Mace and Burton – Heartbreak Hotel

By Ron Bingham

Have you had a bad breakup, still nursing a broken heart, feel you’ve been plumb done wrong, been dumped and you’re still down in them? Well, book yourself a room at the Heartbreak Hotel where Lizzie (Mace) and Juliette (Burton) will attend to your every emotional need and send you back out into the world a whole person.

Mace and Burton (as their name tags prominently displayed on their chests remind us) have experienced heartbreak in many forms down the years and they are here to help us avoid the pitfalls. There are guests who tell us about their breakups and how they overcame the pain. The show started with introductions and a quick warm-up before the first guest, Anil Desai, came on and told us a tale of his first love and the wardrobe he smashed when she cheated on him, as well as how he to took her out one more time (a few months later) to properly close his heart to her (saying a proper goodbye and closing the feelings box, not burying her in a peat bog you sickos). He then ruined the good feelings we had by telling us about the girls who want him to have sex while he’s doing an impression of Christian Slater or Jim Carrey! We next played the break-up line game where we were presented with a series of break-up lines and had to choose which of out hosts these were delivered to (the audience beat the guest 9-5).

The second guests for the evening were James and Amy, who are in a show called Dysfunctional. From the stories they told (he picks up girls on the Night Bus and she gets over break-ups with alcohol, cock and anger), their show could be a top demented night out. Amy’s heartbreak story was a little strange as she had fallen in love with a sky-diver who later moved to Australia and died in a plane crash.Surely a sky-diver should be best suited to getting out of the plane?

After this we had a sing-a-long to a break-up song, some healing advice and a plea to be more tolerant to those we love. There is also a special break-up book which has advice from all of the guests that have been on the show (including Daniel Kitson, Shappi Khorsandi, Phil Jupitus, Susan Calman, The Boy With Tape on his face and many other festival favourites). The advice book is being auctioned off after the show’s run finishes with the proceeds going to the charity Mind, with the reasons explained in the show.

This was a delightful show, with the two hosts bringing a warm and welcoming atmosphere into the small room, the stories of pain and heartache told by the hosts and their guests have the audience feeling like a group therapy session (in a good way). I would certainly be booking a room after my next heartbreak. It’s part of the free fringe and is one of the loveliest shows out there. they have another show called Rom Com con (13.15 at Canons’ Gait), which I might have to catch as well.

Heartbreak Hotel is on at Buff’s Club.

St Andrews Presents – Blind Mirth Improv Comedy

By Ron Bingham

An improv troupe from St Andrews (the first, apparently), consisting of three ladies and four gentlemen performing a series of skits, sketches, games and vignettes based on audience suggestions. As each night is different I can only report on the show I watched, and I found it was generally of a good quality with only a few (inevitable) flat spots.

The show started with a few warm-up routines with one liners from each performer, then a few quick sketches. The main part of the show was a series of sketches linked to music played at random from audience MP3 players (I did not offer mine as the challenge would have been a bit much, what with my classical, jazz, comedy, Aussie rock, Japanese pop, French chanson and weird witchy music may have broken them). The suggestions from the audience were good but, after three weeks of nightly shows, many had already been done, so the troupe has come to the point where the suggestions are becoming more obscure by the day.

The best sequence for me was the search for Pigeon Island, where the evil German/Russian mastermind was turning women into cats, which he then turned into pigeons, which he made the women eat (?), which if I remember correctly, started with classes in organic farming where the seeds arrived individually by pigeon (see, it all makes sense). there was also something about parsnip soup made with cats, whose ghosts haunted the seance which was held in a room under the restaurant kitchen.

In conclusion, it was a fun show, the cast did a very good job of keeping the show flowing and the audience entertained, they’re all young and attractive and as long as the audience does their part and gives a lot of original imaginative suggestions, it’s an excellent way to spend an hour.

St Andrews Presents – Blind Mirth Improv Comedy is on at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Sex Ed: The Musical

By Ron Bingham

This is, as the name infers, a musical that teaches one about sex from start to finish, in (many of) its permutations and quirks. The cast consist of four teacherish ladies, one (eternally) pregnant pianist and a couple of teenage demonstration models. So that makes a cast of six ladies to one man. Can you tell whose perspective gets the most airtime in the show?

We learn about the changes that occur in the bodies of our demonstration models (do not worry, there is no nudity in the show – there is a lot of profanity and a few scenes of a weird nature though). We see the young couple get together and work through a relationship, break up and get back together again, while the teachers explore their own desires and sexuality. There are songs about diseases, variant sexuality and positions as well, but I won’t mention Condom-man and the shower of condoms.

The mainly young audience enjoyed this show loudly (talk about girl power) and at times I felt like I was trapped in a Hens Night. It was an entertaining show with some good harmonic singing and dancing but I think it could lose a song or two in the middle of the show as, at 75 minutes, I thought it was a bit too long. The cast also have (£3) CDs and badges after the show.

All I can say is sex education has certainly moved on from when I was a kid, watching those Christian movies showing the sperm transmitted through a kiss which, even at eight, seemed implausible. Knowledge is a good thing and this show will teach you a few things about relationships if nothing else, although it did look like the main message was do whatever she tells you. There’s singing, dancing and filthy words. Bring your (teenage) friends along and their reaction will tell you how much they REALLY know.

