Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

My only previous experience of Edinburgh Fringe Festival was when I happened to come for a visit with my family a number of years ago. This year nothing has changed, sat in the car with my parents and instead of my siblings, a friend of mine who I work with on the bar in the Oxford Playhouse. The difference being this year is that although I was still a super fan of performance during my last visit, this trip is cushioned by a new wealth of knowledge and experience gained from the past few years.

 Sadly, we are only hitting the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for two fleeting visits, one of sixteen hours and the other a week later, of 24 hours. This raises the issue of priority viewing, and with friends performing, reviews, recommendations and favourite companies, the lists have been long and constantly changeable. So it was with great excitement, and a meagre understanding of how best to construct our day, that the two of us reached the Royal Mile to begin our day of theatrical adventure.

 The first show we attended was Il Pixel Rosso’s And The Birds Fell From the Sky. Recommended to us by a variety of different sources, this was top of the to-do list, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. An intense and totally immersive piece of theatre, where the viewers go in two at a time and are fully kitted out with blindfolds, goggles, and a headset; the smells, the sounds and the touches create an entirely different world.

As you leave the performance you can’t help but wonder whether everything around you is real. It was wonderful to go accompanied as it gave us the chance to discuss what we had experienced, something I never usually do, preferring to make sense of my own experience before I share with those with me.

 A clever reference to the irrelevance of time made at the start bears relevance to the rest of the show; when walking away from such a clever experience, you wonder whether what just happened really was only over a duration of 17 minutes?

            Later on, after having wandered up the Mile again and seen a highly entertaining street performance of Charlie Chaplin, we headed for Zoo Roxy to watch Idle Motion’s The Seagull Effect. This was the only show we had planned and ensured would fit into our day, desperate to show my parents what magical things the young people of Oxford get up to.

            Beginning somewhat surprisingly, a woman stands and engages the audience, going on to tell us about her experience of the great storm of 1987, and suddenly the audience are whisked up into the tale.  The opening sequence (which, as I write this, is giving me goosebumps) is spectacular, and had me welling up in the front seats from the pure beauty and ingenuity of it all.

             Idle Motion are renowned for their use of props, projection and voice over, which is second to none, and used to wonderful effect as they create two stories around each other, intertwining beautifully.

            The parallel storyline running through the show this year seemed somewhat weaker than previous productions, which was a shame. However the ability to whip up an entire backdrop for a scene from what appears to be nothing, I have yet to see from any other physical theatre company. None of their actions are done simply to impress. Everything fits with what’s happening and only enhances the show, rather than detracting attention away from what’s being said. This is a strong skill to hold, ensuring the audience doesn’t get lost in the whirlwind of the story. If anyone is interested in physical theatre, this is a must-see performance from an outstandingly creative and incredibly tight knit company of young artists.

            At entirely the other end of the physical theatre spectrum,  the next performance I pottered through the rain to see was not so impressive. Selling itself as an “emotionally charged physical theatre adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, Headlock Theatre’s The Tragedy of Titus was badly directed, poorly performed and a majority of physical theatre they did employ made absolutely no sense in keeping with the piece.

The opening fight scene was well choreographed, and Matthew Stevensas Titus did his best to carry the piece, assisted part of the way by Emma Belam as Tamora, but the rest of the characters lacked conviction.

            A shame, as this piece had the potential to be an exciting piece of performance; the lack of external direction (it would seem that this piece had been entirely devised, choreographed and directed by the actors themselves) was clear. With a cast of nine, it is difficult to construct an outside view of what the play is looking like from the audience perspective.

            The stresses of Shakespeare’s text were placed on strange syllables, which meant the words didn’t sit quite right on the ear, and the manner of speech during one or two of the scenes seemed entirely backwards. Most notably, when Titus was informed of the finding of his daughter Lavinia, who had been ravaged and her hands and tongue removed, and comforted his son Lucius despite Lavinia herself being stood (I certainly wouldn’t be able to stand after such an ordeal) in the corner making unnecessary noises.

 A couple of lines were delivered as though for a film, meaning words were lost, and people at the back had to struggle to hear what was going on. There is a lesson here about the difference between stage and screen acting.

            Not the most impressive production I’ve seen, however I’m glad I went. Though, as my mother said five minutes into the show; “I’m glad we didn’t have to pay for this”.

After food time where we swapped a tired father with a much younger friend, and took a brief trip to the fabulous Ukelele Cabaret tent, we headed off to see Dead Cat Bounce, at the Pleasance. Once again, it was on recommendation that we went to watch them, with some idea of what was in store; “it’s a little Flight of the Concords-y”.

 What a fantastic night! The perfect mix of highly entertaining lyrics, fantastic musical ability and wonderous banter in between songs. Each band member has taken on the role of the member of a highly successful rock band member and play the parts brilliantly.

 An incredibly entertaining way to spend an hour, the audience were rolling about in their seats and singing along to their intelligent lyrics.

Last but not least, was a production of The One Man Show.  As it says on the tin, this is a solo performance by Nigel Barrett, one of the creatives of Shunt, which looks at the role of “The Actor”.Though not entirely sure what exactly this piece sets out to accomplish, it was an interesting look into the purpose of the actor, his versatility and intentions.

            A particularly entertaining moment was when Barrett donned a surgical mask and through the use of mouth projections and voiceovers, spoke of what it is these people who call themselves “actors” are like. Slightly stereotypical and perhaps a little harsh, it amused me to think of many actors I have met during my time in the theatre (one in particular) and listen to how relevant parts of the description were; “I will ask you about you, but am waiting to steer the conversation back to myself”.

            Despite the entertainment value, and although I was pleased to have attended, this performance is not necessarily one that will sit in the forefront of my mind over time, unlike one or two shows from earlier on in the day.

 All in all, a tremendously entertaining day, and I have finally learned how to go about making the most of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For the most part of this coming week, I’ll be re-writing the schedules over and over again in preparation for my next 24 hour stint amidst of the hub of creativity and story-telling.

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