, , , , ,

Edinburgh Fringe 2022: Day 2

I really rate James Ley’s brutal but adorable Wilf, directed by Gareth Nicholls. Wilf is a Volkswagen which has had seven previous owners. (“we’ve both been used” says Calvin)

This unusual, salacious and feel-good play explores Calvin (Michael Dylan), a gay man’s journey through a breakup and sex addiction set to the soundtrack of 80s power ballads. 

Wilf at Traverse

Unexpectedly, the most striking innovatory material can be seen in the apparently modest, over-familiar form of the duologue with immensely watchable and hilarious Thelma (Irene Allan) a woman with her own issues and history. 

What impresses me most about Ley’s play is its attention to detail. The quips, the nervy shame, unpacking mental health & the brilliant design by Becky Minto.

That may make it all sound a little kooky. But this is a tender and cracking play suffused with grief and absence that scratches at the fragility of our crazy existence.

★★★★

More queer joy at Summerhall, in cabaret musical Grandmother’s Closet – performed by the immensely watchable Luke Hereford.

The closet here is a gateway to endless glitzy costume changes and small-town childhood hijinks; its surface exuberance seems to conceal a great sadness around his nan’s memory loss. 

Talented Bobby Harding plays the perfect deadpan musical foil to Hereford.

Grandmother’s Closet at Summerhall

Ostensibly, this autobiographical piece is fast and furious, occasionally crude and theatrically tender, too. But it’s mostly well-paced and entertaining as it explores the glamorous musical icons in his life, that include Judy Garland, Kylie Minogue, Jake Shears. And his nan, of course. A true ally. 

Indeed, there’s plenty of growing up gay cabarets at the Fringe but I doubt that I will see a more authentic one than Grandmother’s Closet this year.

★★★★

At Pleasance, No Place Like Home by Alex Roberts & Co. (winner of Les Enfants Terribles Award 2022) is described as a tragic odyssey into gay club culture and the places we can call home. On his first night out to a nightclub, he surprises himself.

I really, really wanted to get behind this piece, but it never takes off and it lacks grit. In this one-hander, Alex Roberts plays both Connor, a teenager exploring his sexuality, and Rob, a casual barman.

No Place Like Home at Pleasance Dome

Here, the club soundtrack and fluorescent video design is ill-pitched. It doesn’t help that there is *sometimes* quite a lot of acting going on, the kind that offers signposts rather than subtlety. 

Alas, this is a show that feels as desperate as its characters, but there are two redeeming features: the fluid physicality of Roberts and his poetry. 
★★★

2,500 years after the Euripides original and 22 years since it was last seen, the National Theatre of Scotland’s operatic Scots-language production returns.

Edinburgh International Festival’s transfixing Medea at The Hub is theatre to enchant. In Liz Lochhead’s promenade version we see things fresh-minted.  

Tom Piper’s cunningly uncomplicated set design, which raises the actors on a catwalk, with audience standing, offers a immersive view of the female-centred tragedy. 

Medea

A diverse chorus of 10 women are made up and include Pauline Lockhart, Eileen Nicholas, Janette Foggo, Wendy Seager and Fletcher Mathers. 

All of this tragic evening is steely and well-focused. It is beautifully lit by designer Colin Grenfell. Spellbinding, in fact. 

By the end, as Medea rails against the patriarchy you can’t help sobbing. 

Totally timeless. Beyond brilliant. Pure class. 
★★★★★

Wilf

Grandmother’s Closet

No Place Like Home

Medea

, , , , ,

Edinburgh Fringe 2022: Day 1

DOWNTOWN, the world’s largest arts festival, resembles Skid Row

Down on Skid Row

Mini tornadoes of detritus are flying into the faces of pedestrians.

Cleaners in Edinburgh have begun an 11 day strike – local authorities on Friday increased their pay offer from 3.5 per cent to 5 per cent, but until they accept it, the Edinburgh industrial action will continue. 

I will be writing to Ms Sturgeon.

Anyway, the first good thing about Myra DuBois, as far as I can glean, is that she isn’t taking prisoners. 

Uptown, DuBois – at The Dairy Room, Underbelly – ferociously addresses our problems in her camp comedy chat that flamethrowers good taste – the whole hour feels like being kicked in the shins and rolled in glitter. 

