Dance
Less is more – or such is the case with 'Cycle One (60°)'. Taking the mundane - the hastening thud of a washing machine - as their inspiration and soundtrack, In-Transit Dance tumble, whirl and leap in little more than their underwear. The highlighted moments are those of slow simplicity – the sensuality of rubbing hands, the tense, gradually lolling head. As the cycle quickens, the frenzy is disorientating and most successful when the dancers mirror and play themselves off each other's exuberant energy. Much like the whirling machine they're emulating, however, constant vaults and floor sweeps become repetitive and somewhat monotonous. By no means squeaky clean, they are evidently a vibrant young independent group, bubbling with energy and good humour.
Greenside, 5 – 27 Aug (not 14, 21), 7.00pm (7.50pm), £5.00 - £7.00, fpp169.
tw rating 3/5

The Prophecy
Siamsoir Celtic Dance Company
Irish and contemporary choreography are fused together in this exciting production from Leith based company, Siamsoir. The fantastical tale, which combines dance and theatrical storytelling, provides an innovative portrayal of the art form, and doesn't disappoint. With impressive performances from the leading dancers - Aaron Jeffrey in particular, whose suppleness and fluidity allows for a somewhat hypnotic experience - it is clear that its choreography has been well thought out. It isn't without its faults though, as less confident performers whose lack of conviction in their movements doesn't allow for the seamless transition from one step to the next, creates a static atmosphere; but this is a small price to pay for what is otherwise a highly magical and enjoyable show.
C, 13 - 29 Aug, 12.05pm (12.55pm), £4.50 - £9.50, fpp175.
tw rating 3/5

Acting Thru Dance
Despite the relatively cloying metaphors, Acting Thru Dance create an innovative production that interweaves the disciplines of dance, physical theatre and acting. It follows a woman who reminisces on the highs and lows of her life, and her various actions and decisions are portrayed through compelling choreography that covers a variety of different dance styles. Social media is used as a platform to explore the various pathways in her life. The central character is played by four different dancers, and the role offers a diversity that showcases each individual's talents. Supported by a decent soundtrack and interesting narrative, this is a commendable piece of physical theatre that offers something refreshingly alternative.
C aquila, 14 - 20 Aug, 2.00pm (2.45pm), £4.50 - £8.50, fpp169.
tw rating 3/5

Slender Threads
This multi-faceted piece eschews melodrama, engaging the audience through its intimate portrayal of the everyday struggles and ruminations of a woman with breast cancer. The lead actress has a colloquial, every-woman quality, and remains refreshingly undefined by her disease; in one scene, she explosively rejects her husband's instinctive attempts to fuss over her like an invalid. The piece is deceptively simple, demonstrating the impact of diagnosis on relationships, and covering the dehumanising side-effects of treatment. Whilst the multimedia element feels superfluous at times, the dialogue is complemented by inventive, expressive movement sequences performed by a strong, poised supporting cast. The piece is informative without being patronising, gentle yet darkly comic, and tells an important story about pragmatism and hope.
Zoo Roxy, 5 - 28 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 5.15pm (6.15pm), £7.00 - £10.00, fpp176.
tw rating 4/5

The Seagull Effect
Idle Motion
What if you missed your bus to work this morning? Or if you decided to take a shortcut to the office? Trivial matters like these could trigger some of life's most significant changes. 'The Seagull Effect' explores such questions leading up to the unanticipated 1987 storm in Britain: stories of "near misses, luck, courage and many people who slept right through it". Fusing story-telling techniques with physical theatre, personal recollections and multimedia, this thought-provoking piece comes close to dramatic perfection. Everything, from the minute details in representation to even the choice of the title, acquires meaning. If a butterfly's dainty fluttering of wings can lead to a hurricane, just imagine what a seagull's could do.
Zoo Roxy, 5 – 27 Aug (not 16, 23), 4.20pm (5.20pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp176.
tw rating 5/5

Africa, Heart And Soul
Grassroots Theatre Company, Zimbabwe
This jubilant performance presents a simple tale of courtship which unfolds through music, dance and story-telling, guided by a sage old narrator and sprinkled with unexpected humour. From the first moment to the last, the audience is enveloped by the warmth and energy of the performers as they portray love at first sight, flirtation, jealousy and a competition to win the heroine's hand. The focus is very much on music and dance rather than acting, with this old-fashioned but timeless story successfully weaving together a series of songs showcasing the performers' talents. As the show reaches its inevitable happy ending, the performers drum, ululate and sing in warm, bright harmonies, dancing in the light of a dusty African sunset.
Paradise In Augustine's, 8 – 21 Aug (not 15), 6.05pm (6.45pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp168.
tw rating 4/5


The Magic Drawabout - Free
Lancelot Adam's Walkabout Troubadour Squad
'The Magic Drawabout' will have you walking around with your eccentric guides, doodling all the characters in the Grassmarket, and being bizarrely serenaded by a guitarist all the while. They provide pens and paper – all you need to do is turn up. On my tour, we sketched two American tourists holding a plastic camel and a beer stein, a Finnish beat boxer, and a fortieth birthday party. The children on the tour had an absolute blast, and the host took particular care in making sure their works of art were praised by all. So, if you have any budding young artists in the family, or you just want to draw with other artists for an hour, head for the 'drawabout'.
Laughing Horse @ The Beehive Inn, 8 - 27 Aug (not 14, 21), 5.00pm (6.00pm) free, fpp185.
tw rating 4/5

Wine School At The Fringe
Settled in the romantic lighting of Howie's Cellar, I relaxed into my seat, sipped a glass of fizz and chatted happily to Claire Blackler, who runs the Wine School. Any illusions of a mellow, sophisticated tasting, however, were scuppered when a stag party of 16 walked in, dragging their hangovers with them; thankfully, these were nice friendly stags, and Claire took them admirably in her stride, remaining informative throughout. This wasn't a wine tasting for experts; it was very much for people who know what wines they like, but don't know why. Providing samples of five dishes, including a good strip of steak, to taste with the wine was a lovely touch. All in all, great fun and brilliant value.
Howies Cellar, dates and times vary, £22.50, fpp187.
tw rating 4/5

Auld Reekie Tours: Underground Tour
In the 1700s, ninety-six women and children committed suicide in the vaults underneath South Bridge, and few people in Edinburgh have any idea that it happened. Granted, there wasn't a whole lot to see other than three almost identical vaults that look like any wine cellar, but the stories attached to them are horrifying. I'm a sceptic and didn't see or feel any thing unusual, yet, one American girl claimed her camera battery charged while underground. We finished with a nip and a biscuit at one of my favourite pubs in the city, Banshee Labyrinth – another place filled with caverns and a bloody history. Although slightly touristy, this tour was a great way to learn about the city's past.
The Tron Kirk, 5 - 27 Aug, every half hour from 11.30am - 5.30pm (6.16pm), £7.00 - £8.00, fpp180.
tw rating 3/5

Wine In The City Wine School
I like my glass of wine, but I don't know much about what a good one should taste like. 'Wine In The City' was a perfect introduction to wine appreciation on a level above "Ooh this is nice, glug, glug, glug". The tasting took place in the Old Council Chambers, a beautiful room haunted by the aura of stuffy old dignitaries slurping soup in silence. Margaret the wine expert, introducing us to six South American wines, was a great mix of school teacher and chatty aunt, making her vast knowledge on the subject less daunting. The group were quiet at first, but as we gulped the fourth glass of gorgeous wine, we became noticeably more gregarious. An educating - and inebriating - hour indeed!
Edinburgh City Chambers, dates and times vary, £20.00, fpp187.
tw rating 4/5

Neal's Yard Remedies Chill Out Zone
Walking down the Royal Mile in August is enough to make your head explode. For the stressed performer, or the run down tourist, there is no better way to relax than by checking out some of Neal's Yard Remedies. With reasonable prices on everything from beauty therapies to hot stone massages and aroma therapy it's worth skipping your morning coffee and getting some treatment. I showed up wet, sick, and hung-over and my therapist Lucy prepared me for the day, with an aromatherapy massage and free herbal tea – better than a fry up any day. Seriously, go here when you're feeling like you just can't take the chaos any more. You'll leave rejuvenated and ready for more nonsense.
Neal's Yard Remedies, 5 - 31 Aug (not 20), 10.00am (7.00pm), £15.00, fpp185.
tw rating 5/5

Buddhist Meditation
Triratna Buddhist Community
After a hectic week at the Fringe, my energy levels were starting to flag. So when I was assigned to review a Buddhist meditation session, I was looking forward to light relief from the bustle of the Royal Mile flyer-bombardment and ongoing mental stimulation from so many great shows. It turns out that many others were feeling the same -– it was packed! Instead of being greeted by monks in orange robes, as I'd half-expected, I was welcomed into a small corridor, asked to take my shoes off, and led into an adjoining room by a Scottish lady dressed in everyday clothing. The techniques were simple to follow, and I left feeling refreshed and re-energised.
Edinburgh Buddhist Centre, 10-29 Aug (not 15-22), 11:00am (12:30pm), £6.00 - £9.00, fpp180
tw rating 4/5

