Reviews & features: Claire Sawers

217 reviews

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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…


3 Aug 20144 stars

Glitz and glamour on the dancefloor

Of the two big Brazilian dance shows in this year’s Fringe, this is definitely the glitzier, more Hollywood option between the two. It’s a hair-straightened, tightly choreographed, Katy Perry and Pharrell-soundtracked stage show; a Strictly Come Brazil…

Jen Brister: Wishful Thinking

3 Aug 20143 stars

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe performer elevates obvious subject matter with supreme facial comedy

Jen Brister used to admire the hippies at Glastonbury, sticking it to The Man, not conforming to society’s wishes, gleefully selling leather bracelets out the back of a van. What used to seem like a brave stance against cultural oppression now just…

Ahir Shah: Texture

2 Aug 20143 stars

Smart, adrenal, thespy show is a clever but often frantic set

Ahir Shah could probably write this review himself as he chucks in self-assessing jibes (mostly nailing it) all through his smart, adrenal, thespy show. A Cambridge graduate and one-time writer for Skins, he praises his own ‘linguistic verve’ and…

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…

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1 Aug 20142 stars

Edinburgh Fringe performer Ruaraidh Murray stays in his comfort zone of 'masculinity in crisis'

Brian’s wife has walked out, and he’s been fired. Lonely, mildly agoraphobic and casually paranoid, he fears that he’s at best ‘a loser’ and at worst ‘a nutter’. In reality he’s more of an under-confident soft touch with too much time on his hands…

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014 interview: Shaun Usher, Simon Garfield and Ben Harrison

31 Jul 2014

The blogger, the author and the theatre director discuss the value of letter-writing

Roald Dahl was once sent a dream in a bottle by a young reader named Amy. Kurt Vonnegut spent Christmas in 1944 locked in a tiny box car en route to a Dresden work camp. Anaïs Nin believed sex doesn’t thrive on monotony. Katharine Hepburn had…

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014: 5 musicians at the book fest

31 Jul 2014

Featuring Aidan Moffat, Julian Cope, Willy Vlautin, Gruff Rhys and James Yorkston

Aidan Moffat In contrast to the abject despair / binge drinking / furtive groping often covered in his songwriting, the spoken word artist and ex-Arab Strap member presents his latest offering with not even a PG but a U rating. The Lavender Blue Dress…

Dean Friedman set to bring four shows to 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

30 Jul 2014

1970s pop icon who’s down with the kids returns with new series of musical sing-along performances

‘I'm pretty sure every songwriter with kids finds themselves humming silly melodies to distract themselves – and keep their kids from wiggling off the table – while changing nappies. That's how my first kids’ songs came about,’ says Dean Friedman.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014: 10 strange, site-specific venues

22 Jul 2014

Featuring phone shops, police boxes, rickshaws, caravans and a boxing gym

A boxing gym An amateur boxing club becomes the set for this verbatim theatre piece based on interviews with Muslim female boxers, using a cast of 16–18-year-olds. No Guts, No Heart, No Glory, Sandy’s Boxing Gym, Craigmillar, 226 0000, 18–25 Aug…

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Anne Archer stars in controversial show The Trial of Jane Fonda at 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

15 Jul 2014

Academy-award nominated Anne Archer plays actress at the height of her anti-Vietnam protesting

Jane Fonda is famous for plenty things. Writhing around in wet-look silver as a coquettish space traveller in thigh boots for Barbarella. Lunging and reaching through aerobics workouts, shrink-wrapped in Lycra leotards and building up her own fitness…

Edinburgh Tattoo: The story behind the biggest show of the 2014 Edinburgh Festivals

15 Jul 2014

The projection artist behind the state-of-the-art video used in the 2014 Edinburgh Military Tattoo

In the past, Ross Ashton has projected giant fire-breathing dragons onto Edinburgh Castle, covered the ramparts in massive white cobwebs, turned the barracks into a Gotham City skyline, and beamed intricate patterns of anchors, saltires and theatre…

Music highlights from the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival

15 Jul 2014

Including Sweet Mambo, Czech Philharmonic, Ganesh Versus the Third Reich and Kronos Quartet

Sweet Mambo. Five years on from her death, Pina Bausch’s reputation as one of the most important choreographers of our age is only strengthening with time. Tanztheater Wuppertal, the dance ensemble she led from 1973, are carrying on her work and taking…

