Category Archives: Fringe 2022

The Importance of being… Earnest?


Pleasance Courtyard (Beyond)
Aug 12 – 14, 19 – 21, 26 – 28
15 – 18, 22 – 25, 13.30


Pleasance Courtyard was busy just down from North Bridge in the hot sunshine. The complex had lot’s of families enjoying the times between shows. ‘The Importance of being…Earnest’ was to be performed in the Beyond venue, that turned out to be a larger room with seating in the hundreds. I am a little familiar with this Oscar Wilde play so as we went in to sit the set was no surprise it was a room with a door, with the mod con’s in the fashion of the hundred year old play.

In the first scene two finely dressed gentlemen began with that most flavoursome dialogue Wilde is known and loved for, full of regard and straightforwardness. The air was jovial between the two so I settled in expecting an acting master class in a play called trivial comedy for serious people.

There was a huge unexpected turn of events; as when Earnest was in earnest introduced (to come through the door) it didn’t open and no one appeared. Ok so what had happened? How could a play ending catastrophe happen on a stage like this?

Running on stage the Director himself took a microphone in the disruption to apologise; by this time we knew that the obligatory twist to the tail would be something surprising. I won’t tell you here and now how things unfolded and spoil the story of event after event but after it all had happened I can say that it can stand as a great tribute to the flamboyant playwright.

Swinging open the doors for scenes of mayhem, live action that defied theatrical comprehension (yet was grounded by the strongest of takes on it). Improvisation was stretched beyond belief as all ties were cut from any kind of dusty retelling with or without good diction.

A roaring cast had to dialogue with inexperience and had a lot of breath gasping prompting. Uncertainty screamed and howled with tantalising comedy, and a revitalising use of craft pulled us in every direction possible. I had not seen this side of live play before as it oozed in creative freedom while always continuing to try and tell the tale of Earnest who after all was only in love.

Dealing with the cast, the crowd, the Oscar Wilde elements we were allowed into the bones of a cast controlled by its director, and there was no little amount of tenderness and care to be absorbed when things and moments of unfolding really got very sticky. Prompted by disbelief our emotions were taken on a ride like a rollercoaster with unhinged wheels.

A most complete show to be envied, a true dedication that chose well ‘The Importance of being …Earnest’ offering all the joys Wilde would glow with. The original 1895 script whose title was of such importance is always interpreted in a different way, with a chance to escape the problems of the world, in this show the whole thing stood on its head while balancing on a ball.

Daniel Donnelly

Crybabies: Bagbeard


Pleasance Dome
Aug 12 – 14, 19 – 21, 26 – 28
16 – 18 – 22 – 25, 17.50


On the way to Pleasance dome for a comedy sketch show called ‘Crybabies: Bagbeard I was about to see one of the strangest creations of the Fringe. Out came two men with large square helmets on their heads, they spoke in outer space garbled words that needed explaining as it was projected on a panel of material hanging centre stage.

After a ringmaster like introduction to the play already there was an all inclusive medium in operation as circus met with the comedy that the evening would portray. The luckless Chris Mystery was about to face a life changing ordeal.

They flashed on and off stage at speed, at the right was a sign reading Slug Witch Wood’s. As the outpouring comedy of fast lines a general conversation immerged as Chris tried to make his way he was advised on all sides. In tongue twisting dialogue, Chris was in love with his life and revered his mentor doctor with abundant enthusiasm. For it slowly came to pass that actually his life was falling apart. He was in danger though he didn’t know it.

Science and medicine spelled out by costume changes seemed to be random but it transpired that Chris’s world was to be plagued but the reason for this was yet to transpire. As he gradually caught on to the issue at hand he became irate to the joy of the room. It was a lot of story crammed into an hour, offering the thick script up to a craze filled frenzy upbeat and full of energy.

Somewhere lurking in the shadows of the saga a monster was hidden who may have been influencing things, it took part in the cajoling of Chris as multi characters secretly directing things. The show hit the tone of an absolute farce as a sketch show that even reached disembodiment at a big turning point.

With Chris foolishly thinking he could navigate his way he was tossed about as things came at him at pace not least was the notion that he was just a puppet on the end of a string. From this funny calamity on rolled an alien with an absurd talking voice that had us compelled to laugh from our belly.

It was a romp around with action, suggested holiness from naked man in blue plastic bag beard from ear to ear. It was a dedicated sketch show of good and bad taste, offering up a with a sharpened wit a need to take a break to reflect on with laughter. His demise flew across the stage with a goal that everything was directed to an outcome of ultimate momentous revealing to come for the finale. I wasn’t surprised that this show is well attended this year, having a very welcoming and highly pressured comedy/sketch show.

