Edinburgh Fringe 2023 – It’s a Wrap!

Edinburgh Fringe 2023We arrived on 1st August and we left on the 29th. During that time we saw 145 shows, which was just six less than I had planned but was thirteen more than last year – so I’m very pleased with that number. According to the step count on the phone, we racked up about 184 miles of walking during the month – no wonder I didn’t put any weight on!

Here’s a quick reminder of the 4 and 5 star shows we saw, by star rating and in date order of when we saw them:


Jesus Jane Mother and Me

In Loyal Company

Glenn Moore


Ben Target – Lorenzo

Diana the Untold and Untrue Story


An Interrogation

Public the Musical


Gertrude Lawrence: A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening

Sophie’s Surprise 29th

Yoga with Jillian

Nuclear Children

The Trials of Galileo

Nobody’s Talking About Jamie

The Quality of Mercy: Life and Times of Harold Shipman

Tarot (Work in Progress)

The Life Sporadic of Jess Wildgoose

I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical

Paved With Gold and Ashes

Why I Stuck a Flare up my Arse for England

Adam Flood Remoulded

Mark Thomas: Gaffa Tapes

The Rite of Spring/Common Ground[s] (EIF)

The Court

A Chorus Line

The Good Dad (A Love Story)


Sooz Kempner: Y2K Woman

Frank Skinner: 30 Years of Dirt

Alvin Ailey Company (EIF)


Chopped Liver and Unions

Robin Grainger: An Audient with Robin Grainger

Ahir Shah: Ends



Spin Cycles

Jon Culshaw: Impostor Syndrome

One Way Out

17 Minutes

Showgirls and Spies

Bill’s 44th

Alan Turing – A Musical Biography

Alison Skilbeck’s Uncommon Ground

Pear but Braver

Ay Up Hitler!

The Academy Trust

Bitter Lemons


Raising Kane

The Way Way Deep

Andrew Frank: Ecstatic Blasphemy


Giving the Gift of Offence with Martin Rowson

In Conversation with Jack Monroe

Olaf Falafel: Look What Fell out of my Head

Letter to Boddah

The Last Flapper

Best Comedy Show at the Edinburgh Fringe (Ben Clover)

Perfect Pairing: A Wine Tasting Dancegustation

The Stall

Frank Sanazi’s Comedy Blitzkrieg

Long Long Long Live

Kevin Precious – The Reluctant Teacher

Joe Wells: King of the Autistics

Darren Walsh: 3rd Rock from the Pun

Mary Bourke – 200% Irish

Rob Auton: The Rob Auton Show

Marlon Solomon: How to be an Antisemite

Shenanigan’s Cabaret

Burning Down the Horse


Do Rhinos Feel Their Horns?


Pressure Cooker

Being Sophie Scholl

Dane Baptiste: Bapsquire



Congratulations to all these great shows. As to working out which of them are the absolute best – you’ll have to wait until the Chrisparkle Awards for 2023 are announced in January!

And thank you, gentle reader, for sticking with me throughout this busy month! My viewing/reading statistics have gone through the roof and are over twice the numbers who checked out my reviews at the 2022 Fringe – so thank you very much for that. Remember – reviews are only what one person thinks, they’re purely a personal reaction. And star ratings are even more unreliable!

Now it’s back to “ordinary” theatre reviewing – although theatre should never be “ordinary”!

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 Reviews – Ahir Shah: Ends (WIP), Dane Baptiste: Bapsquire, Sam Williams: Himbo (WIP), and Myra Dubois: Be Well.

Ahir ShahAhir Shah: Ends (WIP), Monkey Barrel Comedy.

From Work in Progress to Edinburgh Award for Best Stand-up Comedy Show, this has been quite the few weeks for Ahir Shah! Always an assured performer, he has really taken it up several gears this year to present Ends, one of the most beautiful and emotional stand-up routines I’ve ever seen. An homage to his nanaji – maternal grandfather – who arrived in the UK in 1964, leaving behind his wife and three kids in order to work to raise enough money so that the family could join him – five years later. But it’s also a look at the differences between today and the 1960s, with hilarious stories including why he’s grateful for his Latin schooling and his dad’s reaction to Sunak becoming Prime Minister. Mr Shah’s comic delivery is fast and furious; I doubt any other comedian gets quite as many words into his hour as he does. His material is fully original and always comes from the heart. There’s a serious side to almost everything he says, but he never loses sight of the fact that the show should, above all, be very, very funny. This is about as good as it gets.

Dane Baptiste: Bapsquire, Monkey Barrel Comedy (The Hive).

Dane BaptisteDane Baptiste returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with a brand new show, Bapsquire, his self-styled super-English alter ego designed to broaden his audience in these harsh austerity times, even if it means being somebody he isn’t. But the old Dane still comes through, more mature now he’s 41 and shortly to become a father, and still angry at injustice and prejudice. He’s resigned to performing in a venue that smells of bin juice and urine, because it’s all going very well in showbusiness. Unlike Ahir Shah whom we saw earlier, he’s much less forgiving of Rishi Sunak because the PM’s no friend to the performing arts and would have wanted him to retrain; and he’s also unforgiving of the racism he has encountered – why wouldn’t he be? As always, he has a surefire manner and supreme stage confidence, and it’s a show packed with laughs and original material. And whatever you do, don’t offer him any vegan cheese. A great show.


