‘Chores’ (Assembly Piccolo, until AUG 28)

“How many comics can make a few hundred people of all ages laugh consistently barely uttering a word.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Outstanding)

For all the flyering and social media that happens at the Edinburgh Fringe, it really is word of mouth that matters: the talk of the steamie in Edinburgh can make or break a show. Walk around George Square, you’ll get twenty leaflets. All the shows sound good. The posters make every show look must see. So how do you decide? Of course, you should read GetYourCoatsOn but many recommendations are over a pint and that’s who we grownups listen to – a person who has seen it, not a person who is in it.

Turns out though that it isn’t just the steamie* or the pub. The primary school playground is vital. My kids had been talking about ‘Chores’ for days, just as last week all the talk was about ‘Fashion Spies’. By the looks of sold-out Piccolo theatre, every kid in Edinburgh has heard the news of ‘Chores’. What did we learn today kids? Word of mouth matters.

[*noun. Scottish slang. a public wash house. I hope that helps any Aussies reading this.]

‘Chores’ is a simple concept. Our stars play the roles of two children. Their parents who we never see but do hear from want the kids to tidy their room. Every parent in the place realises the battle the poor saps are having. I’ll confess. I wondered how they could spin this out for an hour?

As many an English batsmen has discovered over the years it is better just to stop questioning Australian decision making and let the inevitable happen to you. Shannon Vitali and Christian Nimri own the stage and wow the audience consistently. The kids are rapt. After all which kid here hasn’t been in this situation? Which kid hasn’t said ‘I’ll tidy my room now’ only somehow moments later for the room to have become a toy explosion they cannot explain with an exasperated parent mouthing ”HOW?!’ at them.

The adults are rapt too. The show has it all and the actors keep us in the palm of their hand barely saying a word. The children loved the toilet paper guns and water sprays but they were all screaming ‘’it’s behind you!’’: a lack of Pantomimes these last two years hasn’t killed this British tradition.

There are some stunning set pieces: the box trick in particular was genuinely brilliant. There aren’t too many shows that involve roller skating, bed sheets, mime, mini bikes, physical comedy and good ol’ fashioned clowning. My youngest enjoyed the bit where they sneezed into the pants. I won’t spoil it any more than that.

Both of these performers are talented. First and foremost this duo are funny. How many comics can make a few hundred people of all ages laugh consistently barely uttering a word? Physical comedy, funny faces, and props are a lot harder than a rude gag that can be the go to for many a kids’ entertainer. Yes, of course there are a couple of fart gags but this is old school Chaplin style comedy. It isn’t easy. It is hard, hard yakka.

But more than funny there is real, deft skill. Acrobatics, strength, gymnastics, clowning, strength.  All I could think about as I grinned was the hours of practice, the mistakes and the – one assumes – drops and injuries. This show looks effortless but is based on trust and commitment. It shines through. Whether the kids are chatting about it in the steamie, the pub, or the primary school playground they are right. This is a proper, tight, quality show.

Could they do more? Well in terms of activity no. I wonder if the show would have been even better if the characters had slightly more interplay: one being the goody two shoes trying to tidy up whilst the other consistently undermining them? I suppose there approach is more realistic – both trying to tidy at points, the other accidentally undermining their effort or, on occasion, the room getting messier despite both of their intentions. There were moments of repetition, I think, that perhaps could have been cut down to make the show slightly shorter. That is to quibble though unduly. I doubt any of the kids who after all are the primary audience give the slightest of hoots about this.

Come for toilet paper guns. Stay in the hope your kids might tidy their room. Get your coats coats on and see this, you can tidy your rooms later.


‘Basil Brush’s Family Fun Show’ (Gilded Balloon Teviot Debating Hall, until AUG 21st)

“This is pantomime, this is Butlin’s, this is the kid’s entertainer you wished you had at your birthday, this works because we know it and love it. It is part of our heritage.”

