THURSDAY 24 AUGUST 2023 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
Here we go again! It's our final Fringe extra edition of the TW bulletin for 2023.

Read on for another batch of Edinburgh Festival reviews - plus why not check out some of the TW:Talks podcasts we have published this year chatting to some great performers about the past, the present and the future? Pick from the selection below.

If you are looking for highly recommended shows to enjoy in the final days of the Festival, you can access all our 5/5 reviews for shows still running here.

And do enjoy the final weekend of Edinburgh Festival 2023!
  DAVID IAN
It's a TW:Talks interview - David Ian talking about his show '(Just A) Perfect Gay', which he is performing at Just The Tonic at The Caves until 27 Aug.
     
  SACHIN KUMARENDRAN
It's a TW:Talks interview - Sachin Kumarendran talking about his show 'Deceit', which he is performing at Just The Tonic at The Caves until 27 Aug.
     
  CHELSEA HART
It's a TW:Talks interview - Chelsea Hart talking about their show 'Damet Garm: How I Joined A Revolution', which is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot until 27 Aug.
     
  SOPHIE ZUCKER
Yes, it's another TW:Talks interview - Sophie Zucker talking about her show 'Sophie Sucks Face', which she is performing at Underbelly Bristo Square until 28 Aug.
1/5 bad | 2/5 mediocre | 3/5 good | 4/5 recommended | 5/5 highly recommended


COMEDY

Healing King Herod (Riss Obolensky And Eloïse Poulton)

King Herod (yes, that one) says his slaughtering days are behind him. He's a new man now, showing off his self-improvement programme. Riss Oblonsky plays the king as a walking humblebrag, an infinitely watchable performance. The show is chock-a-block with weaponised therapy speak: discussions of interacting with one's inner child are juxtaposed deftly against horrific flashbacks. Oblonsky isn't afraid of the darker elements of Herod's psyche: we see the jumped-up monarch collapse into a desperate and wailing mess. There's a lot of good-natured silliness which outweighs and smooths over some half-baked pre-recorded segments. Instead, the show is at its best when it's tumbling around Oblonsky's feet, allowing ridiculousness to morph into horror at the drop of a hat.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Jones]


Cults, Startups And Pornstars: How I (Almost) Won My Dad's Approval (Cheyenne)
Cheyenne has the kind of life story that deserves to be told and he does a good job of telling it, taking us on an eventful journey and finding humour in even the darker episodes. A lot more time is spent on the cults - and Cheyenne's experiences within Buddhism - than the pornstars and the start-ups. That left me wanting to know more about the latter in particular. He talked a little about an app he developed to protect children online - which fits neatly into the wider narrative of the show - and it would have been good to hear more about the entrepreneurial adventures that got him there. This is more storytelling with jokes than straight forward stand-up, but Cheyenne is a good storyteller and most of the jokes land well. And when you have life story that deserves to be told, the Fringe seems like a good place to tell it.
Zoo Playground, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]

Urooj Ashfaq: Oh No! (Soho Theatre)
There's a section of Urooj Ashfaq's show where we see her willingness to discard jokes for her audience: if her set pieces about having a therapist weren't making it apparent, she really wants the room to like her. It would be really hard not to like Ashfaq: she sparkles on stage, welcomes latecomers and is keen to offer translations when she references Indian culture. Despite describing her material as tame by Edinburgh standards, Ashfaq has some killer one-liners which are surprisingly devilish. They stand out against some less finely tuned segments, and there is some looseness around the overall show structure. A segment on work in progress one-liners is hilarious, and it's a charming conclusion to the show when Ashfaq reads from her teenage diary.
Assembly George Square, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Louise Jones]

Michelle Brasier: Reform (Stamptown, PBJ and Century Proudly Presents)
Michelle Brasier is willing to see the good even in those doing wrong against her. This is a show about wanting to be a badass, but also wanting everyone to feel okay. Brasier takes to the stage with a live band to tell the story of how a simple scam spirals out of control during lockdown. Brasier talks a mile a minute, breaking out into song with incredibly slick rhymes and a brilliant voice (British accents are delightfully wonky). Facebook messages between Brasier and her scammer are read verbatim and grant groans from the crowd at how sweet she is to this awful person. The thing that unites her do-good attitude and killer stage presence is an incontrovertible sense of humour.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Jones]

Dan Jones: This Seems Ambitious (Dan Jones)
A show that can turn a weekday crowd into a weekend one. Although it splinters into tangents, the main focus of the show highlights how far we are willing to go for someone we are in love with. I don't think I ever stopped laughing from the moment the first punchline landed in this perfectly crafted routine that had the audience in the palms of the comedian's hands throughout. Dan Jones deftly demonstrates exactly how to work a crowd, using the best light-hearted audience interaction, showing that no matter whether he's on or off script, he can keep the comedy momentum going. Jones is certainly a performer to look out for, as this show demonstrates he is ready to dominate the stand-up scene.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Larry Owens Live
Larry Owens is - he tells us in a powerful opening song - "too black for gay people, too white for black people, too poor for rich people". Basically, he is as uncategorisable in life and he is on stage, where he combines theatre, comedy, cabaret and music. A loose narrative connects the songs. The premise is that an early-career Owens - before his successes in 'A Strange Loop' and 'Abbott Elementary' - is responding to emails from an unhelpful agent, who is busying trying to decide which entertainment industry pigeon-hole to squeeze the uncategorisable Owens into. The agent is unhelpful, but the emails prompt songs in the style of Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X; impersonations of Viola Davis and Oprah Winfrey; and a whole lot more. Some of the New Yorker's cultural references might be missed by a British audience, but it doesn't really matter. It's an energising and entertaining hour.
Assembly Roxy, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Chris Cooke]

