Here is my review – it says it all!
To end this year’s Fringe I saw four shows in three days. Yes, three of them were children’s shows and one of those I didn’t even bring Mia to as she was double booked – but I had committed to reviewing it.
We started with a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday which was delightful and charming. I wanted to give this 3.5 stars but the star rating won’t give halves. It was really lovely though and Mia loved the beast and having her photo taken with them! Review here.
Friday evening I was at Brighton Little for “The Pride”. I wouldn’t and couldn’t review this being a member of the Little. OH MY GIDDY GOODNESS I can’t even begin to tell you how absolutely brilliant it was. Superb script, beautifully and sensitively directed with perfect understanding of the material, and the acting was incredible. Sometimes BLT produce absolute class, and this was one of these moments. This is NOT a forgettable play, or a forgettable evening. This will stay with me. Wow. If I could have reviewed it I would have given 5 stars.
Saturday, this time without Mia, I saw “Ogg and Ugg and Dogg” about how early humans first connected with wolves and tamed them, thus creating one of our most beloved pets. Sounded great, and it started really well but after about 20 minutes just kind of fizzled out slowly through to the end. I really wished more for it as it had potential. I reviewed this and if you want to find it do search but I won’t put the link.
Sunday, the best at the last: my favourite has to be “This Noisy Isle” which was just brilliant. A fun non patronising children’s show which as a deeper message. More of these please! Mia absolutely loved it and so did Andy and I. Read my review here.
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is my favourite of his comedies so I lept at the chance to go and see it last night in the Minerva Theatre in Chichester (last minute spare and cheap ticket). This is my first experience of this particular theatre and what a beauty it is, absolutely lovely, intimate yet it looked like quite a huge amount of seating.
Flute Theatre had their cast of 7 portraying all the characters in this abridged version of the play, adapted by Kelly Hunter. It was a polished piece, despite one of them slipping over on water at one point, and the actors were drilled. It was a very physical piece too, all the actors had to display their fitness with the way the play had been directed and choreographed. They also played all the instruments and there was music accompanying the performance for almost the entire time. This gave a feel of almost street theatre which was sometimes appropriate and sometimes not.
I’ve studied this play and there are many themes in it but I don’t remember water being one of them. So what huge tubs of water dotted around the periphery of the playing area were doing there is beyond me. There was obviously a reason but it wasn’t drawn out in the playing, although a couple of them did use one of them. The actors did convey an understanding of most of the words that they were saying, meaning that even the most new to Shakespeare could probably follow it, however there were some meanings that were very important that were lost and it didn’t seem like the actors understood those particular lines. What was the most detrimental to my enjoyment was the actress playing Viola – the main role, had such a strong accent that when she spoke quickly I just couldn’t understand what she was saying and that took me out of being able to enjoy the production.
There were some sections just devoted to physical acting with no words where I wanted to shout “get on with it”. I’m not sure why music needed be played throughout the play either. Shakespeare has such beautiful and clever wording particularly in this play and the gaps meant some of this delicious language was left out, when it was abridged already it felt like these things were just devices for the sake of it.
The actor playing Malvolio acted his part beautifully, bringing in a masochistic side to the character which I hadn’t seen before but fitted perfectly. His attempts at smiling were both funny and sad. The actor playing Sir Andrew and Sebastian moved seamlessly in a few seconds between them and that was brilliantly done.
Some strong performances, some interesting ideas, some not so. I’ve never felt so sorry for Malvolio in any production as I did in this one. So some positive, some negative: not the best production of Twelfth Night I’ve seen, but not the worst.
Trying to schedule everything in this crazy Fringe bubble is tricky – well actually it’s impossible. I couldn’t see everything I want to see.
Helen and I went to see “Sisterhood”: a 3 hander, one was the fabulous Jules Craig. Set in Tudor times, 3 very different women through a few hours contemplating the same fate that awaits them all, interspersed with true tales of their own modern lives. It affected us so profoundly we had to go and sit and have a cup of tea afterwards. It’s so incredibly sad that in some ways things are very different but in others: attitudes towards women who “go their own way”, attitudes to women as objects – not much has changed. So moving, lump in throat trying to hold on to tears and gulping. One that will haunt me. And I’m glad about that.
Then I navigated the mad mile to get to the Box Office for my ticket for “a joke”. Which was so very far away in a completely different part of town. Didn’t look that far away on the map… so this was a play in the Assembly Rooms Ballroom – and yes it was a ballroom. With chandeliers.
