Aletia Upstairs: A Queer Love Of Dix

by Alex Coley

The Planet Bar

13th, 14th & 19th (18.00)

Aletia has spent a lot of time with The Grand Master Demarco, who is a local hero in Edinburgh and further afield, to gain the inspiration for her performance art. Heralding from Cape Town in South Africa, now residing in London, Aletia is about to complete her PHD entitled ‘An Imaginative Exploration and Performative Manifestation of the Richard Demarco archive. As inspiring muses go, only greatness could be drawn from spending time with Richard Demarco (CBE), whose European Art Foundation is based at Summerhall in Edinburgh, which is where this performance should have taken place, Indeed both my editor of the Mumble and myself had thought that Summerhall was where this performance was being presented. I arrived there on Saturday after my pretend Telly interview on Middle Meadow Walk, went into the press office and asked for my review tickets for Aletia Upstairs. Only to be met with blank faces. It was one of them moments. OMG, I’m in the wrong place with 10mins to performance time. Its an easy mistake to have made. We phoned Aletia and apologized and rearranged our date for the following night’s performance.

The Performance.
It’s a catchy one for the Fringe. Set in the world of expressionist painter Otto Dix, Julia Berber – Anita Berber’s fictional sister – sings Weimar cabaret songs and relates the Weimar period to contemporary events.

If you want to hear good singing and wonderful music, find out how the Weimar Republic relates to our world today and sing along – in a German accent – to some classic cabaret songs, come see it!
Read the full interview

FullVintageAlex CowleyThis was the time in Germany after the Kaiser had fled and The First World War had ended, and for a short period of time, sexual freedom and Socialism became the Arts’ best friend. Indeed my experience of last weeks Deitrich performance in The Pleasance Courtyard had ignited my wonder for this inspiring period in history, because so much great art and cultural inspiration had been drawn from the epoch. With this in my mind and with Aletia’s glowing credentials, I was giddy with the expectation of witnessing something very special. I was not disappointed, Aletia’s Queer Love Of Dix was performed to a backdrop of the paintings Otto Dix had painted through the Weimar period. Bringing to life Julie Beiber & taking us back to 1930’s Germany, Aletia showed us life through the eyes of a performance artist at that important time in world history. Combining a well-crafted script and beautifully sung songs drawn from the period to perfection, we were shown our age’s relation to those halycon Weimar times; reflected by present-day Tory austerity and the rise of The Third Reich.

A Queer Love Of Dix really has the potential to be massive, well indeed it is the work that will make this beautiful lady a Professor in the world of performance art.

The Venue.
The Planet Bar is as camp as they come, a small watering hole in Edinburgh’s Pink Triangle. The performance stage was right next to the Gents toilets, with a big heavy door that gave a really big bang every time the door closed. The walkway to the toilet was right through the performance space and non of the men going for a pee gave any respect for this performance of mastery that was taking place. This was frustrating me as much as it was Aletia. Rising above the struggle and against the downfalls of such a poor venue choice, an evolving masterful work was presented. After the performance, Aletia told me that Saturday’s gig was much worse. It made me wonder if her venue location manager had been sacked yet. With a work of such outstanding quality, one can only see this as a work in progress. A dress rehearsal for the greatness that will come. A Queer Love Of Dix is a quality piece of theatre and performance art that given the right venue and the right stage, will shine its magic to perfection.Great things will come.

Mark ‘Divine’Calvert


Venue = 1 star

Zach & Viggo and Thumpasaurus: Where Does the Love Go?


Underbelly Cowgate

Aug 14-26 (21.20)

Welcome to the collaboration of the year. Welcome to the stunning fusion of youth & chemistry that is award-winning Zach Zucker & Viggo Venn; teaming up with LA-based, intergalactic dance force, Sun-Ra-inspired, Thumpasaurus. There is a story; set in a world taken over by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. A Frankenstinian doctor has created an anonymous worker for the company, played by Zach Zucker as the Pinnochio hero of the show. There is music; Thumpasaurus are just, like, ridiculously good, They look like a bunch of D&D kids, whose foot-stomping free-form jazz accompanies the action & whose bass player must have been born with a full size one in his hands, under some pool table in Santa Fe. There is dancing; of the Torrance Community Dance Group sort. There is clownerie, like Gaulier on ketamine, & above all there is laughter, lots of it. ‘That was like the Saturday Night Live sketches, but better,‘ said my American wife, who should know.


