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This piece turned out to be super long (I saw a lot of performances) and so the reviews get shorter and more pointless as you go on in an attempt to allow you to get to the end. If you want decent reviews of these performances I’d suggest looking elsewhere but if you wanted a taster of a variety of shows maybe this is passable!


Day 1 – 11/08


I was hoping to catch Jerry Sadowitz today but the plane was delayed by a couple of hours and by the time I arrived at my hotel it was midnight and I was soaking wet as it poured with rain. Therefore we’ll move straight to day two.


Day 2 – 12/08


The First Witness – 2/5


The problem with this play was that the subject matter was of more interest than the performance. It must be difficult to carry a monologue on for an hour and the actor stumbled here and there and at one point paused as he tried to remember the next line.


He did a reasonable job but there just was not enough variance in the performance and where the musical numbers should have been the moments that broke from the monologue to re-energise the performance, it actually did the opposite as the musical pieces played over the P.A. lacked any energy and the singing drab over the top.


The reason I wanted to see the play was because it was about the leader of the Jehovah Witness’ and whilst I knew that when Jesus didn’t return as predicted by them, they said he actually did, just invisibly (genius), I didn’t know that he had written to Hitler a couple of times and in another move of absolute genius, had all the members help raise money to build a luxury apartment so that when Kind David, Abraham, Moses and all the other famous Biblical people returned to Earth they had somewhere really nice to stay. Of course whilst the Jehovah’s waited for the return of all the Biblical greats it would be silly not to make use of the property and so the leader stayed there until he died.


Blues – Jazz Bar - 4/5


I am not going to reveal anything sensational here. You know what blues music is and you know what a show based around the blues is going to contain. The only surprise was a Whitesnake song added (the guitar player had once had a perm and long hair) but other than that we just got classic blues songs played with an acoustic guitar and stand-up bass. It has to be said, it was played excellently and along with a little bit of a background to each song a fair amount of humour was thrown in too. If you like hearing acoustic blues then you will do very well going to see these two.


Grace Campbell – Why I’m Never Going In To Politics 1/5


Grace Campbell is the daughter of Alistair Campbell and was up here doing stand-up. I went on a whim presuming I’d at least get a few humorous anecdotes around the time of Tony Blair but what I got instead were some anecdotes. They were not too insightful either and the rest of the set was the usual stand-up material done by just about every other comedian only not as well. The other odd thing was that she kept changing accents but I don’t think on purpose, she just has a few accents in her every day speech. There were a couple of moments but unfortunately not enough to get it above a one.


Day 3 – 13/8


Bobby and Amy 5/5


This play was fantastic. Set in the Coltsworld’s, two children grow up surrounded by fields and farming. Over time they grow to love their surroundings and especially the cows, however as seen in so many areas developers value the land more. Every character was performed by the two young actors and performed brilliantly. Each unique and easily identifiable, it really engrossed the audience in the story. Excellent script, excellent actors.


Mitch Benn – Ten Songs To Save The World - 3/5


I had seen Mitch a good few years ago performing a set around Beatles songs and that was very good. This was also good and took us on a musical journey through the problems and possible solutions of today’s political climate. It ended with some strobe lights and a message that I have always lived by (well agree with at least), ‘Don’t Be A Dick’.


Paul Zenon: Trust Me – 4/5


I remembered him from his Channel 4 Street Magic show in the 90s and a YouTube clip of him completely showing up a psychic on some morning breakfast TV show. He performed the usual magic tricks that you’d expect but had a better patter than most and the tricks were done very well. It so easily falls into cheese in most shows but Paul avoids this and the show reminded me of why I enjoyed him in the first place. He also had Tom Waits before he came on and Fun Lovin’ Criminals afterwards so added bonus points. The only downside was I was bought up for a trick. A good solid performance overall.


Frank Skinner – 3/5


Frank Skinner was decent but not great. A stand-up for obviously a long time he knew exactly how to conduct the crowd and had some very funny moments. The problem was it was never going to be fresh and exciting but at the same time it was also very good for what it was.


Day 4 – 14/08


Crocodile Fever – 2/5


This had received many very good reviews and was set in Ireland with one sister returning and disrupting the life of the other sister who had never left. There was a plot twist or two and some great stage effects ending with a giant crocodile on stage. However for myself (and parents) the script just wasn’t good enough and the interactions and plot twists just a little forced.


There were moments where it seems to be trying to be The Young Ones (the giant crocodile) and Bottom (a direct copy of sawing off a character’s legs and then hiding the real ones by sitting on a sofa) but was nowhere near as funny and then other moments of poignancy where the script was just not strong enough. Having a huge crocodile was just not enough.