Her biting wit is on fine form as the scathing diva berates audience members’s dress sense and first world problems. If I was measuring pleasure in decibels then the screams and squirms would sound like a joyous riot.

This may not be a show for sensitive souls whose idea of a jolly evening is sitting at home reading Anxious For Nothing

Overall, really, really wickedly funny. 

★★★★

We’ve all read in horror describing the bureaucratic hurdles facing asylum seekers, and the inhumane Rwanda policy but plonking Exodus makes us wish we could book a one way ticket there for ourselves. 

The point of this show, i guess, is to be on the nose on a topical subject – all the best shows on television, film and stage are.

I had high hopes for this timely play at Traverse. Unfortunately, Uma Nada-Rajah’s farce about an MP using refugee intolerance to get ahead is depressingly clunky and lacks imagination. 


The attempts at farce are painful, though. I blame the director, not the spirited all-female cast.

The play revolves around Home Secretary Asiya Rao, a Priti Patel clone played with some flare by Aryana Ramkhalawon.

Exodus



This MP sets about a policy to stop migrants crossing the channel by erecting a radioactive barrier.

I lost the will to live after 20 minutes.

Max Fosh is a YouTuber with over a million subscribers. Unfortunately, his debut live show Zocial Butterfly is a laboured and repetitive experience.

Max Fosh
Max Fosh

Playing games with the audience and combining it with tepid stand-up, Foss supports his act with a slideshow and clips of his self proclaimed greatest moments. 

Nevertheless, “The A to Z of conversation” one of the games he plays – starting the first word of each sentence in a conversation in the same order as the alphabet – is just kind of mediocre. 

For his casual stage show, charismatic Fosh cracks jokes about his penis, the exotic name Gary, and his diverse education at Harrow. Hardly radical. 

★★★

Over at Summerhall the press team are on roller-skates. Literally. 

Riffing on modern gay culture, Samuel Barnett is wildly ingenious in Marcelo Dos Santos hot play Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going to Happen.

Barnett is consistently amusing and greatly enhanced by his playful, forceful manner.

Meanwhile, Matthew Xia’s startling and intelligent production marries filthy eloquence with sheer silliness that makes you laugh out loud. Pretty and witty and gay.

★★★★

One of the top picks of Edinburgh Fringe 2022, Kathy and Stella Solve A Murder: a joyous piece of theatre about two hapless best friends from Hull who host a true-crime podcast. 

Written and directed by Jon Brittain (Baby Reindeer), with irreverent music and lyrics by Matthew Floyd Jones (Frisky and Mannish) – it’s the most promising thing I’ve seen at the Fringe. 

Performed by a cast of excellent five, actors Rebekah Hinds (Kathy) and Bronté Barbé (Stella) root the heart in the hysteria. 

Kathy and Stella Solve A Murder

Also from Fleabag producer Francesca Moody, this larky whodunnit mini-musical is a complete one-off: a little bit weird, totally charming, bags of fun and very, very sweet. I loved the songs.

This show deserves a further life.

Kill for a ticket.

★★★★★
Myra DuBois’ A Problem Shared

Exodus

Max Fosh: Zocial Butterfly

Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going to Happen

Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder




, , , , ,

Here’s Your Definitive Guide to Edinburgh Fringe 2022 (you’re welcome)

It’s nearly that time again: Edinburgh is set to host more than 3,000 shows when it starts next week.

The Fringe was cancelled completely in 2020 because of the pandemic but made a limited return last year with about 600 shows. But, top venues have warned that ticket sales are down by about a third relative to pre-pandemic levels, with the cost of living crisis, summer’s travel disruption and Covid cited as reasons.

I have no idea why the bone brained bosses made the horrendous decision not to have an app for this year’s event. And don’t get me started on the scandalous accommodation costs. Not a great look. Removing barriers to attending the Fringe for artists and audiences is a key priority for the Fringe Society.

(There’s always the Free Fringe, though, if you are feeling the pinch.)

Gulp.

First up: Lauryn Redding’s terrific Bloody Elle. First seen at The Royal Exchange, this gig musical is full of quirky original music performed live on stage. At Traverse, obvs.