Sam Williams: Himbo (WIP), Just the Tonic at the Caves.

Sam WilliamsSam Williams’ Work in Progress show takes him from his middle-class upbringing in Maidenhead, through middle-class living in London, to visiting his parents in middle-class rural Wales. He’d be the first to say that he’s middle class, but his story also involves mummy issues, therapy, a psychic, dogging, masturbating in class, and having to come out as Christian. A slightly surreal last show of his Edinburgh run, as Mrs Chrisparkle and I formed two-thirds of his audience. But Sam was up for it and keen to give his best, and there’s a lot of entertaining material there, which just needs a little sharpening up – but that will come. An extremely likeable performer, with a confident stage presence, a perfect communicator’s voice, and an unexpected show finale!


Myra DuBois: Be Well, Pleasance Dome.

Myra DuboisRotherham’s answer to Dame Edna, Myra Dubois hosts a get-together of people who need her help – and the nearer to the stage they are sitting, the more in need of help they are. In fact, she announces she’s giving up showbiz in order to work with her wellness guru to give a little love back to the world. All of the trademark elements of a Myra show are there – thinly veiled jealousy of her sister Rose, some no holds-barred interaction with the audience, and a couple of ghastly comedy songs. There’s no doubt that she’s a great comic creation, but this show falls apart with about fifteen minutes to go, when there doesn’t appear to be much material left to wrap it up. There was also some excruciating chat with one member of the audience where Myra asked him about the therapy he was undertaking – and he accidentally overshared why he was having it and she made the most inappropriate rejoinder – I hope the chap wasn’t offended! Started very well – tailed off significantly!


The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 27th August 2023

And we come to our penultimate day of the Fringe! And it’s a big day of comedy!

Here’s the schedule for 27th August:

13.25 – Ahir Shah: Ends, Monkey Barrel Comedy. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Ahir Shah“Double Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Ahir Shah returns for his first full Fringe since 2019’s Dots (now available on HBO Max). This one’s about family, immigration, marriage, history, politics and beans. ***** (Telegraph). **** (Guardian). **** (Times).”

I love Ahir Shah, he’s a thoroughly intelligent and intellectual chap and his humour is always superb! This show has been “downgraded” to a Work-in-Progress in the run up to the Fringe, but that doesn’t cause me any worries!

16.15 – Dane Baptiste: Bapsquire, Monkey Barrel Comedy (The Hive).

Dane Baptiste“Most of us are supposed to mellow with age and Dane shouldn’t be the angry black man the media portrays him to be at times. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s been a long time since he was the first black British act nominated for an Edinburgh award. But post-pandemic, he’s now back and more mature with his adult alias: Bapsquire.”

Dane Baptiste is another comedian whom I always see if I possibly can – always gives you food for thought combined with brilliant laughs.

18.25 – Sam Williams: Himbo (WIP), Just the Tonic at the Caves.

Sam Williams“Part-time naked butler, full-time Ariana Grande super fan Sam Williams has quickly become British comedy’s brightest ‘good-looking chap’ (Chortle.co.uk). Watch Sam’s work-in-progress show to see an exciting up-and-comer answer the great existential question of our time: what does a himbo have to say? 2023 Komedia New Comedy Award winner. 2021 Chortle Student Comedy Award runner-up. 2022 2Northdown New Act of the Year finalist. 2022 Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year finalist. ‘Vivid, inventive, a winning personality… the complete package’ (Chortle.co.uk).”

Bit of a lucky punt this one – I know nothing about Sam Williams but the description made me laugh!

20.00 – Myra DuBois: Be Well, Pleasance Dome.

Myra Dubois“With her passion for compassion and flair for giving care, the ‘bust a gut funny’ (Graham Norton) Myra DuBois calls out to the disadvantaged, downtrodden and tyrannised of the world with her manifesto for mental health: AdMyrism! But are you ready to receive the call? Having left audiences across the globe in physical pain from laughter with her take-no-prisoners brand of rapid-fire comedy; the ‘acid-tongued, funny to the bone’ (Time Out), Myra DuBois lays her healing hands on the masses in this; her wellness sermon.”

You can always rely on Myra Dubois to have a great show – what magic will she come up with this time?

21.40 – Healing King Herod, Underbelly Cowgate.

Healing King Herod“King Herod, famed for his Massacre of the Innocents, now leads a self-development pyramid scheme. Ancient soldiers become modern clients in an interactive, drag-clown therapy session. Through improvised songs, political parody and cult-like rituals, Herod asks one thing: forgive… yourself. VAULT Festival sell-out show, nominated for Show of the Week, Herod returns to heal Edinburgh. But who is his process really for? Created by Comedy Central-endorsed clown Riss Obolensky and director Eloïse Poulton. ‘Funny, memorable, bold’ ****½ (TheReviewsHub.com). ‘Side-splitting laughs’ ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Raging lesbian’ ***** (DIVA Magazine). ‘Brilliantly weird’ **** (FringeBiscuit.co.uk). ‘Best thing I’ve ever seen’ (LostCabaret.com).”