“a joke” was with famous actors, one Robert Picardo who I remember as the cantankerous doctor from Star Trek Voyager and then Star Trek films. Also Sylvester McCoy. So I saw a play with a member of the Star Trek cast and a previous Dr Who – or 2 doctors, actually. It was a brilliant production. And so much so say about life. It was such a multi layered play it reminded me of “Waiting for Godot” in that at first, you leave the theatre and wonder what the hell you’ve just seen and what it was about. Is life a joke, with a punchline, or s story and in that case tragic in places? And many many other questions and musings. “Sing and the music will come” is a mantra that will stay with me. Which is pretty much how I live most of my life.
Then I bumped into Robert Picardo in the foyer and had a picture with him, he was just heading out the door but he waited which was nice. Must be a bug bear to live ‘normal’ life and be famous. But hey! Here we are!
So I was round the corner from “The Ivy” which had been advertised on Facebook so I thought I’d give it a go, especially as it was chucking it down. I only wanted a snack. I thought it was a café. Turns out it’s uber posh, there’s me in my hoodie and backpack. I had some beautiful messages from friends on Facebook when I posted that, made me feel like a million.
Blackened cod. Rosemary lemonade. Then a cranachan (we are in Edinburgh after all) with white chocolate. Which came looking like a little globe, then the waitress poured hot whisky sauce on it and the white chocolate melted, missing with the icecream , raspberries and everything else inside. Oh my god it was so lush. I’ve only seen that presentation on Masterchef, it was so great to experience it.
I walked chuffing miles on Friday – the play was miles over the other side of the city! Nice to get around a little bit!
Antling was brilliant of course. After that we went to Bristo Square (we love it there) and got flyered by a New Zealand woman in a 50’s dress for a comedy show “Ladylike”. But I think that actually happened on Thursday… Antling had a crowd in that laughed on Friday evening which was fabulous. One guy who is also performing at the Fringe talked to Helen after and we went for a drink – or rather he took Helen for a drink and I toddled behind very much like the third wheel. Made me smile. We ended up in a private bar though talking to the owner and the members of the cast and crew (and the son and daughter of the writer) which was really lovely, hobnobbing with professional actors and everything…
Saturday. 2 Michael Morpugo plays. You can take the girl out of – oh who am I kidding. I’m just interested in history, especially in the first and second world wars. So we went to see “An Elephant in the Garden”: a one woman show which was so brilliant. I loved it. Especially her body movements of the elephant – so clever. Then “Private Peaceful”, a one man show which was an incredibly powerful performance, standing ovation at the end. That made everyone gulp and tears were free.
I walked past a stereotype on the Royal Mile:
My last Fringe show I went and found the Sweet Venues and bumped into the lovely JD and had a quick catch up. Unfortunately, my last show of the Fringe, something I was reviewing, was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I had not thought I could ever give a 1 star. I was wrong. It was just the most hideous puerile crap I’ve ever had the misfortune of having to sit through. One person got up and left. I was jealous.
This was in yet another different part of the city and what a beautiful place it is.
The last night of Antling. What a crazy adventure we’ve had. We met Elaine (who taught at ACT) who came to see it and then 4 of us then 3 of us went for a drink at Bristo Square again. We ended up standing bopping to the strangest eclectic mix of music ever.
This morning we went for lovely breakfast – veggie haggis! – at Spoon before heading off separate ways.
Thank you Edinburgh. I love you.
Today I met one of my acting heroes. I’m very grateful to Helen for stopping me motoring through and asking if I wanted a photo – because I hadn’t noticed at all, on a mission, places to go. “Photo?” Yes, yes, Mike McShane, standing talking to some friends. MIKE McSHANE. I’ve been a fan since “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” and then the double act show he did following that, and of course, of course, one of my favourite films of all time: “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves”. I bloody loved him in that, recognised him instantly, am pleased I kept my cool at least a little and didn’t fan quote all the lines in that movie to him. But I did get my pic with him. And what a totally lovely guy, talked with us for quite some time. And I managed not to gush. I think. I did cry though. After I was out of his sight line!
Context – Helen and I watched the play “Brexit” written by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky starring Mike McShane and other acting legends – which was seriously the best observed political play I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t even an allegory, it was written for now, with acutely witnessed political machinations and the madness of Brexit politics – as well as politics in general, which in this was all about staying in power and winning approval, rather than choosing the right policy. It was incredibly funny, although so true in hindsight it’s likely to cause as many tears of futility and sadness as well as joy. One of the best things I’ve seen on stage. I don’t just mean in this Fringe, I mean ever. Not just because Mike McShane was in it. A little bit. But not the main reason.
