We're now approaching the final phase of Edinburgh Festival 2022 and things are super busy, busy - you can tell that because this edition of the TW Extra bulletin is coming out on Friday morning instead of Thursday afternoon!

In this extra Edinburgh Festival edition you'll find our latest Fringe interview plus loads and loads and loads of reviews of shows our team have seen. And don't forget, on our website you can access all our interviews here and all our reviews here.

At the start of the month we told you we'd be launching a brand new podcast during this Festival called TW Backstage - all about the business of comedy, culture, theatre and fringe. Well, we've been busy interviewing people for this over the last week and the first edition will go live this weekend. Click here for more info.

Meanwhile, we'll be back on Monday with more interviews, tips and reviews.
Here at ThreeWeeks we always have an eye out for the new blood, the fledgeling companies and the comedians coming to the Fringe with their debut hour.

And our latest interviewee falls into that last category: it's promising up and comer Vidura Bandara Rajapaksa's first time at the Festival and he's already making a big impression. 

His show 'Monsoon Season' sounds really interesting as well as funny - expect some stories of a personal and definitely international nature. I arranged a quick chat to find out more.  

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

Vidura Bandara Rajapaksa performs 'Monsoon Season' at Monkey Barrel Comedy until 28 Aug. See the edfringe listing here.
1/5 bad | 2/5 mediocre | 3/5 good | 4/5 recommended | 5/5 highly recommended


A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings (Dan Colley And Riverbank Arts Centre)

"Was that really a children's show, daddy?", was the question asked as we left this atmospheric and enchanting show. It was a fair one to ask about the Gabriel Garcia Marquez adaptation I'd made my trusty co-reviewer come and see. Edfringe has it down for five plus. Unless you consider yours particularly precocious, not so much. It's eight plus on the producers' website, which is more like it. More importantly, was it a good show? Hell, yes (we were strongly agreed on this point). The timing, tone and charisma of the performers was superb, the beautifully intricate stage-craft, with effective use of models and soundscapes generated a slight Guillermo Del Toro vibe with wonderful humour, darkness and charm (for kids: mostly, but not only...)
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Bee Story (ARC Circus And Cluster Arts)
Another entry in the crowded field of non-verbal Australian physical theatre shows for kids, 'Bee Story' is distinguished by some light green messaging as the bees in question try to rebuild their hive following bushfires, and also by the presence of live music. The standard lifts, flips and circus capers - all present and correct, natch - are rendered all the more impressive during the sequence of the same in which the 'Queen Bee' plays the flute rather well whilst being flung about the place. There is a pleasingly cartoonish vibe coming from performers, the set and the soundtrack, making for an all-in lovely show, well capable of creating a buzz (I'm so sorry...).
Underbelly George Square, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Dinosaurs And All That Rubbish (Roustabout Theatre)
Based on the children's book by Michael Foreman, this show will bring you socialist dinosaurs, rockets and a lot of laughs, plus an abundance of creative costumes and interactive songs, including one with the brilliant addition of British sign language. The environmental tale also touches on key themes of pollution, climate change and corruption. The show begins with a man wanting to see the stars and so he asks his workers to build him a rocket. When he leaves earth it's a landfill of rubbish, and while he is gone, the dinosaurs awaken from a very long sleep. Children in the audience were entertained for the whole hour, stamping along to help the dinosaurs clean up the earth, and laughing at the silly jokes.
Assembly George Square Studios, until 21 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Haddi Conant]

Magic Roman's Summer Holidays (Chip And Pin Theatre)
Magic Roman is on his way to Blackpool to take part in the sandcastle-building championsh... oh, never mind - this is a winsome, energetic and participatory magic show peppered with songs and gags. Actually, the 'plot' doesn't always help: a couple of the segments where Magic Roman interacts with pre-recorded bits don't quite help the momentum and the finale is slightly underwhelming. Nevertheless, the enthusiastic ability to work a young room and gain their committed buy-in, along with some genuinely impressive magical shenanigans, make this a decent addition to the remains of your summer holiday, with the children more or less sure to be involved and entertained.
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Smashing Shakespeare: Juliet And Her Romeo (Captivate Theatre)
This comical modern interpretation of a classic really does show that Shakespeare's writing can be loved and enjoyed by all ages. With catchy songs, likeable characters and amusing breaking of the fourth wall, children are kept engaged for the entire hour. Unlike the original, more emphasis is placed on the female characters, with characters like Rosaline and Lady Capulet, who were only mentions in the original, finally finding their voices. This is a very welcome writing back into history and a brilliant way to refresh one of the most well-known pieces of theatre in the world. 'Smashing Shakespeare' has it all: great costumes, clever props and a hilarious script. This, along with the incredibly talented cast, makes it a must see.
The Rose Theatre, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Haddi Conant]