Editorial Rating: 4  Stars (Outstanding)

A long time ago I was involved in the Scottish student debating circuit. That could be a genuine contender for the sentence most likely to lose friends and alienate people. The only reason I raise this terrifying prospect is that I have fond memories of the debating union at Edinburgh and it is always a trip down nostalgia lane to find myself at the top of Teviot (or the Gilded Balloon as many of you will know it).

And so it was on Saturday that the youngest and I found ourselves in that grand old hall where so many great debaters have cut their teeth… to see Basil Brush.

She had been keen to see Basil purely because of his posters around town. Upon interrogation, it became clear that this legend of British kids’ TV is unknown to the young team. Other than the image from the poster she had no concept at all of Basil. She had not seen him on TV. She did not even – God help us all – know his catchphrase. What do they teach them in schools these days? I sat and wondered: is she going to enjoy this? Or am I going to spend the show saying ‘not too much longer, darling’ as I threw Jaffa Cakes at her to keep her schtum?

I need not have worried. There’s a reason the fox has been around so long, after all. Now striding into his sixth decade he knows what is what and how to make a group of kids giggle.

Brush’s sidekick, Britain’s Got Talent’s Mr Martin, walks on stage and kicks it all off. Good as he is we are here to see the Grand Old Fox and soon enough the great one joins us.

Over the next forty-five mins – the perfect length for a kids’ show as it happens… other shows please take note – a hugely interactive show dazzles us. At every point the audience is asked to do something – sing, dance, cower from a water pistol, shout, clap, Mexican Wave, or wave our arms about. It might not seem sophisticated but, ultimately, it is a puppet (sorry to destroy illusions but we value brutal honesty here at GetYourCoatsOn). The duo need to work hard to get the audience onside and they do from the off: always involving us and always changing up how we are involved.

A mix of rude jokes (mostly fart-based but not exclusively… my youngster enjoyed one that was cut off by Mr Martin as she guessed the next word), disco sets to dance along with, Mr Martin with his Super Soaker and focusing on a pensioner with an umbrella, magic tricks, and – in one indescribable sequence – a visit from a flatulent Princess Elsa all land well with the kids. Two didn’t: the PANTS Alexa gag was grand enough but went on too long and the three envelopes gag was clever but well over the head of the kids.

But there is no need to overanalyse sunlit genius or quibble too much. No. This is old-school fun. Many of us have seen it all before. Indeed, that’s the point. We love it because we have seen it before. This is pantomime. This is Butlin’s. This is the kid’s entertainer you wished you had at your birthday. This works because we know it and love it. It is part of our heritage. It is part of us.

There’s a reason that the disco section included Baby Shark and YMCA because this show is for everyone. I couldn’t help but notice the granny at the end of our row was dancing away to Agadoo and the mum in front of us was doubled over laughing at the farting Elsa.

The sort of old-school silly fun that is easy to sneer at but hard to do and ultimately the kids all walk off smiling having had a grand 45 minutes, a signed photo and a selfie with a comedy legend. Ultimately, there’s not much more you can ask for?

So come for the gags, stay for the Boom Booms, and leave with the feeling of having bathed in nostalgia. Get your foxiest coats on and go see this! For those who want things a little foxier Basil has an adult show at 6.30pm (unleashed and uncut… for the rest of the Fringe).

‘Bird with Kylie Vincent’ (Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until AUG 28)

“This is edgy and very funny stuff, delivered with self-deprecating wit that invites much laughter”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Nae Bad)

There is no shortage of stand-up comedy at the Fringe these days, which is rather taking over from theatre. This production (and I think that’s the right word for it) comes somewhere between the two. Kylie Vincent takes the stage as a feisty in-your-face young comedian, opening with some funny if fairly conventional observation about being an American in Edinburgh.

