Thursday, August 27, 2015

A few Edinburgh Fringe mini-reviews

I'm a bit late with these, but the Fringe still has a few days to run, so maybe they'll be of some use to somebody out there...

I AM BEAST : I made a point of going to see this because I had such fond memories of the same company's The Girl With No Heart, which was a mesmerising fable about the effect of nuclear warfare on children.  This one perhaps doesn't quite scale the same heights, but it touches the heart in much the same way.  It's about a girl who loses herself in a comic book fantasy after the death of her mum.  Looking at it objectively, there are a few flaws - for example, the first twenty minutes or so are awfully repetitive, and the story only gets going properly after that.  But by the end, I found myself getting so involved that I completely lost interest in picking fault.  And I must just mention the background music - it's very simple but really gets under your skin.  RATING : 8/10

I LOVED YOU AND I LOVED YOU : I took a bit of a punt on this one, because it's only running at the tail-end of the festival, and so there were no reviews to be found at all.  But judging from the promotional material it had the look of quality about it, and just for once my instincts proved right.  It's about the life of Morfydd Owen, a brilliant female Welsh composer who died in bizarre circumstances in 1918 at the age of just 26.  It's billed as a cross between a dance show and a play, but it's more the former than the latter - there's some speech, but not a huge amount.  The music is mostly Owen's own compositions, and there's live piano-playing and vocals.  I don't really have the vocabulary to properly describe a show like this, but the music is beautiful, the dancing is spellbinding, and I totally recommend it.  The only disconcerting thing was that I was sitting next to someone who was studiously taking notes throughout the performance.  She was obviously involved in the production, and every time she jotted something down I imagined she had spotted some minor flaw, or scope for improvement.  I can't imagine what that would have been, though.  RATING : 10/10

THE GOOD DOCTOR : The annual outdoor play in Duddingston Kirk Manse Garden is a very special experience.  It's surely the most atmospheric venue in the entire Fringe, with Arthur's Seat right behind you and Duddingston Loch right in front of you.  A long play always seems to be selected (at least two hours), which means you drift pleasurably from daylight into darkness.  You'd think word of mouth would lead to huge crowds every night, but not a bit of it - there's quite often only three men and a dog there (figuratively speaking).  It would be interesting to know why that is - maybe it's because the production style is old school (although that suits the surroundings perfectly), maybe it's because of the midgies (although they generally only get about halfway up your nostrils), or maybe it's simply because Duddingston is well off the beaten track for festival-goers.  Suffice to say that people are missing out.  This year's play is Neil Simon's comic tribute to Chekhov, and the standard is as high as ever.  RATING : 8/10

AN AUDIENCE WITH JIMMY SAVILE : This is every bit as uncomfortable to watch as you might think, but not always in the way you expect.  It's a very funny play in parts, and it's really quite disturbing when you realise that you're laughing with Savile, rather than laughing at him or (as would be more appropriate) not laughing at all.  It's a reminder of the charm that was such a big part of his success in getting away with crimes on an unimaginable scale for decades.  Obviously the play becomes darker as it progresses, although the funniest part is actually just a few minutes from the end, when Savile makes a delusional comment about being responsible for the Israeli-Egyptian peace deal in 1979.  By that point you're laughing at him, though.  As many people have noted, Alistair McGowan absolutely owns the title role, and from memory he hasn't really toned down the impersonation he used to do for light entertainment shows - perhaps that wasn't such a caricature after all.  RATING : 8/10

FOXFINDER : It's bound to happen sooner or later, but in my few years of going there I've yet to see a bad Fringe show at the Bedlam Theatre - they've all been either outstanding or very good.  This one falls into the latter category.  The basic idea is really clever - the humble fox is blamed for England's economic collapse, but even after the species has been hunted to extinction, government-sanctioned paranoia still reigns.  At the end of the play, you suddenly realise that there are indeed still "foxes" out there to be found - it's just that the meaning of the word has changed.  RATING : 8/10

THE CLOCK STRIKES NOON : This is part of the Frontier trilogy set in a chapel in (I think) California.  Two desperate armed men are confused to find themselves negotiating for their lives with a very calm and collected young woman.  As someone once said of the Blake's 7 episode Project Avalon, this has more twists and turns than a twisty-turny thing, and both the script and acting is exquisite.  Just a word of warning, though - the venue is unbearably hot.  RATING : 9/10

I realise I haven't given any of them a bad rating - perhaps that means I'm getting better at guessing what I'll like in advance!


  1. Brilliant, thanks. I'll try and make it to a few of these this weekend.

  2. I used to live in Edinburgh and, much as I love the place I live in now and wouldn't swap it for anywhere else, I still miss the buzz around the city at Festival time. So much going on, parades and street theater and a wealth of performances to choose from. You've made me come over all nostalgic James. :-)

  3. I got chucked out of the good doctor for having a wank

    1. Seriously, James, no one is going to accuse you of censorship if you remove obscenities like this. My 16 year old daughter occasionally visits your site, please don't make me ask her not to.

    2. But it's true!

  4. Glasgow Working ClassAugust 28, 2015 at 12:14 AM

    I do like Alastair McGowan but what a strange roll for him to play but I am sure he plays it well.
    I never was a fan of Savile even in the old days when he did Top of the Knickers. My mrs told me off for saying he was weird when we were about to start a half marathon in Bellahouston Park. Doubt I would go and see the play inspite of having my free bus pass.