The crew here at Culture Central were just saying how our trip here thus far had been missing any really weirdo avant garde interactive theatre wank. Today, however, redressed that balance.
Six Women Standing In Front Of A White Wall – certainly did what it said on the tin. 6 women in pink chiffon dresses and teased hair that made them look like some kind of Helena Bonham-Carter inspired sextuplet tribute band shuffled into a stark basement and stood in front of the wall. The obnoxious woman who was probably their handler barked at us “Can't you read the signs?”, which said “Please do touch”. The women contorted their faces in angst and what you could tell was obvious discomfort at their lack of being interacted with, and then as soon as people started going up and touching them they would respond emotionally, be it happy, cranky, or whatever. In the tradition of Spinal Tap, my review would be “Six Women Standing In Front Of A Shite Wall”. I'm not saying it was a bad show, I'm just saying it did nothing for me. Clearly there are people in this world who think that connecting with another human being is a rare event to be observed in an artistic context in a participatory, “I'll have a go”-before-slinking-back-to-where-I-was-sitting-before way, rather than just a beautiful part of every day life. I read a review that said that this was possibly one of the most important pieces of the whole Fringe, and that they left the venue crying. My only riposte to that is that I left the venue early.
Breaker Morant – Adam Hills, Brendon Burns, Phil Nichol, and an excellent supporting cast in the story about Australian military folklore legend Harry “Breaker” Morant. It was effectively a Boer War period courtroom drama piece exemplarising Australian mateship (possibly an inspiration to the Constitutional Preamble) and the honest character of the men involved, and was pretty damned enjoyable. You'd hardly say it was an Oscar performance, but it was certainly solid, honest, and earnest. Hills' Morant came across a little one-paced and didn't quite command the respect I thought the character should, although that might have been me wandering off thinking that he looked a lot like Rimmer from Red Dwarf. Brendon Burns made up for any lack of finesse he had in acting by sheer exuberance, enthusiasm, and dedication to his character, and I found it very easy and engagin to watch him. Getting a bit carried away with my dislike of the uppity British officer presiding over the court marshal, I almost felt like executing a Homer Simpson-style rush across the stage to grab him by the throat and tell him to listen to Morant's side. Hills, at the end of the show, gave a nice little nod to Burns by ushering him to a spot at the front of stage, then the whole cast stood back and saluted him as a token of esteem for his winning the if.comedy award the night before. What can I say, I liked the whole thing, even if it could have been a little stronger and tighter on detail.
Harlem Renaissance: the life of Florence Mills – Imust not have been concentrating when we booked this, because I went in thinking it was something to do with Haarlem, in the Netherlands. Not the case – it was a study of Florence Mills, a negro musical Broadway performer of the ilk of Paul Robeson who apparently was a pioneer for other performers. You can't really criticise a play for its topic matter, as that's what it's about, however it's my blog and I'll say what I bloody well want to – I found the subject a little irrelevant. I'm glad that the Fringe Festival exists in a way that anyone who can get a venue booking can put on a show about whatever they like, however in this case I can't imagine why anyone would have bothered. Another bloke in the crowd I overheard mentioning that it was his second visit to this show though, so who knows. The female singer was quite talented and I certainly thought she was a great performer. The bloke in it seemed a bit of a tosser though. Surely it's possible to portray the role of a Broadway manager withough being a vaudevillian self-parody? I suspect what got to me the most (apart from his lousy “I'm performing in a stage play” body language) was that he was wearing basketball boots. Come on, morning suit, tailcoat, and basketball boots? That's a fashion choice for real life, not for on stage. But the show was OK. Not awful. I'd rate it just below sitting around in a beer garden drinking pints aimlessly, and slightly ahead of following a woman around while she goes shopping.
Macbeth: Who Is That Bloodied Man? – Polish theatre group Biuro Podrozy put on a visually and emotionally spectaculat interpretation of Macbeth. Good job we'd done a spot revision of the plot of that play before heading in, or we'd have had little to no idea what the hell was going on. Far from being set in 12th century Scotland, this was a Nazi-influenced piece from no specific time, harbouring stilt-walking witches, a ruthless King with a crown of bullets, and not a hint of social mores from anyone involved. An outdoor performance in the Old College Quad, motorbikes roared around the space from time to time, fire was used heavily, the witches chased Macbeth using a garden roller filled with skulls, and the murder of King Duncan caused blood to issue forth from a huge pupil-like gong preceding over the space. The soundtrack was primal and rhythmic, and the paucity of language used in the production really gave way to the visual storytelling. I found myself, a bit pathetically, thinking “bloody hell, they must have different health & safety rules in Poland”, as the metal set was virtually thrown around slap-dash, and fire torches were waved and trown about (as well, as I said, there was the motorbikes). At one point Macbeth gesticulated wildly with a torch, and the head snapped off and scooted across the quad & under the safety fence – the punters stood there for a minute seemingly doing nothing because they were too embarrassed to move it (although clearly not embarrassed enough to have any problems about their clothing potentially catching fire) before eventually kicking it back under the rail. The other thing that made me laugh about the incredibly powerful show was during Lady Macbeth's scene, where she's washing the blood of Duncan from herself, it was timed perfectly to have the most moving, emotional & psychologically harrowing scene in the production coincide exactly with the fireworks kicking off at Edinburgh Castle to follow that night's military tattoo.
So that was today's theatre – we finished the night with a couple of quiet drinks back at Robert's place, and some reading of some William McGonagall poetry. Perfect! Tomorrow we've got one more show, and then we're heading back to London for some normal life for a while. I almost don't wanna go, although I can see how any more than a few days here could get easily overwhelming, especially if you kept the pace that we have this year.
So next year, I fully intend to give that a go!