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 – 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!

The Edinburgh Fringe Full Monty (nearly) – Day 5, 9th August 2022

What’s in store for us in Edinburgh today?

Here’s the schedule for 9th August:

10.25 – Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London, Assembly George Square Studios. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Mrs Roosevelt“Returning to Edinburgh following a near sell-out 2016 Assembly season, Alison Skilbeck’s critically acclaimed one-woman show reveals the public and private life of one of the most extraordinary women of the 20th Century, Eleanor Roosevelt, from her daring trip to wartime Britain to her unconventional partnership with President Roosevelt. Granted special permission to use Eleanor’s diary and daily newspaper columns, this is the story of a passionate humanitarian, a woman beset by deep personal insecurities and tragedy, but one who never lost her passionate belief in the strength of the human spirit.”

This show was very well received six years ago, and since then we’ve seen Alison Skilbeck perform two more shows that were absolutely brilliant – so I have high hopes for this one.

UPDATE: An extraordinary story, well told, with great vocal characterisations and a wonderful sense of humour. It’s also very informative; for example, I didn’t know FDR had polio, nor that Eleanor Roosevelt played such an important role in the declaration of human rights – still a hot topic today. An assured and very enjoyable history lesson! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

12.50 – Please, Feel Free to Share, Pleasance Courtyard.

Please Feel Free To Share“Alex is a social success. Her Instagram boasts a montage of members-only rooftops and clinking glasses – like after like after like! When her father dies, Alex reluctantly joins a bereavement group. She shares a little, and then lies… a lot. Please, Feel Free to Share is a dynamic, darkly comic one-woman show about our personal addictions, the never-ending pursuit of likes and our growing desire to share all. Finalist: Popcorn Writing Award 2021.”

Produced by Scatterjam, this sounds like it should be an excellent dark comedy. Looking forward to it!

UPDATE: A liar gets addicted to lying by attending various self-help sessions pretending she is out of control. Very clever writing, matched by a very convincing performance. It’s also very thought provoking. Loved it! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

14.45 – Rajesh and Naresh, Summerhall.

Rajesh and Naresh“A feel-good love story. When Rajesh visits Mumbai, he encounters Naresh – not exactly the Indian wife his mother hoped for. Bend it like Beckham meets It’s a Sin in the queer romcom you’ve been waiting for – set just after India’s landmark decriminalisation of homosexuality in 2018. Funny and charmingly performed, Rajesh and Naresh was written from workshops conducted with members of the queer South Asian community in London and abroad. **** (Stage).”

We’ve been lucky enough to visit Mumbai a few times so I imagine I will be able to appreciate a lot of the background humour that I suspect lurks behind this play. Should be good.

UPDATE: Charming delicate story well told, great characterisations and terrific attention to detail – and a brilliant portrayal of an Indian mother, desperate for her son to marry. However, there were a couple of lulls in the narrative where my attention just started to wander, and I wasn’t convinced by the characters’ dance fantasies. Very good though, and they really got the audience on their side. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

17.00 – Blanket Ban, Underbelly, Cowgate.

Blanket Ban“Winner of Underbelly, New Diorama and Methuen Drama’s hit-making Untapped Award, 2022. ‘Sometimes I’m afraid of this play.’ Malta: Catholic kitsch, golden sun, deep blue sea, Eurovision – and a blanket ban on abortion. Propelled by three years of interviews with anonymous contributors and their own lived experience, actors and activists Marta and Davinia interrogate Malta’s restrictions on the freedom of women. What does it mean for your home to boast the world’s most progressive LGBTQIA rights, leading transgender laws – and a population that is almost unanimously anti-choice? A rallying cry from award-winning Chalk Line Theatre.”

This sounds really interesting – having been to Malta a few times, and also being a Eurovision fan! I can just imagine the gap between what’s allowed and what’s approved of. Should be very interesting.

UPDATE: A very important topic expressed with great passion and commitment. I did find the sea analogy heavy going and the anger of the two performers would be better conveyed just a bit more quietly! But you can’t take away from the seriousness of the subject and it’s something everyone should see. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

19.30 – Ivo Graham: My Future, My Clutter, Pleasance Courtyard.