One of these ridiculous shows that only the Fringe can offer, but usually they’re good end-of-day fun!

Check back later to see how we enjoyed all these shows!

The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 24th August 2023

Would you like to know what we’re seeing in Edinburgh today? I thought you would!

Here’s the schedule for 24th August:

10.20 – OTMA, The Space on the Mile. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

OTMA“In the early hours of July 17th 1918, four young women were executed by shotgun and bayonet in a grubby basement in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Flung into lime pits, their remains and stories lay abandoned for 80 years. Yet their only crime was to be born into the unbearable expectation, garish privilege, and naive ineptitude of the ruling Romanov dynasty. The terrors and hopes of their final few hours are brought to life by acclaimed Fringe writer/director Rebecca Vines. Praise for Vines’ other work: 1984, ***** (BroadwayBaby.com); Coward Conscience, **** (BritishTheatreGuide.info); More Myself Than I Am, **** (TheWeeReview.com).”

A famous story, and I hope a good piece of writing to reflect it. I was uncertain what the title referred to – it is an acronym for the four daughters of Nicholas II – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.

12.15 – Pressure Cooker, The Space on the Mile.

Pressure Cooker“Pressure Cooker: The kettle boils, the lights come up, and we find ourselves watching four sixth-year med students treating a patient. As the play develops, we realise they may not be quite as sober as they should be. And, as we find out more about how they treat their own bodies, we wonder how capable they are of treating the body in front of them. Under the heat, will they uncover what’s wrong with the patient, and will they discover the lies amongst themselves?”

That sounds like a fascinating scenario for a play. I’m curious to find out more! I know they’ve had a tough time bringing this show to the Fringe but I’m sure it will be worth it.

14.05 – Being Sophie Scholl, The Space @ Symposium Hall.

Being Sophie Scholl“From the Producers of I, Sniper (2018) and Chaika (2010) – After her brother is unjustly arrested by the Nazis, a young German student begins a deadly game of cat and mouse with the local Gestapo. But can she stand up for her beliefs when she stands alone against the increasing tide of support for the Third Reich? Discover the inspiring true story of Sophie Scholl – the girl who defied Hitler.”

I had never heard of Sophie Scholl, to my utter shame. She sounds like an extraordinary person. I trust this play will tell her story well!

16.00 – ADULTS, Traverse Theatre.

Adults“A black comedy full of unexpected tenderness from Kieran Hurley (writer of the 2019 smash-hit Mouthpiece) that explores the gulf between generations, the futility of blame culture, and how we have make things better for those who come after us. In Edinburgh’s New Town, thirty-something Zara runs her own business: a brothel. Her newest client is her old teacher, and her colleague fears the inevitable ageing process. They’re all convinced that the mess of the world around them isn’t their fault. Soon discover that they have more in common than expected. Directed by Roxanna Silbert and starring Conleth Hill.”

Again this sounds like a most inventive story line – and Conleth Hill is an excellent actor so I’m hoping for good things here! Another play where the title is in CAPITALS! I guess there’s a reason somewhere…

19.30 – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Programme 2, Festival Theatre.

Alvin Ailey“Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dazzles with technical brilliance and passionate energy, bringing audiences to their feet at every performance. This programme combines three beloved works by Alvin Ailey himself who founded the company in 1958.

The programme opens with The River, created in collaboration with the late musician and composer Duke Ellington. Combining classical ballet, modern dance and jazz, the piece uses water as a central motif in an allegory for the journey of birth, life and rebirth.

Memoria is one of Ailey’s most personal works, created as a tribute to his dear friend and colleague, Joyce Trisler. The piece will feature dancers selected from all over Scotland performing alongside the company.

The performance closes with Revelations, the most widely viewed modern dance work in the world. Since its debut in 1960, Revelations has moved audiences with its powerful storytelling and soul-stirring music. Springing from Ailey’s childhood memories of growing up in the American South, attending Baptist church services in Texas, Revelations pays homage to rich African American cultural traditions.”

Back for more from the Alvin Ailey company; hoping for another spectacular night of dance.

22.35 – Hi Ho Hi Ho, It’s Off To Work I Go, The Space on the Mile.

Hi ho hi ho“In this biographical burlesque, a confessional cabaret, Phillipe will sing and dance you through his boyhood on the Broadway stage, teenage nights in the discos of Hollywood, 20 years in a New Age cult, and a surprising midlife career as an erotic masseur, while investigating through song the wild history of sex workers as portrayed in musical theatre. Moving, provocative and hilarious, Hi Ho is an intimate journey you won’t soon forget.”

Biographical burlesque is an interesting and rather niche genre. Hopefully this will be both fascinating and entertaining.

Check back later to see how we enjoyed all these shows!

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 Reviews – Four, Rob Auton: The Rob Auton Show, Marlon Solomon: How to be an Antisemite, Shenanigans Cabaret, and Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment!

FourFour, Gilded Balloon Teviot.

