Review: Jane Glover ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Jane Glover:

Sparks Theatre, George Street

20:45 (21 August only)

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ (Four Star)

I can cope with the knowledge that someone has never been to, nor listened to the music of, an opera by Handel: but I found it staggering to discover that the person interviewing the notable Handelian expert Jane Glover had never been to a performance of Handelโ€™s best-known, best-loved and most enduring work… It did provide a sort of running joke throughout the hour we spent with Ms Glover, who has been in love with Handelโ€™s music since she first heard Messiah in Lincoln cathedral when she was only nine years old, and held out the hope that, after hearing her enthusing about the man and his music, he would put himself out to attend a performance and make the acquaintance of a work that has been known and loved since its first performance in Dublin in 1742.

Jane Gloverโ€™s new book Handel in London does what it says on the cover. Iโ€™ve known and sung Messiah virtually all my life, and have been in love with Handelโ€™s operas since the 1970s and 80s when people suddenly discovered that they werenโ€™t dreary and repetitive and completely incomprehensible but are extremely human and heartfelt. They suddenly became โ€œsexyโ€ and now itโ€™s taken for granted that any reputable opera house will always have some Handel in its repertoire. The plots adapt well to contemporary settings – Agrippina, about Neroโ€™s mother and her machinations to get her son on the imperial throne, worked wonderfully set in an age of paparazzi, with a twitchy coke-snorting wannabe emperor and a very media-savvy mum: Giulio Cesare was an absolute delight in Glyndebourneโ€™s Bollywood production; I could go on and on….but we werenโ€™t there to concentrate on Handelโ€™s operas, though they were a major part of his output during his time in London, and featured in the closing Q&A session.

We heard about the man, his huge heart, his extraordinary energy; the quasi-industrial production line on the ground floor of his house in Brook Street which dealt with copying and producing orchestral parts for the constant stream of music he poured out; his brilliant writing and his genius for finding extraordinary singers and writing to suit their voices even when he didnโ€™t get on with them personally; and his extraordinary compassion for those less fortunate than himself led him to begin the organisation which later became the Musiciansโ€™ Benevolent Fund, and to give an annual concert for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital in Coramโ€™s Fields.

Much was made of Handelโ€™s special relationship with the Hanoverians who were his employers when he was in Germany and then came to rule his new home of England โ€“ and the enduring quality of his music, including the coronation anthems composed for George II one of which, Zadok the Priest, has been performed at every subsequent British monarchโ€™s coronation. Handel didnโ€™t seem fazed by any challenge thrown at him โ€“ music to be played on the river as the king and his party went down to dine at Richmond, music to accompany โ€“ and not be drowned by โ€“ a royal fireworks party, producing music which combined majesty, ceremony, propriety and intimacy, and, and, andโ€ฆ Jane Gloverโ€™s comment – โ€œhe somehow gets it right an awful lot of the timeโ€ โ€“ goes a long way to explain his musicโ€™s brilliance and its enduring appeal.

There was much, much more, and all of it fascinating: so much so that I rushed out to buy Handel in London and queue up to get it signed, both to show my appreciation of an hour which went past all too quickly and to give me many happy hours in the company of this great man of music.

Mary Woodward

Review: Semi-Toned Presents: Life on Mars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Musicย (a cappella, comedy)

Semi-Toned Presents: Life on Mars

The Space @ Surgeons Hall 17.05

22-24 Aug


Opening with a good bump-inducing rendition of the Final Countdown, these boys know how to make an entrance, from start to finish I was in love with their voices, humour and the personality they brought to the stage.

These boys are far from amateur,ย  they are by this point considered the experts in acapella. Years on from winning BBC2โ€™s Gareth Malone seriesย The Choir: Garethโ€™s Best in Britain, They are still dominating the stage and showing us all how it’s done.

You can’t help fall in love with the boys, and I must give special attention to one moment where they serenaded a lucky lady in the crowd. Every girl (ok, and myself) was wishing it was them, as the adorably cute Ryan Land gives my now all-time version of Hooked on a Feeling.