It was all true to life for all of its gratuities in a funny tale of personalities who made the absurd come to life with all the characters of a humorous play with a healthy looking villain; who went too far by killing frustratedly with a blade and a gun. A little nudity took to proceeding, I think to include another heightened spectacle of this man trying to make amends. All of which ironically played to a plot with a twist as he was helped all along with assured guidance by those who looked to do him harm.

A touching story that bent the fabric of space and time to put Chris through exhausting paces, but did he grow or was he not given the chance? Putting everyday life; into an hour of sincere hilarity into and outside the box. It Drew us into a performance of spirited and delectable rushing moments counteracted with writing that had us at their mercy, t’was Bagbeard that saved the day.

Daniel Donnelly

Lottie Plachett Took a Hatchett


Assembly Roxy
August 4th – August 27th (20.35)


At the Assembly Roxy they are offering up a play about the trial of Lizzie Borden that shocked the American public in 1892. Called Lottie Plachett Took a Hatchett, this piece of theatre was not created to disappoint but to entertain to the max. While Judge Baw Sack and his incompetent colleagues set alight the trial for Lottie we head back to the crime scene where a dysfunctional family are revealed, and with all the unhealthy interpersonal behaviour within the unit it is apparent that trouble lies ahead. From Pansy, the broken brother, to Molly, the Irish maid, this becomes a dirty and dangerous situation for all concerned. Thundering onto the stage like a herd of migrating buffalo, the high-voltage energy from all five cast members was intoxicating & the audience was now transfixed. With uncontrollable bouts of giggles, and gasps of shock, the play proceeded at a level like no other…

This is a beautifully written script with no quarter given, which delivers with perfectly precise timing and execution. The interaction of cast members was truly excellent, creating a landslide of constant deep cutting jokes. Sexy, imposing, shocking, direct and hard-hitting are only a few of the words that can describe this roller-coaster of a show. Like an Agatha Christie who-done-it, the conspiring siblings create a cocktail of filth and sex that any scandal would be proud of. No area of family life was left untouched as this fast-paced show kept the audience’s attention like a Leopard fixed on its prey. Mixing fantastic acting with superb comedy this is a very, very funny piece of comedy theatre. Filthy, but yet endearing, Lottie Plachett Took a Hatchett propels the already captivated audience to a higher plane. When a show runs for an hour but feels like 15 minutes you know it has to be one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Fringe. Great cast, superb stage production, hilarious and with cleverly thought-out gags, this is an explosion of laughter you won’t forgot any time soon. High octane, powerful and dynamic, this is a must see show…..

Your reviewer excited to meet with the cast

Spud

Our Eyes Met


The Space – Surgeons hall
Aug 8 – 13, 13,00


The title for this play ‘Our Eyes Met’ caught my eye as an appealing one and it didn’t let me down. The Space – Surgeon Hall room was blackened with drapes as the play began. The St Catherine’s School’s Drama crew were in the position of 2 groups sitting either side of the stage. There was an air of confidence bubbling about them already.

They were at a train station waiting for a train, from which the ghostly tale was to unfold. Straight away we knew we were in the realm of the gods, the Greek Gods to be exact. The metaphorical waves were hugely stirred as the Gods and muses tussled with bad news of rape and murder.

Out of the chaos the saga of Perseus and Medusa immerged as the central story. The play told it as the Legend had happened where Medusa was punished by Athena for mating with Poseidon. Athena was furious and cursed Medusa to a terrible and tragic life of the freshly created gorgon. Medusa’s new power meant that whomever she set her eyes upon would turn to stone, also in her pitiable fate was to be banished to live alone on a remote rocky island.

The mighty subject on show here held a remarkable twist in a fresh retelling of a strong and enjoyable journey of Medusa and Perseus. The play tied down a kind of contest that carefully placed our attention on assumptions of how we look at things through the eyes of the gods. With Athena furious and incensed it wasn’t long till Perseus travelled, under instruction from his father Zeus; making Perseus a half god half mortal, to find and slay poor Medusa.

The naturalness of the play rose in the delectable energy portraying the kind of multifaceted plot to leave Medusa and Perseus under a trial of the scene of Medusa’s death by his sword. The moment of killing her was part of the remarkable twist. Re-enacting this scene was the fate of the play. Taking turns (enthusiastically) to play the scene found that each case for the prosecution and defence ran a little differently, though always on Olympian proportions.

