Category Archives: Damo’s Daily Blog
Each is indubitably & absolutely Edinburgh
Each is proudly & consciously different from the rest
Shows So Far – 13
Hangovers – 1
With the recent Tory Arts council cuts cutting the trembling throat of regional theatre, suddenly the Fringe has become important again for our beloved, board-treading companies. To the punter on the street this means an increase in quality, & my first show of the day, Leila Ghaznavi’s BROKEN WING (9-14 / 17-20 – 11.45) is easily the best play I’ve seen so far. From the outside, venue 13 – HARRY YOUNGER HALL – looks unspectacular, with a couple of gazebos & two portakabins uncermoniously dumped outside to form the HQ. The actors were getting changed in the toilets at the front of the building for gods sake. However, never judge a book by its cover, for inside one is presented with a wonderful, comfortable theatre & a serene ambience. BROKEN WING’s own stage was an sensous eastern affair, with Persian carpets hanging from the ceiling with sable silks draped over the stage liitered with rose petals. The play itself was a beautifully written piece, played out by Americans, full of realistic fast chat & nail-on-the head Islamic culture. They told us a very engaging, thought provoking story. Essentially a young girl who had been orphaned by an earthquake in Iran had attached herself to this man & shared his bed from the age of 5 (they married at 16). Roll on to the present day & an American photographer has moved into their household – resulting in them falling in love. Subsequently she was stoned to death for adultery – & tho we dont witnness so brutal an act – the poetic description was enough to get me squirming! One of the neatest things about the play was the click of a camera that seperated scenes.
I was joined for my next play – THE DICK & THE ROSE (8-13,15-20,22-27 13:30) – by Victor Pope. This was at the very plush POINT hotel, near Lothian Road, & Im still trying to digest the play. The company, OUTCAST CAFE THEATRIX, are from a small town called South Lee in Massachusis, a tight ship ran by its eccentric director. The show is his baby & he announces each scene with a thespian relish that is almost pantomime. The play is a very visceral, erotic affair, accompanied by a whole host of different instruments, from skiffle washboards to acordians, banjos & a cello. This very avant garde story is about sex & its consequences, & uses a highly unique piece of scenery. You could call it a giant quilt with holes in, from which sesame street puppets, human heads & a giant penis emerge, the latter snaking across the quilt form erection to erection. A warm & visually splendid affair, I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my life, & still feel a little dazed writing about it. While watching I realised how cool Edinburgh is at this time of the year, with flash-fires of creativity bursting out all over the city at any given moment. The muses are definitely in town & are having to clone themsleves just to keep things ticking over.
On the way to my next culture-nugget I found myself in the Grassmarket, the great tourist-friendly square at the foot of the castle. In the bygone days before football 30,000 people would flock there to see an execution, but today, on the very spot of the gallows, I found an ebbulient bandmaster driving forward the euphoric music of Britain’s first Guggenmusik band, GUGGE 200. It was invented in Switerland & means ‘Happy Music’ & indeed, the team of tubas sucked up all of my worldy woes! There were several drum kits on trolleys (& one pram) trumpets, bass drums, tamborines & over fifty smiling band members up from Bournemouth.
Just off the Grassmarket is Paul’s house, who’d joined me for a couple of plays the other day. It was then that he offered to join my ‘staff’ & assist me in my reviewing. He’d already been down to the brass band to tell them to shut the fuck up (to no avail) & was happy to leave the Grassmarket for the short walk to the top of the Royal Mile & the C TOO venue for WHAT IT FEELS LIKE (8-21 – 16.30) from the young, funky, innovative ENCOMPASS PRODUCTIONS. So, with a fanfare of friendhsip & a roll of literary drums, I would like you all to meet your new reviewer, give it up ladies & gentlemen, for MR PAUL FLETCHER;
You would think living in the grass market with an excellent view of Edinburgh castle would be an ideal location to enjoy the festival, but being obliged to listen to the military tattoo every night and having to hustle your way through the crowds of tourists, just to buy a pint of milk, can all become a very frustrating experience indeed. So much so that I want to climb up to my roof and start picking off the tourists with an AK-47! Die! Die! Die! You fuckers! Die! Aaarrggghhhh!
