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Fringe Music & Cabaret: Reviews

Short Stories - True Songs from the American Edge

MIRTHFUL MOMENTS: Rory McGrath stars in Bridge Over Troubled Lager.
MIRTHFUL MOMENTS: Rory McGrath stars in Bridge Over Troubled Lager.

Short Stories - True Songs from the American Edge

theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall

Lovers of Americana who think there might be nothing for them in a Fringe brochure heaving with comedians and thespians should watch they don't miss this little gem that's hiding in plain sight under its rather unwieldy, if apt, title. Kiya Heartwood, although she's of Kentuckian origins, is a Texas singer-songwriter-guitarist in the tradition that produced masters including Guy Clark and Eric Taylor.

Real stories about real people told in well-crafted songs are her stock-in-trade, with an honest delivery enhancing the message. There's the ballad of the society teen who falls for a pirate, much to her family's horror, only to watch his ship go down off America's eastern seaboard. Civil War oddities are depicted in three-dimensional descriptions with added introductory background.

Prototype suffragettes take on company bosses with a feistiness you can almost feel and most memorably of all, Calamity Jane emerges from a fiction that was constructed by a dime store novelist to be a real-life character to the core.

The venue's intimate enough to need no amplification and Heartwood thrives on creating a close relationship with her audience.

You will sing and clap along - you'll have neither option nor notion to refuse - to her gospel-hollerin' finale with its drumstick-clicking rhythm but it's Heartwood's strength as a performer that, literally from gin house to church house, she can take you there.

Run ends August 23

Soweto Afro-Pop Opera

Underbelly Bristo Square

It's an opera of two acts as the four singers who front a band that features an Afro-groove unit with a string quartet begin in smart suits and deliver smooth takes on such western fare as Ave Maria and Somewhere from West Side Story.

But the show really comes to life as they return wearing closer to street clothes and inject a more natural sounding energy into songs that reflect life in an altogether more raw and more vibrant state.

A tribute to Nelson Mandela and a number where the saxophonist gatecrashes the frontline to add his exuberant vocal reaffirm the party spirit, although there are more poignant and thought-provoking moments too.

Run ends August 25

Bridge Over Troubled Lager (Volume 2)

Assembly Rooms

Rory McGrath has a withering song about hairdressers that's a bit ungrateful because his own hairdresser has created one of the stars of this show: McGrath's eye-catchingly luxuriant barnet.

The show itself has its mirthful moments, although the build-up to the title song is more entertaining than the song itself, which leads to surely one of the most contrived encores in Fringe history.

More convincingly funny are McGrath's partner in song, Philip Pope's attempt at doing Schubert's take on heavy metal piano and the pair's dissing of a roll-call of annoying public figures in a song about the C word that manages very nimbly to skirt around the offending word until McGrath lets it slip.

Run ends August 24

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