Edinburgh Festivals 2011

Our stay in Edinburgh this year, from 19th August to 30th August 2011, was longer than previous years. Our friend, Mary Rigg, gave us a long list of recommended shows, as did our son, David who was performing in the fringe. We identified others from reviews and show descriptions that we liked so we arrived in Edinburgh with 35 Fringe and Book Festival bookings in hand.

We saw the following shows:

Scary Gorgeous are two women supported by a band of three, exploring the sexual fears and fantasies of older teenagers. The very thin story line permitted the women to do some modern dance and scream a few songs out. It also appeared to give them licence to show that women can be just as crude and explicit as lads with lots of detailed sex talk. There were countless pointless costume changes. This was gratuitous, selfish rubbish.  A horrible way to start the Festival. 1/10

Outside is a three person play written by our  daughter, Megan, with our son, David, as director and one of the actors. So I  cannot be objective. It is the story of a man with agoraphobia, who is reliant  on his brother and the impact that has on his brother’s attempt to have a  girlfriend. This is clever, well acted but a bit slow at times. 7/10

A World Without Words tells the story of a  relationship between two people through the medium of contemporary dance. The  lead female ancer, Emma Cave, is the girlfriend of our son David. I was amazed  at how much emotion could be expressed without words by the dancers. 9/10

Twenty to Nine is an eccentric old woman telling her story to the audience sitting in her lounge. There are some similarities with  Miss Havisham in Dicken’s novel Great Expectations. Lucy Forrett performs the  role extraordinarily well although the whole concept is let down a little by the use, at one stage, of some out of character and unnecessary crudity. 8/10

How to get anyone to sleep with you is a lesson by the clever and witty Deborah Frances White. It is substantially the same show that we saw at The Fringe two years ago, but we still laughed at her observations of the courting game. 8/10

Owen Jones is the author of ‘Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class’. He is a clever, articulate and passionate person with strong political views. This was a lively and interesting debate and Q&A session. I am sure we will hear a lot more about him in the future. 8/10

Now is the Winter is a one woman show acted by Helen  McGregor. She plays the imaginary part of Bess, the servant of Richard III, around the time of his accession to the throne. This was outstanding acting and wonderful drama although it did require knowledge of the events to make much sense. 9/10

Shylock is a one man show acted by Guy Masterton about the money lender in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. He acted out parts of that play and explored the context of a money lending Jew in the play and of Jews generally at that time in Europe. This was clever and dramatic and spellbinding. I loved it. 10/10

Free Run is an eight person display demonstrating the skill and physicality of free running. An adapted definition of free running from Wikipedia describes it as ‘a form of urban acrobatics in which participants use the city to perform movements through its structures. It is achieved by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping and adds aesthetic vaults and other acrobatics.’ This was an amazing display of skill and strength and was well complemented by music and film. Amazing! 9/10

Sam Simmons is a clever, sensitive and hard working comedian who can do far better than the slap stick rubbish that he served to us. 1/10

Andrew Robinson is a social historian and author of the soon to be published ‘Genius’. Julian Baggini is a philosopher and author of ‘The Ego Trick’. They were led in an interesting discussion by Joan Bakewell about Creativity . 7/10

Julian Baggini is a philosopher and author of ‘The Ego Trick’ who talked about his research and conclusions about ego which provoked some interesting audience comments. 8/10

Are There More of You?  is a one woman show written and performed by Alison Skilbeck about four middle aged women in the same area of South West London. This was insightful writing, which was very well acted resulting in an interesting and amusing performance. 9/10

Henning Wehn is a German comedian who has lived in London for nine years and has gained a good insight into the British character. He successfully plays to the stereotypes of both nations. I, however, can never find anything funny about the Holocaust. 5/10

Sold exposes the story of human trafficking and is acted well by fourteen graduates of the Central School of Drama. They demonstrated that trafficking occurs in many walks of life and suggested that politicians do not do enough because victims are not voters. This was a persuasive performance although I found the presentation of the history of trafficking to be confusing. 8/10

Rebecca Asher is the author of Shattered about her view of the inequality in the home after childbirth.  As a mother of young children she has strong views on what government, employers and husbands must do. Some more experienced mothers in the audience didn’t completely agree with her. 5/10

Edward Glaeser is the author of The Triumph of Cities and professor of Economics at Harvard. He believes that cities are good because they use space efficiently and cause their inhabitants to be happier, healthier and more productive than their country cousins. His case is somewhat undermined by the fact that he lives in the suburbs. 8/10

Midnight your Time is a one woman show performed by Diana Quick about a mother in Islington calling her daughter working for a NGO in Palestine by webcam every week. I recognised many of the issues raised and laughed at a few but thought that there wasn’t enough substance there for an hour performance. 6/10

Richard Herring is a comedian who shouted at us about his experiences and thoughts on love. Some funny stuff but not worth staying to the end. 4/10

The Diaries of Adam and Eve tells the story of how they might have worked out their role in the newly created world which included establishing the enduring relationship between men and women.  Performed by Rebecca Vaughan and Elton Townend Jones and directed by Guy Masterson (who performed Shylock). This was clever, light hearted fun. 8/10