The Robert Burns Experience In Association With Talisker
Tartan Productions
Monteith's restaurant plays host to this extremely well-done melange of all things Scottish. There are bagpipes, haggis, the poetry of Robert Burns and a man in a kilt. While this may sound like the ultimate tourist-trap, the quality of the 'traditional Scottish' food with a twist more than makes up for it. Cock-a-leekie soup re-imagined as a terrine is superb, and the haggis, neeps and tatties are delicate while compromising its essential heartiness. Washed down with a dram of Talisker whiskey, and with some marvellous and affordable cocktails (I highly recommend the Celtic Bramble), the poetry of Robert Burns really comes alive. This is a fun and delicious way to spend a rainy lunchtime.
Monteiths, 1 - 26 Aug (not 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21), times vary, £17.00, fpp186.
tw rating 4/5


David Mach: Precious Light
City Art Centre
Coat-hanger crucifixes, a matchstick Jesus to be set alight in September, and kitsch collages of biblical scenes form this audacious and intense exhibition of Scottish artist David Mach. The exhibition is not overtly religious but filled with social commentary; Mach's dense, large-scale and fascinating collages evoke the culture of excess and chaos of contemporary society, whilst his colossal, explosive crucifixes capture agony and drama with such startling realism. The exhibition would benefit from more wall information but it nevertheless demonstrates the diversity of Mach's practice. His London studio has even been relocated to the gallery to prepare the new, monumental collage 'The Last Supper'. For its intensity and controversy alone, this exhibition is unlike anything else in Edinburgh.
City Art Centre, 30 July - 16 October, 10.00am - 5.00pm (12.00pm - 5.00pm Sun), £5.00, fpp188.
tw rating 4/5


Girl With The Guitar – Free
Alison Chabloz / Laughing Horse Free Festival
Alison Chabloz, our 'Girl with the Guitar', provides a delightful hour of music. She builds a great rapport with the small audience gathered before her as she leads us on a musical journey covering the likes of internet-stalking, getting dumped, the fall of 'News of the World' and free-diving. When the staff in the café venue became too noisy, she was quick to jump in and tell them all to zip it, never once losing her composure. Through her songs and asides her personality shines. Her friends might think she's crazy for her recent decision to quit the rat-race and tour the Festival circuit, but, while it might not have been financially sensible, it certainly seems to be paying off.
Laughing Horse @ Café Renroc, 5 - 28 Aug (not 14), 7.20pm (8.20pm), free, fpp206.
tw rating 3/5

Truly Medley Deeply
One word: awesome. Laughing, singing and dancing guaranteed. As soon as Truly Medley Deeply broke into their '2010 Number Ones' opening medley, the audience were singing gleefully along, as they delivered their take on the likes of Katy Perry's 'California Gurls' and Cee Lo Green's 'Forget You', blending a whole mixture of chart songs together with the help of an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, a tiny keyboard and an even tinier bongo. Later, an assortment of 'seduction songs' led to a hilarious medley of famous pop punk songs performed in a country style. Ever wondered what Blink 182's 'All The Small Things' would sound like if performed at a hoedown? Wonder no more.
SpaceCabaret @ 54, 5 – 20 Aug, 6.00pm (6.45pm), £5.50 - £9.50, fpp222.
tw rating 5/5

Metropolitan Cathedral Latin Choral Vespers
St Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral
Nothing but a small swell from an unseen orchestra serves as introduction to the traditional 'Vespers'. First led by the priests, and without any accompaniment, hymns of praise in celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary are coupled with ritual and fill the beautiful hall of St Mary's. The grandeur and mystery of the Catholic church is moving, but the lack of introduction or commentary leaves the uninitiated utterly stumped. Once the choir joins, the Latin songs are filled with harmonies echoed by the strings of the orchestra and the tone lightens. With this pitch-perfect rendition, the prayers wind their way upwards and evoke our minds to do the same.
St Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral, 6, 13, 20 Aug, 4.00pm (4.50pm), free, fpp212.
tw rating 3/5

Stefan Warzycki Piano Recital
Stefan Warzycki
If watching a Stefan Warzycki performance is going to teach you anything, it will be that playing piano with two hands is overrated. His left hand sweeps across the keys smoothly and confidently, covering so many notes that he may as well be playing with two hands. Debuting a piece from English composer Andrew Wilson, Warzycki creates a very tranquil atmosphere in the small church with the sonatina's dreamy and slightly jazzy air. Performing Bach, Warzycki's hand sweeps and trembles, maintaining a natural yet precise manner throughout the smooth yet powerful piece. And to add to his talents, Warzycki is also an animated performer, pulling faces and smiling to himself to show he's enjoying every moment.
St Andrew's And St George's West, George St, 13, 25 Aug, 12.30pm (1.30pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp221.
tw rating 4/5

Classics At Greyfriars
Llyr Williams (Piano) And The Heath Quartet
Welsh pianist Llyr Williams has set himself the rather ambitious challenge of performing all of Beethoven's sonatas over the course of 22 concerts – with the help of the Heath Quartet, of course. For this opening show, however, he is on his own but, nevertheless, he beautifully delivers three sonatas, taking ownership over each piece as if he had composed them himself. He catches the audience off-guard with an unpredictable style, making them literally jump out of their seats at times. As he stabs, tickles and caresses the ivories, I soon realise that he has no sheet music, which is a pretty incredible feat in itself and shows Williams' outstanding talent and passion for music.
Greyfriars Kirk, 12 – 26 Aug (not 14, 20, 21), times vary, £17.50, fpp201.
tw rating 4/5

John Hunt Four O'Clock Afternoon Blues And Swing
John Hunt/21st Century Blues Legends
John Hunt has a DIY philosophy which shows in the insane but ingenious home made guitars he's constructed from papier-mâché, broken instruments and an old shelf. On a rickety stage made of trestle tables, he rambles and fumbles with his cannibalised equipment, seeming like he's just woken up. His eloquence is in his music, however, and in the 21st century blues he's made his own. It's an enjoyable set full of cheeky lyrics and electronic distortion, catchy riffs and feedback; a powerful juke-joint sound built on up-tempo slide-guitar, and a singing voice so gritty it could have been trawled from the Mississippi. Though it's put together from spare parts, Hunt's style undoubtedly works.
The Jazz Bar, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 28 Aug, 4.00 pm (5.00 pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp208.
tw rating 4/5

Scottish Folk Roots and Offshoots
David Ferrard
The downstairs room at The Royal Oak is a haven far removed from the mayhem of the rest of the Fringe. With David Ferrard's soothing voice and enchanting guitar-plucking, this hour of music provides a perfect escape for wearier or overwhelmed festival visitors, and true fans of folk for whom there is a diverse offering including Jacobite songs, freedom songs from the slave trade in America and samples of Ferrard's own music. However, in this intimate setting, the group sing-along that is encouraged in every chorus creates an atmosphere that some may find corny. Parents, perhaps one to avoid bringing your children to, unless you enjoy seeing them squirm in embarrassment as you sing-along to songs about wee bonnie lassies.
The Royal Oak, 5 - 26 Aug, 6.30pm (7.30pm), £5.00 - £7.00, fpp219.
tw rating 3/5


Into The Woods Opera Di Nepotist
Weaving together the plots of many well-known Brothers Grimm fairytales, this lesser known Sondheim musical is an ambitious undertaking. Despite disappointing performances from Little Red Riding Hood and Jack's Mother, this production's ambition is largely fulfilled and the performance is great fun to watch. Opera di Nepotist integrates semi-professionals with the wholly inexperienced, and this bizarre marriage of talents and experience occasionally battles with the narrative for the audience's attention; however, superb performances from the Baker, his Wife, the Witch and Cinderella kept the audience spellbound, and the smooth handling of Sondheim's difficult music by the on-stage quintet often elicited shivers. It's not quite a happy ending, but you certainly leave satisfied.
Greenside, 5 - 20 Aug (not 14), times vary, £9.00 - £11.00, fpp226.
tw rating 3/5

Patch Of Blue Theatre
This 1971 musical based on parables from the Gospel of Matthew - a story most are vaguely familiar with - is brought into the 21st century with a Peter Pan and the Lost Boys feel. The piece is a fable, but it somehow avoids any potential preachy undertones - or, indeed, overtones. Displaying an interactive spirit, the cast even offer round wine at one point. Energy and charisma exude from the ensemble throughout; there are no weak links as they coolly pluck at one instrument after another, and Tom Mackley's canny portrayal of Jesus is worthy of special mention. 'Godspell' is utterly mesmerising for those who believe in musicals, and those who don't.
C, 3 - 29 Aug, 7.45pm (9.00pm), £5.50 - £11.50, fpp171.
tw rating 5/5

