Tuesday August 15, two shows, one worthy of comment, one of which we shall not speak.
First was Hamlettes, from American High School Theatre Festival, on its last night. I gleaned quickly from the programme that I would probably have enjoyed this more if I had a knowledge of the film Mean Girls, but all the same, there were many deft touches in the language and the staging, and with a bigger, more receptive audience it could have gone down really well. Unusually for an AHSTF production, there were only three actors – usually they have large casts. One of the actors has the same surname as one of the sponsoring companies.
What really sabotaged a promising production was the photographer the company had hired, who sat in the front row with a digital SLR. The camera had a bright back screen, a huge telephoto lens and of course, SLRs make a clicking noise. And this guy was taking on average three shots a minute, for all of the 75 minutes of the play. I was in the back row and it was driving me nuts, so the people in the first few rows must have wanted to murder him. At least I could interpose other people between me and the screen, they had to contend with the screen and the swinging about of the lens.
On the way out, we did point out to the “freelance” how annoying his photography was; a lady with lots of laminates, whom I assume was with the company, dismissively said she would “take our comments on board.” But clearly, the vanity nature of the project had overtaken the needs of the paying audience. The kids have their snaps, but I doubt we will attend AHSTF presentations in future.
Monday August 14…just the one today.
SE Theatre Company’s The Course of True Love is a new piece by Samão Vaz, directed by Elliott Wallis, acted by Vaz and Imogen Parker. It uses words from apparently ten Shakespeare plays (I recognised five or so) to chart a relationship between the two characters from the first flush of love all the way to it going right round the bend.
After a short preview run in Stratford it is debuting in Edinburgh.
It is well devised, skilfully acted and staged. What made it special for me, though, was that Vaz and Wallis are alumni of probably my favourite ever Fringe troupe, Year Out Drama Company, who would present Story Shakespeare for a week each year at The Fringe…until 2014, at least. When there was no entry for them in the 2015 programme, we found out that they had lost their rehearsal space earlier in the year so would have been unprepared for Edinburgh. Sadly they have never returned…
On top of that, Imogen Parker trained with the much lauded Fourth Monkey, probably my second favourite Fringe troupe. I would have seen her in their interpretations of Grimm’s fairy tales two years ago.
I was passing the theatre a couple of days later just as the show would be coming down, so went in the ask Elliot or Samão if they knew how Deborah Moody, the producer of Story Shakespeare was – I met Elliott who told me that she was fine and spending time with her family…Story Shakespeare is sadly now no more.
Below is our picture from 2013.
The Course of True Love plays at 5:10pm at C Cubed in the High Street until 28 August and is highly recommended.
Sunday 13 August is easy enough to write about; three shows booked, two of which left me with the feeling “I’ll never get that hour back…”
So I won’t say anything about them, as I continue to believe negativity is inappropriate in a situation where someone else may enjoy something that I didn’t (of course, if someone is unduly influenced by another’s opinion, that’s a different matter…)
A friend also pointed out that seeing so much in a few weeks makes comparisons stark; if you see something great at lunchtime, something pretty good at tea-time will look just OK…in the normal run of things, there could be weeks between two theatre performances and the differential would not be so pronounced. I think there’s something in that.
Today’s good show was Baxter Theatre Centre’s Mies Julie at The Assembly Rooms. Yael Farber’s reworking of Strindberg’s Miss Julie first showed in the Fringe in 2012 and is set in South Africa, maybe about seventy years ago. The churning sexual tensions in this version are not based on education and class, but race – Julie is white and Jean is black – it’s brave that this South African company confronts the recent past of the country with such clarity.
It’s a hard watch but ultimately satisfying, with very powerful central performances.
Saturday 12 August…I’m way behind…
We only had three shows booked today and were possibly a little relieved that the first had been cancelled. It’s only the second cancellation I can remember having in umpteen years of attending Fringe shows and I subsequently learned it was due to a bereavement of a member of the company presenting the show…I hope it all worked out OK for them.
When the programme for the Edinburgh International Book Festival came out, there were two people who I really, really hoped would be visiting and I got one of them. I’ve banged on about how great Jess Phillips’ Everywoman is on here before, so it was good to get the chance to listen to her speak about the book and her job; happily, she speaks just as she writes…
I was able to thank her for the book afterward…
And got a pleasing dedication…
A few hours later we attended The Unmarried, a new piece by Lauren Gauge, at the Underbelly Med Quad.
This was a refreshing and interesting piece – rave theatre? Epic poetry with beatboxing and live vocals? Either way, highly recommended and playing right until the end of the Fringe on 28 August.
Here’s a trailer Gauge has put on YouTube.
