SUNDAY 14 AUGUST 2016 THREEWEEKSEDINBURGH.COM
HUI-CHEN TAN: THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF NUSHU
NuShu was a secret language used for centuries by the women of the Hunan province in China. Deprived a formal education, the women devised the language – and then handed it down from generation to generation – so that they could communicate with and support each other.

Intrigued by the story of NuShu, Taiwanese choreographer Tan Hui-Chen of the Water Reflection Dance Ensemble visited the region where the language originated to try and learn it for herself. From that experience she devised her show 'NuShu', which is being performed at Dance Base this Fringe. We spoke to her about this fascinating project. Read the interview here.

'NuShu' is on at Dance Base until 28 Aug.



PHOTO SHOOT: PATRICK MONAHAN
ThreeWeeks Editors' Award winner Patrick Monahan is back at the Fringe and – as well as his stand-up show – he is also hosting the all-new 'Pub Quiz For Kids'.

We'll find out all about that when we chat to the man himself in our Week Two issue, but first, we sent out a photographer to snap Patrick and his gang! Check out the results here.

'Pub Quiz For Kids with Patrick Monahan' is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot until 28 Aug.
Three to see at the Edinburgh Festival tomorrow...

Rose Matafeo Is Finally Dead | Pleasance Courtyard | 5.45pm
Some shows may be taking the day off on Monday, but there is still plenty of great stuff to choose from across the Fringe. First up this helping of "off-kilter, weird humour, mixed with continuous pop culture references" that adds up, says our reviewer, to "a really fun, and funny, hour of comedy... just try to make sure you don't die laughing". Yes, please don't die laughing.

zazU: Raisins To Stay Alive | Gilded Balloon Teviot | 6.15pm (pictured)
Next up some sketch comedy from TW favourites zazU, who you will find interviewed in our Week Two issue. "These guys left me in hysterics", said over reviewer: "It's silly, strange and, of course, very, very funny". Very, very funny indeed.

Alix In Wundergarten | Underbelly Med Quad | 7.10pm
And finally something from the theatre programme. "Both realistic and surrealistic, unsettling and hilarious, offensive and touching, 'Alix In Wundergarten' leaves you confused and in awe. It was unforgettable" said our reviewer. So go see and remember.
WEEK ONE ISSUE OF THE THREEWEEKS MAGAZINE IS OUT NOW - DOWNLOAD OR PICK UP YOUR COPY

The Week One edition of the ThreeWeeks magazine is out now! Pick up your copy from a Fringe venue of your choice.

Inside you will find interviews with Mark Watson, Goodbear, Holly&Ted, Hui-Chen Tan, Jonny & The Baptists, Martha McBrier, Njambi McGrath, Robert Shaw and This Glorious Monster, plus columns from Bob Slayer, Henry Maynard and Yeti's, and lots of reviews.

CLICK HERE to check out the Week One edition online
.
5/5 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED | 4/5 RECOMMENDED | 3/5 GOOD | 2/5 MEDIOCRE | 1/5 BAD  

IT'S THREEWEEKS' 21ST YEAR COVERING THE FESTIVAL
We are celebrating by interviewing five former cover stars for the TW:TALKS podcast
Come watch us interview Mark Thomas on Tuesday (16 Aug) at 10.30am
TW:TALKS Live at theSpace @ Symposium Hall - Get your free tickets here


COMEDY

Alice Marshall: Vicious (Vicious Productions)
Alice Marshall is vicious, but in a really good way. Character comedy isn't exactly rare at the festival but, while Marshall doesn't push the boundaries too far, she does have some shining moments. One highlight is a version of Cheryl Tweedy-Cole-Fernandez-Versini, who grows increasingly sinister as the sketch goes on. She also splices previously shot material on a projector screen during scene changes, featuring vox-pops and further golden character moments. It's a nice way to fill that dead space, showing her level of understanding and commitment to what makes a live hour of comedy work. Marshall unfortunately leaves her weakest sketch until last, and not all her characters have real bite, but they're devilishly fun to watch.
Just The Tonic @ The Caves, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Patricia-Ann Young]

