Not pronounced as you’d expect, Seanmhair (Shen-a-var) is next up in The Other Room’s Outliers season and once again this production is nothing like you’ve ever seen before in the tucked away gem of a black box inside Porters bar. Written by Hywel John, Seanmhair takes us back to the dingy side streets of 1950s Edinburgh and the life of Jenny, at various points in time. 

With an immediately haunting setting and opening monologue, the enclosed audience are drawn into a dark, grim alleyway with dingy lighting and flashes of strip lights and introduced to three women, all barefoot, all playing variations of the same woman.  We’re introduced to an old woman trapped by a husband’s illness, lost of all vitality and tenacity, as he now only pecks at bird type food lost of all power, and then sent straight back in time to a young girl and her enchantment with the glimmer glimmer of the elusive Tommy on her way to school. 

As their lives entwine, their naivety has disturbing and damaging consequences, and it is down to Jenny’s Seanmhair (Scotts Gaelic for Grandmother) to step in as all three actors take on multiple roles, switching effortlessly between bullying school girls, Tommy’s Mother and other members of Jenny’s family.  Each actor is captivating in their performance, and their movement and synchronicity kept the audience entranced from the dimming of the lights. A certain level of concentration is required but it is very easy to slip into Hywel John’s world in this fast paced, tornado like script, and Kate Wasserberg’s direction keeps you both on your toes and glued to the window pane into this Edinburgh tale. 

A haunting and incredibly powerful production, the three actors work seamlessly together as the tight knit script come to life in a claustrophobic and full throttle manner. 

Seanmhair plays at The Other Room until 1st April and will also feature at the Edinburgh Festival this August. Follow @TORtheatre for updates. 

N is for Nonsense Room

There seemed to be more pushchairs than parents as the sold out crowd transcended on the George Square theatre this morning for the Shark in the Park. Nick Sharratt’s popular books have been adapted for the stage by Nonsense Room, ABA International Touring and Macrobert Arts Centre, and the end result is a performance which is almost the mirror image of the illustrated storybooks. 

Timothy Pope is very excited for his birthday and when the big day finally arrives, his newly acquired telescope becomes glued to his hand as he discovers all kinds of things in the distance. But no sharks… No sharks in the park, no sharks in the dark, no sharks on windy days… or are there? As the three stories are brought to life, Timothy looks all around with his new toy to find just what he’s looking for, with a little help from his friends both on stage and off. 

Although there was a constant sense of restlessness, the audience were keen to join in with the rhymes and verse as the three actors inject song and cheer into the shark based antics. With a brilliant set and costume design straight from the books themselves, this family tale of bedtime tricks, gusts of wind and dreams of talking seagulls is a great introduction to the theatre for 2-5 year olds. 

Shark in the Park | Assembly George Square Theatre | 10:00

B is for B*Witched

Everyone has that song that makes them think of good times (B*Witched, of course) or a dance number that reminds them of their first love (the Dirty Dancing lift for many), right? And everyone definitely secretly loves those #throwbackThursday photos which drag up an unfortunate haircut or outfit… In a series of memories and a showcase of circus skills, Jacksons Lane and Silver Linings have joined forces to bring Throwback to the Underbelly Circus Hub. 

The audience immediately became immersed in the performance as each individual was invited to write down a song which reminded them of a certain moment in their lives and as the newly formed paper aeroplanes hit the stage, a mash up of nostalgia and hits exploded from the sound system.  

As each performer told their childhood stories, they each introduced their talents alongside a brilliantly 90s soundtrack.  Swinging, spinning and leaping through the air, the strength and the agility of the performers was instantly noticeable as they made every movement look effortless, even when balancing on one hand or walking up a vertical pole. With every flip and hula hoop spin, each lift became more daring than the last and the whole cast worked really well together to bring a new exceptional skill to the floor. With memories of sibling singing, unfaithful relationships and dreams of owning a horse, each one introduced each character a little more. During some moments it would have been interesting to have a softer backing track as I’m pretty sure you would have been able to hear a pin drop in the tent as those emotional memories came flooding back. 

Full of excitement (possibly a little too close for comfort at times to those very close to the front of the stage), this talented group of performers had audience members young and old entranced by each spin and song. A real mix of chaos, beauty and amazing skill which, despite feeling slightly disjointed, left me with a pang for the memories which had unintentionally been forgotten. 

Silver Lining & Jacksons Lane: Throwback | Underbelly Circus Hub | 16:30

A is for Acrobats and Spandex

For better or worse, Lords of Strut are determined to change your life through dance in their family show at Assembly George Square Gardens this festival season.  The Irish brothers are back again as they take to the stage in a vision of spandex and headbands, ready to give acts of kindness to the audience in the form of cartwheels and dance moves.  

Famous Seamus and Sean-tastic have joined forces to make up the duo and both brothers are undoubtedly brilliant acrobats as they showcase a series of moves and lifts.  Silliness is in equal measure as spoons are hidden up noses, solo moments are altered with new (unwanted) ideas and sibling rivalry over a ladder causes a split situation! Whilst the really young children seemed a little oblivious to the puns and action, the older ones over the age of 8 were completely on side as the brothers bickered and showed off their excellent wardrobes and strength in a whirl of madness. 
Any show which instigates excellent hecklers from the crowd including ‘you haven’t even got a six pack, I have!’, proves its worth as audience members young and old were cackling with laughter, particularly in the moments of audience interaction. When asked if we were blind after a quieter applause, one young girl piped up with ‘Where are you?!’ causing even the stars to struggle to maintain their composure! 