But Wait! Stop me now! Am I really going to turn into another Edinburgher bemoaning how the freaks of the art world disrupt my peaceful city every year?! No! Definitely not! Because underneath this world of zombie like tourism are small cozy venues where fringe productions are lighting up the dark.
Today I saw WHAT IT FEELS LIKE by “Encompass productions”, a play which explores the dream states of near death experiences. It tells the story of Nicholas Harper, who while lying on an operating table after a car crash, has a near death experience. The story takes place in his subconscious, a dark “in-between” reality where we find “Lester and Simpson”, two characters who are apparently there to assist him in his unresolved issues with his long term girlfriend Sarah. From here the play goes on to be a study in human relationships as the audience are treated to different scenes extracted from Nicholas’s memories with Sarah. The play explores the themes of betrayal, jealousy, and how we not only lie to our partners but also lie to ourselves. With the help of “the Aspects”, eerie actors dressed in black, we are further treated to some stunning physical theatre (the lovemaking scene was a thrilling piece of choreography). The play builds to a harrowing finale where Nicholas’s unconscious reveals its very sinister depths. But this is not all doom and gloom, as the well-written characters of Lester and Simpson spatter the play with humour, which serve to pull us further in to this well constructed dream world. Supported by an excellent original score, which had the woman sitting next to me in tears by the final scene, I cannot not recommend this play enough. A feeling shared by my fellow audience members whose very gracious applause said it all!
So what does it feel like to be living in Edinburgh at this time of year? Well who gives a shit about the military exploits on the castle and the annoying badly dressed tourists (buy some decent rain gear you look stupid!) when Encompass Productions are in town with their electrifying play!
After the play (moving as hell by the way) I bid Paul adieu & a happy reviewing & toddled down to the JEKYLL & HYDE to sound engineer for Victor Pope, after which we began a drinking session that didint finish until 4AM. We beganin the SPIEGELTENT, where Edinburgh’s best live band, THE BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS were playing. Unfortunately, they were late getting on & I had a show to catch, but in the name of supporting your local artists, here’s a you tube link & their myspace. They’re a passionate group of bohemians & aplaying round about town through the festival, including next saturday again at the Spiegeltent & 25th August at the Book Festival in Charlotte Square. Apparently the gig was wicked, spreading love thgrough a large, plush tent bustling with eager music lovers & I was told the stage slowly filled up with hot, dancing chicks playing shaker makers!!
My final show of the day was the famous, SHOWSTOPPERS: THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL (5-16/18-28 – 22.50). It was performed at the GILDED BALLOON in the main hall of the Student Union – & massive space (in fringe terms) that was packed to the rafters. Its easy to see why as what occirs on that stage is pure genius. The idea of teh show is that every night, from suggestions by the audience, a completey new, once-in-a-lifetime musical is summoned up from the psyches of the cast & performed with a flourish. Stage left is the director of operations, who deals with the audience & rises from his chair from time to time giving the cast its plot, often hilariously. Stage right are two musicians, a keyboard player who is the mainstay of the music, & a saxplayer/percussionist as his right hand man. The singers are three women & three men who not only make up songs on the spot, but improvise comedy inbetween. Absolutely brilliant. Tonights unique show – DANGEROUS RE-ENTRY – was set on an International Space Station, set in 2050, wih Barack Obama & Vladamir Putin cyrogenically frozen awaiting the discovery of a new planet. The themes of teh songs were Gansta Rap, Sondheim, Abba & Gerswhin, with a romantic sub-plot to boot. The best part was the creation of an alien, with one of the girls standing behind another simulating weird alien tentacles, & the tentative threesome suggested by our recently unfrozen world leaders!
