Glasgow-born stand-up Ally Houston reckons all comedians have an inner clown. His is called Shandy, and he's written entire show about it. Ally's first full hour show – which adds music and video to the stand-up for which he'd already won acclaim – debuted at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival earlier this year, and is now playing at the Fringe. We sat Ally down to talk Edinburgh, music making, and that clown called Shandy.

ThreeWeeks' Chris Cooke chats to Ally about his show here
Three recommended shows for Friday at the Edinburgh Festival 2015.

Michael J Dolan – Miserable Guts (pictured)

Check out this great column from Michael J Dolan, and then check out his great show. "Dolan's melancholy observations about his marriage, the nature of the universe and rich children are all delivered with irrefutable logic and peculiar charm. His combination of intensity and cheekiness will remind you of Dylan Moran and Mark Watson simultaneously, which should not work as a combination, but definitely does".
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4, until 30 Aug.

Soweto Afro Pop Opera
Looking for a fun night (well, late afternoon) out? Look no further. "While 'Soweto Afro-Pop Opera' may sound like a mish-mash of genres, really it's anything but. This trio delight with their obvious joy for performance, combining soulful vocals with infectious personalities to demonstrate the huge variety and versatility of South African music".
C, until 31 Aug.

Abnormally Funny People
Explain we: "A different line up of comedians performs this show each night; all involved are disabled, apart from one 'token' non-disabled performer – the group are keen to demonstrate their inclusivity – and the show includes individual stand-up routines and short improvisation games. All of the performers have wit, charm and an irreverent attitude toward their disabilities. This is an excellent night of entertainment, and should be enjoyed by people of all abilities".
Stand In The Square, until 30 Aug.

Look out for a daily Three To See each day in the ThreeWeeks Daily, and for Three To See recommendations all year round in London click here.
Look out for copies all over Edinburgh or read the online version here.

Inside: Sofie Hagen, Luke Wright, Ally Houston, Henry Maynard, Eddie Nixon and Christina Elliot from The Place, Emma Hall, Keith Farnan, Ria Lina Chris Betts, The Kinsey Sicksplus Festival news and lots of reviews.
It's the TW Podcast at the Edinburgh Festival. This week we chat to Lisa Gornick about her live drawing show combining theatre, storytelling and visual art, and to Gary Quinn about his impactful play 'The Last Kill'. Plus we get a snippet of immersive theatre production 'To Sleep To Dream', and a poem and a rap from the Zoo Venues show 'Easy For You To Say'.

Listen and subscribe to the TW Podcast here
Annie Ryan's stage adaptation of Eimear McBride's best-selling book 'A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing', performed by Aoife Duffin, has been presented with this year's Freedom of Expression Award by Amnesty International, in a strong year for theatre shows tackling human rights issues at the Fringe.

Confirming the Traverse show as the winner, Amnesty International Scotland Programme Director Naomi McAuliffe said: "'A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing' is an incredibly powerful piece exploring the long-term impact of child abuse and rape. The subtext of the misogyny that is at the core of violence against women is powerfully driven home. It was a worthy winner from a shortlist of inspirational, political, topical, and beautifully realised theatre".

While one of his year's judges, Stephanie Knight, added: "'Girl Is A Half Formed Thing' is an astonishing piece of theatre, beautifully crafted. Aoife Duffin's acting is exceptional; the design elegantly echoes the shadows within the protagonist's psyche and the externalisation of her profound trauma, abuse, neglect, and courageous survival. This is an extremely moving work that truly deserves to win the Amnesty International Freedom Of Expression Award".

In addition to the main prize, this year Amnesty also gave two additional awards to highly commended shows, 'Tar Baby' at Gilded Balloon and 'Trans Scripts' at Pleasance Courtyard.

On those McAuliffe added: "'Tar Baby' is an important and urgent piece about race relations in the US which skilfully addresses core, universal truths about racism which can be equally applied in the UK and globally. 'Trans Scripts' raises important themes about the repression and abuse faced by the transgender community. The personal stories of trans women shared in this production highlight their individuality without ignoring their own unique challenges and pain".

