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  • Writer's pictureJake Escapes

Fringe Benefits

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

There is nowhere in the world like The Edinburgh Fringe! Honoured to have been asked to be a Review Writer this year. If Carlsberg handed out assignments ...

Here is a selection of work with links to the fantastic Edfest Mag - check it out!

Jamie-Lee Money’s fringe debut Spin Cycles is an honest and hectic insight into dealing with grief in the modern world. Our character and her spin bike collectively take centre stage as she channels her fluctuating emotions through the routine and perseverance of taking class.

The story is delivered with great wit and cynicism and wonderfully switches gear between the pressure of deadline, the distraction of interns and alcohol and the memories of happier times. When the music eerily reaches crescendo her deepest darkest thoughts are revealed.

We witness our character’s mind keep pace with her pedalling. Eyes fixated then distant. The cogs of her overwhelmed and grief stricken brain spinning alongside the wheels of her bike. A reminder we are not supposed to stop. Don’t give up. ‘Sweat out the sadness’.

Spin Cycles is a highly relatable piece for anyone struggling with loss or impending loss. It beautifully illustrates the fragility of suppression and the absurdity of coping amidst today’s manic pace of life. The bike prop providing both an outlet for resentment and therapy.

Jamie-Lee Money performs it beautifully. With laugh out loud moments, health awareness tips and flickers of sarcasm she keeps it real. Already spinning when the audience enter, her tale symbolises an ongoing journey. One that many of us will be on.

It takes a certain amount of courage of course to perform unscripted stand up but it also commands a degree of likeability and Biswa Kalyan Rath had this in droves. His casual entrance following a showbiz style introduction exuded a relaxed and informal vibe.

Armed with only a whiteboard and the audience at his disposal, the show consisted of passing the mic along each row, general chit chat with each member and doodling significant findings on the whiteboard. His skill was in tying it all together. Making the audience one.

Describing the show as a ‘collaborative effort’ was his way of blaming the audience if it didn’t go well and there were moments where it was a little flat or he lingered too long. A couple of checks to his phone for time gave the slight impression of willing the end to come.

But genuinely funny moments arose as Biswa psychologically dug into the amusing within often mundane descriptions. He wasn’t afraid to embark on riskier subjects but it was the deconstruction of a simple turn of phrase or everyday fact that led to the biggest laughs.

Overall an enjoyable experience that could of course be hugely different every time he takes to the stage. Some audience members were unwittingly comedy gold and Biswa’s skill was in celebrating each of them. Creating an ensemble piece quite randomly each day.

Wow! This piece was genuinely extraordinary. Pushing the boundaries of physicality, reimagining gender norms and doing so all with such tenderness and art. N.ormes had the audience spellbound and silent from the start. You could hardly catch a breath.

N.Ormes epically describes the power struggle of human relationships. One minute finding joy and deep connections, the next demonstrating an aching need for acceptance, the betrayal of rejection and the desire to recapture feelings and a sense of togetherness.

It does so through the medium of acrobatics. But these are before unseen acrobatics, utilising every part of the body and defying logic as to what is possible. At times it confuses in terms of scale and proportion. At times it is more contemporary dance. Poetic. Edgy.

But it also throws gender roles out of the window. Meeting in the middle of equality and acceptance. Through a bare stage with only our protagonists and the symbolism of clothing we are immersed in an explorative journey of humankind. It tells a mesmerising story.

Agathe and Adrien in co-production with Acting for Climate Montreal have created something unforgettable and special with N.Ormes. It is a performance of extreme talent and deep and meaningful beauty. It makes you think and it leaves you breathless.

Ben Target’s Lorenzo immediately captures the imagination with its curated concoction of carpentry, cleverness, care schedules and chocolate biscuits! Ben delights and enthrals as a storyteller, skilfully animating his words in aptly the most inventive of ways, resulting in a jumble of light-hearted antics amongst intelligent learnings. The humour is sublime.

Personality is at the heart of this show, both from Ben and his absent uncle Lorenzo. This unlikely pairing, united through silliness and invention, have found each other in a world of unkindness. Faced with the tragedy of Lorenzo’s path to death, they do their best to ace it with weekly activity schedules, retaliatory pranks and ginger nuts laced with morphine.

But this tale is punctuated with pain. There is no shying from reality. No amount of frivolity will begin to touch the sides when faced with the helplessness of watching someone you love die. At times Ben stands before you broken. The tears are real. Ben celebrates the elderly as we should and shines a light on the care system as he tries to make things better.

