REVIEWS: Skip to: Bite-Size, Waves, Swansong, The Jungle Book, Le Bossu, Boris: World King, BEASTS, Police Cops, The Unknown Soldier, Adventures of a Redheaded Coffee Shop Girl, Northanger Abbey, Overshadowed, Stack, The Trunk, Made in Cumbria, The Dark Room, The Life and Crimes of Reverend Raccoon, E15, The Club, Boris and Sergey, Notflix, Cosmic Fear, Sacre Blue, Tis a Pity She’s a Whore, The Steampunk Tempest, Ruby and the Vinyl, Communicate, Unnatural Selection, Unveiled
Okay, here we go. Got a long article ahead of me to write, condensing all of the rambling thoughts in my live coverage into one coherent article. There’s 22,706 words of live coverage to summarise, so please bear with me, it will take some time. It will, as usual, come in dribs and drabs. Last time it took me months to complete the coverage – I hope to a be a bit more timely this year.
So, I had a very good Edinburgh Fringe this year, due in a large part to my ever-expanding list of shows from performers who I know and expect to be good. This, combined with the increasing number of review invitations I received, also meant I had a very busy fringe, with 35 shows seen in total, and 6-show days becoming a new norm. There were a few side-effects to this, the big one being that I’ve had to start saying no to the odd review invitation. I’m going to give my review policy a rethink for next year. In the meantime, however, this year I saw no absolute turkeys and so I’m able to review all the plays I saw. The only things I haven’t reviewed is the odd piece (mostly stand-up comedy and sketch comedy) that was too different from the theatre I’m used to reviewing for me to be able to make a qualified judgement.
Before I embark on what’s going to be a beast of a roundup, let’s start with this … Continue reading
Yeek. Fringe officially starts tomorrow. Better get a move on with this. I’ve done my usual scan through the fringe programme and picked out things that grabbed my attention. And to keep to size down to something manageable, I am restricting my list to acts I’ve seen before (with one exception that I couldn’t resist). Even so, the list is getting longer, and I may struggle to see all of these in the time I have in Edinburgh.
As usual, please treat this as a cross-section of the good stuff out there, not a comprehensive top 25 of the entire fringe or whatever. The vast majority of things in the programme are people I’ve never heard of who could be great, good, mediocre or shit. There are quite a few plays I’ve heard good things about from other reviewers, but they won’t come on to this list until I see it for myself. If you want to see a list that gives fair consideration to all plays across the whole programme, there are arts publications that aim to do that, but for me it’s down to what I’ve happened to see, and in a festival of this size, this largely comes down to chance.
Enough disclaimers though. What have I got for you? Continue reading
REVIEWS: Skip to: Bite-Size Lunch Hour, Stack, Waves, Swansong, The Jungle Book, Le Bossu, Cosmic Fear, The Trunk, Sacre Blue, The Steampunk Tempest, ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore, Made in Cumbria, Boris & Sergey, Ruby and the Vinyl, Boris: World King, BEASTS, Police Cops, Adventures of a Redheaded Coffee Shop Girl, The Life and Crimes and Reverend Raccoon, Communicate, The Unknown Soldier, Bite-Size Breakfast, E15, Northanger Abbey, Unnatural Selection, Notflix, Unveiled, The Club, Overshadowed
This was my coverage of the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe as it happened, featuring snap reviews with my instant impressions of shows. For the more measured reviews written at a more leisurely pace, see my Roundup. Here, however, you can see what I was thinking at the time. Continue reading
If Live Theatre and Northern Stage are serious about supporting artists who go to the Edinburgh Fringe off their own backs, there’s a little thing they could do which would mean a lot to them.
Last year I wrote an article around the opening of Alphabetti Theatre with a radical proposal that Live could follow in their footsteps and make theatre more accessible by using their undercroft as some sort of open access space. Looking back now, it’s interesting to see how things have developed. To some extent, this is a less important issue than it was because Northern Stage are now doing something similar by encouraging groups to use their Stage 3. Also, Alphabetti is saturated with bookings six months ahead, which shows just how much suppressed demand is out there. I’m increasingly coming to the opinion we can only balance supply and demand with a second Alphabetti-style theatre in Newcastle.
