Fringe 2016 –  The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare,  Swivelhead 

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare ***** (5 Stars) 

I’m a fan of The Socks,  I’ve seen them at the Fringe several times now,  last year I wasn’t too impressed,  they had quite a few old jokes and obscure references I didn’t get.  This year they are back with a whole new show and back on top form. 

For those that don’t know the socks,  (check out their videos on YouTube )  they are two sock puppets that do a very funny show on a specific subject interspersed with a few comedic songs. 

This year they are doing Shakespeare and as per usual one of the Socks is getting too serious and the other one is managing to misunderstand,  complicate and generally screw things up.   😂

I love The Socks and always see them at The Fringe,  but they are not for everyone (or children! )  Check them out on YouTube and if you like what you see go see their show! 

Swivelhead *** (3 stars)

Somebody handed me a flyer at the Pleasance Courtyard for this show,  that said it was about a RAF pilot turning into an owl. It’s not really,  the whole owl thing is somewhat irrelevant. Its a play about an ex Typhoon pilot who now flies UAV drones and has a nervous breakdown. 

The play centres around the main character and his work with a new UAV pilot and the main character’s relationship with his sister.  It switches between routine days flying  UAVs with the two characters talking to each other and during off time having phone conversations with his sister,  who is planning on getting married. 

It is very well done and goes into the past history of the lead character, as well as the relationship with his sister and (deseaced)  father.  It does go into the whole ethical question about UAV drones.  The lead character talks about being a real pilot and references to the “Playstation”  generation.  Its all well done and does a good job of balancing the argument for and against “drone warfare” versus conventional bombing. 

The whole “turning into an owl” plot line is really obtuse and not really relevant,  the real  idea is the lead character does slowly have a breakdown. The owl part is really just a minor part. 

The show is very well done,  they have a fairly impressive set (for a Fringe show)  and the acting is very good.  Not exactly a light hearted show as it does delve into the whole drone,  modern warfare  against terrorism,  middle east/western imperialism subjects. But the acting is top notch and the show could easily be a professional show in a “regular” theatre. 

Fringe 2016 – Wychwood,  The Oxford Gargoyles Jazz A Capella,  Steele Edge : Maerial Arts Illusion Show,  Randy Writes A Novel

Wychwood **** (4 stars)

Wychwood is an asylum, that closed it doors in  1916, this show takes you inside and tells the tails of some of its inmates. 

It’s actually a show mixing four edwardian horror tales with music. Its mostly acting  with a few songs thrown in.  The acting is,  for the most part,  will done by a youngish cast,  I did think that some of the acting was a little stilted at times but perhaps the coupke individuals were selected for their singing ability over their acting. For the most part it was very well acted and the singing interludes are well done although perhaps a little out of place at times,  but isn’t that the way of musicals write often?  People bursting into song for no apparent reason 😆

The stories themselves were quite good and fairly original. The main characters,  (inmates of the asylum) appearing in straight jackets to introduce their tale before it is reenacted. 

There are lots of well done effects and a combination of live music and additional sound effects add to the atmosphere. There are also some nice “special” effects that adds to the show,  not hugely expensive effects (e. g. a rocking horse that starts rocking on its own,  a music box that opens and closes when no-one is near it,  a disembodied head in a cupboard) but clever enough.  It’s nice to see a the extra effort go into some props,  unlike a lot of Fringe shows that just leave it to the imagination.

All in all its a good,  dark and creepy show with much more plus points than a few minor ones. 

The Oxford Gargoyles: Jazz A Cappella  ***** (5 stars)

 I’ve seen this show a few times over the years and it never disappoints.  Each year is new and a delight to see.  The performers change from year to year but the high standards are always maintained. 

Their repetoire of songs is quite varied, including a track from The Jungle Book (King of the Swingers)  and “Twist and Shout” as well as some improvised jazz “bebob”. 

Along with the excellent singing the show is well choreographed,  not axillary dancing but moving around the stage for different line ups and formations for different songs. Most (if not all)  of the take centre stage at one time or another for solos and/duets. 

Is always a good show and I’ll no doubt try and see them again next year. 

Steele Edge: Martial Arts Illusion Show * (1 star) 

The show starts off with two guys doing some martial arts moves,  kick punches,  tumbles and somersaults,  this is a good start and they are fairly impressive (hence the 1 star). 

