Category Archives: Festivals

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.

Review: Hello Kitty Must Die, Alchemation, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

I think such a gripping title as Hello Kitty Must Die would entice anyone into what this production may be about. And it for sure wasn’t what I expected.

Hello Kitty Must Die is a feminist musical, combating the patriarchal stereotypes in the female and Asian communities but also throwing in dark humour and a bit of… murder.

This musical takes the said stereotypes, giving examples but turning these on their head, with a satirical but unapologetic approach. As a non-asian person, it was interesting and eye opening to hear how Asian women are treated in their own cultures as well as western cultures. The mixture of the two, including the opportunities in both, compete with one another and this transpires on stage, satirically making fun of these but subtly highlighting the issues with these thoughts.

As a musical, the voices are beautiful, powerful and harmonise well. However, I find with a lot of musicals, and those particularly in smaller venues, that the music often overpowers them and so some of the words were missed for me. Catchy in rhythm, they just lacked what was obviously important commentary on the story-line and the feminist opinions.

The actors were brilliant and those who were not the main character did well to jump and change into different characters throughout, embodying these physically and vocally. However, the story begins to be a commentary on how particularly Asian women are expected to be perfect, virginal and live for their husbands. When the narrative somewhat changes to a murder spree, it feels disconnected and a little out of the blue. The moral is in essence that any woman, especially a stereotyped Asian woman can take back their control and be above white men, but it felt a little of an abrupt narrative tact to take. There was no shock to it, nothing surprising with the ending and left us wanting a lot more.

Hello Kitty Must Die is fun, it is professional and full of talent in the singing and acting, but felt a little lost in what the narrative was meant to achieve.

Review: Without Sin, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Immersive experiences are my bread and butter when it comes to theatre. Companies such as Darkfield have revolutionised what this looks like, using no performers but creating spaces and sounds to envelope you in these worlds.

Without Sin creates a world where, after years of no contact from COVID, we are forced intimacy with a complete stranger, bringing us back into the hug of theatre at its best. There are no performers, but a soothing voice through headphones and you and your partner’s interaction. Set out as a confessional, you and another audience member ask one another prompted questions along the 7 deadly sins vibe, that make you think and also get to know one another. The questions are very clever and let you know a lot in a small amount of time about this stranger, about yourself and create a really unique connection.

By the end of the questions, you are prompted to write your partner advice or something you want them to hear… and this becomes emotional and taps into parts of you that maybe your loved ones wouldn’t venture into.

The box itself is small but there is something comforting about it, from the soothing voice in the headphones, to the incense and woody smell, to the ambient lighting. You feel safe and looked after and this helps in your “confession”. Clearly based on Catholicism, there isn’t something intimidating that maybe a church or religious confessional would perhaps give. It’s a welcoming space and a time to take a breath in the chaos of the fringe.

Without Sin is a revolutionary approach to site-specific/purpose built immersive experiences. It allows you to be vulnerable but also supportive. My only wish was that it was longer than 10 minutes – I could have stayed in there forever to cleanse my soul!

Review: An Interrogation, Jamie Armitage, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

We are obsessed with crime, police dramas, the unknown and the sleuthing. It can be seen by the revisions of Agatha Christie, of Line of Duty fame, Broadchurch… I could go on.

Murder mysteries aren’t new to the stage either. But An Interrogation, written and directed by Jamie Armitage is something completely different. It’s a murder mystery, yes, but there’s no skulking around a manor or being brought into the billiards room to uncover the murderer. We sit in one room where a young detective trusts in her deep feelings on a suspect and uses her vulnerability and intelligence to discover the truth.

1 hour sat in the same room, both in reality and theatrically, sounds like it wouldn’t be too riveting. But something about An Interrogation grabs you and holds your attention. The relationships between the 3 different characters are electric, natural and so smooth. We genuinely feel as if we are in the two way mirror, watching reality in front of us. There’s no theatrical mastery, nothing to heighten the drama in terms of music or lighting additions, the drama is in the writing and how extraordinary the performers are as their characters and with one another.

