Reviews & features: Brian Donaldson

628 reviews

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EIBF 2011: five book-to-screen adaptations

17 Aug 2011

Featuring Joe Dunthorne, Val McDermid, Michel Faber, Alan Hollinghurst and Alexander McCall Smith

Joe Dunthorne With his debut, Submarine, the Welsh poet and author captured the peculiar, rainy-day awkwardness of adolescence, and Richard Ayoade’s film, with Dunthorne’s assistance, did a fair old stab at bringing it further to life. 19 Aug…

Edinburgh International Book Fest 2011: 5 poetry picks

17 Aug 2011

Featuring Michael Longley, Robin Robertson, Czeslaw Milosz, Wendy Cope and John Burnside

Michael Longley One of the most decorated verse-conjurors at this year’s festival, the Belfast-born writer has the TS Eliot Poetry Prize, a Whitbread and the Hawthornden Prize under his belt as well as being the proud recipient of the 2001 Queen’s…

First Writes: Sunjeev Sahota, author of Ours are the Streets

17 Aug 2011

The debut author discusses his first novel, Edinburgh and some of his favourite novels

Give us five words to describe Ours are the Streets? Fathers. Sons. Responsibilities. Belonging. Home. Which author should be more famous than they are now and why? I don’t know how famous or not she is, but I don’t think I hear that much in the UK…

Holly Walsh - The Hollycopter

17 Aug 20113 stars

A brave and bittersweet recollection

When her fellow comics were padding about the Fringe in August 2010, Holly Walsh was clowning around on Worthing Pier. Unfortunately, her charity leap into the West Sussex sea resulted in a shocking injury that led to national media coverage for the…

Grant Morrison - Supergods at 2011 Edinburgh Book Festival

16 Aug 2011

Tracing the flashy history of superheroes

If anyone knows what makes a great superhero, it’s Grant Morrison. Having written for both Marvel and DC, the Glaswegian has made valuable contributions to the popular mythology of Batman, Superman and Fantastic Four. In Supergods, he traces his own…

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Music Box

16 Aug 20112 stars

Mash-up improv troupe never hit a true stride

Maybe it was a lack of imagination on the audience’s part (a musical called Fish set in a chip shop doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the mash-up improv spirit), but this troupe never hit a true stride, going round in circles when they chance upon a…

Vikki Stone & The Flashbacks: Big Neon Letters

16 Aug 20113 stars

Comedy songs in band format

Effervescent musical comic Stone is desperate to be on TV. She’s been there before on embarrassing adverts and Blue Peter, but she craves the studio lights, if only to get close to her teenage crush Phillip Schofield. In a bruising encounter she emits…

Meryl O’Rourke - Bad Mother

16 Aug 20113 stars

Some funny and moving material on mixed heritage

O’Rourke won’t be the last Fringe comic to reference the street-riots but it was perhaps unwise to let us hear a better joke on the subject from her spouse. It’s an early off-note that she makes up for with some funny and moving material about her…

Fred Cooke

15 Aug 20112 stars

The Irishman's musical talent is overshadowed by his over-stretched observations

Playing the gormless Oirishman to a fault, the Tommy Tiernan-endorsed Cooke has one distinct ability: he’s a human jukebox when it comes to playing requests on his soprano melodica. As a stand-up, though, he opts for physical shenanigans instead of…

Dana Alexander

15 Aug 20113 stars

Great comedic flair but average material from the Canadian

The Canadian comic meanders through a flat set in which she discusses cake, weight, big bums the cosmetics industry and stretch marks, while observing that Chinese people are small and Italian mothers are domineering. She has the style and patter down…

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Tom Rosenthal: Child of Privilege

14 Aug 20114 stars

A very funny and innovative debut about privilege

At around the halfway point in Tom Rosenthal’s debut show, he applies the brake and settles into a gorgeous little homage to one of his comedy idols, Stewart Lee. Around him, some of the crowd are not entirely sure what’s going on as he seems trapped in…

The Beta Males

14 Aug 20114 stars

Good scripting and coming timing from the funny foursome

A stonking show this one as a slick quartet channel the Dutch Elm Conservatoire for a rollercoaster of a journey on the sinister train, Olympus. Skulduggery is afoot with a cast including four manic businessmen, Stephen Byers and the Titanic love duo. A…

