Michael Odewale: #BLACKBEARSMATTER (Pleasance Courtyard, 1-25 Aug, 17:30, 1hr)

“Clearly an adept writer and jokester.”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars

Your reaction to Michael Odewale’s chosen title for his new stand-up hour, #BLACKBEARSMATTER, will likely indicate how amusing you will find the ensuing comedy. The joke, like much of the hour, is witty, but somewhat surface-level, and raises a few more questions than laughs. That being said, Odewale is clearly an adept writer and jokester, whose talents certainly shine from time to time, in between slightly weaker setups and punchlines.

The venue, a small dark Pleasance space, suits his winking, confrontational approach well, letting Odewale lock eyes with audience members who react with mixtures of amused discomfort and pearl-clutching giggles, to good comic effect. His material ranges from daring jabs at consumerism and privilege, to more self-deprecating observations on Black masculinity and some of his own morally dubious personal habits. Each of these topics elicits a good belly laugh or two over the course of the show, including some truly tickling insinuations that terrorism benefits the running shoe industry, and a darkly hilarious story about the etiquette of discussing peanut allergies on a date. 

Many of Odewale’s bits, rest assured, are certainly amusing, but just as many make one feel some more fine-tuning is in order, and perhaps a rethink of comic timing. The comedy is not quite consistent or energetic enough to elicit the kind of enthusiasm needed to make an audience thoroughly recommend this hour to their friends — like the title, a great deal of his jokes are creative, but without much spark. Odewale’s persona, however, of a sardonic, witty, and flawed Black male shrewdly navigating the parameters of modern society, has much potential, and I personally would happily see his next show, assuming the punchlines get tighter, the segments more focused, and Odewale’s energy more palpable. A performer to remember, but a show that could use more bite and verve for now. 

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

Reviewer: Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller

ALL our +3 (festivals) coverage? Click here!

Little Shop of Horrors (theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall: Aug 19 – 24 : 17:45: 1hr)

“A faithful, fun adaptation of a well loved classic.”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

I’ve always had a weakness for Little Shop. Call me puerile, but there’s a lot of musicals that’d benefit from a giant, bloodthirsty jazz plant. Fiddler on the Roof is an amazing show, but imagine Sunrise, Sunset with Levi Stubbs scatting in the background. It was with glee, then, that I saw a production was to be brought my doorstep.

For those who don’t know, the premise of Little Shop of Horrors is classic black comedy: a nerdy schmuck finds an alien plant that changes his life for the better – the only catch being that Audrey II demands human blood in exchange for continued success. Think Faust, if Faust was a rock opera set mostly in a flower shop.

Bob Hope Theatre stays true to this narrative whilst squeezing the original work into a tight hour – and, in that respect, it’s a real success. As someone who is shamefully familiar with its predecessors, places where material was cut and fused for time was surprisingly seamless, incorporating the dramatic flow into the changes with masterful attention to inter-scene connection. Though a few scenes (especially those reliant on emotional revelations) felt a little pressed for space, it’s a necessary evil of the Fringe business.

Performances are strong across the board, with every player slipping into Little Shop’s caricature cut-out roles with aplomb. Whilst not doing anything particularly new with the roles, there was no place where the demands of the characters were not met. Richard Cooper is wonderfully nebbish as Seymour, in stark contrast to Sarah Leanne-Howe’s Audrey – straight out of the pages of a 1950s Good Housekeeping. Kris Webb’s murderous Audrey II, whilst lacking the booming presence of his predecessors, brought a pointedly creepy smoothness to his role. Managing to look vaguely threatening in a big frond costume is tough, but honest to God it happens.

MVP of the production must go to Andy Moore, with his standout performance as Orin Scrivello. Energetic, gleefully sadistic and uncomfortably charismatic, Moore keenly captures not only the essential energy of the play, but also the essence of what makes his character such a joy to watch. Praise for energy also goes to Paul Stone as Mushnik. Though his accent takes certain peaks and troughs during the performance, he immediately lights up the stage with each appearance.

However, Little Shop demands more than theatrical chops. Rock Opera is a hard beast to wrangle, especially on the small stage. And don’t think for a moment that the singing performances in this show are not incredibly worthy – they are, especially in the case of Chiffon, Crystal & Ronette. However, technical mastery is just one facet of this kind of performance, and unfortunately, the necessary punch and energy required to really hammer home the intensity and spectacle of a rock opera simply wasn’t there. The songs had heart, but (apart from a select few) nothing every really comes in for the killing blow. Tension doesn’t range high enough, sorrow cannot go low enough. This is a cast with the potential to hit the audience like a sledgehammer, and it’s disappointing to see it miss.

