Three recommended shows to see on Sunday 20 Aug...

MANWATCHING | Roundabout @ Summerhall | 7.30pm
"A kind of 'Vagina Monologues' meets 'Mortified', this is a true account of one woman's sexual desires and experiences", reports our reviewer. "There's a risk that a man reading an anonymous woman's monologue might seem contrived or gimmicky" they add, "but the humour and honesty shine through".

Princes Of Main: New Year's Eve | Bedlam Theatre | 9.30pm
This is "a tight, expertly structured 50 minutes of sketches from an accomplished trio of performers" that, our reviewer says, "manages to be a good deal more fun than the real New Year's Eve". Enjoy.

JoJo Bellini: Crash-Bang Cabaret! | The Stand Comedy Club 2 | 10.05pm (pictured)
In this recommended cabaret show "a lot gets examined through a classic mixture of sexy songs and stories". Not only that, but "a moment of unexpected emotional tenderness moved one audience member to tears". Go see!
It's the latest TW:TALKS podcast from Edinburgh Festival 2017. This time ThreeWeeks Editors' Award winner John Robertson, who is back at the festival with both a new stand-up show and the Fringe institution that is 'The Dark Room'. We chat to John about his career in comedy from the very start to the latest show, with lots of Edinburgh experiences along the way.

CLICK HERE to tune in to this edition of TW:TALKS - going live very soon!

John Robertson performs 'Dominant' at The Stand, 'The Dark Room' at Underbelly Cowgate and 'The Dark Room For Kids' at Just The Tonic at The Community Project, all three shows until 26 Aug.


Mavis Sparkles (M6 Theatre Company)
Mavis is a cleaner who likes to make everything shiny. She loves her job and she loves doing it with a bit of added sparkle, but don't get her chatting because she'll never stop! 'Mavis Sparkles' sees the daughter of a magician and a ballet dancer searching for magic in the everyday. As the audience are introduced to Mavis, we find out that it's her last day at this particular cleaning job and we join her on the hunt for a new adventure. The set is endlessly entertaining in itself, turning from one thing to another and constantly revealing new treasures. All eyes (big or small) were firmly on Mavis throughout this hour-long performance. A beautifully performed story with a lot of heart.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 20 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]


Eshaan Akbar: Not For Prophet (CKP & ROAR Group Present)
Eshaan Akbar is the son of a Pakistani Labour-supporting father and a Bangladeshi Thatcherite mother, and his debut show sees him try to understand where he fits in the world. From this starting point he covers a number of topics such as his private education, a family trip to America and why he stopped being a Muslim. Akbar clearly has a lot of interesting experiences to work with but, although the stories are amusing and well-told, you leave feeling he could have got more out of them both in terms of laughs and his own insights. The final ten minutes contain his strongest material, highlighting his potential, but the consistency isn't there yet for a full hour.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Richard Levinson]

I Can Make You Tory (Leo Kearse)
If the title of this show puts you off then you might be pleasantly surprised by the result or, then again, you might not. Leo Kearse doesn't hold back with his criticisms of the supposed hypocrisies of the left-wing and he certainly doesn't totally subscribe to political correctness, which at time leads to a frosty reception from some audience members. However, the show is all meant to be in good humour and isn't intended to purely offend. In fact, Kearse quickly moves away from the political subject matter and instead focuses on a few more personal anecdotes. With some sharply accurate observations, the show definitely benefits from these moments. A controversial choice for some Fringe attendees, but Kearse does make some interesting points.
Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Lewis Frain]

Imaginary Radio (Drennon Davis Jim Hickox - Bigtop Productions)
'Imaginary Radio' takes you on a journey around the dial, channel-hopping between American radio stations ranging from rock to classical. This format allows Drennon Davis and his guests to perform a number of genre-spanning mash-ups (such as The Doors meets The Smiths), parodies (including Michael Jackson and LMFAO) and some of their own compositions. Davis is extremely talented musically, with many songs featuring complex beatboxing and looping, but the show loses its way towards the end when it moves away from its core of well-crafted and entertaining songs to satirise the American right. This is a shame because there's some strong material in here - the Black Sabbath parody and musicians' answerphone messages being particular highlights.
Just The Tonic at The Mash House, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Richard Levinson]

Joe Hart: Alpha, Beta, Gamer (Total Comedy)
As a reviewer you see so many stand-up and sketch shows that it's always refreshing to find something a bit different - and a lot of fun. Joe Hart writes his own video games which he invites the audience to play, including his versions of Pong, Space Invaders and Tetris. Around this, Hart entertainingly gives a potted history of video games, reminiscing about how people actually played The Sims and about some of the major bugs in other classic games, bringing a warmth and nostalgia to his show. The most fun is had where the game characters are actually controlled by the audience's cheering. Even if you're not normally into video games, this is a highly enjoyable way to spend the early afternoon.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Richard Levinson]

