151 Reviews for 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (In order from most enjoyable to least)

 

Welcome to the 2017 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.

My friend Debbie chose the first five days of shows.  She has broader taste than I, so the selection is more diverse than I would choose.  I tailored the 14th to the 19th to that of my friend Tim.  He is much more knowledgeable about the production qualities of the companies.  You can see my 2017 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 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, 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.

Because I have less free time this year, my reviews may be shorter than in previous years.  I have tried to give 4- and 5-star shows the full three-sentence treatment, but just provided the premises for some of the less enjoyable shows.  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. (The ranking numbers are bit messed up to allow this, but I haven’t had the time to debug the change in Word that causes the problem)

 

 

Rank

Review

Venue

Begins

Ends

Date

1. 

The Flying Lovers of Vitelsk (*****)

Accompanied by a cellist and piano/mandolinist, we follow the lives of the Russian painter Marc Chagall and the love of his life, Bella, from when they first meet.  The staging, acting, singing, script, and choreography are exquisite.   The music and their love often brought tears to my eyes.  This is it folks!

Traverse

10:00

11:30

15 & 25

2. 

Moonlight after Midnight (*****)

A little gem that originally seems to be about a hooker role playing with a man, but then develops into so much more.  The couple have wonderful chemistry, and the plot twists are well placed and touching.  Before going in an Assembly staffer remarked about how well the cast treated the staff.

Assembly George Square

15:00

16:00

18

3. 

Cathy (*****)

Cathy, an evicted mother vainly tries to find shelter for her daughter so that she can study for her GCSE exams.  With a fine supporting cast, Cathy provides a tour de force of a woman slowly beaten down as she exhausts all her possible avenues of escape.  A scene in a bus terminal was most poignant as some kindness is finally offered her as she reaches her nadir.

Pleasance Courtyard

15:30

17:00

26

4. 

Adam (*****)

A transgender Egyptian suffers hazing, and worse, in his native land, and tries to emigrate to Scotland.   The real-li­­­fe Adam shares the stage with a woman who plays another version of himself so that we are treated to a wonderful interplay of his two genders.

Traverse

10:00

11:20

18

5. 

Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Diva (*****)

Three singers accompanied by a keyboardist impersonate Garland, Day, Minelli, Parton, and other famous female singers to relate some of the events in their lives and sing their hits.  All three have great voices, and the light hearted approach keeps the whole lively despite their subject’s darker experiences.  I particularly appreciated how they avoided the trap of trying to match Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” by singing it as a trio.

Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

20:45

22:00

18

6. 

Out of the Blue (*****) 

The twelve guys from Oxford were back with their great songs and choreographed hijinks for another great show.  One of my traditions is to see them on the last day of the Fringe when they are decked out in kilts, and they are aware that it is their last concert before this group disbands.  Besides the music, it is always touching to see their camaraderie.

Assembly George Square

13:30

14:25

28

7. 

Seanmhair (*****)

In the late 1800s Edinburgh, a 10-year old daughter of a banker falls in love at first sight with a 10-year old very tough street urchin, and the feeling is mutual.  Three women share portraying the girl while one of the three plays her grandmother and nanny, and another plays the steely boy.  Seanmhair is Gaelic for grandmother, and she plays a pivotal role in aiding the girl in her time of nee in this marvelous play.  What a way to end the Fringe!

Bedlam Theatre

16:55

18:05

28

8. 

Black Mountain (*****)

The suspense of Hitchcock in a Stephen King setting without the gore.

Summerhall

13:25

14:35

14

9. 

Choir of Man (*****)

This musical is set in local tavern in which the men chose to sing rather than form sports teams.  This is classic revue that mixes upbeat singalong songs with dance with solo ballads with audience members invited on stage to be the center of attention.  The vibe was great on a Saturday night when the show had its first sell out performance.

Assembly rooms

18:35

19:35

19

10. 

Camille O'Sullivan: Where are We Now? (*****)

The Irish  singer who seems to mix Janis Joplin and Edith Piaf makes a shift away from Brel to explore the songs of Bowie and Cohen.  Though she retains her unique styling, the show seemed refreshed with the new song list.  Then again, for me, she can do no wrong.

Underbelly's Circus Hub

19:45

21:15

8

11. 

Mark Thomas: A Show That Gambles on the Future (*****)

The leftist comedian mixes stories of dad with the audience deciding which of their propositions Thomas should place a wager on.  The master story teller has honed his stories well, as well as demonstrates a great ability to cleverly have fun with the audience’s suggested wagers.   Once in a while he was caught off guard by how the audience did not fully agree with politically correct stances.

Summerhall

18:00

19:00

8

12. 

Mine (*****)

A single mother must deal with the ramifications of her teenage son’s actions.  The story is well acted, and covers a lot of untrodden territory.  I do not want to say more for fear of spoiling it.

Zoo Southside

19:00

20:00

11

13. 

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 Chamber Street

22:30

23:25

6

14. 

Pike Street (****)

A one woman show that her playing a Puerto Rican woman in New York City tenement caring for unresponsive daughter while also playing her womanizing father, Jewish neighbor, returning soldier brother,  and few other characters.   Without costume changes, she instantly switched between characters in a discernible way to create a vibrant social life.   The rascally Poppy character provided both comedic relief, and pathos.

 

Summerhall

15:00

16:15

14

15. 

The Whip Hand (****)

The ex-husband of a now well-to-do women is welcomed to her family to celebrate his 50th birthday, but then he makes a request that throws the whole group into chaos.  The play is riveting throughout because each character can make the claim that their opinion is most valid.  Despite all the twists, the ending is quite satisfying.

Traverse

10:00

11:25

16

16. 

