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 (final day) – Appraisal, Groomed, Njambi McGrath: OutKast, William Thompson: The Hand You’re Dealt and 1984.

Appraisal, Assembly George Square Studios.

It’s Nicky’s annual work appraisal, but the boss seems more interested in practising his golf swing than putting in the appropriate preparation. You can tell from her body language that she’s not comfortable with his managerial style, but she goes along with it. Before long it becomes apparent that both characters have their own agenda, but which one will end up holding all the cards? Tim Marriott plays the boss in his own play and it’s a nicely underplayed, quiet, slightly unsettling performance; and Angela Bull plays Nicky, barely able to contain her annoyance and disdain for her manager. It’s an enjoyable play, perhaps slightly unbelievable that an appraisal would actually develop in the way that it does, but I did like the way it exposed how a bad boss can gaslight his employees by denying almost everything he has said – it’s just like the current government! Also, a complete hats-off to Tim Marriott for carrying on whilst suffering from a nosebleed for the first half of the show; that must have been tremendously difficult to manage but he was a super trouper!


Groomed, Pleasance Dome.

GroomedPatrick Sandford’s personal account of a childhood blighted by sexual abuse at the hands of his teacher; a blight that has never really gone away. It’s a very powerful and impressive piece of writing, and a very emotional performance; particularly memorable when he attempts to get into the mind of his own abuser and “justifies” his actions, as well as remembering himself as a boy wondering if it’s his own dirtiness that has somehow caused it. I had no idea that childhood sexual abuse is as prevalent as it is – he tells us it’s estimated that it happens to one in four children in Ireland, and in the UK one in three girls and one in six boys. What is particularly impressive is Mr Sandford’s drive to find a positive solution to the problem, to try to prevent paedophiles from committing their crimes by offering them non-judgemental, thoroughly professional counselling in an attempt to deter them from carrying out their sexual desires. There’s a helpful musical contribution from a saxophonist which both breaks up the tension and punctuates it, as well as revealing how Adolphe Sax also survived his childhood against all the odds. A memorable and important contribution to our understanding of paedophilia and the appalling scars it leaves.

Njambi McGrathNjambi McGrath: OutKast, Gilded Balloon Teviot.

Njambi McGrath was born in Kenya but now lives in London, and she takes us through the perils of colonisation and points out some humorous observations of what the British did to her homeland, whilst never losing sight of the seriousness of the issue. There’s some very good material here – and there’s also quite a lot to make a native Brit feel uncomfortable. She’s a strong storyteller with an excellent stage presence; perhaps the overall effect of the hour is that it’s a little too intense – there’s not a lot of light and shade, or an opportunity to take in and reflect on her observations before moving on to the next one. But it’s an entertaining show and I for one am not going to complain about white western privilege.


William Thompson: The Hand You’re Dealt, Pleasance Courtyard.

William ThompsonWilliam Thompson has cerebral palsy and this show deals with how the condition affects him and the extent to which it affected his upbringing. But it’s not a sorrowful story of having to survive the hand you’re dealt, it’s a positive meander through a Belfast childhood, his caring adopted mum, his belligerent dad and his rough and ready schooldays. He has a terrific attacking style and some excellent original material. The show needs a bit more of a final punch, but he’s a likeable lad and he connects really well with his audience. Lots to laugh at and to recognise!



1984, Assembly Roxy.

1984The appropriately named Proletariat Productions’ 1984 takes Orwell’s novel and specifically concentrates on Winston Smith’s imprisonment and punishment at the hands of the self-styled Ministry of Love, including his treatment in his own Room 101. It certainly serves to disturb and terrify its audience with some ruthless stage-torture, although the excessive amount of the story that’s told on film – that you feel could be even better performed live on stage – outweighs the live action, so that it feels a rather lopsided and unbalanced presentation. The filmed content is also quite low quality (deliberately so, I feel) in order to add to the sense of detachment and unreality. So while it’s fairly successful at conveying some of Orwell’s message, it’s not that successful in providing that buzz that only a live theatrical event can create. Excellent live performances though – there’s no doubting the cast’s commitment to the production.


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 – 28th August 2023

And we come to our final day of the Fringe! What have got left in store to see today?