It’s deceptively hard to pull off an established show, especially with a smaller budget and Fringetastic time constraints. The performance by Bob Hope Theatre, whilst not bombastic, is nevertheless a faithful, fun adaptation of a well loved classic.

nae bad_blue

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

Reviewer: Jacob Close  (Seen 20 August)

ALL our +3 (festivals) coverage? Click here!

+3 Interview: Arlecchino Torn in Three

“Having a long run allowed us to test our show with an international audience and gave us the boost we needed to dive into the Fringe world.”

WHO: Betty Andriolo: Actor

WHAT: “Fancy a trip to Venice in Edinburgh? Join Arlecchino as he takes on two jobs and two masters. Midsummer madness rages! Master number one: Beatrice, disguised as a man, searches for her beloved Florindo and she hires Arlecchino. Master number two: Florindo, accused of murdering Beatrice’s brother, escapes to Venice and he hires Arlecchino. True love or tragedy? At his wit’s end and starving, will Arlecchino ever get his dinner? Three versatile actors, nine roles! Physical storytelling with masks, puppets and music bring Venice to life, blending tradition and innovation.”

WHERE: Greenside @ Infirmary Street – Forest Theatre (Venue 236) 

WHEN: 17:20 (50 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

At home in Venice, we discussed coming to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. After months of planning and crowdfunding, Bottegavaga has fulfilled a dream we’ve had for ages.

It’s our first time to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and we’re here to bring our theatre, closely interwoven with our beloved city, out of Italy, in hopes of sharing Commedia dell’Arte and the genius of Carlo Goldoni abroad. Edinburgh seemed to us the perfect place to make this dream come true!

Edinburgh Fringe is the third-largest ticketed event in the world (after the Olympics and the World Cup). It’s an ‘artistic village’ where we feel part of a cosmopolitan community. We’ve been able to meet artists from Poland, UK, Russia, Japan and beyond: we are inspired to see other artists’ work and to know different artistic ways of approaching theatre.

In the past, Commedia dell’Arte troupes travelled throughout Europe, influencing authors like Molière and popular traditions such as the Punch and Judy shows. We’d also love to go on tour and find new audiences. Commedia dell’Arte is a theatre that conveys delight and celebrates playfulness. In times like ours, we think people need this. There’s a more serious side, too. Venice is a city in crisis due to unsustainable tourism, and we want to show the world Venice’s real soul, its struggle to avoid becoming a museum or a Disneyland. We wish to achieve this, using an international language, while keeping old values alive and making them understandable and appreciated.

So, our Arlecchino Torn in Three is an experiment, and we wanted to see if our modern-day version of Commedia can be enjoyed by a contemporary audience from all over the world. And Edinburgh has been just the place for this. We’ve also discovered that even audiences unfamiliar with masks and Commedia dell’Arte appreciate our show, although some journalists didn’t quite understand that Commedia is a crazy world where anything can happen, even if it ‘doesn’t make sense.’ Our show keeps changing each night, thanks to a dynamic, continuous relationship with the audience.

We’ve learned a lot about the British sense of humour, about how to do flyering (and even sent our producer onto the streets in a Commedia mask). We’ve had a go at street theatre on Virgin Money Stage, and Arlecchino adopted a red phone box for a Dr. Who stunt. We’re baffled by Scottish deep-fried pizzas, enjoyed whisky tasting and are now shortbread addicts. Above all, we’ve had the chance to exchange and network with a lot of extraordinary artists and see their shows. We still have one more week to go, but so far it’s been an amazing experience for us. The Fringe is certainly a challenge, and it’s one we’ve found well worth trying!

We’re also acting teachers, and are leading Commedia workshops for children at the Italian Cultural Institute. What a joyful time: Scottish and English kids had great fun playing with masks and experimenting with different characters in their group.

At the Demarco Foundation, we did Spotlight on Venice and talked about our work and our city, which, like Edinburgh, is in peril. There, we met the legendary Richard Demarco, one of the founders of the Fringe; his love of theatre is truly inspiring.

What we really looking forward to is to make a bridge between Italy and the UK, to create a cultural exchange with like-minded people, to bring our experience in Commedia and physical theatre as a resource for actors who want to train and explore the foundations of theatre. We want to find the time and space for the art and culture of different peoples that can stir and nourish our spirit, stretching beyond all boundaries.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’18?

The biggest thing that’s happened to us last year? In 2018, Bottegavaga performed for a whole season in Avogaria Theatre, an iconic theatre in Venice. It was founded after World War Two by Giovanni Poli, a leading Commedia director, and renowned artists such as Jerzy Grotowski also performed there. Having a long run allowed us to test our show with an international audience and gave us the boost we needed to dive into the Fringe world.

