The Empress and Me

3 stars

For a small-scale solo production, The Empress And Me packs some sumptuous visual punch. Telling the life story of Princess Der Ling, a Chinese courtier from the turn of the twentieth century, the lacquered screen at the back of the stage is instantly evocative of a faraway land. In front of it stands Der Ling herself – resplendent in to-us-exotic finery – topped off by what is, even by Brighton standards, a truly extraordinary hat.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Thursday 11 May | Read more

Mobile

5 stars

Shows in unorthodox spaces are a staple delight of the Fringe, and this year we have Mobile, performed to a tiny audience in a caravan parked up beside the Warren. The caravan doesn't actually go anywhere; the play is about being "socially mobile", and it's based around interviews with a group of men and women who've achieved that much-vaunted goal. Each is wealthier, better-connected, and better-educated than their parents – and each feels a sense of conflict now, proud of their roots yet sensing that somehow they've moved on.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Thursday 11 May | Read more

Protect and Survive

4 stars

If you remember the Eighties, you probably remember Protect and Survive – a notoriously grim government pamphlet telling citizens what to expect during a nuclear war. This intelligently-constructed play recreates some of that Cold War terror, and reminds us of a truth we seem in danger of forgetting: that there are still weapons against which we cannot protect, and wars which we cannot survive.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Wednesday 10 May | Read more

Fall of Duty

3 stars

For the last few years, Behind The Lines have been carving out a very specific, but very successful niche for themselves – exploring the golden age of music-hall, bringing stars of the past back to life. This year's show follows the same familiar pattern, but there's one crucial difference from what's come before. Because this time round, regular Ali Child is joined on stage by her real-life son Harry… and this time round, the performer they celebrate is a man.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Wednesday 10 May | Read more

The Forecast

4 stars

The Forecast is a strange, strange play – but it's that kind of strangeness which goes from being perplexing, to making a kind of sense, to suddenly seeming the most natural thing in the world. It's performed by four women who look like they're hanging in mid-air; mounted on wheeled platforms and thrust into over-size white dresses, their diverse identities are all but stripped away. But as the play shows us, the power of human empathy is far harder to disguise.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Wednesday 10 May | Read more

MoMentum: A Motivational Mind-Reading Experience

4 stars

The premise for MoMentum sounds wacky at first – but it turns out to be an inspiring, uplifting, and gently intriguing show. Styling himself "the MoMentalist", Phil Ainsworth combines two genres not often seen together: motivational speaking, and the branch of stage magic known as mentalism. So, as he explains at the outset, he's on a mission to help us overcome the sticking-points in our lives… but he'll be reading our minds as well.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Wednesday 10 May | Read more

Eglantyne

3 stars

A studied, detailed one-woman production, Eglantyne tells the life story of Eglantyne Jebb – co-founder of the charity Save The Children, and original author of what's now the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child. In character as Eglantyne, actor Anne Chamberlain takes us back to the early 1900's, talking us through the activist's life story and drawing occasional parallels with her own experiences across the globe in New Zealand.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Tuesday 9 May | Read more

Bad Dad

3 stars

The lights dim to darkness, and there's fraction of perfect silence… then there's just one thing, one very loud thing: one hungry, screaming baby and her bad bad dad. Bad Dad is a light-hearted look at how quickly and certainly your life changes when a new life comes along, and needs feeding, now.

Review by Mike Lee published on Monday 8 May | Read more

Stones

4 stars

Stones is a finely-balanced, even contradictory play, whose elegant visuals and cultivated language disguise a brutal and dehumanising world. A man and a woman share a prison cell; she at least is free to move, while he stands chained to a pillar. She's a newcomer, we quickly learn, but he's stood like this for years. He's the only survivor of three brothers who one were chained here – able to speak but never to touch, powerless to reach out and offer comfort as, one by one, they died.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Monday 8 May | Read more

Macblair

4 stars

Do you like politics? Do you know your Shakespeare? Then you're going to love MacBlair. The concept sounds gimmicky – Macbeth re-mastered, with Tony Blair in the title role and Gordon Brown as Banquo – but there's real depth and weight to writer Charlie Dupre's audacious tragi-comic adaptation. Employing a mix of Shakespearean text and newly-penned pentameters, Dupre delivers both humour and provocation, revealing in the process not just an appreciation of modern political history but a deep understanding of the Bard's original themes.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Saturday 6 May | Read more

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