REVIEW:THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST  ⭐⭐⭐

THEATRE.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST 

theSpace @ Venue 45     10.10 am

August 19th to 22nd.

⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars)

This is a play that many will be familiar with, but you will not have seen it done quite like this. Shakespeare Reloaded are an international theatre collective based in Berlin. They are committed to re-imagining classic plays with a bold and contemporary edge. Members of the company come from all over the world, from Brazil to Bulgaria, and the ensemble taken together speaks more than ten languages. They perform in English.
A very physical approach is taken to the action. Characters may be lifted and carried about almost as in a physical theatre show, and this adds to a sense of joyful abandon. I was told beforehand that the show boasted a short, fierce Hungarian Lady Bracknell, and she is indeed fiercely effective. There is some cross-gender casting, which adds to the almost carnival spirit. The strong accents of the players do have some effect on the catching of humorous implications in some lines, but the use of large and broad physical actions serves to underline meaning.
The company take great evident joy in the performance, and throw themselves into it lustily. Much fun is had with the language of bunburrying, and the play proceeds at a helter-skelter pace, though there are times when things seem rather rushed – maybe Fringe timetables were making the company feel a need for speed.
The company have come from a sell-out run in Berlin, and they had a large audience the time I saw them, which they deserved, and this was a very fresh, ebullient and joyful seventy minutes.
TONY CHALLIS

REVIEW: I LOST MY VIRGINITY TO CHOPIN’S NOCTURNE IN B-FLAT MINOR ⭐⭐⭐⭐

THEATRE

I LOST MY VIRGINITY TO CHOPIN’S NOCTURNE IN B-FLAT MINOR   

Pleasance Courtyard  (V33)

July 31st to August 26th 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)

This show fizzes from the first seconds. The set is strewn with clothes, there is only a box to sit on, and the home owner’s life has clearly not gone as he might have wished for this to be the setting. The couple rush in, carrying within them the argument and heated feelings that have brewed during an evening out with her parents.
There is no point in this show during which you might be tempted to wander off in thoughts to your own life – you are riveted to the situation unfolding in front of your eyes. He is Ollie, played by Sebastian Gardner, who also wrote the play. He is privately educated, but that has not resulted in opportunities. He shuns certain forms of advancement and is a teaching assistant. He is defensive and needy, but also quick to flare up and is not lacking pride.
The parents had been eating at a Wetherspoons, and they are definitely working class, something of which their daughter Laura (played by Lily Sinko,) is anything but ashamed, and she has a solid professional job.  She gives a very spirited performance and eruptions of argument and moments of peace making flow speedily between the two characters. They seem perhaps to flourish in this hothouse atmosphere; will there come a point where they go over the edge?
The play is cleverly structured and never flags. We hope these two will have patience and understanding towards each other, but soon they are off again, in what is a richly comic and acutely observed piece of theatre. Get along and laugh and be drawn into a finely delineated storm of a relationship. And we do get to see a point to the title.
TONY CHALLIS

REVIEW: PREFER NOT TO SAY ⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars)

THEATRE

PREFER NOT TO SAY       

Paradise in the Vault  V29

August  3rd to 25th (not 11. 18)

⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars)

This is a verbatim play that uses real-life testimonies to the inequality and prejudice that still surround LGBT lives. The Riot Road company canvassed opinions across the UK over a period of eighteen months.
The performance opens with a dominatrix drag queen singing to us, backed up by three eager cheerleaders. This was a striking and encouraging beginning. However, it was maybe unwise for them to begin with their biggest number – the remainder of the show took the form of recounted evidence gathered in their survey, which was disturbing and pointedly delivered, but seemed lacking in colour after the opening. The final section was very moving, and many issues and situations were covered, which included religious intolerance, coming out to parents, the extensive debate on trans rights, all of which are key issues.
It is sad to think that such prejudices still affect so many lives more than fifty years since the first partial legalising of homosexuality in England and Wales, but there are centuries of prejudice to be erased.
This is a play where you can buy an advance ticket or pay what you can on the day. What is said here has been said many times, but it does need still to be emphasised, and every effort to reduce and erase negative attitudes to sexual minorities is very much to be welcomed.
TONY CHALLIS

