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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Springer opera is huge fun
Jerry Springer - The Opera
Music man: Jerry Springer - The Opera

High culture meets low in this all-singing, all mud-slinging performance centred on the phenomenon that is the Jerry Springer show.

A line-up of the usual US chat show suspects parade on stage from a red-neck husband whose wife wants to be a lap dancer to a man's nappy-wearing confessions.

As Springer reveals a host of guilty secrets to a whooping and hollering audience - never has a chat show audience sounded so delightful - he then ends up in his own personal hell where he has to reunite heaven and hell.

Although labelled an opera, it could (should?) really be a musical.

But this is a real high-energy show that displays the talents of its singers, not just their fantastic voices but also their comedic timing.

It takes great skill to sing seriously about three-nippled cousins and lesbian trailer trash, with ample doses of swearing, without cracking a smile.

The two halves of the show are very different.

The first is immensely entertaining, while the second, like Springer's Final Thought section on his real-life show, sermonises and lacks the fizz of the first.

But Jerry Springer - The Opera is a great concept and a fun show - even if you detest Springer and his clones.

Jerry Springer - The Opera is on at the Assembly Rooms until 26 August.

Men in Coats: Enough said

Bizarre, surreal and manic are just a few words to describe the totally original act that is Men in Coats.

Two men in rather large Parka jackets perform an hour long set of visual theatre which jumps between fast-paced circus act, complete with contortion, to slowed-down off-the-wall gags featuring horses heads and cups of coffee.

Men in Coats: Inspired comedy
The laughs are interspersed with tension, not often experienced during a comedy act, as the audience waits to see what could possibly happen next.

With no dialogue in the show it helps that the performers have what can only be described as comedy faces - no offence - used to great effect.

The show is an inspired piece of visual comedy that encapsulates all that is great about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It is innovative and wacky but without being too "out there" that it loses its audience.

Men in Coats is at the Pleasance Courtyard and Over the Road until 26 August.

Alan Davies shows serious side

Alan Davies makes his professional stage debut in this black, black comedy dealing with death and loneliness.

He plays a nephew who turns up to see an aged aunt who is supposed to be in her final death throes and waits, and waits, for her die.

Davies, the star of BBC One's Jonathan Creek is a theatre natural, commanding the stage with great presence, yet not overplaying the subtle character.

The opening scenes of Morris Panych's play are short and stilted and done very much for laughs.

But as the drama continues you start to really care about Davies' character and his relationship with his aunt, despite his best efforts to be a thoroughly dislikeable man.

Marcia Warren's turn as the aged aunt is charming, with her actions and facial expressions making up for her lack of dialogue.

Aunty and Me is an endearing yet pain-tinged production which is both brilliantly written and beautifully acted by Davies as he adds yet another string to his bow.

Aunty and Me is playing at the Assembly Rooms

Tina C's tame tribute

There cannot be anyone at the Fringe that has not heard about Tina C and her Twin Towers Tribute show - 10 out of 10 for self-promotion.

But would the glamorous country singing drag queen live up to expectations with the controversial subject matter?

In the words of the "lady" herself - hell no.

Tina C performs
Tina in the flesh is pretty tame

Tina C, aka male UK comic Chris Green, is a long-legged country singer with an ego the size of the Nashville.

After telling the audience it is going on an emotional journey, she talks about how she dealt with the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September - but it is really just a chance to talk about her new album.

Although the idea of cashing in with a 9/11 album seems like a joke fit for a stage show, it strikes a chord when you realise there are more than a few stars ready with a teary song about the tragedies.

She peppers her act with musical interludes such as Kleenex for the World and a self-indulgent Purple Rain, but although the stand-up is sharp, the song lyrics are repetitive and lack the promised bite.

And although well-received by the audience Tina C did not entirely live up to the self-promoted hype.

Tina C's Twin Towers Tribute is playing at the Pleasance Courtyard and Over the Road.

Perrier winner plays spying game

The spying game comes under the comedy microscope as Spooks tells the shady tale of the MI5, the KGB and a travel agent from Croydon and how they become inextricably linked.

The theatrical escapades are presented by 1999 Perrier best newcomer Ben Willbond and his reputation ensures this will be one of the must-sees of the Fringe.

The stars make unlikely spies

But be warned this play is loud, loud, loud from the off.

Willbond plays a downtrodden travel agency boss who finds out he is a spy, although he cannot remember being recruited.

And what follows is a quirky comedy romp through the clichés of the spying games with the trio of performers taking a number of parts each.

Willbond is a master character actor, effortlessly swapping between no-hoper travel agent to spy chief extraordinaire and back again, with a few others thrown in for good measure.

But spy hats off to Phil Brown, who plays Willbond's enemy, employee and side-kick, whose face covers a plethora of comical expressions.

Spooks is showing at the Pleasance Courtyard and Over the Road.

Coverage of the 2002 Edinburgh Festival from BBC News Online

The buzz

In focus

Fringe diarists



See also:

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