Foursome: Purple Panda Theatre

3 Stars ***

John and Chloe have been together for two years. They share a flat with Ben a fairly straight up pharmacist and the rather more scruffy Jack, a buffoon of a Welshman, who likes rugby play stations and women.

After a disagreement the previous night, John and Chloe went out separately, but what did they get up to and do they remember even doing it?

The story progresses as secrets leak out, hangovers get worse and where does The Little Mermaid doll fit in?

There is nothing new in this show which could almost be an episode of a sit-com. That said, generally it is amusing, occasionally funny if trite. The four actors do the job asked of them competently, but I’m afraid the show was slightly long for the relatively shallow plot.

An easily watched non-challenging play okay as an antidote of some of the heavier fare that is on offer.

Reviewed by Geoff

 Spaces @ Surgeons Hall V 53

5 to 29 August

20:45 to 21:45

Fringe Brochure P 263

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Tim FitzHigham: Gambler

4 Stars

****

Tim FitzHigham’s brand of witty comedy derives from his skills as a raconteur and his passion for unearthing the most curious historical facts from the 18th & 19th centuries. Not satisfied with giving us the information in an entertaining manner, he has recreated some of these odd events.

This year he discovered from obscure records in gentlemen’s clubs the huge interest there was in setting the most bizarre wagers and he filmed his recreations as proof he actually carried them out. An example was the wager he had with the comedian Alex Horne that he could travel to London to Dover and back before Alex could write 1 million dots. They updated the rules with a bicycle being used instead of a horse, and a felt tip was used instead of a quill pen. As to who won the wager, it would spoil the show if I revealed the answer.

Other bizarre wagers included pulling a rope with a weight attached over a distance of one mile, and pushing a wheelbarrow on a journey from Hertfordshire to Shoreditch as first attempted by Goliath Shadbolt in 1789. What a name that is!

As his interest in taking wagers increased, the rush of excitement became an obsession which could have led to financial ruin. Therein lies the danger of betting whether it affects the individual or all of us in terms of the dealings on the stock market.

Tim FitzHigham is one of the most animated and eccentric comedians in the Fringe. Words pour out as his enthusiasm almost overwhelms him and this gives his performance great charm.

Reviewed by Ben

Pleasance Courtyard/The Green: 33

3 to 29 August 2011 (not 17)

19.30 – 20.30

Fringe Programme Page Number: 158

The Prodigals

4 Stars

****

The Prodigals by Joe Harmston and Ray Goudie is a big production musical being premiered at this year’s Fringe. The well-known biblical story is given a contemporary setting. The two sons have been brought up by their widower father Colonel Luke Gibson (David J Higgins). The Gibson family have been steeped in an army tradition for generations.

Mike (Marc Mulcahey), the elder son, has fully embraced the army way of life. The opening sequence is a bold and dramatic choreographed scene set in Afghanistan involving the ensemble of 8 supporting performers and depicts the dangers of coming into conflict with the enemy.

Kyle (Aaron Sidwell), the younger son has rejected the army tradition and along with Kelly, his girlfriend (Lucie Jones), they have become pop stars. When Kelly dies from a drug overdose, Kyle is imprisoned for supplying the drugs. On release, will he be accepted back by his father, brother and with the squad of troops with whom he has been raised?

In the first half, spectacular ensemble, up-beat numbers are tightly performed with Kyle and Kelly taking the lead vocals. In the second half the songs reflect a more sombre mood, and each of the principals is given material to express their innermost feelings.

The clash of cultures is the main theme explored. The discipline and service of the army personnel contrasts with the pleasure seeking way of life in the pop scene. In terms of the songs and performances, it is David J Higgins who is the most convincing in the portrayal of the conflict in his mind, and it is his stage presence which really carries the show.

Reviewed by Ben

Gilded Ballon Teviot/Debating Hall

3 to 29 August 2011 (not 4)

17.00 – 18.00

Fringe Programme Page Number: 290

Lights, Camera, Walkies

3 Stars

***

Lights, Camera, Walkies written by Tom Glover and directed by Katherine Hare cracks on at a rapid pace in this comedy which verges on farce. Two dog owners, Derek the owner of Buster and Wilbur the owner of Juliette, are rivals for their dog to be the star in a low budget, Hollywood film. No dogs actually appear on stage.

Derek is a laid back character but Wilbur is a sergeant-major type treating his wife is if she is some miscreant dog. The chance for a dog to take the lead in the film results from the film’s intended star walking out at the last minute. The producer in desperation decides to cast a dog as a super-hero in an all action film.

As well as the three main characters, the three performers, Richard David Caine, writer Tom Glover and Zoe Gardner also take on cameo roles playing stereotypical Hollywood types emphasising their ‘drama queen’ personalities. As the story develops, the situations are driven by Wilbur’s unscrupulous nature and boorishness. There are no depths to which he wouldn’t sink for Juliette to land the part, but whilst he is plotting what is his wife getting up to – and indeed the dogs?

Overall, the script is patchy with a host of punch lines, ranging from the funny to the corny.

Reviewed by Ben

Gilded Balloon Teviot/Billiard Room: 14

3 to 29 August 2011 (not 17)

14.00 – 15.15

Fringe Programme Page Number: 275