Ivo Graham“Bumbling wordsmith and tripe factory returns to discuss three years of heavy-duty pranking/parenting/procrastinating since Dave’s 2019 nominations for Best Comedy Show and Joke of the Fringe (‘I’ve got an Eton College advent calendar, where all the doors are opened by my father’s contacts’). As seen/heard on Mock The Week, Live At The Apollo, Have I Got News For You, British As Folk and was the fondue-set winner on Richard Osman’s House of Games. ‘A hugely enjoyable hour of stand-up comedy’ (Times). ‘Suddenly has star-in-the-making coming off him like steam’ (Telegraph).”

We’ve seen Ivo Graham a few times and he never fails to deliver a great show, so we’re looking forward to this!

UPDATE: A solid hour of good observations, nicely delivered, but it never really soared though. Ivo is very likeable but he is also very wordy, and doesn’t use pauses for comic effect, so after a while it becomes just a little tiring. A very slick and well prepared show – maybe too well? ⭐️⭐️⭐️

22.20 – Rouge, Assembly Hall.

Rouge“Circus for grown ups – a decadent blend of sensational acrobatics, operatic cabaret and twisted burlesque. A non-stop celebration of the astonishing, surprising, subversive and supremely sexy. Winner of Best Circus 2020 Adelaide Fringe, Rouge is back with acts you’ve loved plus brand-new offerings to shock, delight and tease. Australian circus cabaret at its finest. ‘One badass sizzler of a show’ ***** (Daily Mail). ‘Rouge redefines what circus is and should be’ ***** (TheWeeReview.com). ‘Welcome to a circus for the new age… Brilliant performances… embodies the phrase: filthy and gorgeous’ ***** (WeekendNotes.com).”

We saw Rouge a few years ago and it was one of the better circus/burlesque offerings, so here’s hoping they continue the standard!

UPDATE: Sets the bar for all the shows in this genre. Stunning to watch, decadent in the extreme, incredible acrobatics and a silly, adult sense of humour. No more to say! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2018 – Are There More of You, 19th August 2018

Are there more of youFor our first show of our first full day at the Fringe, we’re off to see a one-woman play that I know will be beautifully done, Hint of Lime’s production of Are There More of You, at Assembly Hall (Baillie Room) at 11:10 on Sunday 19th. This is how the blurb describes it: “Alison Skilbeck tells the linked tales of four women with only a postcode in common. Painful, scary, hilarious, and heart-warming, the stories chart each wildly different character’s search for love and happiness. ‘Brilliantly observed… a wonderful evening’ (Alan Ayckbourn). ‘Go see how character comedy acting is done’ (Miranda Hart). Skilbeck returns to Assembly following her five-star shows: Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London, 2016, and The Power behind The Crone, 2017. Television includes Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, The Beiderbecke Affair, Soldier Soldier, Midsomer Murders, Call the Midwife. ***** (ThreeWeeks). ***** (Broadwaybaby.com).”

Power BehindWe saw Alison Skilbeck last year in The Power Behind the Crone and it was a true tour-de-force. Intelligent, charming and very funny and on the strength of that I’m looking forward to seeing Ms Skilbeck do something else. Check back around 12:45pm to see what we thought. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Four beautifully written and performed and interlocking monologues full of humour and sadness. Alison Skilbeck really knows how to create a believable character, with a full backstory. Highly recommended!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – The Power Behind the Crone, 22nd August 2017

Power BehindLate night last night so not too early a start for our first performance of the day, Hint of Lime’s production of The Power Behind the Crone at Four @ Assembly George Square Studios, at 12:00 noon on Tuesday 22nd. Let’s read the blurb: “Alison Skilbeck’s serio-comic celebration of Shakespeare’s older women, directed by Tim Hardy. ‘There are no good parts in Shakespeare for older women’. Professor Artemis Turret, played by Alison Skilbeck, sets out to refute these words in an illustrated lecture. Her old chum, international star Dame Bunti Smart, who was to perform the speeches, lets her down. Professor Turret is forced to unveil her own hidden theatrical talents in seven wildly contrasting roles. Skilbeck’s five-star Mrs Roosevelt Flies To London had a near sold-out run at Assembly last year.”

If this is half as good as it sounds, it’s going to be absolutely brilliant! The premise sounds so funny and a good performance should make this magic. Check back around 1.15pm to see what we thought. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

The eloquent Artemis delivers a cracking lecture and we hang on her every word. There’s an element of Joyce Grenfell to her character, and all her crones are beautifully delineated! Charming and funny, and critically fascinating too!