SG2015 Review: Scottee: Camp (As Christmas)

Venue (): Spiegeltent, St Andrews Square

Category: Cabaret
Times: 9.30pm
Dates: Dec 16,17
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Zander Bruce

Brace yourself. This is Christmas down the k-hole, darling.

It’s a festive variety show for the freaks, the femmes, the fatties, the queers, the misfits and undesirables. This is that Christmas you just had friends round, necked the peach schnapps and set fire to that girl’s party hat while she was wearing it at the dinner table (in my defence, she was quite annoying).

This is in your face, messy, slapdash camp old nonsense. Conversely it’s also a celebration of different body shapes, gender and effeminacy as well as a jab at the pretention of the arts. The lines blur delightfully between comedy, drag, performance, art and cabaret.

Scottee as performer and compere is both caustic and demanding (ok, hes a playful cunt) but he always manages to bring the audience in on the joke. He’s engaging and bold, we’re very much in his world and he’s willing to share, so long as we all know who’s in charge.

He’s brought along some great talent for the ride. Ginger Johnson, the Geordie Trixie Mattel, is filthy and fun with a holefelt ode to a mahoganific national treasure. Dickie Beau has razor-sharp timing with his lip-synched monologue from the most erudite of our tragic stately homos.

Rounding off the troupe of weirdos are our star turns in the making – Jayde Adams, whose droll delivery and “rapport” with Scottee make her a joy to watch (she’s not bad to listen to either), as well as Jess Love, who with her pained effervescent expression, contorts her physique and extorts much applause as she works her ropes and hoops.

Our ringmaster for this camp circus weaves it all together and stuffs over an hour of class(less) cabaret tighter than his Primark spanx. The fact that he does so unapologetically in his socks just adds to the unpolished charm.

You can go and enjoy this solely as frivolity and escapism, or admire and appreciate the levels of counter-normativity inherent within the framework. If the latter appeals, search online for Scottee’s Lost Lecture “I’ve been radicalised!”. Hes also a major contributor to the documentary Dressed As A Girl, about the East London drag scene, released this month on DVD.

Cabaret the way I like it. Challenging, immersive and deranged.

SG2015 Review: Nijinsky’s Last Jump

Venue (): Dance Base

Category: Theatre
Times: 2:00pm
Dates: -Aug 23rd
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Nijinsky was the greatest dancer of the early 20th century, celebrated for his virtuosity and the depth and intensity of his characterisations. His choreography changed the way people thought of, and saw, dance: LAprès-Midi dun Faun [1912] shocked audiences and in 1913 fights broke out at the première of Le Sacre du Printemps. In 1919 he was diagnosed with schizophrenia: for the next thirty years he was in and out of mental institutions and never danced again.

An old man sits in a circle of light, listening to music: he remembers, and his arms begin to move in the exquisite movements of the ballet. A young dancer, costumed as the Rose, leaps into the wings from a stage, and collapses, panting, on the floor: for some minutes he is unable to rise and take his bow. Old Nijinsky and Young Nijinsky, bound together and yet divided, two halves of the same person, explore their remembered past, and wonder whether having to understand everything drives you mad? An artist has to understand to be able to portray: when is it madness, when is it seeing things clearly? We hear of the horrific and seemingly never-ending remedies to which he was subjected: we see some of the physical and mental effort that went into creating a language of movement for our time no sentiment, just ideas in pure movement and are left wondering does feeling too little make you sane?

This is yet another superb production from Company Chordelia, who specialise in creating thought-provoking shows which move outside traditional dance boundaries and blend live music, speech, story-telling and visual images to shatter our concept of what a dance show should be and always provoke deep thought as well as creating intense enjoyment. The dancing was beautiful, the acting superb the show simply has to be seen!

SG2015 Review: Garden

Venue (33): Pleasance Courtyard

Category: Theatre
Times: 3:30pm
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: ***
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

At Insignia Asset Management Lucy is in charge of the photocopier, printer, scanner, shredder and binder. She has no friends, nor any life outside work, and escapes to landscapes and soundworlds inside her head. She is put in charge of Green Management [i.e. looking after the plants]: one day she takes home a Dracaena – a plant that is sacred in Tanzania, whose leaves should never be cut to rescue it from the office managers scissors. Gradually she transforms her monotonous life into something alive and satisfying, if somewhat unconventional

Lucy Graces lively performance kept the audience engaged, entertained and amused, and the final applause was warm. No doubt the lighting glitches will be swiftly ironed out, though I fear the intrusive music from next doors show will continue to distract.

This is an interesting and thought-provoking look at the soullessness of many peoples working lives – a mistake that no-one knows how to fix and offers an ingenious and attractive alternative.

