Full casting is announced for Angus Jackson’s RSC production of Don Quixote

The Royal Shakespeare Company and Nica Burns present
Adapted by James Fenton from the novel by Miguel de Cervantes
Directed by Angus Jackson
With songs by James Fenton and Grant Olding

  • Full casting is announced for Angus Jackson’s RSC production of Don Quixote
  • David Threlfall and Rufus Hound return to reprise their roles as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in James Fenton’s triumphant adaptation of Cervantes’ classic novel. They will be joined by Will Bliss, Raphael Bushay, Farrell Cox, John Cummins, Richard Dempsey, Ruth Everett, Gabriel Fleary, Richard Leeming, Nicholas Lumley, Natasha Magigi, Tom McCall, Joshua McCord, Bathsheba Piepe, Rosa Robson, Timothy Speyer and Eleanor Wyld
  • The RSC’s joyous, music-filled Don Quixote transfers to the West End for a limited season at the Garrick Theatre from 27 October 2018 to 2 February 2019. Tickets are on sale now.

Full casting is announced today for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Don Quixote, which originally premiered at the RSC’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in spring 2016. The production will play at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End from 27 October 2018 to 2 February 2019.

After a lifetime of reading books on chivalry, one eccentric old man heads off on a rumbustious quest to become a wandering knight accompanied by his faithful and equally ill-suited servant, Sancho Panza.

Taking up a lance and sword, Don Quixote sets out on a hilarious journey across medieval Spain, defending the helpless and vanquishing the wicked. Hopelessly unprepared and increasingly losing his grip on reality, with each calamitous adventure the two hapless heroes experience, the romantic ideal of Quixote’s books seems further away than ever.

Following its sell-out run at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ death, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of this legendary comic novel is told by a company of 20 actors accompanied by a band of live musicians.

Alongside the previously announced David Threlfall and Rufus Hound who return to reprise their roles as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza respectively, the full company comprises Will Bliss, Raphael Bushay, Farrell Cox, John Cummins, Richard Dempsey, Ruth Everett, Gabriel Fleary, Richard Leeming, Nicholas Lumley, Natasha Magigi, Tom McCall, Joshua McCord, Bathsheba Piepe, Rosa Robson, Timothy Speyer and Eleanor Wyld.

David Threlfall is best known for his leading role as Frank Gallagher in Channel 4’s Shameless. His other recent TV work includes Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This, Black Sea, Housewife 49, What Remains and most recently he appeared in the BBC/Netflix series Troy: Fall of a City. His original appearance in the show in Stratford marked a long-awaited return to the RSC for Threlfall, whose last performance there was in his award-winning role of Smike in the iconic adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby in 1980.

Rufus Hound’s recent work includes the Rose Theatre Kingston’s War of the Roses cycle, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Savoy Theatre), One Man Two Guvnors (NT/West End), Wind in the Willows(London Palladium Theatre), What the Butler Saw (Curve Leicester), Present Laughter (Chichester) and the upcoming new musical Dusty (UK tour).

The production is once again directed by RSC Associate Director Angus Jackson who previously worked on the critically acclaimed production Oppenheimer, which transferred to the West End in 2015 after a sell-out run at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Last year, he was season director of the ROME MMXVII season of Shakespeare plays (RST and Barbican).

Don Quixote is designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, with music composed by Grant Olding,lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Fergus O’Hare. The comedy director is Cal McCrystal and fight director is Malcolm Ranson. Movement is by Lucy Cullingford. Puppetry director and designer is Toby Olié. Puppetry co-director is Laura Cubitt.

World premiere of Women in Power opens at Nuffield Southampton Theatres

A Nuffield Southampton Theatres production in association with Oxford Playhouse

World premiere ofWomen in Poweropens at Nuffield Southampton Theatres

Nuffield Southampton Theatres opens the world première of Women in Poweron 13 September at Nuffield Southampton Theatres new venue NST City, with previews from 6 September and runs until 29 September.

Women in Power is a brand-new musical comedy based on the Greek classic, The Assemblywomen by Aristophanes. This hilarious reimagining of the original is written by seven of the UK’s most influential female voices from the world of poetry, politics, broadcasting, theatre and standup: Wendy Cope, Jenny Eclair, Suhayla El-Bushra, Natalie HaynesShappi Khorsandi, Jess Phillips MP and Brona C Titley.

