I’ve spent the best part of 10 days at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe assessing for the Total Theatre Awards which means I’ve not been allowed to talk about any of the shows I’ve seen. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know how difficult that must have been for me not to blab about some of the promising (and awful) work I’ve seen. Now that the shortlist has been announced I’m free to reveal the shows that I’ve been wanting to champion.
So, in no particular order… (click the image to head to the EdFringe website)
Five Feet in Front (The Ballad of Little Johnnie Wylo) at Summerhall
The Letter Room are an emerging company from Newcastle. There are seven of them and they all play instruments, they’re a bloody talented bunch. Their new piece Five Feet in Front (The Ballad of Little Johnnie Wylo) is a foot-stamping hoe-down of a Western story about seeking revenge. There’s an inventive design, some brilliant songs and fine acting. I’m tipping them as a company to keep a strong eye on (they’ve received support from Northern Stage and The Lowry to make this work, all good signs).
Le Gateau Chocolat: Black at Assembly
I’ve never seen Le Gateau Chocolat’s work before. I’m not usually one for cabaret but Black is an exquisite evolution of form and content for this artist. It could easily be described as the first ‘theatre show’ for Le Gateau Chocolat which is why it feels so rich and warm whilst being compelling and tragic. A complex mix of personal and fantasy storytelling through opera, cabaret and gayness.
To Sleep To Dream at Tom Fleming Centre (Summerhall)
The use of 3D sound in theatre is nothing new with the likes of David Rosenberg’s experiments with Ring and Fiction – the latter playing at the Fringe this year – but Ear Film’s first piece, To Sleep To Dream is an extraordinary complex piece. Blindfolded and immersed with 3D sound this fantasy narrative has layer and layer of rich audio like nothing I’ve seen (or heard) before. Imagine watching a film only without being able to see and instead using the darkness in front of you to allow images to appear.
Can We Start Again Please? at Summerhall
I saw Sue MacLaine’s Can I Start Again Please? as an Edinburgh preview in London but it has stuck right with me throughout the Fringe. Dismantling language and words through sign language, repetition and storytelling McLaine’s understanding of our use and misuse of language is fascinating. At times hypnotic it is the sort of piece that needs at least a second viewing to fully appreciate what McLaine’s work is achieving, and that’s no bad thing.
The Beanfield at theSpace on the Mile
As emerging companies go it doesn’t get anymore fresh out of university than Breach Theatre with their debut show The Beanfield. This documentary-theatre piece explores the Battle of the Beanfield as Breach Theatre attempt to reenact and investigate the stories and experiences of those who endured this ‘battle’. If there was ever a company I’m more excited about for future work then this has to be the one. I saw The Beanfield within the first few days of the Fringe and I’ve not shut up about it since.
The Great Downhill Journey of Little Tommy at Summerhall
Putting to one side the perfection of music and musicians in this debut piece from recent Belgium graduates The Great Downhill Journey of Little Tommy has a real gutsy throat-screaming quality to it. The storytelling through music and painting is chilling. It’s not perfect but where it glimmers with promise you can see why this show is developing a loyal fanbase. Oh, and it helps that these boys are pretty to look at.
Idiot-Syncrasy at Summerhall
A late edition to my festival planning but Igor and Moreno’s Idiot-Syncrasy is just superb. It is the short of show that takes you on a very minimal but complex journey as a spectator. Contemporary dance, stripped back in a playful and passionate jumping fest that shows the human body to be a gloriously wonderful thing. I dare you not to smile during this piece.
Of course there are many shows that could easily have slipped into my list but these ones offer something more. Intelligent, visual, complex or just enjoyable, they’re an electic mix of work from established and emerging companies. Summerhall seems to top my list as a venue but that will always be the case, it doesn’t matter how far I cast the net I will always return to this curated programme of work. You could easily spend a day at Forest Fringe and experience some brilliant work or take a gable on the Free Fringe, but these are my picks.