EdFringe 2015

THE RHUM PLANTS Mangonel Theatre

The Rhum Plants describes the story of Professor John Heslop-Harrison, purveyor of ‘botanical fraud’ in post-war Britain. It’s fast-paced multirole, irreverent comedy and hyper-verbosity of scientific and Latinate vocabulary, serve to illustrate the intense interiority of this tight-knit, peer-reviewed research field. The text is at times difficult to follow for the uninitiated, but it is interesting to see how even the seemingly most niche of scientific scandals can be dramatised for a general public. The passion exhibited by both the characters and performers in their discussion of Heslop-Harrison’s fraudulent ‘discoveries’ offer an insight into the historically fraught margins of research within many scientific fields. (HM)

THE RHUM PLANTS, Mangonel Theatre, 25th, 27-30h August, Sweet Grassmarket. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Wheelchair accessible toilets. 


Recent case of fraud, in HIV science


TUTTE CONTRO VERDI Isifuera S.L. & Miren de Miguel

Miren de Miguel, established soprano within the Italian and Spanish opera circuit, has developed this solo performance piece in order to critique the roles of women within the canon of 19th century composer Guiseppe Verdi. She shares a range of arias with us, as well as established female characters such as Carmen, Violeta and Desdemona. The winding narrative of the feminist analysis is at times hard to follow; projected surtitles can divide non-Italian speaking spectators’ attention, and the translation left some of the argument indistinct. Nevertheless, Miguel’s performance explores the fates of women throughout Verdi, and how the failings of the male characters are taken on and writ upon the female bodies; in despair, violence, and suicide. 

At times the purpose of the piece may feel ahistorical, or approached from too conservative a feminist standpoint – what is the value in mining pre-20th century classical tropes for their inevitable misogyny? How can that analysis be brought into relation with contemporary feminism, and the treatment of women and women’s bodies in modern performance, particularly the strenuous and elitist field of opera? Yet Tutte Contro Verdi still embodies its own feminist intentions, however blurry their elucidation: in creating her own solo piece, and framing Verdi’s arias in her own criticism, she has removed the ‘woman’ in opera from its debilitating attachment to the male.

TUTTE CONTRO VERDI, Isifuera S.L. & Miren de Miguel, until Aug 17th, New Town Theatre. This venue is not wheelchair accessible. Please contact venue for further accessibility details. (HM)


More on Tutte Contro Verdi: http://tuttecontroverdi.com/en/

Opinion in Edinburgh Feminist Review


Natasha Walter on ‘Wagner’s Women’, feminism themes in the Ring Cycle


See our Diagnosis of Monica Salvi’s Mad Women In My Attic!, which analyses gender roles in musical theatre


2013 segment in BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour on Verdi’s heroines



In Vincent Gambini’s solo performance piece not only do we experience some impressive and entertaining card and coin tricks but we also gain insight into the process of showing and performing work itself. What goes on in the mind of a magician? What is the audience thinking as they watch a magician perform? What role does magic play within society today? On a very practical level Vincent reveals that he is anxious and unsure about the best tricks to open and close his show with, eventually calling the Magic Circle hotline for advice (where coincidentally both Derren Brown and David Blane are on hand for him to speak to). He also speaks from time to time to ‘Little Fish’ a card with a felt-tip fish on it that lives in the pocket of his magician’s suit jacket, a uniform he barely wears nowadays and for good reason it turns out- when he slips it on he becomes a garish children’s entertainer. Towards the end of the piece compelling research gathered from a neuroscientist is shared and on a meta-level an awareness of the slipperiness of fiction and identities seeps into everything. A feeling which is further underlined by the fact Vincent Gambini is of course the nom de plume of performance artist Augusto Corrieri. (SG)

THIS IS NOT A MAGIC SHOW, Vincent Gambini, 17-21 August, Forest Fringe. This venue is wheelchair accessible.                                        http://forestfringe.co.uk/edinburgh2015/event/vincent-gambini/2015-08-19/

More on August Corrieri                                                                                 www.augustocorrieri.com

The psychological experience of the performer is also explored in MUST the inside story by Peggy Shaw:                                                               http://www.clodensemble.com/performance/must.htm

The psychology of being part of an audience is often the focus of Foced Entertainment’s work  www.forcedentertainment.com

Lyn Gardner on Forced Entertainment        http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2009/feb/23/forced-entertainment-sheffield

Artist Tim Bromage also uses magic and interdisciplinary performance to investigate the ways we watch and perceive                                                       http://www.axisweb.org/features/profile/open-frequency/tim-bromage/


Punk poet Rowan James and beatbox performer Marv Radio kick off the show by deconstructing the tick-box labels that come with audience monitoring forms. White, White Other, Black, Black Other, Mixed, Chinese, Other... Read aloud, these labels feel uncomfortable, and whose business is it anyway? Comfort is momentarily found in catch-all tick-box, 'Prefer not to say'. 

James and Marv Radio literally bounce off one another, interweaving spoken word, poetry and beatboxing with generous audience interaction to tell the story of how Rowan became a punk poet. 