The rest of the show is led by a guy doing some fairly cheesy magic tricks. All of these tricks we’ve seen before and seen done better. Some of the props looked home made,  others can be bought at any decent magic shop. 

At one stage the lead man started throwing playing cards around like thowing stars,  this seemed a bit pointless not to mention a little dangerous as he wasn’t very accurate,  I was sitting in the front row and one of the cards almost hit me,  I felt it brush my hair and if I hadnt ducked it may have hit me! 

The rest of the magic tricks were pretty poorly executed e. g.  you could clearly see a person moving into position when a sheet was raised,  and the “empty” box obviously had mirrors in it to hide the secret compartment. 

A very amateur show and not worth the ticket price! 


Randy Writes A Novel
***** (5 stars) 

This is basically a one “man” stand-up comedy show,  except Randy is a puppet that wouldn’t look out of place on The Muppet Show,  although  he has an Australian accent and swears a lot. 

I first saw Randy at The Fringe a few years ago,  then he was a drunk!  The next time I saw him he had given up drinking and was trying to sort his life out. He is still on the wagon and has now written a novel!  

He admits he is rather scared about publishing it unless it isn’t received well so has decided to get the opinion of the Fringe audience by reading the manuscript. 

He is rather nervous about reading it and keeps procrastinating by talking about other subjects including Ernest Hemmingway,  the meaning of art,  being a vegan,  etc.  

It’s a hysterically funny show,  even though Randy’s features can’t move be seems to be able express real emotions.  Combined with a lot of humour and rather coarse language he puts on a fabulous show.   

Fringe 2016 – Escape from the planet of the day that time forgot,  The Power of Japanese  Drums,  Nosferatu’s Shadow

Escape from the planet of the day that time forgot ***** (5 stars) 

This show is really funny and really well some.  Its a three person comedy/parody sci-fi play in the style of a typical  1950’s movie. 

When the professor’s eager young assistant brings an odd rock to show the professor and it turns out to be from a previously uknown planet they set off in a convenient rocket with the professor’s attractive niece (after all who will keep the rocket clean and cook meals?). 

In typical cheap Fringe budget the special effects are at a minimum but the clever use of a few boxes, an ironing board & a “dust buster” add to the humour of the show. The show throws in the stereotypical characters that you’d expect from a 1950/60 sci-fi film with a lot of humour and take you off on a “jolly romp” to another planet. 

If you remember the triffids “fondly”,  from the 1981 TV series or the original 1961 movie you’ll appreciate this show even more, but any fan of cheesy sci-fi will enjoy it. 

The Power of Japanese Drums **** (4 stars)

 

Obviously drums arent for everyone but this is the worst of show your not likely to habe the opportunity to see very often. 

I know nothing about music or drumming but  I can appreciate the skill and talent in this show,  not to mention the sheer energy and physical effort  involved! 

It’s a stunning show where a small group of drummers playing numerous pieces on a combination of different drums.  

Unlike the Korean drummers I saw earlier in the week they do not add to the show with a bit of showmanship,  this is all about the drumming! And it is stunning. Well worth experiencing,  I saw them last year and went back again this year. 

Nosferatu’s Shadow **** (4 stars) 

I had looked at this show and discounted it originally,  but when friends told me  Michael Daviot was doing it,  I bought a ticket. I have seen Michael Daviot do a couple for pieces at the Speakeasy in the past and he is a fabulous narrator. 

For those who don’t know Nosferatu is an old Vampire movie created in 1922 Germany.  It was basically a rip-off of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” novel with the characters changed.  Today is regarded as a classic of not the first original Vampire movie. 

Max Shreck played Count Orlok (aka Dracula) and became famous for this role.  He actually played hundreds of roles in film and on stage but is only remembered for this one role. 

Michael Daviot plays Max Shreck in this show to tell you the story of his life. Its an interesting show and presented extremely well but ultimately the subject matter is some what obscure!. Although I’ve seen the film a couple times I could not have told you who played the count  and ultimately it doesn’t really matter,  even though he played it expertly. 


Fringe 2016 – Cut,  24 Hours with Mary Lynn Rajskub

Cut ***** (5 stars) 

28 “passengers”  enter an aircraft cabin and are seated,  the “air hostess” is dressed typically,  immaculate uniform and precise makeup. After a standard safety briefing,  the aircraft takes off. 

