Archive for EdFringe2018

A Queer Love of Dix

aqueerloveofdixAletia Upstairs, brought us an exploration of Weill, Brecht, and Weimar cabaret songs like “Falling in Love Again”, “Alabama Song” and “I Am a Vamp”. Interspersed with the songs is an explanation of the cultural context of Weimar Germany which existed 1919 to 1933. For that short period, particularly in the Goldene Zwanziger (“Golden Twenties”)  – roughly only really a five year period – which ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929, there was a cultural and artistic explosion.

Aletia describes Weimar as a Utopia. It’s certainly true that gays were more accepted. According to ‘Queer Identities and Politics in Germany, A History 1880-1945’ at the heyday of the Weimar Republic, there were between 90 and 100 gay bars in Berlin frequented by gay men and lesbians.

Compared to the Nazi period which followed it is easy to see why many view Weimar with rose-tinted glasses. There were anti-gay laws on the books, however, but the majority of German police officers turned a blind eye to the bars. There was a big difference between rural attitudes to those in Berlin. There were also dire economic conditions, which, as today, affected people unequally. Not everyone was enjoying the high life of Berlin! That’s one of the factors that led to the rise of the Nazis who portrayed Weimar culture as both decadent and under foreign influence. Indeed they sought to disrupt many events. When they gained power the music was derided and proscribed. Homosexuals were persecuted and killed by their State.

This show is not a history lesson though. It centres on the songs of the period which have a power, and sometimes, biting emotional edge. “Pirate Jenny” with its dream of class revenge and Spoliansky’s ”It’s All a Swindle” with its condemnation of the corruption of the Political Class and cynicism toward general society stood out for me. As the song says: “The left betrays, the right dismays, the country’s broke and guess who pays?”.

Accompanying the songs are the harsh, brutal images of the expressionist artist Otto Dix. Dix didn’t shy away from depicting distorted human forms to expose vanity or the horror of war. One of my favourites, ‘Girl in front of the mirror‘ from 1922 is used in the show.

Aletia gave a great performance full of passion and humour. The audience loved it. Full marks to the venue, Planet, for hosting it. It wasn’t an ideal venue in many ways but it worked.

The show ended with a performance of the “The Lavender Song” with the audience joining in. It was a song I had not been familiar with. It is a Cabaret song from 1920. It’s not a Weill or Brecht song. The music was composed by Mischa Spoliansky, and the lyrics were written by Kurt Schwabach. It is a song that accuses mainstream society and contains the great line: “they march in lockstep we prefer to dance”. A sentiment not just relevant to sexual freedom but freedom in general.

This Edinburgh premiere has now ended but it’s London-bound!

Queer Identities and Politics in Germany, A History 1880-1945, by Clayton J. Whisnant (Harrington Park Press; 2016).

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington



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IronyPQA Venue 3, Riddle’s Court  8:00pm

3-27 August, 2018

Davy Mitchell supported by John O’Hare

The inventor of the Segway fell off a cliff while riding on a Segway. Oh the irony. That’s the theme running through Davy Mitchell’s stand-up comedy routine with some support from Galway man John O’Hare.

There were only three people in the audience the night I attended; a young man from Sheffield, a young woman from Switzerland and me – an older man from Belfast. Such a poor turnout on one particular night might have discouraged some performers but Davy and John took the opportunity to engage more fully with their audience.

All humour is relative; some jokes made me cringe, others made me laugh out loud. This pair picked up cues from their audience, improvised accordingly and gave an entertaining performance; despite noise pollution leaking in from a musical production next door.

Reviewed by David Kerr

Gold star

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Japan Marvelous Drummers 

japanmarvelousdrummersAssembly George Square Theatre, George Square.
1:15pm daily, (except Friday 17) until 27th August.
Price £14.

High-octane is a phrase that could be used to describe the performance of this troop of musicians from Fukuoka, Japan. While drums are indeed their main instruments, flutes and others also play a part in this hour-long show that keeps up a rapid tempo from start to finish.

Each set of pieces is introduced and the significance of the music is explained to the audience. The musicians move instruments on and off the set with an ease and efficiency that ensures that the flow of performance is not interrupted.

The physicality of the performers is considerable. Not only do they play their instruments, (including banging the drums with some vigour!), but they also engage in some slapstick and carrying around what look rather heavy drums. Like a long and hard-fought tennis match you almost feel tired watching them!

Japan Marvelous Drummers is an hour of rip-roaring entertainment from a group of talented and likeable artists. My only caution would be that it if you have sensitive hearing then do not sit too near to the front!

