Thursday 19th August (Cont.)
Primadoona - 9.5/10
At the fringe it is not unusual to find
A/ A one woman show
B/ A show featuring a comedian off the television
C/ A show that makes you laugh
D/ A show that makes you cry
E/ A show featurning an woman on the verge of a breakdown
F/ A show based on real-life experiences.
As a member of the Edinburgh fringe audience since 1986 I cannot recall a show combining all of the above. It is a tribute to Doon MacKichan's artistry as a writer, actress and comedienne with no qualms about dramatising her recent life warts and all, that she avoided all the mawkish and sentimental traps that surround this type of auto-biographical show.
Losing a father ( bereavement), husband ( marriage break-up) and nearly her young son and career sound more like Chekhov than from a star of " Smack the Pony". A lot of people suffer tragedy but very few perform it publically for a month. It left my wife speechless ( with emotion) at the end, always a bonus.
Go and see this rollercoaster of a talented woman's life at the Gilded Balloon.
Sarah Millican - 9.3/10
The merits (or otherwise) of lady comedians has caused many a stormy late-night DARKCHAT debate this week. I am pleased to announce that hopefully Sarah Millican's show "Chatterbox" has placed her firmly at the top of the current comedy tree.
I would like to claim that there is no such thing as good male/ female comedians just good comedians but I am not sure that is strictly true. They say you should write about what you know and there is certainly a lot of material here about being a woman, especially in the "downstairs" area. But it is not "in your face" (forgive me ) as evidenced by the fact that at least half the audience was male.
In true Victoria Wood, Jo Brand style a lot of her stories are weight and food related but as long as the set is this funny it doesn't matter that some of the targets are easy. Similarly, much of her act relates to living with her boyfriend. But with Gary Delaney making a big name for himself in stand-up circles you wonder how much longer he will allow his private
life to be mentioned in public.
So, if you want to see a comedian at the peak of their powers (regardless of sex) beg for a ticket to see Miss Millican. You won't be disappointed.
Camile O'Sullivan - Chameleon - 9.25/10
The third and final part of our " ladies on top" section of the festival took us to the unique Camille O'Sullivan at the Assembly Rooms. Following on from messrs MacKichan and Millican, this Irish songstress is at the top of her game.
A packed, enthralled, doting Assembly Rooms audience enjoyed every moment of her performance. Anyone expecting a straightforward singer would be shocked but hopefully pleasant surprisingly by Miss O'Sullivan's idiosyncratic style. She doesn't just sing but totally inhibit , grunt, moan and writh through her repertoire. This should be distracting but somehow her vaudevillian posturing merely enhanced the songs.
It of course helps that she sticks to her usual songwriters of Brel, Cave, Cohen etc whose use of language and imagery invites a more theatrical performance. Personally, I found her version of one of my favourite songs, Bob Dylan's " Don't Think Twice" a little too happy and she misses out the key verse. However, despite that tiny quibble when the concert ended I wanted more.
Anyone interested in music should experience Miss O'Sullivan's unique style at least once. If you sample "Chameleon" you will be entertained & enchanted.
Friday 20th August
The Thunderer 9.5/10
'Tis rare indeed to stumble upon a free show in Edinburgh that will rank alongside the festival elite as one to be savoured the most. The Thunderer is such a show.
A comedy play without a wasted line, The Thunderer presents a dazzling cast, indelible characters and writing of the highest order; Bleak Expectations meeting a superior Drop the Dead Donkey.
See the play if you can, follow the careers of these bright young things and revel in the fact that such a joyous romp is born. The World’s a better place for it.
Terrible Tales of the Midnight Chorus - 7/10
After their much acclaimed Edinburgh show last year, Lily Through the Dark, much was expected of this latest offering. Unfortunately, although entertaining, Terrible Tales was indeed....if not terrible, disappointing.
Working along the same premise, Terrible Tales...recounts stories of terror and sadness using puppetry. But the originality and emotional heart of Lily.....has been replaced with emulation. This felt much more like L’Enfants Terrible or The Vaudevillians. Too much emphasis on the actors, and not enough on the story or the mood. I regret to say, Terrible Tales was a let-down.
Operation Greenfield - 8.75/10
Two years ago " The Little Bulb" theatre triumphed in the DARKCHAT awards with their beautifully crafted " Crocosmia". Hopes were therefore high that they could repeat their success with "Operation Greenfield."
Things started promisingly when a fire alarm ensured that although we were running but we still managed to head the queue and grabbed coveted front-row seats.
The opening sequence of the re-creation of the annunciation to Isiah was as unexpected as it was baffling. It soon became apparent that the 4 strong cast were part of the Stokely Christian fellowship. The plot followed the efforts of their leader Daniel to win the annual Stokely talent competition with their latest song.
This depiction of the problems of adolescence was not as coherent or emotionally invoking as their previous play but then once again succeeded in creating their own unique theatrical world. At ninety minutes it was too long but they know how to provide a stunning theatrical finish with the revelation that they had become a strong driving rock band.
Despite the reservations this is still a play and troupe to be cherished and watched.
Carnivale - 9.5
Presenting itself as a dinner party based upon true events that took place in 1928, Carnivale is a piece that bases itself within the realms of horror. The audience are “guests” at an intimate dinner party given by Alfie Wilde, whilst the actors portray examples of “bright young things” of the 1920’s. The audience are provided with dinner and wine and bear witness to spectre like figures play out the evening. The events slowly turn sinister with séances and tales of murder. A feeling of uneasiness and eeriness befalls all, audience included. This is an interesting and well executed play which would work well as a horror film. The actors portray the era well without falling into caricature. By the end the audience felt sick to their stomach; literally. Brilliant.
The sign of a good festival is how quickly the week passes and this was the fastest ever, so to end this Fringe in style we headed to The Assembly to see Gutted, A Revenger's Musical.
This was DarkChatter Allden's choice as he thoroughly enjoyed Colin Hoult's show yesterday and his favourites The Penny Dreadfuls earlier this evening.
Having survived some very well done sausage rolls in the queue we found ourselves in the front row once again to witness a surprisingly impressive blood-thirsty musical.
A young girl, brilliantly portrayed by Helen George, decides to take revenge upon the man who murdered her parents when she was eight. in true Alec Guinness style all members of this family are played by the versatile Colin Hoult, proving a talented song & dance man in addition to his other talents.
Casting the Penny Dreadfuls was a masterstroke. Dressed and made up as macabre ghost-like figures these comedians of different heights looked frighteningly funny and the piece lifted whenever they were on stage. Their dual roles as detectives allowing them more comic potential with Thom as a mute forensics expert, allowed to use his facial expressions to fullest effect.
Not as gory as I had been led to believe and a strangely moving ending this is the perfect way to close our festival (even if we were one DarkChatter short after Carnivale had literally made her sick!