Hidden in the depths of Underbelly’s Cowgate venues, there’s a whole feast of a programme to emerse yourself in this festival. Included in this line up is Fringe debut from LAB RATS and Trashed takes us to a fly tipping site in Yorkshire for a high speed account of Keith’s story.
Keith is in his mid thirties and has worked as a bin man since he left school. Dirty and grimy, this script is full of love and loss, and a little bit of asbestos for good measure as Keith lurks in the darkness for a lot of the performance. Struggling to come to terms with the death of his daughter, we are introduced to other people close to him as he chugs can after can of his love for alcohol, his marriages slowly falls apart and makes friends with an unlikely candidate.
There are some loop holes in the script itself and the balance between connecting with Keith and the dark humour which you are not sure whether to laugh or cry at, is a little too off key. David William Bryan has a very strong presence however, and his performance is (aptly) aggressively full on from the very beginning.
Full of swearing, dirt and plenty of strongbow, this one man show is a bit of a rollercoaster for a lunchtime. A moving but funny script, performed with grit and fury.
Trashed | Underbelly Cowgate
Everyone has those ugly days, those days when you’ve not been matched on tinder or those days when you’re the reason there’s a smell on the bus… Tamar Broadbent is championing all females in their mid 20s with her show, Get Ugly, this year at Underbelly Med Quad and I’ll cut straight to the point, this show made me cackle. Loud.
Tamar has just come out of a five year relationship and is struggling to come to terms with herself again as a singleton, especially when her sister points out that you get 25% uglier when going through a break up! As she battles hot gym girl on a daily, struggles with the app dating game of swiping and matching and reiterates the common thoughts on Facebook suicide, she tells how she has learnt to love herself again as she adjusts to independent life.
This show is the perfect remedy for an ugly day and a slice of pure comic relief for a late afternoon. Through songs and anecdotes, and even a Britney moment, the sold out room was full of laughter, nods in agreement and a lot of hell yeahs. I mean, moving the fridge is super hard work for one person… but anyway, Get Ugly is for anyone who’s gone through a break up, fallen out with a friend or got stuck feeling a little less awesome than you should do, and I urge you all to get a ticket pronto.
Tamar Broadbent: Get Ugly | Underbelly Med Quad
Toilets at the fringe are never something to write home about and this performance takes us to a club toilet, lipstick messages still fresh on the walls and of course, no loo roll. Written by Phoebe Eclair-Powell and performed solely by Jess Mabel Jones, Torch is at Underbelly Cowgate this festival and it’s a punched fist in the air kinda performance.
We’re introduced to a nameless female who embarks on tales of past boyfriends, the disappointment of her relationships and a longing to reignite her teenage self. Interspersed with brilliant pop classics which could have been belted out in front of the mirror or in a taxi home from a night out, Jess Mabel Jones really does it for the girls showing off an incredible set of lungs as well as the glittery personality beneath the script.
Despite the tales of eating disorders and regret, she becomes able to celebrate her grown up self and while the whirlwind performance leaves little room for reflection, this is a cracker of a production. As black balloons burst and songs light up the stage, the antics and revelations are compelling, humorous and touching, getting the audience on side from the word go.
Leaving completely blown away by Jess Mabel Jones’ committed performance: this is full of feisty spirit, female belief and relatable anecdotes, and Torch is definitely one of the gems of the festival.
Torch | Underbelly Cowgate | 20:50
The internet is full of hidden secrets, a whole world of information and photos which could go for years undiscovered before they get caught up in the wrong hands. Blush from Snuffbox Theatre is a peephole in to a world many of us would rather stay buried well beyond cat videos, celeb selfies and the latest retail sales.
As two actors switch between multiple characters, different aspects of the internet come to life in a fast paced, sometimes brutal manner. A younger sister who’s naked photos have gone viral, a girlfriend ghosted for no apparent reason who seeks revenge, a father who’s a fan of a webcam… The script flickers between each role, each bringing to the foreground the highs and lows of the power of social media and the web, as well as highlighting the impulsive nature of every post or camera shot. While the production emphasises that this activity happens to both sexes, the exposure and emotion is much more raw for the female performer creating compelling, if slightly uncomfortable, viewing.
Although the energy is occasionally beyond control and the character changes are hard to keep up with, the monologues are skilfully delivered and the space is used well as cameras whur and flash at every turn as a snapshot of the humanity behind the online imagery.
A highly relevant must see this Edinburgh Fringe, full of heartache, regret and disgust: Blush is an urgently needed take on revenge porn which doesn’t need to resort to nudity to captivate it’s audience.
Blush | Underbelly Cowgate | 18:00
It would seem to be that the thing to do in your mid 20s is to binge watch Netflix, scroll through tinder and question all your life choices whilst wearing the same thing you wore when you were 7 years old. Katie Brennan’s show is proof of this as she sings and jokes her way through her Quarter Life crisis in a cabaret, comedy show at Underbelly this summer.
Katie moved to London after university and had big plans and big ideas, but due to high rent prices, a poor job market and a lot of bad sex, her life hasn’t turned out quite how she planned it! Featuring a poptastic medley of 90s songs as well as some hilarious songs, including Bad Bridesmaid and a disguised rant at Carrie Bradshaw, we are invited to emphasise and understand the ups and downs of life in your 20s in a wonderful glittery fashion.
Not all smiles and gin, Katie also opens up about the anxiety she faced and gives out her tips about self care and treasuring those close friends who look after you. Joined on stage by her friend and pianist, the two have the audience totally on side and this is a great slice of relatable comedy.
A brilliantly charming production from Katie Brennan which will leave your face aching from laughter, a pang of self belief and a sense that you’re not the only one who struggles with adulting at times!
Katie Brennan’s Quarter Life Crisis | Underbelly | 22:45
The perfect escape from rainy Edinburgh, Bedtime Stories at the Underbelly Circus Hub is an afternoon delight and how I wish I had a onesie to cwtsh up in for this show rather than a soggy pair of jeans. In this Upswing production, beds and cushions fill the floor down the front for families to relax on and further back blankets are not in short supply for those wanting a real seat.
We are introduced to a mother struggling too much work to do and her daughter, who just wants a bedtime story and a hug from her Mum before bed. The audience are instantly mesmerised as projections fill the centre of the tent, illustrating their life and there were oohs and aahs as the stage lit up. As the little girl struggles to sleep, she calls upon her imaginary friend Three who really is every small child’s imagination in human form, and they explore and adventure all the way to the moon. Their discoveries and games take over the wooden tent, introducing circus elements to fully use the whole space.
As the rain poured on the wooden tent, the sound of the dialogue suffered slightly, causing some parts to go unheard from the second row back and a few restless youngsters took their cue. Not deterred, the cast worked effortlessly together as they span around and were lifted high in the space.
A beautiful calming hour in the Circus Hub and despite feeling a little long and lacking pace at times, this is an afternoon treat for the young ones and their grown ups. Bedtime stories is an endearing and touching blend of children’s theatre and circus, making the outside world quite a shock when the lights came back on.
Bedtime Stories | Underbelly Circus Hub | 14:30
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