Real Men Dream in Black and White

THEATRE
**
Real Men Dream in Black and White
Greenside

Four lads of maybe 16 appear on stage one by one. The fourth is bearded and brings a magazine – and shows them the centre spread which they anticipate greatly, but then find “not nice”. The audience laughed and thus the lads began to charm them. On leaving there were many who were saying that the lads were sweet and cuddly. They had worked a spell on many.

However, I wonder if the audience paid much attention to the other half of the show – the voice-over which was only just clear and which to me sounded as though it could have been the young sister of one of them. This talked about initiation into manhood, the way that this was marked by particular rites in many societies. (And not in ours? Exams? Apprenticeships? Driving tests? But these now are also all taken by women – which opens up an area this show seemed not to have thought of).

The lads then run about and enjoy themselves, observe each other as if from the outside and say what they see (straight from a school drama lesson this one, and could easily have been tweaked to be more challenging), then talk to the audience about photos that are significant to them and tell the audience some personal things about their lives. More is said in voice over about initiations, culminating in a description of a supposed native American ritual used in a hit film years ago, where the youths are hung from a tree by their nipples and subjected to various agonies. Whether the suggestion was that this would be good for these lads was not clear.

And that was it. The audience, as I said, seemed charmed and happy. I felt that an opportunity had been missed, and that the show was poorly conceived and lacking focus.

Bang Bang Circus

DANCE
***
Bang Bang Circus
Assembly George Square

I did not know what to expect when I entered into this magnificent tent.  This would be my favourite venue for its beautiful canopy and historic feeling, if it wasn’t for the absence of raised seating and lack of blackout in the day.

This performance consisted of around eight different acts, each doing a five minute set.  The acts all performed some sort of physical ability from swallowing a sword to juggling to hula hooping.  Individually I did not have a problem with any of the acts, but I did feel that at around £10 a ticket this is extortionate when you can see very similar acts on the Royal Mile for free everyday.

My favourite act was a smaller man from Zimbabwe who performed an excellent mime that involved being pulled around by his umbrella – he had covered himself in grey powder that gave a good visual effect.

The compere was uninteresting and did not seem to engage with the audience or ensure continuity between the acts.  This however did not let the acts down completely because individually they were talented.  Everyday the acts are different, so I suppose that it is difficult to comment on a show that’s varied everyday, I can only assume the standard and style will typical of this show each day.

The Chess Game

MUSICAL
**
The Chess Game
Inverleith Parish Church

This year Forth Children’s Theatre brought The Chess Game to the Fringe.  FCT have performed at the Fringe for many decades and normally produce very high quality acts; however, I felt let down this year.   The Chessgame demonstrates hierarchy and anarchy.  It asked many questions such as: what is a democracy? and who is in charge of a state?  The show asks the audience to reflect on who we put in charge of our lives and why.

The influence of the media and role of the army are pulled up and the musical works to highlight the futility and absurdity of war.  As the cast had performers as young 10, I felt that some of the younger actors perhaps did not have the maturity to convey the gravity and depth of these issues.  The leads were played by Julia Carstairs and Rebecca Gilhooly, who portrayed the black and white queen.  By far, they outshone the other performers.  Saying this, FCT has lost many of its incredible performers in the past, who made FCT what it was.

In this performance, there were around 40 young actors who did not seem to have the ability to be light and agile on the stage.  The biggest drawback was the lack of excellent voices.  When the chorus sang as one, they were fine and so were the two queens; however, in many of the solos by the other performers, they found it impossible to reach the high notes which dramatically let the show down.  If you are a proud parent or friend of one of the cast members, this show is pleasant enough with a few comic moments for you to enjoy.  The general public, however, may not be able to appreciate it as much as a standard show in the Fringe.

Ali Cook – Principles and Deceptions

COMEDY
***
Ali Cook – Principles and Deceptions
Gilded Balloon

Ali Cook is a magician, and his show has been selling out as word has spread.  He impresses with a snappy start, as he sets fire to a cage; throws a curtain over it; removes the curtain and there sits his glamorous assistant.  This is a fantastic family show with lots of illusions which will not be found at your average show.