SG2015 Review: Dragon

Venue (): Royal Lyceum Theatre

Category: Theatre
Times: times vary
Dates: -Aug 16th
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Tommys mother has died, and his family have recently moved to a Glasgow tenement. His father is grief-stricken, his sister selfish and self-absorbed, and Tommy is numb, wrapped in a silent world, unable to hear or communicate with those around him. One day a dragon enters his life, and things start to change

Its a complex world of emotions told very simply no words, until the very end of the show, no mime just actions and gestures which can be open to more than one interpretation. The stage is initially bare: furniture, doors, windows, and props are flown in and removed by cast members in a complex ballet which requires split-second timing and meticulous rehearsal to produce the seemingly spontaneous, effortless transition from scene to scene. The dragon is gorgeous, terrifying, playful, threatening: moving sinuously and breathing audibly, beautiful when it first appears, growing larger as the play progresses until it is terrifying in its power and majesty.

Scott Millers Tommy is the centre around whom all the action whirls: the rest of the cast play everyone else and the dragon and fly all the props and scenery around the stage. There is a magical scene when Tommy escapes to the roof of his tenement and the chimney on which hes sitting transforms into the dragon on which he goes flying and gives him a blessed respite from the misery hes experiencing at school and at home. The inventiveness of the production design is astounding, not just in the big moments but in the simple moments that are part of Tommys daily routine getting up, cleaning his teeth, cycling to school: it would be a delight to watch again simply to concentrate on the complicated choreography and subtle transformations.

Vox Motus, the National Theatre of Scotland, and the Tianjin Childrens Art Theatre have collaborated to produce a stunning show which communicates across cultural and language barriers and enthrals and moves people of all ages. Dragon is incredible: catch it if you can!

SG2015 Review: Cautionary Tales

Venue (): Quaker Meeting House

Category: Theatre
Times: 2:30pm
Dates: -Aug 15th
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Hilaire Bellocs Cautionary Tales for Children, Designed for the Admonition of Children Between the Ages of Eight and Fourteen Years were published in 1908, delighted me when I first discovered them several decades ago, and have now been brought to sparkling life by the multi-talented members of the Newbury Youth Theatre, who have once again brought a must see show to the Fringe.

The multi-talented cast took an exuberant delight in the many manifestations of naughtiness which had brought each of them in front of the three venerable members of the Ministry of Child Correction. They were admonished to listen to the woeful histories of a number of Bad Children, who suffered appropriate and gruesome fates: among them the tales of Jim, who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion, Matilda who told lies and was burned to death, and Sandra Fair, who refused to have her hair cut and encountered a very near relation of Sweeney Todd

We did not simply hear the tale: it was acted out with great gusto and much additional graphic detail (and comment) by a young cast who created riot and mayhem in an extraordinarily well-disciplined and well-rehearsed performance which had the audience in stitches and earned them loud and prolonged applause.

If you are suffering from Fringe overload and terminal boredom, come and let your hair down and release your inner Struwwelpeter!

SG2015 Review: Manalive!

Venue (): Greenside@Infirmary Street

Category: Theatre
Times: 2:55pm
Dates: -Aug 29th
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Noel and Antonia, aka Box Tale Soup, have a genius for bringing literature to life in imaginative and inventive ways, and this years grown ups story is no exception. G K Chestertons book was unknown to me, but I will be getting a copy as soon as I can: the tale, written a century ago, is very relevant to todays joyless, bored, and unhappy world.

A group of people living in a boarding house, Beacon House, suddenly have a most unusual visitor Innocent Smith who turns their lives upside down, challenges their perceptions and ways of living, and is accused of being a criminal lunatic, a murderer, a thief, and a bigamist. The residents decide to investigate these accusations for themselves; the High Court of Beacon House holds session; nothing is quite what it seems

The performance is wondrously intriguing, fantastical, witty, and subtle: it demands concentration as we tune into Chestertons language and get to know his characters, and is immensely satisfying as we are drawn into the mystery with which we are presented. Two extremely talented artists take the simplest of ingredients and effortlessly weave storytelling, puppetry, music, and movement into a beautiful and memorable multi-layered tapestry that delights and entertains and challenges us to reconsider the way we live our lives.

The audience were delighted and appreciative: its a brilliant show!

SG2015 Review: Die Zauberflöte – The Magic Flute

Venue (): Festival Theatre

Category:
Times: times vary
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

The Komische Oper Berlin have collaborated with the British theatre company 1927 to produce a display of pyrotechnics to rival that of the EIF closing concert: but where did the opera go?

