You’ve put up with me so far so here’s the final evaluation. And the Gorman Awards.
Best show: Nederlands Dans Theatrer.
Best Musical (excluding Pippin): Les Miserables.
Best Play: The Divide (Part 1)
Funniest Show: Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour
Best Venue: Summerhall
5 stars *****
Nederlands Dans Theater
Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour
Richard Gadd: Monkey See, Monkey do
The Divide (Part 1)
Meow Meow’s The Little Mermaid
£¥€$ (Lies) by Ontroerend Goed
Les Miserables 4.5*****
Lilith: The Jungle Girl
Meet me at Dawn
Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon
The Divide (Part 2)
Into the Woods
Party Game 2.5***
The Performers by Irvine Welsh
My goodness has Summerhall had an immense Fringe. And I’ve only seen part of it.
It has been my main home for the Fringe having seen this show ****, Dolly Would ****, LIES *****, Charlotte Church ****, Richard Gadd *****, Blanck Mass ***, Border Crossing ***** and Seance ***. (2 x 3 star shows, 3 x 4 stars and 3 x 5 stars. That’s a pretty good investment in my book).
My main reason for seeing The Gardener was because Nicola Roy plays a supporting role in it to Crawford Logan. She’s an unsung star of Scottish Theatre and one of our best comic actors. (It just so happens she is a delightful human being to boot.)
Any way, it did not disappoint.
To a deliberately very small audience of 20 we are shown into the bowels of Summerhall – the brightly lit ‘Machine Room’ which, it transpires, is the meeting room of the Pine Grove Villas ‘Retirement Community’.
There are no pines and “it’s an Old Folks Home” observes Frank (our host) “Should be called Altzheimers Acres.”
Frank is hosting a lecture on gardening to us, his 20 fellow ‘inmates’, but the lecture is merely a device to reflect on his love of gardening. Fecund as he is in his ‘Cultivation of the Soil’ he is sadly less fecund in his life, with his beloved wife Joan who is three years passed.
Gardening is the great metaphor for a life that he constantly breaks off from the lecture to retell.
Initially hysterical, thanks largely to Roy’s interventions as the “only nice” carer in the home, it becomes increasingly sad, but Crawford Logan (brilliant as Frank) doesn’t milk the pathos. He is a stoic character who sees life as what it is, with it’s inevitable outcome.
Tony Cownie has beautifully crafted a lovely Dramaturg by Lynda Radley and the cleverness of the design by Ed Robson has an ace up its sleeve as the show comes to an end, with no bows.
A poignant, heartfelt piece that will surely keep popping up around the country. If you get the chance to see it. Jump.
Well, this one comes from left field. It’s a mash up of love, real love, for Dolly Parton (in which her legendary breasts feature very prominently and not just in the image above – from near the show’s conclusion) and the fact that Dolly the Sheep (named after Dolly Parton) was created near to Summerhall in the Rosslyn institute. Given that Summerhall was previously a Veterinary School this is perhaps also appropriate.
The cloning theme is developed by showing the veneration Dolly Parton creates with clone fans galore (famously Dolly herself entered a Dolly Parton lookalike show and lost).
We are left in no doubt that Sh!t Theatre’s two players, Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit, are lesbian lovers and their love for each other and of Dolly Parton (not uncommon in the gay world as I realised with no uncertainty when I was in the crowd for her legendary Glastonbury legends gig) was a relationship-saving writing project.
Their love for Dolly has no bounds and this reunited them and has led to a totally insane celebration of her life during which the ridiculous treatment she received from the media, focussing largely on her looks and her assets, is ridiculed.
But also her own sexuality is deeply questioned. Was her great friend Judy really her lover?
I liked the way they used the 1977 Barbara Walters interview with Dolly as a narrative musical device that was a recurring theme in the show, supported by a neat live music loop.
I suppose more questionable was the way they cut their vest tops to expose their breasts for most of the show. It might make some of the more strident feminist wing of their devotees uncomfortable, but I was fine with it.
Some of Sh!t’s performance is shambolic (the balloon bursting scene for example) and wilfully amateur in its look and feel (a fair bit of corpsing occurs) but that’s all part of its charm. And I have no doubt it is intended.
I loved it. My wife hated it.
I guess that’s part for the course.
I was taking no risks seeing this. Voted the hit of last year’s Fringe Gadd has toured the world performing it over 200 times.
what I was not prepared for was its kick in the heart emotional trauma.
This is billed as comedy but it’s so much more than that. (But, yes, it’s outrageously funny.)
The ‘more’ is an entire treatise on sexual abuse and the resultant depression.
The monkey of the title is Gadd’s subconscious creating massive panic attacks and extreme self doubt. The show is a metaphor about running away from money demons (the monkey on your back) and so, to bring that metaphor to life Gadd performs it from a tread mill and his vest top gradually saturates as his one hour run slowly overwhelms him physically.
But the low-fi technical brilliance of the show with his sound and video designer, Phil, is what makes it so original and ultimately extremely moving.
My wife is not one to demonstrate her emotions by way of leading a standing ovation.
Until last night.
Bravo indeed Richard Gadd.
I only discovered Blanck Mass the other day. But have immersed myself in his magic vibe since then (but only when the Mrs is down corner shop, cos when she heard me training for the gig she said TURN THAT FUCKING SHITE DOWN. She is deluded.)
He is half of Fuck Buttons.
He is loud.
He is proud.
He is loud.
Really fucking loud.
I clocked one number (the closer) at 200bpm, so I will probably need a fucking hip replacement next week. ‘Cos I was dancing along.
And a hearing aid.
And his videos are like sick (maggots and intestines doing peristaltic movement).
When he weren’t fucking our hips he went for ballads (80bpm), it was a wee bit dull.
But when he cranked it; it was FUCKING great.
Here’s to 200bpm.
Cheers man. Short but sweet.
Another day, another Summerhall 5 star show. This time it’s dance, but with a BIG twist. It’s political and it features dancers that sing, act and deliver spoken word monologues that never outstay their welcome.
First off, can I just say the choreography is beautiful with monologues often delivered in brilliant flowing double-hander dance movements where the dancer/actor seems to flow like water supported by their counterpart whilst delivering their insights.
It’s mesmerising and the first time I’ve ever seen anything even remotely like this.
The show is about Britain’s rise of immigrantion from all over the globe. The cast is led by a gruff Yorkshireman who displays many of the traits we regard as cliches, but performed with a humour and lightness of touch that protects it from parody. I’m afraid there was no programme so I can’t name names but this central and leading character pulled a difficult gig off with ease.
The six dancers were supported by a Colombian multi instrumentalist who worked in tandem with excellent backing music and beautifully held the show together (he too could act when called upon to do so).
The remaining five in the cast represented a second generation African (Nigerian) Londoner fully immersed in UK culture, a Hong Kong Chinese man, A Taiwanese Chinese girl who, with her poor enunciation of English, became the butt of many of the Yorkshireman’s jokes, An Irish Catholic man and a hirsute Egyptian (parodied as an ‘Arab’) is he african? Is he middle Eastern?
It all paves the way for questions about the value or otherwise of multiculturalism, some nice subtle digs at Brexit, debate about religion and which one (including trendy atheism) is best.
And it’s at times funny, always brilliantly delivered, original and downright fascinating.
A true melting pot of our times in a show you should do your best to get tickets for.