FCUK’D (Gilded Balloon: 1-27 Aug: 12:30: 60 mins)

“Hints of truly brilliant wordplay”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

There’s been a pleasing rise in popularity in spoken word and verse performances over the last couple of years, opening theatre up not just to new audiences, but also new artists who might previously have thought the medium too inaccessible for them. And what makes the Fringe so special is being able to experience stories of those that don’t normally get a stage. FUCK’D is one such verse piece, where a young man from an estate in Hull, who dropped out of school early, longs simply to stop his little brother being taken away from his broken home by the authorities.

Following their mother’s breakdown having being left by their father, the two boys must fend for themselves, and when the clipboarded do-gooders finally arrive in their shiny cars, the elder brother makes the split-second decision for them to both jump out the window and run for it. With no plan and less money, the journey they make is one of desperation, reflective of the plight of many such teenagers around the country today.

Niall Ransome’s script cleverly interweaves narrative drive with descriptive passages to tease out the background and develop the world the characters grew up in. A romanticised view of their home estate and its personalities nestles next to the tense escape scene, while reminiscences of rainy picnics are juxtaposed with hiding under a bridge, to add poignancy and personality. It’s artistic and moving with hints of truly brilliant wordplay.

George Edwards is the performer tasked with delivering this urgent tale, and he commands the stage with power and honesty. It’s a tough task to sustain the rhyme and mood for almost an hour, but this is a commendable effort, supported by a simple yet effective soundscape.

While the narrative and performance quality lacks some of the artistry and finesse of works by similar artists such as Luke Wright, this is a solid and capable outing that is almost aching with potential. It would be great to see a bit more pumping pace and extremes in mood to create more intensity – and while Edwards does very well to carry the performance, more dynamic changes and depth would really make this show zing.

A sterling effort, that with a bit more polish could become something very special.

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 2 August)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

Twelfth Night (Teviot House, 21 – 25 March’17)

l. Olivia Evershed as Viola; Francesca Sellors as Olivia and Ben Schofield as Orsino.
Publicity Photos taken at Gladstone’s Land by Gavin Smart.

“Thoughtful, fresh-faced and enjoyable.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Nae Bad

Is it possible to hitch up one’s doublet and hose? Indeed it is. It’s a slightly awkward procedure, quaint even, especially when you’re not used to wearing breeks. And in this play, when marrying ‘down’ means to wed a ‘yeoman of the wardrobe’, there are all sorts of dress signifiers going on. Crestfallen Orsino (Ben Schofield), Duke of Illyria, has a feather in his floppy hat, for instance; while Feste (Kathryn Salmond), in shiny booties, is a fly dude of a clown.

All credit to the University’s Shakespeare Company to have gone to town for its costumes. It provides for a lot of show and leg, swagger and poise. Sir Andrew Aguecheek may reckon his galliard would slay them on the dance floor but nothing in ‘Strictly’ comes close to his curly golden wig. Once upon a time – in 1601 say – it hung lank like ‘flax on a distaff’, but male grooming continues to come on in leaps and bounds. Sir Toby Belch’s (Thomas Noble) broad chest is festooned and Antonio (Benjamin Aluwihare) is a silver pirate. Meantime, across the divide, the Countess Olivia’s gown is lovely, Viola / Caesario is demure in a wee cape, and Maria (Isabel Woodhouse) is a sexy spirit in a homespun skirt. It is, all in, a colourful procession.

Unsurprisingly and fittingly it is individual performances that catch the eye. Callum Pope is blindingly good as an Aguecheek crossed with Mr Bean. Olivia Evershed embodies Viola’s virtue and predicament simply by standing still and speaking well. Charlie Ralph’s Malvolio is at its best when hurt and humiliated while Francesca Sellors’s Olivia is always believable, from her sharp and ironic, ‘Are you a comedian?’ asked of Caesario, to her wonderful ‘Oh!’ when Sebastian (Michael Zwiauer) is simply delighted to be ruled by her …

Thomas Noble as Sir Toby Belch and Michael Zwiauer as Sebastian.
Production photo by Gavin Smart.