Richard Herring: Oh Frig, I'm 50! (****)

As the tite suggests, Herring reviews his life from the perspective of 50-year old stand-up comic who has married and had a child since he was 40.  Herrings wry observations are fun though he relied on much of his routine from his “…I’m 40!” show.   He did seem to flounder a bit because some of his jokes that evidentially went well on Saturday had a flat reaction from this Sunday crowd.

Pleasance Courtyard

19:30

20:30

6

17. 

Deadly Dialogues (****)

Four performers weave a complex tapestry from stories of British Muslims dealing with different interpretations of their religion.  The stories are powerful, but the show is seriously weakened by the lack of differentiation of the multiple characters played by each actor.  This would be a five star production if only the actors would use different voices or mannerisms to help us when they shift between their roles. 

C Chamber Street

16:15

17:15

7

18. 

Portable Dorothy Parker (****)

An actress plays Parker in the 1940s editing her book with an invisible young woman by reading a huge variety of her quips, and relating anecdotes of her life surrounded by the celebrities of her time.  I love clever aphorisms, and she spins them out at a furious pace.  The insights into her personal life keep the show from just being a litany of one liners. 

Rose Theatre

16:00

17:20

9

19. 

Speaking in Tongues: The Lies (****)

Though “Speaking in Tongues: The Truths” is not as good, I would recommend seeing it right after this.  A pair of couples stray for a night, and then deal with the repercussions in their marriages.  The initial interwoven simultaneous conversations that diverge and then match sentences is clever, and foreshadows the structure of the whole show.

 

Pleasance Courtyard

19:00

20:00

10

20. 

Out of Love (****)

Two 11-year old girls, one appealing to boys and the other not, form a friendship that lasts into their twenties.  Nothing is simple for them, as sometimes they compete, and sometimes they console each other.  You just don’t see this topic covered this well at the Fringe.

Summerhall

13:25

14:35

16

21. 

Monster (****)

An actor describes when he had the difficult time balancing time with his girlfriend and preparing for a role in a play that involves men being angry at women.  He does a job of differentiating his many characters, including imitating Patrick Stewart, as well performing  excerpts from Shakespeare.  The discussion of anger management is direct, but not preachy.

Pleasance Courtyard

15:15

16:15

22

22. 

The Revlon Girl (****)

In 1966, a mother invites a Revlon girl to make a presentation to a group of women who are still grieving a mining catastrophe that killed 116 children, and 20 adults in school.  Each of the four mothers as well as the girl have tales of loss and coping that are touching.  The framework worked well, with a little comic relief thrown in to keep this from becoming a quagmire of pathos.

Assembly Roxy

13:00

14:15

27

23. 

Joseph K (****)

This is an updated version of Kafka’s “The Trial” with the protagonist being a middle level office worker who is “arrested” by a couple of private cops for an unknown crime, and then doesn’t deal well with the unexpected consequences.  Most of the events of the novel are here, though the doll obsessed lawyer seemed a little over the top for this tale.  All in all though, the huge cast do a good job of conveying the sense of unease and futility of the man that is at the heart of the play.

C Chamber Street

10:30

12:00

26

24. 

The Nature of Forgetting (****)

This physical theater troupe depicts a 55-year old father who suffers from memory loss by mixing up parts of scenes from life.  A scene where his lover is riding his (stationary) bike and he repeatedly catches up to her running is particularly touching.  I was enamored with the intensity of the his brides’s dancing.

Pleasance Courtyard

12:00

13:15

25

25. 

Elephant in the Room (****)

One woman plays all the characters in this tale of the elephant-headed god Ganesh searching for his human head that his father had cut off.  Her characterizations of animals as well as people are fun and well differentiated.  Her ability to balance on one foot while making all sort of extreme movements is something to behold.

Assembly Rooms

18:25

19:25

24

26. 

Nothing (****)

A classroom of Danish students try to convince a truant student that there is meaning to life.  The original idea is good, but as their efforts get darker the play loses any semblance of verisimilitude.  Nonetheless, it does follow it’s own path consistently to its projected conclusion.

Summerhall

9:50

11:00

24

27. 

Tobacco (****)

What starts out as a slapstick send up of a lecture evolves into a beautiful piece of physical theatre full of contradictions.   I was continually surprised how he used the podium prop in so many ways.  His rocking trip had a sweet grace.

Assembly George Square

12:00

13:05

24

28. 

Misterman (****)

A social outcasts with religious hallucinations endlessly replays his neighborhood interactions in his room.  The acting is superb, and the story an appropriate mix of the real and unreal.  I originally rated this much lover because that mix confused me, but in hindsight it was masterful.

C Primo

15:45

16:55

19

29. 

An Evening with an Immigrant (****)

Inua Ellams presents poems about his life as a Nigerian immigrant to the UK.  Each poem has a beautiful start.  However, it was late, and I had been seeing plays since 9am, and faded in the middle of each poem. 

Traverse

23:00

0:30

22

30. 

Into the Woods (****)

This version of Sondheim’s musical combining various fairy tales into one world has everything you can ask for: great voices, fun portrayals, and creative production.  It comes down to how much you like the play itself.  For me, the second act pales in comparison to the first.

Assembly Rooms

11:30

14:00

17

31. 

The Fall (***)

Based on real events, students at a Capetown university occupy the campus to protest the existence of a statue of Cecil Rhodes on the campus.  The show is unusual in that much of the story takes place as a group of student leaders argue for the best course of action.   The wide range of different values and interests keeps their arguments passionate and intriguing.

Assembly Hall

18:15

19:35

23

32. 

Nina - A Story about Me and Nina Simone (****)

Josette Bushell-Mingo, backed by a jazz trio, presents the songs and biography of Nina Simone.  The singer and the band provided excellent renditions of the range of songs that Simone performed.  While I heard about, and saw many political events from her life, I was left with the feeling that I had learned more about a myth of the Black Equality Movement than a real person.