While we are in theatre awards mode, we ought to namecheck the second batch of award winners declared by The Scotsman, The Herald and The Stage last weekend (lists that also included 'Tar Baby' and 'Trans Scripts'), before all three media dish out their final round of gongs tomorrow at the annual mega-awards presentation that takes place on the final Friday of the Fringe. So, let's give some belated nods to last weekend's winners.

The Scotsman presented Fringe Firsts for new playwriting to...
'Light Boxes' by Grid Iron at Summerhall
'Raz' at Assembly
'Citizen Puppet' by Blind Summit Theatre at The Pleasance
'Labels' by Worklight Theatre at The Pleasance
'Tar Baby' by Desiree Burch and Platt Productions at Gilded Balloon
'Trans Scripts' by Paul Lucas Productions in association with Gail Winar at The Pleasance
'The Great Downhill Journey Of Little Tommy' by Theater aan Zee and Richard Jordan Productions at Summerhall

The Herald presented Angels to...
'887' by Robert Lepage at Edinburgh International Festival
Richard Egarr at Edinburgh International Festival
'Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer' by Soho Theatre & The London Arts Project at Underbelly
'Aceh Meukondore' by Kande at C Venues
'Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour' by National Theatre of Scotland and Live Theatre at Traverse Theatre

The Stage presented acting awards to...

Andy Gray in 'Willie & Sabastian' at Gilded Balloon
Sean Michael Verey in 'Tonight With Donny Stixx' at Pleasance Courtyard
The Wardrobe Ensemble for '1972: The Future of Sex' at Zoo Venues

Jim Smallman: My Girls (Jim Smallman)
Jim Smallman loves his wife. Jim Smallman loves his daughter. I aggressively like Jim Smallman, though I'm not quite at the stage where I'd call it "love". He's clearly an established circuit comedian, confidently making tame but enjoyable jokes, but there wasn't any spark - any drive that truly kept me listening. There's some interesting 'my wife used to be a pornstar' material, followed by some adorable 'kids say the funniest things' material. Smallman occasionally talks about "the tricks of the trade", but it seems as though he never attempts to jump out of the very comfortable box that he's climbed into, placed in the back of a van, and had transported all around the country's comedy clubs.
Just The Tonic @ The Caves, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Robert Stevens]

Aatif Nawaz (Aatif Nawaz)
Aatif Nawaz has a goal in comedy and it's not just to make people laugh: he wants to change Western misconceptions about Islam. It quickly becomes apparent Nawaz has a talent for setting his audience at ease and finding just the right level of controversial – the flashes of darker humour are perfectly timed but he's never offensive. He accepts that his faith isn't perfect, but then nobody is, and that was the overriding message of this show. I left the room feeling that I had been entertained, but had also learnt something important, and for that Nawaz deserves a far bigger crowd than he got. Huge respect to a man with big ambitions; this is brave, important comedy.
Just The Tonic at The Caves, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Stephanie Gray]

Adam Hills: Clown Heart (Off The Kerb Productions by arrangement with Lisa Richards Agency)
Gosh, Adam Hills is a nice, nice, nice man. His sell-out crowd clearly adores him, immediately going along with the (admittedly shambolic) audience participation at the start, as he unsuccessfully attempts to call an audience member's wife. But it's once the material starts properly that Hills really shows his talent as a comedian. Taking the potentially grim themes of cancer and death, he skilfully combines humour with genuine affection. As he talks about scattering his father's ashes and "kicking cancer in the dick", his joy and enthusiasm are infectious. Though it got dangerously close to mawkish at times, Hills is nevertheless a natural funnyman. 'Clown Heart' is a show with plenty of clowning, and tonnes of heart.
Assembly Hall, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Alfie Brown: Ism (The Mason Sisters)
Alfie Brown seems to have really settled into his show, - a mock standing ovation to deal with latecomers quickly gets the audience on side, making the 50 minutes that follow very endearing. "The show is about the tribalism of –ism," he says. He goes on to explain his opinion on debates, and how those involved are portrayed depending on their stance. Brown draws you in, only to surprise with a blunt punchline of sorts. This seamlessly flows into captivating social-commentary, which he achieves with several impressions that are unbelievably accurate, each as impressive as the last. His metaphors, whilst occasionally shocking, are often impeccable. All of this builds towards a satisfying conclusion and a well-constructed show.
Assembly George Square, until 31 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Ben Shannon]

Bat-Fan (Bound & Gagged Comedy)
Self-confessed nerd James Wilson-Taylor doesn't hold anything back in his hour in the spotlight. With PowerPoints, songs and puppetry, he takes us on a whirlwind Batman adventure in an astonishing variety of forms. The concept could have been approached simply, but for Wilson-Taylor's show the genius comes from its complexity. He commits to all sorts of impressive tech, and that's what raises this idea to a new level, stopping it far short of the potential nerdy self-indulgence. His love affair with the caped crusader has been around all his life, and adulthood clearly isn't going to stop it. If you like Batman you'll love this show, and even if you don't you'll still find plenty of laughs here.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Stephanie Gray]

Diane Spencer: Power Tool (
Diane Spencer is a likable presence right from the start of her show. She draws the audience in and introduces the two narratives that make up 'Power Tool', intertwining them effortlessly throughout. Firstly, as the name suggests, there's been a lot of D.I.Y. over the last 14 months, as she fixed up her new house. Though it's the second topic, of agreeing to write a one-woman show for 'celebrity' Nancy Dell'Olio, that leads us into more promising material. The hour starts slowly, but once it really gets going Spencer doesn't hold back on the laughs, the climactic final third featuring a genuinely hilarious puppet routine. It's an entertaining show and another well-formed hour from this award winning comedian.
Gilded Balloon, until 31 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Ben Shannon]

Jenny Bede: Don't Look At Me (Jenny Bede)
Jenny Bede's show is a gleeful, musical romp. She explains aspects of her life through songs and raps, which are smartly written and consistently hilarious. Her melancholy ballad about using emoji in relationships is especially memorable, and you'll be humming her tunes for the rest of the day. Despite the show's title, you cannot help but look at Jenny Bede. Her performance is as loveable as it is funny, and her conversational style and down-to-earth persona will make you want to be her best friend. It would be an even more satisfying experience if Bede interacted more with the audience and moved around the stage with greater confidence, but her show is still a unique delight.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Vicki Baron]

Joseph Morpurgo: Soothing Sounds for Baby (The Invisible Dot Ltd)
Anybody who's ever rummaged through a bin of old LPs knows that the discs are always good for a few giggles - get a load of that comb-over or that spangled unitard. But the impish Joseph Morpurgo knows the true comic potential of old, obscure records. Structured as an episode of 'Desert Island Discs' - complete with patched-together dialogue from Kirsty Young - 'Soothing Sounds for Baby' takes us through the comedian's collection, from suave jazz musician Stanley Clarke to an A.A. Milne tale, which Morpurgo gives a Lovecraftian twist. At its core, it's a tender story of young love lost, but it's carried by Morpurgo's gift for offbeat language: a pianist becomes an "ivory groper", while a sad yet playful Brahms composition is "like playing origami with a will".
Pleasance Courtyard, until 31 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Rebecca Jacobson]

The Leeds Tealights: Discuss (Leeds Tealights)
Disaster strikes The Leeds Tealights, as they lose one of their members to the sketch world. We watch 'backstage', in between sketches, as they frantically try to devise a plan to bring their comrade back and complete the show. They're an amusing group, playing to their strengths with well constructed punchlines and sketches parodying famous political and celebrity figures. Occasionally, their high energy leaves sketches feeling too rapid and wordy, and the audience could do with a bit more time to absorb the group's obvious talent. Hugh Coles notably shines through as a comedian with great dynamism, playing many absurd characters. Overall, this promises to entertain, though we might need something a little stronger than tea to keep up with them.
Just the Tonic at The Caves, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Stephanie Withers]

Tom Neenan: The Andromeda Paradox (Ditto Productions)
A performance endearingly short on props but high on entertainment, this is Tom Neenan's second solo venture, after previously tag-teaming with fellow funny man Nish Kumar. 'The Andromeda Paradox' tells the story of a needy science boffin with a smack of destiny about him. Neenan brings to life the unloved Bernard Andromeda, a scientist who is constantly striving to exit his father's shadow, in this amusing, well thought out hour of comedy. Neenan's performance is thorough and energetic without ever becoming too over the top, a rare feat. On the occasions he has the opportunity to improvise around his written material, he feels comfortable enough to do so, and moments like these make this a particularly enjoyable show.
Pleasance Dome, until 31 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [David O'Connor]


