THURSDAY 11 AUGUST 2022 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
Hello everybody - we hope you are having a great Edinburgh Festival as we approach the end of Week One of this year's proceedings.

During August, we publish this second extra TW bulletin each Thursday afternoon just to keep you up to date on all our latest Edinburgh coverage. Check out our most recent interviews and reviews below. And don't forget more interviews and more reviews are going online all the time - follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates.

Or for short and punchy show recommendations, check out TWittique on Twitter, with speedy summaries of our review team's favourite shows.
DAVID EPHGRAVE: GOOD GRIEF
We love all all types of comedy here at ThreeWeeks, but one type that we have a real fondness for is a stand-up show with a big story.

There's loads of that at the Fringe, of course, but one that stood out to me when perusing this year's possibilities was David Ephgrave, whose 2022 offering 'Good Grief' explores the events of a difficult childhood, but mainly the life - and death - of his father. 

David is a Fringe veteran, and a talented performer, so I feel sure these topics will, in his hands, form the basis of an excellent show. I spoke to him to find out more about what to expect from it, but also to talk about his past career and what keeps him coming back to Edinburgh and the Festival. 

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

David Ephrave performs 'Good Grief' at Just The Tonic At The Caves until 28 Aug. Find the edfringe listing here.



DAVID HEAD AND MATT GLOVER: UNWANTED OBJECTS
You may have seen, or heard, 'A Good Service On All Other Lines' - a show that won many fans with its winning combination of music, storytelling and humour - when it was on at the 2018 Fringe, or via the subsequent podcast which was released during lockdown times.

It was great to hear that the duo behind it - David Head and Matt Glover - are back at the Festival this year with a new show, constructed on similar lines. 'Unwanted Objects', another collection of stories and music, is on at Zoo Southside for the whole of the Fringe.

I spoke to David and Matt to find out more about the show and the talented pair behind it.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'Unwanted Objects' is on at Zoo Southside until 28 Aug, see the edfringe listing here.



NICK COURT: THE IDIOT CIRCUS
Fans of cabaret sounds will definitely be interested in 'Death Is Coming' from The iDiOT Circus, the theatrical four piece band who specialise in the darkly comic, the macabre, the murderous and the ridiculous.

Songwriter, lyricist and singer Nick Court is the now LA-based actor who you may well have seen treading the boards in some pretty high end places - not least The Globe, The Royal Court, various West End theatres, and with the RSC - or in various film and TV roles.

Alongside him in The iDiOT Circus are Matt Cook, Josh Haberfield and 2018 TW Editors' Award Winner James Rowland. I arranged a chat with Nick to find out more about the band and the multi-tasking performer himself.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

The iDiOT Circus perform 'Death Is Coming' at Assembly George Square Gardens until 28 Aug. See the edfringe listing here.



YEEUN CHO: MARY, CHRIS, MARS
One of the strands I've been looking at with interest at this year's Festival is the Korean Showcase presented by Korean Cultural Centre UK, which features seven very interesting looking shows. 

One of them is by a group called Trunk Theatre Project, who specialise in making shows that can be performed both online and in the real world, and which utilise compact miniature stage sets that fit in a trunk, hence the name.

This month, as part of the Korean Showcase, they are presenting 'Mary, Chris, Mars' - a story set in space told using little adorable puppets - and which is suitable for both adults and children.  

To find out more about the play and the creative brain behind it, I spoke to the company's Yeeun Cho, writer and director of the piece.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'Mary, Chris, Mars' is on at Summerhall until 28 Aug, see the edfringe listing here.



PAUL MCCAFFREY: WE GO AGAIN
You'll all no doubt be aware of the work of Fringe veteran Paul McCaffrey, who returns to Edinburgh this year with his latest show 'We Go Again'.

That's likely from his past Fringe shows, but also possibly his award wins, including Latitude New Act Of The Year and London Paper New Act Of The Year, or his appearances on TV and radio, or maybe his hit podcast 'So What's Upset You Now?'

