Zoo Southside (Studio), Edinburgh

Once in a while you stumble across a show at the Fringe that thrills you with its invention and sheer originality. Shine is just such a show – brought to the Fringe by From Start to Finnish, it’s a triumphant slice of immersive theatre. Indeed, my only criticism is that the title is deceptive, giving none of the flavour of this dark, powerful slice of psychological drama. Much of that power comes from its unusual staging.

As we take our seats in the studio theatre, we cannot fail to notice that a set of headphones is hooked over the back of every seat. We are instructed to put on the headphones. The lights dim and the drama begins.

This is a story about the disappearance of a little girl. The child’s parents, played by Olivier Leclair and Tiia-Mari Mäkinen are making love when she calls out to them in the night and they ignore her cries. The following morning, she is gone. When the official search is eventually called off, her father becomes obsessed with finding her – and his obsessive search leads him on a long, dark descent into madness…

If the story sounds familiar, the telling is anything but. Leclair and Makinen unfold their story through the medium of dance and mime, accompanied by an evocative soundtrack, every move they make perfectly synchonised to the sighs/screams/whispers that fill my ears. This has all the powerful intensity of a first-class ghost story. The hauntings are largely in the characters’ heads; nevertheless, there are scenes here that are incredibly chilling. This is a world where even an innocent piece of chalk can become an uncontrollable weapon, where the simple act of pouring a glass of water can take on a sinister subtext. I sit transfixed, completely involved right up to the (weirdly) uplifting conclusion.

There are just a few days left to check out this startling slice of theatre. The clock is ticking… listen… can you hear it?

Don’t worry, you will.

5 stars

Philip Caveney





Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Actor/rapper Kema Sikazwe is perhaps best known for his role as China in Ken Loach’s, I, Daniel Blake. But the young artiste is busy forging a name for himself in his own right too, first with his music, and now with this autobiographical piece of gig theatre.

Sikazwe is an engaging performer with an appealing vulnerability. This apparent openness lends the work a stark authenticity, and it’s impossible not to feel for the troubled youth in this tale.

Through music and spoken word, Sikazwe takes us through his childhood: his emigration, aged three, from Zambia to the UK; his struggles to adapt to the Geordie accent in Newcastle Upon Tyne; his sense of being an outsider, of never fitting in; the emotional cost of being isolated at home and at school; the discovery of music as a cathartic outlet.

It’s a compelling story, and the music especially is arresting, performed with easy confidence, Sikazwe singing live over a lushly recorded and multilayered backing. It’s not a perfect piece: the script needs tightening up in places – too much repetition, banal phraseology – and, perhaps a rather predictable linear route through the narrative, as Sikazwe struggles to overcome his demons before ultimately finding redemption through the healing power of music.

Nevertheless, it’s a powerful tale, told with real heart, and one which would almost certainly resonate even more with a school-age audience. A schools’ tour might not be where Sikazwe sees this piece going, but it could have a huge impact there.

3.5 stars

Susan Singfield