At Avogaria Theatre, we held special Goldoni post-show buffets and this has been great! It’s our ‘theatre research – Italian style’. Our chef Anna Santini recreated dishes from the time of Goldoni. As our guests munched on these delicacies and enjoyed glasses of wine, the company discovered experts and performers  keen on getting to know our work better. It has been a lovely mixed audience experiment… multicultural moments that encouraged us to take part in the Fringe.

Tell us about your show.

Our Arlecchino Torn in Three is an adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters (1746). The original play has a cast of nine, but has been reworked by the director Alberta Toninato to be performed by three actors, who double (or even triple) roles in a fast and furious romantic comedy. Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters has given us the opportunity to work on a very sophisticated comedy for a new audience.

As we created the show, we researched body language and gesture, with the aim of creating a playful script that’s universally accessible. We use traditional Commedia masks with a modern twist to present our ideal kind of theatre: universal, sincere, immediate and essential, without special effects, and highlighting the physical skill of the actor. Thus, our physical storytelling is a showcase for the actors’ creativity and versatility.

Arlecchino Torn in Three offers both entertainment and the pleasure of performing a classic, blending the popular tradition of Commedia dell’Arte with literary and stylistic virtuosity. With the mask, everything becomes a game: mistakes, work, love, even hunger or poverty. Mask characters such as Arlecchino teach us the possibilities for happiness in a confusing and often difficult world.

We’ve re-worked our script for Edinburgh, using both English and Italian. As far back as the 16th century, Commedia dell’Arte deployed what is known as ‘gramelot’, an invented language, full of unknown words and sounds which was highly entertaining. We try to use English in this way, mixing it with Italian and Venetian dialect, creating a sort of new linguistic code for a contemporary audience. The artistic/linguistic research we’ve been passionately carrying out may be very similar to the ‘modernity’ that Carlo Goldoni sought in his plays all his life.

Bottegavaga have been working together for more than ten years, a Venice-based adventure that started back in 2005, exploring Goldoni on one hand and Shakespeare on the other. Actors Betty Andriolo, Vanni Carpenedo, and Christian Renzicchi trained in Commedia and also with Yoshi Oida, Emma Dante and Gabriele Lavia. Alberta Toninato is the director, and the UK producer is Valerie Kaneko-Lucas. Professor Margaret Rose from the University of Milan is our consultant. We’re an Anglo-Italian company. For us, working together has always been an endless quest supported by a strong bond, perfect chemistry and a lot of passion!

Our show has been partially funded by a crowdfunding campaign launched by the company themselves, attracting finders from Italy, the USA and the UK. We’re part of the Italian Cultural Institute’s Italian Artists at the Fringe. The Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh has also supported our Commedia workshops for children.

After the Fringe, we’re working on taking our show to Chicago.  We’ve been invited to take part in the Chicago Physical Theatre Festival in June 2020, and we’d love to get there!

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

Paolo Nani’s The Letter – his show is an amazing example of how comedy can be done with no words and just a suitcase of props. We’ve enjoyed seeing him on TV in Italy and were thrilled to see him live in Edinburgh.

The Trial by Stone Crabs – It’s an interactive show where the audience becomes the jury in a trial about LGBT+ rights. Ines Sampaio is a multi-talented young actor-musician doing 6 roles, ranging from the trans protagonist to her crotchety homophobic father.

Limbo – Teresa and Anjrej Welminski were members of Kantor’s troupe, and this show is visually stunning, evoking an infernal waiting room populated by eccentrics.

The Forest – Performed by graduates of the Moscow Arts School, it was a poetic and moving devised show about our disconnection from nature, a Russian take on the environmental crisis.

Zeroko’s Tea Time – a pair of bowler-hatted Japanese guys perform magic with the simplest of props, such as umbrellas and tea cups. It’s a heartwarming and charming show from Tokyo that made us smile on a rainy Edinburgh day.



Will Gompertz: Double Art History – The Sequel (Underbelly Bristo Square: Aug 19 – 25 : 15:35: 1hr)

“A fun hour.”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

It’s a fairly uncontroversial opinion to say I like art. Art is pretty neat. Van Gogh, Edward Hopper and Monet have pride of place in my apartment, but as far as really knowing anything about art goes, I’m basically like if someone put a dog in a high school class. Will Gompertz, of Tate and Guardian fame, assures me that he can change that in an hour.

Double Art History – The Sequel is a straightforwardly constructed piece: a humorous lecture wherein Gompertz teaches the fundamentals to a crowd of mostly drunk Fringe goers, with a ‘big exam’ as the dramatic raison d’être. There aren’t many shows where I find myself holding a tiny pencil, wondering if a joke is going to be on the test – though, it’s not as distracting as one might think.

