Lewis Schaffer is Free Until Famous

4 Stars ****

Louis Schaffer is a New York born 54 year old man of Jewish heritage. Is this relavent? Probably not, but he sets the scene with this stuff also claiming that he is not self-depricating, but My God he is, in spades.

Lewis does not follow too many of the comedy guidelines, he uses the mic at times, not at others, wanders around the audience, well it is quite a small room, and comes on to the ladies in the front row, in a nice way of course.

Schaffer doesn’t mind naming names, he told stories about Fringe ‘faces’ , the World Trade Centre, financial situation and living in the now. I do suspect that a different audience would maybe get a different show however, but no matter what the set, I’m equally convinced it would also be, like ours, very, very funny.

He is a likeable guy, a funny comic and truly deserves a higher profile than he has already got.  His room is busy and the belly laughs were numerous, you really should check out this guy before he is very famous.

As part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival entry to his show is free, however a collection bucket is there for donations on the way out.

Reviewed by Geoff 

Laughing Horse @ The Counting House

4 to 28 August

16:45 to 17:45and

19:30 to 20:30

Fringe Brochure P 109

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Out of the Blue

5 Stars *****

 Out of the Blue, an a cappella group based in Oxford are well on their way to becoming Fringe institutions that is assuming the have not already reached this status.

Fourteen male singers in pale blue shirts, dark suits but seemingly lacking shoes, took to the stage of the sold out Pleasance Beyond and for the new 50 minutes produced a high quality entertainment for one and all.

I am a veteran of their shows so was not surprised at the fare on offer, but I was sitting next to first timers who were blown away.

A fusion of music with fun choreography, a variety of singers leading on different songs, mash-ups Glee style and even audience participation was the order of the day.

The repertoire was wide, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Louis Beiga, U2, Katie Perry and Sting were artistes featured but this list is not definitive.

I understand that tickets are already at a premium for this show so don’t delay should it be your thing, and why wouldn’t it be?

Reviewed by Geoff

Pleasance Beyond V 33

3 to 29 August (not 16)

15:00 to 15:50

Fringe Brochure P 215

Sam Simmons – Meanwhile

5 Stars

*****

Sam Simmons has become a master craftsman of absurdist comedy and, put quite simply, he has constructed a very, very funny show. His style is an unpredictable mix of visual humour, musical send ups, fast one liners, slow irony and fun with the audience interaction. Put the whole lot together and you have a comedy feast. You know a comedian is in complete control when, despite the displays of frenetic energy, there are a few moments when there is absolute silence.

His preparation has to be meticulous with the number of props he uses. When he is in full flow, piling in punch line after punch line, you just have to marvel at the man’s sheer ingenuity. One example out of many is a routine with pine cones. It may only last about a minute but it is such a frenzied minute with laughs coming every few seconds.

He also uses piles of music extracts. An item where he puts the words of Christmas songs to Star Wars music is a comedy gem.

Unique is an overplayed word when it comes to describing a comedy act. In the Fringe Programme there are 135 pages in the comedy section. All I can say is if you are looking for a performer who is different; Sam Simmons would be a wise choice. This is the third time since 2009 I have seen his act and it is noticeable how he has developed and expanded his repertoire of skills.

Reviewed by Ben

Gilded Balloon Teviot – Wine Bar: 14

3 to 28 August 2011 (not 15)

21.00 – 22.00

Fringe Programme Page Number: 146

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup

3 Stars

***

Paul Hodson’s humorous adaptation of J.L.Carr’s novel will resonate with those who have witnessed or even achieved sporting success against all the odds. The play is set in a time before the modern era of massive media involvement and the excessive salaries paid to the top players drawn from all over the world. It harks back to a time when football was simpler and more basic, and, indeed, when there were more characters in the game.

Mark Jardine’s lively, solo performance expertly catches the mood of the times and the personalities of the key individuals who lead this village team from obscurity to national success. In team sport it is usually the case that the arrival together of several charismatic figures provides the essential spark to galvanise and inspire more ordinary individuals to raise their game. Not least amongst these characters is the Club Chairman, Mr Fangfoss, who is not above a little bit of gamesmanship to help achieve the right outcome.