Taking us through a journey of space via their quick-witted banter, we hear classics such as Aint Nobody and Is. This is just to name a few, the show is absolutely jam-packed with songs to get your feet tapping. At one point I actually had to stop myself standing up for a dance.

These boys are simply at the top of their game, this slick performance is a real audience pleaser and fun for all the family. I fell in love and adored every single minute of it!

Taylor Crockett

Review: Rob Auton ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ


Rob Auton

Assembly George Square Studios 14.50

Aug 22 – 26

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ (Four Star)

At one point in The Time Show, Rob Auton recounts how one negative review of his previous work described him as evoking the same energy as a nervous child in a school play.ย  Auton describes how he sees this as a compliment, wanting to approach everything in life with the same naivety as a young child. In his latest show Auton turns this wide-eyed gaze on time, deconstructing and challenging the concept in a show that is at once thought-provoking and also deeply enjoyable.

It is his innocence that gives Auton his appeal.ย  At one point he wonders aloud why we arenโ€™t as amazed by our own hands as we are by a babyโ€™s, exclaiming how we should always be in a constant state of astonishment at the world around us.ย  Autonโ€™s wonder proves infectious, his childlike sincerity drawing the audience into a show that questions the basic fundamental structures that underpin human society.

The show also has an emotional weight to it, Auton, in one particularly poetic segment, comparing moments in his life to little pockets of air in a roll of bubble wrap. This doesnโ€™t get in the way of the comedy, however, as Auton intersperses these moments of poignancy with absurd humour and undercuts the more sentimental bits of his show to keep the audience โ€˜on sideโ€™.ย  For example, Auton articulates the cliched take-home message of how we should all strive to โ€˜live in the momentโ€™ by making the audience close their eyes and eat flapjacks. Throughout The Time Show Auton effectively balances the profound with the silly, utilising the medium of stand-up to question what it means to be alive and human.

William Shaw

Review: The Fishermen ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ


The Fishermen

Assembly George Square Studios 12.15

22-24 Aug

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ (Four Star)

One of the problems Iโ€™ve often found with theatre is that of pacing.ย  While art forms such as film can use editing to make their narratives flow more easily, live performance is not afforded such luxuries.ย  This often leaves modern theatre, especially badly written theatre, with a severe lack of agency, often feeling monotonous and stunted. ย The Fishermen, Gbolahan Obisesanโ€™s adaptation of Chigozie Obiomaโ€™s award-winning novel, directed by Jack McNamara, proves to be an exception to this rule.

The play begins with a conversation between estranged brothers Ben and Obembe, the two men meeting after years of separation beside a river in an unnamed Nigerian town.ย  The conversation acts as a framing device, the brothers recounting their childhood together and over the course of the play uncovering the trauma that lies at the heart of their lives.ย  As the two men recount their upbringing, time and space begin to shift. The boys โ€˜playโ€™ a whole cast of characters, including their older brothers, their parents, and younger versions of themselves, while the river bank on which they stand transforms into their old family home.ย  The play is expertly written and directed, the bleeding together of past and present reflecting the rupturing effects of Ben and Obembeโ€™s trauma, the horrors of their past haunting their present.

This fluidity is enforced through the strength of the acting in the play.ย  The two actors, Valentine Olukoga and David Alade, have impressive command over their bodies, shifting seamlessly from character to character through the slightest changes in their physicality.ย  One particularly powerful moment comes when Obembe plays the townโ€™s โ€˜madmanโ€™, who prophesies the death of older brother Ikenna. Aladeโ€™s face appears transformed beyond recognition, his body writhing about the stage as he describes Ikennaโ€™s death.

The Fishermen is overall a very accomplished piece of contemporary theatre.ย  It is bolstered by strong performances from Olukoga and Alade and dynamic direction from McNamara, who reflect the destructive nature of trauma through the blending of past and present.ย  While theatre, in general, might no longer feel as fresh as more modern art forms, works such as The Fishermen suggest that it still has relevance as a medium.