Here’s the schedule for 28th August:

11.35 – Appraisal, Assembly George Square Studios. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

“An annual work review that goes horribly wrong. Jo needs to appraise Nicky. Nicky just wants to keep working. A power play of manipulation, subtext and subterfuge, ‘a tense relatable thriller’ (BohemianBritain.com), exploring explosive consequences arising out of a seemingly innocent conversation. Written by Tim Marriott (Watson: The Final Problem). Returning after sold-out seasons at Edinburgh Fringe 2022 and Adelaide Fringe 2023. ‘A convoluted maze with humorous, dramatic punch’ ***** (EdinburghGuide.com). ‘A terrific play, disturbingly realistic’ ***** (GlamAdelaide.com.au). ‘Intelligent and incisive… utterly captivating’ ***** (StageWhispers.com.au). ‘A classically structured two-hander that captures the unjustifiable’ **** (Scotsman).”

A last minute change of plan as our original choice of show has been cancelled due to sickness. Hopefully this will be good!

13.30 – Groomed, Pleasance Dome.

Groomed“How can a truth be told? How can a secret be spoken? Three true stories of survival. A schoolboy is kept back by his teacher, a Japanese soldier won’t surrender and an accident-prone young Belgian invents the saxophone. Fast, powerful, gripping storytelling with live saxophone music. ‘Astonishing… unmissable’ **** (Guardian). ‘Remarkable, brave, inquiring theatre’ **** (Financial Times). ‘One of the most moving pieces I have seen’ (Sandi Toksvig). Winner: three Outstanding Theatre Awards, Brighton Fringe. Finalist: Best Male Performer, Off West End Awards. Written and performed by Patrick Sandford. Directed by Nancy Meckler. Composer Simon Slater.”

This sounds like an unusual combination of themes, but let’s give it a go!

15.00 – Njambi McGrath: OutKast, Gilded Balloon Teviot.

Njambi McGrath“Njambi McGrath is an OutKast. Lured by British colonial PR, Njambi studied prose, poetry, Shakespeare and watched Downtown Abbey in preparation for arrival in the UK. Then she arrived in Staines. The rest is her-story. Product of British colonial kiln unable to fit in. Ridiculed for her accent at boarding school, kicked out of choir at 8 for ruining the harmonies, Njambi’s life should have been a failure. Not even her rejection in modelling for being black or being too short to be an air hostess could quash her enthusiasm. She’s living it large in Staines.”

I’ve never seen Njambi McGrath before, but I like the sound of her story – hope she’s funny!

17.30 – William Thompson: The Hand You’re Dealt, Pleasance Courtyard.

William Thompson“William Thompson (BBC New Comedy Awards finalist 2021, as seen and heard on Dave, Channel 4 and BBC Scotland) is a rising star from Belfast. Growing up disabled on a Northern Irish council estate, where people aren’t known to be sympathetic, William struggled with living with his grandparents, relationships and stereotypes; trying his best to make the most out of the hand he was dealt. Co-host of The Mudblood Podcast, regular guest on Tea With Me, support for Shane Todd and Paddy McDonnell on tour, and has sold-out shows across the UK.”

A late substitution as the show I had originally booked to see cancelled this final day of the Fringe – yes, Luke Kempner, I’m looking at you! But it gives us an opportunity to see someone new and I’ve seen William Thompson on video and he seems excellent – so, fingers crossed!

18.55 – 1984, Assembly Roxy.

1984“A chilling new retelling of George Orwell’s seminal novel. Live action and filmed image combine to reimagine 1984 as a ghost story as the feverish recollections of Comrade 6079 Winston Smith play out after thinking a thought and falling in love. Winston lies alone in a cell in the Ministry of Love, arrested by the Party for thoughtcrime. Imprisoned for weeks, or months, his mind races with feverish recollections of the events leading up to his arrest. Thoughts of the Party, of Big Brother, of Julia, torture him. But the real torture is about to begin.”

I count myself a big Orwell fan although I don’t know 1984 as well as I should, so I shall be very interested to see this adaptation. And that’s an Edinburgh wrap!

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

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 Reviews – Chopped Liver and Unions, Alex Something is Missing Again, Lie Low, Robin Grainger: An Audient with Robin Grainger, and Eddy MacKenzie and Liam Farrelly: Little and Large.

Chopped Liver and Unions, The Space on the Mile.

