Ah, Edinburgh Festival. You've done that thing again, haven't you? You slipped by in the blink of an eye, despite the fact you were once pretty much a whole month stretching out ahead of me. Time passes faster in Edinburgh during August than it does anywhere else, and that's ancient Caro's scientific fact. Or perhaps it's just that we are all so busy, we don't have time to think, our days being filled with that endless round of show-going or show-making, working, schmoozing and drinking... well, for some of us.

But if you are involved in this monstrously large and entertaining beast, you don't stop for a moment, and it's surprising how quickly the end then comes into sight. And in sight it is. Even though, as I write this, there's a whole week of the Fringe still to go, and a full two weeks until the International Festival has its big firework finale. Which is actually quite a lot still to come, isn't it? But you know what it's like, Week Three slips by fastest of all, and by the time you read this the Fringe will be very much in its final stretch.

And Week Three always feels like the wind down week. At the start of it, everyone is tired and fighting off Fringe flu. But then, by Wednesday evening, everyone picks up speed again, because the final weekend is in sight, and an energy burst is in order. Don't waste the whole lot on too much partying and performing though, you'll need at least some of it to get that heavy suitcase down six flights of stairs to the taxi come Monday. Or whenever it is you are leaving the Festival City. Unless you live here, in which case enjoy the fireworks on the 31st.

I, like most others I suspect, am experiencing my start-of-week-three lull right now, yes, just as I write this letter. And I'm fantasising about sleeping for long periods once the Fringe has ended. They are pure fantasies, of course, because for myriad reasons I am rubbish at sleeping in, and I have a child who wouldn't allow it even if I were a world champion. But you can bet I'll be doing something really relaxing as August ends. Like scrubbing and cleaning my neglected-throughout-July-and-August home down south. Jealous? Yeah.

Anyway, enough of that, let's talk about the bounty contained in the final issue of ThreeWeeks for 2014, which is out now. You can pick it up all across Edinburgh, or you can download the PDF version (7MB) by clicking here, or check it out in digital form via this page here.

Inside it, we asked veteran Fringe director Damian Sandys to welcome you into our pages with his letter to Edinburgh, and then, we've got some fascinating interviews: this week we've spoken to a couple of our comedy favourites, Catriona Knox and Dan Clark, popped some questions to mash-up rock duo Rayguns Look Real Enough, and chatted with Philip Whitchurch, the man behind acclaimed Fringe play 'Shakespeare, His Wife And The Dog'. We also talked to Njo Kong Kie, the brains behind 'Picnic In The Cemetery', gentleman rhymer Mr B, and to Vladimir Shcherban from Fringe First gong winning Belarus Free Theatre.

As well as that clutch of Q&As, we've got columns from Dane Baptiste, Jason Cook and Barry Ferns, plus lots and lots of reviews, including a recap of some of the 5/5 critiques already published in the ThreeWeeks Daily.

I hope you enjoy reading our last issue. And I hope you enjoy sleeping and 'healthing' your way through September. I am about to start preparations for Fringe 2015. How about you? See you there!
Caro @ ThreeWeeks

PS: If you're based in London, why wait until next August for our next catch up, check us out at all year round.
You, like us, may have first come across the super-talented Catriona Knox as one third of the rather successful sketch troupe the Boom Jennies. But she is back at the Fringe this year with an all new solo show, which garnered high praise from our reviewer, who praised her "joyful set" and "perfectly pitched creations".

And Knox is keeping pretty busy this Festival, also appearing in a theatre piece alongside fellow comedy types Simon Munnery and Thom Tuck. We've heard lots of good things about Knox over the years, and felt it was high time we hurled a smattering of questions her way. Click here to read the interview.
Belarus Free Theatre is a bold arts organisation, established to present ideas and issues usually denied public debate by the Belarusian dictatorial regime. The company's productions often tackle contentious and timely political issues, with their latest piece considering the treatment of the trans* community in the modern world. [click here]
Edinburgh veteran Dan Clark hasn't done a full run at the Fringe for seven years, and it's got to be said, we missed him. Still, we don't blame him. He's been busy. But when we heard he'd be back at the Festival this year, we were pleased, and took the opportunity to ask him some questions. [click here]
As we near the finale of Festival 2014, how about some thoughts from an American first-time Fringe performer and attendee? [click here]
So, it's busy busy on the comedy awards front as the Fringe reaches its final furlong, with the Edinburgh Comedy Award shortlists published just this afternoon. And in the running for the main prize this year are no less than Alex Horne, James Acaster, John Kearns, Liam Williams, Romesh Ranganathan, Sam Simmons and Sara Pascoe.

