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Aug 18th

Rhapsodes

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This extraordinary Shakespeare improv comes from the creators of the Olivier Award-winning Showstopper!. It features two rhapsodes, Adam Meggido and Sean McCann, who create an original Shakespeare play, drawing on audience suggestions and the styles of writers from the last 3,000 years.

We enjoyed a show which combined history, tragedy and comedy to tell the story of a window cleaner who thinks he's been cuckolded and falls off his ladder, which prevents him from playing Shinty - but of course he recovers to triumph in the end. The performance includes an ingenious Harold Pinter v Edgar Allan Poe poetry slam about a visit from debt collectors, and the non-stop wordsmithery is ridiculously fast throughout. 

Rhapsodes is a prime example of how the Fringe provides excellent education as well as entertainment. Where else would you see an audience of all ages pay avid attention to a lesson in iambic pentameter? Or the four temperaments of sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic demonstrated and understood so uproariously in just minutes? 

Highly recommended, not just for a fun-filled hour of bard-worthy banter between rhapsodes, but as an inspirational experience for teens who are studying Shakespeare.

 

Book tickets here

Aug 18th

Chris Turner: What a Time to Be Alive

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Crossing the Atlantic can prove problematic, especially if you have a suitcase full of "leaves" and can't resist a quip at the airport. But Chris Turner is such an unusual combination of the likeable and unlikely, it’s entirely believeable that he should end up freestyle rapping for the security guards when they realise he’s an innocent, award-winning comedian on his way to America to live with his girlfriend. With lots of tea. No wonder his YouTube channel has scored over 5 million hits.

 

The statue of liberty holding aloft a box of Yorkshire Tea in the background (he’s rapped an advert for them) is a fitting tribute to his cross-Atlantic gags and the nuggets of wisdom he has encountered there…don’t be a cop just because you like donuts….Trump is going to make America great again. With his self-deprecating humour and widely appealing act, it’s no surprise Chris was asked to promote such a well-loved tea brand, or that he was headhunted by the Coca Cola empire even though he makes fun of their homeland. And despite his principles over the company’s ethics they nearly had him hooked, until he discovered, with some relief, that his tea contract meant he couldn’t promote another beverage. Their response was that they didn’t consider tea to be a beverage. Cue an insightfully funny email rant that “put the rage into beverage”.

He hasn’t exactly pledged allegiance to America (only its donuts) but post-Brexit Blighty doesn’t escape his wit either. Why don’t we have a Hollywood Walk of Fame? You'll have to see him to find out.

This year’s hour full of belly laughs and raps has earnt Chris a place on The Telegraph’s 53 funniest one-liners from the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe so far with: “My Mum doesn’t sugar coat things, she’s diabetic”.

Do not miss this. He’ll be back in America before you can say Brexit.

Book tickets here

 

Aug 17th

Pamela DeMenthe Presents: Sticky Digits at the Edinburgh Festival

By G.D. Mills

Les Dawson was able to play the piano with comically bad precision because he knew how to play it well. Likewise Jenny Morgan’s (pen name Pamela Dementhe) assured grasp of the English language enables her to twist it into hilariously awful prose. Metaphors are mangled, similes shat on, and good taste shot to hell as DeMenthe, self-published author of a plethora of erotic novels, guides us through her creative process. Titles include Raise it for Pamela and Filling Me Softly, at the Esso Garage. DeMenthe’s irrational, sensual and fevered personality is joyfully mismatched by her earnestly conceived PowerPoint presentation during which we learn more about her frustrated sexual desire than about the world of literature.

“I woke up to find two fingers in my cunt. Only one of them was mine.” Thus begins her latest novel Sticky Digits, an exorbitantly priced tome which she reads from and then dramatizes using a series of props and projected images. DeMenthe’s surreal flights of fancy involve a lover pleasuring himself anally with a plutonium rod, a great deal of ‘nakidity’ and would-be lovers who are transformed, at sexually critical moments, into ravens.  The story pulses and throbs its way towards an orgiastic denouement involving, if I remember correctly, a raw egg and an explosion of flour.

There was a moment of quickly aborted audience interaction, which might have been quite fun, and Morgan makes best use of the slightly claustrophobic space alloted to her at the venue - a more spacious, bourgeois setting would have suited the immaculately turned out DeMenthe more nicely I feel. Those with a puritanical streak might do well to avoid this show. Otherwise this is fifty minutes of surreal and verbally dexterous funniness.

