Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Edinburgh picks

I've been meaning to do this for ages, but today seems like a good day. Maybe it's because I've been bashing away at a plot structure for a new play for weeks and I just can't face it again today. Maybe it's because I realise the Fringe is only two weeks away and I'm all excited and want to get in the mood. (Edinburgh is like Christmas to me; in fact, I far prefer it.) Or maybe it's because all my highlighted shows are scribbled onto about six different sheets of paper and if I lose them or spill tea on them between now and then I'm fucked.

But either way, I thought I'd pick out the shows that stood out to me as being worth a punt, and share them with you here.

There are some perameters and disclaimers, of course. Firstly, I'm only going to include stuff from the Theatre section. This is partly because that is of course my specialism; when it comes to Comedy or Dance then your guess is as good as mine. It's also because I only have about an hour set aside to do this, and if I included everything I'd be here all day, and I while I love you dearly, dear reader, I'm not sure that affection stretches to dissecting an entire 359 page brochure for you. The other limitation is that I'm only there for a week, so I have selfishly but I hope understandably only selected shows that are on during the dates I'm there. This is inevitably quite annoying, even for me. For some reason there seems to be quite a lot of good stuff on this year which only opens towards the middle or end of the Festival. (A loud 'Fuck!' emanating from behind the brochure announced these shows when the listings first arrived; sadly, that is all I will be able to say about them.)

I got the Edinburgh Fringe brochure through when it first came out and did that thing of holing up for the weekend with a marker pen and a pencil-drawn grid, working out what looks exciting, but almost more importantly, what fits into my limited time. I still feel that a huge oversight in the layout of the Fringe brochure is a table listing everything by time slot. One of the joys of the Fringe is just going 'Oh we've got a two hour gap, shall we see what's on?' - but you can't just flick to one page which tells you everything that's on at, say, 3.45pm that day. So I have learned to pick out everything in advance and list it separately by time order. (Perhaps this is a bit ASD of me. I prefer to see it as making the most of a few days. So no need to leave a comment, Mother.) And don't all email saying there's an App for that now, I'm sure there is but I don't have a Tw@tphone so that's no use to me.

The main disclaimer is that I can't personally vouch for any of these shows. I'm not a critic and I haven't seen any of them. This is entirely based on the 40-word write-ups, plus a dash of background knowledge about companies, writers or directors. There also a few drops of instinct, a sprinkling of inclination towards plays with a political edge or intellectual curiosity about them, plus several large glugs of unabashed guesswork. So don't blame me if the pudding turns out to taste like shite. The dubious joy of Edinburgh is getting one show that blows you away after seeing ten stinkers in a row.

That said, I've divided the shows into a few different categories below. Top of the list is my Must Sees, that is, shows I am prepared to book for in advance, and which may well sell out if I don't. These ones I usually know something about, or have seen the company's previous work. After that comes Recommended, if I can fit them in. These ones I'm almost as excited about but I'm pretty sure there'll be tickets when I get there, allowing me a degree of flexibility with my schedule. Next is Maybes, that is, something has interested me about them and I'll see them if I have a slot and nothing on the Recommended list fits in. Then last of all is Total Risks. These ones I know nothing about, but something in the 40 words has pinged my Spidey Sense. These ones I'll take a punt on if neither of the others work out, or for some other reason like I get handed a flyer for it with a ticket offer on it, or read a good review. That isn't to do down these shows at all - they've made my list after all - more that in the furious pace of Edinburgh I have had to prioritise somehow, so they may or may not get a look-in.

Finally, long standing readers will know that I don't do reviews. The politics of that as a theatre-maker are just too ugly. So I won't be saying any more about these shows once I've seen them. (If a show totally blows me away I might - might - tweet it as a recommendation, but that's all. Follow @finkennedy if you're bothered.) Apart from anything else it's a festival, I'm up there with my Mrs, and I just don't have the time.

So, without further ado, here are my list of Educated Guesses for the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Must Sees

Mission Drift at The Traverse
Long and, yes, expensive, but the epic sweep of this play really appeals to me. I'm hoping it might be like Nancy Keystone's Apollo at PCS, one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.