Meanwhile up for the newcomer prize are Alex Edelman, Dane Baptiste (read a column from him here) Gein's Family Giftshop (read a mini interview from them here), Lazy Susan, Lucy Beaumont and Steen Raskopoulos.

Confirming all this earlier today, Edinburgh Comedy Awards boss Nica Burns told reporters: "For the second year running, reflecting the huge amount of diverse comedy talent at the Fringe, the shortlist for the Best Comedy Show is seven strong. Between them, these outstanding performers reach every funny bone. Unprecedentedly three 2013 Best Newcomers – John Kearns, Liam Williams and Romesh Ranganathan – have graduated to the Best Comedy Show shortlist in only a year. The Edinburgh Fringe continues to launch the comedy stars of tomorrow".

And as for this year's newcomer noms, she continued: "The shortlist for the newcomers is exceptionally strong with a wealth of talent from stand up to character comedy and sketch. A truly international and UK wide list featuring acts from Australia, America, Manchester and Hull".

The overall winners for both awards, and the Panel Prize, will be announced on Saturday. Elsewhere in comedy award news, the winner of this year's previously reported Amused Moose Laughter Award was selected at theSpace @ Symposium Hall on Sunday, with Celia Pacquola taking the overall prize and Chris Turner getting the People's Choice Award.

You can read our interview with Pacquola here and a column from Turner here; meanwhile on her Amused Moose win Pacquola told ThreeWeeks: "I'm really stunned, thrilled and excited. It was very unexpected and I'm looking forward to trying to get my pointy, dangerous Moose trophy through airport security".

And finally for now, as you probably all already know, because blimey doesn't this one get a lot of mainstream media coverage, Tim Vine took the Dave Award for best one-liner of the Festival with this gag: "I decided to sell my Hoover... well it was just collecting dust".

And that, I think, is enough comedy award news for now.

The Sagas Of Noggin The Nog (Third Party Productions)
Four of the least gruff Vikings you'll ever meet bring to life two gentle tales of Noggin The Nog in this delightful, funny hour of children's theatre. Combining live action, Python-esque animations and endearingly cute and surprisingly emotive puppets, this show walks the line between fun for kids and knowing jokes for adults without a single misstep. The cast effortlessly swap between a multitude of roles, with the wonderfully boo-able Nogbad The Bad really standing out. The script is sharp, mixing jokes, storytelling and song in equal measure, while the combination of puppetry and live action works remarkably well. 'The Sagas Of Noggin The Nog' is hilarious, sweet family fun that will entertain adults and children alike.
Assembly George Square, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Bell]

Flamenco For Kids (Ricardo Garcia's Flamenco Flow – Spain)
If you've got a child who is interested in music, colour and movement, then you can't go wrong with a trip to Ricardo Garcia's 'Flamenco For Kids', a short workshop aimed at younger children. It begins with a discussion of what to expect from the coming hour, then Garcia himself emerges, guitar in hand, to introduce the children to the music of flamenco. Before long, he is joined by a brightly clad dancer, and the pair take the children through a number of different moves, which are joined together for a final 'performance'. The children concentrate very hard, enjoy dressing up in Spanish attire, and are proud to receive their carers' applause at the end. A lively experience, that had me looking up flamenco classes in my area shortly afterwards!
C, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Caro Moses]

I Do, Do I (Greg Sinclair)
Music like you've never heard (or seen) it before! Greg Sinclair's show puts the kids firmly in charge as he becomes their musical puppet, flitting between instruments and everyday objects to make music. The children conduct him from pre-recorded audio, with the silent anticipation in between soon becoming as big a part of the show as any of the sounds. The show challenges the way we think about music, how we listen to it and how we make it. A beautiful, honest, endearing performance that leaves you with a smug smile on your face. This is one of the most original pieces, I've seen this year, a must see for kids and grown-ups alike.
Summerhall, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]


