Fringe 2013 – Week 1

So the first week of the Fringe is past and I thought I’d give a summary of the shows I’ve seen so far, I’ve tried not to give way any significant spoilers.

Making News – Pleasance Courtyard

My Rating: 4 Thistles

MAKING NEWS is a funny and fast-moving satire taking place over 24 hours in a BBC news room on a day when the top story might be a scandal involving the BBC itself.”

An excellent cast and a well written script keeps this play moving along with enough laughs to keep the audience amused through-out. Suki Webster plays Rachel Clarke as newly promoted Acting Head of News, on her first day she is presented with a news story that may well involve the Director General of the BBC, will she risk her career and run the story or bury it? Suki pulls the play along and plays the main lead, but it is Phil Jupitus who stands out as the Director General in the second half.

Highly amusing and entertaining through-out.

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Omega – The Assembly Rooms

Rating 0Omega” is difficult to describe, it’s a sort of modernistic view of a Victorian Freak Show.

Yes, I am giving it 0 Thistles out of five! I don’t like doing but I can’t in all honestly give it anything else. There is nothing in this show with any redeeming features, I could not work out if it was a parody or to be taken seriously. There certainly was not anything in the slightest entertaining about it, or scary, spooky, horrifying. I could not work out what the show was trying to do. Perhaps “farcical” is about the only word that comes to mind.

The show is a serious of “freaks” doing a mixture of “cabaret” style acts, opening with a two headed singer. The problem is that neither head looked convincing, both heads looked like papier mâché models and I’m fairly sure the “singing” was a recorded sound track, this was like something you might see at a bad school talent show. The acts continued to get even more bizarre, including  a very messed up “clown” who flopped about the stage for no apparent reason before attempting to juggle by taking some objects and throwing them up in the air (that was it, “he” just threw them up in the air!).

Some of the costumes were very elaborate and could have been impressive IF there was any sign of talent or entertainment to go along with it. A number of people left during the show, the rest of us stayed to the end (after all the tickets were not cheap). The applause at the end were very quiet and forced indicating that the audience were in agreement with me.

A terrible show, I would expect better considering the price of the ticket and the venue.

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Drum Struck – Assembly Hall

My Rating : 5 ThistlesDrum Struck” is an African “interactive drum-theatre experience”.

It’s billed on the Fringe website as a “childrens show” but I think that’s unfair, it’s suitable for all ages and not aimed specifically at children. I saw it with three other adults (no children) and we all enjoyed it immensely. However there were a lot of children in the audience and they also seemed to love it.

The show tells the story, through narrative and music, of an African village that starts off being a happy traditional village which lives by the philosophy “Ubuntu” (No! not the Linux operating System) but when gold is discovered everything breaks down and the Queens drum is broken, but with the help of kids from the audience the drum is restored and they all live happily ever after :-).

On entering the hall each member of the audience finds a drum on their seat and can join in through-out the show. The members of the cast do a great job of directing the audience when and how to play (you don’t need any talent) and I was surprised how quickly the audience got into the rhythm.

I’m not a huge music person and probably would not have gone to this show if my friends hadn’t invited me to join them, I’m glad I did as it’s an excellent show and great fun.

You can take pictures at the end of the performance

You can take pictures at the end of the performance

A drum for everyone

A drum for everyone

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Tourniquet 2013 – Summerhall

My Rating: 3 ThistlesTourniquet 2013” is very hard to describe, it’s a modern art piece with no spoken words.

I guess this is what’s called “Avant-garde” theatre, I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it, a bit disturbing and definitely “odd”, I spent a lot of the time thinking “what the hell is going on?”

Errr… Ok, when the stage lights go up there are three naked actors on stage, one in a bath, they then get dressed (two as men, one as a woman), one then serves the other two numerous drinks,  before they start partially undressing again, then there is a thing with a Nazi flag and they may or may not kill the “woman” and then possibly bring her back to life… it get’s weirder after that!

