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Friday, 4 September 2015

Inspirational shows at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

I went to Edinburgh Festival for some fringe performances. This was my first trip ever, I thought I’d share a few highlights, with a bit of a focus on identity.

La Gateau Chocolate, Assembly Hall (Rainy Hall) Mount Place,
Le Gateau Chocolat is an Opera singing British-born Nigerian boy exploring his personal struggle with his identity as a gay, black, larger man. He was encouraged to become a lawyer by his father and wanted to become an opera singer. I was really moved by his melancholy re-enactment of ‘I want to dance with somebody’ by Whitney Huston was particularly stand out.A very honest introspection about one’s own desire to be successful, creative and ultimately a happier person.

Barbu Electro trad cabaret, Circus Hub Underbelly.
This was my first real experience of circus since a very young child. It was really entertaining, musically vibrant and occasionally surprising. At one point the band were meowing to a melody as they acrobats performed. The music kept the pace of the performances alive and animated. Canadian group of performer, five beard athletic men were the dominant focus of the show. They gradually remove layers of clothing as the show built momentum. The work progressively becomes more overtly sexualised with a couple of reveals, which at one point caused a fella behind me to shout out in a burly voice ‘THAT’S WHAT I PAID FOR!’ – I really believe he did!

Mawaan Rizwan with FLUU, Pleasants Theatre, (This)
You can see more of his talent on his youtube channel
He provided lots of little sketches which played on a range of cheap and naff props which lead to regular comical fails. His personality and comic timing carries the show, fun elements of audience participation take everyone through an unknown journey. He did very well at handling a really drunk women sat in the front row who decided to become a part of the act which resulted in her being heckled by other people ‘SHUT UP IN FRONT!’ He managed to calm her down, keep the audience with him and maintain the pace of show which was just as impressive.  At the end of the performance she bolted out of there like she had caught fire. I felt a little bad for her…

Boxed In, Pleasance Courtyard the Cellar.

 Two piece act, two women playing 25 year old twins, Jess and James.  The piece follows the pair returning to their parents to go through their old house hold things which have been collected into an individual box for them each. The piece flips between childhood memories, the two of the reflecting on their experiences growing up and how they present themselves in the workplace today. Through the stories they reveal different issues that affectively ‘box’ them into their gender. It was interesting having two female actors playing out the roles, James’ character was very convincing and added an interest element about reflecting learnt behaviour and how it’s easily replicated. I would be interested to know how the play reads with two men or a man and a woman. Inspired by stories and campaigns like HeForShe & #LikeAGirl, this devised piece combines movement, storytelling and verbatim to explore the effects of gender stereotyping on both women and men. It got me thinking a lot about gender roles and constructs. We do collectively indoctrinate ways of behaving and pass it on. These views impacts on us all individually. We then carry this on to our peers and friends and carry views on to the next generation. It made me grateful to have very supportive parents who increasingly encourage me just to walk my own path.

Pope Head- The secret life of Francis Bacon
One man show featuring Garry Roost (who looks a lot like Bacon) delivers the script brilliantly. The down fall is that there was a very limited set, three banners purple green and orange circles in the centre of each screen. Such a missed opportunity! He could have had so many more interesting methods of staging! The banners acted as transition scenes between characters and a focus point to imagine Bacon’s work on display. The content of the play however is totally brilliant. The Narrative was compelling, camp and witty and held my attention for the majority of the play. Need to be a fan of Bacon’s work to be interested in the piece. If you are he does a fantastic job of exploring his life, the story telling is brilliantly sharp, sexually charged and peppered with sarcasm.

Labels, Pleasance Courtyard, Bunker 1
Worklight Theatre
This was possibly the best piece I saw. Worklight Theatre draws on writer/performer Joe Sellman-Leava's experiences of mixed heritage and racism. Labels examine the way we use words, the line between curiosity and fear, and the rise of anti-immigration rhetoric. He starts setting the political landscape with various quotes about race over the centuries with some spot on political impersonations. He then outlines the power of labelling other handing out different positive and negative labels we use and sticking them on audience members. (For example I was labelled ignorant and an enemy.)  Then leads into his childhood growing up in the South West of England between Devon and Cheltenham having to explain his duel heritage and various people and navigate through their various levels of curiosity or racism. The piece ended on exploring current issues of immigration, how individual’s stories and experiences become numbers and statistics leading to a loss of humanity. I identified with Sellman-Leava experiences growing up. I grew up near Cheltenham; so I knew the types of character he had faced and how it feels to not completely fit with the majority. I had been confronted by them myself, a difference between those who are curious; ignorant and just plain offensive. Everyone should go support his crowd-sourcing campaign so thatLabels can continue to tour!

I am Not myself these days, Pleasance Courtyard Beneath
Adapted from the autobiography of Josh Kilmer-Purcell, I Am Not Myself These Days adapted by Tom Stuart recounts the television star's early days working as an ad executive by day and then transforming into the drag queen Aquadisiac at night.
She’s young alcoholic who falls for a crack addict hooker Jack. Although this piece was slightly longer than the majority of other shows I saw, so much happens that I was completely enthralled and taken with the story. There are great one-liners, lip syncing which characters within the story are well defined snapping between male and female roles at such speed at time I felt there were two people on stage. Aqua continues to get further and further lost to alcohol and her dysfunctional relationship. Layers of clothing, glamour and wit start to fall beginning to reveal the insecure, lost Josh who begins to become more exposed at his lowest point. I enjoyed how Aqua’s deconstruction to the worse part of Josh enables a choice about true identity leading to the falling façade of Aqua and the return of Josh by the end of the play.

Smash It Up (SIU) Summer Hall, Red Lecture Theatre
Mr and Mrs Clark
Originally inspired by the demolition of The Chartists Mural in Newport, South Wales, Smash It Up explores the destruction of art, culture and public space. This piece explored themes of activism, anarchy and themes of nihilism. When you entered the theatre three people dressed in clinical and official looking clothing are distributing labelled crafted pieces. Each artwork appears to be made of broken remains from books, records, tape and other miscellaneous objects. Everyone is then taken through whistle stop tour of moments in arts history where deconstruction and sabotage are used as a catalyst for change. The piece is brilliantly delivered, with film footage from montage and live art events which provide a greater depth to their political campaign. Someone was encouraged to destroy valuable items of the three performers. She is asked to rank their order of importance between a childhood cuddly toy; an early years drawing as a gift for a relative and a mix type from a previous crush. This was the moment I was most uncomfortable with, it felt to close to a Milgram’s experiment. I felt they were taking you through a process of letting go of what we materially hold value.  Quotes were fired out from various artists who use destruction as a means of creation. As a self-confessed hoarder and lover of creative objects and culture this was something which personally unsettled me and challenged my comfort zone. They then destroyed other objectives be lead to a new form of creation from the outputs remains. This was a critical point which uplifted me, material objects changing form into new objects of creative beauty, fragmented remains turned into new structures. The art loving activist within me loved this performance.

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