A full house sat in the Festival Theatre looking at a black surround to a cinemas red silk pleated curtain, which parted after the overture to reveal a flat white screen on which a continuous stream of enchanting, terrifying, comical and fantastical images was projected, and against which the cast sang. The dialogue was not sung, but displayed on silent-movie-like title cards and accompanied by parts of Mozart piano sonatas and fantasias, while the singers mimed as best they were able under the constraints of being confined to a small semicircular platform, often high above the stage, to keep them within the necessary confines of the projected images.

The imagery was outstandingly inventive, and the audience loved it but often were laughing at the imagery rather than the action of the opera. Papagenos black cats antics, the dancing chorus girl legs from his magic box of bells, the pink elephants dancing round him and carrying him into the air, the dance of the constellations as Tamino charmed the wild beasts with his flute, the snowstorm globe enclosing Pamina during ach, ich fuhls, and much, much more – a stream of brilliantly witty animation that almost completely obscured the presence of the singers on stage. There were some splendid voices – I particularly liked Dominik Köningers Papageno, and the superb Three Boys from the Tölzer Knabenchor but each aria was sung almost in a vacuum, with virtually no possibility of engaging our emotional involvement with the singers: only rarely did any two characters occupy the same space or interact with each other.

This might make it sound as though I hated the show: I loved it, I will remember it for a very long time – but I really missed Mozarts emotional depth and humanity.

SG2015 Review: Liz Lochhead with Steve Kettley: Old Pals and Party Pieces

Venue (): The Assembly Rooms

Category: Spoken Word
Times: 12:15pm
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Liz Lochhead, Scots Makar, and her old friend, saxophonist Steve Kettley, entertain us for an hour with party pieces old and new.

Steve comes on stage: there is no sign of Liz. He peers round furtively and brings two rubber pigs out of a small suitcase: when squeezed, they burp. He sets up a simple rhythm, then layers in a mouth harp and three lines of saxophone music: finally Liz enters and delivers the punchline

We celebrate the life and work of M. Adolphe Sax: we meet Sharon, a 6th form English literature student with a passion for Brontë heroes, a mother lamenting her daughters refusal to wear anything that isnt black, an old school friend ghoulishly recounting the awful fates of classmates and many more acutely and lovingly observed characters.

A fabulous piece for voice and sax celebrates the beginning ART Palaeolithic cave-painters bringing into being what never existed before: we hear the true story of artists model turned painter Suzanne Valadon: and much, much more.

How do you do justice to the talented Ms Lochhead? She is brilliant, warm, funny, moving: she reaches out and draws us into her world, shares her memories and arouses ours. We loved and applauded her in equal measure: dont miss her!

SG2015 Review: Iestyn Davies / Ensemble Guadagn

Venue (): Edinburgh International Festival Recital

Category: Musicals and Opera
Times: 11:00am
Dates: 19th Aug only
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Oh my goodness: counter-tenors or at least, Iestyn Davies are HOT!! I have just come out of a recital at the Queens Hall which concluded with an audience stamping and nearly screaming their approval of his performance with the Baroque Ensemble Guadagni.

I remember when counter-tenors first started crawling out of the woodwork in the wake of the late Alfred Deller. Some were musically able, but a large number were breathy, passionless hooters with a very limited range and very little vocal stamina: even so, they started to put a lot of extremely talented mezzo-sopranos out of work, both in opera and oratorio. Things are much better now, with fine counter-tenors making their mark on the international opera stage: Andreas Scholl, David Daniels, Derek Lee Ragin and Christophe Dumaux, to name but a few, have impressive vocal technique and fine acting ability.

Ive seen Iestyn Davies on stage, and been greatly impressed by both his voice and his acting ability, which is why I wanted to hear this recital – even though the programme was almost all Purcell. My memories of Purcells music was of flabby wet fluting in school choir, and later on dull repetitive wordiness for high soprano (which Im not).

Nothing could have been further from what we heard today high octane, passion-filled, erotically-charged singing of the highest order: delivered with intense feeling to an eager audience who lapped it up and yearned for more. Davies pours out his emotions – the pain of his loss, the delights of love in cascades of sound, superbly ornamented, every word clear and intense with meaning: the voice is beautifully produced throughout his range: he can end songs with an exquisite pianissimo which leaves the audience rapt in silence, unwilling to break it with applause. He grabbed he audience from the moment he came on stage, and kept us hanging on his every note.

Ensemble Guadagni were superb, both by themselves and with Iestyn, and their joy in the music and each others playing was a delight to watch. I could wax lyrical about the whole programme, but will single out the exquisite thread of sound in O Solitude, the erotic languor of One Charming Night, the pain of The Plaint, the frozen chattering-teethed What power art thou from the first half of the programme, and the magic Iestyn brought to those old standards Sweeter than roses, If music be the food of love, and Music for a while, each of which was an outstanding refutation of my previous misjudgement of Purcells music.

