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Edinburgh Festival Fringe Reviews 3 - Expensive Shit- Traverse Theatre, Four stars / In Fidelity - Traverse Theatre, Four stars / High Heels in Low Places - Traverse Theatre, Four stars

In Expensive Shit, a Nigerian toilet attendant called Tolu ekes out a living on tips from dressed up women on the pull in a Glasgow nightclub. Once upon a time Tolu had dreams of being a dancer in revolutionary musician Fela Kuti's band in his Lagos-based Shrine club. In different ways, both establishments turn women into objects, especially when it is revealed that the Glasgow club toilets is fitted with a two-way mirror so men can observe the women from a room on the other side of the wall.

Inspired by a real-life instance in Glasgow, Adura Onashile's play, presented by Scottish Theatre producers in association with the Traverse, flits between the Glasgow club and the Shrine. This charts Tolu's thwarted ambitions to her near invisibility before rediscovering something within herself.

Sabina Cameron invests Tolu with a proud defiance in Onashile's own production, in which three other actresses flit between locations on what in one way or another might just be the time of the women's lives. When they rise up, it may be for one night only, but its reclaiming of power is a fleeting moment of emancipation for all.

Runs to August 28

Love is in the air in In Fidelity, Rob Drummond's latest auto-biographical dissection of human behaviour. After becoming a wrestler and a magician, here Drummond uses the tropes of increasingly grotesque TV dating shows to get to the heart of a matter that affects us all. As a gift to his real life wife on their fifteenth anniversary, Drummond co-opts members of the audience to run through the pros and cons of the dating game.

Drummond makes for a charming host, who rolls with any awkwardness between participants like a pro. It is the scripted segments that really open things up in Steven Atkinson's production, where personal ethics regarding any temptation to stray veers more towards Oprah territory than Blind Date. What makes this streets ahead of many of the straight-up confessional shows doing the rounds is Drummond's artfulness and innate understanding of theatre's contrary relationship with truth and lies. Throw sex and death into the mix and its a winner, and if the show's final moment doesn't leave you with a lump in your throat, then you're probably a lost cause to love anyway.

Runs to August 28

In High Heels in Low Places, self-styled queen of Ireland Panti Bliss comes clean on how a solitary remark on a TV chat show created the sort of media storm that is becoming increasingly rabid these days. As a sparkling and potty-mouthed Panti makes plain, however, beyond the initial furore, s/he transcended the manufactured outrage to become a national treasure.

Over the next motor-mouthed seventy minutes, Panti rewinds on a no-holds-barred life as a drag queen in a scurrilous and hilarious fashion. Beyond the gossip, such a display undercuts itself with a searing and fearlessly unsentimental honesty that turns the entire performance into an act of defiance that gives homophobes the serious finger.

While seeing a show like this in such a formal theatrical environment at 10.30 in the morning for the first date of the Traverse's revolving programme was initially disarming, it nevertheless gets back to drag culture's politically driven roots as Panti lays bare her small town roots before coming out fighting as a liberating force for good. And yes, the finale features a magnificent display of lip-synching that makes for the ultimate gay club experience, whatever time of day it might be.

Runs to August 14th

The Herald, August 16th 2016

ends

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