EdFringe No 6 – 230827 – It’s a Wrap

lithe man's torso dancing with a black fan against a blue backdrop. Power and art.

Although there are still 2 more days to go, my EdFringe is complete allowing me a family weekend here in sunny Blackness with Australian great nephew of 2yrs and Canadian/UK mum-in-law of 96yrs. Our house is always a bit of an international festival anyway.

Over 14 days in/out of Edinburgh I saw 44 shows excluding showcases and mixed bills. I had the joy of catching up with interns/students of mine across three of my four training/coaching lives. Many are now leaders on their field and the theatremakers, executives, entrepreneurs and employers of the future.  And next week, quietly from my home office, I will be launching a new Short Course programme for producers and SPAs, and a one day conference for 2024.  There are budgets/proposals in for other trans-national programmes in 5 Countries where CGO awaits interest/decisions from those far away. We shall see what 2023/24 brings.  And after an August of just being a punter and mentor, I believe 2024 may be rather more embedded in ‘making stuff happen’ in this most magical city.

I’ve failed to celebrate in blog the shows I have seen this Wk 3 – although I have tried to do some EdFringe reviews when I can find a moment. I have no idea how the likes of Joyce and Mark and others manage to see, assimilate, and write eloquently all the reviews they deliver.

A few highlights this week for me were discovering Chronic Insanity with 24 23 22. This Nottingham based creative powerhouse definitely know how to deliver high quality crafted gig narrative. Always special to see a Lung Theatre show and their choreographic drama to the score of verbatim testimony packed a might punch.  Looking forward to talking more with Matt and Camille about their 2024 project.  Tortoise in a Nutshell is not only a great company name but offers a window into their world of painstaking precision in camera capture of tiny worlds. Like Lung they create a show to verbatim narrative.

It was a joy to see Showstopper  in the Pleasance Grand. In 2008 Dylan and Adam created their improv musicals idea in our very first Musical Theatre at George Square in the 72 seat George 2. By 2009 they were filling the 160 seat George 4 and now they are packing the 740 seat Grand.  [For historical interest G2 and G4 were invented by CGO with the Pleasance tec design team. They are now standard formats for theatres in the EdFringe. G4 is home to Assembly GS 2 and I see a box outside GST which looks a very similar design to the old George 2.  Both were new ways to create high spec welcoming mid-scale spaces and they worked a treat]

My final day at EdFringe on Saturday felt like a wonderful smorgasbord of highlights.  Kath had a spare ticket to Ontroerand Goed’s beautiful ritual experience, Funeral. I had seen on Aug 9th (Blog 1) and it was fascinating experiencing it again. First time the 100 people seemed deeply quiet and reverential to the experience of sharing what we remember and forget about the past. This time the audience was more chatty and it took a while for the ritual calm of the space to settle even the most cynical spirit in the room. The cast know how to trust the spiritual nature of this shared event. Whilst I was rumbling inside by the chatty and grumpy nearby neighbours I should not have worried.

From there we went to the Ice Hole from Compagnie Le Fils du Grand Réseau in France  I missed their first 2019 Pleasance hit and wow I will book for anything more they bring us. A massive story unfolding from the angry storyteller at the heart of the stage surrounded by a world of cardboard realising every moment with exquisite detail. And the founder of the company is the most amazing and tireless physical theatremaker. He creates a world for us in a masterclass of creative precision. No moment was skipped to reach a peak. Every detail was there and the audience, again in Pleasance Grand, were in the palm of their hands.

We headed off to Pleasance Dome for a piece from the Lyric Belfast where Kath has often worked and which is one of our fabourite creative destinations.  The Half Moon by Alice Malseed was a beautiful piece of solo writing covering 4 generations of one family. The design and lighting enhanced the storytelling and the actress Ruby Campbell did the writer great justice. There were moments when I found the time shifts not as fully obvious as I might have needed as we shifted from one family’s story in 1940’s to the present day.

I went off for my last piece at Assembly Balloon (wow I have been in some of the bigger spaces this year). Brook Tate’s Birthmark was part of the new Arts Council England Horizon programme. I guess the ACE equivalent to Made in Scotland or British Council Showcase. I must look into the politics/mission of these different programmes.  This was a piece of autobiographical gig concert theatre with a great 5 piece band supporting Brook as he tells his story of growing up trapped in the enfolding strictures of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  He was cast out because he was gay, and created this show in fear of telling his own story in case it harmed his existing family.  His story needed to be told. Enormous cheers to Hannah Smith who spotted the potential, to the amazing Sally Cookson who shaped this iteration of the theatre, and to Rachel Bell Stage Manager.    I celebrate these three because, on this penultimate performance, they were all brought on stage and given a special cheer from Brook.  He is a generous and joyful performer and a stunning singer/songwriter. I hope to see his work in many forms in the future.

I’m going out on a high, on my last weekend before reaching OAP/Reduced price status, seeing a show where Jenny Sealey of Graeae tweets  “If I never see another production it is ok because I have just seen @brooktatearts #birthmarked . Truly awesome”.

Today I am back in the village chatting to people who work here who are bemused by my EdFringe antics. “I’ve been there once – I saw Circus of Horrors – it was great” or “What do you actually do, I know you are theatrical types but ???”  Good to move away from the bubble of friends and those I have mentored and championed. There’s a real world out there and the arts can have a role to play in everyone’s life.  That’s why EdFringe and all the festivals which surround it are so essential to us all.

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