152 Reviews for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (In order from most enjoyable to least)

 

Welcome to the 2013 version of my Fringe reviews.  Since I tailored much of my schedule to that of my friend Tim’s, I will not be seeing as many plays this year.  You can see my 2013 schedule.  You can find out about me, and my extended thoughts about reviewing at the bottom of this page.  I think that the most useful aspect for my readers is the rankings.  I base the rankings on my enjoyment of the show, so they may not reflect the quality of the script and/or acting.  I prefer plays to comedy acts, but work in a little of the latter for diversity.  I have discovered that I have a penchant for true stories.  The comments are usually only three sentences long because I have little time between shows, and, after all, I am here for the shows.  You can also see my 135 reviews for 2012 Fringe, 175 reviews for 2011 Fringe,  200 reviews for 2010 Fringe, 177 reviews for 2009 Fringe, 153 reviews for 2008 Fringe, 162 reviews for 2006 Fringe, and 151 reviews for 2005 Fringe.  I always enjoy chatting with both audience members and dramatic artists.  If you wish to contact me, send e-mail to Sean Davis.

You can change the sorting column of the table below by first clicking anywhere in its header.  Each succeeding click in the header sorts the table by the column clicked.  Succeeding clicks of a column will reverse the previous sort order.  I have now added a Date column so that returning viewers can sort by it to see my most recent reviews.

 

 

Rank

Title and Review

Venue

Times

Date

1. 

Rick Wakeman (*****)

The keyboardist  who played in the band Yes, and had long solo career, alternates between playing the piano and providing anecdotes from his career.  He demonstrated how his teacher had instructed him to play in different styles by playing the Beatle’s “Eleanor Rigby” in the style of Prokofiev.   This was the highpoint of this year’s Fringe for me because it reinforced my intention to return to the piano when I retire.

Assembly Hall

22:30 - 23:30

18

2. 

The Boss of It All (*****)

An actor is hired to play the president of a company for an important contract signing, but then things go awry.  Watching the actor wing his way through his role with virtually knowledge of the company is hilarious.  It is also revealing of how a few well-chosen words can hide ignorance and even feign caring.

Assembly Roxy

16:15 – 17:30

8

3. 

Long Live the Little Knife (*****)

A married couple are forced to move from their small time swindle to a big time con.  Their love for each other, and the clever and instructive cons make this a wonderful caper story.   The Jackson Pollock inspired theater furnishings and programs with the latter individually numbered were a neat foreshadowing of the subsequent cons.

Traverse Theatre

Varies

8

4. 

Super Hero Snail Boy (*****)

In response to his big brother’s death, an eleven year old boy starts to go through life thinking he has super powers.  This fast-paced children’s play provides savvy techniques for children to deal with anger, loss, and fear without being clinical.  The same actor who appears in an inspired snail costume, also is the widower whose scene of re-engaging with his daughter had me teary.

Bedlam Theatre

10:30 – 11:30

6

5. 

Andrew Maxwell: Banana Kingdom (*****)

Maxwell covered a wide range of topics with no particular theme.  It was rare that I would go more than a minute without laughing out loud.

Underbelly: Bristo Square

19:15 - 20:15

11

6. 

I (Honestly) Love You (*****)

Two people who have a disease that prevents them from lying find love and complications in each other’s arms.  Like good science fiction, this show sticks to a simple premise without changing anything else.  The chemistry between the couple made this light piece special.

C Aquila

17:05 - 18:05

12

7. 

’33 (A Kabarett) (*****)

In 1933 Berlin, after every member of his troupe has been arrested, the emcee gives snippets of each act and provides the reasons the Nazis feared each.  Bremner Duthie has a great voice which serves all of his roles well except that of the dancer.  His writing is even more powerful as his comedian bitingly comments on the audience and the state of the Nazi society.

Hill Street Theatre

19:00 – 20:05

5

8. 

It Goes Without Saying (*****)

A professional mime mixes humor and pathos as he speaks about his life from 1960’s Montana (a state with people of few words) to travelling school mime to caring for his lover during 1990’s New York City AIDs epidemic.  What a combination – a world class mime, and the words of sincerity.  A silent, contorted kiss from his dying partner cannot be forgotten.

Hill Street Theatre

22:05 -23:05

5

9. 

Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt? (*****)

A middle-aged woman recalls her life rejecting the female stereotypes that society attempted to impose upon her.  Whether this is autobiographical or not, she convincingly acted like her anger came from her soul.  Her constant wardrobe changes as she shifted from pants to skirts and back worked well as visual evidence of her resistance and capitulation to the demands of the culture of those times.

Hill Street Theatre

17:30 – 18:3

5

10. 

Bin Laden: The One Man Show (*****)

An actor plays Osama Bin Laden, and tells of his life from meeting his wife at university through the World Trade Center attack.  The play makes a convincing argument that Bin Laden was a patriot and a genius at promoting the freedom of the Islamic countries near the Middle East.  While I do not support terrorism, the historian in me did come away admiring his courage, resilience, and devotion to a righteous cause.

C nova

19:35 – 20:30

10

11. 

Dark Vanilla Jungle (*****)

A troubled woman deals with her continual abuse by imagining a relationship that does not exist.  Gemma Whelan turns in the best performance I have seen in years.  While this is not the most enjoyable show this year, it is a must see. 

Pleasance Courtyard

15:00 - 16:15

14

12. 

Ciara (*****)

The daughter of a deceased crime lord must deal with his competitor while trying to run her art gallery.  She had a great combination of steel, wisdom, and pain.   She could try to play the upscale entrepreneur, but her past still invaded her life.

Traverse

Varies

20

13. 

The Cock Factory (*****)

This play opens with three grocery shopper weighing choices, but the scene quickly shifts to follow the processing of chickens from selection in the yard through butchery and delivery to a store.   This six person physical theatre troupe epitomized the best of the Fringe for me, as it produced a show that was creative without being incoherent.  For example, they transform ordinary shopping carts into a chicken coop, an inspection table, and then a whole packaging conveyor system.

Cowgatehead

18:45 – 19:35

3

14. 

Mercy Killers (*****)

While under arrest, a red neck car mechanic explains how the mortgage crisis and health system led to the death of his wife.  Michael Milligan does a great job of despairing, raging against the system, and apologizing to his interrogator.   His turmoil over his Rush Limbaugh free market politics and his own need for a safety net was perfect.

Assembly Hall

14:45 - 15:40

24

15. 

Blues Brothers (*****)

Jake and Elwood are here to provide ‘50s and ‘60s blues, with a horn section and back-up singers to provide a nice big sound.  My yearly trek found that again the players had a good time, and so did the audience.  I am impressed in how the show is designed to get even the most staid old Brits up on their feet dancing by the end of the show.

C Chambers Street

23:05 – 0:00

4 & 26

16. 

Quietly (*****)

Two 52-year old Belfast men meet in a bar to have a reconciliation over a bombing when they were 16.  The work class Catholic’s rage could be barely contained, while the stoic Protestant would not deny his youthful ideals.  Both strong men conveyed their regrets while never backing down.