Traverse

16:00

17:20

8

33. 

Part of the Picture (****)

A young artist convinces the Occidental Petroleum Company to let her visit the largest North Sea platform for a week so that she can create drawings of this important aspect of Scottish culture.  Through her interviews, and performances by two oil workers we learn of life both on and off the platform.  Her virtual artifacts proved surprisingly touching in the final act.

Pleasance Dome

12:00

13:00

11

34. 

Big Bite-Sized Breakfast (Menu 2) (****)

This three day series of compilations of six short plays is always a must see for me.   This time we have a drill sergeant trying to deal with politically correct marching songs; a married couple discovering an accurate script of the coming day next to their bed; siblings sharing some unusual eggnog; two strangers trapped together in a rotating door; and a gay couple dealing with a dangerous spider in their kitchen.  I loved how the story about the scripted couple doesn’t just play it for laughs, but explores the possibilities.

Pleasance Dome

10:30

11:35

9

35. 

Space Rocket Oddity Man (****)

A lone man must work out his romantic problems with his interstellar spaceship’s artificial intelligence.   In the course of his negotiations we learn not only of how they became romantically involved, but also of how he ended up alone.   This charming piece has a wonderful mix of science fiction story telling with a deft imagining of how such a romantic relationship could develop and continue.

Zoo Southside

20:15

21:15

7

36. 

Manwatching (****)

An actor simply reads a script written by an anonymous woman about women’s private thoughts about men.  The script covers everything from scoring systems to orgasms.  My favorite was a long section on her approach to fantasizing.

Summerhall

19:25

20:20

27

37. 

Red Bastard: Lie with Me (****)

The comedian in a red bulbous costume explores people lying, particularly those dealing with being of “faithful” in a relationship.  Despite his nominally nasty reputation, his polling of the audience was done with flair not flames.  In the end, my seat mate, Josh, ended up dancing with him. 

Pleasance Courtyard

21:30

22:30

10

38. 

Morgan Stern (****)

This solo show has a 19th century man is selected to be an invisible guardian of a mentally troubled modern boy.  As the boy grows older, his ebb and flow of sanity is reflected in the play itself.  While the play was incoherent at times, it all felt right.

C Primo

18:45

20:00

12

39. 

Toll (****)

In 1914, a farm boy follows his brother into the Great War, and experiences its camaraderie and privations.  From his disconsolate mother and father to battle scenes to his leave buddy the cast of five serve the story well.  Particularly memorable was a scene of charging a machine gun when a seemingly endless number of his fellow soldiers fall. 

C Chamber Street

14:45

16:00

11

40. 

Big Bite-Sized Breakfast (Menu 1) (****)

This three day series of compilations of five short plays is always a must see for me.  This one had a married couple reviving their sex life with a public hooker fantasy gone awry; a PR firm trying to update the image of the armed forces without mentioning war; a man who can read people’s wishes from the coins they throw in a fountain; a future where love is illegal; and a Valkyrie who has a roller skating girl friend.  I found the effort to transform the military into national team sport particularly clever.

Pleasance Dome

10:30

11:35

11

41. 

Michael Brandon: Off Ramp (****)

For someone who has starred in numerous major motion pictures, and a hit TV show, Brando is surprisingly self-effacing.  That is not to say he doesn’t have many stories involving major stars, such living with Kim Novac for a year, but he rarely portrays any of his success as due to acting ability.  With a backdrop of scenes from his roles, he seems to effortlessly tell his tale with little other than appreciation of a life well spent.

Assembly Rooms

17:55

18:55

9

42. 

Enterprise (****)

Four businessman compete in pairs to come up with a plan to save their company.  The lines are quick, witty with a tinge of acid.  I was a little tired, and regret it.

Assembly Studios

13:35

14:35

18

43. 

Will Seaward's Ghost Stories (****)

Seaward presents a tale full of funny names, and bizarre beasts that is shambolic, silly, and just plain fun.  Have a beer, and prepare to ooh, and aah as the low tech show unfolds.  His “incompetent” use of a Ouija board was particularly inspired as he tried to guide the shared toy shovel to create the “surprising” messages.

Gilded Balloon

0:00

1:00

8

44. 

Wondr (****)

This solo show has a mother who has a million twitter followers use her wits and all the resources available to her to track down where a kidnapper took her daughter.  I always love resourceful people, and her modern approaches are clever.   The word choice is exquisite, with much of it seemingly in verse.

Assembly Roxy

22

13:10

14:10

45. 

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

This three day series of compilations of five short plays is always a must see for me.  Unhappily, I didn’t keep notes for this one, and it was a long time ago.

Pleasance Dome

10:30

11:35

10

46. 

Box Clever (***)

This two hander has a poor mother battling the system and her former lovers to keep her 5-year old daughter safe.  “Cathy” is a much better treatment of this topic

Summerhall

16:40

17:40

14

47. 

Flesh and Bone (***)

Five residence of a London tenement try to deal with being at the bottom of the socio/economic ladder.  Fights, drugs, pregnancy, race, and homosexuality all arise and dealt with in reasonable fashion.  The surprising relationship between the granddaughter and her grandfather was a little too neat for the cheap laugh it got.

Pleasance Dome

16:00

17:10

27

48. 

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads (***)

On his 18th birthday a boy follows a map of David Bowie’s haunts that his absent father left him for his 18th birthday present.  The boy has inherited his father’s obsession for Bowie but is also a social misfit and suffers from an eating disorder.  I was impressed by how the actor conveyed his desperation in some subtle other not subtle ways throughout the whole journey>

Pleasance Courtyard

13:55

15:15

26

49. 

Pip Utton's Greatest Hits (***)

Utton plays Hitler in the last day of the Third Reich in his Berlin bunker giving a speech to his officers, and then another to his civilian staff.  Both speeches have the passion and eloquence of a great orator, with a few asides about how best to rule.  I had seen Utton’s Hitler in 2003, and his second half screed about immigrants did not work as well this time because of Brexit.