We are always glad to see him back and are keen to see what he has up his sleeve this year - and it seems it's a set covering themes of hope and (thwarted) glory, which sounds promising. I arranged a chat to find out more about Paul, his relationship with the Fringe and his future plans. 

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

Paul McCaffrey performs 'We Go Again' at Underbelly Cowgate until 28 Aug. See the edfringe listing here.

1/5 bad | 2/5 mediocre | 3/5 good | 4/5 recommended | 5/5 highly recommended

CHILDREN'S SHOWS

Arty's Ani-Magination (The Long Lane Theatre Company)
You know when you're wee and sometimes it all gets a bit much? Your elder sibling gets all 'cool' and doesn't want to hang out with you anymore and you decide you like animals more than people and end up wishing you were one? Well, that's what goes down here. Costumes, songs and amusing foolishness abound but, at the core, there's a strong story, very nicely set up in the writing and entertainingly told, with lovely performances all round. Among the rats, monkeys, cats and snakes, the emotional core of the story is resolved affectingly, drawing a happily emotional tear from the eye of my trusty co-reviewer. A warm, fuzzy, funny feeling lingers long after a warm, fuzzy, funny show.
Assembly Roxy, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Splash Test Dummies (Underbelly And Dummies Corp)
Full disclosure, this is the third time I've been made to go and see these amiable, acrobatic Antipodean, buffoons and, if you've a four-to-eight-or-nine-year-old looking for a show, this is a fine shout. Clowning, crafted chaos, capering and circus 101 all present and correct. Now… I'm not supposed to talk so much about the quality of a venue but I have to say, the difference between being front-on to the stage as opposed to down the sides is hugely pronounced - at least one star rating of a difference. I had an extra co-reviewer this year and they were noticeably less engaged than my usual sidekick who already knew what was going on. So yeah, do go, but get there early to get the best of it.
Underbelly's Circus on the Meadows, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]



COMEDY

Christopher Bliss: Captain Words Eye (Berk's Nest in association with United Agents)
Christopher Bliss - character creation of Rob Carter - is back and he's looking for a new career path in this steady if repetitive hour of comedy. Carter imbues "Shropshire's worst writer" with a level of self-assurance that's pitched just right to make him a man to root for, winning the audience over easily. The show's loose premise hangs on some brilliant bits of writing, as Christopher Bliss asserts he can pen novellas, prose, and reviews (no comment on that last one). These set pieces stand out more than his tried and tested novel format, which after a while can threaten to feel one note. However, Blissy gives Shakespeare's sonnets a hilarious shakedown, which is a highlight of the hour.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Louise Jones]