Their deliberating stood strong, with the strength of the gods, and comedy of importance. And together it strode forth with an inquisition in an attempt to find the truth about the murderous actions of the gods and Perseus. And with each perfectly framed repetition of the scene the reality on trial in the play became; who the real monster was? A question of compassion was struck.

Was Athena too wild in her reaction to how Medusa had behaved? The poor exile was to suffer her fate forever as a mortal changed into the most unfortunate monster. Passionate dialogue ran incredibly well, in timing, and had a great innocence about proceedings. They had the gods on the go with a flavour of naivety very appropriate to the Myth of the Greek gods.

With this fresh retelling capably underway and with the braided hair universally worn, the play was never about doubt but about fact. We found it very learned as they hurriedly listed many of the hierarchy of the ancient mound with swift and certain deliberation.

As a fan of the genre this play went well beyond any frivolity nor had it a need for farce. Instead it was seamless and free from the faults of mortals, but resoundingly it felt like a good and bright production; fun, games, truth, fear, were all on show with the togetherness of the happy medium of a very well written plural play.

I enjoyed it greatly and would not substitute it for anything, very worth your while as it sparkled on a note that reached deep into storytelling, creating a beautifully wonderful play. The title ‘Our Eyes Met’ turned out in its brilliance to offer the tragic aspect of Medusa’s eyes that may never be met again. After it’s repeated ordeal the gods and muses broke character to catch their train, leaving the tale in a ghost-like phenomenon.

Daniel Donnelly

Skank


Pleasance Two
August 10-29th (16.40pm)


In a quaint room situated at the back of the Pleasance Courtyard the comedy / theatre show Skank was about to be unleashed upon the eagerly waiting crowd. Fuelled by all the chit-chat in the queue my anticipation was growing stronger as I proceeded inside. Suddenly, a bashful Kate wearing fish-net tights and holding a baked bean can was controlling her audience with an intoxicating stage presence. You could tell from the outset that this was a well-thought out piece of theatre with only one thing in mind – to shock the audience and make them cringe with laughter. That she did in abundance.

Skank delivers a show directed at sexual frustration, mundane office jobs, friendships and recycling. Collectively, Clementine Bogg-Hargroves’ Kate brings everything into prospective as an inner chaos creates an eruption of vocalized jokes that were delivered with venom. Stylish, creative, witty & scathingly sarcastic, Skank continues to grow & grow as the show develops at a steady pace. Nibbling away like a squirrel on an acorn, Skank encases you with contentment. Raw, hard hitting, truthful and delivered with heart and soul, this is a refined slice of the Edinburgh Fringe. A challenging piece I was enjoying & questioning the show at the same time. As I left the theatre I was ruminating on whether witnessing the internal turmoil of anxiety was really entertainment. But then watching Kate pull it all off was entertaining, so there’s the true rub.

Spud

NewsRevue


Pleasance at EICC
3rd – 28th August (not 22nd)


The EICC definitely has the comfiest seats at the Edinburgh Fringe, & after 3 years of political nonsense & global propaganda, I was curious to know how our current bunch of ‘leaders’ were being satirised. To be honest I wish I hadn’t have bother’d, but the young lady I was out with, who’d barely seen anything at the Fringe, thoroughly enjoy’d herself. Was it me – had I been oversaturated with culture, or had I become hypercritical after gauging so much art? Or was the NewsRevue just a bit, well, weak?

The show gives us two men & two women – talented singers all four – who have master’d their acting skills & voice projection, flowing through every important political avatar of the past few years. There was an excellent Trump, a cutting edge Truss & a floppy haired Bo-Jo all swaggering about on stage on the sketch-show hamster-wheel of political light entertainment. Along the way the superb pianist accompanied singing, & tinkl’d classics thro the interludes, & some of the songs were excellent. The best one, unfortunately, was the Patrick Vallance & Chris Whitty duet which was reyt funky but sung by the avatars of absolutely evil people. It was all a bit ‘Springtime for Hitler,’ but far too raw as its only been a couple of years since those ghouls took the pharmaceutical companies money & brainwashed an entire nation into becoming vaccine addicts. Not cool.