The Mermaid And The Cow (Lindsey Cole)
Lindsey Cole tells us the true story of how, whilst swimming the length of the Thames in order to raise awareness of plastic pollution in our rivers and seas, she encountered a cow in distress and brought about its rescue. She has since turned the story into an illustrated children's book. The show is essentially a reading of that, but with a sufficiency of props through which the majority of the children in the audience (and perhaps an unsuspecting adult or two) can get themselves on the stage to act out the tale. A warm, gentle, fun start to your day, with a clear environmental message that the youngest Fringe visitors can readily absorb.
theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall, run ended.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

The Return Of The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show (Blue Jeans Management)
Good beatboxing can, in appropriate dosages, be pretty entertaining, as can good comedy. What happens when you put them together... for kids? Well, I guess pretty much inevitably this. Busily interactive, particularly so for one front-row dad, there's a varied lot of nonsense packed in: daft jokes from comic Jarred, beatbox mixes and sardonic asides from Hobbit. Interestingly, when Hobbit does a bit of proper beatboxing near the end to lay down the track for the excellent 'song of the day' finale, there's a noticeable jolt of energy into the room and everyone really does get into it, clapping along and all. The overall mix may be slightly uneven, but a fair way for young Fringers to round off their day.
Assembly Rooms, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

The Wonder Games (Nic Doodson Productions)
Cbeebies ledge Maddie Moat and trusty 'Let's Go Live' buddy Greg Foot bring us an hour of science as game show. Long-range shooting hats from people's heads with pulses of air, zip-slide teddy races and a locally themed adaptation of the Mentos/fizzy drink trick (Go on, then - it works with Irn Bru!) All followed by a lip-reading round which, whilst weirdly ill-suited to the room, is still entertaining for the apparently genuine corpsing it prompts among our presenters. Anyway, all good madcap fun, among which some kernels of education will lodge themselves in the brains of your younglings. Mine, for instance, can't stop telling people how frequently a sloth does a poo...
Underbelly George Square, run ended.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Whirlygig (Daniel Padden, Co-Produced With Catherine Wheels And Red Bridge Arts)
A whirlygig is an object that spins - perhaps most commonly in Scots parlance one of those outdoor clothes drying contraptions. This is that but in music: a whirly, ahem, gig. Four musicians enter the stage and perform a playful, mesmeric ensemble show spanning around 30 different instruments. The complexity of the arrangements is remarkable as the four walk around, taking turns to strike different notes on the same instrument or, at one point, all joining together to make a four-person one-man band (look, I know that makes no sense - it will when you go and see it). And all the while a playful connection is retained with an entranced audience. It's a gig and, rather giddyingly, it whirls.
Dance Base, until 21 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]


Business Casual: Feral (Stamptown)
Physical comedy perfection. 'Feral' is the perfect title for this high-octane performance that becomes wilder as things progress. It's a show that features only sketches that descend into mayhem, but there's nevertheless plenty of variety and some call-back gags, which means it all works cohesively. The concept of these sketches are innovative and there are plenty of really creative jokes that made me yearn for more. With dance numbers, sound gags and plenty more besides, many sketches make good use of physical comedy, showcasing the troupe's particular skill in this area. That said, the spoken comedy, by comparison, was a bit more hit-or-miss. But still, this trio really knows how to entertain a crowd with some wonderfully mad ideas.
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Brennan Reece: Crowded (Live Nation in association with United Agents)
Brennan Reece makes a big Fringe point early doors: an hour is not the right length for a comedy show. His solution is ingenious and, by the end, carries an emotional resonance as he invites the queuing audience to scribble answers to a selection of questions before we go in. That sets up what must be considered on the riskier side of audience interactions to carry off some bloody funny and impressively light-footed work around the core of the show, which is actually about the glory of restored human contact after, you know, everything. A fair dose of filth tops a solid base of a great deal of wit, warmth and impressively spontaneous humour. Well worth being a part of.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Crybabies: Bagbeard (PBJ Presents)
There's a standing ovation and I'm not quite sure I know why... and yet: despite my sense that the script should not really work, it's so cleverly written that it somehow does. This comedy trio present an absurd story following a scientist's attempts to achieve his goal of getting into the science institution, and it's a tale packed with musical numbers, goofy jokes and - possibly more importantly - incredible costumes. This feels like a show that wants to cater to all, but it does cater best to those who love silliness and the absurd. Not all the jokes landed well, but the whole thing reminded me of the Monty Python films: unforgettably surreal comedy guaranteed to - somehow - make you laugh.
Pleasance Dome, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose

Flo & Joan: Sweet Release (Avalon)
Flo and Joan are becoming a national treasure (safest not to say that in their hearing) and their 2022 show is as funny and acerbic as ever. For those still unacquainted with their inimitable style, the format is along the lines of Flanders and Swann meets the Two Ronnies at a rave (they'll hate that too). The witty and often barbed songs are their unique selling point but everything is put together with such panache that you could miss their high professionalism. By the end of the show, the repetition of seemingly the simplest musical and visual gags has the audience falling out of their seats. If you haven't seen them, go, and if you've seen previous shows, go again.
Assembly Roxy, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Alan Cranston