Review: Darius Davies: Persian of Interest ⭐⭐

Comedy

Darius Davies: Persian of Interest

Just the Tonic

⭐⭐ (2 stars)

Davies, the millennial, presents us with a kaleidoscopic view of modern living. Indeed, we live in uncertain times, with fake news, the corruption of technology, the ‘me-too’ movement, AI, internet dating and dick pics penetrating modern life. But it is nice to be reminded (yet again) of the overt dishonesty surrounding us, albeit through subaltern eyes and through the medium of comedy – way to soften the blow of depressing modernity, Davies!

Slight flippancy aside, it is true that Davies truly has a lot to say. There is nothing quite like exposing the conspiracies of life that characterise these uncertain times than to pose as a female on Tinder for laughs and divulge details of your conversation with an unknowing stranger (Tez). The man only wants to ‘suck your [imaginary] bobs’, Davies (or should I say,

Daria – your Tinder alter ego). Tez is clearly as displaced and misguided by these times as you are – as are we all.

Indeed, we are all subjected to this fine pricking that life gives to all seven billion of us – but I came out of this comedy show half-bored, half-depressed. Sure, Davies offers some social commentary, but at this point, he’s beating a dead horse. Nothing uplifting emerges at the end of this show. Later, I retreat home in solemnity, to return to the isolation and unsympathetic recoil offered in this technological apocalypse.

By Joshua Kaye

Review: Phil Nichol: Too Much  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Comedy

Phil Nichol: Too Much 

Monkey Barrel Comedy 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)

Despite the docile (yet, mellow) audience, Nichol’s exceptional ability as a storyteller bestows the atmosphere with a pleasing humility that appeals to old and young; new and returning fans.

This intimate setting, at the Monkey Barrel, was the perfect location for his comedic repertoire. Picture this: You enter to see a cheerful Phil swaggering around the stage, with his guitar in hand and a greeting. You are in a safe place. The music is warm and fulfilling, and the discreet lighting allows you to drink in said music: a melodic osmosis.

But this osmosis extends beyond that of melody. Indeed, this give-and-take relationship between Nichol and his audience naturally develops during the show. Between his larger-than-life interactive anecdotes about strict religious upbringing, drugs, marathon running, taking the piss out of Scottish people, and prison, there is sage-old wisdom in this man. A humbling quality delivered between his highly-animated performance through his commentary about ageing and his obvious reverence for his elders.

The real meaning of his performance is realised at those moments of self-effacement. The fact is, growing older is a mixed bag of complexity. Complexity upon complexity, of growing insight, amid constant learning, and growing vulnerability. Too Much is happening with-in and with-out us, while we go through the motions of life. If for an hour, you can devote your time to learning from this man through laughter and tears, you will be rewarded. Phil Nichol has a heart of gold.

By Joshua Kaye

REVIEW: SECTION 28: THE LEGACY OF A HOMOPHOBIC LAW ⭐⭐⭐

THEATRE

SECTION 28: THE LEGACY OF A HOMOPHOBIC LAW     

theSpace on the Mile   (V39)

August 19th to 24th      20.20

⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars)

This is a show brought to us by Ray Stafford and Andrew Lake. They take on an issue about which they are right to feel indignant and angry, a piece of government legislation that did much harm to teachers and local government workers, and to young people growing up in Britain, the very people those in power said they were wanting to protect.
Stafford and Lake bravely take on a large number of parts, from media interviewer and government representative to father, vicar and teacher. David is a schoolboy struggling to hide his sexuality. Comments are made about him at school, and there is a problem with things written on the school toilet walls. Also, David’s English teacher has had boys reading girls’ parts in class, including having David read the part of Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Questions are asked, and all this in the atmosphere created by the new legislation prohibiting local authorities from promoting homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. David and his teacher are unlucky in that their school seems to be one that is enthusiastic in its response to the new legislation, and eager to interpret it as damagingly as possible. No-one was ever convicted under section 28, but it created a climate of fear which undermined, amongst other things, the ability of gay teachers and pupils to freely exchange ideas and advice.
We see David trying to find advice and support. His vicar clearly has his own angle, and through him the issue of conversion therapy is raised – a very vicious method still widely used in the States. His teacher becomes almost hostile out of fear. It is very difficult for him to express himself to his father. In this situation it is possible to imagine David going downhill disastrously.
Ray Stafford and Andrew Lake present this situation clearly and in a way that is easy to grasp. Their presentation of a dehumanising environment where the support and flourishing of the student should be the first concern is admirable. The intervention of certain voices of today may jar, but this serves to remind us that prejudice is by no means dead and buried.
This show is worth catching to learn about a villainy of the past, or to be reminded of how easily things can be put into reverse.
TONY CHALLIS

