It is hard to avoid the Fringe Festival if you are in Edinburgh in August, though I was determined to try. The venues pop up like mushrooms among scattered locations among the city, and the crowds move in flocks among pop-up bars and food stalls that take over the public spaces.
The Mudge kept asking me if I wanted to go check it out, but I kept putting him off, thinking of the masses of people wandering Old Town. But nothing really is more Edinburgh in summer than Fringe, it seems, so I finally relented and booked some shows.
All it took was one great show to take me from ambivalence to fan of the Fringe. Here is what we saw:
Take one of the Three Stooges, give him a bit of a mime’s education, deck him out in 20s era transient gear and throw some puppetry in for good measure: Tatterdemalion is what you get. It was silly and oozing atmosphere. Tatterdemalion pulled from the audience for some bits, and we were lucky that they fit seamlessly into the show. We enjoyed this first foray into the world of Fringe that we went online and booked more show tickets as soon as we got home.
2: Bec Hill: Caught on Tape
Most of the shows I booked were based on recommendations from this site. Bec Hill’s show was not one of those. It was actually my least favorite show we saw, despite this Australian comedian having charisma in spades. Her standup was a bit heavy on the toilet humor, and the bit about her brother left me cold. But while it wasn’t my favorite, the Mudge was in stitches, and Bec’s illustrations are fun, so I left with overall good feelings.
Goodbear is two guys doing sketch comedy and they will kind of amaze you. The room was small and we ended up crammed onto a stool without enough room to properly sit, shifting periodically to keep our legs from falling asleep. I recommend lining up early if you are tall so you get better seats than we did shoved into the back of the room, especially if you are tall. But even so, Goodbear was worth the crunch. The actors move smoothly from one character to the next in a string of seemingly unrelated sketches, but they manage to tie it all together in the end. Hilarious show; a must see.
Our favorite of the Fringe shows we saw was Institute. For one thing, the skill exhibited in the stage lighting and set design was impressive to see, but the story itself was also very engaging. About human caring and the frailty of the mind, this tale of insanity was portrayed both by character and movement. It was both touching and provocative. Of course, due to my career inclinations, I related to the character who was an architect, driven to heights of despair by his profession. But the spurned lover was pretty universally relatable, as well. Institute was madness and beauty.
A friend recommended Limbo after seeing it in London years ago. It was acrobatics like I haven’t seen since Cirque du Soliel, but with perhaps just slightly less perfection. This imperfection actually enhanced the show, compared to the Cirque shows I have seen. I was at the edge of my seat with my heart in my throat at various points during the acrobatic action. They may have seemed like disaster was one slip away, but the performers were admirable. Also impressive was the stunning array of talents each performer displayed. One dancer went from tap dancing, to fire breathing, and then to acrobatics, swinging like a pendulum over the crowd. The only wish I have about the show was that it could have gone on even longer.
6: I Am Beast
I bought tickets for I Am Beast last minute on a whim, scheduling them for the day before the Mudge and I were leaving to go to Boston to meet up with Scott. I admit I was drawn in by the promo poster, which honestly doesn’t really convey the mood of the show, but the show was fantastic, nevertheless. I Am Beast transitions quite seamlessly from a teenage girl’s comic book fantasy world to her harsh reality coming to terms with her mother’s death. The story was both playful and moving, bringing the audience to genuine tears or making us laugh in turns. It was the perfect final show to end our Fringe 2015.