Christopher MacArthur-Boyd: Oh No (Off The Kerb Productions)
'Oh No' is Glasgow comedian MacArthur-Boyd's response to living through lockdown. While he clearly had a tough one, it's never too morose, as he riffs far more widely around family, (Scottish) masculinity, peeing your pants, Hello Fresh, the complicity of sheep and drive-in comedy, among many other things. MacArthur-Boyd has an engaging, laid-back stage presence and he delivers a fine mixture of rich storytelling and spontaneous wit when working the room. Strong self-awareness too, in doing a bit joking about climate change as a bit of (admittedly transient) good news for Scotland before pivoting to entirely salient points about corporate responsibility. He's worked hard to make it look this easy. Is it worth spending folding money on an hour in his company? Oh yes.
Monkey Barrel Comedy, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Mark Thomas: Black And White (Mark Thomas / The Stand Comedy Club)
Mark Thomas doing a straight stand-up set in times such as these is bound to draw a certain crowd. He's preaching to the choir, but that's how he wants it, inviting any Tories in the room to fuck off in time to claim a refund before launching into what is - even for him - a relentless tour de force of seething, righteous and largely evidenced anger at, well, you know, everything. "Unbelievable", was a recurring word before launching off into a new rant. Now, no self-respecting reviewer (cough) can or should review the sentiment of a gig as political as this but, honestly, the rate of good, crafted and solidly landing gags among the polemic was something to behold. Unbelievable, even.
The Stand, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Sean McLoughlin: So Be It (PBJ Management)
Sign of the times, isn't it, when a comic asks us to hold onto the key takeaway from their show that "life is worth living"? "I don't have opinions", says the self-deprecating McLoughlin, before spending an hour giving us a succession of mighty rants, all liberally interspersed with some excellent gags. He ranges from the absurd to the insightful as we flit from surveillance, China, Google and climate to a knowingly skewed take on migration, a great bit on newspapers and a gag that, well, no spoilers, but in and of itself is an unrepeatable exemplar of both joke-crafting and delivery. On balance, life is indeed worth living, and good comedy has its place in making it so. This is good comedy.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Seymour Mace Presents Captain Winky's Fuck Off Olympics (Seymour Mace / The Stand Comedy Club)
That title promises much, doesn't it? Well, after a fun music-based intro, what we actually have is sublimely silly surrealist Seymour Mace gathering written questions from the audience which he then reads out and answers, with frankly varying degrees of comedic success. He has a fallback of sorts in the form of various notes in his pockets - ideas, lists and poems. Some go literally nowhere, others launch him from nowhere into the realm of occasional genius. The hit and miss nature of all this is a feature, not a bug. You will see a different show to me if you go, but that high-wire chaos coupled with Mace's own direct charm will - probably - make whatever that show turns out to be well worth a lunchtime punt.
The Stand, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Tom Mayhew: Trash Rich (Tom Mayhew / Objectively Funny / The Stand Comedy Club)
Tom Mayhew has a problem with the "cost of living crisis". I mean, as do we all, but this is a particularly personal take on what it means and the fact that, for many, it is not new. It's just getting worse. We're not talking starvation and suffering, more about the trials and tribulations of council accommodation. That perhaps doesn't sound like fertile comedic ground, but Mayhew's endearing manner, storytelling and knack for a silly tangent bring it all along nicely. The emotional core he's looking to hang the show on seems maybe a little raw, it doesn't quite cohere as well as it potentially could, but it's refreshing to hear someone who has something to say with some insight and authenticity.
The Stand, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Who Murdered My Cat? (Roann Hassani McCloskey)
Roann Hassani McCloskey promises a murder mystery and delivers home truths about growing up as a mixed-heritage queer woman. Her audaciously honest storytelling is peppered with hilariously vivid impressions of parents, Barbies and bullies. It's late in the hour when comedic nostalgia unravels into an investigation into how memories shape identity, and it's a little too late: the complexity of coming out as a lesbian (having previously identified as "half gay") is under-explored. With slightly more focus and fewer narrative threads, there could be space for deeper nuance, and more dramatic tension. The script is refreshingly untethered, and the cheery conversational tone allows for spontaneous audience connections, but the key to this show's charm is in the richly descriptive child's-eye-view of 90s Wembley.
Assembly George Square, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bizz Holmes]



