Edinburgh Fringe 2023 Reviews – this is a scam, Burning Down the Horse, We Are in fact the Problem, Anuvab Pal: The Department of Britishness, Locusts, and The Good Dad (A Love Story)

this is a scamthis is a scam., The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall.

Solvei Sundbo and Anne Klein play two ambitious young women, trying to break through the glass ceiling to realise their dreams to be CEOs of their own companies within five years. This thought-provoking play closely follows the real life story of Elizabeth Holmes, sentenced to jail in the USA for a scam where she raised huge numbers of dollars as financial backing for an innovative new medical product – that didn’t exist. The play raises issues of the different expectations between men and women in the workplace, and how much harder it is for women to achieve greatness. Technically complex, a few things went wrong in this first performance but the actors handled it well and gave good performances in this well-written and intriguing play.


Burning Down The Horse, Pleasance Courtyard.

Burning Down the HorseOdysseus is commanding the Trojan Horse and we the audience are all soldiers lurking in its wooden belly. That is, if it actually is a horse – the jury’s out on that one. But Odysseus is a bit of a bully and we’re not terribly happy about it! Cue a fun hour of early Greek military mayhem as the rebellion grows – but will we save ourselves from certain death in Troy? Fishing 4 Chips present a show full of energy, hilarious characterisations and gentle, funny audience interaction. It’s perhaps a little repetitive and my interest waned occasionally, but it’s entertainingly original and very well acted throughout.


We Are, in Fact, the Problem, The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall.

We are in fact the ProblemFour old school friends regularly meet up for dinner at Lizzy’s house – although she prefers to be called Liz nowadays. Alicia is looking forward to it, but suspects there will be arguments; Lena arrives, bubbling with excitement that she has a new girlfriend; and finally Sasha arrives, full of confrontation and clearly ready to pick a fight. And there are lots of those; in fact, once the opening niceties are out of the way, the play consists of serial bickering and resentments that these young women clearly need to air and come to terms with once and for all. Unfortunately, the play is rather cumbersome and laborious, repetitious and heavy; and the acting isn’t as good as one would normally expect from a Sheffield University Theatre Company show. However, I admired the fact that the story makes genuine progress throughout the play and ends with a positive look towards the future.

Anuvab Pal: The Department of Britishness, Assembly George Square Studios.

Anuvab PalAnuvab Pal commands a great authority on stage – he has a strong voice, bags of confidence, an attacking style and he’s clearly a very funny chap. He also has the ability to  culturally compare Britain and India which offers a mine of inventive possibilities. For this show, The Department of Britishness, he is now employed to promote everything British – to the British; and it’s a funny idea to have someone Indiansplaining what it is to be British. He has some good material and a few nicely nailed punchlines, but somehow, it doesn’t all come together. Perhaps it’s because he takes the idea of the Department of Britishness but then only lightly deals with it and doesn’t follow through with killer observations. Good, but I was hoping for better.


Locusts, The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall.

Locusts When Pastor Pete gets back in touch with Stephen, whose church he used to attend thirty years ago, he wants him to telephone Pete’s daughter Gillian; she has just left her husband, but Stephen hasn’t spoken to Gillian in years. However, we gradually realise the reason Peter wants Stephen to ring her; and it’s not a phone call that Stephen is prepared to make. Locusts is written by Ian Tucker-Bell, who plays Stephen, and is based on his own experiences of growing up, and being subjected to gay conversion therapy, and the damage and shame it caused. Powerfully performed and sensitively written, one of the play’s strengths is that Pete is not seen as some kind of villain; he is only doing what he thinks is best and obeying what the Lord has told him. A play that leaves you thinking and analysing long after the curtain has come down.


The Good Dad (A Love Story), The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall.

The Good DadThis is the fourth production of Gail Louw’s The Good Dad (A Love Story), having been premiered in London just before the pandemic, and it’s great that it has finally received the decent run it deserves. It’s a tough watch – trigger warnings abound – and is the story of the prolonged sexual abuse by a father on his daughter, over a number of years, to the extent that he leaves his wife and sets up home with the daughter, with whom he has four children. The writing is powerful, impactful, beautifully structured and succinctly expressed; and Sarah Lawrie’s performance is emotional, gripping, and hand-over-mouth shocking at times. One of those glorious theatrical experiences when writing and performance combine to make something truly special – and provide a dreadful insight into a hideous slice of life.

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