Traverse Theatre

18:30 - 19:45

22

17. 

Blam! (*****)

Four Dutch office workers slowly turn their office into an action movie set.  This is a wonderful show as they transform normal office equipment into armor, weapons, and aliens, and then do all of the stunts you see in such movies.  The final tilting stage transformation combined with their homage to super hero movies is just great!

Pleasance Courtyard

17:55 - 19:10

26

18. 

The Play That Goes Wrong (*****)

This is just a fun farce about murder mystery play with all of the usual trappings.  This is broad slapstick that worked perfectly for me.   I appreciated the contortions of the actors as they tried to keep the props on the wall during a phone call,  and later tried to surreptiously lift  a KO’d actress through the window.

Pleasance Courtyard

17:00 - 18:00

23

19. 

Grounded (*****)

After her pregnancy, an air force pilot is transferred from her jet to guiding an Afghan drone from Las Vegas.  While always maintaining her fierce approach, she still conveys love for her husband and daughter.  I had never thought of how mind numbing piloting a drone would be. 

Traverse Theatre

18:30 - 19:30

21

20. 

Avenue Q (****)

This musical has a young college graduate moving into an urban neighborhood populated by people and “monster” muppets.  The story is generally upbeat with good tunes and lyrics.  The young cast is strong and the muppets keep things nicely quirky.

Assembly Hall

12:00 - 14:05

14

21. 

Fade (****)

A journalist arrives at a film director’s house to conduct an interview only to find that his ex-girlfriend is also there.  As the play progresses the manipulations of the director become more and more insidious, and dangerous for the fragile journalist. 

Bedlam Theatre

21:00 – 22:00

6

22. 

The Big Bite-Size Breakfast Show (Menu 2) (****)

Six actors perform five short, generally light, plays ranging from a debate between praying mantis lovers to a man seeking consolation after his mother’s funeral.  These breakfast shows have become a yearly tradition for me because they are consistently satisfying, with the croissants and coffee just a bonus.  My favorites from this menu were a tender story of a hung over woman waking to find herself in bed next to her first lesbian lover, and a humorous story of a BBC4 editor trying to make a script about Tourette syndrome palatable for his conservative audience while unconsciously speaking in double entendres.

Pleasance Dome

10:30 – 11:30

7

23. 

L.O.V.E.  (****)

A man, woman, and a “lovely” young man mix Shakespeare’s sonnets with physical theater.  The energetic dancing/wrestling is wonderfully evocative of the author’s lusty words.  The extended scene with a very sharp pointy knife constantly grazing the dancers was thrilling.

Assembly Roxy

11:15 - 12:30

17

24. 

Eugenie Grandet (****)

This adaptation of Balzac’s novel has the young heiress pining for her wastrel cousin while dealing with her miserly father.  This straight costume drama is well acted, and engrossing.  From her initial naivete to her later complex settlement, Eugenie’s growth is fascinating and rings true. 

Assembly George Square

13:00 - 14:20

13

25. 

Brand New Ancients (****)

A Kate Tempest raps an entire saga while backed by a tuba, drums, violin, and cello.  From the outset, Kate established a rapport with audience I’ve seldom seen.  Part of the pleasure of this show is watching the joy with which all of the musicians performer.

Traverse Theatre

23:15 - 0:15

22

26. 

Music Show – Wedding (****)

A large Korean cast uses a wedding and its reception as a backdrop for a vaudeville of music and dance.  The audience jumped right in as rock and roll songs mixed with ballads, a slapstick father of the bride, and gangnam style dances.  The show stopper was a soft rendition of “Over the Rainbow” on water filled glasses.

C Chamber St.

19:55 – 20:50

19

27. 

The Halcyon Days (****)

A dying woman and a forgetful movie actor form a bond in run down old folks home.   Their friendship is as natural as their final choices.   His palsied shuffle was perfect, as was her infatuation.

Assembly Hall

11:00 - 12:15

23

28. 

Fight Night (****)

Five candidates vie for election as the audience repeatedly votes based on a variety of attributes.  Because attributes vary from appearance to choice of election methods, this show tells us as more about ourselves as electors than our actual political preferences.  Each vote revealed something interesting until the one that asked people to literally leave the process, because some left because they did not like the show instead of just rejecting the majority candidate.

Traverse Theatre

18:30 - 19:45

20

29. 

Adam Hills: Happyism (****)

The Aussie comedian continues to provide good, relatively clean humor at the expense of only himself.  As usual, his ad hoc work with the audience members demonstrated his great improve humor.  He must of spent 10 minutes mining humor with a responsive Scottish GP.

Assembly Hall

19:30 - 20:30

23

30. 

Oh My Irma (****)

After her laundress roommate dies, a demented young woman investigates her roommate’s main customer.  The off balanced performance dove tails perfectly with the story as it moves from chaotic to a coherent story.  The show is striking in how her dementia often leads her from what start out as fairly innocent acts to tragic consequences.

Hill Street Theatre

18:45 - 19:45

4

31. 

Pip Utton: Churchill (****)

The statue of Winston comes alive once a year, and relates the high and low points of his life.  As I expected, Utton does a great job of impersonating Churchill, and selecting key aspects of his life to explain his actions.  Though I knew much of Churchill, Utton revealed unbeknownst aspects of his childhood, and I still the re-enactment of his famous World War II speeches.

The Assembly Rooms

12:00 – 13:00

10

32. 

Threeway (****)

The morning after an unemployed husband, his nurse wife, and an invited Black businessman stranger have a ménage a trois, they find that they have switched bodies.  Rather than playing this completely for laughs, this also explores the dangers of incompetence and the give and take of marriages.   The

discoveries of the husband turned nurse have a great blend of insight, humor, and pathos. 

Pleasance Courtyard

12:30 - 13:45

15

33. 

Breaking the Silence (****)

After returning from a meeting in Warsaw of the descendants of Auschwitz survivors, a medical student pleads with her mother and grandmother to tell her of their family history.   As would be expected, the re-enactment of scenes from the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto are powerful and disturbing, and the deep influence on succeeding generations of those acts are also thoughtfully explored.  It is hard to imagine the horrible pain of parents giving up their children when the Nazis took away all children under 10 in just one day.

C nova

16:45 – 18:15

10

34. 

The Pyramids of Margate (****)

A shy, 40-year old IT man pines for a Polish co-worker while viewing much of the world in terms of Dr. Who of the 1970s.   While he knows that much of his life is pathetic, he does demonstrate social courage and passion that makes him charming to me.   Since I watched Dr. Who in the 1970s, I understand the references from personal experience, however the play provides the critical information so that even the uninitiated will not feel left out.

 

Hill Street Theatre

17:15 – 18:15

4

35. 

Lies My Garden Told Me (****)

A young woman starts out to climb a very tall tree and, by end of the day, she has befriended a flightless baby bird, a lost spider, and a poop-loving fly.  While this is a perfect children’s story, adults will find Fleur’s physical story telling enchanting.   From a strutting bird walking on the ground for the first time, to the spider’s tale of being captured in a glass inside a house, she has left me with innumerable engaging memories.

