Reviews & features: Theatre

2,063 reviews

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A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts

3 Aug 20142 stars

Improvised knockabout show

It’s a tricky, if not impossible business to firmly review a devised show; the essence of the performance is comes from having an unstable quality, a changing bill of fare from night to night. The opening of this show from the Lyric Hammersmith’s Secret…

Billy’s Birthday Bash: Let's Party Like It's 1564!

3 Aug 20144 stars

Three classic plays in one silly hour

The ‘Billy’ in the title is none other than William Shakespeare, and this is not a birthday party but a celebration of 450 years since his birth through three of his most famous plays, each redacted into around fifteen minutes of frenetic fun. It would…

The Despondent Divorcee

3 Aug 20143 stars

Vintage mystery drama

Saddled with an unpromising title, The Despondent Divorcee is a neatly played investigation of a brutal death; Francis Dupree has fallen from a window at a 1940’s New York hotel. The incident is captured by a passing photographer, and reporter Robert…

Emily Brown and the Thing

3 Aug 20145 stars

Slick storybook adaptation with a big heart

Emily Brown had successfully completed two adventures when the little boy sitting next to me turned to his mum. ‘I wish there was another adventure,’ he said longingly. ‘There is,’ replied mum, ‘she goes on three’. The look of glee on his face, when he…

Human Child

3 Aug 20143 stars

Sweetly-told tale based on W B Yeats poem

One of the fastest growing Fringe trends in recent years is that of young companies eschewing gritty new writing in favour of creating quality, thoughtful and thought-provoking children’s theatre.

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A Journey Round My Skull

3 Aug 20144 stars

Immersive and emotional story of love and loss

It’s clear from the off that this is not going to be your usual love story. On the way into Summerhall’s Red Lecture Theatre the audience are give headphones, a hint at the auditory intensity to come. A Journey Round My Skull explores the relationship…

... And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel

3 Aug 20143 stars

One-man biography of a familiar face

Jeffrey Holland, a delightful old thesp familiar from Hi de Hi, and other TV shows from the olden days, is the perfect fellow to telescope the lives and careers of Laurel and Hardy into an affectionate hour-long one-hander. Laurel, retired and…

Baba Brinkman - The Rap Guide to Religion

3 Aug 20143 stars

Religion get rapped

Don’t show up hungover, or even a bit tired or glaikit to Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Religion. His cerebral hip hop, complete with Venn diagrams and home-made infographics, requests your full attention please, as he takes his audience on a geeky…

Black Faggot

3 Aug 20143 stars

Samoan gay showcase drama

Victor Rodger’s powerful two-hander is a high-energy (and, it has to be said, rather overlong) race through Samoan gay culture in New Zealand, from closeted football players to scheming rent boys, desperate teenagers to regretful older men, looking at…

Black Is The Color Of My Voice

3 Aug 20143 stars

Nina Simone biography with music

A black woman who bears a disconcerting resemblance to Nina Simone is having what we would now call a detox. No booze, fags or phone, just her, an imaginary piano and a handy suitcase full of props from her life. Via a conversation with her father…

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3 Aug 20142 stars

Promising stories on origins let down by lacklustre storytelling and performances

Bloom is one of those shows that, on paper, looks like it should impress. Poignant subject matter, sparse theatricality and a good old dose of storytelling should mark this out as one to watch, but sadly the performances fail to deliver. Performers…


3 Aug 20144 stars

Humane, raw and beautiful prison kitchen-based theatre piece at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Urban performance poet and playwright Sabrina Mahfouz's fast-talking work takes no prisoners, so it's ironic that her latest play Chef, inspired by real testimonies, follows the journey of a former sous chef, who is now a convicted inmate running a…


3 Aug 20144 stars

Brutal Edinburgh Festival Fringe performance by Nigel Francis, recounting abuse and redemption

Alone, with nothing but a bottle of beer in hand, One draws short, sharp swigs from the bottle. His muscular, tribal-tattooed, black-clad body hunches over a tape recorder, this whirring machine his only witness. He is checking the level of the…


3 Aug 20143 stars

Comedy biography from the valleys and back again

Buddug James Jones comes from four generations of farmers. Weary of a life of cider-black, village gossip and a boyfriend whose idea of fun is upending the Portaloo at the Young Farmers disco, she decamps for London. There, after many solitary dinners…

