+3 Interview: Alex Kealy Is An Idea Whose Time Has Come


“This is my first full hour of comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe.”

WHO: Alex Kealy – Comedian

WHAT: “So You Think You’re Funny finalist and land mammal Alex Kealy presents his debut show. Rejected titles include Kealing Me Softly and Touchy Kealy.”

WHERE:  Underbelly Med Quad, Daisy Room (Venue 296)

WHEN: 21:50 (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

An answer in two parts; this is my first full hour of comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe but I’ve been coming up over the last few years to split hours and perform half hour sets. It’s been really fun this year, it’s a much more exciting prospect to be doing a full show and I’m enjoying the whole experience a lot.

Tell us about your show.

My show is stand-up comedy, and it’s split between self-deprecating gags about my own appalling romantic life and political comedy about the US election, Brexit and privilege.

I also wrote it because I’m a renaissance man (if a renaissance man meant “performing and writing stand-up comedy”, which it doesn’t).

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Well, I’m typing this at The Scottish Parliament building near Holyrood as there’s the Festival of Politics on so there’s your Not A Comedy Thing recommendation from ol’ Keals.

I’m about to watch a speechwriter with the highly improbable name Barton Swaim give a talk – he wrote a great book about his time working for South Carolina Governor Mark Sandford, a charismatic man who spoke in mangled sentences and whose promising political career was brought down by a sex scandal. It’s gonna be great.

Other than that, go see Goose’s show Hydroberserker at Assembly George Square Gardens; it had me laughing the whole way through and is a fantastically bold comedy show which uses music, video and audience interaction in consistently innovative ways.



+3 Interview: Barbarians


“I’m a battle-scarred veteran.”

WHO: Ben Van der Velde – Performer

WHAT: “Thanks to Genghis Khan’s friskiness we’re all 8% barbarian, but were we ever that civilised in the first place? A pretty sobering thought as you play on your iPhone whilst sipping a skinny mocha-latte. Big questions require big answers, and so long as you don’t equate big with accurate, you’re in for a treat!”

WHERE: Laughing Horse @ The White Horse (Venue 296)

WHEN: 17:30 (55 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

I’m a battle-scarred veteran. I first came up with the Oxford Imps and larked around doing daft improv for 4 four years. I then performed in a bunch of gang shows with great acts like James Acaster and Andrew Doyle, hosted the Big Value Showcase and have done two previous solo shows: Chain Letter and Strudelhead.

Tell us about your show.

Barbarians is my third solo show and I think and hope, my best one. It’s about how human being’s fight or flight response is not calibrated for the modern world and can lead us to make terrible spur of the moment decisions. Obviously it’s not as dry as that sounds – hopefully the show doesn’t descend into an anthropology lecture and I’ve managed to cram in jokes about Sweden, lions and Islamic fundamentalism.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

They should absolutely go and see a play called Every Brilliant Thing at Summerhall. It is warm, bittersweet, hilarious, inclusive and devastating. It was the best thing I saw last year and I’m off to see it again today!



+3 Review: Guy Masterson: Love and Canine Integration (Assembly Roxy: until 28th Aug: 17.40: 1hr)

“Masterson is a great gift to the stage”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

When Guy Masterson punched above his weight and married the beautiful Paris-based model Brigitta, he forgot the first rule of life: no person is an island. Brigitta’s personal little slice of Alcatraz comes in the form of her oh-so-cute German Spitz: Nelson. Never in the course of human history has one man fought so hard against one dog for the heart of a beautiful woman.

In this show, Masterston relates the autobiographical story of how first he met his (now) wife Brigitta and her “other man”, Nelson.  Only one of the matches here are made in heaven. Masterson uses the entirety of the small stage to reveal the darkest recesses of this epic battle of wills between man and dog. Plots are hatched. Fantasies are spun. Opportunities taken. It is a sign of character that Nelson is able to rise above these foolish webs laid at his feet by a mere human. Nelson is channelled through his rival, with Masterson performing every snarl, growl and sniff of contempt.  In suitable tones, he explains Nelson’s stratagems: exploring the options that could lead to victory over the new would-be Alpha male.

As an award-winning actor and story teller, Masterson is a great gift to the stage. Extensive experience of one-man shows means that the audience is in the hands of a consummate professional. That is, once the story gets going. I think the preamble, where he explains the genesis of the show, while “enjoying” a cold jacuzzi in a bargain four star spa retreat with his wife, does not work so well. Hearing Masterson relating Brigitta’s question “Why can’t you be more funny?” led me to think, at that time, she may have a point mate. Fortunately once the main course is delivered, it is no dog’s dinner. The story is taut: Masterson’s exasperation palpable as failure is piled upon defeat.

