Thanks for accessing my blog! Over the last few years I have been visiting theatres in Scotland representing Fringe Review and building up our profile in Scotland before the annual jamboree that is Edinburgh! I shall be recounting tales, telling stories and reflecting upon all things fringe theatre that comes my way through this blog. I hope to be able to promote things and can be contacted through my email on CommuneArts@GMail.com if people wish to take offence, make comment or offer advice! All will be welcomed… In the meantime all opinion is my ain… naebody else’s… You can also follow me on twitter @CommuneArts.
Illuminating the luminous…
Thursday 28th September 2017
Just when you thought that Festivals were out of the way, in comes another few…
There are Indian dancy things and open doors days aplenty but one that is increasingly catching my eye – for all the wrong and the right reasons is Luminate.
What is Luminate? Luminate, is Scotland’s creative ageing festival, which takes place throughout October.
A quick look down the coast to my old stomping ground and I can see a lot of things that should interest those of us on the wrong side of the new 40…
We begin with an organ (oo err misuss!) and The Organist Entertains: 2 Hands, 2 Feet and 27 Stops is a concert which uses the 1904 Lewis pipe organ at Ayr Town Hall. It’s happening every Monday throughout October! Now I know that at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum that they have regular organ recitals so it is a very enterprising thing to do!
Of course, for me it is all about the theatre and in the Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine, Poorboys’ brings Dammed Rebel Bitches which has a cast from ages 30 to 75. It is on a Scottish tour so you might be able to catch it throughout the month, throughout the country.
At the Gaiety, in Ayr, another Scottish mainstay of the touring circuit, Birds of Paradise Theatre Company, will be out and about – they are already – with Blanche & Butch.
As you would expect from Robert Softley Gale and Kenny Miller, this is apparently hilarious – I hope to catch it during this month or next!
Shamelessly a former student of mine, Kelly Craig, has her effervescent tale, WINCHIN which tells of life in Ayrshire in the 1950s where a world of glamour and dreams awaited the younger generation in Dance Halls and Picture Houses.
It is also at the Gaiety in Ayr.
It may not be touring but if you want to find out what is going on in your neck of the woods try: – http://www.luminatescotland.org/ and find out!
Paradise in the Fall…
Wednesday the 20th of September
Aah… the smell of the crowd. Fringe is gone, panto aint here and serious drama is all around us…
For those of us of a certain hue, serious includes those arts and artists that the mainstream eschew. Birds of Paradise are one of the new mainstream as they take LGBTI+ (I confess to losing ground on the letters getting claimed…) and disabled artists and have meshed them together as part of Blanche and Butch, the latest offering from Artistic Director Robert Softley Gale. I have a soft spot for his work.
Their latest piece is about three disabled drag artists, once called Heelz n Wheelz – so bad it should be true – who decide to take on tour a truly disabled Blanche in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Whatever it was or is likely to be, you can rest assured it is gonnae be taking you to the edge of somewhere challenging.
It’s this kind of theatre that makes my Autumn as I can now relax in the glow of having seen a lot this year and become a wee bit more picky about what I shall want to see now.
This is also a joint production between BOP and the Tron so it kicks off there before doing quite a circuit including Greenock, Stirling, Banchory, Inverness, Dundee, Easterhouse, Ayr, Giffnock and Catstrand and ending up at Summerhall.
I might just roll up to Summerhall at the very end of his when LGBTI+ performers of all ages are being asked to contribute to a cabaret evening to round the whole damn thing off – how lovely… where are my sequins? Did Paul ever give me them back…
If you are interested – here’s how to join them – from their website
“How do apply to take part?
Please email email@example.com outlining your interest in the project, your experience level and idea for performance in an email of around 500 words. Please also provide relevant information about yourself, such as any access requirements and availability. Please also include your preferred methods of communication – ie phone or email. We will then be in touch with more details and whether we need to undertake a selection process due to limited capacity.”
EDINBURGH FRINGE 2017
Friday 15th September
It’s now some time since I went to my kebab shop, round from Bedlam, walked with my son to my car, fell on my backside twice and left the jamboree, which is the Fringe, behind for another year.
The time has come to reflect and in particular – did I take my own advice?
This year I managed 44 shows – more than any other year. Of the days that I spent in Edinburgh I actually went to see more in one particular day than ever before – I got through 12 in one day – my previous record was 11.
I managed to visit my capital on 8 occasions and managed to get round 28 venues.
I did not get to see anything at Quaker’s, Pleasance Dome, Greenside at Royal Terrace, the Traverse, ZOO, the space at venue 45, Sweet Holyrood or Hill Street. Those are ones that I regret, there are far too many venues to get round them all though if someone wanted to pay me to try and get to see all the venues in one Fringe…
Before I arrived at the Fringe, this year, I wrote three articles – one on general advice, and two on recommending some of the shows that might appeal. I focussed on 2 areas – shows from Scotland and Youth Theatres that ought to be under consideration.
My first question I therefore have to consider – is did I take my own general advice?
I gave 12 pieces of Fringe advice for City Base in Edinburgh and I think I was pretty bang on. My advice was…
1 Take risks – I did and saw some stand up and magic – achieved
2 Money guarantees nothing – stayed away from some of the big hitters and picked up some risky stuff – achieved
3 Try the Free stuff – yup saw a couple of shows in amongst the 44 – achieved
4 Long lie ins –I was 3 up by lunchtimes most days – not achieved but for good reasons…
5 Make the Half Price Hut and Fringe App your friend – or join the Fringe Society – used the app every day but found it less than reliable – achieved
6 Support the wee guys – and gals – and non gender specific artists – yup saw some young people and young companies but the LGBT stuff was lost – partly achieved
7 Don’t limit yourself to one place – 28 venues – achieved
8 Wrap up well – found it quite mild this year – kind of… achieved – spent one evening soaked as the Midnight Monsoon caught me out!
