I spent a week at the Edinburgh Free Fringe Festival and saw 17 shows. (almost all were only an hour long, so this wasn’t difficult.) As one would expect from free shows, there was a wide variety in quality. I was there to support my boyfriend, Billy Watson, who was doing an hour of stand-up, so I saw mostly comedy shows. The comedians, by and large solo acts, ranged from the absurd (The Pat and Tim Show) to the personal ( Graham Whistler’s experience as a comic with Cerebral Palsey ) to people with no discernible comedic raison d’être.
By far the strongest comedy act was David Mulholland’s ” You Are Being Lied To”, a scathingly funny expose of news media. Mr Mulholland is a journalist and former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, so he spoke from personal experience. More importantly from an audience perspective, his show was organized and polished, something sorely lacking in many other Free Fringe shows.
Another show I enjoyed was a new theater piece, Dorian Gray, by the Pregnant Fish Theater company. This impressive group of recent university graduates displayed some fine acting. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite up to the task of singing, so the occasional song broke the spell of the performance. Still, it was a creative work performed with passion and committment, making it a highlight of my Fringe experience.
I did see one performance for which I purchased a ticket, and oddly enough it was an opera. I hardly ever go to the opera; marinating in it for almost 20 years was enough. The only exception is when something new and interesting is being presented, and Dr Quimpugh’s Compendium of Peculiar Afflictions fit the bill.
This new one-act piece by Martin Ward is the kind of thing contemporary opera needs. The music was modern but not difficult to listen to, and the action was entertaining. The story is the near-death reflection of the doctor. His two nurses play various former patients as he relives his oddest cases. I was especially impressed by the comedic talents of soprano Natalie Raybould (who also sang very well) in a scene in which her hand acted outside her control.
With a single set, a cast of only three singers (soprano, mezzo and baritone) and musical accompaniment of three instruments, this opera should be relatively inexpensive to produce. I hope some small opera companies pick it up.
Of course, going to shows is only part of the Festival experience, and sometimes it seems there are as many shows going on in the streets as in the performance venues. Some of these are quite good, like the musical group Clanedonia, an ensemble of bagpipes and drums playing “a high energy blend of pipes, drums and tartan-clad mayhem”. Billy was inspired to join them by dancing, and they were so entertained they gave him a copy of their CD as a reward. I tried to take photos but everyone was moving too fast ,and it was night, so my photography skills weren’t up to the task.
Just walking around looking at people during the festival can be fun too. I know this looks like she’s trying to stop me from taking her picture, but at the time I remember she was actually shielding her eyes from the sun. She was in that pose before I took out my camera.
Of course, there’s a lot to see in Edinburgh in addition to the Festival.
By the way, it looks from these photos as if it never rained in Edinburgh. This is not the case. It rained about half the days I was there, but only for short periods of time. The weather seemed to change drastically within minutes, and I ended up carrying my folding rain jacket every day. I also seem to have developed a taste for Guinness. And there you have the gist of my week in Edinburgh.Google+