Edinburgh International Festival Fringe August 2nd to 26th
This year, the talent in Edinburgh has been bigger than ever, over 4000 shows from over 55 countries and ScotsGay saw more shows than ever across the Fringe, International Festival and Book Festival.
Our team of 14 writers worked tirelessly to ensure we covered shows across every genre and make sure our readers got to know the best and worst of the festivals.
Our aim this year was to break away from just covering LGBTI+ while still ensuring we covered every show that had value relevant to our readership.
Our awards are chosen by the writers themselves and highlight the very best in class across the festivals.
Congratulations to all the winners.
The Joanne Harrison Award – Late Night Lip Service
Gingzilla is the unashamed star of this show. She wears her provocative demeanour with pride, has consistently magnificent hair, and her many creative exploits between acts often steal the spotlight. I particularly enjoy her slip-and-slide paint-party, in addition to her popping the balloons which coalesce to form her costume.
Full Review: http://sgfringe.com/?p=3182
The Susan Clark Award – Jo Caulfield: Killing Time
Brilliantly hilarious and witty, or in the words of my companion “that was Funny as Fuck” we could not stop crying with laughter as Jo shared stories of holidays, hobbies, relationships and people she has met along the way.
Full Review: http://sgfringe.com/?p=2953
The Sharon Jones Award – Simon Callow In De Profundis
De Profundis is an important piece of theatre for us even though our community enjoys unprecedented freedoms now, there are people all over the world living Oscar Wilde’s tragic reality. Russia particularly comes to mind. Let us not forget these stories or become complacent at the rights we enjoy now from the sacrifice of those who went before us.
De Produndis is the most passionate, moving piece of theatre I have ever experienced. The defining performance of Callow’s remarkable career.
Full Review: http://sgfringe.com/?p=3249
The Brett Herriot Award – John Partridge: Stripped
John Partridge, I thank you for once again showing me what the power of theatre can do, and I hope love continues to shine on you, for the ultimate in an emotionally honest theatre experience get yourself along to assembly checkpoint and be forever changed!
Full Review: http://sgfringe.com/?p=2856
The Jordan Phillips Award – Skin Deep
Skin Deep is a deeply reflexive musical-comedy which explores beauty, bodies, and the very human obsession with what it means to be beautiful, and the importance of having a positive body image and being comfortable in one’s own skin.
Full Review: http://sgfringe.com/?p=3004
The Mary Woodward Award – Henna
Henna was a triumph of magnificent storytelling, a perfect illustration of the proverb. The run ended on Sunday: but I’ll definitely be looking out for these two master-storytellers next year!
Full Review: http://sgfringe.com/?p=3174
The Tony Challis Award – End of Eddy
Great praise must be given to the twin stars, Kwaku Mills and Alex Austin, whose ebullient enthusiasm for sharing this story with us makes us feel we are part of a shared theatrical body for the duration.
Full Review: http://sgfringe.com/?p=3243
The Taylor Crockett Editors Choice Award – SIX
Six is visually beautiful, emotional, powerful, epic and a show that will go down in history as one of theatres finest! This is most definitely not one to miss this Fringe, or on in the west end at the Arts in London.
Full Review: sgfringe.com/?p=3038
ROBIN INCE: CHAOS OF DELIGHT
Gilded Balloon at the Museum Venue 64
August 15th to 26th 13.30
**** (Four Stars)
This is a man so keen to communicate with his audience that he comes out and begins talking to us before the starting time, because, as he says, it is more interesting than standing behind a curtain. He welcomes those coming in at the last minute reassuringly. He is, in a sense, lighting the blue touch paper, prior to the actual firework display.
Robin Ince has a large series of slides that he intends to talk to us about, but he does not get through them all, and we do not worry, as he delights us with his many digressions and the whole hour is a joy. The energy, enthusiasm and passion for connecting with his audience make this guy stand out, and he makes many comedians look only half awake beside him.
He will move between genres and areas of interest in a flash, from, say, Alastair Sim to Jim al Khalili, from Robert Rauschenberg’s art to the comedy of Kafka, and Kafka’s tendency to laugh at his own work. He brings in his own ten year old son and his eighty eight year old father. There is his father’s ability to change and develop at a great age, and there is description of what he said to his son when the lad was seven about death, and about the adventures of the atoms that make up his body, which is a section I shall not forget.
We have the mimicry of Brian Blessed, that living legend, and the very precise and affectionate take-off of Brian Cox, which Cox apparently thinks is too camp.
There always seems to be more happening in Robin Ince’s head than he can possibly express, and I am sure we could have stayed all afternoon. I regret not having managed to fit in Robin Ince’s other show at The Stand this year. However, this show alone will be a bright light to look back on when this Fringe is over and done.
