‘Josh Glanc: Vrooom Vrooom’ (Monkey Barrel Comedy- The Hive, until AUG 28)

“A top set, delivered faster, with more power and precisions than Djokovic on Centre Court.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

I absolutely 100% did not piss myself laughing watching Josh Glanc just now. There was already piss in there, mostly my own, but there was not a dry seat in the (very full) house. After 55mins of spot-on gags, one-liners, musical numbers, prop comedy, and unbounded silliness even the sky has started pissing itself. Edinburgh’s ultra hot summer is done, it’s over, and Josh Glanc is the reason why.

There’s stand-up comedy and there’s stand-out comedy. Often personal, with occasional flashes of genius, with never a slip, hesitation, or moment of let up – what we just saw was a top set, delivered faster, with more power and precisions than Djokovic on Centre Court. I could try to describe the various bits and pieces but it would be like trying to describe an especially surreal painting by Salvador Dali to a cave fish.

The audience participation works because it empowers the punter while continuing the theme of gentle self-mockery. That’s been one of the steady drum beats throughout this uptempo, music-rich set. The little Melbourne lawyer who packed it all in to join the stand-up circus. Cheer up Josh, if your parents were here instead of writing about how disappointed they are in your career choices on MomsNet, I’m sure they would tell you how fecking funny you are. The world needs more joyous, joy-fuelled art and fewer people retaking the entrance exams for the Broadmeadows Bar Association for the 8th time.

Come for the hot chips, potato cakes, dim sum, and sausage rolls. Stay for the best set you’ll see in this particular room at this particular time, leave with the auld lady in the seat next to you’s umbrella. You’ll need it because, like I said, the Gods in Comedy Heaven are pissing themselves with laughter.


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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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‘Les Dawson: Flying High’ (Assembly George Square, Gordon Aikman Theatre, until AUG 25)

“Tim Withnall’s script perfectly captures Dawson’s often poetic turns of phrase, with Culshaw’s note-perfect delivery setting up pirouetting metaphors to be brought crashing to earth with hob-nailed one-liners.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

The huge queue outside the venue before the show bore witness to the enduring popularity of both John Culshaw (BBC R4 Dead Ringers) and the comedian to whom this one-man show is a tribute. The 450-seat theatre was packed – I’d book early if you haven’t already got one of the hottest tickets in town. Those familiar with his work will know Culshaw is a master impressionist, but he has a head start here in bearing a more than passing resemblance to the lugubrious Les, his elastic face cheerfully twisting into that familiar expression akin to a bulldog chewing a humbug.

We first meet Les at the peak of his career, crossing the Atlantic on Concorde, looking back over his rags-to-riches life story, delivered in Dawson’s trademark deadpan style. We’re taken from his childhood on the streets of Manchester to his days as a pianist in a Parisian brothel and the TV stardom that lay beyond. Tim Withnall’s script perfectly captures Dawson’s often poetic turns of phrase, with Culshaw’s note-perfect delivery setting up pirouetting metaphors to be brought crashing to earth with hob-nailed one-liners.

Dominating the set upstage is a huge TV screen, on which we regularly see re-enacted episodes from the comedian’s life and career. All parts are superbly played by Culshaw, ranging from Dawson’s Cissie and Ada double act with Roy Barraclough, BBC newsreader John Humphreys, to Opportunity Knocks compere Hughie Green. An upright piano enables singalong audience participation as Les murders two or three songs in his laugh-out-loud tone-deaf style.

A show about a comedian who’s been dead for 30 years and whose heyday was half a century ago inevitably draws an audience with an older age profile. But the laughter of a few young people around me suggested that, while some mother-in-law jokes might be showing their age a bit, there’s still some mileage left in Dawson’s curmudgeonly wry take on life.

