Brett Herriot at the Festivals

Athena, Perfect Forth, Captivate at the Rose, Venue 76 Review:

Beautifully Beguiling

***** 5 Stars

It takes a brave company to not only open there production at the end of the 2022 festival season but to make their live debut in a medium that is notorious  for any imperfections taking the show firmly off the rails. A Cappella has enjoyed a major resurgence in recent years thanks to it musical styling’s taking off across the pond in the USA.

A Cappella has now reached British shores in a big way and brand new company Perfect Forth have set the bar high with there in person debut production “Athena” running for a three night stint at the Rose Theatre. There are truly no words to convey just how beautifully beguiling this production is!

Athena takes us on an a cappella journey of the Greek gods, there interconnections and how mythology can be distorted by the passage of time. Ultimately Perfect Forth powerfully reminds us of what makes us all connected and that’s Humanity, this company’s ability to reflect the human condition through the most impressive vocal performance you will see on the Fringe this year is astonishing.

Perfect Forth formed of Soprano’s Nadya Albertsson, Iona Thomason, Mezzo’s, Ailish Barry, Megan Grace, Emma Laing, Alto’s, Adela Bartlick Salcedo, Laura Preston, Erin Bowden, Tenor’s, Oliver Payn, Colum Findlay, Baritone’s, Lewis Kerr, Fraser Hume ( Also on Vocal Percussion) and Bass’s, David Ragg, Ruari Fraser. Collectively you won’t find a tighter group of musicians who can deliver a faultless performance that’s both engaging as it is engrossing.

Stand out songs include “Hera” a moment were simply closing your eyes and listening to the haunting vocals lets you drift as the lyrics touch the heart.  The same is true of “Gaia” and the title piece “Athena”. Ariana Grande’s “God Is Woman” is giving thrilling new lease of life thanks to the stirring arrangement used.

The Companies creative and musical Director Colum Findlay has truly delivered a production that sparkles in every moment under its fabulous lighting design, they should be justifiably proud of not only themselves but there entire company, there truly isn’t a weak link on stage.

While there is a storyline carefully woven through the hour long show, this is all about the vocals especially in the closing number “Morning Comes” that serves as a potent reminder of how so many us need the arts in our lives, the right to expression can never be under estimated. Perfect Forth might be making their debut but my word it’s thrilling to think what comes next for this incredibly gift and talented Scottish a cappella company.

Do what you must to grab those remaining tickets for the final two performances and bask in the glory of a cappella done at its very best.

Athena, Perfect Forth, Captivate at the Rose Venue 76 for tickets go to: Athena | Music | Edinburgh Festival Fringe (edfringe.com) or direct from the venue.

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Brett Herriot at the Festivals

The Lady Boys of Bangkok, Summer of Fun Tour, Sabai Pavilion, Lothian Road Venue 189 Review

highly polished

*** 3 Stars

No Fringe festival is complete without the two decade plus stalwarts bringing there Sabai Pavillion to the capital and pleasing there ardent fans with a 90 minute cabaret romp fusing together  pop music from years gone by and modern chart hits, sublime costumes, powerhouse dancing  and good old fashion drag routines to produce a fun night out for everyone.

Firstly the elephant in the room is of course the ethics of what audiences are watching, everyone on stage is to some degree biologically “male” although the reality is they are transgender women, having undergone years of hormone therapy and surgery to perfect their gorgeous female forms. There are four actual male dancers who also dawn the high heels for one number plus one “traditional” comedy drag act. The show is essentially billed as an exploitation of women who are men on stage therefore the first five minutes are spent marvelling at the fact these simply beautiful women were born male. That being said, it’s clear from watching these ladies they are loving being on stage and bringing sass and glamour to the festival.

The performance itself, a tight 90 minutes including interval sees the lady’s perform a plethora of music from Madonna to Elton John and Lady Gaga to name but a few finishing with an “additional” extra Scottish encore, an encore that appears every year for their Scottish dates. It’s highly polished and performed with precision from the entire cast, there are no live vocals everything is lip synced which is quite a feat considering the entire cast come from Thailand.

Comedy it’s added to the mix thanks to a traditional comedy drag queen whom pulls various people from the audience for sketches alongside loving tributes to Dolly Parton and Tina Turner and gives the show real colour, again all lip synced but done in a polished manner.

The big downside to visiting the Lady Boys is the desire to crowbar every single penny out of their audiences, arriving to an overzealous security bag check where even sealed bottles of water are removed from the audience for the only purpose of ensuring audiences will purchase drinks for their expensive bars.  Beware your first drink will cost £2 extra as you have to pay a deposit for a washable plastic glass or beaker (don’t worry if you give it back at the end of the show you get the money back). There is also Thai food on sale, Merchandise; savoury snacks, confectionary and if you have any money left you can have a photo on stage during the interval with the Lady Boys!

Ethics and downsides apart its clear to see that the Lady Boys remain as popular now as they ever have been and they do deliver a high skilled and polished Las Vegas cabaret style night out for the masses and for many bring the colour and pizzazz that’s been much missed over the last few years.

The Lady Boys of Bangkok, Summer of Fun Tour, Sabai Pavilion, Lothian Road Venue 189 for tickets go to: The Lady Boys of Bangkok – Summer of Fun Tour | Cabaret and Variety | Edinburgh Festival Fringe (edfringe.com)  or direct from the venue.

Brett Herriot at the Festivals

Making a Murderer: The Musical, Underbelly, Bristo Square, Cowbarn, Venue 302 Review:

First class cast of performers

*** 3 Stars

What happens when an acclaimed writer Phil Mealey turns his pen on the seminal Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer?” which told the very real story of the Steven Avery case. One which truly showed the flaw U.S legal system and lead to the most damming and shocking of miscarriages of justices in recorded history. What happens is you get his hour long musical loaded with potential but never truly grips the audience.

