The Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival; a vast conglomeration of things, comedy theatre, art, serious and silly, poets and passion, music, kids stuff, events and exhibitions. The Fringe provides thousands of opportunities to indulge the bit of your brain that gets left behind in the hurly burly of workaday life. But it is so huge that even skimming the surface would be a lifetime and devising an itinerary would challenge the most dedicated project manager. The 400+ pages of the “programme” crammed with pictures and tiny printing is almost impossible to navigate and the capacity for cock up huge. And then there’s the PBH Free Fringe the brainchild of Peter Buckley Hill, devised to favour the unknown or non-established artist.
In my early days of fringing I had a tendency to favour the known, the safe bets and a prevalence of comedy. My choices were not always successful but generally on balance much fun was had, despite Mrs Moneypenny which was truly atrocious. (My own fault I should have read the bio – she is a columnist in the FT amongst other things.) However over the years I have drifted more and more to the Free Fringe and away from comedy.
Last year many of my choices went adrift and hence I was disappointed, this year however has been totally different. So here are a few thoughts on my experiences so far this year.
First paid for shows:
Milton Jones, largely because of his TV work and the fact that the last time I saw him live I was in stitches. Not this time I’m afraid, rather patchy and samey his goofy punning is wearing a little thin. Still if you haven’t seen him before it’s worth it.
Two Sore Legs a one hour one person play describing the life and times of Belfast born and bred Bridie. Brenda Murphy’s autobiographical play, tells the amazing story of her mother, Bridie who had six children to a married man who lived with his own family a few streets away. The play explores the consequences of this extraordinary family arrangement. Maria Connolly’s bravura performance as the sassy Bridget Murphy is simply spellbinding. Funny and heart rending by turns she bestrides the stage and you just want more and more. The hour passed in no time at all, a tenner well spent.
A fiver well spent on Bismillah. Billed as an ISIS tragic-comedy the play relates the interactions between two very different people. Dean from Yorkshire joined the army because there is no work in Leeds and was captures in Iraq. Danny from London joined ISIS in the name of Allah and found himself Danny’s captor. Bismillah “is their hour together in a basement in northern Iraq. Exploring the strange new reality of youth in modern day Britain this is a play about radicalisation, disenfranchisement and the rock band Queen. This new, unique tragicomedy tackles everything from racism to fundamentalism to the rising price of a standard meal deal.” I found it disturbing and interesting and although I’m sure there are better shows, this one worked for me, well done the Wound Up Theatre.
The Free fringe is probably the harder to navigate, the quality is often patchy and the venues uncomfortable but there much on offer for the casual stroller.
If you’re a fan of the the spoken word then look no further than Harry Baker at the Banshee Labyrinth. His show The Sunshine Kid is a tour de force of verbal dexterity, full of wit, wisdom and lot of really good poems and even some maths. His Love Poem For Lonely Prime Numbers is spectacular. Doesn’t come any better.
For a bit of manic fun, try James Ross, Leopardoptera, if you have ever read a book all the way through without sticking your tongue out at the long words then this is the guy for you.
A new one on me this year was Sophia Walker. She has two offerings, Can’t Care Won’t Care and Cult Friction. Both shows though very different are truly remarkable. Can’t Care Won’t Care, A care worker, a confession, a crime? Is it that she can’t, or won’t care? You decide. This one woman show is based on true stories, and was the 2014 Best Spoken Word Show (PBH) winner. “achingly, emotionally, superbly written and performed” – Sabotage Reviews.
Cult Friction, holds up a magnifying glass to our consumer, consumption, market led, monstrosity of a society and lets the sun’s rays through to burn a hole in all our pretensions. Brilliant.
But if you’re just out for a stroll try sitting in on live music at the Tron, grab a slice of pizza and sit back.
But whatever you do enjoy.