Definition of Man (Greenside @ Infirmary Street: 3-25 Aug: 11:25: 60 mins)

“Powerful and emotive”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

Two performers enter the space, wearing rags and looking dishevelled. It appears they have been alone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland for some time – though for how long doesn’t seem important. What follows is a journey of how two people might survive (purely from a psychological perspective) in this situation.

Definition of Man is created by performers Jason Rosario and Nikki Muller, and could crudely be described as part Waiting for Godot, part DV8 physical theatre piece. After the initial wasteland scene, the performance darts back and forth between mini lectures about chemicals within the brain, personalised accounts of growing up as the child of an immigrant or ‘other’ in the USA, and much more besides. The level of detail in each section demonstrates impressive research and creativity, though comprehension is the main sticking point.

To begin with, there’s a bizarre jarring between the words in the script and the action on stage: the upbeat voices and physicality of the performers seem at odds with the sense of desperate survival implied by the words they say. Then the whistle-stop tour through all the other elements makes it hard to decipher just what, when, and who this show is about.

Only in the second half of the piece do the threads start to come together, and the crux of the relationship between the two characters comes to the forefront – just what happens to two lovers when they are left alone in the world for an inordinate amount of time? The final moments between Muller and Rosario are a powerful and emotive interpretation of this, though it’s a shame this depth comes so late on.

The action is punctuated throughout by some genuinely impressive lifts, balances and counter-tensions, which are an effective way to highlight apparent changes in power and focus between each character, and the emotions at play. When combined with colour design and subtle sound-scaping, moments within this performance really do shine.

To me, though, it feels like there are almost too many themes and ideas crammed into this piece, diluting what could be a compelling discussion into and presentation of the relationship between two people in an extreme environment. With so many different strands, it’s really difficult to get into and connect with the performance and work out what it is and where it’s going.

Overall, Definition of Man is an interesting and intense production that certainly gets the cogs whirring, but unfortunately, for me, it’s all a bit too confused and busy to have the impact it has the potential for.


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

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 9 August)


+3 Review: 2044 (Greenside @ Infirmary Street, 5-20 Aug: 11.30: 50min)

“Twists, turns and tensions aplenty to keep the audience on their toes”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

I’m normally wary of anything that describes itself as dystopian, as I have found that many such works (across all art forms) often struggle to create a world believable or compelling enough to hold my attention. 2044, however, is an intriguing and thoughtful piece, and while a little far-fetched, makes some very interesting conjectures on the future – made all the more timely given the current political landscape.

An independent Scotland, spurred on by a new right-leaning political wave, has developed extremely hostile relations with England, and when floods batter the English coastline, many “southerners” seek refuge north of the border. But, given the political situation, only one member of each family is allowed in – provided they meet the required standards of health, age and skills required for work.

It may seem reminiscent of various events in history, but the situation is presented with a very current and engaging interpretation. The script centres on two such refugees, and their struggle to follow the rules, lest they be seen as a burden on the country’s resources and be punished accordingly. The plot is structured in such a way as to slowly unfurl the background, giving hints at what’s to come, in quite a gripping story. Indeed, the craft and writing of this piece in terms of narrative development are spot-on, there are twists, turns and tensions aplenty to keep the audience on their toes.

Unfortunately though, at times it’s all a little bit melodramatic, and would benefit from a bit more development and depth to allow for greater variation in tone. Every scene feels like yet another “woe is me” announcement, and while intriguing plot developments, it is quite an intense 45 minutes and should really be a longer piece to give itself time to develop and unravel.

Because of the intensity of action, the acting also suffers somewhat. The constant chopping makes it quite frantic and one dimensional, and while some great subtlety is shown by Megan Matheson-Adams as Maria, the cast never feel like they fully hit their stride so the performance falls a little flat. I don’t think it helps that a couple of the monologues are quite forced and obvious, when a more creative way of communicating that information could be found.

Overall, a really commendable effort, particularly with the writing, but not quite the finished article yet.

