102 Reviews (so far) for 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (In order from most enjoyable to least)

 

Welcome to the 2018 version of my Fringe reviews.   To reduce my review load, I now write only one or two sentence  reviews for  shows below 4 stars.  Those that read this probably don’t care about them anyway.  If you happen to be from one of the three star, and wish a complete review, then just e-mail me.

The first four days, and the weekends my travel companion, Melissa, and I chose the plays.  My friend Debbie had a lot say abou the 5th to the 11th.  She has broader taste than I, so the selection is more diverse than I would choose.  I tailored the days of the weekdays between the of 13th to the 24th to that of my friend Tim.  He is much more knowledgeable about the production qualities of the companies.  You can see my 2018 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 151 reviews for 2017 Fringe, 171 reviews for 2016 Fringe, 189 reviews for 2015 Fringe, 165 reviews for 2014 Fringe, 152 reviews for 2013 Fringe, 135 reviews for 2012 Fringe, 175 reviews for 2011 Fringe, 200 reviews for 2010 Fringe, 177 reviews for 2009 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.

Because I have less free time this year, my reviews may be shorter than in previous years.  I have tried to give 5-star shows the full three-sentence treatment, and will add more information about the 4-star shows later this week as I catch up.  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 on the right so that returning viewers can sort by it to see my most recent reviews.

 

Rank

Review

Venue

Begins

Ends

Date

        1. 

The Song of Lunch (*****)

After many years, a book editor arranges to have dinner with an old flame.  The lyrical prose and her sharp style make this an elegant piece with every word and move precisely conveying the subtlety (and lack of subtlety) of the two characters.  The unique shadow puppet-like videos in the background contribute to the art gallery elegance of the piece.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:20

15:10

14

        2. 

Mark Thomas - Check Up: Our NHS at 70 (*****)

Thomas researched the NHS by interviewing health officials, observing medical workers in a variety of situations, and talking to a GP about his own medical future.  He combines this all into a fact filled, sincere, but humorous show that well argues his point that the NHS and its supporting systems are not working as well as Brits think, and has reached a point that it will only get worse if funding is not increased, and its structure changed.  While his anecdotes reflect his appreciation of the medical professionals well to show that the workers are not at fault, it his statistics about the poor outcomes for cancers in comparison to other countries that really proves his point that change is needed.

Traverse

10:00

11:25

5

        3. 

Heroine (*****)

MJ Wells portrays true story of a lesbian who joined the U.S. Army in 2000, and then had to deal with sexual abuse, and PTSD.  Whether dealing with a lover in a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” army, or trying to recover from her experience in Iraq, she keeps the show real and riveting.  The ambush scene that includes dealing with her tormentor at the same time is a great mix of action, honor, and her thoughts at the time. 

Assembly Hall (Rainy)

12:00

13:05

2

        4. 

Entropy (*****)

A troubled teenager returns home and makes demands on his foster mother.  The play is striking for its interplay between the young man seeking both revenge and love, and the mother’s fear, denial, and love.  While the story is powerful, the little touches, like him looking at his toys, or her subtly adjusting her dress keep the tension taut throughout.

Underbelly Bristo Square

19:15

20:15

6

        5. 

And Before I Forget I Love You, I Love You (*****)

Pip Upton assumes the roles of a husband/caregiver, sufferer, and son who must deal with Alzheimer’s disease as it impacts their lives in different ways.  Each portrayal brought tears to my eyes.  He cleverly uses his only props, supposed notes for funeral and birthday speeches, to demonstrate the mental state of the speaker.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:00

15:00

11

        6. 

Pussy Riot: Riot Days (*****)

The Russian political punk band plays its music and tells its tale of repression while videos of their struggles play on a screen behind them.  The music is not to my taste, but the thought of seeing people who have resisted the Russian government to the point of being in the gulags for two years is riveting.  Hearing, and seeing how they planned and carried out their effort to play music for a few moments in a cathedral to protest the Archbishop’s deal with Putin was awe inspiring.