Bloody Elle – A Gig Musical

Next, I’m curious to see Uma Nada-Rajah’s new dark comedy Exodus, at Traverse, too. It’s about politicians and posturing, and exposes systematic deception and indifference to human suffering.     

I am looking forward to seeing Afghanistan is Not Funny by Fringe veteran Henry Naylor at Gilded Balloon, Teviot. 

Elsewhere, Silent Faces ask why half the world’s population is excluded in a funny, pop-culture piece Godot is a Woman, at Pleasance Dome. If you need to laugh (don’t we all) don’t miss fleet-footed Nina Conti’s hilarious The Dating Show at Pleasance Courtyard

Horizon – Performance Created in England is back with its second showcase, this year focussing on tour-ready performancesa curated programme of ten artists making vital, genre challenging work. Check it out.

Feminist and female-led Rash Dash are always up to something daring. This year, they present Look At Me Don’t Look At Me – a two-hander featuring a piano, a synth, two microphones, a shaky egg and 14 original songs. 

Over at Assembly Checkpoint is Americana – A Murder Ballad – an intriguing premiere by leading Scottish playwright Morna Young. 

At Gilded Balloon Justin Huertas’s wildly original musical Lizard Boy unpacks self-love and acceptance, and particularly finding love today as a gay person of colour.

Lizard Boy

Indeed, Summerhall is essential for any Fringe visit. While you’re there go and see Invisible Mending; a show about love, grief, and knitting. Also: grab a ticket for Maimuna Memon’s Manic Street CreatureBill Buckhurst (Sister Act) directsCarly Wijs (Us/Them) returns to Summerhall with Boy. Don’t miss it. While you are there, have a G&T and head over to Luke Hereford’s fun autobiographical queer cabaret, Grandmother’s Closet.

Among other highlights, Caligari at Underbelly Cowgate, I’m sure, will be a riot: Five actor-musicians reimagine the seminal silent film, with the doctor’s victims taking centre stage. While you are there, go and see Max Fosh’s bonkers but brilliant drama-comedy Zocial Butterfly. I really want to catch Cassie and the Lights; a spellbinding play with music about children and the care system, too.

Paines Plough’s Roundabout is usually good value for money. Get along to world premieres Sami Ibrahim’s A Sudden Violent Burst of Rain – a poetic fable of an immigration system that mirrors our own. In Dipo Baruwa-Etti’s play Half Empty Glasses, a young Black student who auditions for a prestigious music school, but becomes disenchanted by the lack of Black names on the curriculum.

Half Empty Glasses – photo by Paines Plough

Over at Greenside, storyteller Kim Kalish’s The Funny Thing About Death looks like a tonic. Brain and Hemingway  piece about a songwriter with severe writer’s block – also looks fun.

If you missed the laddish Olivier Award nominated Choir of Man originally here in 2017, or last year in London, you can catch it once more.

Succession fans will want to take a walk over to Assembly George Square to catch a glimpse of legend Brian Cox. The actor and his wife have teamed up to produce new play She/Her. A hot ticket. 

So, there you have it, that’s the end of my Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022 guide.

It’s good to be back, isn’t it?

Choir of Man

Anyway, I hope you have found some use in this guide to what the Fringe world has on offer. 

If you have show tips, tweet me: @mrcarl_woodward – I’ll be updating this blog weekly. 

, ,

Edinburgh Fringe is heading online

A digital Edinburgh Fringe Festival has been announced for 2020

As part of the scheme, the Fringe Festival Society has revealed plans for a FringeMakers Crowdfunder, whereby venues and artists will be able to register as part of a central Fringe campaign, pay no fees and keeping 100 per cent of funds donated for their own cause. This will launch on 13 July.

A new “Fringe on a Friday” variety show will be streamed online, and see some of the best productions present snippets from shows online. More details are to be announced. There are also plans for a Fringe Pick n Mix – where artists can upload 60-second clips for online audiences to enjoy.

There will also be 30 digital events including panel discussions, workshops and networking sessions for those wanting to hone their skills, as well as a Fringe Marketplace to help promote tour-ready work. This will help companies project themselves onto a global stage and pick up vital commissions and programming slots for next year.

