Saturday 25 August 2007

Edinburgh round-up: stab one

The general consensus seems to be that Edinburgh has been a bit flat this year. Several plausible theories have been advanced as to why this might be. Looming large in many is the mostly foul weather and the widespread Festival Flu that has been doing the rounds as a result. Another theory is that there aren’t as many stand-out shows as there can be – and, oddly, those that there are seem to be struggling to find audiences. There is also the widely touted belief that the critical consensus this year is more scattergun than usual with 5 star/2 star splits not uncommon. I do wonder if this consensus spreads much further than my friends. Maybe we’ve all just got several notches more cynical and lazy. After all, innovation is only innovation once, after that it goes from being enjoyable re-tread to tired cliché all too quickly.

That said, once I warmed into the Festival atmosphere, and before I got too bogged down in Festival flu, I had a really lovely time. I’ve seen several shows which made coming up well worth while, and a couple which I wouldn’t have missed for the world – particularly Chris Goode’s utterly wonderful Hippo World Guest Book and Melanie Wilson’s astonishing Simple Girl. Other notables include Shalimar Theater's La Femme est Morte, Unlimited’s Ethics of Progress, Third Angel’s Presumption, and Real Circumstance’s Limbo. That said, despite probably achieving a thirty-plus show count, I can’t help feeling I’ve been criminally remiss. Apart from the fact that I keep taking whole days off from seeing anything because I can’t face another hour of trying not to cough while constantly wiping my red nose as silently as possible, I worry that I’ve allowed far too many things to drift. Partially this has been conducted on the “if it’s any good it’ll transfer” principle, and partially because despite things being recommended, the recommendations have been pretty lukewarm. It seems you’ll always be able to find someone to applaud your decision not to bother going to something.

That said, the shows are only part of the fun. What has been really nice this year is to get a chance to spend a bit of time with a selection of people I see far too rarely; and in conditions where everyone is at their most switched-on and critically engaged. As well as catching up with people, it’s been nice to meet some new and apparently brilliant people – of whom I can now also fail to see enough until about this time next year despite living in the same city all year round.

On my way to my current position (the computer in the Assembly Rooms club bar – I swear I am never doing Edinburgh without a laptop again) I bumped into fellow blogger Andy Field who drew my attention to Lyn Gardner’s lovely write-up of his recent site-specific/sympathetic thing (which I, of course, inevitably missed). In a way this encapsulates the whole way Edinburgh seems to work. You potter along and once in a while you just run into someone or something which makes your day. Generally speaking, it's not a bad way of being. I haven’t seen Lyn this year, but have felt more than ever before that the whole Fringe benefits from her presence like she is some sort of theatrical Mother Theresa. Lord knows where she gets the stamina from, let alone the ability to keep on turning in acute readable prose. She is an example to us all and I am not a little awed.

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