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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Ed Fringe 2017 - Reviews

Porridge with fruit, paper version of the Grauniad and dull, wet
weather - it was good to be back in Edinburgh
There is nothing quite like theatre to make you feel quite so alive. And nowhere is this more evident than in the corpulent overdose of theatre that is Edinburgh Festival Fringe. As with every year, this year too I attended the Festival for my annual dip into the madness. And for three and a half days, I rolled with the punches and tumbled in its excess. What a glorious ride it was. I ate, drank and indulged in a lot of diverse forms of theatre. Personal and metaphorical journeys. Scripted and improvised storytelling. Technical marvels and pared down theatre.

And now that I am back, I am left wishing that I had watched more, stayed out later, braved the cold (yes, even in August, it's Edinbrrrgh) and thrown myself unresistingly into its artful melee. But I rest in the knowledge that I will be back next year and the year after and the one thereafter. For now though, here are brief reviews of  nearly every show I watched.

A Super Happy Story About Feeling Super Sad - Can you make a musical about depression and make it light and frothy while delving into darkness? This show gets the balance just right. 8/10

Eggs Collective: Get A Round - Dark side of a night out with friends. They are soon to be on BBC. Great energy but I didn't quite feel the pull. 3/10

Instructions For Border Crossing - Technical issues hampered this play. Lots of audience interaction but didn't like the actor. Was confused about what he wanted from us or what his stance was. 1/10

salt. - A searing, powerful exploration of identity. Selina Thompson, an adoptee of Afro-Carribean origin who grew up in Birmingham, went on a cargo ship tracing the journey her ancestors would have taken on a slave ship and has written a play about it. As she smashes a large rock of salt ("salt of the seas, salt of the tears"), it splinters and shatters across the stage and into the audience like the lives of those enslaved, resonating across continents, across ages. We were given a rock to take with us as we left. It weighed heavy in my hands. 10/10

Seance - Spooky twenty minutes in a pitch dark shipping container. A long table runs down the length  of the container with chairs laid out quite tight on either side of the table. The participants are advised to wear headphones, place their hands on the table, lights go out dramatically and the Seance begins. Brilliant sound design that unsettles and challenges every rational notion you have. Is this theatre? Is this art? Brilliant entertainment. 10/10

How To Act - This play by Scottish National Theatre meant its posters were plastered on buses. Pity such publicity could not save the lacklustre play. It's set as a masterclass with an acclaimed actor and whose dramatic exercise with one of the participants forms the length of the play. Gradually, the lines between reality and retelling blurs and there's a moment when something dramatic is revealed but it flops and we are urged to "speak the truth". Whatever. 1/10

Out Of Love - Writing that scorched and scalded and soared from the pages. Beautifully acted and realised. The power of female friendship, fierce, convoluted and glorious - all laid out in just over an hour's time. Oh, to be able to write like this! 10/10

Man Watching - An anonymous woman has written about her sex life and each night a male comic reads it out cold, for the first time in front of an audience. Interesting, funny, gimmicky. 5/10

Kafka And Son - Based on the letters that Franz Kafka wrote to his father that were later published as a book. Kafka was bullied by his overbearing father and this appears to have had a lasting influence on his life and his writing. The play was sensitively told by the actor playing both the father and the son to great effect. 8/10

Shape Of The Pain - What is it like to live with chronic pain? What does it look like? How does it sound? What triggers it? What worsens it? How do you live with it every breathing minute? Shape Of The Pain attempts to articulate chronic pain syndrome - something one of its creators suffers from. Its a visual, aural, technical and verbal description what must be indescribable. At the end like many in the audience left with my limbs aching, my head throbbing and my eyes stinging. 9/10

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything - A boy and a girl are born in Hull and their lives are traced over three decades - from New Labour to Brexit Britain - via plenty of live music. The evening of my show, the actor who played the narrator was given a special award by The Stage for being one of the best at the Fringe. His high octane, high energy performance was certainly a highlight but the rest was glittery and loud and distracting. 3/10

Cosmic Scallies - Skelmersdale in Lancashire is a monument to all things tried in failed. It was a town where, in the 1960s planner attempted to create a utopian housing scheme and didn't succeed. It's the setting for an unlikely friendship between two friends who go all the way back to primary school. It is tender, funny and at times brutally honest but the play is shy of going just that bit further. 7/10

EntryNoEntry - A performance art piece by a Srilankan artist who invites you into a dark cave, dances with you, asks gently probing questions of you about who you are and where you come from and leaves you bewildered and blinking into the lights. 6/10

The Road That Wasn't There - A trigger happy old woman, her concerned son, a half-torn map, a graveyard, a young girl in far away New Zealand and some puppets are among this rather Neil Gaimanesque story for children. The kids in the audience seemed riveted. 5/10
Blurrie with Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner 




All shows (bar one) were booked on recommendations by Guardian's theatre critic Lyn Gardner. You can read about my experience and my Primer To The Fringe here.

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