Reviews & features: Edinburgh Festivals

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John Ruskin: Artist and Observer

17 Aug 20142 stars

An all too comprehensive overview of the painter's practice shows him to be less than outstanding

John Ruskin: Artist and Observer at first appears to be an unassuming display of watercolours, sketches and photos, appealing only to enthusiasts for either the media or the natural or architectural subjects that form its visual content. Yet by the time…

Can't Stay Away!

17 Aug 20141 star

A messy experiment which feels more like an under-rehearsed work-in-progress

Some Fringe shows thrive on experimentation, with a loose structure which well serves an atmosphere of seeming spontaneity. Some merely fail. Sadly, Fourth Monkey's Can't Stay Away! falls into the latter category. Examining an asylum seeker's…

Walking Dead comic artist Charlie Adlard set for 2014 Edinburgh Book Festival events

17 Aug 2014

Artist also appears with Robbie Morrison to discuss WWI graphic novel White Death

Born in Shrewsbury in 1966, comic artist Charlie Adlard first arrived on the UK scene with work for 2000AD’s enduring monthly anthology spin-off the Judge Dredd Megazine, and has continued to work for publishers Rebellion on series in both publications…

John Robertson: A Nifty History of Evil

18 Aug 20143 stars

A hour of manic, horror-themed comedy storytelling at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

John Robertson begins his routine with its own prequel, a whacked-out retelling of the universe’s creation. The Aussie stand-up then launches into several manic stories involving the Marquis de Sade, Rasputin and Filipino vampires during A Nifty History…

Land of the Dragon: Gwlad y Ddraig

18 Aug 20144 stars

Imaginative and dramatic retelling of Welsh folk tale at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

You only have to look around the audience at PuppetSoup’s engaging show to see that it works for all-comers. From toddlers through to grown-ups (many of them there without a young companion), there is enough here to entertain any age. This is, in…

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Movin’ Melvin Brown: The Tap-Dancing Preacher

18 Aug 20143 stars

Gospel music with a little hot shoe shuffle at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Melvin Brown is almost part of the Fringe furniture, and as such has to constantly re-invent his shows for new and returning audiences. This latest outing finds Brown in preacher mode, singing gospel songs and clearly lighting a fire under the more…

Seann Walsh: Seann 28

18 Aug 20144 stars

Comedian returns all grown up to deliver well-crafted show at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Seann Walsh is a changed man. Having previously regaled audiences at last year’s Fringe with tales of his bachelor lifestyle and Jägerbomb antics, Walsh has since settled down with his girlfriend. Fans needn't worry though, far from peddling smug…

Show Pony

18 Aug 20144 stars

Oddly delightful theatre piece from LetLuce at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

This is one pair of crazy ladies. Each playing one half of pink pony Eamonn, LetLuce tell the tale of how, finding himself unemployed, he ends up being punched by a nun in a field and sold into a circus that is somewhat surprisingly run by Ian McShane.

Standby for Tape Back-up

18 Aug 20143 stars

Arresting performance/video installation mash-up at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Like his fellow Aisle 16 poetry boyband-ers – Luke Wright, John Osborne and Joe Dunthorne, to name a few – Ross Sutherland's a talented guy. That's certainly evident in his Fringe show this year, Standby for Tape Backup, a mash-up of drama, comedy…

Top five books to revisit at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014

18 Aug 2014

Works by George Eliot, William S Burroughs, EM Forster, Mervyn Peak and Jane Austen reappraised

Middlemarch, George Eliot (1874) Set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch, Eliot’s complex novel has multiple plots with a sprawling cast of characters, with themes including the status of marriage, idealism, and religion. Rebecca Mead…

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Travesti

18 Aug 20143 stars

Male bodies, female voices in intriguing Edinburgh Fringe Festival show

Mirroring the themes of Ontroeren Goed's Sirens, Travesti has an all male cast voicing the words of women. This juxtaposition, putting words in the mouths of men, is the show's main concept and while it is initially shocking, it can't sustain the weight…

Exhibit B

17 Aug 20145 stars

A deeply moving and confrontational work staging the hidden Curiosity Cabinets of European racism

It's the eyes that get you first when you step into South African artist Brett Bailey's searing damnation of historical and modern-day racism. Set up as a series of tableaux vivants in the most quietly ornate of human zoos, the audience are invited to…

The Hibrow Hour

17 Aug 2014

Multi-media arts for smart audiences including Alison Jackson and Jonny and the Baptists

The Hi-Brow Hour, which takes over an afternoon slot at Summerhall for the third week of the Fringe, is more inclusive than the average show. Not only are the individual events be recorded, they are being streamed on BBC Arts Online and shown at Odeon…

Mildred and the Midnight City

17 Aug 20142 stars

Adventurous children's theatre piece that feels a little crowded

There are plenty of understated heroics in HookHitch Theatre's overly quaint tale of a little woman who has adventure thrust upon her. And there is plenty of puppetry, involving clever duel-screen shadow projectors, a peculiarly poodle-like Polar Bear…

Iain Stirling: Everything

17 Aug 20142 stars

Tighter writing needed to elevate likeable comedian

Former CBBC presenter and Chortle Student Comedian of the Year, Iain Stirling is so keen to take the stage that he springs about in the wings impatiently waiting for his crowd to take their seats. He’s a relative youngster at 26 and is disarmingly eager…

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Like Fireworks, Like Butterflies

17 Aug 20143 stars

A Korean legend revisited through dance, storytelling and puppetry

Once described as 'the Isadora Duncan of Korea', Choi Seung-Hee's vibrant career is explored here, through dance, storytelling and puppetry. Performer Kim Kyungmin selects an audience member to help her carry a suitcase, in which a box of letters is…

Highlights from 2014 Edinburgh International Book Festival: Fri 22 – Mon 25 Aug

17 Aug 2014

Martin Amis, Gruff Rhys, Haruki Murakami and Peter Ross among guests at Charlotte Square

Friday sees a joint event with two of the literature’s bright young things, Ned Beauman and Clemens J Setz discussing their recent work. Beauman will be speaking about Glow, his follow-up to 2012’s Booker Prize-longlisted The Teleportation Accident, and…

Peter Ross on his new book Daunderlust ahead of 2014 Edinburgh International Book Festival

17 Aug 2014

Scottish journalist talks about his storytelling style and hidden spots in Scotland

Five words to describe your storytelling style. Rather than high-five myself, I'll quote the reviews of my book: ‘Funny’; ‘Beautiful’; ‘Full of heart’. None of those were written by my mum, the landlord of my local, or anyone else who has cause to be…

Shakespeare, His Wife and the Dog

17 Aug 20144 stars

Joyous celebration of language and proof there is still life in scripted theatre

Shakespeare, his Wife and the Dog, is a joyous celebration of language, despite the underlying themes of senility and death. Finding himself unfashionable, Shakespeare retires and makes his household's lives miserable. Challenged by his wife, he goes…

Symphony by Ella Hickson, Tom Wells & Nick Payne

17 Aug 20143 stars

Three delightful theatre pieces exploring growing up and falling in love

Individually, Ella Hickson, Tom Wells and Nick Payne have seen their fair share of theatrical success. Hickson's had a number of hit plays since her 2008 Fringe debut, Eight, brought her to nationwide attention. Payne's Constellations recently won the…

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Reduced Shakespeare Company in The Complete History of Comedy (abridged)

17 Aug 20143 stars

A playful and clever retelling of the history of comedy from the Reduced Shakespeare Company

The Reduced Shakespeare Company are famous for their irreverent wit and quick-fire comedic stagecraft. To see them turn their efforts to a history of their own profession presents a treat in unexpected ways. Alongside countdown lists of history’s least…

Broken Dolls (Razbitye Kuklu)

17 Aug 20142 stars

Strong performances in sex trafficking drama let down by unresolved plot lines and poor set

Broken Dolls tells the story of Narcisa, a young girl from Moldova who is sold into sex trafficking and imprisoned in a Turkish brothel. The play explores the brutal psychological abuse inflicted on women in order to desensitise them and trap them in a…

Woyzeck

17 Aug 20144 stars

Splendid Productions' energetic and playful hour finds new meaning in the great unfinished play

In their rendering of Büchner’s unfinished text, Splendid Productions adopts a playful timbre that sees them skip between scenes, co-opt the audience as the rumour mongers, and gleefully demonstrate the mechanisms behind their skilful stagecraft: as…

I Do, Do I

17 Aug 20144 stars

Musician Greg Sinclair creates profound nonsense with kids at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Is I Do, Do I even a kids’ show? Well, yes and no. Edinburgh-based cellist and actor Greg Sinclair’s multi-layered, deceptively simple offering is actually for anyone – there’s nothing aimed directly at children here, although its free-thinking…

Jamaica Farewell

17 Aug 20143 stars

Solo Fringe performance presents thrilling journey across political turbulence and street violence

Jamaica Farewell is a solo performance by Deborah Ehrhardt in which she recounts episodes from her childhood in her beloved Jamaica and her conflicting desire to one day move to America, the place she thinks of as the land of opportunity. In the…