Image result for four and half stars


This show runs in Edinburgh until the 27th August at Just the Tonic at The Caves

Buy your tickets here

Aug 17th

Victim

By Kirstie Niland

Until 28th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Following the success of his 2016 show – Villain – at the Fringe, Bruised Sky Artistic Director Martin Murphy has returned with a one-woman show, Victim.

 

In this unnevering play, the clanking switch of a spotlight from blue to red alerts us to the change of character from upright Tracey the prison guard to predatory prisoner A23174 Siobhan. However Louise Beresford is so adept at her portrayal of two polar opposite women that we are immediately aware of the shift through the change in her demeanour and facial expressions.

The two women are preoccupied with an infamous new inmate, Marcie, who has murdered her baby. Tracey, who is trying to get pregnant, thinks she can help her. Siobhan, serving a sentence for killing her ex-boyfriend, is savvy enough to know that her status as Marcie’s cellmate will provide her with an opportunity to get under the usually guarded Tracey’s skin.

Siobhan – the prison “fixer” - is wickedly open about her past and her plans to lure Tracey into incriminating herself so that she can be blackmailed into bringing in forbidden supplies. Meanwhile Tracey falls victim to misplaced trust and walks right into her trap. 

Their respective downfalls reveal ironies about broken rules and double standards, with dark comedy alleviating some of the tension.

As each describes their life story and struggles we see them slip and show weakness; and there is a disturbing realisation that these two women, despite their different backgrounds and motives, are both the victim in this compelling drama.

 

Book tickets here

Aug 17th

Darren Harriott: Defiant

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Darren Harriott has that genius knack for observational comedy that catches you off guard and has you laughing so hard your sides hurt.

“Three things are guaranteed in life: failure, strong opinions and death,” says the blurb for his show, and this talented comedian finds humour in every situation, whilst sharing some very difficult family history with sensitivity and a tiny hint of vulnerability.

You find yourself relating to things you’ve noticed without realising just how funny they are, addressing stereotypes we’re not supposed to laugh about in case it isn’t PC. Like what was wrong with the original yellow emoji? Turns out it’s been a useful way for Darren to find out what colour he is: “second from the end black, and far right when I’ve been on holiday”. On class/pay divide: he’s not like us, he shops in Waitrose. On gender: today’s extensive list has ruined the game Guess Who. And why do the voices in your head never tell you to do something positive, like have a cup of tea?

Darren Harriott is matter of fact when he mentions the effect of drugs and mental illness on his family, and the suicide of his father in prison. His humour pushes boundaries but never crosses the line and he pays respect to both his dad’s memory and to his mum, who likes a glass of wine, afternoon naps - and complicated men.

There are too many seriously funny moments to do this affable, up-and-coming comedian justice in one short review so let’s just say he nails it. So go and see him.

You will not beat Defiant for fast-paced, laugh out loud humour that emphasises the ridiculousness of not seeing the funny side of life, even when times are tough.

Five well-deserved stars for Darren Harriott and his little boy knees.

Book tickets here

Aug 17th

SiX

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Choosing a select number of shows to pack into a very limited schedule is no easy task, but the announcement that Henry VIII’s wives are back... divorced, beheaded and live in concert as world-famous girl group SiX...made this show a must-see.

And what a breath of fresh air it was.

Since SiX is the first original musical to be taken to the Edinburgh Fringe by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society, the misogynistic king’s wives are set to go down in history once again. For this unique, historical musical with its catchy songs and high energy choreography is proving a right royal success, with sell out shows and standing ovations.

The queens who had the misfortune to marry Henry VIII are brought to life by six charming, triple threats, all perfectly cast for the persona of the wife they’re portraying. The girls hold a sing and dance-off to decide who had it worse, beginning with an energetic performance by Catherine of Arogan warning off her rivals, followed by a risqué number Don’t Lose Your Head by the sassy #sorrynotsorry Anne Boleyn. True love Jane Seymour belts out a power ballad, then Anne of Cleves steps it up with an admission that her misleading profile picture meant she kept her head - and her cushy lifestyle. Katherine Howard’s sexy number explains why she met the same fate as Anne Boleyn. And last but not least, Catherine Parr laments the love she had to leave to marry the king.

The costumes are a clever combination of old meets new - think tiaras, frills and beads mixed with silver pumps, skater dresses and bright red lipstick.

With bang up to date lyrics incorporating comedy and double entendres to describe their plight, SiX could bring a whole new meaning to curriculum development – you certainly won’t beat this for a memorable history lesson. But somehow I think SiX are destined for much bigger things, like the West End.