A wonderfully synergistic sequence that embodies both their friendship, the marriage of their artforms and their diversity is inspired by the arrhythmic beat of Rowan's heart. 

This crowdfunded show is a show made with love. As the labels and faux norms prescribed by others fell away, we witnessed the birth of an identity from a fusion of music, poetry and the particularities of Rowan's speech. Rowan tells us that a lack of oxygen to his brain at birth resulted in speech and language differences. His art reclaims the medicalised body through performance and I came away feeling a whole lot better about the world. 

The show's development is partly supported through Stopgap Dance Company's iF Platform which is showcasing the work of five fringe artists with disabilities, including touretteshero's 'Backstage in Biscuitland' and Jo Bannan's 'Alba'. (EO) 

EASY FOR YOU TO SAY, Rowan James, Marv Radio, Cambridge Junction, Stopgap Dance, until August 30th, 4pm, Zoohouse. Venue is wheelchair accessible.  https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/rowan-james-easy-for-you-to-say  


More on Rowan James: rowanjamespoet.co.uk

Marv Radio's YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/marvillmusic  

Guardian mention: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2015/jun/04/edinburgh-festival-2015-what-to-see-and-where-to-go 

Slate the Disco review: http://slatethedisco.com/2015/05/live-review-easy-for-you-to-say-at-watch-out-festival/ 

Disability arts online: 

Stopgap Dance's iF Platform 


Backstage in Biscuitland diagnosis 



Mad Women In My Attic is an energetic, cabaret-style show by Monica Salvi, accompanied by a pianist (dressed in a doctor’s coat). The reason for the doctor’s coat soon becomes clear as Salvi sings musical hit after musical hit casting her in various ways as ‘psychologically disturbed’. We see her as an over-the-top seductress, a killer driven mad by love, suicidal and grief-stricken (to name but a few of the identities she takes on) and learn that all of these tropes are the only type of role that seems available to her. Woven around the songs is the loose narrative that the audience are her fellow psychiatric patients or perhaps even just a figment of her imagination. While the over-arching storyline, and re-performance of the songs in ‘classic’ costume, occasionally re-inscribes the very subject matter it is trying to critique, the piece usefully examines how women are continually re-cast in the same roles within musicals. (SG)

MAD WOMEN IN MY ATTIC!, Monica Salvi, Just Festival at St. John’s, 24-26, 28-29, 31 August. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Hearing Loop and Wheelchair Accessible Toilets available. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/mad-women-in-my-attic

More on the show: http://www.madwoman.org.uk

More on Monica Salvi: http://www.monicasalvi.com

Such stereotypes have been very deftly explored by Dickie Beau in Blackouts - a work which examines the very public addictions of Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe.


See also the work of Bobby Baker, woman and artist investigating mental health: http://dailylifeltd.co.uk/about-us/people/daily-life-ltd-team/bobby-baker/

‘C’est Vauxhall’, from Duckie - alternative cabaret show, playing withmusical theatre tropes: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2002/dec/14/theatre.artsfeatures1

Two Sheila Ghelani pieces (‘Etyma - A Tiding of Good Words’ and ‘And Fell Unto a Circle Square’) both made co-creatively with service-users in a psychiatric ward: http://www.sheilaghelani.co.uk/etyma-a-tiding-of-good-words/ http://www.sheilaghelani.co.uk/and-fell-unto-a-circle-sphere

Vacuum Cleaner, artist working with experience of mental health difficulties: http://www.thevacuumcleaner.co.uk


In this play main character Sally revisits the love story of her and her now deceased partner as Alzheimer’s begins to takes hold of her. She is now mostly alone in her flat apart from having the company of a real life (and quite extraordinary) human-style robot that communicates with her and helps her to remember. The robot was built by her ‘brainiac’ husband Raymond and is filled to the brim with his memories. Through the aid of flashbacks we witness a young Sally and a young Raymond meeting for the first time. We also learn that Raymond has a 50 percent chance of inheriting a degenerative disease from his father (100 percent Sally later confirms) and as a result has ensured Sally is cared for in his absence through the means of the robot he’s created for her. The idea of a love story operates on many levels; not only are we witnessing the story of two young lovers but also the changing relationship between human and machine. A relationship which, in the modern world of pacemakers, life support, implants and artificial limbs, is becoming increasingly intertwined, intense and complex. (SG)

SPILLIKIN – A LOVE STORY, Pipeline Theatre, Pleasance Dome, until August 31st. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Hearing Loop available. May not be available on all dates, please contact venue for further details.                                                                     https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/spillikin-a-love-story

More on Pipeline Theatre: http://www.pipelinetheatre.com

Arthur House in The Telegraph on the future of biotech: http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/the-future-is-android/

Live and visual artist Stelarc, who works with technological body modification: www.stelarc.org

Channel 4’s series Humans – in which robotics can create fully synthetic human assistants  http://www.channel4.com/programmes/humans

