“If London was an alien city, Edinburgh was another planet” ― Jess Walter, 'Beautiful Ruins'

It was my second year at the highly acclaimed annual Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. It takes a while to get to grips with the lengthy layout of the festival, and you can expect to do miles of walking. The city is overrun with tourists. It’s a busy month indeed, and there is so much to see and do. Before you even begin, you may have ploughed your way through the thick, glossy, pink ‘Unboring’ Fringe brochure which advertises realms of comedy, theatre, music and exhibitions, dance and so on. It’s a pretty daunting task selecting just a few events to go to. It can also be expensive do, but if you’re lucky you can find your favourite show at the Half Price Hut (or even a free show or two). If you become a ‘Friend of the Fringe’ for £25 some shows are two for the price of one.

So, a couple of fun-filled days and nights were assured, but first of all we went on a trip down the famously colourful Royal Mile. It’s always guaranteed to be entertaining, and gives you an insight into what’s on offer. A array of diverse characters await, from mime artists to actors handing out obligatory flyers or tempting you with short extracts of performances, to musicians and street statues (remember to drop a pound or two in their bucket). So, with snippets of the entertainment ahead, just pick your favourites, grab a flyer and away you go on your mission to be entertained.

And here are my highlights of the Fringe….


CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN – ‘10’ - THE MUSIC HALL, ASSEMBLY ROOMS 15/08/14

“A courageous and singular performer, Camille is one of the most gifted interpreters of narrative songs yet to appear” – ‘The Irish Times’

Camille O’Sullivan is someone that I have eagerly waited to see for a couple of years. She is now in her tenth year of the Fringe, and this has to be the best show on the circuit – she is undoubtedly, without question, THE Queen of the fringe. The Assembly Music Hall was packed out in readiness for something magical, and she didn’t disappoint. I was positioned on the front row, not wanting to miss the emotional intensity, which has so often been written about her shows.

The stage was set out beautifully, with a single white spotlight onto a table housing an assortment of treasures – a red hat, battered suitcase, glitter ball, glass of red wine, candles, rabbit night light, red glitter shoes, sequinned beret. Vintage party dresses are hung on the back wall, and the singer’s mic was waiting on a crocheted-squared granny blanket thrown onto a chair. It was time for the show to begin and the beguiling Miss O’ Sullivan gracefully glided down the front row, dressed all in black, with tassels, and a hooded cloak, holding a candle, shaking hands with each person at the front. It was a lovely touch, and a unique start to what transpired to be an incredibly enthralling show.

The first song that set the scene was my favourite Nick Cave song, ‘God is in the House’. It was a wonderful atmospheric moment, almost spiritual, when all time seemed to stand still. It really is hard to distract your eyes away from her beautiful expressions when she is singing, as you want to drown in every drop of sentiment.

She remained in character mode throughout all her adaptations of narrative songs by artists from the likes of Nick Cave, David Bowie, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Radiohead and Bob Dylan. The musicians were completely in tune with her and mastered each and every song perfectly. Camille has a very intimate way with the audience. She is a natural comic, dramatic, playful, sensual and flirtatious. No one could give a more fitting tribute to these artists than Camille. She isn’t merely a cover artist. She makes the songs completely her own.

At one stage during ‘Look Mummy No Hands’ she sang about being a child. Then later as a mother, she had tears streaming down her face. Such was the power of her unleashed emotions. It was hard to remain tear free. The whole audience was in complete silence. A lively, rip-roaring version of Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream’ saw her turn into a free-spirited goddess, with her tresses flowing free. And justice was served on Cave’s ‘Red Light, Right Hand’. As the stage lights turned red, we were again served up with another facet to Camille. A staggering acapella version of ‘Amsterdam’, a Jacques Brel song made famous by Scott Walker and Bowie, was breathtaking. We witnessed a very humorous version of Tom Waits’ ‘God’s Away On Business’, in which she had a madcap session and, while prancing around the stage, donned a woolly hat and a mask and pulled maniac facial expressions. It was such fun, and had everyone laughing along. She closed the show, which was slightly running over time, with a beautiful Leonard Cohen ballad, ‘Anthem’ “I’d like to sing a song by my favourite singer. Hope I can do it justice”, she said – and she certainly did that. It was over far too soon. She blew kisses to the audience and slowly made her way off the stage and out of the hall, still singing quietly, till it was barely a whisper and she was gone….

There were so many spectacular moments, and there is no doubt she needs to be seen live to experience the full Camille experience. All of human life was here - compassion, sadness, joy, darkness, passion and not forgetting humour. Throughout the show she rolled on the floor, jumped and darted around the stage, and made playful meowing cat noises to the audience, who meowed back in adoration. She has the rare ability to connect with the audience and I am certain everyone fell under her spell, as she manages to get under your skin and into your very soul.

At the end of this emotional rollercoaster show, Camille was waiting to greet her adoring fans, taking time to chat to each and everyone, giving them her personal touch. She is a down-to-earth person, genuinely interested in people and what they had to say. I know I will be back for more. I haven’t stopped talking about it since to anyone who will listen. Camille O’ Sullivan, you are one amazing superstar!!


ANOTHER F*CKING VARIETY SHOW – WITH LILI SCALA, @ PLEASANCE DOME 16/08/14

“There’s no business like show business” – Irving Berlin

It was Saturday night and the area around the Pleasance Dome was buzzing with a party atmosphere. The queue was snaking around the venue, for the sold out show and people were eagerly anticipating a great line up.

The variety show had short vignettes from various eclectic artists on the fringe circuit. Of course, all were introduced by the most glamorous hostess with the mostest Lili La Scala, in between giving us a few comedic sketches and songs, such as Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison’ with Tom Barnes on piano, who was given a little light teasing from Lili.

It was all a little bit risqué, naughty, and damn cheeky to boot. It was all good fun though, and, with something for everyone, you got a sample of other Fringe acts, such as Harris Tweed-suited juggler Mat Ricardo, the hilarious twirly-moustached King of Boylesque performer Russell Bruner, who did a bold strip as his finale, tucking his male bits where the sun don’t shine. The handsome young magician Ben Hart known as ‘The Vanishing Boy’ entertained us with his tricks. Dan Nightingale was a very funny comedian from Manchester, with some original gags and self-deprecating humour. There was Todd Various. a comedic mime artist, and the only other female performer Havana Hurricane, who burst onto the set like a buxom Marilyn Monroe, performing a cheeky little striptease number, twirling her nipple tassels, and gyrating like an explosive stick of dynamite. Finally the show was almost over. There was just one more artist, and it was the turn of Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, (formerly known as Jim Burke of' 'Collapsed Lung') a dapper dressed, eccentric English Gent, with a huge, curly moustache. He performed what he calls "Chap-Hop", which is a kind of hip hop rap style but with a banjo. It was a unique little sketch which had everyone singing along to some well known songs. He was a modern day George Formby indeed.

The audience participated, (and some got singled out for some mild teasing, especially if they spilt their drink, not once but twice!), but they roared with laughter and cheered and clapped. If you want some quick fire saucy humour delivered with panache, then this show would have been for you. It was fantastic!


VICTORIAN VICES – THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (A MUSICAL) @ THE SPACE 18/08/14

“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.” Oscar Wilde – ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is a favourite story of mine by the inimitable Oscar Wilde, It is the tale of a young man having a beautiful portrait painted and, led on by Lord Henry Wotton, surrendering his soul through it to the devil to keep himself youthful. Therefore it was a no brainer that I wanted to see this musical, which I found out about via meeting one of the cast of the show from the acting company ‘Another Soup’ on the Royal Mile.

Initially we were greeted at the door by a Victorian couple, who took our tickets, then escorted us into the room where we had to stand (yes, stand) for the duration of the performance. The cast, who were, all dressed in authentic Victorian outfits, were waiting, and performed a song, with various sets laid out around the room (drawing room, bedroom, barbers and den of iniquity). This was a very different theatre production, in which, as the audience was standing, it became a part of the whole performance. Initially most people stood around looking a bit bemused, but once it got underway they moved to the areas where the actors were speaking. The original musical aspect was beautifully arranged, intertwined with the glorious almost angelic vocals; the whole production of the tale of decadence was spellbinding. My only criticisms were that the room was a bit too dimly lit, (however, this was the Victorian era), and occasionally we couldn’t get a view of the performers because people were standing in the way.

It was incredible to hear Wilde’s humorous lines brought to life by both the incredible actor Jonathon Parsonage, who played the charming but devious Lord Henry Wotton, and Michael Yates, who excelled as the handsome and egocentric devil-possessed eighteen-year-old Dorian Gray. As it was an interactive show, occasionally the actors touched you, gazed at you, or spoke to you. It was truly strange, but it worked. There were moments of suggested eroticism and debauchery, which were all dealt with very sensitively. All the actors involved performed to a high degree of professionalism, and I couldn’t fault them. When the play ended after the dramatic demise of Mr Gray, we were all silently led out of the room, with no words exchanged, no stage bows, or traditional applauds.

It was an unusual alternative take on the play, but didn’t lose sight of the original script. Well done to all involved! It was an incredibly entertaining evening.

They have been longlisted for the NSDF Edinburgh Festival Awards 2014, and shortlisted for the Musical Theatre Network Awards 2014! – good luck to them.

That’s my lot on the Fringe, but be certain. I will be back for more in 2015.


Photos by Melanie Smith
www.mudkissphotography.co.uk
















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