Review: The Naked Magicians – Pleasance, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Wednesday August 31 2016

One Star

 

Be warned: there is a lot of padding in this show and we’re not just talking about the stuffing in our hosts’ underwear. The tacky love child of Paul Daniels and Magic Mike opens with the two buff Aussies launching a giant inflatable phallus into the front row and asking that we bounce it around the auditorium until the music stops and the first audience participant is chosen.

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Review: Greater Belfast – Traverse, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday August 26 2016

Four Stars

In the long-running story of the United Kingdom’s constitutional make up and future, Northern Ireland is often treated as a footnote, as though eighteen years of peace have rendered the province unworthy of close attention. That situation may be changing, though, at least in cultural terms. Mark Cousins’ fluid documentary meditation on his hometown of Belfast was released earlier this year, and now we have this engaging, multifaceted exploration of the same city and her people from the musician and theatre-maker Matt Regan.

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Review: Hess – Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Saturday August 27 2016

Three Stars

It is now 75 years since Rudolf Hess bailed out of his Messerschmitt over Scotland, having set out on a solo mission to negotiate peace with the British in the midst of the World War II. It was to be the start of a long period of incarceration for the one-time deputy führer in Hitler’s Third Reich. After the Nuremberg trials Hess escaped the death penalty but went on to spend the rest of his long life incarcerated at Berlin’s Spandau prison.

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Review: Solo Date – Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, August 26 2016

Three Stars

This solo piece from the writer and performer Tsai Pao-Chang packs a lot of ideas into its 50-minute running time. On one level, the show (staged as part of the fringe’s Taiwan Season) is a poignant love story, about a young man grieving for his recently deceased lover. The piece gradually expands, drawing on the myth of Orpheus in the Underworld to speculate about the implications of artificial intelligence on the way we cope with death and grief.

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Review: Scorched – Zoo Southside, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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First published in The Times, Thursday August 25 2016

Four Stars

The impact of war and conflict on individuals is always a recurrent theme across the fringe theatre programme. Yet few productions address the subject with the lyricism of this new piece from Open Sky productions. The show is the creative brainchild of the writer Lisle Turner, who based much of its content on the experiences of his grandfather, a veteran of World War II.

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Review: Careful – Gilded Balloon at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Wednesday August 24 2016

Three Stars

For the past two years, Scotland has topped the Rainbow Index, which measures legal equality for LGBTI people across Europe. The country hasn’t always been nearly this progressive, though. Lanarkshire in the early 1970s was a particularly lonely place for a young girl named Sheena Mary McDonald who was questioning her sexuality and gender identity. “While other girls were dreaming of a date with David Cassidy, I was dreaming I was David Cassidy.”

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Review: Don’t Panic! It’s Challenge Anneka – Summerhall, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Monday August 22 2016

Three Stars

 

The term “national treasure” has become a little devalued in recent years, but back in the Eighties and early Nineties, the television star Anneka Rice really did inspire love and admiration among the British public for her endlessly cheery, empathic persona and the plucky “can do” spirit she embodied in her long-running reality show, Challenge Anneka. She was everyone’s kindly fairy godmother in fluorescent shell suit top, leggings and bum bag.

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