Let’s start with the positives! It’s a terrific premise for a show. Leonard, the lead violin of a string quartet, has died and the three remaining members had made a pact not to carry on after he’d gone, but to quit the quartet. But Hassim, their spivy, untrustworthy manager has recruited a new member, Kiki, to replace Leonard without telling the others. They decide, eventually, to allow a four-month trial, to see if they get on together and want to carry on. And the result? You’ll have to watch the play to find out! The play takes a variety of themes – grief, loyalty, the value of the arts, the need to move forward and change with the times, trust, and more – and deals with them pretty well. However, if you do decide to watch the play, there are five performers on stage and I regret to say that only one is a good actor. One is – and I hesitate to say this – very wooden indeed. The others give performances that are just about adequate. One of those tricky judgments – an intriguing play that’s not very well executed. Given the range of terrific shows on offer at the Fringe, I cannot recommend this show because of the acting. But it’s your choice!


Rob Auton: The Rob Auton Show, Assembly Roxy.

Rob AutonHaving performed shows built on various subjects over the years, Rob Auton’s newest show is about the topic he knows best – Rob Auton. He takes us through personal moments over his formative childhood years, like the simple pleasure of watching a lava lamp with his sister, or his excellence on the cricket field, through his first experiences with the opposite sex and finding his feet as The Crab Cake Kid. Rob Auton is nothing if not engagingly honest; his flights of both fancy and fantasy take wing as he taps into his natural philosophical poetry and brings out many of the more ludicrous of his observations. His humour is not for everyone; few people have that kind of universal appeal. But personally I love wallowing in his mental somersaults; and, like all his shows, there is a journey to be followed and both the route to get there and the final end point are thoroughly enjoyable.


Marlon Solomon: How to Be an Antisemite, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.

Marlon SolomonMarlon Solomon delivers a well-researched and entertainingly illustrated talk about the history of antisemitism which goes right back to the Bible and the earliest art, and is more engrained in human brains than I could ever have imagined. It’s a very informative  show – for example, I’d never encountered the word “jew” as a verb before – and it’s never used as a complimentary term. And isn’t that David Icke a horrendous stain on humanity? I’m glad to know nothing about him. Entertaining and educational, this is a fascinating and enlightening hour that never gets over-serious despite the seriousness of its topic.


Shenanigans Cabaret, The Space on the Mile.

Shenanigans CabaretA brash, funny and talented burlesque show included circus stunts (I think that’s the right phrase), boylesque and some terrific routines. The cast change from tomorrow, so I can’t say how it will be next week, but tonight’s show was very enjoyable! Classic burlesque and cabaret at its best.


Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment! Pleasance Courtyard.

Rosie HoltI love Rosie Holt’s social media videos where she pretends to be a feckless and condescending Tory MP – they’re priceless. But how well does the character transfer to live theatre? We saw her show last year and it worked really well – not too much reliance on her pre-recorded material and plenty to laugh at. This year, however, it isn’t so successful. I commend her for using no pre-recorded material at all, so all the material was fresh and new; and the structure of the show is clever, with a right-wing shock jock TV and radio presenter warming up the audience for Rosie’s appearance as a bigoted MP and then reappearance as a stand-up comic. Unfortunately, the show never goes far enough in any one direction to be truly funny – the TV presenter holds back from being truly foul, the MP doesn’t quite make the social and political gaffes we might expect, and the “stand-up” sequence is full of padding and repetition and just doesn’t hit the jackpot. There’s still a lot to amuse and the characterisations are frighteningly believable; I just wanted more.


The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 20th August 2023

Wanna know what’s scheduled for today in Edinburgh?

Here’s the schedule for 20th August:

12.45 – Four, Gilded Balloon Teviot. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Four“In this poignant and compelling new work, an ambitious manager introduces a new first violinist to a longstanding string quartet with an uncertain future. As the reconstituted quartet plays, over twelve weeks of rehearsals and performances, it becomes evident that this new blood has disrupted the settled dynamics of the group. The award-winning playwright of Four, Clé Holly (Parallel Lines, Stretch, American Standard), is herself a violinist, and it shows in the verisimilitude of this sharply written drama. Featuring live music.”

This sounds like an interesting combination of genres. What happens when a new person disrupts a happy team?

14.25 – Rob Auton: The Rob Auton Show, Assembly Roxy.

Rob Auton“The Rob Auton Show is a show about Rob Auton. Rob Auton has written nine hit Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy/theatre/spoken-word shows on specific themes including yellow in The Yellow Show, and sleep in The Sleep Show. In his tenth show Rob turns the pen on himself to explore the memories and feelings that create his life on a daily basis. ‘A genuine original’ (Guardian). ‘Makes laughter out of wonder. We need him’ (Scotsman). ‘Charming, eccentric and uplifting’ (Independent). ‘Brilliant’ (Stewart Lee). ‘One of my absolute favourites’ (Daniel Kitson).”

I’m a big fan of Rob Auton’s quiet, unconventional style so I’m looking forward to seeing what his new show is all about!

16.20 – Marlon Solomon: How to Be an Antisemite, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.