Lauren Bok: Is That a Burrito in Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy You Have A Burrito (Lauren Bok)
Despite the show's title, Lauren Bok starts by warning us that it won't contain burritos. Unfortunately, it doesn't contain much material that warrants more than a chuckle either. Interspersed with two mimes and a dance, Bok tells a few stories including ones about bumping into an ex with his new girlfriend, the nicknames we give our friends' sexual partners and the death of her father. Few comedians offer something completely original, but the mark of a good stand-up is the ability to get laughs even when covering well-trodden ground. Bok's need to point the microphone at the audience to encourage a response, and her long build-ups to underwhelming punchlines, merely highlight that she doesn't quite have this ability yet.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Richard Levinson]

Tiernan Douieb: Miserably Happy (Tiernan Douieb / PBH's Free Fringe)
Tiernan Douieb rightly points out that the world outside the Edinburgh Festival bubble is a scary place. But rather than trundle out clichéd political jokes, he's more interested in ways our opinions differ, and how it can be tough to understand others' points of view when we inhabit our own echo-chambers. Through a left-wing lens, Douieb helps us to understand how his views have been shaped by his experiences. A warm and engaging stand-up, he's great at comedy callbacks as he recounts his battles with coat zips and a surprising analogy between tomatoes and refugees. A humorous look at political differences, though the irony in going to see a stand-up who reinforces this equally lefty reviewer's opinions is not lost on me.
Waverley Bar, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Daisy Malt]

Angela Barnes: Fortitude (Off The Kerb Productions)
If you can't find Angela Barnes, it's probably because she's turned 40 and crawled into a bunker. As a Cold War history nerd, Barnes' idea of the ideal way to spend her birthday is certainly not your average! Fast-paced and energetic, Barnes' jokes about not having kids and the Cold War seem directed towards an older crowd, even though she identifies less with "yummy mummies" and more with the "Peter Pan generation". Lots of her jokes (especially the ones about New Zealand and TV) give the show mainstream appeal and Barnes is a lively performer, down-to-earth and great fun. As far as bunker buddies in an apocalypse go, I reckon she'd be pretty solid.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Stephanie Stapleton]

Found Footage Festival (Perfect Strangers Comedy)
Childhood bromancers Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher have been trawling through thrift stores across America to find the silliest retro footage they can. Featuring an eclectic mix of weird pet videos, local news bloopers, "buttcamp" and some of the pranksters' own genius stunts on national TV, this show will have you wondering what on earth really went on in the 80s. The duo's dry, understated commentary makes a fantastic pairing for their outrageously bizarre and completely over-the-top footage. The slapstick of Just For Laughs meets the weirdest corner of YouTube meets Harry Hill's sardonic American cousins; this pair and their videos will have you in stitches, shouting at a screen that can't answer back.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Stephanie Stapleton]

The Noise Next Door's Really, Really Good Afternoon Show (CKP)
The Noise Next Door have a late night show as well, but this is their family-friendly afternoon show... with swords. It's a typical improvised show, based on audience suggestions, although how the individual scenes fit into the overall story is extremely tenuous. When I saw them they told the story of "the search for the Gem of Eternal Peace". This included the recreation of one audience member's family Christmas, a song about a tax-evasion vlogger and one in which another audience member played all the props needed to reach a many-legged beast. The four cast members' experience ensured consistent laughs for all ages, especially when dealing with some of the more unsuitable suggestions in front of the younger members of the audience.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Richard Levinson]


Elsa Jean McTaggart: Sings, Strings And Other Things (Elsa Jean McTaggart)
Scottish Traditional multi-instrumentalist Elsa Jean McTaggart entertained with this highly personal show, in which she confided disarmingly about her life between numbers - many of them her own compositions. Husband Gary Lister accompanied her on the keyboard and joined in the banter good naturedly. One of eleven siblings, she played a beautiful song celebrating her sister, though my favourite of McTaggart's own songs was 'Birthright', a spirited, inspirational tune that started life as slam poetry. Instrumentally, I enjoyed the penny whistle playing best, but the fiddle composition 'The Phantom Fiddler' was a great story transformed into a song. This was an easy hour of celtic-inspired music, in a show that was particularly warm and family-friendly.
theSpace @ Symposium Hall, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

Scottish Superwomen Of Science - Minerva Scientifica (Electric Voice Theatre)
High-spirited and entertaining best describes the tone of this show; these questing, dynamic Scotswomen spring to life in front of the audience, wanting to be heard and to pass on their discoveries and experiences. Through first-class acting, singing and a recorded soundscape including original compositions, Frances M Lynch brings us face to face with some incredible women. From Williamina Fleming, who narrowly escaped destitution to discover 200 stars as an astronomer at the Boston Observatory, to Victoria Drummond-Errol, a decorated World War II marine engineer forced to go to Panama for promotion, and many more. 'Minerva Scientifica' is an ongoing collaboration between prominent figures in science and the arts and this is apparent from the quality of the show - be moved by the music and learn about science.
Valvona & Crolla, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