The audience didnt want to let him go: for an encore he [together with the counter-tenor- impersonating recorder player Pamela Thorby] almost brought the roof down with the most passionate and thrilling performance of Sound the Trumpets that its ever been my privilege to hear. You may have missed the Radio 3 live relay of this recital go immediately to iplayer, and dont rest till youve found it!

SG2015 Review: Shakespeare in the Garden: What You Will

Venue (): C South

Category: Theatre
Times: 6:30pm
Dates: Aug 31st
Stars: ***
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

I think I misread the Fringe programme: I was expecting to walk through a garden and meet various characters from Shakespeare, maybe engaging them in interesting dialogue as we admired the flowers or huddled under umbrellas. Alas, dear reader, I was wrong.

What we got was an hour-long canter through Shakespeares life and works. There was a mixture of comedy and tragedy Falstaff and Prince Hal, some errors from The Comedy thereof, the baiting of Malvolio, a rather pantomimic seduction of the Lady Anne by Richard III, the murder of Duncan, and the first encounter of the star-crossed lovers.

The four actors who make up the Globe Players take their show into schools: what they present here is an excellent introduction to Shakespeare for anyone who knows nothing about him. The extracts were well-chosen to interest and entertain, and while some of the acting and the humour (including the running joke about the witches from the Scottish play) was rather obvious, this could well work with a school audience.

Outdoor performances in Edinburgh in August are somewhat risky undertakings! Fortunately, it didnt rain; but the evening was growing chilly, there was a frisky breeze, and sitting on the grass, even on small rugs thoughtfully provided, is not exactly ideal for the more mature frame: my review might be a little less underwhelmed had the show taken place indoors…

SG2015 Review: Richard Holloway: Seeing Visions and Hearing Voices

Venue (): Edinburgh Book Festival, Charlotte Square

Category: Spoken Word
Times: 3:15pm
Dates: Aug 18th
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Richard Holloway, one-time Chairman of the Scottish Arts Council, acting head of the Book Festival, a patron of LGBT Youth Scotland oh yes, and one-time bishop in the Episcopal Church of Scotland – is never content with the easy life. He has an unresolved lifelong obsession with what many people would call religion for him it is a constant, passionate questioning of the meaning of meaning, the thisness of the universe, how we live our lives, and how to make sense of our experience of and encounters with Other.

What I love about him is his constant questioning, the elegance, clarity and searing honesty with which he communicates his doubts and searching to us, and challenges us similarly to question and live in a constant, passionate state of unknowing. In the past, people who saw visions and heard voices were seen as prophets today, they would, more probably, be subdued with medication. Scientists tell us that our world came from nothing, and will end as nothing: religion is humanity dreaming outside that nothingness, defying it, and challenging us to resist it and it is in dreams and waking visions that knowledge can make its way into the conscious brain, whether from our own subconscious or that inexplicable Other.

What hurts him most is religion that thinks its got concrete answers though he points out that religion has also come up with some glorious ideas. How do we distinguish between false and true prophets? [in Hebrew, the word for “raving” can be another word for “prophesy”] Some of the voices can be good and challenging, they are not all destructive and terrifying. We are human, and have to remember that we are flawed, and can misinterpret the messages we receive, be they from human or Other sources.

So much religion has to have an AUTHORITY for its morality, is often rigid, inhuman, inflexible, believing that The Rules were laid down at a particular moment in time and cannot be changed however much the world has changed. Religion is always best when its weak, and bad when its strong: maybe the best, and only, commandment that really works is DO NO HARM.

Every time I listen to Richard Holloway, I agree so strongly with him that I think hes a closet Quaker: I believe he has tried us, but misses the bells and smells. He is constant in his knowledge of the need to live with the uncertainty, dont try to foreclose it and look for certainties and to maintain awareness of ones own fallibility and that whatever god is, it will BE ultimately, whatever we do about it.

Another incredible evening with an incredible man: would there were more like him in the world!

