Edinburgh Festival Fringe: part four

Deadpan Theatre: Third Wheel (Theatre)
Until 27 August, 14:00, Gilded Balloon Teviot
Reviewed by Deirdre McLaughlin

When the phrase “third wheel” is used among friends, there is usually an implication of imposing or entering a space where one might not belong or be wanted. Deadpan’s Third Wheel is a musical comedy which explores the ins and outs of friendship when individuals who love each other enter and exit the frame at unexpected times and communication becomes blurred.

Eve and Polly’s best friend Dylan has died and left them with a Wizard of Oz lunch box full of ashes and the request that they remember him with a final road trip to memorialise his life. Played out in recurring musical montages by a skilful on-stage band, Eve and Polly’s subsequent road trip forces these two friends to confront their own grieving processes, the shifting dynamics that occur when one member in a circle of friends is lost and the remnants of a previous romantic encounter between them which Dylan attempts to unearth from beyond.

While the romantic turn in this musical comedy between Eve and Polly was not wholly successful, this production is at its most affecting when exploring the complicated dynamics of evolving relationships and provides an unquestionably funny and musically moving look into the complexities of grief among friends.

Polaris (Spoken Word)
Until 28 August, 14:45, 52 Canoes (Grassmarket)
Reviewed by Deirdre McLaughlin

Polari, we are told, was a secret language passed among members of the queer community in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is a coded sociolect used to establish culture and affirm safety. Language and belonging are recurring themes in Hannah Raymond Cox’s piece. Polaris is a spoken word self-reflection on her own coming-of-age story as a young woman attempting to find her sense of belonging throughout her late teens and early twenties in London while struggling with her sexuality, mental health and first relationships. Raymond Cox is a warm, approachable storyteller and while many of her personal anecdotes are about moments in her life when she struggled to find a sense of place, she excels at making her audience feel at ease in the tiny basement of 52 Canoes.

We sometimes build our communities of support in unexpected spaces. Raymond Cox finds an important moment of connection with a woman behind the counter at Selfridges, but she creates moments of direct and intimate connection with her audience throughout, sharing her emotional vulnerability and sense of humour with a generosity that draws her listeners in and reinforces the simple connection that powerful language can provide. Half of all profits of this show go to the The Trevor Project, an organisation providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.

Whalebone (Theatre)
Until 27 August, 13:00, Pleasance Courtyard
Reviewed by Lauren Hossack

The dark, intimate performance space forms the ideal setting for this intense performance. Three silent, corseted performers take to the stage, their movements playing out the painstaking physicality of womanhood. Combined with projections, puppetry and a handful of cleverly-used props, the figures illustrate the story of Laura, the narrator, who wants to make herself disappear.

The narrator’s name comes from the title of Nabokov’s final unfinished work, The Original of Laura, and Laura’s wish in the play for self-deletion matches that of the novel’s Philip Wild. In Whalebone, Laura’s story is the departure point for an exploration of contemporary and historical womanhood. It is a deeply reflective, highly sympathetic show about the politics of occupying space as a woman. The three performers give voice to the slew of opinions – from family members to advertisements – that exist to dictate beauty standards to women, the pressures of which seem to fuel Laura’s desire to disappear.

With little space, few props and clever choreography, Hatch It Theatre’s talented trio convey not only the humour and absurdity of society’s deep, historical obsession with women’s appearances, but a more serious depiction of the psychological and physical costs these can have, a message which resonates beyond the confines of the venue’s four walls.

Anya Anastasia: Rogue Romantic (Cabaret and Variety)
Until 27 August, 19:30, Assembly Checkpoint
Reviewed by Lauren Hossack

Fun, flirty and feminist, Anya Anastasia’s latest show is a rollicking performance all about love. Determined to find “the one … for now”, she sets out to romance just about everyone in the room with a combination of wit, humour and bravado – not to mention a killer set of songs.

With a voice stretching from husky and low to high soprano, accompanied by piano, a dash of ukulele and a fabulous house band, Anastasia’s songs give voice to our common anxieties when it comes to relationships, from obsessing over a beloved’s meaningful look or gesture to bumping into exes at parties.

