Delinquent Dispatch from Fringe
Image: The Simple Things in Life
My sincerest apologies…I’m a little delinquent here with my second “dispatch.” I was operating at a fairly severe sleep deficit for a bit there. But I’m back and ready to share some last highlights from a whirlwind trip to my favorite European city (a title I’ve also been known to bestow on Budapest when I want to sound a little more exotic).
Best Thing Ever
On Tuesday, I saw the best thing ever. I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to speak in hyperbole at times. And I’ve generally tried to temper my enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the purposes of work-related blog posts. So, with that initial caveat, I hereby reaffirm my initial statement and proclaim 1927’s “The Animals and Children Took to the Streets” as The Best Thing Ever. 1927 is a UK-based company that mixes live music, performance, and animation. Inspired by silent film, this piece has a “live” cast of three actors interacting with animated ones, including a posse of really, really poorly-behaved children, a horde of cockroaches, and cat named Mr. Meow, all residents of a decrepit tenement block known as “the Bayou.” It’s very rare that I’m able to fully disengage with the world around me and lose myself in an experience, but this performance was so cleverly and expertly choreographed that I actually felt a little like I was trapped in a cartoon. Rest assured that I’ll be badgering a certain Director of Programming ‘round these parts to consider this one for possible inclusion in a future season.
That National Theatre
On my last day in Edinburgh, I managed to squeeze in one more show and “experience” before rushing (understatement) to the airport. (I admit—I harbored a secret hope of not making my flight and being granted an extra night in the city.)
I made my way to the Traverse Theatre to see another National Theatre production. Not the National Theatre (of London, whose delayed broadcast screenings UMS presents throughout the season in partnership with the Michigan Theater), nor the National Theatre of Scotland (whose “Strange Undoing of Prudencia Heart” I espoused in my last post). This time, it was the National Theatre Wales and their production of “The Dark Philosophers,” an adaptation of the life and stories of Welsh writer Gwyn Thomas. Gwyn wrote some dark stuff, most of it tinged with a humorous edge. The setting for this piece is a Welsh mining community, the mountain referenced throughout represented by a plot of wardrobes, dressers, and the like. The tone of the play reminded me a bit of Martin McDonagh’s “Cripple of Inishmaan” performed here last season by the Druid Theatre Company. Previously unfamiliar with Gwyn Thomas (as I was with Martin McDonagh), I wasn’t sure if was I allowed to laugh. I wanted to. The knowing audience around me eventually did. And, similar to “Cripple,” I was left with a sense of the insular nature of a community mostly isolated from those surrounding it—the character and cadence of the local life different from anywhere else.
The Simple Things in Life
The last thing I went to was “The Simple Things in Life.” Housed in the Royal Botanic Garden, five artists were tasked with creating an experience celebrating the simple things in life, each to be housed within a small shed. The goal: to create “a haven within the hubbub of the festival.” First stop: “Lost in Words.” This shed, created by Lewis Gibson, was an exercise is looking (through viewfinders), listening (to calming soundscapes), and reading (a weaving of text excerpts from famous stories…Moby Dick, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Nightingale and the Thorn). It was a nice reprieve from the inner voice inside my head, a constant companion that at the time was worrying/hoping I was going to miss my upcoming/looming flight.
The journey ended at the London Snorkeling Team’s shed, the location of The 2011 Annual Science Demonstration and Space Fête. The London Snorkelling Team are funny fellows. Funny fellows that play music and draw cartoons that are projected and “animated” on a standard-issue classroom overhead projector. You know, the kind used in the olden days. Audience members were given a glimpse into the workings of an interesting new take on a particle accelerator. Not one tasked with answering the greatest mysteries in the Universe, no. In this instance, the particles to be collided included a pig and a cow, the intended result being a shower of meat. Ludicrous and fun. Just like the animated fight between Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. As good a place as any to end things.