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Five shows to see at the Edinburgh Fringe, vol. 8
An interactive Australian audio experience, an award-winning Irish solo-show, an acrobatic act from Kenya, and more...
Hello, and welcome to The Crush Bar, a Substack newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
This issue is the eighth of ten specials - only two more! - I am sending out during late July and August, all focused on shows at the festival. Each issue will highlight five shows worth seeing. Three will be picked by me, and a couple will be paid promotions. Hope that is okay.
Some issues will be themed. Most will not be. Some I will have seen and loved. Some I will just have heard good things about. Some artists I will know and admire. Others I will just like the sound of. Please feel free to get in touch if you want to let me know about a show you love.
One last thing: you can support this newsletter in a couple of ways. Firstly, you can share it with anyone that might be interested. And secondly, you can become a paid supporter for the cost of a cup-and-a-half of coffee a month using the button below. That would be brilliant.
I have been very impressed by all the shows I have seen at House Of Oz, the institution that showcases Australian work at King’s Hall, where Canada Hub used to be. Common Dissonance is a mesmerising circus show from First Nations-led company Na Djinang, and Maureen is a remarkable one-man play about an octogenarian Australian woman, written and performed by a transformative Jonny Hawkins. You can read my reviews of both those shows in The Stage here and here.
My favourite, though, is Two Strangers Walk Into A Bar…, an interactive audio experience for two people at a time, developed by actor, writer and director Tilda Cobham-Hervey. You sit down, answer a few questions, and are given a pair of headphones. Behind you, unseen, someone else - a total stranger preferably - is doing the same. For a while, the audio instructs you to complete various tasks. There is a bit of reading, a bit of writing, and a lot of contemplation of your cosmic insignificance.
Partway through, though, you find yourself face to face with your co-participant, and are instructed to follow a script, asking each other a set of powerful, personal questions. It might sound awkward or embarrassing, and it is a bit, but it is also utterly lovely. You leave seeing everything a bit brighter and feeling like you have made a new friend. You can read my four-star review in The Stage here, and you can get tickets via the button below. And remember: it works best with a total stranger!
This is essentially an hour-long therapy session for Irish writer and performer Tom Moran - but it is a highly entertaining, expertly delivered, and hugely moving one. It starts like a stand-up gig, with Moran telling his audience some light-hearted, self-deprecating anecdotes about his childhood. Then it goes somewhere totally different.
Over an hour, Moran reveals his deepest, darkest thoughts. He tells us about the terrible things he has done, about his desperate desire to be loved, about the lies he compulsively tells, about his difficult relationship with his parents, about the childhood trauma that still haunts him, and about the dichotomy that defines him: that everyone thinks he is a lovely guy, when inside he feels like anything but.
Under Davey Kelleher’s direction, Moran does all that and more with a big, beaming smile that hints at the pain he feels underneath. It is an amusing, angsty and authentic performance in a show that is searingly honest and commendably helpful. It won Fishamble’s New Writing Award for its run at the Dublin Fringe last year, and it is not hard to see why. There will be a four-star review from me in The Scotsman soon, and you can book tickets to see it yourself via the button below.
When she was a child, London-based theatremaker Peyvand Sadeghian visited Iran with her father. It was the first time her dad had visited the country since he left as a refugee in 1979. Both of them were unexpectedly detained by the Iranian government. Their British passports were replaced with Iranian ones, and Sadeghian had to change her name. Peyvand became Parisa.
Father and daughter were eventually allowed to return to the UK but the experience had a profound impact on Sadeghian. What if she had stayed in Iran? How does she reclaim Parisa? What would Parisa’s life look like? In her kaleidoscopic, multimedia solo show Dual دوگانه, Sadeghian uses storytelling, animation, original music and more to explore how our passports influence our paths, and how bureaucracy shapes our being.
Sadeghian is a writer, actor, director and multidisciplinary artist – she also directed Roshi Nasehi’s Ramalama Ding Dong at this year’s festival – with experience working on everything from fringe theatre shows to big budget series like Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Dual دوگانه was originally created at Camden People’s Theatre, and first ran at VAULT Festival in 2020, before being redeveloped through the Barbican’s Open Lab programme in 2021. It now arrives in Edinburgh, where it runs at Pleasance Dome for the second half of the festival. You can get tickets via the button below.
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The acclaimed acrobatic troupe behind this show first formed when its five members – Ali Salim Mwakasidi, Bilal Musa Huka, Hamisi Ali Pati, Rashid Amini Kulembwa and Seif Mohamed Mlevi, who all hail from the same Kenyan village – met famed Italian producer Alessandro Serena while studying at the Sarakasi school of circus in Nairobi. One thing led to another, and The Black Blues Brothers – an energetic and astonishing acrobatic tribute act to the 1980 John Landis movie – were born.
Since then, the troupe has performed over 800 times to more than half a million people – including twice for Pope Francis, and once at The Royal Variety Performance in 2020. Their show is not an acrobatic recreation of the film: more a spectacular circus inspired by its iconic soundtrack – Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Gimme Some Lovin’, and more – and classic costumes.
The Black Blues Brothers first arrived in Edinburgh in 2019 – when The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter praised their “showmanship”, “polish” and “fearlessness” in her four-star review, then returned in 2022 to be win Theatre Weekly’s Best Physical Theatre Show Award. The troupe is now back for the third time, performing in their slick black suits and sunglasses for the entire festival at Assembly Rooms on George Street. You can get tickets via the button below.
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For the unaware, a “sound clash” is a musical competition that involves two sound systems – teams of DJs, MCs and engineers, in other words – battling to beat each other. As a tradition, it originated in the dancehalls of Jamaica, before spreading to Britain in the 1970s, where it played a key role in the evolution of reggae, ska, hip-hop, grime, drum and bass, and more styles of music.
Sound Clash: Death In The Arena is a contemporary musical that transposes sound clash culture into a dystopian world. Set in Sound City – a future metropolis where music matters more than anything – it focuses on Ashley and Kazzandra, two young lovers from either side of a fierce familial divide. Famous tunes, modern hits and big basslines combine in a Romeo and Juliet-style love story.
The show was conceived by musician, chef and entrepreneur Levi Roots, and has a cracking creative team behind it – author Alex Wheatle and playwright Ashley Joseph, producer Adrian Grant, choreographer Jade Hackett and director Ray Shell. The 70-minute show is making its world premiere in Edinburgh, where it runs at Pleasance Courtyard for the whole festival. You can get tickets via the button below.
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Thanks for reading
That is it for this issue. I will be back in your inboxes in a few days with five more shows to see at the Edinburgh Fringe. If you want to get in touch about anything raised in this issue - or anything at all, really - just reply to this email. Or you can find me on Twitter, where I am @FergusMorgan.
A quick reminder of the various ways you can support The Crush Bar. You can share it. You can use it for promotional purposes. And you can subscribe and support. There are currently 1909 subscribers. If you would like to join them, you can do so via the button below.
See you soon.