Marlon Solomon“From the maker of Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale – **** (BroadwayBaby.com), **** (TheWeeReview.com) – comes Marlon Solomon’s highly anticipated second show. A black comedy about the current rise of antisemitism, where it comes from and what we can do about it. Marlon explores his own experience being a target and how it changed his life. Told in his own unique style, How To Be An Antisemite is a wry piece of storytelling which exposes a shocking underbelly in society that few know exist. It’s another comic tale which is no laughing matter.”

The last time we saw Marlon Solomon live was in the remarkable The Curing Room at Edinburgh a few years back. This will be a very different kettle of fish, and I’m looking forward to hearing everything he has to say about antisemitism.

18.15 – Shenanigans Cabaret, The Space on the Mile.

Shenanigans Cabaret“East London’s five-star variety show comes to Edinburgh for the third year in a row, bringing you top-class cabaret acts from across the performing arts industry, including circus, burlesque, sideshow, acrobatics, live music, drag, dance and anything else we can get our hands on. From the weird and wonderful to the sublime and ridiculous, showcasing a diverse cast of both new and established performers, anything goes at this show and, indeed, anything can happen… Hold onto your hats as they’re about to be blown away! ‘Highly entertaining’ , ‘hilarious’ and ‘a revelation’ ***** (Audience Reviews).”

I don’t know why it sounds funny to associate burlesque with East London, but I’m sure this will be a great show!

20.00 – Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment! Pleasance Courtyard.

Rosie Holt“The worse the political career, the more lucrative the subsequent entertainment opportunities. Matt Hancock may have slaughtered millions but now he’s making a killing. So can Rosie Holt’s viral hit MP follow “politainers” Dorries, Farage and Rees-Mogg and leap from the pages of Hansard to Heat? After her sell-out Edinburgh show last year, Rosie returns to tightrope the thin line between politics and entertainment. ‘The Thick of It levels of writing and performance applied to a very current flavour of political bullshit’ (Times). ‘Beautifully observed and performed’ (Guardian). ‘A character comedy treat’ **** (Time Out).”

We saw Rosie Holt’s Edinburgh show last year and it was a breath of fresh air – terrific political comedy. Hoping for great things again this year!

Check back later to see how we enjoyed all these shows!


Edinburgh Fringe 2023 – Reviews – Joe Wells: King of the Autistics, 3rd Rock from the Pun: Darren Walsh, Married at First Sleight, Pina Bausch at the Playhouse with The Rite of Spring/common ground[s], and 99 Red Hot Kitties and a Cockatoo.

Joe Wells: King of the Autistics, PBH’s Free Fringe @ Banshee Labyrinth.

Joe Wells Joe Wells’ new show is a comedic exploration of all things autistic, including how autistics are perceived and treated, and what are the qualities that make good parents of autistics. He also tells us how he accidentally upsets a wide range of people, including listeners to his podcast and Christians; probably also people who use e-scooters, but don’t press him on that. Earlier this year he came to the decision to step down as self-styled King of the Autistics – shame, I think he should rule on! Joe always comes at comedy from a good place and leads you down unlikely alleyways to subvert your expectations. A delight as always!


3rd Rock from the Pun: Darren Walsh, Laughing Horse @ Bar 50.

Darren WalshFor his new show, Darren Walsh has scoured the Internet for Artificial Intelligence – and all the media he uses – video, audio, etc, has been created by AI. That doesn’t include the jokes; fortunately for Darren, AI is rubbish at making you laugh. Darren is a superb exponent of the art of the pun and will make you cringe, gasp, groan, and laugh ecstatically at a series of inventive, outrageous, or downright corny puns assembled together to explain the development and history of the Universe as seen through AI eyes. Friendly, fast, and funny!


Married at First Sleight, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.

Married at first SleightHudson and Hudson, the married magicians, base their act on the fact that she’s quirky and cheeky and he’s a bit of a dickhead (her words). Their magic tricks are brilliant, and their mind-reading stunts are out of this world. There’s a sequence when the ghost of Cat’s late aunt comes to the stage to assist her with a couple of tricks; you come away realising that the power of suggestion is an amazing force and it is very spooky how these tricks worked so well. However, they seemed to find it difficult to establish a rapport with the audience and we never felt comfortable with, or really believed, their faux-argumentative stage personas. This may be why their jokes and humour that frame the tricks fell flat. And that’s a big shame, as you felt that the show as a whole became hard-going for them. Fortunately, the magic outweighs the laughs, but it does need to be snappier and crisper.




The Rite of Spring / common ground[s], Pina Bausch Foundation and Ecole des Sables, Edinburgh Playhouse.

Rite of SpringThe evening starts with Common Ground[s], a two-hander choreographed and danced by Germaine Acogny – co-founder of the Ecole des Sables in Senegal – and Malou Airaudo, who had worked closely with Pina Bausch. It’s a dignified, elegant and controlled piece of choreography and dance, reflecting the many moods shared between two people over a lifetime of dance. It manages to be both supportive and light-hearted; I won’t pretend to understand all the interactions it depicts because this is essentially a private piece that offers us little insights and flashes of recognition.