I objected to Cook’s use of live goldfish in his show, which despite his great slight of hand I could see in both his right hand and his mouth. I’m a huge fan of illusion and magic, and therefore I could see how Cook conducted most of his tricks. Saying that, his slight of hand was top class and the average magic-lover would not be able to discern Cook’s secrets.  He peppered his performance with a mix of cheeky and corny jokes, and went into detail about the history of magic including  performing the only trick that Houdini couldn’t work out.

Cook is flashy, quick and original and will carve a name for himself as one of magic’s elite! Get in before this show sells out!

Sara Pascoe vs the Apocalypse

COMEDY
***
Sara Pascoe vs the Apocalypse
Pleasance Dome

Pascoe begins her show by telling us that last year her show sucked. Reviewers called her arrogant and her jokes were so bad they made the news.  The self deprecation was intended to pave the way for an amazing show, and it did accomplish this. Although her stuttering manner throughout left me wondering throughout if reviewers had ever really called her arrogant, as I felt she lacked confidence on stage.

Pascoe is half-cockroach (on her father’s side) and she is the only hope for the human race. Throughout the performance, she discusses how she’ll repopulate the human race alone, and comes up with a set of ‘rules’ including spin-doctoring smoking as a positive (‘smaller babies can only be a good thing – especially if repopulating the whole human race’) and no more penis enlargements or fake orgasms. I particularly liked Sarah’s idea for a tshirt – ‘finish me off and I won’t go roaming”!

Pascoe’s show is hilarious throughout, and as she got more comfortable on stage half way through, she was on fire. Her material was well rehearesed and contained some really interesting parts, like the history of pornography and how she would reform this into a Porno-Graphic Novel for geeks.  Pascoe propels the piece with the use of slides, which were a fantastic visual focus. With a bit more confidence and less disjointed parts, this show  would easily be a 4-star.

The Beta Males: The Train Job

COMEDY
***
The Beta Males: The Train Job
Pleasance Dome

A panto-style sketch show on the theme of train travel.  Peppered with political references of corruption and the crash of the stock market, this is essentially the story of a proposed theft of plans to make a new propulsion system that will make a train which can go from London to Edinburgh Waverley in an hour.  Every sketch is written around this theme, with lots of audience prompts and props.

Featuring pink panther-esque sketches; dodgy French and American accents; stowaways singing their life stories; drag Titanic and the only child left in Berwick, the material was original, interesting and in places amusing. But it was also disjointed in parts, boring in parts and I found myself looking at my watch more than once.  The audience seemed to find it hilarious and laughed throughout – though I perhaps wasn’t representative of the target demographic as the biggest laughs were generated from actors spitting water over either themselves or fellow actors.  Strange considering the majority of the skits were impressively high-brow.

A pleasant way to start the day; full of intellectual humour but just lacking a little in the delivery and continuity.

Ruby Wax: Losing It

COMEDY
****
Ruby Wax: Losing It
Udderbelly’s Pasture

A comedy on the subject of mental illness seems like a paradox, and few others could deliver such a topic in as articulate, sensitive and yet heartily humourous manner as Ruby Wax.

The pace of this show is a bipolar flurry; swinging between maniacal exhuberance and catatonic reflection.  Wax presents us with a plethora of information on the phsyiology behind mental health, lathered in a candid portrait of her own experiences.

Wax smothers her descent into a nervous breakdown hell with such descriptive humour that the audience leaves both better-informed and invigourated. We haven’t been emotionally drained, and there’s room for self-analysis.  Envy, narcissism and regret – these are Wax’s triggers, and as she passes onto us her successful distraction techniques from the evils within, we’re left with the distinct impression that maybe we do all have a bit of the crazy … and maybe Wax really has discovered ‘the manual’.

The let down for me was the Q&A session at the end. The success of this show, to me, is that removes stigma and ignorance around mental health in a very upbeat way – and i understand the aim of the Q&A is to reinforce this.  However the dread that overcame me with the very real anticipation of fellow audience members emotionally whoring themselves was something very unpleasant to me.

Definitely a must-see! Wax is candid, informed and has all the answers!

Who Are The Jocks?

COMEDY
*****
Who Are The Jocks?
Pleasance Dome

When I initially read the title of this show, my initial thoughts were that it was based on the colloquial term for Scottish people.  This is actually a reference to the words uttered by the Columbine High School killers, just prior to them gunning down their fellow school mates after years of bullying.  I had also assumed that this year’s comedy show would be like Capurro’s others – topical humour that cuts right through the morality bone, but with a same-y feel to previous years. How wrong was I!