Lorenzo is a real tribute. Filled with joy, adoration, regret and the sadness of how rare it is to find someone who really gets you. That kind of person is unbearably hard to lose. The final scene brings the whole adventure together in such a feel good way that you will feel happy and honoured to have played a part in this exceptional journey of Ben and Uncle Lorenzo.

Beautiful Evil Things is a force to be reckoned with. From the minute Deborah Pugh takes to the stage you can tell that something powerful is going to happen. Presenting as Medusa, the most famous and beautiful of the Gorgons, she sets about telling Trojan War stories in a fast, furious and demonstrative way, leaving the audience transfixed … as if turned to stone.

Deborah thrashes, glides and struts her way through the scenes fittingly building the horror and drama. Armed only with a few simple props, the tension mounts with added mic effects and sly asides of wit and banter. What she uncovers is a fierce and captivating re-telling of Greek mythology, aiming to right the wrongs. Bringing the females to the fore.

The brave Penthesilea, the prophetic Cassandra and the ‘worst wife ever’ Clytemnestra alongside Medusa and her sisters are the stars of the show, turning the tables on the so called heroes and Gods. This is girl power at its earliest and doesn’t waiver in pushing their fearsome agenda to rectify their demonised PR. Screaming ‘This is our story!’

There is indeed both beauty and evil in Deborah’s energetic performance. Alongside solidarity and friendship amongst our female warriors. Brought to you by Ad Infinitum whose aim is to provoke, move and inspire, this does all three. You might just leave the performance with a new mindset, your shoulders back and your head held high!

Crizards This Means War is a bundle of joy! The type of show that will make you forget all your troubles as you become enraptured in this jaunty, entertaining and hilariously delivered romp. Taking the serious subject of war, Eddy Hare and Will Rowland use music and song, a horse and a fair few hats to bring it to life in a serious but oh so not serious way.

Describing themselves as ‘the UK’s lowest energy double act’ is part of Crizards self-depreciating opener. As a duo they combine brilliantly and the storyline has you laughing from beginning to end. The tale tells of Private Grandad aiming to deliver a message and do his duty for his country but he is beset with obstacles in his way.

The character introductions make the story. Especially the small Belgian boy with his love of numbers and his blundering comrade who dreams of being home with his wife amongst the apple orchards. The story switches from then to now as Private Grandad aspires to create a better life of office temping for his grandson so that he can afford to play the Fringe.

Altogether Crizards is highly enjoyable. The first three hundred attenders receive a cute little badge but the show is worthy of many more viewers. Expect bravery, poignance, mischief and endearing vibes from this critically acclaimed team. But most of all expect to leave with a great big smile on your face.

I’m not sure I expected to find one of my Fringe comedy highlights at a children’s show but at Marcel Lucont : Les Enfants Terribles – A Gameshow for Awful Children I definitely did! Located in the charming Piccolo Tent, the show was a treat from beginning to end.

Marcel sets out to find the most awful child in the room, pitting contenders against each other in rounds such as ‘Let them eat cake’ and ‘Je ne sais quoi’. The kids pour to the stage to beat each other with wrong answers, ‘pet’ noises and joined up stories.

The most animated segment had the kids pointing the finger at parents in the audience shouting ‘J’accuse’ as red spotlights illuminated each adults sins of falling into bushes, sleepwalking naked in hotels and eating cat food instead of Granola.

But the show was an absolute gem due to Marcel himself. This barefooted insouciant raconteur is absolutely hilarious, providing a constant stream of lol moments. Exuding French superiority, his quick wittedness and quips have got me Googling him for more.

This is a must if you have kids. Some of whom became stars themselves with their amusing answers and shining personalities. If you don’t have kids, borrow someone else’s because this is an hour of bon viveur that will honestly make your day!

Stacey Cullen makes her Edinburgh Fringe debut this year with her insightful production of Scent. Both written and performed by Stacey, this solo show takes you on a journey of one person’s experience with grief, regret and the sudden loss of a significant other.

The show rotates around three staged areas of her loved ones wardrobe, bread making and the chair she slumps into with her bottle of wine. Beginning with an upbeat dance to Bowie’s Modern Love, the performance depicts a before and after of how drastically life can change.

Scent is deeply honest. It bares all in a storytelling sense. Almost as though Stacey has ripped out the pages of her diary and read them aloud. Her descriptions of first meeting someone who comes to exist underneath her skin to losing that same person portray real heartbreak.

It cleverly pivots around scent and how humans are the only creatures who associate scent with emotion. Their love of baking bread, burning rubber from the accident and petrichor, once meaning happiness but ironically in the air and on his lips the night that he dies.

