Category Archives: Festivals

Review: Stark Bollock Naked, Larisa Faber, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The age old pressure and discussions have been forever on women and the expectation to have children. But this isn’t for everyone and yet, this is still taboo in the 21st century.

Stark Bollock Naked addresses the pressures of age, society, other’s commentary on women’s bodies and the expectation to reproduce. It takes a look at this, at the viability and different situations and noting that it’s okay to not want that life, even after you thought you did once.

We are firstly confronted with a naked lady in front of us. The silence ensues and it needs to be congratulated that the performance starts ensuring that audience is awkward and uncomfortable, to make sure they take on the tricky subject.

The actual silence and pausing throughout is very powerful and at times comical and let’s us digest the relationship between the audience and performers. When the action begins, a really interesting projection is created, shown on the performer’s body and with an essence of stereotypical outfits of women as she monologues her story. This felt quite 1927 and the more hyper-realistic performances they create and was a really unusual and unique theatrical trick.

The narrative is comical, stating the facts and also very bold. There are comments on this person’s story, that are comments we, as women, are told not to say or think or feel. Stark Bollock Naked is throwing these into the ether and with no apology.

For me, it felt quite mismatched with what the performance wanted to achieve. It was really intriguing, performed extremely well and with a great concept and approach, but it felt a little like they weren’t entirely sure whether it was a comedy, an emotional production, a touch of clowning or avant garde. There’s nothing wrong with combining these but jumping from one to the other didn’t seem to sit well.

Stark Bollock Naked is exactly the theatre we need, where the unspoken rules around women are unleashed. However, more work is needed to combine the genres they are trying to touch upon.

Review: Unforgettable Girl, Elisabeth Gunawan/Created a Monster, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

We’ve all heard the stereotype of Asian women, mail order brides and all that comes with this. It becomes a joke within plays, movies and our society. But does anyone really think about the person behind this and what they go through.

Unforgettable Girl brings this stereotype to the forefront – comical and satirical, she embodies the Asian bride which is sexual, engaging and self aware. We see and hear her story, from her home to the call that changes everything. She also brings on the attitude and approach from middle class white society and the unforgivable but “nicely” put racism. It is throwing these unsaid issues in our face with no apology.

There is use of multimedia throughout which gives different levels between the performance and creating a hyper-version of reality. The stage and props are mostly made out of “trash” and is referred to, giving the sense of the little these women are thought of. Some slight comparison, while subtle, is made to white blonde barbie dolls, while a creepy voice over sexualises the mail bride over the phone. It is unsettling but powerful.

While the concept is really interesting and unapologetic, it felt slightly stunted between “scenes”. Perhaps there was a lot to change between characters and scenes and whether more physical theatre or theatrical techniques could be used to move between these, keeping the momentum and the dark atmosphere going.

Unforgettable Girl is anything but forgettable and a great concept, but still needs work to help it continue to grow.

Review: MEAT, Elle Dillon Reams, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I’m going to start this review with a very bold statement: MEAT is the best thing at this year’s fringe and if I could give more than 5 stars, then I would.

This was a bit of a last minute choice for me. After filling my diary with requests, I tried to put in some interesting ones from the festival line up to fill spots. MEAT sounded intriguing and, I’m so glad I saw it. It was my last show of Ed Fringe 2023, and one I will not ever forget.

Coincidentally, I felt that I had seen a lot of feminist theatre while at Edinburgh this year, a lot looking at bodies, of consent, of domestic and sexual abuse. The quantity for sure does not shadow the importance of these productions. But there was something about MEAT that was unlike any thing I’ve seen, within this topic and others.

MEAT looks at women’s bodies, their own and others relationships with them; through weight and puberty, sex and growing up. Elle taps into how the body changing and judgement affects a woman growing up, and digs deeper into their subconscious than anyone making certain comments would think. It looks at sexual assault, how it strips away the empowerment and confidence of women and how we must build that back up. That these events are not our fault or should be felt guilt about from a victim.

Elle swaps from informal discussions with audience members, where we are asked to be involved in movement, with suggestions, discussions – they are always comical and fun and there is a sense of ease with her – we are her friends and nothing less. She transitions into spoken word which is poetic and powerful, engaging and trance like. There are skits of becoming a comedian, of other influences and commentary bundled into a character. There is physical theatre, movement, there is singing and dancing. There’s moments of sheer highs and moments of dark lows. And the way that Elle flows between all of this is graceful, it is so slick and so profoundly emotional. She is also absolutely hilarious and the belly laughs I felt were real; from her incredible ability to improvise, to her genuine humility.