As the “rogue romantic”, she extends a hand of comradeship to the audience while inviting them to the stage to be wooed by her, playing an increasingly obsessed and desperate woman to comic effect. Of course, being a feminist show, she’s also critical of this deep investment we seem to have in romantic love and underscores the importance of self-love in her trademark tongue-in-cheek fashion.

While ‘true love’ itself may be fleeting or difficult to find, Anastasia is an extremely accomplished performer, and there is little doubt that her racy, riotously funny performance wins the hearts of everyone in the room.

Rachel Fairburn: Her Majesty (Comedy)
Until 27 August, 16:05, Just the Tonic at The Community Project
Reviewed by Megan Stodel

One of Rachel Fairburn’s complaints about having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is that people who don’t have it use it to mean they are simply a bit of a perfectionist. Of course, she’s right: I’ve seen other comedians this week who’ve casually self-diagnosed for a gag, and no doubt that makes people take Fairburn’s genuine OCD less seriously. However, she educates the audience with humour, and also helpfully informs us how this impacts her specifications for any hypothetical group sex scenario.

The show covers a lot of ground, from protests to Liam Gallagher to the diminishing bangability of her boyfriend of five years. Throughout, Fairburn has the audience laughing. I like her style, which manifests itself in a low-level disdain, though she also displays real passion when talking about her role models.

Pockets of the show didn’t feel quite complete, particularly her criticism of her younger cousin. Fairburn displays considerable contempt but this doesn’t translate into punchlines, and I feel a bit sorry for the defenceless relation.

However, overall Fairburn presents an enjoyable, witty and well-structured show, and the hour flies by.

Sajeela Kershi: Fights Like a Girl! (Comedy)
Until 27 August, 18:15, Laughing Horse @ The Hanover Tap
Reviewed by Megan Stodel

Sajeela Kershi is so good at creating an amiable atmosphere that one audience member seems to think they are in conversation at one point. As Kershi references recent news stories about work dress codes that insist women wear high heels, her new best friend interjects to explain that, actually, women wear heels because it makes them look slimmer. This could be a difficult moment, but Kershi is a pro. Without pausing, she explains how the crux of the issue is one of choice, linking back to her comments earlier on how banning burkinis limits rather than enhances women’s freedom.

In fact, the entire show is built on feminist themes. Kershi is engaging, directly asking audience members why they marched in the Women’s March, or why they would march, encouraging a level of introspection that can be difficult to nurture in jaded Edinburgh Festival Fringe crowds watching their 17th show of the week. She builds a feeling of camaraderie and solidarity that is vital to pushing for progress, while also educating us about her experiences as an agnostic/Muslim woman in the UK, USA and Pakistan.

This is a strong show that deserves a watch.

Image one is of Deadpan Theatre’s Mack and Salt. They are both leaning towards the camera with their chins resting on their right hands. They are both smiling broadly. They are outside on a sunny day, trees can be seen behind them.

Image two is of Hannah Raymond Cox from Polaris. Raymond Cox stares straight at the camera with her hands held out in front of her as if she is holding something. There is deep shade on one side of her. She wears glasses and a black and white flowery dress.

Image three is of Whalebone. On the right hand side of the photograph is a projection of an old print advert that begins: “Are you flat-ches…”. On the left hand side are two people, one man and one woman, both wearing corsets. The man holds his hands above his head, mirroring an image of a woman in the projected advert. The real-life woman on the left is pushing up one of his elbows and laughing.

Image four is of Anya Anastasia. It is a very stylised photograph showing Anastasia from the waist upwards. She wears only a collar and sleeves, which are blue, gold and cream and in a Tudor style. She has diamond-shaped blue eyeshadow and her hair is swept up above her head. Roses and rose petals fall around her, with two petals covering her nipples. She looks directly and intently at the camera, with a very small smile.

Image five is a black and white headshot of Rachel Fairburn. She stands in front of a tiled wall, looking seriously at the camera. She holds up a sign saying “RACHEL” in front of her. She has blow-dried shoulder length dark hair and flicked eyeliner.

Image six (and the feature image) is of Sajeela Kershi by Duncan Penfold. It is a head and shoulders black and white shot of Kershi, with a bright red flower directly in front of her mouth. Her hair is glossy and she is wearing earrings; she looks very glamorous.