Elf Lyons: Pelican (Elf Lyons / PBH's Free Fringe)
Elf Lyons unravels her relationship with her mother in this touching, albeit messy, hour of comedy. Lyons gives the impression of someone who would be fun to hang around with - she's witty, energetic and incredibly charismatic. But her punchlines don't always land and, while she recovered easily whenever she flat lined, there was still a sense that the show needed some fine-tuning. To be fair to her, these occurrences were rare, and she did say she wasn't feeling well, so perhaps this was just a one-off night of skew-whiff delivery. Lyons is clearly a talented, warm performer, but needs the standard of her jokes to catch up to the standard of her presence.
Voodoo Rooms, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Patricia-Ann Young]

Glitch – The Improvised Puppet Show (Glitch Improv)
It just wouldn't be the Fringe without some questionable improv, and 'Glitch' is the unlucky winner of that dubious honour. After taking audience suggestions, off they went with 'Gilbert Gorgonzola and the Itchy Kilt', in which a green monster desperately wanted to retrieve his home from a kilt shop-owning Basil Brush. The problem was that the aforementioned itchiness of the kilt didn't get much of a look in, and the puppeteers often had to dig themselves out of a hole. Making stuff up is great, but it's got to feel a little bit like you know what you're doing. Thank goodness for the puppets though: they're splendid. Without them this would have made for very awkward viewing.
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, until 20 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Daisy Malt]

Me, Myself And ISIS (Banana Collective / PBH's Free Fringe)
A TV cop show collides with a collapsing sketch trio in Banana Collective's multimedia show about shows. First off, it needs saying: this show had an awful night. Everything went wrong. Things broke, a curtain fell down, lighting issues rendered the projected video – vital to the story – unwatchable. The audience slumped into a laughless torpor, and the group themselves were clearly begging for it all to just end, please, end. I do feel the show has other problems, however: the self-referential narrative is not as clever or original as it thinks it is, and parodies of eighties US cop shows are very tired. But there is creativity and invention here, and it's unfortunate I saw it on the night of a catastrophe.
T-Bar, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Jon Stapley]

Rachel Parris - Best Laid Plans (Live Nation in association with Troika)
Rachel Parris' show comprises largely of warmly amusing storytelling rather than laugh out loud gags. The degree to which she self-disclosed in 'Best Laid Plans' was honestly courageous and added pathos to her story. Unfortunately, as a comedy show, it just wasn't quite there. The milder, more casual wit in her narrative would work if it were simply a storytelling show, but she goes for bigger laughs in songs that unfortunately miss the mark: they wouldn't be jokes if she just said them, and singing a thing doesn't automatically make it funny. One of the songs has a rap in it too, and she keeps up her singing accent for this rap, with unfortunately cringey results.
Pleasance Dome, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Nina Keen]

Rowena Haley: Three Chords And The Truth (Rowena Haley / PBH's Free Fringe)
Opening with a song about the destruction of a friendship after sharing too much information, it seemed like we were off to a promising start. Rowena Haley quips about hen parties, weddings and a recent trip to the Deep South but, beyond the initial amusement, the lack of depth to any of this social commentary meant that she often just descended into bitterness without the humour. After a pop at the overweight came "I can make fun of fat people because the Boots machine says I'm obese," which summed up what was wrong with her set – it's 2016 and shaming people for laughs doesn't sit well with me. Haley can write a fun song but the stand-up in between was lacklustre.
T-Bar, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Daisy Malt]

Tatterdemalion (Flabbergast Theatre)
A man in a fez and a white vest informs us (wordlessly) that the circus is not performing today, and so, with feigned resignation, he does his best to entertain us. 'Tatterdemalion' is clowning at its purest. There are no words, but performer Henry Maynard soundtracks the entire show with giggles, grunts, gasps and murmurs. The audience quickly becomes a part of his strange world (there are no safe seats here!) and he seems ready for any reaction – from the awkwardly avoidant gaze to the enthusiastic roleplayer. When you find yourself wincing at a man getting his hand trapped in an invisible door, or cheering at the birth of an invisible baby, you know you're watching a master of physical theatre.
Assembly George Square Theatre, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Taylor Glenn: A Billion Hours Of Parenthood (Taylor Glenn)
Taylor Glenn is an English-based American, former psychotherapist and mother to a three-year-old girl. The latter fact forms the core of this funny, perceptive and ultimately warm show. Through chapters loosely illustrated by onstage props, the journey is laid out, from footloose pre-partner days (a large bottle of gin which – quite correctly – recurs throughout) through conception, birth and the daunting prospect of actually being responsible for a wee human. It's smartly observed and littered with great lines; enough dark edges to avoid mawkishness, yet gentle enough around the, er, less glamorous bits, regularly finding the funny with a healthy dose of affectionate ribbing for the fundamental uselessness of dads. Well worth booking the babysitter for.
Just The Tonic at The Caves, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]