But we quickly realise there’s going to be more to this act than meets the eye. The traditional relationship trope of performer and audience is exploded by her analysis of a heckle she received at a gig in New York – to which we listen on audiotape – before this leads her off into a revealing and confessional exploration of her self-image and personal life. The usual idea of a comic making wry observations about the world we all share is abandoned as we are drawn into the sometimes dysfunctional and abusive world of her “white trash” family upbringing. This is edgy and very funny stuff, delivered with self-deprecating wit that invites much laughter – but I noticed there were several highly introspective episodes when there was scarcely a giggle for some minutes as the audience were raptly absorbed in listening to stories that were a little too painful for amusement. Jerry Sadowitz this ain’t – and I mean that as a compliment.

The eponymous “Bird” is Kylie’s name for herself. She sees herself and others as metaphorical animals, with other friends and family referred to by names such as “the deer” or “the gazelle”. Tellingly, all of the males in her life are monkeys or apes, with her father being “the gorilla”. Although a fine emotional rollercoaster of a show, I felt that overall it fell a little too far down between the two stools of dramatic monologue and stand-up comedy to be an out-and-out success in its current form. But Kylie Vincent is someone to watch: this combination of misery memoir and wryly observational humour felt like a work in progress that has much potential and I suspect we’ll be hearing more from Ms Vincent in years to come.

So come for the laughs, stay for the heartbreak, and leave thinking a little more about the ups and downs of your own family life. Get your coats on and go see this emerging new genre of tragicomedy.


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‘Fashion Spies’ (Assembly George Square – The Box, until AUG 29)

“My 8-year-old said it was ‘the funniest thing on Earth’. I’m not sure I would go quite that far but it was good fun and ultimately she was the target market.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Outstanding)

Trotting around George Square last weekend we were accosted by a hugely glamorous man. He looked my daughters in the eye and said: “The world’s finest fashion is being stolen all over the world! We need new fashion spies to help us recover them!” The girls gawped as they were handed a leaflet, “do you think you could help us?” Asked this vision in glitter. They nodded solemnly.

And – for a week now – they have said: “Can we go to ‘Fashion Spies’, Dad?

It should be no surprise that we found ourselves outside the Box on George Square waiting to get in. The staff handed us some bits and bobs that we needed for the show and gave us our spy names. I was ‘Britney’. An early win.

In the shipping container, we were seated in the front row. Madonna was blaring out. The three stars worked the room, laughing and joking with us. It turned out the vision in glitter was Jack Davies: one of the stars of the show.

Over the course of the next hour, a madcap romp ensues. The three stars play multiple characters as they train the audience in spy techniques to help track down some missing clothes.

The story rattled along: songs, gags, audience interaction involving fabric and tubes. My youngest loved the tubes and the creation around them. One scene with a fox had me guffawing heartily and though primarily a kids’ show there were a few gags aimed at the adults. It all came together with a grand, silly reveal which went down well in our house (I saw some of it coming but not all of it).

My 8-year-old said it was ‘the funniest thing on Earth’. I’m not sure I would go quite that far but it was good fun and ultimately she was the target market. My youngest (6) really enjoyed the props, getting involved in the show and helping choose the direction of the play.

The eldest got a decent laugh herself. When the lights went out for a second time to aid costume changes she loudly said: ‘’oh no not this again’. Cue everyone – including the cast – laughing. To his eternal credit, the stars nicked the line later on when they did it again.

This is what EdFringe should be about: taking a punt on a new show in a small venue. A young, talented group putting on a fun show trying to make a name for themselves. All three – Jack Davies, Eleanor Rattenbury, and Abbi Greenwood – put everything into the show. They worked relentlessly, singing, dancing, over-acting, camping it up and working the audiences.

It was well put together although A few bits didn’t quite land as well as they might but those are forgiven easily enough. This trio deserve a bigger audience and kids who are into spy thrillers and getting into glamour will love it.