SG2015 Review: Vagabond

Venue (): New Town Theatre

Category: Theatre
Times: 11:00am
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: ***
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

The Fringe programme says this is the story of three vagabonds in search of happiness and how a dandelion transforms the meaning of their lives: on the way, they journey towards bravery, fraternity and tenderness…

I have to confess, I didnt get the dandelion or, indeed, many of the finer points of the story despite the fact that this is a story told in clowning and mime, so theoretically easy to understand or maybe Im just trying to make things logical, and comprehensible, and all those boring things? There was something I thought was a giant mushroom which turned out to be a lighthouse: there was much slapstick comedy involving the three clowns, but I was rather lost when the cap of the mushroom blew off in a high wind and became a boat and at one stage the curtains half closed while the three clowns were attached to flying harnesses (rather too visibly for me) and coasted around the stage at a low levela small glittery ball thing appeared, floated away [unfortunately then fell back on the stage with a thump] and towards the end of the show a much larger similarly glittery ball thing appeared and was put back into the mushroom – sorry, lighthouse which lit up and that seemed to be that

The clowning and mime were good, but the whole thing simply didnt come alive for me partly perhaps because the audience was very small, the venue is very large, and there were only about three children in the audience, one of whom, being very small, had to be carried out quite early on when she dissolved into tears. There was much good movement and inventive interaction between the characters, some good ideas and lovely back projection, and a great willingness to please but it just didnt light my fire.

SG2015 Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Venue (): Greenside@Infirmary Street

Category: Theatre
Times: 10:15pm
Dates: -Aug 29th
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Hermia loves Lysander and Helena loves Demetrius but both Lysander and Demetrius love Hermia; Titania and Oberon have quarrelled and Puck makes mischief which misfires; the Duke is getting married and the Rustics have been ordered to present an entertainment for the evening of the wedding; and everyone gets tangled up in the woods outside Athens.

The set is simple, the props are few, the costumes are well-designed and easily distinguish each character. I particularly loved Oberon and Titanias crowns, and the fluttering whirlwind that was Puck. Simple and effective music enhances the changes of scene.

And the acting! I am both amazed and thrilled that two people can between them portray so many characters, many of whom are on stage at the same time and, in the case of this play, engaged in multiple exchanges. I loved Titanias infatuation for the ass-headed Bottom and his consequent terror and the Rustics play, but the highlight for me was when both mens affections have turned towards Helena – her shock, horror, frustration, shame, rage and ultimate fury, culminating in a no-holds-barred fight with Hermia, were a joy and a delight to watch.

I cant think of a better introduction to Shakespeare, and not just for younger people! The show might be too hard for the very young, but those present loved it, and I was assured by a fairly young lady that she had enjoyed the show very much, and only needed a little help from Nanny to understand what was going on.

Box Tale Soup have produced an exquisite miniature, an enchanted hour that I could watch again and again. They have distilled the essence of Shakespeares play into a simple, elegant, gorgeous, funny, delightful performance that is one of the must see shows of this Fringe.

SG2015 Review: The Magic Porridge Pot and Other Tasty Tales

Venue (): Scottish Storytelling Centre

Category: Theatre
Times: 1:00pm
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

I used to be able to recite the tales of the Magic Porridge Pot and the Gingerbread Man in my sleep when my daughters were small: the Ladybird versions pale into insignificance beside Theatre of Widdershins stories! We are invited to a three-course meal: porridge, gingerbread men and a middle course of stone soup and it is a truly tasty treat.

The tales are simple, but presented in new and inventive ways, with an original musical score enhancing the action. We meet Granny Grinpickle and her dog Podge, who love to eat porridge three times a day. All goes smoothly until one Sunday when oh woe! a white mouse eats up all the porridge: starvation threatens until Podge remembers that a new shop has opened in the town, and it might just be open. It is, and the shopkeeper has a magic porridge pot for sale

The second and third courses also come served with a delicious sauce and garnish. Andy Lawrence is a genius at inventing sets and props which at first look quite ordinary but transform in the most delightful and ingenious ways. The stage did almost get buried under a layer of porridge: and the giraffe. you have to see this show, just for the giraffe!!

Andy has a gift for engaging and entertaining an audience of small people, inviting them into his magical world and encouraging them to take an active part in it and the adults in the audience didnt hold back either. This is a delightful show for anyone aged three or over: dont miss it!

SG2015 Review: The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven

Venue (): Summerhall

Category: Theatre
Times: 10:45am
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

We are in the intimate surroundings of the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, welcomed and invited by a transgender Jesus to listen to some stories, share bread, wine, and fellowship, and celebrate those of us who manage to live out our personal truths, whatever the cost.

Jo Clifford held us spellbound, effortlessly drawing us into her world, wrapping us in the warmth of her love, caressing us with her voice so expressive, so flexible, so warm: inviting us to share her vision of the real message of Jesus, the opposite of that preached by self-righteous so-called Christians.

Familiar scripture stories and encounters are recast in the here and now, and the message comes through loud and clear: We all have a light: and sometimes its the very thing weve been taught to be most ashamed of. And if you have a light, do you hide it in a closet? No. You bring it out into the open where everyone can see it. And be glad it exists to shine in the world.

