Edinburgh Festival: Reviews

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CLASSICAL

Christopher Maltman and Malcolm Martineau

The Queen's Hall

Concerts that start at 11am tend to be taxing for both performers and audience. In this case, the effort was nothing short of phenomenal - a solo recital of some 90 minutes that was sung entirely from memory.

Hanns Eisler is a composer who has been steadily emerging from the shadow of Kurt Weill and, if the wartime Hollywood Songbook is anything to go by, justifiably so. Christopher Maltman was in fine voice, despite the hour, and his engagement with these bittersweet settings of Bertolt Brecht and other poets, was compelling.

From the dark lyricism of "Spring", through the survivor's guilt of "The Pipes", the disillusion with a new world in "Five Elegies", and the tentative hope in "Of sprinkling the garden", Maltman, accompanied authoritatively and accurately by Malcolm Martineau, fully captured this "landscape of exile".

The longing for the homeland; the fear of what may have happened to it; even compassion for boyhood friends caught up in the nightmare and on the wrong side; this collection forms a remarkable testament to the human need to create and celebrate through art, even in the darkest times.

Laurence Hughes

COMEDY

Jon Reed: 81/2 mm

Pleasance, Venue 33

(0131-556 6550) 8.30pm

to 30 Aug

If Simon Munnery and Dave Gorman are to be believed, conventional stand- up is becoming a thing of the past. Why stay glued to your microphone when you can project an image of yourself with a hand-held camera? Narrative? Who cares when you can have computer animations and slideshows at the press of a button?

But, as Jon Reed has demonstrated, it can fall horribly flat. His show, 81/2 mm, is a mish-mash of music, home video, Blue Peter-style props and stream-of-consciousness rambling. The overall feel is like reading nonsense verse - once the novelty wears off, boredom starts creeping in. In trying to subvert the conventions of stand-up, Reed has sacrificed substance in favour of shoddy gimmickry. His partner Frank Watson does passable impressions of 1980s icons, but a show in which a Freddie Mercury lookalike is the highlight must be very poor indeed.

Fiona Sturges

Unf***ed

Pleasance, Venue 33

(0131-556 6550) 1pm

to 30 Aug

Richard is forever falling into things and Sarah has a habit of "finding" people. Her attention is drawn to Richard when he stumbles into a supermarket freezer; she helps him out and invites him to her dinner party, where he falls over unconscious.

The title of the show makes it sound crass, but it isn't. Unf***ed refers to the state of Sarah and Richard's friendship - sleeping together had crossed their minds but both silently decided against it. Their complex bond is unravelled through a series of intricate monologues, penned and told by Robert Katz and Sarah Parkinson. Katz co-wrote Chris Morris's Blue Jam, which should offer insight into the quality of the writing.

Unf***ed brims with smart observations while uncovering universal truths about people and their insecurities. Parkinson and Katz's deliveries are perfectly pitched: measured, deadpan and brilliantly funny. As the pair recount the increasingly catastrophic events, the script veers poignantly between tragedy and comedy. You can't help but feel guilty for laughing.

Fiona Sturges

Dave Gorman's Better World

Pleasance, Venue 33 (0131-556 6550) 7.15pm

to 30 Aug

All stand-up comedy more or less recycles reality for our amusement. For his current show, Gorman took this truism several steps further. He asked every local newspaper in the country to run a letter requesting readers to write to him with suggestions on how "to make the world a better place".

He performed a similar trick for his show last year, illustrating an Ian Dury song with old photos that he'd picked up from jumble sales. In Better World, armed with slides, Gorman rubbishes the nuttiest of the responses with a hilariously logical rigour. If laughing at nutters sounds a little heartless, though, Gorman also recounts his humiliating attempts to act on some of the proposals. An absurd tale arises from his adventures trying, for instance, to improve a new postal system. It may not be fashionable, but Gorman is a sharp antidote to the kind of sub-Izzard rambling that blights Fringe stand-up.

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