Summerhall

19:00

22:00

11

        7. 

Di & Viv & Rose (In an Hour) by Ameilia Bullmore (*****)

Though they barely know each other, a lesbian, an intellectual, and a free spirit, Rose, move into a house just bought by Rose’s uncle.  Though this could have been just another college years Fringe story, the women’s stories are more nuanced, and the stories of their lives after college are anything but trite.  As with most plays in this setting an unexpected pregnancy occurs, but Bullmore wisely doesn’t allow it to dominate the story.

C Cubed

17:55

18:55

2

        8. 

In Addition (*****)

A twenty something couple try to make ends meet while dealing with parents, depression, and a tenuous job.  The play revealed to me how social media may present social and employment opportunities that integrated into the lives of young workers, but they still must deal with the same problems we all have had.  The love between the couple is clear even though his depression often hides his.

Underbelly Cowgate

10:50

11:50

11

        9. 

Dangerous Giant Animals (*****)

Of all the family members, a middle sister deals with her younger sister’s mental disability best, but the role has repercussions.  We learn how she deals with her sister’s limited mental abilities and rage, and how these disabilities affect the family dynamics.  The story is remarkable for its balance of love, sacrifice, and self-awareness.

Underbelly Cowgate

12:00

12:55

3

      10. 

Extinguished Things (*****)

A young woman explores the abandoned house and lives of a childhood neighborhood couple she barely knew.  It is a quiet tale with little clues explored to create a portrait of rich, loving, lives.  In the end, we are left quite satisfied.

Summerhall

19:25

20:25

1

      11. 

The Blues Brothers - Live (*****)

Jake and Elwood with three other singers and a septet perform most of the songs from the movie.  I traditionally see this show the first day of my Fringe because they never fail to get me and much of the audience up and dancing by its end.  The songs don’t change from year to year, but neither do the good times!  

C Chambers St.

22:30

23:25

1

      12. 

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

The premises of the five plays are: an office worker builds a child’s fort from his desk to get away from his work, a lousy playwright inundates a writing contest with his short plays, a childless wife becomes obsessed with doing everything necessary to become pregnant, an old lifeguard seeks to deal with retirement by watching another beach, and the members of a old man’s imagination have trouble coming up with a successful sex fantasy.  I liked this menu best of the three because each of the five found the key concept of the premise and then explored it without becoming repetitious, nor too zany.  Not surprisingly, the lifeguard retirement story was the most poignant for me.

Pleasance Dome

10:30

11:35

1

      13. 

Maz and Bricks by Eva O’Connor (****)

At a rally in Dublin to repeal the Eighth Amendment banning abortion, a fellow stops a woman from throwing a rock, and then the two of them slowly learn of each other’s lives.  I know that sounds trite, but these people are complex, and the issues in their lives are not simple.  Both have a chance to fill out their characters, and grow.

 

Summerhall

17:55

19:15

14

      14. 

What Girls Are Made Of (****)

Traverse

10:00

11:25

15

      15. 

Coriolanus Vanishes (****)

A woman relates her abusive childhood, and her own volatile life.  The story is told in dramatically lit snippets separated by blackouts.  The unique lighting design of each scene combine with the blackouts to create a sense of a disjoint life which reinforces our feeling of  a life that can erupt with rage without notice.

Traverse 

11:00

12:15

10

      16. 

A Christmas Carol (****)

Guy Masterson performs Scrooge based on a script that Dickens himself performed as he toured America.  The play highlights Masterson’s ability to portray forceful characters as he alternates between Scrooge and each of the three ghosts.  The show was marred with music and sound effects that drowned out Masterson, and a finicky reverb for the ghosts.  I was told by the director that an illness in another play had forced this production to skip its tech rehearsal, and the sound issues would be addressed.  In that case, the show would surely deserve five stars.

Assembly George Square

12:00

13:15

4

      17. 

The Greatest Play in the History of the World (****)

Traverse

16:15

17:25

15

      18. 