As to the overall effect though, I have to ask the question: is it funny enough?  The material is all there.  The delivery is flawless.  I think the basic issue is that Masterson is an honest man.  This is his first foray into standup and I suspect he has stuck too closely to the truth and, in doing so, has sacrificed some laughs for the sake of integrity.  A more experienced comic may well have hanged truth from the nearest lamppost and had the audience rolling in the aisles.

A certain truth is this: Masterson has a problem. He thinks it is all over but it isn’t. Guy Masterson is suffering from PTPS: post traumatic pet syndrome.

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Reviewer: Martin Veart (Seen 17th August)

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+3 Review: Care Takers (C, 3-29 Aug: 18.35: 55 mins)

“Astonishingly powerful”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars

They say good things come in threes. To me, good theatre must have three essential ingredients: good concept, good script, good actors. Many shows have one or two of these, but this show has all three – and then some – making it very good indeed.

Care Takers analyses a simple conflict between a secondary school teacher who suspects one of her pupils is being bullied and the Deputy Head who will do nothing about it unless there is hard evidence. The tension is palpable, but a complex relationship between the pair unravels during four private meetings on the subject over a period of several weeks. What makes this show so engaging is the balance of how both sides of the story are played out – I found myself agreeing with both perspectives on more than one occasion, and power shifts from one to the other throughout to keep suspense all the way through.

From the opening phone calls she takes in her office, it’s immediately obvious that Deputy Head Mrs Rutter (Penelope McDonald) is busy: juggling budgets, workloads, staff, curriculum, and of course, her own career. She has experience and authority, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Cue the entry of Ms Lawson (Emma Romy-Jones) a newly qualified teacher: great at her job and genuinely concerned about the children in her care. The conflict that follows goes beyond what is best for an individual child, scraping away at personal prejudices, and questioning the very nature of what is best, and for whom.

McDonald and Romy-Jones both deserve awards for this performance, portraying characters so real that it’s easy to forget you’re watching a play. McDonald is infuriatingly powerful and charismatic as Mrs Rutter, giving the most compelling acting performance I’ve seen at the Fringe so far this year, while Romy-Jones creates a perfect balance as underdog Ms Lawson, with a more subtle approach to her character.

The acting is superb, but the script is also first class – seamlessly and succinctly giving the titbits of information needed to develop the story and create a situation that makes you want to jump on stage and sort it yourself. The dialogue is very natural, with each interaction sounding like a genuine conversation that tries hard to keep professional though personal tensions clearly want to take it elsewhere. Narrative development is a bit on the slow side, though I wouldn’t sacrifice this for the amount of depth we get to see from each character.

When things turn more dramatic towards the end of the play, the question arises – who’s to blame? Did the individuals involved really do all they could? It’s the kind of production where everyone will have an opinion that makes for a very lively discussion in the bar afterwards – and that’s exactly what makes this a five star show.

It’s a tense and gripping piece of theatre, which, although occasionally verges on being a little bit samey, has the potential (moreso than many of the shows I’ve seen this year) to make a big impact in the commercial market. I’d love to see it picked up by the Traverse or another producing theatre to take it further and watch it soar. With a few small tweaks it really could be very special indeed.

Care Takers is astonishingly powerful – a must-see for anyone working in secondary education or with responsibility for children of that age.

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 17 August)


+3 Review: Mixed Doubles: Fundraiser (Just the Tonic @ The Caves: until 28th Aug: 17.25: 1hr)

“A really enjoyable show, I’d thoroughly recommend it”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

Having seen Mixed Doubles trying out new material in London a couple of years ago, it’s pleasing to see them back in Edinburgh after a year off to present a new full length show. Fundraiser is set up as a village fete where four assorted characters from the village are trying to raise funds to replace the old pavilion, and this is their show. Yet while the framing of this piece is charming and shows intelligence and professionalism beyond a let’s-just-perform-some-sketches approach, at times it also works against them a little, as the changing in and out of these characters between different sketches does get a little confusing.

For me, Mixed Doubles’ trademark is all about the delivery. Timing is everything (they know how to work and audience and let a joke settle before moving on), while facial expressions from all four performers throughout are priceless. In this performance there were a couple of times when jokes fell a little flat, or weren’t quite delivered with the knock-out punch of confidence that they really needed, but given then fast pace and slickness of the show these are quickly forgotten, and the overarching impression is one of playfulness and enjoyment.