IT'S THREEWEEKS' 21ST YEAR COVERING THE FESTIVAL
We are celebrating by interviewing five former cover stars for the TW:TALKS podcast
Come watch us interview Brendon Burns on Wednesday (17 Aug) at 10.30am
TW:TALKS Live at theSpace @ Symposium Hall - Get your free tickets here

DANCE & PHYSICAL THEATRE

Tipping Point (Ockham's Razor)
We have seen acrobatic shows with trapezes, silks or ropes, but 'Tipping Point' features an unconventional apparatus: five-metre long metal poles. They create a very visually striking effect on stage, and the performers movements parallel and complement the poles. Who knew that a pole could have this much versatility? Used as props, as climbing ropes, as levers – all accompanied by the impressive skills of the acrobats – they really become artistic objects. All about balance, this piece diverges from traditional acrobatics and has a contemporary, physical feel to it. There was a sense of anger or distrust between the performers, which was surely intended to add theatrical intensity to the piece but, as it remained unexplained, it was a little unsettling.
C Scala, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Pénélope Hervouet]

IT'S THREEWEEKS' 21ST YEAR COVERING THE FESTIVAL
We are celebrating by interviewing five former cover stars for the TW:TALKS podcast
Come watch us interview Susan Calman on Thursday (18 Aug) at 10.30am
TW:TALKS Live at theSpace @ Symposium Hall - Get your free tickets here

MUSIC

Guitar Multiverse (Declan Zapala)
Thirteen was my lucky number tonight - the number of guitar parts in Declan Zapala's arrangement of Steve Reich's 1987 Minimalist composition 'Electric Counterpoint', written for Jazz great Pat Metheny. All were played by Zapala – live and on tape – and linked to colourful large screen graphics that transformed with the music. This fifteen minute finale transfixed me, and was a vibrant contrast to the cleverly percussive pieces that preceded it. Zapala is a virtuoso - watching him play was just as entertaining as listening to him; as he slapped, flicked, picked and strummed his instrument, through his own and other contemporary compositions, with excellent technique and an engaging charm. In what universe is Zapala a star? All of them!
C too, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

IT'S THREEWEEKS' 21ST YEAR COVERING THE FESTIVAL
We are celebrating by interviewing five former cover stars for the TW:TALKS podcast
Come watch us interview Lucy Porter on Friday (19 Aug) at 10.30am
TW:TALKS Live at theSpace @ Symposium Hall - Get your free tickets here

MUSICALS

Company (The Lincoln Company)
Stephen Sondheim's concept musical on love and marriage gets a gender-swapped LGBT remix in The Lincoln Company's straightforwardly entertaining production. The music is of course superb and the young cast acquit themselves well; the problems here are largely technical. The cavernous C scala seems poorly suited to a show like this, and the lack of sufficient amplification meant the actors' strong voices were all too often lost in the space. This was compounded by the thundering piano, which clearly needed to be loud enough for the cast to stay in time, but had the unfortunate side-effect of drowning them out. Lastly, huge congratulations to the actor who stepped up last-minute to replace an ill cast member – the change was totally seamless.
C scala, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Jon Stapley]

Emerald Diaries (Kingdom Theatre Company)
Set in the rehearsal studio of "the best Irish dance troupe in Leith", 'Emerald Diaries' tells the story of two young Scottish lovers, that classic tale of boy on leave from the Navy meets girl in an Irish dance troupe. Unfortunately the plot is often confusing and, even with some strong performances, it's hard to tell what's going on. With original music, and produced in association with Scotland's award-winning Siamsoir Irish dance company, its the dancing where the show really comes to life. Powerful, intricate routines by confident dancers really make it a show worth watching. Although it can sometimes feels like the dance routines have been shoehorned into the story, when they're that good you really don't mind!
Greenside @ Nicolson Square, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]