Sex Ed: The Musical is on at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

The Temps

By Colin Flaherty

In this comic play written by Sarah Bennetto we are thrust into the unforgiving and uncaring world that is a temp office worker. Sarah plays the put upon receptionist who attempts to get through the work day with the least amount of scars.

This world is populated by oddball people with weird eccentricities who are brilliantly portrayed by the cast. We have the terse Department Manager (played by Celia Paquola), the barely functioning CEO (Tom Webb), the lecherous pants man (Robin Clyfan), the more important than he seems Janitor (James Dowdeswell) and the scheming fellow temp (Alex Edelman). These hyper-real characters are ones that those who have ever worked in an office will recognise.

Often the audience is cleverly included in the office environment to expand the world beyond the stage which is quite fun. There is also a fair bit of de-construction with some witty, knowing winks to the audience that emphasised the light-heartedness of the piece. At times it seems as though the performers are trying their darnedest to improvise bits in attempts to throw their fellow cast members (and regularly succeeding). The decision to highlight the deviation rather than plough onwards gives the show a fun, loose feel and highlights their enthusiasm for the material, although an audience looking for a tightly scripted play may find this annoying.

The staging is quite simple with basic office furniture and characters frequently entering and leaving from either side of the stage. The high volume of foot traffic gives the plot a sense of speed in spite of the static scenes of dialogue. Although the transition between scenes isn’t always clear, the action takes place over a number of days so it gets a little disorientating at times.

It’s a show that dips its toes into the cringe comedy of other office based productions but doesn’t get too dark as it tells an interesting and amusing tale. Get a hold of all of your workmates and spend an hour in this disfunctional workplace.

The Temps is on at the Pleasance Courtyard.

Waiting for Stanley – Leela Bunce

By Ron Bingham

The venue for this show is called the Assembly Roxy, but it would be known to veterans as the Roxy DeMarco, and is located midway between the Pleasance complex and George Square. I’d recommend getting there early as it’s a bit visually restricted in the upper level.

This is a solo show about a woman coping during the blitz while her husband is off at the war. The star of the show, Leela Bunce, is a tall slim lady who describes herself at one point as having lustrous brown hair, a soft jawline and slender fingers. the show starts with Leela on stage welcoming the audience in, with a silent commentary about some of the people going up the stairs (who are thus facing away from her). Much of the show is mimed, using props and Big Band music, and imaginative sound and lighting effects. Leela uses a lot of costumes during the show to tell the story of the women who coped with the effects of war with confidence and style. I’m still not sure whether having a red nose for the whole show was helping to dispel the tension or just to keep the audience focused.

Though it was not a comedy as such, there were a number of slapstick moments when mail was being delivered, and we were told in no uncertain terms of the appropriate level of applause the routine required. Other moments were painfully sad, as when the train came in without a loved one or a child was separated from his mum, but others were skilfully amusing (Winston Churchill in bread dough). The tense moment were possibly a bit scary for some as we sheltered in the Underground while bombs fell overhead (lots of explosions). The only moment I thought a bit inapt was the song using random French words (it’s been overdone and is a little racist, isn’t it?).

But for one false moment, you do get an hour of assured and confident acting, mime, slapstick and puppetry (and a sing-a-long) to tell tales of heroism and courage during war. The room was almost full, so book now, get there early and don’t turn your back on the stage when you arrive.

Waiting for Stanley is playing at Assembly Roxy

The History Girls present A Summary of Things so far…

By Ron Bingham

This show is in a tiny little room at the Assembly Halls, which can get very hot so I was amused to learn that the show sponsor is Ideal Heating. Maybe they should think about an air-conditioning manufacturer for next year’s sponsor? The three girls, Sophie, Megan and Vanessa-Faye, purport to be portraying important ladies throughout history. They are actually just mucking about and being very silly with important ladies throughout history. I recognised parodies of My Sweet 16th/Made in chelsea/pimp My ride (or whatever it’s called), Jeremy Kyle (Jerry Springer lite) and some other ‘modern TV shows’ that I don’t watch. The characters being trashed include Elizabeth, Mary and Mary, the Bronte sisters, Boudicca and her daughters, Napoleon and Josephine (and Nelson) and either Virginia Woolf or Nicole Kidman (they had passable Aussie accents).

There are songs, dances, some art (I particularly liked the dick & head pictures, a rude Latin motto, a very rude animated sequence using a Terry Gilliam set of Romantic artworks and a very ‘interesting’ version of a Kate Bush song. At one point near the end of the show there may have been a missing cup, which led to some water spitting. I do hope it was ad lib, otherwise I’ve been fooled! There is also a place where I was expecting someone to lose an eye as the pencils started flying. Health & Safety obviously haven’t been anywhere near the show. the costume changes were quick and at no time was the stage entirely bare (although one of the girls did get close to that state). While I was bemused as some of the references the rest of the audience, who obviously turn the TV on occasionally, were having a ball with some still talking about their favourite sketches ages after we’d left.

As long as you’re not really looking for a historical re-enactment with pretty frocks, but you could do with an hour of silliness and verve, this is a top pick, Bring a fan.

The History Girls present A Summary of Things so far… is on at The Assembly Hall