Frankie Thompson: Catts (Soho Theatre)
This show is all over the place - in a good way. Cat puns, people and pee; cat shows, singing and spreadsheets, it's all there, held together with sticky video-tape. Frankie Thompson is an engaging clown and comic, and carries off all the silliness with aplomb. She also steps winningly out of character a couple of times, helping to establish a subtle sub-text. Cats can only be themselves. We humans are prone to self-doubt and Frankie encourages us to embrace our own and others' eccentricities. The day we went, the performance was a briefly-explained 'relaxed' one (with no difference I noticed) with phone-app closed captions (which I tried out, and found serendipitously helpful in identifying all the many pop-cultural references.)
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Garrett Millerick: Just Trying To Help (Katie Storey Productions In Association With Avalon)
It's been an awful couple of years but let's just laugh it off with the help of this seasoned pro. Garrett Millerick's show covers a variety of topics, but a big part of the set feels a bit like a news recap, with discussions of COVID-19 and COP26 on the menu. Fortunately, the second half slowly moves away from events of the last couple of years, and focuses more on Millerick's own life and other subjects such as Twitter. It's a set with no particular cohesion at all, but it doesn't matter: Garrett commands the stage, ensuring that every joke is expertly delivered without interruption (there is no real audience interaction) and most land very successfully. Millerick certainly does know how to help.
Monkey Barrel Comedy, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Grace Petrie: Butch Ado About Nothing (Grace Petrie)
This show's first half is a solidly chuckle-inducing, moving account of Grace Petrie's childhood: a Princess Jasmine obsession, a home-haircut, a girlfriend's bigoted dad. The latter half examines transphobia, via her "misgendered-in-toilets" bit (Chloe Petts and Sarah Keyworth have better-honed versions). A tale about butch transphobes heckling her music is more unique and emphasises sincere trans-inclusivity, but lacks punchlines. She ridicules Mumsnet 'transgender lobby' myths, yet occasionally veers near transphobic sentiment - worrying butchness is 'over', and grieving 'losing' Elliot Page. She immediately checks herself, and celebrates Elliot's coming out, but I wonder why she includes so much potentially-sensitive trans-focused material in her debut when she (a cis musician) doesn't have the perspective or comedic craft to do the subject justice.
Assembly George Square, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bizz Holmes]

Hal Cruttenden: It's Best You Hear It From Me (Impatient Productions / Blue Book Artist Management)
Hal Cruttenden does not hold back, and this year he's placed himself in the firing line. The seasoned comedian's latest show centres on self-reflection as prompted by a recent separation. Make no mistake, he's not looking for sympathy. Hal Cruttenden's acerbic style pulls no punches, and he carries out material with a gleefully petty energy that pulls the audience into his good-natured taunting. "Don't be too kind," he admonishes the crowd. "Still hate me, a little bit." He makes a point of not talking politics but dances around it nonetheless and isn't afraid to skirt into taboo topics. These jokes succeed when they're swift. A longer setpiece about world events proves a little too uncomfortable and makes divorce sound cuddly.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Louise Jones]

An Irish Solution To An Irish Problem (Eddie Mullarkey)
I can guarantee that the audience were able to focus on this show, during which Eddie Mullarkey creates a cohesive set where pretty much everything links back to him being Irish or being diagnosed with ADD. It is all conveyed through the telling of various humorous tales - some of them pretty dark - with tangible punchlines. A majority of the jokes do deal in stereotypes, which does get repetitive, though the stories and topics flow neatly and quickly, meaning I was never bored. The comedian's interaction with the crowd creates the stand-out moments, as it showcases his improv skills, and also makes the set feel more tailored to the audience. Mullarkey certainly knows how to work a crowd and I was part of one that was chuckling throughout.
Laughing Horse @ Dropkick Murphys, until 18 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Jake Lambert: Liminal (Off The Kerb Productions Limited)
If you're only going to see one epilepsy-themed stand-up show this year... is not necessarily a killer line for the poster. Let's see if we can do better. He is a slight prisoner to the one-hour comedy prison that is the Fringe, and so we start with some stuff about football and American sports which, while amusing enough, is really a set-up for some later stuff about Capitol Hill that could be sharper. From a solid set of early audience banter to a layered set of gag-littered storytelling, littered with callbacks and layered punchlines, with emotional engagement throughout and particularly at the end, this is good stuff, well written (as he makes an elaborate meta-point of demonstrating) and delivered superbly.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Kiran Saggu And Sarah Roberts: Cake (Kiran Saggu And Sarah Roberts)
After a fun audience intro involving actual cake, this is a fine and frequently filthy stand-up double bill. Kiran Saggu riffs on her Indian (by way of the USA and London - including a great Indiana joke) heritage and the blurring of lines between colonialism comedy and sex gags is a fresh twist. Self-confessed tragedy pervert Sarah Roberts skips lightly over what, for a half hour set, is a pretty remarkable range of dark ground. I mean, "let me tell you about the FIRST time I nearly killed a baby" is certainly one way into a nannying yarn... In their best moments, both Saggu and Roberts make it all look like a piece of... oh please yourself. Anyway, really promising stuff, well worth your time.
Just The Tonic at the Mash House, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Omid Djalili: The Good Times
This is a great show which Djalili delivers superbly, but it's a little conflicted. I could do without the whole "you're such a 5.20 crowd" haranguing. "White motherfuckers" landed much better as a crowd heckle. He wants to stop being 'that Iranian comic' whilst devoting half his stage time to the same (not a criticism - it's great stuff), and bewails cancel culture as 'a thing' before doing a lengthy bit which was both not remotely cancellable and done in front of a large audience (ie, not 'cancelled') but fine, whatever, I'll let him off as he did so as part of a touching tribute to the late great Sean Lock. Ach, what am I moaning about - one of the masters, and in fine form.
The Stand, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | Bruce Blacklaw

Posey Mehta: I Am Not A Gorilla (Babycakes Theatre)
Gloria is not a gorilla. I mean, she looks like one because she's wearing a full gorilla costume, but that's because she had an interview that went wrong and she found herself as a gorilla in Edinburgh Zoo for five years. She assures us, though, that she's not a gorilla, and it's time to get back into dating (and real life) with us! Posey Mehta's infectious charm carries us through the ride in a performance clearly evidencing her Gaulier training. She gently plays with her audience, in a kind generous manner, giving us the opportunity to feed her, dress her, and get her date-ready. Mehta rolls with any 'heckles' from the audience as if they are conversation, and explores modern dating in a fun, friendly way that makes you want more. Cheaper than Edinburgh Zoo, but all the gorilla action you need.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 [Tom Hamblin]

Sikisa: Life Of The Party (Berk's Nest In Association With Blue Book Artist Management)
Sikisa invites her audience quite literally into this Fringe debut, as she hosts a house party complete with banging tunes, a dance tutorial and a deliciously mean party game. All this provides the perfect setting for Sikisa to show off her warmth as a performer. Her openness means that Sikisa's anecdotes about being an immigration lawyer and growing up in South London feel instantly relatable to a broader crowd, which is a key strength. You'll notice hallmarks of first hour nerves underneath the bravado, which derail the flow of a few jokes. However, the dance breaks which staple her setpieces together provide an interactivity that proves Sikisa doesn't need to be polished. What's a party without getting a bit messy?
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Louise Jones]


Runners (Cirk La Putyka)

Four performers, two musicians and one oversized treadmill. The societal rat race is brought to life in this seventy-minute-long performance of physical theatre in its finest form. Replays of childhood events show how we are taught from a young age that those who run the fastest win. However, through captivating circus acts and enchanting choreography we are shown that by running faster and faster, we lose what we are doing and yet we cannot stop. The music is mesmerising, adding a haunting quality to the performance. After all, running fast is fun but also dangerous. We are shown that trying to catch up is futile, people will never slow down, and as long as time is running, so will we.
Zoo Southside, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Haddi Conant]


Lizard Boy (Creative Endeavor Office And Blair Russell Productions)

After an extraordinary childhood incident leaves Trevor with scaly green skin, he withdraws from the world. Spending his time in isolation, drawing in his notebook and writing songs. A sad and lonely existence, except for one day a year when everyone dresses up as lizard people for Monster Fest, allowing him to finally venture out into the world. The ultra-talented cast is outstanding, the music is incredible and the audience love it: standing ovations all round. Constant laughter complements this epic journey of friendship and self-discovery. 'Lizard Boy' is a hilarious new musical that reminds us that only we can decide who we are. After all, a dragon is only seen as a monster in the eyes of men.
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Raphael Highgate-Betts]

Sleepover (Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society)
CUMTS's original musical is a comedic insight into the cliches of a girl's 'Sleepover'. The set's cosy childish den, embellished with Cath Kidston prints, greatly contrasted with the conversations about 'pegging' that occurred within it. The musical highlights were Jenny's opening song and emotional ballad which hinted at her past of sexual assault. 'White Man Ban', however, was quite aggressive and uncomfortable and when directed to a young white man in the audience, felt like a personal attack. At times, the other songs felt like they came to a slightly sudden and premature close and the audience were unsure whether they had ended or not. However, the musical effectively reflected the stifled questions and concerns of teenagers in the modern world.
Just The Tonic at The Caves, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Juliette Willis]

Soho Boy (LAMBCO Productions)
The all singing, all dancing 'Soho Boy' is a new musical by Paul Emelion-Daly. This one-man show touches on themes of queer male identity and everything that comes along with it. The narrative follows Spencer, who lives in Camden, works in retail and is looking for love. His first love to be exact. Although the lighting and sound leave much to be desired, Owen Dennis's charming portrayal of Spencer is a shining light throughout, and the performance is packed with new songs that may not be catchy enough to get stuck in your head, but are certainly an engaging way to spend an hour. Some of the bigger themes get lost against the more tongue-in-cheek elements, but the heart of the piece shines through regardless.
theSpace @ Symposium Hall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Raphael Highgate-Betts]


About Money (65% Theatre)
With its Jabberwocky monsters and its parent-less kids struggling to survive in a hostile world, there's something of a child-like, fairy-tale energy to Eliza Gearty's play for London-based 65% Theatre. The monsters here, though, are burger bar bosses making unreasonable demands, or faceless social services threatening to separate the siblings. Shaun is still a teenager himself, but he's bringing up his kid sister Sophie - with a little help from dodgy mate Eddie. Performances are strong but uneven - from Matthew Boyle's exuberant energy as Eddie to Michael McCardie's simmering, pent-up Shaun. There are one or two confounding gaps and non-sequiturs, but nonetheless, it's a timely, powerful play, and moving in its portrayal of apparently inescapable cycles of deprivation and exclusion.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [David Kettle]

Are You Being Murdered? (Arthur Bostrom Presented By James Seabright)
This is definitely one for all the whodunnit fans out there. The show focuses on the mystery of a fictional murder on the set of the sitcom 'Are You Being Served?', told through a monologue by David, an extra on the show. Once the story picked up its pace, I found myself actively trying to solve the case and was entirely gripped. Arthur Bostrom's storytelling is compelling and dynamic as he navigates the moments of high drama and eccentricity. The script by David Semple is very clever and very funny, and is well handled by director James Ball. There are plenty of references to old school BBC stuff, which could be alienating, but - in fact - the show never loses its abroad appeal. Such a pleasant surprise.
Pleasance at EICC, until 20 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Assisted (Oxia Theatre)
I have always been scared of those home AIs, and this show was never going to do anything to make me feel better about them: a couple install a new "next-generation AI voice assistant" into their home and we watch it find a way to slowly tear them apart. Although advertised as sci-fi, the show explores surprisingly heavy themes, and ultimately the most engaging elements of the play are the very non-sci-fi moments of watching a relationship crumble. Things start slowly, and the first act is not brilliantly paced, but the piece finally finds its feet and grips its audience. Pacing issues aside, there is throughout an ominous sense of foreboding and the production succeeds in maintaining and growing it - and making one worried about future technology! It's a bit like an episode of 'Black Mirror', if not quite as compelling.
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall or Niddry St until 27 Aug
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Beneath (Lighter Fluid Theatre Company and New Celts Productions)
A show drowning in good ideas. Because of climate change, two characters are trapped underwater as the audience joins them on a day like no other. From the blunt start to the jarring ending, the play tries to somehow balance absurdity and seriousness, while setting up multiple questions that are left unanswered with a conclusion that felt cut short. The show never feels fully focused and perhaps as though - regarding the script - they kept adding, but never cut. Despite this, it had its strengths in its discussion of climate change, exploring the issue of plastic and the potential bleakness of the future. And the performers were excellent - so with better development, this could be a captivating piece.
theSpace On The Mile, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Caligari (Chewboy Productions)
A silent film classic, 'The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari' is here presented by five actor-musicians who, with spare but visually strong staging, resurrect the expressionist horror story. The music (derived from the original accompanying score) is a major player, creating a varied and atmospheric sound stage with the instruments themselves part of the action. There's good acting too, with clear telling of a potentially hard-to-follow story (remind yourself of it before going). For me, the framing sub-plot is a slight weak point, though the concluding warning for modern times is powerfully done. I love actor-musician shows and this is one of the best I've seen. A beneficiary of an Untapped development award, 'Caligari' well merits a continued life.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Dear Little Loz (Izzy Parriss Productions Ltd)
Can someone confirm that a night out in Blackpool is this wild? With incredibly smooth transitions we jump between scenes, set at three different points in time, which all slowly reveal their connection. There is undoubtedly one of these settings that stands out among the rest, because of its humour, but also because it's heartbreaking, and best showcases Lauren Mayes' acting talent and beautiful writing. It's a piece that explores the up-side of living in a town like Blackpool, but also reveals the dangers that lurk at night. It took a while for the show's deeper purpose to reveal itself and it could have made more of an impact. But it will be exciting to see what the company and Lauren do next, as this is nevertheless a powerful piece exploring - and written with - love.
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Double Drop (Dirty Protest Theatre)
In this exuberant show Eisteddfod meets rave with chaotic comic effect. We meet Esmi, reminiscing about her rebellious youth and lost friendships - and the Eisteddfod, though she's still critical of the pressures it can impose on children. But in the hilarious and sharply observed central scenes, a drug-inspired catharsis takes younger Esmi to a fuller appreciation of cultural tradition. With equally abrupt revelation, she also starts to see her mother more clearly and become more able to return her love. Mirain Haf Roberts is joyously effervescent as Esmi and well supported by the role-changing Emmy Stonelake. At times I felt there could have been more variation of pitch though I loved the music from 9Bach and wanted to hear more.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Elementa (Sian Eleanor Green)
Although this environmentalist play has a unique concept, its objective to be a 'comedy' is never fully satisfied. Despite Sian Eleanor Green's contagious energy and charisma, the piece is more informative than anything else. Set in a superhero convention, Elementa's solo panel will leave you both horrified and ashamed of the indelible imprint humans are leaving on Earth. Green cleverly interlaces an antagonism against the convention's sponsor 'RocketFuel', representing the contradictions of the 'one percent' who prioritise profits despite our collapsing climate. Highlights included Elementa's battles against Tidal Dave and Richter Rick as well as her impressive physicality when pretending to manipulate air particles. Despite Green's undeniable talent, 'Elementa' would perhaps be most effective as an educational show for teenagers.
Greenside @ Infirmary Street, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Juliette Willis]