Last year we met this amazing funk band in LA called Thumpasaurus and convinced them to come out to Edinburgh. They had a killer run and afterwards their singer Lucas wrote a 20 minute opera called Where Does The Love Go. We decided to team up and built it out to an hour-long collaborative show that is going to be very serious and artistic. Zach & Viggo


Where Does The Love Go? is an infinitely memorable show, very much of its time, an early record of humanity losing its soul to convenience. The stage on which it is set is simply ensembling with talent; Zach & Viggo are superbly accomplished performers while the band were, as I’ve said, exceptional. But there is more, for into the mix came the supercilious, carnival-barking character of Jeff Bezos, played by an actor I didn’t quite catch the name of, but actually outshone everyone else. Lets just call him MR X for now, & I feel the show should be renamed Mr X, Zach & Viggo & Thumpasaurus! By the way, I am still singing the operatic theme tune as I write this, such an ear worm it is! A truly remarkable hour!





French Institute – Salle Emilienne Moreau-Evrard

Aug 4-5, 7-14, 16-27 (times vary)

The elegant French Institute was the perfect setting for this neo-classical dance performance choreographed by french born Constant Vigier to the electronic pop sounds of Christine and the Queens, and Perfume Genius. Christine and the Queens being the alter ego of Heloise Letissier, and the main inspiration for this 30 minute piece. Danced by three young ballerinas from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; Daisy Mullen-Thompson, Jessica Neilson and Nicola Scholefield. They are three young women faced with the pressures of modern life and their struggle to find their own place in a society that is bound by labels, conformity and expectations. Their fragility is expressed in the choreography beautifully, and the quality of dancing is extremely high. Much of the piece is on pointe; perfect pirouettes against the backdrop of electronic pop, with precise synchronicity that couldn’t be faulted. The mix of traditional and modern, made for a cool and refreshing performance that would be enjoyed by all ages.


The piece is choreographed to five tracks, which are centred around LGBT issues; Letissier identifying as pansexual, and Perfume Genius, a gay man who was subjected to homophobic attacks. The photo shoot piece, where the dancers are trying on clothes for a fashion shoot, actually refers to an experience Heloise had, where she had been photoshopped for a magazine piece, presumably to conform to a feminine ideal of beauty. In the previous track “ugly pretty” she sings of the mockery of being pretty, “without distraught there is no pretty”. The other pieces are about women in different places in terms of who they are. The dancers are juggling home life and work life while trying to figure out who they really are. Their youthful smiling faces mask the inner struggles that they are all experiencing as they journey through life; seeking equality, liberty, love and solidarity. A very enjoyable show, with great choreography, cool music and flawless dancing.


Sophie Younger


An Interview with Aletia Upstairs


Aletia Upstairs has been waiting for the Fringe to warm up to her satisfaction before she makes her deliciously grand entrance this weekend…

Hello Aletia, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Aletia: Hello Mumble! I am from Cape Town and I’ve lived in London for 11 years.

You are currently in the 4th year of your PHD – can you tell us about it?
Aletia: My PhD is close to its end now. It’s entitled ‘An Imaginative Exploration and Performative Manifestation of the Richard Demarco archive’. For this reason, over the last four years, I’ve spent a lot of time at the Demarco European Art Foundation at Summerhall and a lot of time with Richard.

As a performer, what are the key ingredients to your style?
Aletia: Vintage songs, cabaret songs, jazz and singing song-writing. One could say acting through song with visual engagement and audience participation.