And, overall, it works. It works better than one might expect, and that’s not simply down to the demureness of Edinburgh’s day drinkers. Gompertz proves to be a compelling core for a one man show, and brings an energy that’s seldom seen on the Fringe stage. It’s difficult to describe: somewhere south of nervousness, east of smug, and altogether interpersonally compelling. Evidence of his knowledgeability is widely documented, and this show merely adds to the pile. The way he handles the material, the genuinely loving lilt of his voice when describing a form of expression he clearly holds dear to his heart. Whether or not you even like art, Will Gompertz probably likes it enough for the both of you.

And, to his credit, I like art a little more after Double Art History. There’s a wealth of material presented in the short hour, and it’s presented well. Gompertz’ approach is highly accessible, aided by the bare smattering of tech, and almost lulls you into a false sense of ignorant security. If you’re irritatingly curious like I am, you’re guaranteed to have your attention held.

However, this is a show that leans harder on the “lecture” side of its composition, as opposed to the “Fringe show” side. The theatrical elements feel more like artifice than fully integrated parts of the production, and whilst lectures are by no means bad, that visible separation sometimes proves genuinely jarring. Key moments of audience interaction felt as if they had no reason to be happening, other than a misplaced sense of theatrical convention. Whilst playing up the cartoonish theatricality of the whole thing is a boon for marketing, I often found myself wishing I could have just listened to Gompertz talk shop for an hour, rather than listen to setups involving an art teacher who doesn’t exist.

That’s not to say the show isn’t charming. It is, and aggressively so. Gompertz and his crew create an atmosphere where, whilst everything doesn’t go right, it’s not for lack of earnestness. There is a fundamental joy about art at the heart of this show, and it shines clearly.

Double Art History – The Sequel is a fun hour, sitting in the presence of someone who knows their field inside out. Whilst it’s not likely to get your pulse pounding, you might come away with a better appreciation for what it means to make art.

nae bad_blue

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

Reviewer: Jacob Close  (Seen 20 August)

ALL our +3 (festivals) coverage? Click here!

Slime (Pleasance @ Central Library: Aug 21 – 25 : 11:15: 1hr)

“A real heart-warming delight.”

Editorial Rating:  5 Stars: Outstanding

Over the years I’ve been to most of the Fringe venues and have watched the major players spin off into new areas. The Pleasance now covers its traditional St Leonard’s location as well as the EICC and, so it seems, Edinburgh Central Library. Who knew?

So the youngest (two and a half) and I trooped off to the wonderfully named ‘Slime’ with little real clue of what to expect. We went because it was on and we were looking for something to do. What a treat we found!

The premise is simple but elegant. The children (and grown ups!) are welcomed into the garden to sit on stones in a foam garden to get a bug’s eye view of the action. The play revolves around two creepy crawlies: a slug and a caterpillar. Over the course of forty minutes or so these tiny beasties enjoy some fairly big adventures.

It starts with a nervous slug coming on stage, pleased to see a slime trail. She stumbles upon some slug pellets which hurt her. She fixes upon a leaf that is too far for her to reach. She needs help.

Then the caterpillar appears. Where slug is nervous, he is bold – in and amongst the audiences and, at points, taking selfies on his iPad. He dislikes slime. Dislikes slugs. But does want the leaf.

There’s lots of fun but little of the outright silliness that makes up many kids shows. When the caterpillar is sad, the slug tries to cheer him up with a sweet wrapper. At another point the caterpillar is mean to the slug. There is a kind-off dance off: why wouldn’t there be?

It an old story in many ways: an odd couple have some ups and downs but in the end just about become friends. Joy, tears, arguments. It is something everyone knows from the toddler in the audience to the grandparent sitting next to them.

Slug understands a little quicker than caterpillar that working together they might get their leaf to share – one to turn into a butterfly, one for grub. Caterpillar has other ideas. Will they get there in the end? There’s heartbreak too when slug realises she can’t turn into a butterfly.

It sounds simple. But it is magically put together. The children are utterly spellbound. A wonderful score supports very little dialogue (I think a grand total of 12 words which are also signed). The actors convey a huge range of emotions through facial expressions and body language. A real, heart-warming delight. They are a talented duo. The audience was utterly charmed. If there is a 2-5 year old in your life: go with them whilst you still can. If you don’t have one, offer to take a friend’s!

This is one of the very best kids shows at Fringe – the hour felt positively scant by curtain call. We both loved it. It is reasonably priced (unlike most children’s shows…) and you get to meet the stars at the end. More than that: the children got to play with slime for the last fifteen minutes – and which child doesn’t want to do that?



Reviewer:  Rob Marrs  (Seen 19 August)

ALL our +3 (festivals) coverage? Click here!