Every Word Was Once An Animal (Ontroerend Goed)
The world's first content-free theatre! This show floats in the air like a levitating yogi inviting you to ignore the empty space beneath. It's hard to avoid spoilers, but safe to say that here you'll find layer upon ever more meta-layers. Yet there is a show, there is content and there is funny and engaging theatre. Perhaps ponder how they achieve their effect only if you are thus inclined. The world-famous Belgian company Ontroerend Goed are Edinburgh regulars and this show takes their measured postmodern theatre to a new place. If it's 'about' anything, maybe it's what counts as deception in a world of artifice. That's important but perhaps just enjoy this clever and funny meta-theatre for what it is.
Zoo Southside, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen (Francesca Moody Productions)
Samuel Barnett needed no introduction to a full house at Roundabout, the marquee lifting with cheers as he came on - no pressure then. But no worries, he served up a hilarious hour of entertainment as stand-up comedian in a daring and funny script by Marcelo Dos Santos (written, apparently with Barnett in mind), with only one superfluous line: "I need you to laugh - hint!" When our comedian's new-found Mr Right, "the American", confronts his ego in the most unexpected way, his complicated feelings are presented with depth as well as humour and a measure of cringe. A significant worry is whether he will kill "the American". Eh? I know, but you won't hear any more details about that from me!
ROUNDABOUT at Summerhall, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Catherine Meek]

Fiji (Clay Party & Conflicted Theatre)
Twenty years ago Armin Meiwes killed and ate Bernd Brandes, who wished to be eaten. I see why a playwright might want to get their teeth into this, but before the show I puzzled over how they might serve it up on stage. The 'Fiji' answer is with (mainly) delicate good humour, deliberately leaving the audience free to ken the sheer horror of it. The show does attempt an understanding of the motives of the participants, through the device of a 'love partner' questionnaire and a couple of strongly written scenes, but it's a near-impossible task. The result is as much as anything an unsettling comedy of manners but it's still a highly engaging and excellently performed piece of theatre.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Fritz And Matlock (Part Of The Main / Pleasance)
There's a corpse in the freezer. What to do? A classic set-up for situational comedy but we are soon drawn towards darker matters. Two compelling performances gradually reveal the main substance of the show, a troublingly unequal relationship between the protagonists. At times the sheer power of the acting was scary but only the seriously squeamish need avoid this show. The out-of-narrative material, aided by a colourful freezer, was well done but there's only so much the briefly related back-story can add. For me this was character acting at its best; we watch the flatmates' relationship being subverted and changed in real time. That's hard enough in a full-length play but brilliantly achieved in an hour here. Excellent theatre.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Let's Talk About Philip (Helen Wood And Something For The Weekend)
Helen thought she knew everything there was to know about how her brother died, but after more than twenty years of silence she is compelled to start asking questions. This two-person play depicts the very real story of how Helen learnt a little more about who her brother was at the age of 27, and how she finally began to grieve. Written by and starring Helen Wood and Gregor Hunt, the performance is soft, funny and ultimately honest while portraying what happens when someone loses their life by suicide and the effect it can have on their family and the wider community. Despite being a show about grief, it is a very peaceful and life affirming way to spend an hour.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Raphael Highgate-Betts]

Manhood (Aurora Theatre Art Co)
In this coming-of-age naturalistic play, sixteen-year-old Ben is on his journey to find 'Manhood' but, with an imprisoned father, he is lost. Despite an occasionally clichéd script (discussions about prom), the real success of the piece lies in the hands of nineteen-year-old Ryan Duval who effortlessly navigates the role of troubled teen with intensity and magnetism. Given the 45-minutes run time, a deeper insight into the protagonist himself rather than long and futile scenes with his best friend would have been more stimulating, and an attempt at puppetry involving a stuffed Rottweiler who interacted with the audience often distracted from the scenes. However, the messy set of strewn clothes, JD bags and heelys perfectly depicted the adolescent years we remember all too well.
theSpace @ North Bridge, until 13 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Juliette Willis]

