Monday, 13 August 2012

Edinburgh Fringe Day 12 - Variety is the spice of the Fringe

There are far far far too many shows on at the Fringe to talk in detail about everything I’ve seen – Austentatious became an exception, because…well, read the review and you’ll understand – so this is a quick-march-review-spectacular through my last few days of theatregoing. I have truly experienced the variety of the Fringe recently, from puppets to Footlights, from drag queens and burlesque to Mozart, from packed-out theatres to the back room of a tiny pub.

I’ll start with the burlesque. It was really an accident that I ended up at Briefs, a troupe of male burlesque performers from Australia. We set out to see Showstoppers, the improvised musical (by the way, we did see it another night – it is INCREDIBLE and I still can’t believe they improvised the whole thing) but, on finding it was sold out, took a punt on this “beef-caked and disorderly” Antipodean show on the advice of a charming man at the Underbelly box office. I don’t regret it – Briefs was one of the most hilarious evenings I’ve ever been witness to. Unfortunately I don’t have a record of cast names anywhere, but our brilliant compère not only had a range of fabulous outfits, but also kept the audience laughing throughout the show with a combination of camp flamboyance and wickedly blunt humour. The acts ranged from hilarious – a truly bizarre lapdance – to stunningly impressive, notably the aerial silks and rope routines. Not for the faint-hearted, but also don’t be put off by the ‘burlesque’ tagline if it makes you nervous: there really is very little here that is gratuitous or would make anyone uncomfortable. Rather it is an evening of impressive circus/cabaret/vaudeville acts combined with brashness, occasional crudeness, flamboyance and straightforward hilarity.

At the other end of the spectrum, one lunchtime I made my way down to The White Horse on Cannongate to see Dating George Orwell, a one-woman performance playing as part of the Free Fringe. This show really epitomised the charm and hidden delights of the Free Fringe; ushered through the tiny pub into a small, cosy back room – more English country pub than theatre venue – I was at first slightly perturbed by the intimacy of the venue – was this just going to be horrendously awkward? In fact, I very much enjoyed the show that followed. Kelly Jones (as lonely bookworm and birthday girl Pauline Duffy) is in turn adorable, pitiable, funny and perplexing as she relates her coming-of-age years and the combination of her love of literature with her sexual awakening. A strange concept perhaps, but utterly and surprisingly entertaining.

Elsewhere: the Footlights’ daily stand-up show is a cheap (in fact, free if you’re stingy and don’t donate anything at the end…) alternative to their tour show. In fact, having seen these performers on many occasions, I feel that the strength of this year’s Footlights lies in stand-up rather than sketches, so here is a great opportunity to see some of their best alongside some guests. My favourite new discovery from this show was the exquisitely rib-tickling musical comedy of Emerald Paston who closed the show and sent me on my way giggling appreciatively. For something more traditional, a modernised version of Mozart’s The Impresario finished yesterday (sorry, I meant to write this up sooner…) at Paradise in Augustine’s but was well worth a watch: even if you’re not into opera, you can’t help but be impressed by this über-talented cast. If you didn’t go, you missed out.

However my biggest MUST-SEE (capitalised because I can’t emphasise enough how much you should see it) is now The Girl With No Heart at Bedlam Theatre. I can’t thank the programmers of Bedlam enough this year, as their whole schedule for the festival is incredible, but this show in particular really is sensationally beautiful. I can’t sum it up in a couple of lines, so I’ll leave that review for another time…

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