Edinburgh review: Four Woke Baes – Underbelly Cowgate

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First published in The Times, Friday August 16 2019

Three Stars

At various points during Jonathan Caren’s new play (set at a bachelor party on the Colorado River) the simmering tension that the writer and his cast work hard to sustain threatens to boil over. The script even includes its own backwoods equivalent of Chekhov’s gun: a hunting rifle that gets waved around with intent, only to finally go off in the most apologetic of ways.

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Edinburgh review: F.Off – Underbelly Cowgate

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First published in The Times, Thursday August 15 2019

Four Stars

This ensemble piece from the National Youth Theatre, which addresses burning issues of social networking and misappropriation of data, began life as a workshop participated in by 30 members of the company. Its origins can be seen in the show’s freewheeling structure and multiple narrative threads, but the playwright Tatty Hennessy has done an admirable job of focusing these conversations and experiences into a chewy, compelling production.

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Edinburgh review: Conspiracy – Underbelly Cowgate

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First published in The Times, Saturday August 10 2019

Two Stars

Occam’s razor — the philosophical principle that the simplest explanation is the most likely — is increasingly going out of fashion. Conspiracy theories abound, fuelled by online communities and jet-propelled by a growing distrust of conventional news and a general sense that the world is going to hell in a handcart, steered by shadowy powers with sinister agendas.

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Review: Kin – Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Saturday August 18 2018

Two Stars

Over the past couple of Fringes, Max Dickins has built a reputation as a master of storytelling theatre and a shape-shifting performer. His new play is something of a departure from his previous acclaimed works, The Trunk and The Man on the Moor, not least because the writer-performer does not appear, instead bequeathing the stage to a couple of his fellow actors.

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Review: It’s True, It’s True, It’s True – Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday August 17 2018

Four Stars

The Fringe is overflowing with verbatim shows, but there is little to match this latest piece from the award-winning Breach Theatre. While we usually associate verbatim work with contemporary issues and events, this new play is based on surviving transcripts of the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of Artemesia Gentileschi, the Italian baroque painter who became the first woman to be admitted to the Accademia delle Arte del Disegno in Florence.

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Review: Richard Carpenter is Close to You – Underbelly George Square, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Tuesday August 15 2017

Four Stars

There are plenty of reverential tributes to legendary musicians and bands on the fringe. The original act or artist is either retired or no longer with us, so audiences flock to see the next best thing instead.

 

This homage to one half of one of the biggest-selling groups of all time stands out from its rivals in that, while affectionate, it has a sharp, caustic edge that rather qualifies the earnestness of the music. Moreover, due to copyright issues, there is a limit to the number of bona fide Carpenters recordings that can be used in the show, meaning that the performer, Matthew Floyd Jones, has been forced to create a Greatest Hits album’s worth of pastiches.

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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: Man to Man – Underbelly Topside, Edinburgh Fringe

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First published in The Times, Friday August 14 2015

Five Stars

In an Edinburgh awash with solo theatre shows you need something extra special to stand out from the crowd. Manfred Karge’s monologue is already blessed with an impressive pedigree. First performed in the playwright’s native Germany more than 30 years ago, it received its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Festival in 1987 with a young Tilda Swinton in the lead.

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