The Improv Musical (Music Theatre Warwick)
In the ever-more-crowded field of improvised musicals, this offering doesn't do much to stand out from the crowd, but still does what it does with style and verve. The cast do a sterling job of accommodating the audience's ludicrous suggestions – last night we saw Frosty the Snowman fall in love with Satan inside a man's brain. And somehow it worked! An audience-requested R&B number was the unequivocal highlight of the show, handled superbly by the two actors, though I do think making the audience raise their hands to offer suggestions feels a bit prissy, and kills the madcap improv energy somewhat. If you've ever seen an improvised musical before, you'll know exactly what to expect, but you'll still have a good time.
C, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Jon Stapley]

Royal Vauxhall (Desmond O'Connor / Something For The Weekend)
One night, three legends and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Join Princess Diana, Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett as they shun the limelight, venturing into the night to escape their individual realities and responsibilities. Taking place over one night in London in 1988, 'Royal Vauxhall' explores the lives of three public figures that led tragically short lives. This is a brilliantly funny new musical - the writing is witty and fun, and the songs will have you dancing along in no time. All three performances are outstanding, with each performer perfectly capturing their character – no mean feat when each is so well known and loved.
Highly recommended to anyone looking for some tongue-in-cheek 80s goodness.
Underbelly Med Quad, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]

2 Become 1 (Swipe Right Theatre)
Much has changed since the 90s, especially in the dating scene. '2 Become 1' is set in the time of Nokias, out-of-this-world platforms and old-style dating, so sing along to the pop tunes and rejoice in the nostalgia! Reminiscent of 'Sex and the City,' the show sees four friends embark on a night of speed dating after one of them goes through a break-up. It's not the most original of plots, and it wouldn't pass the Bechdel test, but that doesn't really matter, because the show is great fun. With excellent musical arrangements and performances, it smartly weaves in songs and references from the 90s. For an hour, you'll go back to that decade and yet you'll feel the changes since then.
Underbelly, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Aida Rocci]

IT'S THREEWEEKS' 21ST YEAR COVERING THE FESTIVAL
We are celebrating by interviewing five former cover stars for the TW:TALKS podcast
Come watch us interview Mark Watson on Saturday (20 Aug) at 10.30am
TW:TALKS Live at theSpace @ Symposium Hall - Get your free tickets here

THEATRE

The Chicken Trial (ACE Production)
A number of interesting questions fuel this play. A fusion of philosophy and absurdism, it challenges the audience to think about life, art and entertainment. Unfortunately, it is more interested in asking these questions than in saying anything meaningful in response and it struggles to make us care. We're clearly meant to sympathise with their portrayal of Makode Linde – the real-life artist/DJ whose trial forms the basis of the plot. The audience is invited to agree that taking chickens to a nightclub is not animal cruelty, while decrying our hypocrisy in not enforcing the same standards on farmers. While I accept the critique of industrial farming, I found Linde's faux-philosophical pretension left an equally bad taste in the mouth.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Andy Leask]

Fingertips (In The Attic)
There is much to admire in this frank and fairly honest look at the state of modern 'romance'. There's a focus on the social, emotional and psychological impact of Tinder and other social media on relationships between men and women. The dialogue and performances fair sizzle with authenticity – not to mention the best 'drunk acting' I've ever seen – and there's a pleasantly natural air to most of the conversations, one overly engineered argument notwithstanding. There are a lot of genuine laughs from the questions, confessions and accusations that flit back and forth between the six twenty-somethings on stage, but the end left me unsatisfied, craving something more meaningful. Though that could be a clever meta-commentary on modern relationships, I suppose?
C Nova, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

Our Writer (York DramaSoc)
What do characters do while their creator wrestles with writers' block? That's the question posed in this charmingly funny exploration of self-aware fourth wall breaking and dramatic conventions. There are shades of 'Waiting for Godot' as our two protagonists Morphine and Porcelain - do the names mean anything, they ask each other – ponder their existence. Are they real? Do they have free will? There's a lot of comedy in the piece; the actors mine a surprising number of laughs out of the word "door" and I'd have liked more focus on the humour, less on the existential angst. The self-reflexive nature of the script means the philosophical ponderings lack weight, especially contrasted with the clever wit and humour.
C Nova, until 20 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