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre Venue 76
August 1st to 26th No breaks, 15.30
**** Four stars
Eddie (Jonas Moore) is meeting a gay date in, of all places, a Wetherspoons in Bristol. Such a romantic location. The date is not inspiring Eddie, whose description of the man begins the stream of sharp and engaging wit that runs through Hallam Breen and Phoebe Simmond’s script.
Eddie goes to the bar and there begins to chat to Dylan ( Matt Pettifor), who also has an uninspiring date. (Who needs gay bars?) Both quickly realise where the night urgently needs to go, and are soon back at Eddie’s. The path of love develops, with some productive interventions from Eddie’s older sister, Rosie (Roseanne Hitchen). She asks a question which discomforts the couple, and provokes further twists in the plot.
All three performers engage the audience warmly, and we feel for the two men as they have both lots of hot fun and embarrassing moments, and strains appear in the relationship. Whilst this show caused me to laugh a lot, and is striking for its very positive portrayal of gay lives – it keeps a million miles away from depression and suicide, thankfully – it also stood out for me for its vivid coverage of really bad sex. Not so often attempted, but truthful and worth including.
Both monogamy and open relationships are like Marmite – loved by some and hated by others. This is a dilemma central to this drama, but that does not stop this Marmite from being a joy throughout. The story develops as it should, and the ending is neither celebratory of downbeat. Just realistic. And all the better for that.
Marmite has a splendid script which is fully exploited by a very skillful cast. Get along to this delicious show, which is sure to be to your taste. I look forward to the future efforts of this company.
Edinburgh International Festival
Rossini – La Cenerentola
19:15 (run ends 26 August)
**** (4 stars)
A great crowd-pleaser: but where was the music, and where was the emotion? The whole production was geared towards making the audience laugh – barber-shop choreography for chorus and principals, visual gags, funny costumes, loadsa laughs: with the music, and some incredibly good singing, merely an aural backdrop to the Concept, from which virtually all emotions had been removed.
In this version of Cinderella, Angelina is the skivvy to her two stepsisters and her father treats her like dirt. Her inherent kindness and goodness shine through and impress the prince’s tutor when he arrives at their house disguised as a beggar. He is visiting all the noble houses to find a suitable bride for his prince, and decides that Angelina is The One. From then on he is, in effect, the fairy godmother, and ensures that everything goes to plan. But even at the end, when the prince is united with his love, her family are unable to accept her good fortune and mock and vilify her – even when she is asking for mercy for them: all she wants is to be recognised as a member of the family, but this they are determined to deny her.
The music is very Rossini, light and frothy and fun – but also contains moments of great pathos and ardent outpourings of love: none of these were permitted to make themselves heard or felt: all was subservient to the comedy. It was a hilarious evening – but it wasn’t true to Rossini.
The set was very ingenious: a succession of ever-smaller fireplaces came apart and revolved to become rickety staircases and almost-tenement buildings, then revolved again to become the spines of books. A book of fairy tales, which was consulted by most of the characters to confirm that things were [or were not] going as they should, passed from hand to hand, while Angelina’s cleaner’s trolley became many different things including the coach that took her to the ball. For some of the action the cast moved off the stage and on to a walkway that skirted the orchestra pit: fine for those in the audience who could still see the cast, useless for the rest of us whose view was obscured. The gales of laughter indicated that great fun was being had – but we couldn’t share it. The projection of a wide range of images was an integral part of the production – again, those in the cheaper seats lost out on the full effect as clouds, flowers, the castle, the storm, and cogs whirring and revolving moved across the back of the stage or the drop curtain. The prince’s entourage were dressed in academic gowns, moved in tightly-choreographed groups, at various points acted as winged cupids – and completely obscured the more tender moments.
It was excellently done if you like that sort of thing, but I would have preferred a production that allowed the story to stand by itself. It felt as though it had to be dumbed down and “made funny” because a modern audience couldn’t possibly be allowed to take on board a story which tells us that kindness and goodness triumph over greed and selfishness. At the end of the opera, Angelina’s wedding gown was ripped from her, leaving her in the cleaner’s overall in which she began the show: was this to emphasise the illusory nature of everything that had happened to her?
It was so disappointing…
Siblings: Acting Out
Underbelly George Square
**** (Four Star)
Outrageous, ridiculous character comedy
Hailed as Rising Stars of British Comedy by YOU magazine, Siblings Maddy and Marina Bye return to the Fringe after launching their sell-out debut show last year. It begins with the stage in darkness, each sister holding a pose and taking turns to light their faces with a handheld torch. They remain still as their thoughts are played aloud for the audience to hear. The audience members shifted in their seats, there were a few uneasy laughs and I briefly wondered ‘What the hell have I come to review?’
