185 Reviews for the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (In order from most enjoyable to least)

 

Welcome to the 2015 version of my Fringe reviews.  I again tailored 10 days of my schedule to that of my friend Tim’s.  He is much more knowledgeable about the production qualities of the companies.  You can see my 2015 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 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.

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

Title and Review

Venue

Times

Date

1.  

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (*****)

A girl grows up with an older brother with brain cancer, an unhappy mother, and no father, and then a rape alters her whole life.  This is the performance to see this year.  Aoife Duffin moves easily from one character to another in an instant with subtlety, and yet clarity, even when but a word or two must be said before returning.

Traverse

Varies

11

2.  

Jethro Compton’s Frontier Trilogy: Blood Red Moon (*****)

This first, and best, part of the trilogy has two dissimilar brothers coming West to pan for gold in a claim they purchased.  This is a classic story of the Western genre with more complex interactions among the characters than most such movies allowed.  The strengths and weaknesses of both men come to the fore at different times as their circumstances change.  I should note that each story of the trilogy easily stands alone, but they are tangentially connected in chronological order.

C nova

17:10 – 18:20

8

3.  

Jethro Compton’s Frontier Trilogy: The Clock Strikes Noon (*****)

The second part of the trilogy takes place in a two-room isolated church where a farmer and the sheriff prepare for an onslaught of gunmen hired by the rapacious railroad.  As with the first story, the setting may be classic, but the addition of the daughter of the railroad’s owner as a tough negotiator allows the story to transcend the clichés of the genre, and develop in novel ways.  There are subtleties here, where each person can legitimately change their mind on important matters.  I should note that each story of the trilogy easily stands alone, but they are tangentially connected in chronological order.

C nova

21:10 – 22:15

8

4.  

I Went to a Fabulous Party (*****)

A gay couple invite a bunch of gay men to their house for a party.  Even though sex dominates the conversations and movements, the diverse cast finds ways to assert each of their individualities in catty and loving ways.  I wish I could list each character because they combine into such a satisfying mélange despite or because of their diversity.

C too

22:40 – 23:45

18

5.  

Jethro Compton’s Frontier Trilogy: Rattlesnake Kiss (*****)

After relishing the first two parts of the trilogy, this story of the padre of a small, isolated, church and a lawman looking for an outlaw provided a satisfying conclusion to the saga.  As with the other two stories, there is no black hat or white hat here--everyone is both flawed and virtuous.  In this case, the seeming treachery of a woman has repercussions for her and her victim that reverberate through the entire story.  I should note that each story of the trilogy easily stands alone, but they are tangentially connected in chronological order.

C nova

22:30 – 23:35

8

6.  

Love Birds (*****)

The star attraction of a vaudeville troupe composed entirely of birds decides to leave, and the rest of the performers offer new acts that their conservative manager finds objectionable.  With its strong voices, good lyrics, colorful costumes, catch tunes, smart choreography, and cute story, this show is ready to tour.  The penguin barbershop quartet fulfill their Mary Poppins promise by being both harmonious and quick dancers.

Pleasance Courtyard

12:35 – 13:35

18

7.  

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

Three dressers and an expressive pianist provide short biographies and impersonated songs of Judy Garland, Doris Day, Julie Andrews, Liza Minelli, and Dolly Parton.  Each singer captures the style of her celebrity with three familiar songs that enchanted the crowd.  Besides the singers, I found that I enjoyed the wonderful expressions of their accomplished accompanist.

Assembly Hall

18:15 – 19:30

16

8.  

The Paradise Project (*****)

This two hander about creating utopian societies uses two modes: 1) reading short stories relating to the topic, and 2) having a couple spending weeks building and living in a fallout shelter to learn what rules to set and how to set them.  Both the stories and the experiment proved thought provoking and worthy of long discussions afterwards.  The story about a dying 400-year old tree served to highlight the uniqueness of this time, and the effort to set up a voting for just two people was both difficult and hilarious

Summerhall

17:40 – 18:50

17

9.  

The Solid Life of Sugar Water (*****)

A couple takes turns giving their impressions of their dates, time in bed, and dealing with her pregnancy.  Even though he has a deformed arm and she is deaf those are irrelevant to the vast majority of the story.  Their descriptions of their thinking during sex are graphic, and his more closely matched mine that I’ve ever heard or read.

Pleasance Dome

16:00 – 17:20

30

10.  

Cornermen (*****)

An unemployed trio of manager, trainer, and cutman, sign a young amateur boxer, and try to guide him to a championship.  There is no actual boxing in this play, instead this is a story about the fight game from the vantage point of fight contracts, strategy sessions, and tactics during a fight.  The ultimate fight is a chess game that reveals the loyalties of all involved.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:45 – 16:00

24

11.  

Ed Byrne – Outside Looking In (*****)

Byrne provided his usual mix of funny stories that were full of sly wit.  His stories ranged from bombing in front of bankers to a weeklong bout of diarrhea to dealing with people expressing their annoyance when he brings his kids into a Costa coffee shop.  I loved his story of supporting his 4-year old boy’s selection of sparkly pink trainers with hearts on them.

Gilded Balloon Teviot

21:00 – 22:00

30

12.  

Tomorrow (*****)

We see the life in a home for senior citizens with diminished capacity that has a caring and experienced staff.  I know that it sounds dull, but the staging using full head masks and the matter of factness of staff in the face of unusual behavior gives this a verisimilitude that often brought tears to my eyes.  The initial assembly line for creating those masks and then handed to adults as if they were babies was a perfect metaphor for adults who find that they must care for parents who cannot care for themselves.

Traverse

Varies

11

13.  

A Gambler’s Guide to Dying (*****)

Gary McNair recounts his grandfather’s gambling philosophy, and how it influenced their close friendship.  Of how to prolong a dream, and allowing a bet to energize a cancer ridden walk to death.  The tale of his Scottish grandfather’s mob beating in a bar after betting on England revealed a realist who was willing to accept both the winning and losing in life.

Traverse

Varies

6

14.  

Foxfinder (*****)

In a desperate future England, an ascetic foxfinder arrives at a farm to search for evidence of a fox infestation that is supposedly the source of all the ills of the nation.  The parallel to Jews in Nazi Germany is obvious, but the play’s strength lies in the three different ways the farmer, his wife, and the foxfinder respond to the fruitless search.  I loved how the farmer’s view of the government’s response to the events in the finale was fantastical, and yet a probably a good prediction.

Bedlam Theatre

19:30 – 21:00.

9

15.  

Fully Committed starring Marcus Brigstocke (*****)

Besides taking reservation requests for a restaurant, a harried telephone receptionist must deal with a demanding chef/owner, a remote matre d’, and various interruptions from staff, friends, and family.  Brigstocke does a remarkable job of providing different characterizations in quick succession for each of the oft repeated pantheon.  Layered on top of this acting, we have several stories of his father, auditions, and extraordinary responsibilities that the plot neatly solves in a very satisfying way.

Underbelly Potterrow

14:00 – 15:10

20

 

16.  

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family (*****)

Ben Norris tells of taking a hitchhiking trip in reverse order of the houses his taciturn father lived in to try to better understand him  Though unmentioned, he had a cameraman along to take photos and videos that play with animated maps to show his progress in a humorous fashion on a large backdrop.  His word choice, particularly his metaphors, really made the show special.

Underbelly Cowgate

16:40 – 17:45

28

17.  

How to Keep an Alien (*****)

A perky Irish actress describes meeting her Australian lover, and then their long, complex, and erratic efforts to allow her to emigrate to Ireland.  From their initial miming of fantastical methods of suicide while rehearsing a dreadful play, to a wonderful collage of photos of the pair at the end, this is a heartwarming tale of devotion in the face of bureaucratic adversity.  The omnipresent huge binder of their assembled documentation serves as a constant reminder just how mammoth their task was.

Traverse

Varies

6

18.  

Man to Man (*****)

We follow a woman’s life in Germany from the advent of Nazism to the fall of the Berlin Wall as she assumes the identity of her husband to survive.  The actress further demonstrates her desperation as she hides in a suitcase, perches on a roof, and literally climbs the walls.  This is not a simplistic tale of a victim, for she also seduces, kills, and abuses others.

Underbelly Potterrow

17:40 – 18:55

23

19.  

Urinetown (*****)

This deconstructed musical is set in a drought ravaged town where there is a law that all citizens must use toilet facilities owned by a big corporation.  This well executed musical is full of self-referential remarks on how things are done in musicals.  The show allows itself to violate some of the standard motifs because it is not a “happy” musical

Assembly Hall

11:45 – 14:00

19

 

20.  

Confessional by Tennessee Williams (****)

The regular patrons in low end bar have the raw interactions that only familiarity and booze can produce.  While the staging with a divided audience is problematic for hearing, the company performs William’s deeply felt dialog beautifully.  Whether dealing with a girl she’s supported, an unfaithful lover, or an unlicensed doctor, the hairdresser protagonist dissects each person with a perfectly aimed jagged knife rant.

C cubed

19:05 – 20:20

6

21.  

As Is (****)

This play from the mid 1980s is about how a gay man and those around him deal with his diagnosis and treatment for AIDS.  Though the play is thirty years old it works well as both a reminder of the initial panic of the AIDS epidemic, and the more general theme of support for those in need.  The key to the success of the show is the wit and bitterness of the protagonist and the depth of caring of his lover.

Bedlam Theatre

11:30 – 13:00

15

22.  