This is a show that should be seen by everyone who has ever been damaged by the Christian churches, and by everyone who thinks they have a monopoly on salvation, righteousness, and all the other words that incite people to persecute each other, and which strike terror in my heart.

I cant praise this show, and Jo Clifford herself, too highly dont miss it!

SG2015 Review: The Christians

Venue (): Traverse Theatre

Category: Theatre
Times: times vary
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

An American evangelical church is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its need to build a huge new building to house its ever-growing congregation and the clearing of the debts incurred in its construction.

The choir, in purple robes, are already seated when the audience arrive, while ghastly tremulous organ music quavers out Holy Muzak. They launch into hymns Build your hopes on things eternal, and hold to Gods unchanging hand segues into the lively I wish somebodys soul would catch on fire, burning with the holy ghost making it very clear what kind of church we have entered; and the service begins. Pastor Pauls sermon focuses on his belief that there is no hell but that which we ourselves make here and now: Assistant Pastor Joshua takes issue with him, saying that there is a hell, and anyone who doesnt believe in Jesus will go there.

Joshuas theological argument, complete with biblical references is fierce: Paul preaches a more loving moderation Jesus comes to save us all, not just those who believe in him. There is a split within the congregation: Joshua and a small group leave the church. Elder Jay says he, the church board and elders are behind Paul, but they lament the loss of Joshua who brought so many people [and so much income] to the church. Slowly the rift widens: many other people, disturbed by the challenging message their pastor is preaching, question what he is saying and follow Joshua.

The arguments raise questions that most people choose to ignore how do you know if you are right or wrong?; how can you believe in a god who would divide loving people from each other for all eternity?; when I hear an inner voice telling me what to do – which voice is mine, and which is gods? What comes over most strongly to me is how so many people are uncomfortable with uncertainty: they want answers, not questions; they want their god to be small and manageable and unchallenging; they need to know that They Are Right.

This play highlights everything that is wrong about much organised religion, and all the condemnation that is done, most sincerely, from a position of religious superiority. The constant refrain in the play is we cant communicate: the distance between us is insurmountable, and its a distance we make for ourselves. We are uncomfortable with difference I want you to change your beliefs to mine (and if you wont Ill cast you into outer darkness.) Absolute religious certainty creates and enforces absolute division there is no room for dialogue, tolerance, or listening to anyone elses point of view.

Its an excellent performance: I just wish all the characters within it would go and hear Jo Cliffords Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven and get an idea of how Jesus really wanted us to live our lives!

SG2015 Review: The Bookbinder

Venue (): Assembly Roxy

Category: Theatre
Times: 1:40pm
Dates: -aug 31st
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Yet another outstanding childrens show, this time from New Zealand: thank goodness it made its way up to Edinburgh. I am a bookbinder, so went to this as much out of bookbinders curiosity as out of the desire to investigate another story-teller: on both counts I left the theatre lit up with joy and enthusiasm.

A bookbinder is discovered asleep at his desk he wakes up and asks us if weve come to be his apprentice. He warns us You must be careful a bookbinder must never do anything that cant be undone and tells us the story of an apprentice who did not take these warnings to heart, and had to go on a journey that took him to extraordinary places and tested him to the utmost.

Just as with The Voice Thief, I dont want to tell you too much and spoil the surprise and delight of this show The story is engrossing, the telling dramatic, engaging, witty and wise: the lighting is very simple and used to tremendous effect, and the props are but you have to see them, Im not going to tell you how gloriously satisfying they are to anyone who has ever loved a book.

Ralph McCubbin Howell and Hannah Smith, aka Trick of the Light, have produced a show which is both visually and dramatically gorgeous, simple in essence and delightfully complex in execution. The house was full, and I have no doubt the audience will have left buzzing with the need to tell all their friends and urge them to see this show as soon as possible – so hurry and get your tickets before its too late!

SG2015 Review: Tutte contro Verdi

Venue (): New Town Theatre

Category: Theatre
Times: 3:45pm
Dates: -Aug 17th
Stars: ***
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

3.45 pm (run ends 17th Aug)
*** (3 stars)

Miren de Miguel calls herself a feminist soprano and says that opera permits men to give voice to misogyny. Her show attempts to express the conflict she feels as a woman and an artist, asked to play roles which she feels present women as men see them mistress, whore, angel, devil, bitch, vixen, etc etc etc

The title of her show translates as All Women Against Verdi. Ms de Miguel performs famous arias from several of Verdis operas together with a couple by Puccini, one by Bizet, and one by Mozart. These are interspersed with monologues in Spanish and musical interludes, some jazzy and some electronic and busy. Translations of the monologues and the arias are projected on to the wall at the side of the stage, but the words dont always keep time with what is being said or sung on stage, and some of the text could have done with the attention of a native English speaker – their meaning was not always clear. The stage is bare apart from many pieces of thick string or something which hang down and which she knots, plaits and wraps around herself as she speaks or sings. The singing itself is excellent in patches, but I couldnt quite see why an obviously classically trained opera singer had to be so loudly amplified. At times she was not completely in pitch: she was also quite badly out of time with the recorded orchestral backing on more than one occasion.