The show have created a website for their fictional company ‘Persona Synthetics’: http://www.personasynthetics.com

Alzheimer’s Society page on assistive technolgical for people with dementia http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=109

Clod Ensemble’s ‘Extravagant Acts for Mature People’ – free arts events for over-65s http://www.clodensemble.com/extact.htm


Part talk, part research project, part contemporary music performance, Minerva Scientifica Miriam Rothschild begins by posing the following question: how many female scientists and composers can you name? The answer, unfortunately, appears to be not too many. This quick piece of research (conducted there and then between those present) frames the following hour as urgent and essential viewing. The audience learn about the eminent entomologist Miriam Rothschild and her important research into fleas, her later work on wildflowers/the garden and her championing of animals and insects as equals. Initially the audience is introduced to her life and work anecdotally and through interview (there is a singer, a composer and an entomologist on stage). Then a composition of around thirty minutes is shared. The libretto of this is made up of words taken from Miriam Rothschild’s written works and is accompanied by the composer (now dressed as a flea) on bass clarinet. Before leaving the space everyone present is informally invited to look at a real flea through a microscope and also given some Miriam Rothschild recommended reading.

Minerva Scientifica is an evolving music-theatre programme reflecting the loves and works of British Women Scientists, told through the music of British Women Composers.

The project has resonances with the largely forgotten female naturalist Elizabeth Brightwen’s story, who was also an advocate of treating animals and insects with respect, recently captured in Rambles with Nature. (SG)

MINERVA SCIENTIFICA – MIRIAM ROTHSCHILD, Electric Voice Theatre, Valvona & Crolla (Venue 67). Other performances focusing on different women scientists continue until August 23rd. Hearing Loop available, Wheelchair Accessible toilets. May not apply to all performances, please contact venue for full accessibility details.                                   https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/minerva-scientifica-miriam-rothschild

Miriam Rothschild: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/jan/22/guardianobituaries.obituaries

Sheila Ghelani, Rambles with Nature – Ramble 1, a series of cine-poems in collaboration with straybird, is at Forest Fringe until August 30th.                        http://www.sheilaghelani.co.uk/rambles-with-nature/       http://forestfringe.co.uk/edinburgh2015/artists/sheila-ghelani-with-straybird/

Shit Theatre’s show Women’s Hour investigates women and feminism http://www.shittheatre.co.uk/womens-hour.html

The invisibility of females within ‘the canon’ is not only true in science but also artists. See Brown Council’s Remembering Barbara Cleveland:                 http://browncouncil.com/works/remembering-barbara-cleveland#1

New Scientist articles about 10 female scientists we should all know: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ten-historic-female-scientists-you-should-know-84028788/?no-ist


Leggoland is the comedic retelling of the story of Colin Leggo’s right leg: broken multiple times in his youth, rendered almost unusable for ten years of his adulthood, finally amputated last year, and now, as he puts it, ‘probably in a bin somewhere.’ Leggo’s narrative offers a personalised critique of both tabloid pre-occupation with different bodies, obsessively fetishising ‘abnormality’, and how we think about our connection to our own limbs. 

As a comedian ‘always looking for the funny side’, Leggo has taken advantage of our society’s problematic fascination with the amputee, selling photos to coffee-table magazines under various ridiculous pseudo-stories. He tells Full House how his leg became infected after being ‘attacked by a drunk badger’ – double-page spread, and he pockets £150. We laugh at Leggo’s mockery of the tragic-disfigurement, sob-story trope, but his critique is more than just a comedian putting on a brave face for the sake of material. Leggoland genuinely works to frame Leggo’s story as a happy one, questioning stereotypical notions of disability. His damaged leg, requiring multiple operations, a painful Ilizarov frame, and hindering his career and social life for over a decade, rendered him far more ‘disabled’ than his present life as a below-the-knee amputee. There is no love lost between Colin and his leg, no long goodbyes: the most distress in his narrative comes from his operation being postponed three times.

Leggoland raises many questions about our relationships with our bodies; Leggo’s case, at least, does not fit easily within categories of ‘able-bodied’ and ‘disability’, as well as defying the idea of amputation as purely loss, rather than gain. (HM)

LEGGOLAND, Colin Leggo, The Blind Poet, until August 30th.  Please contact venue for accessibility details.


More on Colin Leggo:



Jemima Kiss in The Guardian on how artificial limb technology is changing our relationship with amputeeism.


Oliver Sacks A Leg To Stand On offers a fascinating exploration of our sense of ‘ownership’ of our limbs, and his personal experience of losing that sense:


Stelarc, performance artist working with the ‘amplification’ of the body, inc. prosthetics, cyborgism, mechanisation and implant


Abnormally Funny People, group of comedians challenging perceptions of disability and ableist attitudes:


AM I DEAD YET? Unlimited Theatre

How do you get people to talk about death and dying? Can exploring the science of death and thinking about the future of death, when death might no longer exist, provide a starting point? 