Anita Berber.jpg

Last Fringe your ‘The Artist as Explorer’ went down really well – how did you find the experience?
Aletia: ‘The Artist as Explorer’ was a collaboration with Richard Demarco about his legacy. I wanted to create a piece about his legacy as it was my final practice for my PhD I am doing on his archive. My favourite part of the practice was using his words as lyrics for my songs. The fact that we got a five-star review for that was certainly based on Demarco’s involvement. The songs from ‘The Artist as Explorer’ have now been recorded and will be released as an EP by the end of this year.

What have you got for us this year?
Aletia: ‘A Queer Love of Dix’ which will be on at The Planet Bar, at 6pm on the 11-14th and 19th. It’s a brand-spanking-new show that I created over the last four months since Kevin Short (Shortcut Productions) asked me to part of his new Ed Fringe venture this year. The title was his idea. It’s a catchy one for the Fringe. Set in the world of expressionist painter Otto Dix, (Julia Berber – Anita Berber’s fictional sister) sings Weimar cabaret songs and relates the Weimar period to contemporary events. I’m also doing another show, called ‘Bilbao is not in Spain’, a collaboration with Doctor Woof, on the 15th to 18th at the Planet Bar, also at 6pm. This cabaret show is about living life as the authentic you.

How did ‘A Queer Love of Dix’ come about?
Aletia: The starting point for this show was a call-out from a London venue, with very specific criteria to create a show about Cabaret and the Weimar Republic, focusing on Jewish Composers, which I applied for, but it didn’t get selected. Kevin Short from Shortcut Productions, who was my venue captain when I did ‘Mata Hari’ at the Fringe in 2013, contacted me and asked if I wanted to be part of his Fringe Season at the Planet Bar. I actually said no at first! I had performed at the Fringe four times and enough is enough! Or is it? I told Kevin that I had written a very vague proposal based on the criteria supplied by the London venue and I already knew most of the songs. This kind of show is something that I had wanted to do for a very long time as it really fits my performance style, so he managed to talk me into it. He’s been a friend since we met at the Fringe. That’s one of the amazing things about the Fringe — you make great friends. The difficult part was writing the text which had to relate the events of the period of the Weimar Republic to contemporary events…and the character. Because this was such a last minute decision, the poster image is a Dix painting rather than an image of me. It was a new process for me – starting to work from the poster image backwards. Am I going to be her – Anita Berber? How am I going to work with this image and give it a reason for being there? Another challenge was the German accent. I studied German for this show. It helped me with the pronunciation, understanding the German lyrics and of course, the accent, but I also had to study the accent separately.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in an Edinburgh street, what would you say?
Aletia: If you want to hear good singing and wonderful music, find out how the Weimar Republic relates to our world today and sing along – in a German accent – to some classic cabaret songs, come see it!

A Queer Love Of Dix

Planet Bar

Aug 11-14, 19 (18.00)

by Alex Coley.jpg

Monica Salvi: Mad Women In Her Attic


PQA Venues @ Riddle’s Court

Aug 7-12, 14-19, 21-27 (19.10)

Mad Women In Her Attic is the collective experience of Monica Salvi’s acting roles that she has accomplished in her career as an actress and singer. The Fringe has always offered artistic diversity and Edinburgh becomes saturated with talent. So that means the bar has to be pushed higher. Quite beneficially, her sho is staged in the fabu;lous 16th Century Riddles Court building, where madness could not be more at home or more entertaining.

Monica Salvi has a voice & vocal range that would melt even the hardest of shadows. Her powerful and heart-melting beauty perfectly compliments this professionally trained singing voice. Monica Salvi could sing a phone book and make it sound beautiful. This is what I loved about this performance, she could have played it safe, her voice would have been enough to ensure a financial success. But the muse and the gift do not come easily, & The thin line between genius and insanity is a line that all great artists walk.

