Edinburgh Fringe Festival Reviews

Edinburgh Fringe Festival Reviews
by Brian Merriman

Some Other Mirror
Produced by: Chronic Insanity
Venue: 391 Pianodrome Theatre
Time, dates: 19.00 hours until 12th

Duration:  45 minutes 

Some Other Mirror is a solo show that reveals much about identities. Our actor didn’t have a great opinion of men to start with, so why be one? The conversations that follow in this 45 monologue unpack the complexity of gender identity and transition with warmth and charm. They don’t stumble over language, they don’t offend or take offence and they admit that they may miss things about their assigned identity.

Chronic Insanity in presenting works like this help not just to inform, but they create much-needed space to listen and learn and to realise that identity is layered and complex.  This conversation is still a new phenomenon for many, especially those assigned their correct gender at birth.

There are in the production, conversations that are personal, that struggle with decisions, but all are infused with a charm and intelligence that the actor radiates from the stage. Throw in a few songs from ‘Rocketman’ to ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and you have a theatrical package that welcomes you into the world of transition without fear of offence or injury.

This is a welcome contribution to understanding transition, told in an informal, relaxed manner and through language that helps you relate. Trans theatre is finally peeping over the parapet. This is worth a look.

Fabulett 1933   

Produced by: Michael Trauffer/ Fabulett Productions
Venue:  53 Space @ Surgeons Hall
Time, dates: 20.55 (not 14) until 27th
Duration:  55 minutes

Fabulett 1933 brings us back to the last night of ‘Fabulett’ a ‘decadent’ club in Berlin being forcibly shut down by the Nazis on February 28th 1933. Intoxicated by the popular mandate given to them by the electorate, these clubs are the voice of dissent which will be razed to the ground.

There is (unusually for the Fringe) a very good programme supplied giving the background to these terrifying times that resulted not just in the suffering of the minorities blamed for a country’s ills, but soon the ‘mandate’ affected everyone as the populist’s grip on power cemented.

This work connects 1933 with present-day politics…from a modern perspective, we ask why didn’t people ‘see the signs’  and stop the rise of fascism, in a current context where we see the same tactics being deployed today to denigrate centre democratic politics.

Michael Trauffer is a fine writer. He reminds us clearly of the liberal inclusive democracy during the Weimar years in original song and story. Trauffer’s magnificent physique dominates his stage presentation. He is ‘Felix’ the cabaret MC and no, this is not a rip-off of ‘Cabaret’ the musical. The writing ensures it stands on its own merits of which there are many.

There are original songs and very meaningful lyrics. He has a lot to sing about politics, differences and relationships. English is not Trauffer’s first language and the care he takes in enunciation is admirable.

Trauffer has trained his singing voice. Fringe is vocally exhausting. He never misses a note and struggles to constantly place the note, at a cost to lyrical interpretation and musicality. The tone is tired and the score demanding. Accompanied on stage by pianist ‘Hans’, Trauffer throws his heart, soul and artistry into this work. He means it. Every laudable word.

‘Tell them where we came from’ he says – a timely reminder of what is happening to democracies worldwide today and its consequences for freedom and inclusion for all. The irony that this show’s diverse audience was full of the generation which celebrates the work and yet is likely to ’mandate’ that regressive change at the next election, is not lost on those who listened to Trauffer’s stark and effective message.

Reclaiming Harry
Produced by: Rich Watkins Productions
Venue: CC Blooms
Time, dates: 22.30 until Aug 28th (not 16/22)
Duration:  70 minutes  18+

‘Reclaiming Harry’ by Rich Watkins reminds us of the quality and surprise of the ‘free fringe’ in Edinburgh. Many companies, exhausted by venue charges and soaring costs, operate on a ‘pay what you can’ basis. Many do better this way, as they end up with such a small share of the income if they remain in the ‘mainstream’. Also, they get the box office donations each night which helps them survive in this price gauged city.

‘CC Blooms’ is the hosting LGBT+ bar where you can’t buy a pint with sterling, meaning every tourist without a UK bank card, pays the additional bank, currency and conversion charges on each drink purchased! Brexit clearly means that tourism is unwelcome in this colourful venue unless you pay more.

‘Reclaiming Harry’ is a romp, full of camp and 90s music. The trio of actors hurl their lines from the stage in a high-energy performance where ‘Harry Potter’ is reclaimed by fans, with the help of other wizards from classic stories from ‘Oz’ to ‘Lord of the Rings’.

The play separates the offensive views of JK Rowling on the trans community, from the heart of ‘Harry Potter’ (brilliantly played) and via Ali McSteele – both wonderful performances supported outrageously by Watkins’ wardrobe of high camp energy in a myriad of classic roles through the high camp lense.

