MONDAY 21 AUGUST 2023 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
Welcome to Week Three 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, including some recent editions of our TW:Talks podcast.

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...


MAD RON: CRIME SCHOOL
We like character comedians here at TW Towers, and you might have noticed we like to talk to them, whether we're speaking to them in character or we're interviewing the performers behind the personae. 

The latest to catch our eye is Mad Ron, star of 'Crime School', a show I've been hearing rather good things about. 

Mad Ron is something of a dodgy type (as you might well have guessed from the title of the show) and is the creation of comedian Steve Lee. 

I was interested to find out more about both Ron and Steve, so I arranged a quick chat. 

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'Mad Ron: Crime School' is on at Assembly George Square until 27 Aug. See the edfringe listing here 


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 these three recent editions...

Sachin Kumarendran talking about his show 'Deceit', which he is performing at Just The Tonic at The Caves until 27 Aug. TUNE IN HERE.

Chelsea Hart talking about their show 'Damet Garm: How I Joined A Revolution', which is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot until 27 Aug. TUNE IN HERE.

Sophie Zucker talking about her show 'Sophie Sucks Face', which she is performing at Underbelly Bristo Square until 28 Aug. TUNE IN HERE.
1/5 bad | 2/5 mediocre | 3/5 good | 4/5 recommended | 5/5 highly recommended


COMEDY

Kieran Hodgson: Big In Scotland (Berk's Nest in association with United Agents)

Kieran Hodgson is Scottish. Well, he isn't, but he uses the claim to get away with some playful, knowing mockery before telling the story of his adaptation to life up here after taking a part in BBC sitcom 'Two Doors Down'. Beyond the gags and the phenomenal array of excellent Scottish accents (plus an excellent and superbly deployed Thatcher), his fond underlying observations of our complicated, contradictory wee nation largely rang true to this Scot. Bonus points too for three Gaelic gags, lockdown duolingo paying off nicely. The narrative thread that runs the many truly fantastic bits together is perhaps a wee bit shoogly but, when you've talent to burn and gags to drop like this, it hardly matters. Fabulous.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]


Geraldine Hickey: Of Course We've Got Horses (Geraldine Hickey)
It's no easy feat to tell an audience just how well off you are and for that crowd to still love you. Geraldine Hickey clears the landing thanks to a self-assured air that can set a room at ease in an instance. Hickey's set is gentle, which feels like a thinly veiled insult to some comics (aka "no gags"). Here the jokes are flowing but the subject matter is decidedly and welcomely comfy: from bird-watching to wedding planning, the show feels fresh and incredibly personalised. There is some meandering at the beginning but once Hickey launches into the show it feels polished and heart-warming. Hickey tackles how it felt to be a symbol of the marriage equality debate in Australia, which is a small but perfectly pitched setpiece. You'll leave wondering when Hickey will be cast on Australian 'Taskmaster' and just how big their garden is.
Assembly George Square, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Jones]


Martin Urbano: Apology Comeback Tour
In the cancel culture of 2023, you can't joke about anything anymore. Except of course you can. Indeed, the rules haven't really changed: politically incorrect jokes are still game in the age of woke providing it's clear that the target is the politically incorrect opinion and the person that holds it. The challenge is finding a format where that rule can be adhered to, but the shock value that makes offensive comedy so entertaining is retained. Martin Urbano fully meets that challenge, casting himself as the ultimate asshole, a cancelled comedian in the middle of a non-apology apology comeback. He stays in character throughout, but subtly acknowledges that he shouldn't be saying these things any more than we should be laughing at them, before making the asshole he's portraying more overtly the target at the show's conclusion. It's a performance that should cancel those who claim that cancel culture is cancelling comedy.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Chris Cooke]

Sophia Cleary: It Gets Worse (Sophia Cleary)
Sophia Cleary has a powerful hold on stage and she knows it. Her show 'It Gets Worse' is nothing if not upfront about the many ways that Cleary delights in making a room feel uncomfortable. Therapising affirmations are about 50% of Cleary's on-stage persona, but they're overcome by a boiling rage you see glinting in her eyes. When Cleary gives in to that urge, the show sparkles. A poll of who in the audience would F/Marry/Kill Cleary is fantastically squirmy and feels more polished than other elements of the show. There are a few instances of dead air where it's uncertain whether Cleary has been cutting set pieces, and you really need to go with her to enjoy the incredibly Freudian finale. She certainly doesn't shy away from doubling down on an idea, so this is not a show for the faint of heart.
Assembly George Square, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Louise Jones]


