How to Start a Riot

How to Start a Riot

Living, as I do, in one of the London areas most badly affected by last summer’s riots, it was fascinating to watch this show almost exactly a year to the day. In the aftermath of those events the government was swift to punish and condemn, but there was little serious attempt to ask why a local problem in Tottenham set the whole Capital alight and ignited similar mayhem elsewhere... 

Satan's Playground

Satan's Playground

Sacred And Profane’s stated aim is to produce ensemble theatre adapted from literary or folk traditions, using live music and live digital devices. That all sounds rather dry, even pompous, as does the statement that this production is a meditation on fate, free will, and the frontier between spirituality and hysteria... 

The Miller's Tale: Wahala Dey Oh!

The Miller's Tale: Wahala Dey Oh!

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is often cited as the beginning, not only of ‘modern’ English Literature and as the legitimation of the vernacular language. This version of one of those tales, by the exuberant Overo Theatre Company, puts the very discussion of the power of language at the heart of its production... 

Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act by Athol Fugard

Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act by Athol Fugard

Just before the lights went down at the start of this production of Athol Fugard’s 1972 play, a front of house person barked at an audience member clambering over a seat ‘Stop that, it’s a health and safety issue’... 

Oliver Reed: Wild Thing

Oliver Reed: Wild Thing

The problem with one-person shows from an audience point of view is that, if you don’t like what’s going on, you know that no one else is going to come along and perk things up... 

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

My heart usually sinks when I see the words ‘new interpretation’ or ‘re-imagined’ applied to productions of Shakespeare plays in Edinburgh. It is with both relief and some joy that I commend this shortened version of the world’s most famous love story as presented by the young students from Framlingham College... 

Educating Rita

Educating Rita

Willie Russell’s two-hander about a Liverpudlian housewife trying to better herself through an Open University literature course was hailed in 1980 as a Pygmalion for modern times... 

'Tis Pity She's a Whore

'Tis Pity She's a Whore

Written and first performed in the first half of the seventeenth century, John Ford’s tragedy of forbidden love amongst the Italian aristocracy has had a controversial history. Earlier generations have balked at this tale of passionate incest, and found the author’s sympathetic portrayal of the unfortunate siblings Giovanni and Annabella hard to stomach... 

There's Only One Lord Byron

There's Only One Lord Byron

The poet Bryon was famously described by one of his countless paramours as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. One of the most renowned roués in history, he shagged his way through most of Europe, and his sexual appetites weren’t restricted by gender or, indeed, familial ties... 

They Shoot Horses Don't They

They Shoot Horses Don't They

This is adaptation of a short novel by Horace McCoy, presented by the Italia Conti Ensemble, recalls the Depression in America in 1935 when poverty drove young people to take part in dance marathons until they dropped, the winners receiving a thousand dollars... 

Racing Demon

Racing Demon

First performed in 1993 at The National Theatre, this eloquent play about the Church of England is part of a trilogy by award winning writer David Hare. The other two, Murmuring Judges and Absence of War dissect t skilfully examine the legal profession and political landscape as it was at that time (pre-New labour)... 

The Visit

The Visit

This extraordinary play was written in 1956 by Swiss genius Friedrich Durrenmatt.   It’s considered one of the classics of twentieth century German-literature.   On one level a morality tale (many of the characters are simply called by the name of their profession), it is also an extraordinary examination of collective social responsibility, justice and revenge... 

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

This is one of Shakespeare’s most beautiful plays. He’s taken a classical tale and motif of twins separated by misfortune, in this case a shipwreck, and woven it into what is traditionally called a comedy, but what in fact is as brilliant a bitter/sweet examination of human love and sexuality as has ever been written... 

Diary of Anne Frank

Diary of Anne Frank

Anne Frank wrote arguably the most famous diary in history. It’s an extraordinary document of a thirteen year old’s hopes and dreams, written under unbearable circumstance. The play version follows the Frank family into the secret annexe in Amsterdam, whence they fled once the Nazi’s came to power in Germany... 

Man Who Was Hamlet

Man Who Was Hamlet

For centuries scholars have disagreed about the authorship of the most famous plays in the world. It’s argued by some that these masterpieces couldn’t possibly be the work of a poorly educated, non-cosmopolitan Warwickshire lad called Will Shakespeare... 

Gutted. A Revenger's Musical

Gutted. A Revenger's Musical

At the age of seven, Sorrow (Helen George), saw her parents brutally murdered by members of the Bewley family. We now encounter her as she marries the heir to that family’s fortune, played by the charismatic Colin Hoult... 

Firing Blanks

Firing Blanks

Kate is a teenager staring out into the audience and smiling and muttering. A young busker stands in a corner playing his guitar. The set is a single park bench. In the gloom of this Underbelly space my heart sank – I’ve seen a lot of plays in Edinburgh down the years where you’re presented with this kind of spare scenario as you enter... 