Whilst science fiction, from Dracula to Frankenstein to The Lazarus Effect, has covered such ground before, Am I Dead Yet? is inspired by the biomedical idea that 'death is not a fixed moment in time but a process that can be reversed'. 

Whilst the eye, hand and electrograph might sense, clinical death (the cessation of the heartbeat, breathing and brain function), biological death, occurs later and is visible at a microscopic level, when cells deprived of oxygen, stop functioning and begin to breakdown. Indeed biological cell death is happening in all of us, all of the time - old cells must die to make room for newer, healthier ones. This carefully orchestrated process is called programmed cell death or, cell suicide, and is a natural part of our bodies' everyday lives. 

The show's creators worked closely with Dr Andy Lockey, whose passion 'to prevent premature and untimely death' informs the show, and upfronts some of these science death facts. The Wellcome Trust, who supported the development of the show, hosted their own death exhibition exploring objects, artefacts and death rituals 'to open a window upon our enduring desire to make peace with death. Am I Dead Yet? makes light of the grim topic. A pre-show gambit, which invites us to write about our own death, is quickly dispelled as the show sparks to life and riffs off staying alive with a comedic stint featuring both performers singing in their underpants. 

These two ambulance men, one older, one novice, share stories of death and invite us to entertain the idea of death being part of everyday life. Called to a railway line, they search for body parts at the site of a suicide and, later, re-count how a cold body, a frozen body, helps to slow biological death and make it easier to bring someone back to life hours after their clinical death. A woman trained in giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR is invited to take centre stage to show us how it's done... on a dummy of course. 

Whilst thoughts of death and dying are held at bay by the scientific and comedic angle, you will leave the show singing about death. And, in fleetingly speculating on life without death, the show opens the door, albeit ajar, to the euthanasia and the 'right to die' debate. Prising this door open a little further, there is certainly room to deepen this topic, scientifically or otherwise, by connecting it to Disability politics. Liz Carr, actor, comedian and disability rights campaigner is a member of Not Dead Yet and speaks out against assisted suicide. Timely, as, this September, legislation that would give terminally ill patients the right to die is to be debated in the House of Commons; legislation that Not Dead Yet seeks to oppose. 

Whilst Liz Carr features at a main #TSOTF event to posit her provocation, 'Rather Dead Than Disabled', the creators of Am I Dead Yet? have created room for further exploration by hosting a Death Cafe, where audiences, 'often strangers, gather to eat cake and discuss death'. 

Indeed, in recent years, death becomes the Fringe, as it features in a series of shows under the banner 'Death and the Fringe'. 

And, there is much more to talk about! (EO) 

AM I DEAD YET, Unlimited Theatre, 19-30 August (various), Traverse Theatre. 

Venue is wheelchair accessible. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/am-i-dead-yet

Access Performances: British Sign Language - Fri 28 Aug, 11.15pm 

Death on The Fringe 


Wellcome Collection, Death exhibition 


Guardian Review 


A Code of Practice for the Diagnosis and Confirmation of Death http://bit.ly/1U5AIJW 

The AWARE study exploring the relationship between mind and brain during clinical death: http://bit.ly/1sj0zEk

Liz Carr 



Not Dead Yet 


Dying Matters dyingmatters.org

NHS guidelines on how to perform CPR: bit.ly/cprnhs


The promise of anonymity has always been essential to medical and social science research, recognising the often-sensitive and invasive nature of questions asked of subjects whose life experiences (and often traumas) are being recorded and annotated for the benefit of society. In Manwatching, a work-in-progress monologue, written by an anonymous woman, and performed by an unprepared male comic (who receives the script live on stage), anonymity serves a number of functions. At first glance, the anonymity of the female writer protects her from being identified with the sensitive subject matter (female sexuality, masturbation and the darkness of sexual fantasies), but very quickly extends into a much more politically potent intervention: it matters less who the author is, and matters more that any woman telling this story would be less considered than a man telling the same story. Armed with some recent research that demonstrates how women’s voices are less heard than men’s (which seems quite unsurprising but still unsettling), Manwatching extends to a conversation about science and medicine not only because of its meditation on female sexuality and female sexual behaviour, but because it reminds us to be critical of the sources that we listen to, trust, and where bias might be hidden. 

The world of science and research is laden with double blind studies and peer reviewed journals, but which voices are silenced, and if one voice doesn’t make it through these extensive processes for any reason, should they be discounted? Of course, these processes are in place to avoid false reporting or unevidenced research, but we are still conditioned only to trust certain voices. Are they only using certain tones? Certain words? Spoken with certain accents? Manwatching challenges an audience to look at the message despite the messenger.

In terms of Manwatching’s take on female sexuality, the anonymous writer talks about the very real conflicts between sexual fantasy, a world dominated by misogynistic and violent pornography, and feminist movements, all of which put pressure on women in different ways. Coupled with society’s inability to talk about female pleasure and sexual habits – without instantly turning into a medical conversation (as just happened with the flibanserin controversy) – Manwatching follows in the footsteps of sexual health researchers (Masters & Johnson, Kinsey and more whose objects/research are currently exhibited at the Wellcome’s 'Institute of Sexology', and also discussed in Masters of Sex with Lizzie Caplan) who have tried to open up conversations about sex and, particularly, female sexuality, in hopes of making the world a place where pleasure is accessed more equitably. (BL)



Earlier/Later, programmed by Paines Plough

10-21 August (various dates)

Venue is wheelchair accessible, please confirm other access needs with venue.