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‘What the Heart Wants’ (Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until AUG 28)

“The onstage chemistry pops and fizzes like kosher champagne from a crystal slipper. It’s the great bromance that never was and possibly could never have been.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Outstanding)

One is the classic, the ultimate, crooner of the American songbook. The other is among the most revered and reviled moviemakers in the history of cinema. They are, perhaps, the two greatest icons of New York culture of the last century. Frank Sinatra and Woody Allen, born two decades apart with personas and personalities light years away from one another. Yet they were both married to the same woman. It’s like finding out that Tony Soprano and Frasier Crane have the same mother (Nancy Marchand). What might two such divergent talents have created, had they ever collaborated on a project?

We enter to discover we’re the New York skyline, looking through the window into Allen’s Upper-Lower-East-Westside Manhattan apartment – we’re the Park everyone’s so keen to be looking over. Simon Schatzberger, as Allen, is a confident nebbish, confiding initial concepts for a movie into a dictaphone. The ideas all revolve around a guy who stops loving a girl, falls in love with someone else, only to have the first girl wreak a vengeance so terrible that you might be tempted to observe that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Then comes a loud knocking at the door.

I’m sitting right up at the back. The nesting bats of Patterhoose’s Big Yin have taken me and the techie for one of their own. I hope their coughing doesn’t mean anything too serious. Over my left shoulder is a presence. I glance up and all at once I am Allan Felix in company with the shade of a macho mega-star. Richard Shelton as Sinatra is Sinatra. The same swagger, sophistication, and sorrows. Sinatra’s come to talk to Allen about the woman they once both loved and the allegations she’s making. To emphasise his concerns Sinatra’s bought along a bat, the baseball type.

What follows is a superbly entertaining what-might-have-been. The ups. The downs. The chasing around the apartment. The insecurities. The egos. Writer Bert Tyler-Moore’s pedigree for lampooning luminaries includes ‘Star Stories’ & ‘The Windsors’. Full disclosure I’m a massive fan of both. “Who’s your favourite Beatle?” “Billy! What about shit in bog?!” “‘Aren’t they simply strong, independent women?’ ‘Yeah, witches.’” There are soon-to-be classic zingers aplenty on stage today, but there’s something there that’s missing. Now, I’m not just woke, I got up early, and I reckon what’s missing from this story about… and possibly… is the female perspective. How you get that in a two-hander featuring the two most toxic examples of masculinity is a mystery I don’t care to solve. Me, the bats, and the techie are too busy laughing our asses off.

Both Schatzberger and Shelton have separate EdFringe solo shows showcasing their tributes to Allen and Sinatra. This is a superb collaboration that’s rightly winning plaudits but is yet to draw the punters which is almost certainly about to change. The onstage chemistry pops and fizzes like kosher champagne from a crystal slipper. It’s the great bromance that never was and possibly could never have been. Come for the icons, stay for the magic, leave like you’ve just heard auld blue eyes singing live. Get Your Coats On and go see this now!


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‘Twinkle’ (theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, until AUG 13)

“…captures the script’s heights of tragicomic absurdity creating a reflection on the human condition that is most powerful.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Nae Bad)

Revenge is a dish best served cold and ageing panto dame Harold Thropp has much to be angry about. His art form is going out of fashion. His co-stars are entitled Z-list gobshites. His dressing room is not the best. The venue he’s at for the season is as neglected and uninspired as the town it’s in. Harold has been bereaved. He’s bereft of all things, as well as that one person, who made life worth living. But he’s got himself a plan.

Our script is by Phillip Meeks, the writer of numerous pantomimes. It’s a no holds barred treatment of the genre, its eccentricities, personality types, and tropes. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, but has this chap on the edge of tears in the final bittersweet moments. As Harrold, Robert Walsh, spends the hour’s traffic of the stage, getting into character. It’s quite a palaver and to-do. There’s the makeup, rather a lot of makeup. There’s the wig, the bloomers, the shoes, and the dress of course. As Harrold prepares we are treated to his life story, reflections on seasons past, lessons learned, obstacles encountered, hearts broken.

