Edinburgh Festival: Fringe

Click to follow
This is a play in which grandiloquence is placed next to genius, inflated dreams are punctured by intellectual barbs, and power casts a murky shadow over the two men fighting to reinvent history as it happens. Nixon is conducting a record of Tchaikovsky as Kissinger enters - thereby linking himself with the romantic tradition of colourful heroes and flawed fantasies - and Kissinger's request for him to turn the music down proves to be the metaphor for their relationship in this funny and politically astute production.

The action is set on the fateful evening of 7 August 1974 when President Nixon demanded Henry Kissinger's presence at the White House for the private meeting prior to his historic resignation. Keith Jochim is ebulliently bombastic as Nixon while Tim Donoghue is emotionally measured as Kissinger. A watershed in Watergate productions.

Rachel Halliburton


Fanny Hill

Hill Street Theatre, Venue 41 (0131-226 6522), 11.45pm, to 30 Aug

The most erotic novel of the 18th century, Fanny Hill was banned in Britain until 1970. Now adapted as a play, Fanny herself presents us with a series of snapshots from her history, from her beginnings as an innocent country maid, to her time as a kept woman, to her eventual profession as a London prostitute. Yet, throughout, there is no sense of progression, of history developing. Philippa Hammond as Fanny appears emotionally detached from her past, even when talking of the great love of her life.

The selling point which the show relies on is sex: the advertisements warn "Beware nudity!" and there is certainly lots of it, but it amuses rather than shocks - though which of these it is meant to do is not clear. The production doesn't dare to take Cleland's storyline too literally or too seriously, yet it cannot fully commit to the farce into which it occasionally and successfully frolics. A series of snap shots and little more.

Zoe Green


Mainstream by Suspect Culture

The Observer Assembly, Venue 3 (0131-226 2428), 4.50pm, to 30 Aug

The image seduces your imagination straight away. A victim of frostbite describes how, when her rescuers looked for her pulse, it eventually revealed itself like a faint radio-signal bleeping "I'm here, I'm here, I'm here". Looking for someone's personality is rather like searching for that heartbeat, it would appear, in this minimalist play that rehearses daily encounters again and again, probing them for the crack that makes one person reveal their true essence to another.

David Greig's poetic script reworks those clicheed occasions in our lives: one person fixes another with a late-night stare and asks them to remove their clothes; an employee has an interview with a personnel officer; two people get to know each other in a bar. This production shows such situations in an unfamiliar, refreshingly observant light, and is well worth seeing.



The Nualas

The Observer Assembly Venue 3, (0131-226 2428) 6.50pm, to 16 Aug

What do you call a group of people who sing about a meals-on-wheels nun who is sent to Lourdes and winds up in the Tour de France? The Nualas, silly. From the start, when they sternly instruct us that should their dresses ride up, we should please remain seated, it's clear that we're in for a beguiling mix of faux grandeur and gleeful over-excitement. Their sweet harmonies are so close they're almost inbred, an accusation which might also be levelled at this jokily parochial trio - sorry, "Irish International Supergroup" - who split their time between chatting about glamorous careers away from their homeland and its livestock, and singing gloriously bizarre "self-penned original numbers". Want to thrill to cod, melancholy free- form jazz and a gorgeously ridiculous rock-chick number, the first (and last) heavy-metal thrash to feature recorder and tambourine? This is the place.

Their lyrics too are all deeply daffy. Where else can you hear a love song to a balding hunchback or the perils of wearing clothes made from your dead cow to an animal rights ball? A big round of applause for the melodious tendency of the lunatic fringe.

David Benedict


Electric Eel

Pleasance Upstairs, Venue 33, (0131-556 6550) 5pm, to 30 Aug

Three young comics pile in and start hurting each other in ways that you don't want to be reading about over your cornflakes. Although the Tarantino influence prevails in this ultimate "lads" sketch show, the scattershot results are hit and miss.

Dan Clark, Adam Goodwin and Cliff Kelly do allow some respite from the violence in a touching display of warmth between sensitive builders and there's a delightfully clever sketch in which the audience discover that they are part of a sordid love triangle. But there's a tendency to go for lazy cliches, such as spinning out the old "reveal" joke - a man moons his naked bum in someone's face saying "doctor help me", only to be told he's in a travel agency.

The stage fighting, too, is excellent, but for a show which majors in aggression, it's peculiar that the material that works best is the quieter, more sensitive stuff.

Ella Kenion