Jamie Blake

4 Stars

****

Ravenrock Theatre Company’s production of Jamie Blake, written and directed by Ashley Scott-Layton, works on several different levels. It is a neat blend of realistic, coming of age drama, humorous sketch scenes, catchy and soulful songs and clever choreography.

At its core, it is the story of Jamie Blake, a young man in his early twenties, falling desperately in love. After a short and intense relationship in which he believed his love was being returned in equal measure, he was shattered by his girlfriend’s rejection. He narrates these events in the opening scene and what follows is how he reached this state of despair. At first, we can empathise with his loss but as the action unfolds, it becomes apparent that there are other sides to Jamie’s personality.

Enhancing the action is the original music and songs by Rhys Lewis. He is on stage in the background throughout either singing solo to his own accompaniment on guitar or being joined by a chorus of singers with the amazing beatbox of Grace Savage. There are particularly strong performances from Rupert Lazarus as Jamie and Ekow Quartey as Eli, Jamie’s best friend.

Dealing with the fundamental questions of what constitutes love and friendship, it is a play that absorbs throughout.

Reviewed by Ben

Fringe Programme Page Number: 314

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Vinegar Knickers: Sketchy Beast

3 Stars ***

A blonde, a brunette and a redhead walk into a venue and perform a sketch show.  It sounds like the start of a trite gag. The Sketchy Beast show that is subsequently served up sometimes feels trite as well.

The three performers, Katie Burnetts, Samantha Baines and Harriet Fisher are good enough actors, they can dance and sing, but some of the material they use is not up to standard. Some tired old scenarios, ginger gags and chav skits do detract from some of the better original material. I was particularly impressed by the acting abilities of Katie portrays one of Adolf Hitler’s old girlfriends. Genuinely funny and different that one.

The show is very pacey, the presentation more than adequate and the enthusiasm from the stage was evident even towards the end of a long, long month.

I think this group have it in them to be a real quality act, the main requirement would be some consistently stronger material and given that, I’d be more than happy to visit their show next year.

Reviewed by Geoff

C SoCo V348

Until 29 August

16:35 to 17:25

Fringe Brochure P 163

A Man’s a Man

Unrated.

I really don’t think it’s fair to actually review this show. While all credit goes to people trying to perform a show in a language foreign to them, this is amongst one of the worst shows I have ever seen.

The story is dire, the direction poor, the acting utterly appalling. The uninspiring music is too loud and drowns out the singing – and while they do sing in tune you can’t actually hear the words as the diction is incredibly bad. Take for example the opening number, something to do with Paris but I’ve no idea what.

This is advertised as a ‘good old fashioned musical’ – by this I would think of maybe Carousel if American or, shudder, Brigadoon if Scottish (it’s a Scottish/Spanish production) but it’s neither. And saying that, the music isn’t Spanish either!

I couldn’t believe that Emma says to the wheelchair-bound Andres that she loves him in spite of that, because “A man’s a man”. Cringey if not patronising.

I’d much rather give constructive comments but I struggle to actually find anything in this production to be positive about I’m afraid.

Review by Alan.

Paradise in Augustine’s, 17:45-18:45.

Until 29th August.

Pistol And Jack: Smash. Glam. Sex. Music

3 Stars ***

Is this a comedy Show? A cabaret? Character comedy? A selection of all three in reality and of course music music music.

The characters are Pistol, a loud raucous, needy American chanteuse and Jack, undoubtedly English, but with a strange upbringing and a penchant for women and their story, interspersed with musical mash up is the substance of their 50 minutes.

These two are unconventional in style. The night I attended they didn’t so much break the forth wall but demolished it as Jack attempted to come on to a lady in the second row and Pistol  grabbing a guy to dance with her.

I felt they really needed to concentrate on what direction they are going. Jack in particular is a fine musician and singer, Pistol a sassy woman who can sing too, but trying to tick too many boxes was confusing and left me thinking maybe specialising would be the way forward.

The sound was not the best the night I attended also, the backing too loud and tended to drown the vocals, especially Pistols.

I’m sure in a cabaret space, with a boozy crowd they would rock. Unfortunately the space was no cabaret or the crowd boozy, and I felt a bit disappointed

Reviewed by Geoff

Assembly Theatre 3 V 3

3 to 28 August

21:20 to 22:10

Toulouse-Lautrec: The Musical

2 stars

**

This was less musical theatre and more a musical story. I saw the Japanese version and despite the highly energetic performance by Jun Sawaki, you spend most of the time reading the English translations and waiting for the action to catch up.

The music and songs are quite beautiful at points with the very sympathetic piano playing in the corner and the show is filled with some interesting facts about the painter’s short life. But ultimately it’s a strange experience, however one ideally suited to the whole Fringe ethos.

Review by Alan.

C aquila, 16:10-16:50.

Until 29th August.

The News at Kate 2011: Kate Smurthwaite

4 Stars ****

It’s been a few years since I had seen Ms Smurthwaite perform comedy live but was aware of her reputation as a favourite ‘arguer’ on BBC both TV and radio.

Although it’s well into Fringe week three she has a packed out room in the basement of an Italian restaurant, the walls of which are adorned with a couple of quotes from Mussolini, something that is seriously at odds with her left wing politics.

She is not a preachy comedian, just dislikes idiots, who come in all shapes and forms, she mixes with the stars, wants to work in advertising and has written some high brow comedy in alphabetical order of which we get a taster.

Kate is a well written, and researched comic, she does interact with her audience, but is never in your face, and has a easy delivery style, together with her stage presence and a whole host of funny material some of which on occasions makes you think and all makes you laugh.

As part of the Free Fringe entry to the show is free, but a collection bucket is available for donations at the end, after all the lady does have to eat. So why not check her out but go early, you wouldn’t want to miss out.

Reviewed by Geoff

Ciao Roma V 283

6 to 29 August

20:20 to 21:20

Fringe Brochure P 125

Spring Awakening (EUSOG)

4 stars

****

This was a very competent production of a sadly cut-down version of Spring. As it’s written, there is just enough character development to hold the various threads together and unfortunately when you cut important bits of the lib out it becomes disjointed and confusing at times. Add to this the increase in tempo of various numbers (for my taste at least) and it felt a bit rushed.

Anyway, there were many positives – Moritz is outstanding and Ilse’s song is very nice. Okay, her acting voice is completely different to her singing one but that issue afflicted many of the cast. I don’t have a problem with cast members using their own accents but when there is little consistency in their own characters it is annoying.

I liked the clever use of all the chairs – some really nice touches there.

Some niggles – the costumes seemed a blend of authentic period ones and modern-day underwear, but the biggest issue was that the cast need miced. All too often they spoke and sang up-stage, if you’re more than a few rows back you can’t hear them. This is particularly annoying in ensemble numbers when the cast are going round in circles for example – you hear whichever harmony line is facing you at the time…

The band is excellent, especially the strings. Their balance is good although they drowned out the singing at a couple of points – this is a cast sound issue though, not a band one.

Overall a good interpretation.

Review by Alan.

Paradise in Augustine’s, 22:25-23:55.

Until 29th August.