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Edinburgh Fringe Reviews: Sophie Sparham and Do It Now:Manual Override

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With the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe now in its final week there is just a handful of days left to nip over to the Scottish capital and grab a fistful of spoken word entertainment.  If you can avoid the almost overwhelmingly ubiquitous (but fabulous) comedy shows and navigate around the plethora of innovative flyering techniques with which you will find yourself presented throughout the city (student drama groups are particularly good at this) then you will find a dazzling array of poetry events on offer.  Here are two more reviews to help you make your selections but be quick, as most shows finish this Saturday the 25th:


Do It Now: Manual Override    **** (Four stars)

John Sheldon, Paul Richmond, Tony Vacca.  theSpace @ Niddry Street.  August 13th-25th. 10.30pm. Tickets £8/£6

American trio Sheldon, Richmond and Vacca (pictured) provide a powerful fusion of music, words and percussion in this enthralling 50 minute show which is part hippy-trip, part US-apologist and part sensory journey.  These three performers each demonstrate a very different skillset for our delectation and would undoubtedly be comfortable performing in any solo capacity (indeed, Sheldon has his own show Red Guitar also at the Fringe).  However the combination of that guitar with Richmond’s mesmerising lyrics and almost dream-like delivery is sewn together improbably yet with utter completion by the phenomenal antics of Tony Vacca whose billing as “percussion” does not do him justice.  Just the sight of Vacca’s rig dominating the stage is enough to command the audience’s attention, but when he starts playing the combination of rhythmic and musically percussive instruments that surround him the Manual Override spell is truly cast. 

John Sheldon, it would seem, can do no wrong with his Stratocaster but instead gives us melodies and undercurrents that summon emotions which resonate far beyond the boundaries of this small Edinburgh room.  And if this wasn’t giving you enough of a high Richmond’s wily and evocative spoken words dress the experience with a narrative which bounces effortlessly but incisively along important subjects like politics, imprisonment, love and dog-envy.

No “Fringe-edginess” here, no work-in-progress, no experimentation or ill-advised risk-taking.  This is three guys who have been places and done stuff, doing their thing together, as one.  Sublime.


Sophie Sparham: Please Mind the Gap   **** (Four stars)

Three Broomsticks. August 19th-25th.  4.15pm Free entry with the PBH Free Fringe.

For pure and splendid grass roots poetry you could do an awful lot worse than escape the frenzy of the Fringe and spend an hour in the company of the wonderfully talented Sophie Sparham.  This is a no-frills show – she doesn’t have musicians, props, interesting lighting effects or even a microphone – but the laid-back nature of her audience interaction is natural, endearing and delightful and her delivery is utterly engaging right from the start.  Plus, she smiles a lot.

Sparham writes wonderfully crafted poetry about ostensibly working class issues, sometimes heavy-duty subject matter with the potential to be bitter, aggressive or even whiney, but she always avoids falling into these traps.  Instead she finds the positive messages as in, for example, her poem Not Your 9 to 5 which laments the trappings of the rat race but encourages self-discovery and contains the perfect metaphor “I knew a man who sold solar panels but had never seen the sun”.

Like a lot of working class performers she seems embarrassed to be asking people for money at the end of the show, despite knowing full well that this is how the Free Fringe works.  Don’t let that stop you doing so though, she may even sell you one of her books, and if you like your poetry to be meaningful, inspiring and authentic this could just be the show for you. 


Write Out Loud reviews: Five stars – Truly exceptional. Four stars – Brilliant.  Three stars – Really good.  Two stars – Some strong points. One star – Not recommended.

◄ Edinburgh Fringe Reviews: Amsterdam

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