Mischief (Traverse: 11-15 Oct ’16)

“Life-affirming and devastating in equal measure”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

Ronnat and Brigid, mother and daughter, live alone on a small island, save for some cows that they tend to for a group of monks on a neighbouring island. But when the handsome young sailor Fari washes up on their beach, their little world is set to be changed forever. For his own good, Fari is sent off to live with the monks with the next dispatch of milk, but he soon becomes responsible for transporting the milk back and forward, meaning frequent visits to the women on the island, which have deeper effects on them all than any of them initially realise.

It’s a simple but intriguing set up, and Ellie Stewart’s writing creates a believable world and relationship web between the three characters that slowly unfurls as the play progresses. The plot is full of changes in direction and power between each one, keeping the tension alive throughout, and leading to a final scene and denouement that’s both life-affirming and devastating in equal measure.

While covering quite a “serious” overall topic, a fair amount of comedy is woven in, largely through quite overt sexualisation. Such moments are generally amusing, though do perhaps cheapen the play and divert attention away from the main drama, which is the piece’s real strength. Traditional singing and movement are also used throughout which in some ways add to the sense of history and ritual one would expect from such a setup, but in others seem a bit gratuitous in trying to cram in too many devices. Overall I think Mischief (a slightly misleading title) tries a bit too hard to do too much in such a short space of time.

What would make this play more effective would be a greater sense of stillness and time – there are quite a few scenes and scene changes as the story progresses at a pretty rollicking pace, but given the life-changing themes and choices presented, Gerda Stevenson’s slick direction never really gives enough opportunity for the situation or newly revealed facts to just hang and be absorbed. The young cast, in their earnestness, also seem very keen to over-emote and play up to stereotypical roles, when a subtler and more grounded approach would help make the play’s decisive moments stand out.

It’s a moving and captivating piece that’s cleverly written, but not realised to its full potential in this production.

nae bad_blue

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

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 11 October)

Visit the Traverse archive.


Qyeen SweeTs: NorthernXposure (The Stand, 18 – 30 Aug : 22.40 : 1hr)

“A clever balance between physicality, language and accent”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars

This show is part stand-up, part forthright declaration about feminism and heritage, and part mish-mash of the two. The comedy sections were generally well delivered and funny, the ranting clear and powerful, if somewhat serious, while all the bits in the middle were neither one nor the other, so it was difficult to know whether I was supposed to be finding them funny or not.

There were elements of the show which were particularly enjoyable, and to me where SweeTs strengths, are in the stylistic imitation of the various characters in her story. In particular “lassie” – the well-spoken lady from London, and her other interrogators on her visit. She used a clever balance between physicality, language and accent to make her characters at once recognisable and human.

Indeed, the parts of the set which focussed on storytelling (tales of her recent trip to London and recounts of her school days) were the easiest parts to follow and interweave jokes and caricatures. SweetYs excels at honing in on key moments and delivering one liners deadpan irony, while her selective repetition of some lines in her stories, each time delivered with a slightly different emphasis to show the thought process were also very amusing. We all know that sometimes if you say something more than once it might make more sense, and this idea SweetYs explores with great success.

What I was most disappointed in and let down by about this show was its climax. When referring to her encounter in London she loudly and proudly declared to her gathered audience that she was indeed the only female African Scottish rapper, and was prepared to do a rap to any beat she was given to prove that yes, she did rap. So that was when the beat kicked in, and I was expecting some lyric spitting of a very high calibre. Unfortunately, what followed was a rather measly few lines as a chorus and a lot of pregnant pauses filled with strutting around the stage and trying to get the audience to clap along.

Like much of the show, I couldn’t tell if this was an ironic moment, or a genuine attempt at rapping. Either way, the impact was lost and this turned into a bit of a downer on what otherwise was quite a promising performance.

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

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 18 August)

Visit the The Stand archive.


Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Divas (Assembly Hall: 6 – 30 Aug. 18.15 : 1hr 15 mins)

“This is the show I have been waiting for to blow me away. Wow, wow, WOW!”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars: Outstanding

I’m sure I’ve heard it somewhere that while 13 is unlucky, 14 is incredibly lucky. And with this being my 14th review of this year’s Fringe I feel like I’ve stolen absolutely everyone’s luck and struck gold.

The queues outside and the desperate scramble for seats inside Assembly’s packed Rainy Hall should have been enough to convey that Doris and her friends are already becoming the runaway hit of this year’s Fringe.

The idea is fairly simple – a dramatic and musical retelling of what the “stars” are like backstage, based on the experiences of their dressing rooms assistants. The dialogue is well written and delivered with great vitality by the three actors, while the harmonies in the group numbers are just exquisite. The plot is basic, but I don’t think anybody came for that.

For me, Gail Watson is absolutely the star of this show. To be able to pull off one impression with such style is hard enough, but she embodied Doris Day, Dolly Parton, and a wonderfully bitchy Julie Andrews. I honestly couldn’t tell you which was my favourite, but when Dolly sang I Will Always Love You at the end of the show I genuinely thought I was watching the real deal – it was superb. Watson is charismatic, emotive and a simply stunning singer, and I predict a very exciting future for her.

Perhaps the most surprisingly impressive turn of the night was Frances Thorburn as Joel Grey, as he appeared in Cabaret. Her (his) mannerisms were impeccably refined and she more than capably held her own in the duet, Money Makes the World Go Around. Her performance of Somewhere Over The Rainbow was also mesmerising, capturing every nuance of the original.

We’ve all seen the divas’ on-screen and on-stage personas. This show delivered the rip-roaring numbers, tantrums and idiosyncrasies that we all love, but also very moving glimpses into their backstage lives, their families and insecurities. In what managed to be a fantastically glitzy, giggly and gritty affair, this is, without doubt, the show I have been waiting for to blow me away. Wow, wow, WOW!

I’m notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to my five stars, but I have no choice than to throw them all at this spectacular performance.



Reviewer: Steve Griffin  (Seen 10 August)