After the interval – a good twenty minutes or more where the backstage team transforms the stage from its opening bareness to the peaty plains of Africa – it’s time for Pina Bausch’s stunning Rite of Spring, an extravaganza of movement and rhythm, accompanied by Stravinsky’s mesmerising music, where opposing groups of men and women come together to perform a sacrificial rite where one young girl dances herself to death. It’s an astonishingly vivid spectacle, and takes your breath away with its beauty, bravery and sheer bravado.

P. S. Don’t try to take a half-drunk bottle of water into the auditorium. Security will insist you tip it away. If they do that to ensure that you buy another one at their bar, it didn’t work with me.

P. P. S. Our performance was very nearly ruined by an arrogant, entitled git of a man who took photos and videos of Rite through almost the entire performance, despite the protestations of a) his nearby theatregoers, b) the front of house team and c) Security. I really thought there was going to be a punch-up at the end, so badly had he aggravated everyone around him. And the lesson to be learned is – don’t waste Security’s time checking for half-empty bottles of water, get them to eject antisocial audience members as soon as they become a problem.

99 Red Hot Kitties and Cockatoo, The Space @ Niddry Street.

99 Red Hot KittiesApparently every night is a different line up for this little burlesque show – I can only say that perhaps we went on an off-night. There were a couple of acts that were decent – a lady depicting a black widow spider who staples a black ribbon to her body, and another lady who cheers up a bad day at the office by stripping to her scanties. But on the whole it was rather underwhelming, and I have to say that some of the audience members were a little more well-oiled than was good for them.

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 Reviews – Alan Turing – A Musical Biography, Alison Skilbeck’s Uncommon Ground, Gertrude Lawrence: A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening, Rahul Somia: Find Me a Wife, Pear: but Braver, and Ay Up, Hitler!

Alan Turing – A Musical Biography, Paradise in Augustines.

Alan TuringAlan Turing is central to two of the most extraordinary events of the twentieth century. He was the hero who cracked the Enigma code and laid the ground for so much technological advancement. And despite this extraordinary achievement, he was also the victim of one of the most idiotic and cruel laws of our past, the criminalisation of homosexuality, for which he was chemically castrated and subsequently took his own life. Joel Goodman and Jan Osborne’s Alan Turing – A Musical Biography tells his story from childhood to death, by way of his successes at Cambridge and Bletchley Park, alongside the story of Andrea, who has written his biography and is up for a literary award as a result. The show captures your imagination and attention right from the start, and the music and the book dovetail nicely so that each song or musical segment progresses the story well. The character of Andrea is fictional, and if I have a criticism it is that her story is given almost equal weight to his, although his is a much more vital and essential story to understand. But the show brings the savagery of the state’s punishment of this hero into sharp focus and makes you wonder how it could ever have happened. Recommended!


Alison Skilbeck’s Uncommon Ground, Assembly Rooms.

Alison Skilbeck Uncommon GroundIt’s always a priority to see Alison Skilbeck whenever she has a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, and this year is no exception. The Uncommon Ground in question is an open space where dogs are walked and children play, and people with seemingly nothing in common cross each other’s paths just slightly, but there is always a link. Set around the time of the Covid pandemic, Ms Skilbeck plays seven characters, all of whom have an association with the Ground, in a highly enjoyable, beautifully written series of monologues. Funny, moving, and a fascinating insight into how others see us.


Gertrude Lawrence: A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening, Assembly Rooms.

Gertrude LawrenceI was brought up with the songs of Gertrude Lawrence as my mother dandled me on her knee (well, not quite, but you get the picture). I had read the stories about Gertrude and Noel Coward being friends from a very early age, and her very working-class upbringing; then we had a family outing to see the Julie Andrews film Star!, all about Gertie – and her songs have been part of my life ever since. So I was looking forward enormously to seeing this show… and I wasn’t disappointed at all! Lucy Stevens gives a tremendous performance as the grande dame, socking out a fantastic selection of songs, accompanied by Elizabeth Marcus at the piano, and telling Gertie’s story from the back streets of Clapham, through huge success with Andre Charlot, disastrous bankruptcy and several gentlemen friends and husbands. And Noel Coward! Beautifully structured and charmingly portrayed; plus also very informative – I had forgotten how her final years were synonymous with The King and I – although I was surprised that there was no mention of Coward’s Nymph Errant, my favourite Gertrude Lawrence score. But that was more than made up for by the inclusion of terrific rarely heard songs like Parisian Pierrot and The Saga of Jenny. The audience loved it – and so did we. Top class entertainment!

Rahul Somia: Find Me a Wife, Hootenannies @ The Apex.

Rahul SomiaRahul Somia is a likeable young man with an excellent idea for a comedy gig – that, as a member of an Indian family, he’s in want of a wife because his parents haven’t got around to arranging a marriage for him yet, and they should get a move on. Sadly, he doesn’t actually follow through with this concept and just tells us about his life as a schoolteacher and a few unsuccessful dating experiences – and I’m afraid there isn’t much to laugh at with that material. His punchlines are fairly weak and not very well delivered; it isn’t advertised as a Work in Progress show, but you’d think it was very much at an early stage of development, with him constantly reading off notes written on the floor. A lot of work needed, I fear.

