Review: Instructions for Border Crossing – Northern Stage at Summerhall, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Monday August 14 2017

Two Stars

The writer and performer Daniel Bye has a track record for staging performance lectures that wear their hefty subjects and the depth of his research admirably lightly. He is best known for Going Viral, his award-winning exploration of viruses (in every sense of the word) and his multi-layered look at the idea of value, called The Price of Everything.

 

Bye’s performance style, which combines affable audience interaction with elements of multimedia, has always been something of an onstage juggling act, with lots of ideas thrown up in the air at once. His new piece, which deals with border crossings, in all their menace and absurdity, feels stylistically overstuffed, befuddling his message.

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Review: Enterprise – Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Saturday August 12 2017

Three Stars

The enterprise itself in Brian Parks’s latest play is never identified, and, like the elusive World Wide Wicket Company in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, we are never made aware exactly what goes on within its skyscraper HQ. The playwright names his protagonists Landry, Owens, Sanders and Weaver, but they could be any quartet of floundering middle managers trying to stay afloat in the commercial stew.

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Review: To Hell in a Handbag – Assembly George Street, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday August 11 2017

Three Stars

Every so often, productions of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest reinstate the play’s “lost” fourth act, an extraneous sequence that was whipped out by the playwright at the behest of his original producer. The short scene, in which the solicitor Grimsby pursues Algernon (masquerading as Earnest) for debts racked up by Jack (in his guise as Earnest), adds a further frisson of jeopardy to Wilde’s beautifully trivial comedy of manners.

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Review: The Last Queen of Scotland – Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday August 11 2017

Four Stars

Idi Amin had such an obsession with Scotland that he regularly wore kilts, relaxed to bagpipe music and named four of his sons Campbell, McLaren, McKenzie and Mackintosh. For Jaimini Jethwa, growing up in Dundee in the 1970s, the fascination was mutual. Jethwa and her family were among the 60,000 south Asians expelled from Uganda by the dictator in 1972. Following a spell in a refugee camp in Kent, Jethwa’s parents opted to resettle in the “Jute City” because, unlike other parts of the UK, there was no waiting list.

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Review: Salt – Northern Stage at Summerhall, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Thursday August 10 2017

Four Stars

At the start of Salt, Selina Thompson, the writer and performer, tells us about the year she spent at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, mostly listening to “white, men talking about their pain.” It is one of the lighter moments in the powerful, 70-minute monologue, eliciting a rush of relieved laughter from the (largely white) audience, but it is important because it forms part of the litany of incidents, serious and trivial, that led this young black woman from Birmingham to embark on the amazing journey she describes.

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Review: Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid – The Hub, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Wednesday August 9 2017

Three Stars

Meow Meow has long been a favourite among Edinburgh audiences for her appearances in outrageous solo shows such as Feline Intimate, not to mention last year’s triumph as the singing star of Barry Humphries’ Weimar Cabaret. This year, the Australian cabaret diva known for her bendy physique, onstage acrobatics and above-the-stage aerial flights occupies an even loftier perch at the International Festival: the Hub at the top of the Royal Mile, where she has taken up residence for much of August.

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Review: Adam – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Wednesday August 9 2017

Three Stars

So much happens in this new show from the National Theatre of Scotland that it seems impossible that it only runs for 75 minutes. A loose companion piece to Jo Clifford’s Eve, which also debuts as part of this year’s Traverse festival programme, Adam charts an Egyptian transgender man’s early life, including his experience of homelessness, abuse, mental illness and self-harm, before he is reborn – in every sense – at the age of nineteen, in Scotland.

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