My picks of the Fringe


It may seem  a little disingenuous for me to offer my thoughts on a Fringe when, like most mortals, holding down a day job makes  it hard to see as many shows as the legion of professional critics get to see – and not to mention the fact that I was effectively staging my own production (as Chairman of FCT who put on ten exhilarating performances of The Chess Game).

But, if I was to use complete objectiveness as my watchword for blogging you’d all be desperately dissapointed.  I’m sure my predilection for frankness makes for a more interesting read.

I read with delight an extended extract from Mark Kermode’s biography in the Observer earlier today and I realise his style is one that I aspire to.  His destruction of Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour made me laugh out loud and lick my lips.

It was a Fringe dominated by shows from the collosus of Scottish new writing; The Traverse.  I saw no fewer than 6 of their shows but it should be pointed out that these threw up a wide mix of collaborators; not least my own beloved Lyceum who produced a high octane multi-character, three-hander called Wondrous Flitting which had many amusing moments and a very fine performance by Molly Inness in particular.

But their collaborations also included the NToS, Grid Iron and Blue Mouth Inc; all of which I enjoyed.

I’m desperately sorry that I missed Mission Drift which was, I suspect, the pick of the bunch but the following all inspired me;

The Strange Undoing of Prudentia Hart shows what a collossus of Scottish writing David Greig is; this site specific show, set in the  nearby Ghillie Dhu pub, had both Jeana and I in stitches and full of awe at a quite remarkeable ensemble performance.  Outstanding.

The second site specific show I saw was What Remains.  Set in the Anatomy School of Edinburgh University, and produced by Grid Iron it was the nearest one gets to outright horror on stage.  Driven remarkably by its writer, David Paul Jones, it begins with a highly intense (scary actually) twenty minute opening movement from a Concerto for piano written and performed by the aforementioned Jones.  It was electric.  What follows is the story of Jones’ descent into madness.  Part Bella Lugosi, part Anthony Hegarty, part Luis Bunuel, part Hammer House of Horror this show absolutely blew me away and at one point a certain plot devise pretty much made me let go of my bowels. Jones is simply wonderful as he acts sings and plays the piano in a one man tour de force.

My third Traverse pick is Dance Marathon.  Again Jeana and I attended and this was a joy from start to finish.  Following the recent trend, it too is site specific and the action took place in The Lyceum’s rehearsal studios in which the audience IS the cast and we dance for four hours (we went to a super long performance on the show’s last night).  Pouring with sweat at the denoument in which Jeana and I failed to be crowned King and Queen of the dancefloor in a dance, poetry, song and video smorgasbrod of excellent entertainment I was approached by Bluemouth’s producer who said she’d been watching me all night and declared me “Awesome and relentless”.  My proudest moment on this year’s Fringe.

Lastly, Marc Almond’s performance in Ten Plagues was awesome.  Very moving.

My other notable show this year was Berkoff’s Oedipus at The Pleasance which was brilliant.  The Greek Chorus of mainly old and middle aged men stole the show in a way choruses rarely do.  It was a little let down by the casting of Anita Dobson as Oedipus’ object of affection but it was not enough to stop tis being a top class show.

I saw FORK’s amusing Pink Noise but it fell short of completely convincing me that every sound emanating from this Finnish a Capella group was indeed man made.

All things considered though my personal Fringe First goes to Dance Marathon for the most invigorating (physically as much as intellectually) four hours I’ve spent in a theatre.

2 thoughts on “My picks of the Fringe

  1. agree that the chorus in Oedipus stole the show…but Anita Dobson deserves much more of a slating for her vapid, vacuous, passionless, unsexy and utterly uninspired performance as Jocasta. Seriously, no wonder Berkoff ‘slipped a disc’ less than a week into the run…I would not have wanted to share the stage with her either.

    I did not see the other shows that enthused you so much…but would like to say that, across the many and various shows that I saw in this year’s Fringe, there were two performances that stood out for me: the very moving, wonderful, inspired and passionate performance by Art Malik in Rose, a new drama that tells the story of one Middle-Eastern immigrant’s struggle to bring up his English born daughter…and the extraordinary and powerful virtuoso performance by activist/comedian Mark Thomas in Extreme Rambling, the story of his walk along the entire length of the Israeli Separation Barrier (the wall between Israel and the West Bank).

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    • I’d like to have seen both of those. I don’t include Mark Thomas in the “comedian” category any longer and I took a stand against the vapid emptiness of comedy as the staple of the Fringe. Call me a snob, I don;t fucking care but I’m sick to fucking death of comedy’s hogging of the Fringe spotlight.

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