Men of War : Scratch

4 Star ****

This is a late night sketch show starring David Schaal, Cariad Lloyd, Stephen Harvey and Gareth Kane, four accomplished comedy actors who are pulling in large and enthusiastic crowds even at their late performance time.

There is a wide variety of well written and performed sketches, some extremely funny, some a bit surreal and I really liked what was I suppose the running gag, but this one gradually developed and crossed into other sketches too.

The pace of the show never flagged, the scenes were slick and the performers were really enjoying themselves, sometimes I suspect a little too much.

The night I was in I suspected that there was a bit of extra stuff creeping in, as on more than one occasion they had to pause until the on stage giggles subsided, which the audience in general loved, but it slightly detracted form the show for me. However there was enough overall enjoyment to carry the show comfortably.

There does seem to be a resurgence of sketch comedy this Fringe and I have seen quite a lot of it. ‘Men of War’ was certainly up towards the very top of this genre.

Reviewed by Geoff

Pleasance Beside V 33

Until 28 August

23:00 to 00:00

Fringe Brochure P 117

Advertisements

Cluedo the Musical

4 stars

****

An accomplished performance from this youth group of a show based on the board game (and not dissimilar in idea to Kander & Ebb’s ‘Curtains’). The cast do a good job overall although it’s fair to say the three girls steal the show singing-wise. The solo for Scarlet in particular is both a good song and very well sung – however many of the cast could do with some more acting direction as this song in particular was sung with all the ‘musical theatre arm’ actions etc. to go along with it! Just needs toned down a bit.

The simple piano accompaniment is spot on as is the dramatic underscoring and what a refreshing change to have a cast miced! It made all the difference. Diction was also generally excellent and I could follow everything fine.

I will say though that there were far more sexual references than I would have expected for a family show at this time of day. It’s unnecessary (fine to have adult connotations in the lib but we don’t need the associated hand gestures please!) and a couple of the songs could be dropped for length, to be fair.

But all in all a good show with the usual expected twists and turns to keep you guessing.

Review by Alan.

Paradise in Augustine’s, 16:25-18:00.

Until 27th August.

Chez Jack L

5 Stars

*****

First a few organisational details. Jack Lukeman is from Ireland and his show in Assembly 2 does not appear in the Fringe booklet because he is a very late addition to the Assembly schedule. He will be appearing up to 29th August; 21.10 – 22.10.

Now on to his show. I have not seen him perform before, but quite simply he blew me away. Within seconds of appearing on stage, I know he has a confident stage presence. As he is performing his first song ‘Lonely at the Top’, I realise he has a powerful and melodic voice with a tremendous vocal range. After a few songs, it is obvious he can put a song across and can convey such meaning to the lyrics.

When he says he is going to perform songs including selections from Randy Newman and Jacques Brel, I know I am in for a treat because these are song writers whose lyrics demand an assured and stylish performance, and this he delivers.

There is one huge surprise in that half way through his act he dispenses with his three piece band and walks around the auditorium as he sings a slow and moving sea shanty accompanying himself on a tiny accordion.

He is also able to strike up a great rapport with the audience. We are joining in the choruses, clapping along and even clicking fingers. His final number is a brilliant extended version of Brel’s ‘Jacky’.

This week if you have the chance, take the opportunity to see his show. His performance oozes class.

Reviewed by Ben

Brotherly Love

4 Stars

****

Brotherly Love is a contemporary comedy drama, exploring in a powerful way the difficult relationship between two brothers. Ian (Richard Rycroft), the elder brother, could not be more different from his younger brother Barry (David Schaal). He has had all the advantages of a public school education and is now a successful barrister, whilst Barry attended his local state school. After leaving school, he was a drifter embracing drugs and alcohol. They are now both in middle age.

There is a third character, Carla (Jan Hirst). She is a solicitor and Ian’s partner after the failure of his first marriage. The play opens with Barry bursting into Ian and Carla’s home. He is now in recovery after a period of rehab. His purpose is to see Ian and apologise for an event which split the brothers apart. Carla is at home awaiting Ian’s return and preparing for a dinner party. Although they have only briefly met once at the funeral of the brothers’ father, their conversation is light and humorous. Carla is amused to find out that the brothers played together in a punk band back in the 1970’s.

Ian returns and the action takes on a darker tone. Bit by bit, revelations of their past lives surface. The play grips as the tension builds as we wonder if the brothers can put the past behind them and their relationship can become a positive one.

What makes this play most appealing is the high quality of acting of the three members of the cast. They work so well together giving their characters a convincing realism.

Reviewed by Ben

Laughing Horse @ The Counting House: 170

4 to 28 August 2011 (not 17)

17.00 – 18.00

Fringe Programme Page Number: 247

4.3 Miles from Nowhere

4 Stars

****

This a play which has an organic feel to it. It begins very simply but it takes on a complexity as it develops.

The opening scene depicts five young people whose car runs out of petrol as they are travelling to a fancy dress party in a remote village. They are stranded in a forest. Within the group are 2 sets of boyfriends/girlfriends; Sam (Robert Neumark-Jones) and Molly (Holly Beasley-Garrigan) are on the verge of getting into a deeper relationship; Flynn (Christopher Birks) and Penny (Lauren Falconer) appear to be heading for a break up. Lucas (George Williams), the fifth member is an enigmatic character as he strolls around singing and strumming his guitar.

The business of trying to put up their tent and lighting a fire gives great scope for comedy; they are pretty incompetent in dealing with this unexpected situation. Also, Sam wants to take advantage of the situation with Molly. After all, it is night time and they are in a secluded wood.

In the dead of night, the story takes on a surreal atmosphere as the relationship between Flynn and Penny is explored. A folk band walks on set and a cleverly choreographed dance sequence between the two is played out.

When morning breaks, reality kicks back in again, but Lucas has disappeared.

The whole piece devised by the company from an idea by the Director Tom Spencer demands versatility from the performers which they successfully accomplish, and the live music does give the play an extra dimension.

Reviewed by Ben

Zoo – 140 The Pleasance: 124

5 to 29 August 2011 (not 15)

15.00 – 16.00

Fringe Programme Page Number: 263

Diamond Dick

2 Stars

**

When the audience walk into the auditorium, it is as if we are transported back to an American 1930’s film set. At the back is the Director shouting out instructions to a group of actors and technicians. The performers are wearing white make up to emphasise the black and white films of the period. Very quickly, we see that the approach is the ‘play within a play’ format. Thus the characters take on two roles, their acting roles and their off screen personalities.

Being a short play, the off screen personalities don’t go beyond being stereotypical such as the bossy Director, the aging actress with a drink problem and the bitchiness between the stars of the film.

The film sequences depict a formulaic romantic drama of boy meets girl; they break up and get together at the end. The play just drifts to an end when the day’s filming is completed and the performers leave the set. This is our cue to leave also and I detected a feeling of ‘Is that it?’ from members of the audience. It is a production that starts off with a clever idea but there is no real depth as it proceeds, although it is performed well enough.

Reviewed by Ben

C soco: 348

4 to 29 August 2011 (not 15)

19.30 – 20.20

Fringe Programme Page Number: 255

Segue Sisters: Jailbreak

4 Stars ****

So the time is getting on in the Fringe day. You are tired, but not ready to stop, what do you do?  I know now.

You need some light hearted fun, mixed with some wonderful close harmony singing from three attractive singers, Carrie Marx, Kerrie Fairclough and Charlotte Jo Hanbury, collectively the Segue Sisters.

And luckily enough they are here performing their show Jailbreak nightly at the Gilded Balloon Night Club.

Sentenced to a jail term for stealing other people’s songs, the sisters are slung into a dungeon when all sorts of delicious nonsense takes place as they plot their release.

This mayhem is liberally laced with classy close harmony versions of a wide variety of songs as the plot unfolds. The plot, such as it is, is distinctly unchallenging, but all three sisters play their roles with consistent style and as for their singing voices…wonderful is just not an adequate description.

All in all, this is a delightful show and one not to be missed.

Reviewed by Geoff

Gilded Balloon Night Club

3 to 28 August

22:15 to 23:15

Fringe Brochure P 146