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. Day two was the most jam-packed day, and there were some shows that despite my best efforts I didn’t reach in time to get in such as Sisterhood by Kryia Arts and dressed. by ThisIsEgg, both of which looked amazing.
Read about day one here.
Breakfast on day two came courtesy of the fantastic MILK, who did a fantastic vegan breakfast and didn’t make too much of a face when I asked for a poached egg on it…!
Apparently there is a plot in Woogie Boogie by Korean ensemble Brush Theatre involving a turtle (Boogie) and its owner (Woogie), but I didn’t spot it. Not that it mattered in the slightest to me or the children in the audience, who were engaged right from the pre-show activity where the two performers get the children to draw facial features onto white board faces right until the (oddly touching) final moments. The theatricality of the piece is dazzling, with all the children in attendance wondering out loud how it was that images drawn on the large whiteboard (the only set in the piece) came to life and danced across the screen. The use of projection is so perfectly judged, with a great balance between the analogue and digital throughout the piece.
Woogie Boogie is an excellent introduction to theatricality, rather than narrative. The two figures who are the principle performers are dressed neutrally in matching costumes. The other two visible figures, who are playing the music on a keyboard and a laptop, are similarly visible at all times. The children feel involved in the creation of the adventure and were completely transfixed at all times, which is no mean feat at 10am. An utter delight.
How to Spot an Alien
The Paines Plough Roundabout is one of my favourite performance spaces. A pop-up-and-play ampitheatre that allows the actors nowhere to hide, that demands pitch-perfect writing and precise sound and audio cues. How to Spot an Alien is one of the most high-energy, technically demanding shows I’ve seen in the space. The story follows Jelly and Jonjo as they are put into the care of their “aunt”, who may or may not be an alien from outer space.
The energy of the piece is dazzling. Each of the three performers (Charlotte O’Leary, Katherine Pearce, and Jack Wilkinson, who I will be coming back to in another post) are brilliant in their roles. It’s almost exhausting watching them throw themselves across the space, dancing, rolling, even flossing through a jam-packed 50 minutes. The script is packed full of jokes and had me laughing out loud in multiple places, and the central message about imagination is perfectly demonstrated through the complete absence of props or set. Everything in conjured through the physical work of the actors and the truly stunning lighting design from Peter Small, and the audience were completely along for the ride.
Duckie is a show that seems designed to make somebody like me weep. And weep I did, both at the sad bits and the happy ones. The show is a pitch-perfect introduction to cabaret from the inimitable Le Gateau Chocolat, who leads us through the story of The Ugly Duckling with familiar songs (especially if you’re a fellow child of the eighties) sung in that beautiful, unmistakable baritone voice. I did feel like the sold-out main hall at Summerhall was a little large for such a beautifully intimate show, and some of the children near me at the back of the auditorium did get a little restless from not being able to see the detail of the work done on stage. Nevertheless they all loved it, as did I, and the message to celebrate the person you are seemed to stay with them as they left. You won’t see a show quite like it.
It was the last day of Duckie in Edinburgh when I saw it, but look out for it on tour.
Toby Thompson: For the Record
An experience of theatre is never just in the performance itself. An experience of a theatrical intervention is felt from the moment you enter a space. It is what you bring to the space as much as what you are greeted with. By 3pm, I was utterly drenched. My waterproofs had become waterlogged. I was tired. I could have very easily brought that attitude in with me, but instead I was transported.
The first moment of For the Record is Toby Thompson offering you a small cup of filter coffee, one he pours out himself. The Pleasance That, a small shipping container in which Thompson is performing, is decked out like a living room and the warmth of the greeting seems to heat up the whole space. You are invited to sit and to share. Thompson is a singular talent, a gifted wordsmith with an almost alarmingly open manner about him. His delivery is delightful, a soft lilt punctuated by wry word choices, his body alternating between arms thrown wide open and sitting on the very edge of a piano stool, shoes off, as if he were nervously in the space for the very first time.
The whole show, which is concerned with love both for other people and for music, takes you on a journey that feels so achingly personal and spontaneous that I almost didn’t believe it was directed (surely the best praise for director Jesse Jones). The joy of simply enjoying excellence (in the performance, the staging, the music and, yes, the coffee) was a welcome reminder of what the fringe can be: simply a platform for the very best there is. Treat yourself to an hour in Toby’s company. You’ll be glad you took the time.
Chalk Line are a young company with some big ideas. It’s easy for a first show to be quite a pedestrian affair, but Chalk Line have really dared to experiment with Testament, a show that includes Jesus and Lucifer, dream sequences, physical theatre work, and questions of where we sit in larger plans. Of particular note is the score for the piece. William Patrick Harrison’s sound design is really atmospheric, conjuring an otherworldy reality through a really accomplished score. I would have liked for the parts for the two strong female performers to have been more fleshed out, but it will be interesting to see what the company does next.
Back to the Roundabout again, this time for Sugar Baby, a monologue about gang life in Cardiff. Doing a monologue in such a revealing space is very difficult, its a testament to the writing by Alan Harris and the performance by Adam Redmore (who is absolutely drenched in sweat by the end of this ridiculously demanding performance) that the time flies by. Sugar Baby isn’t particularly deep, it doesn’t have any grand message at the heart of it, but it’s a brilliant caper that really does keep you guessing right up until the (very satisfying) ending. There were plenty of references to localities that I recognised, plenty of brilliant one liners, and I walked out having laughed so hard I felt wheezy.
By midnight I was exhausted I didn’t think I would make it, but Thumpasaurus had other ideas. A brilliantly bonkers band from L.A, Thump are a mixture of Funk, Jazz, Punk spirit, 8 bit, meme culture and sheer talent. Even though I was so tired, I ended up dancing like a woman possessed for hours on end, marveling at the musicianship in the solo breaks and the catchiness of the songs. I downloaded the EP on my walk home, and booked into their London gig at The Lexington. Definitely go and catch them while they’re still this side of the pond.