Richard III (a one-woman show)

4 stars

I was only expecting to review this show, not to play a part in it – but this is no ordinary production of Richard III. We the audience are each warmly greeted by Richard of Gloucester, hanging name-cards around our necks, thus assigning us roles and seats. Soon we are all assembled as the Royal Court of London, sitting horseshoed around Richard's wooden table. Stickers marked 'DEAD' are ominously arranged along the table's edge.

Review by Mike Lee published on Saturday 20 May | Read more

The Cocktail Pianist

4 stars

The Cocktail Pianist is one of those wonderfully sneaky shows you only find at the Fringe – one which tricks you into thinking that it's nothing particularly special, then slowly reveals the solid talent under a seemingly-flaky veneer. The talent in this case belongs to performer Mike Hatchard, who's not only a fine actor but an impressive pianist as well; the veneer is his character Bernard, who spends his life as a jobbing musician tinkling the ivories at the Luton Skyport Hotel.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Friday 19 May | Read more

PASSPAWT

5 stars

I'm not a cat person. I've never been a cat person. I can feel no affection for a haughty prima donna equipped with claws and fangs. So I sympathise with Helena, the protagonist of this hilarious one-woman show – whose life is invaded by a hellish creature determined to shred her carpets and drive away her friends. Yet that's just the starting-point for an unexpectedly touching story, which explores big questions of connectivity and identity under the cover of a lightweight comic tale.

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

Power Story

3 stars

Billed as a "theatre game", Power Story is one part political activism, one part Mad Hatter's Tea Party, and one part Sim City – all set inside the Crystal Maze. We enter the bare performance space to find an intriguing pile of boxes stacked on the floor; we're cast as guests at a country town's bicentennial celebrations, sometime in the middle of this century. But there's a problem. Electricity is rationed, the lights are going out… and worst of all, in the frenetic Mayor's eyes, runaway climate change means there's nowhere left to grow any tea.

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

Model Organisms

4 stars

A woman stands alone on the stage, under a stuttering light. She's dressed in a jumpsuit, labelled with a number; she's escaped from somewhere – a prison, or something else? She's a bereaved mother, a victim of abuse, the owner of an unbroken spirit. She's also, in a sense, a weapon. Model Organism is the story of how she got there.

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

All Cashed In

4 stars

I'll 'fess up right away: I've never been that interested in Johnny Cash. I do at least recognise the singer's name – which means I'm better-educated than Greg, the Glaswegian lead character in this engaging and spirited two-hander. But I've always assumed I wouldn't be a fan, and the biggest compliment I can pay this show is to say that within the first ten minutes it had changed my mind.

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

Poe's Last Night

4 stars

Pretty much everything I know about Edgar Allen Poe, I know from watching Fringe shows. The author's trademark combination of darkness and mystery is an irresistible draw for theatre-makers – and I've lost count of the number of times I've witnessed a re-mix of Poe's canon. But although Poe's Last Night does fall into that familiar pattern, it also offers something surprisingly rare: an opportunity to hear some of his work, abridged but unmolested, delivered by a consummate performer.

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

Open Sky present Scorched

5 stars

A red triangular handle hangs from a red pull-cord, dangling beside a chair. It can mean just one thing: we’re in a care home, and the man we see staring at the TV is nearing the end of his life. But it’s been quite a life. As he shares and acts out his reminiscences, we learn of lovers in Cairo and in Northumbria; of battles at the county fair, and among the desert sand; and of the escaped Luftwaffe pilot he tracked for two sleepless days, amidst the scorching heat of the Sahara.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Friday 12 May | Read more

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

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