History Boys

History Boys

There are three productions of Alan Bennett’s wonderful play in Edinburgh this year. QETC, an English language theatre company based in the Netherlands take it on in almost it’s full length here – very unusual for a play at the Fringe Festival... 

Talented Mr Ripley

Talented Mr Ripley

Patricia Highsmith’s novel, written in 1955, is the first of five about the eponymous fraudster who cons, cheats and lies his way through life and most of Europe. Owing to a case of mistaken identity, Tom Ripley is employed by millionaire Richard Greenleaf and his dying wife to track down their son Dicky who is frittering away his privileged existence in Italy... 

Oi! For England

Oi! For England

Trevor Griffiths’s short (very short) play written in 1981 is a fascinating choice for a young company to present in 2010. Set during the Moss Side riots in Manchester, it introduces us to Skin band White Ammunition as they rehearse in a basement, which is also full of the goods they have stolen... 

Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus

This play by Shakespeare’s contemporary Marlowe is potentially thrilling. Unlike all other tragedies, which deal “only” with the inevitability, suddenness or unfairness of death, this piece takes us to areas the human mind can only barely take on board – eternal torment and damnation... 

Venetian Twins

Venetian Twins

This complicated farce by Italian writer Carlo Goldini was written in 1747 and is regarded as one of the great comedies of Italian theatre. Here it’s presented in modern dress (of sorts) by the effervescent pupils from Berhamstead School... 

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

I’ve seen this play a lot. Maybe too many times. It is arguably Shakespeare’s most accessible for audiences; though we may not all be Princes or regicidal Scotsmen, we’ve all been young and in love... 

Sordid Lives

Sordid Lives

Though Tower Theatre Company describe themselves as a non-professional outfit it’s hard to tell they are amateurs. They’ve taken on Del Shores’s dark comedy about a white trash family in Texas trying to come to terms with the bizarre nature of the matriarch’s untimely death, and the unravelling of long-held resentments and secrets that follow... 

Merry Wives of Henry VIII

Merry Wives of Henry VIII

If there’s one period of history, or one English monarch everyone thinks they know a bit about, it’s the reign of Henry VIII. The second of The Tudors stamped his mark on the future of these fair isles by causing the break from the Catholic Church... 

Lockerbie: Unfinished Business

Lockerbie: Unfinished Business

It’s strange to be reviewing this at all. Written and performed by David Benson it’s delivered in the form of a lecture by Jim Swire, the father of Flora Swire, one of 270 people murdered on December 21st !988 when the Jumbo Jet they were in was blown out of the skies by a bomb above the Scottish town of Lockerbie... 

Marat/Sade

Marat/Sade

Peter Weiss’s The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, to give this play its correct title, is an extraordinary piece of work... 

His Name is Tim

His Name is Tim

Apologies for the length of this review. Regular readers will know brevity is not one of my trademarks. This one-man show from Experiment68, however, has me struggling to meet my demanding editor’s word count guidelines... 

Mysterious Skin

Mysterious Skin

Eighteen-year-old Brian has written fan letters to Avalyn. He is intrigued by the fact she has had the same experiences as him. Those experiences, including 'lost time' in their childhood, would seem to indicate one logical conclusion – they were abducted by aliens and experimented on... 

Tristram Shandy

Tristram Shandy

The novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne was first published in two volumes in 1759, with seven others following over the next 10 years. This would suggest a work of some depth as well as length... 

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening

Wedekind’s play was ground breaking when he wrote it in 1890. So controversial proved its truthful depiction of the damage sexual repression does to adolescents, and so vivid some of its depictions of sexual encounters, that it has been banned, censored and reworked continuously since then... 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

This play is a masterpiece. Since its first ever performance at this Festival in 1966 it has wowed audiences worldwide continuously, with its breathtaking word play, comedy and flights of existential fancy... 

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

Let me declare up front that I was injured during this show. Some of the actors, careering about on the forestage, crashed into a heavy part of the set and sent it thumping into the front row of the audience... 

Belt Up's 'Lorca is Dead'

Belt Up's 'Lorca is Dead'

The title doesn’t exactly sell the show as an evening of mirth and anarchy. Apart from the mention of death, Spanish playwright and artist Frederick Garcia Lorca wasn’t know for his comedy... 

Bacchae

Bacchae

Written in the fourth century BC by Euripides, this is the tragedy of the royal house of Cadmus in ancient Thebes. Like all Greek tragedy it deals with enormous issues and emotions and requires extraordinary bravura acting... 

Bliss

Bliss

This piece by Olivier Choinier, translated by Caryl Churchill was first presented at London’s Royal Court Theatre. Perhaps there and with seasoned professional actors it worked, but as presented by these talented young students from Southampton I’m at a loss to work out what it was about, or, I have to confess, why in a world of so many wonderful plays, anyone would want to chose this one... 

Equus

Equus

Equus is a popular choice with young companies coming to the Fringe, and I’ve never understood why. Peter Shaffer's play was inspired by a tiny news item in a local paper about a teenager who blinded a stable full of horses for no apparent reason... 

Private Peaceful

Private Peaceful

The program for this show presented by Beacon Theatre Group points out that this group of youngsters will be the first generation to grow up with no survivors of the First World War still alive... 

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

To have in the publicity for your show the remark that 'an artist’s masterpiece is a spectator’s nightmare' is a dangerous hostage to fortune. Fortunately these five talented actors from Airborne Theatre Company give compelling and professional performances which cover over the cracks of what is an interesting but flawed script... 

All the Queen's Children

All the Queen's Children

This young company have taken on a huge and emotive subject here; the plight of young children who arrive in this country as refugees, unaccompanied by adults. It could prove disastrously polemic in less skilled hands, but as written and directed by Dawn Harrison and Rosanna Jahangard and performed by a sixteen strong ensemble of youngsters, it is riveting... 

Blood Brothers, the Play

Blood Brothers, the Play

Willy Russell’s phenomenal West End hit musical succeeds for many reasons, but most of all because it has great tunes and in the final moments will make the hardest amongst us blub like babies... 

Faulty Towers The Dining Experience

Faulty Towers The Dining Experience

This is certainly different. When you arrive at the venue you are sent into the alley beside the restaurant which is the venue and told “this isn’t a queue, it’s a people gathering experience”... 

Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood

Dylan Thomas wrote this extraordinary poem to humanity in 1954. He wrote it for radio (a point I will come back to), but it then became a play, a film and even an album produced by George Martin with music by Elton John... 

Jane Austen's Guide To Pornography

Jane Austen's Guide To Pornography

Pornography, we are educationally informed in this piece, means “the writing of harlots”. It’s a subject that divides opinion sharply, and the proliferation and availability of it does make one wonder about the priorities of the human race... 

Our Country's Good

Our Country's Good

This award-winning play by Timberlake Wertenbaker was first performed at London’s Royal Court in 1988 and has lost none of its power. It tells the harrowing but also uplifting story of some of the first convicts to be transported to Australia and their jailers, Royal Marines who were no more pleased to be where they were sent then their prisoners... 

The Tempest

The Tempest

“This is Shakespeare’s last play, you know, the one he wrote when he knew he was going to die” explained the helpful American audience member to my right. Not true, in fact. He certainly wrote Henry VIII after it, and possibly collaborated on a couple of other plays too... 

Once A Catholic

Once A Catholic

As the press pack informs us Mary O’Malley’s Once a Catholic is a comedy centering around the lives of three Marys (Mooney, McGinty and Gallagher) at a convent school in North London in the 1950s... 

Chronicles Of Long Kesh

Chronicles Of Long Kesh

Years ago, before my broad mind and narrow waist had changed places and I was a young actor, I went to Northern Ireland on tour. As we entered Belfast our company bus was flagged down by soldiers – with guns... 

Don Carlos

Don Carlos

About a decade ago there was a renewed interest in Schiller’s work. The previous revival had been in the 80’s by the late Malcolm Edwards excellent Theatre Manoeuvres Company. Schiller has been described as the German Shakespeare, and though not as prolific as the English Bard, he deals with similar themes and owes much to him... 

Me, Mum And Dusty Springfield

Me, Mum And Dusty Springfield

This short one-woman show starts very cleverly. A young woman is on stage applying make up – the big panda-eyes made famous by Dusty Springfield. One of Dusty’s trademark frocks adorns a mannequin nearby... 

Love's Labour's Lost

Love's Labour's Lost

This is one of Shakespeare’s toughest plays to pull off. Written when he himself was a young man, it tells the tale of four lads trying to cope with love and life. They are no ordinary lads, but royalty and aristocracy (led by Anthony Pinnick’s King Of Navarre)... 

Neville's Island

Neville's Island

If I tell you the TV version of this popular comedy by Tim Firth included performances by Tim Spall and David Bamber you will get some idea of the age range of the characters. It’s a play about middle-age, or rather men trying to ignore or stave off middle-age... 

Little Johnny's Big Gay Musical

Little Johnny's Big Gay Musical

If you are a first time visitor to this piece you may be forgiven expecting something different. Certainly we are greeted with a spectacular set and a smartly attired, very accomplished three piece band playing us in... 

Rue Magique

Rue Magique

Prostitution is hardly an original subject for drama or even musicals - think Mrs Warren’s Profession, Camille, La Boheme and more recently Baz Lurman’s Moulin Rouge. This piece, however, is based on a true story... 