Alzheimer's The Musical: A Night To Remember!
Prospect Productions
Ever wondered what 'The Golden Girls' might be like if it'd been made in Australia? Well, here's your answer: a delightfully filthy, silly and entertaining hour of songs and sketches from Australia's oldest swingers. Ostensibly telling the story of three ladies growing old on both sides of the line of grace, the plot is little more than a theme to get the jokes flowing -- and flow they do, with the highlight being a birds-and-the-bee's 'chat' from a forgetful grandmother. Lovely moments like this abound, cheekily toying with the perceived innocence of the stereotypical grandmother. It's let down by a couple of deflated musical numbers, but ultimately, this is a whole mess of fun.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3 - 28 Aug (Not 16, 23), 5.00pm (6.00pm), £9.50 - £11.50, fpp39.
tw rating 4/5

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical
Showstopper Productions
Managing to turn a microphone mishap into an integral part of a musical story-line? Yes, this is just one of the brilliantly witty ways in 'Showstopper!' justifies its position as a consistently must-see Fringe show. Prepare to be astounded as a fiercely clever and talented cast form an entire production based solely on suggestions from its audience. It's rather hard to believe you are watching something made up on the spot, and it's unlikely you'll see this level of improvisation anywhere else, never mind set to music on top! The spontaneous nature of the show allows for a complete refresh each performance thus creating a unique interaction between cast and audience. Jaw-droppingly excellent. Watch out, Lloyd-Webber!
Gilded Balloon Teviot, Aug 5 - 29 (not 17), times vary, £10.50 - £11.50, fpp233.
tw rating 5/5

Hitler! The Musical
TL Musical Theatre
The name of Adolf Hitler isn't exactly a byword for musical comedy gold. Still, TL Musical Theatre have managed to produce an entire show about the life and times of the world's most famous Führer – and, impressively, it mainly hits the mark. It's horrifically offensive, of course, but that goes without saying. High points include a wonderful retelling of the Beer Hall Putsch in the style of the 'Fresh Prince', and a gospel-choir rendition of the Night of the Long Knives, though there are a few too many tired jokes about modern technology. Not for those of a delicate nature; but if the concept doesn't put you off, you'll probably love it.
Gryphon Venues At The Point Hotel, 8 – 20 Aug (not 14), 3.00pm (4.00pm), £6.00 - £7.00, fpp226.
tw rating 3/5

Absolutely Amazing Adventures Of The Singing Acupuncturist
Diamond Wave Productions/Laughing Horse Free Festival
It's hard to summarise this show as anything other than the visceral desperation of a woman extolling the virtues of following your dreams to an empty room. The strange patchwork of cabaret songs and characters is intended to depict an acupuncturist's ascent to fame; however, the storyline often teeters way too close to the actual, which is not a successful picture. At one point, disparaging voices boom over the loudspeaker shrieking, "You don't have a beautiful voice! You'll never amount to anything!" And rather than feel solidarity with her ruthless determination to succeed, I felt horribly inclined to agree with them. At times she seemed to be a charismatic actress, but the irony was hauntingly horrible. Distinctly uncomfortable.
Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom, 4 - 28 Aug (not 8, 15, 22), 18.30 (19.30), free, fpp224.
tw rating 1/5

FRESHER The Musical
Paulden Productions
Exceedingly well-framed characters forge a great and surprisingly believable dynamic here. The music is rousing when needed, but the range of styles on display lead to an incredibly varied and versatile performance. The premise is strong, and the overall themes of self-discovery and insecurity are universal enough that you don't need to be a fresher to understand it. The well-orchestrated incorporation of recitative-like moments is particularly striking, forming a contrapuntal cocktail with more melodic lines. Memorable songs, endearing characters, scenarios you can relate to – this was truly energising to watch. Whether university is a recent memory, distant nostalgia, or something to look forward to, this captures all kinds of exuberance in one thrilling musical snapshot.
Pleasance Dome, 3 – 29 Aug (not 15), 3.50pm (5.00pm), £8.50 - £12.00, fpp225.
tw rating 4/5

Cutting Edge Theatre Productions
It must be said, I was apprehensive about this show even before setting foot in the theatre, worried I would be witnessing an updated 'Springtime for Hitler'. Fortunately, this didn't happen; '11' is a moving exploration of the timeless effects of war, regardless of race, gender or time period. The stories of different characters are intertwined with songs proclaiming the devastation of war; the staging was slick, and the cast were vocally outstanding. However, the line of sensitivity is very thin and at times, this production finds itself on the wrong side of it – the concentration camp dialogue is utterly implausible and images of gas chambers and the 9/11 bombings are unnecessary. Provocative, but not always for the right reasons.
Paradise in Augustine's, 6 - 28 Aug (not 7, 15, 22), 8.45pm (10.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp225.
tw rating 3/5

Little Shop Of Homos!
Far From Kansas – The London Gay Man's Chorus
Hardy Dick's Department Store is in trouble. Catering only to the discerning gay, they have turned their backs on an emerging section of the market: the metrosexual. This is the premise on which the boys of Far From Kansas have created their highly enjoyable romp, where homo humour is the norm, and men of all shapes and sizes delight in silliness and frippery. Behind this, there is real heart to the group, and indeed, the show provides one of the sweetest love stories I have seen so far on the Fringe. While the singing was good but not outstanding in the opening numbers, with each song the choruses improved – halfway through, and their harmonies were hair-raising. Joyous.
C, 14 - 20 Aug, 6.00pm (7.00pm), £7.50 - £11.50, fpp227.
tw rating 4/5

Homemade Fusion
In Short Productions
A benevolent stalker, a woman with a penchant for handcuffs and another with serious vending machine issues: these are just some of the eclectic characters that combine to create 'Homemade Fusion', a contemporary song cycle exploring the nature of relationships. With a very Jason Robert Brown feel, it's a perfect mixture of aching emotion and light-hearted humour. It may say "homemade" in the title, but this show feels anything but. The cast are outstanding – each has the ability to take on any character and make it totally believable through fantastic storytelling and even better singing. The group harmonies are exquisite, the comical numbers are incredibly witty and the romantic ones will melt your heart – an absolute pleasure to watch.
C soco, 3 - 25 Aug (not 15), 8.30pm (9.25pm), £8.50 - £10.50, fpp226.
tw rating 5/5


Chekhov Shorts
Theatre Alba
Frankly, it's worth going for the location alone. Situated in the heartbreakingly gorgeous gardens of Duddingston Kirk, the performance is lent an atmosphere of timelessness by its peaceful surroundings. Thankfully, the performance is as splendid as its setting: the show is an absolute firecracker; hysterically and consistently funny. Chekhov's work is brought to life by four great actors. From the poor hen-pecked 'imbecile' to the delicious stand-off between a blustering ex-soldier and a furious upper-class lady, the piece is a master-class in character-acting. It'a good-humoured and beautifully acted, and you'll be laughing all the way through this understated, brilliant performance. My only complaint is that it's not longer - perfectly situated, perfectly acted, perfectly funny; 'Chekhov Shorts' is an absolute delight.
Duddingston Kirk Manse Garden, 9 - 20 Aug (Not 14, 15), 4.00pm (5:15pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp249.
tw rating 5/5

Cumbernauld Theatre Company
As a man gathered 'No I.D. State' petition signatures at the beginning of this year's Festival, the issue of surveillance crept its way into the Fringe. Illuminating the Hill Street Theatre with this topic is the well-versed Cumbernauld Theatre Company, known largely for their adaptation of Iain Banks's 'The Wasp Factory'. Upping their game in this surreal political thriller, director Ed Robson uses costume tricks and projected images to explore the dreary uncertainties and etherealness of witness protection. As two office workers assign jobs, lifestyles and quirks to new members of the programme, the audience finds itself thrown into a world of illusion, doubt and mystique in this nimbly realised and darkly beautiful exploration of government observation.
Hill Street Theatre, 5 - 29 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 6:30pm (7:45pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp309.
tw rating 4/5

When Women Wee
Dirty Stop-Out
Our binge-drinking club culture has accidentally created a room made for drama: the public toilets. For women, a lot goes down behind that swinging door, and here we're treated with a full representation of the females of our time. Everyone has seen, and often been, at least one of these characters. The fashion show of personalities that stroll and totter in are wonderfully portrayed by the slick cast of five, and the hilarity is fresh because nothing is exaggerated. It's funny, sad and there are few cringe-in-your-seat moments (especially for boys, who rarely enjoy knowing about the muckier aspects of being a girl) but ultimately it's all there, and all real.
Underbelly, 4 - 28 Aug (not 15), 11.00pm (12.00pm), £8.00 - £10.50, fpp311.
tw rating [4/5]