All these circumstances combined to obscure the message of the show a pity: Im sure its a message well worth hearing, if only we could work out what was being said.

SG2015 Review: Trespass – Work in Progress

Venue (): Summerhall

Category: Comedy
Times: 5:00pm
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Mark Thomas, the archetypal city-lover, is angry about developments in London where the rich and the super-rich buy and take over areas where ordinary people used to live, and about towns and cities whose councils introduce regulations to exclude undesirables from the nicer parts of their towns and cities 21st century urban Clearances.

What I love most about Mark is that he doesnt just get angry about injustice and inequality: he does something about it. He turns rage and protest into an art form that challenges the inhumanity of Authority and the inequity of laws made to protect the interests of the Haves at the expense of the Have Nots. He refuses to take injustice lying down, and is blessed with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of friends who are prepared to join him in protesting and triggering community protests.

His peculiarly idiosyncratic brand of anarchy is inspirational: he not only renders his audience helpless with laughter, but inspires us to go forth and do likewise. He reminds us that we are not helpless, that each tiny act of resistance to the creeping tide of privatisation of public spaces and rights of way has value and can, pebble by pebble, build a dam that will stop the tide and begin to reverse its flow.

If no-one protests, nothing can change he speaks to the hearts of Scots who only last year demonstrated the power of small-scale community action: little drops of water coalesce and can form a mighty ocean, the power of which can oppose injustice and hypocrisy, and create a powerful force for change.

Mark has his audience roaring and cheering at each new instance of his refusal to be cowed by Authority, of standing up to bullies, and exercising basic rights to access to public land. He makes the prospect of protesting irresistibly appealing and makes us want to join him in loitering (with cake), and encouraging others to loiter; in making new public footpaths by walking them, dressed as Shaun the Sheep; and doing all we can to fight that erosion of our rights, blade of grass by blade of grass, paving slab by paving slab

SG2015 Review: The Voice Thief

Venue (): Summerhall

Category: Theatre
Times: times vary
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Anonymous

Catherine Wheels Theatre Company is, according to the programme, Scotlands most prolific producer of work for children and young people they have won awards, and toured shows to Australia and America. This is the first time Ive encountered their work, but it most definitely wont be the last!

I dont want to tell you too much about this show: I dont want to spoil the surprise, but I would strongly advise you to experience it for yourself.

I will tell you that we are taken by two charming and gently-spoken assistants on a tour of the Mackenzie Institute for the Encouragement of Vocal Harmony [MIEVH]. We are introduced to the charismatic (and very musical) Dr Roderick Mackenzie, founder of the Institute, whose hearing is hypersensitive and who from a very early age has had a great concern for vocal health and harmony. After being thoroughly disinfected we are taken into the Institute, shown around various areas, and have Dr Mackenzies revolutionary treatment methods for achieving vocal harmony explained and demonstrated to us.

We are then invited to leave the Institute – but things dont proceed quite as one might expect

The show is brilliant, amazing, sheer delight, nicely scary, incredibly inventive, enormous fun, superbly performed, and ultimately very thought-provoking you simply mustnt miss it!

SG2015 Review: The Missing Hancocks

Venue ():

Category: Comedy
Times: ended 30th Aug
Dates: dates vary
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Long, long ago, in the days of steam radio, before The Television had invaded, families would gather together around their Wireless Device [which, of course, had wires coming out of it] to Listen Together. It might be with Mother, or to Workers Playtime, Mrs Dales Diary, The Brains Trust or The Nine OClock News: or to the half-hour comedy programme, of which Hancocks Half Hour was perhaps the finest. Between 1954 and 1959 over a hundred of these comedy masterpieces, written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, were broadcast, but some twenty shows went missing from the BBC archives and had not been heard since. Five of these were recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre last year: another four are being presented for the first time live at the Fringe. I coincided with The Winter Holiday and New Year Resolutions.

