A Day at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Each August the cobbled, windy streets of Scotland’s capital city come alive with laughter for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! Launched in 1947, the Fringe has grown from an alternative cluster of performances to the world’s largest arts festival, attracting audiences from far and wide. Following the final curtain fall, 2016 has been praised as the most successful Fringe to date with a whopping 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in 294 venues across Edinburgh. Luckily, we were able to get a slice of the action with a visit to the capital for a day of slapstick comedy, improvisation and tear jerking drama! Here is our insight into a day at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Aaaand Now for Something Completely Improvised!
Our first show was "Aaaand Now for Something Completely Improvised" at the Pleasance Dome, and what a way to kickstart the day! A production of the five man Racing Minds group, all alumni of the Oxford Imps, the show was clever, funny and completely made up from the word go- providing a breath of fresh air to the genre.
On this afternoon, and possibly every other afternoon of the Fringe, Racing Minds set off on an almost coherent improv adventure with only a title, setting, lead character’s name and secret, which were all provided by audience suggestions.
Armed with a hat stand of charity shop costumes, some outrageous accents and a wide knowledge of Björks back catalogue, the talented improv group crafted an Icelandic fairy-tale adventure titled "Only Frogs are Free" about a gentleman named Ponsonby Carfax who’s secret is that he has two ceramic feet. It’s very silly and they make much of the fact, but by pairing up for two story strands they somehow manage to fit together all the pieces so it makes, at least, some sense in the end.
The humour is quick and witty and even the jokes that land flat on their face are met with resounding guffaws. The quintet are clearly well read and highly intelligent, and throw out references to everything from popular music to the Royal Family. The pedantic nature of their comedy allows Racing Minds to just about pull off the impossible.
The good news is that Racing Minds are a frequent performers at the Fringe and, amongst all the improv acts on offer, we reckon they are a safe bet for 2017!
In Her Own Words: The Diana Tapes
Straight from one extreme to the other we followed up the laugh a minute improv of Racing Minds with a play about Princess Diana’s secret orchestration of her own biography. Written by Scottish playwright, James Clements and Directed by Wednesday Derrico, "In Her Own Words: The Diana Tapes" depicted the true story behind Diana’s tell-all biography, written by Andrew Morton.
Clever and compelling, the new play focused on the relationships between both Andrew Morton, the biographer, and Michael O’Mara, the publisher, Princess Diana and James Colthurst, her confidant.
The performance moves swiftly between Diana’s sitting room where she divulges her darkest secrets onto tape recordings, a dingy London café where Colthurst reluctantly hands them over to Morton and Morton’s office where heated discussions re editing take place between Morton and O'Mara. From these three settings the play touches upon themes of class, celebrity, media and a broken monarchy, and convincingly depicts the subterfuge and deception that changed celebrity of the Windsor family.
Clements beautifully shines light on the tender friendship between James Colthurt (Jorge Morales Pico) and Princess Diana (Ana-Cristina Schuler), and outlines the stages which led to Diana’s decision to publish her deepest and darkest secrets. In contrast, scenes between Michael O’Mara (Sam Hood Adrian) and Andrew Morton (James Clements) reveal a savage side to the media with two characters conflicted between acting as Diana’s protectors and writing a book that will make them rich.
The performance by Ana Cristina Schuler as Princess Diana provides a contrast to that of her male counterparts as her character struggles with the burden of the monarchy and a failed marriage. Schuler subtly depicts the princess as both sensitive and strong willed.
Combining these scenes with transcripts from the actual tapes, Celements has created an honest portrayal of Diana and a piece that is both powerful and unapologetic.
In their first year at the Edinburgh Fringe Pharmacy Theatre presented a drama based on the novel "The Enchanted", by Rene Denfield. A stark contrast to the vast range of stand up comedy acts, The Enchanted presents an invigorating and moving examination of criminality, child abuse and escape through imagination in a tale about inmates facing death row.
Narrated by the most feared of all characters, Arden, the story focuses on York, a man on death row who has resigned to his fate and The Lady, an external investigator who seeks to save him from the brink of condemnation.
The tale provides a harrowing portrayal of how some criminals came to be and through physical theatre nervous tensions and character emotions are fantastically portrayed. By using choreographed twitching, writer Joanna Treves and director Connie Treves perfectly translate the magic of the novel and create a play with seamless transitions between scenes. What’s more, the use of puppetry beautifully compliments performances with melancholic scenes of nostalgia.
Despite some falters in attempts at American accents, the acting is of a high standard with Max Sisterton offering a particularly moving performance in his portrayal of Arden, using physical gestures and broken diction to capture the hope of a condemned man searching for solace in a glimpse of sky.
I would highly recommend The Enchanted if it is to come to the Edinburgh Fringe again. This moving examination of the criminal mind provides an alternative theatre experience and stays long in your mind after you’ve left.
Independence | Laurence Clark
Performing in Scotland with a show titled "Independence" could be seen as pretty mischievous, but then again so could much of Laurence Clark’s show from having a cheeky jab at his wife for the incontinence pants she ordered to practising chat up lines with audience members and coercing one rather embarrassed gentleman into helping him with his buttons.
Rather than a political independence, Clark’s show refers to that of finding his own independence after leaving school with the belief that he would be permanently dependent on others due to his cerebral palsy.
Clark’s disability, people’s misconceptions about it and the situations he finds himself in are at the centre of the show and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments in Clark’s self-deprecating yet self-assured humour from his conversations with nagging social worker "Canadian Vicky" to his struggles to drink out of cups.
The show is split between jokes performed on stage and those recorded in advance with the use of videos called "Laughing at Shit Laurence Can’t Do", which will help anyone who feels awkward about laughing at disability to realise that it can be done without victimisation. Videos of Laurence losing to his kids at games such as Operation and Twister had everyone in stitches.
Humour peaked in the finale and Laurence certainly saved the best for last with his ‘Virgin trains’ routine, which materialised the fear we all have of those electronic doors opening! A laugh a minute show, I would highly recommend Laurence Clark’s Independence for an evening of honest, feel good comedy.
A Day at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival
With just a day at the Edinburgh Fringe we barely scratched the surface of amazing comedy, theatre, musical and street acts but, now we've had a taste, we already can't wait for 2017! What did you think of the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival? Any recommendations for 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments below or click here to read our other Lifestyle posts.