Fringe flavours

Where did August go?!

You might remember I wanted to post  some short reviews of shows with a referendum theme , and intended to do this around a week ago. However I’ve had quite a bit of paid work on recently – no complaints about that – but it means things like this blog fall to the wayside.

But worry not, here is a brief account of  my Fringe 2014:

First up was Aye Right? How No? The Comedy Countdown to the Referendum with Vladimir McTavish & Keir McAllister, at The Assembly Rooms. They rattled through various observations and quips – some pretty amusing – then it was time for the guests: on this date it was Propaganda Now and Rory Bremner. Yes, him, the seasoned impersonator, who kept saying “we” when talking about Scotland which is confusing, as he is one of those Edinburgh born-people with an English accent. My favourite line of his? Talking about Tony Blair and his role as Middle East Peace Envoy.:”That’s going well isn’t it? I mean, you can hear a pin drop in that part of the world just now.”

Propaganda Now show  montages of footage and statistics, making a mockery of politicians or highlighting their hypocricies in the process. For example, they showed people describing Alistair Carmichael as a “bruiser”, over and over, and then him debating with Nicola Sturgeon on STV, basically acting like a kid who wasn’t getting his way and complaining to presenter Rona Dougall to sort it out. I watched this debate and remember thinking he just came across as someone who couldn’t hold his own and gave a pathetic performance. Propaganda Now’s material was often very funny and also offered plenty food for thought – it’s the sort of thing it would be good to see for longer or even watch again, to take it all in.

Also at The Assembly Rooms was The Pure, The Dead and The Brilliant, a crowdfunded play written by Alan Bisset. It was excellent. The story – what would happen if the bogles, banshees, demons and selkies of Scots folklore were involved in the independence referendum? – was clever, offering the audience a rollicking one hour panto-esque ride, featuring a sparkling script, self-knowing jokes, energetic performances and a real warmth too. It is an unashamedly pro-Yes play and I wish I’d had an undecided-but-on-the-cusp-of-choosing-Yes friend to take. I’d imagine it could have pushed them even closer.

I wanted to go to 3,000 Trees by George Gunn too but couldn’t make it – have heard brilliant things about it and, as it’s another crowd-funded venture, I am going to get one of their ‘packages’ on offer, where they send you a film of one of the performances. Not the same as live but better than nothing.

All Back to Bowie’s has been running all month at the Stand in St Andrew Square. Inspired by Bowie’s comment, “Scotland, stay with us”, it bills itself as having a neutral referendum stance and features poets, musicians and a panel discussion on a particular referendum-linked theme. The day I went the  show was titled The Dragons Have Been Bled  (all titles are Bowie lyrics – bet they had fun thinking up those), all about Wales. A huge subject to cover and the timescale was too short to delve very deeply, which was a shame. But I heard the brilliant The New International for the first time, and really enjoyed a stirring poem by Lucy Ellinson, and decided to return again for the show on Monday, Waiting for the Gift of Sound and Vision – about, yep, the media in Scotland.

The panel, which included Ross Colquhoun from National Collective and journalist Iain Macwhirter, had some really interesting comments and insights – but again, too short a time to say it all in. The panel was not as advertised (for example I’d loved to have seen Joyce McMillan) – not anyone’s fault but the website could be updated to let the audience know who is going to be appearing. It  would have been great to hear more from Colquhoun about National Collective and their use of social media, and indeed the incredible power of social media throughout this Referendum campaign. The panel had just really got started on debating print journalism and it was time to end. Apparently they do congregate in the bar after and people can join them there to continue the debate. There was music by  Playing Politics, who said they usually play to late night crowds who have had a beer or two and drily amusing poetry by Rob Mackenzie.

I applaud the people behind  All Back to Bowie’s for putting it all together and arranging for a diverse range of people to come and share their thoughts and opinions, people  from different Scottish scenes and beyond, over 24 days. So much more accessible/interesting than the usual bland soundbites from suited politicians on the telly. I’d love to have gone to more and wondered: might it be an idea to offer a kind of ‘season’ ticket/discount, say 10 shows for the price of 5? Same with Aye Right? How No?, where the guests differ every day.

Finally, an evening by Nasty Little Press and the poets they publish, at Jura Unbound in the Spiegeltent at Edinburgh Book Festival. I wasn’t sure what to expect but (or perhaps because of this)  it turned out to be my highlight of the Fringe.  Especially enjoyed Molly Naylor, who I’d not heard of, and Luke Wright, Tim Clare and Elvis McGonagall were brilliant – hilarious, sharp and visceral. Yes, I can use the word visceral about performance poetry, and i will 🙂

I’d gone there thinking I’d check it out for an hour or two, and then found myself staying in the atmospheric Spiegeltent, having a drink and a chat and a laugh until the wee small hours, then wandering home through handsome, buzzy Edinburgh, all manner of people out and about. For a few minutes everything made sense, and that moment always comes at some point during the Fringe, which is why I love it.

Antonio O'Connell's installation piece at Summerhall
Antonio O’Connell’s installation piece at Summerhall

 

 

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