Forest Boy, Assembly George Square (odd dates only, until August 25)


Freak Show, Assembly George Square (even dates only, until August 26)


The Bosco tent has some delightful afternoon treats, thanks to two joint ventures from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and Noisemaker Productions. RCS Musical Theatre graduates Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie are the creative minds behind Noisemaker with Gilmour providing the book and lyrics, and McKenzie the often hauntingly powerful music. Their goal to create and develop fresh and innovative music theatre has certainly been realised by these two Fringe shows which play in repertory.

Forest Boy aims to explore the very form of musical theatre, challenging the audience from the outset. Piecing together the action is half the fun, as it's based on the true story of the boy who turned up in Berlin a few years ago, claiming his father had brought him up in the forest. The piece manages to explore his fragile mental state and daydreaming creative tendencies, tenderly and without judgment.

Gilmour's powerful writing is delivered by an impressive Tom Mackley, while the physical movement heightens the story's elemental nature with impressive, often tribal, choreography from Emily-Jane Boyle.

An altogether darker and seedier side to life's narrative is explored through Freak Show. For the first half hour, the audience enjoys seeing the slick show unfold: the high kicks, the big licks, the works. In the second section, however, the action is experienced from the other side of the footlights.

Stand-out performance has to go to voluptuous Lauren Norris as 'the half-lady', as her emotional crescendo was enough to give me goose bumps until I reached the far side of Bristo Square. Attractive Conor Scully played 'the announcer' smiling broodingly and with enough untapped menace to suggest the bloody and brutal denouement, while musical director Stephen Roberts also conjured some achingly powerful ensemble singing for the cutting close.

Laquearia, Summerhall


Simply to read the text of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake out loud, with over-lapping voices taking charge of the marginalia and footnotes, is a four-person task. Victoria Miguel might well balk at having her text (which imagines composer John Cage and writer Samuel Beckett conversing over the game of chess described in Beckett's novel Murphy to a re-created soundtrack of Cage's 1968 composition Reunion) compared to the Irishman's modernist masterpiece, but there are undoubted parallels, not least in the interjections of Christine Cornell, as the mysterious Commentator on the action.

There is, to be fair, not a huge amount of that. This is a very wordy piece, with narrator Philip Kingscott having a particularly voluminous task (even if he is allowed the volume in hand). That he brings much facial animation to the task is one of the joys of the performance for which Miguel, who also directs, has assembled a very fine cast with Glasgow-based American Paul Birchard as Cage and Allan Scott-Douglas as Beckett. She also brings a deep understanding of the philosophy behind Cage's music-making and the friendships that sustained his creativity, so while there is something of the lecture/demonstration about the production, the players bring a real humanity to their performances as well.

Just as compelling is the soundtrack, which has made an entirely new piece of music from the chess-inspired process that created the multi-composer original, involving contemporary composers and Cage's own Chess Pieces, from 1943, and relayed in eight-speaker surround sound (as well as being available in an online version for future listening). Miguel and her company are working in an area not too distant from Stewart Laing's Untitled Projects although without the knowing theatricailty, far less camp. It is a rich seam to be mining and well worth exploration.

Until Friday August 9