Cowgatehead

12:30 – 13:15

4

36. 

The Collision of Things (****)

After a young London married couple rent a room to a Yorkshire fellow the threesome deals with their difficulties in the world.  As the couple deals with estrangement, it is the roommate’s search to understand his father that drives the show.  The final symbolic leap of faith is well conceived. 

Pleasance Courtyard

17:45 - 18:45

18

37. 

The Rat Pack – Live (****)

Frank, Dean, and Sammy along with a ten-piece band and two backup singers, sign their signature songs along with some more obscure ones.  Unlike previous years, the Dean Martin impersonator actually matched Martin’s casual phrasing instead of clipping their ends.  All of the music and signing was spot on, though few of the musicians looked like they were having a good time.

C Chamber St

19:20 – 20:15

7

38. 

Boys (****)

At the end of the university year, four diverse male roommates and their two girlfriends recover from their party, and think about their future.  This is no facile coming of age party piece, but rather a well- crafted exploration of friendships, employment dreams, and emotional trauma.   The 30-year old hard partying waiter has his serious moments, but provides the best comedic scene when he recounts how he tried to explain an unflushable turd to a non-English speaking girl.

C Aquila

21:00 – 22:45

19

39. 

The Tin Ring (****)

Jane Arnfield tells the true story of a young Czech Jew who lost her family and lover, but survived the Holocaust.  From an illegal bicycle ride, to her clandestine lovers meeting in a transit station, to her work in a Swedish factory this is a refreshing Holocaust story that focuses more on life than death.  That is not say there are not horrific images from her starving days in a concentration camp, it is just that the story is about her will to overcome the obstacles.

Summerhall

20:00 - 21:05

14

40. 

Stuart: A Life Backwards (****)

An advocate for the homeless becomes enamored with a homeless man, Stuart, with cerebral palsy, and seeks to learn more of his past.  Despite our pity for Stuart, we must reconcile his disarming charm with his own history of violence.  He is not simple, and the play does a fine job of providing excerpts that make his later acts understandable, if not excusable.   

Underbelly Bristo Square

15:30 - 17:00

13

41. 

Undone (****)

Starting from his bath in a small tub, a muscular man, slowly dresses and tells of his family.  His sinuous body as well as his well-controlled voice permeate the whole piece. The text is poetic but a little too dense to be processed.

Assembly George Square

16:10 - 17:10

22

42. 

Ed Byrne – Roaring Forties (****)

As the title suggests, Byrne focuses this show on the beginning of his fifth decade.  His humor continues to be gentle and self-deprecating.

EICC

21:20 - 22:20

11

43. 

Sam Rose in the Shadows (****)

The son of an overprotective father escapes from his house, and finds the outside world safer than his father thought.  The stick puppets come to life and the Keeper of the Keys villain was suitably scary for the children.  This is a children’s show with a lesson for their parents.

Bedlam Theatre

12:00 – 12:55

6

44. 

Donal O’Kelly’s Skeffy (****)

 In modern day Ireland, as a drunk is being arrested he recounts the militant pacifist actions of James Joyce’s friend Francis “Sheffy” Sheehy-Sheffinton.  Between his hunger strike, and later lonely attempt to prevent looting during the Easter Rising in 1916, Sheffy provides an inspiring model of active pacifism.  The initial brogue of the drunk was sometimes incomprehensible, but when it came to presenting Sheffy’s life, both his speech and the story became clear.

Hill Street Theatre

20:15 – 21:15

4

45. 

Forget What You Heard (about spoken word) (****)

This is a sort of a cabaret for the spoken word.  Two comperes present their own work, and then mixed three established poets with open mike volunteers for an hour.  The high quality of almost all of the work impressed me.

Cowgatehead

20:00 – 21:00

3

46. 

The Trials and Tribulation of Mr. Pickwick (****)

Nigel Nevinson portrays the tale of Dicken’s Mr. Pickwick going to debtors prison because of his refusal to pay a breach of marriage proposal settlement.  I have never read the “Pickwick Papers,” but I still found his slices of English life, both mundane and extreme, enlightening and entertaining.   Among the many stories, the most memorable had the very proper Pickwick quite vexed after he thinks he has safely returned to his room in a Labyrinthian inn only to find that real owner who arrives shortly is a dismayed of a woman!

Hill Street Theatre

14:15 – 15:15

5

47. 

Richard Herring – We’re All Going to Die (****)

Herring finds humor in all aspects of death, and kept the audience and me laughing most of the time.  Unlike his recent shows, he did not do extensive research for this one, and it shows.  There are more cultural references that lost me, and the logic of his dissection of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech is badly flawed in its use of the existence of the ghost of his father. 

Pleasance Courtyard

20:00 – 21:00

9

48. 

The Pearl (****)       

This is a sweet physical theater interpretation of Steinbeck’s tale of how the discovery of a giant pearl destroys the lives of a diver’s family.  The actors do a great job of conveying their initial tender love, and then his transformation and her dismay.  The underwater scene with its fishing net jellyfish was a creative interlude.

Pleasance Courtyard

12:30 – 13:40

9

49. 

The Little Soldiers (****)

This physical theater piece has brother circus performers vying for the attention of high wire artist.  With just ladders and ropes the brothers aptly demonstrate their battle.  A key character development has the woman stand on the ladder and uses the ropes to manipulate the brothers as puppets.

Pleasance Dome

14:10 - 15:00

11

50. 

Longing for Grace (****)

Grace Kiley plays the spirit of Princess Grace (ne Kelly) of Monaco at her own funeral as she reviews her life, particularly her limited choices during her reign.  I found it quite illuminating to find out that she had many affairs when an actress, and that Prince Rainier (and later the citizens of Monaco) objected to her returning to her raison d’etre – acting.  If you are not well acquainted with the movies of the 1950s, then this play will not be for you because most of her friends were movie stars at that time and referred to by only their first names.

Hill Street Theatre

14:30 – 15:35

4

51. 

Party Piece (****)

Three men and a woman, all university age, both party and talk about partying.  This was endless fun as they spoke of their alcohol fueled foolishness, and executed gymnastic dance routines, while maintaining the ambience of a house party.   While their tales were often funny, they did not strain credulity.

Bedlam Theatre

22:30 – 23:25

6

52. 

If These Spasms Could Speak (****)

Thirty year old actor/director Robert Softley talks about his life dealing with cerebral palsy and demonstrates his current abilities and the appearance of his body.  I am grateful for the chance to get the answers to questions I might have wondered about and to those I should have asked.  This was one of the most rewarding shows I have attended at the Fringe.

Pleasance Courtyard

17:45 – 18:45

7

53. 

I’m with the Band (****)

A four piece rock band, symbolizing the four parts of the United Kingdom, must deal with the energetic lead guitarist (Scotland) leaving because of financial difficulties.  For me, each member reflected his country well, and the actual music was pretty good.  The English keyboardist, in particular, reflected England’s vitality and arrogance.

Traverse

10:00 - 11:30

13

54. 

