Erin Kamler's musical 'Land Of Smiles' tackles the complex issue of human trafficking, interestingly casting a critical eye over the anti-trafficking movement.

We spoke to Kamler about her research on this topic, the viewpoint she has reached, and why she chose musical theatre to share her message. Click here to read the interview.
ThreeWeeks Editors' Award winner Baba Brinkman is back at the Fringe this year with not one, not two, but three shows, including 'The Rap Guide To Religion'. Inspired by his Fringe hit 'The Rap Guide To Evolution', Brinkman expected the 'Religion' show to lead to bookings at atheist conferences and anger from the religious. But the response from the latter has surprised him. [click here]
We spoke to Jason Hewitt, the writer behind the play 'Claustrophobia', in the Week Two edition of ThreeWeeks. And at the same time we sent our photographer down to capture the show's cast on camera. Here are a few of the pictures he took. [click here]
If you're feeling the strain as we approach the end of Week Two, perhaps it's time for a 'great escape' from the Festival frenzy, to charge up ahead of the Fringe finale. And to help, here is the Titty Bar Ha Ha guide to chilling out in and around Edinburgh. [click here]
The finalists were announced yesterday for the Amused Moose Laughter Awards supported by 2entertain. The second strand of Amused Moose's annual comedy awards programme, this one champions comedians who do not yet have a DVD deal, but who are performing full-hour shows at the Festival this year.

All the finalists will now perform a ten minute spot at the Laughter Award Final at theSpace@Symposium Hall from 1.15pm tomorrow, 17 Aug, with the overall victor taking home five grand as well as a shiny moose trophy

And the finalists with their current show names, and 2014 venues in brackets, are...

BEASTS: Solo (Pleasance Courtyard)

Celia Pacquola: Let Me Know How It All Works Out (Gilded Balloon)

Chris Turner: Pretty Fly (Pleasance Courtyard)

Loretta Maine: Strong Independent Woman (Unless I Am Very Tired) (Assembly George Sq)

Lou Sanders in Another Great Show Again (Laughing Horse @ City Café)

Pierre Novellie is Mighty Peter (Pleasance Courtyard)

Ria Lina: School Of Riason (Gilded Balloon)

Rob Derring: Musicface (The Assembly Rooms)

Tom Toal in Prequel (PBH's Free Fringe)

Trygve Wakenshaw's Kraken (Underbelly Cowgate)

Mark Dolan hosts the final, with 2013 finalists Jonny & the Baptists also guesting.

Divallusion (Christina Bianco and Ian Stroughair)
How good can an hour of diva impressions (with more costume changes than Beyoncé) actually be? The answer is: pretty darn good. Christina Bianco's vocal chords are more than versatile, they're like elastic, transforming her already formidable voice into the sounds of Barbara Streisand, Shakira and more. She even recites a William McGonagall poem in the Geordie twang of Cheryl Cole. In his flamboyant alter-ego Velma Celli, Ian Stroughair twirls and belts his way through pop and rock classics. A highlight was a memorable homage to Aussie star Sia's 'Chandelier' video (complete with glittering body stocking). The duo's onstage chemistry keeps the humour bouncing back and forth, and makes their obvious talent shine all the more brightly. Fabulous in every sense of the word.
Assembly Checkpoint, until 21 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Laura Gavin]

The Sons Of Pitches - Boiler Alert! (The Sons Pitches)
Packing in more energy than a trough of Red Bull, The Sons of Pitches give a capella a real kick up the backside with this absolutely blistering late-night show. Blending music, improv and comedy around a loose movie theme, the talent on display here was unreal - the beatboxing rhythm section alone deserve medals. The Sons produce several songs with theme and genre suggested by the audience: we saw them nail UK garage, punk-rock, Britpop and even opera! Some of the comedy skits were a bit weak, and the finale song was perhaps a little underwhelming after the strength of all that had gone before. But I still had a big stupid grin on my face the entire time.
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Jon Stapley]


Land Of The Dragon - Gwlad y Ddraig (PuppetSoup)
PuppetSoup, a Welsh group that create spectacular and completely immersive storytelling experiences, have done it again with 'Land Of The Dragon'. Mesmerising puppetry brings to life the tale of the Welsh Dragon in this fantastically entertaining children's show. Swapping between Welsh and English narration, the beautifully choreographed movement of each puppeteer is delight to behold. Although billed as a piece for 5-105 year olds, it's not for the faint-hearted: there wasn't a child in the audience that didn't cry. This is a beautifully put together production, the narrative challenging only because of how emotionally evocative it is. If you've ever fancied losing yourself in Welsh folklore for 45 minutes, this is the show for you!
ZOO, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]