After the performance I rejoined VICTOR POPE, meeting up with Bonnie from Linkey Lea (& all her cute mates), plus THE BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS for a drink at Cvenues bar. At first glance its something of a school disco, but we turned it into at least a sixth form bash & the place was proper jumping. On getting home in the wee hours I realised I’d been in the field all day, for the atmosphere during Festival time grabs you by the goolies & swirls you about toon, refusing to let go until finally, & exhaustingly, you make it to bed… good night!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
Coming back to Edinburgh is to me like coming back home
Shows So Far – 11
Hangovers – 1
Its amazing how, during Festival time, so many otherwise obscure spaces are metaphysically turned into theaters of dreams. This morning’s world of illusion was at the CABERET VOLTAIRE, a night club just off the Royal Mile. The bouncers there do mi nut in, but the only guy standing outside the door early this afternoon was Chris Coxen. He’s a Bostonian who’s spent the past year or two on & off down London, working his comedy magic. I had a nice chat with him, observing the little black dots above his Freddie Mercury moustache which indicated its fakeness. Once inside the venue I was pleasantly surprised to find just four comfy leather mocha couches next to the bar facing a great black curtain. There were about ten of us all together, including the barman, a sound guy & Chris’ comedian mate TOM WEBB who was Mc-ing the show. This was the spelndidly titled SPACE CLONE AUDITION (6-28 / 14.30), the idea being that the audience had to choose which one of Chris’ comedy carachters should be cloned by the US government to send to space to represent mankind. Thesse were a groovy Bermudan club singer & his hairy chest, an expert on motivation, a guy who loved thunder (!?) & an agressive karate expert. Oftentimes bonkers I was guffawing on many occasion, tho was gutted when my favorite, the Bermudan Club Singer, was beaten into second place by the Karate expert as the audience applauded their votes. It was a comfy way to start the day, from the squidgy couch to Tom Webb’s homely bantering with the audience. Nice guys!
& today’s winner of the space cloning competion is… Danny Morsel
While I was watching the show the heavens burst open, the weather turned Autumnal & the game of spot the tourists bagan – ie, shorts, t-shirts & sunglasses with the coat at home in Inverness! I had a couple of hours to kill til my next show, so I had a pint at the Counting House, with one eye on the outside stage there & a young lassies singing to a few soggy drinkers, & the other on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, where the English football season had just started. Down at Turf Moor, on the day the Clarets legend Jimmy McLLroy received his MBE, Watford sailed into a 2-0 lead. However, 2 debut goals in the last 13 minutes, from Charlie Austin & new-boy Keith Treacy saved Burnley (& me) from the opening day blues. Talking of football, Hearts have just drawn Spurs in the Europa league, which means Edinburgh’s gonna get even busier come August 18th.
My next dose of culture was at ZOO SOUTHSIDE, on Nicholson Street, & a one-man performance of Shakespeare’s poem, THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (6-14 / 16-28 – 17.15). The theater was a largish square room draped completely in black, chairs ringing three sides. This added a quais-globe-like aspect to GERARD LOGAN’S recitation of Shakespeare’s poem. Our immortal bard had written it early in his career, deviating from the stage in order to makes his name as a proper poet & maybe make a little cash. The story tells us how a woman of ancient Rome, Lucrece (rhymes with peace) is raped by a certain Sextus Tarquinius & unable to bare the shame kills hereself in front of her husband. The performance was compelling, & vast swathes of time were swirling about the room; We witnessed a 2000 year old story, the pure, unadulterated words of Elizabethan England dancing off Logan’s masterly tongue, & the atmosperic lights & soundscapes of the modern stage. It was lovely closing one’s eyes from time to time & letting the magic of iambic pentameter conjure up the same visions our illustrious poet saw seer-like 400 years ago. The bard within was really enjoying the versification of Rime Royal, a poetic form of seven lines (rhyming ababbcc), one of the few forms I havent employed in my own work. Here’s an example from the Rape;
O, that is gone for which I sought to live,
And therefore now I need not fear to die.
To clear this spot by death, at least I give
A badge of fame to slander’s livery;
A dying life to living infamy:
Poor helpless help, the treasure stol’n away,
To burn the guiltless casket where it lay.
The heavens were still drenching the city as I slip-slopped home. Luke was doing VICTOR POPE’S sound tonight, freeing me up to go home to do some writing. After finishing this blog, & with my hangover ever present & it still fucking chucking it down, Im just gonna cook up some grub, catch up on mi Eastenders with BBC iplayer & wait for the Burnley goals on The Football League Show… what festival?
