Month: August 2016

Edfest Bouquets 2016




It’s been another amazing August for us at Bouquets & Brickbats. We’re exhausted after a month of non-stop theatre and comedy! We have seen some absolutely fantastic stuff, covering a huge range of ideas. Here’s our pick of the best we’ve seen at this year’s Fringe:

Drama Bouquets

  1. Neontopia / Wales Millennium Centre – A Good Clean Heart by Alun Saunders
  2. Aurora Nova – The Blind Date Project by Bojana Novakovic
  3. Rainbow Class by Vivienne Acheampong
  4. Gaggle Babble / National Theatre Wales – Wonderman by Daf James
  5. Something for the Weekend – Royal Vauxhall by Desmond O’Connor

Monologue Bouquets

  1. NJC Productions – The Way the City Ate the Stars by Will Greenway
  2. George Dillon – Stunning the Punters (& Other Stories) by Berkoff, Sproat and Dostoevsky
  3. Lorenzo Novani – Cracked Tiles by Lorenzo Novani
  4. Impi Theatre Company – The South Afreakins by Robyn Paterson
  5. Berk’s Nest – Vaudeville by Tom Neenan

Stand-up Comedy Bouquets

  1. Bridget Christie – Mortal
  2. Sarah Kendall – Shaken 
  3. Loyiso Gola – Dude, Where’s My Lion?
  4. Garrett Millerick – The Dreams Stuff is Made Of
  5. John Robertson – Arena Spectacular

‘Ones to Watch Out For’ Bouquets

  1. Phosporos Theatre – Dear Home Office
  2. Chris Dugdale – Full Circle
  3. Flabbergast Theatre – Tatterdemalion
  4. Teateri – Evil by Jesper Arin
  5. Amy Howerska – Smashcat

Amy Howerska: Smashcat



Gilded Balloon@The CountingHouse

Amy Howerska is on top form. It’s the final night of the Fringe, but she’s as lively and sparky as ever, and this is an excellent set. There’s less of a theme than last year’s Sasspot; but that doesn’t seem to matter. This year’s show is loosely based around the idea of growing up, of realising that behaviours that mark us out as funny and appealing when we’re young start to seem tragic as we get older.

She’s dressed as Freddie Mercury (from the I Want To Break Free video), complete with greasepaint moustache, and she totally manages to rock the look.

There’s a sense of scattershot  about the show as Howerska hops nimbly from one idea to the next, from David Bowie’s Labyrinth, to her sister’s similarity to Nessa from Gavin and Stacey, but it all flows effortlessly and it’s laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end. Haverska has oodles of charisma and a self-confidence that’s really very appealing indeed.

As we make our way outside, fireworks are lighting up the sky to mark the end of the Fringe, but, we decide, Amy’s show was a better place to be.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield




Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

I was attracted to this show mostly because I liked the look of the poster, and also because we had a spare slot to fill on the final day of the Fringe. I’m glad we took the opportunity, because it’s really rather good.

The third show we’ve seen this year that uses the device of the portmanteau, it relates the story of former author, turned creative writing tutor, Alex Crowley (Andrew Paul), who, after an interval of twenty one years, is finally readying himself to release a sequel to his debut collection, Darktales. Crowley has invited a former student, Jack Langton (Sean Ward), to interview him about the upcoming release for the online blog he produces. But their conversation is interrupted from time to time by the interjections of Lucy (Carrie Marx), another former pupil – is she real or merely a figment of Jack’s imagination?

The show is beautifully put together, with chilling sound and lighting effects and Tim Arthur’s labyrinthine storyline will keep you guessing right up to the very end. Andrew Paul is particularly good as the repellent Max and, though the story falters a little with the appearance of Jack, it soon recovers and builds towards a delightfully satisfying ‘twist in the tail’ conclusion .

It’s too late now, of course, to trumpet its presence on the Fringe, but should it turn up at a venue near you, take the opportunity to see it. It’s an effective and inventive chiller.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Sofie Hagen: Shimmer Shatter



Liquid Rooms Annexe, Edinburgh

Last year, Sofie Hagen picked up the gong for best newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe, so you might have expected her to go for a bigger venue this time around – but no, she’s back on the Free Fringe at the Liquid Rooms again, and she’s at the door to greet us as we go in, a nice touch. Tonight is her last show of the festival, so she gives away a couple of tartan blankets, telling us that she won’t be needing them again.