Penguin Random House will release a new audiobook while Comedy Central will release mini episodes featuring up-and-coming comedians.

Shona McCarthy, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society chief executive, said: “It’s hard to imagine a summer without the Fringe. The explosion of creativity and community that the festival brings every year is unparalleled, and whilst we may not be able to provide a stage in Edinburgh in quite the same way this year, it feels hugely important that the spirit of this brilliant festival is kept alive.

“Little did we know way back in autumn, when we first started talking about this year’s programme artwork, how prescient the superhero theme would be today. We’re happy to be able to shine a spotlight on some of our Fringe heroes now, as we rally round to support the people that make your Fringe. On the other side of this, we’ll need them more than ever.

“The impact of Covid-19 has been devastating for the countless artists, audiences, venues, workers and small businesses that make this festival happen every year. The FringeMakers crowdfunding campaign is designed to support them, while the Fringe on a Friday live show and the Fringe Pick n Mix website aim to bring some much-needed joy to our devoted audiences both here in Scotland and all over the world.”

, ,

Paines Plough announces Later Programme and Daniel Kitson at Roundabout at Summerhall 2019

Artistic Directors of Paines Plough James Grieve and George Perrin have today revealed the full LATER programme for ROUNDABOUT @ SUMMERHALL at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019.

The programme includes; gig-theatre in an abundance of pop-philosophy from Just Club – STANDING TOO CLOSE ON OUR OWN IN THE DARK, VIOLET, a new play from Bebe Sanders and award-winning company Poor Michelle about human connection and inter-generational friendships, Dirty Protest’s IF THAT MAKES ME A BITCH, OK showcasing six of Wales’ most exciting writers with six short plays in one late night extravaganza, THE WARDROBE ENSEMB-WHEEL OF FORTUNE,a one night only combination of all your favourite gameshows and an actual real-life three-dimensional wheel of fortune and fresh from their extended sell-out run of SEX SEX MEN MEN Pecs Drag King’s PECS: SOFT BOIS in their Edinburgh debut.

Today Grieve and Perrin have also announced Daniel Kitson’s new experimental work SHENANIGAN as part of Roundabout 2019.

Just Club
STANDING TOO CLOSE ON OUR OWN IN THE DARK

Standing Too Close on Our Own in the Dark is a gig-theatre event which is as vibrant and hopeful as it is melancholic – a romantic tragedy which sees its performer labour over a journal of original poetry and comedic monologue with encouragement from a live band. Part-gig, part-spoken word ramble, part-stand up set, Standing Too Close effervesces with the endearing awkwardness of early-20s social discomfort, delivering an abundance of pop-philosophy with live music, understated wit and a charming poet who waxes lyrical about the cosmos, bike locks and ex-girlfriends’ dads.

Time: 22.35
Age guidance: 12+
Running time: 50 mins
Dates: 19 August
@JustClubTheatre

Poor Michelle Productions
VIOLET by Bebe Sanders

“There’s no bullshit with Violet. She’ll say something blunt like, ‘life can be lonely’ and I’ll be like, ‘yeah it can’ and that’s it. Then we just crack on. It’s nice”

From new playwright Bebe Sanders and award-winning company Poor Michelle, Violet is a new play about human connection and inter-generational friendships. It quietly explores themes of mental health, dementia, and loneliness without forgetting the often funny and absurd moments of ordinary life.

Time: 22.35
Running time: 50 mins
Dates:  21 August
@poormichelle_

Dirty Protest
IF THAT MAKES ME A BITCH, OK.

Six of Wales’ most exciting writers. Six short plays. One late night extravaganza.

Come join the Dirty Protest gang for a night of plays in response to Madonna’s famous 1992 quote about being a strong and ambitious woman.

Join us to see what this means to us in 2019. Grab your beer, sit back and let us entertain you.

Time: 22.35
Age guidance: 14+
Running time: 50 mins
Dates: 22 August
@DirtyProtest

The Wardrobe Ensemble
THE WARDROBE ENSEMB-WHEEL OF FORTUNE

Join us, The Wardrobe Ensemble, for ONE NIGHT ONLY as we bring to you… The Wardrobe EnsembWheel of Fortune! A night combining all your favourite gameshows and an actual real-life three-dimensional wheel of fortune.

