Review: the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
"Bolton girl Cassie Atkinson overcomes her shyness by donning a sparkly blue dress and adopting an American accent"
By Sam Bennett
Die Magik Kunst @ La Belle Angèle | PBH's free fringe
Die Magik Kunst documents the return of Grainger and Hans who dazzled in Vegas 40 odd years ago with their magic show…before it closed in 1973.
A nostalgic, atmospheric and funny opening montage is presented via old images showing up on a piece of curtain. This is hardly at the forefront of cutting edge technology, and rightly so. It sets the tone for a live, ropey and dated magic show bedizen with darts, fire and Werther's Originals. Relentless slapstick is only really interrupted with a snippet of dialogue and may grow a bit tired for some in the middle of the show, but all in all this show (brought to us by The Old Men, Toby McMillan and Louie Bayliss) is a dynamic and pleasantly ridiculous spectacle closing with a well-timed and punchy blow to Grainger’s burning lower regions with a fire extinguisher.
Late Night with The Harry and Chris Show @ Bedlam Theatre
World Poetry Slam champion Harry Baker and his best friend and jazz musician Chris Read join forces in a show that made me smile from ear to ear.
I imagine close friends don’t always work well together when taken out of the everyday world and put on stage, but the bond between Harry and Chris fuels a special gig indeed.
A reworking on One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ highlighting the joys of Monopoly and a bunch of clever and catchy original songs feature in this hour long feel-good presentation of jokes, poetry and jazz.
Cassie Atkinson – Supernumerary Rainbow @ Sabor | PBH's Free Fringe
Bolton girl Cassie Atkinson overcomes her shyness by donning a sparkly blue dress and adopting an American accent, and then portraying a fistful of other personas in this one woman show about being a performer.
Anyone who has ever worked in theatre will recognise the technician Cassie plays – coldness and arrogance personified – and parts of the show where she drops her act and appears as nervous Cassie from Bolton endear her to the audience. A lovely sense of familiarity between performer and spectator is achieved in this 45 minute treat supplied by a very talented character actress.
Me, Myself and ISIS @ T-Bar | PBH's Free Fringe
Another strand of the excellent PBH’s Free Fringe – but unfortunately not one I would pay money to see. The Banana Collective who perform this show are up against it what with the banging music downstairs reaching us in the room above, something not helped by the door to the performance space constantly being opened by T-Bar customers popping up to use the toilet, making the live material and video clips played difficult to hear. What I could hear I’m sorry to say did not make me laugh. One sketch that died a death in English was later repeated in French to the same reception and heckles were not well dealt with – “cheers mate” being the choice response to any audible criticism. One member of the Banana Collective took it upon himself to remove one heckler from the show – a move that struck me as odd when so many were walking out of their own accord. I stayed throughout wondering if maybe there was some clever humour I was missing. Looking back I’m not sure there was.
Britney @ Assembly George Square Studios
Not long ago Charly Clive, a friend of mine, was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Some months on and Charly and her best friend Ellen Robertson bring to the Fringe a show about dealing with the illness.
Both playing an assortment of characters, Charly and Ellen make sure the audience is never confused. A bit where Ellen is required to play Charly, potentially puzzling, is introduced by Charly turning to her partner and saying: “Ellen, will you play me for this bit?” Confusion is avoided.
The show’s not anal about props either. Biro pens stand in as every implement in the operation sketch. This is then turned into a gag to mark the end of the scene, “I’m trying to perform a complex procedure and you keep handing me pens.” Complete ownership of the decision to avoid total accuracy is clear in this laugh-out-loud show that is well tuned and pleasingly uncomplicated.
Royal Vauxhall @ Underbelly Med Quad
Champagne, cocaine and Trivial Pursuit…all the right components are in place for a chaotic, hilarious and downright ridiculous piece of theatre. In this Desmond O’Connor musical based on a true story, Kenny Everett and Freddie Mercury dress Princess Diana in drag and take her to Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
During ‘Making a Man of Diana’ a microphone problem became obvious. In the role of Diana, Sarah-Louise Young does not break character in telling Tom Giles (Freddie) to “go and sort the electrics out”. The use of the word electrics instead of mic seemed far more befitting of the character and the way Young merged the instruction into the dialogue was something the crowd seemed appreciative of.
With the poignant ‘How Happy We Were Then’ and a game of Operation in Heaven’s waiting room, O’Connor’s new show is a raucous and royal one made up of secrecy, sexuality, smut, sadness, silliness and stardom.
F***ing Men @ Assembly George Square Studios
90 minutes before the showing of this Joe Dipietro play on 11th August, I joined its Edinburgh Fringe cast in the Assembly Club Bar to discuss what is at the core of the show.
“The audience come expecting a play about sex and that’s what they get really,” says Harper James, who plays the married man, the actor and the soldier. “I think the play confronts sex but not in an overpowering way – it has a good view on it.”
“The use of sex in our show is not grotesque,” Haydn Whiteside (the escort, the college kid, the porn star) tells me, before explaining that we’re not dealing with a play purely about physical sexual acts, but one illustrating “connections between two individuals that are attracted to one another.”
“It is about sex and gay men,” Richard De Lisle confirms. “But it’s more than that,” he then says, using a line from the play (in which he plays four characters). “It’s about how, regardless of sexuality or gender, we all have the same wants and needs.”
Boasting fluid scene changes and versatile acting, this King's Head Theatre production provided one of my favourite lines at this year’s Fringe. When the journalist gives the escort a hefty sum of money for a flat, the latter leaves the former’s home with the line: “Have a great f***ing day!” Delivered by Haydn with a grin that went on forever, it felt like all the joy and gratitude in the world lurked in those five words, and they’ve been in my head making me grin ever since.
Lucy Porter: Consequences @ Pleasance Courtyard
Sat in a prettily lit courtyard before Lucy Porter’s show, it seemed a good time to tweet. “Eagerly awaiting @lucyportercomic show #consequences @edfringe” I put out there; she would respond: “@OXHCMags @edfringe I am backstage feeling eager too! Lx”
It is with this eagerness that she strolls on stage soon after accompanied by a drinks trolley, having learnt the value of giving glasses of sherry to punters. Smiling and bubbly, a harmless comic, when I spoke to her prior to Consequences at the Fringe I questioned whether this demeanour had made her an easy target for hecklers in the early days.
“If anything the opposite actually,” she answers. “I think I’ve always been quite lucky in that I don’t get heckles because people have said it would be like kicking a puppy. Like all comedians I’ve had the odd heckle but I come on stage armed with a decanter of sherry and chocolate so I try and pre-empt any aggression by offering food and booze.”
Consequences is a really tidily framed show in which Lucy addresses what her 16 year old self would make of her at 43. In a set covering “falconry and caravanning and general nonsense”, she also hones in on so much of what has made 2016 a newsworthy year so difficult to forget and uses the idea of a scatty suicide bomber who gets her dates in a muddle as a method of discussing terrorism, having told me already that “as a comedian nothing should be off limits.”
Consequences comes to The Theatre Chipping Norton on 1st October. Owing to motherhood Lucy is admittedly “a bit more tired” these days. But the manner that makes you want to hug her remains intact in a show that has the audience eating out of her hand.
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