David Greig's The Strange Undoing of Prudence Hart
I have no idea what to expect with this, apparently it did a valiant job at Latitude last weekend but suits a more intimate space. Suffice to say that David Greig is probably my favourite playwright working today.

What Remains
Just read about it. How could you not go? It's in the Medical School Anatomy Department!

Stewart Lee
I know I said I wouldn't do comedy but I make an exception for this guy. I try and see him whenever he's on. Maybe I'm getting old and grumpy, like him.

Blood and Roses
Bit of a risk actually, as I know nothing about the company, but love the premise so I might book.

Dry Ice
Sabrina Mahfouz was one of the writers on my Mulberry-Tamasha scheme earlier this year. She's also an accomplished performance poet and live artist.


The Dark Philosophers
Seeing lots of shows at The Traverse gets really expensive, so although I like the sound of this one I might wait for a review.

The Wheel

A Slow Air
Ditto - though David Harrower makes this a strong contender.

Show Me The World
Bridge Theatre Co are the graduate company of BRIT School. I went to some play readings of theirs recently which were very good. This one is about Facebook and online identities, written by Simon Vinnicombe.

Free Run
I like this sort of thing, though Lyn Gardner recently tweeted that it was all boys and the girl parts were a bit naff. Intriguingly, it is listed under Theatre rather than Dance or Physical. Maybe there will be a story as well as acrobatics.

You Once Said Yes
Another site specific walky one, though their write-up is a little boastful. I might see what the weather's doing.

The Tour Guide
This sounds great, and it's high time I caught some of James Graham's stuff.

At the Sans Hotel
Profound or pretentious? There's only one way to find out.

(g)Host City
Downloadable, free, available whenever you want to do it - and featuring international artists. What's not to like?

The Table
An adult puppet show with an 18+ age restriction! Though it seems serious rather than filthy. I'm intrigued.

Spoken Word company Apples and Snakes take on post-war Britain with a multimedia twist. I'll give that a go.


2401 Objects
Analogue do some interesting things with projections. This would be in my Recommended section if it wasn't for their last show Beachy Head, which I didn't get on too well with.

Wondrous Flitting
Christ knows what this will be like. (Ha ha.)

Close up magic with storytelling. Hmmm.

I Hope My Heart Goes First
Glasgow teenagers take on the workings of the human heart. They sound like a young company on the up.

Go To Your God Like A Soldier
Physical theatre take on Afghanistan. Could be interesting.

Hotel Methuselah
Multimedia ghosts, apparently.

Total Risks

I'm getting a bit tired of putting all the links in now, so you'll have to look these up for yourself in the brochure or at You'll also have to try and work out for yourself why I've listed these. (Hey, it was while ago. And I really must go and do some work now.)

Biding Time
Dr Apple's Last Lecture
End Of The Line
Female Hitchhiker
An Imaginary History of Tango
The Infant
The Last Days of Gilda
Midnight Your Time
Museum of Horror
The Observatory
Oedipus by Berkoff
Penny Dreadful's Etherdome
Politically Incorrect
The Pretender
Tales From Edgar Allen Poe
Thirty Two Teeth
Thugs N Tearz
Two Johnnies Live Upstairs
We Draupadi's And Sitas
White Rabbit Red Rabbit
Wonder Bread
The Wright Bros
Young Pretender

Right, that's your lot. Don't blame me if you hate them. But do let me know if any of them turn out to be gems.

Maybe see you there.


Rachael's Cafe - The Play said...

We're not in the fringe brochure as we weren't planning on being at the Fringe but somehow we are so please take a look at our show - it's new writing, it's free fringe and by virtue of our venue's restrictions it's got to be innovative!

Bonnie is Bonnie said...

This show is also really beautiful :)

It won best solo show at the New York Fringe last year!

Cheers Bonnie

Fin said...

Just realised some of the links were wrong in this. I've corrected it. Please try again if you got a dodgy one.

Anonymous said...

The Golden Dragon - "Insight into a community seen on UK stages all too seldom".
Indeed. In fact this will be the first play about the German/Chinese community I've ever seen...