Award-winning NST associate Blanche McIntyre (Tonight at 8.30Noises Off, Nuffield Southampton Theatres, The Norman Conquests, Chichester Festival Theatre and The Writer, Almeida Theatre) directs the show starring Lydia BewleyElizabeth BoagAnna FordhamLisa KerrAnne Odeke and Alicia Mckenzie.

The country is in political turmoil. Recent wars and alliances have left Athenians no option but to take the most extreme action. The most radical: a government of women!

The women storm the Assembly dressed as men, big fake beards, big shoes and a big vision – total equality! A world where power imbalance is eradicated and with it debt, greed and theft. But this has unintended and hilarious consequences.

Aristophanes’ Women in Power is turned into a celebration of fun-filled and silly comedy sketches, slapstick, songs, dance, great gags, music and women taking the lead.

Women in Power opens The Bungalow Café Festival a new arts festival in Southampton to celebrate 100 years since the first British Women won the right to vote.

The original Bungalow Cafe stood at 157 Above Bar Street, on the old Tyrrell and Green department store, where NST City stands today. It was the meeting place for The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, before it was destroyed in the Blitz.

Age recommendation 12 +


Tickets are available from the Box Office 023 8067 1771 or online at nstheatres.co.uk.

Cilla The Musical Review

The Lowry, Manchester – until Saturday 1st September 2018

Reviewed by Julie Noller


Cilla The Musical – oh boy does it pack in those amazing musical performances and numbers. I am lucky and certainly honoured to get a second chance to see this highly polished show and easily gave it five stars. The only downside and it’s a tiny downside is the couple of questionable Liverpudlian accents from the minor (you say minor but they are some of the biggest names from the 1960’s) characters that have you wondering who they are, until introduced of course. But this isn’t their story, it’s in her own words; the story of a gawky red head from Liverpool. You don’t have to be a fan of theatre or drama to enjoy this show, be a fan of the era reminisce along with many in the audience, be a music fan – tap your feet, clap your hands, sway in your seat or if the mood takes you jump to your feet; this is after all the celebration of a young lass who became a singing sensation before ultimately the Queen of Entertainment.

Kara Lily Hayworth once again doesn’t disappoint as Priscilla White later to take on the stage name Cilla Black following a mishap with a poster that everyone believed just sounded better. It’s a totally memorable performance that sucks your soul towards the stage as if Cilla is right there and performing only for you. It’s mesmerising to watch how this feisty girl born at the end of the war and belonging to the new generation, who found music in their hearts, headed to the many small clubs set up to showcase local talent and quite often ended up being the stars of that very stage. There was never any going back they knew the sacrifices their parents had made but that made them all the more determined to enjoy the life and freedom they now had.

All this makes Cilla such a feel good night out, if this was today what would have happened? Perhaps an audition on a tv reality show? What if that went badly as that first audition for Brian Epstein? Forever in the public domain – how sad would that be. Cilla is full of great performances, strong characters and many humorous one liners that the world expects from Scousers, you will laugh. But be warned fame and fortune and in a time where everything was changing but just not quickly enough still means some have a price to pay. For all of Cillas feistiness she was still a young woman battling in a mans world, she knew she could’ve quite easily become a diva, yet it’s that upbringing that rooted her and the men around her who shaped her. Neil MacDonald is brilliant as John White, Cilla’s dad. A man who may be stuck in his ways yet equally surprisingly worldly wise due to his years in the Merchant Navy, a one liner that is used so often it becomes that ultimate comedy one liner.

Alexander Patmore who as Bobby Willis falls in love with our Cilla as soon as he first sees her in the world famous Cavern Club not performing but as just another music fan and wannabe. As was the case previously I rooted for Bobby, it’s a solid performance as the man who led Cilla whilst quietly encouraging her. You see the trials and tribulations of first love even if we all do quietly giggle away at how Timothy Lucas playing Kenny Willis (the elder brother) constantly banters with his brother gently ribbing him. The star performance apart from Kara as Cilla of course because she gives you chills and you find your hairs standing on end, no my favourite has to be Andrew Lancel as Brian Epstein a character so far removed from his many TV characters you forget who he is. A character who deserves his own show, a man of many faces the public, the private and the reality. His story is a tragic one, sadness and betrayal, a man who needs to be needed. And when his life implodes and affects the careers of those he developed well they start to distance themselves and as is reality; lives and people always move on. Andrew Lancel portrays those highs and lows with absolute brilliance and despite not being a singer he delivers his one song with the sadness and empathy it deserves, You’ve got to hide your love away, written by John Lennon perhaps about his wife and young son, or perhaps about Brian Epstein’s love of nasty boys. Even so it’s a heart wrenching performance that drips with sadness and ultimately his death. It is his demise that catapults Cilla onto the BBC and upwards to be given an OBE for her services to entertainment.