This production almost suits its venue to a T. The University’s Debating Hall is grand and wood panelled and lofty enough to accommodate Aguecheek’s kickshawses and capers. A narrow gallery runs around three sides and director Lauren Stockless might have wondered how – in the absence of an upper stage – she could use the higher space. As it is, a musical trio plays against the left wall and a few scenes are played in the orchestra pit and there is frequent usage of entries (& exits) through the auditorium itself. Unfortunately the seating is not raked so sightlines are sometimes obstructed. On the stage itself – and in the best Elizabethan tradition – there is no furniture, only a large and dark oblong box, which kept having its white coverings rearranged by fussy ducal servants. Black drapes hang upstage with white sheeting in the middle for heads to pop through at just the right comic moment.

Charlie Ralph as Malvolio with Francesca Sellors as Olivia.
Publicity photo by Gavin Smart

‘A natural perspective that is and is not’, exclaims the dumbfounded Orsino upon seeing the identical twins, Viola and Sebastian, and that’s what you’ll observe, kind of. As it happens brother and sister are not dressed the same, which if you don’t know the play (Anyone?) can be tricky, but more to the point you will see Twelfth Night in period costume, laugh as ever at the gulled Malvolio, enjoy the confusion of identities – a bonus feature is Fabian (Tom Whiston) as a woman –  and still be none the wiser about Feste: superannuated Fool or proto-Leonard Cohen?

This is not as ‘brisk and giddy paced’ as its times and mood require – and that you must hope for from a professional company – but as a student production it’s thoughtful, fresh-faced and enjoyable. As you wonder what it’s all about, best to side with the ever fazed Sir Andrew and just enquire, mildly, ‘Wherefore sweetheart, what’s your metaphor?’

At the close, as the stars come out on the backcloth, I would have Feste’s prayer to boot, ‘Now, the melancholy god protect thee, and the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta’.

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Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Alan Brown  (Seen 21 March)

Go to the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company’s Twelfth Night

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Preview: Underground Live (Teviot Row House, Thursdays 9.00pm)

underground-live

Underground Live is a weekly live music night hosted by the Edinburgh University Student’s Association. Every Thursday from 9pm the EUSA present some of Scotland’s, and particularly Edinburgh’s, new musicians in the cozy basement of Teviot Row House.

Band Programmer for the EUSA, Kyle Wilson, sums it up perfectly; “Underground Live is a place for new and upcoming bands to showcase their music. Edinburgh, or in general the east coast, has a lot of talent. And you can come and check it out for free.”

Previous performers, to name a few, are the likes of ‘Indigo Velvet’, ‘Earths’, ‘Universal Thee’ and ‘The Rising Souls’. The series of Underground Live events run up to the 1st of December this year and there are many acts to look forward to such as ‘Teek’, ‘The Boy with the Lion Head’, ‘Delphi’ and ‘Moonlight Zoo’.

To have a look for ourselves we attended the ‘Underground Takeover’ where Underground Live teamed up with Oxjam Edinburgh (part of Oxfam’s music festival). The night featured Edinburgh based band ‘The Factory’ (now named ‘Ignu’) who showed off some of their original pop and folk tunes. Two further acts, that will both be playing at this year’s Oxjam ‘Edinburgh Takeover’ were Michiel Turner and ‘The Micro Band’. Michiel Turner charmed the audience with his unique voice and jazz/soul and folk style. ‘The Micro Band’ brought their positive attitude and catchy tunes on stage and got a few folk up off their seats!

Oxjam ‘Edinburgh Takeover’ Manager Karl Wood was heavily involved in the event and was particularly impressed by the venue; “It’s absolutely brilliant to work with the Underground Live team. They showcase some of Edinburgh’s finest emerging acts in an excellent venue.” And we agree – a small stage makes the event feel intimate, and low comfy seating add to the vibe.

The Underground Live  events are a fantastic way to scout out Edinburgh’s musical talent and not only is it completely free but you can enjoy student prices at the bar even if you are not a student!