The State vs John Hayes (****)

A condemned lesbian prisoner talks about her life growing up, her two murders, and her two personalities.   Most of the time she seems quite likeable, but little touches suggest an underlying menace.  Between her rhapsodizing about her gun, and her thunderous shaking of her cot, we see how each side committed its own murder. 

C nova

21:50 – 22:50

10

55. 

Chalk Farm (****)

A mother must deal with her suspicion about her teenage sons involvement in the 2011 London riots.  She well coveys the love, aspirations, and resentments of a low income single mother, and he has all the bravado that a teenager’s lack of the sense of consequences can create.  His incremental thought process as he is drawn deeper into the riot seems quite natural.

Underbelly Cowgate

18:30 – 19:30

9

56. 

The  List (****)

A woman maintains a priority list of things to do, but a change of the priority of one item may have cost the life of her friend.  The actress conveys both her isolation on the Canadian frontier and her consuming regret about her part in the death.  The sequence of events that must occur to lead to the death is quite reasonable considering her friend’s fears.

Summerhall

14:00 - 15:00

16

57. 

Out of the Blue (****)

The Oxford male a cappella group returns with their good natured choreography and great sound.  As I expected, they performed both upbeat numbers and ballads with equal aplomb.  Though most voices were good, I think I have become a bit jaded since I’ve seen them five times.

Assembly George Square

14:00 - 14:50

26

58. 

Preen Back Yer Lugs (****)

After countless world wars, Scotland is the only livable place on Earth, but the Scots must deal with emigrants from England that are organizing.  This satire has a number of plot twists which allows it to probe a range of issues besides just Scotland’s devolution.  The final metamorphosis of the Scottish leader and his huge wind turbine leave satire behind for just plain silliness.

Pleasance Dome

12:25 - 13:45

11

59. 

Missing (****)

Through dance and physical theater we follow a woman’s effort to understand herself.   Her efforts range from dealing with co-workers while walking along a conveyor belts to being X-rayed to trying to get comfortable sitting with a lover.  The use of lit, transparent screens to isolate specific interactions was novel and effective.

Pleasance Courtyard

13:00 - 14:05

23

60. 

Jordan (****)

A woman whose abusive lover leaves before her baby is born sets out to bring up the baby until a year later he returns to try to legally claim the child.  The story is true, and the actress does a fine job of seeming troubled and a bit simple.  As the story unfolds, I could understand her state of mind that led to her sad decisions.  Note that this is a repeat for me, and I have it 5 stars in 2010.

Assembly Hall

13:10 - 14:25

17

61. 

Robert Golding (***)

Upon completion of her restaurant, a woman invites her husband and the architect to a quiet dinner there the night before it opens.  As the architect firmly asserts his conspiracy theories his presentation subtly evinces his sureness of purpose.  While most of his arguments for conspiracy were within the realm of possibility, the Paul McCartney is dead argument destroyed his credibility and hurt the play.

Assembly Roxy

14:20 -15:20

7

62. 

The Big Bite-Size Breakfast Show (Menu 1) (***)

Six actors perform five short, generally light, plays ranging from a 16th century married actors rehearsing and arguing about their life decisions to a woman and a talking elephant who discuss running off together.  As usual, the acting is top notch, but most of the stories seemed weaker than Menu 2.  The exception was the story of a circus high-wire wife who must overcome the falling death of her husband to start to walk the wire again.

Pleasance Dome

10:30 – 11:30

9

63. 

Executed for Sodomy: the Life Story of Caterina Linck (***)

This is the true story of the trial of an early 16th century who disguised herself as a man to become a soldier, prophet, and husband.  The actress portrayed Caterina as a believable blend of  anguish, strength, love, and piety.  It is an intriguing historical example of a woman trying to overcome the gender stereotypical roles forced on her by her society.

C Nova

18:30 - 19:30

17

64. 

The Bunker Trilogy: Agamemnon (***)

In a World War I bunker, a badly injured Captain Agamemnon worries about his abandonment of his wife two years ago while we see how she dealt with his absence.  This is a reasonable adaptation of the Greek myth, but it seemed to have a very slow pace.  The fact that the play was performed in a room the size of a bunker with no ventilation made it quite hot for the audience, and many of us were anxious for the play to end.

C Nova

20:30 – 21:35

26

65. 

The Extremists (***)

On a TV political interview show, the author of a book on the dangers of extremism argues passionately for its defeat at all costs.  This fast paced satire has the author arguing and gesticulating almost non-stop with a but a few momentary comments from the interviewer.   This unrelenting pace proves monotonous and weakens the satire on blatant hypocrisy.  When I suggested to a member of the company that the show would be better with an occasional commercial break, they said that the playwright specifically wanted the play to become mind numbing.

Assembly Roxy

12:40 – 14:00

7

66.h

Cherry On Top (***)

In South Africa, the wife of a dying man must deal with her suspicions that he had a mistress.  By using wigs and costumes, the two actresses do a wonderful job of assuming the roles the wife, the mistress, their mothers, a hair dresser, a waitress, and even a drunk florist.  The misguided note attached to a bouquet really hurt an otherwise fine play.

C Chamber Street

20:25 – 21:25

8

67. 

Beyond Therapy (***)

After taking the advice of her licentious therapist and his scattered therapist to place personal ads, lonely Prudence and conflicted, ever crying bisexual Bruce meet for dinner.  Besides these four, Bruce’s lover, and a handsome waiter round out a cast that keeps the comedy moving right along.  Though these medical students could have played this as a broad slapstick farce, they wisely kept that impulse in check most of the time, and allowed the words provide most of the humor.

theSpace on the Mile

21:20 – 22:50

7

68. 

Bedtime Solos (****)

A man and wife have troubles making love because of his fear of premature ejaculation.  That description sounds more clinical than the play’s physical theater approach was.  The actors were well suited to their roles, and the husband’s soliloquy about thinking of other things during sex was quite humorous.

Assembly Roxy

11:20 - 12:20

26

69. 

Nirbhaya (***)

Five real victims, an actress, and an actor relive the abuse of six victims of horrible abuse of women in India, Pakistan, and Chicago.  While the abuse these women suffered was certainly terrible, I had trouble seeing them reliving their experiences nightly.  Somehow forcing them to perform every night seemed another form of abuse.

Assembly Hall

16:00 - 17:30

20

70. 

Losing the Plot (***)

After disappearing for three months, an art teacher returns to his family to find that his upset wife has written a best selling book based on his foibles.  This is light stuff that seemed more a TV sitcom than a play.

New Town Theatre

16:20 - 17:40

21

71. 

You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (***)

This musical has the main characters of the Peanuts comic strip come alive and deal with the troubled Charlie Brown.  The singers had good voices, and the choreography was well executed.  There just were no show stopping highlights to make it particularly exceptional.

St. Augistines

20:10 - 21:40

21

72. 

Sympathy Pains (***)

A wife must deal with her husband thinking that he is going to have a baby.  Her patience is admirable, but his denial in the face of an ultra sound pushed credulity.  Instead of him waking up to discover that he has “reabsorbed” the baby, it would have helped the show if he had really acknowledged the underlying causes.

Pleasance Dome

13:40 - 14:40

18

73. 

