The self-deprecating comic character of Tubal, who has eight lines in The Merchant Of Venice, explores Jewishness in both Shakespeare and history. We hear of less well-known 'solutions': wholesale massacres. expulsions and ethnic cleansing. But whenever the real world gets too horrific. we retreat to the theatre.

Gareth Armstrong is magnetic throughout. His voice is amazing: from runny honey to avalanche rumble, and he convincingly plays everything from a bright-eyed girl to a 90 year old. as well as the very

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best bits of The Merchant Of Venice. You need not be Jewish, nor an EngLit expert to appreciate this: you need only be human. (Gabe Stewart)

I Shylock (Fringe) Sal/y Vaughan and Richard Jordan Limited, Observer Assemny (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 30 Aug, 11.55am, £10/f9 (£9/£8).

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autumn 12-19Au91999

THEATRE REVIEW Adult Child/Dead Child *A**

A child's distressing journey from loneliness to mental illness is effectively portrayed in this inventive production from Birmingham’s Stage 2. Sharing out the multiple voices of Claire Dowie's disturbing monologue among a chorus of sixteen teenagers could have proved messy, so it's a tribute to James Yarker's taut direction as well as the musicality of the original text that the result is so moving. Our attention is never permitted to stray from the horrors onstage, and there are astonishingly mature performances from the youthful cast, each member creating a strong individual voice to add to the cacophony within C laire’s head. (Allan Radcliffe)

I Adult Child/Dead Chi/d (Fringe) Stage 2, Bed/am Theatre (Venue 49) 225 9893, until 21 Aug (not 15) 12.30pm, £5 (£4).

THEATRE REVIEW The Exhibitionist ****

Emptiness. Boredom. Enough time to consider the merits of pulling your underpants up to your chest and realign your chair to the nearest half centimetre. The day in the life of four art gallery attendants who do much more than twiddle their thumbs. One attendant perfumes his underarms with air freshener while another dies on the job.

Humour rubs shoulders with the desperate, as the attendants shuffle through a day stuffed with absurd time-fillers. Performed by Ridiculusmus, a Belfast-based troupe, this is a fast- moving expose of boredom and the madness that it can produce. (Susanna Beaumont)

I The Exhibitionist (Fringe) Ridiculusmus, Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, until 30 Aug, 10.45am, £6.50/f6 (£3.50/f3).


Charlie Chaplin ls Wearing My Pants ****

No, this isn't a play about Chaplin’s hitherto unreported knicker-snatching habit; in fact, it’s not about him at all. It's actually the story of Fatty Arbuckle, the silent comedian best remembered for being involved in Hollywood's first scandal. Accused of raping a girl to death, he went from being a universally-loved star to a publicly and professionally reviled monster practically overnight. This exploration of his life, from the beginnings of his career onwards, is sensitively handled by the young all-American cast, with outstanding performances all round. Informative, entertaining and moving, with a packed lunch thrown in - what more can you ask for? (Kirsty Knaggs) l Charlie Chaplin ls Wearing My Pants (Fringe) Firefly Productions, Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 21) 226 7207, until 21 Aug, 1 1.40am, £5 (£4).

THEATRE REVIEW Out Damn Spot the

Macbeth live on the radio, a crazed sound engineer and four actors who are tangled in a web of adultery and unrequited love - what could possibly go wrong? As Out Damn Spot dissolves into a hysterical (we're talking laughter here) plethora of murder, innuendo and silly songs, you are left with only your sides to clutch. The pianist is mental, Tim isn’t gay and the director is just too cosy for words: Out Damn Spot is a proper send-up of actors and their world. It's clever and it's funny and if you’re sick to death of Dannii, this version of Macbeth could be the one for you. (Victoria Nutting) u Out Damn Spot (Fringe) Lampman Productions, C Cubed (Venue 126) 225 5105, until 29 Aug (odd dates only; not 15, 25) noon, £5 (£4).