9 Hike – 28 venues – achieved
10 Eat local – yup had lots of good food – achieved
11 Do your homework – spent some time doing this but often afterwards so – partly achieved
12 Finally don’t – count on seeing a star on the street; take too many flyers; be surprised if the £20 show is rotten but the free one was superb; take on too much in one day; and jump when the fireworks go off as part of the Tattoo… saw Arthur Smith and Clive Anderson, got caught a few times with flyers (I always feel so guilty if I don’t take one… at least for the first couple of days…), free shows were generally good and the ones that I looked forward to, generally were OK, I always take on too much and I did jump once when the fireworks went off so… – partly achieved
With my 12 tips done I turn to the recommendations I made. Let ems tart by being patriotic…
I suggested 32 Scottish shows at this year’s Fringe and of the 32 I saw Atlas at theSpace @ North Bridge, Out of Bad, at the New Town Theatre, Bright Colours Only, with Pauline Goldsmith at the Assembly Hall and Stellar Quines, in association with National Theatre and Dundee Rep, at the Underbelly Cowgate with the Last Queen of Scotland. This equates to 4 out of 32 which is a paltry 12 ½%. To be fair it was in amongst 3,000 odd shows.
I missed The Cause of Thunder at The New Town Theatre which gutted me and Andy Paterson’s return with the Tobacco Merchant’s Lawyer is one I saw last year so feel I could have added that in…
Next were my tips for Youth theatre and young people’s theatre. I did think about seeing American High School Theatre but of the pure hunners they do, I saw none.
I suggested 15 shows and saw Atlas by the University of St Andrews Performing Arts Fund and the Parker and Snell Youth Company, who were at the Space on the Mile with The Edelweiss Pirates.
And that was it.
That equates to only 2/15 which is about 14% and therefore we have much the same result for both sets of recommendations…
Things I learned as a reviewer? Well…
Technology did not always serve me well, though to be fair, it was more about the input/output issues. I did not know that google docs does not automatically update on your phone and the Fringe app tells lies. Adulting does not start at 10am!!!
Reviewing keeps you humble. I saw a lot of work that was earnest and worthy but playing to a few when it needed a lot to make it worthwhile but they still sold their souls onstage.
Reviewing is becoming increasingly democratic but we wonder if it is becoming more intellectually robust. Our editor Paul found 120 review sites this year and we were all asked by the Fringe to prove we were genuine before issuing a pass for the Festival. If so many people review, what is the difference between those who know what they are talking about and those who are simply picking up a free ticket and giving a false impression?
I still get a buzz when my review is quoted or it ends up on posters. That is not why I do it but I have to say when I saw my Highly Recommended for Death City, I took a pic…
As a reviewer, I often do wonder if I have got the wrong end of the stick and do afterwards look at what other people gave to the shows that I have seen. There is a big list – ironically – done by The List – which does analyse the star ratings given to each show by all the publications of note that give star ratings.
Each year after the Fringe is finished, I look over the list which runs from the best to the worst reviewed shows. Usually I find one of my shows in the top 100 and none in the last 100. Oh, not this year. In a year, I thought was pretty good, I got none in the top 100 but one in the last four! What was absolutely amazing is that the one which I saw, in the last four, was written by local legend Irvine Welsh… I gave it a recommended whilst Three Weeks gave it 4 stars! But the rest… Oh dear… Of the other 3 in the last 4 another show was written by him too so…
Coming in at 1,761st were 3 that I saw which I liked a lot more than my colleagues.
Does this make me change my view? Erm… no. It makes me reflect and I can often see why they thought as they did but was not in agreement with them.
I avoided too many shows this year falling into the would not recommend category. In fact, I saw only one.
I did nearly see another that was sitting with 1 and 2 star reviews but they pulled it before I could see it and they could be further embarrassed.
I saw two I would have given awards to but colleagues did not agree and therefore feel that the health of debate and the number of opinions we have is very much as it ought to be. Let us not be similar but let us all be worthy and keep within a broad church.
Of the awards that were given out I saw two on lists that I would agree with and the rest I never saw.
It has been, for me, at least, a good year.
Overall, I saw less that I would struggle with, more that impressed me and whilst technology frequently deserted me leading to some debate amongst my colleagues at FR, I can head into the autumn and winter knowing we did, once again do a good job. I have been a contributor so I feel good…
Day 8 – the end – Tuesday the 22nd August 2017…
Shows seen – 10, venues visited – 10, leaflets gathered – 5
And now it is here – we are at the final day and it is get on board for the Kebab! Of that more later…
It is my very first encounter, in the flesh, with our editor Paul Levy, this Fringe, as I drag my son along to Brew Lab for breakfast – you really need to do a fry up guys – and a catch up with Paul and others. We get to talk the number of shows we get to see, the issue of stars and how some shows get duff reviews and big star ratings before people with a bit of substance see it and balk at their positive ratings – making them all glum and sad.
After the breakfast coffee and croissant – time to get the pen and pad out…
Let me start with the first show for which I shall not be publishing a review. It is always a disappointment that this happens and I truly feel for the performer. Unfortunately, if we cannot recommend it, that means we do not publish the review. It was also my first visit to this venue this year and therefore not as much of a joy as I had hoped… BUT…
One of the things I do at the Fringe is write notes during performances.
I have a big pad and try and find a discreet seat away from the front to try and not put the performers off. as I have settled into my seat on my first show, I note a man about mid 30s to mid 40s arrive just in time to purchase a ticket, he then is at the desk getting a coffee and makes the start late before noticing me and sitting at the very end of the row on which I am sitting. I fear it is the director and I shall get accosted at the end of the show. There are 5 people in the audience – 3 when it gets started and I and he are 2 of them; not a great start for any performer.
What I find incomprehensible is that about 10 minutes in I notice he has his phone out and is looking at it whilst hiding it under the hood of his jacket. I am aghast and decide to have words if he does ask my opinion at the end of the show.
Once ended we all get up, troop out and he says nothing to me, and I say nothing to him. I ponder what possible role he had in that venue?
Having recovered from the experience of sharing a theatre with him, I find myself in another strange and new experience; sharing a loo with the cast of my next play – Cult-Ure. They are getting changed and I am not.
I get out after them and am called in to take my seat. Just at the point when the play is about to start this guy arrives just in time, takes a seat across from me and proceeds, about 10 minutes in, to take out his phone, hide it behind his hood and start to type.
I begin to feel rather awkward – have I got my first stalker?