Chopped Liver and UnionsBlue Fire Theatre Company tell the story of Sara Wesker, an early twentieth century union activist, and more of a “bloody difficult woman” than Theresa May could ever aspire to be. She takes us through her experiences leading strikes in the clothing and fabric workshops of the East End, demanding equal rights and equal pay for women doing the same work as men. Her nephew Arnold Wesker was the famous playwright and Sarah Kahn in his play Chicken Soup with Barley is based on his aunt. J J Leppink’s play is beautifully written and structured, and features a fine performance from Lottie Walker as Sarah. Stirring stuff, and thoroughly entertainingly presented. It makes you want to find out more about what Sara Wesker achieved – and also to re-read The Wesker Trilogy to see a fictionalised version. Electrically exciting – and it keeps alive a story that should never be forgotten.

Alex Something Is Missing Again! PBH’s Free Fringe @ Pilgrim.

Alex KouvatasA mixture of magic and therapy from Alex Kouvatas, which includes a few very good tricks, and some clever sleight of hand. The title of the show makes, in my humble opinion, no sense at all! It’s presented in a very gentle, quiet style, and, whilst the show never really soared, there was plenty to be wowed by. The T-shirt trick is the best!


Lie Low, Traverse Theatre.

Lie LowA woman stands alone, bewildered, in her room. Then the wardrobe door opens and a man with a duck’s mask joins her for a Strictly Come Dancing style performance of 42nd Street. We laugh – because it’s a superb moment of theatrical surrealism. But I think it’s safe to say we’re in somebody’s fantasy world at this stage. The trouble is, Ciara Elizabeth Smyth’s play deliberately makes it impossible to tell where the fantasy stops and the reality begins – if, indeed, either of them ever do. Faye tells her doctor she cannot sleep. She says she was attacked a year earlier and sexually assaulted, and he advises her to try exposure therapy. Then her brother Naoise arrives, out of the blue, and she asks him if he will jump out of the wardrobe at her, dressed as a duck. Despite his protestations, he does this three times. But he has his own agenda – he has been accused of sexual misconduct at work and wants his sister to write a character reference for him. All of this – or none of this – or some of this – might be true. I found this ambiguity very tiresome. In my view it never really achieves anything more than a few cheap laughs over someone blackmailing another person to show them their genitals. I absolutely hated this play – but the 70 minutes is redeemed by two superlative performances from Charlotte McCurry and Thomas Finnegan.

Robin Grainger: An Audient with Robin Grainger, The Stand Comedy Club 2.

Robin GraingerI’d never seen Robin Grainger before – but what a find! The title comes from his Edinburgh Fringe gig last year when one person showed up to his first night – Michael from Leicester, radio producer, gluten-intolerant, left-handed. The show refers to that formative experience of last year, but also takes in some brilliant, original material concerning his general awkwardness, his experiences at the gym, and the ins and outs of having to scatter the ashes of his late father. Robin Grainger has a very winning, honest style about him, and delivers his cracking gags with a mixture of sure-fired confidence and disarming charm. You can’t fake this level of likability. A magic hour of comedy.

Eddy MacKenzie and Liam Farrelly: Little and Large, The Stand Comedy Club 2.

MacKenzie and FarrellyYou’ve heard of a game of two halves? If ever this applied to a comedy gig, this was the one. The show opened with Eddy MacKenzie, an enthusiastic, jocular, guffawing presence with a guitar, who promised some Beatles parodies (he did one) and then promised some other comedy songs (he did one, but it wasn’t funny). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comedian come on stage so completely devoid of material – it was genuinely painful. Then halfway through we switched to Liam Farrelly, a Paisley lad with bags of attitude and brilliant stories, from taking his daughter to baby ballet to acquiring four guinea pigs – and I don’t think I’ve laughed so loudly at a routine as I did to that one for a very long time! A naturally gifted comedian who needs a full hour on his own. * for Eddy MacKenzie and ***** for Liam Farrelly equals:


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!

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.


The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 26th August 2023

Another big day in Edinburgh ahead!

Here’s the schedule for 26th August:

13.10 – Chopped Liver and Unions, The Space on the Mile.

Chopped Liver and Unions“The East End of London has burned with the fires of rebellion for centuries. From the Matchgirls in 1888 to the Made in Dagenham workers at Ford’s in 1968, its women have fought for change. In 1928, Sara Wesker led a 12-week strike with the workers literally singing for their suppers on the picket line. In 1936 she fought at the battle of Cable Street. But did this formidable woman’s passion for the cause destroy the passion for the love of her life?”