For more information take a look at the Facebook page on https://www.facebook.com/UndergroundLiveEdinburgh/?fref=ts

Or for a full list of the upcoming events visit http://www.channel7a.com/venue/teviot-undeground/

Iona Young

+3 Review: Mark Watson – I’m Not Here (Pleasance, Aug 16-21, 23-28 : 21.00 : 1hr)

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“The definition of five-star comedy”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars: Outstanding

What is there left to say about Mark Watson? Returning to the Edinburgh Fringe once again, this comedy veteran is ready to prove he’s still got plenty of comedy muscle to flex, even if his ego hasn’t quite caught up with his skill yet.

Lit by the neon glow of his own initials, “I’m Not Here” is a journey through identity, celebrity and self-deprecation, all presented in Watson’s fantastic Bristolian twang. The best part of this performance (well, perhaps apart from the jokes) is the sheer amount of tangents Watson manages to swing down during the course of a single anecdote. He’s the comedy equivalent of a rambling great-uncle, but in the best way possible. Two stories stretched out across an hour, but it was never dragged: various twists of wit far too delicious to spoil what may have been a run-of-the-mill comedy show into an utter experience for all in the room.

And at the centre of it lies Watson himself: a man for whom fame has not come easily nor, often, recognisably. Anecdotes about famous comedian friends abound, but Watson never comes across as bitter. The type of comedy he champions is a razor-walk, but there’s never so much as a faltering step: the energy and emotional charge of his jokes work with almost Olympic precision and speed. Despite his considerable success and talent, Watson has managed to remain the ever-scrappy underdog, bruised by outside forces but never quite blown away – a refreshing contrast to the many Carrs and McIntyres in the comedy industry. The self-deprecating English comedian is a trope by now, but Watson proves he is still the undisputed master of comedic self hatred.

And, of course, this is all wrapped up in fantastic gags. The sheer density of jokes is mind-boggling, especially when none of them feel rushed or wanting for space. Watson is clearly in his element on stage, and his special brand of nervously energetic comedy is just as strong as ever. It’s always a good sign when the man sat beside you must wipe tears of joy from a face which, until Watson came on stage, was akin to a bulldog licking bleach off a thistle.

“I’m Not Here” is one of the biggest comedy events at the Fringe, and it’s well earned. Mark Watson shows once again why he’s arguably the defining personality for his flavour of comedy, without missing a damned step. This is the definition of five-star comedy.

 

outstanding

StarStarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 13 Aug)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

+3 Review: Being Norwegian (Gilded Balloon, Aug 3-10 : 23.45 : 40 mins)

“A production wrought from the heart”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

When I was first asked to review David Greig’s Being Norwegian, I expected something to do with hellish darkness and Kjøttboller. And whilst the former was surprisingly on the money, I certainly did not expect a neat, funny little vignette. Especially buried deep underneath the sports bar.

The setup is deceptively simple. Boy meets girl, boy is awkward, girl is Norwegian. Cue characteristic witticisms from Grieg, and a surprisingly dense plot for a play which takes about as much time as roasting a chicken. It’s the stage equivalent of tangled christmas lights.

Tom Hurley is a gem as the awkward and terribly British Sean, hopping between mental distress and crises of politeness with surprising ease. A high point of this production is the clear chemistry between Hurley and co-star Lisa Bennington, who brings a wonderfully sort of flighty etherealness to her part. As the show’s key components they work well together in a sort of chalk-and-cheese way, and it makes for a very easy watch. In terms of staging, it’s abashedly minimalist, but this in no way works against it. As a highly focused, emotional vignette, the staging and lights are just enough to accentuate the overall tone of the piece without feeling bare.

Despite its victories, however, there are a few defeats. At points the show seems to go beyond the pale of theatrical awkwardness, and simply lands in “static”. For some (admittedly smaller portions) it seems as if everyone in the room is waiting for something to happen. And, likewise, some of the more conversational segments seem a little on the stiff side.  However, who could blame them – it is positively criminal to place this show in the venue it has been given. The artful musings of European cultural philosophy are somewhat muddled when the upstairs room has been booked for what sounds like a bath salts eating competition followed by celebratory karaoke.

Despite its flaws, this is a production wrought from the heart. A two-person show, however short, is difficult to pull off – almost as hard as thinking up jokes about Norway.

