Monday, August 29, 2016

'And the award goes to ...'

I had such a good time at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. On some late night drives back to Wamphray, I took to wondering just why? In previous years my experiences haven't always been so positive. I started to blog about all the good shows I saw, but as the month progressed that idea became just too difficult as I found so many performances I enjoyed.

The reasons for my enjoyment might have been because I employed something of a 'strategy' this year in deciding what to go to. To be honest, I don't think that browsing the official Fringe programme is the best way to decide which of more than 3000 possible shows to spend the pension on! So what did I do?

This year I concentrated mostly on two groups of venues: the Assembly venues, and theSpaceUK performances. The latter places all had tables of flyers, and it was easy from these to identify performances that might appeal. I spread my shows throughout a day, with time to 'recover' after each. Four shows a day was the average. I talked to people and got recommendations too. I paid no attention to printed reviews.

And I prescribed myself one taiko drum performance each day!

My best experiences are summed up in the 'Skip Cottage Awards'! Here we go ...

1. Best drums? It is to experience the drums that has been my main reason for heading for Edinburgh this past few years. This year I saw four Japanese taiko shows, and one from South Korea, some more than once! All were different, and all were enjoyable experiences. I could go on, but Hibiki are now friends and my favourites, see previous blog posts.

2. Best music? The 'Skip Cottage Award' goes to Bookends' tribute to Simon and Garfunkel. Close call this one, as Elsa Jean McTaggart's two shows were just lovely.

3. Most persistent earworm? Elsa's rendition of Macpherson's Rant.

4. Best 'nostalgia moment'? See 3.

5. Best a capella. No question about this one - the Toronto group 'Countermeasure'. So good, I went twice. (And I made my Fringe debut on stage, fortunately not singing!)

6. Best family show? 'Chef' in the Korean season wins this one, with 'The Mystery of Ginger Creek' a close runner up. Great fun.

7. Best theatre? Fourth Monkey's production of 'The Ark'. Powerful. Simply outstanding!

8. Best dance performance? Leaving aside Natalia Osipova and Friends, as that was an International Festival show (and was excellent), of the various Fringe dance productions I saw, I would have to go for the Bhumi Collective's 'Bhumi' (meaning 'earth' or 'soil'). The photo above is of members of the group out on the Royal Mile trying to attract interest in their performance. They are multidisciplinary artists with Singaporean and British roots based in London. Their actual show was nothing like I expected, and the performance was all the more enjoyable for that!

9. Best contemporary dance score? No doubt on this, it would be the accompaniment to the Parachute Dance production of 'Entrails'. There's a section which recreates the noise of a steam locomotive! How could I not like this. And the actual dance was pretty good too! There's a short video with background to the group and performance here.

10. Best musical theatre? Techies the Musical was really great, with live music, an appreciative audience (a full house), and it was very, very funny.

11. Best standup comedy. No award.

12. Best comedy improv? I was determined to see at least one improv show, and was only able to fit this one in. But I chose well. The TBC Improv Players were excellent. Website is here. Fond memories of 'Whose line is it anyway'. Can't believe that last aired on the box in the UK in 1999.

13. Most fun show? Shakespeare for Breakfast. And this judge was not at all influenced by the free coffee and croissant, although I did not have to pay for my ticket, see here!

14. Best writer, director and actor, in a show I was looking forward to seeing since being 'flyered' when having a coffee on a rainy day early on in my Edinburgh adventures. And the award goes to ... Becky Cooper in 'Making Monsters'. We are in Geneva 1816 with Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Claire Clairmont and Lord Byron, when Mary begins writing a ghost story to 'curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart'! I loved it! Read an interview with Becky here.

15. Most life enhancing show? Dr Phil's 'Life and Death (But Mainly Death)'. What a brilliant communicator he is.

16. Best physical theatre? Pharmacy's production of 'The Enchanted'. Harrowing subject matter, but fabulous acting and movement! Based on Rene Denfeld's novel, here.

17. Most persuasive flyerer? This was the performer who persuaded me I should go to see 'The Enchanted', above. It would not have been my natural choice to go to watch a performance that involves death row, mental illness, venereal disease, and child abuse. But I'm glad I was persuaded. It was an experience not to be forgotten. Well done to all involved! Interview is here.

18. Best free show? Audrey - the last remaining mobile vintage cinema. We got a history of the vehicle and some clips of British Pathe's coverage of the Edinburgh Festival over the years! It had not dawned on me before that the Festival and Fringe are the same age as I am!

19. Most frustrating experience? Realising that a show I had wanted to see had already finished its run!

20. Worst 'senior moment'? Turning up to buy a ticket for a show whose run had finished the day before.

21. Biggest disappointment? I had been looking forward to seeing the Havana Ballet, but they failed to make it to Edinburgh.

22. Worst show? Email me if you want to know. But really, there were very few I would say were awful, the worst actually not at the Fringe, but at the International Festival. Enough, I feel a rant coming on!

23. Best venue? No doubt about this category. Venue 43, theSpace@Symposium Hall has the most comfortable seats, in tiered rows, and great acoustics. 

24. Best food? The Mosque Kitchen.

25. Best Art? Visiting galleries between shows is a great way to pace one's day. The exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery of the shortlisted photographs from last year's Taylor Wessing prize is wonderful. I didn't look to see what the prizewinners were before going round and wondering what would have got my vote. Would you believe it, I actually picked the winning photograph. If you've ever pointed a camera lens at anyone, do go and see this exhibition! It's on until October. And it's free.

26. Best photo that I took myself? I like this one of a member of UTO drummers 'in the mood' when performing on the Royal Mile.

27. Best advice I received? To talk to people. I did this, in queues especially, and met lots of interesting people, from all over the world. I talked to many of those out on the street promoting their shows, and that way met many performers - hard work for them. It was also interesting to talk to those working at the Fringe, for example, selling tickets, and finding out if they had had a chance to see any of the shows.

28. Biggest regrets? Having identified quite a number of shows that I would have liked to see, the Fringe has finished without my getting a chance to see them. It's all over for this year.

Culture interlude over, it's back to living a quiet life at Skip! But how am I going to survive a winter without drums!

Note: Skip Cottage Awards have no tangible value, other than to remind myself of good times in August 2016.

Actual photos © Skip Cottage, otherwise images are from flyers.

1 comment:

  1. Far from being facetious Bob - sus=rvive without drums? - get yourself a set of bongos - cheap, great fun, nice and simple or as complicated as you like and they keep the circulation going in hands and wrists for those cold evenings when the mist starts rising off the Annan!

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