In some ways, it’s the same Capurro we know and love.  Goading us, pushing us, shitting over every ember of moral fibre that ever existed and then taking it down a notch or two from there. There’s no topic too raw as Capurro drawls over Jesus,‘bit too toothy, that blow job, you Jewish whore … what a shame you only got nailed once’ .  And as he leers at a 17 year old virgin in the audience, ‘I’ll cut you up and jack off over your corpse … there’ll be no witnesses’.  And then there’s this whole other dimension as Capurro’s material, and indeed demeanor, is poignantly shaped by the death of his mother.  He talks candidly about viewing his mother’s dead body; the comedy slippers the funeral home gave her – like ‘Carry on Dying’‘, the funeral, and then the dull ache of living without this person who was such a huge influence on his life (as well as his cocaine dealer).

This performance is the evolution of Capurro. He was always great – he was always the best way to spend an hour! He would always leave you with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness for the next 48 hours after making your body spasm with laughter. Adding this emotional element to the performance has elevated it to another level, and although Capurro peppers the passing of his mother his own brand of bad, we’re still left empathising with this little-boy-lost-come-aids-ridden-paedophile-vegan-serial-killer!

Scott Capurro’s Position

COMEDY
****
Scott Capurro’s Position
Gilded Ballon

This is one of two shows Capurro has this festival, and this one is a two-man chat show he presents with the amazing David Mills. Together, these two queens are invincible – with their acid humour and knowledge about everything on the planet!

They introduce a different panel of guests every day, and when I was there it was Nicholas Parsons (I found him rather arrogant); Melvin Brown (maniacally laughed the whole way through his interview – he’s either the cheeriest or highest man alive!) and Dave Lynn (a.m.a.z.i.n.g. live singing drag queen – I want to see his show now!!) Capurro and Mills are stronger than the sum of their guests, although taking the entities of Mills and Capurro and knowledge of their existing chat show in London, I thought the result would be verbal carnage. However instead of a diatribe of abuse, the interviews were really well structured. Capurro and Mills clearly had a lot of respect and adoration for each of their guests, and this showed another dimension to both of their personalities. This is a professional yet funny show, which is more like a big group chat show as Capurro and Mills invite total audience interaction too. Capurro throws in a bit of controversy – ‘women can’t do comedy because they have feelings” yet it’s all so tongue in cheek that even a militant feminist can’t get too pissed off. Mills’ perspective on showbizz – ‘Iit’s not all cocaine and blowjobs from Paloma Faith … you’re lucky to get a titwank from Peaches Geldof’

A fantastic way to spend an hour, in the company of two amazing men who will have you in rapturous laughter! Capurro and Mills acidly take on the world, while showcasing the best of the fest.

Craig Hill – Blown By a Fan…!

Comedy
****
Craig Hill – Blown By a Fan…!
Udderbelly’s Pasture

Hill explodes on stage like a molotov cocktail of camp, and as always the mostly middle class heterosexual audience love it. They just can’t get enough of this incredibly funny man who with every essence of his being personifies the stereotype of a sex-hungry, promiscuous yet jolly gay.

The audience listen with rapturous attention as Hill quips with them about the pretty generic topics of where they’re from (Dundee – bad hair and trainers); what they do; (mostly just ‘a big flaccid penis’ of admin related jobs) and lifestyles (although he presumes that an audience member is straight when she’s actually there with her girlfriend). Hill seemingly has knowledge of every little town in the UK, and no one can fault his seamless rapier wit that no one is safe from!

I couldn’t help get the feeling though that the best bits of Hill’s performance were the parts where he regaled us with tales of previous shows or situations he’d found himself in. Like the Kilmarnock granny who’s allergic to teeth and Elaine Paige dirty granny dancing with an ill-fitting wrap around skirt. I feel if Hill’s show was more about him and less about the banal people who seemed too drunk or incapable of holding a cognisant conversation, it would be elevated to another level. The constant ‘what’s your lovely name’  which seems to be Hill’s intro-catchphrase made me moan inside by the end of the show. I just wanted to hear more from Hill!

This will be one of the fastest hours of your life, as Hill cuts through the audience like a cheese slicer through as block of cheddar! Oozing sex, Hill has the audience right where he wants them … those who don’t want him want to be him!