Agnes Of God
BLAC Theatre
This is not light theatre. 'Agnes of God' tells a bleak story of sexual abuse, anorexia, death and religion, and is executed superbly in this restrained and tense production. Alanna Flynn is superb as Agnes, treading the line between hysterical and calmly innocent with skill, never overacting even in the most difficult scenes of tortured remembrance. While the performance occasionally lacks fluidity, especially in the earlier exchanges between Dr Livingstone and the Mother Superior, its gripping descent into agony later in the performance is chilling and impossible to look away from, both exhausting and transfixing in equal measure. For anyone tired of light comedy looking for something more powerful and intimate, this is the show to see.
Paradise in the Vault, 8 - 29 Aug (not 15, 22), 5.30pm (6.45pm), £6.00, fpp236.
tw rating 4/5

Hôtel de l'Avenir
Created/ Directed by Alexis Macnab
"The entire city is like a blank piece of paper." Movement, music, art and storytelling combine in the dreamlike world of 'Hôtel de l'Avenir'. Macnab plays all six of the quirky main characters with great panache; she's a 'cant-take-your-eyes off her' kind of actress. Singer and accordionist, Josephine of Café Josephine is particularly charming. There doesn't seem to be much of a plot as such but this is part of the appeal, and the shadow-puppetry is mesmerising, with biscuits, boats, balloons, dogs and ghosts soaring above the breathtaking Paris skyline. Maybe I'm just an old romantic, but I was swept off my feet by the beauty and very French kind of nostalgia of this wonderful production.
Venue 13, Aug 5 -20 (not 8, 15, 16), £5.00 - £8.00, fpp269.
tw rating 4/5

In Confidence
Blacklight Theatre
We are thrown straight into Demi's story as she and her doctor discuss her "options". From the first scene, it is clear that pregnant Demi is hiding a tragic secret, and the scenes that follow, filled as they are with the banality of everyday life, appear almost obscene in the light of it. All the performances are strong; through hilarious and often tragic trivialities, the actors portray a family that is suffering and does not yet know it. Perhaps the play is a little too natural, appearing more like a television drama than a stage one; scenes are short and the frequent transitions are a little distracting. This is, however, an exceptionally well-written and relevant contemporary play.
theSpaces on North Bridge, 5 - 27 Aug, 1.00pm (2.00pm), £5.50 - £9.00, fpp271.
tw rating 3/5

Italia 'n' Caledonia
Mike Moran Productions
Evoking fish and chip suppers and the flavours of Italian ice-cream, two charming, consummate storytellers take us from the mountain villages of Italy to the stony cities of Scotland. With live accordion music throughout and the occasional cheery song, Philip Contini and Mike Maran conjure the lives of their Italian forbears from the early 1900s to World War II. Their animated narration gives vivid historical context for Italian immigration while retaining a highly personal aspect that touches and absorbs. Indeed, the show feels like a gathering of old friends affectionately sharing familiar tales. Contini and Maran take obvious pleasure and pride in their performance, and they create a cosy atmosphere, wherein we all become part of the extended Italian family.
Valvona & Crolla, 9, 11, 16, 18, 20, 23, 24 Aug, 5.45pm (7.00pm), £10.00 - £12.00, fpp 272.
tw rating 3/5

Circle of Eleven
In this spectacular show, 'Leo' lives at a ninety degree angle to the rest of us. We see Leo's world via a real-time projection rotated to make our floor his wall, whilst also seeing Tobias Wegner perform in "our" world. The joy of 'Leo' is partly seeing his gravity-defying antics as his world and ours collide. Mostly, however, it's from watching the amazing performance put in by Wegner as he presents an utterly convincing impression of altered gravity, dancing brilliantly and even playing the sax. Just when you think it can get no better, 'Leo' amazes once more by introducing CGI effects that only we can see but with which Wegner interacts perfectly. Absolutely brilliant; buy your tickets now before they sell out.
St George's West, 5 - 29 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 8.30pm (9.35pm), £9.00 - £13.50, fpp275.
tw rating 5/5

Poor Caroline
Charlotte Productions
It's the buzzing 1920s London, yet "poor" doesn't describe this piece of lifeless theatre. Distinctly lacking in energy, the performers coast through each scene, giving the play a listless pace. Defying convention, the plot, seemingly devoid of intelligent construction, builds to nothing, and even the staging is stagnant: the actors barely move from their starting points and the furniture seems glued to the floor. Even the scene changes are excruciatingly slow; the actors creep about the stage trying to be quiet, seeming to forget that the lights are dimmed not off. I just wanted the next scene to begin so the play would be closer to the end. Lacks any redeeming features.
Paradise In Augustine's, 8 - 20 Aug (not 14, 15), 11.35am (12.45pm), £6.50 - £7.50, fpp289.
tw rating 1/5

The Questionnaire
Ninth Life Theatre Company
We say 'yes' to flyerers more often out of politeness than genuine interest. For the survey, yes means failure; for flyerers, yes means triumph, another box ticked. So society's yes-man Jack finds himself locked in an empty conference room, speaking to a box-ticking intercom which has dark motives of its own. Christopher Birks' performance as Jack, like Irwin in 'The History Boys', flits between nervous affirmatives and arrogant negatives, maintaining energy even in the quietest of moments. Co-actor Robert Neumark-Jones' stage presence, whilst more greatly felt over the terrifyingly impersonal intercom, provides a wonderfully nauseating contrast with a plastic 'Miss America' smile and sugared words. This play will make you say yes to the flyerer without a second thought.
theSpaces on the Mile, 5 - 20 Aug (not 7, 14), times vary, £6.00 - £9.00, fpp291.
tw rating 4/5

Belleville Rendez-Vous
FellSwoop Theatre Company
Perfectly capturing the surreal look, melancholic feel and depression-era French blues sound of the original animated film, this delightful adaptation stays true to its source material without becoming its slave. The excellent ensemble transport us into the weird world of Champion the cyclist, all the while accompanied by a talented three piece band. Inventively staged, cunningly choreographed and brilliantly scored, this production dazzles with its wit and imagination despite choosing a difficult source to adapt. Although it runs a touch long-the dream dance sequences could do with trimming down and the dancers aren't quite sharp enough-this is a strong, enjoyable and intelligent production. You'll never look at bicycle wheels the same way again!
Bedlam Theatre, 8 - 20 Aug (not 14), 11.00am (12.00pm), £8.00, fpp241.
tw rating 4/5

PBH'S Free Fringe
Emcee Harlequinade is a recognisable face on Edinburgh's slam poetry circuit, even when hidden under kinky, creepy clown makeup. Here he's taking the plunge into storytelling with an apocalyptic tale of hell and high water flooded with references to H P Lovecraft, twisted wordplay and subversive lyricism. Channelling hip-hop rhythms and tribal chants, he's impressive in full flow, conjuring images of postmodern, post-catastrophe wastelands or mocking politics and pop culture in hyperactive verbal cascades. It's held together by a subtle, sinister soundscape by regular collaborator Asthmatic Astronaut. When the beat drops out, though, the thin narrative loses its way, and the fragmentary style starts to feel schizophrenic. Although occasionally out of its depth, this is appealingly different, defiant and slick.
The Banshee Labyrinth, 6 - 27 Aug, 7.30pm (8.15pm), free, fpp270.
tw rating 3/5

Mildred McManus For World Minister
Francesca Cox
If you are a girl in early adolescent - which I am not - then this show might be for you. It is performed much in the form of edited chapters of a novel, where the eponymous hero struggles with her parents, job-seeking and her love affair with sleep. While the script is witty and well-observed, its few musical interludes seem unnecessary and the whole thing feels a bit episodic. This script has strong potential, and Francesca Cox is full of ideas which she fails to fully bring to life for the duration of her rather one-paced performance. Still, this show is highly likely to appeal to anyone who is, has been, or wants to be, a teenage girl.
theSpaces on North Bridge, 5 - 20 Aug (not 7, 14), 5.10pm (6.25pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp281.
tw rating 3/5

One Under
In order to gain inspiration for 'One Under', PartingShot went onto the tube in London, handed the passengers a pen and paper, and asked them to write down what they had been thinking about before they were interrupted. The result of this experiment is something quite marvellous - a play which presents four very different characters who, although strangers to each other, are forced together in the tube's intimate space. As the internal monologues of these characters unfold, we witness their deep concerns, their petty worries and, ultimately, the connections and disconnections the underground fosters. The characters are all superbly played, and the play is beautifully structured and near-perfectly pitched, offering both amusement and quiet heartbreak. A neat idea which is excellently developed and executed.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 - 29 Aug (not 15, 23), 12.45pm (1.45pm), £6.00 - £8.50, fpp286.
tw rating 4/5

Real Men Dream In Black And White
Real Men
There are many meditations on the difficulties that come with the so called time of "coming of age": some mature, others leaving many who are still passing through that phase simply having to ask the question, "were those involved born an adult?" Luckily, this show fits snugly into the former of these, as we follow four male characters discussing what it is that supposedly makes a "real man". Some of the lines feel forced, and there's a visible discomfort around the discussion of the essential ingredients for masculinity - a problematic hypothesis to say the least. Nevertheless, this is an honest look at the disaffection of youths - a strikingly relevant topic considering recent national events.
Greenside, 5 - 20 Aug (not 14), 1.55pm (2.40pm), £5.00, fpp291.
tw rating 3/5