The Toad from Badger & Co. was also packing Book Festival tickets…
Only three shows today, Friday 11 August…
The Man on the Moor, written and performed by Max Dickins is a fascinating back projection of drama onto reality. In 2015, a body was found on Saddleworth Moor and the police appealed for information from anyone who knew him, publishing CCTV pictures in the press. The body turned out to be that of one David Lytton, but Dickins’ character in this one man show is convinced for a time that the pictured man is his father, who had left his family and gone missing twenty years earlier.
This device enables Dickins to explore the sense of unrequited loss those who are left behind by the missing (or “unmissed”) feel, as well as the subsequent struggles they have with their own identity.
The Man on the Moor runs until 27 August at Underbelly and is highly recommended.
Beethoven in Stalingrad took its text from letters written home by German soldiers in Stalingrad at Christmas 1942. The letters were confiscated by the Third Reich as they were almost all negative about the war, so never reached their intended recipients. Jesper Arin recited selections from the letters while gradually dressing in more and more pieces of soldier’s clothing which lay about the set as if abandoned; throughout, Ian Peaston put his electric violin through pedal and laptop effects to gradually build a rendition of a Beethoven Piano Sonata at the climax of the show, as one of the letters’ author reported he had heard. Interesting and bold theatre.
Several hours and drinks later we saw Trumpus Interruptus; The Impeachment of Donald Trump, presented by Mea Culpa Theater Co. In last year’s Fringe, there were many references to Donald Trump as being your worst nightmare; now that the nightmare is incarnate, it must be very difficult to satirise. These guys did a pretty good job on their penultimate show of the run, especially the actor playing the multiple parts to his partner’s Trump.
Five shows on Thursday 10 August, only one of which I’ll politely skim over (“it’s not me, it’s definitely you.”)
Impromptu Shakespeare by the company of that name was about half way through an eleven show run and was a polished performance on the premise of the actors improvising a performance based on suggestions from the audience of Shakespearian events, objects or tropes.
Robert Burns: Rough Cut was an interesting one man show depicting Burns’ frustration at the Edinburgh publishing clique with which he struggled for recognition and indeed payment for his work. I liked the frequent references to places near the venue (the Scottish Storytelling Centre in the High Street) where Burns had caroused or tried to do business, it must have been especially pleasing for visitors to the city. I’m afraid I didn’t get the actor’s name.
Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Consciousness was a load of fun. A Canadian rapper rapping about the nature of consciousness in the same space as I attended my first philosophy lectures in the late 1970s. This is just one of many “Rap Guide[s] to…” that Brinkman has done.
After the Virgin Money Fringe party, we went to the fourth and our last Fourth Monkey production of this year (sadly, we could not go to any performance of The Burial of the Rats, their fifth show of this Fringe.) Fourth Monkey had kindly replied to my comments about their lateness in going up on the first two shows of this season, blaming problems in communicating with the venue. It was good of them to pay attention to the gripes of a fan, as I remain after seeing Medusa on this evening. They go from strength to strength.
We attended six shows on Wednesday 9 August, only one of which I’ll gloss over (“it’s not you, it’s me…”)
Delightfully, predictably, charmingly, C theatre‘s Shakespeare for Breakfast was as hilarious as ever. In its 26th year of performance, each year always seems to have been the best ever. Enough said.
Pauline Goldsmith‘s Bright Colours Only was a pleasant surprise. I knew nothing about this play/performance, which she originated and first staged in 2001.
It’s billed as an Irish Wake Show and as we enter the room (complete with coffin and set as an Irish parlour,) we are offered tea (in cups and saucers,) sandwiches, whisky, biscuits and swiss roll and are shown to our seats to join in the wake. Over the hour, Goldsmith explores with humour, poignancy and depth our reactions to death and mourning – and ultimately, chillingly, our own certain demise. A great piece of staging and indeed street theatre, as the audience is enjoined to follow the coffin out into the hearse awaiting in George Street at the climax of the show.
Ghost Light Players come from Massachusetts and bring their take on Hamlet to The Fringe in an unshowy and inventive production. Their sets and production values are simple but effective.
Our second American High School Theatre Festival production at Central Hall was Romeo and Juliet ; a little more ambitious than the Tempest we saw there on Monday and the problem with the echoing of the hall did not seem so pronounced; but then I knew tonight where the best seats to counter this were and went there straight away.
Tonight’s nightcap was Droll from the Owle Schreame players and was the second good surprise of the day. The show consists of a series of bawdy sketches from the sixteenth and seventeenth century theatre. Theatre was outlawed in England in 1642 and supposedly died, but as was pointed out in this show, three things happened; the superstar actors went abroad and continued acting; actors who could turn their hands to other professions did so; but he middle ground of the talent who could not do any other work just carried on acting in this sort of thing. The show is acted in character (and yes, I started out thinking they had been in the pub all day) by five superb actors and they say it changes every night.