The set looks magnificent from Scotty Road, The Cavern to Abbey Road and on wards to the Ed Sullivan Show where it’s plainly obvious those big fishes of the UK pond have become small fishes in a bigger pond, namely Epstein mismanaging Cilla totally. She lost that feistiness to fight for her right to perform her choices. Did Ed Sullivan really say Wales was in England back then? Oh dear.

I am lucky and certainly honoured to get a second chance to see this highly polished show and easily gave it five stars. The only downside and it’s a tiny downside is the couple of questionable Liverpudlian accents from the minor (you say minor but they are some of the biggest names from the 1960’s) characters that have you wondering who they are, until introduced of course. But this isn’t their story, it’s in her own words; the story of a gawky red head from Liverpool.

In a smaller theatre the Cavern set feels like we the audience are there up front swaying to the beat, as The Lowry is a bigger theatre the sets stand out to dominate the stage, you really feel as if you’re at The London Palladium, the sound is amazing its crystal clear and that’s what draws you in. I’m grateful I got this second chance, who could ever tire of Cilla?

Fame the Musical Review

Bradford Alhambra – until 1st September 2018

Reviewed by Melanie Torley


This is the 30th anniversary of the musical Fame which is based on the iconic 1980’s film of the same name. The show certainly delivers a high energy performance from all the cast with leg warmers galore. The set is simple and functional with a backdrop of yearbook photos which light up throughout the show.

The plot is very broad and touches on the highs and lows of the youngsters at the School of the Performing Arts and in the space of two hours covers, drug abuse, illiteracy, race and gender prejudices, peer and parent pressure all wrapped up in the desire to be famous and have one’s name in lights. There’s such a lot going off that you don’t get to know the characters well enough to build up any emotions or empathy towards their plight and struggles.

We are introduced to the rather ballsy student Carmen (played by Stephanie Rojas) who believes she will be famous and her name will live forever. She is tempted away from the school by a ‘talent scout’ from LA who promises her the sky but leads her in to a life of deprivation and drug dependency. Stephanie Rojas delivers strong vocals throughout, not least when she sings the title score ‘Fame’.

There’s a will they, won’t they, is he gay, is he straight scenario played throughout the show by Nick (Keith Jack who you may remember from the tv show Any Dream Will Do) and Serena (Molly McGuire). There’re comedic moments throughout the show too from the ever-hungry for food as much as fame Mabel (played by Hayley Johnston) and Joe (Albey Brookes), who is most inappropriately cast as Romeo at one point.

Iris (played by Jorgie Porter of Hollyoaks / Dancing on Ice fame) is the new girl and makes an appearance half-way through the first act. She dances and sings well throughout the show and I have to say her hair never moves out of place, she looks like the perfect ballerina doll throughout the show.

Miss Sherman is played brilliantly by Mica Paris, who drives the students hard, almost to the point of breaking at times but always with the intention of bringing out the best in her students and to prepare them for a life perhaps without fame. In the second act she is particularly hard on Tyrone (played by Jamal Crawford) and points out his illiteracy to the whole class. The scene is played so emotionally by both cast members and is followed by the solo score ‘These are My Children’ which shows off the fabulous vocal talents of Mica Paris, after which the whole audience erupted in to a rapturous applause.

The show was brought to a close most appropriately by the title score ‘Fame’ lead by Mica Paris and Stephanie Riojas, at which the whole audience were on their feet singing, clapping and dancing.

If like myself and my sister, you have fond memories of the TV series from the 80’s you will struggle with the musical production but as we left the theatre I spoke to some younger members of the audience who were in raptures with the whole show.

Record-Breaking Year For Edfest.com – Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly – The Largest Grouping of Venues on the Fringe


27 August 2018

As the 71st anniversary edition of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe comes to a close with the announcement of record breaking ticket sales across the festival, edfest.com are delighted to report a bumper year for the four major venues with 1,658,437 tickets sold, an increase of 9% on Fringe 2017.

