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Fringe: Theatre reviews

Every Brilliant Thing

Every Brilliant Thing

Summerhall

HOW life-affirming can you get about suicide? If that's not an easy question to answer, try asking the hero of Duncan Macmillan's solo play, who probably has it filed away in his list of great things in life that keep you going.

The motivation for this was when his mother attempted suicide and he began a list to help remind her of why she should be alive.

As performer Jonny Donahoe leads us through all the love, loss and messy twists and turns of our hero's own life, his ever-lengthening list becomes part diary, part totem of survival.

Goethe and Daniel Johnson all make an appearance by way of the meticulously numbered epigrams that come to life when Donahoe asks the audience to recount them throughout the course of George Perrin's production for Paines Plough.

The audience too become assorted key players in the unfolding drama as they go willingly onstage in what may be the gentlest form of audience participation ever.

This is largely down to Donahoe's skill as the jolliest of hosts in what, despite its starting point, is one of the loveliest shows of the year.

Until August 24

Bill Clinton Hercules

Assembly

"You don't want to be hero-worshipped by me," says the former President of the United States at one point in Racheal Mariner's solo play cum TED talk. "It guarantees you an assassins bullet."

Bill Clinton is talking about pressing the flesh with JFK and hanging on every inspirational word of Martin Luther King before both men were gunned down out of history.;

He doesn't make such an observation with sombreness, but, as played by Bob Paisley, with a positive spring in his step.

This sets the general tone for an insightful portrait of the jazz-loving hippy whose flight into the establishment was only inevitable if you pay heed to the classical yarns of Odysseus and Hercules which he treats more as a lifestyle choice than literature.

Kosovo, the Arab Spring, Lewinskygate and his later playing second sax to Hillary are all in the mix in the sort of speech Tony Blair would kill for.

Despite its factual root, Mariner's script lifts things beyond dull political biography to a sort of self-deprecating poetry, replete with deadly one-liners delivered by Paisley with aplomb in Guy Masterson's production.

Speaking out in support of the Occupy movement, this is the one-time Slick Willy as born-again radical, a wannabe hero who only ever wanted to be one of the good guys.

Until August 24

The Initiate

Summerhall

LIFE is just one long series of negotiations for the Somalian mini-cab driver at the heart of Alexandra Wood's punchy new thriller, that twists and turns its way around the back-alleys of the psyche as a driver taking the "scenic" route around London might.

This is the trouble.

There's not enough wide-open spaces, everyone is in too much of a hurry and, above all, there simply isn't enough money to make it big in multicultural London.

When the cab driver's son is teased about Somalian pirates kidnapping a local couple, some kind of meaning emerges beyond being an invisible migrant.

One of several presentations of new work held in Paines Plough's new Roundabout venue housed in the grounds of Summerhall, Wood's play is an intricately woven thriller, in which the driver navigates his way through his home life with wife and child, to his country-men and the hostages he becomes a go-between for.

With a trio of performances from Andrew French, Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis that fizz and crackle their way through George Perrin's production, Wood's prime-time narrative simmers with a tension that says something quietly profound about the complexities of cultural roots in 21st century Britain.

Until August 24

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