The Little Mermaid
Jackinabox Productions
Hans Christian Anderson's classic fairytale is brought to life in this lovely little production. You're transported into the depths of the ocean with a set that twinkles and shimmers with tea lights. Whilst you might imagine a light hearted experience (thanks to Disney), this retelling is actually quite dark., and the language of the dialogue is also quite complex so this is probably not one for younger children. The cast features an ensemble of very competent young actors, although parts of the movement-based sections could have used a bit more polishing. At times it feels a bit amateur, as though perhaps Jackinabox could have tried for more of an edgy retelling; but overall this is very enjoyable bit of theatrical escapism.
Zoo, 5 - 20 Aug, 12.40pm (1.30pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp275.
tw rating 3/5

The Moon Under The Water
Z Theatre Company
In both content and execution, this devised show makes for uneasy viewing. The content - what happens when people drink to get drunk - is not for those in search of sweetness and light. The show is not without comedy and the occasional affecting moment, but overall it fails to realise the potential of its chosen subject. The self-conscious and inconsistent production results in the show lacking focus and depth; there are too many characters and consequently too little character development - the personal narratives which should carry us through the show are never sustained. The piece merely skims the surface of the challenging issue of Britain's binge drinking and, when the humour has fallen away, leaves only the most nebulous impression of excess.
theSpace on Niddry St, 8 - 18 Aug (not 14), times vary, £3.00 - £5.00, fpp282.
tw rating 2/5

The Prodigals
Thankfully this show was only an hour long; I would not have been able to bear it any longer. Two brothers are in the army, one drops out to pursue a career in an awful euro trance group and gets mixed up with drugs. The other stays and is angry about this and that. All the music and songs are terrible and the actor playing the father gives a spectacularly bad performances, closely followed by the rest of the cast. Despite there being an anti-drugs message and one of the characters dying of a heroin overdose, I couldn't help thinking that a bit of smack would have made the whole viewing experience slightly more endurable.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3 - 29 Aug (not 4), 5.00pm (6.00pm), £11.00 - £15.00, fpp290.
tw rating 1/5

The Yellow Wallpaper
Amarillo Arts
Feminism or insanity? This one-woman adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic short story offers no easy answers. Lesley Free deftly draws the audience into her quest for selfhood as she portrays a woman who goes mad, or is driven mad by patriarchy in the form of her eminently practical husband, or is mad all along, or isn't mad but rebels against the predetermined patterns of 19th century gender constructs. Free depicts the chaos of an adult mind trapped behind nursery bars with a wide-eyed innocence that blends well with the character's enforced dependency. However, with an extremely short running time, the show cries out for an extended exploration of the wallpaper's sinister impact.
theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall, 5 - 20 Aug (not 7), 1.10pm (1.55pm), £8.00, fpp313.
tw rating 3/5

Jamie Blake
Ravenrock Theatre Company
If you've ever had your heart stomped on by a pair of stilettos, then slept with anything that walks to try and get through the pain, this show will make you laugh and cry at the same time. This is the director's first script, and he is as skilled with language as he is with theatrics. Music, dance, comedy, and fantastic acting collide in this original tale of failed romance. The script is sharp, the vocal percussion superb, and the ever present acoustic guitarist sings sweet melodies behind Jamie Blake narrating his own love story. Both witty and compelling, you'll leave the show wondering if Mr or Mrs Right really is "the one". I may even go see it again.
Zoo Roxy, 5 - 29 Aug (odd dates only), 2.30pm - 3.30pm, £6.50 - £9.50, fpp272.
tw rating 5/5

Le Cochon Entier
Waste Of Paint Productions
A startling and extremely effective piece of physical theatre sets the tone for this extraordinarily accomplished performance from Waste of Paint Productions. 'Le Cochon Entier' creates a world of abrasive violence with a masterful combination of live on stage music and puppetry. It fails to deliver on the plot, however, as at times the show moves in large blockish sections that fail to entertain or engage - but this is to be expected from a work in progress. It has all the raw edginess of the startlingly new, and the ending is utterly fulfilling as a single smile convincingly confers and finally settles the ambiguous tone of the entire piece. An enviably talented young troupe who will no doubt go far.
Zoo Roxy, 5 - 20 Aug, 8.00pm (8.50pm), £7.50, fpp274.
tw rating 4/5

Young Pretender
Nabokov, Escalator East To Edinburgh And Hull Truck Theatre Present
Bonnie Prince Charlie, young and excitable, wants to lead a rebellion. He's going to fight to the death to beat political corruption and classist oppression. Youth-led riots, did you say? I bet Nabokov didn't think their Festival contribution would be quite so topical when they started rehearsing. Fundamentally, the acting is of a high standard; our Charlie shouts a little too much but the Withnail-and-I-esque relationship between his twitchy character and the steadfast Donald offers a warm humour to what is pretty heavy stuff, and all three cast members have confident stage presence. If the rioters of our day were as certain of their cause, there'd be trouble!
Underbelly Cowgate, 4 - 28 Aug (not 17), 4.40pm (5.40pm), £8.50 - £10.50, fpp314.
tw rating 3/5

Fifth Word Theatre
A young man: crude, raw, tough, too lazy to work, not giving a shit about his family, too stupid to fulfil his duties, and only wanting a MacDonald's Big Mac and a blow job. His fault, right? But - is it really? Actor Joe Doherty performs stunningly: when he talks, screams, whispers, you hear it; you feel the sun on your skin, hanging out with him in the park, see what he sees looking up girls' shirts. You feel your hand hit a woman's face. You feel the baby he holds, wiggling, shaking in your hands. Storytelling to perfection, the performance of this shockingly realistic script - ever more pertinent in light of the recent riots - left me agape in wide-eyed awe.
Zoo, 5 - 28 Aug (not 22), 4.10pm (4.55pm), £7.00 - £9.00, fpp246.
tw rating 5/5

Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
The Main Road Theatre Company
Royce Boland is a bad'un: a wife-beater, stalker and near-murderer. Thankfully, this horrific character never appears on stage. Instead, 'Can't Stand Up For Falling Down' is the story of three women whose lives have been touched and in some way ruined by this man, and their eventual revenge. It's a lyrical - though somewhat slow - play told through three interlocking monologues, working its effects through the rich Yorkshire dialect of playwright Richard Cameron. Unfortunately, the play is slowed further by a number set changes which interrupt the action seemingly unnecessarily. The cast, however, act with conviction and carry the play on their three excellent performances which are only slightly spoiled by what must be the least soundproofed venue in Edinburgh.
Greenside, 5 - 27 Aug (not 14, 21), 5.20pm (6.35pm) £5.00 - £7.00, fpp247.
tw rating 3/5

The Games
Spike Theatre
A fable of triumph and redemption; we find ourselves cast back to Ancient Greek on the road to the Olympics in this hilarious three-hander from Spike Theatre. This fusion of puppetry, clowning, dance and singing, with its skilfully crafted melting-pot of gags and quips, manages to captivate without ever letting up. Watched over by the Gods, our glorious heroes Stanzas, Darius and Hermaphrodite each compete for fame and glory, satirising epic quest and adventure narratives with a tight and enviable agility. It's a farce which makes fun of itself; and, in an age of forgettable comedy showcases and over-produced national theatre, it's a refreshing and masterful piece of original storytelling. Definitely worthy of a gold medal.
Zoo Roxy, 5 – 29 Aug (not 16, 23), 12.30pm (1.40pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp265.
tw rating 5/5

Jawbone Of An Ass
Mortimer Olive Productions
'Jawbone of an Ass' veers dangerously close to being God-awful. Designed to be an ironic exposition of the hypocrisy of Christian America, the play focuses on two women who, despite being preoccupied with Jesus and baking, are embroiled in a series of affairs and the mysterious disappearance of the protagonist's husband. Although the introduction of a Christian psychologist adds another level to this comic exploration, the jokes are often banal and predictable or, in the case of subtler attempts at humour, repeated to excess. Revelatory scenes towards the play's climax come close to redeeming it, and are reminiscent of those used to great effect at the end of farces, but once again, the writing and performances fall short.
Hill Street Theatre, 5 - 29 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 8.00pm (9.10pm), £7.50 - £10.00, fpp274.
tw rating 2/5

Just Good Friends
Le Voyageur Debout
The door to the theatre opens and the audience enters. A character already is on stage, applying make-up to his face. Is he acting or preparing? Once the lights dim, he explains his transformation from man to clown. This is Felix. He introduces Filomena, his all-time good friend and counterpart. To his sorrow, just a good friend. The two actors give a delightful performance of charming scenes and quaint snippets from their moments together. No matter if they meet at the station, go fishing or dancing – their mimic and body language put the audience in the right place, sunshine or rain, as do their voices, imitating waves and ships and birds. A sweet routine with a delicately French flair.
Hill Street Theatre, 8 – 29 Aug, 4.00pm (5.00pm), £8.00 - £6.00, fpp273.
tw rating 4/5