Pear: But Braver, Underbelly Cowgate.

Pear but BraverYes it’s the return of the McPherson twins, Patrick and Hugo – and if you saw Pear last year, you’ll be delighted to hear again the pleasing refrain of Are There Twins in the Audience, uh oh, uh oh, Are there any Twins in… Pretty similarly structured to last year, it’s another series of madcap sketches that plays a lot on their brotherly relationship, their identities and privilege, helped out by some excellent fun contributions from members of the audience. To be honest, I don’t think this year’s show is quite up to the same standard as last year – but that still means it’s very funny indeed.


Ay Up, Hitler! The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall.

Ay Up HitlerSo you thought Hitler died at the end of World War Two? Supposing he had secretly relocated to Yorkshire and was biding his time for a big return? Gamma Ray Theatre’s Ay Up Hitler is not for the squeamish, and there are many moments during the show when you think to yourself – is it really ok to watch a play like this, and maybe (even) find it funny? And if you do see it, and you do hate every minute of it, you have my sympathy. However, that said, I believe that David McCulloch has written a superbly clever piece that holds a mirror up to today’s electorate and shows how the fun four of Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Himmler have led the way to a situation where the Brits are duped into voting for Johnson and the Americans into voting for Trump. This Hitler is a lovable rogue in comparison! There are some harrowingly awful jokes, but, boy, do they make their point. I can’t say I enjoyed this play – but I think it’s an important and highly relevant one. Be careful who you vote for next time.


The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 8th August 2023

Have we a plan of shows to see today? You bet we do!

Here’s the schedule for 8th August:

11.20 – Things To Do in Mull, The Space on the Mile. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Things to do in Mull“Janusz is embarking on a trip to Mull, where he hopes to leave behind all his distractions. A would-be historian of 17th century Poland, Janusz needs to get away from WhatsApp, TikTok and his mother. So the trip is planned! The train is booked! And then… he meets a girl. Seeking advice from Jasper the dog and Dima the cat, Janusz sets forth to change his life forever. But can he get Dima’s support? Will Jasper approve his doctoral subject? And will he ever grab a coffee with the girl?”

This is co-produced by New Celts, a company whose work I always enjoy, so that alone makes this worth the ticket. Let’s hope it’s good!

12.45 – The Academy Trust, The Space at Surgeon’s Hall.

Academy Trust“Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the school gates? Why do people become teachers and then leave so soon? With schools being asked to become multi-academy trusts, the school working world is becoming very different. Come and see the hilarious, unbelievable and simply sublime situations this group of teachers get themselves into in The Academy Trust – a satirical comedy written and performed by teachers. Featuring hilarious, unbelievable and simply sublime initiatives that are so outrageous they’ll probably be in the next Conservative manifesto!”

Edinburgh Fringe plays that are based on teaching are often really funny – and sometimes a bit lame. Let’s hope this is in the former category!

14.20 – Bitter Lemons, Pleasance Courtyard.

Bitter Lemons“In the pressurised worlds of football and finance, two women carve their own path. After the loss of her dad, a goalkeeper prepares for the league final, while an ambitious banker battles her fears of being tokenised to secure a promotion. But as their pitches get closer, worlds collide as life shifts unexpectedly and in parallel. How do you face your biggest challenge yet? Winner of a Pleasance Edinburgh National Partnership Award and supported by Bristol Old Vic, Bitter Lemons is an explosive debut play tackling the pressures on women’s bodies and the power society holds over them.”

This sounds like good, meaty drama that will be right up my street – modern and relevant and very thought-provoking.

16.10 – Vanya is Alive, Space at Symposium Hall.

Vanya is Alive“A powerful new play from today’s Russia brought to the Fringe by artists in exile due to their anti-war position. A mother of a mobilised Russian soldier plunges into the abyss as she struggles to comb through state propaganda and lies. Where lie the limits of personal responsibility? Can an individual stand up against the system? Echoing the actual political situation in Russia, this dark tale reflects on the price of truth and freedom with a touch of absurdity and disarming sincerity. A look at the country grappling with the reality of war and repressions.”

This was a last minute change of mind – the play looks so important and it clearly has a vital tale to tell that it was a no-brainer that we had to see it. I think it will be a very difficult watch – but it’s the kind of thing to which we have to bear witness.

19.30 – Adam Kay: Undoctored – This is Going to Hurt… More, Pleasance Courtyard.

Adam Kay“The nation’s twelfth-favourite doctor returns for his first month at the Fringe since 2016. This is Going to Hurt was a literary sensation, selling three million copies and becoming a multi award-winning series. Undoctored continues from This is Going to Hurt, leaving audiences laughing and crying with Adam’s tales of life on and off the wards. It also contains some favourites from This is Going to Hurt, because people ask for refunds if they don’t get the degloving story. ‘Adam Kay has done it again, the talented c*nt’ (Charlie Brooker).”

Is there anyone in the country who isn’t a fan of Adam Kay? We still haven’t seen him live, so this is the perfect opportunity to put that right!

21.45 – Sophie’s Surprise 29th, Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows.

