Fringe Music and Cabaret

Misha’s Gang

Space Triplex

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five stars

Chris Dugdale: Up Close!

Assembly Rooms

four stars

Alive: Music for Night of the Living Dead

Zoo Pleasance

three stars

Rob Adams

BEHIND the unassuming billing of Misha’s Gang lies a real Fringe treat.

Misha Rachlevsky, whose C. includes founding chamber orchestras in the U.S. and Spain as well as forming the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, conducts a string ensemble of the standard that you might expect to hear in Edinburgh International Festival’s Queen’s Hall morning concerts and to hear them in a venue where none of the players is much more than a few feet away puts the listener almost at the heart of the music.

In Tchaikovsky’s racing-tempo-ed Scherzo in C Minor, this is, to say the least, exciting, but even in the same composer’s more sober, gorgeous Elegy (in Memory of Ivan Samarin) and the gravely moving Verklaerte Nacht, from Schoenberg’s romantic period, being so close to the action is no small thrill.

The playing is consistently superb and the musicians so much a band – gang turns out to be pretty apt – that they move as one in the most animated sequences, almost as if choreographed, creating a fabulous collective warmth of tone and a full spectrum of dynamics and emotion.

Rachlevsky changes the programme for every performance, except for the “birthday present” he’s brought to the Festival and Fringe. I won’t divulge its contents, save to say that one element is as elegant a reading of Flowers of Edinburgh as you’re likely to hear. The other piece of mischief, which thrusts a musician chosen by an audience member into the soloist’s role on Astor Piazzolla’s brisk Zita, is worth turning up to hear all by itself.

Run ends August 26.

THE AUDIENCE has a close view of Chris Dugdale’s card shuffling but is likely to be none the wiser afterwards, despite his attempts to share trade secrets. Up Close! is fast-moving entertainment roughly split between sleight of hand and thought transference, and if the former is mind-boggling, the latter is beyond belief.

Elements of the show may be familiar – columns of numbers all reaching the same total seems to be a recurring theme this Fringe – but the plausible Dugdale’s exploits with various paperback books and an Oxford English Dictionary quite understandablydrew involuntary gasps of “no way”. Look out, too, for a party-piece, if that’s the term, involving a bottle of wine and two cards that mysteriously find their way into ‘said container.

Run ends August 27.

CREATING live soundtracks to silent films has become quite an industry over the past few years. Night of the Living Dead, having dialogue, represents a different challenge and there are places where live and recorded sound clash in Alive. Mostly the production works, though, and the guitarist (and occasional vocalist) and drummer involved work well together, creating admirably precise percussive patterns, haunting, echoey, blues-inflected passages and some suitably raging storms to reflect the onscreen building of tension in a truncated version of the zombie film.

Run ends August 28.