Night of the Big Wind

*****

I was completely absorbed by this show. It’s got one of the shortest descriptions I’ve seen in the fringe programme, but it’s full of detail and imagination. There weren’t any children in the audience, but I think this could be a truly universal show.

Nothing is spoken and so the whole story – which has minimal plot – is told through the actions and the songs. Five minutes in you’ll forget no-one’s spoken yet, by the end its obvious it wasn’t necessary. The main character is a puppet, who may as well not be for how well he’s animated, and there are some lovely notions with perspective involving him. The aural effects of the storm are brilliant, and coupled with the music and the action creates a tangible sense of tension. I was entirely unsure if there was going to be a happy ending.

This piece tells a simple story, and makes no pretention to anything else. But it’s done with such skill and attention to detail that I was entirely content to watch and wonder.

Reviewed by Laura

Underbelly Cowgate

until 25 Aug, 13:15

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Kevin Shepherd: Thus Spoke Kev – Free

4 Stars
****

Thus Spoke Kev is a show about Nietzsche, a German philosopher whose name is best copy & pasted, and whose best known work is “God is Dead.” Sounds a right giggle, right?! Well, it was a very funny show. Not non-stop guffaws – oh no – far more pathos than that – but there was plenty to laugh about.

Rather than just a philosophy lecture, Kev’s show also involves sharing intimate parts of his past in a way that’s neither showing off, nor too confessional. It’s raw honesty, and it’s refreshing. Whether his professions make you shocked or jealous, you can’t fault that Kev isn’t telling tales of his sexual past to brag. When they’re there, they’re part of the story. And most vitally, funny.

Infidelity, a broken family, mental health issues… again, doesn’t sound like a bundle of laughs, so let me reassure you – there’s humour to be found in all of those, and Shepherd does so very successfully, also always returning to his theme of Nietzsche’s life and teachings. So is Nietzsche, as Shepherd suggests, a comedian stuck in a philosopher’s body? I’m not sure. But I am sure that Kev is a comedian who can make you philosophical – between the giggles.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

Laughing Horse @ Captain Taylor’s Coffee House

To 26th August

21:15 to 22:15

Birth Order

3 Star

***

Rachel Anderson kicks off with an upbeat start, followed by explaining her interest in Birth Order. She’s one of five, with a massive wider family, and the first born.

This apparently makes her the dominant one, the alpha dog. In this room, she is firmly in command, but not through dominating, but by consistently making us laugh.

But it’s not only the first child’s psychological issues we look at. Anderson covers middle children – the family diplomats – and last ones, the “cool dudes”. Of course, in her family (and mine) that leaves a couple out, but in another similarity, both our families have the “second first child” effect of an age gap.

This theory is interesting, but also a great set up to hang material from – for example as firstborns are uptight, she doesn’t flirt well; cue a fun text relationship song. That’s not to say material is crow-barred in. Anderson has done her research, even e-mailing birth order expert William Kane about this combining with his other research – I wont spoil the surprise, because wherever you are in your family, this show might explain a few things. If not, it’ll still make you laugh.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters

To 26th August

17:15 to 18:00

Huggers – Free Festival Family Fun

3 Star
***

Huggers is a mad mix of a family cabaret / comedy show, with various acts popping along to perform to a bus load of children. Host Nik Coppin is genial, gently teasing front row siblings into giving each other a hug. The packed bus enjoy his banter, but as it’s a day with five acts, not the usual four, it’s quickly time to move on.

First act David Burke encouraged a singalong of “Old MacDonald had a safari”, which some joined in with gusto. Erich McElroy was next, trying magic with oranges. Next up was Eden Rivers of “Stay at Home Dad” show, who taught the children how to get chips whenever they wanted them. Magician Patrick McCullagh was great fun. His duck noises grabbed attention on the rowdy bus, his participation game was hilarious, and his balloon tricks impressed even my toddler. Finally, Mike ‘Dr Blue’ Mckeon led the audience in split harmony singing, although I could have done without getting the Postman Pat theme stuck in my head.

This is – quite deliberately – a mix of a show. Acts will vary from show to show, but most are experienced family entertainers, and with extra shows added at weekends, it’s clearly popular.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

Laughing Horse @ the Free Sisters

To 26th August

15:00 to 16:00

Additional shows added Friday to Sunday (to 26th) 11:15 to 12:15

CeilidhKids at the Fringe – Free!

4 Star

****

Fun Scottish Dancing for all the family is what this says, and that’s pretty much what you get. I say pretty much, as the flyer’s age group (3-7) was fairly accurate (some younger siblings weren’t entirely keen), and also because it seems to be mainly solo parents, dancing with one or more children, rather than whole family groups. It seems to be best to equal, or be outnumbered by the children you take – stray parents at the side haven’t really got a role. But don’t let that put you off – if you’ve only one child, they’ll just have to go twice, so both parents can have the fun!

And it is a lot of fun. Ceilidh steps are broken down into simple routines, and images that even very young children can understand – being a train, being the scenery. It’s all explained, then the music starts, but the leader keeps calling, so no one gets too lost or confused.

Don’t forget to take along, or buy a drink, as it’s fast paced and your children will definitely need a pause. This was so popular, that they added an extra daily session, but even that was packed, which if anything, was the only downside.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

Laughing Horse @ The Counting House

To 11th August

11:00 to 11:45 – 12:10 to 12:55

Alchemy Menagerie

3 Star
***

Alchemy Menagerie handed us a ticket at the Meadows, and turned out to be an interesting find. Tucked away within Summerhall, artists guide youngsters of all ages through various craft activities, while also offering beanbags to slump in, and tea or coffee to tired parents.

The activities are set to vary with each theme. We happened to be at “Journey to the Sky! Birds!” and after following the trail of silver birds to find the room, enjoyed making a traditional Asian bird kite from recycled materials.

11th August was set to be “Journey to the Past! Dinosaurs!” involving making a puppet. August 18th is “Journey to the Rainforest! Reptiles!” where children will make lizard shaped rain sticks, again, using recycled materials. Finally on 25th, it’s “Journey into Space! Aliens!” where the children collaborate to build a rocket, and make their own alien head-dress. All also have themed play activities, and a room full of interesting things for children to pick up and look at, or get hands on and feel.

Not in the fringe guide, we could easily have missed this, but it adds real variety to ‘things to do with your child at the fringe’, and real fun for the child.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

Summerhall

To 25th August (Saturdays only)

Drop in from 11:00 to 16:00

Giddy Goat

Four Star

****

Giddy Goat is afraid to jump, which makes it pretty difficult to play rock rounders with his brother and sister. His identity crisis is a pity, because it’s clearly established: “it’s great to be a goat” and all his other ideas for what to be involve jumping too. So, on the advice of Scottish Uncle Hoof, he heads off on his singing tea-tray, down the mountain to find himself – and despite initial rejection, ends up rescuing a lamb.

Giddy’s tale is told with energy, enthusiasm, and just the right amount of interaction with its young audience. Adapted from the children’s book of the same name (by Jamie Rix), it was enchanting even for those who don’t know the original. This is a tale of getting past your fear, of learning who you are, and your place in the world, and a tale of tolerance of other cultures.

There’s a lot to love in this show, not least the cast’s high energy commitment to it, and ability to dance and simultaneously sing clearly. In other hands, this could have been merely pleasant – as it was, it was great to watch this goat.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

C venues

Until 27th August

12:15 to 13:05