The show comes down very firmly on the side of victims that being the Avery family and uses comedy to mock the Manitowoc law enforcement. Ultimately this is an angry political satire written and delivered with passion. That said it feels very much still a work in progress and it’s clearly a show still developing its way to a full out production maybe in there lies its problem.

Running at an  hour long it’s trying to pack in a story that Netflix have dedicated over 20 hours of television too and it feels disjointed and performed at a ridiculously fast pace.  For that being said there songs are strong especially the closing number which is a shocking condemnation of the level of injustice across America and the whole production is delivered by a first class cast of performers.

It’s clear there is much potential in this show and there is going to be life for it after the festival ends as it deserves a fuller production to truly tell its story, but what we do have here is the spark of a bigger whole, a musical that while funny at times makes us think especially with the emboldened and polished performances from the cast who commit nothing less than 100% making the show hugely watchable.

The Fringe has always been the starting point for bigger and better things for many and for  Making a murder, the musical this is never truer which makes it a worth addition to anyone’s Festival diary.

Making a Murderer: The Musical, Underbelly, Bristo Square, Cowbarn, Venue 302 for tickets go to: Making a Murderer: The Musical | Musicals and Opera | Edinburgh Festival Fringe (edfringe.com) or direct from the venue.

Brett Herriot at the Festivals

No Place Like Home, Pleasance Dome -10 Dome, Venue 23 Review:

engrossing, engaging and satisfying

***** 5 Stars

The Fringe has always been a breeding ground for every story telling style under the sun, where more than one medium can be fused together in the ultimate expression of art to tell your story. No place like home combines spoken word, music, dance and fantastic video art in Alex Roberts one man exploration of finding love in a gay club and the shattering reality of the pain that ensues when it goes wrong.

Written by Robert’s and production director Cameron Carver this is the most engrossing, engaging and satisfying hour on the festival that you will find. Robert’s catches the zeitgeist of innocence perfectly. Displaying a rare physicality that’s beguiling to watch even as things take violent turn the true radiates out in this taught as past, present and future generations of the LGBTQI+ club scene collide.

Director Cameron Carver has delivered what feels like a deeply personal project utilizing physicality and the most striking video projection I’ve seen so far at the festival, and Robert’s turns in nothing short of an award winning performance always ensuring each and every character is fully rounded and filled with a rich sense of life.

Robert’s particularly sparkles in the raw emotional moments as genuine tears fall and the audience watch on in wrapped silence its touches the soul just how good this piece of theatre is to express the human condition in us all.

Carver has executed Alex Roberts writing brilliantly and is further aided by Virginie Taylor staggering video design. Also Jac Cooper’s sound design is perfection alongside Amy Daniels lighting design. The technical elements of this show are faultless.

No Place like home is both timely and timeless, every one of us has been where Alex Roberts has been and his ability to deliver a performance full of charisma and layered is testament to his talent and with the final week of the 2022 festival upon us do what you must to get a ticket to this shining beacon of five star fringe theatre.

No Place Like Home, Pleasance Dome -10 Dome, Venue 23 for tickets go to: No Place Like Home | Theatre | Edinburgh Festival Fringe (edfringe.com) or direct from the venue.

Brett Herriot at the Festivals

Divas: From Stage to Screen, Captivate at the Rose, The Rose Theatre (Venue 76) Review:

***** 5 Stars

“the most astonishing and beautifully perfect production“

BBD Productions are truly making their mark at the 2022 Festivals with the five start Big Band Does Broadway already under there belt they have opened their second show, Divas: From Stage to Screen in their resident late-night slot and what gorgeous celebration of women it is.!

Entering the main theatre of The Rose, its candle lit and instantly transports the audience to the legendary supper clubs of New York such as the Café Carlyle and Duane Park. With Sumptuous lighting design from Keigan Hawthorn in full effect the five divine ladies, Dannielle Logan, Nicola Meehan, Rachel Flynn, Sarah Innes and Jessica Nolan are already on stage accompanied by a live all female onstage band we are simply treated to the most magnificent hour of music to be found at this year’s festivals.

Opening as an ensemble with “Let Me Be a Star” it’s clear from the off that each lady possesses powerhouse vocals and deep performance skills that holds the audience in the palm of their hands. We are taken on a journey that see’s legendary female songs from stars such as Madonna, Bette Midler, Abba, Adele, Carole King and the great goddess herself Judy Garland given a new twist. Thanks to Jonnie Grant’s outstanding musical arrangements and Musical Director Rachel Blaquiere accomplished on stage band.

It would wrong to single out a single performer as quite literally every single lady shines! Its breath taking to see such talent assembled on stage, regardless of solo spotlight moments or delivering group harmonies that send shivers down the spine, this production delivers everything and more leaving the audience totally satisfied as shown by the rousing standing ovation these Divas received as the curtain fell.

BBD Productions should be justly proud of themselves its often said the women stand in the shadow of the great roles in musical theatre and indeed have to work harder to succeed in the pop world. Unfair as it is this triumphant show readdresses the balance and make it a must see of the festival especially as the fringe enters the home straight for 2022 do you what must to grab a ticket and head to Rose for quite simply the most astonishing and beautifully perfect production you will see this season!

Divas: From Stage to Screen, Captivate at the Rose, The Rose Theatre (Venue 76) For tickets go to: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/divas-from-stage-to-screen or directly from the venue box office.