As for the play: –
I’m now off to The box, George Square.
I have to say one of the mildly annoying things in the 21st Century is the need to visit press offices to pick up tickets. I have no idea why box office systems are not good enough for them to print free press tickets and this is where the Assembly does become a particular nuisance. Especially for the Assembly Hall which is across Princes street.
I have a couple of shows today from Assembly and one of them IS at the Assembly Hall. I email ahead as I turned up at the press office’s door at half nine and it was shut. Could they send my tickets to the venue? A very kind gentleman called David said he would see me at the venue. I felt comforted that I could rely on them to help out.
Of course, with neither of us having a carnation nor a copy of the Financial Times I stood looking for him before I realised that the guy with the umbrella and the envelope, looking for someone was called David and we needed to communicate.
We did, I got my tickets and well got in to see the show.
Just before it was due to start there was a guy who came in and asked to get past me… after 10 minutes…he got out his phone and started… you get the idea…
I was really getting the feeling I was being stalked.
The problem I now had with all 3 venues was simple – there were ushers – why was he not challenged over the use of his phone? (I have since searched for any evidence of reviews that he might have been doing and have found nowt so what he was doing in 3 shows, back to back, on his phone is a mystery…)
As for the play wow: –
Time to get some lunch and get over Prince’s Street to the Assembly Hall. For the first time, today, I have a leisurely walk across Edinburgh and realise that I may just breach the 40 plays in a Fringe barrier…. For the first time ever, I think. I decide to go and check…
I am off to see one of the ones I really wanted to see and has been a bit of a Scottish success story – a play that has toured the world. I hoped I was not in for a disappointment – oh I was not!
Out of the Assembly Hall and off to a stand up.
The publicist – who turns out to be his wife – had emailed me and, unlike me, I had emailed back and thought, right OK yer flattery works! Didn’t work with the play Burnt Toast that I did not go and see despite the Twitter love I got from them…
Space at Jury’s Inn was the venue and being out the way did not help to sell tickets. The most disconcerting thing was watching that self same publicist and wife, directing people to the other performance in the venue, away from her client and husband, that must have hurt… We were left with a small but select crowd…
I came out in good time and was heading to greenside at infirmary Street for the type of show that should not be shared between father and son. Why? Read on…
The walk from Infirmary Street to Summerhall is long. When your show comes out 10 minutes later than it ought to… it becomes longer as I struggled to get to Summerhall in time. What a great bunch in Summerhall who took pity on me and helped me get my ticket and get on my way to meet my son at Cosmic Scallies. As a deaf young actor, Graeae Theatre Company is one that he knows could be a potential employer so getting to see them, for him, is a particular must. For me, it was to see whether things had developed since the last time I had seen them… all those years ago…
This finished 20 minutes early!!!
Now my programme was nearing the end and the kebab was in sight… I had time for a Turkish coffee and a chance to sit and relax in West Nicholson Street before visiting Zoo for the first time this Fringe. I often sit and think that I should have got here earlier, I ought to have made time, look at all the good stuff I have not seen and so on, and so on…
With an usher that was about 10 years old – breaking at least two laws, we were ushered in and took our seats for #Jesuis …
Next issue – Bedlam had not got back to me re tickets. I had emailed and then had phoned – what do I do? Now I was late getting out of Zoo Southside so thought… maybe … I should not bother… in the end I was glad that I did…
I came out into the night with one left to go.
Ciaran was going to be at Augustines by the end of the night and we had rehearsed the whole where are you at the end thing so that he could find me – his was scheduled to come out after mine. I was at Underbelly Cowgate. He had gone to Traverse, from Cosmic Scallies to see Eve, before his last show and I was seeing adult puppetry for my final and very last show of edfringe 2017 – we do seem to like variety…
Out I came feeling quite nostalgic and it was out very early. I headed up to Augustines to wait for Ciaran and sorted out which shop I was going to get my kebab.
It has been a tradition of mine that at the end of each fringe, like a drunken night out, I would go and get a kebab. Despite being well versed in knowing my Tom Kerridge from my Nigel Slater I am a working class boy at heart and love a kebab. My kids despair.
They despair even more when on the way to the car, coming down a hill towards the Cowgate I slip twice and end up on my arse.
This started with Meeting at 33 and an immersive theatre experience based on an AA meeting and ended with me looking like that is precisely what I needed… kebab in one hand and falling down on the pavement.
2018? I’m ready when you are…
FINAL RUNNING TOTAL FOR 2017
SHOW SEEN – 44
VENUES VISITED – 28
Day 7 – Thursday 17th August 2017
Shows seen – 2, venues visited -2, leaflets picked up 25
Each year one of the kids with whom I work gets saddled with having to come with me to the Fringe. It’s a day out and a good day for both of us though I do not always get to see what I want to see! (Quite rightly!)
It’s a timely reminder to me of just how important communication from the stage is and whether or not it is connecting with the audience it claims it ought to be.
So, we were on our way with no real plans in place. Last year I had gone with this young person, male, and spent the entire day right into the evening there but this year we had a curfew.
It may have meant that late night comedians were out but it did mean that we could get around the place and see quite a bit. He walks soooooooo fast…
We started with some free stuff, not because I am a cheapskate but because it fitted our time frame.
Imagine my surprise – never mind his – when just at the beginning, as the show is about to start, that a young mum sits down besides us and starts breast feeding. He leans in to me to ask, “is it legal to breast feed in this place?” I informed him it was legal to breast feed anywhere in Scotland. At that point, his mind seemed to be alive with possibilities which, at the age of 19, into which I did not want to delve. I did notice him laughing at what was on the stage throughout and he gave me a rundown of what he thought as we left. What I thought as much the same and can be found here: –
Well …. Having had the privilege of seeing Shell Shock last week I was keen to get to see the other piece being done by the same company – Mengele. As I was given “free choice” over what we saw next, that is what we got!
I was very surprised that my partner for the day was very interested in it and talked at some of the video and therefore quite loud times to give me a running commentary of what he thought. Wanting to contribute to my review of the piece he was keen to let me know that the guy, playing Mengele, was trying too hard, using dead big words n that and it was really interesting. He had done some work on the holocaust with me about a year before so it was not new but he liked seeing and hearing from some character that was involved in the genocide – it rounded things off for him.
He then spoke about it all the way to the car and we discussed how the character may have been trying too hard rather than the actor and that made him think – every day being a school day. Here is what we jointly believed: –
So back at the car and heading home we go after a day that was nothing short of a complete success and one we ought to repeat again at some point… Probably in a year’s time…
RUNNING TOTAL FOR 2017
SHOW SEEN – 34
VENUES VISITED – 22
Day Six – Monday the 14th August
Shows seen – 9; venues visited – 5; flyers gathered – 15
I am emboldened. Things have been looking up and I have found a rhythm. The previous cock ups were not down to me.
My first cock up was thinking that Jason and the Argonauts was at 9.35am on Day Three. I have an email that said it was to start at 9.35am… not my fault.
Second mistake was thinking that Adulting started at 10am. It says 10am on the Fringe App… It said 10am on my email…
The problem became that this threw out the rhythm as I was going to dedicate each day geographically. In that way 5 minute gaps were OK. Now I am back to walking distances in short times…
I start today though back at a venue I really like and has the reputation of being one of the best for performers as they really look after them – Sweet Grassmarket.
I get to see something I have not seen enough of this year – Physical theatre and it aint half bad either: –
From Sweet Grassmarket it was off to a Space venue – I am seeing a lot in Space this year – and it’s a Scottish one which is again nice. It’s not that there are not many Scots at the fringe, it’s just bleeding hilarious that there can be so few of them on a stage…
I get my press ticket, put it in a bag or a pocket or somewhere and 10 minutes later I have lost it. Someone had handed one in for resale so I got to use that instead as I joined quite a good queue waiting to go in – always a good thing, queues.
Anyhoo it’s time to smile at some contemporary comedy from a very decent new theatre company – Awkward Talkers –
I get to stay in the same venue for my next one and it means a 15 minute gap as we go back into the same studio as I came out. Youth groups and the Second World War – you can see the attraction. The little known resistance to Hitler from a group of young people known as the Edelweiss Pirates – bang on…
The only issue I have is the guy outside the door having a conversation on his phone that we nearly all answered at one point it was so loud, especially as it was during quite a quiet bit in the piece! With signs all over the place saying, politely, shut up, it’ a wonder he got away with it… but he did… did not spoil the show though: –
Out of the Space for a while and off to the New Town Theatre. Now I had sent my emails in asking for press tickets and heard nothing back. Not unusual but hey we all like to be acknowledged. I went to the venue and explained and a really nice guy went, let’s freestyle this and got me through the door. Of course we are now in the realms of being a little cheeky as the company might not want me to see their work but it was a Scottish production that had been at the innovative A Play, A Pie and A pint so knew it was pretty good – otherwise why revive it. And it wis, so it wis…
I felt a tad guilty and decided that I should at least try and sort this at the box office – what did I find? There is nae box office on the venue. Off I go to find one – a hut along the way and realise my mistake… New Town Theatre – under new management. I hear I am not the only one sending bleeding emails to the wrong email address and they sort out a ticket as I refuel at Starbucks – other coffee chains were available but too far away. I returned for another show at New Town which was pretty good – a good wee visit there this year: –
What I didn’t know was that I had booked this show on my phone on our master list and not refreshed it… I got a row – quite rightly – for nabbing a show someone else had wanted to see and had booked it after me on the master list… I must get that right, I thought…
And then I did it again…
Of course, I had a spare hour or so and decided to fill it with a magic show on PBH Free Fringe. It was almost full and I booked it on the Master list, didn’t click the right thing and therefore did NOT book it at all… Casper got two reviews… here’s mine: –
Other reviews are available… even on our site!
I have always been looking for that ONE show, the drama that would take my socks off. much though I do adore my physical theatre and the young companies that come, I am a dramatist at heart and each year I hope that I can catch something that reminds me of the heart and the soul of the theatre to which I wish to belong… Welcome to Shell Shock…
Coming out of Shell Shock meant a stay in Sweet Grassmarket for my next show and an opportunity for the Producer of Shell Shock to come up and see me. I really like when they do that though it can be a bit of a pain if you don’t like their show; fortunately, I could be effusive. Was a little less effusive over my next one… must be my age…
it’s late… what do I need? Something to cheer me up? Loud people in the queue giving it LARGE about how they have seen some great stuff… NAW! Some Sarah Kane? Actuall… TOUGH HERE IT IS…
RUNNING TOTAL FOR 2017
SHOW SEEN – 32
VENUES VISITED – 21
Day Five – Sunday 13th August
Shows seen – 1; venues visited – 1; flyers gathered – 4
It’s D Day. The day I struggle with at times because I know that my whole being shall be tested if I get it wrong. I have before and I got it spectacularly wrong before. I have, in the past, taken the cowards way out and given her the decision. Taking it into my own hands was a very brave thing to do as it could have gone all wrong but usually, it went right… until THAT year…
I know, a man at my age with my experience should not be such a wimp.
Quacking at the thought of being judged in an area where I profess to have some knowledge. Attempting as I am to pass that knowledge on to others I should be able to stand in front of her and say NO! I know what I am doing.
But she terrifies me.
And she is now 9…
Sunday the 13th, it did have to be the 13th, is the annual outing to the Fringe with my daughter, Cerys. We have come to the Fringe all on our own, with her big sister and with her cousin before. The solo tour was THE one where I went to review something for a friend and it was pitched at an age way below Cerys’s and she has never let me forget it… don’t know who she reminds me… ANYWAY…
This year she was given the brochure and PLENTY of time to pick and then came the fateful words….
So, I did.
David Walliams’ The First Hippo on the Moon at Pleasance Courtyard.
Now we asked her two cousins to chum along and make it less of a worry for me but they abandoned me to my fate by wanting to play Minecraft instead… Bloody kids…
So we set off with about 90 minutes to the start and I began, about halfway in, worrying that I wouldn’t make it…
I put my foot down (safely and always within the speed limit as I have a very small car that can only manage to go above 60 miles an hour on a slope and with a prevailing wind and three bodybuilder pushing…) and got a parking space…
Right outside the Pleasance…
It seemed a worry rather than a comfort… maybe this was going to be as good as it gets…
Then I got my tickets but my card wouldn’t work.
Was this the opposite omen?
I then remembered enthusiastically wanting to be part of the Pleasance’s new card scheme… and that I had never gone to pick mine up… Oh bother… Was that another sign?
Into the back and beyond we went.
We sat in amongst the screaming kids and for the most part she seemed engaged.
At times she would talk to me about a familiar bit – especially the music and…
IT WAS A SUCCESS!!!
Apparently, she has all of David Walliams books at her mums apart from this one…
Highly Recommended she decided. And so did I: –
Back in the car and off to her big sister’s birthday tea…
Until next year… Bloody kids… terrify me…
Day Four – Friday 11th August 2017
Performances seen – 9, venues visited – 5; leaflets gathered – 6
I begin the day late on for me. First show is 10:30am. Venue 13 is a favourite of mine and is in my top 3 venues of the fringe. Unlike my other 2 favourites which retain their charm through being relatively ramshackle, this is a highly well ordered and organised space. It was once a venue used by the former head of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance, Ted Argent and I ken his daughter…
Of course, I have seen some great stuff and some less great stuff in here so today I was hoping that I could get to see some quality. I was hopeful but found that my day gave me far more hope than I could have imagined…
Now again I decided that I was going to continue with daft wee awards and today I started with a double award for the best use of a standard lamp, and the best reveal of a nun to :The Tale of the Cockatrice…
I did not have far to wander for my next show – ‘twas also in Venue 13. Now I had given myself about 30 minutes to get from Venue 13 to Summerhall afterwards and I checked my sat nav and it said 22 minutes walking – time enough thought I. It was going to be tight though but when we went into Venue 13 about 2 or 3 minutes late, I started to worry. It was, however, another tremendous example of why puppetry is so relevant: –
Award for best mushrooms onstage: Heartwood
It came out late. So late I was not going to get to Summerhall in time. I made a big decisions for me – take a taxi. I have NEVER done this before.
Vowed I never would.
But when you have booked into a show and they expect you…
I found a taxi.
On Pleasance, near the top of it after having heaved myself all the way up there! I was knackered and had no cash, only cards so finding a taxi that would take me was a challenge. Eventually a guy took pity and off I went for just under a fiver and…
I was bloody early…
Award for the best example of a law made by sod – me!
As for the first show… well…
Now like before I had made sure that if I was going to be in one venue I should take advantage of being there and book in for a second show. This was a show I had wanted to see. I even emailed Mind the Gap when they sent out the speculative email to say – I want to see this so keep in touch and annoy me until I do.
They did keep in touch and I managed to walk out of the previous show which ended late and straight into this one which was about to start – even though I was supposed to have 15 minutes between to eat…
Mia: Daughters of Fortune should be compulsory viewing for GPs, Social Workers, Health visitors and parents – especially those parents with a learning disability (7% of the learning disabled population in England I was to learn…). It was simply stunning. My advice – beg a ticket, borrow the money or simply steal the opportunity to support something that is asking for your… understanding.
Here is what I thought in more detail: –
Now I come out of Mia and have all the confirmations in place for all my shows for the day apart from one. After the other day, it did have to be from the Space didn’t it!
Then I looked and found it in my Spam folder.
I have now identified all Space emails as spam – how do you even do that? I have no idea and the took a mental note to get it sorted once home. (Still not worked it out…) It was then I was able to see my latest mistake as I had programmed an 11pm performance that was not in Edinburgh till Monday… Eejit so I was going to see but 9 shows today… unless I booked in another one…
Before then I was off to see Whore; A Children’s play. Unlike Mia, I had not been attracted to this by any emails from publicists but from the very title and the massive poster campaign. Shows these things do work and it was well worth getting to Greenside in Infirmary Street for…
Award for best use of a camp medley for dance with a big guy who can REALLY move: Whore; a children’s play…
Right from a worthy one to another worthy one as I go from Learning Disability from England to Disability History in Scotland. Bella Freak was another one I had given a shout out to prior to the Festival beginning so was really looking forward to this. The testimonies in it included one from Lanark Grammar School with whom I have been working over the last 3 years – it was an interesting tale in amongst two others: –
I then had to try and eat.
I walked the length and breadth of the Grassmarket looking for an ATM that did not ask for a kidney to use it and found one eventually … taking the £1.99 charge on the chin.
It was now off to see the Last Queen of Scotland, so called because the Last King of Scotland, according to himself was Idi Amin Dada. This was all about the refugees created by the time God visited Amin and told him to get all the Asians out of Uganda. They went to Britain, a family of whom ended up in Dundee – they clearly had little choice: –
It was now off to Space at Surgeon’s hall for my very first show there. It’s been a great place in the past and another show I had pointed out to people – Bella Freak – was my destination.
Having started my day at Venue 13, I was to finish it there and the thematic link from Amin to Fred and Rose West is hardly a difficult one – is it? I arrived intrigued as I well remembered the time and the events in Gloucester: –
It left me with one more show as I had decided not to try and book a 10th for the day. My son was in Edinburgh and he and his friend Claire may need a lift home – I was the willing taxi. A nice and pleasant performance then… Not a horrible one… Ouija: The Musical – can’t be a bad … can it?
Award for terrifying the living crap out of me today: Ouija the Musical…
Day Three – Wednesday the 9th August 2017
Shows seen – 12; venues visited – 11; leaflets gathered – 23
I am off for day three and it is time for some serious viewing. My target each year is to fit in as many in a day as possible. I think my record is 11 but 10 for a long while was the holy grail. I then managed 10 venues in a day and still think the person who sees all the venues in the shortest possible time – who would have to be a millionaire to do it – would be my hero. For the moment and quite by chance I have sectioned Edinburgh up so that I can cut down on the walking and have planned to visit 12 shows today… TWELVE!?!?!?!??!?
The first show that I see when I get all serious about things is important to me; it sets the tone so to speak. Unusually I manage a 9am show as there are very few things happening on the Fringe before lunchtime… normally.
I have an email that says it starts at 9.35am and know it will cause me some problems right after but I am fit and ready. I toddle in at 9.10am – ITS STARTED AT 9AM!!!! WHAT?!?!?!
I sheepishly enter and get to starting my day in a confused fashion. Fortunately, it started well: –
I was reminded that last year, or was it the year before I started thinking about our teapots which are awards we give out. It was time, then for me to join in with some of my own daft observations and awards I thought – perhaps nobody else thought it was worthy but I don’t care so I started to collect some ideas…
I started with my award for best use of Motorhead in a fight sequence for the day went to: – Jason and the Argonauts.
I got out of Niddry Street and had 15 minutes to get up to Space Triplex. Time to check my emails as there had only been one confirmation from Space re the shows I wanted to see. Mass emails came to say – email 1 place only please. In the past if you wanted to see a show at one of the Space venues you emailed directly to the venue, this year we had a central point. I got to Triplex and got my ticket for the next show I had down for 10am and found it started at 12.55pm…
I had some serious sorting to do.
I found that I had got two shows wrong in terms of times but did not spend any time worrying but now had 10 minutes to redraw my day. I emailed directly to The Space with the legend, “please ignore my previous emails” at the beginning. Central point Space got back in about ten minutes and sorted these all out for me. I was well impressed – award for most effective press folk for today – The Space venues – Award for biggest eejit – me!
I still had Assembly to sort now as they had not got back to me either and now I was going to have to move one of the shows from my schedule for the day to another day but first – I had a free 2 hours.
Let’s go to C thought I and I got to see a musical at 10.30am. I toddled off to try and find a C venue programme – there isn’t any so I ended up looking at the posters for something to see.
Cramming so much in to my day can be a right royal pain in the backside and feet, as anyone delaying or simply fannying about can be a MASSIVE problem. So, I am in the queue waiting to go in for the 10.30am start, notice another really interesting play I would like to see at Triplex and email Space with I hate to be cheeky but… can I, come and see it. I have time we are late starting…
Due to begin at 10.30am Wall is still not started and it is 10.35am. The producers and support team – they have t shirts – are walking about like they are at a tech and we kick off for 10. 40am. Now I wonder if I am going to make that show at Triplex…
In the meantime Wall: –
I got out by 11.35and and my email came on with one from the wonderful Space Press people – yeah not a problem they said –off I went to see Sink. Now I had not put this into the Master List – our bible for making sure we do not duplicate things as reviewers – but took the chance that few people would try and book this for themselves. I was very glad I got to see it…
Award for best use of a Chinese icon today at the Fringe: Sink
Ok so now I was where I thought I would be at 10am but was now there at 12.55pm. Adulting was on my list for the day with assembly now needing a call. I was going to miss the Assembly one I wanted to see so slotted it into another visit – needed to sort the rest of my choices out as the next 3 were ones I REALLY wanted to see. Turns out I had not been emailed my confirmation because they thought I was requesting for the Thursday. In the end they could only accommodate 2 out of my wished for 4…
In the meantime, off to Adulting.
What I found out later was that one of the actors in the show works alongside a former member of the youth theatre that I used to run…. Small world…
Afterwards I took the advice of my mentor, Mr Paul Levy and Guru of all things Fringe like and went to try a couple of new things.
First up stand up comedy in the Free Festival.
Now of course I had seen stand up before but one of Paul’s great Fringe Wisdom memes suggested we should all try at the fringe something new so I thought take a little dip with going back to the stand up stuff.
Actually, I went to see Pottervisoon and took a wrong turn but ended up glad I did: –
Award for best Bangladeshi joke of the fringe so far; Mickey Sharma…
From there I was off again, but not before, I thought I might pop into C Nova and pick up a C brochure. C Nova aint there! Some of their publicity on the windows still is.
I consider if C may be struggling this year, given that they did not have a brochure either… It reminds me that Gryphon is no longer at the Frinmge and for the next 15 minutes or so I remember some of the things in times past that I saw there…
I am now on my merry way and over Princes Street to the Assembly Rooms. I was now really going to try something new – 3D experience with the goggles. I don’t game – my family all do – so this was something they had gone on about at one point but I was now going to experience it for myself. It was actually really good though I was glad I did not pay £12 for it…
Award for best 3D artwork for the day: FuturePlay
With me now having confused people about what I wanted to see now over and done with it was time to settle into my rhythm.
Today I had been on for 12; the round dozen. With me royally trying to screw it up I was now down to 11… or so I thought. With the Free Festival show I was back on track and the time had come to see show number 7. Still at the Assembly Rooms time for an Irvine Welsh show called Performers: –
Award for most cockney rhyming slang in one show: Performers
Having tried to make it so that I could collect shows in geographical areas so I did not have to walk too far to achieve each of them I had thought I was going to Assembly Hall and not the Rooms though and the walk across Princes Street had not been in my original thinking. With the mistakes I had made it was all good though as I had the time.
I had time though to get back over, catch a coffee and settle into the new entrance to Space at North Bridge. Performers had been one of the Scottish plays I had suggested worth a visit, the next one, Atlas had got into my youth guide. I had not been wowed by Performers, perhaps I would be with Atlas: –
I had left myself no longer than 5 minutes to get from North Bridge to the Space on the Mile. Those people who have Edinburgh geography down to a fine art know that means, turn the corner and go in. I was there in plenty of time and here was another youth product, this time from London with Hide: –
Award for best use of strobe lighting in a vertical format today: Hide
Straight out of the mile and a short walk to Greenside at Nicolson Square next. I had made my plans well now – after the cock up of the morning and things were progressing smoothly. When I got to Nicolson Square there was something you don’t see often at the Fringe – a bleeding queue! It heightened my hope and sharpened my senses – my breath was about to be taken from me: –
On the way out I got an anime book for free making this the Award for the best giveaway of the day – Death City!
Now to the Space @ Symposium Hall and some Greek tragedy. It was never going to live up to the Korean tragedy I had just saw but it came pretty damn close. This was a young group and Greek Tragedy is often a go to place for them but often the graveyard for their intentions. This time round I was pleasantly surprised though costume, casting and the boddice ripping were a worry…
Getting late now and about 11pm. I am hangry. Last show better be good and late night sketch stuff is not always my go thing but a Potter in Edinburgh during the Fringe – could I go wrong? Actually naw!
