THURSDAY 17 AUGUST 2023 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
Here we go again! Every Thursday in August we have an extra edition of the TW bulletin with all our latest Edinburgh Festival coverage.

Read on for a quick run through some of our latest interviews with people performing at the Festival this year - which includes one from the TW:Talks podcast.

And then check out all our latest Edinburgh reviews, with lots of recommended shows from across the Fringe.

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  MARTIN URBANO
"I'm just a small town kid from South Texas. I just want to make my home, my family and my friends proud. That being said, I would slit any of their throats for a development deal!"
     
  OTTO & ASTRID
"We were writing a song and she told me that my lyrics were… 'crap'. She said that right now she wanted to do a solo project. The band hasn't broken up but right now we're not collaborating on anything".
     
  IKECHUKWU UFOMADU
"A lot of my material takes ordinary, mundane aspects of life and tries to twist them in ways to make them feel new and strange. There's also usually some kind of tango between being very formal and very silly".
     
  VICTOR ESSES
"'The Death & Life of All of Us' is an autobiographical, funny and moving performance that mixes storytelling, live music and documentary footage, to explore my relationship to a great aunt".
     
  SOPHIE ZUCKER
"I originally set out to do an hour of stand-up and it turned into a one-woman musical about a girl who falls in love with her cousin - and I thought the Fringe was a really good place for a more theatrical hour".
1/5 bad | 2/5 mediocre | 3/5 good | 4/5 recommended | 5/5 highly recommended


CHILDREN'S SHOWS

My Friend Selkie (What Moves You)
A selkie is a mythical creature, part human, part seal, of whom tales abound in the folklore of northern Scotland. It moves in and out of human form by shedding and donning its seal skin, represented in costume form throughout the show. The light premise is that Selkie is trading her knowledge of swimming with her human friend Jo who in turn teaches her about the stars. With music played onstage by Quee McArthur, it's all nice, warm and fuzzy. One small pacing quibble: one of the early numbers, Disco Crabs, is a catchy, up-tempo banger, setting a tone soon abandoned in favour of slower, gentler floorwork for much of the latter half, at which some young minds visibly wander.
Assembly @ Dancebase, run ended.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Roger McGough's Money-Go-Round (Jam Jar Theatrical Productions)
So, this is 'The Wind In The Willows' reskinned as a critical examination of the capitalist system, the cyclical nature of debt and cronyism for younger viewers, told through the medium of musical theatre. It's highly lyrical and keenly performed, the hugely capable ensemble working through a series of scenes and songs following a gold coin on its journey around the characters amidst some dreamy set design. That is lovely, as far as it goes, albeit it taking its time getting there, in places. We then move to an entertainingly chaotic denouement in which Toad's excesses, and the manner of his 'redemption', are interestingly and satirically framed in a way easily lost in the big song finale. On your toes/paws, parents!
Assembly Rooms, until 21 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Lucky Pigeon (Brainfools in association with Underbelly)
Pigeons have a pretty well-formed view of urban, capitalist life. Indeed, they've probably adapted to it all better and quicker than most of us have. They definitely copped on to the Festival way quicker than the seagulls, for whom a (probably darker, more gruesome) sequel to this generally enchanting, tender and amusing show may well be in order. It's interesting, a few days later (meaning this review is late - apologies to all but honestly, it's better than it would have been so leave it, Ed) to hear my young co-reviewer still talking about it, such memorable visual spectacle and charming, almost painterly montages alongside a hearty bit of people jumping and throwing each other about. Slightly confusing but always engaging.
Underbelly, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

