‘Laurel and Chaplin: Before They Were Famous’ (theSpaceTriplex, until AUG 13)

“One of the best examples of audience participation in the known universe.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

In his 300-page autobiography, Charlie Chaplin never mentions Stan Laurel. Why not? Both were Brits who built their careers up from vaudeville and into the early era of moving pictures thus achieving immortality. They are iconic figures about whom so much is known, except that they started their journies to the top together, in the same company. What went wrong? Why did they never speak again?

We enter to find ourselves greeted by the show’s author, THE Jon Conway, introducing his latest script which is born of his quest to chart the section of Chaplin’s biography marked “here there be dragons.” Jon is a legendary producer, a veteran of campaigns in the West End, the silver screen, and BIG arena shows such as ‘Elf’ the supersized Christmas spectacular based on the Will Ferrell movie. Jon has an instinctive, professional’s feel for the pioneering age of Holywood when everything was an innovation. What follows is 45mins of laugh-out-loud knockabout with just enough tragedy to tug the heartstrings and add a bittersweet note to the custard pie mix hurtling towards your face.

Two on-screen legends merit two legendary performances. As Stan Laurel, Matt Knight shows off some of the party tricks that wowed the judges on BBC TV’s ‘Let It Shine’ where if memory serves (or rather if The Current Mrs Dan’s memory serves) he reached the semi-finals. There’s a depth to his portrait work on Laurel, a melancholy and personal uncertainty, the shadows of the limelight. Matt is a physical wonderworker, but he’s also a chuffing good character actor and one to watch in the coming years.

Watching Jordan (son of Jon) Conway play Chaplin is like having high tea at the Ritz astride a Harley-Davidson FXDR 114 (0-60 in approximately 2.5 seconds). The first thing I do when I’m back outside is message Angela Pearson of the ‘Talking Bottom’ podcast to ask if anyone is filming a Rik Mayall biopic and in need of a star. Jordan shares Mayall’s timing, his precision, his manic determination simply to be as funny as he can possibly be – in fact, funnier than anyone else could possibly be. Jordan matches Matt’s physicality (although no one could equal it). Their on-stage chemistry is as lively as things would get if you were caught deliberately puncturing the bouncy castle at Vinny Jones’ kid’s birthday party.

As Chaplin’s troubled mother, Hannah, Kelly Banlaki brings the drama of alcohol dependency and incarceration. Kelly and Jordan share some really lovely moments as the proud mother gazing with a broken heart at the superstar apple of her eye. Hannah the most complex and contradictory of the several roles Kelly plays. As the nurse – I dread to think where they bought that THAT costume – as the nurse she is [For your own protection, the remainder of this sentence has been automatically deleted by a woke algorithm.]

The supporting cast of Joel Hatton as, among others, musical hall impresario Fred Karno as well as Joe Speare as our narrator, Wilbur, provide more flying buttressing than is to be found on a medieval cathedral. It’s essential because this is a jack-in-the-box script ready to jump out of its tiny time slot and make some serious mischief. There’s a bit with a cucumber, Joel and Jordan that doesn’t leave a dry seat in the house. For me, and for everyone else, the absolute highlight of the night’s madcappery was the demonstration of how simplistic was the process of making movies back in the day – when pictures were shot in less time than it takes Howard Berg to get through Terry Pratchett’s ‘Moving Pictures’ cover to cover. This was done via one of the best examples of audience participation in the known universe.

This little run in theSpaceTriplex – Big is obviously a teaser for the full-length mega hit coming our way. It leaves us wanting more and asking a fair few questions like why Joe isn’t also appearing in an EdFringe showcase of Nat King Cole classics doing duets with Richard Shelton as Sinatra. BTW Joe’s got a chuffing superb singing voice, did I not mention that already?

Come for the names you know. Stay for brilliant performances by names you’re about to know. Leave wanting more. Get your Bermans and Nathans tailcoats on and go see this.


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‘Smashing Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet’ (Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker Two, until AUG 14)

“Penelope has told the story to everyone and there’s a lot of everyone – children, parents, and parents of parents – in the packed-out auld cellar that is Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker Two.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

I’m wandering around the house, post-EdFringe, trying to find a way to play Penelope Solomon’s compact disk, the one she gave us after the show. The only laptop we have with the means to play a CD is lacking the inclination. As I consider going up to the loft to ask the starlings if they have a Discman I could borrow, it strikes me that I was only 5 years aulder than Daughter 1.0 is now when I was watching Penelope on some of my absolute TV favourites ‘Fist of Fun’ and ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ which I had recorded on VHS and watched till the tapes wore thin. I’m glad she’s signposting her role in the classics in her promo materials. A few years back, it took me an age to figure out where I know Tim Marriott from. I grew up on 90s TV. I am as roundly educated as I am because 90s TV was different.

I’ve given up trying to find a CD player and have put on Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Slice of Hovis anyone? Now TV in the 90s – that lad, that were proper telly. Oh aye, we had cultural influences from t’ big US sitcoms, but none of these formulaic Viking detective shows or paint-by-numbers ‘Dallas’ reboots. Sure, you had fly-on-the-wall muck, but ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Celebrity Shag Island’ were tomorrow’s nightmares. TV in my day were clever. It were unique. TV in my day were as British as fish and chips and chicken tika masala. Coz you see lad, here’s what they don’t teach you post-B-word, British is a tapestry woven of many exotic threads on a comforting base of hempen homespun. Shakespeare and company would have undoubtedly toured about in Europe, picking up this and picking up that. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is set in Verona not Vale of Pickering. So if you’re going to do the play, especially for kids, you need a broad cultural vision to encompass the elegance and the artistry. You have to know stuff. Frankly, you have to have been on Telly back in ‘90s.