Around The World, My Journey Continued After You Left (Theatre SanTuoQi China)
Theatre SanTuoQi use no words in this expressive, colourful piece, exchanging them for sounds, song and movement. We follow a couple who love travel, exploration and each other, then see the wife's struggles after her husband dies. The title isn't really an accurate reflection of the show's content: this is not about the woman discovering how to live alone, but about the memories of her relationship and marriage. The ensemble demonstrates a commendable aptitude for visual theatre, taking us to jungles, boats and forests but I felt as though the story lacked a clear narrative or intention; meanwhile, the emotional ending was drawn out and left me drained. However, this show worked visually, musically and had some memorable moments.
New Town Theatre, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Stephanie Withers]


Zanna, Don't (The MGA Academy of Performing Arts)
Welcome to a world where being gay is the norm and being straight is viewed as repulsive. The students from The MGA Academy introduce an interesting concept; however the execution didn't quite do it justice. Think of an extra camp 'High School Musical', with tits and teeth, a magic fairy, and the issue of sexuality questioned. Undoubtedly the cast have impressive singing ability, with strong harmonies and soloists, particularly Elly Jay who entertainingly plays Roberta. However, I found the acting on the whole to be too narcissistic, and the level of skill in the cast was varied. There are some fun moments in this cheerful musical, but overall it lacks substance in performance and direction.
C venues, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Stephanie Withers]


Blind Cinema (Britt Hatzius)
As you take your seat, schoolchildren - aged 8 to 11 - file in behind you. You're handed a blindfold, then a cone to hold to your ear. For the next 40 minutes a film plays, but you see none of it. Instead, a child whispers to you about eggshells, feathers, a glass house. You hear her breathe. You hear her hesitate. You wonder what the others are saying, if they're funnier or more interesting than your child. You feel bad for having wondered this (don't worry: they shuffle about, so you'll hear three different children). It's an experiment in sensory deprivation, and in power dynamics. Sure, the stakes aren't terribly high - they're not leading you blindfolded across a motorway - but it still flips the equation in subtle, fascinating ways.
Forest Fringe, offsite at the Filmhouse (88 Lothian Road), until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Rebecca Jacobson]

Blood Wedding (Minerva Company @ NHEHS)
Powerfully acted and thoughtfully presented, the Minerva Company works to bring Lorca's classic play, 'Bodas de Sangre', to an English-speaking audience. Though the playwright's words and style are notoriously hard to translate into English, the company demonstrate a good feel for the original text, collaborating to bring forth some of the elements which are particular to the writing of Lorca. The choice of an all-female cast is fitting, as it helps to create a restricted, claustrophobic atmosphere - essential to a play about the limited choices afforded to women within the confines of rigidly traditional, provincial Spain. While the choice of the play was perhaps over-ambitious, the Minerva Company responds well to the challenge.
Greenside at Nicholson Square, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Megan Wallace]

The Communist Threat (Rusted Dust)
As two MI5 agents drink gin and shoot one-liners in a Viennese basement, the word 'Pinter-esque' goes off like alarm bells in the collective audience consciousness. Yes, it's a formula, but it's a lively one, with all the snarky, back-and forth deadpan you'd expect. Kieran O'Rourke plays a working-class Northerner with the ambling ease that we're right to expect - or are we? Twist upon twist upon triple twists abound - the predictability just makes this all the more fun. 'The Communist Threat' invites you into a world you'll already recognise well if you know the genre, one where you can sit back and chuckle amusedly, as with a BBC period drama. Any fans of Cold War-era films will be in heaven here.
Zoo Southside, until 31 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Sarah Murphy]