Around the World in 80 Days (****)

In the 1870s, Phileas Fogg makes a wager that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days, and then we see his attempt to do it with his French valet, a suspicious English police detective, an American adventuress.  This low tech production keeps the light hearted story rolling along at a pace that never had me looking at my watch.  The elephant made of a head of cord, a trunk of 45 rpm records, and feet of toilet plungers was a wonderful creation.

C south

14:15 – 15:55

26

23.  

Nelson: The Sailors’ Story (****)

Nocholas Collett portrays several sailors from the Battle of Trafalgar, including Admiral Nelson, as well as a homeless survivor of a Falkland War ship that was sunk.  His tale of the battle is riveting as he switches back and forth from Nelson to his ship’s doctor to a gunner to powder monkey.  He did a good job of differentiating the roles, except that the introduction of the homeless sailor was confusing.

Zoo

17:10 – 18:10

31

24.  

In Light of … (****)

Two women rely on free word associating, a beach ball, a deck of giant playing cards, little lights, and physical movements to symbolize confrontation or supportive friendship.  This is one of those plays where I was never sure what was going on, but it all felt right.  As a case in point, the deck of cards were originally used in some unexplained card game, but later they seemed to represent either photos or memories.

Sweet

18:15 – 19:10

30

25.  

The Blues Brothers – Live (****)  Jake and Elwood are back with three  backup singers and a septet to provide rock and blues from the 1960s.  This show is part of my first and last day ritual for the Fringe because I like to get a chance to get out and dance to some good music.  The band is tight, the singers talented, the musical director is having a good time, and the entire audience usually gets out of their seats and shakes their booties

C Chamber St.

22:45 – 23:40

5

26.  

The Girl from Nowhere (****)

In the 1960s, a runaway country singer discovers Janis Joplin’s style, but is haunted by her small Texas town roots.  Despite the radical musical change her progression feels inevitable in hindsight.  The sincere snippets of music that she performs add to both the ambience, and an understanding of her talent and drive.

Pleasance Courtyard

12:45 – 13:45

5

27.  

Swallow (****)

A disfigured jilted lover, a transvestite, and a fearful hermit each must overcome adversity in their own way.  The held my interest because the paths they used were so different and yet fit their circumstances and life story.  The use of a lost pelican as an avenue to recovery seemed inspired

Traverse

Varies

11

28.  

A Life With the Beatles (****)

Ian Sexon plays Neil Aspinall, who was the Beatle’s road manager and CEO of Apple Corps, describing his backstage experiences from the earliest days until they broke up.  This show is full of little tidbits that kept it interesting to a Beatlephile like me.  He evoked the claustrophobic feeling toward the end of their touring particularly well.

Sweet Grassmarket

17:15 – 18:15

21

29.  

Adam Hills: Clown Heart (****)

As usual, Hills presented a good-hearted show that combined spontaneity and some routines.  This time the spontaneity was based on trying to phone the wife of an audience member and have it seem like he was at a wild party, and the routines involved child rearing, his father dying, and a friend dying of cancer who poses nude online every Tuesday.  It was touching that his father and he had a tradition of ending each of their conversations “on a high note” by finishing by each vocalizing a high pitch.

Assembly Hall

19:30 – 20:30

24

30.  

Christians (****)

A pastor of an American mega-church gives a sermon that hell does not exist, and though the initial reaction is muted, the repercussions grow in unexpected ways.  The large chorus establishes the mood of the evangelical church well, the pastor is charismatic, his argument is sound, and the voices heard keep the play interesting, but the play is flawed.  Later songs contribute little, and the otherwise thoughtful pastor never tries to defuse the situation by appealing to Jesus’ role as the forgiving son of God.

Traverse

Varies

11

31.  

Dylan Thomas: The Man, The Myth (****)

Guy Masterson and the granddaughter of Dylan Thomas present a biography of the Welsh poet by alternating her reading from her book about Thomas’ life, and Masterson performing excerpts from his works while photos of cited locations were projected above them.  I could not ask for a better arrangement of information, images, and live performance.  It was a pleasure to see Masterson recite poetry he clearly relishes.

Assembly Roxy

13:30 – 14:30

8

32.  

The Communist Threat (****)

In the 1950s, two British MI5 agents, who do not know each other, meet in Vienna to carry out an assassination.  One is an erudite assassin, and the other a working class guy who doesn’t work in the field, but their probing question of each other hint at a distrust of strangers.  The plot seems obvious to us, but the twists still caught me.

Zoo Southside

10:40 – 11:40

24

33.  

Raz by Jim Cartwright (****)

This fast paced play has a very fit truck driver reliving his night out with his buddies mixing drugs and pub crawling.  As the leader of his group, he executes his plan for a good time with military precision that works well as long as he is in control of himself.  From his initial self-conscious selection of clothing and tanning method to his keen awareness of the limitations of his friends to his fleeting glimpses of his former lover the whole play is keenly written with a fast wit, and a knowing finale.

Assembly George Square

16:00 – 17:00

17

34.  

The Great Downhill Journey of Little Tommy (****)

A four piece rock band, with a pen and ink artist drawing on a huge shadow canvas behind them, tell a musical tale of a young man’s adventure as he meets workmen, a hunter, and even a liquor distiller.  Though the music ranged across many styles, I enjoyed it all.  I sat right in front of the manic keyboardist/guitarist, and was amazed at his virtuosity and how much he perspired during the show.

Summerhall

22:30 – 23:40

29

35.  

Walking the Tightrope: The Tension Between Art and Politics (****)

In response to three cultural events being closed last summer because of political pressure, the Underbelly commissioned twelve plays addressing freedom of expression.  The seven today had: 1) a major donor objecting to new rules that would prevent her son from interning for her theater charity; 2) a playwright unable to find an insult that his producers think would not offend someone; 3) a Black man violently sodomizes a drugged White woman volunteer in front of an audience as a “legitimate” piece of art; 4) two actors arguing about the need to update the Koran while slowly becoming clowns; 5) a Black auditioning actress objecting to participating in one of the three closed plays that was written by a White but has an all Black cast performing as if they were in a zoo; 6) a young Fringe actor arguing with his mother as to whether a theater company should be boycotted because one of their funding source; and 7) repeating an innocuous scene, and changing the nouns to different politically charged words in each version.  Though some of the well-acted plays were patently absurd, others were quite thought provoking.

Underbelly Potterrow

15:35 – 17:05

22

36.  

Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox (****)

Michael Griffiths charmed us as he used a chronological biography of Annie Lennox to introduce his interpretations of his songs.  He had only a keyboard so he wisely did not try to go for the full power of many of her songs.

Assembly Bosco

18:00 -19:00

20

37.  

Crash (****)

A financial advisor looks back at the highs and lows of the past year of his personal and financial life.  Though his egoless approach to financial decisions has allowed him to cut his losses and made him a successful businessman, the play cleverly demonstrates how that it is much harder to apply to his personal life.  His final financial triumph while reeling from betrayal neatly underscores this difference.

Traverse

Varies

6

38.  

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

This show had six mini-plays: a man raises a duckling that become his closest friend; a prostitute, her john, and her jilted lover uses single words to communicate; a passive door-to-door trainee is tutored; a man lacking the sense of touch meets a woman who lacks the sense of smell and taste; at a bus stop at man meets a woman who goes through life rating kissers; and an Australian construction worker deals with an unwanted friend request from Cate Blanchett.  Unlike Menu 1, each of these plays had at least one character about whom I cared, and made each have some larger meaning.  The feeling of unexpected rejection by the naïve imprinted duck, the automatic position of outsider of a person lacking touch or smell, and the different view of acting of the hardhat, each made their plays more interesting and worthwhile for me.

Pleasance Courtyard

10:30 – 11:30

7

39.  

Little Thing, Big Thing (****)

A petty ex-con and a nun are chased across Ireland for a mysterious roll of film she has.  The chemistry between the unlikely buddies is in evidence throughout their many narrow escapes.  This has a finely tuned mix of danger, evolving friendship, and comedy that is rare.

Assembly George Square

15:40 – 17:00

12

40.  

17 Border Crossings (****)

As the title indicates, Thaddeus Phillips describes 17 border crossings ranging from the troubled crossing from Hungary to Yugoslavia during the 1990s war to a psychological border during a during a drug induced mental trip in South America.  No matter the variation he always succeeded at conveying the germane sensations of crossing the border.  From a description of a delivery of a bucket of KFC chicken through a Gaza Strip tunnel to a motor scooter trip across a Peru-Brazil border with a rod to beat back stray dog packs, the diversity and imagery created was remarkable.

Summerhall

18:35 – 19:50

27

41.  

John Godber’s Happy Jack (****)

A tough old coal miner and his wife tell his life story starting from his entering the mines at 16, and through their working class married life.  While they spent much of their lives squabbling it was clear that they always loved each other.

Quaker Meeting House

18:15 – 19:30

19

42.  

Underneath (****)

Pat Kinevane first interacts with audience members, and then he mixes movement and speech to tell the story of a badly disfigured girl who must constantly deal with ridicule from her peers, but is aided by her neighbors and employers.  Kinevane is charming, and seeing his tattered black costumed figure swirl in sheets of gold lame provide a great metaphor for the girl’s efforts to hide.  The powerful final act has an appropriate harsh mix of injustice and justice.

Dance Base

19:30 – 21:00

14

43.  

Trevor Noah: Lost in Translation (****)

Noah started by pointing out how there could never be Black James Bond because he could never disappear into an Edinburgh crowd to escape bad guys, and the rest of the show continued to focus on prejudice in the world.  He did have many funny routines including being under suspicion for Ebola on an airplane because he transferred from Africa, and another about trying to figure out how to behave to prevent being shot by a cop when he was pulled over by a Los Angeles cop.  I left feeling that he was a one trick pony, and wondered how he will do in the more political world of the Daily Show.

