24 Hour Political Party People
Matt Forde used to be an adviser for the Labour Party, which gives his sharp political satire unusual depth. So when he analyses Ed Miliband's strengths and weaknesses as Leader of the Opposition (mostly the latter) it's both funny and insightful.
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He's also a terrific mimic. From his opening take on Ukip leader Nigel Farage to Miliband, David Cameron and others from the Westminster fraternity, Forde has an uncanny ability to replicate their mannerisms and voices. His Ed Miliband was particularly good: the sibilance, slightly hunched shoulders and self-conscious gait.
Inevitably, about 10 minutes towards the end of his set was devoted to the independence referendum, although here Forde appeared less sure of his material, relying on tired old stuff about "Cybernats" and the like. However, his line about admitting to being British being akin to coming out in the 1960s was very funny. As for the big question, he urged the crowd to vote against, which audibly disgruntled the Yessers in the audience.
All Back to Bowie's
Stand in the Square
At the Brit Awards earlier this year, David Bowie proclaimed (through an intermediary) "Scotland, stay with us", thus the title of this run at Stand in the Square (great to see St Andrew Square finally being fully exploited for Fringe purposes). The brainchild of playwright David Greig, he and others are keen to refute the idea of a "yes yurt", although proceedings have an unmistakably pro-indy bent.
This reviewer had the honour of kicking off Tuesday's lunchtime gathering with a "provocation" on the "idea of Britain", after which there was a brief discussion with the veteran writer Neal Ascherson, novelist James Robertson, veteran political campaigner Isobel Lindsay and blogger Andrew Tickell ("Ah," Andrew said to me before things kicked off, "you're the designated bastard.")
My opening pitch was received politely, although it was obvious notions of Britishness didn't hold much ice with the sizeable crowd. During the discussion, the chairman (Peter Arnott) kept shooting me pitying glances, but it was fun and although I felt as if I were in hostile territory it was also convivial.
Sensibly, the political chat forms the nucleus of the event but isn't allowed to dominate. Tuesday's set opened and closed with some fine renditions of Hamish Henderson from Wounded Knee, a reading from an Egyptian immigrant and some blisteringly impressive poetry from Jim Monaghan. An engaging mix, as the blurb puts it, of "politics, poetry, polemic and pop", All Back to Bowie's is an lively outlet for the referendum Fringe-style.
Now's the Hour
Scottish Youth Theatre's energetic show, Now's the Hour, recently received the blessing of the First Minister and it's well worth checking out for an eclectic insight into what's going through the heads of teenagers as they prepare to vote in next month's referendum.
A fast-moving hour deploying sketches, monologues and music, 12 young people from across Scotland - every one of them uber-talented - consider the referendum via a letter to their older selves (older meaning someone my age, natch). I particularly liked the "Scottish Stereotype Centre", while "Better Together" became a chat-up line in a nightclub. There's also an amusing canter through Scottish history from the theft of the Stone of Destiny in the 13th century until present. The company also displayed a satirical edge with a spoof on STV's Scotland Tonight and something called "Question Night Scotland", which was perceptive in its summary of the doublespeak used by "(mis)leading" politicians.
The Pure, the Dead and the Brilliant
Memorably trailed at the SNP's spring conference in Aberdeen earlier this year, Alan Bissett's polemical play The Pure, the Dead and the Brilliant now enjoys a full run at the Assembly Rooms.
Its take on the referendum is certainly original, viewing current political events through the eyes of the bogles, banshees, demons and selkies of Scots folklore. Initially the fairy kingdom is firmly against a Yes vote, fearful that Scotland becoming a "real" country will compromise their special powers and status: "Scotland will have become real ... too real for us."
The cast, led by Elaine C Smith as a banshee, is terrific and there are several laugh-out-loud moments (including a session of the Pixie Parliament), but it isn't terribly convincing as a political satire: its politics are too black-and-white and brutally one-sided.
To be fair, it's not pretending to be anything other than partisan, but such a lack of ambiguity makes it less interesting than it might have been. Still, its take on No campaigners ("Vote Naw or Nicola Sturgeon will break into your hoose and steal yer purse") is amusing and a few lines highly memorable: "It's why Scotland holds on to its mythologies, it's where it hides from itself."