Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Edinburgh Festival 2006

This year was only our second visit to the Festival. Despite working in Edinburgh for many years I had avoided it as being too unpredicable to be confident of seeing anything other than dross. A visit prompted by Christian Slater's role in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in 2004 was a turning point, and although we didn't make it across in 2005, this year saw us make two visits and we managed to fit in 6 shows...

The Receipt @ The Assembly Rooms, Fuel Theatre
“The Receipt” is very nearly the perfect Fringe show - excellent physical performances, well written, very funny, and just that little bit different. I wouldn’t dream of trying to outline the plot or format of the show - but our “hero” is along the lines of “Willy Loman” from “Death of a Salesman” crossed with Dustin Hoffman’s character from “Rain Man” who suddenly finds that trivialities are all he has left. His story is retold through performances and techniques that on paper just shouldn’t work, but on the stage definitely deliver. I said “nearly” the perfect fringe show as it does run out of steam a little towards the end, and if they can find a way of ending the show more in keeping with the rest of the performance it would be absolutely perfect. A great way to get your day off to a start.

Fahrenheit 451 @ Gilded Ballon, Godlight Theatre Company
This is a well delivered staging of Bradbury’s classic work. The absence of backdrops and props have obviously focused the group’s minds on how to portray the main set pieces and they are aided greatly by the use of sound and lighting effects, although it did take me a while to work out the “Walls”. The cast slip easily and believably from character to character with each getting a chance to shine. I was a little disappointed that the show didn’t quite resonate for today’s society as I had hoped it might, but it is certainly a very enjoyable way to spend an hour or so.

The Regina Monologues @ “C”, Tidemark Theatre
This deserves to stand or fall on the basis of its central conceit of six present day wives of one man with parallels to the wives of Henry VIII, and on that basis it should stand proud. It’s very easy to believe the tales of these modern women while we are left to reflect on their historical counterparts and the acting is of a high quality although it is only the final wife who managed to really engage my interest. It is both funny and sad in moments, but I am left with the feeling that it isn’t quite as clever as it likes to think it is. The show was also hindered by its staging in a venue with a loud air-con or fan unit in danger of drowning out some of the quieter deliveries, and due to the way the seats are tiered, some characters are at times delivering lines out of view of a large portion of the audience. Worth seeing for its ambitious concept - but make sure you get in the front half of the seating.

Lord of the Flies @ Augustines, Feltonfleet School
An excellent performance of “Lord of the Flies” by a remarkable young cast. We had wondered how adults would portray the children of the story and it was only the night before that we discovered the cast were all schoolchildren of an age with the characters. Those playing the main characters perform well beyond their years, and the supporting cast ensure they are each memorable in their individual roles. Great use of a minimal set/props but “line of sight” was a problem for some of the audience from time to time. If you missed the show you definitely missed out - remember the group for next year!

“Rebus McTaggart” @ Smirnoff Underbelly, Richard Thomson
This was my first show this year that I had chosen after the reviews started to appear, so expectations were high. Fortunately the show lived up to them. At times it did threaten to disappoint as the secondary characters don’t deliver in the same way as Rebus McTaggart does, and to be honest if they weren’t there they wouldn’t be missed (with the exception of the sniffer dog!) McTaggart is where it is at for this show and he’s well crafted and excellent at interacting with the audience. The Crime Reconstruction was truly funny and original - Crimewatch will never be the same again. See this show - I suspect well be seeing a lot more of Richard Thomson in years to come.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” @ Rosslyn Chapel, Nonsenseroom Productions
Wonderful setting for a wonderful performance, an absolute joy from start to finish. Very good performances from the cast all round, and I never like singling out an individual, but the actress playing Helena delivered the best individual performance I’ve seen at this years Fringe, and I’ve been lucky enough to see some great shows. She brought a great presence to the roles and made a clear distinction between her characters in looks and mannerisms. I was lucky enough to attend a Saturday night performance with buffet and chapel tour - well worth paying the extra for as it made the whole thing even more of an experience. Really can’t recommend this show highly enough and we're really looking forward to their Christmas production of "The Canterville Ghost".

1 Heckle

Waldorf said...

Tips for the Fringe

Take a waterproof jacket

Take suncream

Take a bag for all the leaflets you're going to get handed

If going for the day plan it out in advance. Either fully book your day with at least one hour gaps between shows in case of overruns and to allow time to get between venues OR book the one or two things you really want to see and grab a last minute show from a leafleter

If a you're offered tickets for a free show it's usually free for a reason, but you might be pleasantly surprised

Wear comfortable shoes, especially if your venues are some distance apart

If travelling back to Glasgow watch your times back. Although the trains to Queen Street are regular the stations along the way might only be once an hour

All those leaflets you gathered during the day can be really useful in venues without air conditioning on hot days