Accounting for 58% of all tickets sold at the Fringe, edfest.com – where Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly come together to host some of the world’s best and brightest talent – continues to be the beating heart of the Fringe. Collectively, they run 97 venues, present 858 shows and employ more than 1800 staff making them the largest grouping of venues on the Fringe.

William Burdett-Coutts, Artistic Director, Assembly, said: “We have had another incredibly successful Festival this year with nearly half a million tickets sold across our 200 plus shows.  Many of our companies have enjoyed full houses, 5 star reviews, nominations and awards including, My Left Right Foot which won both a Fringe First and a Herald Angel and Casting Off which won the Total Theatre Award for Circus. I am also delighted to see  the number of international performers at the Festival continuing to grow despite our uncertain political climate, and for 2019 we will continue to work closely with our partners in Canada, Korea, New Zealand, Australia and many other European countries to ensure that we bring the very best artists and work to Edinburgh each year.”

Karen and Katy Koren, Artistic Directors, Gilded Balloon, said As we come to the end of another Fringe season, we’re reflecting on what has been an absolutely fantastic month across all Gilded Balloon venues. We were delighted to return once again to the National Museum of Scotland and Teviot Row House, and open the doors to the Rose Theatre for the second year running. Our 2018 programme put women at the forefront, with Luisa Omielan, Hot Brown Honey, Maisie Adam and The Miss Behave Gameshow just a few of the fantastic performers we hosted throughout August. Gilded Balloon remains a firm favourite on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe landscape and we take great pride in our programme which celebrates home-grown and international talents, from established acts to those with burgeoning careers ahead.”

Anthony Alderson, Director, Pleasance said: It’s been a fantastic Fringe where we have broken box office records throughout the month.  Our biggest and boldest programme ever has seen us fill a trophy cabinet of awards that include Fringe Firsts, both Edinburgh Comedy Awards, The Holden Street Theatres Award and the Filipa Bragança Award. Companies have thrived off how busy and buzzing the city is. In particular, we’ve noticed this at Pleasance at EICC where audiences have trebled this Fringe.  The Pleasance remains a hub for audiences because of the great and diverse shows found within our programme – from brilliant newcomers to the most exciting international artists to our famous family programme. Our long-running partnership with Waverley Care has this Fringe smashed through the £500,000 mark which is also an amazing achievement.”

Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, Directors, Underbelly, said: “We are delighted that so many of our companies and artists have been recognised with awards, strong audiences and superb reviews. This year it has been about much more than numbers. It has been about the opportunity to support artists to perform here, to develop and invest in shows, to present a strong line up of new writing, innovative comedians and the best of international contemporary circus, and give space to those who want to create work which not only entertains but also addresses issues which affect us all. We are also delighted to have raised over £43,000 for charity over the course of the Fringe. Every year we are inspired by the talent, creativity and commitment of the artists, performers and staff across Underbelly, and we would like to thank 2018’s incredible team who worked tirelessly to deliver such an exceptional year.”

It’s the final day of the Fringe and it’s been a landmark year for Pleasance

A Landmark Year for Pleasance at
Edinburgh Fringe 2018

This Fringe has seen the Pleasance present its biggest and boldest ever programme with 5,537 performances of 270 productions. With record ticket sales and a trophy cabinet of awards that include Fringe Firsts and both annual Edinburgh Comedy Awards, the eclectic programme celebrated brilliant newcomers alongside acclaimed international artists.

In only its second year of Pleasance at EICC, audience numbers have trebled with people flocking to high profile acts such as Reginald D Hunter, Cirque Berserk!, Daniel Sloss and the Scottish Ensemble. The EICC also won Best Venue at this year’s Accessible Edinburgh Festivals Award. Overall, ticket sales this year at Pleasance have increased by 10% since 2017. The famous Pleasance Kidzone and the family programme continues to grow and flourish with over 55,000 tickets sold.

As a not-for-profit charity, the Pleasance provides an unrivalled platform for new talent to thrive. The organisation’s artist development platform Pleasance Futures put over £135,000 of direct support into new productions and initiatives, including youth theatre group the Young Pleasance, graduate companies Clay Party and The Network, and the recipients of the Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund – the Comedy Reserve and Freeman. The Pleasance’s Festival Volunteer Programme saw over 230 talented individuals from across the country and beyond join for a unique experience at the heart of the Fringe community.