There’s no getting away from the hot weather this EdFringe. It’s oppressive. It seems to have taken the sparkle out of the performance making it a wee bit flatter than fizzy but Robert soldiers on. He captures the script’s heights of tragicomic absurdity creating a reflection on the human condition that is most powerful. The unostentatious set speaks to the faded grandeur of the imagined playhouse while maximizing the garish impact of a fully armoured British Panto Dame sailing out in all her glory. I liked the lack of a hatstand most of all.

This is a solid, sensitive, and striking production that hits all the high notes, though not yet as loudly as it might. Go for the script, stay for a performance that (like any great panto dame) can only get better with age.

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‘Winston and David’ (Underbelly Dairy Room, until AUG 29)

“What Nick has done is to add wings to Robert’s racing horse. What they’ve got is a Pegasus and it’s a joy to watch their creation take flight.”

Editorial Rating: 4 (Outstanding)

Their friendship was as unlikely as their climbs were steep. One was the obscure son of Welsh nonconformity. The other was a scion of one of Great Britain’s most prominent aristocratic families. The first trained as a solicitor. The second readied himself for war. By the time they met, each had carved out a place in the unfolding drama of national life. They were each looking forward into a bright future in the public spotlight. At home, their combined talents would bring forth harvest after harvest of reforms in the grand old liberal tradition. Overseas they would make war and they would make peace. Kings, sultans, emperors, and presidents would look to these two titans for counsel and comradeship. Their names will live as long as the civilization which they preserved. But this play, despite the title, is not all about Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George.

She was Lloyd George’s typist and had been the close friend of the eldest daughter he mourned. She became his lover, confident, and friend. She would see him at his greatest and at his shabbiest – up close and very personal. From her unique vantage spot in his-story, Frances Stevenson could intimately chronicle the defining events of the early 20th century.

The play was adapted by Lloyd George’s great-great grandson, Robert, from his own 2005 book of the same title. What Robert produced was a thoroughbred script capturing the power of his subjects’ political horseflesh with an attention to detail and accuracy that would do credit to George Stubbs at the height of his powers. But EdFringe is turf like no other. The field is crowded. The going tough. It takes a certain something to get a script, especially one so rooted in verisimilitude, out of the starting gates. Just as Lloyd George and Churchill complimented and compensated for each others’ faults and faculties, Robert and Nick Hennegan, the show’s director, have found a perfect balance between essential drama and necessary detail. What Nick has done is to add wings to Robert’s racing horse. What they’ve got is a Pegasus and it’s a joy to watch their creation take flight.

As Frances Stevenson, and several other characters, Alexandra Donnachie is wondrous. She’s smart, sexy, kind, and confident. Her scenes of heartache are deeply touching. Few actors could manage to hold their ground between two such larger than life personalities, Donnachie not only holds, she takes centre stage and gives back as good as she gets. Peter Swales is a very believable Churchill. The scene on the golf links is a masterclass in just enough. As DLG Geraint Rhys has a choice to make and now would be a good time to make it. Was his character a sincere and driven man of vision, or a grubby chancer with an outsized appetite for sex à la Bill Clinton? Or was he both? Rhys tiptoes around the question. I’d like to see him dive in.

The staging is an understated star. Nick Hennegan, a thirty-year EdFringe veteran, has brought his A Game to the properties, lighting, and sound design. This is Fringe theatre at its absolute best. It’s what the Festival is ultimately for. A new production finding its feet starting with a walk, stretching to a trot, working up to a canter, and (maybe, just maybe) crossing the finish line at a full gallop. Only it won’t be a gallop because this production is a Pegasus.


