sat 19/09/2020

Edinburgh Fringe: Jackie Leven/ Jen Brister/ Doris Day Can F**k Off | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe: Jackie Leven/ Jen Brister/ Doris Day Can F**k Off

Edinburgh Fringe: Jackie Leven/ Jen Brister/ Doris Day Can F**k Off

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Jackie Leven: the Scottish troubadour's talents are as expansive as ever

Physically reduced he may have been, but his talents were as expansive as ever, and more than capable of holding a small room captivated with just voice and guitar.

Physically reduced he may have been, but his talents were as expansive as ever, and more than capable of holding a small room captivated with just voice and guitar. Whereas in recent years Leven has released a somewhat bewildering range of music under a variety of noms de plume, often mixing his tales of Serbian prostitutes, Earls Court cab drivers and damaged Dundonian bar-stool philosophers with ironically cheap and synthetic musical textures, on stage he was a far warmer proposition.

His live act is as much about the yarns as the songs, and Leven offered up rambling reflections on the “harrowing” Toy Story 3 and losing a girlfriend to the Dalai Lama’s bodyguard, as well as wickedly scatological tales about a Bay City Rollers badge and a Glasgow photo session.

Yet among all the deadpan – and very funny – banter he succeeded again and again in cutting right to the heart of the matter. He played fluid acoustic guitar, while his big, warm, hungry voice stretched some of his best songs into powerful shapes, particularly on the sad and soulful “Exit Wound”. It was rarely cheery stuff, but it connected: the beautiful “Poortown” told of blighted lives over a haunting melody, while “Beware Soul Brother” – the highlight of his forthcoming album Wayside Shrines and the Code of the Travelling Man – was both an elegy for a departed sibling and the past itself. A winning mix overall of the sacred and profane. Graeme Thomson

Jen Brister, Caves ****

Jen BristerJen Brister is half English, half Spanish, and bilingual. She's also, thanks to her mother's Latin genes, “a bit sepia” and often finds herself having to answer the question, “Where are you from?” to which her reply, south London, is met with blank looks.

Jen Brister is British(ish) is the comic's response to those numbnuts who say her voice doesn't match her colouring, a thoughtful and very funny look at identity and which part of her family she feels more at home with. Along the way, she examines how her reaction to various things – the royal wedding earlier this year, evaluating lesbian porn as part of a focus group of strangers, the metric/imperial confusion she has been saddled with – makes her either more English or more Spanish.

Brister is a talented actress and a gifted mimic, and she performs this often hilarious show with great physicality, acting out various scenarios - such as her wonderfully original take on the real reason the British Empire ended, and how her very loud Spanish relatives are obsessed by cooked meats. Until 28 August Veronica Lee

Doris Day Can F**k Off, Zoo Southside *

doris-day-can-f-k-off 22883You wait I don't know how many years for a Fringe play featuring Doris Day and then two come along at once. Shame Greg McLaren's one-man opera wasn't worth the wait – nor indeed the 45 minutes spent watching it. He says – rather, sings – at the top of this show that he wanted to do a piece about communication and miscommunication. So for two months last year lived his life as if in a Doris Day musical, and all his human interactions – with newspaper sellers, bus drivers, shopkeepers – he sang, while also secretly recording some of them.

The show is a mixture of McLaren entirely "singing" the story (for what it is), the recordings and mashed-up loops of both. We never learn anything about him or how the process really worked (does he live alone, I'm guessing?), and by golly does his tuneless singing voice grate after about 10 minutes. It's tough to sit through, and worth a star purely for the game audience at the performance I saw, who provided the only laughs as they were asked to sing out their names. Until 29 August Veronica Lee

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters