Edinburgh Fringe Reviews 2015
To Do List spent all of August gallivanting around Edinburgh, seeking out the finest fringe frolics to recommend to you, our dear readers….
So, without further unnecessary ado, here are ALL OF OUR EDINBURGH FRINGE 2015 REVIEWS in one place!
Sleepwalk Collective’s deliberate, dreamlike performance style is a five-star success!
Iara Solano Arana’s voice, together with the soundscape supporting it, lulls you. This voice, though surprising in tone, is meditative in a way… And yet sporadically, the words jar you…
The ideas contained here are sewn together in a winding way, sometimes seeming random and other times seeming to connect dots with tenuous tendrils.
The show is incredibly beautiful, staged simply but brilliantly. The moments of humour fit into the aesthetic, breaking tension perhaps but not atmosphere. Sleepwalk Collective’s Actress must be seen. LE
★★★★★ BARBU Electro Trad Cabaret | Underbelly Circus Hub | Until August 29th | 9.50pm | £12.50-18.50
A foot-stomping, beer-soaked, sexy bearded circus rave. Unmissable!
The sexiest circus troupe in town bring mayhem aplenty with jaw-dropping roller-skating, juggling, tumbling & aerial set pieces that will make you gasp for breath (and that’s not just the bearded men and hot girls in skimpy pants)!
The whirlwind of butch bearded fun from a supremely talented ensemble is presided over by the sensational David Simbard’s pumping electro-plinky-plonk-punk, all sung in French.
This is a 21st century circus unlike anything you may have seen before. The stuff (wet) dreams are made of. RD
An incredibly powerful roller-coaster-of-emotions!
This is one of those shows that takes your feelings all over the place. The show really benefits from the two performers – Bryony Kimmings & Tim Grayburn – being a real couple, and Tim being an especially ‘real person’. Although there are some very theatrical moments, this is a show so totally heartfelt that to not be moved at all would make you a bit of a monster. A genuinely great balance of humour and tragedy, Kimmings’ timing and structure are really carefully crafted. You may leave a bit shell-shocked, but you’ll feel compelled to say thank you as you leave. Inspirational stuff. LE
As energetic and energising a show as you’ll find on the Fringe – a hypnotically hedonistic, rave-fuelled ritual led by a faun in heels. Of course.
This is what the Fringe is really about – the basement of Spotlites, with a group of strangers, getting sweaty and worshipping the sun god at the behest of a lustful rural god from Roman mythology. This is not a show for those looking for an easy time – but then again, maybe it is. Let go your inhibitions, dance the night away, and join hands with your fellow Fringe revellers as you rave your way to blissful happiness. Or something. SW
Divine songs, touching characters & pulse-pounding haka. A masterpiece.
This is your new favourite show; RuPaul’s Drag Race meets C4’s Cucumber, meets traditional Maori ritual. The show starts at a rather early 6.50pm but has a lot of gloriously filthy & honest content touching on issues such as the Grindr generation.
Okareka Dance Company perfectly blend an unprecedented mix of gorgeous harmonies, non-cringe drag comedy, gripping drama & bone-shaking haka dancing into the ultimate Kiwi kiki! Let the power of this incredibly gifted all-male ensemble take you on a high energy trip to New Zealand. ONE WORD: GO! RD
Prepare for your heart to be broken and then mended in this hilarious yet touching punk musical about overcoming depression…
Brigitte Aphrodite – “punk poet, musician, theatre maker and feminist showgirl” – has long been a To Do List favourite, and now brings her autobiographical musical to the Edinburgh Fringe. Depression is, obviously, a dark and difficult subject to tackle – but the best way to do it is to approach the issue head on whilst remembering that, for all the pain, there is plenty of joy to be had too. My Beautiful Black Dog manages this balancing act perfectly: at times heartbreaking and tearful, at others punch-the-air joyous, laugh-out-loud funny and downright exhilarating. You might not expect it, but you’ll leave the room beaming and ready to take on the world – truly Creshendorius! SW reviewed a preview performance at Hackney Showroom, July 2015.
WE LOVE IT!
Cringeworthy as the poster may be, SPANK! has become the To Do List staple for discovering new acts. Grab a pint (or three), shrug off any Fringe-fatigue, and push on through toward dawn with a crazy three-hour variety bucket of booze-fuelled entertainment. Abigoliah Schamaun & James Loveridge are the infectiously energetic hosts, hyping the crowd up for late-night performances from some of the stars of the Fringe. On August 8th, we loved Mickey D, Funmbi, Ria Lina, Micky Bartlett, Tom Lucy, Colin Cloud & Jollyboat. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise anyone on the line-up – this is your chance to experience the evry best that the Fringe has to offer, that might otherwise just pass you by. Check out the upcoming line-ups here. We really can’t recommend SPANK! enough – there’s no better way to finish a day at the Fringe. RD
A disco-fuelled cabaret spectacular – if you’re not on your feet cheering wildly at the end, you’re dead inside!
The To Do List fifth star is not dusted off for just any old show. Velvet is not just any old show. A combination of impressive acrobatics, amazing vocal performances, crowd-pleasing wow moments and a stirring emotional narrative, Velvet lifts you up, brings you down, and then lifts you back up again! Perle Noire performs one of the best burlesque routines we’ve seen, Craig Reid delivers a wildly entertaining hula hoop display, Joe Accaria provides percussion like his life depends on it, and Brendan Maclean and Marcia Hines, belt out the disco classics until your toes couldn’t possibly tap any more! A true five-star triumph – see it! SW
A perfect potrayal of humanity…
…if a sometime pessimistic one. Correction is about freedom, but it is also about life, and about human connection.
The show has a humour that is sometimes rare in contemporary dance. At the start it feels almost like a cross between dance and clowning. The seven performers are strong and work together well. The lighting and music compliment the aesthetic well. The performance takes you through a variety of emotions – through humour, distress, jealousy, tenderness and joy. Despite the ideas of restriction (the crux of the choreography is that the performers cannot move their feet), the way the show takes it’s shape, you will leave feeling strangely warm. LE
Penge West is the unlikely setting for this brilliantly written and performed two-hander, from the possibly troubled mind of writer/director Chris Larner.
Zoe wants to take Gavin to the RSC; Ruth, Katy Hopkins-esque old schoolfriend, sometime performer and part-time box office assistant, won’t let her. Instead, Katy imposes herself – and the idea of a bizarre retelling of the Frida Kahlo story – on an increasingly beleaguered Zoe. Chaos, calamity and conflict ensue. SW
★★★★½ The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven | Summerhall | Until August 30th | 10:45am | £7-12
A captivating and compelling reminder of the true value of difference and diversity – an inspiring sermon for all and sundry…
Playwright, performer and poet Jo Clifford delivers one of those performances you just can’t take your eyes off. The Summerhall Anatomy Theatre is the perfect venue for this dissection of what it is to be a true neighbour, how to love and appreciate difference, and how Jesus was, in fact, transgender… SW
A feather-fuelled fun fest!
Lily Bevan deserves a larger stage for her debut collection of absurdist tales. Having lost her (most recent) falcon, Lily goes in search of herself and along the way embodies the kaleidoscope of characters who might improve her life. One woman on a small stage somehow conjures up a whole cast of kooky and hilarious characters, and manages to captivate for an hour of offbeat comedy gold. Lily’s acting talent shines through – each character may only have a short time to make an impact, but they are all fully-rounded, three-dimensional personalities. The future is bright for this Pheasant Plucker. RD
Beautiful flick book images shown with quiet tenderness.
This is such a lovely hour away from the chaos of the rest of the Fringe, sharing the memories and images from journeys that Volker Gerling has taken whilst showing and creating new flick book portraits. The idea behind the flick books is simple but Gerling’s art is thought-provoking and the way he has put his show together is considerate and inviting. The images themselves are really beautiful and can be sweet and sometimes funny. The people depicted are brought to life by the movement of the flick books and by Gerling’s accompanying stories. Whatever your preference in terms of show genre, it would be surprising if anyone did not warm to this mild-mannered man and the gentle journey he takes you on through his respectfully intimate images and encounters. LE
Luke Wright’s performance style and delivery are impeccable in this impressive one man show!
