One of the things I like about the Fringe is the fact that while many performers arrive at it via a traditional route, loads of them seem to take a road less travelled, and that's definitely the case for Roman Fraden, who, back in the early nineties, was a champion figure skater.

Since then he's taken a fairly long and circuitous route to a career in comedy, but it seems as though he's certainly found his niche. I arranged a chat to find out more about his life, his show, and the future.

CLICK HERE to read today's Caro Meets interview.

'Roman Fraden: Back In The Closet' is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot until 27 Aug.
Look out for the Review Edition of ThreeWeeks - out tomorrow! Inside you will find interviews with The Apricity Project, Colette Redgrave, Egg, Faye Treacy, Neema Bickersteth, Patrick Eakin Young, Rosie Jones, Sid Singh and Victoria Firth. Plus 50 reviews - every one a recommended show - and a guide to past ThreeWeeks Editors' Award winners back at the Festival.

Find out where to pick up a copy HERE.
Don't forget, we are putting together a TW:DIY Guide To The Edinburgh Fringe this month based on interviews with lots of people performing and working at the Festival and packed with practical advice on how to get the most out of doing a show in Edinburgh.

We've already heard from some producers, some PR people, a stage manager, a production manager, a street performer, a Free Fringe performer and seven venue directors. Look out for many more interviews going live during the Festival month.

Plus you can check the guide we've compiled so far here on the website.
Three recommended shows to see on Tuesday 14 Aug...

Belly Of A Drunken Piano | Assembly Rooms | 6.15pm
This hour of rhythm and blues made our reviewer "nostalgic for smoky basement clubs with sticky floors and disreputable company". She adds that "Stewart D'Arrietta had some great stories; he and his excellent band played his own songs in addition to music by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and - joy of joys - the late, great Ian Drury".

Six | Underbelly George Square | 7.30pm (pictured)
This 5/5 musical features a pop band made up of Henry VIII's six wives no less. In a "truly kick-ass performance" it presents a "concert that packs a punch in the face to the patriarchy". Concludes our reviewer: "Sequinned, slick and with stunning costumes, this group has serious power".

Felicity Ward: Busting A Nut | Pleasance Courtyard | 9.00pm
And finally some recommended comedy for you. "Having taken a year off from the Fringe, Felicity Ward is back with a sparky show that merrily swaggers along", states our review. "It's a solid, polished hour of entertainment that proves why Ward remains a Fringe favourite".

Le Gateau Chocolat: Icons (Soho Theatre)
Drag act Le Gateau Chocolat invites us into his past, to explore the musical icons who shaped him. In between songs he talks about his formative years, first loves and losses, family and religion. There are tales of heartache and heartbreak, but there's plenty of cheeky sass and sequins too. We're treated to covers including Kate Bush, Meatloaf, Bonnie Tyler and even a hauntingly beautiful version of 'You're the One That I Want' from 'Grease'. His soulful voice has an incredible range, with the aforementioned Ms. Bush's 'Running Up That Hill' sung a good few octaves lower than the original. Accompanied by live music, it's pure entertainment full of nostalgia and joy, from a lovable act who had everyone singing along by the end.
Assembly George Square Gardens, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Daisy Malt]


Duckie (Le Gateau Chocolat)
'Duckie' is Le Gateau Chocolat's first show for children, an updated version of Hans Christian Andersen's 'Ugly Duckling', featuring classic pop songs with a hilarious twist ('Flamingos Just Wanna Have Fun' is the most memorable) and a glittering performance. Gateau's rich vocals are impressive and he has a perfect hurt duckling expression that almost breaks my heart - but it isn't quite enough for my young reviewer. The show lacks the energy a children's show requires, and the plummy voice of the narrator grates on us both. Still, the show ends with a heartfelt message about self-acceptance and appreciating differences that delights the young audience. It is worth seeing; it's just not quite as fabulous as we had hoped.
Summerhall, until 12 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Marni Appleton]


