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The Edinburgh Fringe, days 5-7: Monday-Wednesday

August 28, 2010

Yesterday was our best show yet, if you ask me. The audience really seem to be enjoying it! (But flyering in the rain is no fun.) Here is what else I’ve been to over the past few days:

Monday

Death of the Unicorn – ugh. Existentialist exploration of the life of one woman, starting as a baby, then small child and so on. Not only was the concept weak and the tone preachy; the writing was poor as well (“Have you awoken to the sound of the unicorn?”), and (spoilers) in the end, the woman blinds herself to live completely in her imagination. What kind of a message is that? Not for me.

Samson Agonistes – like Sylvia, another Bookstacks production, but more of a staged reading than a play. The language is certainly beautiful though there’s not much action as the play wasn’t really written to be performed. Worth seeing, but expect to be told what happens / has happened, rather than watch.

When in Rome… – a musical by the Cambridge Fools. The concept is definitely funny (Ovid as a rap artist especially), but the humor is often puerile and (dare I say) sexist. Mostly I’m just disappointed that their number from the Mile (“Your Toga’s on Fire” to Kings of Leon) wasn’t actually in the show. My friends really enjoyed it, so I guess it just wasn’t to my taste.

Nevernight – a musical about an adolescent Peter Pan. I can’t really recommend it – apparently when Peter grows up, he turns into a twat. The leading actor and actress weren’t very strong on the acting front, so the spotlight was mostly stolen by the supporting roles – which was fine by me as they were much, much better to watch.

The House of Mirrors and Hearts – one of the best things I’ve seen here. Tightly wound, naturalistic – but a musical as well. The writing was fabulous, the acting was professional, and the songs were wonderful; moving and deliberate, intertwining different themes for different characters –  I will be very disappointed when the next psychological drama I go to doesn’t come with music.

Tuesday

Hood! – apparently written in a week and a half, this unique a capella/drama based on “Little Red Riding Hood” pretty much shattered my expectations. The lyric-less opening number had me a little worried, but once the cast settled into creepy forest dwellers I knew it was going to be cool. Squawks and squeaks, moans and giggles – certainly something we have heard enough of around here, but it definitely worked well this time. When it was time to change sets, one of the actresses became grandma and opened the (pretend) door to her cabin. Closing it behind her, the others scuttled around to form a fire, a chair, a clock, cabinets and a cat; the lights change to a warm interior as she turns and suddenly all is relatively still. It goes on in a similar way, telling the familiar story in the fun and unique medium of bodies and often wordless jazzy a capella. The cast switches between forest, grandma’s cabin and the town with only brief on-stage additions to costume and changes in movement quality. The Wolf was especially wonderful – both sinister and clever, he was amusing in that way that makes you choke down your laugh so he doesn’t come for you next. I had an amazing time – my only critique is that at the end, I wanted more!

Wait Until Dark – a murder mystery about a blind woman alone in her home as mysterious men come searching for a strangely important doll. It took a little while for me to get into it, but once I did I found the lead actress compelling. The whodunit wasn’t a huge twist, but rather a huge threat to her safety, and the production did a good job of conveying this. Overall it was a touch lackluster, but by the end quite chilling.

Pork – one of my favorites. A short play set in an alternate society where humans and animals share equal rights. Animals live on reserves, where they can be safe and happy, and some humans have joined them there as their brothers and sisters. But not everyone has gone vegetarian, and in some cases dinner needs a little persuasion. (If that sounds like an advert, that’s because it is – go see it!)

Wednesday

101 – see my previous post. A different scenario this time: blindfolded as animals, we were made to follow our master’s voice – his or her movements and commands, while they promised to keep us safe. Others would come to tempt us away from our masters, but those who did were punished for their disloyalty. It wasn’t exactly enjoyable at the time, but the experience really sticks with you: trusting a complete stranger as he walks you through the darkness for forty minutes makes a huge impact. I started wondering why I trusted so easily, why I jumped higher when he told me to, why I believed him when he said he’d keep me safe. When the others would come, they would threaten to hurt my master if I didn’t go with them, and he would tell me to stay in between bouts of what sounded like him being hurt. The whole scenario was really scary and believable and fascinating, and I still highly recommend 101.

British Summertime – a short and sweet musical about trying to pull off a wedding when it seems like everything is going wrong. The vocals were very good and the lyrics were funny. The plot was a bit cliche but you could tell that going in – it delivered what it advertised, which was light and amusing.

MyFace – a group of young people who are all Suzy’s friends on “myface” try to sort out how to act with each other in the real world. A clever satire of internet friendships (“Lu! I just bit you using the werewolf application!” “Are you going to write on my wall? Please write on my wall!” etc.). Funny and unpretentious.

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