Sunday, August 06, 2017

Edinburgh Fringe at 70

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe was born seventy years ago this month, as was I! It is my intention to get a couple of days up in the city to celebrate together. Yesterday was the first, and what a good day it turned out to be.

I had done my homework, so first up was a performance by Helen Wood entitled 'The O.S. Map Fan Club'. For anyone who has ever walked anywhere, and appreciates paper maps, rather than digital maps on a phone or tablet, this is a must see. Great fun! Dressed the part, Helen took us a walk along a route on an Explorer map with illustrations, facts, explanations, reminiscences, poetry, and impressions. Audience interaction too - I got to hold her lunch flask for the duration!

Just a wonderful easy comic performance. And now I've got the Fan Club badge to treasure into the future.

See Helen at theSpace@Surgeons' Hall at 11.55, just until August 12.

I really enjoyed Tago: Korean Drum II last year, and I knew I would enjoy seeing them again. This time they were in the Assembly Rooms Ballroom in George Street, a much bigger venue.

Just brilliant - music, comedy, dance ... and lots of drumming. They got a standing ovation, so I doubt I need to say more!

Until August 27, at 15.15. So if you want a mid-afternoon treat, this is for you ... if you can get a ticket!

Now, the best laid plans etc ... The next group I wanted to see had cancelled. So it was a quick look to see what was on around the same time.

'Concerto a Tempo d'Umore' slotted in perfectly, and was a brilliant choice. This was performed by the Orquestra de Cambra de l'Emporda from Catalonia. They are a twelve-strong string orchestra, but this is not classical music as you might expect it. The group make music fun, a physical comedy, with audience interaction and involvement!  I'll not write a spoiler by describing what happens in more detail. As one reviewer put it, "An original way to enjoy classical music!" Very, very clever. For all ages, not just an old guy like me.

They got a standing ovation! One of the best hours I've ever spent at the Edinburgh Fringe! I loved it.

The orchestra are here within the Aurora Nova group's celebration of international, physical and visual theatre. They perform in the Music Hall at the Assembly Rooms in George Street at 17.00 until August 27. Go see them, and be royally entertained. You may even get to conduct!

I had hoped to get a ticket for 'Whose Line Is It Anyway', but that was sold out yesterday. Not a problem, as the alternative was 'My Leonard Cohen', a tribute to the songs of Leonard Cohen who died last year.

Stewart D'Arrietta, vocals and piano, does a good job with his take on many of Cohen's favourites. I liked the band. Philip Alexander on accordion, melodica, and backing vocals; Tom Bancroft on drums; Graeme Steven on guitar; Heather Macleod on vocals. The star was David 'Demus' Donnelly on bass guitar. Don't know what he was on, but I would like some of it! His enthusiasm was wonderful to see. I understand he put the band together.

Welcome to the Church of Leonard! I particularly enjoyed a version of 'First We Take Manhattan', a long time favourite. And of course the performance finished with a rendition of 'Hallelujah'. Cue ear worm for the rest of the night.

Live music in the Ballroom of the Assemby Rooms, George Street, at 19.45 until August 27.

Sam Underwood starred in 'One Day When We Were Young', which I raved about two years ago, see here. So, remembering this, yesterday I made my way to a little performance space in the basement of the New Town Theatre (aka the Freemason's Hall) in George Street at 21.40 to see Sam in 'Losing Days'.

Wow! Not only is Sam a great actor, he is a singer and musician. He shares the stage with Maks Kubis, a talented instrumentalist, who acts as a foil to Sam's performance. But this was a tough watch in places. It is described in the Fringe Programme as a 'hilarious, harrowing journey'. 'Hilarious' (as it was at times) and 'harrowing' (that too) are good adjectives to describe the experience. 'Losing Days' is Sam’s own story, acted out splendidly with incredible honesty. Mental illness is not a comfortable subject for most people, and, by my generation at least, is not talked about much. Huge congratulations to Sam and all involved in putting this performance together!

I drove home with my emotions in tatters. 'Losing Days' was a Fringe experience I will remember for a long time! Not for everyone, I think, but if you are up to be challenged, go see this! Until August 27. There's a good interview here if you want to find out a little more.

"Sam, we definitely need to talk!"

Images from flyers and posters.

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