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The Independent Culture

It's Not the End of the World

The Pleasance, Venue 33 (0131-556 6550), 4pm,

to 30 Aug

You never really get to know someone until you've been on holiday with them. Take Ian (Richard Herring). Having won a freebie, he's in Fiji secretly indulging his childhood belief in the prognostications of Nostradamus with his girlfriend Annie, plus Chris, his sex-obsessed brother, and his girlfriend.

Over the course of the holiday fortnight, the carefully timed revelations - and neatly funny lines - come thick and fast. Which is precisely where the problem lies. Herring's writing is so schematic that it's almost Newtonian - for every action there is an equal and an opposite reaction. If someone states something categorically, you know it's a lie based on a character flaw which is duly revealed in half an hour's time.

Smart, slick performances from the cast - especially a nicely bumptious Paul Bown and a forthright Rebecca Lacey - keep everything bowling along nicely, but the smiles the play induces wear off pretty quickly afterwards, leaving the audience hungry for something that's a little more substantial.

David Benedict


The Worst Witch

St Ann's Community Centre, Venue 65 (0131-557 0469), 10am,

to 28 Aug (not 22)

Leicestershire Youth Arts celebrate 20 years with this first adaptation of Jill Murphy's fabulous book. It follows the disasters that beset Mildred Hubble as her witch-like classmates prepare for Hallowe'en.

Mildred, Maude, the beastly Ethel and the Misses Hardbroom and Cackle are hand puppets. From behind come the puppeteers - a group of young grown- ups dressed to look like school kids. But they're so imposing and look so odd that it's difficult to concentrate on the puppets. The high pitched, pantomime-style voices and acting that often mismatches the script work to mar this world premiere.

Miss Hardbroom, Mildred's teacher, was the only saving grace, but looking at faces of the children in the audience is the best measure of success - most were silent. There was almost no laughter, no spontaneous joining in, and a clutch of sleeping adults.

Pru Irvine


Terry Alderton

Assembly Rooms, Venue 3 (0131-226 2428), 10pm, to 29 Aug

If you don't come from the South-east of England, this show will mean about as much to you as a post-modern send-up of quantum physics. So pity the poor American couple who are sitting at the front and have to endure the sound of a low-flying aircraft every five minutes. As Alderton so succinctly points out, it is over their heads.

Alderton is from Essex, has all the obligatory hang-ups and explores the usual boyish preoccupations - football, alcohol, fast cars - but they are delivered with a sharp, self-deprecating humour that makes you forget all the other times that you've heard them. His scatter-gun impressions finally win you over, covering everything from Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn to George and Zippy from Rainbow. Each one is performed with a live- wire intensity and he comes equipped with a facial repertoire that Rory Bremner would die for. That said, it will be a scandal if those Americans don't get their money back.

Fiona Sturges



The Filmhouse, Lothian Road

In this in this ironically-titled drama, Michael Winterbottom casts a compassionate eye on the daily grind of London life.

Shot amid the noise and dirt of the city streets, the film follows a bunch of loosely-linked characters as they struggle with dead marriages, crowded houses, blind dates, dull jobs and an incessantly barking dog that eventually finds itself chewing on a poisoned steak. Among such frayed neighbours are sisters Gina McKee, Shirley Henderson and Molly Parker, whose search for solace embraces everyone from flaky father Ian Hart and bedsit bounder Stuart Townsend.

Cutting between the intimate, inner world of his city dreamers and the anonymous crowds massing in bingo halls and football matches, Winterbottom's grainy movie nails the physical and emotional texture of urban existence.

Set against the mock-heroism of Michael Nyman's score, everyday detail takes on an epic feel and an array of stylistic devices captures the frenzied isolation of the big city.