+3 Interview: Limb(e)s

“Just to be here, presenting a show is a triumph. Technical mishaps have led to creative solutions (after initial periods of debilitating stress). Smaller audiences add up to an impressive number over the course of the festival.”

WHO: Gabrielle Martin: Director and Performer

WHAT: “Aerial dance that offers the darkest hour, and questions what it means to carry or let go of another. Two bodies suspended in the limbo of loss, cradled in the surrogate limbs of rope and the temporary solace of flesh, weighed by conscience, spun by dependency, freed by mortality. This new show by Gabrielle Martin (Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia) and Jeremiah Hughes (Cirque du Soleil, Dragone, So You Think You Can Dance) combines an emotionally raw physicality with a haunting original soundscape to create a hypnotic, destabilizing narrative full of mourning, distant hope, and eerie beauty.”

WHERE: Assembly Roxy (Venue 139) 

WHEN: 21:25 (50 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

Yes! My experience here seems to be a process of reframing the definition of failure and triumph. Just to be here, presenting a show is a triumph. Technical mishaps have led to creative solutions (after initial periods of debilitating stress). Smaller audiences add up to an impressive number over the course of the festival. Every time I’m biking and it’s NOT raining is a small miracle! Overall, I think there’s an incredible open, optimistic, and alive feeling here.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’18?

The show we’re presenting at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe was conceived last summer and so much has come to pass in the year leading up to now. My collaborating partner and I created this show while touring Europe as performers with Cirque du Soleil. We would move to a new city every week and every week we would try to find a new studio to rehearse in. We ended up lost in industrial city outskirts and in studios without heat or air conditioning, often asking ourselves why we were spending our days off in a studio. But something was working because all that spare time spent stuck in confined spaces lead to our engagement and somehow we made a show that’s been nominated for a Total Theatre Award in Physical / Visual Theatre here at the festival.

Tell us about your show.

Limb(e)s was created by myself and Jeremiah Hughes. We met while in the creation for TORUK, a show by Cirque du Soleil, and immediately gravitated towards each other as the only artists on the show with a dance background. We often felt we had more to express as performers and creators and needed to an opportunity see if that was true or not! We couldn’t afford a lighting designer so Jeremiah tried a first stab at it, and when we premiered the work last month at the Montreal Complètement Cirque Festival, the main feedback we received was that no one could actually see what was happening on stage (but we trust they would have loved it, had they seen it!). So in some ways, the real reveal has been here at the Fringe, and from lemons to lemonade the biggest feedback we get now is how incredible the lighting design and aesthetic of the work is! As for future plans, we do not have any dates booked and are not sure whether that’s a blessing or a curse due to the exacting nature of the work!

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

“Lucille and Cecilia” because it’s also a circus-inspired duet, equally dark, but much more witty!
“Goliath in the water” because it’s kinetic and shares themes of the loss and fragility!



+3 Interview: Could It Be Magic?

“We have sold over 1200 tickets already from very strong word of mouth and whilst it’s a comedy show the magic has been getting great reactions and gasps and cheers in all the right places.”

WHO: Paul Aitchison: Writers / Performer / Chief Wizard

WHAT: “In a unique mix of mind-melting magic and bonkers character comedy, one performer plays four contestants in a hilarious and somewhat manic magic competition. This is debut show from Paul Aitchison, as seen/heard performing on BBC Radio 4, West End stages and on your tellybox. Best known to Fringe audiences as co-writer and performer in award-winning sketch act Mixed Doubles (Guardian Top Five recommendation and Dave Comedy Peoples Choice winners). Feel-good comedy meets stupendous sleight of hand, magnificent mind reading, and top draw bamboozlement! It’ll be fun but… Could It Be Magic?”

WHERE: Just the Tonic at The Caves – Just the Fancy Room (Venue 88) 

WHEN: 15:30 (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

My first Edinburgh was back in 2004. I was performing in our school play that was …inexplicably bought unto the fringe for a week, but I remember having the time of my life and thus knowing that both performing and the Edinburgh Fringe were inevitably going to be part of my future.

I’ve performed in 6 Edinburgh Fringe festivals, usually in Improv/Sketch comedy. For several years as part of “Mixed Doubles” an award-winning Sketch comedy act that did well and performed a few times on radio 4 and toured internationally.

It’s my first year doing a magic show, but as people quickly get once they see the show, the focus is as much on the comedy and audience interaction with the 4 characters as it is the tricks.

The response has been pretty overwhelming. We have sold over 1200 tickets already from very strong word of mouth and whilst it’s a comedy show the magic has been getting great reactions and gasps and cheers in all the right places.

