Edinburgh Festival / Day 10: Reviews

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VIVA VARIETY

The campest sight in Edinburgh is the Scouse drag-artist Lily Savage dancing with the Australian smile- machine Bob Downe. Savage comperes a variety evening with astonishing assuredness and a lovely range of frocks. On Monday, her acts included Paul Morocco (who is juggling's answer to Billy Graham), the insect-like comedian Dave Schneider (hopelessly out of place here) and the besuited custard-pie thrower Leo Bassi, who was booed off stage. Savage and Downe retrieved the evening with a twinkle-toed Torvill and Dean routine that would make a swan blush. Tom Morris

Playhouse (venue 59), 18-22 Greenside Place (031-557 2590). 11pm. Tonight only

DONNA MCPHAIL

The compere announces her as a 'lovely lady comedian', but it is soon apparent that Donna McPhail is no lady. 'I'm a bird,' she explains. 'Ladies don't swear.' And McPhail swears like a trooper as she works through anecdotes about caravaners, Tory MPs, mattresses and body piercing, before reaching her climax with female condoms. There's a bit of a bird inside most of her female audience members, too. 'Yes, yes, I did that,' the woman beside me kept shrieking. McPhail uses her smooth rapid-fire delivery to provide the laughter of recognition.

Roberta Mock

Gilded Balloon (venue 38), 223 Cowgate (031-226 2151). 8pm. To 27 Aug

STORM IN A TEACUP

Although this one-woman show about a date-rape is based on personal experience, it manages to avoid both empty platitudes and hysteria. The incident itself is narrated retrospectively as a quietly distressed and disturbing circus act: the mock innocence of the clown operates as a coldly sublimated version of the actual emotion of the situation. The writer- performer Michelle Couves is superbly disciplined, exploiting an understated register of dramatic gesture that allows her to communicate the reality of her feelings by a mere step across the stage. With a strong and intelligent script, this is deft and affecting.

Richard Turner

Cafe Royal (venue 47), 17 West Register St (031-556-2549). 6.30pm. To 27 Aug

KEVIN DAY

Kevin Day follows up last year's revelations of his National Front adolescence with the alarming news that he has married into the middle-classes. The culture clash between a South London hard case and the liberal bourgeoisie is a rich seam which he mines energetically. An Anglican vicar for a father-in-law is grist to the mill of Day's professional interest in religion, and married life seems to have done him no harm at all, save the purchase of a vest 'to wear around the house'. He is on fine form - confident and laconic, as befits a Streatham boy made good.

Clare Bayley

Gilded Balloon (venue 38), 233 Cowgate (031-226 2151). 9.15pm. To 27 Aug

ALEXANDERPLATZ

After their brace of Joycean Fringe Firsts, Balloonatics take on Alfred Doblin's 1929 novel. Paul O'Hanrahan successfully lays an Ariadne's thread through the novel's narrative labyrinth, only occasionally relying on the audience to make connections that are left implicit. His staging is an object example in studio-theatre production: the five actors give refreshingly unexaggerated performances, and can adeptly switch characters even in mid-sentence. Intelligent and skilful.

Ian Shuttleworth

Theatre Workshop (venue 20), 34 Hamilton Place (031-226 5425). 9.30pm to 20 Aug; then 4pm, 21- 28 Aug

CONVENTIONAL DEMONS

Richard Davidson is a writer with a rare storytelling gift. Last year, his Storybook plotted the rise and fall of a medieval rabble-rouser through a landscape of ghosts. Conventional Demons is a neatly constructed love story with an acid sting in its tail. Davidson interweaves two time-frames in the seedy flat where an artist fell in love with the girl over the road 10 years before. The production also boasts what must be the Fringe's most detestable character in Paul Casey's brilliant portrayal of the sadistic bully, Jake.

Tom Morris

The Pleasance (venue 33), 60 The Pleasance (031-556 6550). 1.50-3pm. To 27 Aug

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