Festivals · Theatre

This is how we do it in Edinburgh…

The world has clearly gone mad in 2016 (well, actually since the death of David Bowie – was he holding the fabric of the universe together?)
Our lords of mis-rule are liars and fools and there is a depressing tendency toward what is being labelled as “posh” racism.
So it lifted my spirits to see this sign at the Usher Hall as once again Edinburgh waits to welcome artists and visitors from all over the world for the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Fringe Festival


Edinburgh welcomes the world - Edinburgh's Festivals

There are certainly maleficent forces adrift over which we have limited control…meanwhile, we can all just be a bit nicer and more respectful to each other. That’s a start.

Festivals · Music

Edinburgh’s festivals

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe

As always, Edinburgh in August was a blast; loads of events and shows which are never less than interesting.  I especially like the fairly run of the mill productions on the Fringe, often late at night, often with a small audience, where you know you’re not watching anything great but you also know that the actors have cared enough to come to Edinburgh to perform.  Nobody’s going to make any money to speak of – in the paper the other day, an actor from Wardrobe Ensemble, who had a hit show at this year’s Fringe (1972 – The Future of Sex) estimated that the troupe would have made about £100 each for three weeks work.  And that’s a show that had great reviews and sell-outs.  So it’s all the more delicious that, to give an example from my experience, an RSC actor would come to Edinburgh to do a one man show that he had originated at 10pm to an audience of eight.


Edinburgh International Book Festival


Some observations from this year’s festivals;

The monologue or one man show is very much in vogue.

A lot of the Fringe shows I saw by school or otherwise young companies started with fairly spectacular “opening numbers,” encompassing music, dancing and physical theatre and then fizzled out with the actual acting being pretty ordinary, a kind of theatrical front-loading which made me wonder if the emphasis in theatrical training has changed.

For the first time in Edinburgh in August, I often saw people queuing to get in to restaurants.  And by that I don’t mean super-hip restaurants but fairly ordinary ones in areas where there are plenty similar places to eat.  Must be a London thing, or maybe people are now more influenced by what is said on social media.

On the upside, I only had to shoosh somebody once (git playing with a plastic bag on his lap during first act of Lanark,)  although I would have murdered the bum whose phone went off in the quiet, intense last stretch of Antigone.  In general, thoughtless mis-use of phones during performances was less prevalent this year.  I also wasn’t aware of anyone skipping into queues before me (never a wise move,) the dread “merging.”

Spiegeltent at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Getting about on public transport seemed easier this year, I think it is an unintended consequence of the traffic routing in the city centre to accommodate the trams.  Travelling on foot still takes twice as long as normal though.

Dynamic pricing has a field day.  Some bars hike their prices in their own festival of taking the piss, as do the hotel chains; some display current prices for rooms outside on displays like on the stock exchange, which is just flaunting greed.  It would be great if the massive profits which must be made from this could be taxed for redistribution among the performers who are coming out with very little, while being the attraction that allows Ibis et al to wallow in lucre.

It was great to see Kirsty Bushell again in Antigone (one of the International Festival’s big deals this year) having seen her years ago in Filter’s Twelfth Night at The Caves, which I always remember as being a production which summed up everything that is possible on The Fringe.


Filters Twelfth Night
Filters Twelfth Night, Kirsty Bushell on the left

Finally…although the magnificent Story Shakespeare did not appear at this year’s Fringe due to circumstances affecting their rehearsal time, they did tip me off to the existence of Popinjay Productions, who are alumni of that project and whose show I got to see.


Locals at the Edinburgh Festival
Just up for the Festival, ennit…oh no, I live here!
Festivals · Music · Theatre

Smooth Faced Gentlemen – Titus Andronicus

Much praise is deserved by Smooth Faced Gentlemen for their stunning interpretation of Titus Andronicus at the Bedlam Theatre in Edinburgh’s Forrest Road.

smooth faced gentlemen titus edinburgh


This was a “wild card” ticket for me, as I’d not heard of the company (they’re new) and although I like to take the opportunity during the Festival to see as much rarely-performed Shakespeare as possible, the last Titus I saw was very…long…
But I was curious to see the renovated Bedlam and the performance was billed at just over an hour, so, worth a punt.
A magic hour it was. These folk really know what they are doing. Titus was not in favour for a long time as it is essentially Shakespeare’s prediction of the video nasty genre, (pulling up just short of the snuff movie) – rape, murder, mutilation and creative cookery. It is hard to stage, and was long considered just too much for an audience to deal with.  But I guess in a world where anyone can turn on the radio and hear Mumford and Sons, we’re inured to this sort of thing…


smooth faced gentlemen titus andronicus edinburgh
We know Titus can be performed as an unremitting, grim bloodbath. In the hands of Smooth Faced Gentlemen however, the appalling violence and gore are offset with lightness of touch in the acting and indeed, subtle humour; the stagecraft is stunning, with a couple of touches that were so effective I can’t believe I’ve never seen them done before; even the company’s use of the echoing depths of the converted church that is Bedlam was knowing and appropriately spooky.

Smooth Faced Gentlemen Titus Andronicus Bedlam Theatre
“Rape; murder…” Gimme shelter…

SFG’s Titus Andronicus is on until 24 August (I might even go again) and their website is well worth a look to get the gist of what this exciting company is doing.

Festivals · Music · Theatre

Edinburgh in August

Edinburgh Fringe in August

It’s been unforgiveably quiet on here recently (sorry Chris) a consequence of working too hard for the last number of weeks and not really being inspired to say much about any of the films I’ve seen recently.

August is where it all kicks off in Edinburgh of course, with the nearly-enough concurrent International, Fringe and Book Festivals.  Suffice it to say that from 1 August until 25 August there is no day when I won’t be attending at least one musical or theatrical performance, so I’ll try to round up the best of these while I still have the energy, I don’t know how many more years I can sustain that level of involvement.  I always figure it has to be done; people spend loads of money coming to Edinburgh for all this, so it would be silly not to drink deeply when the trough is on your own doorstep…or something like that.

Edinburgh International Festival