Bully

Bully

“I don’t like small rooms” is the first line of this beautifully performed one-man show from Richard Fry. Me neither, but we’ll come back to that. Fry takes us on a journey through the life of a man who has been a victim all his life... 

No Place for Dreams

No Place for Dreams

Brief Candle describe this piece as a play for “family audiences”. As a seasoned and cynical single man I wondered what that meant. Is it really possible to present a piece of work on The Fringe which would appeal to all ages that wasn’t saccharine and twee? If such a thing were possible, surely it wouldn’t have an edge or a message... 

Finding Alice

Finding Alice

Reviewing children’s shows can feel a little ridiculous; after all, I’m not the target audience. Marching off to see one in the Edinburgh drizzle at ten thirty in the morning with the hang over from hell can make one question one’s sanity (note to self, stop drinking in Edinburgh)... 

A Dog Called Redemption

A Dog Called Redemption

Two tramps spend each day much as the previous one, regaling each other with tales and seemingly waiting for something or someone to turn up to make life better. Sound familiar? Waiting For Godot revolutionised theatre, and though young writer Matthew Landers may have a long way to go to reach the celebrity and veneration of Samuel Becket, his script is none the less phenomenal... 

East

East

Productions of Berkoff used to be ten a penny on The Fringe. Young actors and would-be-actors were attracted to his unique blend of violent gutsy language and physical showiness. But performing this stuff is harder than one would think, and I’ve spent many an hour in such shows either wishing I had earplugs or whether Berkoff really was the genius he’s said to be... 

The Boy From Centreville

The Boy From Centreville

On April 16 2007 a young student at Virginia Polytechnic carried out two separate shootings approximately two hours apart. He killed thirty-two people and wounded many others before killing himself... 

I Love You, Bro

I Love You, Bro

In his program notes writer Adam J A Cass remarks this one-person show is based on “a boy who is out there somewhere”, the “out there” being cyber space. Though based on a true story, he says that this can only be his, the director’s (Yvonne Virslk) and the actor’s (Ash Flanders) version of events... 

The Talented Mr Ripley

The Talented Mr Ripley

Okay, this is always a tricky one. These performers are school kids. They have taken on Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel of deceit and manipulation and bring it to the Fringe... 

St Nicholas

St Nicholas

Conor McPherson is an extraordinary writer. I’ve seen most of his plays, and two of them, Shining City and The Weir are just stunning. Both deal with loss and grief, both are modern day ghost stories... 

Love for Sale

Love for Sale

This two hander begins with both actresses acting out a dumb show to a music track. One is clearly a vicar, but until the dialogue begins we’re not sure of the relationship between the two... 

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

The beginning of this production of Shakespeare’s most bitter- sweet comedy is stunning. Simply staged and performed by an ensemble all dressed in black, the music which is the food of love is ravishing indeed... 

Christie In Love

Christie In Love

Waiting to go into this production of Howard Brenton’s short, searing exploration of the nature of justice and retribution I witnessed the front of house staff refuse entry to a family who had two young children with them, a boy of about 14 and a girl of 10... 

Kes (A Kestrel for a Knave)

Kes (A Kestrel for a Knave)

As I collected my press ticket from the box office, a rather severe woman in the queue prodded me in the chest and said “they’re only kids doing this show, so you be nice or you’ll have me to answer to”... 

The Rat Pack - Forever Swinging

The Rat Pack - Forever Swinging

Just as one’s heart sinks when sent to review Shakespeare done by students or kids, when I was told that this young company were attempting their own version of the West End hit I wasn’t expecting too much... 

Mile End

Mile End

From the program: Analogue is a multidisciplinary collective dedicated to producing challenging, visceral and exciting contemporary work, fusing mixed media on stage. In Mile End they achieve only some of those goals... 

Unnatural Acts

Unnatural Acts

Marsha (Jessica Martin) and Elliot (Jason Wood) are flatmates. He’s gay and pushing forty. She’s still in love with her ex, and is devastated to discover he is sticking by his new girlfriend because he has got her pregnant... 

Love Labours Won

Love Labours Won

This piece by director/writer Ryan J-W Smith garnered fantastic reviews and awards at last year’s Festival. It’s back again this time with an all female cast and I’m happy to report it’s still excellent... 

True West

True West

This 1980 play by Sam Shepard begins naturalistically enough. Two men are in a single room, one (Austin) is trying to type a screenplay, the other (Lee) is drinking copious amounts of beer... 

Our Trebor Mint Feeling

Our Trebor Mint Feeling

On entering the space the audience is presented with four-coloured globes set upon four shiny bar stools. It’s a simple design idea which is intriguing and as the lights went down I had no idea what to expect... 

