Liz Lochhead – Making Nothing Happen

****

Poetry can be boring. Except when it’s read well aloud, and then it comes alive and reveals itself. Liz Lochhead is very, very good at reading poems aloud. It helps that she’s a rather good poet too.

This is an hour Lochhead’s poems and assorted excerpts from other writings, which you might expect to be dull, but isn’t. Her poems are entirely accessible, they’re about everyday situations and normal folk, and in them you’ll recognise people you know. It isn’t a comedy production, but there are some lovely funny moments alongside those that’ll make you think.

Liz Lochhead presents herself as a down-to-earth person, just like the rest of us. This hour showcases her extraordinary talent.

Reviewed by Laura

Assembly Rooms

3 – 26 Aug (not 13); 13:15

Advertisements

The Girl With No Heart

**

This show is a good effort. The actors and puppeteers are skilful, the music and lighting effects enhanced the scenes. The origami, some of it done with one hand from one person, and another hand from another person working together, was quite impressive. Visually, the contrast between the two worlds presented worked really well.

However, the story is lacking. There isn’t much in the way of plot development (or establishment), and the geo-political (for want of a better word) situation which affects the city in which the main events happen isn’t sufficiently elaborated. There are several rather redundant scenes in which nothing seems to happen (character development maybe?).

I’d like to see what this company could do with a really good story. Unfortunately, this isn’t one.

Reviewed by Laura

Bedlam Theatre

3 – 25 Aug (not 15); 17:00

The Lad Himself

****

Mark Brailsford’s portrayal of Tony Hancock is totally realistic. Dressed in hat and overcoat, the look, the facial mannerisms and the voice, it’s as if the ‘The Lad Himself’ had walked on to the stage. Such was Hancock’s fame, those of mature years will know of his success in the 1950’s and 1960’s first on radio and then on TV, but also his sad decline into alcohol abuse leading to his death at the early age of 44.

The play is set in an imaginary waiting room between Heaven and Hell. He meets up with a variety of characters. There are the staff including a doctor and a nurse wanting to assess him, as well as a cleaner who seems strangely to be stuck in this limbo setting. Also, he meets up with a few of the recently deceased who are awaiting their fate – a vicar, Burt an eccentric from Croydon, a pilot and a children’s entertainer.

In the ensuing conversations, Roy Smiles’ humorous script brings out the characteristic facets of Hancock’s personality – his opinionated views and sneering attitude, particularly when dealing with petty bureaucracy. Despite these failings, he is still an engaging character for he is trying to deal with life’s exasperations and that does arouse our sympathy.

Mark Brailsford successfully sustains his performance throughout and he is well supported by Caroline Burns Cooke, Chris Cresswell and Mark Farrely. Paul Hodson’s direction keeps the action moving along nicely, mixing pace with more reflective moments. The play ends with a poignant scene when Hancock meets up with St Peter to learn of his fate. This is given an unusual twist which I won’t reveal.

The Lad Himself will no doubt attract the older generations and they will not be disappointed in this homage to one of Britain’s comedy legends. Younger generations who are interested in the development of British situation comedy should consider giving this production a try.

Reviewed by Ben

Gilded Balloon Teviot: 14

1 to 26 August 2012 (not 13)

13.30 – 14.45

Fringe Programme Page Number: 291

Billy the Mime

***

I did not entirely like this show – which is my own fault for I did not heed the warning: ‘not for the easily offended’. I wouldn’t count myself as such, so maybe it that warning needs to be a little bit stronger. I did not entirely like the show, but it was very good, and there were numerous guffaws from some of the rest of the audience.

The first and last sketches (‘a romance’ and ‘the clown and the beautiful girl’) were by far the most universally pleasing, although even the last turned rather dark. I would have been delighted by an hour of such silly shenanigans. However, the mainstay of Billy’s routines is the telling of quite complex stories with multiple characters by himself with no props. And they were all entirely comprehensible. My especial favourite was the ‘history of art’, demonstrating the ease with which Billy can move from one character to another, and his ingenuity in making you understand what the invisible object in his hand is.

Billy’s stories are well told, but they’re stories we all already know, so I’m not sure what’s being added to the discussion, or if there’s a point being made. But please, do heed the warnings.

Reviewed by Laura

Just the Tonic @ the Caves

3 – 26 Aug (not 14); 18:15

Claudia O’Doherty – The Telescope

****

You know how some comedians can split a room? Well, during this show, on one side was me and a handful of other people going ‘what?!’, and the rest of them whooping and laughing hysterically at things I didn’t think were funny. But you’re in the room, the doors are shut, you can’t escape without climbing over people…may as well stay for the ride.

And what a ride. Its utterly ridiculous and brilliantly coordinated absolute stuff and nonsense. There is a story, which serves as the framework for Ms O’Doherty’s particular brand of comic insanity, keeps the show moving and ensures it all hangs together. Even when it all seems to be going wrong (and she makes you believe it is), Claudia retains complete control of the show and her audience.

Claudia O’Doherty seems to have something of a following. The majority of the audience were enthused and clearly knew what to expect. If you don’t, the worst you’ll leave is bemused.

Reviewed by Laura

Underbelly Cowgate

3 – 26 Aug (not 13); 21:45

Shopping Centre by Matthew Osborne

***

Last year I reviewed Matthew Osborne’s play Cul-de-Sac favourably. However, I do have a real problem with his solo performance play this year. In the Fringe booklet it is billed as a Comedy but this is most certainly not the case. It is a taut, psychological drama.

Matthew Osborne takes on the role of Jim, an ordinary working class individual in his thirties but seriously mentally disturbed. We can begin to get an inkling of his psychotic personality at the outset when he expresses a feeling for things rather than people in an almost sexual way. His mental descent plunges deeper when little by little we learn of the failure of his marriage.

The play is set in an underground basement in a shopping centre which has become his spiritual home. He has become a rejected loner with all manner of strange delusions. It is, at times, uncomfortable to watch and such subject matter is not going to result in a bundle of laughs.

Rioting has broken out above and, when he produces a gun, it is obvious what he intends to do. In modern times, one of our worst fears would be for us or our loved ones to be caught up in a random act of violence – again, no laughing matter. Nevertheless, on the plus side, Matthew Osborne’s performance is striking and sustained throughout.

Reviewed by Ben

Gilded Balloon at Third Door; 24

1 to 26 August 2012 (not 13, 20)

16.30 – 17.30

Fringe Programme Page Number: 319

Sharron Matthews Superstar: Gold

5 stars
*****

Once again, Sharron Matthews delights in an all-too-quick hour of top-class comedy cabaret. She welcomes every audience member as they come in, instantly putting people at ease and you just know you’re going to enjoy the next hour. Her rapport with the audience is a joy and she has us eating out of the palm of her hands.

Very down to earth and affable, we are treated to anecdotes and stories from her past, leading into her inimitable interpretations of songs both new and classic. What sets her apart from being ‘just another cabaret star’ is her stunning voice, it’s such a shame we can’t get two hours to enjoy it! Often in the same sentence Sharron goes from big belty notes to beautifully tender moments and at one point has the audience in silence with a beautifully heartfelt and honest moment.

Not forgetting the talented ‘Cooch’ accompanying Sharron on piano – Chris provides the perfect backing and interaction which only live music can do.

Top class entertainment from Canada’s finest.

Review by Alan.

Pleasance Courtyard
1-27 August (not 6, 13, 20)
15:40-16:40