I’ve always been a Union man at heart, so this story sounds very interesting to me – looking forward to it.

14.20 – Alex Something Is Missing Again! PBH’s Free Fringe @ Pilgrim.

Alex Kouvatas“Join Alex, the astounding magician on his quest for magic and the existential meaning, again. Be prepared for mind-blowing tricks, laugh-out-loud moments, and an existential crisis or two. You’ll leave his awe-inspiring show feeling entertained, bedazzled and maybe enlightened. Don’t miss out on the chance to see why ‘Kouvatas stands out as a master’ (WorldMagicReview.com).

Not had that much magic at the Fringe so far this year, so I’ll be interested to see Mr Kouvatas for the first time.

16.15 – Lie Low, Traverse Theatre.

Lie Low“Faye’s afraid. She’s not sleeping, she doesn’t trust ducks and all she’s had to eat this week is a box of dry Rice Krispies. A doctor recommends a form of exposure therapy, so Faye enlists the help of her brother, Naoise. But Naoise has a devastating secret that’s about to explode. Lie Low is the award-winning, critically acclaimed dark, funny and surreal new play by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth described by critics as ‘a masterclass’ and ‘gripping entertainment’.”

Dark, funny and surreal? Does that include the duck references? Sounds good!

20.00 – Robin Grainger: An Audient with Robin Grainger, The Stand Comedy Club 2.

Robin Grainger“With only one ticket sold on opening night last Fringe, ‘it was every good thing it should be’ (Kate Copstick, Scotsman). Within a week the story was globally viral. Sell-out, Fringe 2022. Featured in over sixty news and media outlets worldwide, every major radio station and recommended by Kevin Bridges and Iain Stirling. With over two million views, Robin’s story was the third-most viewed on the BBC website. Hand-picked for multiple Kevin Bridges and Friends shows. Tour support for Larry Dean, Tom Stade, Carl Hutchinson, Paddy McDonnell and Gary Meikle. **** (One4Review.co.uk).”

Not seen Robin Grainger before but I was hooked when I realised how he had coined the word audient to describe an audience of one! Gotta admire that spirit, I’m looking forward to seeing him!

21.20 – Eddy MacKenzie and Liam Farrelly: Little and Large, The Stand Comedy Club 2.

MacKenzie and Farrelly“Meeting at the semi-finals of the BBC New Comedy Awards, they impressed the judges and now they’re heading to Edinburgh with a hilarious hour of stand-up. Eddy’s an energetic musical comic, appearing on TV within a year of starting stand-up, with his brilliantly written lyrics and non-stop charisma wowing audiences across the UK. Liam’s a stand-up fresh from his debut on Live at the Apollo. He’s been one to watch for a while now; an excellent storyteller with multiple TV appearances. Two comics come together to create an unmissable must-see show.

I don’t know these two esteemed gentlemen so it’s a case of total pot luck here, but we’ll give them a go!

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

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 Reviews – OTMA, Pressure Cooker, Being Sophie Scholl, ADULTS, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Programmes 1 and 2.

OTMAOTMA, The Space on the Mile.

The story of the four Romanov sisters is one of the most tragic but also most fascinating of the twentieth century. Rebecca Vines’ play tells the story of their last few days incarcerated in Ekaterinburg and is a beautifully written account of four very different characters; the frustrated Olga, the kindly Tatiana, the romantic Maria and the playful Anastasia. The hopes and dreams of the younger sisters are movingly contrasted with the dread reality of the older, and the whole production is intense, emotional and grips your attention. Excellent performances all round, especially from Ella Bladon-Wing as Anastasia and Oonagh Cubberley-Lobb as Maria. Simple but very effective.


Pressure Cooker, The Space on the Mile.

Pressure CookerAs a kid I grew up laughing at the antics of the students at St Swithins’ in TV’s Doctor in the House. Oh what innocent days they were, in comparison with the antics of this bunch of medical students. Jessie Millson’s shocking but insightful play opens the lid on what could happen when a celebratory night out goes severely wrong – and the errors are compounded by the attempts to cover up each individual’s contribution to the personal disaster that befalls one of the party – rather like a 21st century An Inspector Calls, only with Ket and stethoscopes. Highlighting a dangerous problem in society today, where people are under enormous pressure to achieve and succeed, this is an upsetting and alarming play – although not without its humour. Hard to “enjoy”, but I’m very glad to have seen it.