This is a completely engaging performance which is delivered with an energy both raw and crisp. Wright really commands the space and his way of connecting with the audience will make you feel at times like he is talking just to you and no-one else. The way that he portrays all the characters in his story gives such a perfect picture and his words are beautifully expressive, slipping in and out of verse and dialogue. The visuals and lighting are also well conceived and add to the atmosphere in the room. The tension and experience created by this one man is admirable. LE
Kind of chaotic yet cleverly constructed.
Appearing to be sort of thrown together, Women’s Hour is actually quite meticulously made, juxtaposing silly songs and slideshows with some pretty hard-hitting memories and tongue-in-cheek comment. Full of energy and ideas, Sh!t Theatre are quite a force to be reckoned with and will win you over with their harmonies, rollerskates, facepaint and crumpets. There are a lot of good observations and points made, but they are disguised in a lot of fun and frolics. A show about feminism that isn’t scary, although you will probably have some of those moments when you aren’t sure whether to laugh or wince. LE
One performer, a deceptively simple-looking lighting rig, a table and a chair. 17 Border Crossings = 75 minutes of expert storytelling.
Thaddeus Phillips crosses the frontiers of Brazil, Serbia, Cuba, Bali, Israel, Colombia, Jordan, and Mexico by foot, by plane, by boat, and by bike. What might sound as entertaining as watching a slideshow of holiday snaps is, in fact, an expertly performed, engrossing anthology of engaging global stories. Phillips is one of those people who could make the telephone directory sound interesting. The lighting design, and use of a small number of props, is inventive and humorous. Storytelling at its best. SW
★★★★ Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised | Pleasance Dome | Until August 31st | 12pm | £6-9
Every performance is different – and almost certainly hilarious – with this offbeat improvisation show from Racing Minds.
Yes, this is an hour of improvised comedy, but it’s not just another poor man’s Whose Line is it Anyway. Racing Minds create a whole show out of a loose framework, provided by the audience. This can, of course, be somewhat ridiculous, but the way that these guys weave their story into existence is both hilarious and admirable. An array of props, costumes, accents and puns both at their fingertips and in the depths of those speedy minds, give way to plots and characters both dubious and ingenious. A fantastic way to spend an hour. LE
Be prepared to unleash your inner Michael Jackson (!), in this searingly honest yet brutally funny autobiographical story of one woman’s fight against breast cancer.
As Funny As Cancer is less stand-up, more one-woman show with laughs and a fair dose of audience participation. The story is, sadly, all to recognisable – Beth recounts her discovery of a lump in her breast, the shock of passing through the NHS system, and her MRI experience from hell! Thankfully (and this isn’t too much of a spoiler!) all ends well – and Beth fills the story with ludicrous characters, incredible plot twists, and water pistols! SW
Izzy Tennyson’s engaging performance pulls you right into the world of a brute…
This is a show about adolescence… which might conjure up thoughts of a tale of angst-ridden woe. Although that’s sort of what it is, the way that Tennyson portrays what it is to be a 14-year old girl is so spot on that the humour of recognition lightens the intensity. All she has to assist her are a table and chair, a backpack and a few voiceovers and yet Tennyson manages to get the audience really feeling for Poppy. Despite the somewhat horrible deeds that this character carries out, you just can’t quite help but root for her. LE
Join the chutney party!
Do not be put off by the cheap looking dayglow green image – this show, whilst ridiculously silly, is quite cleverly written and impeccably timed. There is nothing cheap about it (except perhaps Juan’s banana – he probably bought it from Tesco). You can take in the dropped-in politics and history, or you can completely ignore that and take it all at modern-day-clowning face value. There is a definite Dr Brown vein (not Doc Brown, not Doc Brown) to Juan Vesuvius but with the additional music slant which sits as the nucleus of DJ Juan’s show. He could probably keep you entertained for quite a while without speaking at all, but not only will he give you words; but music, chutney, flags and many laughs along with them. LE
★★★★ Cassie Atkinson and Oh Standfast: Comedy in Progress | Southsider | Until August 29th (not 25th) | 12:55pm | £Free
A joy-in-progress from the next generation of offbeat comedy gold from Cassie Atkinson & Oh Steadfast.
