Every year since I’ve been old enough to go, I’ve kicked myself for not managing to get to Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The world’s biggest arts festival is heaven for any fan of the performing arts, covering every conceivable style and genre. There’s theatre, comedy, dance, musicals, operas, music, exhibitions and all manner of other events to make you laugh, cry and cringe.
With literally thousands of pieces on offer, you have the choice of hundreds of different performances to fill every moment from waking up in the morning to collapsing through the door of your hostel at night. I had a fantastic time in Edinburgh and will certainly be heading back for more. This is my Fringe diary 2013…
Murder, She Didn’t Write – Degrees of Error ★★★☆☆
“Did he have any enemies?”
“No, only anemones.”
An improvised murder mystery play created from a randomly chosen card written by a member of the audience, Degrees of Error’s Murder, She Didn’t Write was pretty funny. At times, I wasn’t sure if I was laughing at the cast or with them as they fought to solve a case involving death by blue-ringed octopus but I certainly had a lot of fun.
Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches – Mermaids ★★★☆☆
Tony Kushner’s Angels in America plays, adapted into a brilliant mini-series by HBO, are some of my favourite works of drama so I was excited to see that Millennium Approaches was being put on at the Fringe. The play was performed by the Mermaids Theatre Group from the University of St Andrews.
The worst thing about the play was the seating. At the Fringe, there are red seats with a gold-coloured frame – if you see these in a venue, you are in for an uncomfortable show. Millennium Approaches is two and a half intense hours long with no interval. Having sat on Satan’s chairs for this long, we were more than ready to leave when the play finished!
This was a pretty good effort at putting on a very complex play. Performers are required to play multiple roles convincingly and the piece’s full-frontal nudity and sex scenes require careful direction. The transitions were a tad lacklustre and the energy seemed to flag a little at points but I’m glad I went.
[Title of Show] – Patch of Blue ★★★★★
The UK premiere of Broadway musical [Title of Show] was undoubtedly my highlight of the fringe. A musical about two men writing a musical about writing a musical for a festival (try saying that three times fast), [Title of Show] was fast, slick, funny and brilliantly performed. The cast was made up of four actors – Carley Stenson, Ricky Johnston, Robbie Towns and Jamie Lee Pike – who gave a stunning performance. The show makes many a not-so-subtle reference to other works and it was great fun trying to spot all of these throughout the performance. A musical for fans of musicals.
Much a Shoo be Doo About Nothing – Courage Performers ★★☆☆☆
An adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing involving dodgy covers of famous Italian songs at vaguely appropriate moments. ‘La donna è mobile‘ from Verdi’s Rigoletto was my lowlight. This was an interesting concept but needed a bit more time. Perhaps it would’ve worked better with original songs.
Will you Hold my Hand? is an educational musical comedy show about early British surgeon John Hunter.
Shocking, amusing and disgusting in equal measure, Tim and Richard know their craft well. I loved every moment.
Avenue Q – Royal Conservatoire of Scotland ★★★☆☆
Avenue Q is one of my favourite things in the world. For this reason, I could go on forever here – but I won’t. The show was a valiant, 3-star attempt at staging a 5-star masterpiece. My least favourite thing was the casting of Trekkie – the actress who portrayed him extracted virtually none of the comedic potential of the character and this was a real shame.
The Odyssey of Dave – Paper Crane Puppet Company ★★☆☆☆
A satirical puppet show which didn’t have a clue where it was going or why. The puppetry was great but the script was dreadful.
WitTank’s comedy show The School was brilliant fun. A hilarious parody of boarding school life with plenty of audience interaction (and an amorous overhead projector), the show was tightly written and enjoyable to watch. One of the funniest moments was definitely the comedians unknowingly picking someone with their wrist in a cast to accompany them on stage to play the piano.
Hanging Bruce-Howard – Gone Rogue ★★★★☆
There is no doubt in my mind that farce is one of the hardest forms of drama to do well. One of the only things harder than performing a farce convincingly is to write a brand new one, but this did not stop former SUSU Theatre Group president Alex Bray from taking on the challenge. One reviewer called the show ‘a textbook demonstration of the conventions of farce‘ – it’s a shame someone who’s clung frantically to life through the pain of a bad farce wasn’t around to point out to her that this is very high praise indeed for a first attempt at the genre. The show was also criticised for not bringing anything new but I’m always sceptical of that kind of remark. Give me something that’s a little done but well-acted and entertaining over something dreadful but oh-so-experimental-and-edgy any day.
Performing as Gone Rogue, the touring name of SUSU’s performing arts societies, members of Theatre Group pulled off Bray’s script in a slick and polished fashion. I may not have laughed until my stomach hurt but I did laugh. I’ve always found Theatre Group to be at their best when performing comedies and Hanging Bruce-Howard was a perfectly enjoyable show for an overcast Thursday afternoon.