As we head into this final weekend of Fringe madness, how about we sit back, relax for a few minutes, and share some ghost stories?

Tom Neenan, with his show 'The Haunting At Lopham House', is going first. Click here to read his story.
After three weeks performing in a former children's library, Nick Hall is launching an anti-literacy campaign. Ahead of his final show (go see it, 3.55pm on 23 Aug at George Next Door on George IV Bridge), Hall explains all in this here column. Though, alas, you're going to have to do some reading to find out more. [click here]
Well, we couldn't let the Festival finish without offering our readers some flirting advice could we. Could we? Well, seemingly no. So, thanks aplenty to Liza Paul and Bahia Watson from Pomme Is French For Apple who've stepped into the breach to offer some tips for the flirty men of the Fringe. [click here]
Tired of reading about the Fringe? Then listen instead! Check out all our podcasts from this year's Festival, online to stream or download. [click here]
The ThreeWeeks Editors' Awards take place once again tomorrow morning at 11am at the Surgeons Hall Library, within theSpace @ Surgeons Hall. We will celebrate the ten things that we think made this year's Festival extra special. There are no categories, simply ten people, projects or performances who we think made this, the world's largest ever cultural festival, so good. Look out for updates on Twitter @threeweeks as the winners are announced.

Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours, more gongs than you could ever fit into a very large gong vehicle have been dished out to Fringe performers and the like, and here is a very quick summary of them all.

First up, the final batch of Fringe Firsts were presented by The Scotsman, with no Traverse shows this time round (shock! horror!) and two staged well away from the Fringe's hub venues, with Common Wealth's Fringe-Firsted 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' being performed in a community centre in Craigmillar and Grid Iron's winning show as part of the Book Festival. The full final list of top new Fringe plays according to The Scotsman's top new play watchers were as follows...

• 'Spine' from Foolscap/Soho Theatre at Underbelly Cowgate.
• 'Travesti' from Unbound Productions at Pleasance Dome.
• 'Letters Home' from Grid Iron at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
• 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' from Common Wealth at Sandy's Boxing Gym.
• 'Hand Made in China: Moons, Migration And Messages' from Dumpling Dreams Theatre and Migration Project at Summerhall.
• 'Pondling' from Gúna Nua at Underbelly Cowgate.

Other prizes were presented at the same big bash as the final Fringe Firsts, these ones offering performance opportunities to winners elsewhere in the world. The Arches Brick Award, which comes with a booking at the Arches in Glasgow, went to two winners: Christeene for 'The Christeene Machine' (at Underbelly) and Christopher Brett Bailey for 'This is How We Die' (at Forest Fringe).

The Brighton Fringe Award was taken by Bucket Club for their show 'Lorraine & Alan' (at Pleasance Dome), the Holden Street Theatres Award, offering slots at the Adelaide Fringe, went to 'Mush And Me' (at Underbelly Cowgate) and 'Blood At The Root' (at Assembly George Square), while the Carol Tambor Award with its New York gig went to Geoff Sobelle for 'The Object Lesson' (at Summerhall).

Elsewhere, The Primary Times again celebrated the kid's show Fringe with its Children's Choice Award, going to Story Pocket Theatre for 'Arabian Nights' (at Gilded Balloon). Meanwhile 'Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-up Comedian' won The Scottish Arts Club / Edinburgh Guide Award (a show from the Traverse! Phew, we nearly had a whole awards update without the Trav getting a mention. No not nearly, there's more to come).

The previously reported Total Theatre Awards were also presented yesterday, with the various winners as follows:

Shows By An Emerging Company/Artist: 'Backstage In Biscuit Land' from Touretteshero at Pleasance Courtyard.

Physical/Visual Theatre: 'The Object Lesson' from Aurora Nova/Geoff Sobelle at Summerhall.

Innovation, Experimentation & Playing With Form: 'Lippy' from Dead Centre at the Traverse AND 'Near Gone' from Two Destination Language / Escalator East To Edinburgh at Summerhall.

Total Theatre & Jacksons Lane Award For Circus: 'Bromance' from Barely Methodical Troupe at Underbelly.

Judges Award: 'Looking For Paul' from Wunderbaum et al at Summerhall AND 'Kim Noble: You're Not Alone' from Soho Theatre at the Traverse.

Significant Contribution Award: 'The World Mouse Plague' from Ridiculusmus at Summerhall.