Free Fringe Music (National Museum Of Scotland)
Today I saw exceptional live, traditional music for free at the Museum's lunchtime series (different each day) from a fiddle, piano and step dance duo! Fiddler Kristan Harvey is a former BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year winner and composer, while step dancer and pianist Tina Rees was a runner-up. I was entranced by their musicianship - they were very tight as a duo and interacted well, yet were fine soloists too. Orcadian Harvey played 'Scapa Flow' in homage to her island home, and composer Rees entertained with one of her own lovely compositions before leaving the piano to perform an accomplished Irish step dance. This year's theme is the 'Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites' exhibition - perfect for visitors, and the standard is high.
National Museum Of Scotland, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Rodgers]

Modern Maori Quartet: That's Us! (The Modern Maori Quartet Ltd)
Kia ora! Or "hello", as I used to say before I had a Maori language lesson at this funny, engaging New Zealand Show Band concert. They sent themselves up with a customised version of seventies hit 'Float On' and that set the tone for this hour that fused humour, Maori culture and pop songs. They sang well - lots of harmony and more than a touch of soul - particularly Rutene Spooner, who excelled vocally even among these fine singers. There were hints of early Sinatra about them too as they sang, danced and joked to their own guitar accompaniment. The traditional Maori songs in the programme were all new to me and a pleasure to hear, contrasting pleasingly with the pop items.
Assembly George Square Studios, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Louise Rodgers]


Frigid: A Musical Worth Melting For (Napier University Drama Society)
A musical parody based on the modern Disney classics 'Frozen', 'Brave' and 'Tangled' -definitely not 'The Princess and the Frog' though, because she married a frog (yuck!). The whole production feels like a conversation had by a group of friends in the early hours of the morning, one that started "wouldn't it be funny if..." and didn't really go much further from there. But, unlike most of those conversations, they wrote it down, bought some unimaginative costumes and booked a slot at the Fringe. The plot sees beloved princess Annie kidnapped, while her sister Ellie join forces with a whole cohort of Disney-ish favourites to save the day. It's underwhelming from the start, with lacklustre performances and the occasional topical joke.
Greenside @ Infirmary Street, until 19 Aug.
tw rating 1/5 | [Bethan Highgate-Betts]

The Inevitable Quiet Of The Crash (Leoe & Hyde in association with FoxTale Productions)
A man's sudden death in a train crash fractures the lives of three women - his fiancé, his lover and his mother - in this new musical that has plenty of ideas but ultimately doesn't cohere in a satisfying way. We learn little about Alex, the dead man, and the few things we do glean (like his infidelity) make him sound quite an unpleasant person. The show never addresses this, and it makes the women's grief hard to invest in. The decision to have the three characters never interact is an odd one, especially given that two of them had been kept secret from one another. Despite three enormously talented singers and an interesting score, it just never quite pulls you in emotionally.
C Royale, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Jon Stapley]

2 Become 1 (Kings Head Theatre and Swipe Right)
This musical was met by an overwhelming response from its audience, and rightly so! Cleverly comic references to modern dating, combined with a nineties aesthetic (and the tragically classic soundtrack of that era), are a recipe for ultimate cheesy fun. The four fabulous women in this story embark on a speed dating adventure, seamlessly switching between dialogue and song and nailing every break-up cliché along the way, all perfectly exaggerated so that we're constantly laughing at ourselves and them. 'That Don't Impress Me Much,' was a personal favourite, though truthfully every number is performed with equally relentless energy. Comparable to the film 'Walking On Sunshine' - every song is a winner and it remains lovably silly throughout.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Emily Mildren]


Mine (Put The Book Down)
A mother reels as the police tell her that her son has committed an - unspecified - appalling crime. We watch her interrogated by the police, ignored by her son, harassed by the press and the victims' families, crumbling under feelings of guilt. How did this happen? What could she, should she, have done differently? The sole actor does a fantastic job conveying the protagonist's conflicting feelings, as well as portraying the other characters (including a virtuoso performance of a support group, cycling through a dozen characters and accents in seconds). Yet the lack of specificity, though doubtlessly universalising things, also robs the play of some impact, as pivotal chapters of the story are elided for the sake of a lean narrative.
Zoo Southside, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

