Reviews & features: Alex Johnston

9 reviews

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Ensemble MusikFabrik: A Tribute to Frank Zappa - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 28 August 2013

29 Aug 20135 stars

Earthy and soaring concert of outrageously good musicianship to nourish the adventurous concertgoer

It takes a certain effort of imagination to accept that the man who wrote a song called 'Why Does It Hurt While I Pee?' was the greatest American composer of his time, but Ensemble MusikFabrik's A Tribute to Frank Zappa, played with the precision of…

Five reasons to love Frank Zappa

21 Aug 2013

The maverick musician is the subject of a tribute by Ensemble musikFabrik at the EIF 2013

1. He was funny Most popular music isn’t funny. Even some of the best wallows in self-pity or angst. Zappa didn’t like wallowing. He wanted to stimulate people, so he makes you laugh. ‘Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?’, ‘Be In My Video’ and ‘Bobby…

Mitsuko Uchida - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 13 Aug 2013

14 Aug 20134 stars

The celebrated pianist performs Bach, Schoenberg and Schumann at the EIF

It doesn't get any more temple-of-high-culture than Mitsuko Uchida at the Usher Hall during the EIF, and everything suggested that tonight was going to obey the wacky rituals of the contemporary classical concert. The Usher Hall itself seemed to have…

Showstoppers' Family Hour

6 Aug 20134 stars

Funny, silly, uplifting and ridiculous improvised children's show

As the audience entered, the Showstoppers cast was already on stage, crooning little ditties about the audience's clothing. This audient was immediately on his guard, although perspective was at hand in the form of the Daughter (six years old) who…

Gulliver's Travels

19 Aug 20124 stars

Savage and funny adaptation of Swift’s satire

The Victorians considered Gulliver's Travels a kid's book, chortling at the notion of a big man in a tiny world and quietly omitting Gulliver's horrified realisation that the bestial Yahoos are in fact human. That uncomfortable final part of the book is…


12 Aug 20123 stars

Gate Theatre's Beckett adaptation largely fails to illuminate

At the start of the Gate Theatre's stage presentation of Samuel Beckett's novel Watt, Barry McGovern, the sole performer, lopes onstage dressed in hat and coat and carrying bulging suitcases. He hangs the hat and coat on a man-sized stand, placing the…


23 Aug 20114 stars

Completely ridiculous and unexpectedly educational

Theatre Beating’s lunatic dramatisation of the rise and fall of Constantinople is like a great pop song; it thrives on the tension between being completely brilliant and also very, very stupid. The jokes are consistently from the daft end of the street…


23 Aug 20111 star

Depressing, lazy and naïvely acted

This glum story about friendship betrayed aims for something moving and grown-up, but isn’t helped by performances that vary from winsome to teeth-grindingly awful (it takes more than pouting, stomping and shouting to represent a child). The lazily…

Cutting the Cord

11 Aug 20113 stars

Tragicomedy exploring immigration via young Japanese woman in London

Audience members queueing to enter Cutting the Cord are invited to tell a small wooden box where they’re coming from and where they’re going to. What seems like gratuitous cuteness pays off at the end of this engaging and skilful exploration of the…