It takes a huge amount of effort to bring a show up to the fringe and doing such a technically complicated show as COULD IT BE MAGIC? even more so. There were many nights this year when I got back late from working in theatre only to then Power up the laptop and pull work til 3am to get it all done. So it’s a great feeling when you see it pay off. As someone who’s experienced both successes and failures in their career – it’s a lovely feeling to see a large queue of people waiting excitedly to see a sold-out show, then realise it’s your show.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’18?

Professionally I’ve had some very nice acting jobs come through this year. Some on telly as we speak and others in theatre and a couple to come after the Fringe.

Also getting to put this show on, Something I’ve wanted to do for several years has been a real year highlight.
Going solo is both terrifying and electrifying and there are a few people who have really helped my get to this point.

Including (but not limited to) my wonderful family, Serena Dunn, Jamie Maguniess, John Henry Falle, Chaz Redhead, Will Close and Dianne Roberts. Also, the many magicians who’ve work inspired me to finally do my own.

In my personal life, I got engaged!

Tell us about your show.

I’m proud that the show is pretty novel in concept and execution. I can be confident in saying It’s certainly one of the most unique of the many magic shows on offer at this year’s fringe.

The audience is welcomed to the Magic Ring Magic Society’s Best Magician of Magic – Magic Competition. (TM)

Four Acts present their best 15 minutes of magic to the audience in the hope of winning the immortal trophy. I play all four acts. So there’s lots of quick changes whilst the audience are watching videos introducing the next act. Each act has their own style of magic and humour, so there’s a new energy introduced with each finalist.

The acts this year are:

The Reg kettle, a bitter reject from the working mens club magic circuit now forced to do kids parties. Zantos Thorne, A cocky American mindreader who also sees himself as a Pick-up artist.  Klause Fantastiche, Germanys No1 Illusionist (in his price range) and Famed 1970s TV Double act Colin and Carol.

The aim of the show is to just get the audience to have a really great time and see some unforgettable magic moments.  There are other elements to the show… but those would be spoilers.

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

I’ve seen some great shows the year, too many to name but: “Boar” is a triumph. Titania Mcgrath’s show is playing on a treacherous satirical cliff edge but writing and performance are sharp enough to navigate it safely though. One never regrets an evening with The Showstoppers. Ever. Algorithms is at serious risk of being the next fleabag Cirque Bezerk is quite something to see. Holy smokes and “Mr thing” is the best way to end a day at the fringe. It’s got everything; games, nonsense, a banging band and a puppet barkeep…who needs more.



Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist (Assembly George Square Gardens: Aug 19 – 25 : 21:00: 1hr)

“A gem of the surreal comedy scene.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Nae Bad

My consumption of Tom Lenk’s work, like many, is limited to his appearances on the small screen. His time as Andrew the reformed(ish) demon-maker-turned-sidekick in Buffy the Vampire Slayer definitely earned him a place in my heart, but that sells him short. He’s made appearances on the Broadway stage, is a playwright in his own right, and now (most importantly) the Edinburgh Fringe, in a show whose brief is impossible not to take a second look at.

Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist is one of the most successfully surreal Fringe shows I’ve ever seen. The title both sums it up entirely, and fails spectacularly to capture anything of its substance at all. The premise itself sounds like the setup for a joke: a struggling, suicidal young man (writer Byron Lane) gets a knock on the door, and it’s Tilda Swinton. Everything unfolds from this single origin point, and blooms out in absurd fractals from there.

Don’t be fooled, though. From the moment Lenk arrives onstage as Swinton, that absurdity has justification. As the marketing may suggest, Lenk’s performance is the main event, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Lenk’s Swinton is so unconventionally charming that it’s hard to describe. It’s almost like the cubist version of charisma. Whether blowing in like a winter storm at a bag factory or whispering sweet nothings to an espresso machine, Lenk captivates a crowd like no other. It’s true spectacle, and well worth the price of admission.

This is not, however, a one man show. Walt, Swinton’s project and the main audience touchpoint, is a fine element of grounding in a show that could easily lose its feet. He does a very good job of playing constant foil to Lenk’s fifth-dimensional grandeur, and his puppydog appeal is undeniable – though, occasionally his delivery slipped from “sad and confused” to “disinterested”. Whilst in other shows this might slide, when playing on the same stage as a mad swan-lady from the nth dimension, it shows. As a writer, Lane should be incredibly proud not only of the task he’s undertaken, but the tightness of his script. The joke density is intimidatingly thick, and some sections feel as if the laughs are built in wall-to-wall.