Interview: Tony Parsons and John Gordon Sinclair on why they turned to crime writing

15 Jul 2014

The controversial journalist and Gregory's Girl actor on new found love of writing crime fiction

‘I do love a bit of blood and thunder,’ Tony Parsons confesses. ‘Gore doesn’t put me off. And I like to know the proper way to slit a throat. It’s not some drunk hacking and chopping away at a neck; there’s a clinical, far more efficient way to do it.…

Tig Notaro

27 Aug 20134 stars

The American comedian, famous for publicly discussing her breast cancer, proves she has more to say

Tig Notaro is a grand master of the wind-up. The drawn-out set-ups, the laboured pauses, the controlled nonchalance – it’s all part of her finely honed delivery, a masterclass in pacing and calm. Her soothing, diazepam-dose of a voice is the Fringe…

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Interview: Composer Nico Muhly on his role in artistic collective LA Dance

22 Aug 2013

Collective perform at Edinburgh International Festival 2013

‘New York City is kind of like the Edinburgh Festival in August,’ composer Nico Muhly is explaining. ‘Except it doesn’t quit. There’s so much going on, great stuff – but it can get overwhelming at times.’ Muhly is familiar with that nagging F.O.M.O.

Piff The Magic Dragon

22 Aug 20133 stars

Faux-grumpy yet fun magic show

His glamorous assistant rolls her eyes whenever his back’s turned; his sidekick is a vacant chihuahua, stealing his limelight with a sleepy thousand-yard-stare; and the guest star is a mindreading goldfish who forgets his lines. In short, Piff the Magic…

Profile: Bang on a Can All-Stars perform Steve Reich work at EIF 2013

21 Aug 2013

The contemporary music collective count Steve Reich and Ryuichi Sakamoto among their collaborators

Who are they? Bang on a Can are a music collective based in Brooklyn. It was set up 26 years ago by three composers who were, and still are, dedicated to championing experimental classical music. Their vision was to create an international community of…

Mixed Doubles

16 Aug 20132 stars

Young foursome present pop culture sketches with mixed results

’Aaand, that’s why kittens love twine’, simpers one particularly dreary Scottish folk musician, coming to the end of another whimsical, truly insipid ballad, as an imaginary guest on Later... With Jools Holland. Game of Thrones, Benny Hill and The…

Rob Carter: Murder (and other hobbies)

16 Aug 20132 stars

Musical comedy from Mr. Nice guy trying to act tough

Rob Carter is ‘a real bad arse’, he announces in clipped West Sussex vowels. Swathed in John Lewis cashmere, fresh from a ten grand drama school course, he is all too aware that his anecdotes about an ‘anarchic’ childhood (running away from his…

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Theatre and music hybrid Whatever Gets You Through the Night set for 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

13 Aug 2013

Award-winning show combining theatre, music and film returns

The collaborative minds behind Whatever Gets You Through The Night reveal their own nocturnal leanings, as the theatre/live music event hits the Fringe

Interview: William Bennett aka Cut Hands

6 Aug 2013

You just came back from playing Berlin Atonal – how did it go? It was an unforgettable experience, the Kraftwerk venue is the disused heat power station in the East of the city and they’ve converted it into an enormous, incredible brutalist…


6 Aug 20133 stars

Singing into a hairbrush goes Gallic-galactic, French lip-sync sextet go wild in Edinburgh

Imagine Woody Woodpecker, Samantha Fox and Celine Dion are thrown in a dressing-up trunk of glitter, then doused in vodka that’s been pinched from a backstage tour rider. Bill and Ted, Eminem and Britney Spears are chucked in there too, and the lid is…

Iain Stirling: At Home

5 Aug 20133 stars

Local boy back in town with the same wit, charm and... glasses

Twenty-five-year-old Iain Stirling is having a mini identity crisis; he’s from Edinburgh originally, but has lived in London for years. So he drops in lots of ‘wicked’, ‘my man’ and ‘su’hin’, but also gets big laughs from localisms like ‘barry’ (from…

Russ Powell: Powell to the People

5 Aug 20132 stars

The Brighton native comedian performs with confident and pally style but lacks quality material

An important distinction: Russ Powell is blokey, but not laddy. So he orders his crowd to ‘strap in’, ‘do it’, and ‘get on it’ a few times in the show. He refers to his ‘missus’ and ask things like, ‘am I right lads?’. But please, he points out, that…