Pink Noise by a four person Finnish band called Fork celebrates 1980’s music with good singing and extravagant costumes. I didn’t like the attitude of the band and also felt that their claim to be singing a cappella was undermined by the amount of technology supporting them. 7/10

Shlomo: Mouthtronica  is an uplifting lesson in beat boxing and a delightful story about his life. I was entranced and delighted. A real joy! 10/10

A Tribute to The Blues Brothers is a fourteen person band and singers who rocked the auditorium and had the aisles full of dancing audience.  We left tapping our feet. Wonderful! 10/10

Circolombia is a ten person acrobatic extravaganza with magnificent displays of strength and balance and some original acts. The only thing that I did not like was a slight air of menace of male over female and film back ground showing burning buildings and searchlights. 9/10

Bashir Lazhar is a one man show (with a slightly bizarre addition of a female) highlighting the difficulties of both teaching children in a Montreal school and of being a refugee. The delivery is unconventional but I found it curiously compelling. 8/10

Lili La Scala sings songs from the first half of the 1900’s with a beautiful voice and a lovely manner. 9/10

The Edinburgh Tattoo is always wonderful and with their new stands is far more comfortable. I didn’t understand why the Dutch and German displays had to be foolish. I also feel that there should be less role plays and more pipes and drums. 9/10

Federer vs Murray is acted by Gerda Stevenson and Dave Anderson and portrays the difficulties of dealing with the death of a son in the army in Afghanistan complicated by the father’s redundancy. A moving study in human emotions. 9/10

Ten Plagues is performed by Marc Almond and tells of a man living through the Great Plague in London in 1665. The whole narrative was delivered as a discordant song which was closer to a chant and was very difficult to follow. I believe that it would have been better spoken. It feels
that it should be great theatre but it fails. 4/10

Gideon Rachman is the author of Zero Sum World. He uses his experience as the chief foreign affairs columnist at The Financial Times to write about the challenges facing the western, capitalistic, democratic model after the financial crisis and the rise of China. His informed view was very interesting. 9/10

Camille O’ Sullivan is an off the wall edgy singer and artiste whose show is not as a good as last year. The bigger venue caused her to lose intimacy with the audience which is an important part of her act. Her first few songs where off key, shouting nonsense but as she settled in and quietened  down her last few songs were beautiful. 7/10

Dominic Streatfeild is the author of ‘A History of the World Since 9/11’ and argues that Al Queda never threatened our existence but our response to it might. This was a fascinating insight behind the scenes. 9/10

Black Mirrors tells of the challenges facing an officer cadet as he goes through Sandhurst Officer training, joins his regiment and then considers what he has heard about active service in Afghanistan. Well acted and thought provoking. 9/10

Dusty Limits talks and sings about melancholia and drove me to despair about his horrible view of the world. 5/10

Frisky and Mannish is performed by Laura Corcoran and Matthew Floyd Jones, who led us through the elements of a career in the pop industry.
They impersonated singers and involved us in their mad approach. They sang, impersonated and acted well and sent us singing into the night. 9/10

Got to your God like a Soldier depicts the tension and memories that arise when a group of soldiers get pinned down by the enemy in Afghanistan.  This was a good script which was acted very well. 9/10

An Instinct for Kindness is acted by Chris Larner and was his story about taking his terminally ill ex-wife to die at Dignitas in Switzerland. This is a very emotional story told exceptionally well. 10/10

The Magnets are a six man a capella group who provided a pleasant show but could have been better. 8/10

Christopher Hope is South African and the author of Shooting Angels and Patrick McCabe is Irish and the author of The Stray Sod Country. Both books deal with some of the challenges and violence in their respective countries. The chairman struggled to find common themes in these two books resulting in a fairly disappointing session. 5/10

Release follows three prisoners after their release as they try and find work and reconnect with people. Well written and well acted with some confusing moments. 8/10

Hot Mikado is a group of university students having a party on the stage but providing little enjoyment to the audience.  The lyrics might have been interesting and the singers might have good voices but I couldn’t hear them because they were overpowered by the music. 4/10

We attended 41 events. My best four were two drama productions, Shylock and An Instinct for Kindness, and two music events, Shlomo and Blues Brothers. I rated a further 13 events as 9/10 so a lot of events were very good. There were nine events which I regretted going to. We saw 15 drama productions of which we enjoyed all except for Ten Plagues. We enjoyed seven of the ten musical events. We enjoyed all three physical activity and dance events but only liked one of the four comedy shows. Six of the eight book show events were good. The Tattoo was great but not as good as last year.  So all in all this was another thoroughly enjoyable Festival.

The Tattoo tickets cost £55. The other 40 tickets cost a total of £450 thus averaging £11.25 per event, almost the same as last year.

We had good meals at Stac Poly Bistro, Amore Dogs, Howies, Haman, Hotel du Vin Bistro and Fishers in the City. We had a wonderful Balvenie
Whisky Tasting at Whiski Rooms.

We have already booked our accommodation for next year.

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