Archive for Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022


Venue 156. 12:50. until 27th August

Elizabeth McGeown – a three times All-Ulster/Northern Ireland Poetry Slam champion – brings her poetry to a live Edinburgh Fringe audience for the first time. She claims to be better online than in real life, but that’s just not true.

Elizabeth McGeown in Cockroach

Her command of language as she recounts stories in verse of great encouraging teachers, bullying in school, and her struggles to fit into society, is electrifying. She references popular books and films in her works.

Some folk – often for good reason – avoid poetry readings fearing that they’ll be bored rigid. Not so with Elizabeth McGeown in Cockroach. This one-woman show isn’t merely a reading; it’s an immersive dive into her struggle for acceptance and confident self-expression. Her language pours out of her lips in punchy assertive verse. Like a flood tide, she sweeps her audience away with her. It’s powerful stuff.

Reviewed by David Kerr


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Battle: A modern mystery play

Venue 9; The Space till 27 August 

Few plays can boast 21 different characters played by just four actors, that’s exactly what Swanwing Productions have accomplished this difficult task using just a few items of costume and some basic props; a staff, three pairs of scissors, a longbow, and a framed picture of Princess Diana.

This thoughtful play, introduced by Old Father Time, runs through conflicts in history from the Battle of Hastings in 1066 through to the present day.

Battle has its humorous moments; who realised that our history is full of disputes between Harrys and Williams, for example? There are also deeply poignant moments. In one scene that moved this reviewer to tears, Bruce, a dying soldier shown crying for his mother, thought that a woman who had come to strip the dead and wounded for any valuables was an angel because she gave him a sip of water.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Leith Arches which hosts 1902 is very close to my home and Leith is very close to my heart. Though I will never be a Leither I’ve always felt at home here. Leith has real character and the people are genuine and straight talking. This play, from Saltire Square, captures that authenticity. The plot follows four young men: Deeks (Nathan Scott-Dunn), Sambo (Alexander Arran Cowan), Zippy (Cameron Docker), and Frankie (Josh Brock) from Leith (not Edinburgh!) who borrow money from a gangster to buy tickets to the 2016 Scottish Cup Final where the Leith based team Hibernian faced Rangers. The title refers to the fact that 1902 was the year Hibs had last won the Scottish Cup and it took 114 years for them to win it again!

1902: physical, passionate, and moving

Co-director and star of the show Scott-Dunn told the National newspaper that it’s the play’s authenticity that cuts through to audiences of all types.

“I think the show itself has like a strong sense of identity and I’ve also written it phonetically, it’s how we talk.

“If you went to a pub, and you’re sat there then these conversations are the real conversations that you will hear. It’s the authenticity I think, I think authenticity is what sells the show a lot because you know it’s real.”

The actors are very physical and in each other’s faces and even, sometimes, the audience. Their energy and passion are contagious – whether it is when they are arguing with each other, bursting into football chants, or describing the Scottish Final. The writer has a real ear for dialogue/banter. One thing this show communicates is how working-class lads bond and communicate with each other. We see their family dilemmas (the relationship between Deeks and elder brother Tony relationship isn’t exactly harmonious!), love interests, and lack of opportunities but beyond all that, we see their loyalty to each other. The relationships between them are turbulent and shifting but at base, they know they need one another. The barmaid in the pub where the action takes place, Mags, is great.

There’s a lot of humour in 1902 so it is a real mix of light and dark. I’d have to rate this as one of the most powerful performances I’ve seen. It’s immersive and sometimes that’s funny and sometimes it borders on intimidating. One thing is certain – 1902 makes you feel and it makes you think.

One of the things that I admired most about 1902 is that it avoids sentimentality and ends on a positive note. In fact, it ends with the great Proclaimers/Hibs anthem ‘Sunshine on Leith’ which echoed around the stadium when Hibs won the cup. The motto of Leith is ‘Persevere’ and you know that the characters in the play will do just that – together.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Saltire Sky’s 1902 is running until August 30 at the Edinburgh Fringe and tickets can be purchased here: Look out for the tour!

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Exodus has been described as satire but it should more properly be viewed as part of the great tradition of the British farce. As Wikipedia defines it:

Aryana Ramkhalawon and Sophie Steer play the Home Secretary and her Spin Doctor. Photo credit Tim Morozzo.

“Farce is a comedy that seeks to entertain an audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, ridiculous, absurd, and improbable. Farce is also characterized by heavy use of physical humor; the use of deliberate absurdity or nonsense; satire, parody, and mockery of real-life situations, people, events, and interactions; unlikely and humorous instances of miscommunication; ludicrous, improbable, and exaggerated characters; and broadly stylized performances.”

That certainly sums up Exodus to me. A Home Secretary, Asiya Rao (a caricature of Priti Patel), is at a photo shoot in Dover, standing in the water to underline her desire to prevent illegal migrants from entering the country. It’s in preparation for the launch of Operation Womb, to separate Britain from the rest of the world with the slogan “Look inward”. All starts to go wrong when a living baby is washed up between her feet, and, instead of handing the baby in to the police, she stuffs the baby into her expensive handbag. On the train back to London St. Pancras an actress paid to play her mother, and a journalist interviewing the Home Secretary create a chaotic situation full of misunderstandings and miscommunication.

The performances are great. My favourite was Sophie Steer playing the scheming amoral advisor/spin doctor Phoebe. The show is very enjoyable. If you view it as a farce and don’t consider the underlying political message too critically there are many laugh-out-loud moments. You have to either suspend disbelief and treat this as pure entertainment or look at the message behind the play analytically. If you take the second route it raises difficult questions about what our immigration rules should be, how we became a wealthy nation, and what integration means. On top of that, you would have to consider what British identity is (to me Exodus put this in an overly simplistic and negative light). Perhaps you can view it as both entertainment and consider its message too – I found that difficult.