The Bitches' Ball

The Bitches' Ball

Mary Robinson so besotted the Prince of Wales (later George IV) with her performance as Perdita in The Winter’s Tale that he took her as a mistress. This powerfully performed play tells the story of her rise from humble origins to that position, to her equally dramatic fall into ill health and a pauper’s burial... 

A (Gay Disabled Transexual) Love Story Told to a Ticket Inspector at Alton Towers

A (Gay Disabled Transexual) Love Story Told to a Ticket Inspector at Alton Towers

This is as good a play as I’ve ever seen about the absurdity of prejudice. Stephen Keyworth has taken incidents from performer Robert Softley’s life and spun a poignant but very funny tale... 

Fanny and Faggot

Fanny and Faggot

The title of this play by Jack Thorne might be misleading in Edinburgh where provocative or simply rude words are employed to get bums on seats. But if you come expecting some kind of camp cabaret or sketch show you will be disappointed... 

24/7/52

24/7/52

Director/performer Bill Aitchison addresses the audience at the beginning and asks for their co-operation. We are told we will be asked to hold on to and pass back props to him. More importantly he also hands out ten tape recorders, which are set off in sequence... 

What The Butler Saw

What The Butler Saw

It is astonishing that Joe Orton only wrote six plays in his short life and yet is still so famous. This is largely due to the fact that like all great writers, he managed to cover so many themes effortlessly, and in his case, through the medium of brilliant comedy... 

Cabaret Auschwitz

Cabaret Auschwitz

As titles go this one is pretty much guaranteed to get your attention. However, those who go expecting something in even more bad taste than Springtime For Hitler in The Producers will be disappointed... 

Growing Growing ... Gone! The Story of Jack and the Beanstalk

Growing Growing ... Gone! The Story of Jack and the Beanstalk

Panto usually involves a cast of thousands, huge sets and the theatrical magic supplied by trap doors, smoke machines and flying apparatus. Darren Cheek and Kinny Gardner somehow manage to tell the story of Jack and The Beanstalk without any of that and the young audience I sat with were entranced... 

The Vortex

The Vortex

It’s quite tough to know by what standards to judge performances in Edinburgh. There are professional actors here doing shows with big budgets, drama students, university groups, kids and amateur groups all operating on a shoestring... 

Journey's End

Journey's End

This play by R.C. Sherriff is set in the officers’ “quarters” at the Western Front near St Quentin in March 1918. It’s as authentic an account as has ever been written about the extraordinary modus opernandus of that campaign – a sort of Blackadder The Fourth without the laughs... 

Duck Variations

Duck Variations

This is David Mamet’s first play, written in 1972, and like many first plays is a two hander (and involves a park bench). We first discover Emil, a beatnik poet and George an officer in the US military sitting on said bench, having just scattered their mother’s ashes into the lake... 

The Walworth Farce

The Walworth Farce

It is almost impossible to sum up the style of this play by Enda Walsh. It’s quite honestly like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Comparisons are odious, but I suppose it’s Becket meets Orton meets O’Casey meets Tarantino... 

Bouncy Castle Macbeth

Bouncy Castle Macbeth

Okay, this does exactly what it says on the tin. A group of very enthusiastic, and agile performers rattle through Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy in little over an hour on a large inflatable castle... 

Teenage Kicks

Teenage Kicks

When John Peel died in 2004 a nation mourned. This maverick DJ, it seems, had no detractors, and everyone in the music industry seemed to agree that he was an all round good-egg, who had done as much as anyone to shape the history of the British popular music scene over nearly forty years... 

The Dresser

The Dresser

I love this play, and love the film adaptation, which stars Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation I went to see this young company play out a much-shortened version... 

Road

Road

For those who like to know these things, this play by Jim Cartwright was voted thirty-sixth best play of the twentieth century in a poll run by The Royal National Theatre. First performed in 1986, it is a savagely written, blackly comic indictment of the effects years of Thatcher’s rule had on the country, specifically Lancashire where the play is set... 

The Pornographer Diaries

The Pornographer Diaries

It’s fascinating watching the assembled audience as this piece warms up. There are a few nervous titters (oh, Matron!) early on, but it isn’t until a woman laughed loud at a particularly smutty line that all us chaps relaxed... 

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

This trimmed down version of Shakespeare’s play is interestingly staged and mostly powerfully performed by Exeter University Theatre Company. The original is very long and has the second largest dramatic personae in the entire canon, so these guys achieve minor miracles with an ensemble of fifteen... 

The Shagaround

The Shagaround

This is play by Maggie Nevill will resonate with anyone who has been dumped suddenly, or found out that their boyfriend or girlfriend has been cheating on them. It takes place on New Year's even in the ladies’ loo of a local pub... 

You've Got To Laugh

You've Got To Laugh

As I entered this new space at ten thirty last night after a full day’s reviewing my heart sank. There was a young man lying asleep on a sofa in the dimly lit space surrounded by beer cans and rubbish... 