Edinburgh is a real classy city
Shows So Far – 6
MUMBLING (Multi-media blogging) is the opera of literary art. Where Wagner used stage design, lighting, music, poetry & costume, the modern-day blogger has, in addition to his/her text :- photography, film, footage, flyers & probably many, many other f’s. With this in mind I thought I’d take mi camera for a spin, inspired by the visit of RICHIE LEWIS FEENIE. He’s a pal of mine from this festival I used to put on down my ex-lassie’s farm (Jock Stock), & a real sweet fella. As we were building up the festival he used to make us signs for the various zones & stages we scattered round the field. These days he’s a full on professional graphic designer & after exhibiting work all round Scotland, this morning he drove over from his home in Fife to set up some pieces in HAS BEANS COFFEE SHOP on the Royal Mile (Canongate). The proprieter there, Graham Kenny, is one of Richie’s clients & a few weeks back at a pub across the road they mutually agreed to hang up Richie’s work. The paintings were nudged into finalty by Richie seeing one of his old rave-buddies, Alison McWhirter’s work down in Dumfries. That they used to jump about the house to the Stone Roses seeps out from every speckled pore of his Pollock/Squires inspired pieces.
While waiting for Richie to arrive I thought I’d take out my primitive camera & potter up to the Princes Street Gardens, with the sun all glorious & everyone in a happy mood. Taking the first photo led me down to see the group in the corner of the first picture below, who were putting on a free performance in the park. I got chatting to the director, Andy Paris, who filled me in on their interesting journey to Auld Reekie. The company is formed from two seperate unis on both coasts of the US – from Seattle, Washington & Lewisburg, Pensylvania. They are exponents of a new form of thetare, called Moment Work, which has plenty of physical motion integrated within the story, where evry piece of furniture has a sub-plot! The play itself is called THE AMERICAN FAMILY (5-6 8-12 – 22.15 / the space @ north bridge) & consists of every young member of this large cast telling emotive stories from thier lives – ie this one guy watched his dad get beaten up by drug-dealers in his car at the age of 5!
From the Gardens I meandered up to the Royal Mile, just as Richie was trundling down it in his wee car, crammed full of paintings. As he unloaded the works I kept an eye out for the predatorial vulturesque parking wardens, then after a brief interview & photo left him to his hanging while I went off to a show. This was LIGHTS, CAMERA, WALKIES at the GILDED BALLOON (3-9 11-16 19-29 / 14.00 – 15.15), another corporate leviathan that this time has taken over the gorgeous Student Union of Edinburgh Universty on Bristo Square. I was directed to the Billiard Room & a spacious theatre, whose stage sported something of a giant kennel. It was a snappy as hell play written by young Tom Glover, a rising star in the comedy spheres – a BBC sitcom finalist no less. The story is set in Hollywood & tells us of two (invisible) dogs competing for the starring role in a movie. There were only three actors playing every part, but the excellent accents conjured the illusion wonderfully. Indeed, my favorite part of the show was their brillaint recreation of a hollywood set, a constant whirl of motion & voices as the actors toed & froed from behind the kennel playing various parts, including an incredible ‘luvey dovey’ Richar E Grant would have been proud of. A thouroughly enjoyable show full of witty one-liners with a driving plot to boot.
Quickly dashing across town I met my good mate PAUL FLETCHER, a local film-maker who’s just come back from a three year stint in Paris making love & money. We soon found ourselves in an elevator at the plush Jury’s Inn, ascending to the eigth floor. Now Paul’s one of my ‘intellectual’ mates – tho of course not averse to a mash-up – & we were absolutely delighted to be presented with the play TO HOLD AN APPLE (6-27 / 15.10) about the artist Paul Cezanne, the author Emil Zola & the German poet Rilke! It has been brought over by a bucnch of highly intellectual New Yorkers led by AS Zelman-Doring, the play’s writer. She was magnificent as the grumpy old Cezanne, mainting the Coleridgian ‘suspension of disbelief’ magnificently. Honestly, despite being a cute woman in her twenties, she pulled off the old man persona with so much aplomb as she shuffled round the stage with her walking stick, especially the facial gestures. Her two lovely assistants wre philosophizing & poeticing all teh way through the show, with the apples being painted, munched & mused over. The writing was great & well researched, mentioning the Dreyfuss Affair & even using one of my favorite texts – Rilke’s ‘letters to a young poet.’ I thought Id recognized it & asked Ms Zelman-Doring at the end if it was so, which impressed Paul no end. Twas a dream to watch & in thaty dream I watched. The play has been recently selected by Christoper Hampton (writer of Dangerous Liasons) to be performed in the Oxford University’s New Writing Festival by the way.