The EdFringe website describes this as “three ghostlike characters perform old rituals and evoke the dark history of a house”, I’m not sure how this is interpreted. It is very “arty” and “out there” and I guess open to each individual interpretation.

It’s hard to recommend this show as I imagine it depends on the individual, some people will probably hate this while other will like it (maybe). That’s one thing about the Fringe it does give you the opportunity to see shows you’re not likely to normally see.

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The Shawshank Redemption – The Assembly Rooms

My Rating: 4 ThistlesI imagine most people are familiar with “The Shawshank Redemption”, either through the film or the original book by Stephen King.

I have not read the book myself so am only familiar with the film, the play follows the same plot as the film fairly closely. Although it perhaps does not give the same over bearing, depressing feeling of prison life or the same emotional depth. I guess it’s harder to do live on stage. If you haven’t seen the film, don’t worry you don’t need to (but you really should at some point!).

The show is well acted by the entire cast and moves along well with simple, efficient scene changes and the two main protagonists are excellently played. Those who love the film may find the play is not as intense but if you go in without expectations then I believe you will find it extremely enjoyable, the loud applause at the end of the show suggested the audience were in consensus.

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Bianco – NoFit State Big Top

My Rating : 5 ThistlesBianco” is a contemporary circus combining live music and acrobatic skills.

This show is sensational, go see it! Stunning acrobatics and gymnastics with live music and beautiful visuals make this a must see show! To read more see my Blipfoto entry.

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Red Riding Hood – Greenside

My Rating: 4 Thistles

“Red Hiding Hood” is a unique and chilling twist on this well-known children’s story that will leave audiences shocked and exposed.

Forget the traditional fairy tale, this is no fairy tale! For example there is no grandmother or huntsman in this story and Red Riding Hood never reaches her original destination…

This is a rather dark, gothic and at times horrifying tale, the show moves along rapidly and interacts with the audience which can be genuinely scary. When the wolf bounded up the centre stairs into the audience I was NOT going to turn my back on him! Nobody could possibly predict what was going to happen next as the tale unfolds and the gasps from the audience were of genuine surprise and shock.

At times it did seem to be so over-the-top as to make you wander if this was intended or not. I like to think it was deliberate and allowed for the odd nervous chuckle from the audience to relieve the obvious tension.

If you like your plays dark, gothic, unsettling and a bit bloody then this show is well worth seeing.

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Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre – In Space – Gilded Balloon

My Rating: 4 ThistlesThe Socks” are an old favourite of mine and I’ve seen then a number of times now.

The title says it all really, it’s two Scottish sock puppets 🙂 This show they are talking about science fiction so some of the references may go over the heads of some audience members (who today knows Fireball XL5?). In past years I would have given them 5 Thistles but this year there were quite a few groans from the audience for corny puns and a number of jokes I had heard before. Also some of the improv. suggestions were immediately rejected, but this is all part of the charm of the socks, they can adapt as fast as the Borg and if one pun gets a groan the socks will respond, suggesting they will drop that from future shows. The show stumbles along in their usual shambolic fashion, with “the stupid one” screwing up most of the “other ones” plans.

The Socks are still great and if you are looking for some fairly late night laughs and are fed up with yet another stand-up comedian then they are a great alternative.

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Humans Inc. – C

My Rating: 3 Thistles “Humans Inc.” is a Sci. Fi. play about Issac, who has three days left to pay for his upgrade or face full-body-shutdown. His only hope lies in finding a lost girl, Eva, and returning her to the Upgrade Corporation for a financial reward.

I imagine it’s difficult to do Sci. Fi. live on stage, for one; there’s the problem of “special effects”, secondly; Sci. Fi. usually has complex/confusing plots due to the futuristic “science” and thirdly; live theatre and sci. fi. geeks probably don’t mix too often.

