Thursday 19 May 2022


 It's that time of year again, when I become so incredibly busy in the evenings and weekends that I don't know whether I'm coming or going and all my money seems to mysteriously disappear. Yes, it's the Brighton Fringe Festival, our annual celebration of creativity, artistry and hilariosity. 

I never manage to see as many shows as I intend, but here's a quick rundown of some of my favourites so far. More to come at the end of the month when we take in the last chorus.


Alexandra Shaw is Fanny Dent, and Fanny Dent is the Burlesque Imposter. A brilliant one woman (well, almost) show, The Burlesque Imposter takes burlesque back to its roots as a way to satirise and dissect society's weird little ways. As Fanny tries to make it in the world of burlesque, she confronts the expectations that society has of women, and those she has of herself. 

It's an ingenious show, bringing burlesque back to what it used to be about - making people laugh and think - and away from the modern view of it being purely for titillation. What we get is a show that's sexy and smart, funny and fabulous, with some powerful moments that will make you stop and rethink your attitudes even as you're laughing or straining your neck to try to get a proper look around that tall person in front of you.

Far from being an imposter, Fanny brings us some of the wittiest, most creative dance routines ever seen. If you've seen the show in years past, then go along to see experience a perfected script and a performer at the top of her game. If you've not seen it, treat yourself to one of the funniest, sexiest and cleverest shows on the Fringe.

£8 - £10  Spiegeltent Fri 20th May to Sun 22nd May, 19.45 
click for ticks


Cerys Evans, now with the Clap Back Club, brings back her one-woman show that sold out at the 2019 Fringe (you remember, the one in the before time). In another world, Miss... something-or-other is trying to make a living as a fairy godmother. This isn't like the fairytales you know, and our struggling fairy has to deal with shallow royals, a gobby disembodied narrator and the trials of fitting in in a trans-unfriendly world. 

This revamped, perfected version of A Trans Fairytale has new puppets, up-to-the-minute jokes and plenty of silliness, but it's the emotional heart of the story that will get you, as our heroine searches for her elusive happy ending. In a time when trans people are facing a horrifying upsurge of bigotry, Cerys faces issues head-on with a heartfelt and captivating performance. 

This hilarious, foul-mouthed and powerful play will make you laugh and hit you in the heart. An intensely personal show, Cerys has made this already great play even better for what will likely be it's last ever time on stage. Not to be missed.

£8 - £10   Latest Music Bar  Thurs 19th May (TONIGHT!) and Fri 20th May,  22.00


Bridport Poetry Prize nominee Pete Strong returns for an entirely new performance, combining poetry, comedy and audiovisual experience to powerful effect. An intimate look inside his life, from Ulster boyhood to Brighton adulthood, exploring the experiences that shaped him and learning to move beyond them. It's a profoundly personal show, yet one that speaks to anyone about identity, growth and hurt. 

In spite of how hard this one hits you, it's also wonderfully, weirdly funny, with Pete's unique turn of phrase shifting you through the full spectrum of emotions. This one really got me, just beautiful. 

My favourite poem was the one about the pickles, though.

£8 - £10  Phoenix Art Space  Thurs 19th May (TONIGHT!), Sat 20th and Sun 21st, 20.15

Sunday 15 May 2022

TREK REVIEW: PIC 2-9 & 2-10


Hide and Seek 


An over-the-top, occasionally silly but overall satisfying end to the second season of Star Trek: Picard, this final two-parter fair belts through plot beats like there's no tomorrow. Which, had our heroes not succeeded, I suppose there wouldn't be. As with the first season, and the recent run of Discovery, there have been some major pacing problems with this season, with an awful lot of side-steps and a leisurely pace through the middle of the run, leaving everything to be rushed for the finale. Perhaps this is a deliberate choice to make the end more climactic, but it does make it harder to fully appreciate the finale.

There are a lot of hard-to-swallow elements to this story, and you need to allow a lot of coincidences to make it work. Not everything quite adds up in the end, but for all that, it's so much fun, and the final episode in particular, so touching, that it's hard to be too unhappy about this. Alison Pill blows it away as the new Borg Queen, by now a convincing amalgam of Jurati's character and Wersching's Queen. We've had false dawns for a new kind of Borg before (whatever happened to those self-aware drones with commanding whole cubes from VOY: “Unimatrix Zero?”), but this time it looks like Jurati's new Borg really are a new era. (Although the news that Pill is not returning for season three suggests we won't be seeing them again, at least not anytime soon.)

Seven's rebirth as a semi-Borg (rather unbelievably, given the circumstances, with her implants in exactly the same places as before) was both predictable and disappointing. It would have been a nice culmination of Seven's development for her to finally be fully human. That said, her acceptance, with Raffi's help, of her part-cybernetic nature is satisfying, especially since she helped birth this new strain of Borg and prove that there's potentially another way of forming a collective. (Maybe they'll meet up with the voluntary hive mind from VOY: “Unity”... or maybe not.) Finally, Seven and Raffi get the smooches on, and everything is all lovely.

No surprises at all that Rios decides to stay in 2024, with the beautiful Dr. Teresa and her precocious sprog. Perhaps leaving him there isn't the best idea, given that this guy is a walking butterfly. I'm half-convinced that Chris is staying just for the cigars, but it's the only way this could play out – Teresa couldn't very well travel to the 25th century with her littl'un in tow.

TREK REVIEW: PIC 2.8 - "Mercy"


2-8 Mercy

“Mercy” is the first episode of the season that doesn't really work. There's something to be said for a straightforward adventure, but this side-step into the FBI's least wanted is so unnecessary to the main plot, while also being not terribly interesting in itself.

