An Evening with David Sedaris



Adam Strauss: The Mushroom Cure

Underbelly Cowgate


Laura Levites: Selfhelpless

Gilded Balloon


We were sitting comfortably - then he began. There was little more to look at than a slight man in a white shirt standing behind a wooden lectern. The rest was darkness.

The distinctive voice of DAVID SEDARIS, familiar to most from his Radio 4 shows, cut through the darkness and welcomed us briefly before telling us a story about owls. "Understanding owls" to be more precise, detailing the visit to a taxidermist to buy a stuffed owl to give to his partner Hugh for Valentine's Day.

The writing is sublime but his delivery provides its absolute potential. Nobody can read a piece of writing quite like the person who committed it to the page and with Sedaris, it seems effortless. The slight stumbles only lend it a more natural air.

A brand new piece of writing on Sedaris's aversion to the overhead light finds him at his absolute best. Finding the humour and absurdity in those things that we feel but think too prosaic to commit to prose.

Changing the dynamic, he reads selected diary entries and then takes questions from an audience that need no encouragement to quiz him. Not everyone is selected, with each answer having the same spellbinding qualities as his writing. A master at work.

Until August 24

Away from this air-conditioned comfort, ADAM STRAUSS is within touching distance of his audience. The New York-based stand up has a more conventional show on the Free Fringe, but this absorbing monologue shares his quest to cure his OCD by way of hallucinogens.

This OCD is not that of the hand-washing kind or being a slave to the bleach, it is crippling indecision. Choosing between two items can take days and cause immense anxiety, ruining relationships and putting life on hold.

Conventional medicines, alternative cures and therapy were of no real help and after reading research about the effectiveness of hallucinogens it was the next place to turn. A friend introduced him to a strain of cacti that when juiced had, she felt, helped her depressive symptoms.

The beauty of the writing here is how Strauss places his attempts at reaching what in drug taking is called a Plus Four experience, the "at one with the universe" state, in the context of his everyday life.

While this would be fascinating written down, Strauss's engaging but laidback approach is the best way to understand how someone could be driven to extreme measures to regain control of their lives. Highly recommended.

Until August 25

LAURA LEVITES is, at last, happy. It has been a painful journey. She is happy to tell us about it and at the end of an hour which is not always comfortable, we're the better for it.

The small, slender New Yorker with tumbling red hair, a satin slip dress, and shod in Dr Marten's admits that her inability to get anywhere on time delayed the beginning of the show. That's honest and not the greatest way to get an audience on side.

However, it's that honesty and fearlessness that brings us round - a slow build to understanding what made her contemplate suicide and end up being paid $50 a week to be her brother's maid. Ultimately it would be her brother who would force her to get help.

She would spend months on end in bed with nothing but a stolen credit card and eBay for company - this uncontrollable spending and a fixation on shopping online just one symptom of what is eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder and ADD.

Like Adam Strauss she was on a tireless search for a cure and she found it in more conventional circumstances. She's still here and there's little doubt we'll be hearing more from her.

Until August 26