Family Tree (***)

A woman asks her boyfriend to accept the delivery of a memorial tree for her dad’s grave, but he repeatedly fails while dealing with her obnoxious cat.  The cat was great as he tortured, and then spoke to the boyfriend.   However, the boyfriend was not likeable, and the last scene confuses the tale as some supposedly invisible beings are suddenly visible, and vice versa.

Pleasance Courtyard

16:30 - 17:30

18

74. 

Cadre (***)

During apartheid, a young man joins the resistance after his brother is brutally killed by the security forces.  The three actors portray a wide range of characters well, and the plot moves along at a reasonable pace.  However, the last scene in an interrogation cell makes no sense.

Traverse Theatre

10:00 - 11:15

22

75. 

Beeston Rifles (***)

A young woman and her simpleton brother hold 19-year old brother and sister at gunpoint.   The play kept my interest as a series of revelations changes how the woman understands her situation.  All four actors played their parts well, with the drooling simpleton particularly impressive.

Underbelly

12:10 - 13:20

22

76. 

Ulysses (***)

The show adapts Joyce’s book into a fairly straightforward play about a Jew, Leopold Bloom, in Dublin, his bawdy wife, Molly, and her lover.  This version follows Bloom as he attempts to wind his way through life without angering the populace too much.  Molly’s lively exploits serve as a counterpoint to Bloom’s depressing life.

Paterson’s Land

19:00 - 21:20

18

77. 

Substance (***)

When the boss of a trio of drug dealers adds a new woman to the age old partnership things start to go awry.  Though the boss does little productive work, his menace drives the whole operation and play.  After her initial disaffection, I felt that female partner’s aid to the new woman evolve naturally.

C nova

20:40 – 21:40

10

78. 

London Road, Sea Point (***)

In South Africa, a friendship develops between a dotty old white woman and her upstairs neighbor who is a Black female drug dealer.  While the upstairs woman is initially reluctant, the relationship deepens as the generosity and dependence of the downstairs woman wins her over.  The older woman was portrayed as a winning combination of quirky forgetfulness and love.

Assembly George Square

13:50 – 14:55

19

 

79. 

Feral (***)

First, three cast members create a miniature, peaceful town with cardboard and stick puppets, and then they add a casino.  The little details in the shops and the use of mini-cams makes the town a wonder to explore.  Though the degradation of the town continued apace, the novelty of the presentation wore off.

Summerhall

20:00 - 20:50

16

80. 

Breakfast Plays: A Respectable Widow Takes To Vulgarity (***)

After her CEO husband dies, his widow enlists a young worker to help her better understand her husband and herself.   Her efforts at stilted efforts at vulgarity matched his reluctance to help her to learn his slang.  Most telling was the moment she realized that her peers did not notice her use of swear words because they were not really listening to her.

Traverse

9:00 - 9:45

13

81. 

The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning (***)

This follows the life of the Wiki Leak whistle blower from childhood through his military trial.  This is a big production with many instances of his abuse, and his own immodesty.  Somehow its size, particularly a scene of guards keeping him awake, serves to obscure rather than inform the real issues involved.

Pleasance@St Thomas of Aquin’s High School

19:30 - 21:00

15

82. 

Have I No Mouth (***)

One of those shows about a mother and son dealing with the death of the father that is well done, but leaves nothing memorable behind.

Traverse Theatre

21:00 - 22:10

20

83. 

The Price of Everything (***)

Starting with the price of a pint of milk, Daniel Bye explores how we assign values to things.  Bye makes many interesting points, but the whole show feels thin.  His fictionalized sale of an air guitar on eBay was a master stroke that sucked me in.

Hill Street Theatre

10:30 - 11:30

21

84. 

La Merda  (The Shit) (***)

A naked woman on a pedestal portrays a dwarf who wants to make it as an actress.  As would be expected from her state, she takes things to extremes with repeated bouts of screaming about her dream of success.   This is a play to be experienced because it is so off beat, but not because it is particularly enjoyable.

Summerhall

12:30 - 13:30

21

85. 

Conversations Not Fit for the American Dinner Table (***)

By donning masks, an actor becomes different archetypes of American society.   Though he tries to mimic the style of each type, his liberal bias is evident throughout.  Even though I am a liberal, I found his use of such straw dogs boring.

Bedlam Theatre

15:00 - 16:00

18

86. 

The Events (***)

Backed by a different local chorus each day, the choir mistress tries a wide range of rituals with the choir to deal with a mass killing of some of the diverse singers.  She almost tries to deal with the killer, her lesbian lover, and a right wing politician.  The whole play jumps around too much, and even some members of the chorus seemed distracted at times.

Traverse

10:00 - 11:30

15

87. 

Lauder! (***)

Using puppetry and multimedia, this show tells of a young boy trying to understand that is his father died in the World Trade Center tragedy.  Unhappily, I did not know the premise beforehand, and found the story confounding.  Tim loved it though.

Summerhall

16:30 - 17:30

16

88. 

The Three Little Pigs (***)

In South Africa, the world is populated by talking animals with the police trying to solve the murder of two pigs.  The mixing of different species, and their proclivities was cute, and the mystery genuine.  Somehow the show just never grabbed me.

Assembly George Square

17:45 - 18:45

13

89. 

Pendulums Bargain Emporium (***)

This a satire on how things are marketed without real thought of their worth using an artisan cobbler as an example.  While it seemed plausible that accepting mass produced shoes would lead to more profit, the story moves away from the loss of craft to the problem of unwise loans.  The skill of the actors was fine, I just would have preferred a less one sided presentation.

Pleasance Dome

16:20 - 17:20

11

90. 

Missing (***)

This delves into the topic of missing people in Great Britain with emphasis on two real cases in the past.  Though the events are harrowing, this was more expository than drama.  I was surprised to find out that if a missing child is not found within 24 hours, the odds are that he/she will have been killed.

Underbelly

20:05 - 21:05

13

91. 

Bath Time (***)

This one man show explores the life and times of a petty thief who gets mixed up with a professional micro-chip stealing gang.  His performance is appropriately gritty, and clear.  It just seemed like another Fringe solo performance with nothing particularly thought provoking. 

Gilded Balloon Teviot

15:15 - 16:15

11

92. 

Canary Gold (***)

This show starts out with a musical number, and then traces the history of two con jobs involving wine from the Canary Islands.  The voices are great, as are many of the songs, but the action is needlessly choppy as it jumps from 17th century to present and one con to another. 

C Chambers Street

12:10 - 13:20

25

93. 

Shakespeare for Breakfast (***)

This year the company adapts the “Taming of the Shrew” to have Kate Mddleton as Kate and Prince William as Petruchio.   Despite the mismatch of personalities, the cast has a lot of fun portraying the real people against type.  As usual, the many pop culture references were lost on me, but enjoyed by the British audience.

C Chambers Street

10:00 - 11:00

26

94. 

An Actor’s Lament (***)

Steven Berkoff wrote, directed, and stars in this tale of a meeting of a renowned actor, his playwright friend, and an actress.  The story is fine, but Berkoff’s acting is way over the top throughout.  On the other hand, the actress takes the opportunity to exploring the range of her character without revealing herself.

Assembly Hall

14:30 – 15:30

9

95. 

Titus Andronicus: An All-Female Production (***)

Eight women perform Shakespeare’s first, and bloodiest play that is about manipulation and revenge.  The play was a bit confusing as the sons of the Queen also played the sons of Andronicus with only minor costume differences.  The use of paint brushes for swords, and paint cans of “blood” allowed the blood to flow in the copious amounts that is to be expected.

Bedlam Theatre

19:30 – 20:35

6

96. 

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs (***)

This black comedy has an evil teenage brother who bedevils his nicer younger sister including kicking her pig toys.  While the nastiness of the brother is the center of the play, the white-faced cast takes time to lampoon other subjects such as an oblivious newspaper.  It just does not say much except that nasty people deserve to be punished.

Pleasance Courtyard

16:10 – 17:20

9

97. 

Track 3 (***)

This version of Chekov’s  Three Sisters” covers most of the story of three sisters and brother stuck in a backwater town in Czarist Russia.  The acting was good, and the story well told.  It is just that nothing leaps to mind as particularly exceptional.

Bedlam Theatre

16:25 – 17:35

6

98. 

Women Who Wank (***)

Despite its title, this show had little to do with sex most of the time.  Instead, the actress attempted to do improve based on the atmosphere of the venue and audience rather than the more typical audience suggestions.   She tried to use acceptance to deal with two obnoxious hecklers, but they just thrived on the attention and got worse.

Cowgatehead

22:30 -23:30

8

99. 

Noodles (***)

Four female gymnasts and a male clown interact with a variety of “noodles.”  Though they do one tightrope act, the bulk of the show is focused on rope work that could not sustain my interest.  One novel trick had three women on one rope with two pulleys between them so that when the outside women rolled, the inside woman’s loop would shrink or expand.

New Town Theatre

12:45 – 13:55

5

100. 

I Need a Doctor: The Unauthorised Whosical Adventure (***)

A young fellow and woman create a low budget homage to Dr. Who while avoiding copy right infringement.  Their inexpensive rendition of the props of the series are fun.  However, even that joke gets tired when it is the driving force of the show.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:30 – 15:30

8

101. 

Storming the Barricade (***)

Two women and two men perform a wide range of show tunes.  All their voices were fine, and their selection was diverse.  The choreography was minimal, and there were no introductions to place a song within its context.

inSpace@Symposium Hall

16:20 – 17:20

24

102. 

Julien Cottereau: Imagine Toi (***)

Julien is not silent, but a non-verbal mime who relies on highly amplified noises he makes to inform his actions.  His early routine with a lassoed fly was well done, though not original.  Much of the rest of the show has audience participants trying to follow his signed instructions which can be fun, but much of the fun is at the expense of the participant.

Assembly Roxy

12:55 -14:05

8

103. 

Dear Doctor Cullen (***)

Three speakers review the letters of Doctor William Cullen, one of the foremost physicians of the 18th century.  Both the unsolicited letters to the doctor asking for medical advice, as well as his courteous and now mostly bizarre prescriptions provided an excellent measure of the state of the medicine during his life.  While no charlatan, his unshakeable faith in his diagnoses and prescriptions demonstrated that science, with its repeatable experiments, was still in its infancy.

Royal College of Physicians

11:00 – 12:00

5

104. 

H to He (I’m Turning Into a Man) (***)

A middle-aged woman wakes up to find that she is becoming a man.  While some would say this a metaphor for menopause, I see it as a woman noting the stereotypical differences between the sexes.  Though her dealing with her transformation from a plain, paunchy woman into a handsome, fit man is fun, it seemed shallow, particularly when it came to her sexual thoughts and persistent scratching.

Hill Street Theatre

20:35 – 21:35

5

105. 

Annoying the Neighbors (***)

While listening on an ipod as a prompter, Louise Wallinger plays the people she hears as they tell of their annoying neighbors.  The stories range from a man who tapes alarm clocks on his celing to wake the upstairs at random times, to a man who argues that a building permit like his should not be granted to an adjacent neighbor.  The stories are entertaining, there just was nothing exceptional here.

Hill Street Theatre

15:45 – 16:45

5

106. 

Four Walls (***)

A young girl creates a fantasy world of arguing slippers, a helpful grandmother clock, a jaded teapot, and a mirrored image.  Though in hindsight the foreshadowing and symbolism of the first two-thirds of the play was clever, as I experienced it, it was unproductive.    While the interactions of the animated objects were fun at times, the psychologist seemed too flat and clinical.

Bedlam Theatre

13:30 – 14:30

6

107. 

Solpadeine is My Boyfriend (***)

An overweight woman faces the challenges of relying on Solpadeine (an over the counter drug containing paracetamol, caffeine, and codeine) to make it through each day.  She was likeable enough, and the seemingly autobiographical story was interesting, it just never wowed me.  Her adventure in a runaway hot-wired car was the highpoint.

Underbelly Bristo Square

12:30 - 13:30

26

108. 

Breaker (***)

A fellow comes to a small island where a group of children has recently drowned to learn of his family’s past, and learns of life there from the lonely schoolteacher.  I found the teacher the more interesting as she alternately felt a need for companionship and then a need to protect the privacy of the children and herself.  With its title, and an early description of freak waves, it seemed clear that the children had been washed away, but the story casts doubt on that for no clear reason.

Under belly

14:00 - 15:00

22

109. 

Big Bite Breakfast (Menu 3) (***)

This is the weakest of the three menus, each with five short plays.  From a self- centered man practicing before meeting his ex-girlfriend for coffee, to an interpreter dealing with two abusive clients, none of these has an interesting insight, or much cleverness.

Pleasance Dome

10:30 - 11:30

25

110. 

Genesis/Golgotha (***)

One play has Eve complaining about Adam and God, and the other play has Jesus roaming 21st century Pittsburg.  Mark Twain covered Eve’s story with humor and wit, and Jesus’ rant was incoherent much of the time.

Assembly George Square

12:30 - 13:30

18

111. 

HeLa (***)

In the 1950s, a poor Black woman suffering from cancer unknowingly supplied the cells that have been the basis of most cellular research.  The one woman show uses a mixture of stories of Henrietta Lack’s life, and a video about the HeLa cells use.  The  educational video is very informative, but detracts from the drama of her life.

Summerhall

18:45 - 19:45

16

112. 

Morag and Keats (***)

We have all the standard characters from film noir, like “The Maltese Falcon” with Sam being a police detective, played for laughs.  The femme fatale had Lauren Bacall down pat, but the gay police chief has no place in the setting.  There is some witty and evocative lines, but the underlying story is mundane.

C nova

18:30 – 19:25

10

113. 

Forest Boy (***)

Based on a true story, a young boy emerges from a German forest and claims that he has been living there for five years, when it has actually only been a few weeks.  The central story about the boy’s difficulties with becoming a man in his father’s eyes was interesting, but the production was uninspiring.  Though there were some good voices, both the lyrics and music were below average. 