Taylor Crockett




Festival Theatre

19 August Gods 7.30 pmย  ย 20th August heroes 2.30 pm Men 7.30 pm 24th August Gods 1.30 pm 25th August Heroes 2.30 pm Men 7.30 pm


Here Stephen Fry presents the story of the Greek myths and legends from the birth of the cosmos and of the gods, through Zeus, Hera, Chronos eating his children, Perseus, the Minotaur, the Trojan wars and the story of Ulysses, in a marathon of around nine hours, spread over three separate performances. It is an undertaking of such length and depth that it almost brings to mind Fry’s beloved Wagner.
It was a day and a half of pure enjoyment, as Fry, with great charm and accomplishment, made us feel we were inside these stories. there are a number of ways in which the medicine is allowed to go down more sweetly. Fry is chatty to begin with, makes the audience feel we are here for a fireside chat with a mate, and there are times when something called Mythical Pursuits occurs, and audience members play a role. Then there is the oracle, the messages sent to Fry in the interval which he deals with on his return.
This is the European premiere of this epic performance, and when I saw it it was sold out. Tickets will not be easy to come by. Many people will know Stephen Fry for his comedy appearances in Fry and Laurie, Blackadder and QI, as well as his novels and autobiography, and some may even know The Ode Less Travelled, his very full and effective guide to writing poetry.
Two thirds of this series of shows is also covered in his books, Mythos and Heroes. The third, Men, is still in preparation. So even if you cannot get to this show, you can read the full version! A full audiobook of Mythos, with, I think, 13 discs, is also available. Wagnerian, indeed.
However, there is nothing to beat being taken into the world of these stories in Fry’s company, with his inimitable style, his fresh approach and sometimes earthy humour. This is a show to be cherished.



UN POYO ROJOย  ย  ย  ย 

Zoo Southsideย  ย  V82

August 21 to 26


Two Argentinian men dance and cavort playfully for an hour in a locker room with a radio and tiny shorts. That description does not do justice to the brilliance and joy of this show. Nicolas Poggi and Luciano Rossi are enormously talented performers, and they can do just about anything with their bodies, with each other and with the audience they have captivated.
They have their audience laughing helplessly, with both subtle movements, maybe with cigarettes or with facial expressions, or with a broader take, when they appear to become walruses. It is unlikely you will have seen a male nipple used in just the way it is at one point in this show.
The radio plays a role in the show, with various stations accompanying their more low-key actions and sequences, which still had those around me tittering uncontrollably. These guys make actions look easy that have taken decades of work to perfect. They are returning to Edinburgh after an internationally acclaimed world tour for only six shows at the Fringe, and tickets are going fast.
Playfulness is a key to their approach. Nothing of conventional macho competition or aggression for these two, but a delightful sense of freedom to enjoy the moment and to enjoy messing around. The show is choreographed by Poggi and Rosso, and, of course, boy, do they know exactly what they are doing.
I cannot recommend this show enough. It is transporting from the beginning, an hour of being diverted by guys who have the greatest skill and ability, and the audience can simply bathe in their brilliance.




August 1-25th โ€“ 5:15pm

Gilded Balloon Teviot: Turret

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ (Four Star)

Laura Lexx bounces on to the stage at Gilded Balloon, performing her second show of the day. She warns the audience beforehand that sheโ€™s performed the exact same show about an hour ago, and to stop her if she starts talking nonsense. Luckily, she delivers this extra show with just as much gusto as if performing it for the first time.

Lexxโ€™s character is an interesting one to behold. Someone who talks freely about her very personal issues on stage, weaves them into her comedy and makes everyone laugh, all without making anyone feel awkward. We hear about her political leanings, her thoughts on Brexit (or โ€˜Invernessโ€™ as it was referred to in this particular show) and, most interestingly, her therapy sessions.

What is most charming about the show is that Lexx appears to put a lot trust in her audience by letting us into her world, describing her therapy techniques that she finds most useful. As an example she lets us know her superficial fear for being late for a train and takes us back to the root of that particular problem and explores it in more depth. She cleverly applies this technique to create routines looking into the intricacies regarding LGBT issues with a focus on transgender rights and the male and female divide.