This double bill hour was jam-packed with merriment starting with gobby geek Oh Steadfast who got the lunchtime crowd giggling with his blend of comedy poetry firmly rooted in the magic mayhem of the everyday.
Up next was Cassie Atkinson who is a future national treasure, bringing wonderfully strange characters to life. Whether it’s ‘And-I-Coordination’ – the Britpop obsessed techie – or her brilliantly observed Amy Adams parody, she is hilarious. RD
A delightfully quirky foray into an alternate reality where the United Kingdom isn’t quite so united – and chickens are just for special occasions…
Molly Davies’ new play imagines a future where North and South have divided, and East Anglia is on the brink of its own independence. Chickens are suddenly a very valuable commodity – but how do they feel about it all?
An entertaining fiction which combines – improbably – witchcraft, poultry husbandry, and dysfunctional families. The only criticism is that the one hour running time flies by far too quickly! SW
If David Lynch made multi-layered dance performance work, it would probably look something like this!
This show is like a weird dream that’s strangely beautiful, and yet also almost a nightmare… but not quite. The aesthetic is pretty macabre and creepy, with an atmosphere reminiscent of circus. There’s a sideshow feel, like the kind of twisted fairground that might feature in The X-Files (or in Jenny’s vision scenes in The L-Word). It’s surrealism in the form of slinky grotesque, with just the tip of the tongue in cheek.
The costumes are superb and the sound design is great, matching the whole feel of the choreography and image of the show well. The performers are fearless – this is an energetic performance, full on in a way that’s a bit of a slap in the face, but a slap with a handful of feathers and sequins and rust and incense. LE
Left-field comedy queen Holly Burn gives birth to another expertly observed comedy creation…
Kirsty K invites you to celebrate the life of her recently departed Nan. This eulogy like no other sees Holly Burn channel Geordie Shore’s Charlotte mixed with a dose of Cheryl Fernandez-Versini. An hour of intense, high-pitched, highly charged character comedy, which turns stand-up on its head. Kirsty K is a brazen, belligerent, ballsy sensation – set your face to stunned! RD
Beautiful and mesmerising, this is clever and considered physical theatre to be unravelled…
Institute is full of finesse and these talented performers throw in snatches of humour to what is otherwise both eerily dark and somewhat touching. There are multiple layers to this 80 minutes of slick movement and surprising stagecraft, and you may not get to them all. There is also some use of European language that some might find a little perplexing. However, the ambiguity of the show is part of what makes it – keeping the intrigue going until well past the applause and the harsh light of day (and/or rain) outside. LE
Jamie Wood is a bit of a miracle…
It seems this man could do just about anything and everyone would be on his side. His ability to connect with the audience is quite special, managing to ask some pretty unusual things of them without it seeming nearly as scary as it should. The way he balances the show’s subject is also quite amazing – it is at once homage to, and pastiche of, Yoko Ono. All the audience seem satisfied – both those who booked curious about the reference to Ono, and those who booked simply because they heard it was funny (and they’ve probably already had quite a few drinks). You will find it hard to stop smiling, even in between the laughs, Wood’s natural manner will make you feel included in his warmth. LE
It’s the input of real prisoners that’s the key here.
The show was devised by inmates of Low Newton prison, whose difficulties in life go some way towards explaining why they have ended up in prison. They show us their humanity, their suffering and their hopes, their families and their relationships with each other. It’s this very real context that gives the show its weight. The performers are also a big factor – they are all fantastic and do a great job in portraying these real life ladies with perceptive wholeness. The show is gritty, but it’s not just grit: physical theatre, almost dance-style sequences, are interwoven with narrated excerpts, dialogue and re-enactments. If anything, the show could be longer – it ends quickly, when you feel you are just getting to know these people and want to know more! LE
A brilliant model of performance, art and politics…
An inspiring middle-aged man with kids makes political performance art about walking, ownership and human rights… and then talks about it on stage in a comedic way. What’s not to like about this?!
How do you document a happening? How do you promote a happening? Well, it’s a good start if you’re a likeable, mischievous and funny guy and you sell out an Edinburgh fringe venue and you talk about it; making people laugh and hitting them with a little bit of something to really think about. That’s how. Of course. LE
Douglas Walker is a comedian. More than that, he is a person. More than that… he is a fantastic performer.
