Sunday, August 10, 2014

#Unbored at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – Part Two

I love Edinburgh and I loved being at the Fringe!

14 shows in 6 days at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014
The last half of the 14 shows we saw is as rich in diversity and experience as the first half. We saw immersive/story-theatre, Theatre-for-Young-Audiences, site-specific theatre, more drama and more dark comedy. It’s been an exciting, boundary-pushing, thought-provoking, laugh-inducing, informative and impressive theatre experience.

 While some shows were enjoyed more than others, the experience as a whole was enjoyed by all.

The Seussification of A Midsummer’s Night Dream (Comedy/Theatre-for-Young- Audiences) 
Red Bonnet Productions:
The Seussificationof a Midsummer's Night Dream
This was a special show for me since I directed The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet during my first year of teaching junior high and I wanted the experience of seeing its sister show’s Seuss-y take on the Bard’s wild comedy. The script is a joy for young performers and I salute the actors of Red Bonnet Productions for tackling it with great energy and gusto. Combining classic Dr. Seuss elements, like Narrator (Thing) 1 and Narrator (Thing) 2 and ridiculously inventive language with the basic plot of Midsummer, the audience goes on a wacky ride through the hijinks of the fairies, the mixed-up lovers and the foolish players. Although the tongue-twisting dialogue did trip up the young actors from time to time, they rebounded quickly and forged ahead with great commitment and determination. Plus, it was clear they were having a blast and let’s face it, so did we in the audience. Great fun!

Cirque Tsuki: Feast
Cirque Tsuki: Feast (Immersive/Story Theatre/Installation/Puppetry)
The innovative and talented company of ImmerCity is responsible for this beautiful, interactive piece of immersive/story theatre. They put on a trilogy at the Fringe, with each show a feat of storytelling, as well as a moment in the life of the Circus troupe itself. Although we didn’t see the first show, Birthday, we didn’t feel at all lost when we saw Feast on its own. It picked up on the 10th anniversary of The Great Izanagi and Madame Mist, key players in the circus, and along with their living doll Tiffen, they retold the stories of 1001 Arabian Nights. Using music, shadow puppets, simple costume pieces, they effortlessly and magically wove story after story together, and created character after character, both vocally and physically. They even had some audience help - my husband got pulled up onstage to be the King in a few scenes and he was great! This show was a true celebration of the magic of storytelling and one of my favorites at the festival.

The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour (Site-specific Theatre/Historical Drama) 
The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour
This show was a special treat – a walking tour through some of the oldest and most celebrated pubs in Edinburgh, as well as the courtyards and streets of the old and new town. Lucky for us that the weather held out and we could stash our raincoats away for a crisp but otherwise beautiful night outdoors. The neat thing about this show is that it runs all throughout the year, not just duirng the Fringe and it starts every night at the Beehive Inn in Grassmarket, where the dueling hosts, Mr. Clart and Mr. McBrain (actors), banter and each share his ‘preferred’ version of history. They shared the origin stories for many famous Scottish writers and poets -Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and of course, the great Robert Burns. We learned the poets would congregate in the pubs to drink, debate and pontificate and it was at these gatherings – in what some would consider seedy and raucous establishments – that the poets were inspired to create some of the world’s most treasured literature. Not to be overly nostalgic for the distant past, our hosts also pointed out the bar that Ian Rankin frequents and the coffee shops where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the Harry Potter series. We met people from all over the world on this tour – Italy, USA, Denmark, and Scotland (naturally) and I even made a list of the Scottish authors so I can brush up on classic lit. It was a great way to spend an evening, “drinking and thinking”, plus nothing beats the view of Edinburgh Castle lit up at night.

Cirque Tsuki: Parade
Cirque Tsuki: Parade (Immersive/Story Theatre/Installation/Puppetry)
We enjoyed Feast so much, we had to go back for the third and final chapter of the Cirque Tsuki story. Definitely the darkest of the three productions, it takes its inspiration from Japanese folklore, where “100 candles are lit and 100 ghost stories are told”. The belief is that blowing out the last candle summons the spirits of the stories back to the world of the living. The stories in this production dealt with the themes of betrayal, vengeance and faith. It was interesting to see where the characters were emotionally since we last saw them and to fill in the gaps as to what had happened to them since. It used many of the same elements as Feast but instead of the stories they told taking on lives of their own, the main plot was the saga of Izanagi and his conflicts with his wife and the living doll. Macabre and sinister motivations were revealed and it was an intriguing and satisfying conclusion to the Cirque Tsuki.
Breathe Out Theatre: An Extraordinary Light

An Extraordinary Light (Drama) 
This one-woman show tells the little-known story of the involvement of scientist Rosalind Franklin on the discovery of the structure of DNA. Through a passionate and informative monologue, Rosalind herself shared the details of her deep love for science and her devotion to her work, virtues which were both her greatest strengths and her greatest flaws. Her anecdotes of her many years working in the “Boys Club” of her scientific field told, rather than showed, her contribution to understanding the structure of DNA and at times it did feel a bit lecture-like. The performance of Katherine Godfrey as Rosalind, however, was exceptionally strong and gave the audience an informative and tragic look at a brilliant and underappreciated mind.

Quest Theaterworks: Gidion's Knot
Gidion’s Knot (Drama)
Darkly funny, disconcerting and tragic, Quest Theaterworks’ production of Gidion’s Knot is a masterful work of drama and social commentary. Taking place during “the parent/teacher conference beyond your worst imagination”, a mother and a fifth-grade teacher square-off regarding a student’s suspension. The multi-layered script approaches the conflict from a place of right vs. right – as more and more information emerges around the circumstances of the suspension and the relationships of the student in question, the more the audience was forced to consider both sides to the conflict between free-speech and what is considered appropriate social behavior. In this age of growing violence in schools, is it justified to sacrifice the right to free expression of one to protect the many? Both women are defined by their beliefs and make decisions based on what they feel is right but face judgement from the other for doing so. The imagery in this script is at times extremely disturbing and yet very poignant and as a teacher myself, it forced me to consider what I might have done had I been in that situation. There are no easy answers and no one person alone can take all the responsibility and that’s what made this show so riveting and so terrifying.
Darkle Theatre Company: Darkle

Darkle (Dark Comedy) 
Darkle Theatre Company presented the odd-ball dark comedy about a group of adult-children slackers who take revenge on their overbearing, busybody landlord by kidnapping his dog. There was a distinct streak of laissez-faire/don’t-give-a-shit from the slacker trio which got turned on its head once the plot got out of their control. There were some moments of squirm-in-your-seat-awkward physical comedy and the twist that came later on definitely caught me off guard, but I felt like there was so much superfluous banter between the characters that it hit the audience over the head; we get it – they’re selfish and their lives are meaningless! It took 45 minutes of a 65 minute show to get to the main action (the dog-napping), so either the pace needed some picking-up or the script some firm editing. It just didn't quite do it for me, but I’m not sorry I saw it because it was different and unexpected and I can appreciate that.

So there you have it - my recap of my Edinburgh Fringe adventure!  14 shows in six days, new favorite places to visit, and incredible memories to treasure and share.

If you happen to be in Edinburgh between now and August 25, get yourself down to The Fringe! It’s so worth the time just to be near the action with all the energy, excitement and the air of possibility all around. Or if you’re around Edmonton between Aug. 14 – 24, make sure you check out Fringed and Confused: the 33rd Edmonton International Fringe Festival. There is so much to witness, discover and discuss.

Wander around the grounds, grab a leaflet from an actor, or ask around for a good show to see.

And get #unbored.

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