DANCE + PHYSICAL

Cirque Berserk! (Cirque Berserk!)
Juggling, clowning, amazing aerials, gymnastics, knife throwing, contortion, limbo-dancing and whips: all your circus basics here. Plus motorbikes! This should be a five star but, experientially, it's not. It's hard to explain why. Everything is carried off with incredible aplomb and the athleticism, talent and derring-do of the performers are beyond reproach. But there's a relentless rapidity and noise which makes it all quite hard to appreciate or, more importantly, enjoy. Everything feels rushed and the coincidence with a pre-recorded soundtrack, whilst technically impressive, undermines any sense of spontaneity or jeopardy which one should surely feel given all that's going on. Still, if you haven't seen five motorbikes speed round the inside of a giant snow globe, maybe now's the time.
Pleasance at EICC, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Drop Dead Gorgeous (Same Same Collective)
Well this is certainly one way to get your five-a-day. It's truly hard to describe this eccentric piece, which feels more like performance art than anything else. It gets off to a slow start, and there's a clear degree of bafflement from many in the audience, but they're also mesmerised by the hypnotic dance routine. The company very successfully takes us to 'another place' - the music, costumes and smell of summer fruits are very much evocative of distant climes - and as the piece builds, chaos ensues: fruit goes flying, tables fall and fights break out. There is a message about femininity somewhere within the mayhem, but for me it gets lost, possibly because of poor pacing. It's certainly an unforgettable piece, though, and undeniably hilarious.
Assembly George Square, until 14 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Pain And I (Sarah Hopfinger)
It is a high ambition to present pain itself, almost a conceptual and psychological impossibility. All the more impressive, then, that Sarah Hopfinger succeeds so well. This is an extraordinarily brave performance, not so much for her physical nakedness as for its aim of making real for others her raw experience of, and responses to, chronic pain. Framed by an embracing welcome and farewell, the show shifts from dance and movement to words and back again, glued together with excellent original music by Alicia Jane Turner. I was fully engaged and particularly taken by a central piece in which words and music modulate to powerful effect through repeated minimalist-style variations. High art perhaps, but accessible and affecting.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]



MUSICALS + OPERA

Kathy And Stella Solve A Murder! (Francesca Moody Productions)
For an enlivening show to round off a day, this musical production will be hard to beat for energy, warmth and silliness. Smiley Kathy and deadpan Stella have been friends forever; they memorably sing "If I didn't have you I would die". Now something different for their podcast: they are on a new mission as amateur sleuths - their fave true-crime writer Felicia Taylor has been murdered in their home-town Hull. With three others in the cast, each playing a range of different characters, there's a lot happening in the round, and at a fast pace. Everyone absolutely goes for their song and dance routines like there's no tomorrow, and it's uproarious fun. I defy anyone to work out whodunnit, though.
ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Catherine Meek]



THEATRE

20 Minutes Of Action (Lionheart Theatre)
Tears are forming, and deep sighs are heard all around, as collected words pertaining to a sexual assault case are spoken. The minimal use of props and music allows the focus to remain entirely on the actors, who excel in their raw performances in this unnerving but touching piece. The show explores the devastating effect sexual assault has on those who experience it; exposes the horrific details of this specific, high profile case; and takes a look at how the justice system fails survivors of this type of crime. It doesn't, however, offer any real discussion on how to achieve change. Also, the transitions between scenes were sometimes extremely blunt and the stage direction often left actors facing blank walls, which felt confusing. Nevertheless, a hard-hitting verbatim piece that at times felt like watching an 'in conversation' crime documentary.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Age Is A Feeling (Soho Theatre)
The title of this show will inspire hope. But, is there nothing to look forward to after all? Looking out from a tall lifeguard chair our storyteller speaks of the future, guiding us through life from age 25 to 90, in hypnotic, even monotone (powerful but I'm shifting in my seat by the end). A clever device reassures us that we cannot ever know what life holds. Twelve stories are each represented by a word on a card; random members of the audience choose six which are woven into the narrative; we hear 'bus', 'crabapple', 'dog'… we won't get to hear 'fist' (does anyone choose 'fist'?), or 'plane'… but you might. What an extraordinary, immersive experience - perhaps not if you fidget, though.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Catherine Meek]

Apartness (K4K Films And Shortcut Productions)
I don't like to be negative. Making art is hard, and I salute the creators of 'Apartness' for having a vision, and pursuing it. That being said, I hated it. Most of the show is a film that squanders the talents of Sylvester McCoy and Linda Marlowe with shaky camera work and clumsy editing, leaving a distinctly 'student film' aftertaste. This is interspersed with two bouts of live 'comedy', which seem to strive for gallows humour, but without the humour. I'm not sure what the point of it all is; the only message I could glean from it was that quarantine and social distancing was a mistake? If that was the intent, then it's as poorly conceived as it is executed. Avoid.
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 1/5 | [Andy Leask]