The next show, in an increasingly busy day, was TRICITY VOGUE’S THE BLUE LADY SINGS BACK (6-27 / 18.05) at the SPACE ON NORTH BRDGE. Boy O Boy what a show! The idea is she’s a painting of a blue woman in an art gallery & gets up to musical mischief a la Night in the Museum. Her dulcet voice sang a series of set piece numbers in differing costumes (but always blue), the best of which was her interpreatation of a golden head-dressed Indian Goddess, Saraswathi-stlye. She actually sang in Hindi & placing blue gloves on two female members of the auidence & getting them to stand behind her dancing, produced an electrifying tantric, multi-armed effect. She also look sexy as Geena Davies in thelma & lousise (the epitomy of womanhood) during her cat-tailed rendition of a song called Pussy CAT BOYS, wandering round the audience mewing & purring to their strokes. In fact, there was a lot of audience participation & she even got me up on stage (mildly terrifying), god bless her! At certain points during her show I’m like, this is the best, or at least most entertaining stuff Ive seen so far this Fringe. Unfortunatley I had to leave ten minutes early to rush across town for Victor Pope’s 2nd gig (a vast improvement on yesterday by the way), so if you’re reading this Tricity, thats why I slipped away, & not because I was hitting myself about getting up again!
After snatching some food & writing time at mine, I was out again at night for a show at C CHAMBERS STREET- my fifth of the day = sore feet – picking Paul up again on the way. This was THE DEMON BOX (3-25 – 22.20), a quarter part of the Wagner of Psychiatric Prisons, STEV HYNNESSY’s theatrical tribute to Homicidal maniacs. It is part of a quartet of plays that the actors have stored in the minds in a Kempian Queen’s Men fashion. On this occasion it was Richard Dadd, a Victorian artist who was bidded on by Osiris to murder his father, giving us the line, “Alas! Dadd’s dad is dead!”
The same four actors take part in every play, like the four elements formicng a pefect cohesive ecosystem. This particular play was highly entertaining fare, where the intricate foibles of insanity were perfectly performed. There was this sacrily cute, elegant as waterfalls bird floating about stage as a Shakesperian Ariel, whispering madness into the ears of the players, & the show employed of the best endings Ive ever seen on the stage.
After the show me & Paul joined Victor Pope & Luke (the guy who burnt down mi mates tree) & hit the toon, ending up at C Venues outside bar on the Cowgate. Now, the Cowgate’s normally full of puke & vomit, but come festival time its full of posh totty & particularly interesting chat. The beer was a slightly stepp 3.20 a pint – not quite as pricy as Ireland & three beers get you change from a tenner for two bags of space raiders (beef & pickled onion please)! But come the festival no longer does one have to go to the casinos for a drink after 3, for half the town’s open til 5AM – every night! Happy days!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
With there being no Fringe this year,
We are revisiting DBB’s Daily Blog of 2011
I felt at home five minutes after my arrival in Edinburgh
Charles de Gaulle
Shows So Far – 2
This morning, & a rainy one at that (welcome to Scotland folks), I pottered down to Leith to do a bit of banking. While there I remembered a company called GEORGIAN ANTIQUES had placed a couple of entries in the fringe guide, so I drifted along to their warehouse at Pattison Street just at the start of the Leith Links. I was soon met with 5 gallery-like floors of posh bric-a-brac :- crystal chandaliers, Welsh dressers, grandfather clocks, stag-heads, model galleons, military uniforms, rocking horses, chaise longes & the such like. They have set up an exhibition there called MADE IN SCOTLAND where one can wander around the warehouse orienteering style, finding the rare treasures & reading about them as you go. The theme is that they are all 100% Scottish, such as Orkeney Chairs & pieces from Whytock & Reid. For me the coolest were these very elegant porcelain carpet balls. Find the hidden sweeties for wealthy adults, yes, but great fun all the same. On the third floor one finds a small but bustling display on golf, for it was on those very links that the games first recorded rules for ‘Gowff’ were written down in 1744. The jewel of the antiquities was this large solid silver club with silver golf balls hanging off the shaft, a modern replica of the prize of that same 1744 tournament. The slight whiff of dusty stuffiness that permeated the place only served to enhance the experience of olde-worldiness.