She launches into her set. This year, it’s mostly about her difficult ‘friendship’ with her father, her problems with relationships, and her uncanny ability to suck the life out of any party she attends, mostly because her idea of small talk is to discuss the life of the serial killer, Ed Gein.

It’s interesting material, but Hagen’s real appeal is as a feminist icon, somebody who refuses to kowtow to the popular conceptions of what a woman ought to be. I find myself laughing along throughout the set and occasionally applauding when she makes a particularly telling point. All right, she might not yet have the power and pertinence of somebody like Sarah Kendall, but she’s still only young and has plenty of time to develop as a performer. Meanwhile, the quaintly titled Shimmer Shatter will do nicely.

As we leave, she’s at the door with the collection bucket and a box of badges, still smiling – and no doubt pleased to have made it through another three weeks of Festival madness in one piece.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

Dear Home Office



Underbelly  Med Quad, Edinburgh

Theatre is a diverse art form that serves many purposes, but few of its incarnations are as affecting and important as a project like Dear Home Office.

It’s the story of unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in the UK, and it’s performed with touching vulnerability by eight refugee boys from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and Albania. And it’s hard to watch.

The play tells us about ‘Tariq’, whose story is an amalgamation of the performers’ own experiences, blended with fictional accounts, all developed in devising workshops. It’s cleverly structured, so that the actors’ inexperience doesn’t matter; their artless performances make the piece utterly compelling. This is not about polished delivery or exquisite drama skills; it’s a raw and truthful exposé – and it’s a vital piece of work.

We hear of desperate parents, who believe that their children’s survival depends on sending them away; of young boys crossing continents as fugitives, fighting to survive in an unforgiving world. Children who have experienced more horrors than most adults ever will, being questioned and disbelieved. These kids have endured so much – and they’re the lucky ones. Because they have the support of Kate Duffy and the Afghan Association Paiwand, who mentor unaccompanied minors and assist them into education, housing, etc., as well as advocating for them. And they have Phosphoros Theatre, who have helped them share their stories with a wider audience.

I cried most of the way through this play. But my tears don’t help anyone at all. I need to do something, because this really matters. There are thousands of children in the same situation, and we can’t stand by and let them suffer.

“Donate, volunteer, lobby, talk… Challenge preconceptions.” That’s what I intend to do.

5 stars

Susan Singfield

Cracked Tiles



Spotlites, Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Fringe has nearly come to an end and yet, there are still some fabulous shows to be caught before it breathes its last for another year.

Take Cracked Tiles, for example. This beautifully crafted monologue, written and performed by Lorenzo Novani, is the downbeat tale of a young man who inherits a Glasgow fish and chip shop from his father Aldo. The place has been there for decades and Aldo spent every spare hour there, so much so, that as a child, Riccardo barely ever saw him. Now, after years living away from home, he returns to discover that what everyone regarded as ‘Aldo’s little goldmine’ is anything but that. One look through the accounts suggests that things have been going downhill for years…

This play is about the fractured relationship between a father and son. It has the unmistakable ring of truth about it and Novani is quite staggering as Riccardo, as he switches effortlessly from character to character, portraying old Italian-Scottish relatives and cantankerous customers with ease.

The play’s heartbreaking conclusion had me in floods of tears. If you’re looking for something special to finish off the Fringe on a high note, please consider this little gem. It’s an absolute delight.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Screw Your Courage (or The Bloody Crown!)



Greenside@infirmary, Edinburgh

Ever since she was a little girl, Brooklyn-based actress Klahr Thorsen has been obsessed with the role of Lady Macbeth. In this cleverly constructed monologue, she shares key scenes in her life from childhood to the present day, highlighting her various attempts along the way, to achieve her heartfelt ambition of playing Lady M. She also impersonates a selection of colourful characters – her father, who first gives her the idea of being an actress, her troubled mother, obsessed with solving some mathematical problem, and the macho actor from college who was her first leading man. The whole piece is linked by a clever rewrite of Macbeth’s witchy opening, where Shakespeare’s poetry is modified to suggest that the character is actually commenting on Thorsen’s progress.

It’s confidently acted (particularly the speeches lifted directly from the Scottish play) and it’s also apparent that Thorsen really has explored every aspect of her chosen character. The story loses a little impetus when she encounters a mysterious (and oddly accented) Scotsman on a train, but soon regains its momentum, to take us on to a satisfying conclusion.