Assembly Hall

22:30 – 23:30

28

44.  

Camille O’Sullivan – Brel (****)

The French-Irish singer returns to the songwriter of her youth to interpret 14 of Jacque Brel’s songs.  I see Camille every year, and she never fails to impress me with her heartfelt voice and her playful interactions with her band and the audience.  I only gave this four stars because the band played so loud at times that many of Brel’s lyrics eluded me.

The Queen’s Hall

22:30 – 0:00

15

45.  

Ndeble Funeral (****)

In a Johannesburg slum, a HIV positive woman is visited by an upbeat friend and then a white government auditor.  Unlike previous South African stories this show leaves apartheid behind, and looks at how harsh life still is even under the ANC.  The combination of duets by the friends, the trio’s native dancing, and a creative coffin made from flood supplies creates a multi-faceted picture of country now.

Summerhall

13:00 – 14:00

10

46.  

Two Sore Legs (****)

Brenda Murphy tells of her life in Belfast where she had six children by a married man, and had to deal with disapproval from almost all corners, and yet created a loving family.  This is a wonderful mix of family joys, the Irish troubles, and the complexity of being Catholic in a modern world.  It was always fun to hear of her disapproving father nonetheless taking on the sanctimonious priest.

Assembly George Square

12:35 – 13:35

12

47.  

I am Not Myself These Days (****)

Tom Stuart plays an alcoholic transvestite who re-enacts his year in New York City, including his months of living with his male prostitute boyfriend.  His “Aqua” persona, who had two hemispherical goldfish aquariums for breasts, had a complex mix of flash and softness that seemed real though pathetically doomed.  The key to the power of the play lays in the surreal mix of queen shows, love, crack, bondage, and alcohol.

Pleasance Courtyard

16:15 – 17:30

26

48.  

Trans Scripts (****)

Several transgender women recreate verbatim conversations from others about their experiences from abuse to societal acceptance to their own comfort in their new bodies.  The wide range of social, economic, and race of the women allowed us to hear of both their common and special experiences.  I was surprised when I was the audience member offered to feel the large breasts of one who asserted they were natural, and due simply to hormone therapy.

Pleasance Courtyard

15:00 – 16:30

15

49.  

Tonight with Donny Stixx (****)

A teenager on the autism scale with a demanding mother loves to perform his magic show.  The actor’s alternating between actual speech and his inner thoughts is easily accepted by the audience and critical to understanding the boy.  Though his autism explains most of his actions, his dismissal of his father seemed poorly explained.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:45 – 16:00

13

50.  

The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy Part I: The List (****)

In rural Canada, a woman uses lists to create hierarchy of her many activities, but finds that her system has failed her.  She is a wonderfully conflicted woman who wanted to come to the country, but then finds little has improved in her life, and now she feels isolated besides.  Her link with her best friend, who approaches life and mothering in a much different way, serves as the wellspring for the bulk of the play.

Assembly Roxy

12:20 – 13:20

8

51.  

Wendy Hoose by Johnny McKnight (****)

After meeting on a chat room a young fellow visits a woman at her home for a mutually agreed upon one night stand.  The show takes an unexpected turn when he finds that she has no legs, and explores the prejudices of both people.  The accommodations have a perfect pacing.

The Assembly Rooms

15:30 – 16:30

21

52.  

Heartbeats and Algorithms (****)

A computer programmer must contend with a program she wrote that starts to accurately predict her actions.  Her low key personality suits the physical displacement of the initial virtual chatroom, but seemed increasingly inappropriate as she becomes more desperate to become unpredictable.  Nonetheless, whether intended or not, her unanswered request for someone with which to dance seemed emblematic of the difficulty of leaving a virtual life.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:15 – 15:15

5

53.  

Down and Out in Paris and London (****)

To learn of poverty first hand, Eric Blair (pen name George Orwell) moved into a working class tenement in Paris, and in 2003 Polly Toynbee moves into social housing in London.  Both learn of the many unexpected difficulties that the poor must confront just to survive.  This is a good clean tale of immersion in poverty with the poor portrayed as neither heroes nor villains, but with economic predators everywhere.

Pleasance Courtyard

18:30 – 19:30

5

54.  

A Fine Line (****)

A senior citizen recounts her lifelong loving with her childhood best friend.  Whether describing dealing with the animosity of the husband of her friend, or the pair’s shared grief, she conveyed a quiet equanimity that inspired me.  Though her love was as deep as any, the lack of sexual tension made it all the more pure.

Assembly Hall

15:10 – 16:10

7

55.  

64 Squares (****)

In 1939, the story alternates between a Viennese lawyer held in solitary confinement by the Gestapo, and that same lawyer on a cruise ship playing chess with the world champion.  The stories neatly intertwine as the real story unfolds.  Though chess is obviously part of the start, you need not be an aficionado to enjoy the interplay between the two settings. 

Underbelly Cowgate

19:30 – 20:40

7

56.  

The Night Watch (****)

In 18th century Spain, a British sergeant carries an injured boy he had hired as a spy into the night watch’s tent only to have his captain discover that the boy is a girl scared of mistreatment by the British.  The play spends much of its time having the captain and the girl argue over the impact and morality of war.  Just as these arguments are exhausted the discovery of a watch and letter allows the story to investigate a whole other set of values dealing with honor and family.

C nova

12:30 – 13:30

31

57.  

The Remnants: Threadbare (****)

The bulk of this show has the girlfriend of a research social scientist tell a story of two lovers that are live and on video.  The interactions between the lovers has a ring of truth that most young companies miss, and I liked the added discussion the temporal relationship of thought and emotion.  The problem here lies in the scientist’s dismissive attitude toward his girlfriend’s story that is jarring, and ill founded.

C nova

21:30 – 22:30

14

58.  

What Would Spock Do? (****)

A fellow describes how he loved the Star Trek TV program as a kid, and yet did not know how to respond when he later met an attractive woman who idolized Mr. Spock.  As a former trekkie (or trekker if you wish), I could relate to his enthusiasm, though his loud declarations seemed more like an actor than a fan.  I liked the way the story hinges on the events of Leonard Nimoy’s life.

Gilded Balloon Teviot

12:30 – 13:30

22

59.  

Iphigenia in Splott (****)

This solo show has a beautiful young woman, who spends her time clubbing and drinking herself into oblivion, meeting the man of her dreams.  While the clubbing section is fairly standard, the bulk of the story is more interesting because she becomes a more nuanced character.  The outcome of her law suit allowed the play to do some preaching—maybe a little too much.

Pleasance Dome

13:50 – 15:00

29

60.  

Abacus (****)

Using two Steadicams and visualization software a man argues that our current political system of nation states is obsolete and does not promote altruism on a large scale.  He is personable and persuasive, and the Steadicams plugged into video processors makes many interesting images.  I was so fascinated by the Steadicams the I spent much of my time watching their operators.

Summerhall

18:10 – 19:05

26

 

61.  

The Rat Pack – Live (****)  Backed by a ten piece band, Frank, Dean, and Sammy clown around and sing standards as well as some interesting, more obscure, songs.  This is part of my first day ritual because it is consistently a pleasure to watch, though I may have become a little jaded.  I appreciated that the musical director allowed more instrument solos this year, and that this year’s “Dean” actually sung in Martin’s casual style.

C Chamber St

20:10 – 21:05

5

62.  

Big Shots (****)

Besides an abridged story of the movie “The Godfather,” this homage also has scenes dedicated to Mario Puzo, Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, and the cultural diversity of the six-member cast.  Most of the scenes involve precisely choreographed movements of the entire company that are incredibly well done, as well as frequent songs with live and recorded music. The problem with the show is that all the tangential scenes lead to a fragmented play that lacks any of the impact of the original storyline.

Bedlam Theatre

16:30 – 1735

19

63.  

Going Viral (****)

Daniel Bye uses a tale of the spread of a virus that causes uncontrollable weeping as a touchstone to explore viruses and their epidemiology.  He combines interacting with the audience as himself to educate with performing parts of the larger tale that provide real reasons for weeping.  I liked the audience guessing game for the Basic Reproduction Number (the average number of cases one case generates during its infectious period) revealed that ebola is only 2, and measles is 18, but I found that he was not clear which character he was when telling his stories.

Summerhall

14:10 – 15:20

23

64.  

Spillikin: A Love Story (****)

It is 2029, and a widow suffering from Alzheimer’s disease starts to think that the robot designer for her by her i husband is her husband, while two other actors recreate their dating experience.  The high tech robot piqued my interest, but by adding her interest in the best man, the husband’s social incompetence become more intriguing. 

Pleasance Dome

17:10 – 18:30

25

65.  

Wilde Without the Boy (****)

Gerard Logan plays Oscar Wilde recounting his addiction to his young lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, that led Wilde to spend two years in jail and permanent bankruptcy.  Utilizing many of Wilde’s words from “De Profundis” this at once beautiful and heartbreaking as the literate Wilde repeatedly falls under the spell of Douglas despite knowing better.  Wilde’s anguish permeates the whole story, but I was left with the question of how much of this portrayal was accurate, and how much was a 21st century imagining of a gay man who championed aestheticism.

Assembly Hall

11:00 – 12:00

12

66.  

Black is the Color of My Voice (****)

Apphia Campbell plays a singer closely based on the life of Nina Simone.  Her character moves from Bach piano prodigy and gospel singer supported by her parents and community to become a jazz singer who included civil rights issues in her songs.  Her voice is strong, and the story of Black prejudice straightforward.

