Archive for August 20th, 2010


The Rat Pack

Friday, 20 August, 2010

Swing time with Sinatra style

Edinburgh 2010 – C+2 Venue – 4th – 30th August ( 21.05 )

Scott Free is an amazing Frank Sinatra, leading the Hartshorn – Hook Company in a wonderful evocation of a Rat Pack evening. It is set in that timeless film and television world when Sammy Davis Junior, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were all in their prime, which seemed to last forever. Tony Bennet still creates it today, that ease of manners and singing of great songs which expresses longings and states of the heart shared by all.  The atmosphere in the C Venue is gently created by genuinely delightful performances from the central characters, set in the glamour of a night club full of wonderful big band music and beautiful talented artists. The set is simply dressed and well lit. Entrances and exits are handled skilfully and the rapport between the performers is gloriously relaxed, full of charm and harmony. Graham Bates plays Dean with good humour, is prettily  handsome and has a splendid singing voice. He rollicks around the stage playing Dean Martin in his drinking days, charming the ladies and downing the drinks with elegance. Nile Bailey also has a beautiful voice. He plays Sammy Davis Junior with creative sensitivity and high jinx which bring Sammy to life in a quite gifted manner, holding the audience with his intensity and grace.

Alicia Herhenteris, Clarissa Land and Ellen Tibke play the Berelli Sisters who are both Backing Singers and an Independently lovely singing and dancing trio, supplying the feminine glamour and the gorgeous harmonies which give the arrangements period depth and quality. They play with their femininity in true Hollywood style, are fabulous dancers, humorous actresses and excellent singers, without whom The Rat Pack would shine less brightly. As it is they give it diamond twinkle with their elegance and musicality. They help create excitement in the big numbers and become fabulous set dressing when the male stars take the stage. They handle the audience interactions beautifully, encouraging and controlling the stage invasions with skill and their set pieces are timed to perfection. Busby Berkley would have loved these girls.

The Big Band of young musicians is a joy to the ears. Andrew Cowburn on piano is worth his weight in gold and musical director Sarah Holmes is one of the best drummers it has ever been my pleasure to hear. Between them they keep the youthful band in brilliant time and tune, creating a wonderful wall of sound which modulates through many wide harmonies and creates an inspired platform upon which the amazing Scott Free brings Frank Sinatra to life before one’s very eyes, Through the brass Deano charmingly croons and Sammy pulls the heartstrings divinely. Every number is well played, all tempos kept and all sliding harmonies held. The acting from everyone on the stage creates a strong fabric upon which to craft an era.

Scott Free does not just sound like Frank Sinatra, he has his movements, his timing and his urbane stage personality down to a tee. He is in total command of his performance and of the stage, even when full of audience members whooping it up as the Big Band raises the roof. Through it all he never fails to hit the right note, signal to the orchestra, keep everyone in the audience hooked and generally behave as if Being Frank Sinatra is easy. He is a very, very talented performer, actor, singer who could easily convince those who loved Frank Sinatra that “ Old Blue Eyes is Back”! He does this because he has the core of a truly great performer, an excellent sense of timing and a genuinely wonderful way with a song. If he were not playing Frank Sinatra he would still have all these gifts. Playing Frank Sinatra he uses his many talents to encourage all the others on the stage, as well as allowing those in both cast and audience who were too young to know Frank Sinatra an opportunity to hear these great songs sung by a performer truly worthy of his role.

This ensemble is well rehearsed, the numbers are arranged by some-one who truly knows how to shape and subtly shade the music for theatrical effect and the whole experience is one of being lifted, spirited through time and returned to one’s seat full of smiles. It’s like being washed in champagne bubbles and left slightly high. Well done everyone involved. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for your willingness to SHINE.

