Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014
Ahoy there Edinburgh Fringe, you absolute beauty, we have arrived (via a SLEEPER BUS, yes BUS!) We are up in Bonnie Scotland for a few days to take in our favorite festival ever!
Now I am no stranger to the Fringe, having performed in the festival for a total of two moths over a couple of years. I have also been a voyeur at the Fringe several times, so by now I know the festival from both sides of the coin!
Why We Love The Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is truly like nothing else in the world! After just 3 days at the Fringe I had: seen 13 widely different productions, interacted with street performances ranging from mime acts to skits with a giant dragon puppet, been handed about 5 million flyers to as many shows, ran away from a bad wolf, layed on a pigs bed, watched a show in a giant upside-down purple cow, eaten a gin and tonic flavoured macaron, drank Scotch Malt whisky in a proper Scottish pub whilst listening to an improv band and attended an amazing party hosted by Clinique (a gals DREAM!) hosted in a private house filled with giant orange balloons (see below for more details!) Suffice to say, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is unprecedented levels of joy! The best part is that there is literally a show for EVERYONE! No matter who you are, what you are, what you like etc, there will be a show for you to fall in love with at the Fringe. From music to magic, dance to puppetry, theatre to a good old Scottish knees up, the Fringe is a unique celebration of the arts that you NEED to experience at least once in your lifetime. DO IT!
In Depth Fringe Reviews
This year we have popped up to the fest to review a very small number of shows and to drink an very large amount of Deuchars . Totally fair. Below is a summary of shows we were invited to review and our rating. Enjoy!
News Revue holds the Guinness World Record “for the longest running live comedy,” or so the programme told me. So with intrigue pretty high and fully ready to have my ribs tickled in a topical way, I made my way beneath the Pleasance Courtyard to see this show.
It’s easy to see why News Revue is a Fringe favourite; it is slick, professional and, if you read the news (even the Daily Mail’s side bar of shame,) it is a guaranteed good time.
The best thing about this show, underpinned with music by Michael Riley, is that there is something for everyone. From musical references (that a theatre geek like me laps up) to serious news features to commentary on Cheryl Cole’s latest musical venture, all audiences can find something to connect with.
The show is delivered by a core of four performers, who hold the comedy with conviction for the whole hour. Mimi Edwards, Matt Lee-Steer, Alice Marshall and Will Mulvey are all strong comedians with good vocal ranges. Mulvey was my favourite of all, with excellent characterisations of a snivelling Nick Clegg and a warbling Chris Martin of Coldplay!
Some sketches were funnier than others; Clegg’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” was a particular highlight however I didn’t feel there was a huge crescendo to the show as a whole, which may have been nice. None the less, News Revue is undeniably a good solid hour of laughs.
News Revue runs at the Pleasance Courtyard at 6.30pm
In four years of Fringe going, I have never been to the Summerhall venue, and I must say I have been severely been missing out! Show aside for one second, this venue is lovely! The beer is nicer and cheaper here, they have reasonably priced gin and tonic and little performances happening in the courtyard. Also the Roundabout, home to Lungs, is the best Fringe theatre space I have seen!
So Lungs. Wow. What an emotional roller-coaster! In just over an hour, two actors perform the harrowing ups and downs of their relationship to an audiences in the round. Firstly I absolutely loved the use of space here. I’d never have thought of presenting a realistic piece of drama to 360 degrees of audience members with absolutely no set, however this provided the piece with a real sense of bare honesty. We are watching two lives on stage, two hearts beating with absolutely nowhere to hide.
Duncan Macmillan’s script coupled with George Perrin’s direction was sharp and extremely clever. Most impressive was how the actors were able to jump through time and location using just their voice and physicality, a real credit to Perrin’s directing ability.
Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Sails were outstanding as the unnamed couple, with the plot line hanging on their decision to conceive. The pair were given the ability to perform a spectrum of emotions, leaving the audience hanging on their every word an gesture. I loved the contrast in the characters; the seemingly cool and calm man to the erratic and shrill woman and their varying states of mood.
