Back from London after seeing my son in Imperium (proud dad), I packed in nine shows into two days and already the cream is rising to the top and some images and themes remain, whilst others quietly slip away.
I caught three one-man shows which were as different as it is possible to be. Shôn Dale-Jones in The Duke, which interweaves three stories into one powerful call for support. It is wonderful that Hugh Hughes has moved from the stage into presenting work and what better way to spend an hour than understanding the care one man has for his gran, the frustrations of a writer, and the anger over the refugee crisis – and then realizing you can help the world, very simply, almost painlessly at the end.
Next up was the wonderful young performer Peter Groom who embodies Marlene Dietrich and allows us to wallow in the songs she sang, and learn so much more about the love and light she shone through the second world war at the front. Peter is transferring the show to Wiltons Music Hall and so you can catch it there or, like Kath and I, catch it again which will be our third time of seeing him hold the audience in the tiniest twist of his wrist.
And then hotfoot to see a show about which I knew nothing by a man about whom I knew nothing, except it had a naked poster and was called Revelations – both of which drew me to check it our for possible Revelation – The More Show research. I am late to the party to know the work of James Rowland but I will now hope to see his previous pieces of storytelling when he brings them all back to run together. This is light touch delivery drawing us into his childhood to current deep friendships. It explored the support that friends offer to each other through joy, tough times, and deep tragedy. In the Old Operating Theatre at Summerhall, we were with him every step, and we even had time to help him celebrate the birthday of his young niece – wow the acoustics for choral birthday singing in that space made us all sound brilliant.
If you are ever thinking of doing a one-person show and want to see three people who have explored and continue to master their crafts, then Shôn, Peter and James would not be too bad a triple masterclass.
The title of this blog is the sign offline which Spike Milligan used in all his letters, and if you want daft and at times dark, laugh out loud and sometimes edgy – as I guess Spike was – then look no further than Chris Larner and the amazing interpreter Jeremy Stockwell in Sockfull of Custard at the Pleasance Dome. . Jeremy is also playing Ken Campbell in Ken each day with Terri Johnson which I caught at Hampstead Theatre originally – another fascinating study of a man, who gave his last ever performance when the Pleasance and I ran George Square Theatres back in 2008. Catch both masterful maverick homages.
The Festival is a time to go to your edge, as a producer (not difficult), as a performer (need to be at your fittest to do it), as a critic (sheer stamina and focus) and as an audience member – try something new along with catching the TV comedy performer you want to see live. Three of my favourite spaces to be amazed in (or bemused but never bored in) are Pleasance 2, Zoo Sanctuary and Zoo Southside main space – each perfect for dance and physical theatre companies as they bring new work to our attention. Big stage, small-ish audience capacity. On Sunday I see ZooCo Sirens at Pleasance 2 – can’t wait .
But for now two shows back to back in the two Zoo venues. Again part of my Revelations research – first (Some) Body by the Russian company Alyona Ageeva which used the space for sculptural naked movement meditations on the creation of humanity. Slow, haunting and well received by a fascinated audience. Then hotfoot over to Zoo Southside for DEP by the UK based choreographer Dam Van Huynh . One critic called it “Pina Bausch meets Bill Viola” (Eighteen London) and later today I will be at the Bill Viola exhibition in Edinburgh and can wonder. They added “once seen never forgotten” and with that I can completely concur.
RAVE WARNING – So far the absolute highlight of my Festival and theatregoing for sometime. An exploration of the “notions of death and rebirth” this company of 6 naked dancers are the most fluid, powerful, majestic, playful and disturbing I have seen. And I felt that we were an essential witness to this work which was at times so still and at times impossibly exhausting. So many haunting images of bodies falling, supported, lain together, and lit exquisitely. I was exhausted and exhilarated as I left. Do try and catch them if you like contemporary movement. Thank you to Arts Council England for supporting this kind of work and to Zoo programmers for attracting companies of this callibre to Edinburgh. I will sign up to see more work http://www.damvanhuynh.com/
Over the next week 10 days I will be seeing the festival through other’s eyes. In a week I am hosting 15 Chinese and Malay theatre producers seeing shows and meeting managements in town, but firstly with a series of open panel/workshops at Fringe Central . Today working with Carroll Ho to run a workshop in English and Mandarin about producing theatre, tomorrow our annual Survival Guide to the Fringe which brings in those who are struggling to explore ways forward, followed by a workshop with Ginny Kim which will be in English and Korean about producing theatre. Our aim is to support companies in anyway we can by helping them see the wood for the trees, the light at the end of the tunnel and help them re look at the current position helping them get their glass half full.
Any company or artist reading this – remember that every day the Edinburgh population changes – “another 100 people just got off of the train” – and that’s just from one carriage on the Glasgow to Edinburgh train. So somehow, if a show isn’t selling out, gather your energy and go find people who want to see your show – they’re out there, talk to them (before giving them a flyer) – and offer them with Love, Light and Life