MONDAY 14 AUGUST 2023 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
Welcome to Week Two of Edinburgh Festival 2023. And look out for lots more interviews and reviews coming your way as the Fringe continues.

We have the very latest interviews and reviews in this week's TW Weekly bulletin. Plus, the TW:Talks podcast is back, with new editions going live everyday this week. Check out our first TW:Talks interview with Luke Wright below.

For updates on all the latest content as it goes live, follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter - and, don't forget, we will have an extra Edinburgh Fringe edition of this bulletin for you on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, here in the main Monday edition, below all our latest Edinburgh coverage, you will also find our guide to the cultural week ahead in London.


So, let's get going...


VICTOR ESSES: THE DEATH & LIFE OF ALL OF US
We witness a plethora of different theatre shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and we love every kind of theatrical production that there is. However, as I've probably mentioned before (too many times, maybe?) I am a particular fan of the solo performances and I also love a good storyteller.

'The Death & Life Of All Of Us' has those very qualities and - when I heard about the true story behind it - I was very much drawn in. It's created and performed by Victor Esses and in it he charts his relationship with his long lost great aunt, which sounded to me like a great basis for show.

I spoke to him to find out more.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'The Death & Life Of All Of Us' is on at Summerhall until 27 Aug. See the edfringe listing here.



BRENDAN MURPHY: BUFFY REVAMPED
Many of you will be well aware of the work of Brendan Murphy, because this isn't the first edfringe outing for his acclaimed one-man comedy show 'Buffy: Revamped' - or his other award winning and also acclaimed one-man comedy show 'FRIEND (The One With Gunther)'.

Those two are just the recent ones - he's been visiting the Festival since 2011, having originally performed at the Fringe as part of NewsRevue.

As someone who spent far too much time in the late nineties watching 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer', I was always going to want to talk to him about the Buffy show at some point, I think. So why delay the inevitable? I spoke to Brendan ahead of this year's Fringe. 

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'Buffy Revamped' is on at Pleasance at EICC until 27 Aug. See the edfringe listing here.  


LUKE WRIGHT: SILVER JUBILEE
The TW:Talks podcast is back at Edinburgh Festival 2023. ThreeWeeks co-Editor Chris Cooke chats to people performing at the Fringe this year, talking them through the past, present and future: the story so far, this year's show and what is coming next.

Check out the first edition - which went live yesterday - in which poet Luke Wright talks about his show 'Luke Wright's Silver Jubilee', which he is performing at Pleasance Dome until 15 Aug. And look out for more editions going live every day this week.

TUNE IN to the TW:Talks podcast here.
1/5 bad | 2/5 mediocre | 3/5 good | 4/5 recommended | 5/5 highly recommended


CHILDREN'S SHOWS

Who Stole My Hammer? (Myth-fits)
The Myth-fits, Fiona and Rosie, begin with a potted history of the Vikings before bringing us to where they want to be: a slightly madcap prop, costume and puppet-based retelling of the Norse myth about that time Thor had his magic hammer nicked by the King of the Ogres, then went in drag as Freya, Goddess of Love, to win it back with the help from Loki. The duo are largely quite successful in entertainingly and engagingly conveying complex ideas of myth and storytelling. However, the audience interaction bits of joining in with rowing, climbing, etc felt slightly rudimentary by comparison, leaving my 8-9yo co-reviewers a little cold. Still, as a gateway to myth and history, you could do Norse.
tw rating 3/5 | Bruce Blacklaw
Underbelly George Square, until 28 Aug



COMEDY

Coffee Kid (Síomha McQuinn)
Absurd comedy at its finest! Coffee Kid takes the audience on a wild journey of discovery, as her dad (George Clooney) is not speaking to her and she lacks romance. The show features consistently clever moments of absurd comedy that will surprise and delight fans of this genre, and you’ll probably question nothing as your mind becomes at one with this unique world. Síomha McQuinn’s performance is excellent and charming, and the comedy always landed, thanks mostly to the script. It admittedly takes a little while to warm up, but once at boiling point, there’s no going back: it’s an insane story that you cannot stop, but honestly, you won’t want it to.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose
]

