Saturday, 4 August 2012

Edinburgh Fringe Day 3 - Attraction & Animosity, Editor's Guilt, and some Improv.

After many nervous and increasingly stressful hours of waiting for deliverymen...We have EFR jumpers! They are bright bright red, shamelessly promotional things of beauty. But they also have a strange, Marmite effect - people are either drawn to you as if you're some kind of big scarlet magnet, or run away in deadly fear. Certainly there are many performers desperate for extra publicity and for reviews, and I love being out on the Royal Mile and chatting to people about their shows - I've heard that last year a couple of our reviewers literally got chased down the Mile by someone wanting a review written of their show. There's such a buzz here and it's brilliant seeing the amount of hard work and passion that goes into an extraordinary variety of shows. But I've heard other tales from reviewers that crowds part in front of them, as if some weird Moses-like aura  is attached to the jumpers. I certainly had my own strange experience when I reviewed my first show yesterday, Rosa Robson and Matilda Wnek's Beard. Entering the Baillie Room at Assembly, the entire room - audience and the show's tech team - turned and stared. Just stared, without any subtlety or embarrassment. Effortlessly grabbing the attention of an entire room of people purely by walking in is maybe every girl's secret dream, but this wasn't quite how I'd imagined it. It was disconcerting, as if they were all thinking - "ARGH. REVIEWER. JUDGEMENT. EVIL EVIL DREAM-DESTROYING CRITIC" (for the record, I didn't destroy any dreams - the girls gave a great show, and you can read my review here! Shameless plug no.2). It reinforced what a strange position being a theatre critic is sometimes - involved in the theatre scene but not part of the gang, as it were. Apparently a strange beast, to be feared and not quite to be trusted... So walking around the Fringe with this big label of 'REVIEWER' stuck to me is going to be interesting.

Next, a small word of warning about the Free Fringe. It can be wacky and surprising and exhilarating and confusing and disappointing - and it can apparently be highly traumatic. One reviewer returned to the house so dumbstruck from such an intensely disturbing one-man show last night that I felt immense editorial guilt for unknowingly putting her through such an experience. So if you're looking for something different and unusual at the Fringe, there's plenty of choice. Just make sure it won't mess up your mental health.

However if you're looking to laugh yourself silly, go and see The Improverts! Yes, you! Go! See them! They are Bedlam Theatre's resident improv troupe from Edinburgh University and provided the best hour of improv I've seen. The cast of 5 were so slick, so tight, so quick and so, so funny: from conversing in sentences beginning with consecutive letters of the alphabet to a guessing game involving prosthetic legs smuggled inside bananas from Uruguay, the (surprising) all-male group dealt with everything thrown at them by the game formats and by the audience (including some drunk hecklers - this was a post-midnight show after all). Of course there were elements which didn't quite work, as is the tendency of improv, but in this case the hilarity far outdid the flop moments. David Elms particularly stood out for his accents, quick-thinking, subtlety and wittiness, but he was the leader of a strong ensemble performance. I can't recommend them enough - go go go before they sell out!!

And now if you'll excuse me, the sun is shining and I'm off to meet a star of Skins and review his play. Laters.

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