The Man Who Planted Trees

***** 5 Stars

It is always nice to come across a brilliantly told story, and Edinburgh’s festival certainly has plenty to choose from, The Man Who Planted Trees is however head and shoulders above a lot of the shows around for children. It is thoughtful, engaging, and amusing, not to mention brilliantly told. 

This is a touching tale told simply but extremely effectively. The dog puppet is simply wonderful and one of the best that I have ever seen, and takes a commanding role in the show. The cast use an inventive use of props, aroma,music score…and water to fully immerse the audience into this story, and all around you could hear giggles of delight and not just from the children!

This story has sadness, joy, humour and all round heartwarming emotion and I would recommend this to any family as mine and those around us certainly loved every second of it….we may even be there twice!

reviewed by Kath.

Scottish Storytelling Centre

Venue 30a. Fringe programme page 25.

August 5th-21st.

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Phil Jupitus’s Quartet – Made Up

4 Stars  ****

Now Impro comedy is anything but new. ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’ paved the explosion some years ago on TV and it was a main stay of many a Fringe since.

Phil Jupitus, TV Presenter, deejay, comedian and almost everything else has joined forced with three masters of this art namely Andy Smart, Steve Steen and Steven Frost to provide an hours entertainment for those assembled in Gilded Balloons cavernous Debating Hall.

There was nothing new about this, the quartet responding to audience suggestions and playing a variety of well tried and established ‘games’ for the hour.

Okay, as with most impro, some bits worked better than others, but at least with these experts there was a fighting chance that nearly all would be funny, and they were.

A gentle afternoon’s fun is certainly on the cards each time they perform and judging by the audience reaction was extremely well appreciated.  The quartet seemed to be enjoying themselves too Sometimes the well tested route really is best.

Reviewed by Geoff

Gilded Balloon Debating Hall V14

Until 28th (not 23,26)

15:30 to 16:30

Page 133

Carl Donnelly 3: Carl Donnelier!

4 Stars ****

 One young comedian with a growing reputation and following is definitely Carl Donnelly and having seen his full length show for the first time it is not difficult to understand why.

Donnelly is a laid back character, no rampaging around his stage for him, just a little audience interaction and on with the show, a really funny insight to his life and episodes that punctuate the day for him.

He is quite observational at times, often self-deprecating is style yet no matter what he is talking about, pets, cats, Glastonbury, film going, Twitter, rumour spreading, he has the ability to draw laughs throughout from a difficult Saturday night crowd of varying ages. I particularly liked his segments on the change in his appearance especially his hair style and the segment on dancing was worth the admission money on it’s own.

He occasionally wonders off at a tangent from the storyline, but gets back there to finish each story, and I felt the audience warmed to him as the set progressed.

Now this show was pretty well full when I attended, so once the word of mouth gets about it could be difficult to get a ticket. So why not check him out soon while there is a chance.

Reviewed by Geoff

Udderbelly Pasture

3 to 29 August (not 15)

19:50 – 20:50

Fringe Brochure p54

Satellites – Awful Pie Theatre

3 Star ***

There are advantages and disadvantages in taking a literary classic and adapting it to the confines of a small acting space and obviously the time restraints that are imposed on companies during the Fringe.

This young company took the D.H. Lawrence classic Woman in Love and gave their interpretation of the tangled lives of sisters Ursula and Gudren Brangwen and their loves Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich together with the peripheral characters that they encounter.

The advantage of a piece like this is that a high percentage of the audience are aware of the source material, but that can also be a disadvantage too.

The six actors Ella Thackery, Lauren Hyett, Francis Parham Tim Kiely, Fiona Guest and Rupert Snellgrove turn in competent enough performances throughout and the use of each taking on the role of narrator at times moved the plot along nicely.

Disadvantaged by a acting area that gave little scope for complex lighting plots, some scenes were unable to be lit well and the floor level stage would stop all but the front row seeing most low level action.

The major disappointment in this piece for me was that something major was missing and that was passion. I fell that the Lawrence original was brimming with it, yet this adaptation was devoid of real emotion and at times and came over rather bland.