The Comedian And His Future Wife (Ola / Free Festival)
Ola wants two things from his life: to be the greatest comedian there ever was, and to find a wife. Full of laughs, this heart-warming show takes us on a journey through some of Ola's past relationships, looking at what went wrong and what he's learned from these experiences. Hilarious anecdotes and observations propel the show along and the hour flies by. A 'nice guy' comedian, Ola doesn't single out audience members to make a joke out of them. Instead, he seems genuinely interested in their stories and relating them back to his own life. A brilliant, truly enjoyable show. From what I've seen, it seems like he's already well on his way to accomplishing his first goal.
Laughing Horse @ Espionage, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]

The Irrational Fears Of Rillettes (Harriet Kemsley / Free Festival)
With BBC3 appearances and a Brighton Fringe New Act award, Harriet Kemsley is something of a rising star and, as she quips herself, "one to watch (out for)". A personable comic, she easily gets the room on her side, particularly after slamming down a heckler with true aplomb. Kemsley has a knack of pondering her own punchlines, as though disturbed by the darker thoughts that occasionally slip out, while at the same time looking surprised and delighted when her jokes get a laugh. It's an endearingly self-conscious style, which only falters when she rushes her delivery and it becomes hard to catch the words. Nerves and performing skills can be honed though, and it's clear that Harriet Kemsley has potential for many Fringes to come.
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Laura Gavin]

Natasia Demetriou: You'll Never Have All Of Me (The Invisible Dot Ltd)
They may appear flip and asinine, but Natasia Demetriou's characters – some live and some pre-recorded – hide a deeper point: the silly accents and synthetic wigs subtly deconstructing bad character comedy, asking what makes it funny and constantly drawing attention to our laughter. The characters and script only work because they are delivered by her; in the mouth of anyone else this material would fail. Sometimes it's the premise and sometimes the delivery that makes each character so funny, but all are united by Demetriou's supreme ability for titting about, barely hiding a faint smile that shows she knows how ridiculous this all is. And it is ridiculous in the extreme, but joyously, exuberantly enjoyable too.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Tim Bano]

Paul Ricketts' West End Story (Comedy Verity)
If there is one lesson to be learned from Paul Ricketts' show it's this: treat every day as if it's your birthday. You could wind up at a flamenco party, or simply get a free drink. In 'West End Story', Ricketts ponders the life of a comedian, discusses pornography and talks about the type of person you usually encounter in London, and the ones you usually don't... unless you take his advice and remain open to possibility, seize every opportunity and keep on pretending it's your special day. Ricketts is a wonderful impersonator, easily creating vivid pictures and making the stories come to life in front of you. This is storytelling comedy with real heart; go hear his story.
Just The Tonic @ The Mash House until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Keara Barnes]

Simon Feilder - All The Things I'm Not (Simon Feilder)
With the right audience, or perhaps just a slightly larger one, this show would be twice as enjoyable, and yet it's already pretty good. Simon Feilder has put together an extremely slick, well-oiled routine with some impressively creative ideas and he's clearly desperate to make this a success. Despite the lack of traditional stand-up material, Feilder's meticulous preparation, self-awareness and raw enthusiasm still provides the laughs. For all its positives though, this is a performance yet to find its niche, leaving some audience members amused, if a little puzzled. If you're a fan of comedy but also yearn for more of an introspective, chaotic journey through the mind of a self confessed man-child, then this is the ideal show for you.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [David O'Connor]

10 Films With My Dad (Aidan Goatley / PBH's Free Fringe)
It's nice when something's just nice, isn't it? This is a nice show. In lieu of a 'proper' discursive relationship, soft, creative Aidan and his Navy dad went to see lots of films. In this show, he constructs a narrative around ten of them, from John Wayne through 'Star Trek', 'Escape To Victory' and 'Avatar'. The rights to film clips are expensive, so instead there are some short filmed scenes in which Kimble, Aidan's dog, takes on various roles, including the shark from 'Jaws'. It's every bit as twee as it sounds, as his love for both his subjects genuinely shines through. As for the heartwarming final story about the Blues Brothers, well now, that really is nice.
Voodoo Rooms, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Anil Desai's Late Night At The Movies (Anil Desai / Free Festival)
Anil Desai was in love with the movies from an early age. That love soon became an obsession, as he watched the legends of the silver screen and, soon after, learned to impersonate them. He reels through his catalogue of impressions with a pinpoint accuracy - some of them are so perfect that it's hard to believe the physical transformation taking place on stage. The show occasionally dips into his personal life, helping to break up what would otherwise be just a solid hour of impressions, though the show is at its best when Desai incorporates his characters into the narrative. Best suited for fans of quickfire comedy who enjoy the art of impressions.
Laughing Horse @ City Cafe, until 24th Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [James McColl]