The “cabin” is suddenly piched into complete darkness, and I do me complete.  There is not a hint of light anywhere, the only sound is that of the planes engines.  And then a couple select lights come on highlighting the air hostess she doesn’t look quite as immaculate as before and her fixed smile has gone. When she talks it is clear this isn’t the air hostess going about her job but her own inner thoughts/monologue,  apparently she is being followed by a man and she is scared. 

The lights go dark again and when they return the air hostess continues about her normal business. 

This back and forward continues and it becomes clear the boats believes she is being stalked and the man is on the plane.  As the show moves along the hostess’ inner thoughts become somewhat more “ragged”,  perhaps she isn’t being stalked,  is it all in her mind,  is the man real or imaginary? 

This show is rather unique and extremely well done, it is also the closet thing I seen to a truly scary show. It isn’t scary in a slasher horror movie sense,  it’s a psychological horror and the anticipation of what will happen next is high. Not a show for the feint hearted!  

24 Hours with Mary Lynn Rajskub *** (3 stars)

 You will probably know Mary Lynn better for her role as Chloe from 24 (she was the little blonde computer expert that was always on Jack’s side) but she has always been a stand up comedian. 

This show is a fairly standard stand-up show, Mary Lynn starts the show by telling you a little bit about herself,  her husband and son.  She continues on telling anecdotes from her life,  she does not shy away from her role in 24 but does point out it was quite some time ago.  There is a bit of audience interaction and a couple images are projected onto a screen but most of the show is just Mary Lynn.  Its entertain and funny,  I was chuckling and laughing throughout but it’s not outstandingly funny, I’ve seen funnier shows but I’ve seen a lot more less funny shows 


Fringe 2016 – Attrape Moi,  Best of Burlesque 

Attrape Moi ***** (5 stars)

A friend on Facebook gave this a rave recommendation so I immediately bought a ticket even though I wasn’t too sure what to expect. 

Take  half a dozen top street performers,  Give them way to much coffee and you’ll have some idea how this show starts.  There’s gymnastics and tumbles,  juggling,  Flinging around cone thingies on string (I’m not sure what you call them ☺️)  Aha,  wikipedia says they are “diablos”!  Except this is on another level to regular street performances,  two guys juggling six balls each,  or throwing around FOUR diablos between two guys. And it’s all mixed in together with gymnastics,  climbing  and humour (they have a popsicle eating contest at one point!?)  and there’s even some very clever yoyoing (is that a word?) 

I made sure I got there early and had a front row centre stage seat 😊 and the show was brilliant,  I observed quite a few small kids in the audience (5 or 6 years old?) and they seemed to be loving the show,  laughing and jumping around. 

The show builds up the performance quite nicely to include aerial acrobatics and even more impressive gymnastics (e.g. three people standing on each others shoulders).  They build up to an almost unbelievable finalé which had to be seem to believed or described. 

I’ve seen numerous similar style shows at The Fringe in previous years and this is up there with the best! 

Best of Burlesque ** (2 stars) 


I usually get and go to at least one Burlesque show at the The Fringe each year  (it’s not as if there’s much opportunity the rest of the year. 

If you look up the meaning of the word “Burlesque”  it actually means a comedy or parody art form.  It has also now often used to describe a particular comedic form of female stiptease (I haven’t heard of any male Burlesque) . 

This is one of the past burlesque shows I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a few now)  Most of the comedy was provided by the main presenter.  There was 6 individual acts and only the last was any good, the rest are just untalented women taking off sparkly/feathery outfits to music. 

A bit of light relief was provided when a number of male audience members are dragged up on stage to preform (cheap laughs) . 

The final act was very good when the dancer emerged from a cloud of smoke dressed in black to a few lines from Edgar Alan Poe’s “The Raven” and performed with the aid of a couple large black feathered fans,  she put on a real entertaining and talented act.   

This is a very late night show and clearly aimed at a particular (erm not entirely sober?)  audience.  Just avoid it, its bad!  2 stars for the final act who deserves to be in a far superior show! 

Fringe 2016 – Juliette Burton : Decision Time

Juliette Burton : Decision Time ***** (5 stars) 

To call this a one women stand-up comedy show seems a little unfair,  although strictly speaking that is what it is. Unlike a conventional stand-up Juliette doesn’t stand in front of a mile and tell a series of jokes,  although there are jokes throughout the show.  

Juliette has led a somewhat “interesting” life dealing with mental health issues including  bolemia, anorexia,  bi-polar disorder,  ocd,  etc The shows theme is about making decisions,  or to be more precise about the decisions that have occurred throughout Juliette’s life starting with her mum deciding to name her “Juliette” right up to deciding what to wear for the days show. 

For the most part it is a very upbeat and funny show,  although there are times in Juliette’s life that have been very dark but she does manage to keep things moving along in a light hearted manner (spoiler alert : she doesn’t die 😃). 

With the help of a large screen projector Juliette takes you on a personal journey through her life and at the end of the show you’ll love her for it. 

It’s a very funny show and a bit emotional,  well worth seeing (it has been selling out).  Plus you get a free badge when you leave which says “F❤️CK OFF I’M A BLANKET”  (now you’ll have to go and see the show!) 

Fringe 2016 – Shakespeare for Breakfast,  The Mission,  Ada/Ava by Manual Cinema,  One Man Star Wars Trilogy

Shakespeare  For Breakfast ***** (5 stars) 

This show is an institution at The Fringe, it’s been running for over 20 years (a new show each year).  The breakfast part is really just a gimmick,  you get a cup of tea or coffee and a croissant,  it’s really irrelevant to the show except to possibly provide the opportunity for a couple jokes within the show.

The real genius  of the show is how it manages to present a Shakespeare play with modern characters,  or not so much modem characters but the same Shakespearen characters but with modern personalities. 

The show is packed full of clever modem references,  re-writing well known Shakespearen quotes with modern references thrown in. Not everybody will get every reference as some will relate to pop culture they are not familiar with e. g. L a TV show or pop song not everyone knows but there are so many a few can go over your head without spoilling things.  

I don’t want to give away any spoilers so all I’ll say is that this year they have taken  A Midsummer Nights Dream as their play and it IS very,  very  funny. Obviously it is difficult to create new shows every year and they dont always hit the nail on the head but this year’s is great! 

The cast do a wonderful job of presenting their various characters and the laughs rarely stop. 

The Mission **** (4 stars) 

I was a bit warey of this show,  having seen a couple “physical theatre” this year, that weren’t that great but it turns out i really enjoyed this. 

The basic plot revolves around a very ordinary “bar maid” who is selected to go on a solo one way mission into space. The idea being if she can do it then anion could. 

The show itself is very stylized with no costumes and only a few LED lighting props.  There is a lot of choreographed scenes intermixed with the dialogue as the show follows or heroine through her recruitment and training as well as her relationship with her boyfriend,  whom she is not allowed to tell until The Mission is revealed to the entire world. There are also a couple scenes using a  rather charming spaceman puppet which are nicely done. 

It is a very good show, very professionally presented and tells a rather new and original  story. 

Ada/Ava by Manual Cinema ***** (5 stars) 

This is a shadow puppet sjow that combines hundreds of cardboard cutouts and live action shapes to tell a tale about two elderly women who live in a lighthouse toaster until one of them passes away. 

There is no dialogue,  but live music accompanies the show. It really is a brilliant piece of work.  Multiple overhead projectors are used to carry shadows onto a screen with live actresses casing their own silhouettes onto the same screen at the same time. There must be a camera behind the screen connected to a projector which projects the end result onto a larger svreen for the audience.  

This means you can see the team working as well as seeing the end result. The story is charming and easy to folliw even with no dialogue its truly amazing how the team work together and coordinate multiple cutouts and luve action at the same time for some very clever effects. 

Its a brilliant show and a real privilege to see (this is the companies first visit to the Uk from their home in Chicago). 

One Man Star Wars Trilogy **** (4 stars) 

This one is obviously for Sart Wars fans.  without the use of costumes,  props or special effects,  one man re-enacts all three of the original Star Waes films in an hour! 

Obviously be doesn’t do ever single line from the films  and he does in fact skip over some scenes completely,  but he does very well to cover all the major scenes across.  He also does lots of sound effects and voices although some ate better than others (his Yoda,  Darth Vader &  Chewbacca aren’t  great)  he also manages to add in a lot of humour and comments 

The amount of effort he puts in is quite astounding,  he fly along at a very brisk pace only taking brief breaks between episodes. He jumps immediately from one scene to the next and on occasion it took me a second or two to catch up,  especially when he skips some of the minor scenes. If you are not very familiar with the films you may well struggle to follow the action, especially the fight scenes (either blasters,  light sabers or spaceships)  as a lot of these are mostly sound effects with limited dialogue. 

If you ate not a big fan of the Star Wars films you are unlikely to enjoy this show,  although you may still appreciate the humour and performance.