Benjamin Alborough: Absolute Monopoly (Weak Knees Ltd)
This show is chaotic and messy but I would not have it any other way. The unique premise is simple: a game of Monopoly is played, the twist being that it's the most hectic fun game you will experience. There are so many surprises, and similarly to the board game, no two games are the same. Benjamin Alborough has crafted an incredible show, overseeing and encouraging phenomenal audience participation, and drawing everyone in: this the only show where I've ever wanted to become involved. The results are compelling viewing and the crowd is in hysterics throughout. I honestly forgot I was reviewing and just got swept up in the riveting game. I'm pretty sure it left every audience member wanting to play again.
Assembly George Square, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Melrose]


Amusements By Ikechukwu Ufomadu
Part of me thinks that I could get more out of the opening lines of Ikechukwu Ufomadu's show if I could put them into some sort of diagram. But I mean that in good way. Ufomadu is at his best when he is delivering seemingly complex prose in the formal style of a political speech or theatrical soliloquy, yet the substance of what is being said is delightfully silly. Indeed, there is a lot of silliness in this show which nicely contrasts with the delivery and attire. 'Amusements' is by no means a conventional stand-up performance and there are segments that leave at least some of the audience as much bemused as amused. But I very much enjoyed my hour in the slightly bizarre world that Ufomadu has constructed.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]


Bilal Zafar: Imposter (Bilal Zafar)
Bilal Zafar certainly has a bonkers story to tell. As the comedian himself notes, the audience "treated this more like a theatre piece than a standup", and that really sums this show up. Zafar tells a crazy story of living with a nightmarish person who attempted to have him arrested (significantly more times than once) and while there are definitely comedic moments there, the biggest chuckles are when he goes off script and his sarcastic remarks. The performance feels very relaxed throughout, with a very laid back vibe, and Zafar is certainly a natural comedian who very much possesses the skill of how to read a room and generate the all-important laughs. Ultimately, this story is definitely a good basis for a comedy routine but needs a bit more energy if it's to be a brilliant show.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]


Simon Munnery's Jerusalem (Show And Tell / The Stand Comedy Club)
If you don't factor Simon Munnery's long-standing mid-afternoon slot into your Fringe diary, you're doing it wrong. Munnery tosses out more ideas in an hour than many other comics have in their careers, alongside single lines of pathos that others would belabour for an hour (with "emotional core"). After a typically silly intro, with songs about supermarkets, we meander towards the point as he does a line-by-line critique of Blake's 'Jerusalem' before once more veering off on assorted, mostly hilarious tangents. Oh, and this one does have an emotional core, about ageing, family (and dogs): it's just ever-so-slightly buried under a knowingly too-long deadpan bit about designs for a heating system for a campsite. In Munnery's Jerusalem, clouds do unfold.
The Stand, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

The Disney Delusion (Leif Oleson-Cormack)
Leif Oleson-Cormack has a story that ought to be told. It's rather a startling one, delivering multiple shocks along the way, as it reveals a narrative about holding onto hope of falling in love with your crush. As the comedian recounts the tale to the audience, it's with such enthusiasm, you can't fail to realise that he's loving performing this, and the energy is infectious. The hour flew by quickly as the pace is fast and consistent, and the audience is very much along for the ride . This comedian is a great raconteur, and everyone in the room was undoubtedly intrigued by the story; however, while there certainly are funny moments, the show becomes more of a storytelling session and comedy slows down. It would still be a mistake, though, to not make time to see this compelling show.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Josh Weller: Age Against The Machine
Before comedy, Josh Weller had a good go at launching himself as a music star. He got signed to the biggest record company in the world, banked a sizable advance cheque and got sent into the studio with a pop-making producer. The hits, however, did not follow. The advance got spent. And then the label dropped him. In 'Age Against The Machine', Weller re-tells that story, dishing a little dirt on the music industry, and finding plenty of comedy in both the music business and his younger self chasing some musical dreams. It makes for a compelling and entertaining show, backed up by some funny asides that capitalise on Weller's music-making abilities and an obvious passion for pop music. You leave convinced that music's loss is definitely comedy's gain.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]