Edmund The Learned Pig (Fittings Multimedia Arts, Krazy Kat Theatre and The Royal Exchange)
Bonaparte's circus is failing. The aerialist is afraid of heights and the mind-reader is losing his memory. Failing, that is, until the arrival of Edmund, a puppet pig who can talk, sing, read and dance. The design is all dusty, faded glamour which, combined with aerial silk work and music by the Tiger Lillies' Martyn Jacques, really puts the spectacular into this super, sometimes very silly, show. References to Orwell's 'Animal Farm' are dropped in amongst the bacon jokes, as Edmund is seen as either saviour or dinner. The play also beautifully integrates British Sign Language, the bilingual actors translating when other characters are talking. 'Edmund the Learned Pig' is a gloriously dark, humane, weird little show.
Summerhall, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Hannah And Hanna (Culture Clash / Greenwich Theatre)
"Seeking asylum...from Margate!" It's an unlikely sequence of events which led up to this sentence, but I'm glad they were made. Set in 1999, 'Hannah and Hanna' grapples with issues which are even more relevant now - asylum-seeking and immigration, filtered through the eyes of two sixteen-year-old girls, with the help of some 90s hits. Hannah can't wait to be a grown-up, while Hanna was forced into adulthood prematurely. A wonderful, unpatronising portrayal of the teenage girl, not scared to open a lid on the bottled fury and secret bliss which can hide beneath heart-patterned dressing gowns and pink headphones. I get the feeling this isn't all Culture Clash can do ̶  they're one to keep an eye on for next year.
Assembly George Square, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Sarah Murphy]

I Heart Catherine Pistachio (Encounter)
A breathless assault of weirdness, 'I Heart Catherine Pistachio' is a theatrical unicorn: unimaginable until you've seen it, unforgettable once you have. It's like your childhood nightmares, teenage fantasies and grown-up fears got together for an ecstasy-fuelled rave, soundtracked by Ace of Base and Mariah Carey. Performers Nick Blakeley and Carl Harrison - in long blond wigs, granny glasses, high-waisted skirts and ballet slippers - introduce us to Catherine Pistachio, a child raised by swingers, who loves her pony and border collie. The imagery is surreal, often gross - dwarves shoot from cannons, a tail slides into an anus like a Glade plug-in. The dancing is lurching but weirdly graceful. But even as things get dark - bestiality, child abuse, suicide - it's delivered with guile, demanding audience members stay on their toes.
Roundabout @ Summerhall, until 23 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Rebecca Jacobson]

Labels (Worklight Theatre)
An honest, brave story that makes us redefine the labels we use to identify ourselves and others. Worklight Theatre presents this fantastic, Fringe First winning show at a crucial time, when the immigration debate is so rife, and the lines between valued migrants and illegal immigrants are blurred. Writer and performer Joe Sellman-Leava explores his own journey of growing up with dual heritage, and reflects on political and celebrity figures who address immigration insensitively. 'Labels' is a very special show - inclusive, interactive and personal. I was even fortunate enough to witness a beautiful, surprise proposal by the actor's brother at the end of the show. If you are lucky enough to get a ticket, you can label yourself a winner.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 31 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Stephanie Withers]

17 Border Crossings (Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental in association with Aurora Nova)
Director and actor Thaddeus Phillips uses every inch of the stage in '17 Border Crossings', as he explores what it means to cross a country's borders, and what restrictions are put in our way. He is a master of voices, seamlessly switching between a multitude of characters, accents and languages. The use of lighting is exemplary, showing just what's possible with a movable bar of strip lights, a torch and some car headlights. Though the struggle of illegal immigrants is touched upon, most tales are of comfortable Americans, travelling to countries that aren't on most people's 'top holiday destination' lists: Croatia, Serbia, Jordan. The reasons for these visits are left curiously vague, however, in this clever, thoughtful show.
Summerhall, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Tomorrow's Parties (Forced Entertainment)
Coloured lights lazily draped across two posts make up the simple background. Two wooden pallets, one on top of the other in the middle of the stage. The aesthetic is reminiscent of an outdoor wedding, once all the guests have gone home. Two performers take to the stage, and it begins. What will the future be? Possibilities are thrown around between the two performers: some bleak, some hopeful, taking us to the ends of our existence and highlighting the futility of trying to imagine the unimaginable. The show is funny and clever, but at 80 minutes it can sometimes drag, feeling more like an extended improv game. Nonetheless, this is one improv game you need to see.
Summerhall, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]

Ada (Edinburgh University Theatre Company)
Ada Lovelace, innovator of the algorithm, may have foreseen the digital age altogether - but she was tragically halted before her work could come to full fruition. Very shrewdly, this play models itself on a frustrated machine: scenes whir then black out, haunted by single phrases that stutteringly repeat themselves at intervals, always interrupted before they can properly finish. How do you put maths on the stage? 'Ada' translates it into flowers, bedsheets and, most importantly, choreography. Dancing is a sort of maths equation, relying on symmetry, sequence and rigorous levels of perfection. Above all, 'Ada' is an achievement of metaphor. Maths enthusiasts, come and appreciate this. Everyone else, come and learn something.
Bedlam Theatre, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Sarah Murphy]

Dog Play Dead (The Well Behaved Women)
A British dark comedy with an all-female cast is a rarity; add custard creams, a few Chardonnay bottles, and you have 'Dog Play Dead'. It's nicely aware of its own predictability, and nicely blind to its own surprises - including the amusingly out-of-place soundtrack. The dynamic between the four characters is tremendously well-scripted, pacy and fizzing with antagonism. Though the denouement, from battling over biscuits to battling with sadistic gangsters, could have been smoother, we're not watching this play for narrative sequence! We're watching it for the hilarity of characters responding to gun-wielding Dalmatian-owners. Some may find its range of 'middle-class white-girl problems' a smidge self-indulgent, but any fans of HBO's 'Girls' will lap this right up.
theSpaces on the Mile, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Sarah Murphy]

The Eulogy Of Toby Peach (Toby Peach)
On day 7,962 of his life - age 20, for the less mathematically inclined - Toby Peach got his cancer diagnosis. It was Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and it meant toxic drugs, teary conversations with his girlfriend, and risky stem-cell treatments. Now 26 and several years in remission, Peach presents his story as a playful monologue. The toughest thing about cancer, he says, is that your body produces the disease itself - it's "a terrible one-man show where you play all the parts". Between the earnest self-disclosure and forays into science and history, we visit the Cancer Club, where Peach plays a Ray-Ban-wearing lounge lizard, proffering chemo cocktails and smarmy smiles. It's an endearing, often funny take on a serious subject, if a little slick at times.
Underbelly, Cowgate, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Rebecca Jacobson]

A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing (Corn Exchange)
Sexual abuse, parental contempt, violence, religious guilt, disease: it's harrowing stuff. And, frankly, well-trodden territory for Irish literature. But in Annie Ryan's adaptation of Eimear McBride's 2013 novel, it's elevated to mesmerising - and thoroughly disquieting - poetry. A fragmented interior monologue of trauma and tragedy, the show follows an unnamed narrator from birth to early adulthood. We see the cruelties of her unhappy mother. We meet the uncle who rapes her. We grow close to her terminally ill brother. Dressed in plaid pyjama bottoms and a baggy t-shirt, on a bare and simply lit stage, Aoife Duffin is by turns vulnerable and forceful. Amazingly, she presents each brutal moment with compassion, even if only the barest shred. It's a shattering performance.
Traverse Theatre, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Rebecca Jacobson]

Gods Are Fallen And All Safety Gone (Greyscale)
Two men are on stage. They're playing mother and daughter. That, simply, is the gimmick of Selma Dimitrijevic's play. But what's so inspired about 'Gods Are Fallen' is that, while Sean Campion and Scott Turnbull are indeed playing women, they're not performing gender. Which isn't to say gender entirely falls away, but as the two cycle through conversation - about the weather, Aunt Marie, the daughter's boyfriend - we can't chalk any of it up to "womanhood" (which in turn says a lot about our quickness to read the male body as neutral, but that's a conversation for another time). What remains is a wonderfully layered, beautifully performed work that runs through a Rolodex of emotions - aggravation, love, regret, worry, fear - with piercing intelligence.
Summerhall, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Rebecca Jacobson]

Going Viral (An ARC Production, written and performed by Daniel Bye)
An eye-opening, Fringe First winning show, 'Going Viral' examines how viruses spread, and they effect they have on society, both scientifically and physiologically. Imagine that pandemonium breaks out, as a new highly contagious "weeping virus" hits the UK. The intimate storytelling by Daniel Bye makes the audience feel completely involved and welcome in this story. His use of the device of "imagine you are this character" really transports us into the world, and allows us to imagine how it would feel if this fictional virus were a reality. Raw, real and emotive, this visceral performance both educates us scientifically and makes us question the social systems around us. This show is one virus you definitely want to catch!
Summerhall, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Stephanie Withers]

