Edinburgh Fringe 2023 Reviews – Mass Effect, Bacon, Nan Me and Barbara Pravi, Gold, Don Biswas – The Revolution will be Disorganised, and Tarot: Hive Mind.

Mass EffectMass Effect, Summerhall.

Himherandit Productions’ Mass Effect is a bizarre show in many ways. Five performers stand with their backs to us, then one by one turn, smile, and start a gentle swaying dance. Actually, the first part of the show isn’t really dance – it’s more like a running-around workout. As the workout becomes more intense and faster, the performers start calling out numbers – and there’s no significance nor sequence to them, so remembering those numbers whilst moving more and more frenetically must be a huge challenge to their mental coordination as well as stamina. But it also seems pointless; and, about halfway through, there were a few walkouts. However, something clicks and the show changes dramatically; 1) the five performers are joined on stage by at least ten others, suddenly appearing from the back of the stage, the auditorium exit doors, and even the audience – 2) the workout transforms into something more like dancersize and 3) the five performers all take their clothes off – as do some of the other new performers. The music and the action get much more frenzied so that at the end we’re witnessing some kind of exhausting, manic, naked Bacchanale. You can’t fault the performers for their commitment, their energy, their stamina, and the precision of their movements. However, I’m a bit more uncertain about the why rather than the how. I also think this is the first time that I’ve seen a performance that includes nudity where they remain naked for the curtain call and the after-show speeches. Definitely skilful, definitely brave, and definitely bizarre.


Bacon, Summerhall.

BaconMark is working in the cafe when he spots Darren watching him, which brings back all the horrors of their friendship four years ago, when Mark was a rather naive 15-year-old schoolboy and Darren was the streetwise and brash guy, who eventually became his friend. But that friendship takes a terrible turn for the worse when their mutual attraction becomes stronger and neither of them is grown-up enough to know how to deal with it – and Darren reacts in the worst possible way. Sophie Swithinbank’s fantastic play is gripping from the start and has two superb performances from Corey Montague-Sholay as Mark and William Robinson as Darren. Written with just the right blend of humour and sheer ghastliness, and simply, but intriguingly, set on a see-saw, this is one of those productions that will keep coming back again and again.

Nan, Me and Barbara Pravi, Summerhall.

Nan Me and Barbara PraviHannah Maxwell’s one-woman show takes us back to the night in 2021 when Barbara Pravi represented France at Eurovision with the glorious song Voila, which also happened to be the moment when Hannah Maxwell decided she was deeply in love with Barbara Pravi. Two stories sit side by side. Half of the show relates to Hannah supporting her Nan whilst her Grandad was dying – and their general life together during this period and in the future. The other part of the show relates to Hannah stalking La Pravi online and in person at her Cadogan Hall concert. It’s a very charming entertainment, and Hannah has a terrific stage presence – she reminded me a little of the young Victoria Wood – but it does feel a little inconsequential and slight. Nice performance of Voila at the end!


Gold, The Space on the Mile.

GoldIf you were around at the time – 1983 – I’m sure you’ll remember the Brinks-Mat robbery – one of the boldest in history, when £26 million was stolen from a warehouse. Most of the gold has never been recovered; but what if there was a little guy involved in it whom all the big hitters forgot – and who has been sitting on the gold all this time? Stafford Collett’s comedy about a rather grumpy couple, Julie and Dave, takes this as its central idea and it’s quite a good idea. However, the play itself is very disappointing, with lengthy sequences of 80s music padding that don’t contribute to the story at all, and there’s also a sequence of “comedy” domestic violence which is always a personal turn-off for me. If this couple saw The Lavender Hill Mob at the cinema as they claim, they’d be at least 90 years old by now – which they’re palpably not. A great idea, but the execution was wanting in virtually all departments.

Don Biswas – The Revolution Will Be Disorganised, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.

Don BiswasThe Revolution Will Be Disorganised because Don Biswas sets himself up as the leader of the revolution – which we the audience are perfectly happy about – but, as he tells us, he has autism, dyspraxia and ADHD so it will be unavoidably something of a disaster. He starts the show by recruiting members of the audience to his revolution, ascertaining what we will bring to the revolution. I offered my project management skills. Don Biswas is a naturally funny guy and very likeable to boot, and he has a lot of excellent and original material. However, I get uneasy when a comedian unexpectedly goes down the route of conspiracy theories without obviously taking the mick out of them – and I fear Mr. Biswas lost the room when he started talking about all the reasons lockdown was wrong – and you sense this was from personal anger rather than comedic material. He’s left-wing but believes there is more that unites us all than divides us – and if he said that once, he said it a dozen times, and that repetition became a bit tough to endure at the end.


Tarot: Hive Mind, Pleasance Courtyard.

Tarot Hive MindLots to appreciate here but as a late-night show with this particular title, it was only partially successful. The basis of the game works well; two teams headed by two guest comedians each have to answer a set of questions. The comedian knows the question but the audience doesn’t; and the comedian has to whittle down the audience members to just one person whom they think will know the answer to the question. They do this by asking roundabout, oblique questions to the audience who keep their paddles in the air until they feel they have been eliminated. It sounds a little confusing, but it isn’t. It’s a good game, and a fun show, but there are two problems. 1) As soon as you, the audience member, are eliminated from the game you lose a degree of interest in the proceedings – it would be much better if all the audience members could still answer the question and some sort of prize or entry to the final round is awarded for anyone who gets the answer 100% correct. 2) Although it’s billed as Tarot – Hive Mind, the Tarot team actually play a very side role in this, they are only operating the microphone, occasionally playing the piano or confirming the answers on the Internet – it’s a terrible waste of their physical comedic talent. The show is actually hosted by Kiri Pritchard-Maclean, who is brilliant, but it actually becomes her show rather than Tarot’s – and if you were hoping for a lot of Tarot-type comedy, you’ll be disppointed.


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