Voices of men 


On Flibanserin, and recent controversy


Wellcome Collection’s Institute of Sexology


Masters of Sex


On Tearoom Trade and controversial ethics of ‘anonymous’ sex research


WOMEN'S HOUR Sh!t Theatre

This fast-paced sketch cabaret charts the multitude of ridiculous, contradictory and impossible-to-escape media messages focused on women: their body, their behaviour, their health and more. Sh!t Theatre’s take-no-prisoners approach is relentless in its pace, its volume, and in its critique of an inequitable world. The evils exposed in Women’s Hour range from serious large-scales injustices (looking at rape culture, near-universal pay inequality and the sexualisation of children) to tiny injustices (gendered kinder eggs, for example) with equal fervour, demonstrating how the structures of sexism work on wildly divergent scales, and with a consistency which is frightening. The effects on women are both specific and political (calling out the ‘luxury tax’ on tampons) and emotionally, and universally overwhelming. The pace and the humour and the noise are but one of the results of the mixed messages, gender policing and pandemic inequity, and Sh!t captures it without apology.  (BL)

WOMEN'S HOUR, Sh!t Theatre, Summerhall, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30 August. Level Access. Contact venue for further information on accessibility.


She’s a princess.

Bryony Kimmings on the sexualisation of young girls:


Adrienne Truscott’s Asking for It:


On sexism and Nigella Lawson


Debate around FEMEN’s activism from 2013-2014:


Because we couldn’t believe it either: information on mink eyelashes


    THE HIDDEN WORLD OF FUNCTIONAL DISORDERS Dr Jon Stone at the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas

    Dr Stone introduces this ‘hidden world’ with this quandary: the symptoms of some functional neurological disorders (FNDs) resemble someone pretending to suffer from those symptoms. A patient might lose their tremor in one hand when they are preoccupied with a task for the other, for example – impossible for someone with MS, but symptomatic of both people with neurological disorders, and anyone consciously trembling their hand. The physical symptoms originate from the nervous symptom, thus might be alleviated when the limb is responding to reflex alone. However, this fact of the disorder presents several issues, with diagnostic practice, social stigma, and the divide between psychiatry and neurology.

    Dr Stone’s presentation highlighted a range of overlapping debates around fraudulence, disability allowance, and the stigmatisation of people living with conditions that don’t outwardly present in ways recognisable to the general public.  Stone raises our society’s current fixation with benefit fraud, and the danger of people with FNDs being refused treatment if they are thought to be ‘faking it’ (if not for benefits, then as ‘drug-seeking behaviour’ – an experience illustrated in Mel Moon’s autobiographical Fringe show Sick Girl). His professional diagnostic experience renders him confident in distinguishing between people with a disorder and possible frauds, but the separation is still very reliant on the discretion of clinicians. The talk also featured a guest outpatient of Dr Stone’s, who suffers from dissociative seizures. Her story prompted discussion of the importance of educating employers about managing staff with FNDs, although the plaudits given her for being in work had the potential to undermine the destigmatisation of benefits claimants.

    The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas offers an interesting format for public engagement and discussion with frontline science, and continues with a programme of expert speakers from myriad fields. (HM)

    THE CABARET OF DANGEROUS IDEAS, different speakers every day until August 30th, Stand in the Square. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Wheelchair-accessible toilets available.

    Full programme here: http://codi.beltanenetwork.org/codi-2015/the-shows/

    Website for Functional and Dissociative Neurological Symptoms: http://www.neurosymptoms.org

    Suzanna O’Sullivan in The Guardian on functional neurological disorders and the stigma of ‘faking it’: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/16/you-think-im-mad-the-truth-about-psychosomatic-illness

    Dr Jon Stone on functional neurological disorders, delivered to the North British Pain Association, 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4obwKD8JLU

    Access All Areas,: Live Art and Diability, NYC, from the Live Art Development Agency (LADA): http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/projects/access-all-areas-live-art-and-disability-nyc-edition/

    The Eye of the Storm Symposium, culmination of artist Catherine Long’s residency with UCL’s Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, investigating connections between the body, movement and neurology: http://expectationviolation.com

    TSOTF Diagnosis of Sick Girl by Mel Moon, who was accused of drug-seeking behaviour and reflects on rare conditionshttp://thesickofthefringe.com/diagnoses/2015/8/9/sick-girl-mel-moon

