Sunday, 22 August 2010



Before turning up one late Saturday afternoon at Amicus Apple, one could see me doing the festival dance of rushing to the wrong venues, getting the run-around at press offices and, in some cases, seeing some tired acts try too hard. And then, a bird pooped ALL over my arm.


Mere minutes after cleaning myself up (thanks to the napkins provided by nice folks dining outside the National Galleries), I was safely inside relaying the whole poorific ordeal and sipping the kind of cocktail that's dangerously delicious.

The Hollaback Girl (4.95) is a well-shaken mix of 42 Below Kiwi vodka, apple juice, raspberries and Chambord. My fellow diner liked the black raspberry vodka, pomegranate, raspberry and cranberry combination in the Pink Angel (6.50).

There's a set menu on-hand in addition to the al a carte and we each chose from one. My friend had the set menu pairing of a stuffed portobello with lemon and coriander cous cous starter and a main of penne tossed in pesto with roasted vegetables. She was one happy vegetarian; yes, they need love too.

From the a la carte, I go for the battered prawns to start; the coating had the perfect crunch, it's served with a forkfuls of rocket and a sweet chili dipping sauce, although I'd anticipated a mango tequila sauce. For mains, I had an Amicus burger and skinny fries. The pattie was obviously handmade with onions and herbs, and combined with cheddar, fried egg and homemade relish it was all a brilliant mess, the sign of a successful burger.

Puddings did more than tempt and by the time the gooey chocolate cake and raspberry cheesecake were gone, I’d forgotten all about all the crap I’d caught earlier. (K.Smith)

RESTAURANT AND BAR REVIEW: The Underdogs + Amore Dogs

Doggone good

The Dogs empire of Edinburgh has become synonymous with rustic simplicity, with the food sourced locally and executed imaginatively at a price that is all too kind. But lest we forget that while The Dogs, Seadogs, and Amore Dogs get all the love, The Underdogs is nestled beneath the kingdom, quietly collecting a quirk all its own.

As my companion and I discover tonight, integrating experiences at Amore Dogs with Underdogs is a move that’s seamless and all too necessary. We descend into the latter to discover a space comparable to a grandparent’s living room. Plush, faded sofas and torn leather chairs create a lived-in warmth and it’s hard to decide where to plant ourselves for a pre-dinner bevvy. When the sweet sounds of the Fleet Foxes is heard overhead, we sigh gratefully and sink into the nearest cushions, which cover an old church pew.

Perfectly-chilled Prosecco spumante goes down a treat (£3.65/glass) while we ponder over the menu of nibbles. While we hungrily spy the beef and pork ragu pie and the assorted crostinis, we must dine upstairs as anticipated, and return here for a nightcap in another cozy corner.

Up in Amore, we gush over our salads, mine with smoked mackerel, egg, anchovies, olives and capers(£4.95); hers a similar but simpler puttanescca salad with tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers(£3.65). My main is a deeply rich bowl of pesto risotto with the unmistakable bite of sun-dried tomatoes and creamy goat’s cheese (£9.95). I wish I’d done the small bowl of risotto with a large mackerel salad but hey, we live and learn. My companion’s pizza does not suck. At all. It’s made with a fresh tomato base, Gorgonzola and rocket (£7.25). I trade some risotto for two slices and no regrets.

Somehow we manage most of a block of white chocolate semi freddo with summer berries (£4.75). How one being could consume this on their own is a mystery. It’s a bit like devouring chocolate-flavoured butter but that doesn’t really stop us because it’s that doggone good.

We take our glutton with us back downstairs, leaving our shame behind as we sip on a Bailey’s and coffee and an Amaretto with the same (both for £10.10). The Underdogs is still darling and so agreeable, and on this August eve it’s a haven from all the festival fuss. Think this might be amore. (K. Smith)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Lovelace: A Rock Musical

Lovelace: A Rock Musical * * *
The Udderbelly’s Pasture
10-29 August

Porn plus musical plus late night antics = does it really get any better? Add a mulleted redneck/disco pimp with a 70s shirt that barely buttons up over his hairy chest and protruding beer belly, and you’ve got yourself some fine entertainment. Well not ‘fine’, but entertainment still.

This biographical musical depicts the life of Linda Boreman cum Lovelace, from pregnant teen to woman-against-pornography, via stellar vocals and hilarious lyrics. With the books, music and lyrics written by Charlotte Caffey of The Go Go's fame and Anna Waronker from LA band That Dog (her father is the man behind Dreamworks), the tale is conducted like a sung-through rock opera.

It divulges Lovelace's claims of having an unsupportive mother that robs her of a safe haven, an exploited career in porn that began and continued as rape at gunpoint, and her eventual escape and redemption in campaigning with Take Back the Night. Through all of the sexual, mental and physical abuse endured, this story maintains, she never saw a cent of the billions made by her main claim to fame, Deep Throat.

Amid the heaviness, there’s also plenty of t ‘n’ a for the naughty, lyrical laughs for those in need of comic relief after a long day of lackluster festival comedy, and one hour that will quickly pass you by without 'sucking' really at all. August 2010

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Barbara Morrison - Behind the Green Door * * * *

Barbara Morrison * * * *
The Outhouse
8-12, 16-21, 27-29 August
19.00 & 21.00

Don’t be fooled by the grays, this sister has still got it. Oooh wee, she does. With a voice that ‘don’t play’ and a saucy ol’ story to back up every song, Miss Morrison has her audience eating right out of her snappy little hands.

Hailing from Chicago via LA, Morrison sang for seven years with Ray Charles and her wealth of experience is on show for all to admire. She is joined tonight by the Tom Finlay Trio in the mood-appropriate Outhouse off Broughton Street. With spirits on ice and red wine filled to the rims, the tables are as full as the chairs in the warm and dimly lit loft.

The songstress begins with ‘the most recorded blues song in history’, wailing ‘Lawd have mercy on me’ to T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday (But Tuesday’s Just As Bad). The next two are courtesy of Percy Mayfield, followed by Don’t Touch Me, which she dedicates to ‘all of my ex husbands’. She’s especially flirty here, squinting those sparkling but mischievous eyes with a sinful grin.

Some Texas blues follows along with a song that Willie Nelson wrote but Mr Ray Charles sent straight to the charts: You Don’t Know Me. Her ode to legends continues with a dirty rendition of BB King’s Never Make a Move Too Soon. Morrison insists that if you see her on the street you should be friendly, and call her Sundown (cue the music), ‘I do my best work after dark’ before finally ending the night with the classic, and title of her show, Behind the Green Door.

There’s nothing not to love, and that’s why she draws a crowd of adorers each and every Fringe. See you next year, little lady. August 2010

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Like Little Girls in a Sweet Shop * * * *

Like Little Girls in a Sweet Shop * * * *
theSpaces on the Mile @ The Radisson
6-14 August (not 8)

These are true stories, told with real tears. Four girls act out verbatim conversations told by their own mothers in a delightful piece of theatre that turns out to be just as touching as the concept itself.

The multitude of events that can happen between four women in the 70s is extraordinary. As teens, there are crushes, boys, silly dates and smooching; but there are also moments quite unforgettable like being picked on by the Mean Girls because she is less fortunate or seeing grossly unjust abuse over dropping a slice of bread.

As adults, the intertwining of joy, heartbreak and devastation continues: being blissful when a marriage begins; honeymooning at the Isle of Wight; a child is born when it’s already dead; miscarriages are a fact of life; and a marriage ends when an affair is admitted one Christmas night.

It’s all told charmingly by these grateful daughters and one could scarcely think of a more beautiful way to honour their very different, but all very phenomenal, mothers.

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Cirque de Legume *

Cirque de Legume *
Gilded Balloon
12-30 August (except 18)

I should start by saying that the next time I opened my fridge after this show, I spotted an onion and carrot and shut the door quickly, somehow now scarred and afraid of these innocent vegetables.

Circus of the vegetable. Hmmm. Okay so there’s a couple of clowns. The scenes that flash before me, the ones I’ve tried to block out, involve a girl clown shoving carrot after carrot into boy clown’s mouth while he pretends to be the ‘horse of Spain’ and chucking chunks of orange bits onto the stage and into the audience; she also crazily beats the ‘horse’ with lettuce and leeks until they’re also torn and shred all over the place.

Another flash reveals an onion striptease, which he promises us to find ‘most a-peel-ing’. I love the pun but the rest, weird. Funny? In a slightly terrifying and confusing way, yes. In that sense, there is much laughter.

Now I’m sensing something else - oh yes - there is the bit where she is hypnotised by the radish I believe it is. ‘How ‘bout that?’, they ask. It’s all they say basically throughout the entire show, which is, I admit, pretty cute. Oh yes, the radish - she is made to believe she’s a mouse or a rodent of the sort from Poland, and then furiously eats the radish, leaving her face gooey, wet and red-tinted. A bit of the red of some peppers/pretend knives also regurgitate out of boy clown’s mouth, and onto the stage.

Basically two people spend an hour playing strange, bizarre games/roles with vegetables; the other people stare aghast at the scene while praying that they’ll be spared from flying chewed-up veggies.

I have managed to muster up one star because one person did actually get it, and yelled ‘Bravo’, so good for her. I also respect that I will have this story to tell for ages to come; I only hope the fear of carrots will subside sooner than later.

FESTIVAL REVIEW: The Roaring Boys Will Set You Free

The Roaring Boys Will Set You Free * * * *
The Underbelly
5-29 August (except 17 and 24)

Admittedly, when the Fringe Guide was released this year, I scoured the plethora of adverts and listings in hopes of finding the return of the guys that did Tim: Against All Odds during last year’s festival. That was a highlight of my August 2009, the kind of show that makes you love this time of year as it takes you by surprise in the late afternoon, and when you think you’re too jaded to sit through any more tired and unwitting acts, the next thing you know you’re giddy despite yourself and exiting the venue with the act's stickers, signs and sweets.

I almost gave up but then stumbled upon The Roaring Boys. Yes! There they are, my old pals! And it’s like deja vous- the same venue, on the same row, only this time with quite great expectations. And I can’t help myself, I still can’t get enough.

The theme of the act this year is funny enough as Danny and Jonny, with their expensive banners, aim to ‘set you free’and Stop the One Show. You know, the one on BBC One that features topics like ‘Hardeep Singh Kohli wears dresses’ or insert-celeb-name-here ‘tells the history of pate.’ These boys have had enough of time-wasting telly and are campaigning for its demise.

The mission takes many nonsensical, and therefore hilarious, detours: girlfriend stealer and tall man Robert (tall, very tall) tauntingly appears and reappears, an ode to French grandparents is sung at an awkward intermission and sis Clare/Jonny declares herself ‘a poorly conceived character’

And when the mission is on the right track (ish), there are truly bril songs (‘we are the roaring boys and you are the people who were paid to come and see our show’), the obligatory audience participation aids in constructing a bomb (Stop the One Show plan A) from a watch and a shoe (a gun is produced in the form of a Fringe guide), and the talk of transporting poo only to smear it on the BBC walls as plan B of operation Set You Free.

The sequence of varied, bizarre events is swift, the wit, sharp and the quantity of kooky, just right. As I still carry their catchy tunes in my head, I look forward to next year's laughs from this endearing duo.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

EDINBURGH JAZZ FESTIVAL REVIEW: Brian Auger's Oblivion Express

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express * * * *
Voodoo Rooms
2 August

Brian Auger, acid jazz god and master of the Hammond, brings a flood of sentiment from the sixties in a room full of long-time admirers to the Voodoo Rooms tonight with his Oblivion Express.

The ensemble is impressively comprised of the son of a Sample on bass, and Auger’s own son on percussion; his daughter is the blond born with the amazing chops.

Savannah Grace Auger’s sure-fire voice delivers jazzy, soulful belts that sends shivers. Beginning with a track entitled Truth, she is a chip off the old block as the tune brings life to the room in the form of bobbing heads, shaking hips and tapping toes.

Brian, or as Savannah calls him, ‘the craziest man in showbiz’, flaunts his incomparable skills on the organ in every instance, firing away at the keys with blinding speed. It’s easy to see how he has played alongside legends like Jimi Hendirx, Led Zeppelin and Eric Burdon (the latter also playing in Edinburgh this Jazz Festival - is a brief reunion in the works?). He even recalls to the audience recording with Donovan fiftyish years ago before performing the Oblivion Express version of Season of the Witch - a highlight.

I’d have preferred another hour of way-back-when storytelling but maybe that’s just me. It seems that all is well while the devotees depart, humming with the nostalgia that Auger’s Hammond has commanded.

Also published in August 2010 on