Gilded Balloon Teviot

13:15 – 14:15

25

67.  

Fake It ‘til You Make It (****)

The husband of the actress Bryony Kimmings, who suffers from clinical depression, performs this play with her that is about how he and she have had to deal with his illness.  This is a hard play for me to rate because on the one hand I admire his courage to appear before an audience, and on the other hand, had he not been the actor the play would have much less power.  I did like his various headdresses to shield his eyes, and a little metal sculpture/machine that was never quite explained.

Traverse

Varies

15

68.  

Open (****)

The customers of a takeaway shop the night before the last election voice their opinions to each other or just the audience on a wide range of topics including the Trident submarine, politicians being out of touch, NHS standards, multi-culturism, poor voter turnout, and unemployment benefits.  I was greatly impressed that the opinions expressed were valid, and cut across the political spectrum without a noticeable bias.

Zoo

11:00 – 11:50

28

69.  

Fiction (****)

In a completely dark room, each audience member has a pair of headphones to take an aural journey to a hotel, a car, and another location.  As the sounds move from scene to scene it is difficult to piece it all together, but there is a sense of dreamy coherence by the end.  Since pictures of the recurring hotel room were projected at the beginning it was easier to imagine the scenes set there, but the elevator and lobby settings allowed us to translate the script into our own world.

Pleasance Dome

12:00 – 13:00

25

70.  

Hotel Paradiso (****)

Four mute actors in large masks tell the story of a day in a family run hotel dealing with its clientele as well as a robber and the two policemen pursing him.  After an initial, slow, scene to establish the protagonist and the routines of the hotel’s staff, the balance is fast paced and consistently amusing.  There was one inconsistency where a murdered bellboy reappears, but otherwise this is a smooth professional production.

 

Pleasance Courtyard

15:15 – 16:30

27

71.  

The Human Ear (****)

The estranged brother of a woman shows up at her door only for her to learn shortly from a policeman that her brother may have been found dead five days earlier.  The acting is amazing as the two actors switch between times and roles in instant as the lights change, sometimes for only a word.  While quick changes highlight the skill of the actors, it also makes the story disjoint to the point that the motivation of the “brother” is lost.

Summerhall

15:35 – 16:45

10

72.  

Impossible (****)

Harry Houdini has develops a friendship with the spiritualist/author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle despite Houdini revealing famous mediums as frauds.  Doyle’s continued belief despite evidence to the contrary as well as his assertion that Houdini had supernatural powers were dismaying, but based on fact.  The séance by Doyle’s wife to contact Houdini’s mother provided a wonderfully awkward situation for Houdini.

Pleasance Dome

13:20 – 14:30

21

73.  

Citizen Puppet (****)

This puppet comedy has the people of a town built around Jack’s beanstalk having to respond to the disaster of the giant falling on part of their town.  From an old assertive woman, to the perplexed sheriff, to the druggy narrator each city is unique with a different take on the event. Though the parallels with similar real interviews were fun, they were not as witty as the company’s “Table.”

Pleasance Courtyard

17:00 – 18:00

13

74.  

Dorian Gray (****)

Smartly executed with a cast of four using picture frames in a dance routine.

Pleasance Dome

16:00 – 17:00

20

 

75.  

Cinema (****)

The resident cat that survives a catastrophic fire in an Arab movie theater describes its regular customers.  The use of a cat was an inspired creation to permit the exploration of a diverse set of characters that had only the theater in common.  The story of the fire itself takes a twist that changes our whole perspective on the event.

Summerhall

10:45 – 11:45

13

76.  

Oak Tree (****)

Tim Crouch, the writer/director/actor of this piece, each performance guides a new, completely unprepared actor through a story about a meeting between a hypnotist and the father of a child that the hypnotist has killed in an auto accident.  While I still think that this an unacceptable abuse of power by Crouch, it is at least somewhat excusable for a play where Crouch is playing the part of person who can abuse his power over an hypnotized subject, and does.  While the double loop of power is an interesting trick, it severely limits the actor from applying his craft because Crouch provides virtually no background information about the father beforehand, but the script is fixed, and leaves no room for the actor to truly inhabit his role.

Traverse

Varies

16

77.  

Jethro Compton presents Sirenia (****)

A lighthouse keeper discovers a half-drowned woman on the rocks just before a huge storm.  This intimate setting conveys the isolation and privations of a lighthouse well.  As the play proceeds the woman’s mysterious reason for being there keeps the plot shifting nicely.

C nova

20:25 – 21:05

23

78.  

The Girl Who Fell in Love with the Moon (***)

Five white-faced, colorfully garbed characters each tell a tale involving some heavenly bodies.  Much of each story is told in rhyme, and easily understood song.  Most of the action maintains the fun-filled mood, with only the final story violating the formula to create a bittersweet finale.

Pleasance Dome

14:30 – 15:30

28

79.  

Departures: A Song Cycle (***)

A London Tube station manager contrives to delay trains so that the waiting passengers continue to develop a sense of community.  As the strangers pair off their Sondheim-like songs convey a wide variety of concerns to their accepting “neighbors.”  Almost all the voices are strong, and the off stage band was superb.

C too

14:45 – 16:05

14

80.  

Antiwords (***)

The brew master at the brewery where Vaclav Havel worked in Czechoslovakia asked him to share a case of beer in an effort to get Havel to write a confession.  In this wordless interpretation the two men are played by two women in huge masks who actually drink several beers as the brew master becomes drunk and Havel discretely disposes of his beer.  I accepted a beer from the Havel character at one point so she would not have to drink it.

Summerhall

20:25 – 21:20

29

81.  

Big Bite-Size Lunch Hour: Lunch in Cairo (***)

This program is set in Cairo, and has two plays: 1) a play where a Black American Muslim woman defends her use of a veil with her Egyptian roommate, and 2) a play in which a Kenyan prostitute tries to seduce a quiet American celebrating his 30th birthday.  The veil story presents both sides of the argument well, and the prostitute’s life is touching.  The prostitute’s last kiss reveals the depth of her feelings in a subtle but horrific way.

Assembly Checkpoint

12:10 – 13:00

24

82.  

Daniel Cainer: 21st Century Jew (***)

Cainer sits behind a keyboard and signs his own long songs in the style of ditties about his family, and the life of Jews now.  The songs are creative, well performed, and address their topics.  I was fascinated with a chart that showed that due to intermarriage and different birth rates, liberal Jews are disappearing and Orthodox Jews are proliferating.

Underbelly Cowgate

13:00 – 14:00

14

83.  

Confirmation (****)

Chris Thorpe purse the psychological concept of confirmation (testing for things that confirm your view) as it applies to politics.  He spends too long talking about and assuming the role of Glen, an intelligent racist leader who interviewed, with whom he became friends.  Similarly, his discussion of whether the Holocaust killed six million or for million Jews was much longer than necessary.

Summerhall

11:50 – 13:15

26

84.  

The Glorious Damnation of Eddie Small (***)

A young, undisciplined, blue grass guitar player makes a deal with the devil (a la Robert Johnson) to become a renowned guitar player.  The blue grass performances by the four musicians were a nice break from standard Fringe fare, but the story was pedestrian.  I felt sorry for the protagonist who had to deal with a guitar with a string that broke just as the play started.

Bedlam Theatre

18:00 – 18:55

9

85.  

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (***)

Rebecca Crookshank describes her life in the RAF from basic training all the way until she leaves the service after a tour on the Falklands.  This is a take on the military where a group of women are treated as almost equals and obey the same rules and overcome the same obstacles as the men, but when they are isolated they are subject to abuse.  Her friendship with her “Wing Woman,” and her soul searching after a tough leader dies gives the show a personal touch that provides a good counterpoint to the rigid military life in which all soldiers must live.

Underbelly Cowgate

16:30 – 17:30

9

86.  

Tony’s Last Tape (***)

Tony Benn, the Democratic Socialist MP in the Labour Party for 47 years, makes a tape where he reviews his life and argues his positions.  I liked his political positions, but since much of the play had to do with politicians with which I was I was unfamiliar I had to skip over parts.  Still, I came away admiring the man who stuck to his principles of protecting the powerless for almost a half century despite himself being in a small minority himself.

Pleasance Courtyard

12:15 – 13:35

17

87.  

The Sunset Five (***)

This sendup of “Oceans 11” and “Mission Impossible” has a local bar owner assemble her quiz night compatriots to carry off a heist of the local magnate’s casino.  While it was fun to see how their quiz night specialties could be applied to the caper, the mix of high jinx and expertise sometimes just did not work.  The final twist in the caper was quite nice, but the familial connection to the magnate had no place here.

Pleasance Dome

17:40 – 18:40

12

88.  

The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy Part II:The Carousel (***)

A woman describes all the events having to do with her mother ending up in a convent for her childhood with her mother and grandmother as touchstones.  The longitudinal approach provides a richness of context that empowers the story, but a printed family tree was necessary to help me sort out the poorly differentiated characters.  In particular, the frequent interactions between the woman and immediate female ancestors provide a sense of continuity as well as explanation for their actions, but there were no visual clues as to which of the three women was speaking.

Assembly Roxy

12:20 – 13:20

9

89.  

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

This show has five mini-plays of which only three are memorable: 1) the audience votes on the revelations made by three people in a romantic triangle; 2) a guard and a woman argue whether she may press a mysterious red button he is guarding; and 3) three touring techno musicians complain about their boredom in a virtual tour.  Of these three, only the latter two seemed fresh and interesting.  The banter and philosophical arguments over the button were fun, and the extrapolation of computerized music to a computerized tour was thought provoking.