There are few twists and turns to this tale, it is more of a window into one person’s world. But it is honest. It is deep. It is performed with human emotion. ‘In all likelihood there is nothing else’ she says, removing needed hope. This is a scent that will linger.

Buckle up for Olga Koch : Prawn Cocktail, jam packed full of fast uproarious funnies thrown at you at a frenetic pace. If you haven’t seen Olga perform before you might just feel you know her, pretty intimately, by the end of the show. Leaving no stone unturned, she delivers!

Describing real life incidents of Alpaca spitting, shrimping and a top down threesome management structure within the first few moments, Olga has the wherewithal to conquer any topic in her own inimitable style. An exuberant, likeable talent who oozes charisma.

Expect laughs and gasps aplenty as the audience is exposed to her trials and tribulations. She can self-depreciate and show off in equal measure, with a more vulnerable side interjected through personal flashback audio tapped on from a laptop in the corner.

This gig is an absolute triumph. It is scripted with intellect and draws impeccably on a smorgasbord of observations. Olga muses around the satisfaction of reframing situations when the need occurs. Life goals and penalties delivered with sensational aplomb!

Olga Koch : Prawn Cocktail not only masters parasocial relationships and the art of talking to Fiats. It doesn’t just dive into Wordle obsession one minute and Radiohead karaoke the next. It full on revs comedy to the next unmissable level. If you haven’t caught it yet, go go go!

Ian Smith invited us all to go wild and crazy at 1.35pm! Located in a tunnel connected to a Romanian escapee nobody had ever heard of and with intermittent air conditioning playing its part in Ian’s quite shouty gig, the scene was set for a show about stress.

Ian’s words seemed to come from a brilliant mind. The stories cleverly connected with a seamless flow throughout. From one liners to elaborate build ups it was the kind of comedy that sometimes made you think for a second then laugh. But then really laugh.

Beginning with his uncle whose hands were too high for his hips and travelling through the audacity of Gu puddings, pronunciation of the letter H and the three bumbag vibe, the stories were quality. Margaret dusting off her laptop after four years, a particular highlight.

Within the set there was a story about wine that might not have been that funny if anyone else had told it but it became a stroke of genius. Simple but so effective. A bit like his likening a flotation tank to a 90s screen saver. Each moment was crafted with observation and skill.

Ironically, going wild and crazy with Ian at 1.35pm is bound to help you de-stress. His tales are relatable, plentiful and downright hilarious. He is the kind of guy who if he asked you to go smash up a car in Slovakia you would tag along. Oh … and the texture of those fliers!

Crash and Burns had a little bit of a sit-com feel about it. Working around a set with a revolving door and six main characters coupled off into three combining situations, the storyline took the form of friends reuniting for a Burns Supper.

In true sit-com format there were secrets, confusion, revelations and the complexity of personalities. It combined nicely into a well written piece where each scenario came to a conclusion. The young cast played the parts really well and with comic effect.

The idea of the link to Auld Lang Syne and forgetting acquaintances was a good one. The piece was a mere nod to Burns though, so don’t expect anything deeper. The other Scottish links came across a tiny bit stereotypical but could be forgiven.

Overall this is an enjoyable watch. It covers the many aspects of coming of age and the difficulties surrounding this but it does it in a light-hearted way. Quips like ‘receiving a Desmond’ give it an amusing and relevant edge.

So if live Twister is your thing and if you fancy a feel good performance, Crash and Burns is a good shout. Displaying the complexities of life, friendships, relationships and more centred around a Burns supper table, what could possibly go wrong?

A circular room, a circular table on a revolving platform. One big circular conversation going round and round. Here we are in A Strategic Love Play, the most interesting take on the first date. There is no waffle to get to the point. This play starts brusquely as it means to go on.

It was difficult at first to warm to our female protagonist. Barely taking breath she seemed on full on attack mode as though the whole dating process was one big headache in the way of her goal. Understandably he seemed uncomfortable, identifiable, apologetic, smiley.

But as the tables literally turned so did the thought process. Was her ‘out there’ strategy more real? Was the charade he was churning out completely fake, predictable, defensive, counter-productive? The play spins around a cataclysm of emotional unrest. Be prepared!

What was amazing about A Strategic Love Play was it delved into new territory. It hurt your brain deciphering the dating game. It made you question if we want the same thing and how we’ve been presenting crisps! Did it ever feel equal? Play to stereotypes? Did anyone win?