The Lost Lending Library (Edinburgh International Festival)
Well now, this was enchanting. Not gonna say much about why (spoilers) but anyway, we're meant to be at this interdimensional library that pops up around the world according to its own whim. It fails to materialise until we (classic crowd improv) make up a tale that pleases it, then solve puzzles (escape room ultra-lite) before eventually sitting down for a bit of (excellent) storytelling and a clever, child-crowd-pleasing bit of callback. Really is beautifully done - there's an incredible set for the main body which feels slightly thrown away: further exploration might have been nice, although I can see why you wouldn't with several groups of youngsters a day. Whatever. A lovely homage to the power of imagination.
Churchill Theatre, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Trash Test Dummies (Underbelly and Dummies Corp)
These three winningly daft Antipodeans are found here annually as the Splash or the Trash Test Dummies. Having become a seasoned observer, thanks to my daughter's insistence (and that's the review, really - they are good at this), I reckon the Trash variant is a better, more exciting show, and this is the best I've seen them do it. I have some words left, so here they are to the wise - arrive early and join the queue as soon as it's called. Don't pay the Ryanair-esque priority boarding tariff of an extra six quid for a seat where you can, eh, see the show properly, but still only if you're nice and early. Boo to that, hurrah to the Dummies.
Underbelly Circus, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Wait! (Haddangse)
Where to even begin with this headfuck of a Japanese kids' show. After that opening, I should probably start with the fact that it's great. Further description slightly more problematic. A girl is waiting for her dad to come back from something nautical or other. She dreams as she dozes, waiting, and this live action cartoon is the giddying result. After a fairly straight and middling opening scene, our heroine lies down for a snooze and, as the dream kicks in, an overhead camera feed of her is projected on the screen, enabling all sorts of clever visual effects, fun props and amusing nonsense. Further explanation won't really help - suffice to say there's a lot going on, mostly bonkers, mostly brilliant.
Summerhall, until 19 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Mr Sleepybum
The title had my daughter claiming this as a five star show before we went in, and this sense was heightened as our pyjama-ed host (by night, stand up comic Jody Kamali) opened with what was basically an extended bout of peekaboo. Anyway, having gotten everyone on side through peekaboo and other varyingly successful crowd work, the premise is explained: Mr Sleepybum will tell us about his dreams of the last six nights. Well, I say tell - he in fact acts them out with a daringly large degree of audience participation. What I imagine is a differently chaotic 50 minutes every day ensues, in which grown-ups are made to do stuff (fair warning) and in which kids are riotously entertained.
Assembly George Square, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]



COMEDY

Jay Lafferty: Bahookie (Gilded Balloon and Watch This Space Productions)

"If you don't join a conga line, you're a prick", is one of a number of funny but seemingly incongruous throwaway lines littering Jay Lafferty's warm, funny and cleverly crafted set. That comes not long after she's told us to treat the pole to the right of the stage like we do climate change: don't worry about it until it becomes critical. A well-delivered, gag-heavy routine ensues, themed around turning 40 as a woman, before wrapping up in an audaciously call-back heavy, gleefully silly pole-dancing finale brings it all triumphantly home. She said early on that she wanted this to be a show about joy. Mission accomplished, I'd say. As for those callbacks, well "if you don't join a conga line…"
Gilded Balloon, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Alistair Barrie: Woke In Progress
When Alistair Barrie puts all the recent calamities and scandals that have occurred in British politics into one long list, it hammers home just how depressing it's all been. Though, as he later notes, and deftly demonstrates, within all the bullshit of post-Brexit Britain, there's a lot of comedy to be mined. He deals with the pun in the title at the outset and, while there is plenty of politics in his set, the name of the show doesn't dictate any particular theme. And for me, in this solid hour of straight-forward stand-up, the biggest laughs came from the personal stories: the school nativity play, the ADHD diagnosis and a certain painful medical procedure. Which at least means, if we ever get an even slightly competent UK government that results in less political bullshit to joke about, Barrie will still have plenty of material for future shows.
Hootenannies @ The Apex, until 19 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]

Any Suggestions, Doctor? The Improvised Doctor Who Parody (Any Suggestions Improv)
Whovians who love comedy, this is clearly the show for you, for here your favourite BBC output is being recreated for you - kind of - by Any Suggestions Improv, and the themes of the TV show suit this format perfectly. Like most improv shows, the players begin with the audience's suggestions and create a nonsensical and funny mess for each new crowd. Although, it should be said that it won't just be 'Doctor Who' fans that will get something out of this, the result of the improv is a performance we can all laugh at. I found myself giggling and somewhat invested (it could be argued they have created something better than the writing of the previous TV seasons). I wish I had laughed slightly more, but they are a great team, and you'll be eager to return for more.
Pleasance Dome, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Joe And Rory: Television 1
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the title, a portion of Joe and Rory's sketch show actually unfolds on a screen. And while that may be something of a gimmick, it really works. Partly because in a sketch show set up to spoof TV programmes from across the decades, some material is much better delivered in a video format. And partly because the video content is really well made. Between the screen time, Joe and Rory deliver a series of mainly silly sketches that each parody a different type of programme, from kids telly to sitcoms to nonsense make-over shows and product placement heavy social media content from toxic idiots. The video content and the on-stage sketches are integrated really well, although the former is more consistent, with some of the performed sketches not hitting as strongly as others. Although, overall, a definitely decent hour of sketch comedy.
Assembly George Square Studios, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]


Paddy Young: Hungry, Horny, Scared
Paddy Young gets plenty of banter going with his audience during this hour of solid stand-up. The topics covered may not be particularly ground-breaking - the northerner making a go of it in the big city down south, and the politics and pettiness of flat-share living. Though I suspect few other Fringe shows this year deal with the trauma of being upstaged by a wanking Walrus, that particular humiliation being pretty much exclusively reserved for those who once aspired to be known as the funniest thing to come out of Scarborough. But beyond the masturbating marine mammal, the life experiences recounted by Young will be familiar to many, and he gets plenty of laughs from his retelling of them. The material is good, though it is Young's on-stage presence - and that audience interaction - that really makes the show.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]

Finlay And Joe: Past Our Bedtime (Finlay And Joe)
This duo are definitely having fun on stage. They begin with an ear-worm and the revelation that they need a nap, a break from performing. What follows is clusters of skits that meet with various degrees of success, while a fun meta narrative ties everything together. While every skit concept is incredibly creative, it's the jokes within that take a fumble, missing potential belly laugh moments. However, I found the most comedic moments to be when they were just being themselves and having fun, as their infectious energy definitely rubs off on the audience. The talented duo understand what makes an entertaining comedy show but I feel like this showcase only offered a snippet of what they could do. Still, don't sleep on seeing this show.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]



MUSIC

Sacred Arts Festival Music At St John's Princes Street (Calum Robertson, clarinet and Sally Carr, soprano)
Composer Lori Laitman wrote on her website about her holocaust inspired pieces "…music both amplifies the emotions but also helps to cushion the effect of the horror". 'I Never Saw Another Butterfly', poems by Jewish children who died in a concentration camp, were the lyrics for the first part of this concert. Wonderful compositions powerfully performed and so harrowing because true. 'The Ocean Of Eternity - Four Stanzas On Mortality' was the second half and a highlight was the peaceful, almost chant themed 'Wild Flowers'. Soprano Sally Carr's vocal control was notable and Calum Robertson and pianist Jess Rucinski were her equal partners, particularly Robertson's intricate clarinet. Important contemporary music with a point to make, and lovely to listen to.
Just Festival at St John's, run ended.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

Brass Colours (Couleurs Cuivres) (Odyssée Ensemble & Cie)
This was a highly original show from Lyon without much English spoken - funny and genuinely different. A quarrelsome, badly behaved brass quartet were interrupted by an alien with an extensive drum kit and the ability to give electric shocks to those who displeased him, thus bringing the band to order. Musically excellent using well-known composers including Beethoven and Dave Brubeck, it was very playful with a creative and colourful use of technology and lots of movement. During an extract from Beethoven's Seventh Symphony the drummer unexpectedly played ping pong in time to the music - much weirder was to come! In the best tradition of the musical avant garde they introduced new instruments and new ways to play old instruments. Intrigued? See the show.
theSpace Triplex, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

Chris Difford: What Happened? 50 Lyrical Years (Chris Difford)
I'm a Squeeze fan but what I was not expecting was the sheer quality of Difford as a stand-up. He was hilarious! You did have to be over 50 or a music geek to know who his excellent stories were about but Difford didn't care which of his contemporaries he called a rude name in public so - all other musical loyalties forgotten - the audience laughed a lot. Nothing coy about this lad, and the person he made the most fun of was himself. Accompanied by singer/songwriter Boo Hewerdine, he performed all the favourites, from 'Cool For Cats' to 'Tempted', and his voice is still good. Difford knew his audience and after an hour they knew him pretty well too!
Frankenstein Pub, various dates until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