Josh Baulf: Bulldog (Josh Baulf)
Was laughing so much that this show flew by at high speed, and honestly, I wanted more. From the second Josh Baulf enters the room, he capably draws in the audience with his infectious enjoyment of the moment and effectively demonstrates how not every comedy routine needs to be entirely cohesive, transitioning from one topic to another with a few effective callbacks. He deals with a wide range of relatable topics and though he's known to most for Tiktok and sketches, here he easily proves that he can produce an excellent standup show. His awesome crowd work and audience interaction has people on edge, as he is brutally unafraid to target anyone. A comedian who will make good on his enormous promise if this debut hour is anything to go by.
Underbelly, Cowgate, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Will BF: The Last Gun (Will BF)
A live mockumentary is something that I never realised I needed but am so happy to have seen; a multimedia show that presents its comedy via live performance and a VHS recording of interviews. It feels like a show that's aimed at those who are quirky and love something a bit bizarre as this show is just cleverly absurd, every scene contributing something devilishly intelligent and ensuring the show was never predictable. The format and script are incredibly, outlandishly smart, and Will BF is utterly committed to his role, even when off-the-cuff moments occur, but on or off script it's always comical and engaging. It's an absolutely rooting-tooting good time.
Underbelly, Bristo Square, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]



DANCE + PHYSICAL

Woodhill (LUNG / The North Wall)
Another powerful breath of fresh air from this campaign-led verbatim theatre company. Once again, they break new ground to create top-notch theatre. Here, the verbatim content is supplied by a soundtrack and the performance is essentially dance. Initially I was uncomfortable with this; the dance (which reminded me of Hofesh Shechter's more angular work) seemed more of a response to the words than to their meaning, creating a gap between the harrowing tales being told and the action in front of us. But there was a growing insistence about it all that eventually overwhelmed, making for huge and lasting impact. As it should; this is grown-up political theatre. Not perfect but five stars for innovation and high ambition.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Alan Cranston]



MUSICALS + OPERA

Cox And Box (Velocirapture Productions)
Velocirapture Productions take on the comic Sullivan libretto in a charming if uneven show that proves a sweet treat. With just forty-five minutes to tell the tale, it's a clever choice to use the overture for some silent comedy and this neatly sets up the premise of the farce. There is some enthusiasm for physical comedy, despite the acting proving inconsistent throughout the cast of three. Any wooden scenes are forgiven, however, for the wealth of singing voices in the show. Seb Blount in particular has an impressive command of the stage during his solo performances, serenading bacon with committed doe-eyes. The cast have a lot of fun with injecting a little Wodehousian cheek into the originally Victorian libretto.
theSpace @ Venue 45, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Louise Jones]



THEATRE

Optimistic: Elizabeth Holmes (Sarah Deller)

In the space of a year, medical technology company Theranos went from a $10 million valuation to widespread scepticism over falsified records. Sarah Deller condenses Theranos' history into a one-woman show depicting Holmes at the heart of the storm. Deller has a lot of fun drawing from emails, interviews and texts between Holmes and Sunny Balwani (COO and Holmes' then-lover) with a flair for Holmes' determined self-involvement. All the while, Deller performs a constant cycle of preparing a desk, tidying it and putting it to one side. Her movements become frantic as she races through the company's downfall. It's an interesting character piece, though with so much to take in, people new to the Theranos scandal will be struggling to keep up with Deller.
ZOO Southside, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Louise Jones]

Beautiful Evil Things (Ad Infinitum)
In this tour de force, sole performer Deborah Pugh commands the space - a largely empty stage - with great technique and a big personality. She darts backward and forwards in time to tell this epic story with utmost clarity, whilst her deft asides remind that this is indeed storytelling - with attitude. Medusa is often seen as a symbol of female rage but here she's an observer, reprising the Trojan War and its aftermath from the perspectives of those given less air-time by Homer. Enriching rather than revisionist, both the gods and mortal men here show more than their usual frailty. It's a timely reminder of the power of these great stories and their fallibility when told by the victors.
Pleasance Dome, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

WONDER DRUG: A Comedy About Cystic Fibrosis (Charlie Merriman)
This show was wondrous. 'Wonder Drug' is an excellent example of a one person show that aims to educate but also entertain. Charlie Merriman highlights his struggles with Cystic Fibrosis in a way that is accessible to everyone, creating a piece of theatre filled with surprises and moments that will move you. With props flying around the stage it's a manic show, but understandably so, as there is so much to cover into a one hour production. Merriman has achieved something brilliant with this format (mostly gameshow inspired) that is utterly memorable, while getting all the points across, and also delivering an enthusiastic, engrossing performance. Overall, it's the best kind of informative theatre piece to see.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Melrose]
At TW:CULTURE we champion the best in fringe theatre, comedy and culture.

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