Furthganyan Embro folk come hame
For three weeks in the year
& find Auld Reekie not the same
Fu sturrit in a steir
Shows So Far – 25
Hangovers – 2
This morning, as I went to see my first play of the day, I picked up the ‘Three Weeks’ bi-daily broadsheet containing 30 reviews. One of them, unfortunately, was for VICTOR POPE’S first show, & really slates the guy. I mean, come on, it was his first performance for god’s sake (it was that bad) but there was no allowance for settling in given at all. If the lady who made the review (I know where you live darlin’) saw yesterday’s gig, she would have written a completely different, & probably wonderful review. A cursary glance through the rest of the reviews gives us many a negative vibe. I dont know if you’ve noticed, but I havent slated one show yet (tho privately I might have), for I realise the effort that goes into creating a performance & yanking it half way round the world at one’s own expense. Instead I’m more about the essence of the show & shall leave the opinions & attendance to the watcher. Who’s right is it anyway to criticize someone else’s hard-wrought work! Either better it yourself or shut the heck up!
Lunchtime today, after hiking through another soggy city, I found myself at SWEET VENUES at the Apex Hotel on the Grassmarket. The play I was presented with is called THE REALM OF LOVE OR FOLDING LAUNDRY (5-14 / 12.20), from the American PERIHELION PRODUCTIONS, which is is something of a recurring dream come to life. Its author, Karyn Traut, had said dream one night & wrote it down, the word-seeds that would one day blossom into this extremely relaxing flower of thought. The main part is played by a cute actress (Anoo Tree Brod) in her 30’s, who defines the sovereign Realm of Love to a gentlemen ‘friend’ (Brian Westcott) as she folds & plays with her washing, at one time donning a towel like a bridal gown. It is more of a monologue than a play, with the guy helping the narrative ebb & flow. This made it possible that the two actors (she’s from North Carolina & he’s based in Alaska) could rehearse over Skype – as far as they know a world first! At the end of the show the playwright & actors sat down for a discussion, which centred on the ambiguity of the man & woman’s relationship – a deliberate device by Mrs Traut. A soothing & reflective show, with many a poetic flourish, it was like having a nice bath with bubbles listening to classic FM with a glass of Chardonnay, especially immersed in that lovely Carolina accent!
I spent the rest of the afternoon at the SUMMERHALL at the far eastern edge of the Meadows, a new venue for the fringe, swarming all over the old Royal Dick Veterinary School. My ever elegant mate Bonnie is front of house & very kindly gave me full access to a couple of shows. The first number was No.52 – TO BE OR NOT TO BE.. OR WHATEVER IT WILL BE (7-16 / 14.30), a wyrd mix of singing & physical theatre, which tells the story, rather operatically, of life in a common suburban household. The O’Reillys are actually TWO’S COMPANY THREES A CROWD, from Rose Bruford College in London. They start off singing the Lord’s Prayer, & sing other classics throughout, such as the Pater Nostra in Latin, & some South African numbers such as the very special tones of Siya Hamba. Around that they present a disharmonoius domestic (yet real) habitat, with dad, wife & teenage daughter sometimes conversing all at once, yet not to each other, finishing with a great bellow from dad. The sensation of seeing this play was like rushing through a wind tunnel, an image invoked when one of the actress started vacuuming up. A surreal, niche affair, but definitely worth watching.
Having an hour or so to kill between shows, I had a great hour wandering around the art installations of the SUMMERHALL. The most interesting was an exhibition of 20th century French artists, CHRISTAIN BOLTANSKI’s work, by local art dealer, Paul Robertson. I knew nothing of the artist himself (im a poet y’see), but had a fascinating tour round the – extensive collection with a wee biog to boot. It tunrs out Boltanski’s dad was a jew hiding under the floorboards in Nazi-occupied France, who nipped out one night to plant the artists seed in his mum’s womb. Born in fear & darkness, then, Boltanski explored these themes, yet always retained a freshness that inspires his collectors. One piece I saw was the Malmo 1993 phone book, with an errata page of all those peopel who died that year – quirky, yet pricey at £2.500. He was also one of the pioneers of mail art, some of which formed the centre piece of Robertson’s colelction. Back in 1966 Boltanski had found some metal boxes, filled them with trinkets such as meager pieces of fabric & cuttings of his hair, photographed the contents, & sent photo & box off to galleries, frineds & even randoms from the phone book. Roll on 50 years & one of those boxes sets you back £20,000!