Pleasance Dome

10:30 – 11:30

9

90.  

The Element in the Room: A Radioactive Musical Comedy about the Death and Life of Marie Curie (***)

In order to receive a gram of radium paid for by American women, Marie Curie had to endure a public relations tour of America.  A fellow in drag alternates between playing Marie Curie and himself as combines tales from Curie’s life, centering on the tour, and teaching about the properties of radium.  His clever approach to explaining a radioactive decay chain involves passing a ball of yarn among the audience members who happen to hold the cards of the elements in the path from radium to lead.

Pleasance Courtyard

15:30 -16:30

5

91.  

The Orchid and the Crow (***)

A personable survivor of stage 4 testicular cancer tells of his life as an agnostic Jew, and his admiration for Lance Armstrong as he suffered through three months of chemotherapy.  He performs his own good rock songs and ballads to accompany his stories that range from Passover and Christmas celebrations to treatments while wearing a hospital gown.  I particularly liked his story of his Santa Claus denying uncle holding him still as a baby during his bris circumcision ceremony as proof to God that the Jews will honor their god’s wishes.

Assembly Roxy

16:10 – 17:25

23

92.  

To Kill a Machine (***)

Though Alan Turing had solved the Enigma cypher in World War II, two government agents set about entrapping him for his homosexual activities.  Gwydion Rhys portrays the Asberger suffering Turing with a remarkably sensitive touch.  The recurring game show motif of the agents’ plotting destroys the verisimilitude that Rhys creates.

Zoo

20:55 – 21:55

27

93.  

Loch Ness Monster Hunter (***)

In the 1930s, an adventurer arrives at Loch Ness to report to a newspaper on his search for the Loch Ness Monster mentioned in a letter to the newspaper.  This comedy combines silliness, community spirit, and self-promotion to create a fun piece of fluff.  The show does a good job of not going across my line of silliness that would have made it just stupid and not fun for me.

Bedlam Theatre

18:00 – 19:00

24

94.  

The Daily Tribunal (***)

Two homeless friends are offended by a newspaper article about a middle class man who makes a living by posing as a beggar, and keep trying to write their own articles to earn 500 pounds from the newspaper.  Though the rougher privations were ignored, the two actors still enough time to provide a real picture of lost men that were neither drug addicts nor mentally unbalanced.  Since I was the only audience member, it skewed the performance so that the many audience interactions had to rely on me.

Sweet Grassmarket

16:30 – 17:30

29

95.  

Key Change (***)

We start with an abused wife and a drug addict, and follow their lives before and inside a women’s prison where they meet a grandmother and another woman.  Even though their lives before prison have some bearing on their prison experience, they are predictable and contribute little.  I found the portrayal of all prison employees as caring and considerate disingenuous, and the use of momentary lines of masking tape confusing.

Summerhall

12:30 – 13:30

23

96.  

Labels (***)

A second generation Brit of Indian descent uses self-adhesive labels to explore prejudice.  This is a fairly light play even though his and his parents’ lives have felt prejudice and heard Paki name calling throughout their lives.  I found the section having some of the audience making paper airplanes a waste of time.

Pleasance Courtyard

12:35 – 13:35

29

97.  

The Mountain Top (***)

The night before he will be assassinated Martin Luther King has an unusual conversation with the motel’s maid.  This earthy King chain smokes, has stinky shoes, and yet must still work on his speech for the next day.  This slice of life play had verisimilitude, but to achieve that sense of real people, the play spent too much time on the ordinary activities of life.

Venue 13

14:00 – 15:15

18

98.  

Grav (***)

Gareth Bale portrays Ray Granall, the famed Welsh rugby player from the 1980s and 1990s, relating events from his life.  The show reveals a complex man who, despite being an award winning athlete, was quite insecure in his athleticism, and contended with OCD.  His tale of his home town team defeating the mighty New Zealand reflected a charming innocent pride without a hint a hubris.

Assembly Hall

13:40 – 14:55

6

99.  

Adam Long’s Dickens Abridged (***)

Four talented musician/actors provide a biography of Dickens as well as abridged versions of several of his books.  As with all of these abridgement plays, the more you know about the topic, the more you will enjoy the whimsical allusions.  Unfortunately for me, I am not that well versed in Dickens, and so about half of the show’s content was lost on me though I recognized topnotch execution throughout.

Pleasance Courtyard

14:20 – 15:30

17

100.  

Pardon / In Cuffs (***)

Three actors trade roles as a Danish prosecutor and the people charged with crimes that they interview.  The verbatim work provides a somewhat interesting glimpse into the minds of the criminals and the Dutch judicial process.  The best part was last when a defense attorney coached a woman to tell the truth without seeming over rehearsed

Traverse

Varies

 

101.  

Where Do Little Birds Go? (***)

Based on a true story from the 1960s, a young woman recounts journeying to London to work as a bar maid/actress only to become a hostess/prostitute at a nightclub that is kidnapped by the Kray twins to entertain an escaped murderer.  Since she and her uncle knew that she was working in a nightclub controlled by the Krays, the progression of the story, though horrific, seemed almost inevitable and devoid of impact.  The only interesting aspect was how the murderer was portrayed sympathetically as a naïve simpleton.

Underbelly Cowgate

20:55 – 21:55

7

102.  

The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank (***)

An audio tape transcriber never leaves his room, and relies on four hallucinated characters to help with his editing, but also to avoid dealing with the real world.  I liked the way his day was constructed as insane play alternating with inspired prose, with an occasional interjection of his past life to explain how he ended up in his room.  The use of a special tape as the touchstone to possible recovery was a nice invention.

Assembly Roxy

17:35 -18:30

6

103.  

If I Were Me (***)

An unassertive copy editor who is constantly belittled in an advertising firm, attends a meeting that should bolster his self-confidence.  The story uses a wide range of props, including tons of tennis balls and cardboard cutouts of the fellow in a fun ways.  The two scenes in an elevator are an inspired device to demonstrate assertiveness, self-confidence, and acceptance.

Underbelly Cowgate

18:05 – 19:05

14

104.  

Mistaken:Quartet of Plays for One Actor (***)

William McGeough does a good job of portraying four different gay men in very different situations.  The plays range from coming out to dates gone wrong to leaving a lover.  While he was a good actor, the show itself was forgettable.

C nova

20:45 – 21:50

22

105.  

E15 (***)

The cast of six tell the stories of the homeless unwed pregnant women who led a protest about their inadequate council housing in London.  The play has a good mix of descriptions of both the horrible conditions and the protester’s activities, including squatting, sit-ins, and a petition with 10,000 signatures.  I could not help but notice that one of the actresses playing a homeless leader had a set of very expensive finger nails that really clashed with the supposed settings.

Gilded Balloon Teviot

19:45 – 20:45

30

106.  

The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster (***)

In 1615, two former magistrates travel the countryside with the 16-year old girl whose testimony had her mother and grandmother killed as witches six years before.  The story is really about how the trio deals with a loss of patronage, and the teenager coming to grips wither past, and the ongoing possibility that she is a witch.  The final use of a voodoo-like doll was a perfect revelation

Pleasance Courtyard

15:15 – 16:15

29

107.  

The Garden (***)

Will the discovery of a plan in their small apartment change the lives of a c couple living in an overcrowded dystopia?  The symbolism of the plant is obvious, but the couple’s reactions add another layer of complexity.  This opera’s short length and terse lyrics left me feeling that it ended abruptly, but it didn’t.

Traverse

Varies

22

108.  

Jo Brand (***)

The older fat comedienne is a master of one liners, but such comedy is not my cup of tea.

Gilded Balloon Teviot

19:30 – 20:30

21

109.  

Bette Midler and Me (***)

I got this one wrong; seeing Sue Kelvin I thought she was trying to be a Bette Midler imitator, when this was consistently a story weaving Midler’s life with how it affected the outlook of Kelvin.  I was constantly bemoaning how Kelvin had to have another singer help provide the power and range of Midler, when that is perfectly fine for such an homage.  My friends thought this was a great show and story, and I regret that I was unable to shed my misguided preconceived notions and enjoy this wonderful show.

Gilded Balloon Teviot

21:30 – 22:30

17

110.  

To Space (***)

A woman conducts a science demonstration using whey, and then recounts her lifelong goal to travel into space even though she is not qualified because of her age and education.  She well conveys her fascination with space using NASA images and her own past efforts.  Seeing her don her own NASA space suit overalls was both sweet and pathetic.

Summerhall

17:00 – 18:00

27

111.  

The Stolen Inches (***)

The son of famous film producer is creating documentary about his family, but then his brother sues his family for restricting his life because he was short.  Though this sounds like it would be a satire or absurdist, the four actors play this as a reality TV show with only the mother being unbelievable.  With a short presentation of his evidence, the short brother offers fairly legitimate proof of his assertion, but his pronouncements at the end of the play tarnish his credibility.

C nova

12:15 – 13:15

16

112.  

Rebounding Hail (***)

A girl shares a room piled high with books with a companion voice who guides her as she opens the books the action comes alive on stage.  This is a wonderful premise, and some of the choices of books contribute in multiple ways to the plot.  With a better choice of books, and sources for the protagonists this could be much more thought provoking and witty.

Underbelly Cowgate

11:20 -12:20

14

113.  

The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven (***)

The transgender playwright Jo Clifford preaches the gospel of acceptance and love.  This is a quiet church service that settles the soul.  We even had communion!

Summerhall

10:45 – 11:35

27

114.  