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‘Hamlet with Ian McKellen & The Hamlet Afterparty’ (Saint Stephens Stockbridge, until AUG 28)

“It may well be that the producers have simply gone back and got themselves the actual Hamlet. Christensen’s likeness to the troubled young prince in most minds’ eyes is so exact.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

Walking out of Sir Ian McKellen’s ‘Hamlet’ at the end of one of the most brilliant, startling, life-changing 75mins happening this EdFringe, you’d be forgiven for wondering what’s going wrong when so much has just gone spectacularly right. Why has the press reception been so negative? “Not since Joey redecorated his apartment in TV’s ‘Friends’ has an actor made such poor choices … eccentric staging … entirely lacking in wit … an aesthetic straight out of the 1950s.” “Crass” the hacks call this production, before ever so humbly asking you to donate towards keeping their unsustainable behemoth belchers of bourgeois banalities afloat.

Shakespeare was first and foremost… now I don’t want to shock you so take a breath, have a seat… Shakespeare was FIRST AND FOREMOST a businessman. A highly successful producer and creator, the profits from whose art enabled him to retire into the second largest house in his hometown. I can’t think of a production of which the Swan of Avon would have approved of more, not simply for its beauty, its talent, its invention – but because it’s making serious dosh towards that most ultra-Shakespearian concept, building a playhouse.

This compact retelling of that most celebrated chronicle of personal grief and royal revenge is a resurrection of a concept staged 12 years ago. Then a recording of John Gielgud’s ‘The Ages of Man’ was used alongside the classical ballet mime. Now we have another great luminary of stage and screen, a bemedaled veteran of EdFringe, live on stage, persona in persona. McKellen shares the role of Hamlet with Johan Christensen – or at least that’s what the program says. McKellen knows David Tennant and probably has access to Dr Who’s Tardis. It may well be that the producers have simply gone back and got themselves the actual Hamlet. Christensen’s likeness to the troubled young prince in most minds’ eyes is so exact.

You’ve not got a ‘Hamlet’ if you’ve not got chemistry between Gertrude and Claudius. Caroline Rees and Chauncey Parsons have got chemistry by the lab full. There are more sparks between them than if several swarms of bees with angle grinders for bums were to settle on the Eiffel Tower. Together they set the powerplay undercurrent that underpins all else. Their relationship is the counterbalance to that of McKellen, the aulder Hamlet who never was or could be, and Christensen’s youth who age shall not weary, nor the years condemn.

The (other) undisputed star of the show is Katie Rose as Ophelia. We don’t live in an age where it would be appropriate to write that she is more beautiful than the yellow glow of a taxi light coming down an empty street long after hours, so I won’t. Or that she’s more graceful than a… I actually can’t think of anything more graceful than Katie Rose right now, so I’ll have to come back to this line. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment by this early alumnus of Edinburgh Festival Ballet that when you’ve got two Hamlets for the price of one, you’ve got a performer who can tip the scales of the storytelling so decisively in Ophelia’s favour.

McKellen is McKellen, but McKellen is being McKellen in a totally new way. Here is an artist on top form. His choices are brave and bold. He open-handedly shares the stage in a way that would earn him a year’s worth of ‘I Made Good Choices’ stickers from Daughter 2.0’s nursery school. He truly is a national treasure. He should avoid visiting Edinburgh Castle in case they try to lock him up with the Stone of Destiny.

For the afterparty, we exit the Playfairian splendour of the Ashton Hall and enter the more intimate space that has been created directly below. We find a grand piano, set with silver candlesticks, behind which a group of mannequins are showcasing the costumier’s art. This is all framed by long red curtains and what might have been a rather cold, utilitarian area is instead a perfect setting for the jolly Shakespearian cabaret that is to follow. Come for the Q&A with one of planet Earth’s most celebrated thespians, stay for the ivory-tinkling mastery of Edinburgh’s own Richard Lewis accompanied by two of the company as backing vocals.

The songs chosen all have roots in the Shakespearian canon. There’s Elton John’s ‘The King Must Die’ (I bet Elton wishes he could play piano as well as Richard Lewis); a song from ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet (based, as one extremely handsome and be-bearded audience member in blue sunglasses, correctly answers on ‘The Tempest’; as well as a host of hits from a myriad of popular songbooks. Lewis is a charming, witty, and lively host. His adapted version of Pulp’s ‘Common People’ is a party piece that needs to be seen across the Shakespearian landscape this EdFringe.