When we came out there were a pile of people exit flyering – thrusting different flyers into hands, when I heard someone saying something about being interested in God. This made me look up and there in Tudor dress was one of my acting teachers – Jules, fabulous voice teacher! I had not expected to see anyone I knew and all 3 of us ended up chatting for a while. Helen and I are going to see the play she is in tomorrow.
Just the five shows today. Again. I’m clearly a five-shows-a-day kinda gal. I’ve been a dirty stop out since 10 this morning. I saw Alan Bennett’s “Say Something Happened” which is a joy to watch, and so layered that it stays with you and comes back at you in layers when you’re thinking about something else. An amateur production but still really enjoyable. After that I found a cafe called “Spoon” which was almost a little piece of Brighton in the heart of Edinburgh. It seriously felt like Brighton. Artisan toast. Portobello mushroom and goats cheese with sourdough toast and pea shoots. You can’t really get more Brighton than that! And real tea – I mean REAL tea, with a tea strainer. Mismatching teapot with the cup and saucer. Ahhhhh I felt a little homesick.
After Brexit I ran up almost to the Castle to see the next show for me to review: James Dean is Dead, Long Live James Dean. Wow what a show. What a performance. He also looked so like James Franco I did a serious double take. Wowsers.
This was right at the top of the Royal Mile – where most of the insanity seems to be concentrated, perhaps. And I saw the strangest sight. In this city, that’s saying something.
This guy was hovering off the ground. I walked around and around him and he was floating. I could NOT see how he was doing this. Honestly I have no clue. I thought maybe it was him holding on to his stationery counterpart but no, his arm was resting. The rest of him was not touching anything. Seriously, I walked all around him. Then I shook my head, took a picture, and walked on. BONKERS.
As I came out of the James Dean show I heard singing, and it was the way I was going, so I looked – and these guys stopped traffic. Singing Mamma Mia. About 50 of them. Tons of onlookers. Again, seriously, they stopped traffic. Cars were beeping to get past. Walking on, 30 seconds later and of course there were people from Star Wars. I mean, what else?
This was about tea time so I searched for somewhere which satisfied my criteria: 1. quirky 2. not too expensive 3. nice food 4. most important: wifi. As I had reviews to submit with a deadline approaching.
I found a cafe off the mile: St Giles, which was high ceilinged and bare floored with cafe tables and quite disinterested staff. Quirky not too expensive food, including a cream cheese, walnut and honey bagel which was just delicious and I will have to remember to make at home! So there I sat, freaking out the customers either side of me – simply by being a woman on her own in a reasonably visible eating establishment with a laptop in front of her, content with her own company. (Yes. Sometimes this freaks people out. No really, it does.) When I spoke to Andy via facetime at home and talked with Mia who looked so happy and tired and it made my day, but I made the mistake of swearing (it just tumbled out) about how good the James Dean play was the Americans on the table to my left visibly bristled and huffed and puffed their disapproval for the remainder of their time there. Honestly, I’m clearly too much, I need to get back into my box and realise what’s important in the world, which is that women shouldn’t swear, and if they do it’s a heinous crime, punishable by social ostracisation and disapproval; and that the things that I believe are important and require disapproval and above all action, such as child poverty, starvation and homelessness – these are of course not important at all, that it’s all about the odd slip of the F word in a passionate statement said in a public place due to that requires me to be publicly flogged.
So I stayed there writing for quite some time and gradually realised that I felt like I had been transported to France. It was the most French place I’ve seen outside of France. I can’t believe I didn’t notice when I first went in. If it hadn’t been for the specials blackboard announcing the “whisky of the day” I would have really believed I was in France. With Edith Piaf singing out “Non, rien de rien…” (I am not making this up) if you’d told me I was actually in France I would have believed you.
Then onto Antling. Ah Helen’s wonderful creation still makes me laugh and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen it. Had a big Adam Ant fan in this evening, who said his wife was an even bigger Adam Ant fan – I offered him to live stream it to her on his phone but I think he thought I was joking. Helen was particularly awesome this evening.
We then went to Bristo Square which I’d not seen after sun down and the lights made it look even prettier. While we sat and had a chat and wind down, we were flyered – by a New Zealand comedienne with her show “Ladylike”, starting shortly, so we went to see it. Just what we needed. Not highbrow, just funny. Watching her make “chicken liver pate” with cocktail sausages in order to impress the neighbours but keep costs down was really quite hilarious. She did manage to hit a few nails on heads about the impossible standards of having to be a woman.
Tired and happy.
And hey, I met Mike McShane.
Just in case you missed that bit.