Sophie's Surprise 29th“Sophie is turning 29 and we’re celebrating. Imagine if The Spice Girls never broke up, Cirque du Soleil had sunstroke and No. 10 had actually known how to throw a party. This interactive circus and cabaret show is stumbling into Circus Hub with its Fringe debut, featuring world-leading performers from Cirque du Soleil, Britain’s Got Talent, Gogglebox and more. Expect Twilight fan fiction, unicycling drug dealers, and death defying feats. Put on your acid wash jeans and halter tops. Party starts at 9.45pm sharp, but remember – don’t tell Sophie.”

This sounds like a mash-up of circus elements, so hopefully there will be something entertaining in there!

Check back later to see how we enjoyed all these shows!

The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 7th August 2023

What’s lined up to entertain us in Edinburgh today?

Here’s the schedule for 7th August:

10.50 – Alan Turing – A Musical Biography, Paradise in Augustines. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Alan Turing“This musical, composed by Joel Goodman and Jan Osborne, with a new script by Joan Greening is a journey through the extraordinary life of Alan Turing. Alan was a genius whose brilliant code breaking brain saved approximately fourteen million lives in WW2. It takes us on a journey through the loss of his closest friend, his romance with a fellow worker, the moment he realises how to beat the Germans and the growing awareness of his homosexuality. His treatment after the war was truly appalling and this brilliant, funny man was left in despair.”

Sometimes a musical is exactly what you need to tell an important story in a direct and effective way – I’m hoping that will be the case with this show!

12.40 – Alison Skilbeck’s Uncommon Ground, Assembly Rooms.

Alison Skilbeck Uncommon Ground“A play about six wildly different people, coping and connecting during one year on the Common, telling their unexpected tales of love, life, death and downright dottiness, while a seventh character lurks mysteriously. Directed by Gareth Armstrong, with music by composer Simon Slater (Constellations) and lighting design by Mark Dymock (Once). With the world premiere of her latest play, this is Alison’s fifth time performing at Assembly. She is the writer and performer of three critically acclaimed plays: Are There More of You?, The Power Behind The Crone and Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London.”

We always catch whatever Alison Skilbeck is doing at every Fringe and she never fails to fascinate and entertain. I’m sure this will be another winner.

16.00 – Gertrude Lawrence: A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening, Assembly Rooms.

Gertrude Lawrence“The 1930s star of musical comedy tells her story. Funny, revealing and bursting with songs from Noel Coward to Kurt Weill. Directed by award-winning cabaret artist Sarah-Louise Young. The superbly gifted actor/singer Lucy Stevens with pianist Elizabeth Marcus, the creators of Kathleen Ferrier Whattalife! ‘Funny, touching and uplifting – a must see!’ ***** (LightMusicSociety.com).”

I was brought up on the music of Gertrude Lawrence and am really looking forward to this show. Here’s hoping that Lucy Stevens can bring the spirit of Miss Lawrence to life! Anything involving Sarah-Louise Young is Entertainment Gold, so this should be great.

18.00 – Rahul Somia: Find Me a Wife, Hootenannies @ The Apex.

Rahul Somia“Rahul is single. He lives at home in Leicester. His parents are relaxed about it. Rahul believes they need to get more serious. They need to get their act together and find him someone. Join Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year 2023 nominee Rahul Somia as he takes a deep dive into his love life, cross-examining every aspect from his Indian heritage to his career as a teacher.”

This one is a bit of a lucky punt because I don’t know much about Mr Somia but I love the idea that you’re annoyed with your parents because they haven’t married you off yet!

20.10 – Pear: But Braver, Underbelly Cowgate.

Pear but Braver“Winner – Critic’s Choice Award, Perth Fringe 2023. Last year, 6 foot 7 identical twins, Patrick and Hugo McPherson, brought their debut sketch comedy show, Pear, to Edinburgh. An award-winning, sell-out tour across the UK and Australia then followed with the boys heralded as ‘like Reeves and Mortimer at their best’ (TheRecs.co.uk) and ‘hilarious from start to finish’ ***** (MervsPOTFringe.com). This year? The same. But braver. So leave cowardice at the door and then enter for a riotous and original hour that’s ‘relentlessly packed with jokes’ ***** (ThreeWeeks).”

It’s now an unwritten law of the Edinburgh Fringe that you must see anything with Patrick McPherson in, which includes this double act with his twin Hugo. Last year’s Pear was one of the funniest shows of the Fringe, and I have every expectation this will be too. I do hope they reprise their Twins theme from last year – Are there any twins in?

22.15 – Ay Up, Hitler! The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall.

Ay Up Hitler“The untold “true” story of what happened at the end of WWII. After losing to the Allied Forces, Hitler and his cronies manage to escape Germany and go into hiding in the last place anyone would think to look… Yorkshire! Swapping the Hugo Boss for flat caps and wellies, and adopting strong Northern accents, Adolf and the lads meet down the pub to plan their epic comeback: Operation Fourth Reich!”

I booked this show because it sounded humorously ridiculous – since then I’ve seen a preview video and I think I may need to have a few drinks before seeing this. It’s either going to work magnificently or fall flat on its face!

Check back later to see how we enjoyed all these shows!