Being Sophie Scholl, The Space @ Symposium Hall.

Being Sophie SchollThis is the story of Sophie Scholl, who with her brother and a friend, was found guilty of treason and executed by guillotine in 1943. Of good German stock, they nevertheless rebelled against the orders of the Third Reich and were members of the White Rose resistance group, which Hans Scholl had started a couple of years earlier. This strongly written play tells the story of her family life, alongside an account of her questioning and the investigation against her, seen through the eyes of a ruthless special police officer. In Acting Coach Scotland’s production, Sophie is played by three actors – a very effective device, although I’m not sure why that decision was made – and the whole play is a chilling and important account of a heroic attempt to undermine Nazism.


ADULTS, Traverse Theatre.

AdultsIain has made an assignation via Zara to meet up with a “young boy” for an hour’s “adult company” at her flat (brothel) in Edinburgh. He’s a nervous wreck as it’s the first time he’s done anything like this – and the meeting doesn’t start well when he surprises Zara before she’s ready to greet him – and he gets covered in Strawberry Yazoo. It also doesn’t help that Iain used to teach Zara at school. Fortunately, he doesn’t recognise her… at first. Kieran Hurley’s comedy offers you plenty to laugh at, but there are also some cringey moments and a few rather obvious jokes – laughing at dildos for example – which are funny but unoriginal. Conleth Hill plays Iain with a nice balance of pomposity and vulnerability, while Dani Heron’s Zara has the best lines with an unexpected intellectual take-down of Thomas the Tank Engine, and Anders Hayward is Jay, the twink who’s really not 22 anymore. The play loses its way a little towards the end when everything gets very personal and rather serious, and you’re left with a mixture of laughter and sadness as no one’s life will ever be the same again.


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Festival Theatre.

Alvin AileyProgramme 1 on Wednesday started with Roy’s Joy’s, nine interconnected dances choreographed by Twyla Tharp to the music of Roy Eldridge (hence the name). Immaculately danced by the company, it’s a mellifluous melange of flowing movements against a stunning blue background, with exciting hand and arm gestures combined with never-ending leaps; it’s a really exciting dance to witness. The dancers are solo and in groups; in partnerships and in rivalries too, and it’s all put together with bags of humour and more than a touch of bravado. The second dance was Kyle Abraham’s 2022 work Are You in Your Feelings? set to a variety of well- and lesser-known tunes, giving us a real feelgood factor on stage, with effortless elegance and gorgeous grace. It’s the kind of dance you stop analysing after a while and just let it flow over you. Interesting to note that both these dances, although having different choreographers, conclude quietly in an intimate duet rather than ending with a big ensemble finish. The final dance in the programme, Revelations, also closes Programme Two.

Alvin AileyThursday evening’s Programme 2 started with Memoria, a 1979 dance created by Ailey to commemorate the death of his friend and colleague, Joyce Trisler. Although it has a few sombre moments, it’s much more celebratory than mournful. This production includes 22 young dancers aged 18-25 gathered from all around Scotland; and when they’re added to the 15 regular dancers, it makes for a busy, lively stage packed with movement – the finale has everyone returning in multicolour costumes and looks like a really fun ballet rave! Next came The River, originally choreographed by Ailey in 1970, with eight separate dance pieces composed by Duke Ellington, but in a much more showbiz style than jazz. I particularly enjoyed Giggling Rapids performed by Alisha Rena Peek and Patrick Coker, and Falls with Christopher Taylor, Kanji Segawa, James Gilmer and Xavier Mack. It’s fun, but I found myself slightly frustrated at the way so many of the Ailey short dances end with something of a fizzle rather than a strong resolution. The show ends with Revelations, Ailey’s 1960 showstopper, which brings joy to your heart with its stunning combination of delightful choreography, stunning costumes and lighting, and evocative, powerful music. Whilst the finale Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham has everyone on their feet (and rightly so) my personal favourite from this sequence was the riveting Sinner Man, danced by Solomon Dumas, James Gilmer and Kanji Segawa. But the whole piece creates true magic on the stage and sends everyone out into the night with a happy spring in their step. Magnificent!

