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SCALA Going Dutch, and possibly mad ●●●●●

MY LIFE WITH THE DOGS Charming music and characters mask a flimsy tale ●●●●● LITTLE JOHNNY’S BIG GAY MUSICAL Little Johnny, big ideas ●●●●●

From the moment he steps onto the stage, nappy on, name in lights, there’s little doubt that Johnny McKnight is on a mission to entertain. And he does from his mammy’s womb to his 30th year, single and proud, McKnight sings, dances and narrates his way through each rite of passage. From his earlier memories of coming last in the school races to his ill-fated love affairs and attempts at coming out to his family, McKnight bops a fine line between giggles and despair. From ditties like ‘Because We Were Fuck Buddies’ to Jennifer Hudson piss-takes, our diminutive anti-hero takes us through the decades with tongue firmly in cheek. Musical fans will enjoy the references to some of the greats throughout, from Dreamgirls and The Wizard of Oz to the mighty Chicago. While the occasional segment fails to hit the mark with maximum gusto languishing a tad

too long on the odd forgettable number his familiarity and charisma more than carries the action throughout. Brownie points too for the

accompanying live band, particularly the vocal talents of the brilliant Natalie Toyne who brings boundless soul and sophistication, to an already impressive show. (Anna Millar) Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, until 30 Aug (not 17, 24), 10pm, £11–£12 (£9.50–£10.50).

The members of New International Encounter have become quite the Fringe favourites over the past five years, as the long, long queue stretching from the Pleasance testifies, and it is easy to see why audiences love their charming, funny and touching performances of tales with an eastern European bent. The latest is the true story of Ivan Mishukov, who, running away from home at the age of four, lived with wild dogs on the streets of Moscow for two years.

From the opening scene, where it’s lighters out for the Scorpions’ 1990 political anthem ‘Wind of Change’, music plays an important role in this play: be it folk melodies or pop, NIE understand the emotional power of song. The canine mannerisms of the three ‘dogs’ are carefully observed and beguilingly accurate, as is the creepy pathos of the would-be child abuser ‘Uncle Yevgeny’. It’s very much a child-sized

adventure: little happens in the story, but the charm is all in the bi-play, the interactions on and off stage, and the daft (occasionally erring on the side of stereotypical) characters. The many likeable elements of this production do delight in the heat of the moment, but ultimately those moments fail to form a satisfying and lasting whole. (Laura Ennor) Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 31 Aug (not 18), 5.30pm, £10–£11 (£8.50–£9.50).

WHITE TEA Emotionally dense, textually nuanced journey through time, space and tea ●●●●●

Writer-director David Leddy’s latest piece requires its audience to robe up in white kimonos before embarking on an imaginative journey from Paris to Japan, without ever leaving the small room in the Assembly Rooms in which it takes place. Its use of music and projection on a simple set also moves us from one point in history to another, on both a personal and political level.

Naomi (Gabriel Quigley), significantly a scholar in the study of memory at a French university, is visited by her mother’s nurse (Alisa Anderson) on a mission of mercy. Naomi’s parent has succumbed to a stroke in Kyoto, but the young woman, long since estranged from her mother, a peace campaigner and survivor of the Hiroshima bomb, will only reluctantly embark on a journey to Kyoto to be with her. As their trip progresses, more is revealed about both the daughter and nurse.

Leddy’s script at times treads the borderline between a psychological

study (mainly of denial) and pure, almost camp melodrama but contrives to retain its dignity with a rich symbolic register, encompassing both visual motif and an astonishingly literate text. Underneath the warmth of the story, lies a quite dispassionate examination of the anthropology of custom, as it works in both Asian and Western individualist models, particularly focusing on issues about family and love. Meanwhile, endless symbols, from the Japanese and British mutual love of tea, to the cleansing of water and on to the idea of bones and their relationship with history and custom, shimmer into sight at significant moments, each time transforming their prior meaning. Quigley and Anderson have much to do in the confined performance space, but show real conviction in conveying an emotionally dense, pleasingly nuanced text. (Steve Cramer) Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 31 Aug (not 18, 25), 2pm & 5pm, £9–£10.

Imagine if human behaviour wasn’t continually kept in check by thousands of almost imperceptible social bylaws, the ones that tell us not to stare, not to scratch ourselves there in public, not to express every thought we have as soon as we have it. This seems as good a starting point as any for understanding Scala, the winner of Meesterlijk, a competition aimed at bringing the best of young Dutch experimental theatre to the Fringe.

Summarising Scala is difficult: essentially, a young woman out to dinner with a friend suddenly realises the meaninglessness of smalltalk about the nice bread and begins, in a panic, to wrest herself free of those conventions. What ensues is an uneven, but always compelling stream of consciousness monologue heading toward something like a nervous breakdown. Conclusions are not necessarily reached. Writer-performer Anna Hermanns invests the piece with a frantic energy, but her silent friend, representing the placid path of someone who doesn’t ask difficult questions is just as fascinating a presence. It’s not without flaws, but it’s definitely worth staying up for. (Kirstin Innes) The GRV, 226 0000, until 30 Aug (not 16), 12.20am, £5.

Lola New Town Theatre (Fringe Venue 7) 96 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 3DH ������������������������ �����������������������������

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