Experimental Music Love

August 9, 2008

Edinburgh Festival Reviews

Filed under: Edinburgh Festival — by Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 2:01 am
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It’s currently the Edinburgh Festival here in Edinburgh at the moment.  And I’ve seen lots of shows.  Here are my reviews.  I’m far too tired to write anything approaching humour at this moment in time.  Expect some soon though.


Sammy J In The Forest Of Dreams

Sammy J and Heath McIvor

Swearing puppets are not big, and they are certainly not clever. But, damn, they are funny. And pleasingly, the jokes are as strong as the language. Unhappy with his rut of a life and pissed off with the magical ideologies force fed to him by renowned frozen Nazi, Walt Disney, Sammy J enters a mysterious portal in his kitchen cupboard, discovering the Forest of Dreams. And as one would expect in a magic forest, Sammy embarks on a quest of revolution, friendship and sexually harassed squirrels. This is a truly unique show, superbly embracing elements of musicals, comedy and puppetry to create an offensive adventure that will make you care more about an inanimate object than you ever thought possible.

Underbelly, Jul 31 – 24 Aug (not 11 Aug), 6.00pm (7.00pm), prices vary, fpp 94

eml rating 5/5


Markus Birdman: Sympathy For The Devil

Markus Birdman

If my father was a vicar, I’d hope to turn out as cutting and knowledgeably rebellious as Markus Birdman. Unashamedly atheist, despite (or perhaps due to) his father’s work, Birdman preaches the hypocrisy of religion with humorous aplomb that takes in ill-informed evangelists in Florida and nights out involving cocaine snorting midgets being held over a bar top in Dubai. Christianity may be familiar rant for comedians to have, but Birdman has more reason than most to discuss it. And he does it all so pleasantly, you’d think the Pope would even laugh along. There’s purpose and passion in each sentence, and though the subject may be tired, the comedy never is. Splendidly silly, yet with telling insight.

Pleasance Dome, 30 Jul – 24 Aug (not 12), 8.20pm (9.20pm), prices vary, fpp 76.

eml rating 3/5



Lloyd Langford: Not A Lover, Not A Fighter

Lloyd Langford

The Scots, English and Irish (oh, especially the Irish), may be everywhere this festival, but people really shouldn’t forget the comedy talent on show from that other nation of the British Isles. The Welsh may not have the numbers of the English, the home advantage of the Scots or the drunken charm of the Irish, but Lloyd Langford shows, with modest grace, that the Welsh can be just as funny. His likeable self-effacing approach makes his wistful tales all the more believable, and it’s all the more effective when he balances on that thin line of decency. This is an assured Fringe debut, that may not be as original as others, but still bodes well for Welsh comedy.

Underbelly, 31 Jul – 24 Aug (not 12), 6.35pm (7.35pm), prices vary, fpp 73.

eml rating 3/5



Karen Dunbar

Gilded Balloon Productions

There’s undoubted excitement in the audience before the show at a busy Gilded Balloon. And there’s undoubted energy to Dunbar’s performance, and the way she manages to get the majority of the crowd on her side within seconds. But what can be doubted is Dunbar’s reputation as the funniest woman in Scotland. Or even to be funny at all. This is a pandering performance, playing up to an audience that knows what to expect, with scant significance or signs of genuine wit in any of Dunbar’s material. There are moments of mirth, but it’s nothing better than what you’d hear in the queue for the chip shop. Uninteresting, and painful to witness.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 1 – 17 Aug (not 12), 7.30pm (8.30pm), prices vary, fpp 68.

eml rating 1/5


Jim Jeffries – Hammered

Jim Jeffries

If Jim Jeffries superbly acerbic stand-up has one failing, it’s that all of his material does tend to tread familiar ground. What sets him apart from his peers though is that rather than treading, Jeffries’ approach tends to be a repeated, vehement stamping, with added verbal abuse and drunken shouting. Yes, he talks about the usual fare of sex, religion and parents, but Jeffries does so in such a way that every sentence would make Mary Whitehouse’s head explode. Who else would link material with a line such as “and that leads me on to burn victims,” or declare his microphone as a gay Mohammed? His mum may not like it, but Hammered should prove another Fringe success.

Udderbelly’s Pasture, 31 Jul – 25 Aug (not 12), 9.00pm (10.00pm), prices vary, fpp 65.

eml rating 4/5


Hal Cruttenden Climb Every Molehill

Hal Cruttenden

Hal Cruttenden wants to be edgy. Fortunately, he’s aware that, as a portly, middle-class 38-year-old

from a plush suburb of London, he has about as much edge as a football. And this is just one of the many worries that perpetuate Cruttenden’s life, along with his effeminate tone and big face. It’s when Cruttenden is talking about these personal issues that he excels, displaying the charm of a more rotund Michael McIntyre. But when Hal does try to aim for the edge, he seems less assured, being especially out of his depth when discussing Scottish independence. A fine performer when talking about his own life, but perhaps he should leave politics to those with something to say.