Nigel Slater's Toast (****)

The large cast follows the experiences of the food critic as he grows to manhood as the only child of a sickly but loving mother and a conservative businessman.   The heavily choreographed show keeps the events at an emotional distance from the audience with only a few hugs and a flare of anger penetrating its storybook quality.  Nonetheless his latent love of food is apparent throughout the play from his love of candy to his high school cooking class.

Traverse 

10:00

11:25

12

      19. 

All Change (****)

A daughter spends a morning with her father who lives alone with his unacknowledged Alzheimer’s disease.  The play has just the right mix of moments of clarity with moments of denial.  I found their word game of saying words of greatness a clever device to demonstrate both their shared past and his state of mind.

Assembly George Square

12:20

13:20

11

      20. 

That Woman! Wallis Simpson Duchess of Windsor (****)

Wallis Simpson, for whom Edward VII abdicated his throne to marry, tells her life story from her days Baltimore society girl through her other two marriages to her exile life in Paris.  While she spends time on how her role as Edward’s chaperone evolved into his lover, she wisely devotes more time on her first marriage and its aftermath.  I found her efforts to re-build her life in Shanghai and Peking in the late 1930s surprisingly gritty.   

Gilded Baloon Teviot

17:15

18:30

4

      21. 

The Marilyn Conspiracy (****)

After discovering Marilyn Monroe dead, six people gather in her living room to try to determine what happened before calling the police.  Presumably much of the script tries to construct of chain of events to explain the facts revealed well after the inquest that found her to have committed suicide.  The play becomes unnecessarily repetitive because the script tries to explain the delay in calling the police by having the participants learn of key facts a little at a time and re-hash their thoughts with each new fact.

Assembly George Square

13:45

15:05

5

      22. 

We've Got Each Other (****)

Due to “financial difficulties”, a producer/director must describe the campy musical he planned to present without any actors.  I found this virtual play wonderful fun as he filled in the Bon Jovi music and light design with his clever descriptions.  His own choreography while sitting was surprisingly elaborate and well done.

Pleasance Dome

22:50

23:50

7

      23. 

Westminster Hour (****)

A journalist thinks she know something that will influence the Home Secretary.  The duel between the two is tense with its clever thrusts and parries.  I think I saw this before with a different name, and a more satisfying conclusion.

Sweet Novotel

17:55

18:50

5

      24. 

Women of Lockerbie (****)

Seven years after the tragic downing of the flight over Lockerbie, a mother returns to search for her son’s remains while the women of the town try to stop the American government from burning the clothes of the passengers.  The intertwining of the grief of the mother and that of the women of Lockerbie create a powerful and poignant play.   The final scenes address the needs of both well, and left me teary eyed and satisfied.

C Chambers St.

12:30

13:25

9

      25. 

Trojan Horse (****)

In 1998, an anonymous letter charged that Parkview school in Birmingham was secretly promoting Islamic extremism.  The cast of five easily assume the roles of teachers students, inspectors and accusers to debunk the accusations, and reveal the political motivations behind the government’s reaction to the letter.  The cross examination of the main accuser is  quite effective, but the later opening of the students’ results seemed superfluous.

Summerhall

15:15

16:25

10

      26. 

Janis Joplin Full Tilt (****)

Backed by a rock band, an actress signs Joplin’s hits as well as some more obscure songs amidst scenes from her life.  She has a good voice, and the Texas drawl, but, not surprisingly, I couldn’t hear the soulfulness that made Janis’ performances so special.

Assembly Rooms

19:45

21:00

7

      27. 

Dominoes (****)

A high school teacher is confronted with her mixed race heritage as her family and friends learn that she is about to marry a man whose ancestors owned her ancestors as slaves.  The play is even handed as we hear of her fiancé’s pleas of generational innocence, her best friend’s priority of Black Lives Matter, and her own use of “passing” as a white.  The conclusion does not provide a simple solution, but it has clarity.

Assembly George Square

12:00

13:00

12

      28. 