Anthony Alderson, Director of the Pleasance, said, I see Pleasance as one large family and this is reflected in both the acts who form our amazing programme and the staff who inject Pleasance with its contagious personality. This year’s Fringe we have hosted over 200 premieres and seen over 100 acts making their Pleasance debuts. I’m thrilled to welcome them to our fold. Pleasance represents every generation from the toddlers in Kidzone, to Young Pleasance, the newcomers in the Comedy Reserve, to those doing their debut hour and the more established companies and playwrights who have graced Pleasance with their presence over many a year. It has been a wonderful festival and I’m already looking forward
to planning the next.

It’s been a remarkable year for awards at the Pleasance across comedy and theatre. Pleasance dominated The Edinburgh Comedy Awards with Ciarán Dowd winning Best Newcomer and Rose Matafeo taking home Best Comedy Show. Furthermore, Pleasance was home to more than half of the thirteen nominations. Alex Edelman, Kieran Hodgson, and Felicity Ward were among those nominated for Best Comedy Show. And, those nominated for Best Newcomer included Olga Koch, Sarah Keyworth and Sindhu Vee. Last year’s Best Newcomer, Natalie Palamides, returned to the Pleasance with her new show Nate, winning the ‘Innovation, Experimentation and Playing with Form’ category at the Total Theatre Awards.

The two Edinburgh Comedy Awards nominees Sarah Keyworth and Alex Edelman were also recognised with Herald Angels. Teatr Biuro Podróży was also awarded the Herald Archangel Award for their sustained and valued connection with the Edinburgh Fringe. After first performing at the Fringe in 1995 with Carmen Funebre, it was especially fitting that the award came to the company this year as they returned with the production to the Pleasance at EICC alongside its new partner piece Silence.

The Pleasance had a phenomenal final week. The Archive of Educated Hearts and Power Play: Funeral Flowers both received renowned Fringe Firsts from The Scotsman. Both pieces were performed in unusual site-specific spaces – a shed and a new town flat respectively. Power Play: Funeral Flowers was also awarded the Filipa Bragança Award for an outstanding solo theatre performance by an actress – a sought-after award for which White by Koko Brown was also shortlisted. Shortlisted for the SIT-UP Awards which consider the social impact at the heart of productions were both Power Play: The Empty Chair and Freeman.
The Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund recipient, Freeman, was also shortlisted for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Fringe Award alongside White with Silence making the longlist. Better Together was also awarded the SIT-UP Award for Audience Engagement while Sirens and When You Fall Down: The Buster Keaton Story received the Three Weeks Editors’ Choice Awards and Sparks was named Best New Musical by Musical Theatre Review. Elise and A Clown Show About Rain were shortlisted for the Mental Health Fringe Award, which Electrolyte took home. Electrolyte was also shortlisted for the Holden Street
Theatres Award to transfer to the Adelaide Fringe which was won by Build a Rocket.

Back for its second year, the Indies are Pleasance’s very own in-house awards named after founder Christopher Richardson’s black Labrador, Indie. In Pleasance’s true family spirit, these are voted for by the performing companies themselves with the Spirit of the Pleasance Award going to the person or company who has gone out of their way for their fellow performers. This year, the award went to William Andrews for his support of other companies and his uplifting spirit. The other winners include Sheeps: Live Loud Selfie Sex Harry Potter for Best Comedy, Cabaret or Variety Show; Sarah Keyworth: Dark Horse for Best Comedy, Cabaret or Variety Newcomer; Toby Thompson: For the Record for Best Theatre, Family, Music or Dance; Electrolyte for Best Theatre, Family Music or Dance Newcomer; and Short & Curly: Young at Start for Best Poster Design.

The Fringe’s longest-running fundraising partnership between Waverley Care and the Pleasance has this year smashed through the £500,000 target. At the beginning of August, the unique partnership was £25,000 short of half a million pounds mark. With bucket collections, text donations and the ticket sales from incredible annual events such as The Tartan Ribbon Comedy Benefit and Amusical, Waverley Care can continue to raise money and awareness of HIV and hepatitis C in Scotland

Underbelly closes successful Fringe 2018

Underbelly made its biggest year of investment in its programme with over £500,000 of assistance to shows in 2018 and is delighted with its best year of awards, critical reception and ticket sales to date.

