Monday, 27 August 2012

An Edinburgh Fringe Round-Up

Written by: Adam Carver

This article comes to you purely from the perspective of an observer at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this year being the first time I've properly 'done' the Fringe (whatever that actually means). Having worked as press and sat through about 40 productions in my two and half weeks of avoiding the Olympics in Scotland, I've put this together as a collection of observations, feelings, whimsical wanderings and other miscellaneous thoughts.

For those of you familiar with the Fringe, you'll know that it's enormous and accordingly impossible to get your way around even a fraction of what's on offer. You'll also know that the Fringe showcases some of the best and the absolute worst that 'theatre' in its many senses has to offer. This year I was fortunate to witness some blissful highs and pitiful lows. So let's start with the lows:

I, like many of my fellow students who went, felt that ticket prices this year have risen. If you think this sounds like grumbling then you'd be correct but with ticket prices rising this year, it means that the Fringe theatregoer has to be particularly savvy when choosing their show. Unavoidably I was exposed to some work that I can only describe as theatrical violation. You must be careful to avoid anything that calls itself 'gritty, fast-paced and hard hitting' because inevitably it will be about as potent as Philadelphia cheese. Additionally, the 16-18 year old drama crowd do tend to bring with them a whole host of pretentious theatrical offerings which read more like a checklist for teen angst than anything actually relevant; throw together some teen pregnancy, domestic abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, gangs, bullying, street violence and depression and you've got a cheeky recipe for terribly indulgent, mindlessly meaningless, angst ridden "drama".

Regardless, sitting through the drivel can make a spectacular find all the more joyous! This year Belt-Up, Les Enfants Terribles and Action To The World all brought spectacular offerings and diverse pieces of new theatre with Action To The World returning for their second year with A Clockwork Orange. As always, it is great to see people bringing up different and rarely performed pieces as well as new work. It seems as though the entire works of Stephen Sondheim were on at some point throughout this year’s Fringe including two different productions of Assassins - one of which was stunning. Many of my own personal highlights this year came from the emerging cabaret scene in Edinburgh; something I'm rarely exposed to and have become an avid fan of with artists like Jonny Woo, Joe Black, Cabaret Whore, and Bourgeois and Maurice heading up the neo-cabaret scene. Luckily most of them are London-based and so you can catch them there soon enough!

The absolute stand out show of this year's Fringe for me has to be Anthony Rapp's Without You. An autobiographical performance documenting Rapp's experiences with the musical Rent and his relationship with his mother. Featuring Rapp and a five-piece rock band, Without You is a beautiful and touching insight into one man's life, love, and loss. It's an indescribable piece and has received stellar reviews across the board: the likes of which I have never seen before. Words cannot do justice to my feelings about this show, and all I can say is that it was an honour to watch and the most profoundly affecting piece of theatre I have seen in a long time. Yes, it's a must for Rent fans, but so much more than that too. Luckily, if you still want to catch it (which you should), Without You is running at the Menier Chocolate Factory from August 29th - September 15th.

Once youve battled your way through the thousands of flyer-ers and comedians begging you to see their show, then the Fringe is full of opportunity for delight and disappointment in equal measure. But the aforementioned is all part of the Fringe experience too. What was so remarkable about this month in the Edinburgh calendar was the atmosphere it was such a friendly environment and rather surprisingly, wasn’t all that competitive. Everyone who goes to the Fringe is there purely for a love of what they do which makes it unlike any other festival Ive attended.

The Edinburgh Fringe was active from 3 - 27 August 2012. 
For more information on our recommended show, Without You at the Menier Chocolate Factory, then click >here<.

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