Gail Porter: Hung, Drawn And Portered
If you ever turned on a British telly in the late 1990s, you surely came across a relentlessly upbeat Gail Porter presenting one programme or another. Indeed, so ubiquitous did she become, many viewers likely added her to their 'celebrities you like to diss’ list. Though in the years that followed, as she dealt with divorce, depression and alopecia in an impressively open and frank way, even the most cynical tabloid reader surely moved her over to a 'celebrities you have to admire’ list. In this show, as Porter talks you through her childhood, the rise to fame and everything that followed, you’re reminded the admiration should have come sooner. The delivery has a stream of consciousness feel to it, but given the subject matter, it works. A bit like you’re hearing Porter’s life story one night in the pub, complete with a drunken sing song at its conclusion.
Assembly George Square Studios, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]


Arzoo Malhotra: First Degeneration (Arzoo Malhotra)
Arzoo Malhotra breaks off a set midway to check that a member of the audience is feeling okay. It’s a surprisingly kind angle to a self-described acidic comic. There’s a very sweet demeanour to Malhotra’s on-stage presence that means she can lead a crowd into a false sense of security before delivering a gut-punch of a dark joke (mapping out every private army-led war, anyone?). 'First Degeneration’ follows Malhotra growing up across several countries including India and Egypt before her move to America as an adult. The material is largely anecdotal and flows gently, accompanied by a powerpoint with several maps to visualise her changing world. Malhotra has also peppered one-liner punchlines to her set pieces within the slides. Delivery here falls flat because she’s left tone and pacing to the audience: better to reduce the tech from double act partner to visual aid.
Just the Tonic at The Caves, until 27 Aug (not 14)
tw rating 3/5 | [Louise Jones]

Eden Sher: I Was On A Sitcom
The sitcom was the long running US show 'The Middle’. Sher played the relentlessly enthusiastic Sue Heck, who audiences watched grow up across nine seasons. Viewers know everything there is to know about Sue Heck. Many think that means they also know everything there is to know about Eden Sher. They do not. Being an actor in that position is fascinating, though it is a theme rather than the narrative of this show. The core story is Sher’s complicated pregnancy and the birth of her significantly premature twins. Although opening the proceedings like a sitcom star doing some stand-up about a former role, Sher quickly becomes a compelling storyteller, retelling and re-enacting the events of her pregnancy, and taking the audience on an emotional yet entertaining journey. Although theatrical in parts, the piece nevertheless leaves you feeling that, by the end, you do now know Eden Sher.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]


Ollie Horn: Not Much
For any performers who have had a nightmare show at this year’s Festival, Ollie Horn’s 'Not Much’ should reassure you that that nightmare will make great material for a Fringe show in the future. It may even inspire that future show’s title. Though you’ll need to complete some other hellish gigs first. Maybe performing stand-up in an Apple Store to an audience that just wants tech support. Or doing some comedy in a Thai brothel for a promoter who just died. The specifics probably aren’t important, but as he talks us through his three worst gigs, Horn demonstrates that re-living bad shows can make for one hell of a good show. His passion for comedy - both as a fan and a purveyor of the artform - comes through strong, and his delivery is consistent and compelling throughout the hour. All in all, it’s a show that offers much much more than what is promised in the title.
Just The Tonic at the Mash House, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]


Laser Kiwi: Rise Of The Olive (Lee Martin for Gag Reflex)
Mmmm...a 5-star comedy/circus show, 'Rise Of The Olive’ offers a unique blend of mismatched ideas that come together to showcase the incredible talent of this group. It’s a performance that brings joy to viewers with enchanting circus acts like corde lisse and mind-blowing tricks, seamlessly intertwined with sketch comedy, and is a true testament to the creative prowess of the performers. They know how to engage a rowdy crowd, keeping the jokes coming, and everyone in stitches of laughter. They have impeccable comedic timing and know how to ensure each segment reaches its full potential without becoming overly long. Laser Kiwi are in a lane of their own and have created something beyond a doubt worth seeing.
Assembly Roxy, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Melrose]