Of course, the play has a definite predictability and the ending feels somewhat contrived, but it is an enjoyable and unusual piece of theatre, particularly for football fans.

Reviewed by Ben

Gilded Balloon Teviot – Dining Room: 14

3 to 29 August 2011 (not 16)

13.15 – 14.30

Fringe Programme Page Number: 269

The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik

4 Stars

****

Tim Watts’ one man show is an absorbing and impressive blend of many art forms, ranging from the high-tech to traditional puppetry. Animation both live and cartoon-like as well as prepared sequences takes the audience on Alvin Sputnik’s deep sea mission.

The opening scenes convey Alvin’s personal tragedy in the death of his wife and the disaster that has struck the world. Global warming has resulted in billions perishing due to flooding.

Alvin volunteers to dive to the ocean depths to unlock a huge rock structure which will provide a home for those who have survived the floods. His motivation to risk his own life comes from the only part of the show where Tim Watts talks to the audience. On his downward passage there are obstacles to overcome but also some friendly assistance. The music which accompanies the action is a mix of Tim Watts own songs and well known recorded tracks.

Does Alvin save the world or perish? It is not for me to reveal the ending in this humorous and cleverly performed show.

Reviewed by Ben

Underbelly Cowgate – Belly Button: 61a

4 to 28 August 2011 (not 16)

18.00 – 19.00

Fringe Programme Page Number: 236

Silken Veils

4 Stars

****

Leila Ghaznavi has a huge input in this production as writer, director, producer and taking the lead role of Darya. The play is extremely moving and dramatic, yet infused with much humour.

Set in America, it is the day of Darya’s wedding to Ahmad (Matthew Goodrich). She bursts onto the stage locking herself into a room, having fled from the wedding ceremony. Ahmad comes to the door beseeching Darya to come out. His mind is in turmoil. She refuses to come out. She questions not her love for Ahmad but the finality of the wedding ceremony and the life-long commitment it will impose on her.

Thoughts of her parents relationship come flooding into her mind as well as thoughts of her brother. These come from memories she has as a young child growing up in Iran at the time when the Shah was deposed and replaced by a fundamentalist Islamic regime. She witnessed the both the happiness of her family life and its disintegration during the revolution and the Iran/Iraq war which followed shortly after.

The drama is enhanced by a variety of techniques including puppetry and animation but particularly by the use of silhouette screens to show the black and white outlines of her intended husband and her parents played by Armando McClain and Olivia Sandoval. The play’s ending is totally absorbing and tense as Darya has to make a decision whether to take the risk to embrace love or not.

It is a beautifully written piece of theatre with excellent performances from all the cast.

Reviewed by Ben

Assembly George Square – Assembly One: 3

4 to 28 August 2011 (not 16)

15.40 – 16.40

Fringe Programme Page Number: 297

Rose

3 Stars  ***

Hywel John’s new play Rose is a story of a Middle Eastern father struggling to raise his daughter.

Arthur (Art Malik), hospitalised from a stroke, is visited by his daughter Rose(Keira Malik). The play continually cuts from the hospital to the flat where she and her dad (sharing a room) lived. Each time we return to the flat we see how Arthur, determined to embrace Englishness, is doing so in order to escape his own past.

He teaches her life lessons while also, bit by bit, revealing more and more of what happened to her mother. This leads to both character’s facing their origins and the truth of who they are, with a sad twist at the end.

Art and Keira Malik’s performances are the centre of the play. They deliver generously and play the relationship with conviction.

Art Malik delivers fine speeches and bold characterisation and Keira Malik while difficult as a child in the opening stages, develops as she grows older to contrast with her father and give him real opposition.

The set is the hospital and at times, with such a clinical setting struggled to imagine it as a flat, but this has stronger relevance towards the end of the play.

Well worth seeing for Art and Keira Malik.

Reviewed by Andrew Gourlay