The bottom crust of my Summerhall sandwich was the incredible TRAUMATIKON (6-20 – 16.15), again from Rosebruford, & what a panapoly of personalities graced that stage. It was more of a school hall than an actual theatre, with chairs L-shaping the larg-ish room. But what this did is thrust you right into the centre of the action, which is pre-dominantly set in a restaurant. It felt as if I was actually eating there myself, especially when members of the 25-strong cast, all youthful & litheful, turned to talk to me from time to time. The show is something of a romp through the twentieth century, from Muhammed Ali to some flamenco dancer I never caught the name of. The ensemble are all dressed in stylish black, with ghostly face-paint & strutted around the stage like a Broadway musical. The soundscape was immense, a combination of pre-recorded sounds & three excellent musicians (piano, double bass & djembe), while the movement & sheer synergy of the collective was awesome. It was a compendium of caricature & a banquet of bohemia, from the gigantic winged Valkyrie to the ciggarette smoking photographer letting off her sporadic flashes as she stalked the stage like Jim Morrisson. Even though the collective were often all speaking at once – recreating the hub-hub of the restaurant – it never, ever jarred, & was at times as sweet as honey. The show is long – an hour & an half – but after the conventioanl hour, the tables were all cleared away & we were presented with an avant garde cabaret of the Circus Dramatika Abstractica. Of the acts presented, the dad from No.52 had two hot ladies on chains as his lionesses, clawing & hissing the audience. Very dramatic stuff, & the very feline brunette, sporting silk gloves & high-heels, as she squatted poised to pounce, is the most beautiful objets d’art I have seen thus far this fringe. At the end of the show, co-founder of the Traverse theatre Richard Demarco got to his feet & clapped vigorously for a lot longer than anyone else. He was quoted in the company’s programme so I guessed these guys are his babies & damn right he should be proud!
On the way home (to type this up) I met Paul Fletcher, who was reveiweing ROSIE’S POP DIARY for me. Its great having him on board – both reviews have been to notch – & tomorrow Ive given him two assignments. Here’s his from today anyway…
I have temporally decamped from the grass market and the military tattoo for a few days and set up office in the new town of Edinburgh on a quiet street called Bellevue(beautiful view in French). Therefore my itchy trigger finger has relaxed and the zombie military loving tourists of Edinburgh are safe. For now!
Today I went to see ROSIE’S POP DIARY at the TRON BAR (4th-28th – 18.20). A one woman show of music, stories and comedy, where the aforementioned Rosie boldly stands on stage and retells her stories of when she was a journalist for ‘making music’ magazine and lead singer in her band ‘Wilby’. With the help of a slide projection the audience are treated to the life and times of a journalist\musician living through the Britpop 90’s. The stories are funny and interesting, especially when she reads some of her fan mail, and we get a secretive glimpse into the mind of fanatics expressing their confused adoration. Being a kid of the 90’s myself I enjoyed walking in to the music of Suede and harking back to this era in a nostalgic way. The real gems of the show however are Rosie’s songs, which are beautiful and tender. I loved ‘This time’ and ‘You amaze me’, which both made me wish I had bought her ‘Precious Hours’ album back in the day! Is it still available Rosie?
Rosie doing stand up
It is through these songs that the show has its real strength and we got a much deeper glimpse into who Rosie Wilby is. I think it also because these are not comedy songs that this show has an edge over the countless other comedic shows in town at the moment. This is a show about the soundtracks to our lives, about how we change through the years, about how things that’s seemed important when we were young are maybe not that important. Things change, people move on, and it seems for Rosie this is a good thing!
After three hours writing I ventured out into the now sock-soaking wintry weather for my last show of the day, LOOSER WOMEN (11-29 – 22.45) at the GILDED BALLOON. It’s basically ITV’s Loose Women but much ruder. The writers are Suzanne Portnoy & Tim Fountain, & their mouthpieces are the three comediennes, a bolshy KAREN DUNBAR, a heavily pregnant WENDY WASON & cute RACHAEL PARRIS. What follows is an often hilarious hour of sexual revelations, the highlight of which was their recreation of the coital chit-chat a group of 18-year old cockneys, who’d been given a crate of stella & recorded by the writers. The bulk of teh show is made up of contributions from the public, delivered with accented panache from the three ladies (except Karen Dunbar’s Northern Irish, which is comically terrible). For any couples out there I reckon its a great piece of late-night foreplay & definitely left the auditarium with a semi.
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH