Friday, August 05, 2016

A Korean Treat at the Fringe

I had my first Festival Fringe foray up to Edinburgh today. I did enjoy last year, and I shared some of my adventures online. I may do so again. Not that I see myself as a 'reviewer'. I only blog about things I like, and quietly ignore anything I go to see that, in my mind at least, is not particularly good.

This year, I have a plan. Of course I want to see some Japanese drums, and there are a number of performances to chose from.

Samurai Drum IKKI, on their fourth consecutive year at the Fringe, were out promoting their show on the High Street today. I am sure that their performance will be excellent, and I hope to see them next week.

Today though, rather than go for the dependable, I thought to take a bit of a chance. I had noticed in the programme that a Korean group was at Edinburgh - Tago: Korean Drum ll. I thought I recognised the name, and, indeed, they played the Fringe in 2011.

I was heading to buy my ticket, but who should I run into on the High Street but the group members themselves, just about to go onto one of the free stages for a few minutes to promote their show.

So I watched for free, and was quite impressed. I looked forward to the real performance later in the afternoon.

In the meantime, I watched and was impressed by some a capella from one of the four Oxford groups one can see this month. I've filed the Oxford Alternnotives as a 'definite possibility' for one of my future away days.

Having bought my ticket for Tago, and had lunch, I still had an hour or so to spare. I took a pot luck on a theatre production, The Unknown Soldier, by Grist to the Mill Productions. Essentially a monologue from one of the soldiers still in uniform in clearing up the WW1 battlefields after the Armistice. A first class performance, and extremely thought-provoking with (dark) humour in places. It's on in the Baillie Room, Assembly Hall, a small space, ideal for the production, most days at 13.45 until the end of the month.

Mind you, any theatre I go to this year is unlikely to match up to last year's top class 'One Day When We Were Young', acted out by the brilliant Valorie Curry and Sam Underwood, see here. But I live in hope.

Tago's performance was in the Rainy Hall, at the Assembly Hall on the Mound. Wow! Billed as 'A great mixture of Korean traditional instruments, from gigantic drums to small percussion with a hint of martial arts which will zest the show with dynamic movements. A colourful fusion of drumming and dance'. Let me add words like expertise, physicality, modesty, humour and, above all, enthusiasm. I love drums anyway, but this hour had so much else.

I don't want to give anything away but the finale involves dancers with 'interesting' headgear, and is quite amazing. I've never seen anything like it.

I was in the front row (of course) and as the audience ripped out the applause, I wanted to stand up, they were that good. I looked round - but everyone was already ahead of me. A standing ovation!

I predict that Tago: Korean Drum ll will be the hit of this year's Fringe. On at 14.55 most days until the end of the month. "We play for the brighter world," indeed!

I was batting two out of two for the day, and next up was 'Union', from Momentum Dance, the performance company of CAPA College.

In the 1980s, I was a hugh contemporary dance fan. I still enjoy the occasional dance/physical theatre performance, and I had earmarked this show as a possibility. I know that contemporary dance is not for everyone. But I like the art form - it can be so varied, and I am often introduced to music of a sort that one does not find on Radio 2, as so it was today. And contemporary dance is not always easy to understand. In many cases that matters naught.

Union comprised five separate pieces, all original works by leading young choreographers. By the time that it got to the third one, 'What are you waiting for', depicting 'the dark places of of our minds in an intense, dramatic dance theatre production' (according to the programme notes), I was well into it.

Hard to believe that the thirteen strong troupe are all aged 17 -19! Very professional.

C Venue 34 on Chambers Street, at 16.30 until August 13.  

A successful day then, with all three performances getting star ratings from me. And my bag was full of flyers by the time I got back to the train to come home. Most will head for recycling, but some have given me ideas for my next day in Edinburgh. There will be more drums, that's for sure!

Pics © Skip Cottage

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