Stonewall

Stonewall

Old Compton Street in Soho is a place of fabulousness, where gay men and women can wander hand in hand, drink double skinny no-foam cappuccinos (with cinnamon) on the pavements, and compare the size of their blackberries... 

Threads

Threads

The basic premise behind this piece is a clever one. To quote the press release, it’s “an original Shakespearean tragedy created entirely of lines from every one of the playwright's works... 

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

This play By Terence McNally caused great consternation on its 1998 opening in Los Angeles. Virtually every opening since has been dogged by controversy, death threats, and court cases... 

Borstal Boy

Borstal Boy

This autobiographical account tells the story of the Irish playwright and poet Brendan Behan’s true-life arrest at the age of sixteen when he was caught in Liverpool carrying explosives to blow up the Camell Laird Shipyard for the IRA... 

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me

In the late 1980’s Brian Keenan, John McCarthy and Terry Waite were taken hostage in Beirut. They were all held, together or separately, for over four years. All have written of their experience, most successfully Keenan in an Evil Cradling... 

Macbeth

Macbeth

Things don’t bode well when the author of this little piece has his name spelt wrongly on the programme! I hope his agent doesn’t sue. That said, the great man himself would probably have been reasonably happy with this shortened version of one of his greatest plays... 

Breaker Morant

Breaker Morant

Breaker Morant is an Ozzie legend. The son of an English admiral who was sent to Australia, he soon made himself indispensable to the British army with his exploits in the Boer War as an officer in the Bushveld Carbineers, a prototype commando unit which fought the Boers on their own terms, largely ignoring the protocol of combat hitherto adhered to... 

Faustus

Faustus

This tale of how a brilliant man sells his soul to the devil in return for twenty four years of earthly pleasure has attracted writers in all genres for four centuries. This latest adaptation (of Thomas Mann’s novel) is different to any other I have seen in many respects... 

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies

William Golding’s extraordinary novel was written in 1954, with a world still reeling from the horrors of the discovery of the extent of Nazi brutality and fearing for it’s very survival as the cold war accelerated... 

The Hypochondriac

The Hypochondriac

This is a shortened but fun version of Moliere’s final play. It’s main character, Argan, is so obsessed with his health, especially his bowel movements, that he fails to notice his wife only married him for his money, Neither does he realise that his plan to marry off his youngest daughter to a rich doctor so he can have free treatment is in jeopardy because she is in love with someone else... 

Denied

Denied

The mood when the audience enters this bleak and dimly-lit space is sombre. A single Muslim girl kneels chanting, obviously scared. This is Sana (played by the writer and director, Jodi De Souza), and she is in fear of her husband, with good reason, as we shall find out... 

God’s Pottery Saves The World

God’s Pottery Saves The World

It is an absolute delight to be able to report that Jeremiah Smallchild and Gideon Lamb have returned to the den of iniquity, incontinence, drug-peddling and pederasty that is the Edinburgh Festival... 

Killer Joe

Killer Joe

The author’s mother is responsible for the above quote. She is also a playwright and once commented that in her work she tries to remain upbeat and funny almost by way of compensation for her son’s work! This example of son Tracy’s writing has comic moments, but generally delivers on the maternal assessment – it’s savage, disturbing and sometimes downright frightening, with a last beat which makes the final scene of Hamlet resemble a small family squabble... 

Chav! It’s a Musical Innit

Chav! It’s a Musical Innit

Edinburgh show titles are fascinating. Someone really should do a survey on the demographic attending particular types of plays. I was the oldest person at this late night performance by quite a long way, which I think is part due to the clever name of the show... 

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead

In 1966, when the only definition of a hard drive was the jaunt to Edinburgh from London with a dodgy minibus full of props and costumes, and the beer at the venues was tuppence a pint and the Edinburgh Fringe was genuinely about the performers and not the corporate sponsors, this astonishing play debuted at the Festival and launched the spectacular career of Tom Stoppard... 

Apollo/Dionysus

Apollo/Dionysus

The Dead, in the form of actors Andrew Oliveira and Jonny Iron caused quite a stir at the C venue launch when they turned up naked to promote this show. Well, they spend the entire performance in the buff, so at least the audience had a genuine preview... 

Everyone Should Have A Gun

Everyone Should Have A Gun

Hayley Shillito and Laura Taylor spend the whole of this piece from Horizon Arts dressed in black and joined together by a piece of long elastic. After about five minutes I thought I was going to hate it... 

The Concert for Lavert - God’s Pottery

The Concert for Lavert - God’s Pottery

These two Jesus loving friends are here from across the pond on a mission, to raise money to help a little boy with terminal cancer. Except, this being the Edinburgh Fringe, that’s just a premise for some very funny songs sending up religion and happy-clappy, feel-good religiosity... 