Megalith (Mechanimal)
A duet between the performer and the sound artist, they play with powerful sound and chaotic movement. From frustrating tech set-up to smashing rocks, 'Megalith' takes the audience on a journey connecting the material with the physical. With a strong opening and a haunting beautiful ending, it's just unfortunate that the middle of the performance merged into a confused mess of repetitive sounds and visuals. There were several points throughout where I thought I'd understood what was happening, a metaphor of the Western need to win, to push forward. A deconstruction of our technological progression. But honestly, I'm not sure I ever did. There's something mesmerising about 'Megalith' but the lack of a clear through line made it ultimately disappointing.
Zoo Southside, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Raphael Highgate-Betts]

Ode To Joy (How Gordon Got To Go To The Nasty Pig Party) (Stories Untold Productions, Written By James Ley)
Though Beethoven's EU anthem gets a look-in part way through, the title of James Ley's raucous three-hander sums the show up perfectly. This is an unbridled paean to euphoria, whether in the form of the body-pounding beats at notorious Berlin nightclub Berghain that innocent Edinburgher Gordon experiences, or the deep sexual pleasures he achieves with local hookup Cumpig, or - crucially - the ultimate joy of his own self-acceptance, in all his contradictions. 'Ode To Joy' explodes onto the stage with an all-consuming energy that Summerhall's Demonstration Room can barely contain, and with brilliantly vivid, larger-than-life performances. It's funny, shocking, dirty and deeply moving, a celebration of hedonism, of friendship and love - at a time when we need them more than ever.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug
tw rating 5/5 | [David Kettle]

Pash (Seemingly Wholesome Productions)
This one-woman show depicts the meandering path of self-discovery, as Olivia McLeod exposes the gaping divide between youthful aspirations and the harsh reality of adult life. Max turns 25 in a week's time, and is desperate to have her first kiss before her birthday, but it does not turn out to be quite what she had imagined. It's brilliantly comedic, and littered with hilarious choreography of aerobic classes and club nights, but McLeod's biggest achievement, perhaps, is her ability to single-handedly create a three woman show, as she seamlessly plays greasy-haired little sister Joey and best friend Maisie, alongside the central character. Sometimes authenticity was lost, as McLeod would reach for her phone before the text sound pinged, and occasionally rushed her lines, forgetting to pause for laughs, but these are minor points in an otherwise strong performance.
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Juliette Willis]

Pauline (Sophie Bentinck)
This is another strong solo show. Though autobiographical it seeks understanding of previous generations and to give them a rightful place in the public world. Pauline, author Sophie Bentick's grandmother, is the vividly-drawn central figure. Self-willed to the point of notoriety, her newly-found secret diary shows sharp insight into her ultimately destructive avoidance strategies. It is husband Henry who (we infer) has the easier route to finding and expressing his personal identity. Anna, Sophie's mother, is less clearly drawn, partly reflecting her descent into Alzheimer's just as Sophie reaches that point in her life when she wants to ask previously unasked questions. Funny as well as poignant, this show suggests that lives can be joyfully illuminated whilst remaining fundamentally enigmatic.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Prometheus Bound (Io's Version) (Myths Unbound Productions / New Celts Productions)
Ancient Greek drama is a great resource for modern theatre. I love exploring new interpretations and the Festival usually offers a fair few. Here we have the only surviving play of a trilogy by Aeschylus, telling of Prometheus, a Titan who defies the God Zeus to give fire to Man. This interpretation considers matters from the perspective of Io, a human princess who has also fallen foul of Zeus. She and Prometheus share their stories but whilst Prometheus is inclined to fatalism Io is angry, feeling she has done no wrong. There is clear potential in the idea but for me it was undermined by awkward staging, language and 'distancing'. The essential mythic power was largely lost.
theSpace on the Mile, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Rob Madge: My Son's A Queer (But What Can You Do) (Paul Taylor-Mills)
A sweet treat for anyone who lived for living-room theatre, particularly queer kids and their parents. Rob Madge describes their nine-year-old self as a "flamboyant monster" - yet is adorable enough for home-videos of their childhood performances to go viral. The tapes' DIY charm is not fully translated here. Madge's West End experience is evident in impeccably performed musical numbers (they were in 'Mary Poppins' and 'Oliver' during these VHS years), and the design reveals a budget. There's sincerity in their struggle to be understood by parents and teachers - meaning the journey from chaotic childhood to professional polish is an upgrade we root for. With a less taut production, they could build more intimacy with audiences who recognise themselves in these home-movies.
Underbelly George Square, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bizz Holmes]