Pleasance Courtyard

12:25

13:25

26

50. 

Sugar Baby by Alan Harris (***)

This solo show has a Cardiff drug dealer tries to pay off his father’s 6000 pound debt to a drug dealer, and then everything goes wrong.  The show is at times surreal, a bit contrived, but always gritty.  While the protagonist has many facets, his mother and the ending seem contrived.

Summerhall

18:05

19:00

26

51. 

Tutu: Dance in All It's Glory (***)

Six men dance in costumes more traditionally suited for women.  One of them even does toe dancing.  There were two dances that I found outstanding, but much of the rest had pretty uninspired choreography by comparison.

Pleasance Courtyard

16:00

17:10

23

52. 

Letters to Morrissey (***)

Gary McNair tells the tale of a tween who writes a letter to the singer Steven Morrissey asking for his help in deciding whether to intervene in his best friends life.  He provides a good blend of pathos and comedy as our protagonist deals with realities of his neighborhood and his chosen hero.  

Traverse

11:00

12:10

20

53. 

Sex Offense (***)

An old lover meets with a wily Home Secretary on the day a harsh pedophile law is passed.  The thrust and parry as she repeatedly tries to blackmail him is fun, but becomes a bit predictable with some built-in foreshadowing.  His final decision seems out of character.

New Town Theatre

20:10

21:10

16

54. 

The Divide, Part 2 (***)

This is continuation from Part 1 so to avoid spoiling it, I won’t talk about the storyline.  There is more action, but the pacing still seems slower than necessary.  Much like the end of the Tolkien movie “Return of the King,” just when you think it is over, another ending is tacked on.

Kings Theatre

14:00

17:30

20

55. 

The Divide, Part 1 (***)

A hundred years in the future a virus develops that has no effects on female humans, but kills adult males 10 days after they have contact with female so that the few remaining and Brits live in towns segregated by gender.  The premise is clear, and the world created within the bounds of fantasy.  While I liked the initial “scientific” lecture device to get us up to speed, the balance of the play moved at a snail’s pace.

Kings Theatre

14:00

17:30

20

56. 

Borders (***)

The two hander intertwines the story of an altruistic English photo journalist who becomes a photographer for celebrities with that of a Syrian rebel graffiti artist trying to survive in the civil war.  Though there is a link in the end, the intersection is so tenuous that in the end it doesn’t justify joining two essentially disjoint plays.

 

Gilded Balloon Teviot

16:30

17:30

18

57. 

The Sky is Safe (***)

A Scottish businessman repeatedly meets a Syrian prostitute in Istanbul while we learn of the plight of series of Syrian refugees.  The couple interactions are an interesting dance, but my attention strayed during the balance of the show.

Summerhall

19:45

20:45

26

58. 

The Friday Night Effect (***)

Three women decide to go out to a bar, and during the show the audience divides into groups and votes what will happen at four(?) turning points.   The choices are not straightforward, with there never being a unanimous decision.   However, we were the only group of the ten that voted for honesty at one point.

Assembly George Square

14:35

15:35

23

59. 

Wild Bore (***)

Three women rake critic over the coals, and then perform a variety of sketches that test the boundaries of good taste.  Some of the sketches were novel and interesting, while others were either banal or based only on shock value.

Traverse

10:00

11:00

13

60. 

Heroes (***)

We follow a small classroom of 14-year-olds for more than a decade as they deal with living in a country that has been involved in a seemingly endless war that conscripts all 18-year old boys unless they have a child less than three years old.  The larger cast allows the show to explore many aspects of the impact of such a war.  The epilogue diminished to power of the play though.

Summerhall

10:00

11:00

7

61. 

Venus and Adonis (***)

An actor performs the 28-year old Shakespeare’s first successful work, a poem about Venus trying to seduce a reluctant Adonis.  Most of the time he assumes the role of Venus as she touts her charms, and complains about Adonis’ coldness.   One particular scene has Venus lying on his/her back guiding her hands as the poem describes mounds and wet valleys to help the uninitiated better understand Shakespeare’s lascivious references.

C Primo

15:15

16:15

12

62. 

Places (***)

Romy Nordlinger portrays Alla Nazimova, a Russian violin prodigy who studied acting under Stanislavsky only to emigrate to the USA to become a super star actress/director/producer of silent movies.  Though the actress only has a passing resemblance to the one pictured in the many photos projected behind her, she certainly conveyed the drive and passion of her subject.  As a lover of Hearst Castle, I could appreciate her huge and popular Garden of Allah mansion she built and lost on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

New Town Theatre

17:00

18:00

12

63. 

Glitter Punch (***)

A naïve, 16-year old with low self-esteem meets a fellow smoking at school, and romance ensues.  Due to differences between British and American English as well as Fringe age-blind casting, I and other Americans thought the fellow was her fellow student, while the rest of the audience thought the fellow was her teacher.  Obviously, we viewed the whole play was viewed in entirely differently.  I think it would have been worth four stars had I known.

Assembly George Square

13:15

14:15

23

64. 

Secret Lives of Humans (***)

The grandson of the author of “The Ascent of Man” explores his grandfather’s locked room with his date.  Learning of his work during World War II was interesting, but the girl friend’s argument with the central tenant of the book was specious and tiresome.

Pleasance Courtyard

18:30

19:30

22

65. 

Man on the Moor (***)

A young fellow tries to find his father who disappeared one day.  His real tale of discovering a man who looks like his father, and following that trail is surprisingly well documented.

Underbelly

15:00

16:00

10

66. 

Speaking in Tongues: The Truths (***)

Not as good as Speaking in Tongues: The Lies, but I would recommend seeing it right after the “…Lies” nonetheless.