MUSIC

The Sorries
The Carpenters t-shirt on one of the folk duo was confusing, but only for a second because the long kilts reassured me The Sorries were back at the Fringe. Foot stomping, hand clapping, sing-along-a-Scotland - very enjoyable and with a cheeky rock-off thrown in to amuse the eagerly participating crowd. Relentlessly upbeat until they introduced the hugely sentimental 'Wild Mountain Thyme’ and evoked an emotion like singing along with the Lone Piper at the Tattoo; it would have made a sporran weep. The band rewrote the verses of their Corries namesakes’ 'Johnny Lad’ with current, acerbically political comments to amusing effect; our glorious leaders will be devastated when they find out. An uplifting hour of genuine local colour. PS I’m Scottish.
Greenside at Riddles Court, various dates until 26 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

Cathedral Talk And Music: John Stainer - A Life In Music (Professor Jeremy Dibble And The Choir Of St Mary’s Cathedral)
'The Crucifixion’ is finally out of copyright so there’s a significant new edition. Boldly, Professor Dibble began his talk by explaining which well respected academics, theologians and musicians denigrated Stainer’s compositions and why. He gave a comprehensive historical and musical analysis of this 1887 work, setting it firmly in the Romantic Victorian context that so irritated its detractors. The musical illustrations were performed by one of the UK’s leading cathedral choirs and this is where an interesting and erudite talk came brilliantly alive - not just because of the quality of the singing but because Professor Dibble looked pleased, switched off his mic and sang along. Academic detachment and empiricism merged seamlessly with likeable enthusiasm and, later, we sang too.
St Mary’s Cathedral, run ended.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

Flute Recital: Messiaen’s Le Merle Noir (Leila Marshall - Flute, Ailsa Aitkenhead - Piano)
Composer Olivier Messiaen chided his wife, celebrated pianist Yvonne Loriod, for not properly portraying the characters of individual bird species in his ornithological inspired works - that wouldn’t have been necessary today. The eponymous blackbird was dramatically present in Marshall’s flawless interpretation of this assertive birdsong piece. It contrasted well with Messiaen’s 'Vocalise Etude', an earlier, gently lyrical song without words revealing his admiration for Debussy. Pianist Aitkenhead gave an atmospheric performance of Debussy’s 'La Cathedral Engloutie’ drawing out the sunken bells and briefly revealed majesty of the drowned cathedral which damply sank again. Also included was the well-loved Poulenc’s 'Sonata for Flute and Piano’ and Marais’ 'Les Folies d’Espagne’; it was summed up succinctly by a gentleman behind me, “Wow!”
ArtSpace@St Marks, run ended.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Rodgers]



MUSICALS + OPERA

Potty The Plant (Little Big Stack)
It must say something when a musical’s irritating, infernally catchy tunes are still with you the day after you’ve seen it. And for all its boisterous fun, its paper-thin characters and its preposterous plotline, 'Potty The Plant’ is indeed a very clever, beautifully crafted show. The eponymous talking shrub lives in Little Boo Boo’s Hospital, where blood-sucked kids are going missing. Could sashaying surgeon Dr Acula have anything to do with it? Little Big Stack mine their ridiculous tale for all the knowing humour they can find, with larger-than-life performances from the all-singing, all-high-kicking five-person, one-plant cast. And should the feedgood sweetness ever get too cloying, they’re sure to undercut it with some smut or surprise. It’s a wickedly funny, uplifting joy.
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [David Kettle]