Werewolf Erotica She Wrote (Mathilda Gregory/Free Festival)
Mathilde Madden is the successful, self-deprecating author of werewolf erotica. Her show chronicles her writing career, explaining how she came to write what she does. It seems, for her at least, that writing in this genre brings with it a string of bizarre experiences – from defining the limits of bestiality to dealing with publishers, Amazon reviewers and convicts. The story takes the most unpredictable twists and turns - all absolutely real, she tells us - and is delivered with warmth, candour and simplicity. Without ever spelling it out, Madden's show insists that even supposedly 'low' art – werewolf erotica, or a show about it – can both entertain and carry important messages about the perception of (and access to) art.
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Tim Bano]


Alternotive a Cappella (The Oxford Alternotives)
Mashing up the defiant strains of 'No Scrubs' by TLC with a splash of N Sync doesn't necessarily sound like a great idea. Luckily, well-established student singing group The Oxford Alternotives have the skills to make it work. An hour of modern hits and old classics broken down, spliced and harmonised to a sometimes unrecognisable extent, 'Alternotive a Cappella' showcases both the group's technical prowess and their creativity. Soloists Meghan Rossi and Ed Crawford are particularly strong, as is Max Woodman's inhuman beatboxing, though some of the quieter voices get swamped by the chorus. The fun, Grease-style sing-offs and characterful choreography suggest they're enjoying it just as much as we are: even the most jaded of festival-goers will get caught up in the atmosphere.
C, until 16 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Laura Gavin]

The Cabinet Of Caligari With Live Score (Graeme Stephen)
Graeme Stephen, alongside drums and saxophone, plays guitar to accompany a screening of 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari', the silent horror film widely regarded as the definitive classic of the genre. Stephen's new score compliments the show perfectly; so perfectly in fact that at times it was easy to forget that his is a new composition, and I found myself watching the film and taking in the music as part of that, rather than absorbing them as two separate entities. In this highly successful project, Stephen manages to put tension, confusion and outrage back into the silent film, along with the whole range of emotions you would expect to hear in the original score.
The Jazz Bar, until 19 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Stephanie Gray]


How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (Durham University Light Opera Group)
Performed by students of Durham University Light Opera Society, this fringe production is minimal, but magnificent in terms of entertainment and quality. The talented young ensemble are a joy to watch, each performer perfectly cast and successfully mastering both the choreography and singing. The musical centres around an ambitious young business man's attempts to climb the corporate ladder through a series of clever manipulations as read from a 'How To' advice book. Various romantic entanglements and tricky situations provide comic relief, as do the multiple musical numbers. Bookshelves worked as a basic set, though some further additions would have been wonderful. The cast pull off some ambitious dance moves, and the overall timing and pacing was near perfect.
C, until 16 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Keara Barnes]


Warrior (Black Dingo Productions)
Sectarianism, trolling and classroom bullying combine in Jennifer Adam's topical play. Evan prefers his online community to his school peers, but anti-Catholic comments, born out of bigotry or ignorance, threaten his and his parents' futures. Euan Brockie excels as Evan: fierce, clenched and clearly trying hard to prevent his latent anger and frustration from boiling over. His parents, played by Adam Tomkins and Marilyn Wilson, both show disappointment and embarrassment at seeing their own son fall from grace, though Wilson speeds too quickly over a few lines. Just three chairs and a few simple (if unnecessary) costume changes divide the characters and the scenes, letting Adam's insightful script and Brockie's biting performance stand as 'Warrior''s greatest strengths.
Just Festival, until 13 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Tim Bano]

300 To 1 – Free (Panesh Prods / PBH's Free Fringe)
This play should never work. A fifteen year old boy enacts the film '300' to Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon? I'm not quite sure how Matt Panesh came up with the idea for this solo show but I'm glad he did. The show zings along thanks to Panesh's comic panache with physical characterisation: he easily zips between the macho Leonidas, the stammering Wilfred Owen and the prickly Sassoon. With a biting script and a mass of energy, the play is frequently hysterical and plainly ridiculous which perhaps seems at odds with with its central message: war is not glorious, and Owen's poetry and startling facts about veterans are used to clarify this. It somehow works, though, and the result is a pleasure to watch.
Banshee Labyrinth, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Charlotte Taylor]

Frankenstein - UnBolted (Last Chance Saloon)
The team from Last Chance Saloon return for another successful run at the Fringe with this hilarious new show. Puppets, dance routines, songs and some pretty tight pants – 'Frankenstein: UnBolted' has everything you could possibly want from a ridiculous retelling of Mary Shelley's classic text. The packed crowd did not stop laughing the entire way through, and even got to join in with some parts. The script was intelligent and witty, with a whole lot of silly thrown in too: packed full of pop culture references, this show has really got it all. A must see if you want to cry with laughter, while still convincing your friends you went to see a classic.
Just The Tonic at the Caves, until 21 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]

The Bunker Trilogy - Macbeth (Jethro Compton Productions)
Atmospheric and engrossing, 'The Bunker Trilogy: Macbeth' reinvigorates Shakespeare's infamous Scottish play. The theatre is deliberately claustrophobic, with the audience all hunched up on benches in an impressively authentic set, a bunker in the WW1 trenches. This, combined with some interaction with the audience, ensures that the production manages to be incredibly immersive, not the easiest feat, as Shakespeare's work tends to be regarded with such reverence and respect it can sometimes be performed as if it's a bloodless relic. Sam Donnelly is a powerful Macbeth, and, though a little too shouty at times, displays a remarkable talent. The production is an abridged version, so perhaps a check of Macbeth's Wikipedia page is in order beforehand. Still, this production is a dynamic and impressive example of theatre.
C nova, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Patricia-Ann Young]

An Extraordinary Light (Breathe Out Theatre)
This is the story of Rosalind Franklin, the so-called 'Dark Lady of DNA', whose work in discovering the structure of DNA went largely unnoticed in comparison to the endeavours of her male colleagues. When dealing with such a scenario it would make sense to create a piece of theatre that either examines the human element of feeling neglected, or to focus upon the scientific details of Rosalind Franklin's discovery. Sadly, this piece does neither. Although Rob Johnston's script is very well structured, the piece as a whole lacks a sense of passion. This is also due to Katherine Godfrey's performance, which was vocally perfect but lacked physical energy. An interesting, educational idea, competently but passively delivered.
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Vicki Baron]

God Is In My Typewriter (Anna-Mari Laulumaa)
Anne Sexton is one the most romanticized poets out there, and her history of creativity and depression has ensured that this is not the first time she has been resurrected on stage. In this solo show Anna-Mari Laulumaa draws on verse, therapy sessions and Sexton's own letters to render a portrait of the artist. The various sources are integrated well enough to create a strong line of narrative, and the show uses music and lighting beautifully to create an often surreal and isolated atmosphere, but the production falters with its interpretation of Sexton herself. She is hysterical, unhinged and childlike, and the play manages to obscure her more behind her myth rather than illuminate the character and life which contributed to her work.
Hill Street Solo Theatre, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Charlotte Taylor]

Happy (No Prophet Theatre Company)
A devised piece about two friends who are trying to understand their relationships, lives and each other. One is feeling ignored and unloved by her long-term boyfriend, and the other is trying to come to terms with the fact that she cannot have children. The friendship is played out with touching honesty and real feeling, drawing the audience in to the two women's stories. This is a charmingly and engagingly performed piece, but it dips in and out of several different styles in a slightly confusing manner; physical theatre, music and flashbacks are all at play, and this sometimes seem to complicate rather than explain the narrative. Yet this is still a sweet, moving and amusing story, told with skill and sincerity.
Pleasance Dome, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Vicki Baron]

Riding The Midnight Express With Billy Hayes (Barbara Ligeti, Jeffrey Altshuler and Billy Lowe)
His life described as a cautionary tale by Hayes himself, this one man show 'Riding the Midnight Express with Billy Hayes' sees him recounting his miraculous escape from the Turkish prison system after five years inside it. Hayes is a charismatic man and natural public speaker whose story, although retold in different mediums several times now, is still an incredible one. The stage show explores his journey and discovery of spirituality through yoga, at the forefront of this tale. Not only did it keep him sane but it allows him to share the joys he found during such an experience. Whether it is his incredible escape or his spiritual journey, this reaffirming life story is tragic, funny and heartwarming.
Upstairs@Le Monde, until 21 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [James McColl]

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