Part pub quiz, part performance, with live music, highly desirable prizes and an original theme tune. Would be nice to see you, to see you…

All proceeds donated to charity.

Time: 22.35
Running time: 50 mins
Dates: 23 August
@WardrobEnsemble

Pecs
PECS: SOFT BOIS

Soft, sensual and fresh from their extended sell-out run of SEX SEX MEN MEN at The Yard Theatre, the one and only Pecs bois are making their Edinburgh debut, bringing you some new feels straight from their aching hearts.

Get ready for some serious softness and sensitivity this summer.

“It’s a space to be silly. It’s empowering. It’s liberating. It’s f***ing sexy.” Evening Standard

Time: 22.35
Age guidance: 18+
Running time: 50 mins
Dates: 24 August
@pecsdrag

Daniel Kitson
DANIEL KITSON: SHENANIGAN

On most Tuesdays, I go to a café before football for lunch with my friends Tim and Isy. Last week, the café had a really appealing special on the board which involved roasted cauliflower, pickled cabbage and babaganoush. The lady behind the counter referred to it as “The Shenanigan”. Which I very much enjoyed.

This show will have absolutely nothing to do with that meal, that lady, that café, those friends, playing football or Tuesdays but I have to call it something otherwise they can’t put it in the system.

Something new, vaguely experimental, unfinished and frankly, quite unlikely to ever be finished, by Daniel Kitson.

Time: 22.35
Age guidance: 16+
Running time: 90 mins
Dates:  4 , 5 ,7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17 ,18 August
Tickets only available via the Summerhall website

LISTINGS

Roundabout @ Summerhall
www.summerhall.co.uk
Box Office: 0131 560 1580

Press Performance for ON THE OTHER HAND, WE’RE HAPPY at 14.15 on 4 August and 11.2oon 5 August
Press Performance for DEXTER AND WINTER’S DETECTIVE AGENCY at 11.2oon 4 August
Press Performance for DAUGHTERHOOD at 14.15 on 5 August

 

, , ,

THREE TALES OF LIFE AND DEATH-US comedy stars in three one-act plays at Assembly

Three Tales of Life and Death

In the world premiere of Pulitzer/Tony Award nominee Craig Lucas’s (Prelude to a KissAn American in ParisAmelie) zany and touching new play, THREE TALES OF LIFE AND DEATH, three stories collide in a world of voyeuristic theatre critics, bartenders with too much spirit and mysterious strangers looking for love in the afternoon.

In Phase 1, Love and Life, critics provide live commentary as the a couple make extra-marital love for the first time and the son of an overly anxious woman reflects on his mother and her tendencies to worry….,

In Phase 2, Death, as a bar tender is closing up for the night, a mysterious stranger walks in…

In Phase 3, Afterlife, in two separate scenes, two spirits encounter each other in Limbo and grapple with their former lives and what comes next.

Making their Edinburgh Fringe debuts, US comedy legends Richard Kline (of the US sitcom Three’s Company) and Pamela Shaw (Swingers), perform these three one-act plays directed by Manhattan Theater Club’s Associate Director Hunter Bird.

LISTINGS INFORMATION

Venue:                        Assembly (Front Room), 54 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2LR

Dates and Times:      3 – 26 August at 15.50 (not 6, 9, 15, 22 August)

Running Time:          65 mins

Tickets:                      £6 on 3 & 4 Aug

                                    £11 (£10) on 5, 6, 10, 14, 16, 17, 21, 23, 24 Aug

                                    £12 (£11) on 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26 Aug

Box Office:                0131 220 4348

 

 

, , , , ,

Edinburgh Fringe, Tago Korean Drum, Interview: “Our music is very sexy, intense, and sophisticated!”

TAGO Korean Drum II live

TAGO Korean Drum II live

TAGO Korean Drum II live

TAGO return to The Fringe 2017 with a new show which follows their enormously popular and successful Fringe debut last year.

‘FYI’ TAGO means ‘lighting up the world by beating drums’ and this young ensemble achieves it with a spectacular mixture of Korean traditional instruments – from gigantic drums to small percussion instruments – spiced up with extravagant martial arts movement.  TAGO’s performances are a masterful display of thrilling percussion and precisely choreographed movement that has wide audience appeal.

