For the first time in 30 years, I am a resident of the Edinburgh area, hopping on the bus or train to travel the 30 minutes from my home to visit the other-worldliness which is Edinburgh in August. And then going home again with glorious first-day memories.
First up was “All The Lights are On” by the young Finnish writer Kaisa Lundán, who at 21 has been part of the From Start to Finnish season at Summerhall The translator and director is British/Finnish dramaturg writer and director Julian Garner, and together they have created a beautiful piece. They invite us to join a Scottish cast as they swim in dark waters and offer us the fragments of pain and hope, vulnerability and certainty of living and dying with cancer.
The company is led by a wonderful central performance from Ashley Smith and I recommend it to anyone looking for a new piece of writing, but not if you feel the spotlight may shine too bright on your own current experiences of living with cancer. It is very true, and even better it is at 11.40 before the cludge of all the other dramas in the afternoon.
I declare an interest in seeing this show. I ran The Frog Company with Julian when we were both still at school, doing our first tour with two plays Julian had written back in 1974. We are still working in our chosen fields.
From there I grabbed a ticket to see Breach Theatre’s “It’s True, It’s True, It’s True” at Underbelly Cowgate A company I knew nothing about, but produced by Ellie Claughton a freelance producer who came through the first MA course at Mountview. It is an exploration of the true trial of a 15th century painter in Rome drawn from Latin and Italian texts exploring her horrific treatment by the establishment to, effectively, put her on trial for her artistry and for succumbing to rape. It was a packed house and, I gather from a fellow audience member, offered a very different way of performing than previous Breach shows.
Please please (here comes my annual plea) make a programme available after the show for those people who would like to know who the artists were, where I could find out more about the company, and in this case where I can find out more about the artist and her work. Like so many people going to Fringe shows there are times that you grab a ticket because you are invited, and then run onto the next show without time to research on the internet who you saw. I’d love to cheer the actors – but I can’t. Just an A5 or A4 typed sheet, offered to us if we want, at the end of the show. Please.
And then it was a mad dash to get to The Storytelling Centre for the first performance in front of an audience of Mairi Campbell – Auld Lang Syne presented by Greengold Projects and Authentic Artist Collective, co-created and directed by Kath Burlinson, produced by Kate Taylor and with additional music by Dave Gray and David Francis and animation by Claire Lamond. [ And thank you to Kate Taylor for an excellent simple programme with the biogs of all the artists and creative, logo credits for Creative Scotland on the day I sat next to a senior executive from that body, and the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne with additional interpretation for us old English folk. It was wonderful to see this piece warmly welcomed by an audience who may know Mairi as a consummate Scottish traditional music performer and teacher, or may know her as a sounding artist and storyteller through the first piece Kath and Mairi developed last year “Pulse”. Made in Scotland is a wonderful creative force to allow stories and companies to develop and present work at the Fringe, so that they can be seen and picked up, we hope, for Scottish and International touring. The evening offered us stories from glamour to the simple magic of daisy chains /gowans fine on the way to a gig – from Washington galas to Highland dances. We understand more the journey of the original song that Robert Burns heard and brought forward to a global audience; the challenges of friendships, love and life; and the joy of making (and breaking) New Year’s Resolutions. Thank you Mairi and all involved.
A moment of calm, and a wee drink and crepe at an Assembly Productions eatery as I head to Adele Anderson and Dean Austin’s cabaret singing songs of “disappointment depression and death” Fascinating Aida have a phenomenally loyal audience over the 30 years they have been touring and playing at the Fringe, and a packed preview audience felt as though they were coming to see a close friend – and they were right. However this wasn’t an evening of comic songs and pointed exploration of our lives, it was much deeper and I suspect for some, a much darker evening than they would expect. “death will unite us on a gloomy Sunday”, and here on a joyous Thursday we were united with songwriters like Leiber and Stoller, Harry Warren, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and Adele Anderson. It was wonderful feeling the audience staying with Adele as she took us on a dark journey, her voice is gloriously rich and suited to the material, and Dean has created an orchestration for keyboard which enriches the experience. They prove that, with care, you can take an audience to explore important topics safely – where better that at the Fringe to take those risks.
As any reader of my blogs will know I am exploring Clothing Optional Theatre and working towards the creation of a new piece of work which will engage the audience and performers in asking “How do we choose to reveal our bodies in life performance and art ?” Some of my fringe going is to find the shows which seem to take an audience some way on that journey. Last night was Skin Deep at Gilded Balloon . I was expecting to be taken somewhere deeper than this show chose to explore. It took a cross between naked boys singing and an extended burlesque strip as its form, and whilst the subject matter of the songs was below the belt (as it were), it was presented as an evening of original broadway-like show numbers. The audience came for the willies and got them in the end, but I wonder whether that same audience could have been taken on a very different journey. I look forward to chatting with writer Chris Burgess who I bumped into at the end. I am sure it will pack the place for the month, and after a few pints the audience were having a ball (or 8).
And so back to Waverley Station after a satisfying 5 show mix and a quick train ride home. A sleep in my own bed looking out over the water, and now I am heading away from Edinburgh for some London meetings. Back at the Fringe next Wednesday when I start in earnest.