A quieter day today at EdFringe as I move around the City which is packed with theatremakers looking for theatregoers, theatregoers dodging the showers between tourists, tourists looking at vistas, and vistas which make this one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
First show the first of the Metta Theatre shows, Wondr (Assembly Roxy 13:10), premiering here as part of Assembly’s FuturePlay Festival – a season within a hub within one festival within The Festivals which make up just part of what Edinburgh is showing to the world this August. Wondr explores the real world of a mother, and her virtual global audience of followers, as she offers insights into her life and that of her daughter. We are sharers in her life, and voyeurs on her world. But like the Festivals and Edinburgh itself, as you watch this first play by Poppy Burton Morgen, co-founder of Metta, layer after layer is uncovered to give the work a courageous richness which you will just have to buy a ticket for. The language has the poetic flow as a gentle rap or Shakespearean soliloquy. The central performance by Simone James is captivating – and I can’t wait to see her also in Pixel Dust – she is a wondr.
Next I moved over to see a complete rework on a World War I memoire drama Toll (C Venues Chamber Street 14:45) that I first saw at the Durham University Festival of plays. I’d got to know some of the cast and producers there, and it seemed right to go have another look and see what they had uncovered. Two wonderful Authentic Artist friends chose this show to join me out of all the work I am seeing, and so I felt apprehensive that this would prove something worth a visit. I need not have worried. This is fine student drama, powerful writing, heartfelt performance and made my friends cry – result ! “From plucky recruit to shell-shocked survivor, this is a true story of the horrors of war unlike any other” says the blurb. This is a true story researched and written by the soldiers great-grandson Charlie Keable who also co-produced and will be at every performance as lighting/sound tec (and hopefully by today handing out a programme with cast names and credits !!!!) . There are some stunning physical theatre moments depicting the horrors of war, and some fine acting from this multi-role playing cast. If this is a story which interests you, then go see, and do talk with the company and the author afterwards about the experience. I look forward to continuing my new found connections with Durham as I welcome another two producers from the Uni onto the MA Creative Producing course at Mountview this summer. If you are looking for a vibrant theatre rich Uni environment for yourself or your theatre mad offspring, then check out the scene at Durham.
From here I took a walk across the Meadows to Brunswick Links, an ancient area for golf, and home for the Free Fringe of The Long Miserable Journey to Happiness (Laughing Horse Golf Tavern 17:00). I’d been approached by the press agent Ann-Marie Baptiste with a lovely list of shows to consider seeing and blogging about. This caught my eye “New York-based performing artist Paul Valenti plays a well-meaning affable and hopelessly fallible clown who cajoles, charms, flips, falls and flops his way to discovering what exactly—if anything—makes us truly happy” along with the self-depracating title. The joy of the Free Fringe is that, from my experience last year and this, the houses are packed with real people wanting to have a good time – presuming the artist and their team do a good pre-show promotion. That was true this afternoon. For an hour we were offered a series of short routines around magic, dance, art, balloons, bubbles and death-defying-feats of skill all designed to ensure we had the most curved smile on our face possible.
Paul had an unexpected bonus commentator, critic, participant, and giggler in the house – a lovely lad of 3-4 who quite rightly wanted more and more of the Clown. The joy of a young person’s laugh, and the willing welcome of this silent artist made for a great double act. As we came out into the sunshine the young lad was off across the grass with a special balloon from this New York silent sad well meaning if slightly (well very) clumsy clown.
Time on my hands, gentle rain, over to Summerhall, café closed, no seats or anywhere to settle other than the windy courtyard, so time to find a nice quiet restaurant or café. Delighted to find Annakut (13 Newington Road) which is a delicious vegetarian Indian restaurant with one small table left for me amidst a sea of Indian family diners. I will most definitely return for more Chai and beautifully served dishes. Then back to Summerhall and I found the one plastic chair in one of the corridors to sit in – result.
My visit was to see You’ve Changed (Summerhall 20:30) and to meet with the producer of this new Manchester based theatre company Trans Creative. This is Kate O’Donnell’s offer to us to understand transitioning, the extraordinary challenges of growing up before the word transgender even existed, the choices she made guided by a single list of suggested steps from a person who had gone along this path before. Today things are different, and this year’s Fringe shows that 2017 is the year when we can all learn, understand, and respect more. With shows like Eve and Adam at the Traverse joining Kate in the creation of really fine and necessary theatre for all audiences. For anyone wondering about their gender identity Kate offers a very simple proposal “Where to you start…look inside your heart”. And now with theatre, and articles, and role models, and TV docs, and clinics like the Tavistock, it is easier to listen to your heart and consider many different binary or non-binary paths. As a cis man or woman Kate offers us this advice “Show respect – look it up, read a book, get on the net, open up that mind and see what you find”. I can’t wait to see more of the work of this newly Arts Council funded theatre company she has founded working with producer Jenny Gaskell, and continuing my own work with Producers Pool and Mountview to open minds and see what we find – creatively and respectfully.
After the show there was a moment I will treasure – the meeting of Kate and one of the audience Helena, a Fringe audience veteran, who had been on the same path, at the same time, and with the same doctor/referral practice in 2003 – and she thinks they were in the same waiting room on the same day. Grab a ticket if you can. I am looking forward to seeing it again later in the Fringe with its joyful mix of song and dance and theatre and cabaret and respectful demonstration lecture.
Now I get two days off enjoying life outside Edinburgh in the Borders and Fife – it is possible to leave the Fringe and return you know – even for a couple of hours. There is life outside the lanyards. Back soon.
These blogs are the perfect companion to show hopping at the fringe. Chris has understood than people are looking for recommendations, not disapproval, and so he hops gracefully over the things he can’t recommend in order to focus on the things he can and does. Could this be a model for other bloggers/critics? “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”