 

 

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Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 10 August)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

Aunty Donna (Gilded Balloon, 5 – 31 Aug : 22.00 : 1hr)

“An all guns blazing comedy rampage”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

The first thing that hits you about Australian comedy troupe Aunty Donna is undoubtedly their energy. This is a one hour, all guns blazing comedy rampage, with never a dull moment. Between the three of them, they caper around as an array of characters, delivering one of the slickest sketch shows I’ve ever seen. Each section melts into the next seamlessly, and it’s a testament to the performers’ dedication that it flows so naturally.

I particularly enjoyed the lip-synching to various songs, that had clearly been very well rehearsed and were delivered with aplomb. During an early mime sequence to a very loud track, one audience member gets pointed at whenever the word “no” is sung – at one stage, several times in quick succession – and the build up and dramatic focus in this section had the audience in stitches.

Throughout there’s a great balance between longer, more developed sequences and a few one liners, including a simple section of reading out “texts from your parents”. My favourite sketch featured someone who “completely misread the situation”, leaning in for a kiss when it totally wasn’t appropriate. With no dialogue, just a scene title and some great physicality, they delivered a simple and very funny moment.

For an Australian group performing the the UK, there were a number of risks taken in making fun of some wonderfully British stereotypes. From our penchant for queuing, to chip butties and even reference to Tottenham Hotspur playing cricket, they strike a great balance between topical humour, without crossing the line into offensive territory. This is a show that is well thought-out and has been perfectly targeted to this market.

In the final third of the performance the group start to reference their own jokes from earlier on, and thankfully, as they had been well-written and delivered, it showed an added layer of intelligence and thought. At no point was it gratuitous though, every moment was carefully selected and well weaved in, and helped tie the piece together into a cohesive performance.

However, for me this show was at times a bit too loud and too full on, and I would have preferred more contrast and subtlety in some of the sketches. In saying that, Aunty Donna’s style is very much their style, and on the whole it delivers laughs aplenty. If you want a loud, high energy, fast paced and at times just a bit weird sketch show, this one is definitely for you.

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 20 August)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

The Sons of Pitches (Gilded Balloon, 7-13 Aug : 22.30 : 1hr)

“Their energy and stage presence was infectious”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

This is a Fringe show that has brought its own warm-up act. It may be a little arrogant, but once the real deal gets going it’s easy to see why – the sounds made by these lads with just their mouths was simply astonishing.

I’ve seen a lot of a capella groups, especially at the Fringe, and what I liked about these guys is that at just five members, compared to the usual twelve or so one might normally expect, they easily made it sound like there were several more of them on stage creating multiple levels. The layering and blend of voices in different parts is so on point that you can’t really tell who is singing what, while their energy and stage presence was infectious.

From one of the top vocal groups on the circuit, their basic “party pieces” were flawless, but this show attempted to combine a capella with comedy. Support act Love Heart came back on stage half way through to introduce a section where the group would improvise songs around a genre and subject. The improvisation itself delivered incredible attempts at traditional Irish, country and calypso music (all from audience suggestions), and I was desperate to have seen these developed further.

For me there was too much chat and not enough singing in this show, and although the interludes were enjoyable, that’s not what the majority of the audience were there to see.

While I won’t linger on some of the unfortunate vocal cracking from the singers at the higher end, the standout Son from this performance was undoubtedly Midé Adenaike. His beatboxing skills were jaw-droppingly fantastic, and particularly in the night’s closing number he stole the show.

For the most part this was an upbeat vocal party, but for me the real proof of an a capella group’s mettle is in their stripped back numbers. The Sons’ penultimate song was the self-penned Foundations, a ballad about stability within a relationship. Unfortunately without Adenaike on beats the group seemed a little lost, and although delivering a good performance, it wasn’t to the standard of their earlier tunes.

While this is a very impressive troupe with a lot to offer the world of a capella, in this performance they didn’t quite blow me away as much as perhaps they should have done, but it was still an incredibly enjoyable hour.

outstanding

StarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Steve Griffin  (Seen 7 August)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED