The Edinburgh Festival is now very much up and running, and we've been reviewing shows and interviewing performers aplenty this weekend.

In this week's TW Weekly you will find all the latest Edinburgh Festival interviews and reviews. You can also check out all our interviews here and all our reviews here. Oh, and if you are in Edinburgh, make sure you pick up a free copy of our Preview Guide.

For updates on the latest new content, follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Or for short and concise summaries of some of the shows recommended by the ThreeWeeks review team this year, why not follow TWittique on Twitter?

But it's not all about Edinburgh in the TW Weekly during August. We've also got some Three To See recommendations for those of you outside the Scottish capital, honing in on great things happening in London and online.

Don't forget, during August we also have an extra edition of the TW bulletin each Thursday afternoon - so we'll see you back here in your inbox for that later in the week!
Long term Festival-goers will be well aware of Ben Moor and his past successes at edfringe - including shows like 'Not Everything Is Significant' and 'Coelacanth' - the latter of which won him a Herald Angel Award and was later produced as an afternoon play for Radio 4. 

And, in the meantime, you may well have seen him popping up at other, non-Edinburgh festivals (for yes, they do exist) and also on your TV screens from time to time. He's renowned for his excellent one man plays and we have always been big fans, meaning we were very excited indeed when we found out that he would be performing at edfringe this year for the first time since 2013.

I arranged a chat, to find out about the three shows he's working on this Festival and what it's like to be back.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

Ben Moor appears in three shows this Fringe, all at Pleasance Courtyard: 'Who Here's Lost' until 29 Aug; 'Ben Moor: Pronoun Trouble' on 23+24 Aug; and 'Ben Moor and Joanna Neary: BookTalkBookTalkBook' on 26+27 Aug. 

One of the most delightful things about the Fringe is the number of people you come across who have a great story to tell - and in this case we're talking about a true and rather intriguing one. 

It's a show that rather easily draws the attention with its eye-catching and explanatory title - and I feel sure that Dan Kelly's 'How I Came Third In The North Korean Marathon' is going to be a really interesting and fun experience. 

Who wouldn't want to investigate this story? I arranged a chat with Dan to find out more.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

Dan Kelly performs 'How I Came Third In The North Korean Marathon' at Just the Tonic at The Caves from 4-28 Aug. See the edfringe listing here.

We're big fans of edfringe veteran Rob Auton, who has garnered many positive reviews from our writers over the years, and is a past winner of one of our ThreeWeeks Editors' Awards. Which means we are always glad to see him return to the Festival. 

He's known for his quirky and brilliant shows - each based on a narrow, specific theme - as well as his excellent books, and it's always a pleasure to catch up with him. I arranged a chat to find out more about this year's show, and some other things.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

Rob Auton performs 'The Crowd Show' at Assembly George Square from 3-29 Aug before heading out on tour. Find the edfringe listing here.  

The Fringe is a great place to bring a show that's a little unusual, especially the sort that's intent on raising topics that people don't like to talk about. And, of course, that means you'll almost inevitably see some incredibly interesting - and conversation changing - work if you spend your August in Edinburgh. 

When I heard about 'Period Dramas', a taboo-tackling piece that seeks to destigmatise the topic of menstruation, I was immediately interested, because I know that the fact that we don't talk about it more leads to misunderstandings and misinformation. 

To find out more about the show, and its creator, I spoke to writer and performer Heather Milsted.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'Period Dramas' is on at Pleasance Courtyard until 21 Aug. See the edfringe listing here.


Self Defence For Time Travellers | Museum Of Comedy/2Northdown | 11, 20, 25, 25 Aug
Ooof, life feels busy at the moment because one of our favourite things - the excellent Edinburgh Festival - is under way, so we're covering that as well as events in London and online. Though, as we look beyond the Edinburgh Fringe to recommend some shows, we still find ourselves within the world of fringe because, well, there are two fringe festivals happening right now, so here's some tips from the fabulous Camden Fringe. This first pick is the sort of thing I just cannot resist because if I sense even the vague smell of time travel on something, I'm in there, so this sounds like my kind of fun. London-based American comedian Mike Capozzola is the creator of this live multimedia show that explores the unexpected consequences of irresponsible time travel. Why wouldn't you want to see that? Click here.

An Unexpected Tale In Smoky Midtown | Canal Cafe Theatre | 8-10 Aug (pictured)
"Low on leads and all out of whiskey, a down-on-his-luck detective has no choice but to team up with unlikely allies and old enemies to solve a cold missing persons case with deeply personal stakes. As he gets closer to unravelling the truth it becomes clear that nothing is what it seems and that secrets never stay buried". Over to Canal Cafe Theatre now for what looks like a rather compelling piece that explores neurodiversity, love and grief, and has an interesting film noir setting, plus original music performed by the cast and composer. Read more here.

Janet | Etcetera Theatre | 10, 17, 24 Aug
And now let us make our way to the Etcetera Theatre where some rather interesting stuff appears to be going down. And when I say interesting, I really mean interesting - not to mention somewhat quirky and surreal. A coming of age story that deals with the conflict of parental and societal expectations, this show features some interesting casting: "A witty and absurd cookery demonstration transforms the ingredients of the bread making process into Janet herself, a whopping 1.5kg of uncooked bread dough. The rest of the cast is played by a teapot, a milk churn, a packet of premium French flour, some naughty baguettes, a spiritual bloomer and other kitchen paraphernalia". Click here to discover more.


The Big Show: Showcase 2022 | Monkey Barrel Comedy | until 28 Aug (pictured)
We published 27 sets of Three To See tips last week delving into this year's Edinburgh Festival programme, which you should check out here. But why are we returning to the big Fringe when our focus here is 'beyond Edinburgh'? Well, because the boom in online culture that occurred during the pandemic means that this year there's quite a lot of Edinburgh stuff you can see whether you are in the Scottish capital or not. One such thing is Monkey Barrel Comedy's 'Saturday Big Show' line ups, which feature great acts appearing at the venue and elsewhere at the Edinburgh Fringe this month. It's not the only show from Monkey Barrel you can see online, so you might want to trawl for further digital events here. Head this way for more on 'The Big Show'.

NextUp Live Comedy At The Fringe | until 28 Aug
We've recommended shows on NextUp Comedy's digital platform before, and we do it knowing full well that not all of you will be signed up to NextUp. But we do very much think that - if you fancy a taste of what's going on up in that there Scottish capital and can't be there in person - it might be worth taking out your subscription this month, because lots of great acts will be streaming live. Lining up to entertain you via the power of digital are the likes of Mark Watson, Yuriko Kotani, Rosie Holt, Hal Cruttenden, Sikisa, Katie Pritchard, Tarot, Rob Rouse and Harriet Dyer, and you can also see shows like the 'So You Think You Are Funny' competition heats and final, plus 'Late n Live' and 'Showstoppers'. Take a look at the lineup here.

Antennae | Kelsey Siepser/C arts | on demand
"A pandemic-induced trip down memory lane, featuring puppets and a treatise on 'The Sopranos', is put into hyper-speed when a gender non-conforming praying mantis named E appears in Kelsey's study. This leads her down a path of discovery of patterns that shaped who she thinks she is. Before going further, she must uncover a truth she might not be willing to face - at least, not on her own…" This rather interesting sounding show from Kelsey Siepser explores the voyeuristic nature of performances delivered via Zoom, and the possibility of shedding old habits and moving forward into the unknown. It's available on demand at a pay-what-you-can price, head to this page here for more info and to arrange to view.


Mediocre White Male | King's Head Theatre | 15 Aug-2 Sep (pictured)
Back to London now, and some performances requiring your physical presence in the relevant venue. First up is 'Mediocre White Male' at King's Head Theatre, a past edfringe success (sold out run in 2021) described as a "searing portrait of male anger, fragility, and vulnerability" that explores the state of those feeling left behind in the face of a changing world. "They say that as you get older, time sort of… speeds up. Well, it doesn't feel like that for me… not here… It's been years since high school, since everyone left for uni, since starting the summer job that's never ended… and since you". Head to the venue website here to find out more.

Ready, Steady, Go! | Polka Theatre | 11-25 Aug
"When Sofia discovers a mountain bike in the boarded-up shed at the bottom of her garden, she doesn't realise the thrilling adventures that await her. Join Sofia and her Mum as they travel across mountains and lakes, through day and night, in a race like no other". Yes, it's a children's show, and I'll bet it's coming not a moment too soon because they've been on holiday for at least a couple of weeks now and I'll bet they are bored. This looks fab, and is aimed at preschoolers and young primary-schoolers (ages three to six, basically) and promises to offer a great introduction to the theatre experience. For more information and to book tickets, head to this page here.

Two Ukrainian Plays | Finborough Theatre | 9 Aug-2 Sep
And now one that's not for kids. No, it's something for you serious minded adults, and it looks rather good. And, as you'll have realised from that title, it's a double bill of plays by Ukrainian writers. The first is the English premiere of 'Take The Rubbish Out, Sasha' by Ukraine's leading contemporary playwright Natal'ya Vorozhbit, which "blends reality and the afterlife in a critical look at the effects of war and conflict". The second, 'Pussycat In Memory Of Darkness' by Neda Nezhdana, gets its first performance outside of Ukraine, and "starkly reveals the roots of Russia's war on Ukraine through the brutalised eyes of one woman". For much more info, see the venue website here.


The Boatswain's Mate | Arcola Theatre | 10-13 Aug
Right, a few shorter stops for you now, and none of them are theatre, in fact we have what I would call a dance and opera section here. Because it's got dance and opera in it. For our opera, we're headed Arcola-wards for some quality Grimeborn action courtesy of the Spectra Ensemble's returning acclaimed revival of Suffragette composer Ethel Smyth's 'The Boatswain's Mate'. "June 1953: peace reigns in Europe, and the waters of the English Channel are troubled only by holidaymakers, as Britain celebrates the coronation of its new Queen. Young and old alike have flocked to Margate for summer loving and strolls on the promenade. But at a quiet pub set back from the seafront, the landlady has a nuisance on her hands". More here.

Future Cargo | Lewis Cubitt Square | 10-20 Aug (pictured)
And now for the dance show. This is an an open air performance in Lewis Cubitt Square, and it's the work of the rather good Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg. "There are reports of fireballs in the area. Power surges and blackouts and electromagnetic waves. The message boards are filling up with unexplained visions of 'gods' and lights. A mystery shipment arrives in Coal Drops Yard from an unknown location. As the side rolls up on a 40ft haulage truck, an alien machine is revealed and a strange and unstoppable process begins". Yeah, I bet that's got your attention. Find out more about it right about here.

Carmen | Arcola Theatre | 9-13 Aug
And now some more opera. It was really my intention to choose just one of the Grimeborn offerings available to you this week, but of course I couldn't decide which because they both look so good. So here's the second, and it's one with a title you'll definitely be familiar with, though it's a distinctly contemporary take by Baseless Fabric on the classic theme. "When supermarket check-out girl Carmen brazenly flirts with the new security guard Don Jose, much to the confusion and embarrassment of his fiancée Micaela, things get even more complicated as Carmen's ex-boyfriend turned TikTok celebrity Escamillo also shows up". Head to the venue website here for all the details.

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


Blue Badge Bunch (Ingenious Fools)
Our host, Benny Shakes, talks candidly about his cerebral palsy, including the fact that he has no movement in his left arm, before introducing the first round of this live game show, which involves the contestants trying to butter bread one-handed whilst being poked by all-too-willing children. Today's contestants are deaf comic Steve Day and Barbara Fernandez, who talks briefly but affectingly about unseen disability, including her own BPD. Subsequent rounds include drawing with your feet, drawing based on audio description and one that's a bit like 'Catchphrase' only based on speech-enabling software. Billed as the disability 'Taskmaster', this is a cleverly thought out and engagingly interactive way of introducing young Fringe-goers to various types of disability and provoking their thoughts: in a good way.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 15 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | Bruce Blacklaw

Superhero Academy: Environmental Adventure! (Play People Productions)
I mean, come on: what could be more wholesome? Say goodbye to your kid for an hour as they join in onstage throughout a noble and increasingly pressing quest to "SAVE THE PLANET!" All sorts of engaging, interactive hijinks ensue involving song, imaginative play, puppetry, props and even a quiz at the end to ensure you've been paying attention. And very lovely it all is, holding the attention of the youngsters throughout. Now, this is unlikely to be the bedding ground for the next generation of Extinction Rebellion activists but, judging by the heightened awareness of lights being left on and correct recycling procedures articulated by my trusty co-reviewer in between seeing this show and my filing this review, well, it's a start…
Pleasance Courtyard, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | Bruce Blacklaw


1 Ball Show (Terence Hartnet)
Sometimes when something horrific happens the best cure is to write a stand up comedy show about it. New York comedian Terence Hartnet takes this route, telling his tale about dealing with cancer alongside a bombardment of dirty jokes and tales. Various gags landed but many only caused a chuckle or a smile, the funniest moments emerging when Hartnet appeared to go off script, or interacted with the audience, and this is clearly where he truly shines as a comedian. With a routine centred on the subject of a grave illness, there are correspondingly serious messages scattered throughout, but they are - sadly - quickly skimmed over. Overall, it's something of a mixed bag, as this is a funny, entertaining and sometimes thoughtful set, but it's not quite reaching greatness.
Just The Tonic at The Mash House until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

The Ugly Animal Preservation Society (Simon Watt)
Did you know that the blobfish is officially the ugliest creature on the planet? I didn't, but - as biologist and comedian Simon Watt is keen to point out - the Ugly Animal Preservation Society is an actual thing, not just a show. And with a serious purpose too: cute animals such as pandas are given conservation priority and unsentimentally exploited to raise money. Some species are more equal than others, it seems, and Simon wants to change that. Though a scientist, he's a good communicator and far too savvy to lecture us. He makes his case with the gentlest of touches, has a couple of guests each day (for us one hit, one miss) and is very, very funny.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]


(Le) Pain (DREAM)
Jean Daniel Broussé really did run away to join a circus. If the true story is perhaps more complicated, this engaging solo piece certainly shows off his impressive physical theatre skills. That said, I loved this show as much for its inventive storytelling, dance, video and music as for its accomplished theatricality. Based on Broussé's own life, '(Le) Pain' is a good-humoured but clear-eyed reflection on his parents' and earlier generations' lives running a traditional village bakery in the Pyrenees - and why he declined to take up the baton. It's about the choices we make, or which maybe are partly made for us. Tinged with sadness, it has good jokes - plus bears, Béarnais bagpipes and baguettes.
Assembly Roxy, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]


7 Seventeen-Year-Olds In A Screwed-Up World (Square Pegs - Macready Theatre Young Actors' Company)
Despite a few laughs, and the odd glimmer that a deeper meaning might be found, this play feels more like a rough, improvised workshop. The seven actors give gamely engaging performances, but the script remains perpetually poised on the cusp of reaching for a point, without ever really committing. There are some nods to feminism, racism and privilege, but their treatment is wafer-thin, and lacking in purpose or conviction. The suggestion that the teenagers are refugees is slipped in at the climax, without any commentary or impact. The dialogue throughout is trite, and the characterisation inconsistent, with arguments flaring from nowhere then fizzling out. Perhaps that is the point, but if so, it's a poor one.
C cubed, until 13 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Andy Leask]

Afghanistan Is Not Funny by Henry Naylor (Redbeard Theatre)
Afghanistan isn't funny. Naylor has proof in photos taken on his 2002 trip, recounted here, and reflected in his plays set there. The show isn't all gloom, though. Naylor is a witty raconteur, and engaging. He delivers with energy and at a pace to minimise deliberation of atrocious slides - a nod to 'taste and decency' given up to moving effect at the end - and the witty portrayal of a cast of characters entertains. At intervals Naylor brings in counsellor Denise who assesses his development from unconscious incompetence through to conscious competence, stages which help Naylor honestly review his professional and personal motives. (He might reconsider sharing his response to Denise's accent). Go and see what happened on this eye-opening adventure shared with heart.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Catherine Meek]

Cassie And The Lights (Patch Of Blue)
Three stars moving together; a trinary star system. A young girl's school 'TED Talk' establishes the metaphor for this powerful dramatisation of real-life events. When their mother deserts the three sisters, Cassie, the eldest at seventeen, wants to keep the family together by becoming a full-time carer. But it's complicated, and not everyone agrees. The sisters' story takes centre stage and there is some sharp and funny dialogue as well as excellent live music. The adults with whom they must engage are by contrast disembodied offstage presences. The balance of difficult argument is fairly represented and Alex Brain playing Cassie shows real emotional heft as the show builds to a climax. An illuminating and well-presented piece of theatre.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Eglantyne (Anne Chamberlain)
An energetic opening scene introduces our eponymous campaigner for reform, dishing out flyers depicting starving children in post-war Europe's Blockades. Next step, a public meeting set up at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1919 to drum up financial support and Save The Children was born. The opening drama doesn't last: Chamberlain delivers a full chronology of Eglantyne Jebb's life and there's a lot to take in; some details could stand a lighter touch. Stepping out of character to narrate unremarkable details of her own life where she sees parallels only distract from the celebration of this inspiring character who deserves the limelight. Jebb is also to thank for her 'Declaration Of The Rights Of The Child' which inspired today's UN Convention.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Catherine Meek]

Encore (Histeria Teatro)
Tortured rock star Jail Blue's death by overdose is one to watch - a technically very good performance, and no mistaking it's fake. It's not news that too many stars die this way, alone. This portrayal rehearses familiar themes of emptiness and pressure leading to taking drugs for relief, but alas, it's hard to care much about this death by misadventure. Jail's encounter with a supposed journalist gives licence to tell her story but - whilst there's plenty to applaud in the pair's creative representation, enhanced by an electric guitarist's renditions (a bit loud at times for the space) - they only scratch the surface. There just isn't enough explored to get under the skin, or leave one wanting to know much more.
C aquila, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Catherine Meek]

The Endling (Strange Futures)
It is notoriously hard to get us humans to focus with any seriousness on the destruction of nature around us. This show seeks to engage by asking how we might feel if we were the last of our species: 'endlings'. For me, it was only partly successful, sometimes pushing 'the facts' too directly, undermining gentler but potentially more powerful storytelling. The physical movement on stage was excellent, with some fine representations of animals and clever use of music-hall routines. Whilst the patter was sometimes over-repetitive, there was a fine short routine on the folly of human exceptionalism which Peter Singer, the philosopher and animal liberation guru, would surely love. I enjoyed it but felt it needed further shaping.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 19 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Far Gone (Roots Mbili Theatre)
The joyful, childish atmosphere that opens 'Far Gone' doesn't last long - this is no light-hearted romp. The brief glimpse of Okumu's early life, filled with fun, games and innocent laughter, stands in stark contrast to the brutal tragedy that unfolds when his village is visited by the Lord's Resistance Army, and he is forcibly recruited as a child soldier. This is harrowing stuff, and rightly so. John Rwoth-Omack delivers an exhilarating performance, transforming from character to character. Each is nuanced and vibrant, and he seamlessly shifts and sheds voice and mannerisms as he flits between them. The gut-punch of a climax is well-earned, made all the more resonant by the call and response crowd participation, which has made us all complicit.
Zoo Southside, until 20 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andy Leask]