Lights Over Tesco Car Park (****)

A cast of four combines audience participation with some stories about UFO sightings create an amiable show.  By checking with potential participants as they came in, and having good natured non-embarrassing tasks, this show handled audience participation better than any other I have seen.  Their relaxed tone allowed the finale to utilize the audience’s cellphones to create an atmosphere that led to surprising participations

Pleasance Dome

10:50

11:50

14

      29. 

After the Cuts (****)

A husband desperately tries to save his wife’s life after the NHS refuses to help her. 

Summerhall

12:00

13:00

1

      30. 

A Fortunate Man (****)

Two people cite passages from the book, and describe the life of a beloved, but troubled country doctor.

Summerhall

16:30

17:30

1

      31. 

The Aspirations of Daise Morrow(****)

At the funeral of the free spirit in a small Australian town, we see scenes of how she changed peoples lives.

Assembly George Square

15:00

16:20

3

      32. 

May I Speak About Dance? (****)

While one man slowly moves, another lampoons the pompous approach to dance taken by some critics and academicians.  

Summerhall

19:20

20:10

4

      33. 

Big Bite-Size Breakfast Show (Menu 3) (****)

Pleasance Dome

10:30

11:35

3

      34. 

Velvet (****)

A young gay actor must decide to what lengths he is willing to go to advance his career.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:00

15:00

7

      35. 

Shakespeare for Breakfast (****)

The “Taming of the Shrew” becomes the “Taming of the Shoe” as the play is transferred to the owner of a modern shoe store trying to wed off his two daughters.

C Chambers St.

10:00

10:55

8

      36. 

The Political History of Smack and Crack (****)

Though the play spends some of its time describing how Western governments cynically allowed heroin and cocaine to enter their countries in the 1980s, the bulk of it was following the lives of two junkies.

Summerhall

17:30

18:30

9

      37. 

Blackthorn by Charley Miles (****)

A taciturn boy and bright girl grow up as companions in a rural community, but when she chooses to leave to go to college a rift forms.  The play explores their unspoken love without becoming trite.  Though the words are not spoken, her tone and subtle acts constantly convey her love for him.

Summerhall

13:05

14:05

13

      38. 

Your Bard (****)

A fellow describes the life and times of Shakespeare with particular attention to lifestyle of acting companies in Elizabethan times.

Assembly Hall

16:20

17:20

5

      39. 

The Duke (****)

Sitting at a desk, a fellow tells a convoluted story of his mother and the porcelain statue of the Duke of Wellington treasured by his father.

Pleasance Courtyard

12:45

13:45

7

      40. 

Mengele (****)

This two hander has the former Auschwitz doctor defend his war crimes while talking to a mysterious woman who seemingly saved him from drowning.

Assemble George Square

12:20

13:20

5

      41. 

Narcissist in the Mirror (****)

A bright, beautiful young actress goes through a seemingly endless series of lovers as she tries to find her own self worth.  The play intersperses rhyming with prose in a clever, but also self-defeating way because it interfered with my suspension of disbelief.  It is ironic that actress was the playwright, since, like her love life, her cleverness makes her fictional life unreal.

Pleasance Courtyard

15:15

16:15

11

      42. 

Orlando (****)

Rebecca Vaughn portrays the immortal character who winds his/her life from the Elizabethan times to the present.  I am always amazed at Vaughn’s stamina and ability to perform at a top level for such long stretches—and without breaking a sweat!  On the other hand, without another actor to provide some counterpoint, each play becomes monotonous in its wordiness.  

Assembly Roxy

11:30

13:00

6

      43. 

No Kids (***)

This is a physical theater piece about a gay couple trying to decide if they wish to adopt a child.  While the dancing is fine, the section on coming out seemed superfluous to the subject at hand, and made the play too long.

Pleasance Forth

15:40

17:00

14

      44. 

User Not Found (***)

We donned headphones and peered at the supplied smartphones to learn of how a fellow dealt with deciding whether to delete all of the social media content of his dead lover.