Jack Docherty In Bowie And Me: Parallel Lives (Gilded Balloon)
Docherty's mighty presence fills the room as he spins a superbly­-delivered, autobiographical - if somewhat shaggy-dog - coming of age story, starting from 'Starman' on 'Top Of The Pops', ending in unrequited love followed by codas involving LSD at Murrayfield and eventually meeting the man himself. In one scene, he pretends to be his penis, in another he thinks he's lost his penis and he calls Dougray Scott a cunt. If you're not into any of that, this may not be for you. Without spoiling, he closes memorably with a jaw-dropping punch through the third wall at the cloying endings common to many Fringe comedy shows, whilst cleverly finding a way to acknowledge the problematic elements of Bowie's sexual past.
Gilded Balloon, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]


Gavin Webster: You Cannot Say Nowt These Days (Gavin Webster / The Stand Comedy Club)
The double-negative is the point in this funny, if not wholly coherent reflection on the free-speech/comedy debate. Occasional remarks activate various off-stage 'thought police' voices: a fun conceit, although the boundaries being tested here are mere words, such as 'twat' and 'cunt', which it turns out you can even put in a review, these days. Webster quotes a (rather good) Roy Chubby Brown gag. Not sure how pointing out how much better-known Brown is than Kate Smurthwaite constitutes a killer argument but 'funny is funny', I guess is what we're getting at. The cracking closing song cogently points out how there have always been unsayable things, and people have always said them. Best 'fire-in-an-orphanage' joke you'll hear all Fringe, too. You couldn't not do worse.
The Stand Comedy Club, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]


Marjolein Robertson: Marj (Marjolein Robertson / The Stand Comedy Club)
A selkie is a mythical creature, part human, part seal, which removes its skin on leaving the water in order to take on human form. Marjolein Robertson is a very funny human from Shetland, where the selkie story originates. Here, in amongst a fine mix of surreal storytelling whimsy, winsome silliness and scatological filth, she weaves in her own selkie tale as a device through which to gradually reveal a story she would otherwise be unable to tell, about being in a coercive-abusive relationship. Towards the end, Robertson muses on the transition from surviving such a thing to somehow thriving. As she restores her metaphorical skin in the show's affirming climax, you'd have to say she is indeed comedically thriving. Wonderful stuff.
The Stand Comedy Club, until 27 Aug
tw rating 5/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]


DANCE + PHYSICAL

Stuntman (SUPERFAN)
This fine piece of theatre is about, well, men. Some reviewers have seen it as rooted in toxic gender expectations but for me it is more about anger (and suppressed anger), fear, loneliness and friendship than about the sociocultural roots of violence. More profound than the cartoonish start suggests, the piece repeats and varies stunts and stories, building insight and understanding of the characters. (Surtitles help ensure the story-changes are legible). There are excellent physical theatre skills here: slapstick, dance, acrobatics and more, creatively and purposefully blended into an intelligent and fully-formed piece of theatre. There's clear empathy between the players and the quiet trust and easing of loneliness expressed in the final scene leaves a strong impression.
Summerhall, until 25 Aug
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]



MUSIC

Planetarium Lates: Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon (Dynamic Earth)
Virtual Reality without the headset! Described as "immersive" this astonishing 50th anniversary celebration of an important album was not about nostalgia. 'Dark Side Of The Moon' played in surround sound while the audience travelled open-mouthed and at speed through the spectacular universe and - entrancingly - the luminously alive ocean depths. There were occasional visual nods to the 1970s but this was primarily about experiencing space and time as a member of the 21st century; no need to wear flares. Excitement and spectacle gave way to pathos on the line "Home, home again" and the journey turned to Earth as experienced by astronauts - and audience. Got an hour to leave Edinburgh far behind with the mighty Pink Floyd? It's quite a trip.
Dynamic Earth, various dates until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Rodgers]



MUSICALS + OPERA

2020 The Musical (Fit The Mould Productions)

Just like 2020, this show certainly won't be forgettable. A look back at the disaster that was 2020 sees our two theatre protagonists flung into the unknown in a show that was constantly amusing and varied with many memorable moments including dancing elderly, humorous Boris Johnson and songs about Lidl. Natasha Mould has written a simplistic storyline but has directed these sensational musical moments while showing the bizarreness of the year in a funny, yet at times moving, way. The full cast is excellent with Natasha Mould and Tom Watson being spotlight-worthy protagonists, Samantha Richards was brilliant as the busker, showcasing the most vivid vocals. A musical for all, with superb music, direction, acting and story.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Melrose]



THEATRE

24,23,22 (Chronic Insanity)

