Happy 70th Ed Fringe!

So my time up in Edinburgh may have come to an end but with two weeks to go, there is so much still to see and do. The atmosphere in Edinburgh throughout August is impossible to describe and is possibly the best kind of chaos you’ll find anywhere in the world. 

From children’s shows to alcohol fuelled Shakespeare, and one man shows to stages brimming with ensemble, 30 shows filled my schedule interspersed with bacon rolls, orange juice and lemonade, Lidl bakery treats and a pint or two for good measure.

I laughed until I cried with Tamar Broadbent’s and her newly single lifestyle in her new show, Get Ugly and survived the front row as Shitfaced Shakespeare‘s production of Romeo and Juliet took a turn towards a Hebrew wedding with an inflatable dinosaur as a guest. Gecko’s The Dreamer was mesmerising to watch with stunning imagery, whilst Translunar Paradise from Ad Infinitum showed a heart string tugging story of love and loss. The Paines Plough Roundabout hosted some brilliant performances from Dirty Protest’s Sugar Baby (a fab take of Cardiff life fuelled with energy and the words of Billy the Seal), to the wonderful three hander Out of Love, exploring growing up and growing apart with an honest and heart warming script from Elinor Cook.  

How to win against History is a huge dose of fabulous over at Assembly George Square, back for another year by popular demand, and the Stiff and Kitsch duo had us cackling with laughter in their highly relatable show Adele is younger than us. 

There was a distinct whiff of alcohol based wisdom during The Thinker Drinkers (the gin was most definitely my favourite!), and there were belly laughs galore during Jenny Collier’s, Fantastic Beasts and where to find Jen. Traverse Theatre once again had a super popular and stellar line up, with an endearing script and on stage relationship during Jess and Joe forever, and an absolute powerhouse of a vocal performance from Josette Bushell-Mingo in Nina: A Story about me and Nina Simone. Secret life of Humans from New Diorama is brilliantly staged and The Nature of Forgetting is beautiful in it’s choreography and live soundtrack as it explores dementia and the memories that stick with us.

The one (wo)man shows are out in force this year, with a fast paced, hard hitting hour from Milly Thomas and Dust, a grim and dirty take of a bereaved dad in Trashed, a high five for the NHS in Gutted and the highly important journey of Seline Thompson in Salt among many others. Over at Zoo Southside, Wanna Dance with Somebody! Or a guide to managing social anxiety using theoretical physics was one of my impromptu decisions and it was a diamond of a show which was impossible not to get up and dance along to at the end. 

I managed to catch Part One of The Divide as my first experience of Edinburgh International Festival and had massively mixed feelings but would be intrigued to see Part 2 at some point in the future if it’s set to tour. Despite the length, the staging itself is brilliant and my jaw dropped multiple times during Act 2. The Conti Ensemble are ones to watch as The Laramie Project was tense viewing with strong vocals from the ensemble throughout as witness statement after witness statement was presented following the horrific events in Wyoming. 

There is a brilliant concoction of productions for children and young people across the venues, with brilliant slapstick fun from Three Half Pint’s rendition of The Three Musketeers, and a great introduction to classical music from CCC in The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck over at the Circus Hub out in the Meadows. How to be a Kid made me feel all fuzzy inside as the importance of staying young and dancing to Taylor Swift became apparent, and there were songs and rocket fuel galore with Les Petits Theatre The First Hippo on the Moon. Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo that Can Never Be Caught! had the hippo hunters in the audience roaring with laughter and suggestions for catching a hippo, whilst Oskar’s Amazing Adventures took us to the snowy mountains for a puppies mission to make friends and explore. 

Whilst that’s my main round up out the way, there are thousands of productions at the festival which I didn’t get to and I had more than a few time clashes and ran out of hours in the day unfortunately! I’ve heard wonderful things about Jack Rooke over at Underbelly, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s other show Odyssey is sure to be brilliant, and Nassim at Traverse has had a fantastic response from audience members and critics alike. Monica Dolan has just won a Stage Award for her performance in The B*easts, and the awards will surely start to roll in across the board now as You’ve changed also picks up a gong. All we ever wanted was everything is said to be really strong gig theatre, Cosmic Scallies was on my wish list but clashed and DollyWould has had lots of recommendations from the twittersphere. Back by popular demand, Lemons, lemons, lemons… and Every Brilliant Thing are back again at the Roundabout, both excellent pieces which I have seen in previous years (take tissues for the latter!), and following its success at The Other Room, Cardiff, the incredible Seanmhair is over at Bedlam. And towards the end of the month the renown Fleabag is back again, so we’ll have to hope for a regional tour for that one! 

To everyone lucky enough to still be in Edinburgh or is heading up over the next two weeks, have an amazing time. I am back home for the first night in my own bed and despite this still have massive fear of missing out on anything and everything.

See you next year Edinburgh: Happy 70th you beauty! 

The Nature of Forgetting

There is physical theatre galore at the festival this summer and it is slowly becoming more and more common in regional theatres across the country.  Tucked away in a corner of Pleasance Courtyard, The Nature of Forgetting is a beautiful piece on living with dementia and the absent mindedness that comes hand in hand. 

A new production from Theatre Re, we meet a father on his 55th birthday and as he struggles with simple daily routine and the names of loved ones, his mind is flooded with memories and moments of importance from his past. With very little dialogue, the onstage musicians play a vital part in guiding us through the story and the choreography and movement is perfectly in sync as the ensemble unite as character after character. 

With several scenes back to Tom’s school days, as the earliest memories are now the most prominent in his mind, and one bicycle scene which is full of joy, and ear to ear grins… the memories switch between the vague and the more certain and the cast excel themselves in their movements and sheer presence in the space. 

A very powerful and mesmerising piece receiving a well deserved standing ovation: this production will make you think, feel and sit back in awe. 

The Nature of Forgetting | Pleasance Courtyard

Trashed

Hidden in the depths of Underbelly’s Cowgate venues, there’s a whole feast of a programme to emerse yourself in this festival. Included in this line up is Fringe debut from LAB RATS and Trashed takes us to a fly tipping site in Yorkshire for a high speed account of Keith’s story.

Keith is in his mid thirties and has worked as a bin man since he left school. Dirty and grimy, this script is full of love and loss, and a little bit of asbestos for good measure as Keith lurks in the darkness for a lot of the performance. Struggling to come to terms with the death of his daughter, we are introduced to other people close to him as he chugs can after can of his love for alcohol, his marriages slowly falls apart and makes friends with an unlikely candidate. 

There are some loop holes in the script itself and the balance between connecting with Keith and the dark humour which you are not sure whether to laugh or cry at, is a little too off key.  David William Bryan has a very strong presence however, and his performance is (aptly) aggressively full on from the very beginning. 

Full of swearing, dirt and plenty of strongbow, this one man show is a bit of a rollercoaster for a lunchtime. A moving but funny script, performed with grit and fury. 


Trashed | Underbelly Cowgate

David Walliams: The First Hippo on the Moon

There is definitely no shortage of children’s productions at the festival this August, ranging from operas for babies to kids improv and storybook adaptations to clowning and circus.  David Walliams book has been brought to the stage by Les Petits Theatre following their success with Captain Flinn’s and the Pirate Dinosaur last year and this one is also, highly absorbing and brilliantly good fun. 

Sheila wants to be the first hippo on the moon and is determined to do whatever it takes to get there. Joined by some amazing puppet animals to help her out, this show see’s Sheila shimmy herself in to a rocket, and collect rocket fuel from the audience to help her reach the moon before her rival in the ultimate space race. With a special guest appearance from Donald Trunk to speed up proceedings, this show has something for the young at heart as well as the young themselves.

With brilliantly catchy tunes and clap along moments, this Les Petits production is entertaining enough for its target audience, although could do with being a little tighter and shorter, especially as thy have landed the lunchtime spot at the Pleasance. This hipponaut’s adventures are a true reflection of the picture book and the songs, set design and puppetry really bring the text to life.

The first hippo on the moon | Pleasance Courtyard

Dust 

Suicide isn’t normally a great topic of conversation, let’s be honest, and typically we don’t get the full story.  Written and performed by Milly Thomas, Dust takes us on a fast paced, whirlwind journey as Alice finds herself stuck after she has killed herself… stuck to watch who she has left behind.

Up in the Big Belly of Cowgate, we are introduced to Alice in the minutes after she has left her corpse, as the doctors prod and poke away, and Alice watches in disgust. This is a ghost story but not as we once knew it… Full of crude sex stories, blunt sarcasm and quick retorts, Alice’s lifestyle will be familiar to a lot of audience members (but potentially not their parents!) as she tells of nights sliced with drugs and alcohol, and the people close to her. 

The highs are counteracted by the lows and as Alice’s depression is hinted at and explored to some extent, relationships break down and emotions run free between family and friends.  Switching from character to character, from Mum to best friend Ellie and others in between, Alice’s cold reaction in the face of grief and funeral planning is captivating to watch. Milly Thomas completely commands the space, and the harsh lighting and bass filled sound design work perfectly in sync to take us on a fly on the wall style trip through the aftermath of Alice’s death.

Fuelled by strong writing and fierce delivery, Dust is a must see. As the turbulence of the script takes its audience in to it’s rhythm, Milly Thomas is an absolute force to be reckoned with and the exploration of the life left behind you is honest and hard hitting. I urge you all to blag a ticket by any means possible. 

Dust | Underbelly Cowgate

The tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck

There’s something lovely and relaxing about taking an hour out of the hustle and bustle of the festival to sit in a beautiful circus tent in the cenre of the Meadows whilst an orchestra masterfully plays its way through a children’s classic. The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck has been brought to the Underbelly Circus Hub by Children’s Classic Concerts this summer and the tent was full of families excitedly scribbling on activity sheets and looking forward to the show.

The Beatrix Potter books are often a staple in a family home, and as Michelle Todd arrives to the stage in Potter style dress, the stories begin and Todd sings and narrates her way through with the accompaniment of an on stage mini orchestra.  As Jemima Puddle-duck tries to find a spot to lay her eggs away from the farmer, and Peter Rabbit loses yet another blue jacket and shoes, the stories came audibly to life as all members of the family fell in to the Beatrix Potter world.

The music itself is beautiful but there were several restless moments and something visual to entertain the younger members of the audience could be of benefit here.  However, the score soars as danger approaches from the fox or Mr McGregor, and the stories are wonderfully told via classical music. There is no doubt that Todd’s voice is a brilliant addition to the instrumental backing. 

Whilst this performance lacked visual aids and interaction with the audience, CCC have created a brilliant introduction to classical music for children and the orchestra beautiful bob along between duck footprints and the sound of the nasty Mr McGregor approaching.

The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck | Underbelly Circus Hub

Dr. Zeiffal, Dr. Zeigal and The Hippo That Can Never Be Caught!

Have you ever tried to catch a hippo? Didn’t think so! This show is an interactive family show slightly out of the norm from your standard children’s peformance, and despite a bold as brass and slightly restless audience, Dr Zieffal, Dr Zeigal and The Hippo that can never be caught went down a storm in the early morning slot at Assembly Roxy. 

As we are introduced to Dr Zieffal, whose assistant has gone awol, we are also introduced to her hippo hunting tactics and tool kit, all wonderfully colour coordinated in a very special area of the stage.  Imagination is key in this one, and even the adults in the audience had their hippo google goggles on ready to hunt for the escaped mammal. Members of the audience are invited on stage at various points to help in the mission, and there was a really touching moment when one young boy picked up the scientists umbrella as she attempted to stack and carry everything to no success. 

With a very relaxed feel to the whole performance, as the children shouted out suggestions and tried to help as much as possible as a brilliant chase ensued across and around the stage.  Although some longer pauses and wordy scripted moments caused several younger ones to lose focus, the overal chaotic and fun nature of the performance kept the audience hooked throughout.

Brilliant fun and a whole load of hippo hunters in the making, this is a treat for the early morning slot and one for children not afraid to get involved! 

Dr. Zeiffal, Dr. Zeigal and The Hippo That Can Never Be Caught! Mouth of Lions – Assembly Roxy