Cast: Sammy Nile Bailey , Dean – Graham Bates, Frank – Scott Free, Berelli sister – Alicia Herhenteris, Berelli Sister – Clarissa Land, Berelli Sister – Ellen Tibke

Band (alpha order ) Trombone 2 – James Ball, Baritone Sax – Andrew Carvel, Trombone 1 – John Connolly, Piano – Andrew Cowburn, Guitar – Dan Crichton, Tenor Sax – Fiona Garvie, Drums – Sarah Holmes, Trumpet 2 – Oliver Roditi, Alto Sax – Oliver Tidman, Bass – Michael Turkington , Trumpet 1 – David Wesley

Company- Hartshorn – Hook Productions- Creative Team, Producer – Louis Hartshorn, Producer – Brian Hook , Musical Director – Sarah Holmes, Artistic Director – Anthony Springall,, Lighting designer -James Gow Stage Manager – Emily Walker, Sound Technician – Ryan Buchanan, General Manager – Chris Ackerley


( c )Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2010

reviewed Saturday 14th August 10


Boom Jennies – We Want Action

Friday, 20 August, 2010

Fresh-faced comedy drama

Edinburgh 2010, Pleasance Courtyard – 4 – 31 Aug 10 – 14:10 (1.00)

Anna Emerson, Tom Shepherd, Catriona Knox, Lizzie Bates. Photo by Carolyn Gaskell

We Want Action is a fresh faced comedy play which provides a satire of the self indulgence of today’s spoilt middle class twenty-somethings. The kind of people who complain but don’t change anything, who look no further than Google for the answers, and who believe that organic equals fair-trade equals ethical.  A small collective of revolutionaries known as the United Campaigners on Ocean Conservation have taken it upon themselves to fight for depleting fish stocks through campaign and protest.  But some misguided and poorly researched attempts to protect their beloved beasts leave the group, UCOC, as the laughing stock.

Daphne, Amelia and Martin are holding a rally as they hope to attract more revolutionaries to their cause.  Along with liberal smatterings of all the British comedy favourites: irony, satire and sarcasm, The Boom Jennies’ real triumph lies in the characterisation.  Within a mere few lines each character is very clearly introduced and defined.  The director of the group, Daphne, is incredibly highly strung and bossy.  Martin, the only man, thinks he is in charge but allows himself to be pushed around for some cheap female flattery.  And Amelia is only there as she wouldn’t fit in anywhere else.  Then Kate, the only potential new member, turns up.  She is the gap year traveller everyone loves to hate.  Having spent most of her adult life variously chasing whales or living up a tree, she introduces the crew to all the authentic attributes of ethical living: herbal tea, yoga, headbands and soft drugs.  Although Kate is in possession of every cliché to verify her planet saving status, it transpires that she is hiding a guilty secret.

With Kate’s arrival, romantic rivalry and friendship feuds develop.

Suggesting new ways of approaching problems doesn’t go down very well with the more established members of the group.  Neither does the proposal that Amelia stop letting Daphne walk all over her, reportedly making her wear ridiculous costumes and carry out all the dirty work, as Amelia says herself ‘but I do have learning difficulties’.  Tensions within the group rise, leading to a potentially dramatic denouement.

Presented in a small and intimate venue, with little help from lighting, effects or even costume, the result is a little rough around the edges.  In these conditions, the script would have to be strong.  It is impressively so, strengthened further by the comic delivery by all actors, and it is a credit to the team that they achieve so much with so little.  But this is in fitting with the whole irony of We Want Action, as very little actually happens. Most of the action is reported as a series of tales of failure, making for some quick-witted wordplay.

Without gimmicks or in-jokes, the awkward characters provide puns aplenty in this refreshingly straightforward satire.  The Boom Jennies are anything but pretentious, as they expose the hypocrisies around the British middle class obsession with ethical living.  Though perhaps not for younger children due to the references to sex and drugs, and the political, wordy jokes that may not be understood, this is a fresh and funny show.  The Boom Jennies are just as they like their fish: raw and refreshing.

Cast credits:  Lizzie Bates – Daphne.  Anna Emerson – Amelia.  Catriona Knox – Kate.  Tom Shepherd – Martin.

Company credits:  Writers – Lizzie Bates and Anna Emerson.  Directors – Lizzie Bates / Anna Emerson / Catriona Knox / Tom Shepherd.

Claire Higgins 2010

Reviewed Thursday 19th August 2010


Movin’ Melvin Brown

Friday, 20 August, 2010

Soul Music

Edinburgh 2010 – The Bongo Club,  4th – 30th August ( 19.00 )


Movin’ Melvin Brown is a talented singing and dancing dynamo, well supported by Paul Keene on keyboards, who encourages Allan Ferguson on bass, Aki Remally on lead guitar and Jordan Gilmor on drums to look and sound as if they are part of the same show. Paul swings and sways as he plays. He bounces along and creates the energetic power to bring the band together as they back their extra-ordinary front man. The music is very well played, improving through each number to splendidly played once the pasty-faced young musos catch on, lose their cool and smile widely enough to indicate they are enjoying themselves. The audience certainly were doing so. The enormous smile of Movin’ Melvin is infectious. His act is strong.