Pleasance Courtyard

20:15

21:15

10

67. 

Let Me Look at You (***)

An older gay man talks about being cool in the current gay culture as well as the history of the gay rights movement.  Initially has impressed with his seemingly casual lists of significant people within different gay contexts, but it felt so artificial after a while.  Worse, was his repeated statement that “I’m not going to talk about AIDS,” and then doing just that.

Pleasance Courtyard

21

11:15

12:15

68. 

Dickless (***)

An actress plays both a tough young woman who knows her way around the inner city, and her friend who is having trouble with his sexual identity.   The girl’s toughness is there in many details, but the fellow doesn’t simply completely fleshed out.

New Town Theatre

18:50

20:00

16

69. 

The Toxic Avenger (***)

The cult movie is turned into a musical complete with a protagonist who is transformed by toxic waste into a hero.

Pleasance Courtyard

22:30

23:45

15

70. 

The Thinking Drinkers: History of Alcohol (***)

We are served four alcoholic beverages while two men provide history lessons and tasting guidance.  There facts are interesting and seem solid, while their silly comedy fist the show.  I thought their motto was great:  “Drink less, but drink better.”

Underbelly Med Quad

20:35

21:35

24

71. 

Last Resort (***)

The audience is ushered into a room with filled with beach lounge chairs, and then are treated to a tour director and assistant guiding the activities at this Guantanamo Bay resort.

This is quite a mix of resort send-up and torture that sort of works.  The little bags of sand at each chair for our bare feet was a nice touch.

Summerhall

12:00

13:00

8

72. 

Deep in the Heart of Me (***)

A dissatisfied middle aged wife decides to go to Lesbos while the rest of her family disperses for a week.

Sweet Grassmarket

17:40

18:40

10

73. 

Cosmic Scallies (***)

A poor small woman enlists an old friend to help her cleanup her flat, and then volunteers to help her get a prescription for her pain. 

Summerhall

18:30

19:50

14

74. 

One Hander (***)

The actor/comedian relates his life’s experiences with particular attention to the fact that he was born without a left hand.   Well acted, and funny, while addressing his special challenges.

C Primo

22:25

23:20

12

75. 

Last Clown on Earth (***)

The master dancer of the Derevo company plays a clown in an abstract world shown as a cartoons and videos on the back screen.   Though he is still a marvelous dancer and choreographer, this seemed more like a requiem with a devil and a god than an adventure.

Pleasance Courtyard

17:40

19:00

25

76. 

Curse of the Mummy (***)

A trio create a low tech send-up of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” works because they keep it silly.  Just plain fun.

Just the Tonic at the Caves

19:30

20:30

25

77. 

A Thousand Doorways (***)

Diane Edgecomb tells of her trip into Kurdish Kurdistan to record the folk stories before they disappear.  Though her story is thrilling sometimes, the show is too long.

C Primo

13:30

15:00

12

78. 

Reduced Shakespeare Company: Will's Long-Lost First Play (***)

I saw this show last year, and gave it five stars then, jet lag and a new young cast instead of the old wise crackers just seemed a fast talking re-hash to me.  Everyone else seemed to like this story that combines the significant characters from Shakespeare’s plays into one story written by high school Will.  My companion thought it should be four stars.

C Chamber Street

13:30

14:30

7

79. 

Nassim (***)

Each day, the Iranian exile teaches enough Farsi to read a short children’s story to a new actor.  The actor, and the playwright are nice enough, but the whole premise and story seem thin.

Traverse

11:00

12:10

19

80. 

Workshy (***)

A woman describes her real life of holding minimum wage jobs, drug dealing, and being a sex chat girl.  I found the show a bit sparse, but her straightforward revelations were insightful.  How can forget that she demonstrated that she would drink her own piss on the sex chat shows.

Summerhall

21:10

22:25

26

81. 

Lilith: The Jungle Girl (***)

In the late nineteenth century, a scientist and his assistant receive a dangerous humanoid in a crate from Borneo.  The story is silly and bizarre but surprisingly coherent.  I was in the mood to go with it, most people were not.

Traverse

22

11:00

12:10

82. 

Fix (***)

Three actors provide biochemical information about addiction, and then portray three people dealing with various forms of addiction.  It was informative and interesting, but the stories were more educational than drama.

Underbelly Cowgate

17:40

18:50

27

83. 

Breakfast Plays: So Far as a Century's Reach (***)

Three women and a man read from a script that mixes and matches them to tell short vignettes that all deal with pregnancy.  This was the best of the four Breakfast plays.

Traverse

9:00

9:45

23

84. 

Odyssey (***)

A solo show presenting Homer’s epic in one hour using lots of hand gestures to depict the gods.  Others rave, I found the gestures repetitive and confusing at times.  Nonetheless, he did cover all the significant events in only an hour.

Pleasance Dome

21

13:15

14:20

85. 

Suspicious Minds (***)

A husband in a troubled marriage tries to salvage it by reserving a time travel vacation that visits ancient Rome, 18th century Britain, theTitanic, and some other places in time.  The concept was good, but the changes in the relationship of the couple never gelled.

Pleasance Dome

17:30

18:30

17

86. 

Indie as F*ck (***)

Tales of the formation and gigs of a high school band.  Fun, with good music, and mediocre lyrics that at least I could understand.

C Royale

22:25

23:20

13

87. 

Ensonglopedia of Science (***)

A likable fellow performs a ditty for each letter in the alphabet that covers some aspect of science and some form of music that begins with that letter while the audience plays a game to try to figure out what the name of the musical reference.  This is an ambitious mix of animation, power point, musical composition, and science that appeals to both older children and adults while addressing topics ranging from dinosaurs to DNA to atoms.  All of the adults around me were constantly involved as they wrote their musical answers on their scorecards.