This is a very accomplished comedy show with slick stagecraft and presence. It’s funny, and not merely in one vein – a mix of sketches, jokes and characters, Möglich stretches all the comedy muscles. It’s intelligent humour – clever, but not smug. And on reflection there are aspects that still resonate. There is a slight tragedy to this show but it’s woven into the humour in a way that works. It’s quite hard to believe that this is Walker’s first solo show. He’s both commanding and down to earth – which make the laughs that little bit fuller. Definitely one to watch… LE reviewed a preview performance in Brighton, July 2015.
The cameras and the studio audience are long gone, and the lives of the ultimate on-again-off-again Friends couple have taken a nightmarish turn…
A solo theatre triumph from young actress Molly Vevers and writer James Fritz, which takes Ross & Rachel out of the safety of fiction, and into the harsh reality of real life and real relationships. Jealousy, adultery, frustration, and mortality – prepare for the picture of the dream 90s couple to be well and truly destroyed. Sad, yes, but throughly engrossing and essential for anyone who despairs at the idea of “the perfect couple”. RD
Bittersweet comedy storytelling that will have everyone on the edge of their seats!
With this childhood tale, Sarah Kendall holds the audience enthralled when they are supposed to be; but the well-timed giggles break the tension nicely. This is that great kind of stand-up-meets-storytelling where sometimes you forget there’s a story at all, but by the end you have to know how it all pans out. Kendall herself is down to earth and very likeable, which never hurts. LE
A private view with a difference – an interactive journey through the crazy world of PoMo peopled by a cast of perfectly drawn (but borderline deranged) characters !
Step into the gallery, where the manager and artist in residence are keen to impress – especially if you’re rich! A talented cast of young comedy actors bring to life the often misguided world of Postmodern art (and bullshit)… An innovative, promenade experience which makes a happy change to sitting sardine-like in rows – stretch your legs, your brain, and your artistic sensibilities. Be sure to exit through (or at least, pass by) the gift shop – Damien Hirst cows are a steal! RD
Clever writing, well performed.
The style in which The Human Ear is written is clever and quite original. Jumps backward and forward through time, clarified through snappy lighting design, have the feel of the way the brain thinks and recalls memories – snatches of conversations infiltrating your brain. The language is definitely the focus of the show and the way the performers handle the text is great, flitting between time frames – and for Abdul Salis, between characters – at a second’s notice. The story of the show is at some points slightly unbelievable, but still very watchable – it does require your full attention throughout however! LE
★★★★ This Much (or An Act of Violence Towards the Institution of Marriage) | ZOO | Until August 31st | 7:45pm | £5-9
A daring, emotional three-way which strips bare human relationships…
Lewis Hart, Simon Carroll-Jones and James Parris play three sides of a complex love triangle in this racy but realistic relation drama from John Fitzpatrick. Whilst the focus of This Much centers on gay male relationships, there are universal truths at play: Gar has everything, but is restless for a change. He is prepared to put everything at risk, but to what end? The genius of the writing is that all three characters convey emotions which any audience will be able to empathise with – straight, gay or whatever. Brave performances from the three talented actors leave nothing to the imagination. Bodies and emotions are laid bare in this thrilling yet intimate encounter. RD
Funny, tragic, yet entertaining throughout…
It’s hard to describe what makes Stuart Bowden’s shows funny. The story of Wilting in Reverse isn’t funny – in fact it’s sort of quite tragic. However the way that Bowden delivers the show brings a delicate kind of humour which seemingly comes down to him just being a funny guy. The ‘apparent’ lack of proficiency of the man ‘playing’ Stuart Bowden combined with some carefully timed pauses and looks are what make the show. LE
Self-searching, gentle laughs.
Carl Donnelly’s comedy is not about clever layers. It’s also not about clowning. It’s not particularly political. It does see him address some of his personal demons – but it’s not ‘about’ that really. It’s funny: observational humour that people can relate to. Donnelly is a likeable guy and everyone will be on side by the end, when he will need them to be… LE
Energetic theatre with slick style.