Aye Right? How No?: The Comedy Countdown To The Referendum With Vladimir McTavish & Keir McAllister (Vladimir McTavish & Keir McAllister)
McTavish and McAllister were ahead of the game by doing a comedy show about the referendum in 2012. This year, now that more people are talking (and joking!) about it all, they're back with this updated version, condensed to allow room for special guests (Rory Bremner with some good stuff tonight). And good for them - a mature democracy should be able to laugh at whatever aspects of itself seem, well, funny. It needn't be a mature laugh, mind: leaving aside the question of whether fat jokes are acceptable in general, why shouldn't they be about the First Minister? I should probably add for balance that the No campaign gets a considerably firmer attack but, most importantly, it's mostly funny.
Assembly Rooms, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Carl Donnelly - Now That's What I Carl Donnelly Vol 6 (Avalon Promotions Ltd)
Carl Donnelly has been on a voyage of self-discovery since last year and, naturally enough, he's here to tell us about it. An engaging series of stories ensues: from travels in India, laser eye surgery and Peruvian spirit tea to the sometimes unfortunate consequences of "vicaring" (a word comics apparently use to mean picking up fans for post-gig sex), His set is peppered with good gags and entertaining tangents, though he could stand to lose the habit of over-egging forthcoming punchlines; "and then he said to me literally the funniest thing anyone's ever said". Now, it did turn out to be a pretty funny thing they said, but perhaps best let the audience be the judge of that. Otherwise, an accomplished and entertaining performance.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

The Church Of Zirconium (FUNT in association with 1945 Productions)
The satirical fish in the barrel here are those cults, where the gullible faithful pay top dollar to level up their worshipfulness. Here, two gullible losers are joined by another, whose ex comes to rescue him from the clutches of the cult before end of the world. Hilarity fitfully ensues, though I still can't decide whether to doff my cap to the writer or clout them with it for a particular soundalike gag which proves central to the resolution of the show. Not terribly subtle, the satire is mostly laid on with a clunky trowel. 'The Church Of Zirconium' doesn't really develop far beyond a half decent extended sketch, though there are laughs along the way and enjoyable performances all round.
Just The Tonic at The Caves, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Demi Lardner - Birds With Human Lips (Demi Lardner)
At 20 years of age, Demi Lardner already has a couple of comedy awards from her native Australia under her belt, and she conducts herself on stage like she was born to it. Calling her quirky really wouldn't do her justice; part stand-up, part surreal introspective, there's nothing ordinary about Lardner's routine. This becomes apparent the moment you spy the cardboard tapir in the room and she introduces herself in the guise of a moustachioed ghost magician. From here, the comedian gives us a glimpse into her psyche through a series of frustrating phone chats with her dad, some life-coaching from the aforementioned tapir and a few hilarious encounters with a sinister feathered nemesis. Even her observational material has touches of Eddie Izzard-esque absurdity. Brilliant fun.
Gilded Balloon, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Laura Gavin]

Rob Deering - Music Face (CKP)
Rob Deering opens with an attempt to transport us from George Street to Woodstock. It takes some cajoling but, before long, a competent wolf whistler has been identified, the audience is clapping along and things start coming together nicely. Using a loop pedal to build layers of tracks, he takes us through some personal music history, including "bleepy dance music" - good for raves back in the day, good for running now (the running is for Parkinson's research – look up his justgiving page for more). His knowledge, skill and love for music really comes across, with plenty of laughs before a finale involving bubbles, bongos and a remote control helicopter. You won't get that on George Street at any other time of year.
Assembly Rooms, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Short & Curly – Who Dunnit? (Short & Curly / PBH's Free Fringe)
With this murder mystery of sorts, Short & Curly present a comedy show that makes a detective out of the audience: we get to look back at the lives of each of the suspects, so we can decide 'Who Dunnit?' All the characters are played by the comedy duo, who implement quick changes and even quicker wit. The sketches are well written and excellently executed, and the pair create characters who are all entertaining to watch. There were some issues with timing, making the show feel a bit rushed, but this is understandably a risk you take with so much audience participation. Overall, it was extremely entertaining and very funny - it's worth a watch for the wigs alone!
Ciao Roma, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]

