Sunday, June 26, 2011

Edinburgh Fringe 2011 - First Picks

As always with our Fringe previews, what follows shouldn't really be taken as recommendations - while some of our choices are based on experience with the companies, many are simply shows that we think might interest us based on the blurbs in the Fringe Programme. Your mileage may vary.

But before we get to that, we do have reviews already for a couple of productions that are now being revived for the Fringe. We adored the Citizens "One Million Tiny Plays About Britain" and Mark Thomas gave us an entertaining and thought provoking evening with his "Extreme Rambling". The Tron's "Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut" was a fantastic night out and should feature near the top of anyone's list of must-see shows.

We've managed to put together quite a considerable list of shows - it was so much easier than last year when we found the pickings to be rather on the slim side. The downside of that is that with so many shows it will be harder than ever to schedule them all - and budget will certainly play a part too. So sadly it's inevitable that while we'd like to see all these shows, some will be 'lost along the way'.

We'd wanted to see Dundee Rep's production of Dennis Kelly's "After the End" but couldn't schedule the trip to Dundee, so it was good to see them taking it to Edinburgh. We also missed Fish and Game's "Alma Mater" at Scotland Street School last year so it's another show we're hoping to fit in - we love its idea of using technology as part of the performance.

We like the sound of "Commencement" with its schoolgirl revolution while the Comedian's Theatre Company are always worth seeing, so "Cul-de-Sac" is high on our list of shows to fit in.

Having given us "Sub Rosa" and "White Tea" in recent years we're more than willing to indulge David Leddy - even if his 'innovative meditation' in "Untitled Love Story" sounds a little outside our comfort zone. Similarly You Need Me have been pushing our boundaries since we first saw one of their shows three years ago. After a year's absence we're really looking forward to seeing what they have in store for us with "Death Song".

Long time followers of our Fringe coverage may have noticed that any show describing itself as "darkly comic" will catch our attention - but woe betide a show that doesn't live up to that billing. The first of those shows attempting the equivalent of a chocolate fondant on Masterchef is "The Ducks" which looks at youth unemployment. "Pushing up Poppies" set in a WWI trench also attempts the task, but should benefit from having Kieran Lynn as a writer - I've really enjoyed some of his other plays.

While for many Fringe-goers (and the press critics) the Traverse is their main hub for the first week, previous bad experiences and high ticket prices make us wary of booking up. But "The Golden Dragon" with its promise of "whisking you away from your local takeaway to East Asia and back" is enough to convince us to take a chance.

The prospect of "Handling Bach", a show about a fictional meeting between composers Handel and Bach wouldn't normally get a second glance from us, but Nonsenseroom have more than earned our trust over a number of years. As always with their shows out at Rosslyn Chapel we particularly recommend booking up for one of their 'special evenings' on Saturdays 13th & 20th which include a light buffet and tour of the Chapel. The Chapel is a bus trip out from the city centre but the effort should be well rewarded.

I've been wanting to see Fin Kennedy's play "How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found" for several years so I'm delighted to see The Outsiders staging it - so much so that we're prepared to break our usual rule of avoiding anything in a 'hotel venue'.

We've enjoyed a few of Mike Maran's storytelling shows over the years and we're looking forward to seeing his tale of the Italians who made their home in Scotland in "Italia'n'Caledonia". A different take on immigration/integration also caught our eye in the shape of "Rose" which focuses on the struggle between 1st and 2nd generation middle eastern immigrants starring father and daughter Art & Keira Malik.

A comedy based on a search to cast a dog in a film could well be awful but something about "Lights, Camera, Walkies" makes us want to give it a chance. Similarly unusual is "The Tour Guide" which appears to take place on an open top bus around the city.

"The Monster in the Hall" was a big hit for the Citizens/TAG last year and it's great to see them taking it to the Traverse, but unless we can take advantage of a 2 for 1 offer that whole "Traverse ticket price" thing might be a problem. Of course, the Traverse isn't the only place where prices can make us think twice about a show - Steven Berkoff's "Oedipus" at the Pleasance is another show with higher prices than we'd like. Also at the Pleasance but with a much more attractive price tag is "One Under" - a tale set on the London Underground from PartingShot.

Cumbernauld Theatre's "Viewless" is set around a witness protection programme and as we enjoyed their previous take on "The Wasp Factory" we reckon this is worth a look. Of course when it comes to relying on a company's reputation few shows are in better standing than "What Remains" from site-specific legends Grid Iron. But seriously - at up to £19 a ticket we're already left wishing we'd booked up before the 2 for 1 offer sold out.

And rounding up the shows that Waldorf and I plan on seeing together is "The World According to Bertie" - an adaptation of an Alexander McCall Smith novel.

But that's only the beginning, we've each got shows that we just can't persuade the other to see, so we've got our individual lists too...

I'm not sure that "Antony and Cleopatra" would normally make my list, but I've enjoyed reading director Claire Wood's Play Thing blog on her efforts to put it together, so I'd like to see how it turns out. "Dust" seems certain to gain plenty of publicity with being set on the day of Margaret Thatcher's death and featuring Arthur Scargill (as a character - not the real one!). Staying with politics/history (although going a little further back) is "The Trials of Galileo". I'm also hoping to see "Remember This" from Edinburgh University Theatre Company as I really enjoyed their "Wild Allegations" last year.

Rather unusually, and possibly inspired by her new Edinburgh based job, Waldorf has managed to find herself a substantial number of shows she hopes to see on her own. It remains to be seen just how many of her ambitious list can be fitted in to long lunches or early finishes (and she may wait for early reviews). Realistically I'll be amazed if she manages more than a handful and god knows when she'll get round to writing them up, so if these are your shows please don't count on a review you can use. Anyway, here is what caught her eye...

Bawbees and Ducats or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Piazza
The Boy James
Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson
The End
Even in Edinburgh / Glasgow
Find Me
4.3 Miles from Nowhere
Free Time Radical
(g)Host City
The Girl Who Thought She Was Irish
Go to Your God Like a Soldier
The Historians
I, Malvolio
The Laramie Project
Laundry Boy
Me, Myself & Miss Gibbs
Minute After Midday
The Mourning Party
One Thousand Paper Cranes
Private Peaceful
Simon Callow in Tuesday at Tescos
Taketh Me Away
The Toll
Your Last Breath

And do feel free to let us know what your tips are...

4 Heckles

Anonymous said...

Tin Can People from Montreal is a good suggestion.

Michael Starr said...

Whoops you missed... The Curse of Miss Fortune. A Rip roaring darkly comedy if ever there was one. Don't quote piggy when handing in your ticket to the usher though.

Claire said...

I'm impressed by your consistent and ongoing support of our efforts. It's very much appreciated!

Thank you.

David said...

Hey! My name's David, I co-wrote and co-directed Wild Allegations last year! You gave us an absolutely lovely review!

I've also co-written another new play on at the same venue, Bedlam Theatre, called "Timothy":

We've dubbed it a "psychological suspense comedy". Hope you might be interested! It features the female lead from WA last year (whilst the actor who played the brother in WA is also starring in the EUTC's "Remember This" this year! He's a talented lad).