Deb and I just got back from the Edinburgh Fringe, while Ruth was with my parents and Jo was with her godmother in Montreal. We stayed at the Terrace Hotel (again - nice easy walking distance of the city), ate at the Mussel and Steak (again), and actually had great weather. Venues this time were mostly the Pleasance and Udderbelly complexes. No trip to the Assembly Rooms! Anyway, here are the reviews:
(scores out of 5)
Friday 24th August
Hangman, DO-Theatre, ***1/2
Russian physical theatre/modern dance group doing a piece around hangman and victimhood. Wonderful set pieces, music and even a double hanging.
Retreat, Spirit Level Productions, ***
A girl returns unexpectedly to the home of a writer, having lost wife and mother/father respectively. Not bad but some obviously thought it better as at the end a guy arrived to award them some coveted teapot award.
Saturday 25th August
Early Edition, Marcus Brigstock and chums, ****
A satirical trawl through the days papers.
Something Fishy, Moonhag, ****
A female counterpart of the Scooby-Doo type Perki and Mann are Spooked play we saw last year. Two girls have a famous-five type adventure. Jolly hockey-sticks all round.
Ivan Brackenbury's Hospital Radio Show, **** 1/2
Wonderful spoof of a hospital radio show's "Disease Hour" playing the most inappropriate records for each patient, and lovely patter. The funniest part was that it was set in the Chesterfield and North Derby Hospital, and having had to listen to Chesterfield local radio while doing the cottage up I'm damned if I could tell difference (Up The Spyrites!)
Velvet Scratch, Theatre Lab Company, ****
Atmospheric piece of physical theatre, borrowing from ancient Greek drama (they're Greek) and with a wonderful dream-like quality.
Is This About Sex, Rough Magic, *****
Superb. A straight forward look at sex, gender and identity, and even love. No nudity or smut, but lots of movement beneath the sheets. Dialogue so sharp that we bought the script.
Mitch Benn's Music Club, *****
We saw Mitch Benn (the guy who does the music satire on The Now Show) at the MAC a couple of years ago. While the set contained many classics (such as Everything Sounds Like Coldplay Now - see YouTube) there were new songs too and cutting banter. Two hours worth too.
Sunday 26th August
Long Time Dead, Paines Plough, ****
All about mountaineering, so we had to go and see it. Well staged (although it looked more like a Via Ferrata than an ice climb) and well acted, although we felt the second half didn't quite deliver on the promises of the first.
Mile End, Analogue, ****1/2
Really imaginative piece, telling the story of a man who was pushed under a tube train, and the man who pushed him. Whilst there were 3 main actors, the stars were them and their accomplices in black who moved props and staging around the actors creating a wonderfully fluid and almost magical environment. The piece-de-resistance was one character lifting up a floorboard to see an ariel view of himself in an armchair (a chair at 90 degrees), and then to walk on stage from the other side a second later!
End of Everything Ever, NIE, *****1/2 (sic!)
Stunning. The third in the trilogy that we saw the second part of last year (Past Half Remembered). A really talented company, inspired use of props, music, language and humour. Whilst there was nothing to compete with the biscuit eatin of Past Half Remembered the last two minutes of the play were probably the most honest and poignant that I have ever seen. We overheard the guy behind us asking his friend how you can use the Kindertransport in a comic play - they did.
They produce amongst the most remarkable work we've ever seen. If ever you get a chance to see them, go! (Deborah is threatening to travel anywhere in Europe to see the whole trilogy).
Story of a Rabbit, Hugh Hughes, ****1/2
Very similar to last year's Floating (which he was also reprising this year). A gentle but mildly chaotic ramble through the story of the death of his father.
Eurobeat - Almost Eurovision, *****
The funniest, cheek aching thing we saw. A spoof Eurovision contest with 12 acts. The audience were randomly given national badges and sold flags, and then could vote for their favourite act. The steward at the front got the whole crowd whipped up into a Club 18-30 frenzy before it even started, and it then just got better and better. There were lovely spoofs of Bjork, Nina Mouskuri and Kraftwerk, a Russian boy-band called the KG-Boys, a crass UK entry (Love is Love, Love) and the inevitable Abba clones. The two real highlights though were the gay Estonia entry based around a success young politician, gym scenes, Chippendale reveals and spandex hotpants, and an Irish songster with so much dry ice that initially we couldn't see him, and by the end he was singing with his back to us. A wonderful nights entertainment.
Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, 1927, *****
Probably the biggest hit of the festival and justifiably so. Also the closest thing we've seen to Forkbeard Fantasy. With a 1920s cabaret atmosphere (and suitably dank venue) one woman plays mournful piano, whilst two others in severe white make-up recite or act short pieces, interacting with the grainy video behind them. Just lovely.
Monday 27th August
Ashes, Dancing Shadows Theatre Company, *****
Possibly my favourite piece, and the one that I can see joining "Walking on Sticks" that I saw back in the 90s as a really haunting Festival memory. The stage is covered in torn and burnt paper. Four characters arrive, and through the fragments trace their life stories, two from the 2nd Millennium, two from a the 3rd Millennium. As the tag line says, "What burns doesn't matter. What matters doesn't burn." Stunning acting, staging, words and ideas.
As we left I picked up a fragment of paper. I hope they don't mind - it was the last night. Nicely it has no identifying marks so will be a nice challenge to see if I can find out where it's from,
Dai, Iris Bahr, ****1/2
Our only solo play. Iris Bahr plays a dozen characters, all enjoying a drink in an Israeli cafe, all playing out the last minutes of their lives before a terrorist bombs the cafe. Very talented and honest. Wonderful.
Debbie Does Dallas - The Musical, ****
Great fun and not a naked body in sight (well one brief male rear view).
Birdwatching, Alex Horne, ****
Our only stand-up. No punch line jokes, just a funny commentary on a year spent birding with his father. Will always have my respect as he thought me in my late 20s and too young to be his prototypical Dad for the show. Mind you just as well we didn't start talking about plane spotting, toy soldiers or my job!
Pupperty of the Penis, ****1/2
There goes the blogs R rating. We felt we had to see them and it was very funny. They two guys doing it just really enjoy it and are really natural. It was just two naked guys having fun. No smut, no porn, no innuendo, no sex, just good plain fun. Whilst the whole audience spent the first few minutes in complete shock it was fascinating how quickly most people became habituated to it. In fact the show could have been 10 minutes long and have lost little, since once you've seen a man bend is penis around a few times there's nothing much more to see.....
A great way to end the Festival.
+ + +
So that's it. We saw 19 shows - a new record - and reckon that next year by taking more advantage of the Friends 2for1 and maybe an early booking of an even more central hotel we can do even more for possibly less. Overall the quality of what we saw was even better than last year - but we were deliberately seeking our Fringe First and 4-5 star reviews. Not a single student production for instance. But we certainly got the quality we paid for.
***Imported from old blog***