Edinburgh Festival Day 11: Yeltsin, Trotsky and the betting shop

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The Independent Culture
'I knew when Stalin were rude to't wife that 'e'd end up killing 15 million people,' says Mark Steel's Lenin, a droning Northern carpenter who has spent the last 70 years fretting about a dodgy dovetail joint in the corner of his coffin. Steel's entertaining account of the Russian Revolution is surprisingly faithful to the facts, though you could be forgiven for not noticing at first - Kerensky appears as a Welsh politician of dubious rhetorical practices, Mayakovsky is re-imagined as a futurist John Cooper Clarke and Stalin as a foaming Neighbourhood Watch-type, bickering about skateboarders on his begonias. The show could be a touch brisker but Steel is both funny and informative, his anachronisms reminding you that the ordinary sods who make revolutions are probably just as concerned about their next pint as they are about nationalising the means of production. Thomas Sutcliffe

Gilded Balloon, 233 Cowgate (venue 38), 031-226 2151. 5pm. To 5 Sept.


The central character in Angus Reid's new play is an art historian who suddenly goes blind. Tam Dean Burn's explosive lead performance is supported by music and slides to represent the thoughts and memory of the blind man. His arguments, with counsellors and social workers, are interposed with flights of imagination and beautifully written descriptions of the sightless world. The play draws its astonishing impact from the simple device of having Burn perform with his eyes closed. He reinvents the space around him with each movement, carrying the other performers and the audience with him. Tom Morris

369 Gallery, Cowgate (venue 38), 031- 225 3013. 10pm. To 2 Sept.


The National Student Theatre Company is currently displaying a fascination for ritualised behaviour. Their offshoot graduate company Springboard follows the progress of a young woman from obsessive orderliness to nervous breakdown in Living by Numbers; while the NSTC's Who? focuses on two pyjama-clad amnesiacs who are living in adjoining rooms, each locked into their separate routines. Gradually, through Godot-like word games and role-playing, these deracinated characters get to know each other, and we discover the roots of their condition. Kevin Tomlinson's play is neatly structured, intermittently funny and well-performed, but too conceptual to dig any deeper.

Sarah Hemming

Pleasance, 60 The Pleasance (venue 33), 031-556 6550. 7.30pm. To 5 Sept (not 1 Sept).


The twist in this modern verse rendition of the Anglo-Saxon tale is that its sympathies lie with the monster. Grendel is here portrayed as the last of an old species which has been hounded to the verge of extinction by a destructive human race. Beowulf, here, is no virtuous hero but an arrogant warrior who treacherously kills Grendel by reneging on his oath to fight unarmed. The young cast of three avoid labouring the ecological angle and make deft use of limited resources to tell the story with concentration and economy.

Ian Shuttleworth

Celtic Lodge, Brodie's Close (venue 6), 031-225 7097. 7pm. To 5 Sept.