Self Service (Anne Rabbitt)
The Fringe is full of excellent one-person shows, but for me this one sadly did not match the high standard. 'Self Service' has the promising and interesting premise of comparing being over sixty to being an old car getting an MOT, and while the idea is there, everything felt a bit like it's still in the early stages. There seemed to be a number of mistakes, and scenes often seemed disjointed, which meant things became confusing despite the fact that, separately, said scenes worked. Anne Rabbitt's performance is generally good, but she's best when singing and playing renditions of well-known songs, or acknowledging mistakes or technical difficulties with humour. Just like with an old car, there are a few issues here, but with time and work it could be something great.
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

She/Her (Brian Cox and Actors Rising Productions)
Nicole Ansari-Cox's storytelling show has an intriguing concept behind it: integrating contributions from women local to wherever the production tours, meaning Fringe performances of 'She/Her' contain monologues by four local women amongst the company of seven. Their stories cover wide ranging topics including parenthood, addiction, death and masturbation. Live music, foley, and projections do a great deal of work to knit these disparate pieces into one coherent whole, but ultimately strong connections fail to be properly made. With an overarching theme as broad as 'womanhood', it's hard to build clear links between stories that vary hugely in tone and topic. Even a cast of exceptionally talented performers don't stop this from feeling like a slightly dated, underdeveloped idea.
Assembly George Square, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bizz Holmes]

SHEWOLVES (SHEWOLVES / Pleasance / Leicester Curve)
This delightful comedy is a little about climate change and a lot about finding one's voice at a time of sharp social division. It's also about teenage friendship, adventure and fun. A sharply observed script by Sarah Middleton was partly developed in discussion with young women, and it's deftly delivered by two recent theatre school graduates. It's a fanciful piece but grounded enough to make real the differing constraints on the two school-mates. Detached and cynical Priya (Gurjot Dhaliwal) has a difficult family background. Lou (Harriet Waters) has sufficient middle-class space to become a naïve activist. But their adventure together becomes a formative experience for both and the play reaches a positive and uplifting end. A howling success.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alan Cranston]

Tales Of Vomit, Trash And Broken Glass (Not So Nice! / New Celts Productions)
The world is ending. Since the pandemic it's nice to feel for once it's only happening on stage. Set in a place ravaged by a neurotoxin, the play follows five couples' deteriorating relationships during this apocalypse. It is, however, performed by only two actors whose ability to maintain energy and intensity throughout, and portray all of the varied characters, is indicative of their immense talent. The intense emotions and portrayal of crumbling relationships makes it a gripping watch, though towards the end of the play, the differentiation between characters became more blurred and difficult to follow, detracting slightly from the overarching concept. Despite this, the overall effect was still an impressive performance by two very talented actors.
theSpace on the Mile, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Rory McAlpine]

This Is Not A Show About Hong Kong (Max Percy + Friends And Untapped Award Winner 2022)
Four anonymised performers execute an intensely evocative sequence of vignettes, costumed all in monochrome, with few exceptions: a yellow umbrella, a suit splattered cold, wet blue. Words are few - because there are some things words cannot accurately convey, or adequately express? Or because words are dangerous? Perspective-distorting shadows, unsettling animation, and documentary footage haunt the projections. Max Percy's direction has performers hurtling through gear-shifts with precision, ensuring this enormous topic fits into a production that's sharply-formed and dripping in symbolism. It's so layered, I fear missing something - from striking choreography to overlapping bi-lingual dialogue, the multitudes are overwhelming. Through song, dance, and high-risk games, repeated themes of erasure and silencing invoke an uncanny sense of horror at everything going un-said.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bizz Holmes]

Today I Killed My First Bird (Voodoo Monkeys And Theatre Royal Plymouth)
Exceptionally dark and gritty. A gangster reflects on his horrific past as he tries to go about his normal business in a complex, wordy performance that gave me frequent goosebumps, even provoking suspiciously damp eyes at times. Yet it's all played out so simply, at a long table with five table-lights. The script is key, as it's extremely compelling and holds so much depth, every line flowing beautifully into the next, showcasing the power of poetry. Furthermore, we see exceptional character exploration as the play examines each individual, each seemingly happy but underneath there is trauma, anger and more. So, heavy stuff: but so much to enjoy.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Melrose]

Waterloo (Bron Batten)
'Waterloo' grabs our attention like an action movie: with violence and explosions. Actual explosions! But this is performance art that makes you think as much as it makes you jump. Bron Batten never lets us get comfortable - she asks (and presses us to answer) difficult moral questions, and has audience members participate in increasingly risky ways. Like her previous hit ('Onstage Dating', where she brought an audience member on stage for the entirety) 'Waterloo' relies on Bron Batten's greatest skill: her hawk-like responsiveness to the audience. Moments of tension, vulnerability, and humour are deadly weapons in her hands. 'Waterloo' also unleashes her formidable talent as a writer, in an irresistibly adrenaline-fuelled tale of eroticism, ethics and crossing political enemy lines.
Summerhall, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bizz Holmes]
At TW:CULTURE we champion the best in fringe theatre, comedy and culture.

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