Seldom few have explored that line quite so beautifully in a musical stage production. For people who have a touch of madness and are fearful of challenging their inner demons, the subject matter of this performance couldnae be anymore confrontational. All the aspects of a disturbed personality are represented and the bits that people normally shy away from apart from when undergoing extensive psychotherapy or electric shock treatment are celebrated. It is a performance of dark, entertaining beauty and is guaranteed to disturb and delight in equal measure.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert


Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams


Circus Hub on the Meadows

August 8-12, 14-19, 21-25 (15.00)

Having enthralled audiences in 2017, Ethiopian circus company Circus Abyssinia is back to wow Edinburgh all over again. Created by self-taught brothers Bichu and Bibi Tesfamariam, they bring with them a cast of brilliant young performers from their circus school. The performance is directed by stage and screen director Cal McCrystal and portrays the real-life story of their dreams of being in the circus. In 2010, they went on to create the first circus school made by and for Ethiopians, and embarked on a wonderful journey to develop a stand-out show full of dazzling acrobatics, dance with a hefty twist of their own culture. The brothers are now resident in the U.K., and they have performed on BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

After a colourful and energetic showcase of acrobatic dance by the men and boys in the troupe, two young women in long braids and green catsuits arrived in a crab walk to deliver a mesmerising and stunning partner yoga dance. Handstands, crabs and scorpion positions flowed and combined, the gymnastic pair balancing on top of one another in increasingly mind-blowing ways. The juggling acts to rhythmic beats seamlessly upped the challenge to multitude of balls until you barely knew where to focus your eyes. Four girls in cute and colourful outfits expertly spun polka-dot cloths on all four limbs at dizzying speed, creating a kaleidoscopic effect of lost, drunken butterflies at warp speed. When a solo performer cheerfully stepped on stage with a single hoop, no one was fooled by its apparent simplicity. As more and more rings were spun simultaneously, it became Power Hoop in overdrive to a catchy Ethiopian sound-track. By the time she rolled us a cheeky spin just around the bun on the top of her head, the crowd went wild.

The whole show has a happy, feel-good family vibe, where everyone looks like they are genuinely having a great time. Girls in pink leotards converged to resemble petals on a tropical flower, but they are no means delicate. They climbed higher and higher into a statue of scorpion splits, looking almost casual, until they took it to a point that made everyone’s mouth drop open. With just ten minutes to go, the poles came out. In synchronised moves that must require ultimate human strength, the team of men upped the ante over and over again, in the finale of a show that had the audience up on their feet in well-deserved applause.

Lisa Williams


Kevin Quantum: Vanishing Point


Underbelly Bristo Square
August 7-26

A few years back, half-way through his PhD in Physics, Kevin McMahon had a life-changing moment. He starred on the Channel 4 show ‘Faking it’, where he undertook a 4 week training to become a magician, even training with magic duo Penn and Teller in Las Vegas. He quit the PhD, and, hey presto! went on to become Quantum, and as he jokingly proclaimed to the audience, ‘the most famous magician-scientist hybrid in the world’. After sell out runs at the Fringe over the past few years, there’s a buzz around the premiere of his new show, Vanishing Point, in Edinburgh this year.

‘Vanishing Point’ is a magic show with a difference, precisely because of Kevin’s solid scientific background. The wow factor starts with an impressive life-size harmonic pendulum that he made himself.  Kevin has a kind, friendly and comedic presence which means the selected audience members are more than comfortable to get up on stage and join in with his dazzling array of tricks. With what seems to be a very strong theme in this year’s Fringe, the show is about the power of invisible forces. It’s also a wry and urgent comment on our attention spans, distraction techniques and what influences us to give up our power and time to the internet giants. Apt then, that he uses a well-read book about the Bermuda triangle for some of his mind-bending illusions.

I don’t want to give too much away and spoil the fun. My fourteen year old and I greatly enjoyed the hour, and we are still trying to figure out how he might have managed to dupe us with his clever variety of magic. It’s a fun, family-friendly show that feels like a special night out, in a comfortable hall with great acoustics. Expect some good old fashioned tricks with a twist and breathtakingly curious illusions, leading to a spectacularly nail-biting finale, which wowed the crowd. Go along and be prepared to be dazzled; the 2018 winner of Best Magic Show at the Adelaide Fringe might well

Lisa Williams