This is illuminating and brilliantly written and performed. But best of all it was so very open to interpretation. With touching moments, genuine humour and cut throat put downs it is one that you won’t want to end. One that might even make you rewrite your strategy.

Throngs of schoolchildren made their way into this show, awestruck faces and loud excited chatter as the ‘wheel of even more science took centre stage’. Doctor Kaboom made his big entrance and immediately cajoled the audience into playing their part when prompted.

The show’s format was as assumed. Spin the wheel, do the experiment. One by one eager children were selected to take to the stage and assist with each. This show consisting of Catapult Schmatapult, Exothermia, Hovercraft and the Air Cannon. All sounding promising!

Doctor Kaboom perhaps took too long attempting to quieten the audience, but otherwise kept the pace with jokes and interaction. Everyone shouting ‘Ya’ and ‘Kaboom’ throughout. There were pointers in there too encouraging self-esteem and kindness, a really nice touch.

But the star of this show was the experiments. Catching and eating catapulted banana slices, a giant dramatic foaming test tube, fog rings blowing through the air and the best of all – the hovercraft transporting a happy little boy right across the stage. Huge cheers for them all!

Doctor Kaboom is onto something. What kids wouldn’t love to be part of this much fun! It is educational, an appealing intro to science and with a bonus tip on how to beat the ‘Test Your Strength’ machine at fairgrounds, Doctor Kaboom has invented a super top family day out!

Are you ready to believe? Are you open to receive? Leave your preconceptions at the door and step into the world of SÉANCE. Yourself, other participants and who knows how many other visitors enter this long narrow chamber and find a seat at the SÉANCE table.

Headphones on. The door closes. One last look of solidarity amongst you. The lights flicker. On. Off. On. Then finally off. Darkness surrounds you. Hands on the table. Heart beats faster. Then … you can only discover the rest if you are there. Are you willing to become one of us?

SÉANCE is a truly immersive experience. It is one of a set of three also including EULOGY and COMA. Each located within a shipping container transformed to suit. Each with their own essence and attributes bringing meaning and psychological impact to those who take part.

You can sense participants are a little unsure and that is what is intended. One member of the group decided to leave before the start. Don’t be alarmed. Nothing will reach out and grab you. But that is all that can be said now because this is your own personal journey.

SÉANCE is an existential experience. Creative, ingenious and eerily unique. If you like to feel theatre deeply and be moved by your own thoughts then this is for you. If you are not sure then this could also be for you. The table is set. The guests may await. Are you there?

The Talent is a collaboration between writer Deborah Pearson and performance duo Action Hero (Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse). Gemma is also the solo performer, producing an incredible acting display by boasting an array of vocal acrobatics and natural presence.

The building blocks of the show consist of a sound booth and a lone voiceover worker. Two other voices direct her to create the product they need. She seems intolerably alone, under duress as she patiently awaits instruction and endeavours to meet their ridiculous demands.

At times it is a difficult sensory watch. Sound laden with repetition, interference and some flashing lights. It almost induces an empathetic sore throat and seat fidgeting. But there are magical cute moments too amidst a bigger picture that questions today’s human purpose.

Jumping to a conclusion of a pandemic society, The Talent puts the voice on a pedestal where human contact is disallowed. But what does it stand for? Is it in control or being controlled? There are themes you may indeed draw from this almost sci-fi spotlight on life.

The Talent is a brave, bold, futuristic piece delivered in a world of its own. It verges on the surreal and provokes an independent thought process on the meaning of talent. Leaving behind a legacy of what human existence might mean both now and in the future.

Philipp Kostelecky may be an acquired taste. There is an assumption that he would be cool with that description as he seems confident in his individuality, style and prowess. Located on a small stage with not much room for pacing, Philipp filled it with elaborate gestures.

This was not a straightforward trip. A combination of expressive comedy and cleverly identified metaphors collided with humour teetering on the edge and the occasional inflicted grimace. A real pick ‘n’ mix of fun, brutal and sometimes overtly sexual topics.

The Wednesday audience were a little hot and cold and Phillip picked up on this. At times it appeared he was mentally altering the script to suit, a skill in itself. At other times he crashed through the barriers obtaining laughs for the bigger, braver or blue-er stuff.

There was no shortage of content. Personal favourites included his definition of the cost of living and the equivalence of children to pancakes. The deer hunting comparison to cunnilingus was of epic proportions as was ‘what makes the cut’ in memory footage.

Philipp uses Daddy as a social rather than sexual term. He comes across a little controversial, daring, edgy and confrontational. Both aspiring to please and displease. This was a set hard to tie down. Definitely one for the beholder and to see where it goes from here.

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