The show bubbles along, unfolding treasures of musical virtuosity, powered by Melvin Brown’s ebullience and skill. His voice is remarkably flexible, as he moves through the history of musical eras paying “ Respect “ to the songs and dance moves of his tradition. He begins the set dressed in a simple pair of dungarees and finishes dressed in a gold jumpsuit. At times he sounds like a young Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and James Brown. At others he lets himself shine through giving “ Lucky Ol’ Sun “ and other traditional Spiritual Songs new depth by rendering them with simple delivery and true soul. He allows a new listening to the words as he ties the songs with stillness and rhythmic tap dancing, while he allows his voice to soar.

Movin’Melvin Brown is accurately described by his name. He dances, bounces, shuffles, taps and moves his way through his set with magnificent ease. He describes the African roots of his American black peoples as dancing and singing roots, which kept them alive and hopeful, moving towards freedom through all kinds of hard times. He never dwells on the hardships but highlights the hopeful nature of his ancestors, their dependence on song and their inordinate, natural musical and rhythmic abilities. He celebrates the twentieth century success of his soul brothers and sisters and the currently manifesting dream of equality in a colour-blind world.

For me the highlight of the show was “ Michael Jackson does Riverdance”. It is a Tour de Force of creative movement and perfect mime, lacing step-dance with moonwalk rivers of smooth movin’ which Melvin makes look miraculously easy. He embodies Michael Jackson having fun with Irish rhythms in this wonderful homage to a brother performer who did his people proud. For this he is dressed in a tail suit and looks supremely elegant. His costume changes  are one of the elements of the show which keep surprising the audience. He inhabits each costume with the appropriate personality. This man is a gifted musical impersonator as well as a fine performer. His acting skills serve the show well, matching his singing and dancing abilities to each of the characters he honours by performing their work brilliantly, as themselves. You can close your eyes and enjoy this show but you won’t, because Melvin is always giving you something to feast your eyes upon. His backing band does a fine job but I think perhaps they do not see what an extra-ordinary job Melvin is doing with their help, since his flexible face is communicating constantly, pouring love at the audience as he shares his enthusiasms. He sings songs by Otis Redding, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Melvin Brown with genuine respect for those he impersonates and great personal musical talent.

It was not long into the show before the audience got to its feet. They sat down from time to time but were regularly encouraged onto their feet again to dance and clap as the show grew in warmth and audience involvement was invited. Fans of Otis Redding and James Brown were treated to many of their songs and towards the end of the show audience members were invited onto the stage to dance with Movin’ Melvin whose generous spirit and infectious joy held them safely in his arrangement to honour Chubby Checker. Don’t let the journey down to Holyrood Road put you off. The Bongo Club is a friendly venue and this show will cheer even the most jaded of Fringe exhausted folk. Movin’ Melvin Brown finishes by reminding us it is nice to be important but that it is more important to be nice. He is an ambassador for peace and Soul to Soul ( I have a Dream ) encourages laughter, joy, dancing and love in spades. I imagine a peace which did not include these things would bore us all. Movin’ Melvin gives his all in this show and his audience gave back. They would have kept him on the stage all night.

Cast – Melvin Brown – vocals, dancing, Allan Ferguson – bass, Jordan Gilmore – drums, Paul Keene – keyboards, Aki Remally – lead guitar and Backing vocals, Francesca Sansalone – backing vocals
The Company-Movin’ Melvin Brown –
Musical Director – Melvin Brown, Choreography – Melvin Brown Sound & Lights engineer: Sam Richards, Movin’ Melvin Brown management –  Francesca Sansalone, PublicityFrancesca Sansalone

(c) Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2010

reviewed Saturday 14th August 10


Uplifting, by Alan Moorhouse

Friday, 20 August, 2010

Light, comedy debut play

London – Lost Theatre – 16th – 18th Aug 2010 – 20:15 (50mins)

In Uplifting, decidedly average salesman Bill (Alan Moorhouse) completely ruins an important presentation due to being distracted by a hapless window cleaner outside. He then happens to get stuck in a lift with the very same window cleaner, Jim (Brian Gillett). The two men come to learn more about each other than they bargained for and, perhaps most importantly, that the view from the top floor looks very different to each man.