Before the play started the sound system was playing “adverts” for futuristic products when the show started with a darkened stage: several “spaceships” zipping around, these were cardboard “models” covered in different LEDs, with which the actors danced around. This worked rather well and set the futuristic mood, after the lights came up and the actors came on stage the futuristic mood continued with actors creating “whooshing” sounds for sliding panels and doors. And the LED models were put to good use through-out as droids and in combination as a flying car.

The whole thing gave a somewhat “Blade Runner” feel to the play, with the main protagonist wearing a leather jacket and having to talk to “Humans Inc.” (a large corporation run by an old man, with a beautiful young assistance), again feeling like a homage to “Blade Runner” and the “Tyrell Corporation”.

As the plot develops, the hero and heroine have to escape the city to find the mythical “Arcadia”, there are reminders of “Logans Run”, unfortunately it’s at this stage that the pace picks up and the plot starts to get a little confusing until the end. The second half does seem a bit rushed and seems to try a pack too much in.

You’ll probably enjoy the play, as I did, but I’m not sure how much if you’re not a Sci. Fi. fan

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UFOs over Edinburgh

While out with my camera the other day I took the following photograph:

Ross Fountain

Ross Fountain, East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

This is the Ross Fountain in the East End of Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh.

Extract from Wikipedia:

After being cast in the Durenne Ironworks at Haute-Marne in the early 1860s, it was displayed at the Great London Exposition of 1862 where it was seen by philanthropist and gun-maker Daniel Ross, who bought it for the City of Edinburgh. It was transported in 122 pieces and arrived in Leith in 1869.

I didn’t notice anything when I took the picture (click on image for a larger view).

But what about this?

UFOs

Are these alien spaceships?

Doesn’t this look like a formation of UFO’s? (maybe it’s just me?) This is a view cut from the above picture.

UFO's

UFO’s over Edinburgh

Here’s another view to put it into perspective. I took an almost identical picture only seconds before and there was no sign of these “UFO’s” so they must have been moving pretty fast and it is highly unlikely to be artefacts on my lens/filter.

Just to be clear, I don’t really believe these are alien spaceships, in fact I very much doubt these are flying objects at all, I assume it is some sort of effect of the light. I took the picture with my Canon 550D using a Canon 17mm-50mm lens fitted with a circular polarising filter (focal length: 18mm, F-Stop: f/8, ISO-100, Exposure 1/200 sec.) with no lens hood.

It is not uncommon to get lens flare when facing directly towards the sun. Quite often the filter will cause lens flare, additional light effects or additional light reflections but I have never seen something like this, normally lens flares move out from the sun, while these do not, although they do seem to fade the further away from the sun they are. I took this image almost immediately after the other image but deliberately moved to one side to catch the sun shining around the side of the fountain.

Lens Flare

Classic Lens flare

Lens flare?

Suggestion they are caused by the light source

I drew lines joining the dots and extending them, these lines do seem to radiate towards the main light source (the sun) although not perfectly. There are several holes in the fountain and perhaps these dots are caused by light shining through them, reflecting on my filter and just happen to make a “triangle” shape.

I can easily see why some people would jump to the conclusion that these are UFO’s when looking at the picture. If I said I actually saw these lights moving in the sky then I imagine a lot of people would immediately accept the image as proof of UFO’s, like most “UFO” photos they are not clear (fuzzy white dots), the “lights” appear to be in formation and there is nothing obvious to cause a lighting effect.

N.B. UFO’s do not necessarily mean alien spaceships, the name is, Unidentified Flying Objects, some UFO picture may well be genuine images of natural phenomena, military aircraft, chinese sky lanterns or other “non-extraterrestrial” effect.

What do you think?

If nothing else, I hope you like the original picture, I was quite pleased with the  way I caught the sun glowing behind the fountain.

Oxford Gargoyles Jazz a Cappella!

I saw these guys last year and was so looking forward to seeing them again this year, and I was not disappointed.