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‘The Munch Mission’ (Bedfringe, 24 July 2022)

“Surrealler than waking up in a Magritte painting, finding time’s gone all transfixed, and that while the street outside is dark, overhead there’s broad sunshine.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Outstanding)

“I’m really not a fan of Munch, he’s no Peder Mønsted or Anders Zorn…” …is what I would have said if I’d been a clued-up member of the ‘Painters From the North’ Facebook group back in the day. What I actually said was even more dismissive. I was young and hadn’t learned then that one needs a Fringe reviewer’s pass, and/or to have been elected to political office before one can go around inflicting half-baked subjectivity on strangers. The naval-gazing nightmare that is a full-blown Twatter addiction wasn’t a thing then. There followed an awkward silence. Minions from the University’s Comms and Marketing Office weren’t supposed to talk. The other occupants of the black cab – which was then working its way passed the Scottish National Gallery and up The Mound – looked uncomfortably at one another and then at the guest of honour. Sue Prideaux author of ‘Edvard Munch: Behind The Scream’ said nothing for the rest of the journey on her way to collect her James Tait Black Prize for Biography. I still think Munch is overrated BTW, in that way that all artists who aren’t Edwin Landseer tend to be.

We enter to find one of the most elaborate and exciting sets this Bedfringe, inhabited by Agents Dali (Paul Lawless) & Kahlo (Gill Simmons) from the Company of International Artists. The CIA exists to solve mysteries. What follows is a playable art-heist adventure theatre show that’s surrealler than waking up in a Magritte painting, finding time’s gone all transfixed, and that while the street outside is dark, overhead there’s broad sunshine. We are taken on an international journey, collecting clues and trying to track down Munch’s most celebrated painting ‘The Scream’ which has gone walkabouts. BTW describing ‘The Scream’ as Munch’s most celebrated painting is like describing Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’ as his most celebrated piece of music – what else has he done that anyone can remember off hand?

Accompanying the elaborate set are some BIG, bold costumes. A lot of choices have gone into this production, a lot of details and touches that add up to a massively impactful and majorly memorable entertainment. Here’s what Daughter 1.0 (7yrs) wrote in a letter to her Aunty – the one who works at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and with whom I’m not allowed to talk about painting and sculpture because, apparently, in that sphere of human activity I’m a “tasteless vulgarian”…

“Dear Aunty Chloe, We went to the Bedford Festival Fringe. And we saw the Munch Mishon! When we walked in we saw a phone that was shaped like a lobster and two boxses there was also some drawers and two windows and a sighn in the middlle. The Caracters were wering a long mostash for the man. And a lobster shirt. He must have loved lobsters. And for the other carecter a big tubon on her and a lepod sort of costume. The story was about a famouse artist “Munch” painting a picture of a scream. But the scream gose mising! You had some padles that you use to show what you want to happen next. We had to solve problems like when we fount an orange E or an A and all together it spelled something out. The Scream poped up in a lot of pictures. And it could talk. I loved it so much! Lots of love xxx” 

For all that ‘The Munch Mission!’ is a larger-than-life production, its the big-hearted performances that make, bend, but never break the magic. The on-stage chemistry between Lawless and Simmons crackles with artistic energy. Together, they are the fuel in the tank that drives this garish behemoth to such outrageous heights of precision silliness. I’d have liked to have come away knowing more about Munch and if he ever painted anything that wasn’t ‘The Scream’ but for the audience at which this show is aimed, the pitch is damn near perfect.


Reviewer: Dan Lentell

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‘Life Under The Sun’ (Bedfringe, 23 July 2022)

“Here is the man who has everything – limitless wine on tap and over 700 women to tap. He is fabulously wealthy, his country is at peace, his people are (for the most part) content. But what on Earth is the point of it all?”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Nae Bad)

A person born in the 5th century BC could, theoretically, have met Socrates, The Buddha, Zoroaster, and a host of other top-shelf thinkers. Gore Vidal wrote a novel with that premise. His protagonist, a Persian ambassador, crosses the world, from Athens to China and back again, but takes no interest that part of the world inhabited by Solomon the Wise and his descendants. Rabbinic tradition holds that Ecclesiastes was written by the King in his auld age (in the 930s BC) and yet the presence in the text of many Persian loanwords, some scholars argue, points to a composition date no earlier than about 450 BCE. Was Soloman a precursor, or was he a contemporary, of the great minds Gore’s fictional ambassador encountered?