With the rain still falling I joined the massed ranks of brollys & macs for another hike up the Royal Mile. The Flyer-gangs were still out in full force, but the make up on various painted faces was definitely smudging to nothingness. Toward the top of the mile, on Johnstone Terrace, I came to C AQUILA’S ROMAN LODGE & one of the most amusing shows I’ve ever seen. If yesterday’s bunch of kids averaged about 6 years old, this bunch were all toddlers, escorted by their young & scrummy mums. Wondering what I’d let myself in for I took my seat in the corner & awaited events… & was soon laughing my ‘ead off. The show is called HURRY UP & WAIT (4-15, 17-29 – 14.40), from Queensland, Australia, & is apparently for kids. Theres a kid in all of us, however, & the Beano style antics of the two carachters perched on their stools either side of a big red clock had me in stiches. The idea is they are passing time thro increasingy daft episodes, Norman Wisdom stylee, all mimed to a wicked soundtrack. Honestly, the show’s appeal is universal & practically perfect for a member of the chemical generation, especially the full on psychadelics of the show’s finale. The adults were laughing as hard as the kids, whose giddy laughter reminded me of one of the kural mused 2000 years ago by the Tamil Saint Thiruvalavar;
Voices of giggling children
Lovelier than flutes
Come evening it was time for Victor Pope’s opening show at the JEKYLL & HYDE… lets just say we are in a heightened state of unpreparedness. As his sound engineer I was panicking through the first song, twisting nobs & dials furiously in an attempt to get his acoustic guitar working – only to find he’d forgot to turn it up. Half way through the show I found the light box, which helped things a little, but the show wasnt the greatest he’s ever done. Still, a good chat over beers diesecting the show & searching for improvements to costume, banter & song order & we’re off – & like a horse stuck temporarily in the box at the Epsom Derby tomorrow we’ll be joining the field. It was a nice vibe down the Jekyll – lots of ‘free fringes’ circulating, handing out flyers & mingling in anticipation of the marathon to come. Of them we caught the act who was on before Victor, called JAMES LOVERIDGE & OTHER LOSERS (4-27 / 5.35-6.35). He’s a young cockney comedian & is gonna be supported by his fellow cockney comedian mates.
Another touch at the Jekyll was this guy giving out free tickets to a show called DRY ICE (4-28 / 22.40) by award-winning poet & playwright, SABRINA MAHFOUZ, who seems to be doing quite well on the London circuit as these quotes can testify;
‘An invaluable theatrical voice’
Ryan Romain, Associate Director, Theatre Royal Stratford East
‘Her poetry is startling, provocative and thought provoking’
Suzanne Gorman, Connect Director, Soho Theatre
‘Sabrina is seamlessly at the cutting edge of spoken word’
‘A stand alone voice amongst the gaggle of the live literati’
Here’s her poetry – http://www.thepopuppoet.com/
Anyhow, me & Victor set off through town, passing Dobby from Peep Show in the street (shes doing a one woman show) & she looked a lot cuter than on the telly – I think she’s lost weight! We eventually reached the UNDERBELLY, a corporate theatre-monster that has taken over one of Auld Reekies nightclubs, filling the caverns with stages. The performance of DRY ICE took place in a stony arched chamber, lit darkly with about thirty seats climbing over a square, black stage. It was a sultry way to end the day & Sabrina was wicked, taking on the role of a young stripper shpieling off anecdotes about her life with a mixture of poetry & dialogue that was apparently assisted in development by David Schwimmer (Ross from Friends). She effortlessly took on the voices of carachters from dodgy black sex-seekers to posh birds at a dinner party. With her shock of scarlet hair, clad in tight leather black pants, bottomoed off with emerald green boots, she was very hot indeed. Her best angle was when she led on the floor between the legs of her white, plastic chair, the audience looking down on her dusky eyes, perfectly curved nose & peachy-pumpkin cheek bones. O yeah, her show was great as well, a real talent!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
