Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: Occupied

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31 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

From issues of patriarchy to the moral difficulties of hummus, ‘Occupied’ portrays the world of student protest in its overbearing earnestness. When a production of ‘The Producers’ is threatening the Fringe, a group of protestors occupy the theatre to stop this (probably) offensive production taking place. The stock protesters are all there: the anarchist, the Marxist; and the long skirted one who sings songs about the Scottish referendum (a song about Alex Salmond to ‘The Real Slim Shady’ was a particular audience favourite). The play could be seen as a cynical view of protest, but a sense of the difficulty that faces this group does come through in this engaging, funny and farcical production which is ultimately good-natured.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: Robert Newman

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31 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

Surely only at the Fringe could you find a stand-up show about theories of evolution? I was given flashbacks to university lectures by Rob Newman’s discussion of the concept of survival of the fittest, and his description of how a series of mishaps and missteps led him to propose the ‘misfit theory’, his own new theory of evolution. The show is replete with descriptions of bizarre animal behaviours and intellectual insults to Richard Dawkins, alongside a well planned series of jokes; yet often the balance is not quite right, the stand-up feeling lost in sea of scientific jargon, while musical numbers add little. Ultimately the show is too much like a documentary for its own good.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: Dane Baptiste

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31 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

At first Dane Baptiste’s Edinburgh debut seems pretty pedestrian, as the material in ‘Citizen Dane’ is not-unfamiliar fare: using his experience as the son of immigrant parents, he entertains the audience with a stream of jokes about strict parenting, his family and gangsta culture. Yet Baptiste delivers his occasionally provocative material with such understated dryness that it seemed wholly innovative. His jokes kept the audience in almost constant hysterics but his best material came from some fantastically wry observations about the good luck of children from broken homes and how gangstas are scared of wasps. With this show, Baptiste promises to be a performer to watch and watch out for at the Fringe.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Stuck

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31 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

The RH experience are not the pioneers of tomfoolery: they are the masters. In this blatantly silly show, the group follow the well-honed formula for improv to perfection. They get the ball rolling by asking the audience for a word and then proceed to get three characters ‘stuck’ in a situation with no apparent escape. As audience are incapacitated through near lethal levels of laughter the troupe run, spring, jump and sing themselves through a dizzying series of characters and sketches. The show never ceases to win you over with its sheer charm, as its goofy characters and set-ups ensure that this is laugh a minute stuff, to the point of making you feel quite ill. But in a good way!

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: Thunderbards

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31 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

Fresh from the success of their last Edinburgh show, Thunderbards return to the Fringe in their new offering, ‘Seconds’. In this not-quite-a-sketch-show the duo – Glenn Moore and Matt Stevens – are pursuing “their real interest”: time travel, which they mainly use to (unsuccessfully) pick up dating and career tips from their ancestors. The laughs come constantly in this sublimely silly hour. Moore and Stevens have a penchant for off-the-cuff one liners and physical comedy, and appear to enjoy combining the mundane with the surreal. The highlights of the show are undoubtedly the sketches, in particular the one involving an overzealous librarian. Their charm and self-deprecation make this pair endlessly watchable and ‘Seconds’ a ludicrous joy.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: Lloyd Langford

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31st August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh 

For all his miserliness and gripes about the modern world, Lloyd Langford never quite comes across as the old man in a thirty-something year old’s body. He starts his show with a list with things he doesn’t like on the one side and things he does on the other, which rather alarmingly starts with fire; he makes a few cracking observations which demonstrate a deeper grasp on certain topics than one might initially have expected, but at other points he fails to follow through, leaving the audience to wonder what the point of a five minute rant was. For me, Langford covers too much middle of the road material for this show to be particularly memorable, for all that it is enjoyable at the time.

Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: 300 to 1

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16 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh

This play should never work. A fifteen year old boy enacts the film ‘300’ to Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon? I’m not quite sure how Matt Panesh came up with the idea for this solo show but I’m glad he did. The show zings along thanks to Panesh’s comic panache with physical characterisation: he easily zips between the macho Leonidas, the stammering Wilfred Owen and the prickly Sassoon. With a biting script and a mass of energy, the play is frequently hysterical and plainly ridiculous which perhaps seems at odds with with its central message: war is not glorious, and Owen’s poetry and startling facts about veterans are used to clarify this. It somehow works, though, and the result is a pleasure to watch.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: Rosie Wilby-Nineties Woman

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15 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh 