Leftovers (***)

This piece has a newlywed wife’s fears ruin her life for years to come when her husband does not return from war.  There are some very nice dances making use of a bed, and the early interactions with her husband and wife are rich.  The finally twist really confused things, and hurt the play.

Zoo

19:30 – 20:30

28

115.  

La Ronde (***)

We are presented with a series of ten short scenes of pairs of lovers of different social positions having sex that has one lover of each pair moving into the next scene until we return to the unrepeated lover in the first pair appears in the last scene.  Though the same two actors play the lovers in all the scenes, their roles explore a wide variety of marital and economic standing which highlighted the thesis that sex crosses all boundaries.  While I appreciated the concept, I must admit that I appreciated the beauty and sexiness of the actress in the soft porn nude staging even more.

C nova

22:05 – 23:15

16

116.  

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (***)

Six 16-year old girls from Oban start by rehearing a beautiful choir piece at the Edinburgh Choir competition, but then doffed their uniforms to reveal sexy clothes and go on adventures of drinking and clubbing.  There is mostly drama, a little comedy, and rock and roll mixed in just the right proportions that would make this a very good show for many people.  However, their thick accents hindered my understanding of much of their speech, and all of their lyrics.

Traverse Theatre

Varies

19

117.  

Flossy and Boo’s Curiosity Shop (***)

This family show has two women telling zany tales and singing ditties as well as gentle audience participation.  The women try to keep the show entertaining for children by maintaining a fast pace with a frequently changing variety of acts.  The three-year old next to next to me was rapt about half the time, and otherwise had a delightful time playing with her theatre chair—such is the life of a children’s entertainer.

Bedlam Theatre

13:30 – 14:30

15

118.  

Cell (***)

Three puppeteers control a ¾ size man who learns that he has ALS, the same disease that Stephen Hawkings has.  This quiet, slow piece often warmed my heart, but the awkward shadow puppetry interludes lacked the same quality.  I found his efforts to make a home for a goldfish particularly endearing.

Underbelly Cowgate

16:35 – 17:35

14

119.  

Bruce (***)

With two black clothed puppeteers, a single block shaped puppet portrays all of the characters in a story of an inept cop who has life that includes riding wooing a woman, riding in a space ship, and then taking advantage of time travel to reconstruct his own life.  This is fun to watch, and well performed.  The storyline has a nice circularity where earlier events in the show are explained in the context of future efforts.

Underbelly Cowgate

15:15 – 16:15

9

120.  

Willie and Sebastian (***)

Willie is an old theatre producer who pines for the woman he lost and now prefers his close friend, and bon vivant, Sebastian.  There are many fine interactions among the three here, but Willie’s initial presentation of his barely clad penis inches from the face of a woman in the front row was way too rude for me.  I should note that the three actors, Andy Gray, Grant Stott, and Michelle Gallagher are well liked celebrities of the Brits, and they seemed to charm the audience.

Gilded Balloon

20:15 – 21:15

13

121.  

Electric Dreams (***)

Three librarians assisted a woman trying to reconstruct her life after she discovered she part of a series of experiments involving electroshock therapy.  The horror of the real Canadian experiments, their funding by the CIA, and the CIA’s use of the techniques for interrogation gives the whole piece tremendous power.  However, it is substantially weakened when the woman tries to expand the CIAs prescription for shock and awe to a conspiracy theory about the recent economic collapse.

Pleasance Dome

15:50 – 16:50

18

122.  

Eating Seals and Seagull’s Eggs (***)

In 1953, the Irish government decided to evacuate the entire population from the Blasket Islands, and among them was Peig Sayers who authored a much hated compulsory Irish text, Peig.  Photos, excerpts from official documents, and lines from Peig projected on the screen provide a sense of place and time.  It was a hard life for the islanders, and even Sayers was illiterate, and had her brother write down her tales.

Pleasance Courtyard

13:05 – 14:10

28

123.  

The Year of the Hare (***)

A Finnish man is fired and his wife leaves him on the same day so he heads north and takes on a injured rabbit as a companion.  His search for happiness takes him many places, but he and we find little insight.  The final act, when he seemingly has transformed comes out of nowhere, and made little sense to me.

Pleasance Dome

18:45 – 20:00

13

124.  

The Game’s Afoot.  An Encounter with Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle (***)

The author David Stuart Davies provided a biography of Doyle as it related to Sherlock Holmes by reading from his prepared notes.  Though he did provide some information that was  new to me, most of the lecture seemed a review.  I did find it interesting that Doyle and Oscar Wilde dined together with the publisher of “Strand Magazine,” and that Sherlock’s deductive style may have been based on his medical school instructor, Dr. Joseph Bell.

Arthur Conan Doyle Centre

19:30 – 20:30

12

125.  

Sleep Trees: Mafia?  (***)

This comedy has a young man trying to join his two older brothers in the Mafia, but first he must successfully commit a crime.  The three actors can be fun to watch, and have a talented rock trio providing an upbeat score.  This is a good show that is full of lighthearted energy that just didn’t resonate with me.

Pleasance Courtyard

17:00 – 18:00

5

126.  

Cheque Please (***)

A depressed waitress comments on her feelings and thoughts as she works, meets friends, and goes to a counseling group.  She brings her darkness everywhere though she tries to hide it, and she shows no change throughout the play.  I guess her feeling that life is, and will always be, difficult was what the play wanted to convey, and it achieved its goal.

Zoo

11:00 – 11:50

29

127.  

Cartography (***)

A young woman who loves maps has a weak heart that we know gives her only four years to live.  This devised show uses string across the audience and ladders to convey travel and cartographic trigonometry.  I am getting tired of the use of poorly played ukuleles to attempt add a sense of fun at the expense of musicality

C nova

12:00 – 12:50

30

128.  

Institute (***)

This big production has two file clerks working with cameras watching their every move, and alarm sounding whenever they make an inappropriate move.  As more people became involved the play became less understandable, even for Tim.  One notable dance by the two men had them repeatedly intertwine in the most loving way.

Pleasance Courtyard

13:00 – 14:20

13

129.  

The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy Part III:  The Deliverance (***)

A woman tries to get her brother to visit their dying mother, and relives the events that led to his estrangement.  While the other two parts of the trilogy used the woman’s mother and grandmother as a bridging thread, this story is defined by men, specifically her mothers’ husbands and, by extension, her brother.  As the men came to forefront, I realized that virtually all of the Trilogy’s significant men were defined as abusive and self-centered, and that jaundiced view diminishes the whole, and particularly this play.

Assembly Roxy

14:00 – 15:00

9

130.  

Knowledge and a Girl (***)

Snow White resents her stepmother who is the infertile queen who revels in her beauty while either flirting with or seducing every man she meets.  Everything of the traditional tale is here, but each has a black twist, including the seven dwarfs repeatedly raping Snow White.  The sadism of the king, particularly the repeated blinding of the dwarves with a hot poker, fit the dark interpretation but contributed little.

C too

18:15 – 19:20

15

131.  

Disorder (***)

A mother meets her seemingly estranged son, and relives the long manic section and then long depressive section of her life.  I was fine with her bipolar disease being represented by an actor, but the minimal interactions with her caring husband, and their unexplained financial plight really hurt.  Also missing was any explanation of what even precipitated her being committed.

C nova

14:30 – 15:40

30

132.  

Chicken (***)

In a small state in a future divided England we watch a family that chose to work in a chicken processing plant instead of a bicycle factory.  This dark play fails in its effort to mix dystopia, and magic into a satisfying whole.  The vision of the daughter as a witch who empathizes with the onslaught of chickens, a la Hitchcock’s “Birds”, just didn’t work for me.

Summerhall

17:05 – 18:05

10

133.  

Some People Talk About Violence (***)

Audience members had envelopes to the four actors to determine their roles in a story about a young woman who watches “Big Bang Theory” all day while her mother frets, her brother feels compelled to leave his lover in Australia to return to help his family, and a narrator acts as compere.  The stories of each of their frustrations are compelling, but it is constantly interrupted by antics such as a game of slap hands, improv free association, and even dance numbers.  If the time allotted to these interruptions been used to explore the family interacting this might have been an excellent play.

Summerhall

10:40 – 11:35

10

134.  

The Rape of Lucrece (***)

Gerard Logan performs Shakespeare’s narrative poem about the rape of a Roman general’s wife by his close friend.  Logan does a fine job with the beautifully written work, but it was just too long for me to handle without a break.  Next time I’ll have a big cup of coffee before attempting it.

Assembly Hall

16:30 – 17:30

7

135.  

The Letter:  To be or to MBE (***)

The dancer Jonzi D plays himself and others as he learns that he has been offered to an MBE.  While he was initially excited, the responses from his friends and family were wide ranging, though probably no in hip-hop rhyme as he portrayed them.  The section involving a drug dealer was confusing, but his family Christmas dinner with his matriarch sister provided a perfect climax. 

Assembly George Square

18:10 – 19:00

28

136.  

Oh Hello! (***)

An actor plays Charles Hawtrey, a star of the “Carry On” film series, who recounts his drunken life as a flamboyant gay man.  This play suffers from concentrating at least of a third of its time on the unremarkable years of alcoholic degradation after he left the series at the expense of spending anytime on his long, remarkable career before the series.  Though the “Carry On” fan seated next to me enjoyed the many references to the series’ stars, he too left disappointed.

Assembly Hall

13:40 – 14:55

7

137.  

A + E (***)

This play alternates between two storylines: 1) three young women are in A + E waiting to hear the outcome of their friend falling and breaking her neck; and 2) the meetings before the fall of that woman and her boyfriend.  The interactions between the three flawed women were catty and unremarkable, but the other story was full of creative wordplay.  I think that the final scene was supposed to provide clarification, but it did not for me.

