Blog – Edinburgh Fringe 2017: my 4 days in the theatre epicentre

TB Administrator  visited the Fringe 2017 and blogs about her experience.

So, in brief, it was emotional. Completely free of the pressures of having a show to produce, a flyering schedule, a show to operate, a space to technically manage, a review to nervously wait for (I have done all these things), I was a true punter this year, in fact the only pressure I felt was fitting everything I wanted to see in my four short days in Scotland’s capital.

I always go to the Fringe to “fill up the cup” as it were, the cup of inspiration and ideas, to have a bask in the marvellous and diverse work that is being made today. At the Fringe I cry and I laugh every day in these makeshift temporary theatre spaces in a way I can never really anticipate before I get there. It all feels a bit more heightened, there feels to me more of a real peership between audience and performer, a little more at stake, which can be exhausting or exhilarating depending on how you slice it. I am continually surprised and provoked and always leave feeling more sure that I chose the right place to put my trust in humankind.

I must admit, having read insightful reflections from artists including these from I Am Nincompoop and The Plasticine Men, I am attuning myself to real challenges and complexities of the Festival for artists. As an artist I’ve had work brutally rinsed by reviewers, and met great success, and just about everything in between, so I know what a tightrope walk it can be. In my tendency towards the optimistic, I still see the Fringe as a place to be brilliant and bold, and most importantly to have that brilliance and boldness seen by new people. But it is not always an inspiring, life-choices-affirming space. It is exhausting, and whereas I have often gone to expand my ideas and inspiration, it can be immensely deflating and demotivating to artists. And these are the conversations artists and those running the ship need to be having.

Whereas many of the implications of the Fringe are troubling, I can’t help but feel optimistic when I see the breadth of work at the Festival. From my position firmly in the audience, I want to spend some time celebrating some of the achievements of the shows I saw. In fact, from my position in the audience, it was a bit of a banner year for me. I was bowled over by work and then shortly after picking myself bowled over again. 

I was fortunate enough to see some stunning stuff, and delighted to see how magnificently Bristol was represented with many artists travelling from the South West to perform. I’ll mention a few moments and fond memories, including seeing the multi-skilled Christopher Harrisson‘s mesmerising dark tale The North! The North! receiving such love from critics and audiences alike. Being part of a whole audience brought together on stage in Viki Browne‘s Help! to try to do just what she calls for in the title. A young boy delighting in his passion for the planets during the wonderful interactions in The Wardrobe Ensemble‘s The Star Seekers

I watched in delight as the Ensemble’s other show, Education, Education, Education received it’s first award from The Stage, after being completely blown away by their latest open-hearted creation. They went on to win a Fringe First Award for this show, and I personally cannot wait to see it’s return to Bristol Old Vic later this year. I was also delighted to see the brilliant Zane Power win The Scotsman’s inaugural Mental Health Award for his widely acclaimed show Mental, a huge achievement.

I remember vividly yhe first time I saw Theatre Ad Infinitum‘s Translunar Paradise many years ago and fell in love again the second time round as they returned it to Edinburgh, along with the magnificent one-man Odyssey. And I was lucky enough to see Ad Infinitum’s Nir Paldi perform in Nassim by Nassim Soleimanpour at the Traverse, in an hour that was so genuinely moving and joyful in equal measure, it left me feeling both excavated and elated. I would urge you to catch it at the Bush if you can.

Cabaret is a fairly new medium to me, but I was mesmerised by the work of Meow Meow and her retelling of The Little Mermaid at the International Festival, a show that had me belly laughing, but brought a moving rumination on the incredible cost of the fantasy of such a fairytale, a woman seeking to change everything about herself in pursuit of a man. Her rendition of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ floored me, before she picked me back up off the floor with a rousing finale that made me want to leave and come right back in again for another go. Camille O’Sullivan is an Edinburgh must-see for a reason, which I knew after I finally must and saw. A love letter to her musical heroes, a beautiful unravelling onstage.

Speaking of unravelling onstage, watching the astonishing Dust, and the bravery of writer/performer Milly Thomas, brought me one of those rare times you really feel you’re witnessing the theatrical ‘moment’ of an extraordinary talent. Amongst my other new writing highlights was the quietly brilliant Meet Me At Dawn, demonstrating why Zinnie Harris is one of our most celebrated theatre writers today.

It was really exciting to see the theatrical frontiers some comedians are treading this year, particularly Joseph Morpurgo who’s brilliant high concept comedy show Hammerhead was as choreographed and lovingly crafted as any theatre piece. Also entirely hilarious, long may he reign. Also the inimitable Mat Ewins who’s sold out show Adventureman 7 was so astonishingly produced  I felt like I needed a scorecard to keep up with all the jokes and call backs. 

Four days is definitely not enough, and that’s just a few of my highlights (and I haven’t even mentioned the man who performed physical theatre with his baby). I was heartened to see such a kaleidoscopic array of unique and open-hearted work, and I left feeling excited to come back to Bristol, to TB, and to find ways to support more artists and producers to make work happen.

 for Team TB x