Suzi Ruffell: Nocturnal (Off The Kerb Productions Ltd)
Skittering around with glee, Suzi Ruffell is in her natural habitat on stage. This year's show is all about the things that keep her up at night - the worries on her mind having their 3am press conference - and she's got a lot to tell us. Twitter trolls, Disney's heteronormative heroes, an encounter with a stingray named Barbara in Australia... she rattles through stories at great speed but it's this energy that makes her so endearing and deeply funny. Sexuality is a major theme throughout, from homophobia to playfully mocking lesbians' love of comfortable shoes. She's clearly very well directed but the innate comic talent shines through, with her writing tightly-honed. Inducing laughter virtually non-stop, Ruffell is absolutely one to see.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Daisy Malt]


SHIFT (Barely Methodical Troupe in association with Underbelly)
In true Barely Methodical Troupe style, 'SHIFT' is a high-energy fusion of dance and acrobatics with an urban edge, heavily focused on playfulness and friendship. Dressed all in blue, the four performers seemingly flit into an alternative reality where their bodies are fluid, launching around the relatively small stage with incredible dexterity. Superb tricks with giant rubber bands add an additional layer of technical prowess and originality. There's some astonishing breakdancing which seemed to defy gravity, plus throws, flips and those balancing tricks your parents told you not to try with your siblings - but breaking the rules is what this troupe does best. High fliers in every sense, the four create a breathtakingly magical spectacle.
Underbelly's Circus Hub on The Meadows, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Daisy Malt]

Taiwan Season: Once Upon A Daydream (Sun Son Theatre)
'Once Upon A Daydream' is a surreal trip into the imagination of a single woman coping with the loneliness of city life. An expressive performance from Liu Wan Chun is complemented by live music, hand-drawn animation and physical humour to create a magical, dream-like world. I'm not always certain what's going on - she's a fish one minute, the next she's popping endless heart-shaped balloons - but I suppose that's the nature of daydreams. I do have a gripe with the fact the protagonist is constantly defined in terms of her single status, which in turn makes the romantic ending feel rather twee. However, it's a delight to see such unique, exciting theatre from Taiwan reaching UK audiences.
Summerhall, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Marni Appleton]


Three Colours Guitar (Three Colours Guitar)
When a guitar's played well it's like a mini orchestra, with an almost limitless possibility of timbres and styles; tonight these possibilities were multiplied by three! Declan Zapala, a virtuoso of contemporary techniques, began with Eric Roche's 'Roundabout', a master class in perpetual motion and percussive playing. Matt Buchanan joined in for the traditional tune 'Wild Mountain Thyme', but in a mesmeric style you'd never hear in a folk club! Next, John Wheatcroft commanded the stage with the warm enticement of sophisticated, laid-back jazz, in his own arrangement of Jerome Kern's 'All The Things You Are'. Things got even better when they played together, culminating in Fleetwood Mac's instrumental song 'Albatross', which reduces me to mush every time!
C too, until 19 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Rodgers]


Timpson: The Musical (Gigglemug Theatre)
Turns out you're not the only one who saw those 'shoe repair and key cutting' shops and wondered how those two things ended up in the same building: Gigglemug Theatre have written an entire musical about it. In Victorian London, Monty Montashoe and Keeleigh Keypulet (it's all like that) are the star-crossed children of warring families, desperate to succeed as inventors. Honestly it's better than it sounds - co-writers Chris Baker and Sam Cochrane are excellent in all the ancillary roles, Sabrina Messer displays great comic timing as Keeleigh, and the songs bop along nicely. If you can stomach a few groan-worthy jokes and a plot that barely qualifies as an afterthought, you'll have fun. The audience at C definitely did.
C, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Jon Stapley]


Witches, Wee Folk And Watery Beasties (Dougie Mackay)
Performing in a small room at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, with nothing but his voice and a few simple instruments, Dougie Mackay takes us through the wild landscapes of Scotland. We encounter selkies, faeries and other curious folk, and learn a little bit about the history of Scotland along the way. It's clear that Mackay is enthusiastic about both the art of storytelling and Scottish mythology, and this shows in his assured performance. While his melodic voice may not always hold the audience's attention, Mackay's stories are fascinating and this is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. My 7-year-old co-reviewer particularly enjoyed learning a selkie song and sang it all the way home.
Scottish Storytelling Centre, until 12 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Marni Appleton]