A Scandal From Bohemia (The Music Firm)
Stacey Haber's dramatic sequel to Arthur Conan Doyle's short story 'A Scandal In Bohemia' is an attempt to free Irene Adler of 'misogynistic' interpretations making her a villain, and to give a 21st Century nod to inclusion. Performed here, though, Adler comes across as unremarkable and fuddy, and in a Victorian setting a gay relationship would not have been as accepted. The cast of five are regrettably wooden, lighting errors mean sometimes the actors are in darkness, and scene changes are clumsy and less than swift. This said, the mystery of who stole the diamond bracelet is not a concern, and a potential international incident if it isn't is not credible. It's a show which needs more rehearsal time, and clearer direction.
C cubed, until 14 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Catherine Meek]

Boy (Carly Wijs / De roovers / Teateri)
My first five-star review of 2022. This is consummately professional theatre, art concealing art. The story unfolds with apparent straightforwardness, but we are both gripped and held back, we still observe as we are drawn in. I loved the imaginative staging but it's the quiet intensity of the performances that makes the drama: this is confident, understated acting. From the programme, you might expect only the unfolding consequences of a single terrible mishap, but there are further terrible shocks along the way. This true story is, as told, perhaps not principally about gender identity, but rather about the challenges of parenting. What happened must have caused anger as well as great sadness but it is tenderly and powerfully told.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Dedication (Roger Peltzman)
Surprisingly, this was less emotional than I expected. New Yorker Roger Peltzman tells a true historical story to the accompaniment of a piano, a tale mainly focused on what happened to his family in WW2, but which also looks at his own life, from childhood to more contemporary times. The narrative is compelling, but Peltzman's presentation could be improved, to help further the audience's connection to the story. However, he showcases his incredible classical piano playing and this is the definite selling point of the show; I found myself wishing, though, that it could be used more, or implemented in more creative ways. The performance, while engaging, did not fully reach the potential it so clearly has.
Greenside @ Nicolson Square, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Ghost Unit: The Live Event (ICTF Presents Southwestern University and Grackle Jack Productions)
There's a lot of love and time that has gone into this charming if scrappy take on ghost hunting, as well as a mighty admirable feat: to perform live both on stage and to an online audience at home. Using puppetry, eerily effective face filters and a production budget's worth of green screen action, the show follows the poltergeist pursuing antics of Gayev (a green Jaime Hotaling), Alfonzo (Dane Parker) and Charlotte (Campbell Duffy). It's definitely an uneven show, both in acting and plot structure, but there's an undeniable level of pluck and enthusiasm that's infectious. Campbell Duffy gives a performance that anchors the show and delivers the bigger laughs, and is confident enough to exchange a knowing wink with the audience.
Central Hall, run ended.
tw rating 3/5 | [Louise Jones]

Hungry (Paines Plough / 45 North)
Nurture your middle-class angst here! Compelling performances from Melissa Lowe and Eleanor Sutton, confidently directed by Katie Posner, largely overcome elements of Shavian didacticism in the script. As Lori and Bex, the performers manage any resultant implausibility with such skill and lightness of touch that you scarcely notice. Starting with some sharp and funny exchanges, the piece darkens to become a serious play with a point to make and then make again. It's compelling rather than hectoring but the target is perhaps too easy for the play to do more than entertain a middle class given more to agonising than action. Standing ovation? Oh, I feel better now. My partner and I crept home and shared a bag of crisps.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