This will be the show that I will be talking about to everyone this August. I was kept amazed throughout the entire performance, a piece of quality gig-theatre featuring some of the most clever writing I've seen, that I can honestly say blew my mind. It's a show that you want to take back and experience all over again. The two performers are entirely enthralling and give all the energy and emotion needed throughout - they don't need any elaborate staging, as they carry the show with their presence. The gig theatre style works well, as the live music is funky, adds depth and immerses the audience more: it ticks all the boxes for me in what is a noteworthy contribution to the genre.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Melrose]


PLEASE LEAVE (a message) (ClusterFlux Collective)
How would you convey a warning message for generations millennia in future, across all language barriers? ClusterFlux Collective's new show 'PLEASE LEAVE (a message)' captures the difficulty of communicating man-made dangers to the masses, and how easily these can be mythologised or disregarded. The staging is incredibly interactive, with performers using a handheld camera to direct the audience's attention in an ever-diminishing physical space. The central conceit focuses on the controversial dumping of nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain, but the piece feels broadly catered to climate anxiety. The murkiness around this wider anxiety and our need for distraction works almost too well, with karaoke sequences completely undermining the fear of imminent environmental danger. The overall impact is one that unsettles, light humour piercing our anxiety only temporarily.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Jones]


Havisham (Emul8 Productions)
Seen as a forever jilted bride, Miss Havisham is arguably sympathetic enough beneath her desire to break Pip's heart in Great Expectations. Heather Alexander's show aims to challenge perceptions of the much-maligned Dickensian villain by explaining her past. The result unfortunately is a melodrama that borders on cruel. Alexander plays the embittered contemporary Havisham well: she stalks the stage and looks pitifully upon her young self. Playing Havisham (who, as in 'Great Expectations', is never given a first name here) as a four year old Alexander uses a simpering voice which doesn't feel immersive. The injustices on the character are many: from religious guilt and shame to being taken advantage of multiple times, the writing feels plain mean. Despite some lyrical turns of phrase, the script feels designed to reflect Havisham as a solely tragic figure and threatens to strip her of agency.
ZOO Playground, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Louise Jones]


My Dad Wears A Dress (Maria Telnikoff)
Maria Telnikoff's autobiographical one-woman show is a heartfelt story of acceptance and social pressures. Maria (who I'll use for the character, Telnikoff for the performer) has a dad who is a trans woman. She loves her, but feels the need to deny her dad's identity to maintain social currency at school. Telnikoff is cheery and breezy, dancing around the stage and donning outfits to denote Maria throughout her childhood. She manages to thread the needle of presenting Maria's mortification not from her dad but from external parties' misunderstandings. We too see Maria's dad at the margins of the show, as if Telnikoff is keeping us away. It's a smart move that subtly says the story of her dad's identity is not Telnikoff's to tell. The pacing means the show feels like it has mileage still to go, but it's a sweet celebration of non-nuclear families.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Jones]


Photon StarBlaster And The Suicidal Spaceship (Bonnie and Braw - Scotland)
What a marvellous way of looking at a theme so dark. The script of this piece shines like the sun as it weaves between reality and a child's space adventure, exploring suicide in a touching way. The subtle lighting effectively transports us between these differing moments, and all the technical elements and the stage direction are excellent. John Whyte and Debi Pirie wrote, directed and acted this play, showcasing a talent that's out of this world, delivering complex performances as they frequently switch emotional gears - it's all expertly handled. The comedic moments land well, and the piece is emotionally there, but I feel it could do more - I wanted to cry. Overall, though, it's a show worth blasting off to see.
C aquila, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]


Help! I Think I'm A Nationalist (Seamas Carey)
"I have a confession", is one of two lines which bookend the key sections of Carey's nuanced, articulate and engagingly performed one-man show. His first confession is that he's done a podcast, containing interviews with residents of his native and beloved Cornwall. From this simple starting point, among nicely layered bits of audience interaction, comes a thoughtful, thought-provoking reflection on borders, and those blurry lines between pride in one's own identity versus disdain for those of others. Carey's putative 'nationalist' deploys the language of 'small boats' against Cornwall's main migrant problem, namely rich folk buying second homes in the area. The other bookend line, delivered after taking each innocent premise to an extreme conclusion, is "I've taken that too far". No: just about right.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]


Of Moonset And The Milky Way (Stuart Bowden)
This is a charmingly odd piece, quirky, understated, and full of quiet warmth. Stuart Bowden is a multi-talented performer with a self-effacing manner; the show is framed by a low-key 'oh I'm here better get on with it' sort of introduction. There's lots of good music and I loved the way it was assembled, the result having something of the restless stability of minimalism. The music supports a main story to be told, in which ordinary people, objects and events build into a bizarre, poetic, tragi-comedy of mundane existence. There's another, longer-limbed, story too and if there's a punchline it's a sort of reversal of 'ars longa vita brevis', at any rate if you're a prokaryote.
Assembly Roxy, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]
Shows to see in London in the week ahead - including performances from people and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


CAMDEN FRINGE>>

The Emperor's New Clothes | Canal Cafe Theatre | 21-23 Aug (pictured)
Whoop whoop - it's time for more Camden Fringe! Oh, but hang on, this is a bit sad though, because - as you may well have gathered - this is the final set of CF tips for this year. Wah. Well, let's be positive and, if you're in London, see as many shows there as you can in these last few days. Maybe starting with this one, an already acclaimed, tongue-in-cheek telling of a classic tale. Click here.

Defective Inspector: A Stitch In Time | Hen & Chickens Theatre | 25-27 Aug
Possibly because I am a sucker for puns I definitely tipped the first 'Defective Inspector' show (also on at this year's Camden Fringe) when it was on at last year's Clapham Fringe, so I thought I should tip the sequel this time. Though to be fair, you could quite easily see them both. So do that, maybe? Expect a "a time-bending sci-fi caper". Lots of fun. Find lots more info here.

The Enfield Poltergeist | Upstairs At The Gatehouse | 23-25 Aug
I'm always talking in these tips about my misspent teenage years of reading far too many stories about serial killers and alleged ghosts (I'm an entirely well adjusted sceptic, I assure you), and the poltergeist of Enfield is a famous one that I wondered a lot about. Anyway, here's a show promising to focus on the human stories behind the headlines, which sounds great. More here.


OTHER FESTIVAL STUFF>>

The Portrait Of Manon/L'Heure Espagnole | Arcola Theatre | 22-26 Aug
Yes, can you believe it? Along with all the edfringe stuff, and the Camden Fringe stuff, we've got a load of other events happening as part of festivals. First, a festival we have had more than a few visits to of late, the excellent Grimeborn at Arcola, and the latest pick is for this offering from Opera Alegría, who present a somewhat contrasting double bill, sung in English with libretti by Lindsay Bramley. Details here.

Woman, Life, Freedom! | Stratford Park | 26 Aug (pictured)
And from a festival that's been going on for a while to a festival that's just about to begin: this is our first pick from the Greenwich And Docklands International Festival, which, you probably know, is an annual outdoor performing arts festival. The title of this piece refers to the rallying cry of protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini almost a year ago, and it looks amazing. Click here.

Anansi And The Lost Sun | Little Angel Theatre | 26-28 Aug
"One day darkness covers the face of the land. Lion appeals for someone to bring back the sun. Who will succeed? The Powerful Eagle? The Clever Monkey? Or Anansi the spider and his mates?" A West African tale, conveyed through puppetry, spoken word and traditional music, on as part of Little Angel Theatre's Children's Puppet Festival. Read more about it here.


OTHER GREAT SHOWS>>

Candy | Park Theatre | 22 Aug-9 Sep (pictured)
And now for some stuff that's not especially festival related. Well, except that this is actually a show we first came across via the digital edfringe back in 2021. We actually did a Q&A with the creative team behind it, so you could do worse than read that to find out more. Then of course you can head to the venue website too, to book your tickets for this highly acclaimed solo show.

Dr Adam Perchard: Interview With The Vamp | Crazy Coqs | 26-27 Aug
Anyone up for a "riotous evening of original music, vocal fireworks, and rampant repartee from two queer theatre icons"? Yeah, thought you might be. So you're in luck, because Richard Thomas and Dr Adam Perchard return to Crazy Coqs this week to take you on a "whirlwind musical tour of the doctor's brain. By turns hilarious, tender, silly, dark, and joyful". Why miss it? Head this way.

Desmond's Scared Of The Smoking Sea | Jack Studio | 22-25 Aug
And finally, one last bit of theatre for you, and it sounds like a goodie, a play by award winning writer Tommy Sissons, directed by Aoife Scott. "Lewisham. A Pupil Referral Unit. Two students are truanting their lessons. To distract themselves from the looming threat of their limited prospects post-education, they enact a series of daydream sequences". Intrigued? Me too. Click 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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