Traverse at Jeelie Piece Café

20:00

21:30

8

      45. 

Blackout (***)

Five actors take turns describing how their characters dealt with their alcoholism.

Summerhall

16:20

17:20

9

      46. 

Simon Callow in De Profundis (***)

Callow sits in a chair and recites Oscar Wilde’s very long letter to his lover.  I found the letter to be nicely written, but rambling, and, after only three hours of sleep, soporific.  However, Tim loved it.

Assembly Rooms

12:30

14:00

15

      47. 

Tremor (***)

A woman shows up at an old lover’s door to discuss their past.  Too much of the play is spent by her beating around the bush before we get to the meat of her problem.  I did like that the it provided two ways of approaching their problem without taking sides, despite one of the solutions being nationalist.

Summerhall

16:05

17:05

13

      48. 

Chihuahua (***)

This one woman show has her alternating between a modern day waitress, and a 1905 well born, but impoverished, society woman to see how each deals with the financial adversities of their lives.

Assembly Roxy

15:50

16:50

7

      49. 

Ailsa Benson is Missing (***)

A 14-year old girl must deal with the discovery that her classmate is missing.  The part of the story centered on the girl works well, but the surrounding section dealing with the narrator contribute little, and the legal evidence is contrived.

Assembly Rooms

14:20

15:20

15

      50. 

Neverwant (***)

Reminiscent of “1984”, in the future society has chosen to outlaw emotions because they are inefficient, but one fellow falls in love with his officemate.  This mix of over-the-top characters with a sincere man and woman with whom we are supposed to care just does not work.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:15

15:15

9

      51. 

Starfish (***)

A young woman has trouble being faithful, and then a miscarriage makes her life even less tenable.

C Royale

14:00

15:00

8

      52. 

F**k You, Pay Me (***)

A stripper tells of both the onstage and backstage life in a modern strip club.

Assembly Rooms

15:25

16:25

8

      53. 

Theatre Uncut: Women on Power (***)

The show has actors reading three scripts dealing with women in various states of empowerment: a homeless woman renting a room from a man with sex as payment, a successful woman plumber, and a female student questioning the justification for her education.

Traverse

10:00

10:50

13

      54. 

Sticks and Stones (***)

When a woman tells a non-politically correct joke in a business presentation, she is confronted with unexpected repercussions.  Though the events that follow seem adsorb, they are not too far from reality to resonate.  While the initial use of dance poses is fun, they are over done, and the whole play goes on too long.

Summerhall

14:30

15:40

13

      55. 

Hunch (***)

A woman who blames her indecisiveness for a tragedy dreams of becoming a super hero who helps people make decisions.

Assembly Roxy

17:05

18:05

7

      56. 

Closed Doors (***)

A trio of musicians sing the story of a neighborhood of subsidized apartments in which the residents are all suspicious of each other, and keep to themselves.  The lyrics, when I could hear them, and musicianship are excellent, but the drummer often drowns out the lyrics.

Summerhall

19:45

20:45

14

      57. 

The Death of Edgar Allan Poe (***)

Poe’s life is told with a large cast re-enacting his stories and life.

C too

18:50

19:50

13

      58. 

The Journey (***)

A loving couple must deal with a nine-month journey together to and from another galaxy.  The show starts with an announcement about a missing cast member, and continues to break the fourth wall throughout.  In the end, the wall is broken so often, that we are left with actors emoting to no effect.

Pleasance Dome

17:40

18:40

13

      59. 

Ad Libido (***)

A 30-year old woman describes her fruitless efforts to have an orgasm with men.  Since she never addressed masturbation, I never could get a sense of her real plight. 

Pleasance Courtyard

15:30

16:30

6

      60. 

The Cloak and Dagger Show (***)

After an hour tour of the Grass Market describing it and the filthy life there in the mid-1700s, we watched a two hander about a young man seeking revenge for the murder of his brother by a Jacobite.

Sweet Grassmarket

20:50

22:50

5

      61. 

