Friday 3 August 2007

Edinburgh Hit List

Yesterday I had the surreal experience of being a guest on Matthew Wright’s "Weekender" Show, which goes out tonight at ten on Radio 2. I am talking about Merchant of Venice and Othello at the Globe, Playing God at the Soho and offering an Edinburgh must-see round-up.

To this end, I was finally forced to knock together a (necessarily brutally short) Edinburgh "hit list". What I got an opportunity to mention in the recording was sadly far briefer even than this short list, and I haven’t got the faintest idea at the moment how much of that will get transmitted.

Anyway, here is the full text of my Edinburgh picks (written slightly with a mind to pseudo Radio 2-ese):

One of the most exciting things at the International Festival this year is the chance to see the legendary New York performance artists The Wooster Group in a piece called La Didone - this has the most amazing premise - based on the story of Dido and Aeneas, taken from Gian Francesco Cavalli’s La Didone, a baroque opera written in 1641, this version combines that with Mario Bava’s 1965 sci-fi horror Planet of the Vampires. It is billed as "a 21st century retelling of an ancient Greek myth with opera singers in leather spacesuits battling zombies on a distant planet." Brilliant.

Also from the International Festival is The Bacchae - directed by John Tiffany who had the hit of last year’s Fringe with Black Watch in new translation by the Scottish playwright David Grieg. Grieg has a reputation for being one of the most prolific writers working at the moment. This is borne out by the fact that this year the Traverse is producing the premiere of his new play, Damascus, while TAG’s production of his play Yellow Moon, which has been touring Scotland, is also doing a spell at the Traverse.

It’s also a classic year for writers: Tim Crouch - England; Enda Walsh - Walworth Farce; and Rona Monroe - Long Time Dead, all must-see writers, all on at the Traverse. Meanwhile, the never-less-than-indispensible Mark Ravenhill is doing something called Ravenhill for Breakfast - 17 world premieres in 17 days; short 15 to 20 minute plays about “right now” with titles taken from famous films and songs. These are subsequently going to be mashed into a single play, an early draft of which will be seen briefly at the Hampstead in the autumn.

One of the most exciting theatre makers working in Britain today is Chris Goode. He has two shows up at the festival: there’s revival of his brilliant piece Longwave (19th Underbelly Pasture) - the hour long wordless piece about two scientists in a shed - as part of the British Council Showcase, and a new one-man show called Hippo World Guest Book.

Also well worth checking out is Stoopud Fucken Animals by Joel Horwood - Traverse 3 (drill hall) - a new ‘play with songs’ about life in the flatlands which promises to use “live music, thick dialects and pitch black comedy” to drive the myths of British farming into the wall of the modern economy.

Unlimited Theatre have their play about astrophysics and morality The Ethics of Progress at the Underbelly. Following on from Unlimited, founder member Chris Thorpe also appears in Third Angel’s Presumption, a play in which the characters build the set around themselves in a dry, witty look at modern relationships after the magic dies. This is on at Theatre Workshop, starting on Monday 20 and playing for five days at 11.45 in the morning.

In the innovative uses of space camp, Gemma Brockis and Silvia Mercuriali are doing a version of Pinocchio - A performance-based installation for an audience of 3 set in car driving through the city (Aurora Nova based - 18 - 25 Aug 2007). Also at the Aurora Nova is Rotozaza’s Etiquette - a piece for two in which both participants listen to instructions on a headset and effectively make the show for one another. Meanwhile at the Underbelly, new comedy company The Umbrella Birds (featuring the brilliant actresses Kate Donmal and Emily Watson-Howes) are doing a show called WC in the toilets at the Udderbelly Pasture (I think, check) to an audience of eight with blurb proclaiming “A show that’s prepared to sacrifice the capacity to accommodate more than 8 audience members for the joy of staging a spectacle that none of those eight is likely to forget.”

I’m also keen to catch Stewart Lee’s new thing: Johnson and Boswell - Late but Live! which promises more of this intelligent comedian’s dry wit, this time through the medium of Enlightenment wits.

Also likely to be excellent is Pegabovine’s Coat of Arms. Interesting, not least because they must be the only sketch comedy group in Edinburgh who have got an award winning poet on their team - Luke Kennard who has just become the youngest ever nominee for the Forward Poetry Prize is one of the creators of this new sketch show, from this group who got five stars with their show last year in Edinburgh.

Other comic highlights include William Adamsdale who won the Perrier award in 2005 has a new show called The Human Computer. Josie Long - Trying is Good - Best Newcomer - Pleasance, and in another of his legendary durational stand-up gigs we have Mark Watson Saves the Planet. A 24 hour show being held outside the Fringe ticket office across the 13th and 14th.

From the Telegraph’s highlights, Tony! The Blair Musical (C, I think) sounds interesting, not least because it features one Edward Duncan Smith, the son of the former Tory leader, playing Alastair Campbell. Not to be confused with Tony Blair, the Musical over at Gilded Balloon Teviot.

I’ve never seen Fuerzabruta, by the Argentineans behind De La Guarda, or Leith. Now I can do both (Fuerzabruta - Black Tent, Ocean Terminal, Leith)

I also intend to see a lot of stuff at the Aurora Nova, which I always find impossible to either preview, summarise or review, and a lot of shows by friends (in particular, Dan Bye’s excellent pair of companies Sliver Tongue and Strange Bedfellows).

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