With there being no Fringe this year,
We are revisiting DBB’s Daily Blog of 2011
The most beautiful town in the world
At about 5AM this morning I was woken by the unwitting heralds of the Edinburgh fringe festival. They squawked me to consciousness those gulls of the Forth, flitting over the rooftops of Leith on the search for food left by last nights revellers. For a moment I thought why dont I get up, march to the top of Calton Hill all pagan style & take a photo of the rising sun to summon the muses & gods into the very spirit of the forthcoming festivities, like my own private Beltane. Then I thought sack that & went back to my kip…
Waking up at a more reasonable hour it was time to go & see my first show. Interestingly it was just round the corner from where I live at OUT OF THE BLUE on Dalmeny Street – between Easter Road & Leith Walk. Its one of those community spaces full of artists studios, with a wicked cafe to boot. Also based there is Diamond Events Services, who actually employed me on & off for several years putting marquees & carrtying steel rigging & stuff like that. The boss John Diamond’s an ambitious lad & this year, with the help of an old uni friend Natasha Lee-Walsh, has turned the Drill Hall into a proper venue – LEITH ON THE FRINGE. Its cool to see the Fringe still growing & moving out of its traditional Old Town heartland. Using his years of setting up every body elses events, Diamond has built a cool venue, with a wide spacious stage that was fully made use of by the first show Ive seen – & perhaps with its 10.15 AM start time the first show in the entire fringe. This was an ariel adaption of JM Barrie’s timeless tribute to childhood, PETER PAN.
3 – 28 August 2011 (Not Mondays)
10:15 (60 mins)
13.30 (60 mins) 4, 5, 6, 9th, 14, 16,18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28 August
The audience was a nice cross section of age groups, – with some of the kids sat on mats right underneath the action. This involved 5 pretty women swinging, somersaulting & twisting on ropes with a couple of guys in the wings handling the ropes & making occasional cameos. The costumes were wicked – redskins, pirates, the ticking crocodile & two garish wonderful mermaids who controlled their flapping tails with strings on their wrists. The backdrop was a great screen, which sometimes sillouhetted the action behind it, a wonderful effect providing the highlight – for me – of the show. It was a gravity-defying dance between Peter & Wendy, with Peter behind the screen & Wendy before it, the pair of them waltzing like a couple of spiderwomen. Sometimes we had a conventional play without the ropes which trundled the story along. A very visual affair, it was a cross between a rope access course & ballet, with a very cute Captain Cook. One for the kids definitely.
After typing all that up back at mine I thought I’d have my first sauunter into town to check out the vibe. En route I swerved to Gayfield Square at the top of Leith Walk, where this art installation is supposed to be at a place called WHITESPACE. I couldn’t actually find it (I think it starst tomorrow) but instead I discovered that next door, at Edinburgh’s Framed Gallery, my ex (see last blog) is doing an exhibition later on in the festival! Apparently she’s now Scotland’s premier time lapse photographer! Elsewhere in the WHITESPACE I stumbled into a technical rehearsal of a play called ELEGY (4-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-28 – 20.30), a story about gay Iraqis I think, directed by Douglas Rintoul (Barbican, Dundee Rep, Complicite) with music by award-winning Raymond Yiu. The floor was covered in clothes, like a sea of cardigans, & after a wee chat with the producer I think I scored some comps – good karma!