F. Off – 4/5


This was a play about social media and just how much information it collects and what it does with it. It was all stuff I knew and at the end of the play having given all this evidence they asked who was now going to give it up knowing the answer would be no-one. It is interesting just what we are prepared to allow and give up.


The play itself was fast-paced, well acted and good fun. I could also take my dad to something called F. Off without getting into trouble!


Agatha Is Missing – 1/5


The concept was simple, we were all going to help Mrs Marple solve the crime of Agatha’s disappearance. The actor would bring people up from the crowd, interview them as certain characters in the plot and we would all then work out who did it.


The problem was none of the evidence was of any benefit to working out the crime and that wouldn’t have mattered too much if the material gained from/reaction to the audience was rollickingly entertaining. There were a few moments of humour but after the same thread repeated a couple of times and you knew you were going to get another fifteen or twenty of them you were looking forward to it ending.


Unemployed & Drinking - 2/5


The actor I have to say put a lot of effort into each character he played. Considering also he was playing about four characters that if real would have almost doubled the attendance in the room you have to credit him for that effort. The problem was each character was just not engaging enough and I struggled at times to want to remain focused.


One interesting side-note was that as I was walking out another audience member who thought it was brilliant said ‘When you were playing the character who was a musician you looked directly at me, because I could tell you knew I was a musician’. He had six people at most to look at, in a segment that went on for fifteen minutes, guess what, he looked at everyone!


Kieran Hodgson: French Exchange - 4/5


This was in some ways similar to the above; one man telling a story, this time about his experience of a French exchange trip and playing various different characters to portray the story. It was on the surface no more an interesting plot than the last but that’s where performance is everything. Kieran bought each character to life and what could have been mundane was humorous, engaging and a well structured plot.   


Clive Anderson: Me Macbeth and I - 2/5


Clive Anderson telling anecdotes about his life seemed to be a pretty solid bet. Being an interviewer for a while and doing the TV circuit there should be plenty to draw from.  Also I had seen Danny Baker do a similar performance a couple of times and he had been excellent.


Clive came out dressed as Macbeth because it was his favourite play and tried to use that as an anchor to his storytelling but it really didn’t add much at all and that was really the problem with the whole thing. He of course talked about the famous interview with the Bee Gees where they walked off but added nothing much to it than what you had already seen when it was broadcast. It was the same for most of his other anecdotes too and was all just too safe and considering what else was happening on the Fringe just a bit pointless. Whereas every Baker anecdote was fascinating, engaging and often hilarious, Clive’s were just a bit mundane.


Day 5 -15/8


Trying It On – 3/5


This was a play about the main actor’s (and writer of the piece) questioning over had his work actually achieved anything and had his politics actually achieved anything? It was a very interesting piece with a good twist of the stagehand butting in towards the end (no-one reads these so it doesn’t matter about spoilers).


I am writing this now a week after seeing it and with so many shows the details are going to get a little brief. The one extra bit of interest was sitting behind a complete asshole that seemed to love to comment on everything in that really annoying sort of posh, Daily Mail, I’m always right voice.


Actor: Hands up who voted for Brexit

Asshole: I did and I would do it again

Actor: Hands up who voted Tory at the last election:

Asshole: I did, proudly so

Actor: And what type of people do you think voted Brexit?

Asshole: Intelligent people


I have no problem with people having opinions and all of his were the opposite of mine. However firstly it was hands up for the first few questions (no-one else felt the need to add an opinion too) and secondly it was a voice that shouts I am right rather than this is what I think.

 

What Girls Are Made Of 2/5


I am not sure whether I missed something because I think tiredness had caught up with me by this point but for all the good reviews it just seemed a bit average in my eyes. It was about a woman who tried to make it as a rockstar but didn’t and then tried for a baby and after a couple of attempts did. She had a band with her on stage and they played songs that were all part of the Britpop indie era.


Maybe it is just that with music being such a huge part of my life and listening to a load of guitar based music the songs just weren’t that inspiring and therefore I lost interest in the story or maybe the story just wasn’t that interesting. What I do remember though is the best song I heard in the whole show was a Skunk Anansie song and that was played on the P.A. system before the performance started.


And Before I Forget I Love You, I Love You – 5/5


Pip Utton has always provided highlights at the Fringe. His portrayal of Hitler being his most famous, but Churchill and Thatcher were both also excellent. This play though for Pip was quite different.


It looked at how dementia affected his family and he played each family member brilliantly. The stages from onset to it taking over completely were fantastically portrayed and it was both completely engaging and very moving. Once again I was involved (not through choice) and was spat and shouted at (not because of me I might add) as part of the performance.


Pip has become a regular part of my Fringe trips and I would always recommend you see a performance of his.


Camille O’Sullivan Sings Cave - 2/5


Camille is another regular part of my Fringe and up until this point she has been nothing but sensational. I had no doubt this one would be also and as she was focusing purely on Cave material thought I really couldn’t go wrong. A few years ago I took my dad and this time I took my mother.


