Sunday, June 22, 2008

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2008 Preview

Now that the Ed Fringe website has finally started to play nice after a week of playing 'hide and seek' it's time we did our first run through of what we hope to see this year. At the moment we're aiming for around 30 shows but there's no guarantee we'll get to see all of them due to time restrictions. But these are the shows we'll be making an effort to see...

As always the Traverse is a great place to start for theatre at the Fringe and we'll be catching 3 of their shows early on to take advantage of the "2 for 1" offers on the first Sunday/Monday. "Free Outgoing" caught our attention with its look at moral and cultural outrage ( review now posted ) and "Fall" ( review now posted ) has an intriguing premise and a strong cast. The description of "Finished with Engines" as a "blackly satirical hatchet job" ensured our attendance ( review now posted ), and we hope to catch "Deep Cut" later in its run. ( review now posted )

We never like to strongly recommend shows without having seen them but Nonsenseroom's "Romeo & Juliet" out at Rosslyn Chapel is the exception. ( review now posted ) It's not just that we've had an excellent track record with them (including last year's "Ballad of James II") it's the 'Special Performances' they are doing on the 9th, 16th and 23rd that really make the difference. These include "a preshow drink, a post-show buffet with more drinks, as well as a chance to meet the cast and crew and find out a bit more about the show and Rosslyn Chapel." We're pretty confident the 'standard' weeknight shows will still be well worth the trip out to Roslin, but the 'Special Performances' really make it an event.

There's a bit of a historical theme to the next few shows we're hoping to see, starting with "My Grandfather's Great War" ( review now posted ) and then moving on to the horrors of the gas chambers in "The Factory" but given the likely intensity of that one we'll need to schedule it carefully ( review now posted ). We also have "White Rose" about student resistance in Nazi Germany (Sadly we couldn't fit this one in) and finally "Restitution" which features one man's quest to recover his family's painting which was stolen by the Nazis. ( review now posted )

Okay, after that lot we'll need to lighten up a little... so we'll be hitting the Musicals and Comedy sections of the programme. Last year Markus Birdman was a last minute gap-filler for us, but we ended up enjoying his stand-up immensely so we'll be back for his new show "Sympathy for the Devil" this year ( review now posted ). After a slow start "The Butler Did It?!" really hit the mark and gave me one of my most memorable moments from last year's Fringe. Then it was a comedic play with a couple of musical set pieces but they have gone a stage further this year and it's now "The Butler Did It?! - The Musical" and I'll be interested to see how it has turned out (not sure if we'll now manage to get to this one). I first suggested seeing "Plague! The Musical" as a bit of a joke but their impressive website has convinced me that it's certainly worth a look (review now posted). Rounding off our musical plans there's "Zanna, Don't!" from the RSAMD students Returning to comedy, sadly there is no new Rebus McTaggart show this year but last year's Rebus McTaggart:Crimewarrior does return for one week only and is a 'must see' if you didn't catch it last time round.

One of the aspects of the Fringe I enjoy most are the shows that fall under the label of "quirky" and I think most of these hold promise... "Call for the Condemned" set in Hell's call centre ( review now posted ), "The Third Condiment" about a new alternative to salt and pepper ( review now posted ), post-nuclear office politics in "After the End" (Please note - this show has been cancelled), "Sword of Maximum Damage" set in the world of role-playing games ( review now posted )and the near-future set "Involution" ( review now posted ). Describing it as a 'sci-fi comedy thriller' puts "Comic Potential" firmly in with the quirky (sadly unable to fit this one in), as does "Creation and All That Jazz" being described as a 'whistle stop tour through evolution' ( review now posted ).

I'm also a sucker for shows with a political edge or setting such as "Time Bomb" set in 2017 ( review now posted ), Macbeth does Westminster in "Golden" ( review now posted ), an Iraqi immigrant's tale in "Dirt" (unfortunately missed due to a run shorter than we realised) , a look at the (miss)use of spin in "Answers" (Review now posted), and the conflict between art and politics in both "Patriot Act" ( review now posted ) and "Army of Reason" ( review now posted ).

So, what does that leave? Well, "On The Waterfront" comes with a strong reputation, and I'm looking forward to "Stolen Secrets" ( review now posted ) from Fin Kennedy's school group that brought us last year's "Mehndi Night". "The Bird" ( review posted ) & "The Bee" ( review posted )are a pair of interlinked tales that caught our eye, so we'll certainly see one and take it from there, and although it's part of the Edinburgh International Festival rather than the Fringe we'll be rounding things off with the National Theatre of Scotland's new show "365" about children passing through the care system ( review posted ).

We'll update this post with any additional shows that grab our attention, and our Tips for Fringe Goers post from last year giving general Fringe advice is still available.

13 Heckles

Anonymous said...

These all look very worthy, but seem to concentrate on central venues. How about some of the outer ones such as How The Other Half Loves by the Makers, Ane Wee Touch O' Class at St Serf's or the comdey Look Who's Talking at Saughtonhall

Statler said...