How to Achieve Redemption as a Scot Through the Medium of Braveheart

3 Aug 20143 stars

Random and redemptive contemplation on what it means to be a Scot

Rachael Clerke is in need of redemption. You see, a couple of years ago, she denied ever being a Scot. She was a ashamed of her Scottishness, the tartan, the kilts, the coos-until an encounter with a Turkish friend changed her perception of how others…

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Naked in Alaska

3 Aug 20143 stars

Redemption, addiction and pole dancing

Valerie Hager’s autobiographical solo show takes in both the highs and lows of her career as an exotic dancer: the escape from a mundane life of abusive boyfriends and financial worry; the petty rivalries of the clubs that destroy friendships; and the…

The Sagas of Noggin the Nog

3 Aug 20144 stars

Live action Edinburgh Festival Fringe adaptation of children's TV classic

Every year it seems the Fringe gives parents (and in this case maybe some grandparents as well) the opportunity to revel in the nostalgia of their childhood TV viewing, under the guise of taking their children to a show – and this year is no…

Donald Robertson Is Not a Stand-Up Comedian

2 Aug 20144 stars

Poignant, astute and hilarious coming-of-age comedy from Gary McNair

Coming-of-age comedy can be twee or cringeworthy. Not so with Donald Robertson Is Not a Stand-Up Comedian which explores the trials of boyhood and manhood with deadpan wit and a real even-handedness: it's a joyous thing indeed. Writer/performer Gary…

The Fair Intellectual Club

2 Aug 20143 stars

Charming production of Lucy Porter play exploring true story of secret society ladies

Based on a true story, comedian/writer Lucy Porter's play on 'the loss of innocence' follows a trio of Edinburgh teenage girls' attempts over the course of one year (1717) to study subjects that were considered off-limits to the ''fair sex'', such as…

The Importance of Being Earnest as Performed by Three F*cking Queens and a Duck

2 Aug 20144 stars

Filthy farce of vivid performances and an infectious sense of mounting hysteria

Filth, filth and more filth: Fringe stalwarts, Melbourne’s Out Cast Theatre, deliver a gleeful 50 minutes of breathtakingly inventive profanity as three bitchy queens attempt to stage Oscar Wilde’s ‘handbag’ play. It’s frenetically paced, pantomimey in…

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Mark Ravenhill: Product

2 Aug 20144 stars

Media can make anything stupid

Mark Ravenhill’s scripts have a nasty bite: Product operates both as a satire on the ability of the media to make politics trivial and a provocative meditation on the paranoia surrounding the War on Terror. A fast-paced monologue, Product has Leah…

Scratch: Lands of Glass

2 Aug 20143 stars

Fusing theatre and live music soundtrack beautifully

It’s the musical instruments that are the real stars of Newcastle-based Unfolding Theatre’s whimsical show – gleaming glass marimbas, bells, bottles and oversized brandy glasses that are struck, bowed or rubbed by the five-strong cast to produce the…

Siddhartha: The Musical

2 Aug 20144 stars

Incredibly enjoyable take on Hesse novel is both mesmerising and ridiculous

A Buddhist musical about spiritual enlightenment, with lasers, fireball projections, porn heels and pounding Euro beats? And it all began as a rehabilitation programme in a maximum security prison in Milan? It’s unlikely you’d imagine any of that, when…

The Trial of Jane Fonda

2 Aug 20144 stars

Phenomenal performance by Anne Archer in exploration of the Hanoi Jane incident

In 1972 when US screen legend Jane Fonda posed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, opposing the Vietnam War, an American backlash ensued, with Fonda portrayed as a Communist and unpatriotic, despite the hippy movement. Another silver screen star, Anne…

Feminism and the Edinburgh Forest Fringe 2014 programme

2 Aug 2014

Forest Fringe co-director Deborah Pearson on the shows exploring what it means to be a woman

The Forest Fringe co-director asks: while there are shows fighting the feminist fight, where are the shows exploring what it means to be a woman? Wuthering Heights at Summerhall this year and the recent hit film Boyhood both interrogate masculinity in…