THEATRE

The Way Way Deep (Indigo Productions)
This is Way Way up as being a standout theatre piece. Having seen his previous work, my expectations were high, but Patrick McPherson has somehow managed to exceed them in what is an electric performance that fully engages you throughout. The hour-long spoken word rhythm-tastic piece seamlessly flows, incorporating musical numbers that leave viewers in awe. Notably, the lighting and score play a significant role, effectively enhancing the performance. The use of simple light adds depth, functioning as a character and setting the mood, the production is a spectacle. I do wish story-wise it left a bigger imprint on me, nevertheless, the twisty tale of friendship is gripping and will undoubtedly shock many. The talent Patrick McPherson has is truly remarkable.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Lovefool (Théâtre National du Luxembourg / Kristin Winters / Gintare Parulyte)
A frank and funny exploration of a modern woman’s love life becomes something darker, something more profound. We start to see the cracks in her facade, sense the shadows lurking, as her barriers break down. Eventually we see her begin the process of learning to confront her past and love herself. It’s a powerfully emotive piece, and Kristin Winters as Grace is never less than excellent, managing the tonal shifts - from hilarious, to gut-punch moving and back - with aplomb. By the climax the audience are right there with her, sharing in her pain and baring their own; we feel the same honest, cathartic sense that while things might not yet be OK, they will be.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andy Leask]

Rewind (Ephemeral Ensemble)
Probably the best show I’ve seen so far on the fringe this year. Top physical theatre, it has great music (and sounds), innovative and effective lighting, good movement and much creative stage business. There are a few words too but this is far from a literary theatre where words drive the action. Intense feeling can exceed the capacity of language and great theatre can recognise and express that. This play succeeds brilliantly, maintaining an affecting calm whilst addressing the most harrowing of experiences, the 'disappearances’ of grown children under Argentinian dictatorship. The calm is of great sadness, patient science - forensic identification of the remains - and perhaps of completion. An apparently simply-told story but an extraordinarily powerful piece.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Super (Matthew Radway)
The world of jobbing actors dressing as superheroes in order to pose for pictures with tourists is a fertile one for comedy, and there certainly are plenty of laughs in this play. From absurd imagery, to ironic dialogue and gags about actors and directors, it plays well to a festival audience. A two-hander, the script mines further comedy from the juxtaposition of perspectives between its two leads, the delusional, unreliable narrator Rick (aka Batman) and the far more grounded Catherine (aka Catwoman). There’s even an attempt to offer two differing conclusions, as each character shares the contradictory life-lesson they took from the events. Ultimately the script’s a little thin, despite both actors’ terrific comic performances, to really land its punches.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

Adults (Traverse Theatre Company)
Adults is, on one level, a slightly sordid bedroom farce. How sordid? Well, a couple of key scenes pivot around dildos, albeit at no point being used for their intended purpose. At the same time it's also a darker, deeper meditation on life choices and generational transition as Iain, a middle-aged, married teacher embarks on an ill-fated attempt to procure a male prostitute to explore his long-inactive sexuality. The transaction is brokered by Zara who, it turns out, is one of Iain's former pupils - amusing awkwardness ensues. From there, a couple of tonal gear shifts may jar for some, but the performances, direction and the many pearlers in Kieran Hurley’s script make for a compelling, funny and provocative watch.
Traverse, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | Bruce Blacklaw


Ben Target: LORENZO (Soho Theatre)
From his slick, assured delivery, it’s clear that Ben Target has many years’ experience as a stand-up. Despite his amusing asides and tangents, however, his 'LORENZO’ is a very different kind of show. Its eponymous hero is Target’s uncle - well, family friend, taken in by the performer’s parents after fleeing Hong Kong. Now near the end of his life, Lorenzo needs Target’s live-in care simply to survive. Though shot through with buoyant humour, and employing an evocative wooden recreation of Lorenzo’s precious workbench, Target’s show is a poignant and unflinchingly honest reflection on memory, family, frailty and ageing, warm-hearted but with a flinty edge of tough love too. Memorable, perceptive and deeply moving.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [David Kettle]