Gilded Ballon a the Museum

15:00

16:00

7

88. 

Alpha (***)

It’s been a while now, but I remember two actors that never interested me.  However, a separate actor performed a dance using English Sign Language with such style and energy that made the whole play worth the price of admission.

C Primo

21:25

22:15

12

89. 

Good with Maps (***)

A woman repeatedly explores the Amazon River basin.  Tim loved it, I fell asleep.

C Primo

 

 

 

90. 

Trygve Wakenshaw & Barnie Duncan: Different Party (***)

Two physical comedians play inept interior design salesman who must deal with all sorts of silly difficulties in their office.  It is very good physical comedy, but that is all it is.

Assembly Roxy

20:30

21:30

11

91. 

Britney in: John (***)

Two women recount their real trip to the USA when they were in their gap year to make a documentary based on interviewing people with the name John Hancock as they crossed the country. This is a charming, self-effacing story of an innocent adventure with excerpts from their amateurish film as well as amusing anecdotes and back stories.  At 23, the banter of the two clearly evinces their continued love for each other.

Bedlam Theatre

18:30

19:30

7

92. 

All My Life Long (***)

In this version of “Same Time Next Year,” on the first day of spring each year a needy girl has a one night stand with more conventional man who loves her but she has rejected.   His slow progression in life while waiting for her to figure life out is well written.  Her wandering from one troublesome relationship to another and constant self-pity is wearing.

C Royale

13:45

14:35

10

93. 

The Inconvenience of Wings (***)

The husband of a manic depressive cannot deal with her death.  Though the story was well told, and her acting was impressive, the superfluous nudity really detracted from the play.

Assembly Studios

15:00

16:00

17

94. 

DeLorean (***)

DeLorean founds a new car company without a real design, and must decide where to build the auto plant.  I never cared for anybody in the story, except the Belfast workers who had their hopes dashed by a man who cared more about business deals than them.

Assembly Rooms

12:00

13:00

10

95. 

10 Rillington Place (***)

Based on the true story of a serial killer who hid the bodies in the floors and walls of his house.  The actor was convincing as a fatherly figure whom women would trust.  But that same consistent tone made the show dull.

SpaceTriplex

13:55

14:45

8

96. 

Wanna Dance with Somebody! Or, A Guide to Managing Social Anxiety Using Theoretical Physics (***)

A likable fellow in a sport coat uses planet lampshades to represent his friends and their advice on how to deal with social anxiety.  He does spend much of the rest of time dancing joyously, but somehow the time passes easily.  In the end, his treatise convinced virtually all of the audience to join him for a couple of dances at the end of the show.

Zoo Southside

21:30

22:30

7

97. 

Carried Away (***)

After an earlier miscarriage that she thinks was her fault, a young woman has troubles accepting her new pregnancy.

C Royale

18:00

18:50

13

98. 

Meet Me at Dawn (***)

Two women marooned on a beach slowly come to grips with their unusual situation.  Because I misheard the origin of their plight, I was confused for the first ten minutes.  In hindsight, it seems that most of us were kept in the dark for such a long time, that the play seemed too slow.   However, the second half picked up the pace, and was quite sastisfying.

Traverse

varies

varies

15

99. 

The Great American Trailer Park Musical (***)

A large cast fills the trailer park as toll taker tries to convince his agoraphobic wife to leave their manufactured home to see the Ice Capades for their 20th anniversary.

 

C too

20:40

22:15

14

100. 

Jess and Joe Forever (***)

A chubby tween befriends a troubled farm boy each summer on her vacation,, and they slowly grow closer over the years.  The mystery of his troubles is both intriguing and exasperating.  Without a microphone, whenever she spoke to another side of Traverse 2, I could not hear her. 

Traverse

16:00

17:10

15

101. 

The Girl Who Jumped Off the Hollywood Sign (***)

In the 1940s, an aspiring actress must confront the difficulties of getting a chance in the

Hollywood studio system as well as the demands on stars like Judy Garland.  Throughout the show, the actress has many Garlandesque songs.  It is ironic that this is well acted story of futility was constantly thwarted by her good but not great voice in comparison to Garland’s.  I should note that my companion loved the show and would give it four stars.

Assembly Roxy

11:30

12:30

7

102. 

The Testament of Mary (***)

The mother of Jesus describes what her life was like dealing with Jesus and his disciples before and after the crucifixion.  There are few references to his miracles, but this is not a religious tract.  The heart of the story is a mother losing her son.

C Cubed

11:00

12:10

28

103. 

The Last Queen of Scotland (***)

A Ugandan woman brought up in Dundee rails against Idi Amin and then visits the nation of her birth to retrace her roots.  From the start, this seems both facile and naïve.  We know Amin was bad and crazy to think he had anything to do with Scotland, and the story makes clear that the woman is fully integrated into her Scottish community.

Underbelly

18:50

19:50

18

104. 

Parlour Games (***)

It is a dark and stormy night when the lights go out, and three young siblings create almost silent plays in the style of 1920s silent films.  The simple plays, and their interactions seemed appropriate for 4, 11, and 13 year old children, but the play did seem too long.  They used a wide range of techniques with flashlights to great effect.

Assembly Roxy

21

16:00

16:55

105. 

The Road That Wasn't There (***)

A girl follows a road that is only dotted lines on a map to discover a magical part of her town inhabited by a very nice boy.

The use of shadow puppets is nicely done, but I’m afraid this children’s story was a bit too tame for me.  The kids seem to fall asleep too.

Assembly Roxy

14:35

15:35

27

106. 

Burnt Toast (***)

The day after a young woman commemorates her mom leaving the family at a pub, her mother shows up at the pub.  Both the daughter, and her boyfriend are well defined, but the other characters are cardboard.  In particular, the mother asks her daughter to let her explain, and then never does.