Blinded (BloomBox Theatre)
Bloombox Theatre seem to have thrown everything they can think of at this production: there's projection, dance, audience interaction, music, narration and repetitive, stylised movement sequences. The performers are engaging, but much of it feels like filler, as the narrative is brief and unsatisfying. By focusing on one woman's experience of paranoid schizophrenia around the middle of the last century, their points about stigma and medical treatment don't fully connect to the current climate. And, by focusing on the violence committed by a mentally ill person, perhaps they limit their audience's understanding more than they expand it. This is a well-intentioned piece, but one that's lacking in nuance and direction. "Time to talk" just seems a little trite here.
Venue 13, until 25 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Gemma Scott]

Blue Heart (Bathway Theatre Company, University of Greenwich)
A pair of half-baked mini-plays, each dragged on interminably, and I genuinely found myself resenting the company for wasting the audience's time with these ill-conceived, unconvincingly performed scripts. The first repeats and cycles through a tedious family conversation, as parents await their daughter's return. Each revision offers a variation - some subtle, some ridiculous, all presumably the desperate imaginings of characters aware of how dull and unconvincing their lives are. The second follows a peculiar con-man, convincing several women he is their biological son. As it progresses, more and more words in the script are replaced with the words "blue" and "kettle". Sounds stupid? It is. But had every word received this treatment, the play could only have been improved.
C Too, until 18 Aug.
tw rating 1/5 | [Andy Leask]

Entropy (Jennifer Roslyn Wingate)
It's clear from the moment Sam turns up on the doorstep of Barbara, his estranged step-mother, that something bad happened in the past. Over the course of the play, a relentless succession of dark hints and veiled threats combine to reveal a truth - if not the truth. Frequently their accounts of the past diverge, and tension is drawn from their contrasting memories, acted out on stage. In these interludes, the characters' demeanours often contrast with their actions, belying the veracity of the narrative. This intriguing device is, ultimately, the play's biggest weakness. As all things tend to entropy, to disorder and dissolution, so the play's resolution is unclear; mired in unreliable narration, it leaves the audience feeling faintly dissatisfied.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 3/5 | [Andy Leask]

The Last Straw (People Show)
The blurb calls this show "a darkly comic take on fake news". Maybe you will see that in here somewhere, but I didn't. I just saw a series of scenes that didn't connect with each other, set in a basement-like room strewn with shredded paper, in the centre of which is an imposing door. Two pale, ghostly actors engage in a series of conversations, sometimes speaking to each other, sometimes not. At one point there's a story about squirrels being governed by bears. It's so aggressively abstract, so stubborn in its refusal to give you any details as to who these people are, or the nature of their relationship, or anything at all about what's happening, that it's just impossible to care.
Summerhall, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 2/5 | [Jon Stapley]

Grace by Katie Reddin-Clancy (Katie Reddin-Clancy)
The fringe is perfect for performances like 'Grace': it's not quite theatre, or comedy, or circus, and is full of fascinating contradictions. Through a series of 'talking heads'-style monologues, 'Grace' skirts the distinction between truth and illusion in a cleverly-written comedy cabaret. At once confusing and clear, it draws interesting comparisons between acting and gendered behaviour, with pointed commentaries about the drag and theatre industries. The writing is sharp and the acting good, but the strongest parts of the performance are where we get insight into the different characters' psychologies. The script could be tightened, and Katie Reddin-Clancy could tone down her acting a little whilst still preserving the delicious, heightened circus style.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Ela Portnoy]

Mark Thomas - Check Up: Our NHS At 70 (Lakin McCarthy)
In the 70th anniversary year of the NHS, you can guess what left wing comedian and activist Mark Thomas will have to say about it. What's interesting is the dramatic route he takes to make his argument, recreating segments from a series of interviews with people involved in various aspects of healthcare. These include two former Health Ministers, as well as his own GP listing the ways in which Thomas' own health is likely to fail, interspersed with evocative descriptions of his visits to various frontline services: A&E, renal care, dementia. Throughout, the character he conveys of the people who deliver these services leads to a show which is compelling, both as polemic and theatrical endeavour.
Traverse Theatre, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Midsummer (National Theatre of Scotland / David Greig / Gordon McIntyre / Kate Hewitt)
Revived and expanded from its original incarnation, 'Midsummer' tells of a chance encounter between Helena and Bob in an Edinburgh wine bar. Riotous sex ensues, leading into a weekend of assorted comic hijinks involving drink, low-level organised crime, a ruined wedding, Japanese rope bondage and more drink, all punctuated by great songs. Helena and Bob are accompanied by 'older Helena and Bob', alternating lines of dialogue, a reflection on how we choose to relate our memories and stories. The device is effective in adding layers of emotional complexity, and is one of several ambitious elements to the staging. A lot is asked of the performers, and they pull it off with terrific aplomb. An utterly joyful paean to life, love and Edinburgh.
The Hub, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Bruce Blacklaw]

