Monday 14 September 2015

The Fringe Festival

The crazy festival season has ended here in Edinburgh and a pleasantly mild and uncrowded September is upon us. But back at the beginning of Fringe I wrote my impressions of my first festival show...

Balletronic. My first Edinburgh Fringe Festival Show. It was amazing, mesmerizing. Such precision and energy. It was a group from Havana, Cuba. The music, modern things by Paloma Faith, Avicii and the like, combined with ballet, with a dash of modern dance style, made my skin tingle and my heart feel like it was swelling up in my chest. But in a good way. I felt elevated by it, lifted by watching the dancers lift each other and move with such apparent ease. It was amazing to watch them and remember that those were human bodies out there, just like mine and those of the audience members around me, but exercised and rehearsed to such a pitch of strength for this specific activity that movements like bending in half backwards, tossing another person into the air, and lifting a leg directly, straight into the air until it was beside their ear while they balanced just on the toes of their other foot in point shoes, looked like simple, normal motions.

The music of the performance was played live, including a glamorous lead vocalist with a voice like Cher if she were a jazz club singer instead of a pop star. I think my favourite part was a short number were the principal female dancer (a girl with legs that looked like those of a blown glass, horse figurine. You know what I mean, a youtube video did the rounds not long ago refreshing people’s memory of them) did a solo dance to a featured performance of one of the most talented violinists I’ve ever heard. He walked around the stage as he played and she danced around him, looking like she was possessed by the music, so in tune with it were her motions, like she was the physical manifestation of the sounds.

Another number saw the dancers emerge wrapped in bands of fabric that looked like the insides of a VHS tape when the VCR eats it and all the film comes spilling out (this analogy is on the verge of being obsolete, but I don’t think it’s come to that yet). They were elegantly tangled in the ‘video tape’, twirling and lifting each other in and out of it, all set to music that you would fully expect to hear when you were getting a massage and if you looked at the CD cover it would be called ’Japanese Waterfall in Spring’ or something to that effect.

The performance I saw was their first of the festival after the previous night’s performance had to be cancelled. As a result, the theatre was packed and it felt like you were having a fully clothed sauna session without the leg room. But once the dancing started you forgot all that; it completely drew you in with the passion and drama of the performance. And just as you truly felt you were watching the real life version of Centre Stage (a movie obsessively popular with me and my friends growing up) they actually did their last number to the same song as the last number in Centre Stage (‘Canned Heat’ by Jamiroquai for those of a curious disposition)! They even danced their curtain call. It was an incredible performance and a wonderful reminder of why it’s great to be here in this new city.

...I went to a number of other shows during the festival, though not as many as I would’ve liked. Highlights included a group who performed improvised Jane Austen novel ‘adaptations’ based on audience suggestions written on bits of paper and drawn randomly from a hat. The show we were treated to was titled ‘Eminem, Enema and Emma’. Surprisingly funny.

Another show, also improvised comedy, was based on prompts from the game Cards Against Humanity, which, anyone who has ever played that game could tell you, led to some very off colour and amusing humour. As big fans of the game Laura and I sat in the audience saying to one another “ah, that card! That’s a good one”.

While it’s a shame to no longer be able to think “what shall I do with my day off? Maybe I’ll just wander the city until I’m given a flyer for a free comedy show starting in five minutes” It’s a relief to be able to walk down the streets again instead of feeling like a thrashing fish in a barrel getting nowhere. There are no fire twirlers in the park, but grocery shopping is no longer a two hour contact sport either, so, pros and cons. Farewell Fringe, it was fun....ish!