Assembly George Square

15:20 – 16:20

19

114. 

The Waiting Room (***)

A man, a wife, a kidnapper, and the man’s mistress all find themselves in a room with no doors and windows, and try to figure out what to do next.  Though initially the switches of allegiances were interesting and somewhat plausible, by the end the play had devolved into an incoherent farce.

Assembly George Square

11:30 – 12:30

19

115. 

Brush (***)

An artist who has not lived up to his promise must deal with his artist roommate who is advancing quickly.  Throw in some unneeded homosexual pining, and you have the whole plodding plot.  As is often the case, the acting was fine, but there was language and

C Nova

19:40 - 20:40

17

116. 

Solomon and Marion (***)

In South Africa, a young Black man begins helping an elderly white woman.  This is similar to “London Road, Sea Point,” but less interesting.

Assembly Hall

14:30 - 15:45

15

117. 

Freak Show (***)

This musical gives a little taste of a 19th century traveling freak show with the bulk of the time spent on their back stage lives.  With less chorus work than in “Forest Boy,” the weak voices become more apparent.  The music and undecipherable lyrics again did little for me.

Assembly George Square

15:20 - 16:20

12

118. 

Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model (***)

The actress Bryony Kimmings pairs with her 9-year old niece to present a piece about the sexualization of female preteens.  Instead of focusing on the topic, Bryony spends a lot of time on her own characteristics, particularly her self-centeredness, which is quite in evidence throughout.  I thought it appropriate and clever that the niece would be asked to cover her ears (as did the mother next to me ask her daughter) when the text became too adult. 

Pleasance Dome

17:45 - 18:45

11

119. 

Pants On Fire’s Pinocchio (***)

This story of Pinocchio was just too disjoint for me to enjoy.

Pleasance Courtyard

13:00 - 14:15

12

120. 

Ballad of the Burning Star (***)

A cabaret about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dominated by the compere, and is just too loud and abrasive for the whole time.

Pleasance Dome

17:15 – 18:35

19

121. 

Kubrick3 (***)

Based on the true story of Alan Conway, who fraudulently impersonated Stanley Kubrick, four actors play Conway as he recounts his life of failure and lies to his son.  The use of four actors maybe a nod to his many personalities, but adds needless confusion since none represents a separate set of characteristics.  We see the acts of the man, but not the underlying causes.

Pleasance Courtyard

19:10 - 20:00

12

122. 

Breakfast Plays: Clean (***)

Three women play expert criminals with different talents that are hired to make an international heist a la Mission Impossible.  The play wants to show women filling the roles of action heroes with less violence.  The three characters are appropriately over the top, but the plot and their interactions do not transfer well from video game to play.

Traverse

9:00 - 9:45

14

123. 

The Break-up of Cause and Effect (***)

Two fellows portray the bickering pair of associated concepts: cause and effect.  This seems like a secondary school skit by teachers trying to clarify the two concepts.  It just doesn’t merit 50 minutes.    

C Nova

20:50 - 21:40

17

124. 

Working on a Special Day (***)

On the day Hitler visits Rome, and homosexuals will start to be rounded up, a gay man comes to the aid of his downstairs neighbor as she tries to manage a household of six children.   The developing friendship was sweet, but this slice of life was too thin for me.  The use of chalk on the chalkboard walls to slowly decorate her apartment worked well.

Assembly George Square

11:10 - 12:10

16

125. 

Cartwheels (***)

An unmarried pregnant student, her lover, and her assertive flat-mate argue about abortion, and other issues of pregnancy.  The expectant character has just the right mix of conflict, but her flat mate seems a little over the top.  The picnic scene when they are surrounded by hundreds of miniature fetuses is too weird to fit with the rest of the play

C nova

23:00 – 0:00

10

126. 

Overcoat (***)

This is a Chinese interpretation of Gogol’s story of the effects of a minor Czarist bureaucrat purchasing an impressive overcoat.  Though the actress is talented, she seems too cute and lively to play the somber, inconsequential Russian.

C Chamber Street

21:50 – 23:05

9

127. 

The Principle of Uncertainty (***)

This is a lecture that attempts to explain Heisenberg’s assertion that the act of observing a quanta will change it so that you can know either its original location, or its original momentum, but not both at the same time.  The use of videos was useful, but in the end this a lecture that lacks much drama.

Summerhall

18:15 - 19:30

25

128. 

Newton (***)

Jack Klaff plays a seemingly endless set of contemporaries of Sir Isaac Newton to provide a biography of the scientist.  Though Klaff is a fine actor, this method of exploration means that a good quarter of the hour is spent by Klaff introducing the characters. 

Summerhall

17:00 - 18:15

14

129. 

Next Door (***)

A Dane and a Fin investigate how two neighbors could not know each other by looking at their lives.  This is quiet Danish physical theater that relies on too much subtlety, and childish simplicity for me.

Underbelly

18:45 - 19:45

24

130. 

The Seven Deadly Sins (***)

This Brecht play has a young 1930s movie actress committing all of the sins as she aspires for stardom.  The full orchestra provided an engaging score.  However, the enactment of all but one of the sins was too obscure to identify them.

Paterson’s Land

22:30 - 23:15

21

131. 

Theatre Uncut: Dalgety and Fragile (***)

“Fragile” has the audience read liberal responses to an actor who addresses the recent severe government spending cuts, and “Dalgety” has a young open minded constable and her rigid sergeant deal with a counter culture gathering in their little Scottish town.  I found “Fragile” too manipulative and not clever at all.  Dalgety” was more fun as the constable attempts to understand the visitors while her sergeant keeps overreacting to the peaceful group.

Paterson’s Land

15:00 - 16:00

23

132. 

Hirsh (***)

This homage to the influential Canadian theater director, John Hirsch, is told by one of his former actors, Alon Nashman.  The Hungarian immigrant certainly seemed to have a dramatic life, but the story reveres the man without really explaining him.  The actor states that he was Hirsh’s abused scapegoat for years, but never explains why Nashman holds him in such high personal regard.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:05 - 15:15

20

133. 

Chastity Butterworth & the Spanish Hamster (***)

Full of winks, nods, and mugging, Gemma Wheeling’s character has little to say that is that funny.  The bulk of the show relies on audience participation both on and off the stage.  What a letdown after her stellar performance in “Dark Vanilla Jungle.”

Assembly Roxy

17:45 - 18:35

24

134. 

Bridge to an Island (***)

A young woman tries to deal with her social difficulties by writing stories that come alive but then, to her horror, always end badly.  The stories are short, and the constant offstage wardrobe changes by the two story actors take too long and make the play too choppy.  After the first couple of stories, the play becomes repetitive and boring.

C nova

14:15 – 15:15

10

135. 

Rave Generaton (***)

A young teacher who advocates the legalizing the drug ecstasy tries to convince the school officials of his view.  While his teaching of the free dancing of raves to his young charges seemed innocent enough, his choice to secretly drug his superiors taints his efforts.  The main problem is that the whole play is one sided with no effort to deal with the negative side effects of ecstasy use.

Paradise in Augustines

16:50 - 17:25

25

136. 

