Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2012. It was predicted that this year, due to the London 2012 Olympics, that attendance and tickets sales at the Fringe would drop drastically, but recent figures show that this year there was a mere 1% decrease: not bad considering the biggest show on earth was happening in another capital city five hours away.
The Madness on the Mile continued to flourish, most companies big and small spending a little or a lot of their time flyering the unsuspecting public (and more often than not, flyering the other flyerers). A good deal of the estimated 22,457 performers took to the tiniest stretch of cobbled street to hand out mountains of plasticated paper advertising every kind of show. Photographers were not in short supply this year, capturing the most attention-grabbing stunts, be they good, bad or completely bizarre. The Guardian set up a popular flickr group where amateur and professional photographers could showcase their best work, a group that contained 1,233 photos at the last count.
Reviewing for Broadway Baby, I managed to see 21 shows on behalf of the paper and another 22 or so on my own. In spite of an expected range of quality between shows, I was overall impressed with the diversity and power of the shows that I saw. Of course, there are always going to be a few that leave you giggling, embarrassed or even angry – but this year such shows were in the minority for me, and it has been quite difficult to compile a list of the “top” shows. However, here goes…
5) The Economist – a response piece to Andrew Breivik’s life, the man behind the massacre on the Norwegian island of Utøya. An Australian company took over the basement of C nova (a new venue to replace the C soco, which has finally been demolished) and took the suspension of disbelief to a new level. Never allowing the script to become gratuitous, they efficiently and innovatively told the story of a monster: a wonderful piece of new writing.
4) Blink – a rom-com about voyeurism, and a fox with mange thrown in the mix: doesn’t sound like a winner but nabokov/Soho defied the unpromising blurb with a hard-hitting but intensely charming production of a Phil Porter play. Precisely and lovingly acted by Harry McIntire and Rosie Wyatt, it was a delight to watch.
3) Vitamin – a one-man clown show, Carlo Jacucci’s mastery of physical comedy made this show one to remember. There is no doubt that with the move towards physical comedy in the mainstream now becoming imminent (the last two Fosters Comedy Awards going to The Boy With Tape on His Face in 2011 and Doctor Brown in 2012) that Jacucci is one to watch. Certainly the best impersonation of a caterpillar I have ever seen. Read the full review here.
2) Request Programme – a revival of the FX Kroetz play about suicide, a completely silent hour spent on the top floor of Inlingua Edinburgh, a teaching room converted to a bedsit for the purposes of Cecilia Nilsson (Wallander), whose one-woman interpretation of this profoundly affecting piece calls into question the solitary life and the hidden generations. Read the full review here.
1) The Sh*t/La Merda – Another one-woman show, this time at Summerhall. A piece about being exposed, perception of image and very female neuroses, this was a shocking and stunning performance from Silvia Gallerano, who deserved every award she got for the most grueling and demanding display of emotion and character. More information here.
1) Swamp Juice – designed for children but was also dazzling for adults with its seen-to-be-believed 3D shadow puppetry. Read the full review here.
6) Showstopper! The Improvised Musical
5) Thread – read the full review here.
4) The Boy With Tape on His Face: More Tape
2) How a Man Crumbled – read the full review here.
=) A Strange Wild Song
1) Bane (2)
After all that, it’s time for a rest! Watch this space for more regular Friday features on theatre and the arts.