A Beginner's Guide To Populism

4 stars

In these days of increased nationalism and demagoguery – think of your nearest blonde-bouffanted egotistical politician – A Beginner’s Guide to Populism tells us how we got here, and the dangers of letting it run unchecked. The play is broadly satirical with elements of farce, and raises plenty of laughs with its all-too-recognisable shenanigans, though not without darker notes to sound a warning.

Review by Stephen Walker published on Sunday 22 July | Read more

The Fetch Wilson

3 stars

Young Liam Wilson is pretty cool, but it’s not quite enough: he does OK, but there is always someone a little better. And then he’s startled by someone new at his school, also called Liam Wilson but just that bit better-looking and more confident. It’s an intriguing launching-point for this one-man rollercoaster ride through the seamier side of Dublin life, as Liam seeks the magic he feels his life lacks.

Review by Stephen Walker published on Sunday 22 July | Read more

Trapped

3 stars

Given the recent rescue of a boys’ football team from deep in a Thai cave, Trapped is a timely piece. Inspired by the collapse of the San Jose mine in Chile – where 33 miners were trapped underground for 69 days – it's made all the more immediate by being staged below the earth, inside the atmospheric Poole’s Cavern.

Review by Stephen Walker published on Friday 20 July | Read more

Murder, Margaret and Me

3 stars

Here's a quick question for you: who do you think of when you hear the words "Miss Marple"? If you're my age – fortyish – you'll be picturing Joan Hickson from the BBC; if you're a little younger, perhaps you visualise Geraldine McEwan or Julia McKenzie. But before any of these, Miss Marple was played on the big screen by Margaret Rutherford, in a series of famously unfaithful adaptations which the author Agatha Christie was rumoured to hate.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Wednesday 18 July | Read more

Sea Wall by Simon Stephens

4 stars

In Sea Wall, a short play by Simon Stephens, Alex recounts a life that he loves – full of joy, warmth and happy relationships. But we know that somehow he has lost all this, and we are also witnessing an elegy. Sudden Impulse are one of Buxton Fringe’s most reliable visiting theatre companies, but their reputation for quality has not been won by playing safe, and this is another example of challenging work tackled with aplomb.

Review by Stephen Walker published on Wednesday 18 July | Read more

The Shape Of Things by Neil Labute

3 stars

Neil Labute’s play from the turn of the millenium poses distinct questions: about how far you would go for love, and about the responsibility of the artist. It charts the influence of an art graduate on a shy literature student and his friends, as she blows into his life, and he starts to change his appearance and grow more confident under her influence.

Review by Stephen Walker published on Wednesday 18 July | Read more

Behind the Agony

4 stars

It's a few years since I first made the acquaintance of Ms Samantha Mann, in her award-winning solo show Stories About Life, Death & A Rabbit. Since then, it seems, quite a lot has changed: she's cut down her work as a librarian, signed up for some further education, and diversified into a new career as an agony aunt.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Tuesday 17 July | Read more

Extremism

4 stars

Ten students are left alone in a classroom. They're alone because Miss Tomlinson has gone with Jamal, whom she’s reported to the police under Prevent – a controversial government policy which aims stop people becoming radicalised. Her absence unleashes a maelstrom of emotions and issues, from terrorism and racism to cyberbullying and family breakdown, in a very powerful piece from this accomplished young company.

Review by Stephen Walker published on Tuesday 17 July | Read more

The War On Terry

3 stars

Terry wakes up hungover and banished to the sofa; his girlfriend is out, and the house is infested with ladybirds. It’s also his 27th birthday, and he is older now than than his big brother Danny ever was. He reminisces about his brother, and tries to come to terms with his loss, within a family that seems unable to process their grief and move on.

Review by Stephen Walker published on Monday 16 July | Read more

Gated Community

4 stars

Cleverly described as a "Homes Under the Hammer Horror", Gated Community tells the sinister stories of eight houses in Orchard Mews, performed through shadow puppetry using an overhead projector (OHP) – remember those? Handheld Arts are returning to Buxton for the first time since 2011's five-star show Paper Tom, and here, they combine fabulous attention to detail with nods and winks to classic horror movies.

Review by Stephen Walker published on Saturday 14 July | Read more

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