It’s also my view that the villain should get some good lines. That didn’t happen here perhaps because it was in a farce format. Aryana Ramkhalawon playing Home Secretary Asiya Rao had few persuasive arguments in the script or even any half-way convincing points or rebuttals. It also dodges the question of how a second-generation immigrant has adopted such a hard-line stance on migration and asylum. The only answer put forward is opportunism and a lust for power but is it that simple? Real life is not so cut and dried. Sometimes the villains have good (or at least seemingly convincing or popular arguments) – that’s one of the things that makes them so dangerous.

The play ends with footage of people in Glasgow preventing the deportation of a migrant while chanting “The People united will never be defeated”. Of course, people have never been united on the subject of immigration. Perhaps Exodus will contribute to a debate where we can reach a consensus on the many thorny issues it raises. Here’s hoping!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Venue 15
Traverse Theatre – Traverse 1
Aug 23-28
1 hour 25 minutes
Group: National Theatre of Scotland

Can’t see it in Edinburgh? The check-out tour dates on the website.

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Antigone: the Musical

The civil war in Thebes is over, and Antigone’s two brothers are dead. Her uncle, Creon, is now king and has declared that one of the brothers (Eteocles) will be given a proper burial while the other will be left to rot (Polynices). Anyone who disobeys his order is to be put to death, but that is not going to stop Antigone. She knows that it is her duty to bury her brother, and she is willing to risk everything – even her life – to do so. Creon is a wicked man for what he has done, ordering such an inhumane thing. Creon exposes himself as an inflexible dictator who exercises his power over the people selfishly. Antigone is heroic for standing up to him.

A fascinating musical production that packs a punch

What’s the theme? In a nutshell, it’s about a group of friends who band together to take on an unjust ruler. They’re armed with little more than their wit and courage, but they’re determined to stand up for what is right (both morally and according to the religious convention). Along the way, they learn that the power of the people can be greater than any ruler.

Why see it? Whether you’re a fan of musicals or not, this show is sure to entertain. The songs are catchy (I was humming away later to “someone’s gotta be the villain”!” and the characters are lovable (even the villain, Creon, is strangely likable). Hard Luck Musicals was established in 2021 by students Marina McCready and Felix Elliott whilst studying at the University of Cambridge. The cast, sound engineers, and musicians are young, accomplished, and passionate. Each character is developed (I was drawn to the Fool/Adviser to Creon but it is an ensemble cast).

Antigone has always been one of my favourite stories from ancient Greece. ThThat’saybe not too surprising for an old Philosophy student who did his thesis on Civil Disobedience! Antigone is a radical story about rebellion and standing up for your principles in the face of state power. This retelling embraces that. I loved the protest songs, the holding up of placards/signs, and the leaflets handed to the audience. In this retelling, the ending is different from the Sophocles original (and that’s all I’m saying as I don’t want to plot spoil!). At a time of turmoil in our own country, this ancient story is still relevant and this production packs a punch. It’ll leave you feeling inspired and ready to take on the world!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

Listings information

Date 15-27 August (excluding the 21st)
Venue theSpace @ Surgeons Hall – Grand Theatre (15-20th August); Fleming
Theatre (22-27th August)
Time 16:25 (15-20th August); 19:20 (22-27th August) duration 50 mins
Ticket prices £10 / concessions £8
Venue box office 0131 510 2384 /
Fringe box office 0131 226 0000 /

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Review: Medea the Musical

Medea the Musical is a show that will leave you on the edge of your seat. It’s a stripped-down version of the ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides. Four characters re-tell the story of betrayal and revenge. Euripides’ 5th century BC tragedy Medea is not a happy tale and might seem an unlikely choice for a musical adaptation. It depicts the ending of Medea’s marriage with Jason after he abandons her for king Creon’s daughter Creusa. In revenge, Medea murders Creusa and then her own sons by Jason.

A unique, thought-provoking musical experience

While the subject matter might sound heavy, the musical is actually quite funny and entertaining. The catchy songs and clever lyrics will stick with you long after the show is over. And even though it’s (partly at least) a comedy, the musical still manages to raise some important questions about love, betrayal, and forgiveness.

The audience is invited to sit as a jury as the story is told. All four characters have complex motives. Our narrator is Aegeus, a manipulative lawyer who seems to push events along and cause trouble partly out of a desire just to see what happens. Jason is a man who leaves his wife for another woman and ends up losing everything, even his faith in God. Glauce (Cruesa in the original) is Jason’s new woman who is entertainingly bitchy with some great songs and lines. And then there is Medea whose motivation and responsibility we are invited to consider. It’s thought-provoking stuff.

The cast is backed by an accomplished live music ensemble. The songs are great and move much of the action as well as explaining the vulnerabilities and motivations of the characters. I particularly enjoyed Thick Skins but there are a number of good songs drawing on different musical genres.

If you’re looking for something different at this year’s Fringe Festival, be sure to catch Medea the Musical. You won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

Medea the Musical
Venue 152
Paradise in Augustines – The Studio
Aug 17-20, 22-28
1 hour 20 minutes
Group: Tiny Mouth Productions

Fringe box office 0131 226 0000

Cast and Crew

Aegeus: Xander Pang

Medea: Hayley Canham

Glauce: Dixie McDevitt

Jason: Gabriel Jones

Violin: Hannah Erlebach

Cello: Beatrice Thompson

Guitar: András Droppa

Keys: Fleur Gardner-Wray

Director: Maria Telnikoff

Musical Director: Fleur Gardner-Wray

Writer: Hayley Canham

Producer: Bella Cavicchi

#edfringe @medeathemusical @ParadiseGreenUK

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