A treat for the whole family, whether it turns out that you’re a relation of the pair or the future of the human race, this show is full of spandex, silliness and some questionable DJ skills which will leave you with a massive grin on your face. 

Lords of Strut: The Family Show | Assembly George Square Gardens | 13:45

Oh Edinburgh…

It’s that time of year again. The most magical time of the year.

That’s right, it’s Ed Fringe time and this year it’s time to defy the norm. The biggest arts festival on the planet, hundreds of arts companies are about to transcend on the beautiful Scottish city for a month of entertainment, laughter, emotions and a touch of magic.

This year I’m lucky enough to be reviewing on behalf of the Network of Independent Critics – a brilliant new scheme set up this year which allows bloggers and reviewers to experience more of the festival than ever before.  I’ll be covering mostly children’s theatre but I’m sure you’ll notice a few other gems snuck in amongst the family friendly productions. 

If you’re performing or producing a production for children and young people, please drop me a line to let me know and I’ll do my best to check it out. Unfortunately I won’t be around for the whole month but I’m planning to try and cover and absorb as much as possible while I’m there.

Bring it on round four, I’m super excited! Keep an eye on Twitter for some #tweetsizereview ‘s and of course, right here for some slightly chunkier ones! 

Edinburgh, you beauty!

That’s it, another fringe over for me, and although the magic and chaos may still be continuing up in beautiful Edinburgh, I’m back to work tomorrow and a major bout of the fringe blues have kicked in. Although I didn’t manage to spend the whole month up there, I did squeeze in over 20 shows around working the box office (because I’m basically a ninja…) Here’s a run down of my top five and some other highlights:

Key Change: Open Clasp Theatre. Northern Stage @ Summerhall.

An incredibly authentic and refreshing take on female prison life, put together brilliantly and portrayed by a first class set of performers. Moving, funny and a bit rough round the edges: Key Change powerfully sings out loud the voices of female prisoners stuck in the system. 

Every Brilliant Thing: Paines Plough. The Roundabout @ Summerhall

This show left me an emotional wreck, an incredible performance and moving narrative, which had the audience involved from their first seconds in their seats. An insightful and beautiful piece, highlighting depression and self awareness, and reminding us of the little wonderful things we’re surrounded by… Number 14: Bed

Party for One: Christina Bianco. Assembly George Square Gardens.

Hilarious. Christina Bianco is a genius, and despite being one of the first shows I saw, still makes me laugh hysterically when picturing a Ariana Grande song, sang in Julie Andrews voice… Spot on impressions, sung beautifully with a heart warming and relatable story to match. 

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing: Traverse Theatre. 

An intense and gripping performance, with a lot of grit and a lot of heart. I left the Traverse with my heart in my mouth and in awe of such an emotive and epic performance from Aoife Duffin.

Ross and Rachel. Assembly George Square Theatre. 

She’s his lobster, and Molly Vevers was completely on it in her portrayal of any couple which start off with their happy ever after planned for forever. Switching between both sides of the couple, a couple which are now seen as an item, the clever script is laced with references and full of emotion. 

I also loved The Solid life of Sugar Water at Pleasance Dome: a heartbreaking story, expertly handled, and Jenny say qua from Jenny Collier made me cackle with laughter at the Three Sisters. Echoes at the Gilded Balloon was a brave and insightful comparative piece and last years NSDF winners, Naughty Corner and their production of The Bastard Queen was gritty, funny and a brilliantly polished production. Shitfaced Shakespeare was hilarious as The Merchant of Venice took to the cheap prosecco and beer, and Man to Man was an epic performance from Maggie Bain, and well deserving of all the rave reviews. Our Teachers a Troll made for another fantastic, fun morning at the Paines Plough roundabout as audience members young and old cowered and laughed as one, whilst Flossy and Boo was a fabulous pick me up for a Monday, proper feel good fun for all the family! 

As always, I had an absolute ball and Edinburgh was full of magic, chaos  and the wonderful team that is the Space UK family. I would definitely recommend checking out any of the shows above if you’re lucky enough to be heading up to the Scottish capital or if these companies ever decide to tour! 

It’s very nearly the best time of year again…

…this time tomorrow I’ll be back in beautiful Edinburgh, ready for round three of fringe chaos and I can not wait. Sorry for the recent silence, I’m not really sure where the year is going or how it is now August… but I’m currently packing the last few bits, in prep for 10 days of theatre, tickets, audiences and a few pints for good luck!

It really is impossible to describe the fringe atmosphere to anybody who hasn’t been… I would recommend it to anybody, avid theatre fanatic or not! There’s something incredibly reassuring about walking down the street, playing costume or real clothes with the person next to you, bumping in to someone you know from previous years, swigging from a Black Medicine takeaway cup and seeing up to five shows in one day.  Completely and utterly knackering but the best way to spend August, I guarantee you.

I’ve got my show wish list lined up, with ten days up there, I’m hoping to fit quite a few productions in around my shifts managing the box office of three venues. There are sure to be some familiar faces up there this summer too with a brilliant Welsh contingent as always… Sherman Cymru’s incredible Iphigenia in Splott, the Centre’s powerful production of Man to Man, Living Pictures’ endearing one man show Diary of a Madman, the chaos of Flossy and Boo’s Curiosity Shop and Torch Theatre’s well received Grav to name just a few!

I’m like a kid at Christmas, my rain mac, comfy shoes and hangover hiding sunnies are at the ready, and I’m super excited to see my SpaceUK family and get lost in the magic chaos of the fringe once more.

There’ll be some #tweetsizereviews coming your way over in the twittersphere so feel free to give me a follow @chaotickirstyy – Feel free to holla if you’re around and I’ll be doing my yearly round up when I return!