Over 200 shows, seventeen awards and nominations, over £40,000 raised for charities, over 500 4 & 5 star reviews make 2018 a terrific Fringe for Underbelly and its companies and artists.

  • Underbelly invested over £500,000 in 22 productions and co-productions this Fringe.
  • Three Fringe First Awards – Angry Alan, It’s True, It’s True, It’s True and dressed.
  • Queens of Sheba won an Edinburgh Stage Award
  • Break Free and OTOSOTR won Asian Arts Awards
  • dressed was shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award.
  • It’s True, It’s True, It’s True and Mistero Buffo won Stage Awards for Acting
  • Dangerous Giant Animals won the inaugural Sit-Up Award
  • Ahir Shah was nominated for the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Awards for his show Duffer which played Cabaret Voltaire and Underbelly.
  • The Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence went to Thrown, Garry Starr Performs Everything won the Balkan/Otherplace Award, and Hot Gay Time Machine won the  Radio Reverb Out in Brighton LGBTQ Brighton Fringe Award
  • 2 Three Weeks Editor’s awards went to Maddie Rice for Pickle Jar, and Zach and Viggo and Thumpasaurus for Where Did The Love Go?
  • Killymuck’s Aoife Lennon was shortlisted for the Filipa Bragancia award for a solo female performance.
  • Over 500 reviews for Underbelly shows were 4 or 5 stars.
  • 76% of Underbelly’s 517 Fringe staff came from Scotland.


With over 200 shows 2018 saw Underbelly’s strongest year yet for ticket sales, with 422,120 tickets sold across its 22 venues and 4 sites – George Square, Circus Hub, Cowgate and Bristo Square.

Underbelly produced or co-produced 22 shows in 2018, investing over £500,000 to support artists to develop existing and new work. The companies are supported by Underbelly in a number of ways, including no risk financial arrangements, guarantees paid to artists, enhanced box office splits, reduced or waived rental fees, accommodation provided, press and marketing support and delivery, and technical and production assistance.

This year marked the return of the stunning McEwan Hall after the University of Edinburgh’s three-year £33million restoration, converted into a 900 seat venue which hosted the explosive family showBrainiac Live through to Don’t Tell Me Not To Fly, Nina Conti, Foil, Arms and Hog and Sh*tfaced Shakespeare.

One of this year’s great successes has been the award established by Underbelly, and now in collaboration with New Diorama Theatre, ‘Untapped’, which saw three theatre shows win the opportunity to present new work at Underbelly this Fringe. dressed, It’s True, It’s True, It’s True and Queens of Sheba have all played to full houses and critical acclaim with thirty-six 4 and 5 star reviews and prestigious Fringe Firsts for dressed and It’s True, It’s True, It’s True.

Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood, directors of Underbelly said“We are delighted that so many of our companies and artists have been recognised with awards, strong audiences and superb reviews. We have a wonderful team of programmers who have brought together an entertaining, diverse and relevant programme of shows.

“We’re still not on the scale of the big boys Pleasance and Assembly but we’re delighted that  our numbers of tickets, performers, staff and stars have grown on previous Fringes. We think though, for us, particularly this year that it has been about much more than numbers. It has been about the opportunity to support artists to perform here, to develop and invest in shows, to present a strong line up of new writing, innovative comedians and the best of international contemporary circus, and give space to those who want to create work which not only entertains but also addresses issues which affect us all.

“We are particularly pleased that our Untapped Award, which we run in collaboration with New Diorama Theatre, has been a terrific success with the three plays dressed, It’s True, It’s True, It’s True and Queens of Sheba receiving a huge number of 4 & 5 star reviews and awards.”

Underbelly featured in all three weeks of Fringe First Awards, picking up gongs for  Angry Alan,dressed and It’s True, It’s True, It’s True: The Scotsman described dressed as full of “joy, passion and a rich flow of energy” and Angry Alan as “packs a giant punch”. dressed was also shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award.

Queens of Sheba took The Stage’s Edinburgh Award in week three of the Fringe.

Wasabeats’ European premier of Break Free smashed expectations and wowed its audience from day one – it’s no surprise they won an Asian Arts Award! Founded in 2014, this award promotes Asian artists and art forms at the Fringe, with judges looking for productions that show outstanding originality, creativity and innovation in their work.

Winner of the inaugural Sit-Up Awards was Dangerous Giant Animals, a play about what it means to grow up alongside a sibling with a disability. The Sit-Up awards are new to the Fringe, launched this year to recognise theatre that which aims to encourage audiences ‘to do something’ if they are affected by work they have seen on stage.

The Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence went to Thrown, a thoughtful and stand-out piece of sci-fi theatre. One of the most popular shows this year at Underbelly, Garry Starr Performs Everything won the Balkan/Otherplace Award, and Hot Gay Time Machine won a Brighton Fringe Award for the second year, taking the Radio Reverb Out in Brighton LGBTQ Brighton Fringe Award.

2 Three Weeks Editor’s Awards winged their way in Underbelly’s direction. Maddie Rice won an award for Pickle Jar with Three Weeks describing it as “Brilliantly written and highly relevant” and Zach and Viggo and Thumpasaurus for Where Did The Love Go?

Over 500 4 and 5 star reviews for shows across the programme including One Woman Sex and the City, Rhys Nicholson, Steen Raskoplous, Pickle Jar, Little Death Club, Tabarnak, Myra Dubois, Abandoman, Josh Glanc, Brainiac Live, Vessel and Dick and Dom marked a successful summer for many who invest in the opportunity to present their work here, on this high profile platform.

This year saw the first company from Khazakstan make a successful debut at the Fringe with their production OTOSOTR (On the Other Side of the River). The List gave it 4 stars and described it as “a gripping, revelatory show” and it picked up an Asian Arts Award.

This year saw Underbelly’s largest programme of accessible performances with 48 performances in step free venues, captioned, BSL interpreted, Relaxed or Makaton signed.

Underbelly held the Big Brain Tumour Benefit for the second year, this time in the magnificent 900-seater McEwan Hall. The line-up included Susan Calman in her only Fringe appearance this year, joined by Joel Dommett, Nish Kumar, Zoe Lyons, David O’Doherty and Rhys Nicholson. The event sold out and all ticket income (£15,000) is going directly to the BrainTumour Charity, matched by Underbelly announced to raise a total of £30,000 on the night and more in online donations.

A further £13,250 was raised through benefits with Stand Up For Cancer, Austentatious presents Crosstentatious! for Waverley Care, Werewolf: Live…Charity Spectacular! Bongo Club Cabaret vs Cancer and Naked Cabaret for Body Gossip. The grand total raised for charities amounted to over £43,000. The online giving page for Brain Tumour Charity is still open and still rising, please do give what you can to support their seriously underfunded and yet so important work.https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/underbellyedinburgh

Alongside plays addressing violence against women and the metoo movement, it was a strong year for women actors, comedians, playwrights, singers and directors at Underbelly with Clare Sweeney, Ria Jones, Janie Dee, Danielle Hope, Don’t Tell Me Not To Fly, One Woman Sex in the City, Louise Beuvnik, Providence of Neighbouring Bodies, Croft and Pearce, Not Yet Suffragette, Alice Fraser, Su Pollard and Athena Kugblenu leading the way.

This year we marked the 250th anniversary of circus and the 4th year of the Underbelly Circus Hub on The Meadows by showcasing and celebrating the very finest contemporary circus from across the globe. The Circus Hub programme this year welcomed circus companies from Colombia, Australia, Canada, America, Cuba, Africa and the UK to dazzle and delight audiences both young and old from The Lafayette and The Beauty with the very best traditional and contemporary circus performance.

This year Underbelly employed 517 staff to deliver its programme, 76% of whom were from Scotland (58% from Edinburgh), 18% of them students at Edinburgh’s colleges and universities. All of whom were paid national living wage, paid breaks, paid training, 100% of their tips, and none of which were on zero-hour contracts.

Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, Directors, Underbelly said: “We’re immensely proud of our 2018 programme and how well it’s been received by audiences, industry and media. In particular, we are delighted that we have been able to raise over £30,000 for the Brain Tumour Charity through the fantastic Gala at McEwan Hall and our audience’s generosity. Thank you to everyone who took part, bought a ticket or donated cash.

“Every year we are inspired by the talent, creativity and commitment of the artists, performers and staff across Underbelly, and we would like to thank 2018’s incredible team who worked tirelessly to deliver such an exceptional year.”

Swan Lake Review

London Coliseum – until 2 September

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s unashamedly old-fashioned production of Swan Lake is a thing of beauty. Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music, played masterfully by the ENO Orchestra and conducted by Vadim Nikitin, soars through the auditorium accompanying the ballet masterclass from prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova.

