Traverse Theatre (venue 15), Cambridge St (0131-228 1404) times vary; to 2 Sept
Communicado's version of Athol Fugard's 1987 grim comedy is a delight. Incredibly, the story of Soviet army deserter Pavel Ivanovich's 44 years spent in hiding in a stall behind a pigsty is a true one, on to which Fugard builds musings upon freedom and psychological, as well as physical, confinement. Gerry Mulgrew and Gerda Stevenson mesh excellently as Pavel and his wife Praskoya, ever ready to deploy a dash of matter-of-fact bathos when the script threatens to grow too portentous. In an inspired stroke, director Kenneth Glenaan punctuates the action with music from a trio of brass players; their pieces range from martial oompah to Philip Glassy arpeggios, but most magically they lurk behind the corrugated iron and boards which separate Pavel's stall from the sty, periodically oinking and snuffling through their instruments. Unalloyed joy.
C-venue, 100 Princes St (0131-225 5105), to 2 Sept (not 17,31)
The scenario is deceptively lean, just two security guards thrown together for a night shift. One, Birkenhead, is an aggressive, barely educated hard man. The other, an ex-policeman named Taff, likes reading Thomas Hardy. The writing by Ken Price and Richard Turner is taut, sharp and charged with impending catastrophe. Birkenhead nervously taunts and threatens while Taff coolly shrugs and stares him down. But neither can escape the other and their inevitable confrontation exposes their contrary attitudes. A bit more development towards the final scene would turn this into an impressive piece of work.
MEL AND SUE: WOMEN IN UNIFORM
Pleasance (Venue 33), The Pleasance (5566550) 4pm; to August 27
After the success of last year's Kittens Go Grrr!!!, Mel and Sue are back with more character comedy. Targets include xenophobic tour guides and anorexic supermodels. At their best they match the exact observation and acid wit of French and Saunders. A duet by WPCs who inhabit a fantasy world of Juliet Bravo and The Gentle Touch is worthy of Victoria Wood. But while the funniest sketches call to mind established comedy divas, you can't help wishing that such a talented pair would get more adventurous with their material. There must be more to women's comedy than jokes about big arses.
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