As you will probably be aware if you follow me on Twitter, I’m currently at the Edinburgh Fringe – a festival with comedy, music, dance, theatre… the variety is quite overwhelming. When you arrive and see the brochure and have to decide what to get tickets for, it’s almost impossible to choose, especially as most things don’t have reviews yet.
I don’t know as anyone who follows my blog is at the Fringe, but here are some responses to a couple of the things I’ve been to see so far:
Hamlet! The Musical
This was very, very funny. Yes, this is the same Hamlet you’re thinking of – the one where everyone dies at the end. That one. Yep, we’re on the same wavelength. Only in this version they were killed by giant herrings (because, you know, Denmark – fishing nation), and also sang about it for a while before collapsing.
I mean, I saw it approximately two days ago and I already know all of the words to “To be or not to be” – a very cleverly written song. The guy playing the ghost looked like someone I know, who also does theatre, so that was strange. The group doing it were from a school – in fact, they were the first schools’ production of the show. Though there were some microphone issues at times, they were all hilarious.
The sight of Gertrude reading 50 Shades Of Grey in the background at one point was a nice touch. Her expression was even funnier. One gets the impression that Claudius was in for an interesting time.
A Cry Too Far From Heaven
This was completely different. A short performance about two New Zealanders who were executed during the years of the death penalty – one the only woman, the other the last to be shot for desertion from the army – it was very thought provoking and raised a lot of questions about the death penalty.
The idea, I think, was to examine your own conscience and think, “Would I pull the gallows lever if I spoke to her? Would I shoot him?” It allowed the audience to make up their own minds about whether or not the two were guilty – and if they deserved to die for their crimes.
Personally, I am completely, 100% against the death penalty, so it was a relatively easy decision for me, but I know other people struggled a little more. At the end, they stated a few facts – that the soldier had been officially pardoned, years later, and that after being buried in an unmarked grave for more than 100 years, the woman was given a headstone acknowledging her existence.
It was very thought-provoking, very well-acted, and very moving. I thought having “Don’t Fear The Reaper” as their exit music was a little bit tasteless, however ;)
Revolution! The Musical
Because of course, it’s compulsory to have an exclamation mark in your title if you’re a musical.
This was a show about Bosnia and the breakdown of communism & Yugoslavia, with the fighting that went on between the Bosnians and the Serbs. It’s a period of recent history that I knew nothing about – the conflict finished two years before I was born, but it’s not quite long enough ago that we’re taught about it in history.
The show is very Les Mis-esque. Unlike some musicals, it’s all sung, like an operetta (many shows have spoken dialogue between numbers). There are factory workers and soldiers and a young revolutionary who falls in love. They were very good, the actors, although Ivan (the revolutionary) had a seriously manic expression that was at times quite terrifying.
The band of three people were very brilliant, especially considering how few of them there were to carry the score – a violin, a clarinet/saxophone, and a keyboard. They coped marvellously. It was a good performance, at times moving, at times sort of funny. Definite Les Mis undertones, but that’s forgiveable – it’s difficult not to when you’re a show about revolution, isn’t it?
What The Folk
This small show took place actually inside someone’s home and was part storytelling (though it was all true), part singing, and part dance. It looks “beyond the clichés of Irish dance”, which promised to be interesting to me, as I’m an ex-Irish dancer myself.
They explained the difference between competitive Irish dance and the more traditional style they practice (but I’ve forgotten its name). They also talked about shows, injuries, how they got involved in dance, costume – and they made fun of competitive Irish dance costumes and wigs, which to be fair, are ridiculous. Once they found out I used to compete they directed every remark about competitive dancing to me, which was a little unfair, I thought :D
Their singing was hauntingly beautiful – they’d start with a single voice singing in Irish Gaelic, and then the others would join in all at once, in harmony. Because they were sitting in different areas of the room, as we were all in a large circle, the sound seemed to come from everywhere at once.
It was funny and, again, moving as they spoke about singing at the funerals of company members and associates who had died, and various memories they had of them. Most definitely highly recommended.
Nothing To Show
Definitely the funniest thing I’ve seen so far. Entirely improvised, taking a word from the audience to create an entire show, the cast were at times fighting to control their own giggles as their friends came up with the strangest interpretations of the theme “whipped cream”.
Featuring “the Misty, Misty Mountains.” “What, the ones from the Hobbit?” “No, those are the MISTY Mountains. These are the Misty, Misty Mountains” which, Misty Misty or not, led them to meet ‘Sheila the deformed cow’ whose resemblance to Gollum was slightly uncanny, as well as a pirate coffee shop (that’s a coffee shop on a boat that raids places, not just an illegal bar) being chased by consumer-driven Starbucks ships in the hunt for the tastiest coffee bean in existence, it had me in tears the whole way through.
Definitely recommended, even though every performance is completely different and I’ve no idea if it would be as funny as that ever again.
So that’s a bit of what I’ve been up to! I’ve also been to a couple of folk music concerts, because I’m a fan of traditional music, and have various other things planned. But now I’m off to do some writing for Camp NaNoWriMo, as editing led me to start five days late and I haven’t caught up yet.