These are the early days of Peter Schaufuss’ vision for Saint Stephens and the air crackles with the potential about to be unleashed. There are three Edinburgh tickets I’d like in my collection. First, to the opening night of John Home’s 1756 production of his own Douglas – a Kirk minister writing for the stage how scandalous! Second, a ticket to “Everyman” performed at Dunfermline Abbey during the inaugural EdFringe because there weren’t enough venues in Scotland’s capital. Third, a ticket to the first production in Peter Schaufuss’ superb new venue at Saint Stephens, the morning star heralding a new dawn rising above this, the eternal capital of Fringe Theatre.


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Police Cops: The Musical (Assembly George Square Studios – Studio One. Until August 29th)

“The perfect Fringe show”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

Where do you even start to review Police Cops: The Musical? I’ve tried around ten different openings and cannot crack it. Such is the life of a hungover hack. I toddled along to the show with a pal who had booked the tickets. I didn’t know what to expect. Sometimes you just luck out and this was one of those times. Grinning at each other during the entirely deserved standing ovation he said ”loved that! Relentlessly bonkers!. That, I think sums it up.

The show is a pastiche and a homage to 80s cop double act shows. So many tropes lampooned: the moving origin story as to why our hero becomes a cop; a gnarly old partner who bleeds red, white and blue and runs on Jack Daniel’s; the shadowy villain who is always one step ahead; the play it straight boss who cannot see eye to eye with the renegades who might get results) but again… this description doesn’t butter any parsnips. The Police Cops constantly surprise you – and sometimes themselves – with ad libs, improvisations, or just gags that wrong foot you (ex-cop Gonzalez constantly surprised me). There is always something happening – something funny, something silly, something that makes no real sense.

In many ways this is the perfect Fringe Show. Well-performed, funny songs. Everything on point. Hilarious plot twists. A steady stream of revolving characters. Improvisation throughout. There was even hilarious interpretative dance (the use of toilet roll was genuinely hysterical). Each actor stealing the stage from the rest time after time – each absolutely nailing their performance.

I loved that the cast just about kept it together as one of them went off script to hilarious effect or threw a curveball mid act. You never know if it is planned or not – either way they are so quick, so charming that it doesn’t matter. The key to the show is in the consistent inventiveness and how they make it all happen. A small example without spoiling anything: a man inside a cardboard television giving a news report on developments and then telling us he was only doing it to allow him to move to the other side of the stage one of a hundred examples of their silliness but also cleverness.

Stewart Lee is giving these guys shout outs at his show every morning. No wonder. Relentlessly silly. Endlessly clever. Constantly surprising. The cast were beaming when they saw the ovation. So they should. They were having a hoot as were we.

Only one question for you now: Are you an American’t? Or are you an Ameriwill?


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‘Covid for Kids’ (Pleasance Courtyard, until AUG 16)

“Tom became one of the faces on the news during the pandemic, an expert at communicating the complexities of the subject to a lay audience.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

It’s impossible to fully imagine, so we’re going to have to watch really carefully, the long-term impact the COVID19 pandemic is having on our young people. The disrupted schooling, the stretched social fabric, the pressures on families, the friendships put on hold, the fear, the anxiety. So it really matters that there’s a show which tries to help kids (and adults) make sense of the science behind such a scary time in all our lives.

We enter to find some comfortingly large cutouts – a mouth wide open, a vaccine and needle, as well as *boo hiss* a colourful picture of Corry the Coronavirus herself. We will learn that it would take a thousand coronaviruses to span the width of a human hair, so Corry’s cutout is quite a bit larger than its subject. Enter Professor Tom Solomon CBE, Chair of Neurology and Director of the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool.

Tom became one of the faces on the news during the pandemic, an expert at communicating the complexities of the subject to a lay audience. The section of the show dealing with the Reproduction ‘R’ number, with which we all became so familiar, is unsettlingly simple and hugely effective at demonstrating why that piece of information mattered so much in the darkest days of lockdown.