The two actors give commendable performances, relaying a whole host of characters and a range of emotions. Alan Moorhouse’s sympathetic portrayal of the hapless Bill exposes the loneliness of modern life while Brian Gillet’s likeable performance of Jim shows that confidence doesn’t always come from a corporate pay check. Both actors depict the boredom and frustrations they feel at life (but blame on the broken lift) realistically but their efforts are let down slightly by the direction, also by Alan Moorhouse, which at times seems rather aimless. It might have been more engaging to see more of their futile attempts to physically cope with sharing such a small space with a stranger – something both London and Edinburgh audiences can readily identify with.

Pete Reynolds & Will Dredge have designed an incredibly economical production; on a bare stage the lift is represented by a box of white light which the actors step in and out of as the action moves from present to past. The music punctuates each scene well demonstrating passages of time and changes in tone but the use of blackouts between scenes significantly slowed down the already meagre amounts of action. Also it wasn’t clear why the character of Bill carries a small suitcase and a mobile yet both actors mime an emergency phone in the lift.

The play offered us the chance to spend some time with two men who live life very differently and it was, for the most part, entertaining and amusing. Unfortunately, the script relied too heavily on the use of phone calls both to the lift service team and to the mystery Penny who is Bill’s co-worker and secret desire. Whilst there are a few sweet moments where we see the men bond over their situation there are also a few frustrating moments when the characters discuss their most intimate fears far too easily making it less believable and less engaging. Writer Alan Moorhouse has also given the character he plays more of a journey than that of Jim as there is no doubt that Bill leaves the lift a changed man whereas Jim just lazily listens in on Bill’s final phone call then follows him out.

Whilst there is no doubt the writer has an ear for comic dialogue he might benefit from looking again at his story telling as ultimately this interesting clash of personalities ends up deriving into little more than convenient cliché. Perhaps if the two men – who seemed to represent two sides of the modern man – had been interrogated further by Moorhouse and we had seen real conflict emerge from the comedy then this little tale of life’s ups and downs might have been more satisfying.

Overall though it was an enjoyable debut from The Atre Company and certainly more fun than being stuck in a lift.

Cast Credits: Performers – Alan Moorhouse – Bill, Brian Gillett – Jim.

Company Credits: Writer – Alan Moorhouse. Director – Alan Moorhouse. Sound & Lighting Design – Pete Reynolds & Will Dredge. Make Up – Jill Hutchins. Producer – Alan Moorhouse. Website –

(c) Hannah Rodger 2010

reviewed Monday 16 August 10


One Kiwi, One Aussie, One Hour

Friday, 20 August, 2010

Two Halves

Edinburgh 2010 – Globe – 5-29 August­­ 2010 – 14.15 (1:00)

One Kiwi, One Aussie, One Hour is a comedy show of two halves featuring the stand-up talents of the eponymous antipodean countries.

First up is James Nokise, a New Zealand-based comic who swiftly reveals he is actually half Samoan and half Welsh.  This tees up his 30 minute act, themed around heritage and racism, perfectly.

Whether it is the slightly quaint “blanket racism” of many British people, a grandmother’s occasionally “lovely racism”, or the “gourmet racism” of an Australian redneck telling a confused aborigine to go back to where he came from, most of the material is delivered with a lightness of touch which means it never appears confrontational or aggressive.  This is a man who is not so much angry at racist attitudes as befuddled at the pointlessness of it all.  He illustrates this with bigoted incidents faced by both himself and his family in a deeply personal routine.  There are still plenty of laughs in the thoughtful 30 minutes though, most memorably when a big-name movie director gets it in the neck for casting by skin-colour rather than talent.

There’s a slight lull when he begins some more pedestrian material about the exploits of the New Zealand football team in the recent World Cup, but the memory of this weaker segment is quickly forgotten when he arrives at more personal revelations about his own family and girlfriend.  He likes the irony that his grandfather, who sold guns to apartheid South Africa, became a Samoan “native’s” father-in-law, while the reason for his father leaving Cambridge University after a day is as shocking as it is entertaining.

He finishes on a bit of a low with some slightly dubious material about domestic violence, but by this time he’s proved himself as a likeable performer with an easy rapport and confident delivery.