Maureen Lipman is "Up For It" (***)

The actress/raconteur tells jokes and offers a few tales from her life, but often surrenders the stage to some musicians.   Since I had not seen her work, many of the references in her jokes found no purchase.  While the musicians were excellent, they were an unwanted interruption for an audience who came to hear Lipman.

Assembly Rooms

17:45

18:45

8

      62. 

Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) (***)

A young woman playfully reviews the scientific findings on the biochemicals involved with the feeling of love.

Summerhall

21:00

22:00

1

      63. 

Elvis: Young and Even More Beautiful  (***)

With a guitar that he can barely play, and overload background music, the singer does a credible job of imitating Elvis.  His performance was marred as he appeared to be either drunk or suffering from lack of sleep.  He often sang to his sound man at the side of the stage instead of the audience, and with twenty minutes to go started to frequently look at his watch.

Frankenstein Pub

19:30

20:30

2

      64. 

A Virgin’s Guide to Rocky Horror (***)

This casual version of the campy cult classic provides guidance for the audience of the interactive parts that have developed over the years.  The narrator does a good job of integrating the audience into the experience.

Hill Street Theatre

21:10

22:10

4

      65. 

The James Taylor Story (***)

This show alternates between clips from a video of Taylor’s life, and a  singer with a guitar performing his songs.  Twenty minutes into the show the fire alarm ended it prematurely so I cannot tell whether the show may deserve four stars.

theSpace@Symposium Hall

15:55

16:45

4

      66. 

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

Pleasance Dome

10:30

11:35

2

      67. 

Doors Opening (***)

We see the current lives of the six people in a stuck elevator portrayed in turn.  This feels like a college play where the instructor had to find parts for ten students.

Greenside Nicolson

11:30

12:15

13

      68. 

Romeo and Juliet (***)

This heavily abridged version is well performed by the two actors, but the soundscape drowns out many of their lines.

 

 

 

 

      69. 

(even) Hotter (***)

Two lesbians interviewed people about sex, and now mix verbatim recounts with performances alluding to their own love and sexual approaches.  The audience loved it, but I found it too self-involved.

Bedlam

21:30

22:30

10

      70. 

Proxy (***)

An actress presents a tale of a poor Arkansas woman who makes her daughter ill so that the mother will receive attention from the medical world—a mental illness called Munchausen by proxy syndrome.  The actress’ inability to differentiate the characters with props or accents make the tale unnecessarily difficult to follow.

Gilded Balloon

11:00

12:00

9

      71. 

Care Not, Fear Naught (***)

We follow Anne Bonny’s short career as a pirate.  Through no fault of her own, the young pretty lead with her long hair, just never looked manly enough to fool a pirate crew who would dread the bad luck of having a woman as part of the crew.  That said, the story is well told, and informative.

Greenside @ Nicholson Square

22:00

22:50

6

      72. 

Electrolyte (***)

A lost young woman takes up the offer of a bandmate, and travels to London to find her mother.  The music sometimes has a good beat, but is generally unappealing and disrupts the meandering story. 

Pleasance Dome

17:30

18:40

6

      73. 

Ruki (***)

A Gypsy tramp tells of his life as a friend of a champion Gypsy boxer in Nazi Germany.  His speech was difficult to understand, so the power of the story was greatly diminished for me.

C cubed

20:30

21:25

13

      74. 

Whisky & Gin Tasting Cabaret (***)

Between songs performed by three young women, the audience is given three tastings of gin.  There was no whisky offered, and the singers were of varied quality.

Hill Street Theatre

22:40

23:50

4

      75. 

Onstage Dating  (***)

The promiscuous comedienne asks an audience member on stage, and then goes through the motions of a full seduction including wine and getting almost naked in a bed on stage.  The whole thing feels awkward to watch.  The young man she chose was so good natured that he seemed like a plant, but wasn’t.

Underbelly Cowgate

21:20

22:20

2

      76. 

