Are fringe theatre makers allergic to plot? I watched eight Fringe shows and one art house film in Edinburgh in three days, and there was more plot in the film than the eight shows. That aside though, there were more ideas and concepts than you could fit in a small library, which led to a very breathless week. So frantic, in fact, that I had to buy a new pair of shoes. Here’s a run-down if you can keep up.
Signal to Noise – “Longwave”
Two scientists living and working in a shed deep in an arctic wilderness perform experiments on lumps of play-dough which they bring in from the void. These rigorously prove what happens when you drop said lump of play-dough with a parachute, whether it conducts electricity and what happens to it during a death-slide. Needless to say, one of the scientists starts to loose the plot as life in a shed becomes just a little bit too cosy. It wasn’t demanding, and was very entertaining despite a total lack of dialogue.
Bit of a plot in this one.
Curious – “(Be)Longing”
Two women are suffering from longing, and they tell us all about it, poetically with actions – “action poetry”, if you will. I was pleased that one of the solutions to longing involved learning to play the guitar, and I was reminded of the suffering of the learning process – the pain on the tips of your fingers and the seeming impossibility of changing chords. The show as a whole needed work, but had its moments.
Had some stories, but no through-narrative that I could discern.
Blind Summit – “Low Life”
Billed as “adult puppetry”, though not explicit like Team America: World Police. It was enthralling to watch how the puppets came to life, and there was good use of Jaques Brel imagery (he’s french). There were some very beautiful slow motion action sequences, and plenty of humour. However…
To be fair to them, most of the sketches were linked, but there was a completely unconnected Adam and Joe style “Film” in the middle.
Gary Stevens – “Ape”
Three grown up human beings with the shared intelligence of… probably an ape. None of them really had much individuality, so copied each other. Things get a bit more interesting when one of them was forced to make their own decision. The concept was interesting, but the performance did nothing for me, felt undeveloped and made me wish for some Red Bull and matchsticks to prop my eyes open. I hate being harsh, but this show just needs more work, and it may be interesting.
Plot rating: 3/10 – started, stuff happened, and it stopped.
Kindle Theatre – “In My Fathers House”
A Birmingham based company of four girls some of whom I know. It came across to me as gently anti-religious with which I was a little uncomfortable – that’s a personal response, and probably deliberate. The girls get increasingly deranged while they extol the virtues of plums. Yes, plums – they must have put something in them, which now I think of it makes me slightly concerned, because they plied us with fresh plums and plum wine. A very high-energy show which certainly didn’t require any matchsticks, however…
plot not a strong point, because I couldn’t really see any particular reason for all the derangement. Perhaps I was missing something.
Breathe – “Just To(o) Long (?)”
Another company from the West Midlands, venturing even more into “Live Art” (animate humans rather than inanimate objects/paintings, hence “Live”), this was a very secretive show, so much so that they wouldn’t even tell us where it was, at least, not until the last minute. When we were finally ushered via mobile phone into the venue (can’t tell you where due to aforementioned secrecy, but it was a very nice big house), we were blindfolded, sat at a table and then stuff happened. I really enjoyed being taken advantage of, having food pushed into my mouth, etc.
Plot… take a guess.
This was the film, part of the Film Festival, and a nice change from cramped studio theatres. A guy wakes up in a body bag in a morgue. Starts a policy of compulsive lying and then meets an amnesiac woman to lie to. Lots of arty close up shots, which I love. The best bit was a fantastic zombie shot. How do I know it was a zombie shot? Because I asked the Belgian director, and she said “Yes, obviously.” Although it was a little hard to figure out what was going on, and was a bit confusing…
It had a plot!
Uninvited Guests – “It Is Like It Ought To Be: A Pastoral”
I should be jaded by this time having seen all the shows listed above, but it’s a new day, and I’m up for it. Just as well, because this show turns up the deranged baccanalean angst to eleven. It was an uneasy blend of pagan ritual and apocalyptic biblical imagery, and imagined the English countryside as heaven. There was lots of ear splitting music and sound generated on the stage by strange looking instruments (eg. a violin with a horn), nakedness, gnashing of teeth (figuratively speaking), and apple dunking but not a huge amount of
Volcano – “A Few Little Drops: The Extraordinary Life Of Water”
After hearty recommendations, I took the risk of missing my train to dive into this show about water. For a change, it was non-seated, and if you didn’t like one act, you could walk out and watch another. There set was a flood-damaged house, pond and bouncy castle-style blow up cavern in the middle of a University quad. The sketches were at times engaging, but the highlight was the overall effect of having the freedom to wander around. There may well have been a
plot, but I would have needed to replicate myself to tell.
Katherine Maxwell-Cook is a performer for Little Wonder and The Other Way Works. Although she wasn’t officially performing at Edinburgh this year, I had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time with her, and very entertaining she was too. She is obsessively generous, thrusting dried fruit and seeds into everyone’s bewildered hands. She is also a joy to see a show with. During the Breathe show she was heard to scream and then burst into hysterics. The performer couldn’t help herself.
Katherine didn’t have a plot – she’s a person.