Edinburgh Festivals 2019: 10 great shows you can still see today

Blizzard | Rowan Rheingans. Pictures: Francis Fontaine | Ron Milsom
Blizzard | Rowan Rheingans. Pictures: Francis Fontaine | Ron Milsom
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Fend off the Monday blues by taking in one (or two, or three) more great show before the festivals finish.

You know you should leave now if you want to make that train. You know you should start writing that essay tonight, not next week. You know should get your packing done the night before you go away, not the morning of. You know all these things to be true. And yet...

Everything tastes better at the last chance saloon. There is something intoxicating about leaving leaving it all to the last minute, challenging yourself to get it all done with no time to spare. By pushing things back to the last possible opportunity, you can chase that "now or never" high in your everyday life.

The third minute is a great time to score, but the ninety-third minute is so much more exciting.

Here we are, in the dying seconds of 2019's Edinburgh festivals, with one final chance to see something great. Last minute scrambles tend to get a little messy, so here's a quick rundown of ten great shows that are still playing today, with tickets still available.

The Man, Underbelly, Bristo Square - Jersey, 1.05pm

"There is not a speck of fat on any part of the hour – not on the lip-synch extravaganzas, the hilarious game of Dickhead Bingo, the introduction to the six ‘friends’ every man will need, the radio phone-in, or even the spoken word. The show is sculpted like the abs on a comedy Zac Efron.

And that allows for the occasional intense moment – like the section about drunk hugging – that foreshadows the unexpected ending. I am not going to tell you what that is, just that it is brave and passionate and the antithesis of every other Big Finish you will see this month. Be a Man. Go."

Read our full review here

A Very British Lesbian, Gilded Balloon Teviot , 1.45pm

"It is a wonderful thing to sit in the dark and let really good writing delight you. This is not just good, it is writing of such skill and precision that it could have been done with a diamond cutter. There is not one single wasted word, not one phrase that does not play perfectly – and sometimes painfully – its part in this extraordinary story of love and life, fear and finding yourself.

There is so much laughter in Goodwin’s hour that it is a tribute to her as both writer and performer that it does not for one second diminish the hurt that is

felt, it simply refuses to let things get either angry or maudlin.

Which makes this a memorably powerful hour. And very British."

Read our full review here

Manual Cinema's Frankenstein, Underbelly - Bristo Square, 2.45pm

"When it comes to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, cinema has a lot to answer for. The classic movie monster that we have seen in almost every film adaptation is a far cry from her original vision. In Manual Cinema’s multimedia adaptation of the Gothic classic, theatre and film are monstrously fused to tell Shelley’s masterpiece, and the life of the woman behind it.

It seems fitting that one of the first ever cinematic adaptations should be given the Manual Cinema treatment. As an adaptation, they continue the tradition of taking creative liberties with the source material, although to their credit they are more loyal than many of their feature-length counterparts. The result is a theatrical, cinematic, and above all dramatic adaptation."

Read our full review here

Jojo Sutherland: Riches to Rags, Golden Balloon Teviot, 4.15pm

"It has been a long, long time since I heard a room full of laughing people stunned into silence by a single line. But two-thirds into Jojo Sutherland’s hour that is exactly what happens. You need to go and see this show. You need to hear what she has to say.

We get quite an in-depth guide to initiation pranks in places like boys’ schools, the Army and the Navy. There is a mature gentleman in the front row who knows all about Freckles, Toby Tig and a load of other bodily function-based hilarity that goes on in every military establishment since military service began. Jojo’s own son fell asleep on the mess deck and woke up… well let us just say, physically altered.

And then Jojo drops the bomb. It will shock you. It should."

Read our full review here

Blizzard, Assembly Hall, 4.25pm

"In an increasingly crowded circus market, Canadian company FLIP Fabrique has always had a unique quality, largely because everything the company does is touched by theatricality: each routine created with thought for the visual impact as well as the thrill.

Snowballs are juggled and thrown, strong yet graceful hand balances are executed with absolute certainty, and bodies career around the stage like snowflakes, winding around each other in a flurry of acrobatics. People towers are grown from the ground in new ways (never easy, when all troupes are essentially doing the same thing) and the whole thing comes together in a gorgeous, snowy hour of top notch circus."

Read our full review here

Suffering from Scottishness, Assembly Roxy, 5.10pm

“Are you ashamed of your own culture?” The joint question is just one of six topics he’s running through with us, one of many focus groups on the potential contents of a new Scottish Citizenship Test. Are you brave (i.e. patriotic) enough to be Scottish? Are you at war with yourself? Do you speak Scottish?