A Regular Little Houdini (Flying Bridge Theatre Limited)
An endearing, charismatic performance lies at the heart of this one-man show. The actor takes us through an Edwardian childhood in Wales, spent idolising Houdini, practising magic tricks - sorry, "amazements" - and craving the attention of an often absent father figure. The story is gripping, taking dramatic and tragic turns that surprise and enthral the audience, and is peppered with delightful little displays of sleight-of hand. But too frequently the connection between Houdini, magic tricks and escapology to the wider narrative is tenuous and inconsistently applied; it builds to a corking, moving climax, but the journey there is not quite up to the standard of Houdini's spectacle.
Pleasance Dome, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

Agent Of Influence: The Secret Life Of Pamela More (Fluff Productions)
A superb performance by Rebecca Dunn is under-served by this solo show about a 1930s socialite who becomes a spy. The script makes it difficult for the audience to connect with Pamela as a person – we learn some surprising secrets about her throughout her adventures, but her stiff upper lip makes it hard to gauge how they affect her emotionally. The decision to use a montage to rush through Pamela's undercover exploits feels quite bizarre – that's the most exciting part, why didn't we get to see it?! Sub-plots are introduced and discarded, events occur with little consequence. The play attempts to tackle a broad swathe of issues, but ends up engaging with none of them.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Jon Stapley]

Gulliver's Travels (Familia De La Noche)
Familia De La Noche have returned to the Fringe with a surprisingly family friendly production, full of humour and delightful details. Puppets become tiny Lilliputians, actors become giants, whole worlds are created in seconds. The story takes place shortly after eccentric traveller Lemuel Gulliver's death. His daughter is ready to throw out his belongings but, in a series of flashbacks, Gulliver's assistant shows her the value of each one. It's a play about adventures, about memories and how we keep those alive: sometimes logic and proof need to be replaced with awe and wonder. 'Gulliver's Travels' is enchanting, colourful and silly – perfect for children who like jokes about bogies, and adults who still believe in magic and mystery.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Mr Incredible (Longsight Theatre)
In this new monologue by Camilla Whitehill, Adam repeatedly declares, "I'm not the type of man that..." (is single in his thirties, goes on Tinder, commits violence against women). 'Mr Incredible' has the elements of a great production: a compelling performance from Alistair Donegan, inspired direction from Sarah Meadows, coherent design by Justin Nardella and Catherine Morgan. However, the line between empathy for Adam and condemnation of his actions is misjudged: I lost sympathy with him too early on to sustain an interest in what happened to him. The monologue form feels contrived too; the identity of Adam's absent interlocutor is never revealed, and the final revelation is predictable. 'Mr Incredible' is a morally conflicted show about the horrifying implications of modern masculinity.
Underbelly, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Hannah Greenstreet]

People Of The Eye (The Deaf And Hearing Ensemble and Erin Siobhan Hutching)
'People Of The Eye' is a wonderfully inventive production, using speech, sign language and captioning to tell the story of a family with a Deaf child. There are difficulties, certainly, but laughter too, like when the sisters have secret signed conversations. There's a brilliant scene where the audience is taught some simple signs – it's fun and silly, but deliberately makes us feel awkward at not being understood. Unfortunately, what let this show down is the very thing it is supposed to promote – accessibility. The captions are often obscured by the actors, and the signing done on the floor is useless to all except the first few rows. With better staging, this could be a fantastic production.
Northern Stage at Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Zero Down (Angel On The Corner Theatre Company)
Late night shift, overworked and underpaid – three nurses in a seedy care home reach breaking point. In the staff room, tensions rise between them as their different backgrounds, opportunities and life aspirations clash. Unfortunately, the characters felt stereotypical, like Benni, who only displays anger and disdain, and hates "immigrants", "students", "journalists" – well, pretty much everyone. 'Zero Down' explores the interesting relationships between professional ambition, empathy and emotional rivalry, but it doesn't explore them fully. The text in itself is sharp and well written, and the show did have some good moments during which characters revealed themselves, but only towards the end. Overall the performance was a bit understated, lacking the necessary dramatic intensity.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Pénélope Hervouet]

© UnLimited Media, a division of 3CM Enterprises Ltd

ThreeWeeks Edinburgh
UnLimited Media, Kemp House, 152 City Road, London EC1V 2NX
t: 020 7099 9050 (editorial) 020 7099 9060 (sales)

[email protected] | [email protected]