Assembly Rooms

17:05

18:05

24

107. 

The Time Machine (***)

A one man show as the protagonist from the H.G. Wells classic of time travel to a time when human race has divided into the blind Morlocks who keep the peaceful Eloi as cattle among other shorter adventures.   The actor is virtually always either loudly lamenting or fiercely exhorting which is quite wearing after a while.   There needed to be a little quieter time.

Assembly Roxy

11:10

12:40

27

108. 

Karoo Moose - No Fathers (***)

In South Africa, a young girl is raped by a bunch of men who go unpunished.  I was often lost as the dialog is in a mix of English and their native language, and the songs are all in their native language.

Assembly George Square

11:40

13:00

23

109. 

Play on Words (***)

In a dystopian future, two women try to come up with new words with death as their punishment for failing.  I had hoped that this would have been a show of clever word play, but was sadly disappointed.

C Royale

21:30

22:20

13

110. 

Beam (***)

A young plays a woman born in the 1920s by alternating between the woman on board a ship heading to Canada to meet her husband to be, and an old woman today.  During the play she passes around jelly babies, lavender, a cuddly toy, and soft bundles for each audience member.  In the end, there was nothing left of the play but her beautiful smile.

Zoo Southside

11:25

12:25

14

111. 

Breakfast Plays: Ouroboros (***)

Four women read a script about an Indian doctor who takes over a health center in a rural Indian village, and has a contentious relationship with the midwife who ran the center before she arrived.  While the privations of the rural community affects most aspects health care, this play highlights its huge impact on obstectrics.

Traverse

9:00

9:45

20

112. 

Finding Nana (***)

A young woman returns to a holiday hotel where she shared so many good times with her recently deceased grandmother.  Her acting was OK, and there wasn’t much else to the plot.

Pleasance Courtyard

15:30

16:30

28

113. 

Frogman (***)

The audience investigates the disappearance of a girl on the Great Barrier Reef with the help of  VR goggles to present some of the evidence.  The goggles contribute little the play, except to allow all of us to try them.

Traverse Codebase

21:00

22:00

23

114. 

Submission (***)

A Pakistani must try to reconcile his Islamic faith with his homosexuality when he encounters an old lover.  Though the problem is posed, he barely searches for an answer so the whole play seems to have no direction. 

C Royale

14:20

15:10

19

115. 

Nikola and His Travelling Lux Concordia (***)

Great idea, but the discourse becomes confusing and preachy.

C Royale

19:00

20:00

13

116. 

Amy, 25, Almost Cool (***)

On the day her old high school best friend arrives, Amy is invited on a date by a male model.  The play explores the source of their friendship, dating, and the chinks in their relationship.  The stuck prom dress zipper provided a bit of comedy, but the need to break the fourth wall to introduce a flashback felt clumsy.

C Royale

17:00

17:45

13

117. 

Mental (***)

The 26-year old son of a manic-depressive mother explains her condition, and his experiences living with her.  Though sincere, his songs had little merit.

Assembly Roxy

22

17:05

18:05

118. 

Breakfast Plays: Q&Q (***)

Five actors read a play about three Syrian refugee women talking to two European government interviewers.  Their stories are properly diverse, but I do tire of rotating storytelling.

Traverse

22

9:00

9:45

119. 

Class Project (***)

A woman plays excerpts from different prime minister’s speeches about helping the lower classes, and then talks about the class differences.  She evidently used different English accents to indicate subtle class differences, but they were lost on me.

Summerhall

20:40

21:55

27

120. 

Eve (***)

A monotonous presentation sinks this story of her life as she tries to be recognized as a woman.

Traverse

18:30

19:40

15

121. 

Stegosaurus (***)

A young woman’s story of her unsuccessful battle with all three eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.  Though she described each of her dysfunctional behaviors in expert detail, the story seemed to go nowhere.  While her sense of endless futility may have been the point, it seemed shallow.

C Royale

14:45

15:45

13

122. 

Lady Macbeth : Unsex Me Here (***)

Three men simultaneously perform an interpretation of Lady Macbeth’s life.  Though much of the time they were synchronous, the occasional, intentional, divergence intrigued me.   I just don’t remember her life well enough to make sense of several of the sequences.

Dance Base

20:00

20:55

15

123. 

That's Life on Lisgar (***)

A daughter of Portugese parents must deal with the cultural difference.  It is sincere, but mundance.

C Royale

12:30

13:30

13

124. 

Blurred Justice (***)

A Yemen terrorist is put on trial for killing five people, and then the audience must vote on his guilt.

The play shows both the bombing of the peaceful Yemeni wedding that motivates the man, and the premeditated murder of the five.  However, we never learn what the five are doing, and in the end the whole play feels contrived.

New Town Theatre

23:15

0:15:00

16

125. 

The Iconoclasts (***)

A musical family stages a re-union in honor of a dead family member.  The music was pretty good, but it was too loud and I couldn’t understand most of the lyrics.

C Primo

20:15

21:15

12

126. 

The Chess Player (***)

On board a ship in 1942, an Austrian Jew who had been kept in solitary confinement by the Gestapo agrees play a game of chess against the world champion.  The acting in this solo show is superb, but choice to repeatedly break the fourth wall is a disservice to the play.  I was also pissed off that during one such break, the actor belittled a non-volunteer audience member.

C Primo

12:00

13:15

12

127. 

3000 Trees - The Death of William McRae (***)

Based on the life of the hard drinking leftist lawyer who may have been killed for his stands despite being ruled otherwise.  The actor stays in character throughout, and that one note performance wears thin quickly.

New Town Theatre

14:50

15:40

9

128. 

Things We Find in the Dark (***)

This show mixes shadow puppets and live action to tell a tale of a little boy who is afraid of the dark who chases a monster who stole his light.  This definitely an amateur production, but its message and simplicity was charming.

