Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre reviews: The Beatles Were a Boyband | Move Fast and Break Things | Motherload! | Stretched | Giving Up the Ghost | Death of a Disco Dancer

Female friendship battles everyday sexism in a defiantly down-to-earth new play, while another relationship slams up against Google’s surveillance algorithms. Reviews by Sally Stott, Katie Hawthorne and Rory Ford

The Beatles Were a Boyband ****

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until 13 August

Everyday sexism is integrated into everyday everything else in Rachel O’Regan’s defiantly down-to-earth new play that refuses to let its lively young Scottish female pals be defined by the actions of anonymous men whose misogyny increasingly risks encroaching on the cosy comfort of their shared longue. Rejecting the loftier tone of the “issue-based play” that it decisively isn’t, the piece instead celebrates the friendship of the three women – social media loving Daisy (Linzi Devers), clubber Violet (Sally Cairns), and their no-nonsense fellow housemate Heather (Kirsten Hutchison) – as they try and fail, often amusingly, to navigate the behaviour of #notallmen without giving up their right to go out, have fun and come home again, as well as listen to murder podcasts and joke about sugar daddies.

Set in a domestic world of plastic flowers and flat-packed furniture, it’s a show that has the easy appeal of the sitcoms and reality TV shows that the housemates half-watch after work, as they share drinks and contemplate getting a McDonald’s. As online influencer Daisy simultaneously attracts abuse from trolls and a new audience of followers, Heather can’t resist pointing out what she sees as hypocrisy. Meanwhile, a decision to boycott – or ‘girlcott’ – the outside world threatens to end Violet’s nights clubbing. As the characters amusingly clash, the question of what these young women can practically do about male violence without ‘overreacting’ is replaced by the bigger one about why it’s continuing to happen at all.

O’Regan and the cast use their good-natured charm to make the play’s points palatable and, in doing so, repurpose mainstream comedy as a weapon. While issues are raised rather than resolved, the piece effectively highlight the contradictions, paradoxes and compromises that its delightfully imperfect characters face, and the way that both sexism and humour are ever present forces in our modern, media-filled lives. Sally Stott

Move Fast and Break Things ***

Summerhall, until 14 August

Sally Cairns in The Beatles Were a Boyband

Google knows you better than you know yourself. Favourite colour, favourite song – that’s nothing. Google knows what you want before you even want it. Freight Theatre confront surveillance capitalism in Move Fast and Break Things, agile object-theatre that tracks the increasingly quantifiable ways in which the personal is political. Julia Pilkington and Anna-Kate Golding give charismatic, playful performances as a duo investigating one of Google’s earliest employees – an untraceable man named Amit who supposedly spearheaded the corporation’s thirst for our most intimate information. They plan to make a play about him, but disagree over the ethics. Is it wrong to search for someone who clearly doesn’t want to be found? And what if he finds them first?

Pilkington and Golding offer a brief history of data surveillance with the tone of two genial podcast hosts. Live camera work, a doll’s house and a trestle table piled with sand result in enjoyably kitsch and unsettling visual aids, but these stretches of exposition are less engrossing than when the investigators negotiate the emotional terms of their own relationship. Move Fast and Break Things feels like part one in a longer story, with the juiciest, most incriminating details yet to be uncovered. Katie Hawthorne

Motherload! ***

Summerhall, until 14 August

“Should I have a baby at the end of the world?” “No.” It’s gleefully repeated by an impish Mother Nature, who, with a malevolent glint in her eye and a New York snarl, sits in the centre of a puffball fur coat, overflowing with greenery, algae and the sea. Her soul is as filled with fire as the world outside is about to be. But do we care? Through a rattling faux TED talk filled with at least as many pop culture references as slides, we follow the evolution of one woman and humankind, as whether or not to have a baby morphs into whether or not to save the planet. We audience members become her children, brought on stage to participate in everything from creating a new life using a balloon and a syringe to providing tips on how to face annihilation.

Electrically performed by Elena Voce, it’s a surreal, entertaining and provocative clown show that has poignant moments that could be pushed further if they were given more space. Simultaneously embodying the struggles of one woman and the natural world, our orator proclaims, “I’ve lost my relevance – you used to be obsessed with me.” A man dolefully sips the free wine at the end. “I’m sorry,” he says. Sally Stott

Stretched **

theSpace on North Bridge, until 13 August

There's a neat idea at the centre of this new comedy from Fishtale Theatre, but it’s scuppered by flat writing and broad performances. After Felix’s pitch for a sitcom set in Stalinist Russia is rejected, he’s asked for other ideas and frantically suggests an animated comedy about a stretchy cow. Thing is: this is an idea he had when he was ten, and now his production partners Phoebe and Alice have to create a whole show in 30 minutes. Thomas Davy’s script is not without invention – getting the audience to set their phone timers for half an hour creates tension, but it also underscores the pointless and rambling nature of the dialogue. Even at 50 minutes, this feels overextended. Rory Ford

Giving Up the Ghost **

Greenside @ Infirmary Street, until 13 August

There’s a whisper of emotional intelligence about this piece about bereavement, but fatally, for a show that bills itself as a black comedy, it isn’t funny - rather, it’s earnestly sentimental. Jack (James Wilson) is mourning the untimely death of his best friend Michael (George Brown) whose ghost turns up after the funeral and suggests they take a trip to Europe. This production is swiftly staged with a refreshing lack of fuss and decently performed, but if there’s any real humour in the script, it’s difficult to detect. Rory Ford

Death of a Disco Dancer **

Greenside @ Infirmary Street, until 13 August

Energetically played by a good cast, this strongly staged piece of physical theatre from Ultraviolet Productions is nevertheless a tough watch. In fairness, it’s probably supposed to be, as four old college friends reunite to talk nonsense, dance and scream abuse at each other. If you encountered any of these people in a club, you’d leave, and the fractured narrative – probably intended to reflect the dissociation of grief – actively repels emotional engagement with any of them. Technically, it’s an adept production, but it’s unlikely to win anyone over. Rory Ford