Still, if you like your Ant & Decs & Oligarchs, your Steimers & yer Sunaks, yer Putin & yer Partygate, your gags & songs & dances, this show’s definitely for you. There was one moment when two news-readers spoke in unison about the mirror image worldscape of 2003 & the 2020s – just changing the names of the leaders in each period – that show’d the potential of this show to wake the audience from its media-fuell’d mass-conditioning. Unfortunately, the rest was too gentle, I think, & like I said before, if I refused to watch our corrupt political ‘leaders’ & the sacred Covid Downing Street broadcasts during the fake pandemic, & have been completely disgusted by the way the media is being used to implement a totalitarian globalist regime, then why would I want to be entertain’d by the same rabid cumquats utilising its vehicular Big Brother weapon of mass manipulation. The news isn’t fun any more. But my date enjoy’d it, so its getting 3 stars…

Damo

Flesh


theSpace – Surgeons Hall
Aug 5 – 13, 18.00


The variety on show at the Edinburgh Fringe is overwhelming, and the experience changes with the style of venue having a powerful effect on the show. So I entered theSpace – Surgeons hall to a larger room and a large stage surrounded (though not by many) with chairs. In this luxury the crowd quietened and, complimentary to the show, the lights went down

We were there for the play ‘Flesh’ written by Derek Batchelor a writer in Scottish Law. So as the play began we had a good idea of what to come. And come it did, thick and fast with 1900’s costumes and an Irish following.

The play was inspired by the stories of immigration, law, justice and of course as per plot criminality. At this period of time human bodies were needed (dead ones) for the purposes of scientific research. Thus spread the criminality of selling and buying corpses across the lines of the social classes of the rich and of the poor portrayed as men at ease.

A body happens to turn up and the two Irishmen, Burke(played by the Irish talking Jeremy Frazer) and his compatriot Hare (played by Roddy MacLeod) both capable men and lovers discover that the dead body could have great commercial provisions, much needed in the effect of being paid so many pounds for it.

They rub their hands in the relish for this money making enterprise and find themselves thick with murder and conniving payments on a regular basis. Of course there came along the matter of the law. This musical was written in overtures for each scene up to the scores of eleven. They had a kind of base music, electric, modern and thankfully to some extent disconcerting.

It was Mr Knox (Frank Burr)who was paying them for these bodies, obviously an influential man, but when the police raided the stage he too was to go down by law. When the law heard of the slightest trace of the conceived murdering the fate of the three man and their industry was sealed. Left without hope of getting away with any of it. So the Flesh was to be its selling potential. In a story of early capitalism, the play ventured through celebrating the success (doomed to fail) and the sorrow in failing.

And we found ourselves thinking had the right side won? Well yes screamed my inner voice; a good entourage of chorus and solo songs. With the spotlight hitting and house light enlightening, having a great cast and crew who put this magical play together. A very human tale of striding and tenderness he threw up his arms and said it’s just the way it is but not everyone has sold human flesh for a much improved life.

Daniel Donnelly

The Giant Killers


Gilded Balloon Teviot – Wine Bar
Aug 10-15, 17-29 (12:45)


Not many people know that if you draw a line 10 miles long over Lancashire, you would have passed through one quarter of the founder members of the Football League. The furthest east of these is my beloved Burnley – I bleed claret & blue – & I remember the day in Burnley library on the microfilm machine when I was looking at the newspapers of 1888 to read the reports of the boys’ first ever professional games. Travelling west from Burnley you soon reach Accrington Stanley, then Bl%$£”&*n Rovers (I can’t say or type the name without getting curiously agitated), from where one turns 90 degrees & draws another line 3 miles long, south to Darwen, the next of the East Lancashire contingent to join the Football League in 1891-92.

Darwen was the smallest of the four mill-towns, & is the chief setting of Long Lane Theatre’s highly engrossing ‘The Giant Killers,’ a story concerning the unfairness of life & the hope of football. At it’s core is the 1878-79 FA Cup run by Darwen to the quarter finals where they met Lord Kinnaird’s Old Etonians in a battle of class & culture – top hats versus flat caps & all that. En route we get hints of the debate about professionalism & the evolution of tactics, but there’s so much more to this play than the footy. ‘The Giant Killers’ chief remit is to highlight the plight of the northern working classes, still suffering in a semi-feudal state 60 years after Peterloo, with MacDonald’s first Labour government yet 45 years away. Football was about to change all that & it can be argued that trade unionism really began to take root on the terraces.

The tale is relayed by four strong performances, three lads & a lassie with proper northern accents, seamlessly combining to create the energy of entire teams, towns & even a hyper-realistic train ride to London for the quarter final. They really do bring across the love of football & how it helped people rise from the plague of poverty, & just made the world feel a better place, exactly as in the modern-day, seeing Vincent Kompany start off well at Turf Moor (4 points from 6) makes me also feel similarily content to be alive.

