Theatre reviews: Unplugged, Zoo Southside (Venue 82), Edinburgh

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Multi-tasking musical storytellers Fine Chisel Theatre invite you to join the audience for an open mic night at the Bag o’Nails pub, the only free house left in town.


Zoo Southside (Venue 82)

Star rating: * * *

The evening is a fundraiser for a local eco-protest camp, but brothers Callum (Tom Spencer) and Paul (Robin Mcloughlin), who inherited the pub from their departed parents, also badly need the extra trade, what with Paul drinking any profits and the big brewery chains sniffing around.

The show’s themes of resistance and surrender, the individual v the corporate and idealism v pragmatism are thus broadly outlined, while its physical framework – staged in a cabaret-style space, complete with bar – adroitly enlists the audience as extras.

The impressively chameleon-like George Williams appears as three different open-mic performers – professional Welshman Dai, flamboyant moustachioed drag queen Sue, and protest camp leader Dennis – while the other characters, including long-suffering barmaid Evie (Holly Beasley-Garrigan), occasionally take their own turns in between featuring as house band.

The result is a kind of hybrid between theatre, musical and concert, effectively anchored by vivid characterisation and strong ensemble work, although some of its cross-artform forays – such as an extended sequence of rhyming dialogue – work less well, and the underlying narrative lacks some drama.

• Until 27 August. Today 5:45pm.