Pleasance Courtyard

12:15 – 13:15

27

138.  

Traverse Breakfast Plays: How Could You Slap a Girl? (***)

This reading of a play has a young fellow and his boss rob a woman who has many stories to tell.  Though the men robbed her, she is the dishonest one.  The young man’s story about his girlfriend seems contradictory when it was not supposed to be.

Traverse

9:00 – 9:45

25

139.  

Swing By Around 8 (***)

To try out swinging a couple invite another couple for the evening who a friend recommended, but they are not sure the guests are there for swinging.  The situation of subtly trying to discover if guests are into swinging would be a rich source of comedy, but that meant that the motivation of the guests had to remain hidden from us too, and that left a big hole in the play.  A truth telling drinking game works well, but it left me wondering at the source of the antipathy between the two guests.

C nova

20:15 – 21:10

16

140.  

Bump (***)

A teacher who doesn’t like children and spends her time doing her nails rear ends an unemployed fellow, and they sort of hit it off.  The antic montages of activity are well choreographed, but their real time vignettes reveal a consistent mismatch that was not reflected in the finale.  In comparison to his needy incompetence she seemed too accomplished to explain her interest in him.

Gilded Balloon at Pleasance Dome

11:00 – 11:50

16

141.  

Broken Windows (***)

Caitlin Ince interviewed five young women about gender bias, and now presents their words verbatim in character as well as short songs based on each of her impressions.  The recreation of the interviews worked well, but the songs were weak in all of their facets.  I felt that the array of unused objects strewn around the floor should have been replaced with the seven props she actually used.

Pleasance Courtyard

13:30 – 14:30

27

142.  

Richard Parker (***)

On a ship, a man obsessed with coincidence accosts a fellow with the same name as his.  The acting, particularly by the obsessed man is great, but the coincidences cited are often ones I had heard before.  The playwright was faced with portraying an extended time on a life raft, and ended up making the play feel over long.

C nova

22:50 – 23:50

9

143.  

A Very British Childhood (***)

An idyllic 1950s home falls apart as the events in a house in the woods are revealed.  The initial scene is a great match to the Dick and Jane books of early grammar school, and the plot twists are well conceived.  Though, somehow, this show was only memorable when I read another review of it.

Pleasance Dome

11:45 – 12:45

21

 

144.  

The Hideout (***)

Aphrodite, Hades, and Dionysus run a 1920s night club, and provide a silly rendition of the story of the Minotaur.  Where there are a few well done parts, the bulk felt like an amateur show with mediocre script, dancing, and singing.  The idea of two tap dancers being the minotaur was fun though.

C nova

13:20 – 14:20

30

145.  

Satan Speaks: ‘Why I Don’t Exist’ (***)

Satan takes over the body of an actor to argue why people’s view of him is paradoxical.  The actor seems a nice fellow, and the citations from the Bible are well chosen, but the whole thing is slight.  It reminded me of my teenage arguments with a pastor about the obvious inconsistencies in the Bible.

Gilded Balloon Teviot

22:30 – 23:30

7

146.  

Jekyll (***)

An inspirational speaker who relies on interrogation affects people’s lives both near and far.  Her intense questioning seemed aggressive but effective, and her acolyte’s progress appropriate, but her unproductive biographer contributed little to the story.  The final meeting between the acolyte and her mentor was as revealing as it was short.

C Chambers Street

21:10 -

5

147.  

The Remnants: As Thyself  (***)

Start from an analysis of a painting of Narcissus, this work is divided into several reappearing stories.  As with the other Remnants production, a scientist and his female companion have two different views of the events; his is analytic and unfeeling, and hers is more approachable and socially aware.  The pas de deux between a surprisingly adroit large man and a slight woman had them display a complex mix of aggression and support.

C nova

19:30 – 20:20

22

148.  

Ada (***)

As a computer science lecturer, I was looking forward to this biography of the first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace.  However, from the initial flawed description of an algorithm to the inexplicable repetition of scenes this show came across as a bit slipshod.  They had a video of a replica of Babbage’s computer, but for some reason, it was placed as a unlabeled backdrop when they did provide captions for other, less relevant, machines.

Bedlam Theatre

15:00 – 16:00

16

149.  

Traverse Breakfast Plays: The Walt Disney Project (***)

In 2056, three Quebec rebels are trying to devise a plan to revive the cryogenically preserved Walt Disney to use his winning smile to convince the people of Quebec to build a utopian city.  The Walt Disney character has an odd role as he is the only person that is not real, but he provides criticism of their fantastical plan.  It is hard to imagine this would grow to a full size play

Traverse Theatre

9:00 – 9:45

30

150.  

Fable (***)

After supposedly chatting on a dating site, a woman with a weak heart travels north to meet a Scottish poet/woodsman.  Both are looking for something beyond themselves, and their searches cross, but this feels like a sparse play.  The looped guitar music was too loud for the reverberating Anatomy Lecture Theatre.

Summerhall

18:30 – 19:30

29

151.  

CUT (***)

A flight attendant thinks a man is stalking her from being a passenger on her jet to the subway, and even to her home.  The play takes place in special room that can be made pitch black, and certainly adds an air of disquiet to the piece.  Despite this physical advantage, the show is quite disappointing because it never thrills in the way that the ads leads one to believe.

Underbelly George Square

18:00 – 19:05

7

152.  

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

The five mini-plays have: four rock festival attendees trying collapse a tent, a fellow’s opinion of a woman transforming over years, a clingy woman repeatedly adapting to a philandering date, a deluded wife trying to convince her husband to make a horrific commitment, and a ten-minute “Pride and Prejudice.”  Unlike previous years I found few characters sincere enough to be worthy of my attention or caring.  Only the girl who arranged the festival tent, and the transformed fellow touched me, and even he had to overcome an irrelevant of how he looked sleeping.

Pleasance Dome

10:30 – 11:30

5

153.  

Traverse Breakfast Plays: No Desert Roses (***)

This Egyptian play has the playwright self-consciously talking to the Traverse audience as well as three characters sitting behind her.  The African immigrant character seemed to be there to highlight cultural differences, the old woman spoke of her loves and quick boredom, and the third seemed simply out of place and of little use.  On the whole, it felt quite fragmented with little to offer.

Traverse Theatre

9:00 – 9:45

29

154.  

Some Thing New (***)

Five actors guide the audience through word and drawing tasks while occasionally interacting among themselves.  This odd mix of workshop and play has its moments, but the obvious artificiality of our guides degrades all aspects of the work.  It may be worthwhile to receive a critique from an art professor, but there is little gained from a poser’s commentary, and when a supposed art professor take umbrage of another actor’s comments it crosses the fourth wall too many times to serve any useful purpose.

C nova

13:30 – 14:20

16

155.  

Traverse Breakfast Plays: Ctrl-Z (***)

A family is stuck in traffic while their son is in a hospital bed so drugged that he is constantly repeating the same song.  In the UNIX computer operating system, pressing the Ctrl and Z keys at the same time causes the current program to be suspended (not terminated), and allows it to be continued later. In both settings, the people’s lives are essentially suspended, but the whole play just seems too slow moving to be of much interest.

Traverse Theatre

9:00 – 9:45

27

156.  

Traverse Breakfast Plays:  The Elephant Speaks Ukrainian (***)

A very short play about a woman in modern Ukraine who must deal with her daughter and lover while waiting for her husband to return from the war with the rebels.

Traverse Theatre

9:00 – 9:45

26

157.  

Waking Beauty (***)

This version of “Sleeping Beauty” has the girl fall sick because of a woman who maybe a witch.  The story suffers from having the same actress playing both the narrator and “witch” entering and leaving the room frequently without a clear delineation of which role she is playing until she speaks for a while.  The choice of having a sudden back story of the girl and the “witch” instead of presenting the story in chronological order also weakens the power of the piece.

C nova

18:30 -19:20

8

158.  

Traverse Breakfast Plays: Plays by Berkun Oya

This show had two Turkish plays: 1) at a beach a mother laments to another woman, who she slowly mistakes for year daughter, that her absent son has chosen a Kurdish girlfriend; and 2) a man allows a young demonstrator running from the police to take refuge in his apartment.  Both plays had their moments, but I think they relied on knowledge of Turkish current events for some of their power.

Traverse Theatre

9:00 – 9:45

28

159.  

Unmythable (***)

Jason and the Argonauts overarches an abridged version of many Greek myths.  Each story was too short to be worth anything.  Though I did like a scene where three men try to stay quiet in the Trojan Horse.

Pleasance Dome

14:40 – 15:45

19

160.  

Lennon: Through a Glass Onion (***)

John Waters on vocals and guitar accompanied by Stewart D’Arrietta on piano mixes events from John Lennon’s life with mediocre interpretations of his songs.

Assembly Hall

22:30 – 23:35

20

161.  

The Turn of the Screw (***)

We hear the tale of a new governess, her two charges, a mysterious house, and an impending death.  Was it the warm room, late night, glass of wine, or the telling that just failed to keep my attention?  I know that the beginning moved slowly and whenever I returned there was nothing there to keep my interest for long. 

Assembly Hall

21:40 – 22:40

10

162.  

Am I Dead Yet (***)

This is another play that left little for me to remember.  There were two policeman looking for parts of a man hit by a train who come upon a his severed head, and a CPR demonstration, but the rest is a blank. 

Traverse

23:15 – 0:15

22

 

163.  

