Thursday, 26 August 2010

Two crazy days at Edinburgh Fringe!

I’ve been meaning to go to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for years and 2010 was the year I eventually got to do it. I only had two days and was a woman on a mission to see as many shows as I could. After a lot of Internet trawling for tips, I had a list of 15 shows that caught my eye. 15 from over 3000 wasn’t bad editing but I knew 15 in 2 days was impossible….

Saturday morning- 6am start for the early flight to Edinburgh. We were staying with a friend in the old town, not far from the Grassmarket, which was a perfect location to get around. As a ‘local’ and regular festival-goer, he helped us avoid any tourist traps. First one- book tickets online. He warned of the serious queues at the Fringe box office and it worked out really well as we quickly picked up our pre-paid tickets at Fringe HQ on the Royal Mile before 12pm.

Another thing to keep in mind- be prepared to walk! Thankfully I had brought comfortable shoes but even those began to pinch my toes by the end of day one.

So I thought I’d tell you about the shows that I managed to get to but I wanted to frame it with one very important point- I am not a critic. Any of these thoughts are just my own feelings, opinions…or ramblings.

My first show on Saturday was Derevo’s Harlekin at the Pleasance Courtyard venue. That place had I’m sure 8 venues within it and was buzzing with people eating lunch, having a cool beer or queuing for a show.

The popular St. Petersburg Company drew a big crowd and I loved their set, costumes and lighting. I really enjoyed the first half of the production. The two ‘puppet’ characters were interesting and performed beautifully, with some great movement and comedic moments. However, the early morning start began to make my eyes heavy and I got a little lost in the narrative after 40 minutes.

Next on the list, I made my way to Dance Base. I was really looking forward to seeing inside the venue as I’d heard a lot about it. It has an unassuming entrance but with the ‘Love Dance’ banner above it, I was sure it was the right place.

The second show was Velocity, a double bill with Daghda Dance Company and Pair Dance. This show was one of 11 curated by the Dance Base team. Daghda’s Standing in Ink was a soft, intimate duet. The movement was interesting but I think the content was a little too open for me. It was juxtaposed with Rush- a complete change in pace as the dancers sprinted back and forth across the stage. The energetic quartet amazed with their technique and muscle but the best part was a short duet in the middle by David Gellura and Ayano Honda.

From Dance Base, I met up with my fiancé, Alan and our host Stuart to rush over to a new venue, Assembly @ Princes Street Gardens, to watch Julien Cottereau: Imagine Toi. I had heard about this show from watching a Scottish Dance Theatre video blog and am so glad I made the effort to go. French clown and mime extraordinaire, Julien’s show was pure class. The sounds that he created had most of us wondering if they were special effects, and his movements were so real, so fluid and of course hilarious. He invited us into his imaginary world where in fact we all fitted in quite well!

At 5.30pm, I had time to relax so we had a beer outside the venue where they had live music. It was a well-earned break before making our way to another corner of the city for Scottish Dance Theatre’s show The Life and Times of Girl A at 7pm. The show was at Zoo Southside and as we made our way, the raindrops began to fall. Using my fringe guide as cover, we upped the pace and got to the venue just in time for the start.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from SDT, I had thought it would be very ‘dancey’ or typical UK modern dance style but it surprised me. The female lead, Solene Weinachter was excellent. I warmed to her immediately and followed her as she asked us with her romantic french accent to ‘imagine this is a film’. She was humorous, feisty at times and vulnerable at others and I really enjoyed her story. The dance felt a little supplementary to the theatre and at parts, didn’t make sense to me. The airport scenes with Solene directing the dancers were lovely as was her storytelling but I was a tiny bit disappointed with the ending.

After dinner, another walk and a few drinks, we made it to a comedy show at the Underbelly venue on Cowgate. Touted as the Best of Scottish Comedian of the Year, it was just ok for the £11 ticket. It finished after 12 and once we got to bed I passed out with exhaustion!

So day two- and after galloping around Edinburgh and watching 5 shows the day before, I was happy to take Sunday a bit easier.

We had planned to see Liz Lea Dance at Dance Base at 1pm but when we arrived, it became obvious that we should have pre-booked our tickets as the queue was too long for the foyer to hold it. Instead we made sure to book tickets for N.I’s very own ponydance for that evening.

This gave us the afternoon to do a bit of shopping and grab some lunch before No Fit State Circus began their Tabu show at 5pm. The big top was filled with confused audience members as we suddenly realised there were no seats. The action happens all around the audience, which at first frustrated me because at 5 feet 4 inches (just about), I was too short to see what they were doing when the performers were on the ground. However, a lot of the show was aerial work and meant that everyone had a good viewing angle. As a positive to the more informal set up, it meant that we had a strange feeling of warmth and ease with them walking amongst us. Their tricks and skills were fascinating and it is a great Fringe spectacle show to see. I did find myself getting a bit restless during parts- mostly due to sore feet and tiredness though.

After Tabu, we had dinner and got ready for our final show of the festival- ponydance’s Where did it all go right? Having helped with the marketing committee at the Pick n Mix Festival in Belfast last year I was interested in their quirky work but missed their show. I’d also bumped into Ryan O’Neill (Ryan performed in Echo Echo’s The chess Piece) a few times at Dance Base over the weekend and wanted to see him perform.

ponydance were great, all four dancers had me in stitches from start to finish. Alan and I had front row seats that meant we had a great view but it petrified him to be so close in case it involved audience participation (which it did of course!) The venue was perfect for the show and the show was perfect for the fringe.

ponydance ended our festival trip on a high and after a hectic two days, we were glad to get home. It was a fantastic experience and has inspired me on many levels, not least to maybe see Echo Echo there again soon.

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