Finding Nana (New Perspectives Theatre Company)
An original piece of autobiographical theatre written by Jane Upton, this play features just one cast member, the brilliant Phoebe Frances Brown, with her bed the one piece of stage furniture. The number of moving stories and emotions expressed throughout, however, cannot be quantified in such low numbers. Upton's memories of her Nana, before and after she started to experience symptoms of dementia, are told through a series of anecdotes emphasising the sensory layers of human experiences. From silly fancy dress competitions on a childhood holiday to the isle of Wight, to the eerily symbolic loss of a beloved apple tree. Touch, smell and sound are as important as the visual memory, we learn, in holding on to those we've loved.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Emily Mildren]

Gazing At A Distant Star (Greenwich Theatre)
Absence lurks at the heart of this raw, bleak play. Each of the three protagonists tells their own story of loss; each of them - the disappeared and those left behind - feels the loss of something important: literal, figurative, existential. The three discrete stories intersect only fleetingly, grazing against one another almost at random, conveying the maddeningly unpredictable vagaries of human life, even in a tightly structured dramatic form. Stark, antiseptic props - white tables, white chairs, white cups, phones, pens - only enhance the nihilistic sense of erasure and emptiness. Yet, despite this abyssal void, the play finds hope in its heart, ending with a slender glimpse of hope: everybody wants to be found.
Assembly George Square Studios, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andy Leask]

Pike St (Barrow Street Productions)
Nilaja Sun hits the stage with all the force of the hurricane that's about to hit the Pike Street residents. Her astonishing one-woman performance shines a light onto a collection of vibrant lives, shown before they are tragically stolen away and forgotten by the world. Sun injects phenomenal depth into an impressive range of Lower East side characters, focusing on a family of second generation Puerto Rican immigrants. Moving with incredible fluidity and energy between roles, Sun paints a rich portrait of these wonderful lives, demonstrating an exceptional eye for detail and offering a momentary glimpse into a community that has fallen between the cracks of society. A quite literally breathtaking performance.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug
tw rating 5/5 | [Stephanie Stapleton]

We Are Ian (In Bed With My Brother)
Ian, a flickering lightbulb suspended above the stage, tells us that "we've got fuck all now", so we might as well dance. He's a Mancunian with a wry sense of humour, nostalgic for the late 80s/early 90s acid house scene, and enjoys putting two fingers up to Thatcher. And as three girls crowd round to listen to his story, they plunge us into 1989, into a world of endless raves and 'brown biscuit' filled nights. Through clowning and frenetic dancing, they bounce around uncontrollably to some of Ian's favourite tracks, reenacting a euphoric acid house danceathon with boundless energy. This is a fiercely imaginative, defiant production, proving how political and bold an act dancing can be.
Pleasance Dome, until 28 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Amy Bonar]

Cacophony (Cast Iron Theatre)
'Cacophony' is one of those brilliantly bewildering shows you only really get at fringe festivals. A bonkers blend of mime (with vocalised sound effects), dance, sketches and a little mild audience participation, you're never quite sure what the next blackout will bring. Over the course of 55 minutes, your feelings swiftly shift from confused, to bemused, to amused. Though few elements stand out on their own merits - barring the hilarious reworking of 'Old McDonald' - together they combine to form a face-achingly funny whole. I can't tell you what was going on. I can't tell you what it means, or if it even means anything at all. But I can tell you I had a really good time.
Sweet Holyrood, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andy Leask]

Iphigenia Crash Land Falls On The Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (A Rave Fable) (Clumsy Bodies)
The first time I sneakily looked at my watch was only 11 minutes into this 75 minute production. The acting ranged from good to abysmal, but this was almost understandable given the script they had to work with. Playwright Caridad Svich has an impressive-sounding track record, so it was disappointing to find streams of pseudo-profound, but ultimately meaningless words. Too often there were unintelligible voice-overs, or dialogue drowned out by the thumping music. The play loosely combined the Greek myth of Iphigenia with the stories of murdered female sweatshop workers in Mexico with a rave, but these never evolved into any sort of cohesive whole. 'Iphigenia...' tries to say something important, but its message is as confusing as its title.
theSpace on Niddry Street, until 12 Aug.
tw rating 1/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Last Resort (2Magpies Theatre)
Sip your rum cocktail, stretch out on your deckchair and enjoy the sand between your toes - you're in the luxurious Guantanamo Bay resort. Operating out of a grimly apropos basement, Eve Parmiter and Tom Barnes create a dark, absurd world with a multi-sensory experience, augmented by thorough research into the subject matter. Barnes plays a boyish, enthusiastic new employee at the resort being shown the ropes by Parmiter, whose superficial jolliness carries enough of an undercurrent of menace to make you nervous that something unpleasant is going to happen (yep). 'Last Resort's master stroke is allowing the audience to get involved with the moral questions it poses: a tense debate, with something nasty at stake, was one of the show's best moments.
Summerhall, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Jon Stapley]

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