It is difficult to write a detailed review, not being a music or jazz expert, but to my un-tuned ear they are excellent!

I’ve seen them a few times on the Royal Mile singing short pieces on the mini stages but that is just a taster of the delights of their hour-long show with their full ensemble in a proper theatre setting.

You immediately forget there is no music as they sing numerous familiar and not so familiar jazz songs. With different members on occasion taking the lead singing role beautifully.

What adds to the show is the clever “choreography” they don’t exactly “dance” as such but move around the stage in complex “formations” and movements often providing amusing little “actions” in relation to the songs and lyrics. The entire show wreaks of professionalism and is a delight to watch as well as listen to.

In Summary : If you like or appreciate good music/song and/or jazz I’m sure you would love their show!

Fringe Review : Tam O’Shanter

I’m not a huge fan of Robert Burns *ducks from flying haggises* this may well come from the fact that I had to learn Tam O’Shanter at school and didn’t understand most of the language in it (to be honest I still don’t!).

There is a good website here that shows the original version and a modern translation alongside it, or check out the Wikipedia  page which gives a fairly good abridged explanation.

The show starts a little oddly, with firstly a drunken man trying to climb over a farm gate and then a man ploughing a field, then the ploughman meets a young woman wearing a cape, whom he cannot catch. I assume this is Robert Burns as he sits down to write, I’m not sure who the young woman in the cape was.

Anyway we then start the story of Tam O’Shanter but one of the players stops the show and points out we should analyse why Tam is a drunkard and if his wife is to blame, a discussion breaks out between all the players before they agree to look at Tam’s marriage more closely.

By this point it’s obvious this is not going to be an entirely serious show, in fact it’s going to be fairly comical at times (I never thought of Tam O’Shanter as a particularly amusing tale).

The show expands on the original poem by covering his meeting, falling in love and marrying his wife Katie before moving on to the plot of the original poem. The pub scene is very much expanded and very far through the show before Tam leaves the pub for his dark ride home.  This isn’t necessarily a criticism as it is highly amusing and entertaining. There are jokes and humorous lines a plenty with live music, dancing and singing. There is at one point where the cobbler is asked to tell a tale and entire cast then enact a couple of his stories in full costume. At this point I did get a little confused and wasn’t sure what any of this had to do with Tam O’Shanter.

Eventually though the revelry in the pub ends and Tam takes his ride home, this is an amusing sequence has Meg (Tam’s horse) points out all the scary places as they journey home until they reach Alloway Kirk and the witches dancing. This sequence is quite short compared to the rest of the play but equally well performed including a rather clever bit of shadow puppetry and the dance by Nannie (the young witch) is quite stunning.

The chase sequence is fairly short but cleverly done and provides more humour until the inevitable end as they reach the bridge.

We then return to Robert Burns sitting at a desk, apparently with writer’s block, until a woman appears, a muse that inspires Robert to continue writing.

The performance is marvellous, with wonderful music and dancing, a lot of the dialogue is in broad Scots and even I struggled to understand everything that was said, I can’t imagine how those who are fluent English speakers coped, but it did not detract much from the entire experience. I was a little disappointed that the church scene with the witches and devil did not play a larger role in the production.

In summary : A great Scottish amusing musical extravaganza of a show.

Fringe Review : Boo Lingerie

The socks are back for the Fringe 🙂

The “Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre” weren’t at the Fringe last year, but they’re back and they even have a child friendly show this time.

For those not familiar with them, they are two sock puppets in a tartan “Punch & Judy” style booth, they have a bunch of videos on YouTube to give you an idea.

Do not expect the show to go to plan, the sock on the right is a bit, err, “dim” and sure to mess things up. Having said that, it is often hard to tell if things go wrong by design or by accident.