[Next slide please.]

What follows is a lecture, perhaps the first lecture many in the audience have ever attended. So Tom’s simple and effective language, the careful but lively pacing of his performance, the steady-as-she-goes-way the themes of his material emerge – these all produce a genuinely entertaining educational, and enlightening EdFringe event. John Reith, founder of the BBC, would no doubt approve high and mightily of this smart and sassy show coming to the land of his birth. Daughter 1.0 wrote this in her EdFringe journal, the one with Elsa on horseback on the cover:

“I went to covid for kids with my grandad because my grandad is a scientist and my Baba (Dan) When we walked in we saw a mouth board. Some medisen and a jab. I was the news presenter and I wore some funny glasses and a tie. I read out the headlines When I saw the glases simbol. We learnt that In the begining bats in china had covid but it didn’t harm them one day a human came into the cave and got the covid then he or she went to a market place and spred it all over china! In the UK we were woried We woald get it. But covid spread all over the wold. We played some games like pass the covid and we put on a show in a show. I will not tell you what I was because it is a bit Gross. It was also quite funny. We learned that in the jab there is a litle bit of the virus. My favourite bit was when I was the news presenter. I loved it!”

You’ll be amazed to learn that her Grandad and Baba both agree that Daughter 1.0’s turn reading the news was most definitely the best bit of the show. Grandad – Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, University of Edinburgh – has spent 30 years researching HIV, the forgotten pandemic that didn’t get a mention in today’s performance. There was nothing else to ruffle his feathers, which is the strongest possible endorsement any science-based Fringe show can hope for. If, like me, you’re not a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and have to rely on your wife’s credentials to spend the night at William Harvey House when down in that there London, then ‘Corona For Kids’ is an essential slice of EdFringe from the smorgasbord of silly and serious that is Edinburgh in August.


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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: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

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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‘Waiting for Hamlet’ (theSpaceTriplex, until AUG 26)

“A brilliant interpretive essay on the famous play, funny, insightful, and really rather exciting.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

Clever people like Shakespeare. They like the intricacies, the plot twists, the infinite possible readings, the characters, the entrances, and the exits. Few entrances in Shakespeare are more celebrated than that of the ghost of Hamlet’s father on the battlements of Elsinore. In ‘Waiting for Hamlet’ writer David Visick – the International Kenneth Branagh New Drama Writing Award, 2018 – imagines what the shade of the murdered king was up to in the time before that biggest of big entrances.

We enter to find King Hamlet angry, bored, and listless, determined to posthumously intervene in the affairs of Denmark and right the wrong done to him by his treacherous brother. Hamlet sr. is in company with the ghost of his auld fool Yorick who isn’t entirely certain, but suspects he may have a role in what’s to come. What follows is a brilliant interpretive essay on the famous play, funny, insightful, and really rather exciting. It was the pace wot won it.

As King Hamlet and Yorick, Tim Marriott and Nicholas Collett respectively, deliver each crackling line of dialogue, each amazing twist of the family and political drama, with aplomb. Tim and Nicholas are star strikers in the EdFringe league. It’s a joyous thing to see them masterfully unravel, pack and repack, this soon-to-be classic of the Shakespearian homage genre (is that a thing yet?).

Some say that their idea of heaven is waking up to find a new Wodehouse story on the bedside table each and every day. My idea of paradise hereafter involves a daily dose of Fringe Theatre of this calibre and not just in August. Master of the eternal revels, take note. This is the show folk will be recommending when asked for their top EdFringe tips of 2022.


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‘The Actress’ (Underbelly Bristo Square – Dairy Room, until 29th AUG)

“…superbly captures the debauched revelry of Restoration London. “

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

In the London of 1660, the restoration of King Charles II heralds an arts renaissance, a keynote of which is the reopening of theatres and most controversially, women being allowed on an English stage for the very first time. The King’s Company of players invite two actresses to join them, but only one can be the first ever to play a major role: that of Desdemona in Othello. Who will it be?