Andrew Doyle's Crash Course in Depravity

14 Aug 20113 stars

A full-on assault on the borders of taste

Russell Kane has made a habit out of turning negative comments by reviewers into the show title for his subsequent Fringe show. Easy Cliché and Tired Stereotype and Gaping Flaws were both borne from lines penned by critics. Andrew Doyle has not only…

Josh Widdicombe: If This Show Saves One Life

14 Aug 20113 stars

Steering away from the dangers of blanding out

After an impressive opening flurry of gags about trees, scissors and burglars, Josh Widdicombe is suddenly bumped off his stride. Not by hecklers per se, but by the woman on his front row who has, shall we say, a bit of a thing for him. Once the awkward…

Joe Fairbrother: Characters

14 Aug 20113 stars

Gentle audience-teasing character comedy

Whoever was doing the flyering for this show should be awarded some kind of Edinburgh Flyering Award. They absolutely nailed the target audience for the opening salvo of Joe Fairbrother’s fiendishly subtle character show. Welcomed in by a posh…

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Chris Martin

14 Aug 20112 stars

Run of the mill show from the man who definitely isn't in Coldplay

Martin certainly has swagger, but his comedy feels not so much natural but ‘learned’ (with honours from the Whitehall/McIntyre College of Advanced Observational Stand-Up). The initial promise of a show about being alone in a hectic world is ditched for…

Andrew Maxwell

12 Aug 20114 stars

Blistering set from the mercurial Dubliner

Anyone who goes to see a barrel-load of comedy this August will no doubt witness stand-up after stand-up making a fleeting reference to the summer riots, if only to prove they have a handle on what’s going on in outside the Edinburgh bubble. Not Andrew…

Gavin Webster: All Young People Are C**ts

12 Aug 20113 stars

Likeably profane and bitter hour

Accoding to Geordie comic Gavin Webster, ‘all young people are cunts’. He believes that so much that he’s been driven to name this year’s Fringe show with the phrase, concluding his amiable hour with a profanity-fuelled sing-along. Admitting to being…

Benny Boot: Set-Up, Punchline… Pause for Laughter

12 Aug 20112 stars

The secrets of comedy remain a mystery here

When you set yourself up as a stand-up who has nailed the very fundamentals of comedy structure, you really are setting yourself up for one mighty fall. And Benny Boot plummets without trace during this show. The crowd is welcomed in by his South…

Toby - Lucky

12 Aug 20113 stars

Divisive duo spark a riot of tutting and scowling

If this performance of Toby’s Lucky was set in front of a focus group, clear scientific findings would have been concluded. The semi-surreal double act are loved by student blokes in their early 20s and loathed by fortysomething women. At one point…

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Interview: Ali Smith - There but for the

9 Aug 2011

Scottish writer appears at 2011 Edinburgh Book Festival

There can be few more anxious experiences for an author than turning to the literary section of a newspaper as the book they have slogged over for possibly years is taken apart by a faceless critic. One national paper gave Ali Smith the fright of her…

Interview: US comedian Todd Barry set for Edinburgh Fringe

9 Aug 2011

High hopes for American Hot show from 'third conchord'

When Todd Barry made his Fringe debut in 2004, the experience didn’t seem to be to anyone’s liking. Stuck in a cavernous hall with a near-midnight start time, people failed to show up in their droves and those who did couldn’t quite get to grips with…

Five Edinburgh Book Festival guests you'll know from TV

9 Aug 2011

Lucy Worsley, Bettany Hughes, Alexei Sayle, Kirsty Wark and Peter Taylor

Lucy Worsley Delving into the intimate history of old homes and buildings is Worsley’s prime passion and her BBC Four series and book If Walls Could Talk pretty much sums it up. During her years of research, she has uncovered the fact that bedrooms…

Richard T Kelly set for Edinburgh Book Festival appearance

9 Aug 2011

Author of The Possessions of Doctor Forrest

In his second novel, Richard T Kelly conjures up a thrilling romp about three Scottish medics. Here he offers his prognosis on our sickly Q&A Give us five words to describe The Possessions of Doctor Forrest The ones I’d borrow from reviews would be…

Kevin MacNeil - Revamping a classic RLS tale

9 Aug 2011

Book Festival appearance by author of A Method Actor's Guide to Jekyll and Hyde

A sense of place is very important to Kevin MacNeil. You can see it in his 2005 novel, The Stornoway Way, and it’s there with the evocative Edinburgh setting he’s conjured up for A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde. ‘I like the place where a novel…