My Name is Saoirse (***)

A naïve young Irish woman discovers sex and alcohol on the same night, and then must deal with the ensuing pregnancy.  Each year there is a play that I just cannot remember, and this it.  I know the actress did fine, it is just that amid all the plays I have seen, this one was easily forgotten by me.

Assembly Hall

12:15 – 13:15

7

164.  

Paintings and Cake (***)

Sorry folks, but I had completely forgotten this play by the next day.  Since I am not tired, nor was I, I suppose that is my review.  This is an easily forgotten play with nothing good or bad to make it remarkable.

C nova

17:00 – 18:00

15

165.  

The Emperor of America (***)

This musical is set in the San Francisco of the 1850s Gold Rush with the real life failed businessman who became Emperor Norton of America, and Protector of Mexico as its touchstone.  As someone who grew up in a suburb of San Francisco, I did enjoy revisiting the tales of the Barbary Coast and its shanghai bars, but the story seemed diffuse.  While everyone else seemed to master a frontier accent, I found Mark Twain speaking with a French accent particularly disconcerting and inexplicable.

C too

21:15 – 22:25

12

166.  

The Accidental Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (***)

Three actors play the traditional characters as Holmes unknowingly kills a potential client with the backswing of his golf club, and then must find the culprit.  Last day of the Fringe, I’m rested, and I still nodded off during this piece.  It was fun to see Sherlock played by a short woman.

C Chamber St.

15:45 – 16:45

31

167.  

The Titanic Orchestra (***)

Four bums wait at an abandoned rail station with the intent of boarding a train that has stopped, and stealing a random suitcase.  The story takes a turn toward the fantastic when a box is delivered that contains a fellow who magically provides money and wine.  As the box takes on magical properties the whole story becomes a muddle.

Pleasance Courtyard

17:25 – 18:35

18

168.  

When Blair had Bush and Bunga (***)

Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, George Bush, and their advisors meet at a resort to discuss the invasion of Iraq.  This silly comedy has Blair and his wife inordinately subservient to their advisors, Berlusconi constantly chasing women, and Bush portrayed as a dumb, drunk hawk.  Except for Bush’s drinking each portrayal had elements of truth, but they had been push to such absurd levels that I, unlike the bulk of the audience, quickly found this long farce a bore.

Pleasance Courtyard

19:00 – 20:30

18

169.  

Be Better (**)

An incompetent acolyte is both encouraged and belittled by her inspirational idol during their presentations.  Both women fit their molds perfectly, but I had real trouble laughing at the incompetence of the girl because of the sincerity she conveyed and the subtleness of her mistakes.  The latter part of the play became truly and incomprehensible.

Bedlam Theatre

13:30 – 14:25

24

170.  

The Strange Friendship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini (**)

This boring lecture had a video of an interview of Doyle from the 1930s talking about spiritualism, and a dull recording of a séance attended by the speaker.  The most interesting thing was a reprint of a 1931 article in Hearst’s International Cosmpolitan in which Conan Doyle was interviewed.

Arthur Conan Doyle Centre

15:30 – 16:30

25

171.  

Sex Rated G (**)

A woman accompanied by taped music and a slide show responds to sexual words on the screen that all begin with the letter G.  Other than occasional slide with some interesting statistics, most of the images and songs have little to offer.  The good natured actress has little range, and her monotonous ditties left the audience so unimpressed they never clapped after each one.

Gilded Balloon Teviot

13:45- 14:45

18

 

172.  

Current Location (**)

Four women in a choir live near a town where a recent event may be an omen that the town will be destroyed, but they do not believe it.  This piece has each of the four arguing with another member to no effect.  In the end, it all made no sense to me.

Summerhall

10:30 – 11:30

26

173.  

Picasso Stole the Mona Lisa (**)

The poet Guillaume Apollinaire wakes to find the Mona Lisa on an easel in his Parisian apartment.  As he is by his friend Picasso, and his nosey neighbor this quickly becomes a farce of little value.  At one point during a series of blackouts, the neighbor, who is trying to escape the two men, is shown able to escape, but instead is tugging on the poet’s pants for no reason.

C nova

20:50 – 21:50

24

174.  

Light Boxes (**)

A family in a village must deal with February, a month/person combination, that has banned flight and made their town permanently cold and depressed.  This is one of those plays that seemed like it lay at the edge of my comprehension because some small parts made sense, in the end, it was just an inexplicable mess as a whole.  While waging war with February the use of boiling water to create paths in the snow made sense, but what gave rise to the later incredibly invasive and deadly moss?

Summerhall

19:15 – 20:35

17

175.  

Donald Does Dusty (**)

Diana Torr presents a homage to gay brother who was a minor singer and actor who idolized Dusty Springfield.  She combined lip syncing Springfield songs, video  clips of her TV shows in which her brother appeared in the chorus, and even film of his funeral.  Though she clearly cares for him still, the whole show seemed both amateurish and self-centered, and offered little to me.

Summerhall

19:35 – 20:35

26

176.  

Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho (**)

A transvestite Margaret Thatcher and two aides, in a cabaret style, review her time as prime minister with particular attention to Section 28 that prevented local authorities from promoting homosexuality.  I quickly grew tired of the loud, broad, Thatcher with her constant mugging.  As an American most of the political references were lost on me, though a majority of the audience had a good time.

Assembly George Square

21:00 – 22:10

18

177.  

Daze of My Life (**)

A theater major presents a solo show about her life that she developed for her University of Southern California course on solo shows.  Though she initially asserts that she is a “people pleaser,” this driven, talented woman proceeds to give a chronological montage of her life’s events with little evidence for her thesis.  The biggest problem for me was discerning which character was speaking because she in virtually the same voice, albeit sometimes Spanish, throughout the play.

Paradise in the Vault

10:15 – 11:15

15

178.  

ErictheFred (**)

A silent, dour, man prepares for his clown act, and then spends much of his time chasing butterflies at the end of poles, and disentangling himself.  This is a slow, sad tale that would work better in a small venue, but his staging required a more traditional room with wings.  When he started by spending seemingly five minutes applying his make-up, he set a boring tone that he evidently wanted to keep reinforcing throughout the play.

Assembly Roxy

21:45 – 22:40

13

179.  

Marriage (**)

In Victorian England, with the help of a stinking matchmaker, four badly flawed men try to woo the hand of an incompetent young woman.  Every character is so one-dimensional that I found that I was just rooting for the play to end.  For instance, after the woman has a decidedly awkward private conversation with the protagonist that is limited to twenty words, she regales her aunt with the joy and love engender by it.

Assembly George Square

14:00 – 15:10

12

180.  

Festivus (**)

Two young couples share drugs, confidences, and indiscretions at an overnight rock festival.  This play explores all the possible combinations of a lout, a smart manipulator, a flighty irresponsible girl, and a gregarious flirt while saying little of value.  I imagine that it resonates with the experiences of many in the audience, but I’ve grown tired of seeing the same old twenty-something foolishness on display with nothing new except the setting.

C nova

19:30 – 20:30

8

181.  

I’m Not Here Right Now (**)

A fellow sits along side the stage and narrates the story of a professor who must deal with peers that doubter her sightings of an abominable snowman, and a loving outdoorsman father who may not be so perfect.  She acts well, and he reads well, but I don’t come to a play to have it read to me.  The text does do a good job of conveying her deep connection with the outdoors though.

Summerhall

18:25 – 19:30

10

182.  

Tribute Acts (**)

Two young women explore their estrangement from their fathers through video interviews of the fathers of each other.  They realized their vision well, but it was not enough to remove the feeling that this is a piece by two people who spent most of their preparation thinking about themselves instead of the audience.  They confirmed this by ending the show with a tribute to their favorite YouTube clip of Bill Clinton playing a saxophone which had little relevance to the rest of the show.

Assembly Roxy

14:50 – 15:50

8

183.  

S.E.N (**)

In a detention classroom, a teacher must manage a manic teenager, and a quiet Muslim girl.  I did not have a problem with the acting, but I hated the idea that such an incompetent teacher would ever still have a steady job.  While a substitute teacher can have real problems with class discipline, watching a supposed permanent teacher be so unprofessional reeked of a playwright’s fantasy.

Bedlam Theatre

21:30 – 22:30

9

184.  

Stuart Bowden: Wilting in Reverse (**)

Bowden looped music, awkward dancing, repeated audience participation, and low production values in general to tell the story of a colonist on a dry planet who sabotages the spaceship so he can stay with the woman he likes.  Bowden establishes the silly, humor of the inept from the beginning by entering the dark set and immediately running into a chair, and then grumbling about the strategic chair being left there,  It was an hour of demonstrating just how bad a show can be if that is the goal of the performer.

Underbelly Cowgate

20:10 – 21:10

10

185.  

Phantasmagoria (*)

The audience is ushered into a small darkened room to hear a rendition of Lewis Carroll’s poem about a ghost discussing the role of ghosts in the world.  While the two ushers attempt to maintain decorum and move props as needed, the orator unknowingly provided a demonstration of acting excess.  He alternated between whispers too quiet to be heard, and bellowing so loud that in the small room he was unintelligible.

C nova

Varies

23

 

 

I am a 62-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 eleven times before.  Twelve years ago, after two weeks touring France, my wife and I spent nine days of our honeymoon at the Fringe.  We shared 45 plays, and I attended ten other events besides.  In 2005, I fulfilled a dream of seeing an entire Fringe Festival.  Since then, I have been here for the whole Fringe every year except 2007.  I have learned to devote most days to only one venue to maximize the number of performances I can see.  I expect this year to be similar to last—many performances, and many new friends.

 

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

 

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