Back to The Stage's awards for acting goodness now, and the trade mag has presented a Special Award to Chris Goode for his solo show 'Men In The Cities', also at the Trav. And finally for now, the also previously reported and very eco-friendly Edinburgh Festival Fringe Sustainable Practice Award has been won by The Handlebards, performing at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

And that is enough award giving. Until 11am tomorrow morning, obviously.


Jungle Bungle (No Mates Productions)
This show took me by surprise, because at the start I thought we'd struggle (well, the child would struggle) to stay engaged; it was not that easy for everyone to see what was going on because it was performed on the same level as the audience, plus, the initial interplay and first song or two felt a bit slow. Once this production got going, however, it was engaging and funny, and the two performers, one of whom is gifted with a many-colourful-character-filled role to exploit, move the action along with aplomb. Meanwhile, the young members of the crowd who got involved, dancing and conga-ing were clearly thrilled to participate. I still think it needs a slightly stronger start, but this is a very strong show overall.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 15 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Caro Moses]

The Adventure Machine (C Theatre)
This is like one of those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books you read as a child; every so often the action stops, and the audience gets to choose from a number of options as to what will happen next. Sometimes it's a pivotal-seeming decision, other times it's trivial (what are you going to have on your sandwich?). The result is a comically chaotic mess delivered by a capable and endearing cast who waste no opportunity to deliver up amusing and bizarre characters as they navigate the show's inevitable twists and turns. There are moments when they seem to lose the plot, somewhat, but, as so often with this kind of product, the humorous way they deal with adversity is part of what makes it so successful.
C, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Caro Moses]

Excuse Me Mrs Pardon (Theatre Tots Ltd)
It's always difficult to choose a show for toddlers and pre-schoolers, because even good children's shows can be too slow moving, or require a bit too much concentration, or it might just be too hard to keep up with the plot. 'Excuse Me Mrs Pardon' is a perfect show for younger viewers (though my seven year old, probably not of the target market, had a really good time too) because it's got a very simple theme, engagingly and colourfully executed, with lots of moments of accessible humour along the way. It's really all about using your imagination, and sees the title character growing all sorts of improbable things in her 'garden'. Lots of fun, and delivered with a huge amount of energy.
theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Caro Moses]

The Fantastical Return Of Greyfriars Bobby
I have to be honest and say this show comes across as a bit shambolic, but it's sort of gloriously so; it deals in cod stereotypes for the sake of humour - obnoxious Americans and 'Scotch' people in kilts - but does so in a way which charms the adults in the audience, provoking hoots of laughter, whilst simultaneously keeping the children entertained. The play makes good use of other media, projecting recognisable Edinburgh backdrops onto the wall behind the stage as a 'set', which is appealing to those children that know the city well, and the cast interact well with the audience. The show itself is designed to have children spontaneously shouting out 'answers' in the treasure-hunt based narrative, and it works really well.
theSpace @ Symposium Hall, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Caro Moses]


Matt Winning And Lolly Adefope
First up in this double bill, Lolly Adefope does character comedy as Gemma, a secretary who's stumbled into the role of useless stand-up comic. If anything, there's a bit too much of the uselessness – it works better when Adefope drops out of character for a knowing aside. Matt Winning goes more for the surreal, scattergunning one-liners in among longer (mostly slightly too long, in fact) routines. There's a stronger finish with 'Antiques Roadshow', 'Top Gear' and a very silly, good fun game show bit. The double-bill is a nice format (who decided comedians should do an hour, anyway?) and both Winning and Adefope are engaging stage presences with promising bits, but both sets are ultimately slightly hit and miss.
Southsider, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Brent Weinbach - Appealing to the Mainstream
US stand up Brent Weinbach's website describes him as 'absurdist', 'weird' and 'post-modern'. In other words, this isn't going to fly for everyone, and that's kind of the point. His chosen topic is the tropes of mainstream comedy. Here, in the UK of course, we already have Stewart Lee to look after this sort of thing and though they are not actually that similar, Lee fans will be familiar with this style; the dead-panning and the meta-commentary that underpins the show. Weinbach is mostly concerned with American comedy, and some reference points will whoosh by accordingly. He contrasts a series of mainstream pastiches with his own style of comedy - fair to say he doesn't go for the easy laughs. It is at times insightful and challenging. Funny? Not for everyone.
Gilded Balloon, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Frisky And Mannish - Just Too Much (Underbelly Productions by arrangement with United Agents)
#FriskyandMannish (there are lots of hashtags involved in this production) are back. Still filling the giant Udderbelly, still belting out tunes and skewering everything that's wrong with pop culture. Their theme this year is superstar meltdowns, though it does feel like Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and pals are pretty easy targets. There are still some moments of brilliance: a takedown of pop music's appropriation of feminism (or, #feminism) is glorious. But it feels like some of their former intelligence and wit has been been lost, replaced by juvenile shouting matches. Admittedly, a few of the references are lost on me- I can't claim much knowledge of chart music (#humblebrag). Frisky and Mannish are still #great, they just need to get their #spark back.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Dan Jones - New Kid (Live Nation)
Dan Jones brings his debut show 'New Kid' to the Fringe after a successful stint last year with 'Don't Drop the Egg', and it could be a stressful and awkward experience if you're intimidated by Jones' aggressive style, which is only intensified by the intimate venue. Jones exhibits the same kind of fury as Alexei Sayle but without the weight of subject matter behind it, instead focusing on celebrity culture and the comedy industry. He seems more concerned with staying true to his character creations than laughs; though that's not to say he isn't funny, as these are hilariously tragic characters, and Jones delivers great one-liners. He wins the crowd over when he needs to, and is a performer who is doing something more here than just trying to make you laugh.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [James McColl]