Mark Jude Sullivan fits in perfectly to the heightened reality at both ends of the pole, pulling double duty as self-obsessed Bobby and Walt’s whitebread father. His quiet turmoil later in the show, oddly, is one of the most compelling emotive moments simply due to its relative silence. Opposite him is Jayne Entwhistle, whose portrayal of Walt’s mother is a pitch perfect rendition of the middle-American mom. However, I must particularly praise her as Wanda the line chef, a blink-and-you-miss-it character who (surprisingly) had some of the best lines and delivery of the entire show.

As a comedy, it’s hard to want more from Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist. Though (as is usual) a few jokes drag beyond their apex of funniness, it’s a tightly written and directed piece of absurdist theatre that knows exactly how to work its material. However, there’s an emotive undercurrent beneath the laughs, and it’s there that the show stumbles. Though by the end everything ties into a fairly satisfying pathos, the emotive content of the first half feels vestigial and undercooked compared to the piece’s stronger elements. Whilst certainly not a traditionally dramatic show by any means, it nevertheless lacked the emotional foundation needed to turn what is (admittedly) a great show into an outstanding one. That is perhaps the greatest frustration of director Tom Detrini’s work, which constantly teases at perfection but never holds it hard enough to stick.

Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist is a gem of the surreal comedy scene, and very much one to catch while you can. Lenk is a tour-de-force as Swinton, and worth every since flouncing, strange moment. You might not be able to explain what you’ve seen afterwards, but I can guarantee you’ll feel positively about it.

nae bad_blue

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

Reviewer: Jacob Close  (Seen 18 August)

ALL our +3 (festivals) coverage? Click here!

It’s True It’s True It’s True (Underbelly Bristo Square: Aug 16-25: 13:00: 1 hr)

“A deliriously engaging hour that combines essential social commentary, historical document, and top-notch courtroom drama.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

The Edinburgh Fringe offers many delightful kinds of attractions one could find in few other places; food, drink, venues, performances, people, et cetera. Perhaps the most exciting of them all, as I was reminded while watching Breach Theatre’s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True, is ideas. This production, while also filled with outstanding craft from top to bottom, breathes life into one of the most singularly creative ideas this festival has to offer.

Directed by Billy Barrett, and ‘written’ by Barrett and Ellice Stevens, this show demands to be taken as an essential piece of theatre. I say ‘written,’ because the script is translated verbatim from the real-life transcripts of a 1612 trial in Rome. The trial in question concerned whether pompous socialite Agostino Tassi had raped budding painter Artemisia Gentileschi (who went on to garner wide praise, success, and notoriety later in her life), and here lies the first inspired idea within Barrett and Stevens’ project. The transcript, translated from Latin and Italian, is an utterly fascinating document, considering what it implies about the sensibilities of the time surrounding status, sexuality, truth, lies, legacy, misogyny, and more. Of course, without needing to labor the point at all, Breach Theatre’s piece makes it quite clear that the conversations spoken back then about consent, assault, and accusations of unacceptable male behavior are hauntingly similar to ones the modern world has faced with increasing frequency over the last few years. One may find it at times difficult to believe the verbatim transcripts could include parallels so blatant as the moments where Tassi, arrogant and dismissive of the proceedings through and through, directly echoes the word of infamously accused men: “she’s not my type,” “she was asking for it,” “she’s a wh*re anyway,” and so on.

To bring these disarming moments to life, Barrett has assembled a blisteringly talented trio of actors, all of whom multi-role as various judges and testifiers, and all of whom are remarkably capable of stealing a scene. Sophie Steer, as Artemisia herself, is captivating from start to finish; her Artemisia is withdrawn at times, aggressive in others, defensive when she needs to be and just the right amount of multifaceted. Kathryn Bond, who plays numerous roles but most notably the Gentileschi house’s maid Tuzia, has an electric way of performing, so that she achieves exciting, lightning-fast delivery while also mining both pathos and hilarity in the process. But it is Harriet Webb, playing Tassi with a frighteningly familiar swagger, who edges out the top spot among the three. The smarm, threat, and cunning Webb pours into her depiction of Tassi make for an uncomfortably amusing concoction; some ought to beware, however, the searing condemnation of a certain ‘yah’ accent that gets thoroughly skewered as a sonic ‘red flag.’ Overall, though Webb’s performance captivated me the most, all three performers deserve immense credit for giving this piece an electric energy and impressive momentum.

Certain choices sporadically let this momentum down, however. The show is intermittently interrupted by musical transitions, which move the story along through the seven-month trial. The first thing one might notice is that a few of these simply take so long that the pace drops noticeably; a confounding design considering the actors are clearly in place and ready to leap back into the fray, but stay still waiting for the roaring punk interludes to wrap up. The spirit of the musical choices is very understandable — Breach clearly means to imbue the show with the snarling ferocity of the mostly female punk bands they sample. However, these songs drag the viewer out of the 1612 setting perhaps a little too far, especially considering they often come after relatively tame developments in the story. Hearing Tuzia describe Artemisia’s painting habits does not quite build up the energy to warrant a face-melting scream directly afterwards, and the effect is considerably less compelling than the many brilliant elements working so well elsewhere onstage.

