Four days at the world’s most vibrant, exciting, frenzied, wondrous, and charming conglomeration of creative souls you’ll ever witness – the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
My first planned show was 15 minutes after my train pulled up, across the other side of town, I legged it over to Mark Thomas’s sold out performance of Trespass; full of politically motivated activism and replete with Thomas’s inimitable heated humour, in this show his mission is to highlight the absurdity of legislation that surrounds the borders of public spaces that nestle against the increasingly privately owned areas of our cities, with stories of the equally absurd activism he has carried out at these intersections – if you missed him there you can see him at the Tricycle this September, with his new show Bravo Figaro!
Next stop was the Camino Café for Cantankerous Theatre’s Woolley Eyed Turtle, the Irish double act, Maeve Bell and Emily Souter Johnson, bring 20 characters to life telling tales of unrequited love stories, frayed friendships and the ailing elderly, all set in a community care home in the fictional Irish town of ‘Flackin O’Shlackin’, the outcome is hilarious and sweet, as the pair weave the tales together through contemporary dance and the sounds of the tin whistle, all blended together with their Bouffon performance style, clowning and pure silliness.
Sunday was a little more restful (to begin with); a couple of free comedy shows to start the day and a theatre piece about gender politics and changing identity later, I arrived at my next to-do-list show for Hitch! By Mary Bijou Cabaret & Social Club this circus, cabaret piece is centred on Hitchcock’s films, life and obsessions and is told through aerial antics, some sinister lip-syncing and a clever reworking of THAT shower scene. The show delivered a dark portrait of the master of suspense, through silly, sometimes disturbing but always charming array of acts. Later that evening for my post dinner and last show of the day, I was looking for something serendipitous to tickle my fancy in the comedy department. After visiting my favourite Edinburgh food joint (The Mussel Inn) I found what I was looking for – Joanna (Jo) Neary’s Faceful of Issues just around the corner at the Assembly Rooms, a touching and charming show, peppered with nostalgia, song and jumble; I was glad to have added the ‘smile in the darkness’, that Jo told me I had been at the end.
Monday brought even more to see and do, having gathered hundreds of enticing flyers and word of mouth recommendations by now, amongst more cabaret, stand up and taxidermied puppetry, the standout show today was Superbolt Theatre’s Jurassic Park a reimagined telling of Spielberg’s classic film told through a discordant family who embark on a journey that ultimately brings them close again. A tender and humour filled tale that uses comedic mime, a touch of strobe lighting, a rucksack and an umbrella to cleverly transform the stage and transport the audience into the world of the T-Rex adventure park, and of the absurd, perceptive and emotive world of Superbolt.
As my last day came a round I decided not to take any chances on shows being sold out and with timing being of the essence I had two pre-booked shows to see in the afternoon before my train at 5pm. Institute by Gecko was the first, which was a brilliantly and beautifully staged piece of physical theatre, telling four perspectives on the treatment of ourselves and others in situations of work, love, illness and in death. An all male four person cast delivered the highly charged and intense physical dance pieces, with the narrative that loosely mingled between the movements. For my last show at the Fringe, I saved one of the best for last; THE PLACE presents at Summerhall Lost Dog’s Paradise Lost. This one man show skilfully utilises Milton’s novel to stage a charismatic, endearing, funny and at times moving dance that charts the creation of everything, from heaven and hell to the earth and humanity, from the fall of Lucifer to the Garden of Eden, Ben Duke takes on the story of the Creation and wins.
What a fantastic and unique festival the Edinburgh Fringe is, I don’t think I have ever witnessed so many actors and performers working so hard and sweating so profusely as in my four days at the fringe – a huge hand to them all for the final push this week!
by Sarah Scarsbrook