Posts Tagged ‘royal mile’

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.

Yesterday I got my programme for Edinburgh Fringe.

Edinburgh is quite simply my favourite time in the entire theatrical calendar – a time when the little companies that normally work throughout the country, touring alone or fleetingly visiting cities, all converge within the space of one tiny street. The Royal Mile is a piece of theatre in itself, with companies vying for your attention by any means necessary – there is performance art, offers of free food, free drink, anything to get you to see their show. What is normally a little sub-culture, where everyone knows everyone, suddenly becomes a massive international event, and everyone wants to join our club!

My first trip to the Fringe was in 2008. During that time I worked at C Venues, working anything from 9 to 16 hour days for barely any pay. I worked night shifts, wired up emergency lighting for an entire 5 storey building despite having no experience whatsoever, I painted, mopped, chopped, sawed, stapled, gaffa’d, tied, swept and wept for 3 weeks, and that was before the fringe even began. But when the fringe begins it’s all worthwhile. It was the post-graduation impetus I needed to make sure I stayed in theatre. It’s the main reason I’m so passionate about innovative theatre, and it introduced me to some of the best companies working in theatre today.

 Receiving the Fringe programme is incredibly exciting; partly just to allow you to plan the visit you’ve been looking forward to all year, but also to give you an idea of where the industry is at this year. What companies have chosen to make the perilous journey up north? Because it certainly is perilous. It is considered a success at the fringe if you break even – and it’s a rare company indeed that goes up there making a huge profit, despite spending thousands on venue hire, living costs and accommodation.

There is an art to reading the Fringe Programme, and it’s very much a ‘How do you eat yours’ dilemma. Obviously, like any sane individual, I jump straight to the theatre section. I then pore over each page, reading the company names first to see if anyone exciting is up. Once the favourite companies have been noted, I’ll go through to find some hidden gems from lesser-known companies – it’s all about the blurb in this part. And then I’ll go through children’s/musical/comedy sections and do the same thing.

 So with that in mind, it’s time to celebrate the wonderful world of theatre, and highlight some of my Fringe Picks meticulously selected from my first few sweeps of the brochure.

 Clockheart Boy -Dumbshow Theatre

Saw this when it was up in 2008 and fell in love with it. Heartbreakingly beautiful – magical, joyous, everything you could want for a fringe piece. Miss it at your peril.

Little Matter – The River People

These are one of my favourite companies working today, and this looks to continue the success of ‘Lilly Through the Dark’ – keeping their home at Bedlam, The River People have their own wagon for this. that’s good enough for me!

 Audience – Ontroerend Goed

After the disturbing, beautiful and slightly baffling ‘Internal’, I’m interested in anything this company has to offer. From the sounds of it, this will, once again, put the audience at the heart of the show.

The Boy James – Belt Up Theatre

Darlings of the Fringe scene, Belt Up, appear to have listened to criticism and scaled down for this fringe. Taking only three actors with them, their season is a muted affair (for them, anyway!) with only three shows in C Soco. I haven’t seen The Boy James yet, so will be favouring that over their two new shows, Outland and Twenty to Nine, which I am certain will arrive in London at some point.

I, Malvolio – Tim Crouch

Having been introduced to Tim with his production of ‘My Arm’, I am continually fascinated by his process and writing choices. Going by past experience, this seems to be about as normal as he gets, so I’m intrigued to see what he does with the character of Malvolio.

What Remains – Grid Iron Theatre

You may have read earlier in this blog, that ‘Decky Does a Bronco’ was one of my highlights of 2010 – and it solely for this reason that I’m going to see ‘What Remains’. They’re a great company, and some of the nicest I’ve worked with when they toured to Oxford last year.

Oedipus – Stephen Berkoff

Something tells me this is going to be the hot ticket this year. You get where this is going, Oedipus seen through the ungouged eyes of Berkoff – what isn’t there to like?

The Wright Brothers – Oxford Playhouse

 Okay, I admit it; I’m a company girl. The people that pay me a lot of money every month are taking their show up this year. Having seen the preview of this already, I’m really interested in how it’s changed, and how a Fringe audience receives it. If the previews were anything to go by, I think this may be an unexpected hit

 Assorted Forest Fringe

At the time of writing, the Forest Fringe programme has not yet been released, but rest assured, I have blocked off many hours to fill with whatever they have to offer. Action Hero are a particular draw for me, but I trust the Forest to provide something interesting no matter what.

 

Notable Absences

Little Bulb Theatre- Though I have been assured by them that they will be appearing BAC Summer Hall at some point – so keep an eye on their schedule!

Dancing Brick – hot on the heels of Thomas Eccleshare’s recent award, it would have been lovely to see them at the Fringe again. One can only assume they’re continuing their international success elsewhere!

Pappys Fun Club – genuinely upset about their absence, and can only hope they’ll be back next year.

 

And that should do it for now. There are many many many more shows I’ll be seeing this year, but that’s just a little taster of what I’m certain will be a spectacular programme. Hope you will all be visiting the ‘Burgh this year – see you up there!