    CRUSOE Gavin Robertson

    Finding meaning in a world which is seemingly disconnected, unfair and often impossible to negotiate is at the backbone of Gavin Robertson’s solo performance. Crusoe draws upon scientific theory about the universe and looking at the physical effects of both loneliness and illness, with Robertson flipping before four distinct, but interconnected men. The interconnectedness of the characters is resonant of themes also discussed by Simon McBurney, both in his Open Meeting with Sick of the Fringe last week, and currently in The Encounter, which looks at the impossibility of one man being an island. The piece’s title (not referred to by name in the work) recalls the journey of the stranded Robinson Crusoe, one man finding meaning amongst the solitude – and here Robertson mines the quiet and the isolation for a greater understanding of how we connect and disconnect in a contemporary age, and the political and transformative potential for connecting with others (and with ourselves). While Alzheimer’s plays a pivotal role in one of the character’s lives, the work is less about forgetting and the difficulty of forgetting (as might be seen in Still Alice, out last year), and more about larger philosophical questions about both what exists in place of memory, and how we must look closer in order to see connection between ideas and people which may not be obvious at first glance. (BL) 

    CRUSOE, Gavin Robertson, 8-28 August, ZOO. Venue is not wheelchair accessible. Check with venue about other access requirements. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/crusoe

    More about Gavin Robertson: http://www.gavinrobertson.com/

    Simon McBurney in The Encounter: http://www.eif.co.uk/blog/2015/close-encounters-herald-theatre-critic-neil-cooper-complicite%E2%80%99s-encounter#.VdR7p1xVikp

    Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner’s The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiPbr2V30NQ


    Founded and produced by a disabled and non-disabled duo, this is the tenth anniversary show by Abnormally Funny People; a group of disabled comedians, all of whom are regulars on the comedy circuit. They always have a 'token' non-disabled comedian who is never allowed to fulfil their role and is only invited to be involved in small, minor and fairly insignificant ways, which refers to the way many disabled people are asked to participate in society. For the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the token non-disabled comics comprise of well-known acts. The standard announcements over the PA before the show, telling us to switch off mobile phones, and warnings about strobe lighting, are intentionally subversive, and we are told if we want soft, sentimental and inspirational stories about disability, then we should watch the Paralympics instead. This gives us the audience an idea of what is to follow, and from the beginning we are encouraged to laugh and find disability humorous (in the context of this show at least!). The song accompanying the entrance of the comics, is 'What's That Coming Over The Hill Is It A Monster' as they all take their places.

    The three comedians sit on the stage throughout the show, with the token non-disabled one sitting off stage and only making appearances when invited. While the line-up for Abnormally Funny people is rolling, the line-up we saw was Steve Day, Laurence Clark and Tanyalee Davies, with Richard Vranch filling in as the token non-disabled comic. Steve Day, who has been with the company from the beginning, introduces himself as Britain's only deaf comedian... 'or if there are any others he hasn't heard.' This along with jokes that include misunderstandings occurring during lip-reading and wrongly written sub-titles, along with a couple of political gags, sets the tone for the evening. Next up is Laurence Clark who refers to his speech with the opening line 'no I'm not drunk', going on to tell anecdotes about people assuming that as a wheelchair user with Cerebral Palsy, people assume his children are there to look after him, rather than the other way around. Laurence uses a power point presentation as part of his act, with photos and other images to illustrate his jokes, some of which are about other instances of infantilisation, a common occurrence for many adults with visible impairments.  

    An improv section takes place, compered by token non-disabled comic Vranch, who is welcomed onstage with comments such as 'you're so brave' and other patronising statements often experienced by disabled people. The improv involves a small amount of audience participation, and having one of the 3 people taking part being deaf, presented an authentic representation of the mis-understandings and pressures of time that can occur in daily life, when things are not heard accurately and people are impatient with repeating words (all managed with good humour in this situation!). The third and final act up is Tanyalee Davies, who refers to responses she gets from children, to her physicality as someone of small stature. Tanyalee's material centres around sexuality and desire, and she jokingly flirts with a young male member of the audience, labelling herself as a 'cougar'. There is plenty of amusing banter between the cast throughout the show, riffing off each other and jokingly insulting each other, particularly in relation to mis-translating on purpose or saying things they know Steve Day cannot hear. Abnormally Funny people is/are incisive and cutting, and has, for 10 years, been challenging stereotypes and expectations while delivery high-quality comedy. Happy Anniversary. (CL)


    ABNORMALLY FUNNY PEOPLE, Stand in the Square, 6-30 August

    Palantyped Shows: (live subtitling) on 11th, 16th and 28th

    Audio Description can be arranged upon request. Please contact: info@abnormallyfunnypeople.com

    Wheelchair accessible (one accessible toilet behind the bar in the square)



    More about Abnormally Funny People:


    More about Laurence Clark


    A clip of Tanyalee Davis


    A clip of Steve Day


    IDIOTS Caligula's Alibi


    Idiots offers an absurdist retelling of the life of Dostoyevsky and the narrative of his novel The Idiot. It opens with the fictive setting of a council estate in purgatory where the epileptic writer has been claiming disability allowance for 150 years. The topicality of the ‘scroungers’ debate, with welfare reforms forcing disabled people to jump through more and more administrative hoops to ‘prove’ their disability, is here mined for comedy; the suited Bureaucrat tuts over his clipboard as the manic Fyodor attempts to feign seizures. Although this 21st century theme loses prominence as the piece continues, it does connect Idiots with the wider conversation on benefits and living with disability in modern Britain. These issues are at the heart of work by artists such as Romina Puma, Touretteshero and Lost Voice Guy, and taken up by disabled activists such as Liz Carr (part of TSOTF events programme). (HM)

    IDIOTS, Caligula’s Alibi, Pleasance Courtyard (Beside), until August 31st. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Hearing Loop available.