However, that opening worked brilliantly as it left us unsure of what to expect next which prepares you for the zaniness of the next hour. They switch up the tempo once they officially ‘start’ the show and introduce themselves. Marina milking her ‘I’m a classically trained actress’ line with poor Maddy being forever pushed aside as the one always clowning around.
Marina is in fact, a classically trained actress (Guildhall School of Music and Drama), and Maddy is a professionally trained clown from Ecole Phillippe Gaulier in Paris. They play on this to the hilarity of the audience throughout. Anyone who has experienced the bittersweet game of sibling rivalry can relate. Always trying to get one up one on the other is what creates the comedy tension with the audience eager to see who the winner will be.
The back-to-back sketches are quick-fire with so much packed into an hour that not a moment is wasted. Every gag raises a laugh, but the ones of the yummy mummies ‘Muff’ and ‘Ginkgo’ were audience favourites. The girls contort their faces using elastic bands and speak to each other in high-pitched quaffy voices ‘Dahhhhling have you heard of tuck, suck and blow?’ turning to look at the audience with manic staring eyes.
Their play ‘Molly and her Singular Pube’ is absurd and funny in its pure silliness. Adopting exaggerated northern voices, they play a married couple. Marina a sexually frustrated housewife who ends up distractedly dusting audience members, Maddy the stereotypical working man lost in his paper.
My personal favourite of all the sketches was the one about the Chimyumsimyasa Kudi Kudi Casa Centre all about healing and meditation. The girls were hysterically funny in their portrayal of yogi gurus. I don’t want to spoil anything but I would go back for that sketch alone. I belly-laughed the whole time, tears streaming down my face. All sense of dignity was gone. In my opinion that is brilliant comedy. This show made me forget myself and everything else for a whole hour. Therapy for a bargain price.
The Wee Coo tent is an intimate venue which lends itself well to the audience participant dynamic of the show. I DARE you to sit in the front!
Unmissable (And I’m not even a comedy fan)
Showing at 18.40 until Monday 27th August @Underbelly
16.20 Summerhall until 26th August
**** (4 Star)
Blackout is a play based around the lives of 5 people who have been affected by alcoholism and their downward spiral when fun nights out drinking all stops being just for fun. Scripted entirely from interviews with recovering addicts, including the writer. The stage setting is simple and each character’s part is interspersed with a recorded voice, presumably from live interviews.
The actors playing the recovering alcoholics really draw in the audience and you almost believe it’s their own experiences. For an extremely difficult, horrifying and heart wrenching subject there is an element of dark humour and there are moments where you cannot help but laugh or gasp.
What links the characters is their battle and journey to sobriety and being part of the somewhat controversial AA fellowship and the meaning of looking for whoever or whatever the ‘Higher Being’ is, as opposed to the original suggested structure of the organisation.
Alcohol Focus Scotland suggest that one-in-four people drink at hazardous or harmful levels and it is the third leading risk factor for death and disability after smoking and high blood pressure.
What makes this play extremely thought provoking is that these are everyday people not the image society portrays as an alcoholic.
Refreshingly honest, I truly admire the people who have shared their remarkable history with alcohol abuse and current struggles. If you have ever been affected in anyway by alcoholism whether it is yourself or someone you know, then this play will give you chills.
We are left under no illusion that alcoholism is an ongoing battle and there is no fairy-tale ending here, but what is highlighted is our perception of what society views as an alcoholic.
Edinburgh International Festival
19:30 22-26 August / 14:30 25 August (run ends 26 August)
** (2 stars)
Either this is a piece that is so profound it left me floundering in the shallows trying to make any sense of it, or it’s a terrible piece of theatre that is trying to be deeply profound and mistakenly thinks it’s offering deep truths to enlighten humankind…
A bare stage with some dead wood lying around and the dead boles of a few scrubby trees still standing. An old white man enters and starts talking about visiting a ‘brown place’ and encountering a tailor sitting cross-legged on the ground, a silent dwarf, and finally a man called Ezekiel who tells him to go to the middle of the desert and visit his nephew, who is sitting facing the prison there.
The programme notes say “Somewhere in the world a man is sitting alone in front of a prison. Who is he? Why is he sitting there in front of a prison?”: he has apparently committed “nameless crimes”, but we are instantly told what he has done… The man’s story is narrated in various ways by various people. Short episodes follow each other, and people come for various reasons to see the man sitting alone. There are odd moments of beauty, moments of humour, many words, moralising, didactic pronouncements. Very little spoke to me apart from the silent strength and expressively liquid eyes of Hiram Abesekera, playing the man who sits alone.
