Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Edinburgh Fringe - second day and things get serious

Supermen and women on The Royal Mile

It's when you wake up in the morning in Edinburgh and realise that there are far too many shows to even begin to get your head around, that you realise that just getting up and out there is the best course of action. Experience tells me that 4-5 shows in a day is hard-core but do-able. I am sure there are those who get to do more, but I find that after 4 my brain gets a bit too full.

So second day on the streets of Edinburgh and what did we see?

Well we saw lots and lots of flyer-ing on the Royal Mile - start from there to get a feel for the atmosphere and what you'd like to see.
Selling a show on the Royal Mile
We had already pre-booked theatre in the form of the world premier of An Actor's Lament by and starring Steven Berkoff after lunch, and Adam Hills in the early evening, so had plenty of hours to fill - but what to choose?

So the first thing to get us in the mood was a comedy showcase Just the Tonic off the Royal Mile. We got to see 4 stand-up comedians plus compare for £5 - a pound a pop which was much cheaper than the laughs which were really rather good. Checking out new comics is best done via a showcase - then you can decide to see a fuller set by a particular comic at a later date should you choose. These showcases are often free but if you want quality then it is best to pay something, even if it's just a fiver!

Photo: Berwickshire News

Steven Berkoff's An Actor's Lament was our biggest ticket in terms of price and it was definitely an event that had to be booked way in advance. Joined on stage by actors Jay Benedict and Andree Bernard, this new play gives us an insight into the world of theatre from the point of view of an actor, director and writer.

Never one to miss the opportunity to have a pop at critics (Berkoff is well-known for his intolerance of critics) which he does vociferously in the opening speech, he also puts actors themselves under his own particular spotlight showing up their ego-centricities, vanities and of course their enormous frailty. He takes on the world of theatre but also can't resist pulling apart TV soaps and films that are churned out for the money rather than the artistic value. We see the frustrations of being a performer laid bare for all the world to see, but in my opinion the star of the show is the language itself which is both melodic and has acerbic wit but above all is really quite funny. If you get a chance to see it at a future date then grab it - a real theatrical treat is in store.
The Dance Dome
The wonderful thing about Edinburgh is that you can go and see things you wouldn't normally and it won't be a costly mistake. Our little group all like dance and physical theatre so DanceDome in particular caught our eye. This 'event' took place in a large inflatable dome at the bottom of Cowgate in Dance Base and is a 360 degree film created by an international crew based in Cardiff. Using digital technology, cinema and some great choreography the dancers leapt and wove in film above our heads while the rain absolutely bucketed down outside. There were three films in total featuring everything from contemporary dance to parkour and breakdance - and all with original music. Explore more at The Dance Dome.
The very funny Adam Hills

Adam Hills was our other hot ticket this trip with Adam Hills: Happyism at The Assembly Hall. He opens his show with an audience member joining him on stage for improvised banter which he clearly loves as much as his set. Off-the-cuff and wonderfully spontaneous, Adam Hills is obviously joyful to be alive and although he has a spring in his step his show is one of many layers covering topics from what's not acceptable in society, drawing on his own experiences on US TV, to the differences between Aussie and British culture. It is far more sophisticated than you first imagine seamlessly switching from one topic to another, but he does make an audience laugh - really laugh. He will soon be up with the greats in terms of stand-up and I'm not surprised he has packed out such a large venue for two weeks here in Edinburgh. He overran by 15 minutes - apparently this happens a lot - which isn't great if you've got another show to catch, but it was obvious that he could have gone on all night if time had allowed, we were all having so much fun.

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