Each August, Dundee-based Sweet Venues take over the Apex International Hotel on the Grassmarket, and put on a varied programme of events in this more civilised corner of Edinburgh’s drinking district. They now also run venues at Brighton Fringe too, from which some of their shows are transferring, so they definitely know their stuff.
70s singer-songwriter Dean Friedman is usually one of the first on the Sweet teamsheet. Five years now he’s been setting up shop at at the venue in August. He’s back again this year with his Story Songs, and, for those who might like to give it a shot themselves, a Songwriting Masterclass on 16 Aug. We’ve also spotted him at others’ shows too, lending his support; Sweet is that kind of place. ‘Real decent folks’ is how he described the venue to us in interview last year.
Sweet’s spaces make a good spot for cabaret. This year the form is represented by The Glamour of Yesterday (luscious ladies, tantalizing tunes and sweet serenades), Gender Spanner (ukeleles, spinning plates, costumes in an exploration of gender fluidity) and a couple of variety shows – The Cult of Comedy Presents, headed by Sameena Zehra [reviewed here by us last year], and the venue’s own late night compilation show, The Sweet Release.
Mr. Twonkey (the alter-ego of former Dawn of the Replicants frontman, Paul Vickers) is another oddball fixture of the Fringe. An acquired taste maybe, but he’s one of those characters that lets you know you’re at the Fringe. He has his own theatre show, Jennifer’s Robot Arm, and comedy cabaret show, Twonkey’s Mumbo Jumbo Hotel.
In fact, there’s much more comedy at Sweet this year. Aidan Goatley, whose 10 Films With My Dad has played regularly at the Voodoo Rooms these past few years, brings two shows to Sweet – Mr Blue Sky (yes, said song features) and The Joys of Retail (about the ecstasy, or not, of working on the shop floor). Expect the usual good-natured autobiographical story-telling. Jody Kamali offers props and physical comedy in Jody Kamali is the Incredible Man of Mystery, while Hastings Comedian of the Year, Luke Graves, brings his debut hour Living Luke.
In theatre, there’s dark (Poe’s Last Night, Nosferatu’s Shadow), darker (sci-fi survival story After The Flood) and the downright petrifying (Trumpageddon). “Please Mummy, make the scary man go away.” “I can’t darling, he’s leader of the free world.”
There’s musicals, including Drink! The Musical, which explores alcoholism through song, children’s shows, of which Princess Pumpalot is sure to be a favourite, and we’re looking forward to hearing the history of the weird and wonderful theremin in Etherwave.
Finally, there’s no missing Imaginary Porno Charades, the five star show our Comedy Editor, Tabatha Glancy, described as ‘the most naughty fun you can have at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival without being arrested’. Panel show impropriety every night, and also good craic on Twitter. Obviously smutty innuendos aren’t for everyone, but no doubt The Wee Review will be slipping in at the back to give them the once over.