Funeral (Ontroerend Goed)
They’ve shocked, provoked, charted the end of the world and stared millions of years into the future in previous Fringe shows. Flemish company Ontroerend Goed this year tackles one of the biggest, most universal subjects of all: death. As ever with these Belgian tricksters, there’s a question of surrender and vulnerability: how much can we trust these theatrical provocateurs to handle our deceased loved ones with respect and reverence? Quite a lot, it turns out, in a show that combines grief, celebration and release in a thoroughly secular ritual for a temporary community of mourners. Saying more would turn magically unexpected moments into something far more humdrum. It’s a quietly devastating way to start your Fringe day.
ZOO Southside, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [David Kettle]

Breaking The Castle (Breaking The Castle Productions)
Leaving the theatre, my mind and emotions were in turmoil as I tried to process this remarkable play dealing with addiction. Though it’s hard to watch at times there are glimpses of light, especially at the end, and Peter Cook delivers such a captivating performance that you instantly become attached to and root for him. The lighting, pacing, and acting are cleverly executed, making the message effectively conveyed in a way that’s not in your face. The script is well written, and basing it on real moments gives it the realistic quality that sends this show to the next level. A show that has the power to teach and inspire, as it has profoundly affected me and transformed the way I see others.
Assembly Rooms, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Grown Up Orphan Annie (Katherine Bourne Taylor)
I believe I am now a Fannie! In a show that brings Annie back, the focus is on introducing us to her new sidekick, the passing of Warbucks and the challenges faced when being a child celebrity now all grown up. This production is clearly aimed at 'Annie’ fans, as others may not understand the references and may not appreciate the full performance, and overall, though it is an enjoyable experience, some segments feel lengthy or the comedy does not entirely click. However, Katherine Taylor truly embodies the Annie persona throughout, delivering a quirky and lovable character that is truly meant to be a star. Moreover, the audience response certainly shows that we all love Annie and happily want more.
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose
]

Helios (Wright And Grainger)
A special intimate storytelling session, what’s not to love? The audience gathers around in a circle, and we are told a wonderful tale of Phaeton in this coming-of-age story, and their reactions and responses make it clear that everyone is visualising and listening to every word. Even with Alexander Wright reading at a rapid pace, his interaction with the audience and the way he tells the story both visually and verbally allows this performance to feel like an experience. The outstanding writing flows in time with the music, which as expected is a major factor in this show, and is used subtly compared to their other productions, yet still effectively brings moments to life. This company truly are the best at storytelling.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Her Green Hell (TheatreGoose)
This is a true horror story - the horror of falling from a disintegrating plane two miles above the jungle and surviving to find human remains all around, including (as confirmed later) your own mother. The story here focuses on Juliane Koepcke’s two-week journey to safety which she achieves as much through her knowledge of the environment as sheer will to survive. Rainforest has its dangers, but your chances improve if you can recognise and deal with the actual rather than imaginary ones. This reality is well portrayed with some creative theatre-making with a fine story-telling performance by the excellent Sophie Keen. It’s compelling throughout. By the way, Juliane Koepke still loves the rainforest where she lives and works.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Concerned Others (Tortoise In A Nutshell)
Scotland has the highest rate of drug-related deaths in Europe. Thus starts the show’s (commendably accurate and informative) Fringe programme entry, and something we should all hold in our minds. This visually strong verbatim theatre piece seeks to explain the causes and consequences through multiple voices and images. Not so simplistic as to propose an 'answer’, it instead, gives voice to the many who consider the 'moral model of addiction’ part of the cause. Defining addicts as simply feckless or weak can permit politicians and policymakers, perhaps us all, to ignore the complex deeper issues involved. This technically highly accomplished show did not quite seize me in the way I expected but is nevertheless something of a 'must-see’.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