Elle touches on some really tough subjects. She speaks honest and freely, addressing us all in unison but somehow, individually. She tells us that these incidences are not our fault, asking us to sit and live in the feeling we have when she is up front and straight with us about this. She is warm and comforting, and there are little dry eyes in the house as anyone who has experienced such interactions relives this but feels the warmth of Elle’s words. She notes that the production is scheduled for 1 hour, but that she finishes this early to allow a space for anyone to sit and feel their feelings and feel okay again. She even offers sweaty hugs at the door. It’s easy to bring a production to an audience, noting trigger warnings and when the lights are up and the applause had, let them go into the world. Elle notes, whether from experience or empathy, that there needs to be time to adjust to the shock of the topics and likely memories that are conjured. There isn’t a review comment to be made on this from a theatrical sense, but a personal and arts professional comment that this should be included in most triggering productions – a safe space should be provided and time to digest rather than just unleashing unsuspecting audiences back into the treacherous world after touching a sensitive part of their soul.

MEAT is an absolute powerhouse of a production. It has everything that a theatrical production on the fringe circuit would need and yet it is miles ahead of what the industry is achieving. It is emotional, it is powerful, it is utter perfection.

Review: Lost in the Woods, Hawk and Hill Theatre, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Fairy tales are told in every country and culture in the World. Often, they transcend boundaries and similar stories have their own cultural take on them, fitting that part of the World. They translate and therefore, combining them in one production is a very interesting and smart move.

We know the story of Hansel & Gretel. But what happens when their story is mixed up with Sleeping Beauty’s or Cinderella’s? Lost in the Woods is a fourth wall breaking show where our two well known characters of Hansel and Gretel are mixed up in other stories and need to find a way to finish their own.

Picture mad-capped comedy, bizarre impromptu characters and scenes, when both characters try to re-enact the story the narrator is telling with whatever they have in their suitcase, including fake glasses with nose attachment and a banana. The clowning and chaos ensues, with fantastic banter between our two performers.

The snippets of other stories are hardly named, but you audibly hear children in the audience say they know that story or call the title. They are engaged and the joyous laughter that comes from them at the slapstick on stage is infectious.

The set is minimal, but to create other scenes and characters, such as the witch in the gingerbread house, some shadow play is used and this is effective, bringing away the chaotic notion of other stories and bringing it back to Hansel and Gretel’s story. It adds a theatrical element, as if it were the main stage and what we see when it goes awry is the “back stage”.

Both performers interact well with the audience, inviting them in and reacting to the children’s unplanned interventions. There are even little nods to the adults, noting quietness at one point for a gentleman who admitted a hangover. This brings a little something for the adults to enjoy with it going over the heads of the children.

Lost in the Woods is a unique story, combining the old favourites. It is fun, mad and comedic, drawing on clowning and special techniques to make this something different to other re-tellings of children’s fairy tales.

Review: Potty the Plant, Little Big Stack, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

It could entirely be a coincidence that I feel there has been a lot of puppetry this year at Fringe. Not that I’m complaining – there is something naughty yet comical about turning cute, cuddly puppets into something darkly comical.

Potty the Plant, taking on the adult puppet movement seen by Avenue Q, is the story of anthropomorphic plant in a doctor’s surgery, who helps to uncover the mystery of missing children but also explores his unrequited love for the nurse.

The staging itself is extremely professional – a whole set has been created to create the surgery feel, still using elements such as a bed pan or a wheelchair when a new scene is created, giving that satirical nod to amateur theatre but also not investing too much is lots of extras. The costumes are simple, just where they need to be, with a fancy-dress-esque approach to Dr Acula’s costume as our undercover vampire. The comparison between this less polished aspect to the very well created set only adds to the comedy.

The songs are well constructed and performed very well, drawing satire from musicals and from the narrative with ease. They have adult aspects to them and this is of course comical and in line with this adult approach. The performers are perfection, without a step wrong and the whole performance runs smooth as butter.

Potty is also well created, adorable and cute. Sat mostly on the table, further comedy is drawn from his handler, stuffed under the table and when they bring him out and on stage for another scene, he plays a part so well, as if he isn’t there but also, fully in character. Potty as a puppet is limited to his reactions and facial expressions, but, somehow, the puppeteer does this so well, using silence, beats and a little over-exaggeration which at times makes his reactions very clear but sometimes it’s a real subtle look that you can just tell is there. These in themselves provide endless humour.