Hug (Verity Standen)
A small room is filled with scattered chairs, with just enough space to walk around. You're instructed to pick one, put on a blindfold and wait. Everything is quiet, the anticipation builds and finally people begin filing into the room. Soon you are surrounded by bodies and sound. Choral singing fills the space. In the darkness a hand finds yours and pulls you to your feet, slowly they begin to hold you. The embrace becomes stronger and the singing louder, until you are completely lost in the sound and the connection you get from being blindfolded in a room full of strangers; this performance is beautifully mesmerising. Immersive, intimate and not to be missed.
Forest Fringe, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]

Rowan James: Easy For You To Say (Rowan James / Cambridge Junction / New Wolsey Theatre / Stopgap Dance)
Labels! Stick 'em on, rip 'em off, stick 'em on, rip 'em off. Poets and musicians Marv Radio and Rowan James deliver an odd hour that looks into the meaning of labels, and how they can have an impact on people's ego and self esteem. The themes are explored fairly well, they make some interesting points, and the whole production was heartfelt and keenly performed. Yet all too often the sweet message was tainted by out of time delivery and poor lyricism. Some was very good, but the show is far too uneven to be recommended. I would have liked to hear more from Marv Radio, whose musical input was very strong, as that would have smoothed out a rather bumpy ride.
Zoo Southside, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Robert Stevens]

The Sunset Five (DugOut Theatre)
Strong accents and strong jokes; sharp, refined acting and a near flawless script - 'The Sunset Five' is surely one of the neatest plays in town. Set in the seaside town of Chipworth, five friends try to save their local pub from Micky Mansions, the baddest and meanest man in town, by planning a heist on his casino. The characters each come with their own skills, they're wonderfully two-dimensional and it feels like a video game. It's structured like an episode of any cartoon you've ever seen, and gleefully delights in its own silliness. Although the planning of the heist drags on for slightly too long, I had so much fun that it's more than worth being stuck in the mud for a while.
Pleasance Dome, until 31 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Robert Stevens]

Weekend Rockstars (Middle Child Theatre)
"This is what it feels like to be alive, pulsing around this beehive", says stoner-hero Terry (Marc Graham). Indeed, this theatre/gig hybrid is full of buzzing energy, as if all the frustrations and joys of young adulthood had been bottled, shaken and left to fizz over a sticky nightclub stage. 'Weekend Rockstars' follows Terry through a rough week. He's sacked from Tesco. His girlfriend moves to London. There's an incident with his drug dealer's cat. It unfolds as a rock show, much of it sung in the style of The Streets. The story is a tad trite, and the video projections distract more than they add. But the songs are proper fun, and the five young, talented performers burst with heart.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 30 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Rebecca Jacobson]

The Remnants: As Thyself
Isla Van Tricht reveals a paramount aspect of humanity by retelling her personal experience of love and loss in a post-dramatic exploration of narcissism. A culture rich play, piled to the brim with intertextuality, 'As Thyself' uses Shakespearean references and a painting of Caravaggio's 'Narcissus' to illustrate art's reoccurring theme of love, and more importantly: the love we have for ourselves. Poetic, physical and aimed for mental stimulation and emotional engagement, this play leaves you spellbound and feeling deeply, for not only ourselves, but for the person next to us. An incredibly well written and disjointed story, interwoven with poetry, dance pieces, and brilliant acting, has taken an age old, reoccurring theme, and told it in an accessible and modern way.
C nova, until 31 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Zita Campbell]

The Remnants: Threadbare
The continuation from The Remnants: As Thyself. Isla Van Tricht revisits her first heartbreak through various fictional characters in this postdramatic and chronologically jumbled romance. It's narrated by both her heart and mind, which are symbiotically, represented as the characters Archimedes and Phoenix, as we view the turmoil and confusion that came with the love that was lost in 'As Thyself'. 'Threadbare', written a few years later, explores the notions of what it is to be a storyteller. This is a play in its own right and can be viewed as an individual piece, however it is best viewed with its prequel, as it would feel less full as an independent piece.
C nova, until 31 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 [Zita Campbell]

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