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Aug 18th

Showstopper!

By Kirstie Niland

 Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Fringe just wouldn’t be the Fringe without Showstopper! - and the riotous laughter and applause from the audience stands testament to the popularity of this Olivier Award-winning musical comedy. 


For our visit the improv challenge was Buy or Die!! set in Birmingham at the Leamington Spa branch of Currys, with the first scene at the Black Friday sale.

Sparks fly when two excited bargain hunters are served by two dedicated shop assistants - forming two couples who fall in love, enjoying dates at the chippy before settling down to have children. As ever there are obstacles ahead, and the couples travel the rocky road of true love in the style of Legally Blonde, Hamilton, Oliver! and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

The super talented cast conjure up a side-splitting series of songs, including Open the Doors (to Curry's) and Let Love In, Grab a Deal, Everybody Needs a Cable - Everybody Needs a Plug, and Currying Favour.

No matter how many times you see this show, the story developed is always completely different and the result is a smooth, professional performance you would think had been rehearsed. It's astonishing how the actors can create a plot with characters, cast the roles, come up with a script and song lyrics, whilst simultaneously performing it and making it very very funny to boot.

Another five-star performance from Showstopper!

 

Book tickets here

Aug 18th

LIVE AT ZEDEL: A SPOONFUL OF SHERMAN

By Elaine Pinkus

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Appropriately shown as ‘the songbook of your childhood’ this charming 90 minute cabaret led us through the interesting family history of the talented Sherman musicians, Al and sons Robert and Richard. Featuring Helena Blackman and Daniel Boys, accompanied by talented pianist Christopher Hamilton and presented by Robert J Sherman, third generation songwriter of the Sherman ‘dynasty’. We sat back with our drinks and prepared to enjoy an evening of nostalgia in the intimate space of The Crazy Coqs at London's Zedel.

 

Illustrating the tales of the 70 year musical journey, related by Robert J, were those magical numbers that remind us so much of our childhood. Not only the rock and roll period of 'You're Sixteen' but fast forward to the Disney collaboration. Tapping our toes, slurping our drinks and occasionally singing along, we were treated to the wonderful tunes of 'Chim Chim Cheree', 'A Spoonful of Sugar'. 'I Wanna Be Like You' (ooh beeee doooo), 'Ugly Bug Ball'. 'Let's Get Together' and so many more. Blackman and Boys appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, which transmitted to the audience whose smiles were testimony to their enjoyment. After all, who amongst us has not sung gleefully 'Winnie the Pooh' and 'The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers'! This was our escape from modern reality to childhood innocence.

 

Following its previously sold out critically-acclaimed London runs, A Spoonful of Sherman is now playing at the Live at Zedel programme in London’s Crazy Coqs bar (once part of the famously Art Deco Piccadilly Regents Palace Hotel). This is a pleasant way to spend a short while after a day at work. And in the final moments, as we all sang along to  ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’  we could only thank the Shermans for their wonderful scores, wish Robert J luck with his new score of ‘Bumblescratch’ and hope that the dynasty continues to be  ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’!

 

Booking Details

 

Playing until Sunday 20 August 2017

To book tickets: https://www.brasseriezedel.com/live-at-zedel/a-spoonful-of-sherman  and  T 020 7734 4888 

Standard seats: £25

Show with Dinner: £45

 

 

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.

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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