Tedfest (Tedfest)
A four day festival on Inishmore to celebrate 'Father Ted' has become a cult hit, and it has now expanded with a show at the Fringe. Sadly, there is very little of Father Ted left in it, instead relying heavily on its own in-jokes. Between incomprehensible rambles by 'Father' Joe Dolan there are various acts: a stand-up comedy competition (including an off-key joke about turning gay people straight), a lovely girls competition and an excellent turn from magicians Morgan and West. Shambolic disorder reigns, however, and there are many painfully dull moments. Overall, it seems like the warm heart of 'Father Ted' has been ripped out, to be replaced by raucous pandering to a soused crowd.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Tim Bano]

The Thinking Drinker's Guide To The Legends Of Liquor (Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham)
A show about booze, featuring free booze. What's not to like? The audience tastes samples of beer, gin, vodka, bourbon and tequila while learning about the elbow-bending antics of the Ancient Greeks, Peter the Great, FD Roosevelt and, memorably for several reasons, Andre the Giant. They're small samples, mind: "drink less, drink better" is the Thinking Drinkers' admirable motto. Their accompanying stand-up "infotainment" is by turns fascinating and funny, if occasionally puerile. If learning that TS Elliot's cat was called Noilly Prat pleases you, and you can handle "Putin's a cunt" as a punchline (French rather than Russian vodka is served by way of political protest), then you best get along and join the ranks of the thinking drinker.
Famous Spiegeltent, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Steen Raskopoulos - I'm Wearing Two Suits Because I Mean Business (Underbelly Productions)
Steen Raskopoulos' concentrated shots of character and sketch comedy, with lots of improv thrown in, challenge the audience not to like him. Scenes veer between observation, absurdity and tragedy and he has a sharp knack for plunging the audience into recognisable situations, then twisting them into something funny. Steen has complete faith in his audience and the show is carefully crafted to make audience participation work without being demeaning. It's facial expressions and subtle gestures that help him become his characters - not costume changes. It's in the nuance, not the overt. With songs and dances, this is a tight and clever one man variety show, sheer fun and buzzing with ideas, none of which feel remotely stale.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Tim Bano]


Circle Line (Red Brick Rent)
Circles are brilliant metaphors, and Ciaran Walshe uses them to great effect in this musical. Seven passengers, sitting in a straight line on a tube carriage, are forced to interact when their train breaks down. They could cut the chunks of dialogue that turn the characters into caricatures, and the credit crunch theme feels out of date, but the music is excellent. Most of the songs, aside from one or two jazzier numbers, have a melancholy, unresolved quality, lingering on suspended notes and weaving unusual melodies. There is a real sense of the crushing grind of a daily commute in a starved economy, and the wonderful music emulates that sensation of feeling alone even when surrounded by hundreds of people.
Greenside @ Royal Terrace, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Tim Bano]

Dido And Aeneas (The About Turn Theatre Company)
Purcell's opera is given a WWII-era makeover in About Turn's surprisingly elaborate production. The talented young company tackles the score with gusto,though special credit should go to Victoria Pym's delightfully malevolent sorceress. I do have to question some of the more extravagant staging decisions though. For instance, a large suspended cloth obscures the stage when the audience enters, then spectacularly drops to reveal the cast. It's a nice moment, but thereafter the cloth serves no purpose except to give the actors something to trip over. Also, while I did like the WWII aesthetic, Aeneas walked into one scene looking quite a lot like Biggles, which undermined the drama a bit. Still, the singing is faultless and the story a classic.
theSpace @ Venue 45, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Jon Stapley]


Dr Longitude's Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie (Les Enfants Terribles)
A magnificent musical of massive proportions, this show has everything - fantastic songs, fabulous costumes and above all, fun! We follow the tale of Dr Longitude and his esteemed colleague on their quest to find weird and wonderful animals for his Imaginary Menagerie. There's dancing, singing and even a bit of swimming as we encounter the fantastical beasts that he finds on his journey. Award-winning creators Les Enfants Terribles use expert puppetry and quirky costumes to bring the animals to life in front of your very eyes. There wasn't a child in the audience that wasn't squealing with delight. With just the right amount of audience participation, this big, bold, tongue-in-cheek comedy has got it all.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]