Assembly @ George Street Assembly Rooms, 31 Jul – 25 Aug (not 11 Aug), 7.35pm (8.35pm), prices vary, fpp 57.

eml rating 3/5


One Thing After Another

Tiani Ghosh/PBH’s Free Fringe

Away from the packed crowds of the Underbelly and the Pleasance, and the rest of the Edinburgh Comedy Festival crew, the real Fringe experience is still going strong. Unfortunately, the real Fringe experience can be a mixed bag of cheap shows and even cheaper jokes. But real comic class can still be discovered, and Tiani Ghosh certainly shows a great deal of potential with a carefully crafted sketch show performed for free in some basement bar on George Street. Each little skit is given time to develop, as the terrifyingly inept character Ghosh plays works her way through a very confusing life. A bit more variety would have been welcome, but this is a pleasant alternative to the bigger names.

Madogs, 2 – 23 Aug (not 11), 12.15pm (1.15pm), free non ticketed, fpp 84.

eml rating 3/5


The Shambles

Dead Duck Productions

A fantastic improvisational comedy set can often leave me feeling bewildered, and very inadequate about the speed of my wit. Just how does someone come up with something so funny so quickly, and in front of an audience ready to heckle their displeasure? I’m sure members of The Shambles would like to know, as their uninspired take on spur of the moment stories and quick wit games just doesn’t impress. Perhaps due the mundaneness of the compère, the mood never seems right, and it’s an awkward show of poor acting and tedious comedy. There are flashes of genuine brilliance, but never enough to rescue something that’s been done a hundred times before, and a hundred times better.

Rocket @ Demarco Roxy Arthouse, dates vary, 11.40pm (12.30am), prices vary, fpp 95.

eml rating 2/5




Clockheart Boy


Few shows at this year’s festival will have such sweet fantasy as to have as a conceit the idea that a clock can give life to a boy with no heart. And even fewer shows would have the childlike joy and imagination as to make this world of patchwork robots and idiosyncratic dreamers so inviting. Obsessed with finding the daughter he lost years ago, the professor inadvertently brings life to the Clockheart Boy, who sets out on his own quest to find out if one can love without a heart. This magically realised tale becomes a dreamlike spectacle of sight and sound, all performed with an enthusiasm to delight both children and adults alike.

C, 30 Jul – 16 Aug, 3.15pm (4.30pm), prices vary, fpp 191.

eml rating 4/5



Step Back Productions

Just what would you do if you met a man claiming to be God one bright morning in your local coffee shop in Preston? And what would you do if, when after having asked for a miracle, this man claiming to be God was able to transport you to a wet, wild night in Edinburgh, surrounded by people who can’t help but stare at you? Godplay is one of the Fringe’s most interesting theatre prospects, and one that fantastically blurs the line between the world inside the play and the world watching it performed. For just two men sitting in a coffee shop talking, this an incredibly funny and thought-provoking performance that manages to feel entirely natural throughout. A real hidden gem.

Courtyard Cafe, 2 – 9 Aug, 9.30pm (10.45pm), £8.00 (£7.00), fpp 201.

eml rating 4/5


Good ‘N’ Plenty

Young American Theatre Co

American high schools always seem a lot more interesting than the ones here. There’s always some bewitching homecoming queen, an inspiring teacher or a debauchery filled prom night. Wintersville High School, Ohio, would seem to be no different, with American Government teacher, Richard Miller, getting his pupils to discover the workings of the constitution with wild ideas involving candy becoming contraband, and students becoming dealers, buyers, cops, and lawyers. This is a fascinating insight into classroom politics and the wider workings of democracy, with a sharp script throughout. The inexperience of the teenage cast is telling though, with a lack of confidence undermining the conviction of some performances. A great enthusiasm shines through however, and bigger things surely beckon for some.

Augustine’s, 4 – 9 Aug, 11.05am (12.35pm), £6.00 (£4.00), fpp 202.

eml rating 3/5


I Shot Dirty Den

Pavel Douglas in Association With Natural Theatre Company

Pavel Douglas is an interesting man. Born in Krakow, Poland, to a celebrated father and alienated mother, Pavel found himself growing up throughout Europe, eventually settling in Britain, following in his father’s footsteps with acting role after acting role. And yes, he did shoot Dirty Den. Or at least arranged it. And, thus, the premise for the hour long monologue is set, as Pavel bares all about the struggles of finding work since, with glimpses of his past interlaced into his tales, creating something resembling poignancy. But it’s all just too contrived. There’s some nice poetic glimpses of a fascinating childhood, but his adult stories are weak, and the humour clumsy. Still, it’s better than Eastenders.

Underbelly, 31 Jul – 24 Aug (not 11 Aug), 3.15pm (4.20pm), prices vary, fpp 208.

eml rating 2/5




Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin

Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin

With ages ranging from 10 to 21, this group of youngsters demonstrate an absurd amount of talent for a group so young. Formed 15 years ago as a means for city children with a passion for music to learn and practice the craft of traditional Scottish song, the Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin are as well-intentioned as they are gifted. Jig follows reel as feet are tapped and heads nod, caught up in an infectious rhythm. And it’s no surprise the ceilidh in the last hour is a big hit. The highlights, however, go to the solos, with delicate harp and extraordinary fiddle playing to astound. This is an awesomely passionate performance and a real treat for traditional music fans.

Acoustic Music Centre @ St Bride’s, 7 Aug, 7.15pm (10.15pm), £12.00 (£10.00), fpp 147

eml rating 4/5


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