The Life Sporadic Of Jess Wildgoos (Voloz Collective)
I really wish I loved this, because of its universally energetic and inventive performances. The cast use mime and physical theatre to complement the script, playing characters, setting, props and even environmental effects, and they are terrific. It's bold, thrilling, and often hilarious. We follow Jess, as she strives to secure a position in the financial sector. It’s no surprise that the compromises she needs to make to get into the industry, and then to get ahead in her firm, cause her to lose much of herself, and that’s the problem. The script lacks teeth; the critique of capitalism is simplistic and overly familiar, and far too often good writing and meaningful characterisation are sacrificed for a cheap laugh.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

Unforgettable Girl (Elisabeth Gunawan, Created A Monster and The Pleasance)
This is certainly unforgettable, though not entirely for the right reasons. The core concept - using a Thai mail order bride as a character to prick the bubble of white privilege and explore problematic attitudes towards women of colour - is sound, and there are some excellent moments. But overall, the execution undermines the message. There’s not a clear plot running through it, making the whole thing fragmented, and the tone shifts so quickly you get whiplash. While it neatly skewers the typical middle-class Fringe audience, the conflation of class and colour is troubling, and suggests exactly the kind of unconscious bias it sets out to challenge. What’s worse, it falls afoul of my own deepest bias, against enforced, cringe-inducing audience participation.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Andy Leask]

2-Faces (Hassan Hope and Jasmine Dorothy Haefner)
This leaden crime caper tries and, sadly, fails to make the audience laugh. That failure to conjure even a chuckle is surprising, given how laughably bad the script and some of the accents are. The ridiculous (but somehow not funny) premise is that the world’s two greatest art thieves are also detectives, simultaneously plotting heists while pretending to investigate them. There’s no subtext here. Indeed, subtext is jettisoned in favour of heavy-handed supertitles, which try gamely to explain the plot’s convolutions (which are not convoluted, at all), and to raise a laugh through - I kid you not - the use of emojis. It’s billed as a comedy, but the audience simply didn’t laugh. A comedy that’s not funny? That’s the real crime.
Greenside @ Infirmary Street, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 1/5 | [Andy Leask]

Moderation (Lily-Liver Productions)
It would be easy to leave 'Moderation’ as a full blown misanthrope. Its two characters are former moderators for a social media company. Having been forced to watch the very worst of the internet - thus the worst of humanity - they have been left broken, with memory loss, PTSD, anxiety and depression. It’s a grimly honest exploration of the toll this would take, but what makes the misery bearable - and what makes this play a triumph - is the strength of the relationship between the two damaged protagonists, and the deft skill with which it is conveyed. There’s just enough light at the end, just enough faith in humanity, to leave us hoping for - and believing in - a better world.
theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall, until 19 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andy Leask]

Andronicus Synecdoche (Song Of The Goat Theatre)
He’d long hesitated before tackling Shakespeare’s 'Titus Andronicus’, explains Grzegorz Bral, founder and director of Wrocław’s Song of the Goat theatre company, because of its harrowing themes and blood-soaked violence. In many ways, though, the play is an ideal match for the company’s trademark searingly intense, music-led approach. This is a potted production that retains the original’s central plotline, mixing English and Polish (subtitled), as well as blisteringly powerful choral sections and spoken dialogue, all delivered with raw power by the 14-strong cast of actor/singers and instrumentalists. It’s less a traditional performance, more an austere ritual of blood and revenge in which we’re all implicated - a powerful spectacle with resonances far beyond the performance space.
ZOO Southside, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [David Kettle]