I wonder how many of the audience could, as I do, remember listening to Hancocks Half Hour when it was first broadcast? Sitting in the crowded venue, listening to Hernandos Hideaway and Shake, Rattle and Roll, I was taken back to that gentler era, dear reader, when life was simpler and political correctness hadnt been invented. A bare stage with a row of chairs, two radio mikes and a Big Red Light waited the arrival of the cast: the theme tune began and a Correctly Suited announcer launched the show with This is the BBC Light Programme. The cast of five swept on to the stage, and the elaborate choreography of advance towards the mike and retire to ones seat began.

And the humour still convulsed the audience not just the brilliantly, darkly comic scripts, but also the byplay between both the characters in the play and the actors playing them. Kevin McNallys Hancock is delightfully understated, letting the humour speak for itself; Alex Lowe and Simon Greenall do a good job of recreating Bill Kerr and Sid James, Susy Kanes Andrée Melly adds elegance to the proceedings, and Robin Sebastians Kenneth Williams repeatedly steals the show with his wickedly camp characters and his trademark Stop messing about.

A delight for the seasoned Hancock fan, and for those who dont know him, an object lesson in how to write brilliant comedy without resort to Smut and Filth Go listen, laugh, and learn!

SG2015 Review: By The Bi

Venue (27): Spotlites

Category: Theatre
Times: 10:20am
Dates: Aug 24th to 28th
Stars: ***
Reviewed by Anonymous

You know when you so really want to be able to rave about a show? When the point you know its trying to make is valid and justified and youre just kind of crushed that it didnt do so in a way that lets you really celebrate it fully? That.

There were some great insights and personal stories encapsulated in the vignettes presented to us, either directly by our three performers or by voiceovers. The tales of isolation, of being overlooked and being misunderstood were challenges to biphobia especially within the LGBT community were poignant. The focus remained on love stories which kept the audience emotionally engaged.

There were some difficulties for me. Representation for one we have three performers, all white, CIS, female, slim, young, femme. Its only afterwards when chatting to one of them outside that I discovered that some of the actors had to return to the States and so couldnt be part of this run.

My other personal was the blank background, all dressed in black, dramatic poses method of storytelling that just screams Beckett and thats not a good thing for me. It was a little strained and didnt feel natural or easy for the cast.

All in all, worth a look regardless.

SG2015 Review: What About The Men? Mansplaining Masculinity

Venue (338): Cabaret Voltare

Category: Comedy
Times: 12:05pm
Dates: -Aug 6th- 29th
Stars: ****
Reviewed by Zander Bruce

Every now and then a show comes along that just punches you right in the emotional gut.

Dave Pickering take a deeply honest and vulnerable look at male gender politics. This is not for the faint-hearted. It covers patriarchy, bullying, sexual abuse, rape, misogyny, misandry and is transparent in its dealing of these subjects.

Throughout everything Dave weaves his own tale of surviving patriarchy and the cost to himself and others hes known. At times funny and endearing, this was part-lecture part-therapy and I cant imagine anyone walking out of it and not being changed a little.

Weve all done things that were not proud of, that we carry shame with, and this show will shine a light on those experiences. So why would we want that? Perhaps so we can understand, forgive, ask forgiveness from people in our lives and engage in positive change.

This isnt just a cobbled-together vaguely-themed gimmick of a show, regardless of the flip chart. This is an educational, thought-provoking wake-up call not just to men but to everyone.
Subject matter feels particularly heavy for a pre-lunch show but you really should go see this, youll be glad you did and it might spark some life-altering conversations by tea time.

SG2015 Review: A Gambler’s Guide to Dying

Venue (): Traverse Theatre

Category: Theatre
Times: times vary
Dates: -Aug 30th
Stars: *****
Reviewed by Mary Woodward

Archie Campbell was a life-long and inveterate gambler. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a month to live, he bet that he would survive another month and did. He then decided, this being 1998, that he would make it to the millennium

His grandson, Gary McNair, is a brilliant writer and a master storyteller, bringing his Grandad unforgettably to life, reflecting with wicked accuracy the gallows humour of his Gorbals home, recounting the riveting stories his Grandad told him and the times they shared. He tells us of his own, under-age, introduction to gambling on the football results, and how his Grandad taught him the best bit of betting the feeling that you might be going to win and that you want to make it last as long as possible before the reality of not having won kicks in. As Gary grows older, he starts to question the veracity of what his Grandad tells him, finding that other peoples versions of his stories are not the same. And then there is the cancer diagnosis and the final bets

This is a masterly performance. We are engaged from Garys first words: we laugh, we cry, we are held spellbound as we wait with bated breath to find out whether or not Archie wins his last great bet. There is much to think about how much of what we remember is real, and how much of it do we choose to remember as if it were real? Gary finally realises that what his Grandad wanted above all was to be remembered and in this show he has created a lasting memorial to him.