All Work, No Play

3 stars

All Work No Play is visibly a work in progress: it runs for just 30 minutes, is a little light on storyline, and could certainly do with tightening here and there. But it's an entertaining, diverting way to spend half an hour, and a promising Fringe debut for solo performer Alexander Grieve. Drawing on elements of clowning with a dash of physical theatre, Grieve evokes a monotonous office and a burgeoning romance – and throws in some witty meta-theatrics too.

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

Bear North

4 stars

A show with a dancing bear might sound barbaric… but relax, this particular bear wants to dance. There it stands at the side of the stage, the broadest of smiles on its big brown head, elegantly shimmying its big brown paws in time to Cajun folk songs. The songs are provided by a trio of musicians, who come from Brighton but tell us they're somehow in Canada, and a travelling poet has also tagged along. Oh – and did I mention that the bear is wearing a cheerful summery dress?

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

The Polished Scar

4 stars

I'm sure you know the Philip Larkin poem: the one about how your parents mess you up, because their parents did the same to them. Never has that process been laid out more clearly than it is in The Polished Scar, written and performed by Duncan Henderson. This is a one-man display of acting virtuosity, with a couple of interesting themes to explore.

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

The O.S. Map Fan Club

4 stars

I love to look at Ordnance Survey maps: the iconic plans of the British countryside, which have served as faithful guides to generations of walkers. It's a form of geekdom I'm proud to admit to, and the nicest thing about this warm-and-fuzzy show was that it proved I'm not the only one. On the night I attended, the Dukebox was full of navigators of all ages – united by our readiness to laugh at jokes involving contours, and cheer at a shelf stacked with Landranger sheets.

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

Pickman's Model by HP Lovecraft

2 stars

This disappointing adaptation of an HP Lovecraft story aims for creepy horror, but ends up more soulless than terrifying. The tale involves a painter, the eponymous Pickman, who's been kicked out of a New England art club; which isn't all that surprising, since he keeps drawing ghoulish figures feasting on human flesh. An English visitor called Thurber is entranced by Pickman's talent, and follows him to a tumbledown building in the oldest part of Boston. Down in the cellar, he finds a deep dark well…

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

1984

4 stars

Based on George Orwell’s famed novel, 1984 is a compelling piece of theatre about an oppressive regime in a fictional super-state called Oceania – where big brother is watching you all the time and loyalty to the Party is paramount. The central question for protagonist Winston Smith and his sweetheart Julia is – whom should they trust?

Review by Roz Scott published on Thursday 17 May | Read more

Honey

2 stars

Honey is the last of a series of three plays exploring the relationship between the self and other environments. I watched the first part Fishhead back in 2014, and loved it – so I was excited about seeing this follow-up work. Sadly however, I was disappointed.

Review by Tig Land published on Wednesday 16 May | Read more

Caitlin

5 stars

I'm ashamed to say that I'd never heard of Caitlin Macnamara; ashamed, because this engrossing one-woman play is an hour-long rebuke for that oversight. The wife of poet Dylan Thomas, blamed by some for feeding his self-destructive reliance on revelry and alcohol, Mike Kenny's 2004 script urges us at last to see Caitlin in her own right. Speaking directly to us as she swigs from a bottle of whisky, she tells a story of poverty, betrayal, lust and abuse – yet also of love and fellowship.

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

The Impossible, Improbable & Unlikely Adventure Of...

4 stars

This lively, uncomplicated, perfectly delightful show is just the thing to round off a fun day at the Fringe. The venue is a guest house – if I understood it right, some of the performers actually live there – but the action's spread across the globe, from the depths of the sea to the edge of space. In a small group of up to six people, you'll move from room to room to meet a procession of charismatic characters, each of whose lives is intertwined with a figure known only as the Explorer.

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

Circus'sission: Those That Made the Cut!

3 stars

The atmosphere was lively for this variety show, and the compère made it seem as if we'd been invited to a party – a party which included, amongst other things, acrobats, magicians, comedians, and lots of hoops of various sizes. The programme is different each night, but it's always hosted by acrobats from Aussie company Head First.

Review by Tig Land published on Tuesday 15 May | Read more

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