Kitty Litter
When I Say Jump
The sun is coming up on the morning after the night before. Don Pope has done something he shouldn't have and the cat is yowling again. So begins 'Kitty Litter', a play which flickers between the surreal and the everyday as it brilliantly portrays the drug-fuelled adventures of a gang of Bristolian teen fantasists. Thomas Butler puts in a superb performance as the confused Don, his mind slowly unravelling throughout the show. Unfortunately, it's ten minutes too long, and, more irritatingly, the programme gives away a major plot twist; these niggles aside, however, this is a well-scripted and excellently acted piece of theatre: the kind of comedy-drama 'Skins' only wishes it could be.
theSpaces on the Mile, 5 – 27 Aug (not 7, 14, 21), times vary, £6.00 - £8.00, fpp274.
tw rating 4/5

Kafka And Son
Richard Jordan Productions Ltd / Theaturtle / Threshold in Association with Assembly
Alon Nashman's powerful performance as Kafka, and at times his much-feared father, cannot be faulted. Moving around the stage with grace, he has most of his audience totally enraptured. Indeed, it's the human physicality of this piece, vile and beautiful, that is truly impressive. Nashman manipulates his clever set so that it both moves fluidly with his body, and ferociously against it, entrapping him in clear metaphor for Kafka's feelings towards his father. The combination of wire and black feathers, used in various ways, lends the set a sense of no man's land. Clearly, Kafka feels like no man by his father's standards. The script lost me at times and the pace occasionally dropped, but largely a dauntingly good production.
Assembly George Square, 3 – 28 Aug (not 17), 5.05pm (6.05pm), £9.00 - £11.00, fpp273.
tw rating 4/5

Lullabies of Broadmoor - The Murder Club
Stepping Out Theatre and Chrysalis Theatre
Set in the midst of Britain's genocidal war in Iraq, Steve Hennessy's chilling story of murder, madness and redemption is a powerful piece of theatre. Exploring morality and mentality through strong acting performances and a well-written script, it follows the lives of two men committed to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital after engaging in acts of murder. A twisted tale of deceit and deception unfolds as the men plan an evening of entertainment. With a combination of live-action and flashbacks, we learn of the men's past and actions which led them to the hospital, allowing us to explore their characters in considerable detail. With impeccable acting and a strong plot, this is a truly enjoyable production.
C, 4 - 20 Aug (Alternate Dates) 24 26 27, times vary, £6.50 - £10.50, fpp277.
tw rating 4/5

Exeter University Theatre Company
Danny, a British soldier, returns home after a tour and spirals psychotically downwards. James Dartford in the leading role is tense but not quite intense, terrible but not quite terrorising. The remainder of the cast form a tribunal of scowling sexy things, facing him throughout. A depraved 'philosophical' gunsmith offers Danny a sick ideology: second-hand solipsism. The play climaxes with Danny kidnapping, torturing and murdering a teenager. No logic for the act is in view: the play is muddled, hinting at the brutality of training and war – "I've seen men with their skin all melted" – but failing to cement it. Danny's descent from aggression into outright ultra-violent bigotry is incomprehensible and doesn't ring true. Sparse but worthy.
Zoo Roxy, 5 – 29 Aug (not 15, 22), 2.30pm (3.45pm), £6.50 - £7.50, fpp282.
tw rating 3/5

Teddy And Topsy – Isadora Duncan's Love Letters To Gordon Craig
Inside Intelligence
Isadora Duncan's often tragic life is laid bare in this one-woman character study. Duncan's letters to the man she had to leave at home while she toured Europe are narrated by actor and dancer Nellie McQuinn. Duncan's letters show her to be an engaging character, full of warmth, charm and vitality, and McQuinn is excellent throughout, bringing a real depth to her performance, ably handling the rather simple yet elegant choreography. It could stand to be a little shorter, but it's an altogether beautiful piece. It also serves as a fascinating window into the past, highlighting the difficulties of connecting and being human when the written word was the only means of communicating.
Hill Street Theatre, 5 - 29 Aug (not 17, 24), 2.00pm (3.15am), £9.00 - £11.00, fpp302.
tw rating 4/5

The Observatory
Snuff Box Theatre Company
'The Observatory' is a tense play about a soldier who shoots an innocent civilian and about the military's subsequent response. The first scene is powerful and carries us into a complex plot in which multiple strands are drawn deftly together in order to paint a picture of an organisation in crisis. Although masterfully acted throughout, the play fails to maintain the calibre of its opening. In particular, the comic relief it attempts to offer via the relationship between the two military policemen feels over-done. The conclusion, which degenerates into farce, also disappoints, highlighting the improbability of the conspiracy on which the play is premised. Overall, though, this is a daring production that manages to be atmospheric, sad and thought-provoking.
Underbelly, 4 – 28 Aug, 12.40pm (1.40pm), £7.50 - £10.00, fpp284.
tw rating 3/5

Of Sound Mind
Ronnie Dorsey Productions And Scamp Theatre
"It was about getting rid, not counting." This haunting and disturbing recurrent theme is evident throughout this one-woman monologue. Abused at the hands of men, both sexually and emotionally, our protagonist takes matters into her own hands, deciding upon a gruesome fate for all men, including those who hurt her. A wonderfully constructed dialogue delves into the depths of this pained and disillusioned psyche. Appearing paradoxically confident and nervous from the moment you enter the theatre to the final words of the performance, Ronnie Dorsey's performance channels a triumphant combination of Maggie Smith's aloofness and Helen Mirren's serenity. I left feeling truly uncomfortable with a queasy knot in my stomach. Horribly enthralling, shockingly harrowing.
Udderbelly's Pasture, 3 – 29 Aug (not 15), 3.40pm (4.40pm), £6.00 - £12.00, fpp285.
tw rating 4/5

The Table
Blind Summit Theatre
Blind Summit Theatre's episodic four-hander has a bleak, visual charm which warms the imaginations of its audience. Crafted largely out of cotton, our puppet protagonist finds himself stuck on a tabletop, unable to leave, all the while teased and tested by a silent puppeteer who remains frustratingly liminal throughout. Controlled by three orchestrators, the puppet dances, chats and yearns in front of us, hogging the limelight while searching for some form of emotional acceptance. This is based on Kabuki mask work, and the doll performs impromptu Matrix-style somersaults, demonstrating the discipline and skilful control of a Kabuki performer. Also featuring some shadow mask art and slideshow paper puppetry, this performance is as infectiously energetic as it is ingenious.
Pleasance Dome, 3 – 28 Aug (not 15), 10:00pm (11:00pm), £11.00 - £14.00, fpp301.
tw rating 4/5

The Firebird
Purves Puppets
From the moment the curtains draw back to reveal the beautiful set, the audience of 'The Firebird' are entranced. Wicked wizard Koschei, all serpentine movements and pantomime evil, provides a brilliant introduction to the skills of the Purves Puppeteers. As the adventures of Prince Ivan unfold, we are treated to humorous animals and precisely timed and special effects which make the audience of children and adults gasp in wonder. Although the younger audience members lose a little focus during the set changes - the show could do with something to keep us amused while the curtain is drawn - 'The Firebird' holds them in rapt attention the rest of the time. An hour and a half of delightful puppet theatre.
Fairmilehead Parish Church, 8 – 20 Aug (not 14), 2.00pm (3.30pm), £5.50 - £7.50, fpp262.
tw rating 4/5

The Translator's Dilemma
Scandal Theatre/PBH's Free Fringe
Entering the venue at a breathless dash and apologising for her lateness, Jessica Phillippi immediately plunges the audience into 'The Translator's Dilemma'. It's only as she begins welcoming us to "class" that we realise she is already acting. This stark naturalism makes the play as difficult to watch as it is compelling. Covering a class for a friend, the eponymous translator realises that the prepared lesson is on a subject too close to home: a greedy corporation whose crimes resulted in her parents' deaths. A harrowing portrayal of her descent into hysteria and near-insanity is marred only by the odd confusing line and plot hole. Though imperfect in places, Phillippi's excellent performance means that this production shines.
Princes Mall, 6 – 27 Aug (not 16, 17, 18), 1.00pm (2.00pm), free, fpp308.
tw rating 4/5

Body Of Water
Made From Scratch
Have I walked into a nightclub by mistake? No, we are actually at a squat party in a central London mansion. The bass is pounding through my body, with lasers spinning and party-goers dancing with ecstasy (both kinds). In the middle of this chaos is a boat and two rather serious-looking people who are not partaking in the dancing. This is a funny and thoroughly modern play exploring the world of youth, illegal parties, drug culture, friendship, ideals and mental health. The large cast are young with heaps of energy, which is brought to the fore by some strong performances. A clever overlapping of scenes adds to the fast pace, keeping audience enthralled throughout. Recommended.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 - 29 Aug, 3.25pm (4.25pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp245.
tw rating 4/5