The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 25th August 2023

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

Here’s the schedule for 25th August:

12.55 – Mass Effect, Summerhall. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Mass Effect“Mass Effect is an award-winning, high-intensity performance. Together, the cast push their physical limits, deal with exhaustion, motivation, and group dynamics. Spatial patterns carve out complex running formations and team collaboration becomes key, as they push to the limits of their physical thresholds, moving beyond exhaustion. Members of the local community join the stage in the end of the performance. Pumping up the energy to offer that last push to keep going, filling the theatre with an energetic pulse and a total Mass Effect. A tremendous spectacle that fills the room with vitality and joy. Part of #Danish.”

This should be an invigorating way to start the day – even if it is in the afternoon!

15.30 – Bacon, Summerhall.

Bacon“Bacon. Sophie Swithinbank, directed by Matthew Iliffe, produced by HFH Productions. The return of the multi award-winning play, Bacon is an unflinching and unexpectedly humorous look at masculinity, sexuality and power, through the dizzying lens of youth. Winner of the Tony Craze Award and three Off-West End Awards for Best Director and Best Performance in a Play. First performed at The Finborough Theatre, London. ‘Utterly compelling… beautiful and devastating to watch’ **** (Stage). ‘You will laugh, you will cry and you will be breathless when you leave’ ***** (Everything-Theatre.co.uk). ‘Unmissable’ ***** (Everything-Theatre.co.uk).”

I booked for this on the strength of the reviews – so I hope they are honest! Should be good.

17.15 – Nan, Me and Barbara Pravi, Summerhall.

Nan Me and Barbara Pravi“In 2021, Hannah Maxwell moved back to the Home Counties to care for her recently bereaved grandmother. But this show isn’t about that. It’s about France’s Eurovision star Barbara Pravi, who’s just lovely. In between cooking, cleaning and Countdown, Maxwell escapes into an intensifying fantasy of ballroom dances, heartfelt ballads, fluent French and definitely-not-creepy plots to engineer a meet-cute with a random foreign celebrity. It’s La La Land meets Mission Impossible meets Hannah’s nan. ‘Sublime one-person theatre’ (TheAdelaideShow.com.au). ‘Hannah Maxwell is a future star’ (ToDoList.london).”

This is the second play of the Fringe to feature Eurovision – Barbara Pravi, if you don’t know her, is a superb French singer and her Eurovision song Voilà is an instant classic. If it involves Eurovision, I want to see it.

20.15 – Gold, The Space on the Mile.

Gold“A thrilling and hilarious new comedy featuring 1980s music, terrible dancing, hidden gold and guilty secrets. Julie and Dave live in suburbia, with an Uptown Girl daughter, a nice house and a huge secret which has held them together for 40 years. They met in 1983, when the music was gold, the fashion was gold, and Julie and Dave stole a lot of gold from a very bad man. Four decades later, how are they going to sell it and, more importantly, avoid the elderly psychopath who wants revenge – and his gold back?”

Another rather esoteric sounding play, but hopefully it will be entertaining!

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

Don Biswas“Politically charged gag merchant Don Biswas returns to the Fringe to take on the status quo. A unique comic voice, Don looks at politics through the lens of dyspraxia and autism. The show takes a passionate – if uncoordinated – stab at the big issues: from the cost-of-living crisis to conspiracy theories. As seen/heard on the BBC Asian Network, Rosie Jones’s Box Ticker, and in his BBC Radio 4 comedy special Neurotypical.”

A new name to me, and I’m looking forward to hearing his style of political comedy!

23.10 – Tarot: Hive Mind, Pleasance Courtyard.

Tarot Hive Mind“Late night and loose, Hive Mind is a gameshow in which contestants have to crowdsource their way to victory. We came up with this idea while eating a Mexican meal. Come watch Tarot go all shiny floor and sequins and try and crowdsource their way to a format. ‘Bark out loud funny… the whole show is startlingly live’ **** (Guardian). ‘One of the balls-out funniest show of the Fringe’ **** ½ (Chortle.co.uk). ‘A very nice Mexican meal’ ***** (Tarot).”

This is the second of the two Tarot shows this Fringe – having loved them so much last year, it’s no-brainer to see as much of them as possible this year!

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