Lungs is no laugh riot, it is brutal, honest and moving. If you like your theatre straight up and meaningful then this is the show for you. Lungs is a brilliantly written, brilliantly crafted and brilliantly acted piece of theatre. A must see.
Lungs runs at 1.50pm at the Roundabout at Summerhall
Boris And Sergey’s Astonishing Freakatorium
I’ve got to admit, myself and Sergey have been in an on/off relationship for about two years. It all began when, on a whim, I found myself in a tiny room off the Pleasance Courtyard amid Boris and Sergey’s Vaudevillian Adventure at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe. There Sergey promised to escape almost certain eternal purgatory to return to me (with loads of cash, obviously.) Maybe now would be a good time to mention that Sergey and his accomplice Boris are 1 and a half foot Bunraku puppets.
Having loved these leathery lecherous (and often murderous) little fellas, I was delighted to return to see them in their “Astonishing Freakatorium,” and freaky it really was! This time at the Underbelly, the chaps (and their band of faithful puppeteers) were suitably placed in a dark, dank tunnel, which suited the comically spooky mood they wished to muster up!
Dylan Tate and Henry Maynard are quick witted and accomplished as Sergey and Boris respectively, so much so that you forget they are actors and really do start to believe they are slaves fulfilling the puppets wishes! Similarly the rest of the puppeteers are experts at their craft, bringing to life all manner of weird and wonderful freaks.
The heart and soul of this wickedly funny show are the two leading puppets. Their characters are just so well created; who can help but fall in love with two naughty Balkan schemers? I certainly can’t. With their third show to date, the novelty of watching the pair amid their adventures has not worn off. This show is just as funny, as is the casts razor sharp reactions in improvised scenes.
Boris and Sergey is the perfect show to see after a couple of drinks. If, like me, you like a dark comedy and some stabby little puppets, then absolutely see this show.
This show runs at 7.20pm at the Underbelly
Light @ Pleasance Dome
“A story told through LIGHT?” As a lover of avant-garde theatre, particularly in relation to staging, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Light sounded like totally my cup of tea. I was also brining my sci-fi loving boyfriend to this production, so I was keen for us both to revel in the beauty of a seemingly “cool” show.
“Cool,” certainly is a word I would use to describe Light, it LOOKS great. Set in “intense darkness” (marketing speak for a room without a light on) Light cleverly utilises beams of, er, light to portray set AND emotions. Sceneographically speaking, this show is an aesthetic treat that challenges staging tradition in the most delightful way.
The sound scoring of this show is fantastic; strange dystopian sounds are created to accompany the actors movements. Whilst this must have been a technical nightmare in rehearsal, it very much worked to enhance the mood of the piece.
The story is rather complex; it is kind of an artistic mash up between 1984’s notion of “Thought Police” with flickerings of Total Recall and Tron, AKA a sci-fi lovers wet dream. I may add there was absolutely no speaking as the cast depicted the
tale, just sound and light, which confusingly included projected subtitles in the style of a silent film. My main issue with the use of the titles was that some interactions seemed to utilise them, whilst others did not, which irritated me as here it seemed Light did not abide by the rules of its own world.
Whilst I absolutely love the innovation displayed by Theatre Ad Infinitium (who indeed went to TOWN with the use of “magic lights,”) my main question, in a show about Light is “where oh where were the lasers?” No seriously!
For me Light is one of the most inspiring shows I have ever seen, but it did not quite fulfil manage to fulfil its potential. It is a five star concept with a five star quality of cast but it was a little too complex and challenging to deliver. None the less, with such imagination on display, I would wholeheartedly recommend you see this show if you can get a ticket!
Acclaimed international performing troupe, Circa, return to the Edinburgh Fringe with Beyond, a display of super power strength and control. Somewhat of a circus and cabaret mash up, the show is definitely a crowd pleaser as us mere morals “ooh” and “ahh” over some pretty intense acrobatics.
One of the great things about this show is the gender equality of the troupe; females lift males and perform equally as demanding roles in the piece. The other fantastic thing about this show is it’s universality; anyone can enjoy this show, which is very fitting at a diverse festival such as the Fringe. The language of the body is a powerful unifying force and is certainly Circa’s best asset.
