Friday 18 August.
Only one show today, which was the fairly unedifying sight of Simon Callow “doing a corporate” at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
I should have read the programme more carefully and I would have noticed that Callow, a fine author and actor, was appearing at an event sponsored by an Edinburgh fund management firm in memory of a former employee who was also a “much-missed Edinburgh impresario,” in fact, one of the founders of Underbelly.
So sadly, no audience questions and no signing session from Callow, who did what was expected of him and told some of the stories which are familiar to those who have enjoyed his books. When asked who were his heroes, he cited the honouree of the lecture along with Gielgud and Laughton, mentioning he had only heard his story that afternoon, which was a damn fine piece of acting…
Clearly, sitting here on 30 August, I have got way behind in writing about the Festivals…but with a few alterations to tenses, I’ll carry on. There were so many good things happened throughout the three and a half weeks that it makes the atmosphere in the city on August Bank Holiday quite poignant as many people are packing and leaving the city, or doing their final show.
But I’ll come to Monday 28 August eventually…
I only saw one show on Thursday 17 August, Death on the Nile presented by Livewire Theatre Company, who, according to their programme, were “celebrating 18 years at the Edinburgh Fringe.” I’m sure I would have remembered if I’d seen them before.
This was quintessential am-dram, by which I mean am-dram at its finest, performed with skill and passion and a lack of pretension. They don’t seem to have website (there are others with the same or similar names on a Google search) and there are no lists of Twitter or Facebook contacts on the programme, so decidedly old school, which is quite refreshing. There seem to be many members of a family involved, so I’m guessing this has been an inter-generational project if they have been coming to Edinburgh for eighteen years.
The play itself was an original work based on Agatha Christie’s novel of that name and was not really worthy of the acting and production talent…no-one was credited with writing it, so I guess it may have been devised by the cast, it had that feel. But no matter, the package as a whole made for an enjoyable evening.
Wednesday 16 August…
Put the Book Down Theatre Company have devised Mine, a superbly acted and directed monologue played by Maisie Barlow. Written by Doug Deans in collaboration with Barlow and Thomas Carter, the play explains and explores the feelings of a mother who, it turns out, did not know her son as well as she thought in the wake of his unidentified crime.
Many plays throughout this Fringe have directly addressed the issues of our weird times; politics, mental illness, dementia, homelessness, alienation, often with collections for related charities afterward. I don’t remember this sort of subtle campaigning-through-art having been so prevalent before. It’s a sad comment that it is needed and that these societal problems are now needfully so often raised and dealt with by our artists rather than our elected representatives.
Put the Book Down don’t preach (or take a collection), but highlight the need for tolerance in society by showing us the plight of a woman who is demonised because of the actions of someone she has borne. There must be loads of people in that position.
Mine ran for almost all of the Fringe’s three weeks, finishing on Sunday 27.
Indie as Fuck by Pinched! Theatre Company was a good way to end the evening – a revue built around the story of a school band getting together again to play one last show. I especially liked The Cliché Song…
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 Qu
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. I wish I had been sobererer…
Here’s a trailer Gauge has put on YouTube.
The Toad from Badger & Co. was also packing Book Festival tickets…