Bluebeard: A Fairy Tale For Adults
Milk Presents
Bizarre, macabre, and perversely funny, this play stays true to the spirit of Charles Perrault's story of the polygamous villain and his bloody deeds. Yet the tale is also brought up to date with the incorporation of ingeniously inventive musical numbers, with incisive commentary on modern relationships. Breaking the fourth wall is always risky but here it provides a wealth of aesthetic opportunities. What's more, the cast's overt enjoyment of performing makes the piece a delight to behold. The range of musical and acting talent displayed by these five actors is magnificent; they play the keyboard, clarinet, and ukulele, and their singing voices are impressive, especially that of Bluebeard himself (Adam Robertson). Very, very good.
Underbelly, Cowgate, 4 – 28 Aug (not 16), 6.55pm (7.45pm), £8.50 - £10.50, fpp245.
tw rating 5/5

Icarus Theatre Collective
Passion. Corruption. Revenge. And some rather odd set design. These are ingredients that make this production of 'Macbeth' both memorable and different. Sophie Brookes' Lady Macbeth is a guileful and carnal creature, accentuating her role as Macbeth's manipulator and lover and as a result, the on-stage chemistry between Brookes and Joel Gorf is electrifying, pre-empting the toxic end to the relationship. The witches remain ever-present on-stage, which is effective in illustrating their key role in the tragedy. My only criticism is the moon, oddly emblazoned at various times with birds and lightning bolts – an attempt at symbolism which left me confused; particularly when it became the eye of Sauron and spoke to Macbeth in Act 4...
New Town Theatre, 4 – 28 Aug (not 16), 13:00pm, £8.00 - £12.00, fpp278
tw rating 4/5

Richard Marsh
'Skittles' tells a simple story - boy meets girl, gets girl, loses girl - but it's given a new spin through Richard Marsh's words. Fast-paced and rhythmical, his hour-long poem manages the impressive task of being at once natural-sounding and completely stylised. It's playful, too, at times very funny: "You're so hot it's like you're covered in kettles" is a line that sticks in the mind. At other moments, however, it's heart-breaking. Though an old story, Marsh's talents are enough to sustain something much more exciting and new, but 'Skittles' still tugs at the heartstrings. Affecting, but never affected, it's a powerful hour in the company of a rare talent.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 – 29 Aug (not 16), 2.05pm (3.05pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp298
tw rating 4/5

The F Word
360 Productions
I was excited about going to see 'The F Word', which promised a series of feminist-themed mini plays: I love a good bit of gender politics to mull over. But when the cast came on stage and began to sing their glib opening number, 'Female Therapy', I realised I'd made a terrible mistake. It wasn't so bad; some of the playlets, which ranged in theme from one about domestic violence to a Caster Semenya-inspired piece about sport, were powerful, well-written and impressively acted, but the shortness of the pieces means that the play merely glances over the issues. I began to feel that the whole show lacked substance; by ending with a reprise of that stupid song, my suspicions were confirmed.
theSpace on North Bridge, 5 - 27 Aug, 4.40pm (5.40pm), £10.00, fpp264
tw rating 2/5

The Sexual Awakening of Peter Mayo
Misshapen Theatre
Searching for the right show at the Festival is a bit like searching for the right sexual partner in an online dating forum: it's best to avoid the overtly desperate ones and you're always at risk of disappointment. But whilst Peter Mayo doesn't get much guidance as he ventures out to do the latter, you, lucky Festival-goer, have us, ThreeWeeks, to give you some basic pointers in the former. Lyle, Duff and Donelly demonstrate impressive talent throughout, never missing a beat in their delivery of the fast-paced script, and yet their seamless characterisation proves they're not just comic actors. It's a delight to see something so technically and artistically slick. Go and see this play.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 – 29 Aug, 2.45pm (3.45pm), £5.00 - £9.50, fpp296
tw rating 5/5

Totty Galore and The Expanding Suitcase
William Dashwood
Imagine 'Only Fools and Horses' in drag and you're not even close. Nothing could have prepared me for this bizarre performance. Frank owns a miraculous suitcase that expands to reveal a variety of "saleable" objects, including a blow-up sex-doll and "second-hand" condoms presented on a washing-line. But how does one review a sixty-year-old man stripping down to a thong, feigning heart-attack, and then proceeding to dress up as a woman (otherwise known as 'Totty Galore')? In a way, 'Totty Galore and The Expanding Suitcase' is brilliantly funny, but not quite for the right reasons. I'd urge you to see this just so you know I'm not lying, and so I know it really happened...
Quaker Meeting House, 8 – 27 (not 14, 21), 18:30pm, £7.00, fpp305
tw rating 2/5

Uglies Do Edinburgh
DK Productions
With enough double-entendres to make you gag, Cinders' nonsensical 'sisters' take to the stage. Enchanting fairytale this is not; instead, visualise an agonising hour of mindless song and dance. Flouncing, gasping and squealing around a confined space, Annie and Fannie are exhausting, and in a panto-style show where audience-participation is key, it was almost impossible for them to wrench any life out of the few spectators there were. Omitting all the naughty references, which left the small people looking a bit blank, could make this a highly successful children's show. After all, the duo are experienced and talented performers. Sadly, they are wasted on this uninspiring routine that made me wish the Uglies had avoided Edinburgh altogether.
Gryphon Venues at the Point Hotel, 8 – 13, 15 – 20, 22 – 29 Aug, 5.00pm (6.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp307.
tw rating 1/5

Yours, Isabel
Christy Hall and Mark Lutz
Initially, this very American performance made my ears cringe at the cheesy lines and over-acting. As the play progressed, however, it became apparent that this wasn't a 'Dear John' sentimental soirée, but the remarkable perspective of a woman's search for independence in a country suddenly bereft of young men. The story is an inspirational nod to the women's rights movement during the War, as Isabel sees opportunity rather than setback. However, her character seems too larger-than-life for Nick to handle from the beginning; the relationship isn't very believable (despite Hall and Lutz being married off-stage), which undermines the romance. Nick is too one-dimensional, making it seem unlikely Isabel would be his in the first place.
Paradise in The Vault, 8 – 29 Aug (not 15, 22), 4:30pm (5:45pm), £4.00 - £5.00, fpp314.
tw rating 3/5

Wee Andy
Tumult In The Clouds
Brutal in its simplicity, Paddy Cunneen's play depicts a Glasgow almost devoid of love. It relays the events following a savage knife attack through the eyes of the victim's mother and surgeon. Using rubber bands to represent Andy's knife wounds, Cunneen creates an ugly and direct visualisation of the violence; a far more effective way of conveying the wounds than make-up. This directness bleeds into the rest of the play; straight addresses to the audience from Andy's mother and doctor leave no room to escape the violence and horror of the situation. Despite their heightened poetic manner of speech, the characters feel real, and this is a reality which makes the closing act so shocking and terrible to behold.
Pleasance Courtyard, 5 – 28 (not 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27), 2pm (2.55pm) £9.00 - £10.00, 310fpp.
tw rating 4/5

Looser Women
Festival Highlights
Carol McGiffin and Sherrie Hewson may be missing, but the panel of Tim Fountain's 'Looser Women' consists of three brilliant comediennes sharing real-life stories and hilariously rude sex facts. While the audience blushes and squeals, they're asked, "Have you ever had sex in a public place, or done it because you didn't have the cab fare home?" If you've ever had the burning desire to experience 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves' porn, or if you've always wanted to compare a load of dildos, then you'll love this. It might seem to be targeted at women but don't let that dissuade you: both the sexes will relish this laugh-a-minute naughty performance.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3 – 29 Aug (not 17), 10.45pm (11.45pm), £9.00 - £11.00, fpp276.
tw rating 4/5

A Preoccupation With Romance
CloseKnit Theatre
I have to see this show again. From the charmingly naïve opening duet by a boy and a girl draped over a white sofa, it entirely captured my heart. And things get even better as the youthful cast weave their beautiful tragedy of cowardly lovers, artfully fusing poetry, movement and music into a truly exquisite performance. Enchanting really is the only word to describe this show, with its touching supportive use of unsigned musicians, captivating lyrical dialogue, and physical storytelling which, with mesmerising power, conveys the separations and unions that accompany romance. Indeed, such use of movement cleverly reflects the unspoken predicament of the lovers which ultimately drives them apart. Unmissable goose-pimply wonderfulness.
Zoo Southside, 5 – 29 Aug (not 7, 14, 21, 28), 1.45pm (2.30pm), £6.00 - £8.00, fpp289.
tw rating 5/5