The jokes come thick and fast, and if a reference goes over your head, don’t worry about, another will be along you will get. The socks play off the audience reactions very well, making comments like (nobody knows who that is, lets drop it from the script). They also do some improvisation, chatting with some audience members or asking for suggestions. They use a number of props through-out the show as well as costume changes which don’t always work and sometimes allow the socks to ad-lib which may well end up funnier than the original script (look out for Tigger in future shows).

It’s also amazing that the entire show is done by one guy and a couple sock puppets. I could go on, but really you should just see the show for yourself!

 

 

Fringe Review : Facehunters

Facehunters is a modern, musical performed The Hungry Bitches

It is set in what is described as the “comically sycophantic east London hipster scene”, now I have no idea what the “east London hipster scene” is like, I’ve no idea if it IS “comically sycophantic” and so perhaps I was not the target audience.

There appeared to be two plot lines, the first with three characters “Sweet”, “Bruce” & “Sam” (I think) who were all heavy drug users, Sweet & Bruce used to be a couple until Bruce left to get off the drugs. Sweet, broken-hearted by Bruce leaving sunk even lower into her addiction, the play takes place during Bruce’s return to find Sweet & Sam fallen deeper in their addiction.

The second plot line is based around Katherine and Lily who, meet and fall in love and a third character Juliette who at first appears to be unrelated to the plot but a popular young woman in the club scene.

When “Sweet” dies of a overdoes it helps galvanize the love that Katherine and Lily have for each other (although they did not know Sweet very well) and they decide they want to “run away together”. At this point Juliette “flies off the handle” and it turns out that she and Katherine have a long history together (in fact 30 years together). It turns out they have not aged since having a Polaroid taken of themselves and they swore they would stay as young and beautiful as they were in the photograph for ever (yes it IS all very “Dorian Gray”). Juliette confronts Lily and kills her so Katherine rips up the Polaroid leading to the death of herself and Juliette.

Oh, Sam almost dies of an overdose himself after blaming Bruce for Sweet’s death, but the dead Sweet returns to say it is not his time and Bruce walks off with Sam.

The “plot” is pretty thin at best and any intended irony was completely lost on me, if there’s an under lying message I guess it’s don’t do drugs, don’t be vain and don’t fall in love!

The music was, for the most part, good and the singing, dancing and general choreography was impressive and very powerful at times, all the lead characters played their parts well and had wonderful singing and dancing talents, backed up by a strong ensemble some of whom had cameo roles that were also well-played.

In Summary : a good show but I suspect a bit too insular for the wider audience.


Fringe Review : Three by Poe

Three stories by Edgar Allan Poe…

  1. The Cask of Amontillado
  2. The Tell-Tale Heart
  3. Hop-Frog

As soon as the lights come up a man standing centre stage in a costume and start to recount the conversation he had with a friend, with hind-sight it turns out this character is “Montresor” from “The Cask of Amontillado“. I must admit that although I have read “The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe” it was quite a few years ago and I did not recognise this story. The story is basically about how one character convinces an inebriated “friend” to accompany him into the “catacombs” to taste what is possible a rare sherry and ends up bricking him up in the catacombs! The actor played the on going conversation rather well and the story proceeded to it’s inevitable conclusion and then the lights died.

When the light came up, the actor had changed costume and had changed character to unnamed narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” and recites the story of how he murdered the old man he lives with and concludes with his confession to police officers when he can no longer stand the sound of the beating heart below the floor boards where he hid the dismembered body, at which point the theatre lights again died.

The third and final tale is told by Edgar Allan Poe himself  and is the story of “Hop-Frog“, a story of how a tormented court jester persuaded the king and his ministers to dress as Orangutans in chains using tar and flax and then manages to chain them up to a chandelier and set them on fire,

The show was reasonably entertaining and all three tales were well enough recited but did not really add anything except perhaps a bit more characterisation in the first two tales, through the actors voice and mannerisms. But I never really got any sense of “horror” or dread, perhaps I have just become to cynical in my old age.

In Summary : Reasonably entertaining but nothing more.