The Kiwi then hands over to Aussie Rich Brophy for the weaker half of the show.  The fresh-faced comic launches off with some “Aussie facts”, painting his nation as a land of lazy racist homophobes who lie on beaches and take their sport far too seriously.  It’s a promising start with a particularly barbed, if maybe apocryphal, tale about the Australian Prime Minister commentating on a game of cricket and unwittingly reinforcing all the negative stereotypes of his own country.

Sadly it’s all downhill from this point, with hackneyed skits on Scottish weather and improving technology – the fact that razor companies relish putting more blades on their products is not one that needs any more dissection.

He sometimes comes up with some lovely turns of phrase, as when the purchase of a new laptop provides him with “enough porn to cripple a bear”, but these are few and far between and can’t disguise the scattershot nature of his topics.  A line about wanting to change the world but not being able to change the tracks on an iPod is promising but he ignores the comic possibilities and, instead of expanding on a theme, trots out over-familiar thoughts on drugs, religion and TV talent shows.

He ends with a particularly cynical riff on global warming which exemplifies this unlikeable and abrasive performance.

Cast Credits (alpha order): Rich BrophyJames Nokise

Company Credits: Company – Anzac Productions.  Promoter – PBH’s Free Fringe.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Friday 13 August


The Blue Tackies

Friday, 20 August, 2010

Bar Code Soho, 15th August 2010, 7pm (actual start time 8 pm)

Most audience members have enough experience to read between the lines of a flyer or advertisement for an event in order to establish whether this would be their type of show. Therefore the zany flyer for this production, ending with the words ‘…much daftness and fun’  will beckon the right type of audience and warn the wrong ones.

The Blue Tackies’ production is difficult to place in any recognisable category of entertainment. Referring once again to the flyer for some guidance: ‘Comedy’, ‘dance’ and ‘electronic music’ were promised. The concept of funny, and possibly even dance, can be subjective.

Tez Ilya was compere for the evening. He was dressed in a nice suit which featured as a joke. He is from London but of Pakistani descent, both locations which also provided a joke or two. He has just been fasting as part of Ramadan, another reference point in his material. When introducing his colleagues to come, referring to them as “funnier” than he, well, whether or not that was a joke remained to be seen. Tez Ilyas’s routine was indeed quite routine but he performed his job of introducing the acts to come.

Anne Moir began her show commenting on how funny it is that all of us have several multiple personalities inside our heads fighting for an audience. It is difficult to say whether that has any psychiatric or medical basis, but Anne certainly proved the theory from her own personal perspective. There followed a battle between Anne Moir and her Scottish personality. For those who are not tuned into the nuances between a posh southern English accent and a Scottish accent she kindly pranced from side to side on the stage depending on who was speaking. The Scottish lady won for awhile and told a story about getting on the sex offenders list. It was initially unclear whether all of the 6 or more characters supposedly living in Anne Moir’s head would get their 15 minutes on stage. But they did not.

Noah Wright was up next. He did a very good impression of exaggerated dry British humour. For his entire slot.

Next up was, oh, no, Suzy Wylde didn’t turn up. She must have had something really important on.

Then came the Blue Tackies. The ‘Blue’ in the title presumably refers to the blue boiler suits worn by each member of the duo. The ‘Tackies’ is really anyone’s guess, much like the concept behind the performance.  This performance is where the ‘electronic music’ and ‘dance’ come into play. There are numerous dance routines which involve mainly behaving like robots. Gaya Giacometti has her microphone set to ‘echo’ throughout the entire performance. Sonja Quita Doubleday has hers set to ‘high pitched’. They perform several songs and acts ranging in subject matter from debt, pandas and teenage zombies.

The grand finale comes after anther lengthy interlude. The Blue Tackies exit the stage and never return. In their place come two ghosts, the costumes having been made from white sheets with eye-holes cut. The ghosts sing and dance in the same manner as their stage-predecessors, except that every word is now totally muffled due to a mouth-hole oversight.

This is a bizarre show on the fringe of experimental entertainment. It is worth a look if experimental is your thing.

Cast: Tez Ilyas – Compere.  Anne Moir – Comedian.  Noah Wright – Comedian. The Blue Tackies: Sonja Quita Doubleday and Gaya Giacometti.

Sound Engineer:  Giovanni Carnazza

(c) Leanne O’Loughlin