Thanks for the suggestions. How The Other Half Loves and Look Who's Talking sounded too close to farce for our tastes - something that rarely works well for us. Ane Wee Touch O' Class nearly made "the cut" due to the Rikki Fulton connection and if times work well it may be something we'll try to see. We're certainly happy to consider any venue - with the exception of one or two that proved particularly unsuitable last year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the suggestions! Great! I'll go to some of them! I'd like to know if you would risk to go and see a new company that is bringing a devised piece: a melodrama staged in the round called How it Ended...not just because I'm in it but out of curiosity to know if people who usually go to edinburgh would be interested in it. Thanks!

Waldorf said...

<fx: frantically rummages through Fringe programme>
Nope, not in theatre.
Nope, not in comedy.
Nope, not in musicals.

Fires up!

"Category: Dance & Physical Theatre"

Does it make us bad people that we flick very quickly through that section of the Fringe programme?

I don't know who decides the categories - the companies or the Fringe team, but we would never have even noticed your show if you hadn't posted about it. Even though it's just 12 pages long "Dance & Physical Theatre" doesn't even get a cursory glance from us.

"How it Ended" does sound interesting (well once we expanded on the very limited blurb on the Fringe's website by a bit of creative googling) - so much so that time permitting we will try and fit it in.

Does this mean we need to go check the rest of the section?

Anonymous said...

Hey! Thanks! Well, if you are asking my opinion yes, sometimes physical theatre can be surprisingly good (sometimes can be the worst conceptual paranoid ever and you only wish that the play finishes or actually you leave, I did it for the first time in my life last saturday...) but I guess that cheking the rest of the section could bring you to surprising experiences. Anyway, thank you so much for taking How it Ended into account and I think that you won't be disappointed (or I hope so...!!! Roger.

Anonymous said...

Go on you "bad people" .. try out a show from the Dance & Physical Theatre section .. you may be pleasantly surprised.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sir,

looks like a bloody interesting year , perhaps a different feel to festivals of old.

Did you happen to see To The End Of The World , by Dumbshow Theatre last year ? It was a real hidden Gem that I just stumbled across really , but Mark Radcliff raved about it on BBC Radio 2 and the Scotsman Gave it Pick of the Week ... Anyway they appear to be up again this year with Clock-Heart Boy , I would really reccommend you go and see it for some good old fashioned fringe magic...

sorry about the spelling , awful dyslexia.

god bless

JoLayne said...

I think the trouble with dance/physical theatre is that people tend to dismiss it as pretentious mess, I hope your production shows them otherwise! I'm surprised that 'Lucky You' isn't on here, just because its on at a big venue like the Assembly Rooms doesn't devalue its quality! Lets not be snobs now...

Statler said...

@ Anonymous - I'm not sure 'Clock-heart Boy' is our kind of thing and it's also in a time slot that we're already struggling to see everything we want.

@ Jolayne - Okay, here was my thinking on this one which may be of interest to you and others with shows...

The blurb in the Fringe programme doesn't make it stand out at all and didn't include any website for further info. It also includes a recommendation from the Daily Mail which is rarely a good sign.

Now that you've asked me to look at it again, here's how my train of thought goes...

Mmm.. the Assembly? there isn't anything else on there that caught our interest... bit of trek to fit it in with our other plans... How much are tickets? £20 for the weekend shows...£20!...£20!!!!! We'll reluctantly pay close to that at the Traverse if we can do it on a 2 for 1 but elsewhere that's a real hard sell. Seeing 4 or 5 shows a day makes price a definite issue... But your website looks good... and you do have Paul Reynolds in the cast so that's a plus point.

We'll certainly keep it in mind and if we hear good things we might try to catch it later in its run.

JoLayne said...

Firstly the Daily Mail review would concern the original Carl Hiassen book rather than the production; in the first week there will be loads of offers so I would suggest checking it out then if possible. Aside from that its been produced by Jon Plowman (head of comedy at Beeb)and is incredibly funny so worth the price; anyway, thanks for the feedback, good to know.

Claire said...

You're much more open-minded in your show choices than I am. I'm far too much of a traditionalist!

Good luck with it all...

Waldorf said...

@ Claire

The Fringe is a pretty unique time of year for us, with the vast majority of the shows being 'new'.

Normally, throughout the year, we go to a show because we're interested in the work, know the company or the blurbs attract us. For the Fringe the vast majority of the stuff we pick is purely based on the The Programme (intentional capitals).

Those X number of words are make and break in attracting us in.

There have been at least 3 shows so far this year that have contacted us through the blog that have piqued our interest. But their programme blurb didn't grab us by the throat sufficiently to get included in that all important first pass. And often by then our time slots are full - we do this as a hobby so we're largely through just at weekends. Based on the info they've provided directly to us or by reading up their website, their shows do sound really interesting but it's just too little, too late.

Statler's just said that if more people included websites in their blurb it would be better. I disagree. With the sheer quantity of shows at the Fringe you couldn't practically hope to visit and digest the number of websites, Myspaces and Facebook sites out there.

Spending tons of time honing your show, building set and practicing lines is all for naught if you don't grab the public by the throat.

Anyway - back to my red wine. Hope you have a good Fringe.

Anonymous said...

Coming up late August to see Djupid ("the Deep") which view from the stalls wasn't really totally convinced by, in the Spring when it was at the Oran Moor, I recall. It's at the Assembly Hall. Also doing Rebel Cell at the Underbelly Hullaballu in George Square and poss couple of the bigger shows if I can scrape funds together :-).

Hope you have good fringe :-)