Science Fiction at the Fringe

I have to admit I am disappointed at the lack of science-fiction at this year’s Fringe. Despite it being a comeback fringe with less shows, there are still well over three thousand to choose from. Could it be that our worst sci-fi nightmares have arrived in the present, with environmental catastrophe and AI Hell already crossing into our hallways and not even bothering to knock?

It was only a few years ago that dystopian futures, the promise (or threat) of Artificial Intelligence, imaginations of life on other planets, the quirks and possibilities of time travel, alongside the space opera and Dr Who parodies, abounded at the Fringe. Now I can count sci-fi on tall measly pages in the Fringe programme.

And that is worrying. More than ever, theatre and the arts should be exploring alternaties, our different futures and the vital questions raised in the age of information overload, data stealing and the rise of the robots in the form of Alex and worse. Personally, I indulge myself in pessimistic views of the future of our world and humanity. I have a morbid fascination for the very things I fear for all of us. So, I like a good bit of fringe Sci-fi.

Have we just burned out on Black Mirror?

Beginning in the realm of theatre and performance art, you won’t even have to leave your sofa for the online watch on demand Am I Alone? John K in which “author/actor Stephanie Vlahos gives a performance that blurs author with character, thought with creation, fear with love as she embodies the character John K Mercury, an accidental astronaut who wants off the planet and believes hitching a ride on a mission to Mars is the only way. Left to his thoughts in the vast expanse of outer space, Mercury contemplates existence and just like the pied piper, he gathers followers along his way. ‘I am a motorcyclist in a hailstorm recklessly speeding by the grace of a slipstream.’

Now I like a bit of new sci-fi theatre writing and ASSISTED reflects and speculates on what might happen – in our use of language, in how we love and in how we exercise agency – as that technology stops being purely our servant.”

There is a bit of Fringe sci-fi this year, but it is mostly comedy. You’ll be hard put to find a serious sci fi play. So, I’ve been hunting on your behalf and here are a few editor’s picks from your good fringe guide connoisseur.

If sci-fi comedy is your interstellar bag then After Dusk: The Improvised Twilight Zone promises an”improvised parody of the 1960s cult classic that inspired Black Mirror.” If you fancy a comedy War of the Worlds, then head over to Just the Tonic at the Caves for Edy Hurst’s version. For some space-farce-mystery you might want to phase over to the aptly named theSpace @ Surgeons; Hall for Space Mystery: A Mystery in Space

Graduate theatre compnaies at the Fringe can yield up plenty of creativity and hidden gems. You might want to give In-to-Net at Greenside a try. “We all wonder about travelling back to the past, but what if that became a reality? In a dystopian future, one woman ventures into the perilous SIGNAL to search for a lost truth.” The production is “devised by an emerging woman-led theatre company with a mission to raise awareness of women in technology.”

For a “modern re-mix of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man as a high-octane thriller” you’ll need to Tardis across Edinburgh to Zoo Playground for No One. I am delighted to see physical theatre (and a lot more) being emplyed to explore science fiction themes. “Akimbo present this violent, beautiful and comic story through an innovative creative language that blends storytelling and physical theatre with martial arts, puppetry and movement.

The Return of the Planet asks “What if climate change was mainly due to the return of a planet to our solar system every 3,600 years?” and though billed as theatre I sense comedy looming within this piece.

The LGBTQI science fiction scene in literature and film has bloomed in recent years. Now, I wonder what we have here? The Silver Bell is billed as “A tale as old as time: boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy punches hole in universe to get boy back. Join Alan Flanagan (Hollyoaks) and Brendan O’Rourke (Game Of Thrones) as they tell you their reality-bending story of love, loss and trying to find decent sausage rolls in a universe that never invented Greggs.”

A piece of solo storytelling theatre takes the form of A Time Traveler’s Guide to the Present in which “a mysterious broadcast from the future causes 85% of the world to flake out and ghost their friends and family forever. Now, the one person who can travel through spacetime to stop it is a planetarium narrator named Doug.” It is described in the blurb as “a far-out, amped-up, one-man show about the hunt for human connection”

For the whole family, there’s nothing like a meteor full of sci-fi puppetry. Space Hippo. And this is unmissable sci-fi from Japen with an epic difference! “Hilarious, weird and epic science fiction from Japan, experienced through award-winning cinematic shadow puppetry. The performers project over two hundred handmade puppets onto a large screen to create a live analogue motion picture before your very eyes.

Also for the children, don’t miss Captain Zak and the Space Pirates and for some clown scifi for the very young (0-6s), see Clowntown In Space @theSpace: Adventures Back to Earth

Bordering on science and sci-fi the whole family might enjoy Inside the Robot: Quick, I Need Your Help!

For those immersed in sci-fi fandom the see-it-to-believe it One-Man Star Wars™ Trilogy from maestro Charles Ross (he also does the One-Man Lord of the Rings) is back for the zillionth time. Disciples of Dr Who will rise up in either indignation or delight on seeing Any Suggestions, Doctor? The Improvised Doctor Who Parody.

So, there you have it for sci fi at this year’s Fringe. If I find more I will morph this article into something longer. Fringe long and prosper.