Edinburgh Festival Day 6 & 7: Reviews

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The Independent Culture
THE PEDICAB SHOW

The pedicab, as writer-performer Kevin L Burrows tells us, is the Heath Robinsonesque 'love child of the bicycle and the rickshaw'. This man-taxi is also his meal ticket when he's not doing this ravishing show about his curious vehicle. From his childhood with a 'blue-collar mystic' dad, through a lost vocation as a corn- picker, to his genesis as caffeine-driven pedaller extraordinaire, Burrows provides snapshots of an odd-job life lived on the fringes and seen from the saddle. It's all here: sex, kung fu, coffee, infused with wit, charm and rapid, bluesy belts on the harmonica. This is brilliant, energising stuff where one can truly savour the shared theatrical thrill of being taken for a ride. Nick Curtis

Hill St Theatre (venue 41), 19 Hill St (031-226 6522). 10.10pm to 4 Sept.

DE-TOX

The importance of James O'Brien's farce De-Tox lies in the collapse of unapologetic political theatre over the past decade. Loud, in-your-face polemic like this has fallen out of vogue. De-Tox is a savage critique of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, set amid the lingering sulphur of burning files and corrupt forensic evidence. Giro Theatre Company bulldozes its message over its audience, only relieving the assault with asides on Brechtian alienation. The intellectual humour, much of it found in the character of Paul Foot, perches precariously on a standard satirical structure of over-the-top stereotypes. But De-Tox does issue a challenge to recognise the less palatable aspects of British justice. Roberta Mock

Demarco European Arts Foundation (venue 22), York Lane (031-557 0707). To 28 Aug.

PENETRATOR

Anthony Neilson's fascination with male sexuality has taken a sideways step from the grim play he wrote last year about the Dusseldorf strangler. Now his vivid and offensive command of the atmosphere of violent sex is only half the story. In Penetrator, a middle-class boy hovers between the affections of a camp college buddy and a brutal childhood blood-brother. It's a crude scheme and the acting is on an irritatingly minute scale. But Neilson (who also plays the boy) paces the conflict between his good and bad angel perfectly. The result is a bit like watching a fight between a butcher and a ballet dancer. Tom Morris

Traverse (venue 15), Cambridge St (031-228 1404). 1pm today, 22 Aug 4.30pm.

A STRANGE BIT OF HISTORY

In-Theatre Company is based in Bratislava, but Omid Djalini's characterisations range from an Egyptian camel-driver to a Mersey poet. The piece's message is hackneyed: that messiahs are either destroyed or simply ignored, that we ever more urgently need to begin a New Age. But Djalini's story is based not in the present, but in a past period of millennial expectation: 1844, when numberless sects throughout the world lived in daily anticipation of the Messiah's coming. Djalini's storytelling is confident and animated. Against a series of Victorian photographic slides he shimmies across the stage in winningly implausible transports of religious ecstasy, and conjures up gruesome executions to the tense accompaniment of his own bongo- playing. Where most conventional 'Aquarian' theatre is flabby and earnest, Djalini's is skilful, self-deprecating, delightful. Ian Shuttleworth

Hill St Theatre (venue 41), 19 Hill St (031-226 6522). 8pm to 4 Sept (not 22).

DIRT ENTERS AT THE HEART

Aids looms as large as any single topic in this year's Fringe productions, but never more gruesomely than in Cat 'A' Theatre's expressionistic peek into the prison system where the condition is rife. The play attempts to dispel the myth of a 'gay plague' or 'junkie disease'. Old lag and hetero hardman Chris terrorises poofters and drug users as a matter of course, then finds out he is HIV positive. Joining the vulnerable ranks of those he hates leads him to metamorphosis. But Chris's navel gazing produces a pat character study at the expense of examining the horrors of prison life. Gritty, nevertheless. Graham Hassell

Theatre Workshop (venue 20), 34 Hamilton Place (031-226 5425). 8pm to 4 Sept (not Suns).

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