He doesn’t mean English with an accent, Gaelic or Doric, but the very specific combination of “English, Scots, slang and obscure in-jokes” which finds its best expression on ‘Scottish Twitter’. An appreciation of the same will help with understanding this show, although every tourist walking the Royal Mile stocking up on shortbread, whisky and flyers is urged to come and see this for a taste of the Scotland which is most often hidden from view.

Gilday’s character appears to be having a crisis of confidence before us, first taking patriotic glee in John Smeaton famously “kicking a burning terrorist in the balls” at Glasgow Airport, then reciting a (very good) poem about “my quantum Scotland… a contradiction shaped as a landmass”, and finally digging into his own upbringing. It’s a show which attempts to hit the reset button on the drifting conversation, and address the fact that any useful nationalism must surely be built on self-doubt and a sense of clear-eyed perspective."

Read our full review here

Raven, Assembly Roxy, 5.50pm

"Anke, Lena and Romy are all dancer-acrobats. They are also all mothers, wary – because they want to continue their careers – of being called “raven mothers”, the German pejorative phrase (with equivalents the world over) for women who are supposedly more interested in themselves than in their children. It’s out of this tension that the Still Hungry collective of Berlin creates its beautiful and spectacular physical theatre show Raven, performed and co-created by Anke van Engelshoven, Lena Ries and Romy Seibt with creative support from Fringe star Bryony Kimmings, and presented in Edinburgh by Aurora Nova.

Among many other glorious qualities, Raven is particularly striking for the pitch-perfect ease with which it combines language and movement, as if the words acted as cues leading to soaring passages of movement that always add hugely to the meaning of the piece. At the end, in a brief passage of film, we are allowed a glimpse of the gorgeous kids who perhaps make it all worthwhile; as athletic and fast-moving as their mothers, and – it seems – quite proud of them, too."

Read our full review here

Rowan Rheingans: Dispatches on the Red Dress, Scottish Storytelling Centre, 6pm

"Rheingans is a notable name amid the recent generation of English folk-revivalists, and this deeply personal piece of one-woman musical theatre, co-written with Liam Hurley, sees her deftly reach for fiddle, viola, banjo or a gently reverberating electric guitar to unspool the story of the titular dress Rheingans’s great-grandmother made her grandmother to go to a dance, and of the village’s collective experience during and after the Second World War.

Rheingans is a persuasively clear teller of songs (her songwriting won a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award in 2016), accompanying herself with unobtrusive ease and judiciously deploying electronic looping that leaves notes hanging and fading behind her words, or introduces a glorious chorus of birdsong, as the bitterly inglorious history of the field becomes clear, recalling how her grandfather, on his way to school, would cycle hurriedly past the stacked dead."

Read our full review here

Sound Cistem, ZOO Playground, 9.20pm

"Film critics have long talked about the ‘male gaze’ – the way our culture constantly frames women as objects for men to look at rather than recognising them as full people with complex inner lives. Another term, the ‘cisgender gaze’, describes how trans people are constantly framed as objects of fascination or hostility for cis (non-trans) people.

Sound Cistem, created and performed by Lizzie Morris and Ayden Brouwers, is a tremendously powerful, moving and ultimately euphoric dance-based show about resisting the dehumanising effects of the cis gaze and moving – with effort and beauty – toward trans love and pleasure on trans terms.

A crassly over-apologetic girl’s performed abjection becomes a smug yoga move; discussion of the pressure to conform to gender stereotypes plays out as a constraining struggle; the exhaustion of living in a cis world is shown to be, well, exhausting. It’s a rich and revelatory survey of complex emotions and insights rarely available to cis audiences, realised with passion, indignation and defiant joy."

Read our full review here

Zach Zimmerman: Clean Comedy, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, 10.45pm

"With one of the best opening salvoes I’ve witnessed at this festival, Zach Zimmerman has his welcoming spiel down pat, introducing himself as a strapping, gay son of a preacher man from the American Deep South.

Effortlessly assured at the mic, his cheeky yet charming, self-mocking but confident persona seem impregnable. And yet, from the recorded phone call that actually kicks off this show and his mother’s smiling photo ever-present beside him, there’s an immediate suggestion that all has not been right in the state of Virginia.

Clocking in at a pithily exquisite 45 minutes, Clean Comedy is a late-night treat of superior, coming-of-age storytelling swept along on Zimmerman’s beaming charisma and some tremendous gag-writing."

Read our full review here

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