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

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 12 August)


Waitless (Greenside @ Royal Terrace: 9 – 22 Aug : 15:00 : 55 mins)

“Sometimes wry, sometimes touching and constantly captivating”

Editorial Rating:  4 Stars Nae Bad


If forced to choose a combination of seemingly innocuous words which form something terrible when combined, my first would probably be “flavoured toilet brush” – in a very close second, however, would be “long distance relationship”. They’re frustrating, tense and more often than not leave you utterly unsatisfied with the way you’re spending your time – it’s a great pleasure, then, that Cailin Harrison’s “Waitless” summons up completely opposite feelings thrown up.

Focusing on the lives of New York newlyweds Shelly and Trent, the show largely follows the former’s fraught journey of self-realisation as she struggles with the loss of identity that comes with both expatriation and the changing nature of her marriage.

Although Jessica Moreno and Andrew Boyle are the only two on stage, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Boyle’s skill with rapid, crisp and amusing character shifts are an absolute joy to watch – several times writing this review, I had to mentally check there were only two actors involved.

And as the leading lady, Moreno utterly steals the show with her raw energy and stage presence: she could be reading the shipping forecast and still hold an audience’s attention. The nature of Shelly’s character would be difficult to pull off for any actress, but Moreno manages to be endearingly gregarious without it ever becoming irritating or unneededly fake.

It’s clear from the outset that these are two very versatile, very impressive actors: both in terms of their individual talents and onstage chemistry.

However, the energy that makes this show shine also threatens to burn: some of the more poignant moments felt slightly muddled in, simply because there was seldom any moment of slowness to fully appreciate Harrison’s dramatic turns. And although appropriately bittersweet, the ending left me somewhat wanting. Take it as a sign of the show’s knack for characters, but I felt the story lacked closure. Perhaps that’s the nature of the beast, as anyone who has suffered through the British visa system will tell you, but I was nevertheless disappointed that the final curves of Shelly’s character arc seemed to be cut short.

At the end of the day, though, there’s no avoiding that this is a very good show indeed. Sometimes wry, sometimes touching and constantly captivating, Waitless is worthy of heavy praise.


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

Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 17 August)

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RENT (Greenside @ Nicolson Square, 7- 30 Aug : 22.00 : 2hr 30 mins)

“A masterclass in simplicity and stunning individual performances”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

RENT is one of my absolute favourite musicals, and I was very excited to see a full length version of it at the year’s Fringe. I’ve seen it many times in many guises, and this one offered a fresh approach, performed on a thrust stage for a more immersive experience. In some ways this interpretation packed real musical theatre punch, but unfortunately it fell flat in others.

In many ways this was a production of two halves. The first half, on the whole, was somewhat mediocre, with a few missed notes, some questionable staging (particularly in the support group scenes) and some rather “wooden” performances – Today 4 U in particular seemed a bit awkward and forced. Yet something completely flipped in the second half, and apart from the death scene that really should have been cut, it was a masterclass in both simplicity and stunning individual performances.

What I felt often held the show back was a real sense of grit and connection with the material – the opening number about the horrors of being made homeless seemed to be more mildly annoying to the actors rather than traumatic; while some of the dancing seemed clumsy and could have been sacrificed in favour of a simpler, stripped back approach. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but given how spectacular the second half was in comparison to the first, it’s clear that this company does have the ability to dazzle.

I must highlight this performance’s real triumphs. La Vie Boheme/I Should Tell you was a very powerful ensemble number and arrangement, with a genuine sense of life and passion that had been missing up until that point. In the second half, the duet Take Me or Leave Me was both incredibly staged and incredibly sung with intense grit and emotion, while the funeral scene was the stand out moment of the show. Performed with heart-wrenching rawness, it is one of the best versions of this section of the show that I have ever seen.

Rob Young as Collins was stunning throughout, with a smooth and souly voice, layered with emotion and depth. Hannah Simpson as Maureen was also very impressive, with an original take on the “drama queen”, making her cheeky and very likeable, while also delivering with a stunning vocal performance. Special mention should also go to Stephanie Marie Napier as Mimi, who struggled slightly on the higher notes in Take Me Out, but delivered all of her other songs with real gusto.

Overall, this is a very commendable effort from New Horizons Theatre Company, with some very exciting stand out moments. I hope to see them back at the Fringe next year with an even more impressive production.

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

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 14 August)