In The Weeds by Joseph Wilde (An Tobar / Mull Theatre)
This atmospherically staged show creates a sense of unease from the outset. Underlying the suspense and sexual tension there is a subtle interrogation of objective rationality, myth and the irreducible mystery of the natural world. In further layers, Kazumi, the marine biologist and monster hunter (Jamie Zubairi) is driven by gods and demons of his own, whilst the watery Coblaith (Carla Langley), an unworldly outsider in her island community, is sometimes startlingly earthy. At times I felt the storytelling could have been leaner but two strong performances maintain a mood of threatening strangeness throughout. Deservedly part of the Made In Scotland showcase, this exploration of the unknowable is a piece that I would happily see again.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Invisible Mending (Yoshika Colwell and Second Body)
A creative presentation which works through our storyteller Yoshika Colwell's grief at losing her grandma, this brave show includes live knitting, music and singing (she has an amazing, beautiful voice!), and narration of excerpts from her diaries (not always illuminating). A recording of family members fondly discussing grandma weaves through the show; a selection of grandma's things - her unfinished knitting, jumpers she knitted, shoes, are all reverently brought out. It's a poignant tribute, but what stands out is her granddaughter's grief. It's too clear she hasn't yet come to terms with her loss, and one can't help but feel sorry. Colwell worries she won't meet her potential, but 'invisible mending' is knitted in the show - she is finding her way.
Summerhall, until 14 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Catherine Meek]

It All (Cameron Cook)
Part spoken-word, part physical comedy, it's hard to pin down what 'It All' is about. I think it's about life, and so the random, rambling nature of the piece may be authentic, but it's not an engaging piece of theatre. Cook is undeniably both a talented wordsmith and clown, but the script strives for a profundity it doesn't earn, and I was left wishing that this were a better vehicle for the performer's undeniable gifts. Much of the physical comedy lands, as do many of the spoken word elements, and the meta-gags were particularly appreciated by a theatre-savvy Fringe audience. But these are isolated rafts adrift in a sea of incoherence, in want of a clear sense of direction.
Assembly Rooms, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

Masterclass (Brokentalkers And Adrienne Truscott)
Smashing the white male patriarchy is at the centre of this play, and it's outrageously good fun despite its serious theme. A male literary heavyweight's inherent bias is shown up in a staged interview about his work. The two characters sport outlandish wigs, loud suits, faux moustaches; the interview is interspersed with bursts of silly choreography, adding to the fun as well as the send-up. In an unexpected twist Adrienne Truscott reveals herself, challenging Brokentalkers' Feidlim Cannon about her experience of his condescension - a surprise to him! - and she finally insists he go, let someone else have his space. Manipulation of an audience's sympathy to reinforce the central point is clever: Is this expulsion fair? Who dares feel sorry for Cannon?
Pleasance Dome, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Catherine Meek]

Move Fast And Break Things (Freight Theatre)
Isn't it only right that the man who stole our freedom should himself be exposed? Julia Pilkington and Anna-Kate Golding think so, and they're out to track down the shadowy Amit, reputedly Google's surveillance guru. If that makes it sounds like you're in for a hard-hitting exposé, though, Freight Theatre's show is a gentler, more elusive creation, as the duo slowly reveal the surveillance and control in their creative process, and even their own personal relationship. It's a disarmingly powerful show, all kooky naivety that cracks open to reveal disquieting observations, and with nicely judged video work - all-seeing eyes and all-manipulating hands - that fits its purpose perfectly. Though rough and raw in places, it's nonetheless a provocative hour of theatre.
Summerhall, until 14 Aug
tw rating 3/5 | [David Kettle]

Mustard (Sunday's Child / Fishamble / The New Play Company)
The Colmans fortune was apparently made on what was left on the side of the plate. I feel a bit like that mustard when it comes to my response to this show. That's just me, of course, but I did not warm to this one. Eva O'Connor is an undoubted talent; this was a virtuoso piece, combining extended storytelling with demanding performance art. But I felt left out: I could follow the story but not grasp the motivation. Mustard as a metaphor but for what? Madness, addiction, pain from parenting or partners? Probably all of those but it still felt a bit like an exercise in conceptual art. Though it kept my full attention, and you may relish it more than I did.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Ned Kelly's Mother (Neil Cole)
Ned Kelly is an enduring, if controversial, historical figure. There's no denying the romantic appeal of the noble outlaw, nor the harsh, oppressive conditions that birthed him. This informative play is a monologue from his mother Ellen, sharing the hardships of her life through stories of poverty, prejudice and desperation which are punctuated by Irish folk songs that range from rousing to poignant as her tale unfolds. Despite an endearingly passionate performance, the script is slightly lacking, and oddly repetitive. Coupled with an at times almost lecturing tone, this lends proceedings the feeling of a Wikipedia article with songs. Nevertheless, much like a good Wiki, I learned a thing or two, and I had a good time doing so.
C cubed, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

