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The Independent Culture

Colin Reid

Famous Grouse House, Venue 34 (0131-220 5606), run ended

Solo singer-guitarists are often said to be performing without a safety- net, but take out the singing, as in the case of this young Belfast guitarist, and their lot starts to look well-cushioned. Not that Reid need worry about taking a fall; his sole resources may be his hands and his instrument, but that's all it took to fill a spellbinding hour. He's only been working in this vein for a couple of years but has rapidly amassed fans and critical plaudits. His live playing has seasoned, matured and broadened from its huge technical dexterity to highlight other facets of his artistry: the minute nuances of his rhythmic timing, eloquent expressiveness and infectious sense of fun. The last of these shone through in both his playful delivery of classics such as King of the Swingers and Marcel Dadi's Bluefinger, and his impish interjections between tunes. Most of the set comprised his own material, a seamlessly layered blend of folk, country, jazz, ragtime and classical influences, with particular standouts including the serenely waltzing measures of The Conversation, the lickety-split flat-picking of Griz's Golden Ticket and the contrasts of Across the Fields. Simply sublime.

Sue Wilson


Krishnan's Dairy

Traverse Theatre, Venue 15, times vary, to 4 Sept

Love is something that Zina is convinced about. "Love marriages never work: you can't fall in love, you must grow in love." Following her parents wishes, she married Gobi, who took her off to New Zealand where they run a cornershop and make enough money to return to India in style.

This tender tale features its writer, Jacob Rajan as the sole performer, switching effortlessly between half-masks to play the loving but warring couple. He also plays the characters in the stories Zina tells to send their baby to sleep, which are woven into the piece and reflect the main love story.

Krishnan's Dairy cannot quite escape the charge of sentimentality (the overly sweet songs especially so) but Rajan's immensely subtle performance encompasses real wit and pain which more than make amends.

David Benedict


The Curse of Iain Banks

The Gilded Balloon, Venue 38 (0131-226 2151), 2.30pm, to 30 Aug

Iain Banks's family seems to be cursed. It took them five years to realise it, but every time he writes a novel, one of his relatives dies. This play sets out to find out why, delving deep into family history and politics, revealing adultery, illegitimacy and murder. The plot and script rely heavily on the works of Iain Banks himself, not unexpectedly, and the way in which they are adapted is ingenious and sensitive.

Like a Banks novel, the play is deeply concerned with the problem of self-identity with a plot which is intense and intimate. With a cast of three, the play is focused and compact; behind the main characters are the shadows of many others and we are quickly drawn into the thickly woven history of hate and love. This is an energetic and forceful production, even if the conclusion is a little too neat and moralistic.

Zoe Green


The Divine David's Spatial Awareness No. 1

Gilded Balloon, Venue 38, 11.15pm to 30 Aug

Stalking the stage like a collision between Jerry Hall and Liza Minnelli, the Divine David is some sort of satanic archangel, and believe me, the emphasis is on the arch. An hour in David's company will disabuse anyone of the notion that drag is synonymous with misogyny and lazy gay cliche.

His extraordinary cross between stand-up and performance art harnesses dazzlingly confrontational material with a refreshing political edge. This is a man who makes a song out of the idea that the (un)dress codes and symmetrical pecs of the gay scene are "the last echo of Hitler's dream". That said, indulgence is the name of his game and it has to be said that tighter direction would improve matters no end.

However, when compared with the safe and somewhat smug defiance of most gay performance - particularly the recent grotesque schmaltz of Harvey Fierstein - David is alarmingly impressive.




Venue 5, The Stand Comedy Club (0131 558 7272) to Aug 29

TumTumTinker is the magic shoemaker who cobbled for the stars - from Cinderella to Puss In Boots. In this new production TumTumTinker, through the magical voices of his creator Mark Pencak, takes us on a journey of magic, mystery and moral.

There's the greedy fisherman who disturbs the centre of the ocean in his quest for wealth, the footballing twit-come-star who eventually gets his comeuppance and Godfather Death who metes out the only punishment known to him. All our heroes are aided by TumTumTinker's magic needle. There are lots of puppets - plain, old-fashioned and immensely pleasing. All Pencak's tools, from the set to the sound effects, which are all his own and all funny, have a nursery-like comforting quality.

Billed for four to 12-year-olds, TumTumTinker is great for the littler ones but not quite sophisticated enough for the over nines. Godfather Death, who snuffs out the Doctor and his new bride as easily as blowing out a candle, sits uncomfortably between the other funny and fairy-like tales.

Pru Irvine