2016 Reviews

A Divine Comedy

On Saturday, Mike Maran dragged me to Hell and I didn’t want to leave. That’s the biggest trouble with Dante Alighieri’s epic poem in three parts, it starts off with the most interesting of the realms. Or, to paraphrase one of the play’s lines, it starts well but trails off and is interesting, less interesting and then even less so. Like Mike Skinner said, I’m going to Heaven for the company but Hell for the company. Let’s face facts, the more interesting people are there. That’s not the case with Maran’s homage and love letter to this great piece of Italian literature.

I Hate Children Children’s Show

Any children’s show that starts off with a bull whip used to grab the attention of children and a glass of fizzy wine for the adults is off to a good start in my books. I Hate Children Children’s Show not only tried winning my favours with cheap alcohol but with old fashioned magic tricks and jokes that worked on two levels, those for children and those for the grown-ups. I even managed to get some of the latter.

Colin Hay – Get Rid of the Minstrel

At the start of his show, Colin Hay says that he has no survival skills. After over thirty years in the music industry, I would say that’s highly debatable. During the course of his eighty-odd minute show, Hay proves that not only he is not only a troubadour but a raconteur. He is good company, witty, self-effacing and has a hugely winning smile. I don’t know much about keeping goats – who may or may not appear and then fade away – but I now know that stoned ones don’t like quiz shows.

Scottish Saxophone Ensemble

I was a little intimidated about this gig. Four saxophones? No strings? Hmmmmm. I shouldn’t have worried though as the Scottish Saxophone Ensemble delivered an infectious, toe-tapping treat. My only regret is this was a one-off and folk I know who would have greatly enjoyed it would miss out. Tough, because fortune favours the brave and this was a marvellous chance to hear some of Scotland’s top brass players perform.

Antonio Forcione and Sarah Jane Morris

Before Saturday, I thought I had all my Fringe shows arranged. Then a lovely man told me that Sarah Jane Morris was in Edinburgh for the third week. I was more than happy to dip into my wallet and buy tickets to go and see her, especially after last year’s performance at the Assembly Rooms. Antonio Forcione, an Italian-born guitarist-composer who has previously won the Best Spirit of the Fringe Award in 2001, has joined her this year at the David Hume Tower Lecture Theatres. I must admit I’d never heard of Forcione before the weekend but can confirm that the Grauniad was right to describe him as “One of the great acoustic guitarists” and he is very, very charismatic.

The Red Shed

Mark Thomas is a bastard, plain and simple. Each year he’s one of the first names I look for in the Fringe brochure, wondering if his new show will measure up to the previous one. For at least the last six years he has and more. That run could be longer but I’m trying to remember what came before Bravo Figaro and failing. With The Red Shed the wee bugger has done it again and left me in tears both from laughter and the emotion of it all.

Taiwan Season: Solo Date
Tsai Pao-Chang has created a wonderful piece in Solo Date, which is at the Fringe as apart of a Taiwan Season. The play is about where our love of technology and willingness to interact with it instead of people in a face-to-face scenario will lead. There’s a wonderful line that sums up where the play is set in the first scene where Ho, the main character, asks his digital assistant why people still travel. “It’s so 2020s, don’t you think?” We know exactly where we are here, not so much our tomorrow but more our children’s, the day after tomorrow.

Morgan & West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show for Kids (and Childish Grown-Ups!)
Picking a good children’s show is tricky, even more so than with the others on offer throughout the Fringe brochure. I’ve seen some good ones other the years, but I’ve also seen some of the biggest wastes of my money, the equivalent of Victoria Wood’s wriggly fingers sketch. My daughter is of an age that she helps picks the shows and the blurb for this one was one that attracted us both. I’m pleased to say, she has inherited her father’s good taste and run of shows in 2016.

I Got Superpowers for my Birthday
Katie Douglas and Paines Plough have created a great piece of child-friendly and adult enjoyable theatre with I Got Superpowers for my Birthday. Based on this play, I can see why the Guardian described them as, “the lifeblood of the UK’s theatre ecosystem.” The script is tight, the production very professional, with the lights and the sound adding to what happens on stage. The cast – Remy Beasley, Richard Corgan and Andy Rush – are great on stage, appearing as several characters during the play.

Forest Fringe
Forest Fringe is an artist-led organisation making space for risk and experimentation. Now in their tenth year, they’re celebrating with a best of retrospective. Originally based at the Forest arts and community charity’s previous Bristo Place location, they’ve invited back some old friends to their party and fourth year at Out of the Blue‘s Drill Hall with an exciting programme of experimental art and performance. You’re never quite sure what you will get with the Forest Fringe but you should find something worth seeing and enjoyable.

History History History
Deborah Pearson is a a writer, performer and producer. In History History History, she has produced a wonderful performance piece that made me laugh, cry and learn about the societal and political history of 1950s Hungary, leading up to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and some of it’s effects. Pearson has created a piece that makes the history come alive

My Leonard Cohen
I’ve liked Leonard Cohen’s music for a long time. I’ve never had the chance to see him, sadly, but I am a fan. (Geddit!?) In fact, to quote John Wesley Harding, “Uncle Lenny used to make me laugh. Took away my nightmares, tore my daydreams in half, Showed them to me reflected upside down.” After this performance though, I’m definitely a fan of Stewart D’Arrietta and his band.

The Starship Osiris
I have to start this review with a confession; I don’t like musicals. Well, that’s not strictly true, I like Oliver!, well at least when Ollie Reed and Ron Moody are on screen. I can live without the rest of it. Given that, when I sat down and saw in the programme, “Lyrics by George Vere,” I was worried. I shouldn’t have though as with George Vere, who is also The Starship Osiris’ writer, director, producer and lead actor, I was in safe hands.

L!ghten Up Your Life!™
Before I start my review, I must admit to a vested interest in this show. I like advice, especially doling it out, so I was intrigued to experience what experts from the institute for l!ghter living!™ would furnish me with. ill!™, an investment angel-approved bespoke consultancy agency, certainly delivered. The show, “aims to provide all Fringe-associated customers with a stopgap solution to whatever their most burning issue happens to be at the time.” Really it isn’t a show, it’s a tailored counselling session that will help you think in a new way and with fresh eyes about your problem(s).