The set started with the beautiful God is in the House and along with all the quieter moments it was achingly fragile and held you to the edge of your seats. The problem however was when it got loud.


Most of you know I grew up listening to heavy metal and rock music so being loud isn’t necessarily a problem but for this performance it was just too loud. Whenever the guitar kicked in, the volume went up by about a billion percent and then the vocals had to match it and became distorted so you couldn’t hear what was going on. They were playing Wembley Stadium in a venue that was the Garage. When Stagger Lee came on you can accept a fucked-up distorted loud mess, it suits the thematic nature of the song but this ridiculously loud guitar hit every single song and really hampered my enjoyment of the evening. My mother resorted to putting tissue in her ears and the young girl next to her, hands over hers. I will go and see her again because she has been brilliant every other time but for the love of God (and from a heavy metal fan) turn the volume down!


Murder Ballads 4/5


On the way out of this show I was handed a flyer for a play based on the Cave album Murder Ballads that is possibly my favourite album of his. Having been disappointed by the above performance I thought I’d give this one a go in the hope it made up for it and I am really glad I did.


The young actors played the parts extremely well and told the story of a town in the deep south where a lot of people died. With acoustic guitars they ran through the album and intertwined it with a funny (albiet very deadly) story line. As I said, the acting was fantastic but a special mention should go out to the female actor who has the best falling over I’ve ever seen on stage; she just collapses with no appearance of an attempt to cushion her fall. This play is definitely worth checking out.


Day 6 – 16/8


How Not To Drown 5/5


This was a brilliant piece done with a minimal but very clever stage set up highlighting the plight of a refugee child who ended up with no home. I think that was the cleverness of the piece that it focused on something slightly different. Having been sent to England as a child by his parents for home of a better life he never fully felt at home in a country where he was shipped from pillar to post. However when he then returned home as a young adult to where he thought his home was that had changed to the point where he didn’t feel at home there either. This was a cracking start to the day.


Pals 3/5


This was a decent play about four children growing up in Birmingham, how their lives evolved and how this effected their relationships to each other. This is also where I am slowing down on depth and content as it’s already a huge article! Definitely worth a watch though.


The Black Blues Brothers 3/5


The Blues Brothers is my favourite film so I tend to have a soft spot for anything that might be a little Blues Brothers related. This show was based around the music whilst five very sexy black men did acrobatic stunts and tricks. It got a little samey but was impressive and was the closest I got to wanting to be a straight woman or a gay man when they bared their muscley chests.


Jerry Sadowitz – 5/5


Jerry Sadowitz was at his absolute best tonight. Many compare him to Frankie Boyle but it’s not really fair as one, he did it first and two, it’s just way more for want of a much better word offensive. People wince and groan at some parts of a Frankie show but at a Jerry show even though they’ve been warned they walk out.


For me however it’s an absolute joy and after all it is only humour. I wouldn’t recommend it to most people because most people would find it too much but for those who like really dark, really outrageously offensive (I really wish I could think of a better word because it’s not really offensive as it’s not real) this is the man for you. No-one does it better.


Day 7 – 17/8


Mengele – 3/5


Now this is a man you can get offended by and we were treated to a three part play in which Mengele has his past reflected on him and allows him to attempt to justify it. An interesting play that was worth a watch (and probably deserves more than a two sentence review).


Pip Utton – Einstein – 3/5


Having been blown away by his other piece this one unfortunately did not compete. It also didn’t compete with his previous character performances. A few lines were stumbled over and the depth of the character was not quite as fulfilling as previous ones. It was definitely worth watching but not on a level that his previous performances were.


The Incident Room – 4/5


Based around the investigation into the Yorkshire Ripper, this play was fantastically performed and an excellent watch. Highly recommended and again, worthy of more than two lines I am giving it due to this piece being far too long.


Kieran Hodgson: ’75 - 4/5


This was another excellent piece by Kieran but a more interesting subject matter for me as he delved into the history and politics surrounding the United Kingdom’s relationship with Europe. Again he played characters well and kept you interested and engaged throughout. This year was the first time I was aware of him but would happily continue to see him in future years if he returns.


Day 8 - 18/8


My Darling Clemmie  – 3/5


The last play I saw before I caught a plane home. This piece was a monologue played as Churchill’s wife and was absolutely fine. It was never going to hit the top three but also nowhere near the bottom three and was a decent send off to Edinburgh.


_______________________


The highlights of the trip were Bobby & Amy, Pip Utton’s play on dementia, How Not to Drown and Jerry. Honourable mentions go to Kieran Hodgson and Murder Ballads. I have typed enough, goodbye.

The Edinburgh Festival 2019

11/08 - 18/08