The production is elevated somewhat with the use of a camera, filming from above and occasionally under the table at the two characters hands as their discussion bats back and forth. This shows a juxtaposition between the cool, calm exteriors and their inner fears and nerves. The way they all bounce off one another is so well done, combining this with the writing and the brilliant theatrical talent of these performers, you cannot take your eye off the production and you are invested from the get go.

This isn’t just a crime play – this also touches on the problems of misogyny, of police corruption and crescendos in to a series of twists, including one that surprises us the most and that was the most unexpected. This is more shocking than anything and so well done by building up a different expectation throughout the narrative.

An Interrogation is gripping, chilling and utter perfection – a true masterpiece of theatre.

Review: An Alternative Helpline for the End of the World, Katrine Turner, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

When it comes to modernity and the end of the World, what is more appropriate in helping to handle this than a call centre?

In this 15 minute performance piece, you could be anywhere in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, the World and be able to take part. All is needed is good signal and a place you can sit undisturbed for 15 minutes.

Katrine Turner calls you on your mobile. Her interaction is very professional, with that edge of personability that all call centre workers seem to have. They know you but they also don’t. You are felt at ease and, while there isn’t a sale to be made, there’s also some sort of separation from emotion yet a sense of everything being in hand.

You are given the usual notes that the call isn’t recorded and your details are not kept and then it begins. You are asked what concerns you the most about the end of the world – instantly you are made to think what this could be and you delve into a not yet existing turmoil. From this you are given multiple choices to choose from, to dig deeper, with other options coming to light that you may not have thought about. After a few questions, you are given some advice. For me, this was a poem that summed my concerns and how to take life as it is.

This is a unique and one off experience – it’s uncertain how to know how other experiences go or to feed off others but there’s something interesting and intimate about this. It is something only you can feed off and this can be risky and go either way. It can also be difficult to find the sort of space that feels appropriate, especially during the fringe. There’s little space to sit and immerse yourself and distractions a-plenty. Perhaps this gives room to grow this piece, maybe expanding it to a more site-specific performance in a phone booth or small area where you and the phone is all there is.

An Alternative Helpline for the End of the World is a unique and interesting accessible performance, not tying you down to anywhere to experience it. But this does slightly impede it, in its immersive aspect.

Review: Lucky Pigeons, Brainfools, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Who would have thought that if you combined pigeons and circus, you’d have a brilliant time?

Lucky Pigeons is Brainfools Ed Fringe debut, and what a debut it is. This is a highly interactive, family friendly show. Before any action even takes place, our main “human” character is out in the audience, introducing herself to each member of the audience, interacting with the children and ensuring that they are comfortable with the next hour.

A boy called Oscar becomes an unbeknownst star when he is called upon regularly to come straight onto the stage and help. The grin on this boy’s face is infectious and his excitement to take part is electric. Lucky Pigeons has really provided an opportunity to make a core memory for this kid.

Our main character loses her job and becomes lost on a street where she meets a group of pigeons who magically become human size and teach her the ways of the pigeon life which is… circus. There’s a sense of learning from them and improving of her mood from these simple yet talented figures. Their costumes border human with suit-like outfits but bright feathers and colourful face paint, pigeon style hats and movement like a bird. It is engaging, and fun, cute and adorable.

The tricks are of course impressive, acrobatics from the built staging in front of us, tricks with no support at all and team balancing acts. There are the occasional mistake but these are picked up quickly and moved on with little notice. There is silly comedy and slapstick, which, from the sounds of the children, tickles them and therefore achieves what it sets out to do.

Lucky Pigeons is engaging, fun, comical and ticks all the boxes for a family friendly show. It may be catered for this demographic, but anyone can find it enjoyable and hugely endearing.

Review: Until Death, Nalini Sharma, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Until Death is a one woman show with an amalgamation of characters, a funny stage hand and… a bat.