Foundations (Wrong Tree Theatre Company / Ultraviolet Productions)
"Puppets, I want puppets!", said my partner late in the Festival a few years back, perhaps jaded by an excess of worthy endeavour. So in 2022 we've made an early visit to this family show, founded on the familiar device of two parallel worlds where all is not as it first seems. It explores human and artificial intelligence - rational and emotional - through the friendship of a young woman played by a human and a robot played by a puppet. It does not delve deep but offers an engaging primer in the philosophical questions raised by robotics. I admired the show's ambition and, as well as the puppetry, enjoyed its lively movement and excellent score. Good theatre-making from this young company.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 21 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Ghosts Of The Near Future (emma + pj)
We always knew the end of the world would be bleak, but surely nobody expected it to be so mesmerising? As the clock ticks closer to midnight, the audience is brought along on a trippy journey and met with magic, music and comedy. This UK/US duo clearly aim to create the sort of experience that goes well beyond any standard definition of theatre, and this show is a testament to it. I felt entirely transported to a dying Las Vegas because of the clever use of projections, music and props, and Emma and PJ's performances are both great, but in the end it's the sensational though tough script that really stands out. Story-wise it's complex, but visually it's stunning.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Gulliver (Box Tale Soup)
Time and space hold no bounds for Box Tale Soup: they stage a world to capture the imagination in this magical enactment of 'Gulliver's Travels Into Several Remote Nations Of The World'. In safe hands, this voyage of discovery first published in 1726 loses nothing to our 21st Century lens. Props carefully crafted from recycled and sustainable materials are inventively worked - it's made entirely believable that Gulliver is at sea. Performances by all three actors are evenly polished, each deftly switching characters and voices, skilfully bringing life to different puppets as well. Especially remarkable is how perspective is conjured as Gulliver becomes giant to Lilliputians and lilliputian to the giants of Brobdingnag. Puppet Gulliver's dance deserves an entertainment award of its own.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Catherine Meek]

Home Is Not The Place (Annie George)
This one-woman show charts the lives and journeys of writer-performer Annie George's family, telling a series of sweeping stories, ranging from India, to London, and back again, before culminating in Scotland. This is fertile ground, and the performance is packed with fascinating experiences and anecdotes. And yet, somehow, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. There isn't a clear narrative running through it, and the stories bounce back and forth between fragmented voices. At times this becomes hard to follow, and it's easy to lose track of which generation we're following, of which family-member is speaking. This temporal dislocation is alienating. Perhaps that's intentional, but if so, it's ill-considered, as it weakens the impact of the play.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

Intelligence (Dutch Kills Theater)
Empathy and outrage jostle for position in this taut political drama that positively sizzles throughout. At its heart lies a moral question: how much compromise is acceptable in the pursuit of peace? How much violence can we forgive, to forestall further violence? If that sounds ponderous, fear not: the script is lean, pacy, and thrilling. Our three characters - a Special Envoy and two US officials - grapple with the conundrum, exploring back-channel intelligence and potential peace-talks even as horrifying real-world events overtake their theoretical discussions and role-play. The script is convincing and compelling, the characters well-drawn and relatable, and the performances are consistently riveting. A complex question deserves serious consideration, something 'Intelligence' offers by eschewing easy answers.
Assembly Roxy, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andy Leask]

Luke Wright: The Remains Of Logan Dankworth (Luke Wright)
Luke Wright is brilliant, so it's no surprise that this is a compelling, powerful play fusing intelligent writing with an engaging performance. This is a vibrant, often funny tale of a fictional comedian and commentator who rises to prominence in the Brexit debate, even as his home life begins to fall apart. As he loses himself somewhere between leave and remain, between left and right, he also loses sight of his wife, and his family. The two aspects of his life are skilfully woven together, mirroring one another perfectly. Just as countless arguments over Brexit broke out against the backdrop of countless lives, so the two halves of Dankworth echo and fold into one another with tragic inevitability.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andy Leask]

