Category Archives: Festivals

Review: Bumper Blyton, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

No matter what age, we all grew up with lashings of ginger beer, while slapping our raised knee. Not one person does not know about Enid Blyton and her wonderful tales.

But what happens when you take the Blyton theme and improvise?
A whole lot of fun.

Bumper Blyton, an improv group, interact with us and let us take control. We give our suggestions and they help to influence how the team bring the story to us. Each time is different, each joke is different and so each show is unique.

Playfully labelled as ‘Enid Blyton for Grown Ups’ – it sure is! There are jokes that are only for the adults, and at times even flummox the performers themselves; this is not a bad thing. One thing I think is brilliant is when performers in these types of performances quite obviously enjoy what they do and find it as funny and exciting as the audience. And it is clear they do. This makes us laugh even more and feel included and part of the group.

Improv is a clever performance technique and so to come up with an interesting and mysterious story on the spot, keeping to character is impressive.

Bumper Blyton is lashing of fun, a slap on the knee of enjoyment and a show we all feel included in. If you want a break from the festival to sit back, laugh and enjoy something new each time, ensure you check them out.

Review: The Grandmother’s Grimm, Some Kind Of Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In an underground tunnel, it seems like the perfect place to set the creation and editing process of the famous Grimm Fairy tales, we all know and love.

However, there is a twist to this tale. The Grandmother’s Grimm takes a keen look into the women behind these stories; ahead of her time, Frau Hassenpflug helps the Grimm brothers to edit the horror out of the original tales, while realising how the females behind these stories are the ones being edited out. As we delve into their editorial process, we see the championing of women, at a time that the patriarchy was at full force.

This small cast need little else than their talent and enthusiasm to bring this tale to us – doubling up as the farcical characters in the fairy tales, they use little items to help bring the magic across, and this works well, triggering our own imagination.

The character’s of the Grimm brothers, Frau H and the house maid are well established and with fierce and conflicting personalities of their own – keeping to the ‘Victorian’ era that it is set, they continue the customs and attitudes of the time, filling their language and physicality with this, yet there is a modern take when Mrs H and the house maid are challenging the stereotypes and becoming just as involved and as important as the men.

The Grandmother’s Grimm is intelligent, interesting and intriguing – a really enjoyable and unusual production.   

Review: The Populars, Volcano Theatre Company, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If there is any time for a production around Brexit, then this is it.

But this is Volcano Theatre Company – do not expect it to be as simple as a Brexit play.

In what looks like a village hall at Summerhall, there are no chairs, no ‘basic theatre staging’; nothing is quintessential about this production.

Firstly, it is AMAZING how this small group of performers keep going. Edinburgh is unusually hot at the moment, and to then essentially dance full stop, in character, no where to hide, for probably 15 minutes is a feat in itself.

Volcano are well known (and gosh don’t I know it from my training days with them as a student) for their physicality, and so there is no fear in this when they battle over tables, ‘claiming space’ and almost throw one another around the room. They each have a ‘character’ but there’s also an honesty about them – we get to know them, their personalities, with the opportunity to ad lib and interact with us alone and as a group, and from this we get the impression of their personalities. Of course, this may just be very good acting, but still, we enjoy getting to know them, laughing with them, dancing with them and all the absurdities in between.

The ‘choones’ are EXCELLENT- A brilliant choice of music; it lets us get involved, as music is a powerful tool when everyone knows the song. And these are eclectic in themselves, with diverse nationalities and drag us into one era, while the performers question the future; we are left in a state of every changing existence.

The Populars is high energised fun, full of important questions, great music and intense choreography.

Review : 99 First World Problems, Andy Quirk and Anna J, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In the tiny upstairs room of a lovely bar, Sofi’s, we are introduced to Andy Quirk and his partner in crime, Anna J. Dressed in what could be described as street/ ‘chav’ gear, the two entertain us through comedy in the form of songs addressing some of the 99 problems of the World.

These musical interludes tap into different genres of music – rap, house, punk pop, 80’s and are all entertaining, addressing Bags for Life, waiting in a queue and the meal deal; and while funny, they are also true to life, making our interaction easy and the connection to the narratives true to life.

The relationship of Andy Quirk and Anna J is on point – they interact well with us and with each other, making the show flow and with room to add ad libs, going with the flow and making the show catered to us.

The music is fun, recognisable and also clever in how they in put the lyrics to the beat. For every song, we have a chance to be involved so rather than being sung / rapped at, we have the chance to join in and sing our hearts out to relatable content.

99 First World Problems is fun, funny and quite a nice break out of the main hustle and bustle of busy Royal Mile. If you want a laid back, enjoyable show you can get involved with, then this is it.

Review: How To Save A Life, Glass Half Full Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Whether this is a Ed Fringe common occurrence, my naive first time attendee is unsure, but this year there is a ‘Death Season’. Many productions have taken this theme and created theatre in response to the stimulus. And also for some great causes.