Tobacco Road (Incognito Theatre Company)
There's more than a touch of 'Peaky Blinders' to Incognito's 'Tobacco Road' (the gang even gets namechecked at one point). The script similarly plucks gangsters from history, exploring their lives through a Guy Ritchie-esque filter, and it is hugely effective. The performances are staggeringly physical, the spectacularly choreographed dance and fight sequences making remarkably effective use of the space, fists and feet flying over the audience's heads. Beneath the spectacle, the living, breathing characters exude depth and complexity, all powerfully conveyed by the talented - and presumably very fit - cast. The only slightly sour note was a lack of closure at the climax; I would have liked a little more resolution to this otherwise excellent tale.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andy Leask]

Orlando (Dyad Productions)
Full disclosure: I love Woolf's novel, and I confess to feeling sceptical about a stage adaptation. I've never been happier to be proven wrong, as Dyad Productions' script is outstanding. Shifting to a first-person monologue feels like a natural step, rendering Orlando's confusion palpable: torn between living a vibrant life, and striving to capture its essence through poetry. Special mention must go to Rebecca Vaughan's performance. Never less than magnetic, she perfectly captures the nuances of the character in a portrayal every bit as subtle and complex as Orlando's own struggles with ideas of self, identity and gender. At the gripping climax, tears were rolling down Vaughan's face, mirrored in the eyes of much of the audience, this cynical reviewer among them.
Assembly Roxy, until 27 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Andy Leask]

The Approach (Landmark Productions)
There is a poetic, elliptical dislocation to 'The Approach'. The dialogue perfectly captures the lilting rhythms of speech, as we observe the changing relationships between three women. The play takes the structure of a series of conversations over coffee, during which the characters bring one another up to date on the love, betrayal, warmth and sorrow in their lives. Only two of the actors are present at any one time, and much humour is mined from the echoing and repetition of stories and structures. But at the play's moving climax, the repetition becomes something more, a Joycean cycle revealing something profound about relationships and memory, and about our deep, abiding need for companionship.
Assembly Hall, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andy Leask]

The Basement Tapes (Zanetti Productions)
Stella Reid plays a girl sorting through her dead grandmother's stuff. There's a lot of it, because gran found it hard to let things go (she didn't even have a bin). Stuck between curiosity, boredom and listlessness, the girl whiles away the time by acting out little scenes with the objects. And then she finds the tapes. When she begins playing them, the play turns swiftly from funny to spooky. It's often the case in creepy stories that, by the time we hear them, the actual details of the horrors feel a bit disappointing - even banal. That's the case here, but Reid's superb performance and the drama of the unfolding mysteries nonetheless make for thrilling, skin-crawling fun.
Summerhall, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Alexander Hartley]

My Kind Of Michael (Nick Cassenbaum)
It's hard to watch your heroes fall, whether they're a friend, a parent or a famous TV presenter. Nick Cassenbaum's childhood hero was Michael Barrymore, who very publicly fell from grace in 2001 when a man was found dead in his swimming pool after a party. Exploring how Barrymore influenced his life and his desire to perform, with able musical assistance from Andy Kelly, Cassenbaum whips through the show with all the flair and gumption of, well, a light entertainment TV presenter circa 1998. He packs a hell of a lot in, covering the significant moments in both his own life and Barrymore's, and his ceaselessly buoyant delivery keeps things consistently funny and entertaining. There are some tremendous running gags, too.
Summerhall, until 26 Aug.
tw rating 4/5 | [Jon Stapley]

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