What’s worth watching: Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Skip to: The Ballad of Mulan, Call Mr. Robeson, Green Knight, Gulliver, Mustard, No One, Nyctophilia, Skank, Watson: the Final Problem, The Bush, Jekyll and Hyde: A One-Woman Show, Make-Up, Trainspotting, Vermin, Charlotte Johnson, Faulty Towers, The Glummer Twins, The Grandmothers Grimm, Head Girl, The Importance of Being … Earnest?, Room, Sex, Lies and Improvisation, Shelton on Sinatra, Famous Puppet Death Scenes, 52 Souls, 1972: The Future of Sex, Ghislaine/Gabler, comedy listings, The Little Glass Slipper

So, welcome to Edinburgh Fringe 2022. Last year, when all the fringes launched comebacks against the odds, it was the big celebration. Now comes the big hangover.

Edinburgh Fringe is not the only fringe with post-2021 blues. Brighton Fringe has had its own problems – in fact, Brighton Fringe’s woes were a lot more obvious: the disappearance (possibly permanent disappearance) of its biggest venue. To an Edinburgh Fringe visitor, Fringe 2022 is probably going to look very much like a typical fringe of the 2010s. Under the hood however, there’s a lot of trouble brewing.

As this piece is primarily a list of recommendations for punters, I shall hold off giving the full story just now. Most the problems are going to be noticed by performers a lot more than the public, but for now I’ll focus on the big one: the cost of accommodation. There have been a lot of stories of ridiculously-priced digs, and it appears to be down to a lot of landlords who bought up properties specifically to make money from renting in August, who are now trying to chase their losses from two years with next to no income by whacking up prices this year.

This might have a knock-on effect for punters, as performers stay away from rip-off digs and instead take up accommodation normally used by visitors. However, the most prominent effect – I think – is the rise of short runs. I’m going to avoid committing to this one too much because a few years ago everyone was convinced this was happened until someone did the number-crunching at this was debunked. But, I swear, I’ve seen way more shows only running part of the festival than before. On top of that, I’ve anecdotally heard lots of performers say they’re doing short runs because the full fringe isn’t affordable. Lots of consequences of this if it’s true, but what it means for you right now is to not assume that the show you’re thinking of seeing will still be running next week. A lot of them won’t.

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Odds and sods: June 2022

Yes, I know, it’s closer to August than June now – for those of you who follow my projects, you’ll know what kept me busy. But there’s some bits of news that have happened since the end of Brighton Fringe that need some attention. Three of these things are probably some sort of good news, in either the sort term or the long term; however, the other one is a very sorry development of a once-respectable organisation who’ve committed the thing I hate more than anything else: hypocrisy.

Stuff that happened in June

But let’s leave that till last. Most of the news from last month and this month is about the Edinburgh Fringe; I will be leaving that for my Edinburgh Fringe coverage itself. But apart from that, this happened:

Quentin Letts strikes again

Apologies. I hear you all going “Oh no, not this one again.” Bear with me, there is a reason why I’m picking this one up.

As pretty much everyone has worked out by now, Quentin Letts is a theatre reviewer who makes a name for himself but being controversial and offensive for the sake of it. Until now, he’s been mostly active at the Daily Mail where he panders to an audience who like diatribes about the wokies who’ve taken over theatre, and the easy solution was to just not invite the Daily Mail to press nights – seriously, what are you missing? Unfortunately, for some reason he is now also reviewing for The Sunday Times. Anyway, the furore broke out all over again with the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production of Legally Blonde, where the part of Elle Woods was played by a black woman.

Against my better judgement, I read the review (content warning: Quentin Letts). Now, if you think the story doesn’t work if the lead is played by someone who’s clearly not a natural blonde, I will defend you right to say so (although the obvious solution, as always: if you don’t like it, don’t watch it). This review, however, was just nasty, with far more thinly-veiled personal insults than anything about the show itself. That is different from what I’ve seen before. His infamous reviews of Salome and The Fantastic Follies of Mrs. Rich, attention-seeking drivel though they were, has a method: he chose his words have a bare minimum of objectionable content needed to cause widespread outrage. This one, I have to say, was bile from start to finish.

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We Are The Best (and more from June)

Skip to: We are the Best, Charlotte Johnson, Criminally Untrue

I’ve been meaning to lessen my gaps between watching plays and writing reviews, and this has been one of my longer gaps. Apologies – anyone who saw me tearing my hair out at Buxton will understand way.

Anyway, in June I saw a play and two comedy acts worth reviews, and I was quite pleased with all of them. Let’s dive in.

We Are The Best!

It is Sweden in the early 1980s. According to popular mythology, this was the period in history when enjoying any pop group other than ABBA gets up hung drawn and quartered (with punishment today commuted to death by lethal injection). In actual fact, however, Sweden’s music scene was pretty much like ours, with diverse tastes from Scandi-disco to punk. Another thing that isn’t that different to us is the depiction of teenage life in the graphic novel Never Goodnight, later made into a film. It is this relatable theme that Live Theatre’s new artistic director is banking on. Almost everybody who comes to Live remembers their secondary school days, but where Live Theatre was pushing hard was to a teenage audience, who are going through this now.

It is the dress rehearsal of the Year 8 school concert, and impossibly rebellious friends Klara and Bobo are doing their hard-hitting (and, admittedly, slightly cringy) presentation about the plight of the planet. When they get dropped by the somewhat disdainful teachers, they resolve to take matters into their own hands. With a punk scene emerging all over, they see this as the best way of changing the world, with the first song Sports are Shit chosen after a netball practice where they are busy chatting to each other on the netball court rather than playing. Before you set your sights too high, though, this isn’t the start of a meteoric rise to fame alongside the Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, and Talking Heads (and later: the inevitable dignity-crushing downfall when they appear in an insurance advert). Rather, they are one of the many punk bands of the time who could only sort-of play instruments – yes, the title was being sort-of ironic – but didn’t care what anyone thinks.

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