Nalini Sharma presents the characters she saw and created from her childhood of hospital stays. They range from a sexually enticed old lady, a brother of a little girl in a hospital bed and a sexy bat who also has crazy dreams of Marilyn Monroe after being hit by the nurse/stage hand.

There is no lead up or connection that is very clear from character to character. It doesn’t stop this being comical and a fun, fever dream, but it wasn’t hugely clear exactly what we were watching. It is still enjoyable, the characters are well thought out and clearly reflecting the characters that Sharma created or met in her times in hospital – they are very exaggerated (although, the old lady could very much be entirely real, even after she wees on a plant) and their interaction with us as the audience is real, comfortable and we feel included and part of the fun and the story.

Until Death needed a little bit more direction and black and white blueprint for us to entirely understand where the characters come from and their reason for being. However, it is a fun play with some hammed up and comical characters.

Review: Brave Space, Aloft Circus Arts, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There is something very powerful about theatre being built around you. Even more so when it’s circus, around, in front and above your head.

Walking into the space, we are faced with only a lonely deflated tent, that we are asked to stand around and watch as it comes alive. We start from the outside until we are welcomed in and under the tent. In front of us, the tent grows and grows and is built before us. There’s a sense of consent – that we are only allowed into this magical world when we are invited.

This reminds me a lot of No Fit State, Bianco, where the staging is ever changing and we see the build before us. However, with Brave Space, we are brought in close to one another, in an intimate and close encounter – the space is safe, the space is brave.

My only criticism with this is that we are such a large audience, that this becomes slightly uncomfortable, with the pressure of the tent on your head if you’re at the back. When we are asked to lie down and watch acrobatics above us, again, it feels compact, little awkward and some couldn’t quite find the space to do this so miss out on the impact. If you’re lucky enough to lie down, it’s magical and a new and relaxed perspective.

The actual circus tricks are of course brilliant and awe-inspiring. There’s the occasional mistake but this is picked up quickly and effortlessly, with very little impact on the smooth transitions.

Brave Space is a tranquil and intimate circus show, bringing us together and creating a new world, built before our eyes.

Review: Puppets, Olivia Ruggiero Productions, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

A lover of puppets, but also a lover of bringing these family friendly items into the adult universe, a show about dating and puppets sounded up my street.

Liv has been brought up, as we all have, of the idea of a White Knight and Prince Charming. But in a modern world, we have to wade through the frogs on dating apps that may seem like good deals or quickly not, but there is awkwardness and a need to stick with it to find this dream. Liv is crazed by this and, to bring her dating woes to life, these poor matches become our familiar favourite puppets from Sesame Street.

In between the stories, Ruggiero ties these up with contemporary and musical bops, showcasing her phenomenal voice. With this, her voice and ability to perform musical theatre is spectacular and it’s clear how much talent Ruggiero possesses. To bring this into a fringe show, featuring puppets and adult humour is a brilliant idea and should be commended. Despite this, for one who is not a novice but also not an expert on Musical Theatre, there were many songs and references that I wasn’t clear on their origins, with some being quite niche and so lost me a little with this. I guess, if you are happy to not think too much about where they come from or accept complete lack of knowledge of this genre, it’s great to absorb these but it felt distracting to me with recognition of some and not others.

The concept is of course interesting – it touches on predecessors such as Avenue Q or Hand of God, using puppetry to give a humorous approach to adult topics. However, I found myself a little lost with who was who and the story-line and with this, possibly missed some of the comedy or point of the story telling. With Liv’s dating life being summarised as not tying up the search for the love of her life and instead, realisation of confidence in herself, it felt a little out of the blue without us seeing more work on herself that could lead to that conclusion.

Puppets is great fun, with a beautiful voice belting through the walls and fantastic performance in general. I just felt a little lost with the story and felt that the important elements such as the songs were rather niche for an ordinary audience.