Drifting Towers (***)

In a woman about to graduate from college, and her friend are in the 99th level of a hundred level video game as they mix acting as their avatars in the game with their real life interactions.  The avatar recreation of the old game is cheesy, but fun.  The real life part of the story is rather thin.

C Aquila

15:00

16:00

2

      77. 

The Fishermen (***)

After a long absence a Nigerian man who is an accused murderer secretly returns to his village and talks with his younger brother about their lives and the events that led to his life on the run.  The story is interesting, but their accents were too strong for me understand much of what they had to say.

Assembly George Square

13:20

14:30

3

      78. 

Status  (***)

An American fellow compares his experiences in foreign lands with that of the natives.  For a substantial part of the show he accompanies himself with an electric guitar that is so loud you cannot hear his words.

Summerhall

19:55

21:15

3

      79. 

Wrecked (***)

Six of us climbed into a wrecked compact SUV to have the driver tell a tale of how the car came to be in its current condition.  The story builds nicely, and the conclusion is satisfying though surprising.  However, I sat in the back next to a noisy fan, and missed many of the quiet things the driver said as well as the playback from a audio player in her lap. 

Gilded Balloon at The Museum Crash Site

13:30

14:15

10

      80. 

Margo: Half Woman, Half Beast (***)

A singer tells of her life in 1932 Berlin as she lives among the Jews of the cabaret scene.  Half of the play she sings songs from that eara.

Assembly Rooms

17:55

18:55

12

      81. 

Earnest & Wilde: Let's Face the Music (and Franz) (***)

A singer and her pianist tell of the facts leading up to the assassination of Archduke Franz

C Royale

19:55

20:55

12

      82. 

Chamberlain… Peace in Our Time (***)

Scenes of Neville Chamberlain talking to his aide about his political career alternate with singer singing songs from the 1930s that relate to the events.  The problem here is that Neville Chamberlain was a lousy orator, and the actor playing him stayed in character throughout the show.

Greenside Nicolson

17:20

18:15

11

      83. 

Dean Friedman's 40th Anniversary "Well, Well Said the Rocking Chair" (***)

Dean provided a few stories of his life, but mostly sang all the songs from the album and some of his others.  Much of the audience, including Debbie, could sing along with him, and had a wonderful time.  As an initiate, I found most of his work good natured but lacking.

Sweet Grassmarket

19:30

20:50

10

      84. 

Three Women Three Myths (***)

Three American women with mixed race ancestry said which race/culture they identify with, and then provide a myth from that culture.  The whole seems too impromptu, and lacks a sense of focus.

C Royale

12:15

13:15

8

      85. 

Behind our Skin (***)

A Moroccan immigrant in France, and a French woman in London describe their challenges as immigrants.  Their strong accents and their dull stories made it difficult for me to keep awake.

C Aquila

14:00

14:50

4

      86. 

East Belfast Boy (**)

An Irishman alternates between break dancing, and telling of his current life, and the birth of his daughter.  I am sort of guessing about the plot because I missed many of his words because the background soundtrack was too loud, he had a strong accent, he often spoke softly, and he often spoke while facing away from.  He sure could dance well though.

Summerhall

21:00

22:00

14

      87. 

A Joke (**)

Three comedians find themselves in some extra dimensional white room, and try to figure out what they should do.  With two actors from sci-fi TV series I loved, I had high hopes for this, but it is just too scattered.  McCoy is still a good clown, and many of the jokes were funny, but the premise made the whole thing leadened.

Assembly Rooms

16:25

17:35

12

      88. 

[insert slogan here] (**)

A gentle fellow uses a video designer, a sound designer, and audience participation to create a video advertisement to compete with the Volvo ads he loves.  His approach is nice, but the two designers seemt compete to overwhelm the project.

Zoo Charteris

18:10

19:15

15

      89. 

Mungo Legend of Glasgow's Saint (**)

The large cast of this Catholic acting company from Glasgow spend two hours presenting the life of a 6th century church leader, including the three miracles that led to his sainthood.  I appreciated the sincerity of their efforts.