David McIver: Teleport⭐⭐⭐⭐

Comedy

David McIver: Teleport

PBH’s Free Fringe @ Banshee Labyrinth – Cinema Room

12:20 (ends 25th August)

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)

An important note – this wasn’t really stand-up. It was a solo show that contained comedy throughout. In ‘Teleport’, David McIver was trying to re-create a roleplay, online game whilst simultaneously tackling what’s it’s like to be a teenager and coping with illness in the family. It’s very funny but suddenly takes a serious, making you realise that the moments that you had originally laughed at are perhaps the most heart-breaking.

David McIver’s show is interactive; he takes you on a quest and shows you the different parts of a roleplaying game so that even if you are not familiar with the concept, you will be by the end of the show. The audience becomes part of the show and if you like audience participation, this show is full of it. He’s charming, incredibly approachable and generally really friendly which is why you want to be part of the show, you want him to tell you a Death Story or reveal your future. He had to change quickly between the different characters that you meet along the way and brought them all to life, as each of them were distinct and unique in their own way.

It is essentially a sarcastic and snarky commentary that makes fun of all of the tropes that exist in role playing games. He intersperses these comments with unasked remarks that you would think a teenager would say. This is partly to remind us of his age but also as a way to hide what the show is really about, something that is told gradually and permeates throughout the show and is hinted at but you aren’t aware of where it is going or how important it is until the very end. You don’t expect it a show about online role-playing games like World of Warcraft to have a deeper meaning, but this one does and that’s what makes it so interesting to watch,

His use of sound is very clever since the cues have to be very precise in order for it all to work. The best part of his audio was the use of Siri – or something along the lines of a computer reader – in order to act as a stand in for his mother. At first you accept his explanation for why it sounds so robotic and you think it’s all part of the joke, or just a clever way for him to have a conversation with an unseen character.

It’s hard for me to write this review mainly because it’s a very difficult show to sum up or describe it in such a way that does it justice without completely giving everything away. I enjoyed it very much, but I can’t imagine how much time, effort, energy and emotion it took in order to perfect this play and to reveal so much about such a hard time in a way that is light – hearted and that will attract audiences. You can’t help but being moved by his story whilst simultaneously being entertained, which is a very odd feeling. We all have our coping mechanisms – some healthier than others – and it was incredibly brave of David McIver to share his. It’s a hard sell but definitely worth going to see. Bring tissues – you will need them for all of the laughter.

Katerina Partolina Schwartz (Twitter: @katpschwartz)

Review: Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Musical

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch

Underbelly Bristol Square – Ermintrude

18:55 (ends 26th August)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)

This musical is a cross between ‘Wicked’ and ‘Avenue Q’. ‘Wicked’ because of how the story follows a vibrantly coloured (well, purple) villain from pop culture who is in fact just misunderstood and is vilified by a man because he feels threatened by her. The way that I find it similar to ‘Avenue Q’ is partly due to the puppets that were used as well as the way that it incorporates important messages about body positivity, sexuality, feminism, consent, the environment and how problematic Disney actually is. It’s a new spin on a story that everyone knows very well. Fun fact: before it was Disney-fied, ‘The Little Mermaid’ was actually a love letter from Hans Christian Anderson to Edvard Collin, someone who rejected him and so couldn’t be within the same way that the little mermaid couldn’t be with her prince.