Welcome to the histo-remix.

Book tickets here

Aug 17th

Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This musical depiction of the shocking true story of the law student lovers who kidnapped and killed 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 is such compulsive viewing that as soon as it finished I could have watched it again. Stephen Dolginoff’s award-winning show brings wealthy Chicago thrill-killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb starkly to life, telling the tale of their bid to commit the perfect murder through flashbacks.

It begins with the1958 parole hearing of Leopold, who wants to convince the panel he was so in thrall of Loeb that he became his willing accomplice in crimes, which began as petty ones but escalated into a desire to kill and not be caught. We discover that Loeb cannot contradit this as he was stabbed to death in his cell some years ago.

The dark set is sparsely furbished so that our focus is fixated only on the men and their most meaningful accessories – the bed they shared, the typewriter they used to write a blackmail letter, the telephones which became their only connection as Leopold panicked and Loeb distanced himself from his lover and their horrific crime.

Ellis Dackombe’s performance as the self-absorbed, manipulative Loeb is thoroughly believable as he blows hot and cold, exerting sexual power over his childhood friend. He is well aware that Leopold is as obsessed with him as he is with the philosophy of Nietzsche, and a belief that he is a “Superhuman” beyond good and evil - and therefore above the law.

But when the brilliantly intense and insistent Harry Downes sings the demanding Thrill Me we begin to see glimmers of a different view, and as Leopold begins to realise he is simply a human, and a fallible one at that, the roles reverse, and we begin to wonder, just who has manipulated who?

The physicality of Dackcombe and Downes, coupled with their ability to convey every nuance through their individual vocals and harmonies, results in a powerful, mesmerising and appropriately disturbing performance.  

Book tickets here

 

Photograph: Thrill Me UK

Aug 17th

Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised

By Kirstie Niland

Until August 28th 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

It’s the second time I’ve seen them and the fourth time they’ve sold out at the Fringe – yet there is no sign of Racing Minds running out of steam. They describe themselves as an “improvised comedy quintet” but each of the members is successful in their own right. So that equals a huge amount of combined talent devoted to making up original stories based on suggestions from the audience. 

We were treated to a tale called Dot Dot Dot about Albert and the twin he didn't know he had. On a river boat in Mississipi where snakes have been put in charge of the emergency services so that a redneck can spend time with his cross-dressing Southern belle.

It’s massively impressive that five guys can create a joined up story based on random off-the-wall facts with such razor sharp wit. But what really makes this show for me is that they look like they’re having just as much fun as the audience, and their amusement at each other’s hesitations and hitches adds to the overall hilarity. Only just missed the five-star rating due to the material given to work from and I suspect this team will never fall short of four-five stars. 

Book tickets here

 

Aug 16th

KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE at the Southwark Playhouse

By Elaine Pinkus

KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE by Eiko Kadono, adapted for the stage by Jessica Sian.

Inspired by her daughter’s drawings of a girl witch, Eiko Kadono’s tale of  Kiki’s Delivery Service took flight. It is a story which reminds us of the importance of loyalty and emotional bonds to family and friends which is so often forgotten in this hi-tech 21st century world. Modern life is so fast paced that we forget the importance of commitment and of human values.

Age 13, the young and impetuous Kiki is keen to make her debut on the stage of witchcraft. Heeding the advice of her parents and taking with her close companion Jiji the cat, the petulant teenager takes flight, sporting her bright red bow and her more sombre black witch’s dress. During her travels she experiences many adventures and learns the importance of friendship and loyalty. After all, even though her delivery service soon becomes a thriving business, Kiki insists costs are paid in kindness – a lesson that may need to be re-introduced to our modern age of bottom line profit and harsh social media.

Kiki in her witch outfit.jpg

Jennifer Leong (Kiki)- photograph Helen Murray

Having played to full audiences at Christmas 2016, this production has returned to the Southwark Playhouse for a few weeks only and with a new cast. The matinee performance I attended was almost full with a mix of adults, young children and teenage drama students. At 90 minutes with no interval, this was a big ask of the youngsters but they sat transfixed and cheered loudly at the end.

But for me, alas, there was no magic. I found the production rather too frantic, with characters running to and fro and almost hysterically shouting at points. Nevertheless, I could not help but appreciate the considered minimalist staging (Simon Bejer) of pastel coloured cubes that were moved to form different tableaux. These, with the clever use of lighting (Elliot Griggs) and the mixed sound effects (Max Pappenheim), a setting was created that  encouraged imagination. Rather refreshing when compared to the computer generated productions that we seem to expect now. Nor could I fail to appreciate the fantastic choreographed movements of flight that were directed by Robin Guiver. 