TAGO Korean Drum II live shot 4 players

TAGO Korean Drum II live shot 4 players

TAGO – KOREAN DRUM II is one of a collection of Korean shows at the 70th Edinburgh Festival Fringe supported by Korean Arts Management Service (KAMS), an affiliate of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Korea. The collection, which consists of MEDEA on media, Behind the Mirror, TAGO: Korean Drum, Mind Goblin and SNAP is part of Korea/UK 2017-18 presented by the Korean Cultural Centre UK, a year-long cultural exchange in partnership with leading British cultural institutions, set to bring the best of Korean art to the UK.

I thought it would be nice to talk to TAGO master drummer Kim Si-Won. I was right. It was quite nice.

Here is what happened.

Hi! Can you describe TAGO KOREAN DRUM?
TAGO master drummer Kim Si-Won:  Our music is very sexy, intense, and sophisticated!  Korean drums play an important part in traditional Korean music; it’s an art that has been passed from generation to generation for hundreds of years.  In TAGO we harness our traditional music with a more modern touch combining traditional Korean instruments – from gigantic drums to small percussion – with some exciting martial arts moves!  And we wanted to break the assumption that all drums are round so we’ve built a square drum and put strings and a wooden keyboard on it so it takes four of us to play it!

Performers are always busy rehearsing, preparing or performing; how do you relax?
That’s a good question Mr Carl!  We actually practise for 3-4 hours a day because you have to constantly develop strength and technique to play the drums…but we love to find new places to eat, drink and relax.  Edinburgh has some great bars and we’re looking forward to trying out some malt whiskies.

You recently took part in the London Korean Festival. How did audiences respond?
It was absolutely amazing!  We performed a 30 minute set against a colourful backdrop and the audience were dancing and cheering.  The Kensington Olympia venue is gigantic and the sound of our drums was perfect for the big acoustics.  They also had lots of Korean food stands so we felt right at home.  We signed lots of autographs too and did many selfies with audience members.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Performing abroad, definitely!

How would you like this show to be remembered?
As a big, exciting and sexy show!  Also we would like people to enjoy the sounds of the different drums and percussion instruments, some of which you can only see if you come to Korea.

What do you like most about the city of Edinburgh?
The people are so friendly and the beer is great!  When we performed for the first time in 2016, we didn’t realise there were so many shows on – some of our Korean friends are here with their own shows – magic, illusion, dance, music – and we’re hoping to go and support some of them.  Last year we had to buy umbrellas…

TAGO Ho-goon Hyun on the big drum photo by Young Kyong

With the costs of putting on a show – what would be your advice for other international companies that want to bring work to Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
Don’t pack too much!  We send our biggest drums in advance and we take the smaller items on the plane with our luggage.  We could easily bring more then end up not playing them all – so, rather than have a big choice of instruments, we perform a specially designed international show that we know we can deliver.  If you try to pack everything, you can easily run out of money.

What is the Korean Arts scene like?
Really vibrant and diverse. The art of drumming has been around for centuries and you have to be very dedicated to train for many years before you can perform professionally.  Drummers usually started training intensely from the age of 10.  The K-Pop scene is huge now – Korean pop music – and young audiences are moving away from traditional art forms which is why our show is a combination of old and new.  Also the phenomenon of magic and illusion shows is very new to Korea and very popular and the Korean National Ballet (since 1993) is also very cool with people who like ballet.

What do you think audiences enjoy most about your work?
I think people really dig the huge sound of the drums – the sound really fills any performance space and it’s exciting to experience.  I think they also like our combination of drumming and martial arts moves – it’s a really hard thing to learn but very satisfying when you hear the audience cheering!

Are there any shows you are looking forward to seeing?
We are hoping to check out some comedy shows – we didn’t have chance last year – so we’re going to try and see Kwame Asante who we hear is a doctor as well as a comedian and our friends in the Korean magic show Snap which is also very funny.

 What is the most rewarding part of being a performer?
Being up there onstage with my friends is the best – we all met at university and set up Tago nearly 15 years ago.