Edinburgh Day 7 – Messiah, Armada, Einstein and a Secret Agent

As I write this Friday morning surrounded by Fringe companies at their laptops and artists stapling reviews to leaflets, I remind myself what an extraordinary experience it is to be a part of this, the greatest show on earth. In 30 years I am still only scratching the surface of it – in all that time there are still dozens of venues I have never visited, hundreds of galleries never seen, and many fantastic shows completely missed.  I can only do so much – and here’s my four experiences from yesterday.

The morning started with 2 hours of bacon butties, tea and arm-wrestling to choose the long-list of musical theatre pieces which will go forward to the judges for the 2013 MTN Awards.  There was relatively little fighting, a great consensus from the two or more assessors who had seen each show and just occasionally real divergence of opinion.  The judges now have 5 days to see a dozen or so shows and make their choices.  I wish them and all the companies well.

Then a quick run across town to catch Albert Einstein a musical comedy lecture on relativity in Pleasance Above. By the end of an hour I was finger dancing his most famous equation, cheering the attraction of boy meets girl, and understanding the awful pain any scientist has when their theoretical work is put to destructive use. John Hinton is winning great acclaim for his accessible science shows and I am sure he will pack theatres and arts centres with this show.

From there to George Telfer as Graham Chapman in the Pleasance round the back hotbox with Tom Crawshaw’s “Not The Messiah”. Tom first brought a one person play to Edinburgh with my son playing a suicidal young man in Later Showers, also directed by Yaz Al-Shaater. Together as Three’s Company they had enormously good press. Michael is now otherwise detained at her majesty’s pleasure (the RSC), and Yaz and Tom are here helping George Telfer to get a fantastic reaction to his heartfelt performance.

Two down, two to go.  An hour of paperwork in Fringe Central and then hotfoot to the Pleasance to see Dennis Herdman in The Secret Agent a co-creation with Theatre o and Matthew Hurt.  A strange smorgasbord of audience participation, physical theatre, vaudeville, drama and political challenge. The cast were great and it was wonderful to remind myself just how good an actor Dennis is – so many of my Bury St Edmunds colleagues only know him in Pantomime. I do hope he will be inveigled back to Suffolk to give a rich dramatic performance soon.

Then a gentle stroll back to the Pleasance until I suddenly got a text to remind me I was meant to be assessing a final musical which started in 4 minutes. Ahhh.  I made it just missing the first scene I think.  The Armada had not yet sailed. It did.  I have reviewed this elsewhere so I will only add my personal plea (not the programme one, but that too because I have no idea whi wrote or who was performing in the musical). My gripe is with backing tracks. They are a killer to us as audience unless they are in the hands of a master and created with the cast so that the ebb and flow of live performance is understood.  Here we have performers standing around waiting for the track to play, and then performing at the speed of a snail with zero dynamics. All we can do is sit quietly and wait for it to end.  Ahhh

I’m afraid I downed a couple of pints rather quickly after the Armada had been scuppered.  And now its Friday and I am getting ready for Gecko.

Have a great day