Sunday, 16 August 2015

Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe

The 'What was your favourite show?' question is really impossible to answer, because everything we saw was so different. I have divided the shows we saw up, roughly, by genre.

At the Bedlam Theatre we saw Ada (trailer on Youtube here), the story of Ada Lovelace, who worked with Charles Babbage, and whose notes on his Analytical Engine is considered to be the first computer programme. The piece blends technology and creativity, with cast members explaining the science behind their work alongside telling the story of her achievements. They incorporated imagery of computing into the play with a repetitive cycling of some of the dialogue, and people mimicking the workings of Babbage's machine. A fascinating and beautifully put together production, this was the only thing that Dunk chose for us to go to. Venue 49 is a real theatre (unlike many of the spaces that are often function rooms or spaces carved out for the purpose) and there were many other interesting productions going on there. Their tea was only £1 and there are comfy seats in a room papered with posters from years of past productions.

The second morning (I think) we were sitting on the Mile early discussing our plans when we were approached by Teresa herself and handed this flyer. I said what a coincidence that we had no plans for twelve o'clock. 'Wing It Dusty' sets its scene in the bedroom of a middle aged lesbian couple discussing the history of their relationship. It was one of those plays that seems small and intimate, and yet touches on universal themes of belonging and acceptance, just quietly getting under your skin. We ended up seeing a lot of things in Space 39. I began to notice a theme developing, we saw an awful lot of plays where people changed their costume on stage ... is that just the way they do things these days?

 'Consumption' was another spur-of-the-moment choice, also in Space 39, is by Two Forty Two Theatre. It is the story of Sebastian and Penelope who fall for each other at a speed dating event. Sebastian finds himself sucked into the aspiration lifestyle that Penelope enjoys, sinking further and further into debt, while his mum seems to be having problems of her own. A morality tale certainly, and while it was really well executed I was not convinced by their relationship and sat through it thinking 'stupid people' and having very little sympathy for his troubles, a bit too much 'Made in Chelsea' for my taste.

I went to see 'The Beanfield' by myself. Produced by Breach Theatre Company it is a reconstruction of the events surrounding the 'Battle of the Beanfield' that took place in 1985 when the police, enforcing an injunction to prevent a festival that had been taking place at Stonehenge, instigated a violent confrontation with Travellers in a nearby field. The story is told through correspondence between the participants as they researched the story, the testimony of eye witnesses in pre-recorded interviews, but also recounts the experiences of the students themselves as they piece together the story and try to discover the truth about the events. It highlights the change in policing tactics that had been taking place during this period, that coincided with the miner's strike. A very emotionally charged piece that got me caught up with the story, taking me back to a period that I remember quite vividly.

The thing I enjoyed very much when walking the Mile (people did flyer other places, there was just such a concentration of them there) was stopping to let people tell you about their show. And so it was with 'The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank', where a man painted orange was sitting on the curb and another in a brown suit introduced us to his imaginary friend. Produced by Familia de la Noche this was probably the most 'straight' theatre that we saw, as in it was a single story, told by a set of fixed characters, on a stage with actual scenery. But I think it was my favourite. Edward's troubles seem to be quite deep seated. His imaginary friend from childhood never left him, and in fact has been joined by several others, and in spite of 'treatment' he choses not to silence them with pills, and so hides in his flat and makes a living by typing up, and editing, bad manuscripts. It is a very vivid portrayal of mental illness; the voices of his 'friends' lurch from being companionable and encouraging to being chaotic and threatening. It moved me to tears, which is high praise indeed. We saw 'Edward' when we were queueing to see 'Bruce', but I was too shy to ask him to sign my flyer. 

(Tickets for all events can be booked through the Edfringe Website.)

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