The old white man came on to the stage again, said some more words. Blackout. The other actors joined him on stage. Stunned silence was replaced with applause which seemed to come more because it was expected of us than because we had been moved or uplifted – or felt anything other than puzzlement…
The piece was the brain child of Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne. It was all cerebral – no feelings came across to me. It was the outcome of workshops – it came across as the worst kind of undergraduate Fringe show which thought itself immensely clever but was in fact seriously underwhelming.
Jason Donovan & His Amazing Midlife Crisis
George Square Gardens
15.00 until 26th August
***** (5 stars)
The last few days of the Edinburgh Fringe lets us Join Jason Donovan in conversation as he makes his Edinburgh Fringe Debut. At George Square Gardens the large sold out crowd are seated in The Spiegeltent which still manages to create a cosy atmosphere.
We are at first introduced to Jason’s life with a playful video clip reflecting on the early days of his career to where he is now with the good and bad in-between, which is basically a rundown of what he revisits throughout the hour. Once on-stage Jason starts off with a musical number (no spoilers) and his guitar, he then chats and interacts with the audience. Most of the hour is a Q&A style interview in which he is refreshingly honest about the downs in his life and talks openly about his battle with drugs before finishing on a high with a well-known hit and proving he has a great singing voice.
Jason’s career has taken many turns from capturing our hearts in the tv series “Neighbours” to his pop career and becoming a star of stage and screen, radio DJ, actor, but he is also just like us, a friend, father, husband, brother & son.
I really enjoyed seeing Jason perform and hearing his stories and think the brings something a tad different to the fringe and who isn’t loving a bit of 80s & 90s revival.
Talented, honest, funny & entertaining, everything you want from a Fringe show.
Top secret alert –I know from a well-known source that Jason is staying at “Ramsay Gardens” while in Edinburgh, fans of Neighbours will appreciate the irony.
As a final thought that will stay with me “you will never realise the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”
Book Festival Review
Baillie Gifford Tent
**** (Four Stars)
Ruby Wax appeared at the book festival to promote her fourth book ‘How to be Human: The Manual’ published by Penguin Random House. After her last release ‘A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled’ she vowed never to write another book as it was ‘worse than giving birth’ which she likened to ‘passing the state of Texas through your vagina.’
This new book follows on from ‘Frazzled’ and was written with the help of a monk Gelong Thubten and neuroscientist Ashish Ranpura who contributed to every chapter. I enjoyed Frazzled and haven’t stopped recommending it, but I like the balance of this new book. It takes a more in-depth look at mental heath and what happens in the brain when we are stressed or depressed. It is still very accessible and of course hilarious in parts. Ruby writes the way she speaks and elicits a laugh on almost every page.
I was intrigued to see how Ruby Wax would come across at the book festival. Known for her close-to-the-bone comedy, I was hoping she would shake up the usual seriousness of those events. I was not disappointed. At one point during the event, sirens sounded in the street outside the Baillie Gifford tent. Ruby announced, ‘I have a mental issue’ then got up and began walking towards the exit, saying ‘They’re coming to take me away now!’ to uproarious laughter and hearty applause.
As well as the book, Wax spoke about her recent experience of appearing on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ When she was contacted by the programme she had to give a lot of family information and memorabilia that was found in her attic. It all came as a bit of a surprise, she said ‘Nobody told me I had relatives, I didn’t even know I had an attic.’
She kept hoping to discover a relative who had been an actor as so far, she was the only one in her family lineage she knew of. Instead, she kept coming across people who were ‘insane’. Both her great aunt, and great-great aunt spent a large amount of their lives institutionalised in insane asylums (as they were called then).
The producer of the show took her to visit one of the asylums, expecting Wax to be saddened by the experience. She said ‘They expected me to cry but they didn’t know this is my happy place. Love the food, the people, the atmosphere.’
On finding that her great-great aunt Olga did not have a gravestone, Ruby had a ‘gigantic tombstone’ put in place. She wanted to show she was proud of her family. I’m sure there was a ‘fuck you’ in there but I don’t want to quote her directly in case I got it wrong.
Chair Jackie McGlore went with the flow and didn’t try to impose restrictions on the comedian, only gently bringing her back on track when she went off on a tangent. Whilst this was a lively and fun event, for me Ruby shines most when she owns the stage, she is at her most entertaining and brilliant when allowed free reign.
You can see Ruby Wax in ‘Frazzled’ the sell-out show which has returned for the last week of the Fringe. On at 4pm every day at The Pleasance Courtyard. I reviewed it last year and gave her a well-deserved five stars. Last show is on Sunday 26th August.