Saturday, August 22, 2015

Getting Physical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

I am in withdrawal.  It's been five days since I've seen a theater performance. While that might not sound like a lot, when you've gotten accustomed to taking in six performances a day, it feels like I've gone cold turkey.  Over the 11 days Wendi and I were at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we went to 70 performances. The amazing thing is that we barely scratched the surface of the more than 3,000 shows at this year's Festival.

Scene from BLAM!
 In thinking back over the shows we saw, one of the many things I'm struck by is the breadth of movement-focused performances. After traveling overnight and checking into our hotel, Wendi and I headed straight out to catch a performance of BLAM!  Described as "Die Hard" meets "The Office," this show sounded like something that would keep our sleep-deprived attention. It did. The show featured four office workers who brought to mind the phrase "boys and their toys."  In this case, though, the toys were cleverly made from easily available office supplies.  Who would have thought a coat rack could double as a machine gun?  Or that the quintessential office water cooler and some parts from a desk lamp could be turned into a puppet of sorts?  BLAM! was high energy and incredibly creative and a great way to kick start our Festival experience. Click here to watch a trailer of the show (which doesn't do it justice). 

4x4: Ephemeral Architectures

While EdFringe has always included circus-style shows, this is its first year with a dedicated Circus Hub venue. Although only one ring, the location offers a more traditional space for gymnasts and other acts to show off their skills. The circus-style show I enjoyed most was performed on a proscenium stage, though, rather than at the Circus Hub: the beautiful 4x4: Ephemeral Architectures by Gandini Juggling. The production showcased four jugglers and four ballet dancers who cleverly wove together a performance unlike anything I'd ever seen.  I loved everything about it: the juggling, the dancing (particularly the strength of the male dancers) and the music. Click here to see a video with highlights from the show (which makes me wish I could see the show again!)  As a bit of a bonus, I learned after the show that Wendi knows how to juggle, a talent she displayed in our hotel room using a hairbrush, an apple and a bottle of shampoo. The things you find out about people when you travel together!

Then there was Nautilus, a show by Gaulier-trained clown/mime Trygve Wakenshaw. For those of you who hear the word "mime" and think of a creepy guy in white-face trying to get himself out of an imaginary box, rest assured that Wakenshaw's shows are a distant relative to this type of work.  Nautilus was performed in one of the larger spaces at the Fringe--a real theater seating perhaps 300 people--and I ended up in the very back row. Despite the distance to the stage, I had no difficulty appreciating Wakenshaw's expressiveness and humor as he acted out scenes as simple as the chicken crossing the road to the more complicated story of Rapunzel (which doesn't end well -- just think about what happened when the prince yanked repeatedly on her tresses). Wakenshaw had the audience in the palm of his hand for the entire 90 minutes of the show, and I would go back and see him in a heart beat. In fact, this was the second time I've seen him -- his Kraken last year was an unexpected pleasure (and not only because I got a kiss out of the performance!)

Enjoying performances like these kept Wendi and me going throughout EdFringe. Despite the number of shows we saw, I never lost that feeling of hope and anticipation when the lights went down.  And as to my withdrawal, I'll be taking the edge off tomorrow when I head to Sarasota to see Urbanite Theatre's production of Isaac's Eye by Lucas Hnath. Having seen Hnath's The Christians at EdFringe, I am particularly looking forward to it. The Christians was well-written and received great reviews, but was not one of my favorites.  I'm curious about my reaction when Hnath takes on a different topic.  

Next up:  Documentary-style work at EdFringe. 


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