From there I headed up for my first saunter up the Royal Mile, & the sensory riot of colour from the flyer-flinging companies. They are mostly fresh from drama school or university & I love the way they are dressed up in costume, or sporting ‘team’ t-shirts with the name of the show emblazoned upon them. As one can set off through London with pockets full of cash & find them empty on completing the traversal, one sets off up the Royal Mile during festival time with empty pockets & finds them full of flyers upon exiting that excited street. Among them I received this from a bunch of giant Korean babies in boxer shorts grinning & gesticulating wildly behind some knee-high dancing puppets;
Just off the Royal Mile is the National Library of Scotland where I am typing this right now. Alongside Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, Aberystwyth & the British Library in London, it reveives a copy of every book published in the UK. It will be a great central base for me during the fringe, just a stones throw from most of the venues & an oasis of quiet in which to write. I need it really, as Ive got a lot to see & turn to words & being here will keep things nice & fresh. Whilw here Ive done a wee spot of study & came across the Gobleki Tepe, an 11,500 year old temple from the dawn of civilization. It seems that this was the first (known) time that people left their little packs of hunter-gatherers & came together in force to create a piece of worship-art. Our neolithic ancestors would probably have gazed upon quality carved animals such as boars, cranes, foxes & scorpions in the very same way me & the half million or so due in Edinburgh sit in silence before the godlike performers of the Fringe; or as the 19th century German philosopher Nietzche once wrote;
Singing and dancing, man expresses himself as a member of a higher community: he has forgotten how to walk and talk and is on the verge of flying up into the air as he dances. The enchantment speaks out in his gestures. Just as the animals now speak and the earth gives milk and honey, so something supernatural also echoes out of him: he feels himself a god; he himself now moves in as lofty and ecstatic a way as he saw the gods move in his dream. The man is no longer an artist; he has become a work of art
Toward sunset me & Victor Pope went up to the COUNTING HOUSE on West Nicholson Street for the Laughing Horse Free Fringe performer’s party. Last year they gave away unlimited Kopperburg, but this year, to account for the massive influx of new acts, it was just a wee sample in a small glass. Still, they did have plenty of prawn cocktail wraps! The Laughing Horse started in 2004, with three acts playing for free in a single bar. This year there are 352 different acts spread out over 16 venues across town! Whats happening now is what happened with the ‘official’ fringe, which began as an alternative option to the International Festival (of high culture) started in 1946 to a cheer us all up after the austerities of WW2. Over the years the Fringe would turn into a coroprate whore, charging high prices to both punter & performer. Its good to see the Free fringe blossoming well & making culture affordable to all – you basically chuck your cash in a bucket at the end of the show! This year’s fare were all gathered in this far too small a room, fanning themselves with their own flyers to counter the steadily increasing sauna-like temperatures. Before I scarpered, streaming sweat, I caught three comedians (whose names I didnt catch) doing 5 minute plugs of their shows, the best jokes being;
I told my German mates I want to move to a nice part of their country – they said why not try the Black Forest – I said I dont want to live in a gateaux
I dont go to Thailand for the sex trade, the weather or the food – I go for the free shoes – you find loads of them outside the temples
Cooling down in the fresh night air I set off home, stumbling on a guy who was chalking FREE MUSIC TONIGHT on the pavement. This led me the the Captains Bar on south college street, where mi mate Mike Breen (he’d starred in my musical Alibi in 2007-08) was playing guitar & singing to the accompaniment of two fiddlers. A nice way to finish off this first day of the Fringe, sat next to me a middle aged Antipodean couple on their first visit to Scotland, checking out the traditonal vibe. While at the Captains I noticed they had their own finge line-up – paid poets in the morning (9AM-10.30AM / £5.50 with a coffe & a cake) & poets, writers & musicians every night for free from 7.30. My interest was piqued, actually, because Owen Shears – the only poet Ive connected with of my generation – will be there on Saturday 13th August. I didnt intend to pay for a ticket this fringe, but I might make the exception just that once – he’s a fellow poet after all & the lad has to eat! Its all rather apt really, as the great Scottish poet William McGonnagal died next door! He’s not to every one’s taste, but I think I’ll finish today with a couple of extracts from one of his babies about Edinburgh itself;
Beautiful city of Edinburgh!
Where the tourist can drown his sorrow
By viewing your monuments and statues fine
During the lovely summer-time…
…Beautiful city of Edinburgh! the truth to express,
Your beauties are matchless I must confess,
And which no one dare gainsay,
But that you are the grandest city in Scotland at the present day!
Joke of the Day
An Englishman, Irishman & a Scotsman enter a bar – the bar man goes, “Is this some kind of a joke?”
The Counting House Blackboard
By Damian Beeson Bullen
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH