Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Humans Inc" - Edinburgh Fringe 2013

'Futuristic-good-cop-rescues-bad-corporation's-secret-test-subject-while-falling-in-love-and-defeating-OTT-Bond-villain' plot aside, Humans Inc is actually a rather good show.  Stylish, imaginative and with a bit of a swagger. I didn't even mind the elements that sailed perilously close to the dreaded 'Dance & Physical Theatre' section of the Fringe programme...

The seven strong cast deliver a very polished set of performances but there's a bit of a difference in tone that hampers the show as a whole.  Jonathan Stephenson has a genuine stage presence and plays Isaac, our cop-having-a-bad-day with a level of sci-fi gravitas last seen circa Blade Runner, while the rest of the cast camp things up Galaxy Quest style.  Individually, the performances are excellent but the contrasting styles didn't sit well for me.  The exception being Lily Levin's gloriously dead pan take on Isaac's wife which comes closest to matching Stephenson's approach.   I get that 'serious' sci-fi is a hard sell to an audience, but the creativity of the company displayed here suggests that The Alchemist are capable of pulling it off.

A fun bit of fluff to fill a gap in a schedule - and the venue in C-1 is as comfy as you're likely to get at the Fringe this side of 2440.

Humans Inc runs at C Chambers Street at 18:10 until 26 August


"Bite the Bullet" - Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Back in the early nineties Sandy Nelson & Keith Warwick's fictional Proclaimers-esque duo "The Telltales" achieved minor chart success in the UK but were a surprise No.1 sensation in Japan.  21 years after their pop career fizzled out, they are reuniting to perform at a ceremony in their honour in Tokyo.  The show cuts between the present day and pivotal moments from the group's past, featuring a number of songs along the way.

Some shows at the Fringe have actors doing a very passable job of playing musicians, but Nelson & Warwick are undoubtedly the real deal - and should really be selling CDs post show in the foyer. But while the music is a strength, the show's desire to establish its 'muso' credentials works against it.  This was my era and I struggled with some of the references. There's certainly a danger that cultural touchstones written for its original incarnation as part of Oran Mor's "A Play, A Pie & A Pint" in Glasgow simply won't transfer to the Fringe's more diverse audience.  But that's a minor quibble - the music, comedy and characters are universal.

Nelson & Warwick may play up the comedy, but they are equally comfortable as the tone shifts to more serious considerations of friendship and their post celebrity lives. Kirstin McLean completes the cast with a fine performance in a number of roles including the band's manager Zara. With the exception of an unnecessary filler scene in Norway, the show is slick and tight; never feeling anything like its one hour runtime.

Bite the Bullet runs at the Assembly Rooms until 25 August.