Beans On Toast (Patch Of Blue)
Scott loves Jen, and Jen loves Scott, but Jen has gone. 'Beans On Toast' goes through all the significant moments of their relationship, out of sequence, with a song or two thrown in for good measure. These 'loveable' characters are sassy, fast-talking and so underdeveloped they remain practically stationary. Apart from when they have their sole argument, their relationship appears completely faultless, apparently formed with some kind of perfect couple cookie cutter. This lack of any real conflict makes for rather plodding viewing, with any meaning almost entirely lost in the action. The production is staged well by the cast, who all play Jen and Scott at various points, but this does nothing to stop it being a one dimensionally pretty, rather than meaningful, production.
Zoo Southside, until 25 Aug
tw rating 2/5 | [Charlotte Taylor]

Guinea Pigs On Trial (Sh!t Theatre / Escalator East To Edinburgh)
You can't accuse Sh!t Theatre of lacking ideas, although you could accuse them of lacking a decent idea filter. In fact, I got the sense that they just crammed every concept they ever had into this show, however appropriate these may be. The result is a piece that explores the murky world of drug trials in a half documentary expose, half absurdist comedy style. The amusingly zany routines work well to highlight the ridiculousness inherent in a system where people are paid to attend "Flucamp", but this wackiness obscures the core message about questionable pharmaceutical companies. As it stands, the show is fun and interesting enough, but it's no more effective than reading what might well be Sh!t Theatre's inspiration, Ben Goldacre's 'Bad Pharma'.
Summerhall, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Bell]

Ernest And The Pale Moon (Les Enfants Terribles/Pins & Needles)
I would like to sincerely apologise to the nice lady in Pleasance One whose leg I grabbed during 'Ernest and the Pale Moon'. It was a scary bit. The story of disturbed Ernest's obsessive love for Gwendoline (and its tragic consequences) is a brutal gothic horror, with scenes that linger long in the mind. One in particular, featuring some hideous fingernails-on-wood sound effects, will truly haunt you. The music woven throughout is hugely effective, particularly Rachel Dawson's atmospheric cello. I do think the creepiness would have been better sustained if some performances had been dialled back a little, but overall this is something anyone who likes a good scare should see. Just don't sit next to me. I'll grab your leg.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Jon Stapley]

Kingmaker (The Spontaneity Shop)
"Why put up with cava, when we could have champagne?" asks London mayor and would-be Prime Minister Max Newman in this fast-paced political comedy. 'Kingmaker', a sparkling tale of Westminster intrigue and deception, certainly leans towards the latter. Clever observations combine with cutting one-liners to hugely entertaining effect as Max (Alan Cox) attempts to protect his leadership bid from a scheming whip and a young pretender. The mayor, a "teddy bear crossed with a serial killer", will seem familiar; but Cox's excellent depiction draws from rather than imitates real-life, and is stronger for it; laced with satire but not stifled by its source. At points 'Kingmaker' feels it needs more time - but that is minor piffle in an otherwise splendid performance.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Sarah Richardson]

Odd Shaped Balls (Chris Sheridan)
A rugby player is thrust unwillingly into the spotlight after being outed as gay in this stirring, thought-provoking piece of new writing. A one-man show, 'Odd Shaped Balls' is anchored by actor Chris Sheridan, who delivers a captivating performance as rugby player Jamie Hall. The story works so well because it's completely character driven – everything that unfolds is a direct result of Jamie and who he is, his anger, his confusion and his frustration. If I have to nitpick (and I do), the ending is a little abrupt, leaving questions unanswered and sub-plots dangling, and one character's rather unconvincing Irish accent is a little distracting. Otherwise though, this is a heartfelt and moving play boasting an absolutely towering performance.
Gryphon@West End, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Jon Stapley]

Sochi 2014 (FULLfuse Theatre / The King's Head Theatre)
In the build up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, an international spotlight was briefly focused on the oppression of the LGBT community in Russia, only to fade as the Olympic torch moved away. This powerful piece of testimonial theatre, however, turns that light firmly back on. Simply staged but deeply researched, 'Sochi 2014' gives a chilling insight into the discrimination and shocking brutality suffered by Russia's homosexuals, as five actors give voice to victims denied the chance to speak themselves. Based on verbatim testimonies, the piece combines moments of gut-wrenching emotional power with challenging political commentary, and in showing the different attitudes LGBT Russians have towards their situation, has an unexpected and thought-provoking complexity. Compelling, intelligent theatre.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 21 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Sarah Richardson]

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