In its own way, ‘Reclaiming Harry’ challenges directly the impact of Rowling’s prejudices by reclaiming the positivity and joy of her Potter stories for the diverse community that helped make Rowling a success. It’s clever, camp, uplifting and 70 minutes of feel-good fun.

The Fire At the Edge of the Earth
Produced by:  Zack Rocklin-Waltch and Michael MacLeod performers
Venue: 38, The Space Triplex studio
Time, dates: Until August 13th  10.15 am
Duration:  60 minutes

In every packed Fringe programme, you must seek out the hidden gems. These are usually on at off-peak times. This 10.15am production of ”The Fire at the Edge of the Earth’ shines like a diamond.

What do two men talk about? What are the thoughts, actions and feelings at the heart of a sustainable same-sex relationship? How do men cope with the differences between them, who is the carer and who is the cared for and should these be the roles to sustain that love?

One British (Vector) studies Latin and the classics and one American, played by writer Zack Rocklin-Waltch (Pluto) wants to be a doctor but has he got what it takes? They find themselves in Russia deemed to be at the ‘Edge of the Earth’ in Prometheus’s time.

Vector knew he was bisexual and met Pluto online. What transpires is a love story that crosses the ocean, is challenged by what is accepted as truth in academia and is infused with the essence of what two young men can see in each other, and the future, if they will let each other look.

The delivery from our handsome actors matched the intent of the writing in every word delivered. The direction by Audrey Forman was fluid and concentrated on liberating this unique story of difference, care, relationship and love. When so often male relationships are reduced to the physical in theatre, this is a love story, a balancing of need, truth and honesty so beautifully delivered.

A breath of fresh air in lgbt+ writing and performance. Memorable.

I Just Like You/ A Gay Myth    
Produced by: Who What Where Theatre Collective
Venue: 16 Greenside at Riddles Court
Time, dates: 12.30
Duration:  60 Minutes

This intimate two-hander moves deftly in a tiny stage space. Zachary Wilcox as writer/director/producer/designer encompasses all of the challenges presented by Fringe Theatre.

Chandler James and Conor Mainwaring play the no strings attached couple who meet online and reject the pathway towards intimacy and romance for the buzz of the multi-partnered chase. Well, one of them does.

It’s brisk, fast-paced, physical and funny. Clearly there is damage which is being worked out in the intense physical coupling with whoever is online, but there is also an exploration of the concept of a ’friend with benefits’.

Wilcox in flashing episodes touches on all the language and expectations from online hookups. There is a connection between them from the start, but there are boundaries necessitated by rebound. But the difference here is they learn to satisfy each other in and out of bed.

There is a lot of humour and energy and lots of onstage cushions. The physical staging is effective and the delivery well-timed and uninhibited. There are lots of plays riddled with online sex cliches which resonate with a niche audience. Wilcox sets out to find his own treatment of this story to unpack the physical and emotional benefit of a friend.

Fallen Rose – August 6th 5.10pm 

Produced by: Buzzbox Theatre
Venue: Greenside @Nicolson Square
Time, dates: 17.30
Duration:  50 minutes Until August 13

Buzzbox Theatre is a collection of University of Worcester Integrated Masters in touring theatre students who come together to tell a story not well known in the English-speaking world. The short-lived White Rose movement was a group of students in wartime Germany who decided to alert the populace to the horrors of Nazism and urge the overthrowal of their government. Led by siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl their leaflets called out the discrimination and murder of minorities. They urged their readers to ‘engage in sabotage’. They were soon caught and sentenced to death.

This story of political activism is told by a young group who dedicate their theatre work to that task today. It’s a well-staged piece with strong production values and breaks the mould with diversity casting that holds its own in this young acting ensemble.

We have visual treats with archival footage, a soundtrack and audio recordings of the testimony of those who witnessed and loved the movement and its leaders. The staging is strong and the production values from props to effects and lighting are high for a Fringe presentation that has minutes to ‘get-in’ and out of a much-in-demand theatre space.

The cast of early 20s students embellish the spoken words with well-coordinated physical movement routines, which as the play develops, appear in the place of plot. Notwithstanding that, the finale where each actor places the historical lessons of fascism in the political campaigns that have built the freedoms of today and signal the work still to be done makes its point well.

Covid isolation ravaged the number of student groups that are the lifeblood of Fringe theatre. Many emerge from relationships formed during college, and zoom lessons denied that networking to many recent graduates. Fringe is at a loss for that creativity and innovation. It is good to see it emerge again and any shortfalls in presence and delivery will be polished in time. To specialise in the political sphere, where the transmission of the lessons of the past to the present is needed now more than ever.


Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

1 reply »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.