Zoo

10:40

11:30

25

129. 

Bright Colours Only (***)

We are treated to woman selling coffins starting with tea or whiskey and appetizers.  Though her routine going over the selling points of the coffin in the room was fun, the whole show seemed thin on content.

Assembly Rooms

14:25

15:35

24

130. 

The Offering (Guru Dakshina) (***)

The young acolyte must learn how to battle evil from an ages old master.  The whole thing was done with such solemnity and sincerity that there was little room for fun.

C Royale

15:45

16:30

24

131. 

All We Ever Wanted was Everything (***)

This musical has a boy and a girl who were childhood friends meet again at pub many years later after each has had miserable romantic experiences.   Though the music was OK, the narrator and  many of the lyrics were unintelligible and too loud for me.

Summerhall

22:30

23:45

24

132. 

Status (***)

This one-off was a playwright reading his play to us to get our reactions.  It was late, I was tired, and I cannot remember it the next day.

Traverse

21

21:00

22:10

133. 

Two (***)

Two actors play the proprietors of a tavern as well as twelve of their customers.  The actors get to show their chops in two of the stories, but the rest of the vignettes have little spark.

C Royale

12:55

14:05

19

134. 

Raton Laveur (***)

A woman comes home to find that her paranoid schizophrenic lover covered in blood from using a baseball bat to kill something wrapped in a bloody rug.  She is surprisingly understanding, and he is really crazy.  Very well acted, but a bit over the top.

Assembly Roxy

21

14:30

15:30

135. 

Scribble (***)

This show has an invited actor read their small part from a binder while the cosmologist protagonist tells of his difficulty at making decisions in his life.  The reader adds nothing, and the goal of the show seems to be to provide one simple lesson the cosmologist learned to cope his disease.  The whole thing could have taken five minutes.

Assembly Roxy

15:50

16:50

25

136. 

6x6x6 (***)

Three pairs of comedians present uninspired short plays.

Pleasance Dome

16:20

17:20

10

137. 

Electra (***)

This retelling of the revenge of the daughter of  Agamemnon had little emotion and lots of words.

theSpace@Symposium Hall

22:10

23:10

8

138. 

A Charlie Montague Mystery: The Man with the Twisted Hip (**)

One man attempts to create a multi-character drawing room mystery, but he doesn’t do a good job of differentiating his accents, and his jokes consistently fell flat.

TheSpace@Surgeons Hall

21

17:05

17:55

139. 

Locker Room Talk (**)

Four women listen on ipods and repeat the words verbatim of men talking about women when there are no women around.  Each woman repeats the words of many men, and almost all are mundane things that we have already heard.  Since the men aren’t differentiated, even the fact the misogynistic comments from men across all classes was lost.

Traverse

21

19:00

20:15

140. 

Little Boy (**)

A Chinese production about a young man dealing with his powerful, but remote, father’s death.  While I could better understand the accented English, the subtle changes from one character to another confused me. 

C Royale

16:00

16:50

13

141. 

Smoking with Grandma (**) A Chinese production about an immigrant from Hong Kong waiting years to be allowed to take the ferry to Taiwan.  I have difficulty with accents, and there didn’t seem to be much of a story here anyway.

C Royale

13:40

14:30

13

142. 

Party Game (**)

This interactive story has the audience prepare a surprise party for the arrival of an honored guest.  Though the actors could sing and dance well, and the activities diverse, I came away feeling that there were many better things to do for an hour.

Traverse at the Wee Red Bar

20:30

22:30

9

143. 

Help! (**)

A young woman who really has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety tells of her fight with her disease.  Along the way she has a lot of audience participation, and in the end asks us all to help put her life back together by taping foil scraps to her body.  Nice symbolism, but not much of a play.

Zoo

16:30

17:30

11

144. 

Three Tales of Love and Death (**)

Disjoint stories that had old news coverage for preambles for each.  Simply blah.

Assembly Rooms

15:50

16:55

16

145. 

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (**)

In purgatory, a defense attorney tries to argue that Judas should be permitted in heaven.  While the acting was fine, the script was a mess.  There was only one small section in which the defense attorney actually made a reasonable argument.

Pleasance Courtyard

13:30

15:00

25

146. 

Flamenco Escocia (**)

A flamenco guitarist plays duets with a bass guitaritst, and mandolin player with a flamenco dancer performing on two of the pieces.   While the musicians are all talented, his supposedly Scottish inspired compositions are a mess.  Only when the mandolin joined him did he play jigs that I could enjoy.

C Chamber Street

21:20

22:15

6

147. 

Edison (**)

Should be called “Tesla” because it is about Tesla being underappreciated as a worker in Edison’s company.

Zoo Southside

17:45

18:45

11

148. 

The Expiration Date of Jonas Muller (Age 70) (*)

An actor sits at a desk and reads a boring story.

Pleasance Dome

13:20

14:20

11

149. 

Rainbow Soapbox (*)

No different from last week, just with different acts.  Still too loud, too brash, and amateurish to a fault.  The three speakers continue to be sincere, and the best part of the show.

Traverse

10:00

10:45

14

150. 

Breakfast Plays: Choices (*)

This was not a play.  It was one women reading a short story with some dialogue in it.  Though the story was OK, it should not be sold as if it were even related to the play format.

Traverse

9:00

9:45

19

151. 

Rainbow Soapbox (*)

This morning cabaret tries to celebrate people who are different with a mix of speakers, odd performers, and a brash emcee.  It was almost like “The Producers”, where someone tried to construct the worst show possible, except it was unintentional.  It started late, had technical difficulties throughout, was way too loud, had sincere but untalented performers, and ran over their time slot by a half hour!

Traverse

10:00

10:45

7

 

I am a 64-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.  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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