My favourite sketches include a parent who takes their child to see a doctor as they suffer from “the g-word” which has a hilarious twist, while the one where a young man introduces his friends to his bizarre flatmate is absurdly funny. Overall there’s a great blend of topical humour, creativeness and recurring characters to make it a really well thought-out and balanced show.

As well as being a traditional sketch show though, fundraiser incorporates a couple of improvised or more random elements. In one sketch two of the performers are challenged to instantly embody objects one might discover when showing someone around a house, and one audience member is pulled on stage to join a stag party… These touches add a nice variety to the piece and show that the group have more depth than simply being able to spout pre-learned lines.

On entering the venue, we’re also asked to come up with a new name for the village bowls club, writing suggestions on slips of paper which get added to the “hat”. While at least one of these is picked to be read aloud, it’s a shame more isn’t done with this device – perhaps a live debate between two or more of the suggestions that the characters debate on the spot would have really tested the group’s mettle.

Overall though, a really enjoyable show and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 17 August)


+3 Review: The Master & Margarita (Zoo at St.Cuthbert’s: until 29th Aug (not 19-20, 25th) Aug: 22.00: 1hr 30mins)

“A Hell of a show”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

It was with a certain amount of trepidation when I met The Sleepless Theatre Company on the Royal Mile and discussed with the crew their production of The Master and Margarita. How on earth are they going to do it?, I thought.

Action opens with the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate, in court session over an apparently worthless vagrant, Yeshua Ha Nostri. The procurator is ill and it would be so simple to dismiss this tramp with two words: “Hang him.” Nineteen hundred years later, it is a hot May night in Moscow and the committee members of the exclusive Communist Party writers’ guild, are sweltering in a small meeting room, waiting for the Chair, Mikhail Berlioz, to arrive. He is late. None of them can know that dark powers have already entered the city.

For Russians, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is the Soviet Union’s most famous novel. It is a wide-ranging satirical fantasy and the changes in location (across Moscow and Jerusalem), space and time are a daunting challenge for any adaptation. In this interpretation Sleepless Theatre does well at capturing those changes, using the magnificent setting of the St.Cuthbert’s Church to great effect. Like the cast, the audience too are expected to be mobile, following the action around the hall and even being participants if the scene demands. I found the flight of Margarita (Iona Purvis) over the rooftops of Moscow particularly effective: Purvis is obviously dance-trained and her graceful physical acting really added to the dreamlike quality. Against my expectations, the company’s low-tech approach often overcomes the staging challenges inherent in the novel and they should be highly commended for this.

The central relationship between Margarita and The Master (Jonny Wiles) is wonderful: both actors touchingly portraying the sacrifices each make for the other in the cause of their mutual love and Woland (James Blake-Butler) is suitably all-powerful and sinister. Gwenno Jones captures the tortured soul of Frieda perfectly; though as Yeshua, to me, Jones fails to show the calm and almost playful wit possessed by the character, even in the face of death. Coupled with Pilate (Georgia Figgis) lacking a real menacing streak, the opening scene rings slightly less true than the others, which are on the whole excellently delivered.

Narration is a large part of this production, with actors taking this in turn, and in the first scene I did have some concerns about the delivery (and, indeed the existence of) some crucial lines. During the interrogation Pilate lays too much emphasis on a certain word than is appropriate and leads the witness. The script sees the narrator point this out, rather than it being obvious from the acting, and it is a shame that writer Alexander Hartley keeps to narration here, rather than letting the acting speak for itself. Apart from this minor blip, the rest of the narration remains faithful to the book, and dedication to original text should otherwise be praised.

The Master & Margarita is a massive challenge for any company to take on, and for the most part Sleepless Theatre Company do a really good job: the central themes of the book come shining through. If you know the book, see Master & Margarita for the joy of seeing it live. If you have never read the book, go see. You are in for one hell of a show.



Reviewer: Martin Veart (Seen 16th August)


+3 Review: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (Pleasance Courtyard: until 28 Aug: 12.50: 1hr 10mins)

“A compelling story”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars

Walking out of the auditorium I knew I’d need a decent amount of time to gather my thoughts and be able write this review properly, but even 36 hours on my mind is just as confused as it was then. The reason for this is two-fold: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is the story of an affair told from the point of view of (and narrated in the first person by) a mobile phone. It’s a fantastic and original concept, but does take a bit of getting used to. Couple that with the fact the role of the narrator (the phone) switches between all five actors on stage at alarming speed and suddenly you find yourself struggling to keep up with who’s who and what’s what.

