Saturday, 18 August 2007

Has the world changed, or...?

This is something of a stop-gap post to fill space until my first batch of reviews get polished and posted on CultureWars, and also to give me time to dry out a bit in the Pleasance Dome before seeing the much-praised Mile End at half two.

I'm not feeling especially reflective - or indeed clever - so I daresay this "My Edinburgh so far..." might end up a bit perfuctory. I finally made it to Edinburgh at about half nine on Tuesday night, and in the past three days have managed to cram in eleven shows and roughly 2,000+ words of review. Those that think I'm on holiday should reconsider.

On the first day I somehow contrived to see five shows: both of Dan Bye's; a sketch comedy by some ex-Lamda types called Idiots of Ants; Mark Watson's stand-up show; and, at the beginning of the day to kill time, an odd little show from Cambridge called Coat at the Underbelly. These were all at the very least entertaining and proficient, and at best a great deal of fun. Since Edinburgh seems to be sinking under a mire of sound-bite sized reviews lacking engagement, I han't add to it, and you can wait for my (over)long proper pieces.

Second day, to the Traverse for a somewhat punishing schedule of the main house plays - four of them - across the day: Ravenhill For Breakfast, Rona Monro's Long Time Dead, Enda Walsh's Walworth Farce and David Grieg's Damascus. That's eight hours of theatre in one day stretching from half nine in the morning until nine fifteen at night. I'm sure there was a better way of doing that, but whatever it was, it didn't strike me at the time. It did also feel useful to have got those big hitters out of the way in one go.

Yesterday, either side of a marathon write-up session, I also managed to make it to the the utterly lovely Coat of Arms by Pegabovine and Fecund Theatre's latest show Special.

Reviews of most of this should appear first here and then on CultureWars hopefully some by the end of today, if not tomorrow.

Shows I've yet to see, but fully intend to, include: Chris Goode's Hippo World Guest Book, Third Angel's show, Unlimited's Ethics of Progress, Richard Hurst's Potted Potter, Joel Horwood's Stoopud Fucken Animals, David Grieg's Yellow Moon, The Georgian marionette production of The Battle of Stalingrad, and Rotozazza's Etiquette. There's also a whole raft of NSDFers' shows that I'd like to see. Right now it all seems a little like it is going to be impossible to cram it all in, along with the passing recommendations that keep cropping up. And then there's the moderate attempts at socialising to consider...

The title for the blog (nicked from The Smiths) was suggested by something that seems to be a recurrent theme for this year's fringe. A lot of my near-contemporaries starting to lean toward the "Is it me, or is the Fringe not as good as it used to be?" position. I'm not convinced this is a particularly golden year - nothing seems to have caught the imagination in the same way as Blackwatch last year, so there is no big buzz - and also, most of the really good work out there seems to have been made by people of whom good work is expected, with the net effect of very little surprise. That said, my ear hasn't been nearly as close to the ground as it should be, but people that I've talked to don't seem to be really raving about anything.

But, for all that, I don't think this means the Fringe isn't as good as it used to be - after all, when I first came as a student, pretty wide-eyed and generally astonished by much of what was going on, I a) saw some utter rubbish, and b) hardly had any benchmarks by which to judge it. After all, this days, for better or for worse, I probably won't ever go and see a student production of The Dumb Waiter or Saved as I did in my first year - I think that is one of the main changes: past the age of twenty-five or twenty-six, the idea of watching university companies performing extant texts becomes largely unappealing. Obviously there are exceptions, but if we're honest, there are increasingly few volunteers to discover that University of Such-and-such's production of Macbeth/Medea/The Misanthrope is an absolute gem and better than anything at the National or the Almeida.

Perhaps tomorrow I will make a point of only seeing shows that I know nothing about. But probably I won't.

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