Glass Half Full Theatre’s How To Save A Life is no different. It sees the story of  Melissa – a young 20’s female, seemingly with her life all ready and raring to go, suddenly finding out she has cancer. What follows is her journey, and those of her boyfriend and best friend in wake of the news.

Melissa is such a loveable character. I kind of what to be her. She loves glitter. She’s confident, fun, with amazing hair and a lovely personality. It is no wonder she catches the eye of a handsome man who wants to be with her forever and becomes best friends with a girl who is wild but equally as loveable.

We get to know Melissa; we laugh and joke with her. We associate ourselves with her, with her ideals and her life, and if we do not have this already, we want it. We want to funny, beautiful personality of Melissa, a caring and adorning partner, a best friend who is mad but would do anything for you. So when we reach crisis point and the C word is issued, we feel even more for Melissa; we feel her pain, her disbelief and her struggle.

Melissa was our constant character, and rightly so – this was her story. And when we soon became her friends, privileged to live her life with her, she makes you begin to think about your own life, your own loved ones and your health and how important all of these are. Who would have thought such a beautiful soul would lead such a tragic life!?

How To Save A Life is hilarious, but heart wrenching. Not many a production would reduce me to tears but as the lights come up, I find myself in a snotty, painful and wet mess, wishing this had not happened to Melissa. This is one of the best productions at this year’s Fringe – A Must See!

Review: Fisherman’s Tails, 4Front Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Most of us know the story of Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples. But have you ever seen a nautical depiction of this tale?

Fisherman’s Tail combines essentially all of Jesus’s life story into one hour, filled with fun, music and plenty of fish.

While normally, as an agnostic, I would not necessarily pick a show linked to religion, I was pleasantly surprised and came out feeling pretty entertained and uplifted.

It may be based on religious stories, but it ultimately is a story of friendship, forgiveness and definitely enough fishing jokes and antics for all the children in the audience.

The live music, played on string instruments and percussion is joyful, folk-like and catchy. It has a tiny twist to make the story fun and not like the stuffy bible speeches we had in British primary schools. It feels like a new story and it feels exclusive to us.

The performers all work in harmony, with little dances, great interaction and with fully formed character’s. The only criticism I would give is when doubling up, for me there needed to be more distinction – a change of hat, a different stance, just something over the top to bring that new character to the forefront for us.

Fisherman’s Tail is for everyone, religious or not. It is good fun, interactive, and a heart warming production.

Review: Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, Roll On, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

At half 9 at night, the last thing you would be expecting to see is a sock puppet show. I love a good puppet, but I equally love an usual concept. Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (SFSPT) sure are the unusual.

Opened to the world of adult puppetry and it becoming more familiar a concept, we have all heard of the adult themed ‘Avenue Q’ and a few years ago, ‘Hand to God’. Even cartoons have become more adult friendly, opening up a whole new world in performing arts.

And while I hesitate to compare SFSPT to such shows (a joke in the performance itself reflecting this), it is agreeable that this concept Is not as unusual as it may once were. Yet I was still pleasantly surprised and excited. 

Puppetry come comedy, the FSPT does not rely on humour alone to get by. There is a theme, and it is ever changing (as we hear from its 15 or so years of its presence). This round is Circus themed –with The Greatest Showman being so prevalent in the last year, SFSPT draw upon this to create a narrative, but feels free to go a little off course, ad lib where necessary and it is all just as funny as the original plan. We are at times asked to use our imagination, thinking of a sock puppet out of shot on a tightrope or completing an another amazing feat.

They keep the information present – keeping to events and news from the last year, even making jokes and making it clear that some of the audience may find some too obscure, we cannot help but love it and definitely feel included.

With only one man, two puppets, and maybe around 5 character’s, it is a feat of genius and skill at set and ‘costume’ changes with one hand- a magical experience we all wish we knew the answer to. He manages to give each character its own personality, even with their interaction with one another being quick. Of course there are times when a Australian accent is suddenly Scottish and he soon realises it. But this only adds to the humour – there is no masking mistakes, only inclusion of them.

The narrative went a little off course and dark humoured, but you know what, I was not mad at it. I was sufficiently entertained, laughed my socks off (pardon the pun) and had a really interesting and splendid time.

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre is not exactly breaking theatrical boundaries, but my gosh was it a lot of fun. If you fancy something unusual, ridiculous (is a good way) and a good laugh, then this show is a total must.

Review: Louder Is Not Always Clearer, Mr and Mrs Clark, Jonny cotsen, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Let me tell you, if you like boundary breaking, the plain and simple truth and interesting physicality to name but a few, then you need Mr and Mrs Clark in your life.

A long-time fan, I have always admired their work, their concepts and how they bring these to the stage. They are never similar, never the same but always ground breaking and perfectly formed.