An Afternoon With The Ladies Of The Cliff Richard Fan Club, Sutton Coldfield, 1995 (Opportunity Productions)
Your reviewer declares an interest here, having grown up round the corner from this (fictional) fan club. Not that you need to be from the West Midlands to enjoy this show. Nor necessarily a Cliff Richard fan either; though that certainly helps, partly because there’s some gentle audience participation. The fans in our audience cheerfully helped the show along with good-humoured contributions enabled by the show’s framing as an open afternoon for potential new members. There’s much fun as the members go off-script and some sadness as we hear stories of loss and loneliness, alleviated by joining the club and its activities. The result is a warm-hearted exploration of the friendships and eccentricities of such fan clubs everywhere.
Assembly Rooms, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Guffy (Glenna Morrison / Pitlochry Festival Theatre / Pleasance)
Guffy loves her baby and aspires to be a good mother. Played to perfection by Georgia Blue Ireland, she has a chippy, fragile self-esteem despite living (figuratively and literally) at the Bottom End. Her adoptive mother is equally strongly played by Ceit Kearney but overall there’s little dramatic tension in this piece. The allegory of modern Scotland, its past, present and future, is neither developed nor helped by a brief concluding radio news extract. I found the Scots dialect in which it is written pretty demanding, not least because of its sad banality. The story is unrelentingly bleak, with no redemption offered for any of the characters. If this is the future of Scotland, we should be worried indeed.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Choo Choo! (Or... Have You Ever Thought About ****** **** *****? (Cos I Have)) (StammerMouth/Sherman Theatre/Pleasance)
From laughing to feeling moved, it’s a whirlwind of emotions. As the days pass, both Nye and Duncan plan a vacation, however, Nye’s mind has other plans. A sketch comedy theatre production that explores the topic of OCD, when those intrusive thoughts seep into your mind. It starts off happy and colourfully, but gradually takes on a tone reminiscent of 'Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared'. Despite the shifting of tone, the comedy is skilfully executed and effectively intertwined with the central aim of the show. The performances of these friendly characters nail the tone of the show, making the audience invested in their friendship. A show that is worth choo..choo...choosing to see.
Pleasance Dome, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

How To Bury A Dead Mule (Richard Clements)
Richard Clements delivers a powerful performance in this solo show about the traumatic effects of war. Based on his late grandfather’s experiences - even containing a snippet of his voice at the end - the narrative flits back and forth between the years of war, and the aftermath, exploring his struggles to return to domesticity, and his ravaged mental health. The simple staging is effective, and while one or two moments of physical theatre are less successful, the use of lighting and sound is sublime and profoundly affecting. Stories of war and trauma are, sadly, all too common, but the personal connection - the truth of it - and the committed performance help this stand out from the crowd.
Pleasance Dome, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andy Leask]

Santi And Naz (The Thelmas, The Pleasance, in association with Sarah Verghese Productions)
This sweet story explores the burgeoning queer love story between two girls; childhood friends - one Sikh, one Muslim - they grow up in 1940s India, living their lives in the shadow of the looming spectre of partition. Both actors effortlessly inhabit their characters, brimful of joyful exuberance and naive humour. The innocence of their love stands in stark contrast to the coming violence; the resultant dramatic irony creates a sense of doomed melancholy, painfully juxtaposed with their playful love. Script and performances alike are subtle, nuanced, and compelling. The changes in the girls’ identities, and their feelings for one another, unfold slowly, naturally, while the whole world of social and political unrest is evoked through their dialogue and childish games.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andy Leask]

The Rosenberg / Strange Fruit Project (Twilight Theatre Company)
Despite a strong moral message, and being based on an interesting true story guaranteed to fuel a trip down a wikipedia wormhole, this play never quite achieves its potential. John Jiler is endearingly charming as the narrator, and a raft of characters, accompanied by skilled clarinettist Sweet Lee Odom. Strong performances aside, however, the script is disjointed, skipping forward through time inconsistently and lacking in a central character to anchor things. The one-man-show format isn’t quite right for the material, as it leaves problematic ideas and thoughts unchallenged. While it’s clear that the audience and performers disagree with the right-wing views some characters espouse, we nevertheless crave the rebuttal, the dismissal, the vindication. Admirable, ambitious, but not wholly successful, sadly.
Assembly Rooms, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Andy Leask]


ESTHER MANITO: HELL HATH NO FURY
Headed to Soho Theatre this week with her latest comedy show is the brilliant Esther Manito, whose work you may well have witnessed at edfringe, in the media and, I guess, at any number of live appearances.

In any case, I have long been an admirer and the name of her latest show - 'Hell Hath No Fury' - rather intrigued me.