The Eclectic Guitar of Tony Mitchell (Tony Mitchell)
An entertaining evening, like the bit of a party where someone gets the guitar out and everyone settles down to hear familiar tunes and bitter sweet stories of former days. Local musician Mitchell has been playing for over 50 years and his relaxed style was very assured. It was eclectic, a variety of popular styles covering folk, pop, country and blues but always happy even when reminiscing about absent friends. A particular favourite was 'I can see clearly now' and the corny pun that Mitchell used in its introduction. I was disappointed he sang only once because 'Don't touch that' was great fun to hear. Tonight was a good humoured performance from a musician who didn't take himself too seriously.
Acoustic Music Centre, 20 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

Pianist/Guitarist Dave Stewart (Dave Stewart)
Unassuming Dave Stewart is a very interesting artist. With no-one to help he recreated instrumental tracks from his album – so he began with his back to the audience playing a piano with one hand and a guitar with the other. This uncompromising young man went on to record an electric toothbrush, put it on a loop then he performed his next piece with his pedals on his lap so he could control everything himself. Musically he's cutting edge, all his own compositions, nothing easy, lots of playing around with timing and repetition, technology and instruments; the resulting sound had a filmic quality. The event was intimate, slightly chaotic and felt like a rite of passage: Stewart is on his way.
Acoustic Music Centre, 20 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Rodgers]


Lucy Ayrton - The Splitting Of The Mermaid (Tea Fuelled)
A lyrical, modern retelling of 'The Little Mermaid', this is a sweet, moving story of love and longing. Here, the mermaid gives up her tail for a baby, not a boyfriend, but the pain and heartache are certainly not Disney-friendly, as we watch May's happily-ever-after turn into something much darker. She meets her man, a mechanic who lives by the sea- not a typical fairy tale hero. But on land she cannot talk, and walking is a poor replacement for the society and culture you've lived in your whole life. Lucy Ayrton is a compelling performer, flowing through the scenes with grace and delicacy. An oceanic soundscape by Superbard provides a beautiful background to this quiet, thoughtful production. A fragile, gentle piece of quality storytelling.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Loud Poets (Loud Poets)
For fans of spoken word poetry 'Loud Poets' is a real gem. The group seems to consist of four core members as well as a small army of others who will perform on an occasional basis. Tonight's performance saw two guest poets and a live band fleshing out the hour long show. They may have differing styles but this is a group that are passionate, intelligent and elegant. The performances are periodically broken up with some video packages which are rough around the edges but still charming (better sound quality would help). If you have been asking yourself where the angry voice of youth has gone, those who talk about the problems of today, then you might consider going to see this show.
Scottish Storytelling Centre, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [James McColl]


The Post Show (The Berserker Residents)
The perfect Fringe palate-cleanser: enter the theatre as a play is finishing (the entire audience have missed the preceding six hours). What follows is an hour long post show Q&A discussion, about a play that doesn't exist. The show is genuinely funny, especially in the context of an international arts festival; the actors, playing actors, puncture the pomposity that so often pervades the theatrical world, but in an affectionate, knowing way. Watching them respond to the audience's increasingly outlandish questions was a real highlight and I wish they'd had the confidence to have a little more of that and a little less of the pre-scripted interludes, which were funny, but not quite on the level of the improvised sections.
Assembly George Square Studios, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Leask]