St. Patrick's Church

13:30

15:30

12

      90. 

Fallen Fruit (**)

A Bulgarian woman describes life before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  The show reflects her gentle personality, and seems to lack the power that such events should impart to a show.  Her unintentionally ineffectual tosses at a wall of small cardboard boxes epitomizes this problem.

Summerhall

11:25

12:25

7

      91. 

Everything Not Saved (**)

This show is about how memory, and how it can change over time, but don’t look for a story here.  It is a mess with arguments about Rasputin juxtaposed with three actors repeating their simultaneous overdramatic deaths.   I will admit they addressed memory, but I found the mix too esoteric for my tastes.

Summerhall

17:50

18:50

10

      92. 

European Citizen Pop Song (**)

A Belgian woman travelled the EU to gather musicians to provide backup for her song about European unity, and now asks her audience to help sing the song.  She is a exuberant and quirky, but the song is seemingly intentionally horrible, and our participation doesn’t help.

Summerhall

18:00

19:00

1

      93. 

Nele Needs a Holiday: The Musical (**)

After her band breaks up, a young Belgian musician decides that she can better achieve fame by moving to London.  She is likable, but the story is thin, and the lyrics poor.

Summerhall

22:15

23:10

14

      94. 

The Approach (**)

We rotate through pairs of three women talking about their mundane lives and trying to deal with the enmity between the two sisters.  While the acting may be fine, the story is banal.  The fact that much of the final conversation is taken from previous conversations was supposed to be an indictment of their shallowness, but also serves as a reminder of how little was offered in the play itself.

Assembly (Rainy)

13:25

14:30

6

      95. 

Hymns for Robots (**)

This is the life story of the woman who was hired by the BBC to create electronic music, including the theme for Dr. Who.  While she was certainly a brilliant trailblazer, the show seems as dull as her much of her esoteric music.

C Aquila

16:20

17:20

2

      96. 

Monsieur Somebody (**)

Three convicts tell a tales of their best lies.  The show devotes most of its time to a Frenchman who repeatedly dupes a wife while attacking her husband.

Venue 13

21:30

22:30

12

      97. 

The Last Straw (**)

Two people argue in a variety of ways.   Another Summerhall Demonstration Room show that didn’t take into account the reverberations in the room.

Summerhall

15:00

15:55

1

      98. 

Baby Face (*)

An energetic actress addresses the infantilizing of woman by the media by acting like a baby, and then a child.  Her initial long scream in the echoing Demonstration Room sets the tone for a show that is too loud and too wild to communicate anything other than the unbridled energy of a child.

Summerhall

13:30

14:20

1

      99. 

Let's Inherit the Earth (*)

Four actors alternate between two adsorb scenarios both based in a world where global warming has caused the seas to rise so that few people are left.  Though the actors worked hard, neither story had any merit.

Pleasance Forth

12:20

13:40

14

     100. 

Solarplexus: An Alternative Energy Play (*)

The son and daughter compete with each other to save their back-to-nature father from the evil corporation that threatens the ecology of the whole world.  It is a mess with cartoon characterizattions, and subplots that are confusing and contribute nothing.

Zoo Charteris

19:35

20:35

15

     101. 

Very Blue Peter (*)

Three disgruntled hosts of the children’s show takeover the TV studio and attempt to revive the show with slipshod allusions to its icons.  With the mean host dominating the other drunk woman host and crying depressed host, the show feels mean throughout, and any fun is quickly squelched. 

Gilded Balloon

23:15

0:15

8

     102. 

Flight (*)

The audience of 21 are ushered into a shipping container that holds a replica of one side of an airliner fuselage, complete with 7 rows of seats.  With the plane in complete darkness, the audience listens on headphones as they hear takeoff, and some weirdness.  There is nothing here that merits your time or money.

Summerhall

21:00

21:30

6

 

I am a 65-year old retired Computer Science lecturer from the University of California in Davis who thinks even a bad play is better than no play at all.  I have been to the Fringe twelve times before.   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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