Reviewed by Geoff

The Spaces on The Mile V 39

5- 20 August ( not 7, 14)

18:10-19:25

Fringe Programme P 295

Pink Noise by FORK

5 Stars

*****

Each year at the Fringe there are a few acts that aren’t generally well known at the start but, by word of mouth and several favourable reviews, they become the memorable acts of that year. I predict Finnish a cappella group FORK will come into this category. (I am writing this review on August 8th.) Actually, it is not such a difficult prediction to make when a music act receives a standing ovation after their second encore.

FORK are made up of two girls and two guys. If there is one word which sums up their performance, it is the word spectacular. Their selection of rock songs has one of the four taking the lead, backed up by a driving beat and precise harmonies from the other three. Accompanying the music there is a light show and back projection. Their eye-catching costumes are individualised but co-ordinated, white in the first half and black in the second. Their performance is slickly choreographed. They can do edgy or raunchy whatever the song suggests. And yes, with all that is going on, they can sing and even do a bit of ironic humour between songs.

It takes a bold group to take on a full version of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as their final encore but they nailed it. As they performed their set, I recognised most of the songs but, reassuringly, when the group had made their final exit, there was a run-down of their song list projected on to the screen.

It is interesting assessing how the members of an audience react to an unfamiliar act. My impression was of an uncertainty at the outset but by the end they were completely won over.

Reviewed by Ben

Assembly George Square – George Square Theatre: 3

3 to 28 August 2011 (not 10, 17)

18.05 – 19.15

Fringe Programme Page Number: 216

Ed Reardon: A Writer’s Burden

4 Stars

****

Christopher Douglas takes on the role of Ed Reardon in a humorous recounting of the life to date of an aging English writer who has squandered the possible opportunity to make his mark as an author of substance. Now he is living alone in squalor, embittered at the literary world’s failure to recognise, in his own mind, his exceptional talent, eking out a living writing contributions for obscure books which are the most likely candidates for remaindering.

As he looks back, he is aided by the excellent Josh and Nicola, members of his now defunct ‘Theatre in a Basket’ company in playing out significant scenes from his life. A large basket does feature as one of the main props. These witty and well observed sketches do complement his autobiographical approach.

From an early age, he displayed a precocious talent for spinning words in the most pretentious way. His apparent ability led him to believe he was on his way to success, fame and fortune. TV work and Hollywood beckoned but, apart from the odd episode in the series Tenko for example, recognition and all that it brings didn’t happen.

Now he appears a sad figure but he still has not lost his own sense of self-importance and uncompromising attitude. Although Ed has messed up his life and is divorced, his acerbic thoughts do resonate with some of life’s irritations and this does give the character credibility although not one that we would find likeable.

Reviewed by Ben (I should point out that Christopher Douglas and I share the same surname but, as far as I am aware, we are not related.)

Pleasance Courtyard – Forth: 33

3 to 29 August 2011

16.00 – 17.00

Fringe Programme Page Number: 259

The Wright Brothers

3 Stars

***

After seeing this production of the Wright Brothers, I feel I was more educated than entertained. Of course, Wilbur (Timothy Allsop) and Orville (Robin Hemmings) did succeed in making one of the most important achievements of the 20th century or indeed of any century. Their story is one of triumph over many difficulties, not least of which was the sheer danger of what they were attempting.

The drama of their dedication and perseverance to achieve their goal of the first powered flight is brought out to some extent. There is a neat use of a back projection screen to show slides of locations and their aeroplane ‘The Flier’ as well as film of birds in flight. On the other hand, there is too much emphasis in the way of technical detail – mathematical equations do not make for good theatre. Also, the humour in the action and dialogue is laboured.

It is a worthy production but not one to make a powerful impact.

Reviewed by Ben

Pleasance Courtyard – One: 33

5 to 27 August 2011 (not 8, 15, 21)

13.30 – 14.30

Fringe Programme Page Number: 313