Erik and Little Ern (***)

Starting as Little Ern lies on his deathbed, the two men play the famous British TV comic duo, and re-enact some of their classic routines.  Since I knew nothing of the pair, most of their 1950s humor seemed dated and did not resonate.  On the other hand, the British audience had moist eyes from fond reminiscing, and would give it five stars.

Gilded Balloon Teviot

15:15 - 16:15

26

137. 

Journey to X (***)

A group of secondary school friends form a singing group with the intent of going to London and becoming famous on “The X Factor,” with a planned side trip to an abortionist.  The kids are appropriately inept at their initial attempts at choreography, but they never achieve the professionalism that is expected in the final set piece for such stories.  While I would have thought that abortion would be the thorniest issue, it’s best section it dealt with morality of the pick pocketing a pensioner’s money by a friend to help cover the expense of an abortion.

theSpace@Surgeons Hall

13:10 - 13:55

24

138. 

Squally Showers (***)

Set in the 1980s of Thatcher, we watch as a television station staff battles within itself for personal advancement.  I rarely understood the lyrics, and so most of the play was just so much unintelligible bombast and dance moves.

Zoo Southside

21:00 - 22:30

12

139. 

Somnambules and the Seven Deadly Sins (**)

I’m guessing that two Russian dancers attempt to portray the seven deadly sins.  Though they are both fine dancers, the choreography feels like an uninspired rehash of the Derevo works of the past few years.  Worse still, their movements gave no clues to me as to which sin they were currently performing.

Summerhall

21:30 - 22:35

14

140. 

Voices Made Night (**)

This South African physical theater company creates a series of fables.  Many made little sense to me.  There was one that I understood where an old weak man decides to dig a grave for his ill wife with the expected finale.

Assembly Hall

16:10 - 17;40

15

141. 

Anna (**)

Based on the life of a journalist who risked her life to expose the abuses of the Russian military and government, this play took place in an unventilated corridor with audience standing against the two walls.  The facts are dramatic, but the heat and constant yelling was overpowering for those of us in the audience.  What made it worse is that most lines were repeated twice by each actor, even if they were suppose to be the reasonable victims.

Summerhall

20:30 - 21:30

25

142. 

PussyFooting (**)

The feet of three women take on a life of their own while their male friends try to help them.  Despite the play starting with two feet speaking to each other, which could have provided an interesting commentary, the play restricted itself to how the humans deal with each other’s ordeal.  The act of drawing each set and its props on various sized chalkboards was fine the first time, but too time consuming for later scenes.

C nova

13:20 – 14:10

10

143. 

The Ribbon Tied (**)

A young woman returns to her hometown to share a pizza and a movie in the bedroom of her ex-boyfriend with the possibility of rekindling their relationship clearly on both their minds.  This slice of life story seemed too thin as it crawled along at a slow, naturalistic pace.   While I liked a thoughtful gift of two bottle caps, throughout the play, particularly at points of high emotion, I felt the actress was trying to act her part rather than be her character.

Cowgatehead

17:30 – 18:30

3

144. 

Sentinels (**)

This devised piece starts with fourteen statues stand on pedestals, and then we hear of some of their long forgotten histories.  Though their singing was quite good, few of their tales held my interest.  

Bedlam Theatre

13:30 – 14:30

6

145. 

Caryatid Unplugged (**)

Caryatid, a pedestal taken by the British from the Acropolis and placed in the British Museum in the early 19th century, complains of her plight, and that of the Greeks now.  While there were a few cute parts, the bulk of the show held little for anyone but the Greeks in the audience.

Hill Street Theatre

21:45 – 22:35

4

146. 

35MM : A Musical Exhibition (**)

This devised show that displays a picture on a screen then provides stories and music that may or may not relate to the picture.  Some of the vignettes were interesting, but the lack of cohesion left me tired.

Bedlam Theatre

18:00 – 19:05

6

147. 

My Favourite Madman (**)

This play starts has a professor, a nurse, and seven newspapermen in Azerbaijan all running around in mayhem.  Though things settle down after a while, the main feature remains that all but one is crazy, and the constant insanity bored me after a while.  I did find funny the running gag of one man constantly seeing lovers and friends from his past lives and then trying to prove that they were his reincarnated comrades.

Gryphon Venues at the Point Hotel

18:20 – 19:50

8

148. 

Cut! (**)

Ian Watt plays a fictional silent film director named Posteranz who is loosely based on the notoriously dictatorial Erich Von Stroheim.  The play chooses to concentrate on Posteranz megalomaniac tendencies by having the man ordering people around and ranting in general most of the time.  This one dimensionality combined with a German accent so thick as to be occasionally unintelligible created a show that quickly bored me.

Hill Street Theatre

16:05 – 17:00

4

149. 

A Happy Side (As Well) (**)

This devised played has friends and teachers try to get a silent student to speak.  This secondary school production is a misguided mash-up of teenage recollections, audience participation, and treatises on life.  The only saving grace was the sincerity and naivete of the young actresses. 

Greenside

16:15 – 17:00

7

150. 

Omega (**)

Assembly Hall

14:35 - 15:45

21

151. 

The Secret Agent (**)

This show starts out by inviting audience members on stage to surround a table, and then does nothing with them.  That was a foreshadowing of what the show did with a plot following a minor spy – nothing, and it did it for 90 minutes!

Traverse Theatre

20:30 - 22:00

22

152. 

Pigmalion Zoo (*)

Pigmalion and his wife are trying to create the next god for a game show.  There is little here but the continue mistreatment of their daughter.

C nova

15:30 – 16:30

10

 

I am a 60-year old Computer Science lecturer from the University of California in Davis who thinks even a bad play is better than no play at all.  Besides teaching, I work as a house painter / handyman to earn the extra money to pay for my travels.  I have been to the Fringe nine times before.  Ten years ago, after two weeks touring France, my wife and I spent nine days of our honeymoon at the Fringe.  We shared 45 plays, and I attended ten other events besides.  In 2005, I fulfilled a dream of seeing an entire Fringe Festival.  Since then, I have been here for the whole Fringe every year except 2007.  I have learned to devote most days to only one venue to maximize the number of performances I can see.  I expect this year to be similar to last—many performances, and many new friends.

 

After attending more than 1000 performances, I have a much better idea of my biases and prejudices in the role of a critic.  To limit my analyzing shows during their performances as much as possible, I have intentionally avoided any training in criticism and the dramatic arts, both formal and informal.  I find that I prefer fact to fiction, innovation to repetition, coherence to creativity, the concrete to the symbolic, and cleverness to depth.  I realize that many of these are antithetical to the spirit of the Fringe, but I cannot deny my nature.  In particular, I just do not like shows that push the bounds of creativity beyond my ability to make sense of them.  Because I choose to fill time slots with whatever is available, I still expose myself to such shows, and do not mind.  However, I do feel a little guilty giving a low rating to a show on which a company has worked so hard, and with such commitment.  Nevertheless, I envision that that is my role—to accurately report my enjoyment so that others may better use my ratings.  In all but a very few cases, I admire the effort of each company, and wish them well.

 

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