Wednesday, July 23, 2014

EdFringe Here I Come!

My dog-eared Fringe programme
After months of anticipation, I am finally leaving for Scotland this week-end for my adventure with Wendi at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  We knew from the outset that a visit to EdFringe would require all of the planning of a military operation.  During the course of the three week festival, there will be more than 2500 performances at 250+ venues.  In early June, a 400 page programme (note the British spelling) hit our mailboxes with the schedule of events.  (Actually, that's only the events that are part of the official EdFringe.  There is also a free comedy festival and, I suspect, a lot of other stuff going on at the same time.)  If you think it sounds overwhelming to figure out what to see, you're right.

While the scope of the festival includes theater, comedy, dance, music and spoken word, we are focusing on theater performances. Long before we committed to going to EdFringe, Wendi had figured out that Lyn Gardner, theater critic for the Guardian newspaper, writes an annual article about what she's looking forward to seeing at that year's Festival.  It seemed as good a place to start as any.  So with Gardner's column in hand--which mentioned around 80 shows--we began our plan of attack.

Map showing some of EdFringe venues (in red)
First, we individually went through Gardner's recommendations and developed our own "must see," "would like to see" and "leaves me cold" lists.  Happily, we had a lot of overlap.  Then we wrote each show that we definitely wanted to see down on a little square of paper -- name, venue, dates and times.  From there it was like a shell game as we moved pieces of paper between dates and times to figure out when we could see what.  A significant factor was taking into account how much time it would take to get from one venue to the next.  Each show is 60-80 minutes, and some of them start at odd times like 18:05. It turns out that the two venues where we will be spending the most time are outside the parameters of this map, but our hotel is pretty much smack dab in the center.  Eventually, we ended up booking 24 shows in advance for the six days we're there, and our expectation is that we'll see at least half that many shows again.

Never having heard of any of the theater groups or actors before, I am hoping for at least a 50% hit ratio of shows we really enjoy.  (Wendi was familiar with two shows/actors.)   Here are the descriptions of a few of the shows I'm particularly looking forward to:

Theatre on a Long Thin Wire --"No actors.  No technicians.  No set.  Just you.  And a phone that might ring.  This is the theatre you don't see.  Inspired by an infamous piece of music generated by a single copper wire, this new work by Jack McNamara strips the theatre experience down to a bare room, an audience and a mysterious voice."  I am extremely curious about this show, which was starting to sell out when we booked our tickets three weeks ago.

Klip --  "Award-winning theater from Denmark, combining performance, dance and live music.  An exquisitely orchestrated descent to chaos reducing audiences to both laughter and tears. We enter a strange, tightly choreographed world assembled from randomly generated material.  We then witness this world being violently clipped to pieces in a unique form of live collage."   Again, hard to imagine exactly what this will be like, but I am intrigued.  The words "award winning" (even when I had no idea who had given the award--lol) always caught my attention.

Every Brilliant Thing --  "You're six years old.  Mum's in hospital.  Dad says she's 'done something stupid.'  She finds it hard to be happy.  You start to make a list of everything that's brilliant in the world.  Everything that's worth living for.  1. Ice cream.  2. Water fights. 3. Things with stripes.  4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose.  5. Rollercoasters.  6.  Me.  A new play about depression and the lengths we will go to for the ones we love.  The show involves members of the audience, making each performance unique." I love the sense of optimism about this play.  I hope, though, that I don't have to be part of the show.

Pioneer -- "Fringe First winners return with the heart-breaking tale of the first human mission to another planet.  Set in the near future, a maverick Dutch space flight director, far from home, contemplates an error which will cost her everything.  An international team is assembled to venture the 52 million miles across our vast solar system.  Using a breath-taking combination of video design and movement, Pioneer takes audiences on a whirlwind journey through a deep sea simulation chamber, nightclubs, mission control and back to a quiet beach looking up at the night sky."  Even though sci-fi isn't my thing, I'm really interested in the multi-media aspect of the show.

Anatomy of the Piano -- "Part piano recital.  Part fantasy lecture.  Will Pickvance returns with his sell-out EdFringe 2013 show of virtuosity, dissection and surreal humor."   Shows that sold out at prior festivals got our attention. And live music is always a plus.

The list goes on and on, but this will give you a sense of what we're in for.  In case you haven't figured this out, the reference to "fringe" is to theater, etc. that pushes the envelope.  Some will be successful.  Some will be confusing.  Some will probably be just plain old bad.  But we're there for the experience, and I know that it will be unforgettable.

I suspect that I won't have time to blog while I'm away, but I do plan to tweet my reactions to shows.  If you're interested in following me, my Twitter handle is Nanettecrist17.   Will report back upon my return!

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