Despite the occasional mention of Bl%$£”&*n Rovers, the whole play is a class act, tho’ perhaps one replay too many. The story of the cup run does involve replays, & it’s necessary to relay the truth of the matter, but going over the same ground, same pitch actually, does drain a little of one’s attention. Still, by the end I was bubbling with emotion & gushing pride & best bitter for my fellow Lancastrians showing the world that working men can match gentle men & really helping to fuse the common folk of the country with the beautiful, & their national, game, the greatest ever leveler of men.

Damo

Aca-Pocalypse: Diamond in the Riff


theSpaceTriplex
Aug 8-13 (16:25)


The use of the microphone has given the art of A Capella a deeper ability to effect the listener, while the introduction of choreography has then turned this artform into a major spectacle. When done well its an absolute joy to behold, & so, to Aca-pocalypse, brought to Edinburgh by the fantastic University of Nottingham A Cappella Society. While most students are getting hammer’d & experimenting with mushrooms off the Dark Web, these guys have congregated into a juicy love-ball of smiles, movement & Gilbert & Sullivan light opera. Sopranos, Baritones, Mezzo-Sopranos, they were all there in an even mix of young man & woman.

They were completely excellent, a congruous whole of 17 individuals, each pinpoint tight as to their role & pitch, all of which were shepherded into the Elysian Fields by a bangin’ beatboxer called Jake. I also enjoyed the comedic interludes between each song, which served as introductions & entertainment at the same time. A lovely bunch of performers whose smiles seemed to have got stuck on their faces. Nobody can be that happy for an hour.

The song selection was eclectic – as were the singers to sing them – opening with Rome Wasn’t Built in A Day by Morcheeba was a wonderful start for me. A couple of years ago I remember singing along to it on my phone headphones wandering the hills over Burnley in the summer sunshine on my first visit to my family after lockdown restrictions had lifted. It was a euphoric moment then, which Aca-pocalypse immediately reconvoked.

Other tunes included Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars, Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy & the celestial canticle Prayer of Saint Francis, or Make Me a Channel of Your Peace, which was like, wow! The future of A Capella is looking bright, & its present is proper slick. I enjoyed that big time!

Damo

Breathless


Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker Two

Aug 9, 11-16, 18-29 (15:00)


The cathartic qualities of art have been known for millennia. The act of creation makes people feel better about themselves. The creation of art allows feelings & pent-up pains to be channel’d out of the psyche & into various mediums. So, to Laura Horton, a former publicist at the Fringe who has cross’d over to the dark side & has brought an actual play to Edinburgh. Its clearly doing well, having been nominated for the Popcorn Awards already, & on watching the play I got the general gist why. It’s pretty good!

Breathless is part of the Theatre Royal Plymouth gang who have sent half a dozen pieces to Edinburgh, of which Horton’s is but one. She is the current Plymouth laureate of words so she’s definitely earning her keep. Her subject is one close her to own heart & existence – hoarding -, & already people are coming up to her after the play just really happy to be able to identify with what Breathless stands for. The true essence of the play trickles out in subtle bite-sized, hint-tinted portions, until the excellently emotional ending makes every member of the room so happy to watch the sea-change in our now-beloved hoarder of ‘amazing things’ such as Stella Mcartney screen-printed trousers.

The drama is pulled off single-handedly – it’s a solo piece – by the multi-talented Madelaine Macmahon, who in her career sings & acts & tells jokes with equal electric alacrity. The way she plucks her potential love-match, Joe, from thin air & makes them a very tangible presence in the room is astonishing. The only problem for me was, despite her excellent performance, & it was riveting, I never quite believed she was a hoarder. I don’t really know any hoarders per se, & I don’t expect them to have a nervous twitch or anything, but it just didn’t feel like she was perfect for the role. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think perhaps an actress with genuine OCD concerns herself might have pulled off the part better. I never quite felt those ‘waves of hatred from unworn outfits’ she was describing. I might be barking up the wrong tree completely, but this is what my instincts were saying. Or perhaps the fact that hoarders walk silently & anonymously among us was actually a part of the overall effect & it was the subtlety of Macmahon’s performance that went right over my head!

Laura Horton

I enjoyed the simplicity of the set, with every scene marked out by an effortless replacing of a single wooden chair. For a play about hoarding it was seriously unclutter’d. What I can say about Breathless is that it holds your attention for an entire hour, however hot a day it is. I was topless inside & should have swooned into a snooze, but all credit to Madaleine Macmahon, she kept me watching with intensity. It was also a fascinating insight into the mind of a hoarder, & to hear the litany of excuses to stop people coming into the house, or to go to the sales instead of a wedding, was educational to say the least. A great play on many levels & a great asset to the burgeoning thespianic career of Laura Horton.

Damo