We enter to find a stage empty but for a tall chair. Stephen Bathurst – BA (Hons) Acting, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire – enters as a herald announcing the imminent arrival of King Solomon who is due to give a state of the nation address to his people. Bathurst exits and Solomon enters. He’s a less than impressive figure. Tired. Bored. Drunk. Slumped in his underwear. Here is the man who has everything – limitless wine on tap and over 700 women to tap. He is fabulously wealthy, his country is at peace, his people are (for the most part) content. But what on Earth is the point of it all? Life! Don’t talk to me about life!

What follows is an up close and personal meditation on Solomon – the man beneath the legend, the monarch behind the glamour. Bathurst’s delivery (despite the underpants paired with a hot pink feather boa) is anything but camp. This is not John Hurt’s Caligula in TV’s I, Claudius. Comic interactions with the audience, including a freshly hired and much put-upon Royal Cupbearer, push but never entirely break the magic. Here, laid bare, is one of history’s most recognisable individuals utterly lost, dwarfed firstly by his own accomplishments and then, in great auld age, put mercilessly into the total perspective vortex by the infinity of creation.

In the Q&A that follows this pacy and poignant monologue, Bathurst ponders on the high rates of depression and suicide in his adoptive Scandinavian homeland. How can people who have so much feel so empty? There is an answer. There is The Answer. But this is a show about the BIG question no single human being has ever entirely answered. Few works of visual art down the centuries can boast of matching Scripture’s vision of Solomon’s magnificent desolation as it is rendered in Holy prose. Bathurst’s startling and ambitious ‘Life Under The Sun’ is one of them.


Reviewer: Dan Lentell

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‘Delivered’ (Town and Gown, 15-17 November)

“Melia’s choices are excellent, she is an Alice through whom we experience this strange and skewed reality.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Nae Bad)

Tabitha has received a liver transplant. She writes to thank her donor family, but her letters go unanswered. So she takes matters into her own hands, creating an algorithm that will allow her to independently track down the family who saved her life. Will Tim return the letters to sender, or is he ready to be delivered?

We enter to find the audience divided, like a chocolate bourbon, with the filling in the middle also divided between the realm of Tabitha on one side and that of Tim on the other. This is an ultra Fringy set, one that could quickly be taken down under the gaze of the most time-conscious festival venue manager. It speaks to the future ambitions the writer has for this most ambitious script. First workshopped at the Arcadia theatre all those eons ago in 2019, ‘Delivered’ is the debut play from the Town and Gown’s own Lisa MacGregor, inspired by her own family’s liver transplant journey.

As Tabitha, Jessica Melia breathes life into a role that provides numerous potential avenues, a rabbit warren of persona, personality, passion, and pain. Melia’s choices are excellent, she is an Alice through whom we experience this strange and skewed reality. Together with Adam Boyle (as Tim) MacGregor’s material is stretched out but not frayed or torn. The standing ovation and the tears of the audience speak to MacGregor’s skill as an authentic storyteller who really does make us laugh and cry.

This production is a young wine which could (and should) mature into a premier vintage in the right conditions. Whereas Melia’s performance as Tabitha is a skillfully placed shotgun to the heart, Boyle needs to improve his more shadowy sharpshooting. We know what Tabitha is thinking and feeling. Tim is a darker horse, a grieving widower as well as a young father with the parent’s job to do alone. Last night, Boyle seemed hesitant to fully illuminate the emotional rollercoaster his character is on. He hit all the right notes, but not as hard as he might have. Hopefully this will change as the number of live performances under his belt sharpen Boyle’s focus.

Get your coats on and go see this debut play from an author in the early days of a long and illustrious career. Come for a script that is deeply personal and darkly funny. Stay for two performances which are sharp and which will (hopefully) get sharper as the nights roll on.

Reviewer: Dan Lentell

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