Edinburgh Fringe dance, physical theatre and circus reviews: Sophie’s Surprise 29th | The Messenger | Edmonds | Home | Ringer | Impact

High-stakes acrobatics and a devilish take on British daytime TV are among the highlights of this latest round-up from the Fringe

Sophie’s Surprise 29th , Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows (Venue 360) ****

until 26 August

With La Clique now ensconced in its early evening Spiegeltent slot, there is scope for this upstart newcomer, themed loosely round a riotous birthday party, to become the late(r) night circus cabaret sensation of the Fringe.

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The company may be newly formed, but the faces, bodies, moves and antics are familiar. Like La Clique, the party starts the moment the audience file in and take their seats – glitter make-up for those in the front rows and the all-important identification of that evening’s Sophie. Then brace for Conga lines, karaoke sing-songs, quizzes, drink, drugs, flirting and ill-advised sexual encounters…

Our players are rigged out as various high school tribes – meet the timid nerd, the sad goth, the loud chav. The performers play with the stereotypes but nothing can detract from the dazzling circus skills on display.

La Clique regular Katharine Arnold, swathed in unflattering layers, performs a slapstick rope routine to the bright power pop of Cheap Trick’s I Want You To Want Me. Later, she pulls off a Sandy-in-Grease transformation to reveal her musculature, and delivers an expert act on aerial hoop, sinewy and graceful in equal measure.

Cirque Du Soleil alumnus Cornelius Atkinson as the goth takes a moody turn on the straps but busts his cool with his toy rabbit and Twilight fan fiction recitation. Finnish acrobat Nella Niva has big balls, three of them, and she’s ready to roll. Drug juggler Sam Goodburn arrives by unicycle and leaves performing a reverse striptease. The silly humour is all well pitched, and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Sophie's Surprise 29th. Picture: ContributedSophie's Surprise 29th. Picture: Contributed
Sophie's Surprise 29th. Picture: Contributed

Best of all, roller-skating sensations Nathan Redwood Price and Isis Clegg-Vinell whizz through a breathtaking, drink-swilling routine with remarkable control and indulge in a gymnastic tumbling triangle with Atkinson on the fixed trapeze. This is high-stakes acrobatics at its finest with a comic bounce in its step. Fiona Shepherd

The Messenger, Assembly Roxy (Venue 139) **

until 27 August

There’s obvious talent on display in this non-verbal show from Korea. The performers know their way around slapstick, have astute comic timing and a strong grasp of mask work. But the comedy gets lost in the cultural divide, as they regularly chase the easy laugh rather than craft something more sophisticated. A husband looking after his incontinent, wheelchair-bound wife leads to an attempt at humour that borders on demeaning. And although the set pieces come thick and fast, the narrative dives in too many different directions to cultivate anything of merit. Kelly Apter

Edmonds, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) ***

until 28 August

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What if Deal or No Deal was, in fact, a deal with the devil? This zany hour loosely caricatures Noel Edmonds’ remarkable life with (relative) tact, but every time that pesky Banker rings the phone, actor and writer Joe Feeney edges closer to hellish disaster.

As proudly silly as the plasticky wig on Feeney’s head, the show treats each infamous red box as a fresh prompt for an off-the-rails monologue. Audience members pick each box, but it is a shame that the original show’s lid-lifting reveals become little more than a randomising device. Still, Feeney’s snappy script and wild-card performance compensates plenty for the repetitive structure, with his re-imagined Noel running the gamut from blustering and pompous to devilishly feral. Even his pretentious pronunciation of “television” is a delight to witness.

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Surely incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t watched a lot of British daytime TV (and that’s a good thing), Edmonds finds rich comedy in contrasting stuffy complaints about the Beeb with elaborate satanic rituals. Sure, Feeney could dig far deeper into the culty notions of destiny which gained Noel’s game such a superstitious following, but Edmonds is brilliant fun, with one final reveal which is both well-earned and cosmically stupid. “Great game!” Katie Hawthorne

Home, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) ***

until 28 August

Out of the darkness, a body is flung onto the stage then caught up in a maelstrom of movement and sound. It’s an early indicator that this energetic new show from Temper Theatre is storytelling in action, with people, set and things in almost constant motion.

Which, for the most part, is a good thing, but there are a couple of casualties along the way. Spectacle triumphs over characterisation, and music dominates the voiceovers, so the show’s emotional heart never beats as strongly as it could. But as an exercise in physicality, there’s much to appreciate.

The aforementioned body turns out to be Imogen, a young woman haunted by childhood events and longing for peace of mind. The narrative lacks clarity in places, but essentially we see her struggling to hold down a job or go about her day, due to a cloudy but troubling memory of home. Her dad’s on the phone, inviting her to visit, but there’s resistance on Imogen’s part – and we’re about to find out why.

As we travel back in time to the source of her trauma, the slick ensemble cast moves plants, suitcases and even an entire house around the stage without ever missing a beat. Kelly Apter

Ringer, Underbelly, Bristo Square (Venue 302) ***

until 27 August

A nicely plot-driven dramatic comedy from Hughie Shepherd-Cross, writer of last year's satire of restaurant reviewers, Out To Lunch, this skewers the British film industry. Fabian Bevan plays himself - or at least a grotesquely exaggerated version of someone who shares the same name - a remarkably unpleasant actor feted as "the next, next Andrew Scott". He's also tortured by self-doubt which he relieves by being abusive to his assistant, Fox (Shepherd-Cross). Fabian's career takes an unfortunate turn when circumstances dictate that his public reputation lands in the lap of Mike, his none-too-bright stunt double and suddenly "Fabian" is appearing on chat shows speaking in a culturally insensitive broad West Country accent that he tries to pass off as part of his "process".

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This isn't quite as pointedly savage as Out To Lunch but it does mine a similarly unlikely scenario for laughs while telling a satisfying story. Bevan essays his dual role well, he excels in playing smug media types so while it's regrettable that the “real” Fabian has to make his exit early, the feckless Mike makes for an effective substitute protagonist - even though he sounds and behaves entirely differently to the man he's supposed to be impersonating. It's an impressive performance - two, in fact. Rory Ford

Impact, Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14) ***

until 28 August

As a writer and a musician, Amy Engelhardt has spent her life searching for meaningful connections, and the one which has made the most telling impression on her originated back in 1988, the year of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in the skies over Lockerbie. Among the 270 people killed, 35 were students of Syracuse University in New York, where Engelhardt had just graduated.

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She saw the tragedy and mourning from the other side of the Atlantic. Lockerbie continued to hold a strange fascination, and many years later, when she came to London on an acting job connected to promotion for the television show Good Omens, she decided to visit. With two other friends and family members of the victims, she encountered a community still actively engaged in honouring the dead and comforting their loved ones.

Hitting a bell every time she sees a coincidence in the tale, this is Engelhardt’s own autobiography, but through her warm storytelling and reflections on her experience – and her affecting framing songs for piano, given weight by backing musicians Tom Bancroft and Harriet Davidson – we get a clear sense of how huge public tragedies can affect even those who observe them from afar, and how sharing these experiences can lead to healing from them. David Pollock