Going site-specific at Edfringe 2023

Site-specific theatre and performance has been just about everywhere in Edinburgh from down at the docks to a graveyard, from a real hotel room to the underground catacombs that honeycomb the city, from swimming pools to the register of births and deaths. Site-specific theatre takes you away from traditional performance spaces and the location becomes the thing, or at least a big part of the thing.

This year is no exception. Read on…

Let’s begin with 1000 Miniature Meadows, Shanna May Breen’s and Luke Casserly’s “invitation to step into nearby nature and listen to what it has to say.” We are told to “xxpect an intimate soundscape, expert interviews and a conversation with a bumblebee” as we experience something “part letter project, part sound project, and part city-wide planting project, this fizzy triptych will begin with you collecting a Listening Pack from the Pleasance Courtyard”.

Now, you’ll experience nothing quite like Eliminate the Impossible. “Sherlock Holmes has gone missing; we need your help to find him! Using the Worldwide Automated Tracking System Online Network (WATSON), you will go on an immersive adventure across the festival, solving puzzles and delving into the mystery of what has happened to our elusive detective. This immersive game can be played at your own pace; you can drop in and out of the mystery over the course of the festival, or try to solve it all in one day. You will need to travel to multiple places in the festival, and will need to access Eliminate-The-Impossible.com.”

The Horizon Showcase: FORGE also promises something singularly different. Here’s the premise:”In 2014 the 100kg iron “welcome” gate was stolen from Dachau concentration camp. A local blacksmith forged a replica. Exactly like the original. Almost. Over three days, we are invited by Rachel Mars “to bear witness as she welds together another copy. This impactful durational performance installation with live welding and atmospheric sound-world by Dinah Mullen explores who memorials are for and who decides. You are invited to watch, sit, and be immersed in this durational installation.” There are multiple time slots are available each day. You can plan to stay as long as you like, subject to capacity.

Onto some performance art now. As part of the #DANISH portfolio of work at Summerhall, Sensuous Governing is self-described as a “manifestation” in which you’ll go on an “immersive and otherworldly journey into the governing structures of our society”. During the “manifestation”  … “you will explore your poetic self – as well as hopes and dreams for a potential future society called Sensuous Society. A new world where everything is governed by the principles of the aesthetic dimension. During the manifestation you will meet several of the Sisters Hope performers who will guide and facilitate you on your journey.”

The other site specific events at the Fringe are the various tours of the city which list in the programme and there may be others to look out for, listed under “immersive” work in the Fringe programme.

For example, Klanghaus: Darkroom is a ‘performance for one person at a time’ that takes place in the basement of a Church. Here’s the lowdown on this piece from Klanghaus: “Developed alongside climate scientists from UEA’s Tyndall Centre and The Barn Aberdeenshire, this is an intense, profoundly emotional and affecting climate chaos wake-up call. Acclaimed at COP26, this is sensory virtual reality for the ears. A space to think and reflect from the creators of KlangHaus. Performed in total darkness for one person. ‘Being alone in the dark invites you to imagine being alone with a complete climate breakdown, brings home the power of nature, the powerlessness of a single human in the absence of society. Humans need society’ (Catherine Rowett former Green MEP, Professor of Philosophy, UEA).” (Also take a look at Klanghaus: InHaus).

For another in-the-dark performance, this one set in a shipping container, Arcade offers “an interactive narrative that uses the nostalgic 8-bit aesthetic of 1980s video games to explore the evolving relationship between players and avatars”. Here you, the audience, get directly involved as you “choose-your-own-path experience” as players “fully immerse … in alternate environments in a completely dark shipping container, using 360 degree binaural sound and sensory effects. Players will be asked to address deep existential questions about free will and consciousness in a world where some may win and some may lose…”

For some site-specific immersive comedy you;ll need to head down the ancient tone steps to the Edinburgh Dungeon for the farcical murder mystery Edinburgh Dungeon – There’s Been a Murder! You are chllenged to “join the Secret Society of Scottish Scoundrels and investigate the shocking murder of Edinburgh’s famous Madamé Ruby Red. As you move through the Dungeon, the sinister story will unfold around you. Keep your wits about you as you encounter famous characters from Scotland’s past – no one is above suspicion. Was it the cannibals in the courtroom with the candlestick?”

Now, at last, onto the proverbial swimming pool production. Horizon Showcase: Bodies is a colloration from Summerhall @ Deans Community High School. They “transform a swimming pool into a unique immersive environment in which to explore the essential character of water, its universal presence, and the importance of collective action in achieving climate justice. We are invited by Young to gather in the pool to float, discover, and move in synchronisation. Here, the dynamics of individual and collective energies play out as powerful and often opposing forces. With our very existence threatened by climate emergency, Bodies holds space to navigate the complex relationship we have with the planet, and the urgent responsibilities we have to each other.”

And there we have it (so far). If you’d like to step out of your comfort zone of conventional theatre spaces, try something site-specific at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.