Cast Aside

Cast Aside

The young students of Ankle Productions have a mission statement in the program which says they want to appeal to those who favour content over style and want to laugh at “uber-thesps” along the way... 

Lies Have Been Told

Lies Have Been Told

The highest tribute I can pay to this one man play about the notorious Robert Maxwell is that I really felt I had spent ninety minutes in the media tycoon’s presence. Philip York is aided in achieving this by his marked physical (at least facial) resemblance to the man, and excellent vocal mimicry... 

Pains Of Youth

Pains Of Youth

Captain Theatre’s production of this rarely performed piece is stylishly designed and features some committed performances. It tells the story of the relationships between a bunch of medical students in Vienna after Austrian decadence is obliterated by war... 

Food

Food

It seems unfair compare this with some of the other offerings on the Fringe. The Traverse is a proper, grown up theatre, and this is grown up writing and acting. Theimaninarybody present what is, in its way, a classical tragedy... 

My Dearest Byron

My Dearest Byron

The presentation of this piece, from the costumes, to the elaborate “love letter” style of the press release, is top notch. On a pretty set, fashioned from another giant love letter, Another Midas TC, in the form of actors Harper Ray and Karen French bring us the story of the great poet Byron and his alleged incestuous relationship with his sister Augusta... 

Purgatory

Purgatory

In their press release Blank Theatre Company describe this rarely performed one-act play by Yeats as a “haunting scene of tragic intensity”. It certainly doesn’t disappoint on that score... 

Up The Gary

Up The Gary

Given the subject matter of this piece from Bad Penny Theatre the start couldn’t be more chilling. A man sits on a park bench and we can hear the sound of young children playing nearby as he scans the park, looking out for someone... 

Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy

Writer Tim Fountain has gone back to James Leo Herlihy’s novel for this adaptation of the tale of a naïve and well meaning hustler’s experiences in New York in the 70’s. The film starring John Voigt and Dustin Hoffman is a classic of the last century, and this version stands up pretty well by comparison... 

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

This is an established production of Mike Maron Productions’ take on the book. It first played here in 1999, and passing through the amazing array of Mediterranean produce and wine in this world famous shop on the way into the small studio is the perfect appetiser... 

The Hood

The Hood

The audience is confronted initially with two men tied to chairs, with hessian sacks over their heads. A lab coated third person sits at the back with a clip board. As the action begins, and Matthew (Toby Davies) manages to shake off his hood, we are aware that he has no idea what he’s doing there... 

My Brother and I Are Porn Stars

My Brother and I Are Porn Stars

Jan van Beek and Jonathan Brugh bill themselves as the Van Brugh family, and when this piece begins with them playing a very young brother and sister who talk about sucking cocks there’s a certain uncomfortableness in the audience to say the least... 

Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus

Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is notoriously hard to stage. This tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil in return for twenty four years of having everything he wishes for must have been terrifying in a world where everyone believed firmly in a life after death... 

The Goodies Still Rule OK!

The Goodies Still Rule OK!

I am of the generation lucky enough to grow up with the Goodies and Monty Python. We would come into school the day after seeing an episode of either and somehow already be quoting punchlines and whole swathes of dialogue... 

JFK – The Musical

JFK – The Musical

Z Theatre company are a bunch of schoolgirls who sing very nicely and try to put a new spin on the Kennedy assassination. However, there’s something slightly disturbing about seeing this cherubic bunch speak and sing some of these lyrics: “Imagine picking up your husband’s head from the limousine floor”... 

Boom Bang-A-Bang

Boom Bang-A-Bang

“When you’re bored with Hampstead Heath you’re bored with life”. So says one of the characters in Jonathan Harvey’s campy comedy about a group of friends gathering to watch the Eurovision song contest in 1995... 

Flood

Flood

Modest proposals’ have staged an atmospheric and mildly disturbing premiere of this surreal Gunter Grass play. Six people are stranded on various levels of a house, and it’s raining... 

An Asylum On Every Corner

An Asylum On Every Corner

Modus Operandi have chosen an unlikely subject for this new musical by writer/director James Michalos – mental health. Set in the fictitious Ashford Dell Hospital for the Mentally Ill it charts the progress of three patients and the effect the arrival of a new doctor has on them... 

Talk Radio

Talk Radio

This version of Eric Bergosian’s mid-eighties tale of one broadcast in the life of trail blazing shock jock Barry Champlain is one of the most hyped in this year’s festival. The coming together of director Stewart Lee (writer of Jerry Springer, The Opera), the brash, new high profile purple cow venue that is the Udderbelly and the fact the show is offered by the newly formed Comedian’s TC have led to reams of pre-publicity... 

Vocation of a Whore

Vocation of a Whore

There’s a truly international flavour to this presentation by Teatro dei Borgia, written by Italian Natalia Capra, directed by her countryman Gianpiero Borgia and performed by Norwegian actress Annika Strohm... 

