Monday, 11 August 2014

Fringe Diary on my Birthday

Then there gathered from out of Erebus the spirits of those that are dead, brides, and unwed youths, and toil-worn old men, and tender maidens with hearts yet new to sorrow, and many, too, that had been wounded with bronze-tipped spears, men slain in fight, wearing their blood-stained armour. 

Who knew Virgil had visited The Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Fringe. It's been a tough month so far, as always, but I have had more than my quota of men in suits arriving at the office demanding criticism with menaces.

My impression is that this Fringe doesn't have the usual energy: I can't see any shows catching fire, and the general atmosphere is of PRs working so hard and critics doing their thing quietly. Broadway Baby are going nuts on the five star ratings, making me regret my earlier comments that they perform a useful function. It is possible that the amount of five stars might discredit the entire rating system, so there's hope.

Although I have given a few two stars, I haven't seen any stinkers this year. Generally, the weaknesses have been in one area of a performance (like the lazy directing of The Collector, which has a great script) and every three star has been worth my while. A few shows have unfurled themselves after the fact - a great conversation with the star of Naked In Alaska gave me a new insight in that old problem, whether lap-dancing is liberating or empowering, and Apollo and Dionysus turned up to fight over the tension between freedom and control in performance.

My real enthusiasm isn't really about what happens on the stage, but what I put on the stage. The Fringe can be a good place to develop the conversations I enjoy with artists. There is often a distrust between critic and creator, but by inviting them along for some banter, I get to find out more about the work and consider how I can discuss theatre in a more engaged and thoughtful manner.

Two themes have come up so far: the fixed nature of a performance (thank you to Amy Cade for this), and the consequences of having a male nervous system when watching work made by women.

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