Sacred Arts Festival Music At Canongate Kirk (Alexander Macnamee, Carlo Massimo, Viktor Seifert And Lucy Whiteside)
Innovative, challenging and young (Lucy Whiteside is still at school) Edinburgh-based composers with a handful of local singers - not that you would have realised that from the professional standard of the writing and performance. Of particular note was Viktor Seifert's 'O Soul Mender' based on Psalm 41 that included spine-tingling atonality, spoken word and singers hissing! Carlo Massimo's triumphant setting for organ and voice of 'And I Saw A New Heaven' from Revelations was an arresting fanfare, dramatically written with solo voice alternating rather than competing with the instrument. By contrast Calum Robertson wrote 'Missa Lucerna Oleum', a modern, folk-like mass setting that could be sung well by a congregation rather than trained singers. An enjoyable, interesting afternoon of new sacred music.
Canongate Kirk, run ended.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Rodgers]



THEATRE

The Ice Hole: A Cardboard Comedy (Compagnie le Fils du Grand Réseau / Something for the Weekend)

This is a top piece of comedic physical theatre; inventive, original and very funny. The show recounts an epic and eventful journey following an ice-fishing mishap. But what a journey! The ensuing gags and little coups-de théâtre pile up one upon another at such a pace you scarcely stop laughing. No spoilers, so instead let's make sure of high praise for the performers' stunning performance skills - and their stamina. And also for their technical team's flawless support. Many of the gags are based on the narrative and sub-text placed on enough cardboard to create a supply chain problem for Amazon. But there's much more, best not given away, to find out just go to see this fantastic show.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Klanghaus: InHaus (Klanghaus)
This show is billed as theatre but that's a step far really, as it has neither drama nor narrative line. It's a gig (you applaud, conventionally, after each number). It's also described as immersive which it perhaps is, but not deeply. It's a bit like entering a faintly hippy yurt and getting to pass the guitar-guy's guitar around. Projections of waves, birds and stuff add to the production's art credentials. The music's pretty good though and The Neutrinos create a welcoming space which I could not help but compare with a 1960s Velvet Underground gig. Some fellow critics hail this as groundbreaking; I disagree but most of our group of house guests seemed to enjoy it.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Séance (Darkfield)
I love immersive theatrical experiences, but my high hopes for Séance were sadly dashed. This isn't a medium or fortune telling show; rather, it's an attempt to capture the experience of being at a Victorian séance. Crammed like cattle into a shipping container, the audience dons headphones before being plunged into darkness. What follows is twenty minutes of clever sound engineering, as voices whisper, floorboards creak, and sounds swirl around you. There's no denying the cleverness of the conceit, and there were definitely moments that were atmospheric. Unfortunately if you're six feet tall the lack of leg-room means you'll never be immersed, and I spent the whole time squirming to try and avoid dislocating my knee.
Pleasance Dome, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Andy Leask]

Otto & Astrid's Joint Solo Project
There's something of a story so far here, in that the on-stage bickering that has always been a key feature of the sibling duo that is Die Roten Punkte has finally spiralled into a full-on split. And so, what we have here is two solo shows, that happen to be occurring on the same stage at the same time. Past knowledge of Die Roten Punkte isn't really necessary though, plenty of the audience seemed to be experiencing Otto and Astrid's adventures for the first time and they picked up on the premise almost immediately. The bickering provides a lot of the comedy and the solo project ruse is a good framework around which to bicker. Though Otto and Astrid still remember to ensure that the songs are sufficiently catchy and well performed to make for a consistently entertaining show. Well, technically two shows, I guess.
Assembly George Square Gardens, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]