As a device I can absolutely see the merits of the decision to share the narration – at times it creates great dramatic tension with multiple voices reminiscent of a Greek chorus, while some of the physicality of the group narration is really powerful. However, I don’t think these effects are enough to counter the sense of it all being just a bit too artsy and unnecessarily complicated. For me it would make much more sense to have just one actor as the narrator throughout. Given the concept, I feel this production needs to let it resonate and allow the audience to grasp it properly before trying to add additional layers of complexity.

The same can be said of the styling and direction of the piece. Performed in a stark open space with a few movable white blocks, a huge hole in the middle of the stage and various other stylised props, it seems like the actors are constantly trying to work around or fit into the design, rather than have it support them. Sequences within cars and the tennis match in particular come across as the most forced and restrained. In saying that, some of the physical aspects of the direction (like the lifts) work really well – there just seems to be a jarring between all the different elements going on, adding to the sense of confusion.

Putting all that aside, the absolute star of this show is Kevin Armento’s script. It’s inventive, dramatic and adds wonderful detailing to make the phone really feel like a character with thoughts and emotions of its own – happiest when at home (in its owner’s pocket), and knowing when it needs to be hooked up to its drip (to charge the battery). The plot is well-developed, unfolding the story piece by piece, with tensions arising as each character learns more about what is (or what they believe to be) going on. The final quarter does get a little far-fetched for my liking, but the end manages to work itself out well enough.

As an ensemble piece of theatre, the acting from the cast is very good – the actors blend in and out of narrator and individual character roles, showing great depth and versatility. For me the stand-out performer is Sarah-Jane Casey, who displays great energy and emotional range as Red’s mother, and is captivating to watch throughout.

Overall this is a compelling story presented by a great cast who create some wonderful dramatic moments, I just feel like it needs to go back to the drawing board creatively and adopt a simpler approach.

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 16 August)


+3 Review: Triple Entendre: Love, Life and Other Stuff (C Nova: until 29 Aug: 21.50: 50 mins)

“Clever, stylish and hilariously performed”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Nae Bad

Three microphones, three young women, a lot of songs and a lot of sass. Triple Entendre don’t mess about. Taking to the stage in coordinating black outfits and bursting into an a capella fifties style song, everything about their presence at the beginning of this performance shows they mean business.

Given the subject matter of the first few numbers (and interludes) I was worried that it would be a purely “girl power” all-we-can-talk-about-is-men-and-sex kind of show. Thankfully the group soon move on to show they do have more depth and gumption about them than the Spice Girls, with catchy songs including Resting Bitch Face and my personal favourite Can’t Scat, about the jazz singer who couldn’t scat – clever, stylish and hilariously performed.

While the show is mostly singing (there’s precious little chat in between numbers), a few poems are interspersed which do show great creativity and add variety to the piece. My favourite of these was Anger – a short but fast-paced tirade that we all wish we had the guts to spit at someone who’s screwed us over at some point. I must also mention the touching song Mind the Gap, which, as well as cramming a lot of London Underground wordplay (to my great amusement) into a few short verses, also showed a glimmer of fragility in comparison with the quite up tempo and feisty feel of what had gone before.

Throughout the piece the singing and musicality of the performers is excellent – note-perfect with great range and adaptability to suit different styles. And while it’s clear that the trio have a close bond and easy way of working with each other, we don’t get to learn much about their individual personalities – for a cabaret show it seems quite guarded. There’s not a lot of openness or up close and personal moments between numbers so it all seems to go quite quickly and I was left feeling slightly cheated by not having gotten to know the girls better by the end.

Overall there’s some great original content in there and the singing is spot on, but I feel the group need to work a bit harder to define their identity and open up a bit more.

nae bad_blue

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 15 August)


+3 Review: Still Here (The Tent, ZOO @ St.Mary’s South Lawn: 5-24 Aug: 19.15: 1hr)

“I hope Theatre for Justice are back soon with the next instalment”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

I’ll admit that before this show I had no idea where Eritrea was, and I wasn’t even sure how to spell it. I knew nothing of the religious persecution going on in the country or the hundreds of people who flee it every day. For these insights alone Still Here is worth watching. Yet while being a “worthy” piece of theatre, it never veers into being preachy: rather, it is a simple account of one student’s (Rachel Partington’s) trip to a refugee camp and the people she met there. It’s honest, frank and – I hate to use such a word to describe theatre – interesting.

