So it’s back to the Edinburgh Fringe again and just like last year I thought I’d write about the shows and experiences that befall me on this yearly odyssey.
There are a load of rules associated with being a member of the press at the fringe. I can only have one ticket per show (fair enough). This is not a freebie, some venues want you to contact them directly and some artistes / shows want you to say nice things about them (correction all artistes / shows want you to say nice things about them).
I spent a very nice Sunday in early July planning which shows I wanted to see and trying to organise it so I didn’t go running from one side of Edinburgh to the other with only a 15 minute gap.
I targeted about 20 shows over the five and a half days I would be there and then proceeded to send out the request emails. The media staff at the fringe were fantastically helpful in the smooth running of handling my requests.
There were only a couple of strange replies, the first one being that I had requested a ticket to see Stewart Lee and Susan Calman only to be told that their shows were “work in progress” so no press would be allowed, which I find odd when they still charge the audience for tickets.
This is nothing new with a Stewart Lee show as David Lister from The Independent has commented on this practice by Lee as far back as 2009.
On The One Hand So my first show was by The Paper Birds Theatre Company who are based in Leeds (6.35pm Northern Stage at St Stephens). I had first seen the Paper Birds in 2008 with an amazing provocative play about the sex trade In a Thousand Pieces.
Their new show On The One Hand is the Paper Birds’ 10th anniversary play and according to the show info on the back page of the commemorative book the show is: “a tale of biological clocks on snooze. Lives packed in boxes and cities in bags: growing ambitions and shrinking pensions: career changes and dementia.”
This doesn’t really sell the show. The play is clearly about age and getting old and takes us from birth to death in the space of 75 minutes (I know this because the time the play still had left to run kept getting written on a fridge).
It is difficult to describe this piece of work so I won’t bother I’ll just say go see it, it’s fantastic! It’s brilliantly acted by four superb actresses who command the stage with a script and dialog that is witty and poignant.
On The One Hand ★★★★☆
Miles & Coltrane Blue: by Concrete Generation
Revisiting jazz legends: Miles & Coltrane BlueAfter walking across the city again to my next show I had a good hour to recover before the start of (10.30pm at C +1 Venue). The show was timetabled on my ticket for 10.15pm and in the programme at 10.30pm but actually started at 11pm. This was not the theatre company’s fault as they were all sat out in the hall with us waiting for the previous show to finish.
While waiting for the show to start I got talking to Dave, a musician and teacher who had lent his drum kit to the drummer performing with Concrete Generation (the drummer was not a regular cast member, he was standing in for the guy who had been delayed flying over from the USA).
As we walked in the four jazz musicians were playing cool jazz and that was a really nice way to start this piece. This is meant to be a celebration of the life and music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane but I felt the narrative and dialogue were too stagey; there was no real story just some narrated lectures about black Afro-American culture. It could have been so much better and I felt a little let down.
The best thing about it piece was the music which I though was very well played and thoroughly enjoyable, so much so that every time the spoken word part started up again I wanted the actors to shut up and stop talking over the music.
The actors playing Davis and Coltrane were very good and this could have been a fantastic play with a better script but thank goodness for the brilliant musicians.
Miles & Coltrane: Blue: by Concrete Generation ★★★☆☆
Show Of The Day: Paper Birds – On The One Hand