I spoke to Esther to find out more about the show and her comedy career.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'Esther Manito: Hell Hath No Fury' is on at Soho Theatre from 17-19 Aug, see the venue website here for more info and tickets. For upcoming tour dates outside London see this page here.
Shows to see in London in the week ahead - including performances from people and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


CAMDEN FRINGE>>

Wife Material | Camden People's Theatre | 18-19 Aug (pictured)
Yay, as ever, mid August there are two Fringes we are very much interested in and this is a section full of things happening at the one in London. For yes, we are headed back to Camden Fringe for more excellent stuff. We start with 'Wife Material', a comedy show from real life married couple Heleana and Sophie, who take a look at what happens before and after love at first sight. Click here.

Something To Take Off The Edge | various venues | until 27 Aug
This one invites you to experience the raw reality of prison life, in a drama-comedy that explores addiction, mental health and literacy. It's a one man show written and performed by spoken word artist and actor Errol McGlashan, who tells the story of cellmates Ezra and Terry who are living life behind bars in 1980s Britain and "flirting with drugs, chocolate hobnobs and Shakespeare". More here.

Blink | Etcetera Theatre | 16-20 Aug
Here's one with an edfringe connection, as Terry Geo's one man gay rom-com had its debut run there last year. "Jake meets the man of his dreams, a Kenyan refugee now working for Stonewall. Their relationship is full of laughter and together they build an incredible life filled with love, adventure and comical moments. But being gay isn't all sunshine and rainbows". For info and to book see this page here.


CLASSIC THEMES>>

Midas | Park Theatre | 16-19 Aug (pictured)
Yay, for time honoured classic type things. I mean, we do like the new stuff here at TW Towers, as I keep telling you all, but yes, we also like to see new productions of older stories, especially when they come with a twist. This one does, given it's the Midas myth, but set in Finsbury Park in modern times and described as "brutally up to date" - think drugs, fame and revenge porn. Info here.

Cinderella | Greenwich Theatre | 18 Aug-3 Sep
"With her mother gone and brought up by her father, young Ella loves nothing more than adventuring out with him, seeking out the birds that surround their home and learning their special calls. However, when her father marries again everything changes". A version of the classic tale that sounds like it might appeal to the birder in your life (if you have one) and promises to be a "toe-tapping" event by talented actor-musicians. Info here.

A Midsummer Night's Dream | Old Red Lion Theatre | 18-19 Aug
The world never tires of Shakespeare productions of course. And while we also enjoy the more traditionally staged versions, what caught my attention here - because I've always studied and been interested in languages, and too frequently add yet another to play with on Duo - is that it's a multilingual adaptation. It sounds like great care has been taken with this production too, read more about it here.


MORE GREAT STUFF>>

Eng-Er-Land | Arcola Theatre | 15-19 Aug (pictured)
We first heard about Hannah Kumari's solo show 'Eng-Er-Land' when it was staged back in 2021 and thought it sounded so great we did a Q&A with her about it. Since then it's been on a great big tour and now returns to London for a final run coinciding with the Women's World Cup, so don't miss it. Oh, and in case you missed something, it's about football. Book your tickets here.

Highrise | The Space | 15-19 Aug
"Pepperjack has a schedule. A very strict schedule. He wanders an enormous highrise building, tinkering with its mechanisms, with only his AI helper Cassandra for company". An exploration of sentience, memory and consciousness by Jacob Kay that looks at what it is that makes us human and sees its protagonists engaged in a "techno-biological struggle". Read more here.

toooB | Polka Theatre | 19-27 Aug
And finally, here's a show for all your teeny tiny tots aged six to 24 months, because it's about time we recommended something for small people. This is a wordless show featuring toooB, a friendly shape-shifting creature, that offers a sensory adventure, original soundtrack, movement and interactive fun and games. For more information and to book your tickets head to the venue website right about here.
At TW:CULTURE we champion the best in fringe theatre, comedy and culture.

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

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


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