With tickets checked by border control officials, a mismatching array of seats (including deck chairs) for the audience, and performed in a tent outside a church far from the central hub of normal Fringe venues, Still Here goes to great lengths to create an authentic experience that is central to its overall aims. The show opens with the two main characters telling interweaving stories of their journeys to Calais – six hours for the interviewer, and six years for the refugee. It’s a great way to set the contrasts for the piece, and is creatively staged to give it interest.

Actors Afolabi Alli and Rachel Partington both do an outstanding job with clear, engaging performances that strike the perfect balance between honesty and theatricality. They bring a real fresh-faced look to an age-old problem and their vitality makes them a joy to watch.

Water is used creatively throughout, from sound effects to projections, and it’s great to see this young company using intelligent recurring motifs within their work. Other props are fairly minimal, as the performance uses a more physical and human approach to its storytelling – again a sympathetic match with the subject material. More powerful is the use of a child’s puppet, whose unspoken presence towards the end of the piece is made even more stark when Partington utters the words “I can’t help. I can’t do anything to help.” Stirring stuff.

Yet while everything in the performance is done very well, content-wise it is somewhat lacking. Largely centred around just one 15 minute interview with a single refugee, it’s disappointing that as a production it seems a little unfinished, with so much more potential to create a really powerful and inspiring show with more depth to it. It’s a great first chapter, and I hope Theatre for Justice are back soon with the next instalment.

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 15 August)


+3 Review: The Accidentals – Tone Down For What (theSpace@ Symposium Hall: Aug 17-20, 22-27 : 18.20 : 50 mins)

” A nonstop vocal joyride”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars Outstanding

Returning to a group you have vastly enjoyed at the Fringe previously is like releasing a paper airplane into a storm: there’s not much you can do but hope – and as I sat in the audience for the next instalment in The Accidentals’ success story, I could definitely hear the wind whispering at the stage door. For me, this Fringe has certainly raised the quality bar in terms of performances I’ve seen, and my worst nightmare was that my favourite a capella choir just wouldn’t be able to stand up to the wonder. My only advice to other prospective audience members would be this: fear not. The Accidentals aren’t just coasting on the wind, they’re soaring.

Running the variety gauntlet once again from traditional Scottish tunes to lip-battering beatbox performances, The Accidentals are a joy to watch from the moment they enter the stage. The sheer variety of voices they represent is staggering: expect the tooth-rattlingly low and the glass-breakingly high, all wrapped up in a nonstop vocal joyride.

Tone Down For What is not just a show of the same quality that audiences have come to expect from these returning Fringe champions: this year’s edition comes with bells and whistles, including the first successful audience participation exercise in a musical show which didn’t sound like a slowly deflating, middle class balloon. As someone who prefers to sit silently in the back like a rock with great taste in theatre, I’m deeply skeptical of audience participation at the best of times: but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t the only time I’ve been happy to be part of one of those wild experiments in awkward enthusiasm.

The evolution of The Accidentals this year seem to run deeper than superficiality: things have taken a wickedly feminist turn, and tonally, it couldn’t have been done better. It’s hard to address the inequality of perceived competency between male and female singing groups, especially without dragging what would otherwise be a lighthearted show into preachy seriousness, but The Accidentals pull it off flawlessly – it’s cheeky, it’s defiant and unapologetically mocking.

Of course, the preceding points would be moot without the vocals to back them up, and this show doesn’t disappoint. A personal shout-out goes to Ruth Kroch, whose rapping sans mic was both impressive and powerful, despite the looming possibility of being drowned out by the note-perfect vocals of her peers; and also to Steph Boyle – hearing the sheer brute force of the voice coming out of such a small woman is like watching a pea-shooter fire ICBMs. But I cannot stress enough that each and every performer in this group is one to watch. Tone Down for What is an ensemble piece in its purest and most brilliant form, even down to the tongue in cheek comedy. If you’re looking to get blown away by the power of the female voice, this would be the place to do it.

A few quite noticeable tech fumbles notwithstanding, I couldn’t see a misstep on stage. For an opening night, that’s really impressive. The only real criticism I could find with the show is that it reminded me how bitter I am about the fact their version of “Who Did That To You” isn’t available on Spotify.




Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 15 August)

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