Rupert Bridgewater takes on the challenge of unnatural selection for the short-term Fringe visitor.
It would take five years to see every Edinburgh Fringe Show back to back. So if you’ve only a day and a bit, how do you choose? At every street corner eager self-publicists thrust leaflets into your hand begging you to come to their show. It’s impossible to decide, but spending an hour on the Royal Mile soaking up the frenetic atmosphere is a good start. I had a coffee and then poured over the 288 page programme.
I chose a sample of genres – but missing out comedy – ridiculous (I know), because the Fringe is known for its stand-ups. Having said that, there was much humour in what I saw.
PULLING ‘EM IN
First up at The Space at The Royal College of Surgeons, is a show that promised scenes of sexual nature – always a good way to pull in the punters. Two Loves by John Martin Stevens from Dreamshed Theatre is a modern Shakespeare sonnet-obsessed ménage-a-trois. Using the beauty of the 14-liners, we have a story of one man’s desire to have his cake and eat it. Namely to have sex with his female partner (played by husky Jilly Breeze) and their young male house guest – when he liked. It was beautifully worded and neatly framed, but to put it crudely (and in the spirit of the piece) it never got a hard-on.
Next up was a student show from Bristol University at The Radisson on The Spaces on the Mile. Be My Eyes is a fast-paced drama sketch show with a mix of serious and comic scenes based on real life by the self-styled Fine Chisel Theatre company. As their Edinburgh debut it was confident and accomplished, but felt like a taster of their talents, rather than the main course and in particular for the company’s leader Tom Spencer.
Pretty Good Girl Company’s Elvis Still My Heart at the Pleasance Dome, is witty, pretty and zippy. Louise Barrett, Katey Leader and Georgina Pavey bring wit, humour, narrative and huge enthusiasm to their bitter-sweet stories of three girls in 1970’s London. Told with dialogue, movement, mime, dance and high octane energy, this is the best show I saw due to the innovative style used. Fusing the music of The King of Rock and Roll with evocative sound effects of childhood, and the sound of old 45rpm record players, director Louise Barrett weaves a wealth of detail into what are extremely sensitive but also uplifting stories of self-discovery.
LYRICAL & PHYSICAL
For music I turned to the raunchy cabaret style of The Dark Angel. Camille O’Sullivan has been selling out the Assembly Hall on the Mound (a former church) following her appearance on Later With Jools Holland. Not the greatest voice but a sexy and engaging performer who gives everything. Her quieter songs such as ‘Look Mummy (No Hands)’ are interlaced with high octane numbers like ‘In These Shoes?’ And she is supported by a fabulous band that included brass and double bass, giving a jazzy tone to the songs.
Physical theatre is often rather serious but Nouvelle Follies at the Freemasons Hall is everything but. Comic, noisy, acutely observed and brilliantly acted, the French cast don’t say a word but do the talking with their bodies and faces. Set at the seaside it follows the relationship between a group of Breton fishermen who are hell bent on having a laugh at the expense of a couple of Parisian tourists. The theatre company Fiat Lux use music, sound effects, lighting and slapstick to put across the story.
Blak Wulff provided more physical theatre with their children’s show at C Venue Antoine and the Paper Plane. It’s a retelling of the adventure that befalls aviator and author Antoine de Saint Exupery when he crashes his plane in the desert. The children in the audience are not always engaged and at times looked slightly confused or bored. It is saved by much low-tech invention and the performance of Kristina Sorensen who keeps our belief in the character with a highly energetic and expressive range of emotions.
SOMETHING SCOTTTISH IN THE END
Finally, Comedians Theatre Company produce a performance of Gregory Burke’s black political drama Gagarin Way at The Stand Up Comedy Club at York Place. The speed of the dialogue at first gives a breathless breakneck production, but as it slows and darkens, the arguments of whether violence is justified to change society come to the fore. Comic, bleak and with a stunning and bloody climax, this is a cracking production of the modern classic. Directed by Maggie Inchley and featuring Phil Nicol (Eddie), Jim Muir (Gary), Bruce Morton (Frank), Will Andrews (Tom) the show is a lunch time delight staged in an all-too-small-a-venue for the production.
As I wandered out into the daylight, I had enough time to think over the powerful themes of the play with a coffee at Henderson’s Vegetarian Café around the corner before a sprint to the EasyJet flight home.
So, only a brief visit, but seven shows which are all worth seeing. Now that’s not something you can always say about a visit to the theatre.