A final routine regarding the root of the problem in relation to the sexes does seem to carry on for a little longer than was needed to get the point across. Apart from this, the show was engaging and enjoyable, fronted by a comedian who seemed genuinely keen to entertain. It isnโ€™t surprising to me that sheโ€™s playing extra shows to sold out crowds.

James Macfarlane


Review: Boswell ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ



PQA Venues โ€“ Riddleโ€™s Court

16:30 (ends 25th August)

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ (Three Star)

If you have never heard of James Boswell, well this is the play for you because by the end you will still not know that much about him except that he was a Scottish aristocrat, a womanizer, didnโ€™t know what to do with his life and wrote something about Samuel Johnson. Intertwined with his narrative is the story of an American student who is researching Johnson and along the way falls in love with Boswellโ€™s writing. Itโ€™s basically half the regurgitated storyline of uptight girl becomes more fun and half 18th century lads on tour.

Too much time was spent on the storyline with the American student which meant that if you are looking for a play about Scottish history (which all of the marketing suggests that it is), you will be relatively disappointed. Neither storyline was particularly developed and most of the scenes involving the American student were incredibly long, slow and unnecessary. The character was distracting and did nothing to further the plot. It seemed as if the writer was trying to include a message of, โ€˜do what you love regardless of money,โ€™ but so many different works have that message and there isnโ€™t anything new or exciting to say about it. It would have been better time spent to treat it as a solely historical play focusing on the Boswell storyline and educating people about who the man was and why he is significant, because that didnโ€™t really come across even though he is the titular character.

It seems that every Fringe show that I come across is filled with one- liners, and this was no different. There were some comedic moments such as when Johnson tried to communicate with a landlady and didnโ€™t understand what she was saying to him: the stereotypical English tourist. It was those little moments that made the play better because at times it was monotonous. The characters of Boswell and Johnson were interesting to watch, but they failed to be the two – dimensional characters that the historical figures that they were based on were, probably because of the lack of time they had to develop.

It was an average play. It wasnโ€™t great but it wasnโ€™t entirely bad either. It was just dull at times and perhaps with some tightening up of the script it has the potential to be a lot better. It is a very American take on Scottish history, but thatโ€™s not necessarily bad. Itโ€™s just another way of looking at things which, in the end, is what the Fringe and history are about.

Katerina Partolina Schwartz (Twitter: @katpschwartz)

Review: Timandra Harkness: Take a Risk ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ


Timandra Harkness: Take a Risk

Assembly Rox 11:15

Aug 22 -15

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ (Four Star)

Take a Risk is a sure bet for a great show. From meeting your one-true-love to winning the lottery or dying of cancer, Timandra Harkness explores the importance of chance events in everyday life through funny anecdotes and self-deprecating humour.

Rolling into Lady Fortune’s Casino, the guests are each given one poker chip to start betting in the show. There are prizes to be won, some tasty and some sweet, but there is the possibility that some participants will come to a sticky end.

The spotlight on the audience, Timandra explores the different types of risks we take when faced with uncertainty and reveals how these choices can affect us physically, financially, and emotionally.

A presenter, writer, and comedian working for BBC Radio 4 with degrees in both Film and Drama and Maths and Statistics, Fringe veteran Timandra explores the confluence of scientific knowledge and human behaviour and the effect this has on modern culture.

Take a Risk is a light-hearted and entertaining show that manages to reveal the odd and sometimes dark ways we cope with uncertainty and avoid risks. Timandra challenges these ideas and encourages the audience to embrace the thrill of taking chances.


Michael Flett

ScotsGay Live: Sam Morrison

ScotsGay Live: Sam Morrison

Our chat show where we invite 5-star acts and shows onto our sofa for a chat with Nancy

This Episode features Sam Morrison – who’s show Hello, Daddy! is at Just The Tonic, Marlins Wynd for a full run of the fringe.


Hosted by Drag Sensation and Agony Aunt: Nancy Clench