The story of this show is interesting – delving into what, if anything, has made a young woman evil. And the company work really well together, producing a dynamic performance which flows well. The actress playing Molly is particularly good, the set and production are of a high standard and the show is fast-paced and snappy. The gameshow feel in which the story is presented is abrasive and whilst it adds the immediacy presented by the show, it feels a little unnecessary, distracting somewhat from a story that could otherwise stand up by itself. LE
★★★1/2 Sean McGloughlin: Whatever It Takes | Pleasance Courtyard | Until August 30th | 20:15 | £8-9.50
The sort of comedy that appeals to that angry dude inside all of us!
Mostly on one tone, but that is sort of the point… and there are some fluctuations (from moody to shouty)!
How angry is Sean McGloughlin? How lost? Who knows… but he works it, and the effect he creates is entertaining. This is angry man comedy that’s not just for men. LE
An interesting concept for a show and/or social experiment…
This show addresses the idea of society and the ways a society could be made. It is also about the relationship between two individuals. The performance has two threads that run through it, or two tones, and switches back and forth between them. One is definitely more interesting than the other and much more watchable. The set is very striking and used well during the show. The performers do a good job. The show throws up some interesting questions but the two tones don’t seem to lock together as well as they could. LE
You are very likely to leave with a smile on your face…
House of Blakewell’s cabaret show about happiness is a bit like a rom-com in some ways: it has the two opposing characters – glum Harry and over-the-top smiley Alice – and the syrupy sweetness and the underlying message that reveals itself by the end. It also has some really well written and well sung songs, some fabulous costumes and props, and some moments of audience paticipation. It’s a shame, for the latter, that the show didn’t get a slightly later time slot, when the audience may have had a few drinks to get them in the mood…! But nonetheless, this show will make you laugh and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. LE
Some moments of real beauty.
Gandini Juggling are at the top of the juggling game and make some complex and elegant sequences. In this show, four jugglers share the stage with four ballet dancers. There are parts of the show when it seems the ballet and juggling merely sit next to each other with no real correlation. Other moments when there is a real harmony between them are quite beautiful. There are some lovely touches of humour and the cast have a nice rapport with each other. LE
Solid comedy with a political slant.
Although he does (sort of) want to acknowledge political beliefs other than his own, Alfie Brown’s comedy does have an obvious left leaning – and he is, as he confesses to know, preaching to the converted somewhat. His show is part political comedy, part observations on fatherhood. It does take a while to get going, and then seems to finish quite abruptly, but there are some nice and clever moments in between. LE
This show is like a live illustration of a story. A narrator speaks and an actor enacts his words – for almost the entire duration of the show. The performers do a good job and the story has potential: it is interesting but it doesn’t quite draw you in. The show seems to have a bit of a marmite effect though, and has impressed some. LE
A mix of theatre & storytelling, with moments of humour.
There are some interesting insights in this performance, as Noman relays her story of her time in Pakistan. This is a tale of a world that, quite possibly, the majority of the Fringe know nothing of: from trafficking to tragedy, and don’t forget the trickiness of homosexuality. You might learn a little something about the world outside the bubble of the UK. Don’t go if you want to get drunk and have someone tell you jokes. LE
Scenes like thoughts woven together…
Remote Control’s show about the pursuit of happiness is described quite non-commitally in the programme, with lots of weird and wonderful phrases. You might think the blurb does not describe the show well, but actually it’s quite a good reflection of the show, which is formed like thoughts flowing in and out of the mind – strong in imagery and quite nonsensical at times. The performers are good and use the space really well. Their aesthetic is really specific and yet there is a bit of a gap sometimes between what they are trying to convey and what is coming across to the audience. LE
Nice late-night gig concept entertains but falls a little flat…
Saddle up, you’re on your way to Hull for a week in the life of chancer Terry, who is experiencing the worst week of his life. His job is in danger, his girlfriend is heading off to Uni, and his gran is in hospital. Told through a series of lad-rock songs from James Frewer, Weekend Rockstars has its moments – but with the exception one or two beautiful musical moments, this production felt a little flat and one-note. That said, if you’ve got a pint in hand and you’re ready for the weekend, this show might be right up your street. RD