Helen

3 stars

This very loose interpretation of the legend of Helen of Troy, whose irresistible beauty provoked a devastating war, combines both conventional spoken dialogue and stylised physical theatre. We find Helen trapped in her bedroom, as her husband’s empire crumbles around her; with the enemy at the doors of her palace, she appears destined for an ugly fate. But her timeless beauty and age-old wiles still serve her well, as she spars with the solider who both protects and confines her.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Wednesday 18 May | Read more

Gods Are Fallen And All Safety Gone

2 stars

As the audience wander in, two men, one young and one old, wait on the stage – they look particularly un-actor-like, and sometimes one of them sighs as if in boredom. Once the conversation starts, they pace out the triangle on the wide empty stage. It’s naturalistic, snappy dialogue, and there’s an occasional chuckle from the audience at some of the more pointed exchanges. But there’s something strange. Why does the apparent dad refer to the fact that “your father’s never here”? Why does the son call the father “Mum”? And come to that, why does the father call the son “Anne”?

Review by Bill Parslow published on Wednesday 18 May | Read more

Airswimming

3 stars

Airswimming is a poignant two-hander about two women confined to St Dymphna’s, a mental asylum for the ‘criminally insane’ in the early 1920s. After a suspicious first few meetings, the women gradually form a bond, as nervous, frail Persephone – who’s always expecting her parents to retrieve her – warms to the generous and steadfast Dora, a military-obsessed wannabe soldier. Together, they brave the harsh reality of having been left by their families in an uncaring mental ‘health’ system.

Review by Vivienne Egan published on Wednesday 18 May | Read more

Insomnia

4 stars

Insomnia is a strange, strange show – but also rather a wonderful one.  Ushered into a faintly malodorous basement, by cartoonishly sleepy figures drawn from some kind of childhood fairytale, we’re introduced to two men and two women who live in radically different places and times.  They have just one thing in common: they’re awake while the rest of the world is resting.  With an actor performing in each corner and the audience seated in the middle, you’ll soon find yourself swivelling constantly in your chair, as you watch these mysterious characters’ tortured nights unfold.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Tuesday 17 May | Read more

Boy Stroke Girl

3 stars

It starts with a meeting in a coffee shop: a shared table, the discovery of shared interests, swapped phone numbers and a nervous first date.  It’s an everyday story of the uncertain path to love – following the likeable Peter, as he courts a potential partner known only as Blue.  And like all burgeoning relationships, this one has its secrets… but it’s a larger secret than most.  For Blue is androgynous, and won’t tell Peter whether they’re actually a boy or a girl.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Monday 16 May | Read more

Mocketh The Weak

2 stars

I’ll say this much for Mocketh The Weak: it’s got a brilliantly expressive title. At one glance, you know what you’re in for; and sure enough, we’re cast as the audience in a TV studio, witnessing the filming of two episodes of a hypothetical Shakespearean panel game. A twisted cross between Elizabethan genius and modern trash, it’s filled with Bardic barbs, period banter and frilly ruffs.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Sunday 15 May | Read more

Necessity

3 stars

There’s something of the sit-com about the set-up to Necessity: two next-door-neighbour couples, one rich and one poor, whose lives are filled with entertaining domestic disharmony and supressed social ill-grace.  That’s fair enough – it is, on one level, a witty comic play – but as the arresting prologue makes clear, there’s a sharp edge to the storyline, too.  A letter meant for one couple has been mis-delivered to the other, and the secrets it contains cast a long shadow over everyone’s hopes for long-term bliss.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Sunday 15 May | Read more

Un-Titled

4 stars

Un-Titled is among the rarest of Fringe productions: one that’s funny – genuinely, gaspingly, stitch-inducingly funny – but intelligent and thought-provoking, too.  The story centres on ageing artist Gert (played with sensitivity and insight by Lesley Arnold), as she prepares for the unveiling of her seminal, as-yet untitled new work.  Her life’s been defined by critical acclaim, but she’s secretly unhappy with what she’s achieved.  And she has another secret, too: because when she’s alone, behind the closed doors of her studio… the paintings around her come to life.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Saturday 14 May | Read more

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

3 stars

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a highly personal, autobiographical show – standing somewhere in the middle ground between theatre, comedy and reportage. Alone on the stage, but conjuring a range of characters to illustrate her tale, Rebecca Crookshank tells the story of her younger life: how she came from a military family, joined the Royal Air Force at the age of 17, and quickly built a promising career as a radar controller. Yet she chose to leave the Forces, and she’s an actor now. The difficult story of how she got from there to here is surely the motivation for this challenging show.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Saturday 14 May | Read more

Damien by Aldyth Morris

5 stars

Damien is one of Fringe 2016’s hidden treasures: a 40-year-old script, a masterful solo performance, and a story that’s both shocking and inspirational. It tells the real-life tale of Father Damien de Veuster, a Catholic priest – and now a saint – who lived in a community of leprosy sufferers on a remote island in Hawaii. Cruelly exiled by their government, the lepers of Molokai endured a lawless and impoverished existence, cut off even from the comforts of religious faith. Cut off, that is, until a young Flemish priest named Damien came along.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Friday 13 May | Read more

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