Written and directed by Andrew Pearson-Wright, this production by the Long Lane Theatre Company (based on a true story) superbly captures the debauched revelry of Restoration London, and as the programme warnings of some occasional nudity and content of a sexual nature suggest, there is much roister-doistering afoot! Charlotte Price plays the hopeful outsider Anne Marshall, a provincial ingenue in search of her big break into acting. The competition comes in the shape of the glamorous Eve Pearson-Wright, playing the worldly and experienced front-runner Margaret Hughes. Naturally, we root for the virtuous Anne, sympathetically and convincingly played by Price, but Pearson-Wright as Margaret is very easy on the eye and easily wraps the two men on the stage – Matthew Hebden and Andrew Loudon as men about town and the theatre manager – around her manipulative fingers. A third actress in this five-piece cast is Hattie Chapman, who plays a number of smaller characters, including Anne’s best friend. Chapman is a highly effective foil to the main characters, her strikingly engaging facial expressions and electro-magnetic eyes enhancing the humour and emotion of every scene she was in.

As may be expected in a play about theatre, there is much wry self-referential humour about life on the stage: “Audiences? Since when have they been able to judge what’s good and what isn’t?”. But a dark counterpoint to this is shown in the portrayal of a time when men could pay to watch the actresses changing into their costumes backstage before a play, and female performers could be subject to vicious attacks by religious fundamentalists who saw them as little more than “devil’s whores”. The enduring feminine struggle to find one’s way in the world was reflected in a frisson of recognition from women around me in the audience when Margaret wearily remarks to the naïve Anne: “You’re a woman: adapt or die”.

Enacted on a small stage with a basic set in a plain black-box auditorium, the show drew well-deserved whoops of rapturous applause at the end from the near-capacity 100-plus audience. I left the building imagining how this magical little gem of theatre would make a good Netflix costume drama.


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‘Baxter vs The Bookies’ (Gilded Balloon Teviot – Wee Room, until AUG 28)

“Through a superbly crafted hour of storytelling, we are privileged to see Andy deliver across the board in a masterclass of thoroughbred character acting.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

Andy Linden has got one of those faces you’ve seen off the telly in everything from ‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’ to ‘Not Going Out’ via ‘Drop The Dead Donkey’ and ‘Count Arthur Strong’. He is perhaps best known as Mundungus Fletcher in the Harry Potter movies. Mundungus who, you will no doubt recall, was one of the original members of the Order of the Phoenix, is a wizard who dwells in the Wizarding underworld, dealing in controlled substances and stolen merchandise. It’s the sort of part Andy has got a knack for – a little bit shaddy, a wee bit shifty, probably up to something, possibly possessed of a heart of gold. It makes Andy the ideal fit for the stage incarnation of Roy Granville’s auld skool racing tipster.

Through a superbly crafted hour of storytelling, we are privileged to see Andy deliver across the board in a masterclass of thoroughbred character acting. His Baxter, his friends and associates, are up, they’re down, but never entirely out. In the fell clutch of circumstance Baxter occasionally winces and often cries aloud emerging into the final stretch bloody, but unbowed from the bludgeonings of chance. Baxter is rarely his own best friend, but he’s possessed of an instinctual, furtive, feral cunning combined with a genuine love and insight into the sport of kings which somehow always gets him placed. 

Not since John Mortimer put his doubts aside and let Leo McKern read for Rumpole of the Bailey (true story), has an actor seemed such a natural fit for a role. You’ll find yourself wanting to interrupt proceedings for Baxter’s tips for the 2:05 at Musselburgh next Thursday – will you win big or lose your shirt? You pays your money you make your choice. What impresses me most is Andy’s nimbleness and physicality. He’s earning his stabling fees, although he seems to have forgotten that only fools and horses work. Still, you definitely wouldn’t want to get in a boxing ring with him, especially after what you said about his beloved Spurs (the football team not the pointy cowboy accessories).

It’s standing room only, the word is out. Come for one of Britain’s best-known faces, stay for some of the best character acting anywhere this EdFringe. Exit having discovered yourself another Rumpole, another Wodehouseian gem. Get your coats on and go see this!


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