Afterwards it is fish, chips, salt n sauce… My final night kebab is calling me but I resist… traditionally I have a kebab right at the end of Festival as a treat – and I don’t even drink! #livingonthewildside…
Getting out at midnight and then in the car I am off to home which is 35 miles away and I get there about 1.30am. such is my dedication I am about to plan and execute day four. Twelve shows in one day – done the dirty dozen. Day four needs to be more sedate … right???
Monday the 7th August 2017 – Day Two…
Shows seen – 1; leaflets given – 27; venues visited – 2
Slightly more than a dash this time as I came in to see a show with one of the young people with whom I work. We went to see immersive theatre based on an AA meeting. Was a great start to the Fringe for me though she nearly whacked me because she thought I had tricked he into going into a real AA meeting. After 15 minutes or so, the penny dropped and we got into the swing of a performance which she said was “amazing…” Review here: –
So all good and though we were in Edinburgh briefly last year she never went into any shows, this year she went in to one and has demanded that I bring her back… progress indeed.
Sunday the 6th August 2017 – Day One
Shows seen – 0; leaflets given 6; venues visited – 5 to pick up venues guides only
So just a dash into the Fringe to catch what it’s like this year and get my media pass. What have I discovered?
- First visit to the Fringe is always great because you are able to feel the excitement and get the adrenalin rush by proxy before the reviews hit and cynicism begins
- They have moved Fringe Central back to Appleton Tower which is good…
- The Pleasance – toilets guys… Just NO!!!!!!!! which is VERY bad…
- Venue guides is heavy…
- I still cannot find a Free Fringe Guide – wonder if I shall find one before week two for the first time ever…
- Parking still costs a small child and your kidney
- The old city looks like it needs a face lift…
- The St James Centre got her face whacked by the looks of it!
- The old rush of getting around venues and getting excited to be here is in already…
- Roll on day one for real…
The Scots are … ehm …here
Thursday 3rd August 2017
And so we are less than a day away from the jamboree in Edinburgh and time to turn my attention to the whole thing with a focus on my dear auld place – Scotland!
You would think that with the largest Arts festival in the world in its capital it would be shrouded in tartan and offer free shortbread at very venue but we are a little more subtle about things like that – some might even call us anonymous.
Of course, there is no better place to go and try and find and indigenous piece of theatre than the curated Made in Scotland which has no fewer than 4 dance choices, 8 music choice and a whopping 12 theatrical ventures worthy of a visit – catch them here – http://www.madeinscotlandshowcase.com/
But let’s not be lazy and start the search a tad wider – let me begin with Atlas which is funded through the University of St Andrews Performing Arts Fund and is at theSpace @ North Bridge.
There are quite a few Scottish promoters out there now with Salt n Sauce and Feir Pley amongst them and they both tend to play the populist card so you are unlikely to end up disappointed with much they produce – there can be exceptions! This year there’s Blurred Justice, Places, Civil Disobedience, Yonder Window, Sex Offence, a 5:30 Cabaret and Out of Bed, all at the New Town Theatre.
Bets of their bunch is a co production between them with Davy Hayman and writer Chris Dolan back in The Cause of Thunder at, you guessed it The New Town Theatre. This is part 2 and having met Bob Cunningham 2 years ago when he was contemplating taking a risk when the auld trade unionist became a convert tae independence we are in for more self reflection and common cause with the common man.
There is also Bonnie Fechters at the Scottish Storytelling Centre which looks a treat whilst Cracked Tiles is back with Lorenzo Novani taking it back out for a for a limited run at C Royale. Cumbernauld Theatre have The Gardener at Summerhall and Kieran Hurley is there too with Heads Up.
The major part of the Made in Scotland showcase that I am most interested to see is a kind of disjointed double bill that the National Theatre of Scotland has with Adam and Eve which both challenge gender stereotypes with the wondrous Jo Clifford centre stage in Eve. They are both on at the Traverse. The National Theatre of Scotland also present How to Act at Summerhall. The children’s Scottish content is a bit muted and the one I would love to catch is The Polar Bears Go Up at EICC.
Two big events that I shall do my best to definitely get round are Bright Colours Only, which Pauline Goldsmith brings back for another run, the first seen as a classic whilst Morag Fullarton, doyen of Borderline and now one of two Artistic Directors at the Oran Mor has Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Divas at the Gilded Balloon at the Rose. The Play, a Pie and a Pint phenomenon can be caught at the Space on the Mile whilst the very excellent Stellar Quines, in association with National Theatre and Dundee Rep, find themselves at the Underbelly Cowgate with the Last Queen of Scotland.
Andy Paterson returns with the Tobacco Merchant’s Lawyer and Sex Offence at the New Town Theatre and Girvan’s finest playwright Douglas Maxwell is at the Traverse Theatre with a co production between Birmingham Rep and the Traverse in The Whip Hand.
To keep with the spirit of the Fringe of course you could make some room for The Tobermory Players who are at the Quaker House with A Stool against the Printed Rule in a limited run as Walls and Bridges in theSpace @ New Bridge showcases the Acting Coaches of Scotland or catch Edinburgh People’s Theatre in Wedding Fever at Mayfield Salisbury Church. Then of course, Bedlam Theatre is run by Edinburgh university students and there is a performance by their theatre company with Sugar and Salt (Nae sauce…)
Dance has some nice flourishes with the Alba Flamenica and Edinburgh Ballet Circle (love that thought…) with Death in Venice at Greenside at Nicolson Square. My old mates at Solar Bear Theatre Company are here with Unsex Me Here, a co production with Company Cordelia tackling Lady Macbeth. Scottish Dance Theatre will be at both Zoo Southside and Summerhall with 3 shows – Process Day and TuTu Mucky at Zoo and Velvet Petal: Bedroom at Summerhall.
Finally, if Opera/musicals are yer thing – Mary Queen of Scots (presumably mainly with head attached) is at the artspace@ St Marks courtesy of Lewis MacDonald and Ingrid Sawyers.
Aye plenty tae see… so there is…
Fringe… yer back!?!?
Saturday 22nd July 2017
We are now beginning to see tears on the edges of the Fringe programme at home and tears on the pages themselves as the enormity of the task facing us guys who want to get to see so much in Edinburgh in August realise that we are likely to end up seeing so little.
In my musings over the programme this year I have had a chance to start to sort out what youth theatre style work I want to see. Now it is hard when youth theatres decide not to be announced as youth theatres so bear with me. I shall likely have missed some very good and decent youth theatre companies in amongst the whole lot but let me get the thing kicked off with American High School Theatre.
Now I am not necessarily recommending them as I counted no fewer than 38 shows across the whole of the Festival and in amongst them there should be something worth seeing? I have to admit to being a little curious but they do tend to the popular rather than the challenging…
We do have however, Atlas by the University of St Andrews Performing Arts Fund and whilst they might not be a YOOF Featre per se, they come a touch closer than most I fink. It has a limited run up at the Space on the North Bridge and is all philosophical and historical which seems to fit the old St Andrews vibe.
The Curse of Cranholme Abbey is this year’s entry from Young Pleasance and I have always been mightily impressed by them. This year it is all desolate and haunting and in the Courtyard for the first 2 weeks.
Another limited run, this time from the 14th to the 19th, is the Parker and Snell Youth Company, who are at the Space on the Mile with The Edelweiss Pirates. As you can imagine it is more Nazi than flower power and hard not to resist.
Just before it and in C South you can catch The Theatre School with Girls Like That which is all about the contemporary and very real issue of photo sharing inappropriate images of young women – highly important, topical and worth a look. We can hope it is more artistic than worthy but they at least have the authentic voice of youth to help.
In Zoo Southside Youth Connection Theatre Company have the First World War – still an anniversary, still going strong – on their minds with The Lucky Durhams: First Day of the Somme. This turns up late in the programme – the 21st and you only have 7 shows to catch it.
St Ives Youth Theatre bring So I’ve Heard to the Sweet Grassmarket which seems to be all Chinese Whispers and running 15th to 20th August. Another one driven by issues that young people face today – gossip.
Newbury Youth Theatre are taking a risk in the children’s section with The Glorious Invention of Emmanuel Stork which visits the Quaker Meeting House between 7th and 12th. This is a company which is much lauded in the past, and working with animals and children often comes second to performing in front of them as tough gigs so well done them for taking it on.
Tribe Porty Youth Theatre are also in with the kids but on safer territory at the Space on Niddry Street as they have the effervescent You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown – sure to be more of a safe bet? Surely???
Dance, and physical theatre will have a host of young companies but they do tend to want to be known for their art rather than their age so I am reduced to looking forward to Scottish Dance Theatre who have a triple bill of Process Day and TuTuMucky at Zoo Southside and Velvet Petal: Bedroom at Summerhall; and the Lothian Youth Dance Company with Why Step There? at Dance Base. All have limited runs with Scottish Dance Theatre running at least 2 at a time between the 16th and 27th whilst you only have from the 4th to the 9th to catch the Lothian Youth Dance Company.
Musical and Opera, like the rest, tend to hide their youth in amongst grown up company names but I did spot the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland bringing Atlantic: America and the Great War and Atlantic: A Scottish Story to the Assembly Hall from early on till late in the Festival whilst they also have Into The Woods running at the same time.
Most of the youth companies are running programmes that are short in run, but longer in running time. Don’t be put off, much of the hour long snapshot you get from some Fringe shows means that they are unable to develop fully whilst the overarching need in youth companies to give everyone a chance is to be treasured and not condemned. I am off now to see which ones I can bleeding well fit in – Oh Woe Is Me!!!
There’s a storm?
Friday the 7th July 2017
There is a quietness abroad just now, like a false dawn. I had realised we had got to July and was sure that it was close to August but did not quite get my head round just how close it is to July until the other day!
This blog has been moved into the Fringe Blog area on our website, the demands for me to go and review things are coming in thick and fast and now I have been asked to sort out my media accreditation; Jings all is ready for the 70th anniversary of the annual jamboree that is… EDINBURGH.
But before we do go and see things cultural in the capital there are a couple of notable events this weekend. Firstly, at the Gaiety in Ayr we have the National Festival of Youth Theatre with Youth Theatre Arts Scotland. This has moved from its home of the last 6 years of Glenrothes and tents are being erected as I type in Ayr for the participants who end up with a camping/performance experience the likes of which will cement relationships or make bitter enemies of those who sleep in them! Usually it is the latter – my son went to for a few years with Deaf Youth Theatre.
The important stuff – the shows – are all at the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr and here for you to peruse – http://www.ytas.org.uk/national-festival-youth-theatre/. As you might expect there is some really good stuff including The Gaiety Young Company with an original piece of theatre created by The Gaiety’s resident young company; Made in Ayrshire; Lord of the Flies from Centrestage in Kilmarnock; Unconscious by East Lothian Youth Theatre; Buckle Up by Firefly Arts, from West Lothian who have always been an original and unique star on the Youth theatre stage; internationally we have What A Piece of Work is Man by SOPA Youth Theatre of Malta, whilst we can look forward to Project 404 by The Regal Youth Company, West Lothian, Small Talk from Cumbernauld Youth Theatre and finally a highly well regarded group from Falkirk who shall present The Incredible Adam Spark, Falkirk Youth Theatre
You can also catch some very inspiring stuff at the CCA with the Village Storytelling Festival to be found here – http://www.cca-glasgow.com/programme/village-storytelling-festival-2017 I must confess to knowing a lot less about this Festival but it looks the part and at the CCA it is always a challenging mix of things familiar and very “out there!” Truly inspirational at times.
I shall miss both as I am off to Sheffield to see previously mentioned son in Tribes by Nina Raine at The Crucible.
Coincidentally, Ciaran was reviewed last Monday which was the same night I went to see my last performance for Fringe review – I was off to review on the same night as he was being reviewed! It served as a reminder of the responsibilities I undertake by raising the pen, the eyebrow and tempering the curled lip. Fortunately, both were blessed with the smiling review Gods and all was good.