North Star (What I Listened To Instead Of My Intuition) (Lori Hamilton)
Hamilton only wants to be "good", as this dramatic account of life choices made in the shadow of childhood emotional abuse will show. She has a lot to tell, and appears rushed to do so. She builds and rebuilds a pile of suitcases (carrying her baggage?) to set up scenes, punctuates the story with several songs she has also written, bringing showtime to contrast with moving operatic arias, quotes from self-help books and even steps out of character to inform about the effects of psychological trauma. Enough, it's all too much in one hour. Hamilton's story is one to share, her creative talent is not in doubt. But by the time resolution comes one is ready for open space and air.
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, until 13 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Catherine Meek]

Ruckus (Wildcard)
Wildcard have done it again: like their sensational show 'Electrolyte', 'Ruckus' is a relentless and thrilling one woman show. It's far from an easy watch, though, as we follow the story of Lou, who finds herself trapped in a toxic relationship, the subject of coercive control. Acknowledging that it's an issue too little discussed or understood, the performer tells the audience to pay attention and notice the signs. Although it's a very serious play, it has glimmers of humour, which stops it from becoming over intense. Jenna Fincken portrays multiple characters with ease, and quickly switches between times and places without causing any confusion. The music and lighting complements the acting while creating more tension and enhancing the setting. I guess the question still remains though: were you "really watching?"
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

SAP (Atticist / Ellie Keel Productions / MAST / Mayflower Studios / 45North)
Inspired by a myth, 'SAP' is a modern deep-dive into ancient themes of lust and fear. Rafaella Marcus's accomplished debut play combines poetic metaphor with precise (often funny yet stinging) observations on feeling like a queer outsider in both straight and gay spaces. Jessica Lazar's direction generates rippling laughter, then shuddering revulsion, while movement (Jennifer Fletcher) fans a roaring flame of intensity between performers Jessica Clark and Rebecca Banatvala. In Rūta Irbīte's design, with David Doyle's lighting, the floor becomes a cold mirror tarnished by footprints, then a pool of water, wine, and blood - dappled reflections spreading forest-like above. 'SAP' presents visceral experiences of bi desire, anxiety, and the scratching, gnawing creep of insidious biphobia - all depicted with ferocious veracity.
ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bizz Holmes]

Seen 00:25 (Modern Day Chronicles)
Powerfully moving, 'Seen 00:25' shoved a hot knife through my heart and ripped it out - I'm still reeling. A solo play about anorexia, it is as harrowing as it is engaging. Though the impact of media plays a crucial part in how the drama unfolds, it avoids cliché, or simplistically didactic messaging. Rather, we are taken into the fractured psyche of Miss A. It's an intense experience: writer-performer Candela May gives all of herself on stage, and you can feel the audience longing to reach out to her, to ease her pain. The clever use of Instagram at the play's climax is inspired. It makes her last words at once intimate yet distanced, leaving the audience - and Miss A - alone and isolated.
C aquila, until 21 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andy Leask]

Sticky Door (Katie Arnstein)
Let's talk about sex: Katie Arnstein's plan for the New Year was to have 'unattached' encounters each month, to prove she could; up to now her one-night stands lasted… until the relationship was over. A series of amusing anecdotes ensues, starting, obvs, with 'January', for all identities are protected. Arnstein's an accomplished storyteller and very likeable. You feel like you could be her best friend Laura, and she's crying on your shoulder whenever it doesn't go to plan, or cystitis flares again. It's a lovely set, much nicer than the "worst flat in the world" she lives in, and she punctuates her well-crafted tales from the armchair with witty songs accompanied by ukelele. Go and find out why it's called 'Sticky Door'.
Pleasance Dome, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Catherine Meek]

The After-Dinner Joke (Agree To Disagree Theatre / New Celts Productions)
I struggled with this one initially. The show's context feels dated, as does the sketch-style staging (complete with unexplained anachronisms). I also thought most of the characters grossly overdrawn, more caricatures than characters, and the satire simplistic. Yet Caryl Churchill is no fool and as the piece develops (and the sketch length increases) a more ambiguous world begins to appear, one in which the risks of moral hazard in charity work are made plain. With our modern cynicism, we may think we understand these issues better now, but do we really? This lively production succeeds in making us question afresh whether we are too lazy or uncomfortable to think clearly about the nature of charity and charitable giving and effort.
theSpace on the Mile, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Alan Cranston]

The Anorak (Finn McGee)
Suspension of disbelief is not required: I was in thrall of Marc Lepine, mass killer of fourteen women in Montreal in 1989, impressively characterised here by Finn McGee. Lepine is a lone figure, his garb unremarkable: hoodie and baseball cap; his stunning monologue by Adam Kelly Morton is spoken in exactly the quiet, undramatic tone fitting of a stereotype recluse, and he explains sinister details of his life which are "funny to [him]" without empathy. A desire for attention and hatred for feminists are gradually revealed. The production cleverly evokes that fateful day, the more chilling details of which await your visit. One poignant point to note is Lepine's roll-call of his victims' names reveals none of them are famous, like his is now.
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, until 13 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Catherine Meek]

The Chairs Revisited (Vagabond Productions)
Ionesco's 'The Chairs' is an iconic piece, a foundation stone of absurdist theatre. Not 'absurd' with its usual meaning (though the stage is filled with characters who are not there). Rather, the play offers an uncomfortably bleak view of how we find meaning in our ordinary lives when there is none. The meticulous acting held my attention throughout but I did not feel fully engaged with the characters; in this production the bathos outweighed the pathos, and neither are the play's comic aspects emphasised. For me, the production lacked dramatic tension, making its ending (though containing a surprise) less shocking than it should be. Our lives may be banal, but their endings, especially when planned, are not.
Pleasance Dome, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Alan Cranston]

We Were Promised Honey! (YESYESNONO)
YESYESNONO return with a show about endings and beginnings - of lives, relationships, careers, the planet and the universe. Sam Ward maintains gentle composure narrating thousands of years of human future, warns that it "doesn't end well", and offers to stop anytime. Existential themes of fate and decision loom on a micro and macro scale, with audience members becoming protagonists. More precautions could be taken when sensitive scenes centre individuals, and stakes would rise if we had more genuine choices, but a remarkable level of intimacy is built through collective storytelling. 'We Were Promised Honey!' imagines the future, without ignoring or wallowing in bleakness. In revealing the ending before beginning, YESYESNONO invite us to find hope in the infinite possibilities ahead of us.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bizz Holmes]

Work.txt (Nathan Ellis)
I go to the Edinburgh Fringe to have fun, not work, but I'll make an exception for this. Work.txt is very much an 'experiential' event, as it features no actors and its premise is entirely focused on audience participation. In a way, it really demonstrates how important the work of the backstage crews are, as it depends a lot on the music and lighting, as well as the small number of props. The premise is to look at working life in contemporary society, but I won't elaborate much further: to optimise the experience it's probably best to go in blind, as the impact is in not knowing what is about to happen. At times it gets side-tracked - the overarching theme and story is there, but it needs a stronger presence. Nevertheless, this is a further step in the movement of experience-driven theatre and it's exciting to see.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

At TW:CULTURE we champion the best in fringe theatre, comedy and culture.

Year round, we pick the best shows happening in London and online each week, providing handy Three To See recommendations and interviewing the people behind those productions.

Plus each summer we also cover the biggest cultural event in the world: The Edinburgh Festival.


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