However, the narrative felt a little lost to me. As the name of the show, Potty features only minimal in the story-line. Of course, it needs to be set somewhere and I guess it makes sense in a doctor’s office. But when they go on a true crime spree, detecting the story behind the missing children, the nurses dating life and lack of success, it all feels quite mismatched and almost another story, with Potty just a small accessory. It felt as if more could have been made about Potty, his story being told a lot more and him having more of a spotlight in the performance.

Potty the Plant is a fun concept, dark and full of humour. It’s a good production to see and recommended if you’re looking for something easy and to sit back to watch. It only felt that Potty wasn’t our main star and that the story needed to work out what it really wanted to be about.

Review: Bowjangles: Dracula in Space, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you have walked up and down the mile, you more than likely will recognise this quartet. Armed with string instruments, their street performances are beautiful concertos but in the basement of the Patter Hoose, they tell the story of something much more sinister….

Only kidding! Dracula in Space is as comedic and ridiculous as the title suggests. A part musical, part comical satire, Bowjangles, former Spirit of Fringe Award winners, bring a twisted tale of space exploration and classic horror fable.

The narrative is hugely self aware, and plays upon each person, the fringe and classical music. A moment of classical composer puns descends into the very niche and commentary is made about it. They also play upon how hammed up they have made the story and the characters, and it works well. Moments of slight corpsing happen but it’s almost unrecognised, fitting mostly into the ridiculous and silly nature of the production, but is also forgiven because it purely adds to the humour and shows that they enjoy what they do.

The original songs and beautiful and perfect playing of instruments is literal music to the ears. They harmonise perfectly and bring a more elevated edge to the musical genre, also somehow making this fit the narrative effortlessly.

The costumes and staging are also brilliant – basic yet well formulated, it is all used to its best ability but also creates its own theatrical and comical humour throughout. There’s a sense of slapstick humour and again, this is so well done that it all just works. A true blueprint for comical musicals.

Bowjangles: Dracula in Space is comical, silly in all the greatest ways and also makes you feel more sophisticated with the classical music soundtrack.

Review: Klanghaus, Darkroom, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Yes: I came back.

After visiting Klanghaus: In Haus the night before, I wanted to also experience their secondary production Darkroom. Set in the same space that I visited the night before, this was completely different. Yes the room was the same, but adjusted slightly to accommodate this one person performance.

As you can probably tell, you are plunged into darkness in the Darkroom. Before this, you are taken to an alcove to be given “the rules” which are more of a recorded voice telling you what you can expect and ensuring a safe space. To be honest, after the night before, I already knew that I was in safe hands.

In the darkness, you are surrounded by music, sound, from instrumental to sounds of helicopters, the sea, wind. All of these are exaggerated versions, assaulting the senses and, knowing that this is a piece based on climate change, makes this all the more impactful. With how used we are to light pollution, from lights blasting into the sky, to the small lights on our devices, it’s rare that we ever get complete darkness. And this is such a memorable and unique experience.

Along with sound, other senses are triggered – there is fan that kicks in with the helicopter and changes speed and intensity when this moves to the sea. We are faced with a jolt of surprise with light in form of light play and live singing and then an ending with the projection of a desolate sea image. This surprise from a pitch black room, where your eyes adjust to sudden light and the vibrant sounds, had an impact that was unexpected and created a different level of sensation.

Following this, you are taken to the nook to discuss with the Klanghaus team the production. While you saw them prior, it was a nice moment to reflect and discuss, especially from an artistic point of view, the piece and how it felt. It made you think more of what you experienced and your feelings from this. I felt calm and rejuvenated, with my senses reinvigorated.

Klanghaus Darkroom is another very unique experience, which, gives you a chance to relax, reflect and really think, alone and in a room that is unusual in the modern world. This is a must for any immersive and performance art fans.

Review: Klanghaus: In Haus, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Harking back to my origins in theatre, my days in the experimental theatre scene in Wales was often in a site specific set up, taking an existing location and moulding it to the concept. It feels like it’s been a while since I went to one of these, and oh how I missed it.

Klanghaus: In Haus utilises one of Summerhall’s spaces and creates a living room. Comfy chairs and maximalist decoration fills the space, pocketed by instruments and projections on walls. Every inch is taken up and for this one hour, you’re forever spotting something new.

This is a gig meets experimental think tank, provoking memories, emotions and at the same time, an intimate and fierce gig. The performers are inviting, warm and casual. We enter their space and they welcome it to us as a home, with hospitality and comfortability at the forefront. The juxtaposition of relaxation and punk rock heightens your senses. The close proximity keeps you on edge but somehow you’re also comfortable and chilled.

When we are taken to the “nook” we have some downtime and are involved, providing a sound as a collective, that we hear later on, interwoven into the ending. Occasionally audience members are asked to switch something on or get further involved, and, while this is minimal, we feel part of something. It’s like a house party with our closest friends.

And the music is impeccable. Not a note or sound is out of place; it is soothing and catchy and those who love female punk rock or even rock in general, will be tapping their toes and banging their heads.

Klanghaus: In Haus is the perfect use of site specific theatre, meeting intimate and personal performance art.

Review: Chicken, Eva O’Connor, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Bouffon has to be one of my favourite art forms. Theatre meets performance art, Bouffon is a type of clowning that touches on the absurd, grotesque and taboo.

The joy I felt when I saw Chicken listed as a production and knew I had to see it. And so glad I did.

Chicken is the life story of an Irish Rooster, rescued from the depths of the chicken farms, where male chicks are killed, and thrown into the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. He’s rock’n’roll, he’s glamour, he’s everything you would expect from Hollywood stardom… and in a world where it is accepted he is a bird.

Eva O’connor has us in a circular shape around her as she performs. The costume is gorgeous; in the vibrant multi-colour of a rooster, when you look closer, you can see the unusual fabrics and re-used items that make up her look – some dinosaur costume leg warmers, a elaborately fixed curtain tie for the feathered head; and this alone makes this so utterly surreal – almost like it could be the real thing until you look closer at the detail.

O’Connor perfectly embodies a rooster – not breaking this once, she moves around the space contorted and jittery like a chicken and it is unwavering. You are quite quickly and easily convinced she is a human sized rooster in front of you. And the eye contact she makes, it is never broken, it is awkward but also indulgent; you certainly cannot look away and you feel directly conversive with her.

The moments when the monologue is broken by music or times of elevated theatrical trickery; lights and physical dance to enhance drug taking or when she breaks free of her rooster colours, adds a sense of chaos and change of momentum and tact. These worked really well but it would have been quite effective if one more were added, maybe a little closer to the start to break that peaceful and relaxing pattern she had created with the circular movement and monologue.

Chicken is a really interesting comment on stardom, of working from nothing, but also love, loss and vices. It is ridiculous and bizarre, just as Bouffon should be and brilliantly cultivated.

Review: Anything That We Wanted To Be, Adam Lenson, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Adam Lenson, studying Doctor turned Theatre Director, who is hit with a curve ball in his 30’s of a cancer diagnosis… sounds made up but this is the true story of Anything That We Wanted To Be.

Lenson has created this theatrical piece, meets nostalgic reminiscence and electronic gig to bring across the story of his diagnosis and the thought we all have of: would this have happened to me in another universe?

We are propelled back and forth from early life to now, to life before him and his diagnosis. He questions the “what if” and the sad “why me” that we all ask when something bad happens. He uses this time travel to enhance his story but also to compare the then and now and turn this into positives.

It may sound like a super serious and existential narrative, and so it should be, but there is absolute hilarity involved. The return to our child-like essence when we face time with our parents, no matter what age; the odd comedic outlook on situations and looking at the past; the matter of fact approach when he relieves his younger self. It’s also endearing – Lenson has chosen not to use voice overs from other people or by imitation: the doctor, his parents, his brother, all have his voice and there’s something intimate but also a very clever about this when it could be so easy to dissociate the characters we can’t see. We in fact see it as his memory, his interpretation and something quite personal from Lenson’s mind.

Lenson creates music and soundscapes in front of us and it’s not always a catchy number that we’d want the CD of after. It can be haunting and just noise, crescendo-ing into something uncomfortable when his thoughts are overwhelming, and it works, breaking up the monologue and giving us something elevated but also ambient.

Anything We Wanted To Be is a soulful, vulnerable production; raw and laid bare, Lenson has been very clever with theatrical techniques to make this retelling not just a story but a very interesting, fun and emotional production.