MEAT (Elle Dillon-Reams)
Writer-performer Elle Dillon-Reams delivers a tour-de-force performance fusing spoken word and physical theatre; not only has she mastered both forms, she fuses them together into something new, something greater. Exploring themes of identity, power, gender and sexuality, there are some dark and painful moments in the play. But there's also a playful energy, a witty self-awareness and a great big heart. It shakes you to the core, then gently brings you back to yourself, decompressing with an almighty, empowering roar. I loved Dillon-Reams' first play (the excellent 'HoneyBEE', also back this year), and 'MEAT' is, if anything, more affecting. Days later, it's still with me. I don't know when I'll shake it off; I don't know that I want to.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andy Leask]

Two Cats On A Date (Griffin Kelly and Andrew Okada)
Griffin Kelly is dressed in classic theatre attire (all black) with some slight tweaks: knee-pads and whiskers. She is after all about to perform Two Cats on a Date, which is so much more than what it says on the tin. The titular cats' date goes as anticipated - dinner, drinks and flirtation, all conveyed in expressive mews. Where it goes next is unexpected and absolutely phenomenal. These cats are angsty, traumatised, and make bad decisions whilst contemplating how much of their actions were informed by their childhoods. Kelly has total command of her audience, and flips the script so many times that the audience is giddy. You'll be hard pressed to find anything so simultaneously hilarious, emotionally devastating and feline. Kelly embodies the Fringe, bringing us through the catflap to a madcap hour that will leave you energised.
Zoo Playground, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Jones]

Sea Words (Olly Gully in association with NTA Productions)
Who doesn't love to be beside the seaside? The bright lights, the flaking paint, the rotting cast-iron pier, the blasted promenades. Surely Chris, our host, with his crimson cummerbund and his rictus grin, will show us a jolly old time? But where's the other half of this all-in-the-family double act - his mother Christine? No matter: Chris can keep the show going by himself, a joking, dancing, miming one-man band. When Christine finally makes her voice heard, things take a turn from 'the show must go on' to 'not waving but drowning'. Olly Gully is virtuosic as Chris, with excellent physical comedy and smooth are-you-being-served patter. But this impressive performance, though pretty funny, doesn't plumb the emotional depths it hints at.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Alexander Hartley]

One Way Out (No Table Productions)
When his group of schoolfriends gets into trouble, Devonte gets suspended. His friends try to help him move past it, encouraging him to apply to university to 'maximise his potential'. This is a drama of systems and bureaucracies, and some of the central characters are documents: brown envelopes with A-Level results, a missing passport. It's also a story of friendship, as Devonte's encounter with the racist British state turns his 'one way out' into a one-way ticket away from home. The drama of that injustice, and of Tunde, Salim and Paul's reactions, is wrenching, and Shem Hamilton (Devonte)'s chemistry with Marcus Omoro (Tunde) drives the show forward. The writing's thin, though, with a lot of 'telling', and the staging oddly static.
Underbelly, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Alexander Hartley]

Dazzling (Dazzling Theatre)
When I was told that Dazzling was similar to 'Fleabag' I was sold, and it did not disappoint. This romantic tale beautifully portrays the blossoming of a relationship and gradually tells their tale, from the beginnings to six months later. There were moments when the show became more serious and my attention wandered a little, but the fast-paced and humorous parts of the show truly shone, and delivered on the 'Fleabag' promise. Moreover, Charlie Scott-Haynes was phenomenal throughout, especially when it came to breaking the fourth wall and conveying raw emotion. The stage design follows a trend of messy designs but is used effectively to highlight the spiral, or issues Alix finds herself dealing with. Overall, 'Dazzling' shines bright for the right audience.
theSpace @ Niddry St, until 22 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Collar (Bryntirion)
I agree… who hasn't wished that they were a dog? At its core, 'Collar' is about embracing who you are and finding acceptance, while the concept of a new program that turns someone into a dog might seem insane, the show manages to offer a relatable narrative that is surprisingly moving. Comedic moments are an intrinsic part of the show, but it's the story that wins you over, incredibly conveyed by Thomas Burr, who truly goes full force with a performance that truly sucks you in. However, just when you're fully engaged, the show has its weaker, abrupt moments. Overall, though: who is a good show…? Well 'Collar' certainly is.
theSpace on the Mile, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]
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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