Louder Is Not Always Clearer draws upon the performance artist Jonny Cotsen and his life as a deaf person. The show Is autobiographical to an extent, but also makes you really see yourself. Using a range of media, physical theatre techniques, theatrical techniques and fine art, Cotsen brings us into his world, his difficulties but poses it in a way to create slight difficulty for us. Almost acting as if we are those who may not be as open minded and accommodating, we feel similar to how Cotsen has felt during his life – wanting to participate but being discriminated for something he cannot control.

An example of this is with use of sign language. I can imagine not every performance goes this way, depending on who is in the audience, but he begins a conversation with someone who can sign, finding them by openly asking through this communication who can indeed sign. And to this day, I still have no idea the conversation. This made me feel isolated, confused and this was very clever. As to an extent, this is what he himself has experienced on the other end.

He, with use of props, physicality and vocalisation makes fun of those who are ignorant. Those who are surprised by how he can drive a car, have children, those who almost shout at him to ‘hear’ them, normal things that everyone can do – and through these, they are comical, sometimes heart warming, sometimes astonishing at the ignorance and completely understandable.

Cotsen commands the stage. Unlike some of Mr and Mrs Clark’s pieces which are abundant with physical theatre, there are times of peace, of silence, of contemplation, and even at these points you cannot take your eyes off Cotsen – he is simply a fantastic performer.

Louder Not Always Clearer is honest, it has no fear, it has no bullsh*t. It is unashamed, unapologetic and something fully needed in the forefront of society. Feel seen, feel informed but ultimately, come away feeling Cotsen’s emotions and with anger at those who are ignorant.

Review: Number Please, Paprichoo, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Think back to the Agatha Christies. Miss Marple, Poirot. Think even to the extent of Sherlock Holmes. These crime stories, full of mystery and far fetched narratives. Number Please felt very reminiscent of these.

When a telephone operator hears a murder on the telephone, she is dragged into a world of secrecy, double crossing and spies. Enter train chases, over the top character’s, and London (because a murder always happens in London and alien invasion, but that is Doctor Who and off topic).

This female lead company came to bring us fun, frivolities and intrigue. And they execute some of this. I am glad that it was meant to be ‘hammed up’ as the characters seemed quite one dimensional, and my worry was for the stereotyping of women. Saving this, the 1950’s styled era saw a strong female lead, solving the murder and uncovering the mystery.

While I had a lot of fun and enjoyed their performance, I could not help but wonder whether it was meant to be unintentionally of an amateur persuasion or whether this was the point; a metta/ironic take on the absurdity and predictability of these genres.

What cannot be argued is that the performers put their all into their performances. Every facial expression was executed, every pun and the fact they high-kneed ran for a good 5 minutes non stop is something to be admired.

Number Please is a fun, easy going, easy watching show. If you want to just sit back and have a little giggle, this is for you.

Review: Ned and The Whale, Flossy and Boo, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, by Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The last thing you would expect in a city like Edinburgh is to be swept away to the ocean.
But swept away, we were.

Ned and the Whale is the story of a nervous boy, obsessed with facts to keep him safe who gets taken into a magical and fanciful world inside a book, meeting exciting and interesting characters, helping each of them along the way, and in turn, they help him to overcome his fears.

Flossy and Boo bring this story to us in the form of puppetry, recycled props and costumes, musical interludes and comedy. Now, anyone who knows me, knows I am obsessed with puppets and Ned and The Whale are no exception. They are little things of beauty, and Anja Conti, (Flossy) and Laura Jeffs-White (Boo) manage to move them with ease and such perfection, that we even forget that there are real humans behind them.

But do not take that as they forget where they are – their facial expressions mimic the character’s and shows that they are really invested in their work and the story.

When not handling puppets, they are either other interesting and hilarious characters such as the twins in a cave obsessed with slime and parties with rocks, or a stranded pirate, missing his disappeared crew. Each character I fully formed, well thought out and with their own clever unique qualities. This isn’t Flossy and Boo, this IS the pirate, this IS the twins.

And then added to this, another dimension as Laura and Anja – those who know this group will know how well a relationship they have on and off stage, and how they play on this; calling out each other’s silliness, being other funny and likeable characters. Usually these are as Flossy and Boo as we know it, but this time around we know them as Anja and Laura, and love them just the same.

Audience interaction is key for children’s shows, and this is no exception. Child or adult, we all are given eye contact, smiles, no one is excluded; we all get ‘slime’ put on our heads, we are all asked for suggestions and we all love the whimsy and comedy.

Musical interludes are delightful, simple with acoustic guitars or banjos, with beautiful harmonies and funny concepts. Personally, I could happily sit with an album of just their music and walk away happy.

Ned and The Whale is a triumph of a production; fun, comical and magical, it still manages to teach us vital lessons of life and we leave the tent they are in, smiling and elated.