I was lucky enough to get to Edinburgh 2018 for three days, with a flight out at 7am and one back at (what was supposed to be) 9pm. In that limited time I decided to see as many shows as I possibly could. Unfortunately I missed a few that I really wanted to see due to traffic both on the road and on the streets, but I still managed a very respectable amount!
I’ve not written about the few shows I saw solely for myself as I was just enjoying them not taking notes, but that still leaves me with a lot to write about. So without further ado, let’s get in to day one!
It would be remiss of my to not give a shout out to Grams, a delightful cafe that gave me my only proper meal of the day. Check em out. They are a hipster dream!
This Pants on Fire production was a wonderful nostalgia trip for me – not solely because of the perfectly judged 1940’s setting. Ovid’s Metamorphoses was first developed with a cast of my contemporaries at Rose Bruford College where Artistic Director Peter Bramley served as the much loved Head of Movement. Ten years on (gulp) and the show feels more fresh than ever with its message of harmony with the natural world and the fate that might befall a world that ignores that relationship. If that sounds dry, I can assure you it is not; the tremendously talented young cast sing, dance, play instruments live and had the audience eating out of their hands. I had gone in wondering if my nostalgia might have given me rose-tinted glasses, but be assured that Bramley is the real deal when it comes to Actor Musician-lead movement pieces, and I can’t wait to see what the company does next.
Jen Brister: Meaningless
Brister’s midday show was packed out, something that she seemed surprised by, but for those of us who consider ourselves to be fans of the medium it feels like it’s well overdue. Brister has been a highlight of the circuit for many years now, but it feels like now is her moment. This feels like her best show yet with motherhood creating a relatable and emotional backdrop for her wit and rage. The anger in her delivery for which she is known has been has a wonderful outlet in contemporary politics, and in a post #MeToo landscape she really shines. It’s no small feat to have an audience roaring with laughter at lunchtime, yet alone queueing out of the door, but it’s about time.
I doubt you’ll see anything else quite like Century Song at the fringe. A live performance hybrid between electronic music, classical voice, movement and projection, this ambitious performance is likely to be a bit like marmite. At the heart of it is a truly stunning performance by award winning soprano Neema Bickersteth, whose vocals are soaring and tear-inducingly beautiful and whose movement work is exceptionally detailed and demanding for somebody simultaneously engaging in some serious vocal acrobatics. Seeing her building one particularly precise segment of the show is worth the admission alone.
Theatre to me has always been a seeing place. Its purpose as we know it in Ancient Greece was to be a mirror to society, a forum for us to face and question our experience. Freeman, a play about the relationship between systemic racism, racist oppression and mental health, takes this responsibility on admirably and unflinchingly. The company Strictly Arts has an agenda and they are not hiding it. The play is wholeheartedly political and doesn’t swerve from its purpose, its purpose being to educate, to provoke, and to confront people with the truth of the society they live in are are complicit in. Some scenes are hard to watch and at the show I saw there were a number of walk outs, but in my opinion it is a really strong show from a young company that shows a great understanding of developing narrative, of using a space, of theatricality and storytelling through movement. This is a company you will want to say you saw at the beginning of their journey.
Hot Brown Honey
How do I even describe Hot Brown Honey? Cabaret? Comedy? Political theatre? Just a great night out? The show has been around for years at this point, and I have certainly seen it before, but every time I attend I find something new to love about it. At its heart, Hot Brown Honey is a celebration of indigenous women, a reclaiming of space, a clever subversion of colonial tropes around women who are oppressed by white supremacy. It is a call to arms as much as it is entertainment. My only criticism was reserved for the time slot – the audience at 7.30, even though it was a Saturday night, were glued to their rowed seats. It felt like they were expecting a comedy show (which the billing doesn’t help with) and rather than a riot it was a very respectful affair. Nonetheless, the cheers were plentiful and the Hive is more than thriving. All together now… Moisturise… Decolonise…
Luisa Olmielan: Politics for Bitches
Olmielan is a very funny person. She’s good at her craft. She’s known for being hilarious, on point, approachable, sweet even. But Politics for Bitches isn’t hilarious. I can imagine those who don’t know about the year that she had prior to making this show would have been shocked at what they saw; though Olmielan’s signature delivery is still there, she has changed in the wake of the untimely and unjust death of her mother. As she has said herself, she now has bigger fish to fry. Politics for Bitches straddles the line between stand-up and heartfelt unveiling of anger, of frustration, of a call for change. It’s a show that should be seen and felt.