Fringe – Berwick & Edinburgh

On Sunday we witnessed the magnificent Storm as she rose from her slumber in North Berwick, sloughed off her covers encrusted with detritus from human waste and rubbish from the oceans, and walked the coast against the soundtrack of Mairi Campbell. There was joyful cheering from hundreds of local and visiting Berwick Fringe audiences.  Over 30ft tall, she is gentle when meeting children, and welcoming when I was able to bring out 95 year old mum-in-law to shake her hand.  Vision Mechanics are awakening Storm in coastal centres around Scotland – it is a glorious experience to be there in an open air crowd.

Congratulations to the creators of Berwick Fringe by the Sea who have created a wonderful eclectic programme of over 200 events from Lulu to Jane Godley, Phil Cunningham to Storm.  A challenge for all fringe creators in a covid world – but it was buzzing when we came to visit.  Definitely on my must-visit for 2022.

Yesterday was a 4 show day at EdFringe for me at Space and the Storytelling Centre.  I was wary of seeing Sam Bailey’s powerful play Shook done by a young company after the visceral power of the original Southwark Playhouse Papatango prize winning production with Andi Hall as Grace.  Sometimes seeing a play again spoils the memories – but I should not have worried. This is a play which absolutely deserved to be refashioned for a Scottish audience by these 4 graduates of Edinburgh Napier and Queen Margaret under the banner of Twisted Corners Theatre Company .  Kieran Begley is on fire as Cain & is credited as producer. Ryan Stoddart plays the outwardly strong alpha Ryan. William Dron offers us a deeply scarred and scared Jonjo (who has the tear-jerk moment of the play which absolutely broke this audience open) – oh and he also lit the show ! And Rebecca Morgan delivers a richly nuanced caring but controlled performance as the visiting teacher Grace to this Young Offenders Institute. Plus she directed the production with a fluid confidence in this packed flat-floor space.  I have booked 4 of the New Celts productions, of which this is one – a mini festival within a festival. Impressive.

Hot foot from here to Miss Lindsay’s Secret by Maria MacDonell which is an altogether quieter piece of verbatim storytelling set in the early years of the 1900s through the letters between a young resident of Glen Esk and her distant love now gold prospecting in Canada.  Maria gives us gentle glimpses into the secret letters she uncovered at the museum, supported by her husband and daughter as reader and composer/musician enriching the aural texture of the telling. One of our ‘graduate’ DipCP producers Erin Rooney has supported Maria bringing this production to life in the comfortable and welcoming setting of the Storytelling Centre. I hope Canadian and US promoters will have a look at this show, because I feel sure there is a market for it across the Atlantic, as well as small theatres and festivals around Scotland. May I recommend a visit to the Storytelling café and some time just enjoying the atmosphere of this wonderful building and bookshop on the High Street.  Throughout the year this is a haven for young people and adults enchanted by the power of stories. 

(It is possible to get from the Storytelling Centre back to Symposium Hall in 7 minutes, but it is not advisable.  I thought I’d left plenty of time but Miss Lindsay’s Secret took longer than expected.  It is a good way to get the blood pumping before another show. Maybe worth checking timings, if you are rushing)

Next up for me two shows from Edinburgh University. Firstly Theatre Paradok’s Catching Up which I arrived at without having read any background and found myself a tad confused by the parallel storylines of this slightly Stoppard-like piece around coming of age and alpha male damage.  The challenge with any Fringe show is to hook the audience of random strangers into the tale very early, and only after did I get to grips with the intention.  I can’t give any credits here because there was no programme (Readers will know this is my absolute Ahhhh).  I was told after that it was a much longer piece by a single writer, reduced to fit the tiny space and the time slot. This is always a Fringe challenge and it may be worth re-visiting the play and opening it up for a future life.  A packed house (which I am coming to expect this Fringe at Space) was enthusiastic Definitely worth a visit – but have a pre-read maybe.

A quick pint and catch up break and then it was into Counterminers Radio 69. The collective is produced and led by another DipCP ‘graduate’ Lewis Forman with Hollie Avery as co-leader.  It was wonderful to be in a house which felt as though I was back with Bristol Revunions or any of the energised, quick witted and joyful theatre groups of my early Fringe experiences. The audience were absolutely with this strong cast of under grads and grads playing to or against type in this tale of saving a local radio station.  (There may be no programme or biogs but you can get the mug shots of the 12 strong devising and improv company here  I think any words I could write about this show could not improve on the reaction of two very English undergrad girls heading to the loo afterwards. One to the other “My god, I literally loved that so much. I want to see it all again.”  – so 5 stars and a like from them (and me)

Now a day of interviewing applicants for the Diploma in Creative Producing from Russia and Wales and then a Zoom workshop on “Producing – Proper Job – Honest” with a nice UK, Canada and beyons turnout.  Back to Space for Pool No Water  and After Party tomorrow – join me if there are any tickets left.

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