It's a fun bit of trolling on the part of the showrunners to cast Jay Karnes in this episode. After having so many actors reappear either as their popular characters or someone related to them, casting Karnes in a time travel story immediately makes us think he's reprising his role as 29th century time traveller Ducane. They even name his character Agent Wells, not only suggesting H.G. Wells, father of time travel fiction, but the Wells-class USS Relativity on which he served. (Apparently this all actually a reference to his role in Matalas's Twelve Monkeys series.)

So it's funny when it turns out he's just a regular 21st century agent after all. Unfortunately, having him as nothing more than a Fox Mulder rip-off makes him a fairly uninteresting character, in spite of a decent performance by Karnes. It's a nice touch that he's spent decades looking for aliens after freaking out due to a brief contact with some Vulcans in his childhood, but it's still not enough to make this diversion worthwhile.

The best material this episode is between Guinan and Q, here meeting for the first time from Guinan's perspective (I love time travel). Aghayere is excellent here, occasionally sounding astonishingly like Goldberg but mostly creating a new version of Guinan. She's terribly creepy when projecting herself to Picard, another previously unseen El-Aurian power. De Lancie gives an amazing performance as Q, now facing the end of his life and waning powers. We've never seen Q so vulnerable before. (It's hilarious to think of Q, unable to teleport, having to make his way to Guinan on the bus.)

Meanwhile, Agnes is going around eating battery acid (I wonder if her stepmother is an alien?) while Seven and Raffi sort out their problems. There are some nice moments between Ryan and Hurd, and Alison Pill looks incredible stomping about LA in her ballgown, assimilating nasty blokes. Eventually, the new Queen joins forces with Soong, who's own life is falling apart thanks to Q deciding to help Kore. Quite how Soong thinks his destiny as saviour of the Earth is going to come about when the Queen wants to conquer humanity is anyone's guess, but baddies gotta be bad, right?

Bits and bobs:

Judging by his age, Wells probably met the Vulcans in around the 1970s. We know from ENT: “Carbon Creek” that they were observing Earth as early as the fifties and there was another one due in about twenty years.

Do the Vulcans even have transporter technology that early? Doesn't seem to quite line up with Enterprise, but then, Enterprise didn't quite line up with what came before either.

Jurati's ballgown-and-boots look brings to mind Harley Quinn in The Suicide Squad, by far her best live action look.

Thursday 12 May 2022

For National Limerick Day

John Smith, a troubled man, saw

To his horror, I truly am sure,

His younger sister,

Marry a man from Bicester,

And take on his name of Featherstonehaugh.

Monday 9 May 2022

On a very British alien

 I've read a few of the usual sorts saying that Ncuti Gatwa can't be the Doctor because he's not British. 

He was born in Rwanda, but moved to Scotland aged two when his family fled the Rwandan genocide. His nationality is British. 

Richard E. Grant, that most English of actors, was born in Swaziland (now called Eswatini). It was a British Protectorate at the time, but became independent when Grant was 11. He didn't move to Britain until he was 25. He has dual British and Swazi nationality. 

In 2003, Grant was cast as the Doctor in an animated series. It didn't last and was overtaken by the live action series starring Christopher Eccleston. Some fans dismissed Grant's casting because they didn't like him, or dismissed it because it was only animated.

No one ever said he didn't count because he "wasn't British."

I wonder what the difference is now.

REVIEW: Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness


Ncuti Gatwa IS the Doctor!


Well, we now know who's playing the Fourteenth Doctor, and I'm absolutely livid.

He's YOUNGER than me!

Well, it had to happen eventually. Ncuti Gatwa (I am advised his first name is pronounced "Shoo-tee") is only twenty-nine, making him the same age as Peter Davison was when he got to the role, and therefore joint second youngest lead Doctor (Matt Smith being the youngest at a mere twenty-six when he signed up).

Of course, time passes, and where Christopher Eccleston was the first Doctor to be born after the original series started, Mr. Gatwa is the first to be born after it ended

I'll be honest, I am not familiar with Gatwa. I'm aware that he's in Sex Education, one of those shows that's been on my "I must get round to watching that, I hear it's good" list for some time. A quick look at his profile shows that he hasn't been in much at all, but what he has been in, he's been absolutely lauded for. Baftas and Pal d'Or awards, he's definitely a talented gent.

I'm pleased to see a person of colour in the role, finally. Of course, we've had Jo Martin as the Fugitive Doctor and various, very brief appearances of actors of colour as the Timeless Children - oh, and Lenny Henry in that sketch - but it's about time we had someone as the series lead who isn't white. I didn't think they'd have the guts to go with a woman of colour as the lead - not yet - so my prediction of a non-white male was correct, but that's the extent of my predictive abilities. Here's my guess though: the Fifteenth Doctor will be female, and they'll alternate for a bit. 

I'm fascinated to read about Mr. Gatwa, whose family fled the Rwandan genocide when he was a toddler and settled in Scotland, and who almost gave up on his acting dream before he got the Sex Education role. This is someone who has some stories to tell, and I look forward to seeing what he'll bring to the role.

Russell T. Davies cast both Eccleston and David Tennant, who each revolutionised the role in their own way, so I'm very excited to see where his latest choice will take the character. Very interestingly, though, Davies has said that he'd almost cast someone else as the Doctor when Gatwa auditioned, and I can't help but wonder who almost got the part. We love our what-ifs in Doctor Who.

Looking forward to seeing this young gent taking the TARDIS on new adventures.