Trainspotting (In Your Face Theatre)
A warts and all - or should that be needles, shitey bedsheets and all - immersive adaptation of Irvine Welsh's 'Trainspotting'. Somewhere between novel and film in terms of plot, structure and visuals, it is impossible to keep track of the distinctions, because the universally excellent performances are so compelling, so visceral. Like the source material the play is often hilarious, just as often heartbreaking and with a constant sense of looming menace. The use of space - darkness, moving walls, hand-held lights - is really effective, as are the interludes of physical theatre that culminate in a harrowing, psychotic dream sequence. It's not for the faint of heart, but I feel lucky to have experienced it.
Hill Street Drama Lodge, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andrew Leask]

Mental (The Vacuum Cleaner)
With the audience driven to a secret location, plied with tea and tucked under bedsheets, this performance piece has an intimate feel from the outset. In his touching one- man show, James Leadbitter – aka artist-activist 'the Vacuum Cleaner' – recounts his years of anticapitalist protest, suicide attempts, and struggles with mental illness. He's a strong performer, forging a clear connection with the crowd despite the play's often harrowing content. Though deeply personal and profoundly moving, it's held up by a slow pace and an over-reliance on documentation, lagging as we're calmly talked through a decade's worth of paperwork. There's no denying Leadbitter's commitment or bravery, but a tighter structure could significantly improve this as a piece of theatre.
Pleasance Pop-Up: The Bedroom, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Dave Fargnoli]

Freak (Theatre 503 and Polly Ingham Productions)
An unflinching look at sex and sexuality, Freak goes into some graphic and disturbing details, and some very recognisable ones too. It follows two women, one in her teens, the other at the end of her twenties, both struggling with their identities. They're brilliantly played, with careful characterisation wringing emotion and humour from the tight, frank and often painfully honest writing. The pace falls off somewhat in the last act, as the dual monologues collide in a naturalistic closing scene. However, the change allows a greater insight into characters we've already come to care about, as well as some of the play's most tender moments. Provocative and confrontational, it's a sharp, satisfying and impressive show.
Assembly George Square Studios, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Dave Fargnoli]

Safeword (Urban Fox Theatre Company)
Few plays can integrate an important message about the internet without forcing it down the audience's throat. 'Safeword', brilliantly written, never feels forced. Ian wants to know everything about his girlfriend Isobel, but she thinks that some aspects of her life should be private, even though she keeps an anonymous and personal blog. Two narrators, slipping into various bit parts with subtle changes in demeanour, seem unsure about the facts of the story they are narrating. Dave Fargnoli's script creates playful dialogue between witty Ian and closed-off Isobel, and creative staging has Isobel deliver her blog posts into a mic offstage. Fargnoli taps into the paranoid aspect of relationships, of the uncertainty of ever really and truly knowing someone else.
Sweet Grassmarket, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Tim Bano]

Vincent Goes Splat (Wil Greenway)

This is simple, gentle storytelling at its best: Australian performer Wil Greenway talks of lost loves in this surprisingly funny show, about two men falling off a building together. Vincent and Wil both get their hearts broken, as we look over the lives they've made for themselves. There's nothing but one man talking on stage, so the whole piece relies on the strength of the writing and acting- both are impeccable. It's sad and bittersweet, hilarious and heartbreaking. Greenway talks directly to the audience, creating a genuinely intimate atmosphere and his gestures, indicating the men falling, give a real sense of anticipation. Though possibly too eager to tie up all the loose ends, this remains a beautifully crafted, wistful piece.
Underbelly, Bristo Square, until 24 August
tw rating 5/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Punk Rock (Centre Stage)
If Punk Rock contained any punk rock, I barely noticed. Titular fallacy aside, this teen drama bubbles and brews to an inevitable but tense climax. High school dramas are great because they allow us to condense the breadth of society into one building, throw in the catalyst of adolescent hormones and watch the fireworks. Punk Rock focuses on friendships with people who don't act like friends, and what can happen when we misjudge these relationships. The young cast ably handle lengthy scenes of dialogue, and Becky Love well portrayed Lilly as equally terrified of and drawn to the disturbed William. However, the play seemed unnecessarily long and doesn't add much to the teen existential canon. Next time: more punk, please.
theSpace on North Bridge, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Hannah Cutting]