The Macbeth Conspiracy

The Macbeth Conspiracy

You know you’re not in for a conventional approach to the Scottish Tragedy when the “Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech opens proceedings. It’s then quickly apparent that there is no real supernatural element either, as the lines of the three witches are shared between one actress, Malcolm and someone else... 

Jack The Lad

Jack The Lad

The poster for Perfume Productions’ presentation of this new play by Matt Harris is one of the most eye-catching and provocative, asking “Have You Been To A Male Prostitute?” I’m assuming that not all of the audience had, but should they be considering it, this tale of revenge and brutality just might make them consider stopping home with a video and a hot milky drink... 

Black Comedy

Black Comedy

Dreamwalk productions are a young talented group of sixth form and gap year students who have brought Peter Shaffer’s ingenious piece to the Fringe. Though they attack it with energy they are ultimately defeated by the sheer technical demands of the play itself... 

Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover

Kangaroo Court have devised and interesting take on DH Lawrence’s notorious tale of illicit love between the classes. Updated to the mid 80’s, the time of the miners’ strike, it’s beautifully played and designed and slickly directed by Neil McCurley... 

Aeneas Faversham

Aeneas Faversham

Penny Dreadfuls are a comedy troupe with a difference – all of the sketches are set in Victorian England. One might expect the joke to wear a bit thin in this hour long show, but their ingenuity and quirky take on perceived cliché’s of that era is constantly surprising and consequently consistently very funny... 

Dolly West’s Kitchen

Dolly West’s Kitchen

This gentle comedy is set in Buncrana, County Donegal, just across the border from Northern Ireland, between 1943 and 1945, the last two years of what the Irish called “The Emergency“... 

Help I’m A Teenager, Get Me Out Of Here!

Help I’m A Teenager, Get Me Out Of Here!

This lively bunch of performers from Kett Sixth Form College in Norwich have put together a piece of theatre about the dangers of over indulging in alcohol. Cleverly based around a reality/game show format introduced by Ant (Gareth Rowlands) and Dec (Luke Oakley), we find through flashbacks what happened to four young friends on the previous Friday night drinking binge... 

Bouncers

Bouncers

John Godber’s work had always found a home at the Festival Fringe where he has directed and produced it himself and where many young theatre groups have also taken it on. This production by Abingdon 750 is one of the best versions of Bouncers I have seen... 

Point of Yes

Point of Yes

Beginning in the East End of Glasgow in 1979 when major supplies of heroin first appeared on the streets (and Margaret Thatcher on the steps of Number Ten), stand up comedian and writer Jane Godley brilliantly spins a double take on a single life... 

Lizzie Roper in Peccadillo Circus

Lizzie Roper in Peccadillo Circus

Lizzie Roper is a very funny stand up and talented actress. This year, however, she’s brought a very different show to the Festival, and the result is a riveting and hysterical sixty minutes... 

The China Vase

The China Vase

Bernie Kavanagh’s anti-war play, presented by Feet and Fingers TC, has a brilliant premise. We first encounter a fighting unit who have survived the Somme as they prepare to go over the top again... 

Bloggers – Real Internet Diaries

Bloggers – Real Internet Diaries

Writer/director Oliver Mann has constructed this show entirely from edited extracts of internet blogs, and Connected Theatre crack through the snippets of the lives of eleven bloggers at a fair pace and with considerable flair and versatility... 

The Trial

The Trial

Cambridge ADC have made a brave stab at this difficult piece. Berkoff’s adaptation of Kafka’s nightmarish vision requires skilled and focused performers and to a certain degree these young actors pull it off... 

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

I was unable to obtain any information or a cast list prior to this show, so apologies to the young American actors who have a brave stab at Wilde’s classic, thought by many to be the funniest play in the English language... 

Othello

Othello

Going to see Shakespeare done by a youth theatre doesn’t necessarily fill one’s soul with gleeful expectation. This version of Othello, however, trimmed to a spare but coherent forty five minutes by Jill Cole for The Turrets Youth Theatre is terrific... 

The Gaydar Diaries

The Gaydar Diaries

Once upon a time gay men had to leave the house to find each other. Not any more. The remarkably successful dating site Gaydar has rendered clubs and bars unnecessary and closed most of the public toilets in Britain... 

A Murder Of Crows

A Murder Of Crows

It’s difficult to gauge how the audience is supposed to react to this tale of a bungled heist presented by Crumpet Theatre Company. I think it was a comedy, but I attended on one of those Edinburgh occasions when the cast almost outnumbered the audience... 

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

There was a time when the Fringe was awash with Berkoff plays. Young actors and directors were drawn to the showy brashness of it all, the larger than life characters, and the muscular anglo-saxon language...