Death Song
You Need Me
My disbelief was suspended easily, as 'You Need Me' passionately recreated life in a Nevada trailer park using cello accompaniment, imaginative live sound effects and breathtakingly fluid movement. The story of Mexican immigrant Juan's life with daughter Paulina, imprisonment, and imminent execution on death row, was narrated mesmerisingly, and the production had the incredible effect of making the audience physically feel the emotions of the characters, using a skilful combination of exaggerated space and intense lighting. The twists of the tale were impossible to predict and I left feeling emotionally drained after such a spectacular blend of physical theatre and music. This theatre company is exciting and innovative, and this was an absolute triumph of a performance.
Udderbelly's Pasture, 3 - 28 Aug (not 15), 6.35pm (7.35pm), £9.00 - £11.00, fpp255.
tw rating 5/5

Aireborne Theatre
'Dirt' is a magic realist fairytale about bereaved mother Ada's attempt to escape her grief... and also the incursion of a kingdom of evil worms. Said worms are the show's jesters and Greek chorus, singing charmingly villainous songs and driving events – for example, reanimating Ada's dead son as a toy for the Worm King. Laura Marston, as both the Worm Princess and Ada's mother, is really impressive, craning and straining to animate a series of animal puppets; wheedling and self-promoting, Marston would make a fine Mephistopheles. The ending is delightfully sudden and unsentimental, and although it bucks the story arc slightly, it polishes the play with the perfect combo of grisly cuteness – something they manage to pull off better than anyone.
C eca, 3 - 29 Aug (not 16), 9.05pm (10.05pm), £7.50 - £9.50, fpp257.
tw rating: 4/5

Jack's Story: Ripper Or Not?
The Actas Company
This may be his story, but Jack doesn't have much to say for himself in this retelling of the Ripper murders. Though the eponymous serial killer delivers some monologues with a bag on his head and gets to twirl his cloak impressively in the dry ice every so often, largely the focus of this play is on his victims, the streetwalkers of Whitehall. A female-centred production about Jack the Ripper certainly has the potential to be interesting: it's unfortunate then that it is difficult to tell the characters apart except by the varying quality of their cockney accents. The main things to enjoy in this production are one impressively gruesome prop and lots of dry ice.
Paradise in the Vault, 7 - 13 Aug, 3.55pm (4.45pm), £6.00 - £7.50, fpp272
tw rating 2/5

Last Petal Falling
Emotion Pictures
Cups of tea in a bid to make things better, the search for moments of humanity to give reasons to keep trying, the despair of seeing a person you loved taken away and replaced with something else... It's an understandably bleak picture that writer Antony Bellekom paints in this study of Alzheimer's disease. Roberta Bellekom, the sole actor, relates the final years of her grandmother's life, having just returned from her funeral. Her performance is compelling, and with the script it creates an entirely believable account of how dementia affects a family. The show just falls short of landing any real emotional punches that would make the piece really exceptional, but it's still undeniably powerful stuff.
theSpaces on the Mile, 5 - 13 Aug (not 7), 2.05pm (2.50pm), £5.00 - £6.00, fpp274.
tw rating 4/5

Museum Of Horror
RSH Productions
For a late-night showing, I was expecting the 'Museum Of Horror' to be either horrifying or hilarious. It turned out to be more like family entertainment. I knew what was going to happen at every turn, and there wasn't enough humour to make up for such predictability. Spoofs are meant to be filled with clichés, but, for an adult audience, the 'Museum of Horror' doesn't transcend them. However, the acting was some of the best I've seen at the Fring so far, with four young people and one creepy bald man, but they are obviously capable of much more artistry. At times there were moments of comedy and brilliant poignancy, but the humour fails to live up to its potential.
theSpaces on the Mile, 5 - 27 Aug (not 7, 14, 21), 10.05pm - 11.00pm, £4.00 - £8.00, fpp282.
tw rating 3/5

Orlando is alone - that is, if you don't count the intoxicating range of audio-visual effects accompanying the sole actress. Intensely atmospheric, the flickering electronic soundtrack intricately follows Orlando's journey through time, space and gender, as we are treated to the heady recitation of an exotic biography. Adapted from Virginia Woolf's novel, this production is especially adept in its synthesis of Woolf's linguistic virtuosity with contemporary sound and projection techniques. Although the show's pace lags occasionally, Judith Williams impresses with a witty and vulnerable performance, while evocative lighting, clever set design and costuming superbly depict numerous transformations. Orlando proclaims her aloneness, but with so gloriously multifarious a performance, we need not ask for anything more.
St George's West, 5 - 28 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 4.00pm (5.05pm), £7.00 - £12.00, fpp286.
tw rating 4/5

Paper Tom
Handheld Arts
What happens when you have lived a life of extremes? Of extreme hot or cold, of intense warfare, of relentless noise and angry gunfire, of seeing friends drop dead like flies? And then you return to normality, to civilian life... This production asks just that as we glimpse into the lives of two soldiers, the first from the two World Wars, the second based on present-day troops in Afghanistan. When so much multimedia is at work in a production, there's always a risk that things go pear-shaped but 'Paper Tom' pulls it off. The use of projection is innovative and interesting whiled the quality of acting is not, thankfully, compromised for technology. Impressive stuff.
Hill Street Theatre, Aug 5 -29 (Not 10, 17 or 24), £6.00 - £8.50, fpp287
tw rating 4/5

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Scamp Theatre
This beautifully poignant adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's well-loved children's book is an absolute joy to watch on stage. The child's take on love, death and war are captured perfectly by Finn Hanlon, who cleverly switches from character to character while still holding the attention of every child in the room. It is testament to the production that despite the audible hustle and bustle surrounding the Udderbelly (and a couple of phones going off during the performance), Hanlon, whose acting is flawless, is able to maintain the intense atmosphere throughout. As is always the case, ardent fans of the book could leave slightly disappointed, but on the whole this is an essential heart-wrenching play for all the family.
Udderbelly's Pasture, 6 – 29 Aug (not 15), 2.20pm (3.35pm), £11.00 - £12.00, fpp289
tw rating 4/5

Ships of Sand
Lyrebird Theatre Company
A seductively soft droning greets the audience as they take their seats in anticipation of this production. An oppressive atmosphere is immediately made apparent owing to the simplistic costume and rhythmic sound as the eight-strong cast portray the monotony of society, one you couldn't blame anyone for trying to escape. Thus the premise for 'Ships of Sand' is set; a fantastical journey exploring our fantasies and desire to reach the impossible. This is superbly achieved through the effective use of the human body to create numerous concepts. The hard work and effort by this small company is exceedingly evident, and although at times the plot may seem loose, just watching these performers is a feast for the eyes.
Venue 13, Aug 5 - 27 (not 15), times vary, £3.00 - £6.00, fpp296.
tw rating 4/5

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ThreeWeeks 2011 Review Team: Jennifer Ajderian [ja], Katie Allen [ka], Maryam Ansari [ma], Daisy Badger [db], Jessica Ballance [jlb] Jennifer Bayne [jb], Andrew Bell [ab], Julian Benson [jfb] Neville Billimoria [nb], Ellie Blow [eb] Camille Burns [cb], Emily Carson [ec], Katie Chapman [kc], James Chew [jc], Sophia Clarke [sc], Lisa Clarkson [lc], Paul Collins [pc], Mark Conway [mc], Laura Cress [ljc], Katie Cunningham [klc], Nadiya Cunnison [nc], Cathal Delea [cd], Lucinda Dobinson [ld], Harriet Dodd [hd], Celia Dugua [cld], Anna Eberts [ae], Dave Fargnoli [df], Joseph Fleming [jf], Ella Fryer-Smith [efs], Nina Glencross [ng], Zulekha Grace [zg], Danielle Grogan [dg], Anna Hafsteinsson [ah], James Hampson [jh], Clemmie Hill [ch], Samuel Johnston [sj], Megan Joyce [mj], Ivan Juritz [ij], Veronika Kallus [vk], Emma Keaveney [ek], Lauren Kelly [lk], Ciara Knowles [ck], Jessica Lambert [jl], Andrew Latimer [ajl], Gavin Leech [gl], Kate Lister [kl], Alice Longhurst [al], Michael Mackenzie [mm], Kirsty MacSween [km], Lynsey Martenstyn [lm], Felicity Martin [fm], Iain Martin [im], Louise Mawson [lam], Anna McDonald [am], Lisa McNally [lmm], Cheryl Moh [cm], Kathryn Moore [kjm], Sarah Mulvenna [sm], Eleanor Pender [ep], Dora Petherbridge [dp], Marcus Pibworth [mp], Alistair Quaile [aq], Tracey S Rosenberg [tsr], Poppy Rowley [pr], Rosalind Scott [rs], Leonie Sheridan [ls], Ross Sweeney [rss], Simon Thornton [st], Alison Treacy [at], Rohanne Udall [ru], Hannah Van Den Bergh [hb], Taylor Wallace [tw], Kirsten Waller [kw], Thea Warren [tfw], Hilary White [hw], Ellie Willis [ew], Ellen Wilson [emw], Nathan Wood [nw].

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