TAKEOVER Festival shows come and go in a flash in the Edinburgh Fringe tradition of everything being said in pretty much an hour.

Your reviewer is not recommending all shows to “cut down on your pork life”, but the leaner, the keener works wonders at festivals.

Last Thursday in the main house, a knife had certainly been taken to Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy by Smooth Faced Gentlemen, and not only because they were all so smooth faced that they were all women, bringing a new physical and psychological dimension to the Bard’s precursor to an action-movie or computer game.

Director Yaz Al-Shaatar and designer Jacob Hughes – the male element of the UK’s only all-distaff Shakespeare company – set the aptly heavily-cut 70-minute version of Titus Andronicus in a room with screens, step ladders and a plethora of red paint tins.

No Dulux dog here, instead the world of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (hence the white shirts and black suits) meets painters and decorators, each brutal death or hand severance administered with a paint brush.

The language rather trails behind this furious paint parade, delivered in a rush too close to a blur, and the humour is as forced as foie gras, but Smooth Faced Gentlemen are definitely a company to watch.

By way of contrast, the focus fell on one man in Stewart Pringle’s brilliantly written The Ghost Hunter, performed so chillingly yet inclusively by Tom Richards last Friday. Playing ghost tour guide Richard Barraclough, looking through a glass darkly post-show in his local boozer, he instantly “owned” the Theatre Royal stage in the Theatre of the Damned’s edge-of the-seat show.

Ghost stories of York were interwoven with personal reflections and writer Pringle’s thoughts on the ghost tour industry’s importance to a city where other industries have turned to ghosts.

Jeffrey Mayhew’s piercing direction and Pringle’s gift for spooky storytelling – a new ghost story is unfolding before your eyes – combine with Richards’s ghost tour de force to make a compelling case for The Ghost Hunter to be granted a longer run.