Throughout August, Edinburgh becomes a hive of comedy, theatre, music and imagination, as the Fringe festival takes its grip on the capital city and produces some of the stars of the future. Media Digest’s Eleanor Hall has been soaking up the culture and filed a report of her top tips for 2013.
“Word of mouth is extremely powerful and is crucially important to all acts at the Fringe. If you enjoyed the show please tell others about it. If not, remember: Silence is golden.” This, or something close to it, is a mantra heard all over Edinburgh at this year’s International and Fringe festival. So what follows is not intended to be a critical analysis of all Edinburgh has to offer or an array of the best shows out there. It is simply a tribute to what a bunch of young, intellectually pretentious and less-so students saw and believed was worthy of passing on.
There are plenty of big names (or more often recognisable faces) plastered everywhere. However straying from the beaten track of stand-up and branching into some alternative forms of comedy yields far more satisfying results. ‘Pajama Men’ and ‘The Boy With Tape On His Face’ are a refreshing contrast to the ordinary expletive filled TV stand-up; the former is a comic two man sketch play with a loose plot and a plethora of highly ridiculous improvisation, while the latter employs no dialogue at all, instead using a few props and ingenious physicality to get the audience in fits from the start.
Picking out a choice theatre company to experience during the Fringe can seem incredibly daunting to those of us who have never treaded the boards. But two excellent and very accessible plays are Where the White Stops and The Greatest Liar in all the World. Both have a wonderful narrative and characterisation with a limited cast and appeal to both children and adults alike. Like the latter two, Fade at Bedlam theatre also boasts clever use of live music on stage and, although it’s a little more highbrow, it’s also more electrifying. Those looking for something extremely lyrical and intense check out Undone; a passionate one man show set in South Africa about a young man and his broken parental relationships.
For future years it’s a good idea to make a note of any theatre company producing good plays. Their next show may be utterly different but the mark of a good company is they can do anything very well.
Best live music act goes to the beat boxer and singer-songwriter double act Jamie Macdowell and Tom Thum. Macdowell’s well-crafted lyrics are combined with mind-blowing and reason-defying beats and sounds from his partner. The pair are born entertainers and make the audience feel as if they’re privy to a group friends just havin’ a jam – albeit a very good one.
Those who don’t treat the works of Shakespeare as gospel would be wise to check out Magnificent Bastard’s production of Shit-faced Shakespeare. Essentially, Much Ado About Nothing is performed with one crucial twist; each night either Beatrice or Benedict are blind drunk. Hilarious results ensue but probably the best thing about is watching the rest of the cast attempting to stay in character and improvise in the face of the impossible. Go for the comedy and not for the Shakespeare.
Best free show
This definitely has to be relied upon by word of mouth because there are some really terrible free shows out there. However you can come across some free gems such as ‘Porky the Poet’ aka Phil Jupitus with comic poetry which is a lot better than it may sound to the sceptical punter. Also recommended by many, but not seen by yours truly, are Vampire Hospital Waiting Room and Captain Morgan and the Sands of Time.
So that’s it. Remember if you like it, pass it on. If not, keep it to yourself.