Former ‘Funny Women’ finalist Rosie Wilby had a plan: to interview all the women who wrote alongside her for nineties York University feminist newspaper ‘Matrix’, and the result is this intriguing show. This nineties woman takes us through the story of her student days bad perms, fruitless crushes and too sincere student demos included but what she really wants to know is whether these girls have stuck to their principles and remained true to the feminist cause. The stand out thing about the show is the former Brit-popper herself, who is a likeable figure and a natural story teller. Her tales of student (not quite) hedonism engage you from the off, and her willingness to gently self-deprecate allow the audience to happily laugh at her as well as with her.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: FanFiction Comedy

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10 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Reviews

‘FanFiction Comedy’ may be one of the most silly, nerdy and hilarious hours I have ever spent. Created for geeks, by geeks, the show sees the cast writing and performing several brand new stories for every performance, each involving beloved figures from popular fiction. From Harry Potter to ‘Life of Pi’, nothing is safe from their comedic talons: the night I attended we were treated to the moving tale ’12 Years an Oompa-Loompa’. The show presumes a certain level of familiarity with the material, and clearly delights in coupling the ridiculousness of fanboy delusions with a nerdy level of detail. There’s a little too much time wasted at the start and end of the show, but it’s still very smart and frequently hysterical.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: 15% of the Seagull

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9 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

Thespians are an endless source of comedy, and Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’ is ripe for picking. Here we see Liberty Martin, the highly strung half of this duo, desperate to direct, produce and act in ‘The Seagull’ despite only having one actor left – Cheryl Mayer, the seemingly dull half of the act. But, of course darlings, the show must go on. The final result is a mix of wig-and-accent acting alongside intelligent jokes, preposterous props, good acting and, ultimately, a very likeable show. The scenes in which they mock pretentious am-dram members were undoubtedly the highlights of the show, and perhaps more humour could have squeezed from these. Overall, ‘15% of the Seagull’ is a gloriously silly comedy.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: Andrew Maxwell

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9 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh 

An Irishman’s views on the Scottish referendum? Not only that but he’s a London-based one: this could turn nasty. Maxwell draws attention to this at the start of show, pointing out that this is likely to divide the room instantly. Fortunately for the audience he has the wit, charm and intelligence to pull it off. Maxwell clearly has a good-humoured taste for ridiculousness, and takes delight in mocking the paranoid proclamations of the Yes and No campaigns. He’s clearly in his element when making topical jokes about almost anything newsworthy. Perhaps it’s a bit too preachy at times (Maxwell certainly seems pleased with his soapbox), but it’s still the most enjoyable lecture that I’ve ever been too.

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Theatre Review: Jitters

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27 November 2013, Varsity Online Reviews Section

From the moment you enter the Corpus Playroom to watch Jitters, an original comedy written by first-time writer Mollie Wintle, you can see the two main cast members lounging about on a sofa onstage decorated with Turkish rugs, coffee tables and plush furniture. From this you can establish two things: firstly what the two main cast members will be doing throughout the play (that is, not a lot) and the middle class nature of the play.

In Jitters the tasteless Martha, played by Laura Inge, is finally doing the decent thing and getting married, which is a great relief for her equally foul family who desire nothing more than to get rid of her at any cost. While everyone is preparing for the wedding, Freya and Sophie, played by Freya Mead and Rebecca Cusack respectively, avoid the wedding flurry by sitting upstairs and moaning about their lives and family. The events take a turn when it appears the husband-to-be Jack, portrayed by Tim Crowter, is experiencing jitters and can’t go through with the wedding.

Despite the potential for comedy, the play does not deliver the laughs it promised at the outset. It is neither a social satire of the middle classes, nor simple satire. Some of the scenes which are intended to be funniest, such as Jack’s wedding jitters, feel slightly overacted and never quite achieve hilarity. Jitters’ comic characters also fail to play their part correctly as they never become more than caricatures of sullen teenagers, Daily Mail readers, nerds and uptight middle class women. Additionally, the play undergoes a tonal shift at various points toward the end where the actions and dialogue of the characters become somewhat serious. However, this – and what it brings about as a result – is unconvincing as a particularly meaningful sacrifice.

The main problem with the two main characters is that they remain sitting down, muttering truisms and making vapid remarks about others and complaining in general, and after a while become more frustrating than amusing. Additionally, most of the male characters appear to serve no function at all: they may enter the stage for a scene to either do something practical or just say hello, beyond that they are nothing more than enablers. That said, Laura Waldren deserves high praise for her subtle and convincing portrayal of a Marian who has been brought to the edge by her sister Martha and her freeloading ways.

All in all, Jitters is funny enough to engage the audience. But it contains tonal shifts which are unnecessary, and portrays characters it is hard to like or sympathise with. It demonstrates some excellent performances, but that may not be enough of a compensation.

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