The cast of six worked well together, with some taking on many different roles.  Well done to Thomas Gilbey’s Jiji and Stevie Raine (Okino), who injected many moments of gleeful humour into Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Kiki and JiJi.jpg

Thomas Gilbey and Jiji - photograph Helen Murray

Venue

Southwark Playhouse

77-85 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6BD

 

Nearest Tube: Borough / Elephant and Castle

Performances

KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE

Thursday 10 August – Sunday 3 September 2017

Tuesday to Sunday at 3pm and 7.30pm
No performances on Mondays

Box Office Online    www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk 

24 HOURS/NO BOOKING FEES

By Telephone    020 7407 0234    NO BOOKING FEES

Ticket Prices

Previews from 10 – 13 August - all tickets £12
From 15 August: £20, £16 (conc.)

Family ticket: £64

Concessions

 

Students, Under 16’s, Unwaged, Registered disabled, Over 65’s

 

Aug 16th

Dreamboats and Petticoats

By Kate Braxton

Dreamboats and Petticoats at Theatre Royal Windsor

by Kate Braxton

Some shows could keep returning to Theatre Royal Windsor like a ferris wheel carriage, because they are rounded, neatly engineered crowd-pleasers - and this is one of those safe, heart-warming experiences. 

As the name suggests, Dreamboats and Petticoats is a feel-good showcase for rock ‘n’ roll, which we experience through the activities of St Mungo’s Youth Club. Set in 1961, ‘somewhere in Essex’, the spotlight is given to the daily lives, loves and acne of a group of music-loving youngsters as the storyline develops around a song-writing competition. 

Bobby dreams of fame, Fenders and fantasises about the slightly more mature ‘Runaround Sue’. ‘Sweet 16’ Laura is the bespectacled younger sister of Ray, who can write a good tune and wants to be ‘Bobby’s Girl’. Ray goes with Donna, who runs around with Sue, who shakes her stuff at Norman, The Great Pretender, who can’t see past his own quiff. Together, they twist and shake their way through developing relationships, and begin to discover what really makes their hearts sing through a terrific musical celebration of over 40 hit numbers from the 50’s and 60’s. Dreamboats and Petticoats is a show of hope and promise.

This talented cast of actor-musicians, many of whom double up in acting roles and band duties deliver the full show live from the stage. They are superbly tightly rehearsed and the production really doesn’t hang around at any point. 

Alister Higgins plays the love-struck, star-struck, spotified Bobby as if he identifies with ease. His voice comes into its own in the dreamy, love songs, although it would have been nice to see a bit more expression in his overall performance. In a permanent daze in his wake, Elizabeth Carter’s Laura is a joy to watch. She has a beautiful voice and from behind her piano, specs or insightful throwaway line, her performance commands the stage whenever she’s on it.

Both Laura Dartan as Sue and Gracie Jones as Donna are both hugely watchable and terrific vocalists. Their sounds are so well-matched, there are times when they almost make one instrument of their voices.

Norman is almost like the baddie at the panto, and Alister Hill is very comfortable at being funny, while musically, his handling of falsetto is standout. David Luke gives us a thoroughly likeable and less assuming, Ray, whilst the highly experienced Jimmy Johnson’s casting in the lynchpin narrational role of Older Bobby is inspired. At times I could’ve sworn Carry On’s Peter Butterworth was in the house.

Especial credit for the ulti-multi-task must go to the beautiful Chloe Edwards Wood and Lauren Chinery for taking on the lively choreographed steps while steadily holding their tenor and alto/baritone sax lines, but also Mike Lloyd for bringing Mike Lloyd to Frank/Slugger/Compere/Trombone. Lovely bit of talent.

To deliver this quantity of material in a couple of hours is great theatre creation. A bit of ‘Poetry in Motion’, the show is nostalgic for the oldies, educational and insightful for the younger crowd. So come on everybody, do you wanna dance? If so, that’s good timin’.

 

Dreamboats and Petticoats runs at Theatre Royal Windsor from

Mon 14th Aug - Sat 19th Aug

  • Show Times
  • Mon - Sat 8pm, Thu 2.30pm, Sat 4.45pm
  • Ticket prices
  • £16 - £32

For info: www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Box Office: 01753 853 888