Take us back to Fringe!
A blog about Edinburgh FRINGE 2017
The largest Arts Festival in the World has just celebrated its 70th anniversary. The first came shortly after the devastation of the 2nd World war in 1947, a concept conceived by the Austrian Artistic director, Rudolf Bing who with his colleagues set out to create an International festival of Arts that would be a statement of reconciliation, “a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”; a concept that 70 years on feels as important as ever.
The ‘Fringe’ unofficially started life the same year when eight uninvited theatre companies turned up to the inaugural International Festival and took over the smaller, alternative venues for their own productions. The companies seized the opportunity to showcase their new-fangled and unconventional work to the amassed public.
This years Fringe is over for another year, many will be relieved, but the enthusiastic consumers among us feel the loss of those few days we spend in that place; revelling in all that is high and low culture within the handsome, damp, gothic city. Where entertainment of every persuasion is quite literally on tap, along with craft beer and as many pulled pork baps as you can handle.
Somehow, this year felt different, whether it’s the strain felt by the bizarre events of our recent history: Trump, Brexit – we’ve lost Bowie, Prince, Rickman, to name a few of those that had formed a big part of our cultural consciousness. Then there are the human tragedies, the acts of unfathomable evil that we’ve witnessed on a scale that isn’t the norm for most of us advantaged Westerners: Syria, Manchester, Grenfell, London, Barcelona, the list goes on and on and shows no sign of stopping: Charlottesville, Myramar, North Korea, North Korea, North Korea.
We’re weary and more fragile than we were. The usual political satire & stand-up rant can’t be enjoyed with the usual smug liberal abandon; the laughs are now followed by a very real sense of panic for a future we don’t recognise or know how to quantify.
The shows we saw this year definitely made us laugh, they succeeded in their primary role, but they also made us contemplative, sad and you guessed it, emotional.
A couple of shows that encapsulated that feeling for us this year:
Lie With Me
“A show where anything can happen” Red Bastard is a dangerously seductive and entirely frightening creature who inconsiderately forces us to look inwardly (anything but that, we beg you red bastard).
His training in dance and clowning is clear to see, his physicality is mesmerising and I don’t think we’ve ever seen a performer forge relationships with an audience in such a way before.
Red Bastard will move the entire audience out of their seats, or quite literally join you on yours.
His power lies in his ability to build intimacy with the rest of the room at intense speed, never before has the invisible wall between performer and audience been so absent. Barriers are broken, the show is base & brave and truly invigorating for it.
Did we leave the show feeling differently about our lives, imposed societal constructs and overly ripe melons (you had to be there), well yes possibly, very possibly.
Interview with the performer Eric Davis
Davis was a lead clown for Cirque du Soleil’s Iris. His production of Bouffon Glass Menajoree- Nominated for Outstanding Production, Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Original Short Script and Outstanding Director by the NY Innovative Theatre awards. He also provided direction and writing for Butt Kapinski and Kill Me Loudly: A Clown Noir. Mr. Davis combines his training in Bouffon, Clown, improvisation, Lecoq technique and Dance.
The Darkness Of Robins
John has been awarded the lastminute.com Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Comedy Show 2017.
For the first time in history the prize was shared, Hannah Gadsby was announced joint winner for the profound & heart rendering Nanette.
Having announced her retirement at the start of 2017, the multi-award winning Gadsby’s self-described swansong is showing at the Soho Theatre in London for a short run this Autumn, if you get a chance, go! This could be your last opportunity to see this extraordinary Artist.
Robins show reflects on the painful break-up of a relationship. Any of us that have experienced something similar were instantly reminded of that time. He reflects on coming to terms with living on your own and the traumas of lone trips to Ikea. It’s about losing in love and the ironic ‘injustice that you can’t break up with yourself’.
Robins has said himself that it’s the writing of the material that’s the hardest & most painful bit, he’s ok, and the delivery of the show “is almost like an escape from the emotions that are on display in a weird way”.
It was genuinely one of the best shows we’ve seen in a long time; skilfully crafted with expert control of delivery. It was raw, deeply human, mournful & yet hilarious.
Winning is Bitter Sweet
A stand-up performer’s ability to bare all, display their vulnerability and unpick their own personalities sometimes viscerally to a room of strangers is really what sets them apart from the majority of us.
In his acceptance speech Robins thanks the comedians who’ve supported him over the years –
“many of whom feel on this day somehow that they have lost & for many years I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I wasn’t on a list but then I realised that we are part of a creative community who strive to deal with the challenges of the World with action with creativity and bravery & I would like to say to all those comedians in this festival & everyone who has ever given themselves to create things, none of you have ever lost”. John Robins
Hannah Gadsby, “would not like to thank the circumstances that caused her show”, about the marginalisation and cruel treatment she receives for being a member of the Gay community. “ I would give this honour back in a flash if her community weren’t discussing what they were about homosexuality”
Artists like Gadsby take on a huge personal burden in order to expose, change perceptions and ultimately transform thinking, for that we are very thankful.
And if the worst should happen (hopefully not before the final series of Game of Thrones) here’s John Robins with some helpful advice on how to survive the Apocalypse.