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Shrek The Musical

The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Four stars

I'm A Believer may be a song made famous by both The Monkees and Robert Wyatt, but Neil Diamond's bubblegum pop classic is spot on for the finale of writer David Lindsay-Abaire and composer Jeanine Tesori's rollickingly knowing stage version of Dreamworks' animated classic. Given that the ensemble cast are all dressed up as assorted larger-than-life ogres, princesses and fairytale subversions come to dancing life in a cartoon-coloured world, the image is trippy enough to have stepped out of the Monkees' psychedelic big-screen classic, Head.
The reference probably isn't deliberate, but every other one is in a show that celebrates the weird, the outsider and the downright other while lacing the love story between jolly green giant Shrek and the too-good-to-be-true Princess Fiona with fleeting nods to its pop culture peers. Disney, Monty Python and, care of Lindsay-Abaire and Tesori, a welter of musical theatre shows are all i…
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Bruce McLean - A Lawnmower in the Loft and Trying for A Sculpture

Bruce McLean doesn't like the idea of being called a performance artist. Nor has the Glasgow-born sculptor ever been the food critic for the Herald or any other newspaper. Both possibilities, however are mooted in A Lawnmower in the Loft, the hilarious new book published this month by the now seventy-something auteur. A series of auto-biographical anecdotes, the title of each in A Lawnmower in the Loft is arranged in numerical and order. As the reader moves from the opening 3 Bandy Legged Scottish Artists from Fig Street, to the final piece, Yorkie Bar Ad, McLean's adventures in the art world over the last fifty years criss-cross between decades and places. The result is a delicious series of thumb-nail sketches that are barely a page long or less to complete a jigsaw of a very funny but still serious man.

Much of the fun comes from the fact that pretty much all the yarns McLean spins on the page as if scripting a series of after-dinner yarns revolve in various ways around foo…

The Sunnyside Centre

Hibs Supporters Club, Edinburgh
Three stars
The doors stay closed once the audience have found sanctuary from the un-named chaos outside in Village Pub Theatre's imagined response to a world gone mad. In the Hibs Supporters Club function room, a magician plays tricks at a small table while we are split into colour-coded groups. On the dance-floor, on the stage and over by the bar, other bodies are loitering, finding space to breathe as they hide in plain sight.

Over the next hour, these five survivors share their stories through a series of bite-size encounters that recall the scenes in disaster movies when everyone's thrown together in crisis and discovers the person beyond the strangers they would otherwise never have met. This is certainly the case for the magician in Les, Sophie Good's one-man opening gambit performed by Crawford Logan. It's true too in The Administrator, in which Tim Barrow's clipboard-wielding middle manageress confesses all.

In James Ley…

Nigel Harman and Laura Main - Shrek The Musical

Nigel Harman wasn't someone theatre audiences might immediately see as being right to appear in Shrek The Musical, composer Jeanine Tesori and writer David Linday-Abaire's stage version of the 2001 animated feature film, which in its relatively short life has become a modern classic. Here, after all, was an actor who had become a household name from his role as Dennis Rickman in TV soap East Enders a decade before, and whose initial shift into stage musicals saw him take on similarly swaggering roles such as hard-boiled gambler Sky Masterson in a West End production of Guys and Dolls.

Harman's turn as Shrek's arch villain, the comically diminutive Lord Farquaad, not only caused the actor appear on his knees throughout the show, but saw him win an Olivier award for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical. Such was Harman's affinity with the show that in 2014 he was invited to direct Shrek's UK tour. This is a role he continues as the latest leg of the tour open…

Sarah Rose, Susannah Stark, Hanna Tuulikki – Lilt, Twang, Tremor

CCA, Glasgow until January 14th 2018
Four stars

The female voice is at the centre of this exhibition by three artists who go beyond words to construct a series of town and country landscapes. These veer between communal chorales, silent environments and public proclamations. The sounds of Hanna Tuulikki's cloud-cuckoo-island (2016) and Away with the Birds (2014) overlap in a way that leaves space enough for both to breathe. Filmed on Eigg, the former finds Tuulikki taking on the mantle of Irish king, 'Mad Sweeney', whose call of the wild communes with a real life cuckoo. Away with the Birds is a group vocal composition heard on headphones that evokes a poetic impression of flight in formation.
Susannah Stark's Agora of Cynics (2017) is a series of Greek style foam columns which house a stage for public discourse. This comes through Searchlights (2017), a sound-work produced with musician Donald Hayden, which sets Berlin Wall graffiti and words from a World War Two inte…

How to Disappear

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

When Robert's benefits assessor from the Department of Work and Pensions takes a peek into his wardrobe mid-way through Morna Pearson's astonishing new play, to suggest she gets more than she bargained for is something of an under-statement. Such is the way of things in the worlds Pearson conjures up. On the one hand, Robert and his younger sister Isla have seemingly been abandoned, both by their father, who has gone AWOL at a weekend rave, and by a society represented by Jessica's overly-officious form.
Robert hasn't been out of his bed-room since Helen Daniels' death in daytime TV soap, Neighbours, an event so traumatic that he cocoons himself away, peeling off his skin and hair while a menagerie of exotic pets shed skins of their own. Isla has effectively taken charge of the collapsing household, but she too is barely keeping it together.

As told in Pearson's rich and gloriously unhinged Doric, this initially looks li…

Singin' in the Rain

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

There's a moment everyone's been waiting for in outgoing Pitlochry Festival Theatre artistic director John Durnin's pre Christmas revival of the stage musical that brought Stanley Donen's 1952 film to full soaking life. The recreation of the film's iconic title number, in which silent movie star Don Lockwood hoofs his way through every puddle in town, goes down a storm. This is especially so for the front row revellers caught in the splash-back, so heartily chuffed are they to be part of something that seems to have burst through the big screen that made it so familiar.
This accidental move into immersive theatre speaks volumes about the power of all-singing, all dancing evergreens such as this, which retains both Betty Comden and Adolph Green's original screenplay and its accompanying songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. As it charts the move from silent movies to talking pictures, the show itself is a knowing peek …