The other place that could use some rethinking is the ending; after the mortifying interrogation of Artemisia is finished, the play changes tack into some surreal territory which does not quite hold together with the story that proceeds it or indeed to the disjointed gig-theatre-esque grand finale. This finale, though rousing, seems rather forced, with neither the songs sung nor the visuals introduced feeling relevant to the play’s eminently laudable initial concept. 

And to reiterate, the concept is unquestionably laudable. It’s True, It’s True, It’s True is a deliriously engaging hour that combines essential social commentary, a fascinating historical document, and the nail-biting tension of a top-notch courtroom drama. I was reminded repeatedly of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1960 film La vérité, a similarly fascinating dramatization of a similar trial, albeit with a multifaceted woman (played by Brigitte Bardot) on trial instead. Both have deeply nuanced and intelligent means of uncovering bitter truths about the way women are treated both by men and by the legal system, plus some tremendous female performances. La vérité shocks one today because its depiction of society feels unsettlingly relevant considering it was made 60 years ago; the effect of It’s True, It’s True, It’s True, then, considering its dialogue was initially spoken over 400 years ago, is downright infuriating. Credit to Breach Theatre for delivering such a play, for a second round at Fringe, with all the maddening ferocity this subject provokes, and then some. 



Reviewer: Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller

ALL our +3 (festivals) coverage? Click here!



+3 Interview: Ogg ‘n’ Ugg ‘n’ Dogg

“What I am really, really looking forward to at the moment is not having to flyer every day to get an audience.”

WHO: Colin Granger: Writer, director, marketing manager

WHAT: “Hail Ogg ‘n’ Ugg! Heroes! And ta so much for inventing the dog. Don’t miss this mind-boggling tale of how two Yorkshire hunter-gatherers palled up with the wolves and saved us from doglessness. Expect flying meat bones, sabre-toothed tigers, time-travelling stick and maybe, if you’re lucky, even a pat of Dogg! Award-winning Fideri Fidera’s reet funny comic take on the amazing evolutionary process that transformed the wolf into man’s best friend and all the dogs we see in the world today. Perfect for dog lovers young and old, big and small.”

WHERE: Gilded Balloon Teviot – Dining Room (Venue 14) 

WHEN: 12:30 (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

My name’s Colin Granger and I’ve been coming to the Edinburgh Fringe in various guises for the past 35 years – as director, would-be actor, playwright, producer, fringe venue manager, and programmer. I’m back this year with Theatre Fideri Fidera, a children’s touring theatre company I set up with my partner Marina and our daughter Natasha Granger in 2016. This year we have brought a play I’ve written called ‘Ugg ‘n’ Ogg ‘n’ Dogg’ What I am really, really looking forward to at the moment is not having to flyer every day to get an audience. There are just too many children’s shows on the Fringe, and with Edinburgh, schools now back, far too few kids to watch them.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’18?

The best thing that happened for our company in the last couple of years was getting good reviews for our 2017 production, Oskar’s Amazing Adventure, and it winning the Primary Times Children’s Choice Award. This gave us a good two years on the road playing at theatres and venues all over the UK and Ireland. The best thing for myself and Marina is that after getting sidetracked for nearly 25 years founding and running the arts and entertainment venue Komedia in Brighton and Bath, we handed over our jobs to our staff so we could to spend more time on our first love, creating theatre.

Tell us about your show.

The play is set a long time ago in the fresh, sparkling new world just after the Ice Age when there were no dogs for us to be best friends with. There were wolves but we didn’t like them and they didn’t like us. But then along came Yorkshire hunter-gatherers Ogg ‘n’ Ugg to pal up with the wolves, and save us all from a life of doglessness. Audiences can expect lots of fun, flying meat bones, rapping wolves, sabre-toothed tigers, time travelling sticks, and – if they’re lucky – even a chance to pat the world’s first dog – Dogg!

I wrote the script and directed ‘Ugg ’n’ Ogg ’n’ Dogg’, but as a company, we always develop the script in workshops, rehearsals, and previews, so my original script always gets changed a lot in the process. We are premiering Ogg ‘n’ Ugg in Edinburgh and start touring in October with performances in small rural touring venues in Dorset – my favourite type of touring.

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

I have hardly seen a thing. After a hard day flyering all I can manage is a hot bath and an early night. I have, however, seen one four times, Swipe Right Theatre’s ‘Scream Phone’ at the Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose. But have to own up, that my daughter is one of the performers and co-wrote and directed the show.