    More on Caligula’s Alibi


    In-depth analysis of Dostoyevsky’s epilepsy from ScienceBlogs


    Diagnosis of Romina Puma’s Not Disabled… Enough


    Lost Voice Guy




    On disability benefits and ‘proof’


    Interview with Liz Carr in The Guardian. Liz’s talk ‘Rather Dead Than Disabled’ will be a TSOTF main event on Aug 28.


    BACK TO BLACKBRICK Patch of Blue

    In Patch of Blue’s adaptation of Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s teen novel Back to Blackbrick, we follow Cosmo as he struggles to come to terms with his grandfather Kevin’s mental decline from Alzheimer’s disease. Cosmo’s reactions chime with a younger audience: amusement at his most comedic confusions (peeing in the dishwasher), anger at how others infantilise ‘the smartest man [he] knows’, and teary frustration at his inexorable decline – particularly the pain when he forgets Cosmo’s name. 

    From this familial, topical, widely recognised foundation, Back to Blackbrick builds a fantastical structure of adventure and time-travel, as Cosmo meets and assists his 16-year-old granddad in Blackbrick Abbey. Though the piece entertains theatrically, Fitzgerald's plotline doesn’t offer an opportunity for either Cosmo or the audience to reconcile themselves medically with the reality of Alzheimer’s as an incurable, debilitating disease. Cosmo is (perhaps fantastically) able to cure his granddad’s dementia, thus saving him from the Doctor, who appears to be threatening to put Kevin in a home unnecessarily and/or without the family’s consent. 

    Alzheimer’s has seen a lot of representation in theatre and the arts in recent years, yet all too often these portraits follow patterns of either the inevitable tragedy of decline, or the impossible happy-ending of cure. However, other projects, such as Magic Me's 'Cocktails in Care Homes', aimed at reconfiguring the arts’ relationship with people with dementia, use models of emotional engagement to change the perception of the disease from the purely, and reductively, tragic. (HM)

    BACK TO BLACKBRICK, Patch of Blue, Pleasance Courtyard (Cellar), until August 31st. Hearing Loop available. Unfortunately, this venue is not Wheelchair Accessible. Please contact venue for further details. 


    More on Patch of Blue:



    Josh Lacey in The Guardian reviews original novel by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald


    Info on Magic Me’s ‘Cocktails in Care Homes’ project


    The Lion’s Face opera about Alzheimer’s (2010)


    Info on forthcoming Magic Me artist residencies in Anchor Care Homes, feat. Punchdrunk, Upswing, Duckie & Lois Weaver



    This two-handed drama charts the descent of art lecturer Kenny Roach from being a lad who likes a drink at the pub, to being an alcoholic whose family, career and life are ruined through addiction. The story makes a tenuous link between creativity and the potential for substance abuse, mapping the career of an artist which can be financially unstable, filled with ego, and pursuant of something beyond reality. Such territory has been very insightfully covered by Bryony Kimmings (7 Day Drunk), Paper Birds (Thirsty) and by Duckie’s Slaughterhouse Club (their project with Vauxhall-based homeless and vulnerable men). Still holding firmly to a male protagonist, the effects of alcoholism on friends and family are startling clear from his female partner, a role (in life) which is often thankless and uneasy. (BL/SG)

    THE COLOURS OF KENNY ROACH, Peppermint Muse, 7-29 August, theSpace@ Niddry St. Venue is wheelchair accessible, please contact venue for other accessibility needs.


    On 7 Day Drunk – Bryony Kimmings


    The Paper Birds’ Thirsty


    Duckie’s Slaughterhouse Project



    Normally Abnormal is a prime example of the fascinating (if sometimes uneasy) overlapping of highly personal, vulnerable, issue-based comedy with the young white male stereotype of stand-up. Chawner guides his audience through his past nine years’ experience of anorexia with a charmingly atypical ‘laddishness’ which invites interrogation of our cultural discomfiture with the sick, skinny, or ‘weak’ male. 

    Chawner defies the stereotype of the anorexic – the skeletal teenage girl – whilst his comedy remains grounded in conventional expectations for the male body. Although he wants us to laugh at the reactions people have had to his illness – parents, friends, colleagues – the piece still works to highlight how we struggle to open dialogue around male sickness. Do cultural pressures – around male emotionality, physicality, self-confidence – deny men the space to talk about mental illness, eating disorders, self-harm or self-hate? As Chawner relays, so long as suicide is the most common cause of death for men under forty, it remains crucial that we make room for such conversations. (HM)

    NORMALLY ABNORMAL, Dave Chawner, Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, until Aug 30th. Unfortunately, this venue is not wheelchair accessible. 


    More on Dave Chawner


    Men Get Eating Disorders Too, UK charity


    beat, eating disorder charity


    the vacuum cleaner, artist working with lived experience of mental health


    Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn’s latest piece Fake It ‘Til You Make It, exploring Grayburn’s experience of clinical depression


    BLIND MAN'S SONG Theatre Re

    When we close our eyes, what do we see? Theatre Re propose that closing our eyes makes it ‘seem that everything becomes possible’. In their beautifully crafted Blind Man’s Song, narrated wordlessly with physical theatre and dance, the blind protagonist conjures an epic love story through his music – either from memory or imagination. 

    The piece is beautifully constructed through the technical skill and restraint of performers Guillaume Pigé and Selma Roth, and the moving live solo-symphony from Alex Judd. The storyline relies on tropes about living without sight: the protagonist’s tale of romance juxtaposes his apparent bitter solitude, moving from bed to piano in a single room, a prime example of the amplification of the idea of the blind person’s ‘dark isolation’ into the archetype of the blind musical savant, only able to live through his talent. How can we expand our representations of blind people beyond the super-auditory ‘supercrip’, the black-glasses pianist? 

    The piece creates sensations for the audience intended to conjure some aspects of the experience of blindness. Sounds from the moving set or scraping walking-stick are looped and repeated beyond the visual stimuli, creating a sensory dissonance. Darkness and haze abound. This aesthetic begs the politic: how do those of us who can see mythologise the experience of blindness? And how might we allow for such issues around representation in the face of pieces such as Blind Man's Song, the skill and aesthetic of which casts a spell of such undeniable affect and intensity. (HM)

    BLIND MAN’S SONG, Theatre Re, until August 30th, Pleasance Dome, King Dome. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Hearing Loop available.


    More on Theatre Re:


    TED talks on assistive technology for blind people:


    Theatre Re’s dance practice hails from the work of

    DV8 https://www.dv8.co.uk

    and Complicite – whose The Enounter is at Edinburgh International Festival


    Comic Jamie Macdonald, at EdFringe this year, on life as a blind person

    HAIR PEACE Victoria Melody

    Hair extensions are a painful undertaking, Victoria Melody informs us in the opening of Hair Peace. They are heavy, and pull at your scalp. The glue hardens and pricks you, making it impossible to sleep. More discomfiting still, is the insight Melody offers us into the human hair industry itself. As a completely unregulated business, it is worth millions – Britain (as the 3rd biggest importer of human hair in the world) offers easy import, as hair is considered a beauty accessory, rather than human remains.

    Using her self-effacing onstage persona and a Louis Theroux-esque transnational video-diary of her research missions to Russia and India (two of the world’s biggest human hair exporters), Melody unweaves the dodgy practices of this severely-overlooked industry. She identifies the profiteering middlemen – and they are wholly men – who are exploiting the vulnerability of women as suppliers (ignorant of either the selling of their hair when cut for religious reasons, or the price it can go for in the West) and the vanity of women as consumers, ignorant (often by choice) of the source of their extensions. Indeed, hair extensions have received a fraction of the ethical attention as food, clothing, or other parts of the cosmetic industry Though we worry about animal testing, FairTrade, and conditions of labour, we seem able to forget entirely about the circumstances of the anonymous individual who donates years worth of a (potentially core) part of their aesthetic identity for our three months of vanity.

    Melody, however, is careful to avoid judgment. Her performed research (a form echoed by the duo Sh!t Theatre) provokes audible shock from the audience: the Indian temple which makes £22m in selling on its tonsured hair, or the woman who sells her dead mother’s plait for £5. However, as Melody introduces herself as a nationwide beauty pageant contestant, she embraces the self-obsessed, ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype as the vehicle for Hair Peace’s exploration. Although her wigs change color, length and style, her persona stays the same. (SPOILER ALERT AHEAD) In the end, her video interviews with friend Neeharika (whose head was shaved at the aforementioned temple), and sister Beverley (long-time hair extension connoisseur) defy the archetypes of the ethnic victim and the ignorant Western consumer. Neeharika feels stronger without her long hair – knowing people are only seeing her; Beverley doesn’t feel herself without the extensions, despite them not being a part of her. Melody reconciles both these women’s experiences as consensual participants on either side of an exploitative industry that connects one individual to another in the most literal sense. (HM/EW)

    HAIR PEACE, Victoria Melody, Pleasance Courtyard (Below), AUG 12-16, 18-23, 25-31. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Hearing Loop available.


    More on Victoria Melody


    See Sh!t Theatre for similar mix of live art/comedy/issue-based research, inc. Guinea Pigs on Trial, looking into Phase One medical trials


    Homa Khaleeli in The Guardian on the hair trade