We enter to find a barrow, Hackney chic rather than Billingsgate pong. It’s got the same plastic ivy as Daughter 2.0 (4yrs) keeps pulling off the girls’ Step2 play taberna. Like the production to follow, the cart is light enough to capture and keep the imagination, breezy enough to suffer the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune of live performance to a younger audience, yet robust enough to carry the monumentally heavy drama. It softly whispers, “strolling players, Renaissance marketplace, twelfth night in my lord’s great hall.” This is a show that makes a small but deep impression, like reindeer prints in the snow. A lot of Shakespeare for kids, and Mike McEvoy was a friend of mine, is aimed at schools. The productions are loud, a bit in your face, as much about crowd control as forging a personal connection. ‘Smashing Shakespeare’ – and I’m sorry, the word ‘smashing’ should not be used unless Rik Mayall is describing someone’s blouse – ‘Smashing Shakespeare’ is a breath of fresh air. It’s The Bard for bairns of the ‘Cbeebies Bedtime Stories’ generation. A generation of homeschooled and forest schooled minds who know that every snowflake is unique.

Daughter 1.0 (7yrs) wrote the following in her EdFringe journal, the one with the purple fluffy cover that keeps malting in my laptop bag:

“When we walked in We saw a cart wich was used for lots of things like places to keep the spoons because they were used for people. There was only one person in the show. There were three ways to do it. One she use the decorated spoons. Two she put hats and cloukes on. And three she used puppets and had difarat voises. She played some songs that was not recanisable but pretty. The story was a tragedy. I felt intarested and exited. She was realy good at it. I loved it.”

Penelope Solomon has scored a hattrick, three goals in one game. First, she’s told an auld story brilliantly and innovatively. Second, she’s told a heavy story candidly yet sensitively. Not using puppets for Romeo or Juliet that the little ones are likely to strongly identify with – unless they identify as a small garden gnome or a cat. This simple good choice softens the play’s final blow and far more subtly so than those pre-Garrick types who said “feck it”, and replaced the last scene with the words, “and they all lived happily ever after.” Third, Penelope has told the story to everyone and there’s a lot of everyone – children, parents, and parents of parents – in the packed-out auld cellar that is Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker Two. Our man of the match is a lioness of grace and power. I can’t wait to see her next project come alive.

Come for the middle-class thrill of olive wood spoons and Shakespeare. Stay for storytelling done proper, like it was back my day. Leave knowing your little one has just broadened their cultural horizon by a country mile or three. Get your cloukes on and go see this!


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

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

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Outstanding)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns’ (Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until AUG 28)

“60 minutes of always brilliant, occasionally flirtatious badinage.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

Back home on the edge of Cambridgeshire’s Fenland, I’m listening to the ringing of the nine tailors from the church tower at the other end of our village. I am struck by how unique the concept of a Burns Supper is. Fenland’s own native bard, John Clare (1793-1864), wrote mighty beautiful words in mighty beautiful ways and lived a life both tragic and interesting. Yet Clare is as obscure as the snipe sitting at his rest in safety ‘neath the clump of hugh flag forrest. Scotland – and is Scotland a people, a place, a way of being, or all three? – Scotland owes an unpayable debt to Robert Burns (1759-96) for expressing all that makes Scotland Scotland in a uniquely sensitive, sensual, and simple voice. That debt is honoured by all right-thinking people annually. There are more statues of Burns on planet Earth than of any other writer. The homages will no doubt continue until the rocks melt with the sun.

We enter slightly before a lady writer of a certain age. She has come in hopes of mending a broken heart. She caught her life’s partner of these past 10 years, making the beast with two backs with another woman – and in her bed no less. Now he’s ghosting her. He has disappeared from her life. Her literary agent, who is also her friend (sure, sure), is pressing her to complete her latest manuscript. She proceeds to arrange her holiday cottage, moving ornaments, turning on the wireless, turning it straight back off again, flicking through her glossy magazine with a wee drop of wine to defecate the standing pool of thought. No joy, she’s still got writers’ block, a bruised ego, and no one to share Burns Night with – or so she thinks. If you’ve ever seen the ‘Star Trek’ TNG episode ‘Sub Rosa’ you know that auld Scottish cottages, recently deceased aulder relatives, and lovelorn ladies attract a certain type of unquiet spirit.

As the ghost of Robbie Burns, Colin McGowan comes on waaaay too strong (at first) which is genius on the part of the author, Gillian Duffy, because it gives this lively portrait plenty of time to soften into focus. As the onstage author, Gill McGowan starts out softer and gets stronger. At the conclusion of 60 minutes of always brilliant, occasionally flirtatious badinage the two characters are, as they say in Lodge No.133, ready to part upon the square. Both have fine voices, well suited to Burns’ classic lyrics. The spine-tingling effect will instantly have your heart in the highlands chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe. This is easily the best double act for your money this EdFringe and with a script that gets you wondering if Gillian Duffy has also encountered the shade of Bro. Burns, perhaps on that stone bridge Eddi Reader says she saw him on.

Come for the immortal memory. Stay for the lively and perfectly balanced performances. Leave with a new and/or renewed appreciation for the man, the work, the legend. Get your tartan-tastic coats on and go see this.


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‘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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‘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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‘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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