Materia (Aurora Nova and Andrea Salustri)
Spare a thought for the venue cleaners. There's a whole floorful of debris following Andrea Salustri's hour spent cracking, burning, crumbling and blowing polystyrene around the performing space. It's all in the cause, though, of his exquisitely beautiful, strangely moving hour of object theatre, in which his polystyrene globes, sheets and miniature particles take on lives of their own, coaxed into being by a few whirring fans and the subtle movements of the performer's hands. Things take a destructive turn in the show's sonically ambitious climax, but it's to Salustri's credit that by then, we've built up affection for these apparently living objects. Great for kids, mesmerising for grown-ups, this is a powerful, captivating way to begin your Fringe day.
Summerhall, until 14 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [David Kettle]

Nightlands by Jack MacGregor (Dogstar Theatre Company)
What was it that invaded Ukraine in February? Competing conceptions of Russia form the central questions behind Jack MacGregor's tense two-hander for Highland-based Dogstar Theatre, as a duo of caretakers in icy Pyramiden, Svalbard bicker and fight over their country's history and hopes - and the inevitability of its 1990s chaos spawning a Strong Leader. It's a slippery show in which motives, even identities, keep you constantly reassessing your position, a shiftiness captured well by Rebecca Wilkie and Matthew Zajac's strongly defined but supple performances. MacGregor (who also directs) may pose more questions than he answers, but 'Nightlands' is nonetheless a thought-provoking exploration of how history and memory - real or imagined - can be transformed into the most potent of weapons.
Summerhall, until 14 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [David Kettle]

Project Dictator (Rhum + Clay)
We're all just here to have fun, right? Be careful what you wish for in Rhum + Clay's brilliantly conceived, darkly funny clown two-hander - and where it might lead you. Julian Spooner and Matthew Wells line up the demands of a braying Fringe audience next to a plummet into authoritarianism to chilling effect, with a final veer sideways into even bleaker (if somewhat more opaque) material. But 'Project Dictator' is never preachy: the gags - visual and spoken - come thick and fast in Spooner and Wells's propulsive, agile performance, even if the laughter might often catch in your throat. Not always subtle, this is nonetheless a timely, intelligent response to current events, carried off with verve, insight and relentless energy.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [David Kettle]

Sandcastles (Brite Theater)
On 9/11, everyone was messaging "I love you". This play brings on a similar impulse, exploring the bonds of adolescent friendship in a world where angst in case of terrorism is accepted. Beth and Hannah have been besties since they were seven - built sandcastles together, travelled Europe, held each other up when drunk - but then Beth drops a bombshell: she's going to New York, and Hannah isn't prepared for everything she shares with Beth to change. Steve McMahon's script is funny and warm, and perfectly replicates friendly banter. Beth and Hannah are performed with depth and an easy finesse - surely these two really are friends and we're merely eavesdropping on their reminiscences? Really, first-class. I was moved to tears, others too.
Assembly Rooms, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Catherine Meek]

Shame On You! (Arnold and Komarov Travelling Theatre, part of Swiss Selection Edinburgh)
Where does embarrassment end and shame begin? Is one self-generated, the other inflicted? They're interesting questions, but ones you'll probably struggle to find answers for in this rather slight offering from Ilja Komarov and Trixa Arnold. Rather than a 'show' as such, 'Shame On You!' feels more like the performance manifestation of a larger project, collecting confessions of shame from around the world, which Komarov reads out at random, interspersed with songs. While the duo don't provide much insight into the causes or results of shame, their stories are by turns funny and sad, upsetting and downright outrageous. As part of a bigger project, it's an intriguing subject. As a show in its own right, it feels rather lightweight.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [David Kettle]
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