Saturday 19 August. Turned out to be a great day!
Shakespeare on a Shoestring’s Cymbeline was an inauspicious start – while the production itself was fun, witty and energetic, I had to ask a man with an SLR and a woman with a bright iPhone sitting in front of me to put them away…again, a production by an American school, so possibly something of a vanity production which parents would want to photograph and film to death…I think we will be avoiding the schoolies in the future.
A couple of hours later we saw Essential Theatre‘s reading of Julius Caesar and it was superb. A female cast delivered a powerful distillation of the play in just over an hour; wonderful acting and passion. This is the sort of thing that makes attending the Fringe so sweetly fruitful, to suddenly and unexpectedly come across theatre of the highest standard for a few pounds, brought to us by people who have travelled halfway around the world to be here, Australia in this case. Thank you, Essential Theatre!
I had no idea what James Rowland’s A Hundred Different Words for Love was going to be like and it turned out to be the second excellent show of the day. A monologue about meeting the girl and losing the girl set to occasional looped piano accompaniment (truly the year of the loop pedal at this year’s Fringe,) it was unusually touching. Great writing and performance in a lovely atmosphere, the Anatomy Lecture Theatre in Summerhall, which is acoustically perfect. They knew how to build lecture theatres back then…
St Peter’s Church in Lutton Place hosted C theatre‘s stunning Shakespeare in the Garden; The Tempest. This is the same company who do Shakespeare for Breakfast and Dickens for Dinner, which I’ve already eulogised. This is a more traditional take on the work; in fact, entirely traditional as it takes place in the open air in the gardens of the church. I just loved this meticulous production and marvelled at the projection of the actors who had naught but the open air to work in, the lightness and charm of the direction. This is fast becoming my favourite part of the Fringe – I first saw this last year, I think it was Twelfth Night and look forward to next year already. These people can turn their hand to anything.
The last show was a name comedian of which I can remember nothing, sadly.
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.
In retrospect, it was insanely optimistic to think I could update the blog at the same time as going to so many shows over the week commencing 7 August, so here goes with the backlog…
The first show on Monday 7 August was the excellent Kafka and Son by Theaturtle and Richard Jordan Productions. A monologue co-written and performed by Alon Nashman, it examines the correspondence of Franz Kafka to his father, positing the idea that much of what informed Kafka’s work came from the dysfunctional relationship he had with his father. Not a subject which is debated much in Stratford’s Bar, but it made for a captivating hour in a really interesting venue I had not been to before, Bunker One at The Pleasance. The performer was going to make himself available in the Bunker Bar afterward for discussion of the play and the “increasingly Kafka-esque world.” The show continues until 27 August and is highly recommended even, or especially if, you know as little about Kafka as I do. If you Google the title, there is a complete performance on a platform called Vimeo, but I don’t think it would be as good as being present at a performance.
For many years (although not all 26) one of the highlights of our Fringe has been C theatre‘s Shakespeare for Breakfast – this year they are also presenting Dickens for Dinner, a similarly formatted show where the five mega-talented members of the company riff around aspects of Dickens (mostly A Christmas Carol today) to huge comic effect. Always reliably hilarious. C theatre are presenting a total of six shows throughout the Fringe, at least three of them with the same five-strong cast.
Bristol’s Theatre Ad Infinitum first performed Translunar Paradise at the Fringe in 2011 and it’s back this year. I would say it is inspired a lot by the great sequence in the Pixar movie Up! that everyone knows, where the old man reflects on his life with his recently deceased wife; a real tear-jerker, as is Translunar Paradise judging by the sniffles I could hear around the theatre. A very cleverly devised and expertly acted show.
American High School Theatre Festival are always worth a look. As you would imagine, this is a banner for a number of American High Schools to present work. They have used various venues throughout Edinburgh, this year it is Central Hall at Tollcross and the show tonight is The Tempest. As per usual, there is no lack of skill in the acting and costumes, but they go at some pace and tonight were defeated by the natural echo of the huge hall – I eventually found a third seat where the reverberations were minimised and I could follow the rapidly delivered lines. But a good effort.