FOMO - The Fear Of Missing Out (The Present Tense Ensemble)
During this intimate one-woman show, Zoe McDonald told me to grab her "buns". And I did. There is not much context for this bottom-touching incident as the show jumped around at a frenzied pace. At its heart is the sentiment that you cannot only love a version of yourself, you have to love all of yourself. McDonald takes this literally by bringing to life twelve alter-egos who fight and jostle for attention. It's set in a radio studio, and each audience member is given a pair of headphones through which McDonald interacts using a series of microphones, though this device did not live up to its potential. McDonald's characters are well defined, though. And she has a nice bum.
Underbelly at Forth 1, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Hannah Cutting]

Smoking Ban (RedBellyBlack)
This play took me by surprise. It opens with shiny Americanised charm, manicured gesticulations and flawless accents. It was immediately funny, but the humour was at the level of miming sex acts. However this one-woman show subtly unfurls to reveal a nuanced character study and reflection upon social pressures of compliance. Kate Goodfellow's multi-rolling is masterful; her portrayal of protagonist Carol (who could have stepped off the set of 'Mad Men'), middle-aged boss Jerry and an array of office gossips are highlights. The plot was occasionally jumpy, and lighting changes between scenes seemed unnecessary and it was uncertain what these changes indicated. However this is a stellar performance by Goodfellow in a slick, thought-provoking comedy.
theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Hannah Cutting]

Shakespeare For Breakfast (C theatre)
C theatre offer up another serving of Shakespearian satire with their mash-up of well-known favourites. This time, it's Goodies vs Baddies in 'Shakespeareland' (obviously). Affectionately ribbing the bard for his favourite tropes, the play encounters lookalikes, star-crossed nemeses and a (rap) battle. This cast are as strong and energetic as a double espresso. As the actors switch agilely between roles, each new character emerges fully-formed and recognisable. Our cross-dressing heroine Steve anchors the piece amidst a plethora of references and quotations. It seems petty to point out that the rap battle didn't live up to its potential, or it felt overly self-aware, when everyone is having such a good time. I'm certainly glad I didn't skip Breakfast.
C, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Hannah Cutting]

Mary Stewart (Theatre Alba)
You can be forgiven for some scepticism on hearing that this two hour long play takes place outdoors. We are in Scotland, after all. The unusual setting though gives the acting a sense of freedom as characters rush on and off stage, and as an audience we feel more and more involved in the drama of Mary Stewart's turmoil as darkness falls. I couldn't help feeling a little bemused by the choice of costume; Mary herself was of course in typical period dress, but the men around her dressed in suits seemed not to fit at all, spoiling the effort a little. Overall though an enjoyable portrayal of Mary Stewart's struggles – and they did provide blankets and coffee, so who can complain?
Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Stephanie Gray]

Manuelita (Popelei Theatre)
As the audience is serenaded to their seats by guitarist Camila Menjura, it is clear that Tamsin Clarke's show based on the life of Manuela Saenz, is going to be something special. This is a hilarious, moving, tragic and heart-warming piece of theatre that chronicles the life of a largely unknown historic figure and lover of South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar. Clarke gives a passionate portrayal of this fiery character, worthy of such an interesting and complex woman. The strong musical accompaniment helps shape the show into a focused narrative and allows the performance to jump from one emotional extreme to another. The charisma and charm of Clarke brings this piece to life, definitely one not to be missed.
Underbelly Cowgate, Until 24th Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [James McColl]

Talk About Something You Like (Byron Vincent / Escalator East To Edinburgh)
Byron Vincent took the title for this show from a list of suggested activities at the psychiatric hospital where he once stayed. "Not great advice", he says, since "that's how most of the patients got there". For all his anxiety, Byron is charming and entertaining, wittily confronting his own literal insanity while questioning the often mad assumptions of society. Though he admits he wrote the show out of a desperate need to connect, this never feels self-indulgent. It's more of a confessional stand-up, dispensing bleak black humour with a whimsical turn of phrase. In a culture that struggles to depict mental illness, it's good to see such an irreverent approach. It's even better to see something so funny.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 24 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Dave Fargnoli]

Soften The Grey (6FootStories)
There is much to admire in this play: at times the script fair fizzles with inventiveness, wit and insight. The two performers are comfortable switching from comedy to pathos or anger - often in mere moments - and share a warm chemistry on stage. Rather than a masterpiece, this feels like a sketch of a better show; most significantly the rhythm is not quite right. Unusual pauses stifle the audience's laughter, or rushed lines forestall it, before the audience can react. Most damningly, despite its run-time being a scant 50 minutes, once or twice it drags - only fleetingly, mind you - and one can't help but feel that with a little trimming it could be much more effective.
theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andrew Leask]

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