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: Every Brilliant Thing

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31 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

The play begins with the death of a dog and revolves around the suicide attempts of the central character’s mother. Cheery stuff. Jonny Donahue takes us through his story, and a list detailing reasons to carry on living, coming up with those brilliant things of the title with the aid of some audience members who help him act out some key moments. The interaction is used to good effect: we empathise more with this already likeable character having travelled with him through his history. Yet, for all it provides an insight into coping with suicide and love, it still feels very much a fiction, and this somehow makes the piece seem somewhat false.

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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: 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: Beans on Toast

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20 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

Scott loves Jen, and Jen loves Scott, but Jen has gone. ‘Beans On Toast’ goes through all the significant moments of their relationship, out of sequence, with a song or two thrown in for good measure. These ‘loveable’ characters are sassy, fast-talking and so underdeveloped they remain practically stationary. Apart from when they have their sole argument, their relationship appears completely faultless, apparently formed with some kind of perfect couple cookie cutter. This lack of any real conflict makes for rather plodding viewing, with any meaning almost entirely lost in the action. The production is staged well by the cast, who all play Jen and Scott at various points, but this does nothing to stop it being a one dimensionally pretty, rather than meaningful, production.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: Le Flop

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18 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

‘Le Flop’ is like a tin of chocolates: bright, colourful but ultimately disposable. The idea behind the show seems to be that mind-numbing stupidity is funny, but it’s impossible to sum up what ‘Le Flop’ is actually about. “Four clowns muck about for an hour” doesn’t quite seem like enough of a description, but it’s accurate. Clearly ‘Le Flop’ is trying to be ironic, hoping to score laughs by being deliberately awful, but around half the audience left within the first ten minutes, when it became obvious that a man with a whoopee cushion was going to be the highpoint of the show. The whole show was tedious to watch, a real disappointment.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: Theatre on a Long Thin Wire

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17 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh Review

‘Theatre on a long thin wire’ involves nothing but a chair, a CD player and a mysterious voice through a phone. Total audience participation is expected as individuals take it in turn to answer the phone and echo the voice on the line. Set in a loft covered in gas taps and pipes, it initially evokes the feeling that we’ve been transported to the scene of a horror film, then, as things progress, it starts to feel like a potentially dodgy psychological experiment as we willingly follow the instructions of a disembodied voice. This is hardly high octane excitement, but even the most cynical of participants will start to feel involved in the subtly built up, if predictable, drama.

Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Review: God is in My Typewriter

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16 August 2014, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh

Anne Sexton is one the most romanticized poets out there, and her history of creativity and depression has ensured that this is not the first time she has been resurrected on stage. In this solo show Anna-Mari Laulumaa draws on verse, therapy sessions and Sexton’s own letters to render a portrait of the artist. The various sources are integrated well enough to create a strong line of narrative, and the show uses music and lighting beautifully to create an often surreal and isolated atmosphere, but the production falters with its interpretation of Sexton herself. She is hysterical, unhinged and childlike, and the play manages to obscure her more behind her myth rather than illuminate the character and life which contributed to her work.

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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.

Image: Alixroth/Flickr