The songs from the film were replaced by Fat Rascal Theatre’s original compositions, some of which were in roughly the same place plot-wise as the songs in ‘The Little Mermaid’ and were a little similar in subject or tone, but which I thought were better. Some of note are; ‘Another Day Under the Waves’ – a song which has been stuck in my head since, ‘We didn’t Make it to Disney’ which talks about how white-washed, misogynistic, racist and homophobic Disney is, ‘Unfortunate’, ‘Ask Before You Kiss the Girl’ because consent is important, and ‘Where the Dicks Are’ which is a parody of ‘Part of Your World’ and was a rather odd addition, but amusing none the less. I think a backing track was used but surprisingly there weren’t any noticeable difficulties or problems with the audio and so it did sound like there was a live band in the wings.

In the cast there were no weak links, everyone was a strong actor and a very good singer, all of whom – except Robyn Grant who played Ursula – took on more than one role and shifted seamlessly between them. One actress that stood out, in particular, was Allie Munro who played Sebastian (the crab), Flotsam (one of the eels) and Vanessa (Ursula’s human alter ego). She was particularly wonderful as Sebastian, at one point switching from a Jamaican accent to an Irish accent practically in the same sentence. Her Irish mutterings as she was going offstage were perhaps some of the best moments in the show. It was an interesting directorial choice but now it’s hard to imagine Sebastian not being Irish since the accent suits the character so well.

‘Unfortunate’ seems like a modern response to ‘The Little Mermaid’ because it does cover a lot of important issues. It’s a musical for a millennial, liberal and politically conscious audience who grew up watching the Disney film and now know better and can see the problems in it. It’s definitely a show for adults, as you can probably tell from the content songs and most of the dialogue. It makes fun of and comments on the film whilst highlighting how weird the age gap between Ariel and Prince Eric is (she’s 14 and he’s 34), sort of makes fun of the fact that most if not all Disney relationships end in marriage even though the couple hasn’t known each other for very long, and brings to the forefront how problematic Disney culture really is. Here I’m going to mention the song ‘Ask Before You Kiss

the Girl’ again because it is a really important message and even though it seems so basic and you laugh at the song lyrics. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone comment on how problematic the original song actually is, probably because of how it’s considered one of those classic Disney songs, and I’m glad that Fat Rascal Theatre has fixed it.

This musical is the version of ‘The Little Mermaid’ that accepts and acknowledges the phallic shaped castle turrets. It’s fun, it’s clever and it’s original. It deserves to be picked up in some regard and I hope that more people get to see it because it truly is a gem. Hans Christian Anderson would be proud.

Katerina Schwartz

Review: Jane Glover 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Jane Glover:

Sparks Theatre, George Street

20:45 (21 August only)

🌟🌟🌟🌟 (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 Handel’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 Handel’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 Glover’s new book Handel in London does what it says on the cover. I’ve known and sung Messiah virtually all my life, and have been in love with Handel’s operas since the 1970s and 80s when people suddenly discovered that they weren’t dreary and repetitive and completely incomprehensible but are extremely human and heartfelt. They suddenly became “sexy” and now it’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 Nero’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 Glyndebourne’s Bollywood production; I could go on and on….but we weren’t there to concentrate on Handel’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 didn’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 Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, and to give an annual concert for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital in Coram’s Fields.

Much was made of Handel’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 – 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 monarch’s coronation. Handel didn’t seem fazed by any challenge thrown at him – music to be played on the river as the king and his party went down to dine at Richmond, music to accompany – and not be drowned by – a royal fireworks party, producing music which combined majesty, ceremony, propriety and intimacy, and, and, and… Jane Glover’s comment – “he somehow gets it right an awful lot of the time” – goes a long way to explain his music’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 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Music (a cappella, comedy)

Semi-Toned Presents: Life on Mars

The Space @ Surgeons Hall 17.05

22-24 Aug

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 (Five Star)

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,  they are by this point considered the experts in acapella. Years on from winning BBC2’s Gareth Malone series The Choir: Gareth’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