The story of Prince Siegfried falling in love with Odette, and the evil sorcerer Rothbart’s jealousy and machinations to keep Odette a prisoner with the other swans is much loved, and this production sticks to the familiar plot, opting for a happy ending rather than tragedy. The halting of the action for soloists to take applause may irritate some audience members, but good grief, I think we all needed the opportunity to whoop after Kolesnikova’s Black Swan performance. With simple painted chocolate box backdrops that still manage to be dazzling and romantic, there are no innovations to be found in this production, but that doesn’t matter, as the dancing is wonderful and the whole thing is just lovely. “Lovely” was the word on everyone’s lips as they left the theatre, as well as “magnificent” when describing Kolesnikova. As Odette she is full of fluttering grace and energy, while her Odile is fiery, passionate and decidedly wicked. She is simply poetry in motion. With guest soloists from the Bolshoi and Mariinsky rotating roles throughout the run, each performance should feel slightly different, but Denis Rodkin as Prince Siegfried is a romantic and athletic dream, with Dmitry Akulinin a masterful Rothbart and Sergei Fedorkov stealing all his scenes as the gravity defying jester.

With music that has seeped into popular culture, this lyrical and spellbinding production is a perfect introduction to the ballet for newcomers – what better way to end the school holidays?

Walking with Dinosaurs Review

First Direct Arena, Leeds – 23 August 2018

Reviewed by Hayley Thompson


Me and my son visited The First Direct Arena in Leeds on the 23rd August, 3pm show of Walking with Dinosaurs and I can say what a brilliant visual show!

My four year old son (soon to be five) watched the full show when the dinosaurs came on stage. I must admit he was a little bit fidgeting when the actor spoke about the world and the dinosaurs but as an adult I found it quite interesting.

The dinosaurs were not only the fantastic aspect to see, but the affects such as the volcano rocks, trees, flowers and lighting were very clever. This production made sure the story was very colourful especially when it came to the “scary” parts.  I found the dinosaurs very convincing but my clever child did keep reminding me that they were robots or costume! One thing he was disappointed in was that there was no pterodactyl – only on screen. However this did not spoil the show.

It was lovely to see the art work of the dinosaurs and the physical theatre that was included. Even though I could see some grey legs, I can still appreciate their performance. Especially the baby T-Rex’s comedy. The show seemed quite simple but very effective to put together!  For example using lights to signify flowers and insects and also using the screen to give us a better view of the dinosaurs and even some footage of scenery.

Overall a wonderful show and a brilliant one to take the children to, to educate.

On tour around the UK – details at www.dinosaurlive.com

The Government Inspector Review

Brockley Jack Studio  – until 25th August

Reviewed by Heather Chalkley


Putting aside a few fumbled lines and the over cluttered staging, the cast told a well-known story of corruption and the web of lies this inevitably weaves.

You can forgive the occasional forgotten exit or entrance, when you are offered humour amongst the madness. The insipid Black (Elizabeth George) and Jack (Richard Houghton-Evans) property dealers, brought the most humour to the floor, literally!

The parts were played as caricatures mostly, apart from innocent, naive Anna (Fiona Vivian) and the shady Deputy Leader (Richard Willmott), who has only self-interest at heart. The Deputy Leader is probably the most corrupt of all, carrying out the orders of the Leader, keeping himself well in bribes and property.

Robert Mclachlan as Tommy gave no false illusions as to his working class roots and down trodden position. Playing the council leaders game to keep himself in the job, a necessary inconvenience to keep the workers in order.

Richard Houghton-Evans as Osip conveyed the emotional roller coaster of his character well, keeping his wits about him at all times. Jack Blue as Norman was a believable cad, making the most of a highly volatile situation.

You were reminded of Big Brother lurking in the back ground by the occasional appearance of Margaret Thatcher, unseen, weaving amongst the players.

Bernard O’Sullivan played the out of control ogre, Chairman of the Council, believing himself to be above the law, becoming violent when his position is threatened. I was not 100% convinced by this character. I thought he would have a heart attack rather than become outrageously violent.

The play was saved with the final pose when they were delivered the news the real inspector had arrived!

I wonder if Nikolai Gogol would recognise his play in Paula Chitty’s adaptation. Paula has done well to relate it to British politics and it does convey the message that power can corrupt at any time. The respect of power is dependent on the integrity of individuals.