Reviewed by David Andrews

5 Star Images - Clipart library

#EdFringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown


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What Listening to 10,000 Love Songs Has Taught Me About Love

Laughing Horse @ Moriarty’s – Performing Space
Aug 11-12
50 minutes

This show is a delight. At the core is a great idea: to look at what Love is and how it affects us through love songs. It’s a simple set. When you go in, there is a desk with papers on it, some plastic ducks, a record player and a stack of records (not vinyl!). Then the writer/performer tells you a story about his personal experiences of love in a reflective, humourous and poignant way. His story is complemented by records from Frankie, Blondie, The Beatles, Soft Cell, Ian Drury and others. This works on several levels because whilst experiences are personal there is a commonality too and hearing a story based on truth makes us feel connected. It’s a show that gets under your skin and makes you think about your own life: your first kiss, losing loved ones, break-ups. The whole gamut of Love. I found parts of this show moving.

It saddened me to hear of a racist incident directed at the writer/performer during a love affair. But it made me laugh to hear John Cooper Clarke and his (I Married A) Monster From Outer Space. At one point, I cried a little as I heard about the death of his Father and the song sung by his Mother in commemoration – Moon River. Heart wrenching.

It’s a coincidence (or providential) that this show jumped out at me. A good friend has just written a self-help book using lyrics as a starting point: Lyrics to Live By. I have, therefore, been thinking a lot about lyrics and how they bring back memories of certain points in our life and provide us with tools to understand it all! There are songs that are just too painful for me to hear. I try to avoid them. Others uplift me and take me to happy memories. They have a great power. This show helped me to understand another part of the puzzle. It’s great that this show is part of the Free Festival and that the writer/performer is doing it for love not money!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

#EdFringe2018  #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

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@JohnLewis: Never Knowingly Undertweeted


Simon Jay gives a compelling performance in this one man show

Venue 93
Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom – The Basement
Aug 4-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-26
1 hour

Simon Jay gives a versatile performance in this fascinating one-man show. Based on a true story, the play is about an American teacher called John Lewis whose twitter account is confused with that of the well known co-operative Department Store. A strange tale and no wonder that the Standard picked it as one of the ten quirkiest shows of the Fringe!

It’s a story that is funny but raises serious questions about identity, corporate branding and social media. Jay portrays different roles apart from John Lewis including customers and staff at the HQ of the store. Jay oozes energy and humour. I liked his miming of shaving and his dancing (Jay is quite a physical performer!).

I should make special mention to the enjoyable and diverse music soundtrack which accompanies the show and underlines themes in the script. Best of all the show is part of the free festival so go along, enjoy and put money (what you can afford) in the bucket at the end!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

#IntoTheUnknown #EdFringe2018 #EdFringe

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Venue 14
Gilded Balloon Teviot – Wine Bar
Aug 3-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-27
1 hour

Simon Jay gives an energetic performance as Trump

Simon Jay attempts to parody the US President. His difficulty is, partly, that Trump is so out there that he is difficult to satirise. It’s easy to fall into presenting a caricature and that’s what happens here. We are all familiar with Trump’s boasting and inconsistency and even the crudity expressed here toward female members of the audience and regarding members of own family and political figures doesn’t shock.

Jay describes himself as a “queer performer and life long socialist” and no one can fault his passion or commitment. He gives an energetic performance and stays in role on and off stage. Jay got a lot right in Trump’s speech patterns, mannerisms and standard responses. “Beautiful” as Trump might say!
There were funny moments (I liked the version of Mein Herr from Cabaret, My Hair, for instance). Simon/Trump was also entertaining when dealing with individual members of the audience. . I also liked that the show tried to keep up with events. When I went references were made to the release of Tommy Robinson.
However the show is not well scripted. The “soul catching” routine goes nowhere. A section with the ghosts of the Founding Fathers is an interesting concept but lacks punch. The side to Trump that is a calculating politician playing to his audience isn’t explored. It simply presents trump as a buffoon and a dirty old man. It’s maybe an uncomfortable truth to confront that Trump is a populist giving answers (often bad) to real problems. He is tapping into discontent with the American economy, “liberal elites”, immigration and crime. If you don’t address that then you are simply value signaling to people who think the same as you do.
It’s a shame as Trumpageeddon has the potential to be a great show. To be so the writer would need to check his prejudices at the door and seek to understand what the appeal of Trump is to many Americans. Presentation of that would give this show an edge which is lacking.
Reviewed by Pat Harrington
#Trumpageddon #edfringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

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