This is nicely done and offers an unusual twist on the plethora of Shakespearian pieces currently showing on the Fringe.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

A Good Clean Heart



Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh

A Good Clean Heart by Alun Saunders is a bilingual play, told half in English and half in Welsh (subtitles in both languages are projected onto the front of a bus stop, perfectly integrated into a dazzling, at times frenetic, multi-media collage).

It’s Hefin (James Ifan)’s eighteenth birthday, and his adoptive parents , Gwilym and Ros, give him an envelope. It’s a letter from a brother he’s long forgotten; they were separated by social services when Hefin was very small. And Jay (Oliver Wellington) has always wanted to reconnect with the little boy he was so heartbroken to lose.

They’ve both got problems; Hefin’s angry outbursts cause him trouble at home and at school, and Jay is tagged and under curfew after spending months in gaol. And, when they meet, things start to get very complicated indeed.

I loved this play; both performances are exemplary, and Mared Swain’s lively direction makes for an exciting, kinetic production, which never loses pace.

The writing is sympathetic; this isn’t a judgemental play. Hefin, Jay, Raymande, Ros and Reann: they’re all badly flawed, but they’ll be okay. They’re real. They’re just doing their best to get along.

And this is a wonderful, heart-warming production.

5 stars

Susan Singfield

The South Afreakins



Spotlites, Edinburgh

The South Afreakins is a duologue performed as a monologue, a two-hander expertly performed by a single actor. And, my word, it’s really very good indeed.

Robyn Paterson is a playwright and actor, and she’s clearly talented in both fields. This piece, inspired by her parents’ immigration from South Africa to New Zealand, is all about displacement and belonging, and the difficult relationship so many immigrants have with ‘home’ (is it where you live or where you’re from, where you fall in love or where you lose someone?). We see Gordon and Helene, newly retired, scared by the violence erupting in South Africa, and keen to start a new life elsewhere. New Zealand appeals to Helene far more than to Gordon; he wants to stay where his roots are. But Helene refuses to live in fear; she knows she’ll be poorer in New Zealand – no servants for her there! – but she wants to live a peaceful life. And Gordon loves her, of course he does, and so he goes along.

Paterson switches effortlessly between characters; a simple shift in the body language, a tilt of the head or a shrug of the shoulders, and we know exactly who she is supposed to be. It’s captivating; we are completely drawn into their story, and our emotions are wrapped up in theirs.

It seems a simple tale, but it covers a lot. There’s a lightness of touch which means that, although it’s not the focus of the piece, Helene’s instinctive racism is exposed, as well as her wish to deny it, even to herself. We know that the violence that frightens Helene is that of the oppressed rising up against the oppressor, and we know that Helene represents the oppressor here. But she is just a woman, living the life she was born into, coping, like we all cope, with the cards we are dealt.

It’s a subtle, thought-provoking piece, that has us laughing and then stops us short. I highly recommend you catch it while you can. It’s only here in Edinburgh for three more days!

4.8 stars

Susan Singfield




Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh

Who is Yuri? It’s a good question and one that lies at the heart of this entertaining and unsettling farce from August012, in association with Chapter Arts Centre and the National Theatre Wales. Maybe he’s exactly what he appears to be – a teenage Russian orphan, discovered by Adele (Carys Eleri) sitting amidst the pretty Christmas things in Lidl, all ready to be taken home. Or perhaps he symbolises the inevitable fears and anxieties visited upon any couple when they become parents for the first time, bringing a demanding, wordless stranger into their home and relationship. In any case, Adele and her husband, Patrick (Ceri Murphy), have been wanting a child for ages and now, it would seem, they have been blessed with one. But Yuri (Guto Wynne-Davis), is challenging to say the very least…

Despite being staged in one of the scuzziest venues on the Fringe, Yuri is a warm, absurd and, in many respects, rather scary play, that exerts a powerful pull on the audience’s emotions. The cast work hard to embody their characters – and do a fabulous job of it. There is a certain deftness at play here, which makes the complex issues at the heart of this piece seem somehow light and whimsical. It’s fascinating to watch. We might not always be entirely sure of what’s going on, but by golly, we aren’t bored for one moment.

This is a challenging piece that’s well worth seeking out.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney and Susan Singfield