My main issue with the show is it’s lack of theatrical context; there is no real discernible theme, other than a few sequences involving giant animal heads. Why? Seemingly just because?! The show skirts round the edges of weirdness without stylistically committing to the absurd.
The poster for this show makes it look like an intimate and mysterious exploration into the body in motion, but really it is a lot of very well executed circus tricks happening in a big hall on a big stage. There is no real atmosphere or actual sense of danger in this show, which is a shame.
Circa : Beyond is a fantastic demonstration of what the body can achieve and there is no doubting that the performers on stage are fantastically skilled. I feel Circa have the key ingredients for something really interesting but ultimately the “theatre” of the show is somewhat lacking. As it stands, the show is just (a very impressive) demonstration of athletic ability.
Whilst I promised myself to turn off my critical brain when I “clocked out” at the Fringe (AKA paid for a show and wasn’t there as an invited reviewer) this actually turned out to be utterly impossible. #OnceACriticAlwaysACritic! SO below is a short summary of other shows I saw whilst up there.
Huff was my favourite of all of my Edinburgh Fringe experiences this year, it is truly fantastic and a very total experience. Unlike the other “shows” we saw at this year’s festival, Huff is an interactive instillation where you and two others get to perform the show.
Depicting the tale (ish) of the Three Little Pigs, audiences of just three people (see what they did there!) venture around a seemingly cute little house filled with delightful surprises. That is until the sense of urgency increases in your exploration and you realise that YOU ARE a little pig and there may well be a wolf on your tail…
This show delighted me on so many levels; the attention to detail was truly flawless and left me thinking about this piece long after I had collected my shoes and left the quaint little home.
This show runs daily at the Traverse Theatre at 20 minute intervals from 10am.
Come Heckle Christ
On my boyfriends suggestion, I paid £9.50 to heckle Christ. Whist that may seem like the beginning of a niche joke, that was actually the state of affairs at the Fringe last week. One of the great things about seeing this show on a whim was that I was, at 10.30pm, rip roaringly drunk…and I think you need to be to give Jesus a good heckling.
Christ aka Joshua Ladgrove was pretty amusing, however it is literally him (affixed to a crucifix) answering questions/heckles for an hour. On the evening I attended the audience were pretty up for it, but I can imagine this show would be pretty awkward if the audience were less feisty. Also at £9.50 a pop there isn’t a great deal of ROI.
This show caused outrage and controversy at the Adelaide Fringe due to its seemingly blasphemous nature, but in my opinion, the performance opened up a real debate for me about what answers we seek from religion. Drunk as I may have been, I found myself treating “Christ” as if he were real, asking him my silliest life questions. It was pretty cathartic. I’d say bravo to Ladgrove for the concept, but would perhaps recommend a smaller venue, a later (drunker!) slot and a cheaper ticket price.
Clinique’s #HappyHour (Why We Love the Fringe Part 2!)
I was lucky enough to be invited to Clinique’s (YEP CLINIQUE!) exclusive #HappyHour party whilst I was in Scotland. The party was half to celebrate Women at the Fringe (like me!) and half because, y’know, everyone loves an orange themed shindig.
I had an AWESOME time from the moment I stepped into the Orange land of dreams that was the town house near Arthur’s Seat. Orange Balloons and peach bellini’s awaited me (hello yes!) As I walked inside I was again greated by all things orange an marvelous and was quickly fed another cocktail (passion fruit, no less!) whilst being swooped into a room to try on lipsticks (again, I say YES!)
Fringe Favouirtes, Frisky and Manish, performed an exclusive and high energy set at the party, which went down an absolute storm.On top of that Radio 1 DJ Gemma Cairney treated us to some tunes whilst we danced the night away.
As if I could love Clinique even more than I already did, yet somehow I do (the cocktails and goodbag were a HUGE WIN!) I truly thank them for hosting a great party and allowing me to hob nob with some hugely talented and creative people at the Fringe!