A Fortean At the Fringe Part 1 2011

A Fortean at the Fringe

For a number of years I have been reviewing vaguely Fortean shows for Fortean Times at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  The reviews have been up at the Fortean Times website so here's a chance to see them at this website as well, here is the first instalment from the 2011 Fringe.

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: The End is Nigh

After Dark Entertainment


At Zoo Southside


This is the third time visit to the Edinburgh Fringe for How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.
A one hour interactive seminar training the audience to survive the oncoming Zombie Apocalypse. As the publicity says this is the last time this show will be at Edinburgh. But it's also the third time here. Can there be anything new to teach us about how to survive? The answer is yes. Each version of the show has been different and each thoroughly watchable and entertaining.












Dr Dale Seslick leads us through scenarios on which the audience vote - get the answer right and you survive, get it wrong and you're worm food. But like all good zombie movies its a team effort so ultimately each nights audience is in competition not with themselves but with other audiences - the scores are placed online and the night I was there, well lets just say compared to others we're doing well.

Some audience members were obviously dragged there by partners but by the end most had picked up enough to be at least not a burden during the Apocalypse if not actual surivivors. Improv from the four cast members based around a loose script must be difficult for them but they excel.
Course leader Dale Seslick (Ben Muir) oozes just the right amount of American sleaze found in so many self help seminars. Judy (Jessica Napthine) is the science expert - you can tell that as she wears a white coat, Donald (David Ash) is the survivalist - perfectly played as a permanently befuddled miasma of old age and Tristen (Lee Cooper) is, well Tristen. The team work together well and they're obviously enjoying it - but we're all in on it too. All told the interaction with the audience, the good teamwork and the perfect casting lead to a fantastic night out. A night out you will hopefully remember when the Zombie Apocalypse arrives.

If you have to sit through seminars at work you can only hope and pray that they are half as entertaining as this one.


The Selfish Gene: The Musical

Bex Productions

At Zoo Southside


A musical based on the most famous work of Richard Dawkins. What could possibly go wrong?
Well to be honest plenty but in this show they've avoided the potential problems and produced an enjoyable and dare I say it educational musical show for the Edinburgh Fringe.

They advertise themselves as the world's first bio musical - well I'm pretty sure I've seen a few before in my time but we'll forgive them that one small mistake. We start off in a tutorial but pretty soon we spend the rest of our time in an observational session with the Adamson family, headed by Daniel Neil Adamson (I'll let you work that one out
yourselves), along with his wife and their two children. Live music provided by an onstage band and the whole cast take part in knowing asides. A real tour de force with some investigations of the selfish gene, evolutionary stable strategies and the usefulness of memes - ideas that spread from person to person. There are discussions on all of these aspects as well as (of course) songs. Initially the backing vocals were a bit indistinguishable but this problem soon drifted away. An easy way into science and scientific thinking.


Jack's Story: Ripper or Not

The Actas Company

At Paradise on the


The first thing to say about this is someone has been reading (or more likely watching) Alan Moore's classic Ripper take From Hell. So they have good and interesting source material - I'll leave it to the Ripperologists to argue over the validity of the claims therein. So what of this show? I was looking forward to it but regrettably I was to be
disappointed. There was very little characterisation (ok it's only 50 minutes long) so no sympathy for any of the soon to be murdered actors. And the cast was small - and this led to people playing multiple parts generally with no difference between the performance - no accent change, no costume change, nothing. Which proved a bit confusing when the recently murdered Polly Nichols reappeared as a back street abortionist. And that was the work of one of the more accomplished cast members. Some of the others were less than convincing and the one attempt at a running joke fell flat on its face. All told the whole experience was disappointing - a missed opportunity.


Wolfman Investigations: Curse of the Terror Tomb

After Dark Entertainment


At Zoo Southside


I'll admit to some trepidation with this show - it was billed as a children's show and quite frankly its a long time since I was a child! I'm not the audience it was aimed at. However I needn't have worried. The children in the audience seemed to have an enjoyable time - helping our intrepid heroes solve problems and warning them of imminent
danger (and a few of the adults joined in with this as well). And there was plenty for the adults present to enjoy as well. In fact there was one older couple who were there for their second time - and no grand children in tow for either visit.

So what do we have - well the titular wolfman is a good guy played with a voice that just had to hurt the throat and we have him helped by his glamorous science assistant Lydia and the inventor Spanner. They all team up with the audience to defeat the evil Dr Clockverk. It's a roller coaster ride with the audience instantly knowing when and how to join in and loving every minute of it. It really is fun or all the family. If you grew up watching Scooby Doo you'll love it as will the pesky kids!


















Adult Pantomime

After Dark Entertainment

At Zoo Southside


A pantomime. In August? It can only be the Fringe!

I don't think I can remember when I last saw a pantomime but I can be pretty sure it was nothing like this one!

When I was in the queue to go in there was an American woman in front of me who was asking her companion exactly what was a pantomime? She quite literally did not know what she was letting herself in for, I wonder what she made of it? I know what I made of it- after dark fun! There were some things that went wrong on the night but the audience reaction seemed to indicate they didn't mind too much - in fact in some areas it did provide additional laughs - the pantomime dime hissing from on stage - "play the giant tape" at which point the techie woke up!

The full range of traditional pantomime is present - a tick list would have you marking off the dame, the principal boy, he's behind you, oh no it isn't and songs and cringe inducing humour (in a good way).

At the end of a long day watching shows its a good way to wind down - a no brainer, just sit back and let the fun wash over you.


Skeptics on the Fringe


Various venues

A special advance warning about upcoming reviews for this bunch. Most Fringe shows feature the same thing every night but the Edinburgh Skeptics in the Pub have put together a whole month of lectures - a different one each night, some of which I'll be reviewing (one of which I'll be presenting) . As well as this they have a daily talk on How to be a Psychic Conman and a daily quiz entitled Devil's Advocate. A range of things too good to miss.










Part two coming soon...

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