But forget about that for now. I want to make a completely different proposal for how Live Theatre can do more to support small-scale artists, and this one includes Northern Stage too. Unlike my last proposal, this is a trivially easy thing to do, it will cost nothing, but it will mean a hell of lot to some artists out there. Let me explain …
Faced-paced story, debauchery, coming-of-age stories, and live perfomances of ELO – could you ask for anything more? Well, maybe …
This offering from the National Theatre of Scotland might be a runaway hit, but I have a feeling that their fans won’t include the Catholic Education Service of the UK. Set in writer Alan Warner’s hometown of Oban (or, more fairly, a partially fictionalised version referred to as “The Port” in the original book The Sopranos), it begins at a school with an unusually high teenage pregnancy rate. But don’t worry, God told the Pope the perfect answer: give the girls of the town a sound moral upbringing by putting them in an all-girls school where nuns teach lessons that sex is a sin and the word “boys” is not allowed, because, like, that always works, doesn’t it?
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour appeals to a lot of people in different ways, but the main audience for this play seems to be women with fond nostalgia of their youth. I’m not one of those people, because this is about as far removed from my teenage years as can be – I was more minded to sit through this debauchery with a middle-aged “harumph”. But for me, I instead got to enjoy marvelling at the extent of human stupidity – in this case, the stupidity of whoever thought this trip a choir contest was a good idea, bearing in mind it’s the first trip on their own for many of their girls. And it’s to Edinburgh, #2 city in Scotland for drinking after Glasgow, and #1 city for debauched hedonism. And to top it all off, with the contest not being until 6 in the evening, the girls are welcome to go off on their own for the day to see the city. Grief, what did they think was going to happen?
Yet again, I leave it embarrassingly late to do my Edinburgh Fringe roundup. My sort-of excuse is that I had a very busy June, July and August for unrelated reasons, so I’ve spent most of September hibernating. But no more excuses, I’d better get a move on. Once new feature I’m introducing this year is that I’ll be comparing my review to all the professional reviews, see how it compares, and give my comments on any interesting discrepancies. As a result of that, it’s going to be a long piece, so I’m going to do it in instalments. Come back here and you’ll see the article grow.
So, it’s been another good fringe at Edinburgh. This is probably due in large part to me getting to know better who the good acts are, but there was a decent number of gems from people I’d never heard of. As a result, I’m going to repeat what I did last year and have a very top category of “Outstanding Fringe performance” to separate the best of the best from the rest of the excellence.
And a new feature this year is that I will be looking at the reviews of other people. I try to avoid looking at other reviews before I write mine, because I want to avoid my verdict being prejudiced, but afterwards it’s interesting to see what other people think. Usually my verdict is in line with the other reviews, but there are few notable and interesting exceptions. I will talk about that as I come to them.
Anyone who can’t wait to know who’s going to be in my list can see it in my live coverage of Edinburgh, but for everyone else, it’s a drum roll. Who has scooped my highest honour? Continue reading
COMMENT: There’s nothing wrong with supporting Palestinian artists coming to the Edinburgh Fringe. But don’t be fooled by this talk of “free Israeli voices”.
One theme that has kept cropping up in this year’s Edinburgh Fringe is censorship. The University of Edinburgh has just held an event called “Theatre Censorship Now“, and Underbelly has programmed a series of plays Walking the Tightrope to discuss this very issue. I think we can safely assume that this is entirely in response to the protests that led to the cancellation of an Israeli play last year, because arts subsidies from the Israeli government is all sinister propaganda to make wars look good which is why all the UK artists nobly stuck by their principles and refused all money from the UK government. Possibly. I have already said what I think about the boycott, and what I think about the demonstrators demanding the boycott, and if you haven’t read those articles all you can probably guess how contemptuous my opinion is.
However, one supporter of the anti-Israel boycott I am taking seriously is playwright David Greig. When most of the supporters of this boycott were making excuses for the murderers of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, David Greig condemned it. When most of the demonstrators’ behaviour ranged from nastiness to borderline anti-Semitism, David Greig did at least attempt to say that wasn’t the tactics he liked to see. Now, a cynical interpretation is that David Greig is simply happy to allow other people to do the dirty work for him, but I prefer to take things in good faith where possible. So I am going to assume that David Greig’s own response to this event, his “Welcome to the Fringe” idea, is a genuine attempt to do some good and doesn’t have a hidden agenda. Continue reading